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Arminius : A Biographical Sketch.
131 without tiresome repetition of pose that, to render the strain on language and thought, is one of the his intellect less, each pastor should most important of clerical problems. have a curate ; nor do I recommend I mention this because I am sure that the system, founded by John that some hearers know little or Wesley, of circuits should be nothing about it. They would not adopted. But although I have no deal so mercilessly with the old remedy to propose it does not follow pastor's discourseor the younglevite's that my statement of the difficulty homily if they would recollect the is therefore idle. By no means. On fact in question. I want to put in the contrary, my object may yet be no special pleading for the cloth.' achieved, which is to let the pew I would deal with bad preachers as into the secret of one pulpit difficulty I would with bad tailors, or bad that the former may be more conbutchers-discard them. But when siderate and reasonable than it a man who usually preaches, well sometimes is to the latter. gives rather a stale sermon, or is Whether it is because I have been less flat than usual in delivery of it, prolix or not I do not know, but then I say that 'awful critics' should from some cause it has taken me be gentle in their reproofs. No one longer to say what
I wanted succeeds always in anything: why than I expected when I began. should his reverence be expected to There are several other things that be the exception? I wish I could I want to mention, but I must stop. persuade my reader, supposing him If I go on much longer I know the to be a hearer, to try a little experi- consequence. The worthy editor will ment. Choose any single theme get out those convenient editorial you like, or half-a-dozen themes. scissors and clip my article in two, Write a couple of essays on them giving the second part next month. for three months, every week. I Now, though I have no want of should like to know whether you confidence in my official friend, I would not repeat yourself, get dry, confess that when clipping is to be and fall into other defects which you done with my manuscript I like to murmur at in the minister !
have the privilege of doing it myAnd now for the remedy,' per- self, which I therefore now do. haps some one may say. I frankly
T. R. S. confess I have none.
I do not pro
CHAPTER IV.-HE PAYS THE PENALTY OF THINKING FOR HIMSELF.
THERE is always more or less of and research is our only safety. danger in thinking for one's self. Nevertheless, it becomes him who The path of independent inquiry is claims it and thinks for himself, to be a perilous path. Many have missed modest in his estimate of his own their foothold upon it and fallen into powers, mindful of his position and the abyss. The intelligent and pledges, and cautious and wary in philosophic layman, or the earnest his ways. The conscientious clerical and devout minister of truth, may investigator of religious truth may be led by his own conscientious con- violate good faith and common viction into most grievous error. honesty in his pursuit. Man is said But no peremptory check must be to be a bundle of contradictions ; given to the exercise of private the teacher of the church will somejudgment, lest we do violence to times afford a singular illustration conscience, and hinder the progress of this saying: He will declare of truth. In freedom of inquiry that he is bound by the most solemn
and awful considerations implicitly | death, when he lent an ear to the to follow the dictates of conscience deceiving words of the devil.' in the interpretation of God's Word, From this article I conclude,' says and yet he will claim for himself Arminius, some years after, that the protection of casuistry and the man did not sin on account of any liberty of non-natural interpretation necessity through preceding in subscription to ecclesiastical decree of predestination; which informularies or orthodox articles of ference is diametrically opposed to faith. The position in which, as that doctrine of predestination minister of the Reformed church against which I now contend.' The at Amsterdam, Arminius was placed sixteenth article, which treats of by his change of opinion on the the eternal election of God, says: doctrine of divine predestination, 'God has showed himself merciful by was one of difficulty and peril. But delivering from damnation, and by several circumstances were calcu- saving those persons whom, in His lated to mitigate the difficulty and eternal and immutable counsel, and lessen the peril.
according to His gratuitous goodness, In the first place, the formularies He chose in Christ Jesus our Lord to which the clergy of the Dutch without any regard to their works ; church were pledged were to a large and He has showed himself just in extent couched in the language of leaving others in that their fall and Scripture, and either ignored or perdition into which they had preevaded this particular point at issue. cipitated themselves.' *I do not These formularies were the Belgic clearly see,' says Arminius, 'how Confession and the Heidelberg these words are consistent with this Catechism. The first had something doctrine of predestination.' of a Calvinistic tinge and hue.
The Heidelberg Catechism, thongh was framed to serve as the basis of much prized by the Dutch Calvinists union for all the Reformed churches for its bias towards their opinions, of the Netherlands. It was com- was scarcely less opposed to the piled by men who for the most part tenets Arminius had abandoned. owed their Protestantism to the The twentieth question declares : Calvinism of France, rather than Salvation through Christ is not to the less sharply-defined system given to all them who had perished of the sturdy Reformer of Germany. in Adam, but to those only who are It was accepted by the churches of ingrafted into Christ by true faith, Flanders as well as by those of the and who embrace His benefits.' Low Countries. But the Dutch From this sentence I infer,' says element was represented in it, though Arminius, that God has not abnot so largely as the Walloon and solutely predestinated_any men to French. Professor Junius of salvation, but that He has in His Leyden had revised it, yet he had decree considered them as believers.' sent it afterwards to Geneva to In the fifty-fourth question of the receive the approbation of Beza and same Catechism it is written: 'I the ministers of that city. Still it believe that from the beginning to did not expressly teach or fairly the end of the world, the Son of imply the peculiar tenets of pre- God out of the entire race of man. destination and election which kind doth by His Word and Spirit Arminius had renounced. To the gather or collect unto himself a mild and qualified form of preter- company chosen unto eternal life ition which it prescribed, Arminius and agreeing together in the true could give his honest and un- faith.' Arminius gives us his own equivocal assent. The fourteenth view of this passage also. He article of this Belgic Confession says: 'In this sentence “ election declares: «Man knowingly and to eternal life" and "agreement in willingly subjected himself to sin, the faith” stand in mutual apand consequently to the curse of position, and in such a manner that
The Candour and Modesty of Arminius.
