Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chapter 13 Part 2

The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 13, Part 2 of 3 (p. 306-310).

This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.

As during his life, so after his death, he underwent judgments, on the part of many, of the most conflicting kind. Scarcely had Peter Bertius paid the last honours to him in a funeral oration, when Gomarus broke out against his deceased colleague, and the eulogiser of his virtues; and in a treatise which he published against him, he detracted much from the merits of both. Yea, the very poem in which the honourable Hugh Grotius had celebrated Arminius, was to him a great eyesore; the following verses, in particular, drew from him some bitter remarks:

Indigniore parte fractus et languens,
Meliore sospes, ilia millibus multis
Monstrata per te regna SOLUS arderes.

['Broken and powerless in thy meaner part (the body,) but sound in thy nobler part (the soul,) thou wert all on fire (TOTUS arderes) to gain those heavenly kingdoms to which, to many thousands, thou hadst pointed the way.' Such was the meaning of Grotius. But the blundering substitution, by the printer, of 'SOLUS,' 'alone,' for 'TOTUS,' 'entire,' made him represent Arminius as the only man of his order who cherished those heavenly aspirations. We have given a metrical version of (Grotius's Elegiac poem at the end. The part here quoted will be found in the 19th and 20th stanzas.—TR.]

That word SOLUS had excited much ill-feeling against this most celebrated poet, and also in relation to Arminius himself; the truth being, that owing to the negligence of the compositor, or some other who superintended the publication, that word had crept in, TOTUS being the word which should have occupied its place,—a circumstance of which Grotius himself informed Gomarus in the following letter (now published for the first time), in which he appropriately takes upon himself the defence of his elegiac poem:—

'To that Reverend and most distinguished man, Francis Gomarus, professor of theology in the Leyden Academy:

'I suppose, Reverend Sir, that you have seen my verses on the death of Arminius, in which if there be anything that has pleased you, it will be very gratifying to me. But what has, I understand, proved displeasing to you, is also, I assure you, displeasing to me. I had written to the effect that your colleague, overwhelmed as he was with affliction towards the end, was altogether (totum), meaning as far as in him lay, inflamed with the desire of the better life in heaven. What evil hand it was that out of my word totus (whole) made solus (sole) I do not know; a mistake so foolish, as it appears to me, that it can admit of no good sense. Whoever he is, I marvel at his audacity and stupidity in being so awkwardly officious in regard to the production of another. And even if any emendation had been required, I ought to have been consulted. Immediately after the publication, I uttered the complaint to the most learned Heinsius, and other friends, that my publishers had betrayed in this place a lack of fidelity, as in many other places they had betrayed a lack of diligence.

'At all events, what I proposed to myself in praising Arminius was this, that to the man to whom when living I could refuse no kind of service, (for I knew him, though only as I knew many others, without being on terms of close intimacy,) I should, now that he is dead, render this tribute, — which I was conscious of being able with all sincerity to do, — to that far-from-ordinary cast of genius, and transparent kind of eloquence which I always admired in him. I added that both in those things in which he defended the truth so strenuously against the Pope, and in those other things in which it was more possible for him to err, he did nothing from a hardened impulse contrary to the dictates of conscience. This was a judgment which charity dictated to me; as also that other, namely, that Arminius, particularly as death drew near, had bent his wishes towards the peace of the Church.

'But as to the points of difference between you and Arminius, and between many good men, with these I am neither sufficiently acquainted, nor, if I were, would I rashly intermeddle. That matter has its own appropriate judges. To us, occupied as we are with other things, it is allowable, as I trust, with the kind favour of God, to continue ignorant in respect to many things, and in respect to many others to withhold our assent. But although I do not build on human authority, this nevertheless I am free to avow, that in those points on which I entertain doubt, it is not easy for me to become wrenched from the opinions of those whom the Church has hitherto acknowledged to have been the pioneers of her restored purity. Many precepts, in particular, of Doctor Francis Junius, whose memory I hold sacred, remain indelibly in my mind. But then, in all such controversies I invariably incline to that side which attributes most to divine grace, and least to ourselves. These dissensions grieve me; but the Church has never been long without them, and never will. It remains that we bear one with another, and that, among the many things which human infirmity renders uncertain, we hold those for certain on which rests the hope of our salvation.

'Meanwhile, Reverend Sir, I pray God that he may direct your labours towards that which I doubt not is your aim — the tranquillity of the Church and the confirmation of sound doctrine.

'One who regards your name with the utmost respect,

'H. Grotius.'

But those same adversaries with whom he had so often, on past occasions, come into collision, treading in the footsteps of Gomarus, traduced him as 'a man, indeed, of somewhat practised intellect, but whom nothing pleased except what recommended itself by some appearance of novelty; so much so, that he appeared to loathe many doctrines received in the churches, even on this very ground, that they had been received.' [Praefat. Synodi. Dordac.]. Among strangers, too, were found some who, misled by a certain blind prejudice, and attributing undue importance to the clamours of sundry zealots, characterised him as 'an enemy of God; a man of crafty intellect; who had done all things dexterously; who, Ham-like, had exposed the nakedness of his fathers; and who, in a detestable manner, through the side of the holiest leaders of the Reformation, had dealt a stab at the very body of the Reformed Church.' John Hoornbeck writes that Arminius was much too confident in his own speculations, and showed himself much too eager to demolish all else. And more: appropriating the words of Tacitus, he calls him a covenant-breaker who, forswearing the faith which he had pledged both to God and the Church, had begun, first secretly, then openly, both by himself, and by his disciples and abettors, to disturb and subvert the faith of the churches, and the doctrine of Christ; and not the churches only, but civil politics also, in his nefarious attempt; and that he would have succeeded, had not God interposed his aid at that perilous crisis [Vide Arn. Poelenb. Epist. ad C. H. in qua liber 8. summae controversiarum Hoornbeequii, refellitur Amstelod. 1655. pag. 5.].

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