The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 13, Part 3 of 3 (p. 310-319).
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.
On the other hand, as Arminius himself had abundantly refuted these accusations, and many others of the same kind, so at this time also Bertius, Uitenbogaert, Simon Episcopius, Corvinus, Narsius, Courcelles, Poelenburg, and others, undertook the vindication of his blessed memory; and for this reason they began to receive from their adversaries the designation of Arminians.
First of all, let us listen to Arnold Poelenburg, that most worthy champion of the Remonstrants, as he pleads the cause of Arminius against the charges of Hoornbeck. Referring to the passage just cited, 'Behold,' he exclaims, 'with how great a rage of calumniation he (Hoornbeck) burns! For what could he mean by traducing Arminius, of pious memory, after his death, as one "who trusted to his own speculations," when he, too, acknowledged the Sacred Scriptures to be the only rule of his faith, and had greatly the better of his opponents, at once in the number and in the weight of his testimonies? What could be his object in declaring that Arminius "showed himself much too eager to demolish all else," when nothing lay nearer his heart than to get the Church restored to her pristine purity and peace? But on reading those statements in which he brands Arminius, the best of men, as "a covenant-breaker," I was utterly horror-struck, and much at a loss to divine whence a degree of audacity so great and so extraordinary had come to be generated in a man speaking things that were false, and maintaining an unjust cause. For why, is that man to be called a covenant-breaker who defends with all his might the covenant which God has struck with the entire human race? After this, there is no reason why he should not brand almost all the Ancient Fathers as covenant-breakers; for they either knew not, or they opposed, absolute predestination. But I think I can discern to what he refers — namely, to this, that Arminius did not subscribe to the Belgic Confession and Catechism. But it had already been answered, that very many traces of our opinion are to be found in these writings. Besides, Arminius had never so enslaved his faith to any human composition as to imply that such was not, at all times, to be weighed in the balance of Scripture. What? Is Hoornbeck prepared to call Luther, Musculus, and many more, "covenant-breakers," because, when bound by vows to the Papacy, they felt unable with a sound conscience to remain in the Papacy? For as formerly, and still, the Papists, so the Reformed of the day, unhappily defend certain grievous errors of their own, under cover of the Holy Scriptures erroneously understood: although, we own, not altogether after the same fashion. Let that liberty, then, be conceded to Arminius, which has been conceded to numerous others before him. For my part, I maintain, that to a man of high standing, and endowed with distinguished gifts, it is not only allowable, but, by virtue of his office, it is also incumbent upon him, to oppose with all his might prevailing errors which had come to be regarded as necessary truth.' [A. Poelenb. Epist. ut supra pag. 6, 7.].
But not to insist on the testimonies of Remonstrants, in what esteem the name of Arminius, — to many so hateful, — continued to be held by the honourable curators of the Academy, will be apparent from the fact that to his widow, Elizabeth Real, and to her fatherless children, whom they took under their protection, they assigned a handsome annuity; and that very dignified body, the Senatus Academicus, in compliance with their request, at once furnished them with the following testimony to the deceased:—
The Rector Magnific, and Senatus of the Academy of Leyden-in-Holland, to all and sundries, who may read or hear this testimony, greeting:
'Inasmuch as it has seemed good to Almighty God to call that distinguished and reverend man, James Arminius, Doctor of Sacred Theology, and Professor in Ordinary of that Faculty in this our Academy, away from that professorship which, for a series of years in which he thus acted, he exercised with singular assiduity, and with the applause of his hearers, into the celestial country, and to grant him an everlasting release and immunity from those protracted labours which he sustained both in the Church and in the Academy; and seeing that the surviving widow of this same deceased man, of most blessed memory, together with the children which she had by him, has requested, as a debt due to his eminent virtues, that the Senatus would furnish her with a testimonial, — a request which, considering the many distinguished endowments of that man, appears to us to be nought else than just; we willingly contribute the last office which it is in our power to discharge to his very dearly cherished memory. We testify, therefore, that the said James Arminius, D.D., led such a life in this our Academy as to teach Sacred Theology (for we leave controversies to others) both in public and in private, with the utmost assiduity and diligence [It is to be observed that this same formula also occurs in the testimony which the Senatus Academicus gave to Gomarus, when he left for Middelburgh.]. And besides, in the Senatus Academicus, as became an eminently wise and prudent man, he maintained by his judgment, counsel, and authority, that place and dignity which was due at once to himself and to the whole honourable order; and to public matters which fell to be transacted by us in our assembled capacity he was ever ready to postpone those which were personal and private. Whatever he thought conducive to the interests of the Academy, he frankly propounded; whatever he deemed the contrary, to that with the like freedom he declared himself opposed. He did not stain his most sacred profession with any spot or blemish, in manners of life; but, as was incumbent on an upright man, he maintained a demeanour in harmony with his calling and office. As became a diligent teacher, he instructed the youth intrusted to his charge with assiduity and zeal. For these reasons we entreat all and sundries to speak and think of the same James Arminius, D.D., a man of blessed memory, in such a manner as his erudition, his work performed in this our Academy, and his excellence, deserve. Which testimony we have ordered to be certified by the hand of our secretary, and to be further ratified and confirmed by our common seal.