the latter is not subordinate to the of exclusiveness and its ruthless former, which, according to the innovations is the greatest heresy scheme of predestination I reject of modern times. In abandoning ought to be the case. Were such a the Genevan theology, Arminius view expressed the language would abandoned the opinions of a comhave been : "The Son of God calls paratively recent sect, went back to and gathers to Himself, by His Word the older faith, and followed the and Spirit, a company chosen to guidance of the earlier church. eternal life that they may believe and Still further, it is obvious enough agree together in the true faith." ; that Arminius did not by this tran
From these extracts, with the sition surrender any vital principle comments of Arminius subjoined, of religion or impair his efficiency it will be seen that there was nothing as a minister of Christ. It is not in the Confession or Catechism to necessary to piety to maintain that make the position of Arminius in without regard to our belief in the the Reformed church untenable, or gospel, or our practical godliness, in any way to render his altered God has from all seternity chosen us views on the doctrine of predestina- to salvation. It is scarcely essential tion a violation of good faith. With to the work of evangelization to perfect conscientiousness he could hold that though the good news of hold such views and continue God's grace are to be preached his subscription to the common to all, yet some of our hearers formularies.
possibly may be from all eternity Moreover, it is to be remembered, reprobate and doomed by irrethat there had been for centuries a versible decrees to unbelief and difference of opinion in the church perdition. For four hundred years upon this question. The early men lived and died in the faith of Greek and Latin fathers make no Christ, often sealing their profession mention of it, but from the time of with their blood, and no such Augustine downwards it had been doctrines were maintained. For debatable ground. No ancient four hundred years the gospel was synod or council had pronounced preached and expounded by faithful upon it. No decision of weight had lips, and no such rigid system of ever been given establishing any theology was developed. Nay, more, particular view as orthodox, and it is impossible for any one, whoever condemning every other as heretical. he may be, to take up the strain of Thequestion itself was always treated the first apostles of the cross and rather as a subject of metaphysical command all men everywhere to speculation than a test of orthodoxy. repent, without, for the time at In the churches of the Reformation least, foregoing metaphysics, and also it was not a fixed and settled forgetting all subtle theories of doctrine. Calvinism was by no supralapsarian and sublapsarian means synonymous or co-extensive divines. From a thousand pulpits with Protestantism. Luther (in his in every Christian land the gospel latter days) and Melancthon of is preached to-day, as it has been Germany; Cranmer, Latimer, Over- preached any day for eighteen hunall, Andrews, and Clayton of dred years, by plain earnest men, England; Hemming of Denmark; who are totally innocent of such Erasmus, Isbrand, Snecanus, and logical refinements, and who take Holman, of Holland, with many God's message in His Word to others of the Reformed churches mean what it says. prior to the time of Arminius, were It is important to bear these conopponents of the scheme of absolute siderations in mind in order to predestination. If the widest, appreciate fully the candour of broadest, and most general views Arminius, and the modesty and are to be taken as orthodox, then wisdom of the course he resolved Calvinism itself with its hard lines to pursue. The dogmas which he
had given up as not essential to The good old custom of conProtestantism or to orthodoxy, and secutive expositions of Scripture as unwarranted by the Word of was then rife. There were giants God, were received with much favour in those days in the pews as well as by some of the Dutch clergy. To in the pulpit. Congregations ascombat publicly these opinions would sembled for instruction and worship. have been perfectly consistent with They could endure instruction, and that liberty of prophesying formerly had a taste for biblical criticism. allowed by the Reformed church, Arminius was expounding chapter but would possibly have provoked by chapter and verse by verse the much needless strife and contention. Epistle to the Romans, and the To be silent about them would not people drank eagerly the word of detract from the fulness and power truth from the fountain head. In of an evangelical ministry, would the course of his expositions he not hamper freedom of discussion came to the seventh chapter, and and exhortation upon more vital presently to its fourteenth verse : topics, and might prevent scandal For ye know that the law is spiritual: if it did not disarm suspicion. but I am carnal, sold under sin. This Arminius determined to continue verse and the remaining part of the the latter course. He would still chapter Arminius interpreted as hold in abeyance public considera- describing a sinner under legal tion of this question. He would conviction, just as Martin Bucer apply himself still more deeply to had explained it, and all the study and yet further mature his fathers of the church before the views. In this way he felt he could days of Augustine, and Augustine serve God without rebuke, satisfy himself in his earlier works which his conscience without casuistry, he never entirely retracted, and and might hope for peace without nearly all modern commentators of distrust. It was not long, however, every school. Arminius