'Compared with the original, and copied in terms of the same order of the Rector Magnific and the Senatus Academicus, by
To this very honourable testimonial of the Senatus, which is preserved to this day among the archives of the Leyden Academy, it may be well to add some individual testimonies with which several very eminent men, unfettered by the partialities of sect, honoured him both during his life, and after his death.
The truly illustrious Scaliger, though sufficiently chary of praising others, calls him 'a very great man.' Meursius assigns him 'a most penetrating intellect and judgment.' [Vide Scaligerana. Meursii Athenae Bat. pag. 177.]. The very celebrated Drusius classes him among 'the learned and candid men' to whose judgment he readily submitted his writings.
In that epistle to the States-General, in which the distinguished Baud dedicates to their name his elegiac poem on the death of Arminius, he calls him 'his reverend colleague, an excellent man, whom, when alive, he embraced in his sincere affection, and whom, now that he is dead, he continued to esteem as a man abounding in extraordinary endowments of mind and learning'; and in a letter to Uitenbogaert he follows up his praises of the deceased with these words: 'He was never legitimately convicted of, or condemned for, any error. Yea, to his last breath he adorned the post which by the decree of the curators and of our rulers he had obtained, and he died in the possession of rightful office; so that all good men, for the best of reasons, ought to cherish his memory with every feeling of favourable regard. For myself, I am left with a mournful sense of his loss; and nothing did I so eagerly desire as to see that day on which his innocence might be vindicated from rumours so invidiously circulated, and so rashly believed.' [Epist. Eccles. pag. 239.].
The celebrated Anthony Thysius, also, between whom and Arminius, while alive, much intimacy subsisted, was wont, on repeated occasions, to declare respecting him, 'that he had never seen a mail endowed with more or with greater virtues, and chargeable with fewer or more trivial faults.' [Epist. Eccles. pag. 327.]. Richard Thompson, too, that great luminary of the English Church, making mention of Arminius in a certain letter to Dominic Baud, dated July 27, 1605, thus speaks: 'What you write concerning Arminius I gratefully acknowledge, although the fame of that man is not so imperfectly known among us as you seem to imagine. For even to me he was formerly very well known, before he had yet become a professor among you; and from the time that he did, he began to be well known in this country and many others besides. Hence as often as any scholars visited us from your country, our professors made diligent inquiry respecting Arminius. I am truly glad, therefore, on behalf of your Academy, which contains so great a man.' [Epist. Eccles. pag. 148.]. To this may be added the testimony of John Buxtorf, professor in the Academy of Basle, who, on being apprised of his death, wrote to Uitenbogaert in these terms: 'The unlooked-for extinction of so truly great a luminary of the far-famed Belgium as James Arminius, fills, as it well may, my mind with grief, both as a common calamity to the Clmrch of Christ, and as a melancholy breaking-off of the first approaches I had made towards the acquaintance of so great a man. For I hoped to see him put in that place in my esteem which was occupied by that illustrious hero, the learned Scaliger, of pious memory, who, — for me, alas, too suddenly, — has also been snatched from the stage of time.' [Epist. Eccles. pag. 244.].
The very erudite Isaac Causabon, unites also in this tribute to Arminius. In a letter of his sent from Paris to Samuel Naeranus, dated July 28, 1610, these words occur: 'That Arminius, now in glory, of whom you make mention, was a great man, I do not doubt; although I have never as yet found any of our pastors who did not regard him as an infamous heretic, — their standard of truth being the opinion of Calvin. For Calvin I am conscious of a profound respect; but still I cannot away with those who rancorously hate all who dissent from him.' [Ib. p. 249]. Nay, M. Martinius himself, who was afterwards present at the Synod of Dort, and was no mean member, — and into whose bosom Arminius, a few weeks before his death, and already sick, had poured his complaints respecting the calumnies that were fabricated against him,—expressed this thoroughly candid and unsophisticated opinion of the man : 'He seemed to me,' says he, 'to be a man that truly feared God; most erudite, most practised in theological controversies; mighty in the Scriptures; very circumspect, and precise in applying philosophical terms to theological subjects.' [Ib. p. 238.].
At length, that the memorial of so dear a head might never be lost to after ages, his relatives published his portrait, cut in brass, with this inscription:
'Qui nunc per altas aurei caeli domes
Regnat beatus, et suo junctus Deo
Humana celsus speruit, et nescit simul,
Sic Hospes, ora Magnus Arminius tulit.
Caelare mores atque dotes iugeni
Doctumque pectus, quod fuit (sed beu fuit!)
Magnus nequivit artifex: et quid manus,
Efferre cum non lingua, lion stilus queant.'
[These Latin verses may be thus rendered into English:
Beyond these orbs that gild the etherial dome,
Joined to his God, his toils and conflicts o'er,
The great Arminius, in that blissful home,
Still lives and reigns, though seen on earth no more.
Such, stranger, were the traits which here he wore:
But ah! to sketch the beauties of that heart,
Aud learned mind, whose loss we now deplore,
Transcends the able limner's loftiest art.
What neither pen can write, nor tongue can say,
The feebler hand presumes not to pourtray.—TR.]
Among those of his countrymen who stood high in rank and office, he had attached most closely to himself these honourable Senators and Burgomasters, namely, Nicholas Cromhout, Adrian Junius, Sebastian Egberts, Rombout Hogerbeets, and one who of all his defenders and patrons held by no means the last place, William Bardesius, Lord of Warmhusen. This man cherished and evinced a stedfast affection for Arminius; when debilitated under his slow and lingering malady, with the utmost affection he took him to his manor as soon as his disease, and the state of the climate, and intervals of respite would permit; and after the removal of Arminius from this lower stage, he showed the same kindness to his widow and afflicted family, and embodied it in many substantial proofs.
In addition to John Uitenbogaert, so often mentioned in this memoir, — whom he was wont to call his sheet-anchor, as one to whom he might betake himself for counsel and aid, — among the friends who were knit to him in bonds of special intimacy, the following held a principal place, namely, the celebrated John Drusius, Conrad Vorstius, Anthony Thysius, John Halsberg, Peter Bertius, Adrian Borrius, John Arnold Corvinus, and other two whom he loved as a brother and a son: to wit, Rembert and Simon Episcopius, the former a merchant of Amsterdam, of cultivated understanding and exalted piety, the latter the most distinguished of his disciples, and who, at a subsequent period, in consideration of the extraordinary endowments of mind and genius which Divine Providence had heaped upon him, was judged worthy to fill the office of his deceased preceptor.
These are the things which I have judged necessary to be said respecting James Arminius, whose piety and simple virtue never courted any celebrity on the earth, much less that a sect should be called by his name. This, indeed, after all things had become convulsed, actually happened subsequently to his death; the Christian community having suffered a lamentable rent, for which, as matters now stand, — unless God interpose in behalf of his Church, — the long-looked-for day of remedy may not speedily arrive.
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