says, “The before he found himself in this last apostle in this passage does not expectation sadly disappointed. His speak about himself nor about a abandonment of the task of refuting man living under grace, but he has Coornhert and the Delft divines not transferred to himself the person of unnaturally gave rise to suspicions a man placed under the law.' This as to his soundness in the faith. he supports by arguments derived He had not openly impugned the from ihe purpose of the previous opinions he had been called upon to chapter and its connection with this, defend, but that was a small matter. from the words themselves, from He had begun to doubt or dissent the manner in which 'carnal' and from them or he would have com spiritual' are opposed to each pleted the work he took in hand other in the Scriptures, from the The champion of the Genevan meaning of the phrase 'sold under school had bimself forsaken the sin,' from the signification of 'sin favourite tenets of his venerable dwelling, or reigning within,' and tutor. The young preacher had from other considerations. The
probed the vexed question to the contrary opinion, the interpretation • bottom and dared to think for himself. of the passage as descriptive of the
He must take the consequences. internal conflicts of the regenerate, The penalty of petty persecution however possible and plausible, he was sure to follow from the zeal of considers invalidates the efficacy of envious or misguided men. Such the grace of God, and is injurious persons are always on the alert to the cultivation of genuine piety, seeking occasion of scandal and for it leaves the regenerate man reproach in the church. There were still 'carnal.' 'sold under sin, such persons at Amsterdam at this 'under the dominion of sin,' and period, and the occasion they sought unable to perform that which is was soon found.
good.' While such a view of the
Arminius continues his Lectures.
passage ascribes too little to the in turn themselves accused of heresy. power of God's grace, his own view The civil authorites now interposed. does not, he thinks, ascribe too The ministers of religion were summuch to human nature, for it repmoned in a body before the mag. resents the person whose state Paul nates of the city, lectured severely assumes as convinced of sin by the on their dissensions, and admonished law, as contrite, wretched, and to keep their theological squabbles helpless, in quest of a Saviour, and out of the pulpit. Should they fail though not regenerate yet in the in this duty, recourse would be had stage next to regeneration.
to other remedies, lest by their unFor this exposition of a disputed seemly contention harm should ac. passage of Scripture a storm of crue to the church and the republic. scandal was raised about Arminius. The ministers bore the reproof with He was beset by a noisy crowd of meekness. They explained, apolocalumniators. Some called him a gized, solicited å conference for the Pelagian, on the ground that he further settlement of their dif. attributed too much goodness to ferences. The authorities of the human nature. Others branded him city decided that no further discusas a Socinian, because Socinus had sion should take place, but that the expounded the passage as he had done. whole affair should be consigned to Others were content to designate oblivion. So for a time the matter him a heretic, a preacher of doctrines was at rest. opposed to creed and catechism, and Relieved from turmoil and cona traducer of the ancient fathers oftention, Arminius continued his the church,whose support heclaimed. expositions of the epistle to the The matter was brought before the Romans. There was no diminution Presbytery. Arminius_ was of popular interest in his ministry. moned to appear. One Peter Planc, The crowded church, with its mixed a brother minister, was his chief and attentive assembly of hearers, accuser. Arminius warmly re- told how deeply he had laid hold pudiated the charges brought against upon the hearts of the people, and him. He was neither a Pelagian how widely his fame and influence nor a Socinian, and he had not extended. He was growing every taught any doctrine contrary to the day in usefulness and power. But formularies of mutual consent. his opponents were on the alert Moreover, he claimed for himself watching the opportunity to reopen freedom in the interpretation of the strife. As if determined to particular passages of Scripture. prove that the phrase 'I am carnal,' Peter Planc not satisfied. which Arminius objected to apply to The clergy of Amsterdam waxed spiritual men, did apply to them, hot in contention. It became the they did their best to merit the common talk that the ministers of apostolic rebuke, Whereas there is the Reformed church were not among you envying, and strife, and agreed among themselves upon divisions (factions), are ye not carnal matters of faith. To remove this and walk as men In the spirit of scandal, Uitenbogardt, a friend of carnal contention, they frequented Arminius, at the request of Pro- the church of Arminius and listened fessor Lydius of Franeker, came to his discourses. They desired to the city. Having consulted with fresh ground of accusation against Taffin of the Walloon church, he him. He was coming, they thought
a plan for restoring among themselves, to the strong. harmony, obtained the assent of hold of orthodox predestination, the Arminius to its conditions, and ninth chapter of the epistle: they presented it to the Presbytery. The should soon make him an easy plan was rejected by a large ma- victim. Arminius, suspecting the jority, and Uitenbogardt and Taffin intentions of some of his hearers, were thanked for their pains by being resolved to be doubly on his guard.