WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ADDRESS TO THE READER
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IT cannot be a matter of secrecy to you, how various, uncertain and prodigious the rumors are which have been circulated through Holland, Germany, and Great Britain, concerning James Arminius, Professor of Divinity; and in what manner (I do not stop to discuss with how much zeal) some persons accuse this man of schism and others of heresy, some charge him with the crime of Pelagianism and others brand him with the black mark of Socinianism, while all of them execrate him as the pest of the reformed churches. On this account, those persons who feel a regard for the memory of this learned man, and who, not without good reason, are desirous of maintaining his reputation and character, and of defending him from those atrocious imputations and virulent calumnies, have lately published some of his erudite lucubrations, which are polished with the greatest care. They have thus placed them within the reach of the public, that the reader, who is eager in the pursuit after truth, may more easily and happily form his judgment about the station which Arminius is entitled to hold among posterity, not from fallacious rumors and the criminations of the malevolent, but from authentic documents, as if from the ingenuous confession itself of the accused speaking openly in his own cause, and mildly replying to the crimes with which he has been charged.
With this object in view, the friends of Arminius have published, as separate treatises, his "Modest Examination of a Pamphlet, written some years ago by that very learned Divine, William Perkins, on Predestination: To which is added, an Analysis of the Ninth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans," and his "Dissertation on the true and genuine Meaning of the Seventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans."
But these two works are neither sufficient nor satisfactory to many dispositions that are prying or that indulge in surmises, and to other eminent men who abound with an acrimonious shrewdness of judgment; because they embrace neither the whole nor the chief of the perplexing difficulties of James Arminius. Some of those who attended his Academical Lectures, affirm that he frequently uttered novel and astounding paradoxes about other points of the orthodox doctrine [than are contained in the two works just mentioned]. Other persons relate, as a great secret, that Arminius addressed "A Letter" to Hippolytus a Collibus, in which he more fully discloses his own pestiferous sentiments; and that "CERTAIN ARTICLES" are circulated in a private manner, in which, while treating upon several of the chief heads of orthodox theology, he introduces his own poisonous dogmas.
In this state of affairs, we may be permitted to give some assistance to an absent person, nay, to one who is dead, and to offer a reply to the accusations and criminations which we have now specified, by the evidence of witnesses who are worthy of credit, and by the publication of the very documents which we are thus challenged to produce. Perhaps, by this means, we shall be able to remove those sinister insinuations and suspicions. We shall, at least, meet the wishes of a number of persons, and shall terminate the anxieties of several minds that have till now been in a state of suspense.
Accept, therefore, candid reader, of that "Letter" about which so many reports have been circulated, and which was addressed to Hippolytus a Collibus, Ambassador from Prince Frederick 4, the Electar Palatine.
Accept, likewise, of those "ARTICLES" which are to be diligently examined and pondered, and which give us the sentiments of Arminius on the One and the Triune God, The Attributes of God, the Deity of the Son, Predestination and Divine Providence, Original Sin, Free Will, the Grace of God, Christ and his Satisfaction, Justification, Faith and Repentance, Regeneration, the Baptism of Infants, the Lords Supper, and On Magistracy. Accurately consider and candidly judge whatever he thought necessary to be amended or to be rendered more complete in the doctrine of the reformed churches.
The writing of this man require no commendations from me, or from any other person: There is no need of ivy in this instance, for these productions will insure approbation.
A LETTER, BY THE REV. JAMES ARMINIUS, D.D. &c. &c.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY, THE NOBLE LORD, HIPPOLYTUS A COLLIBUS, AMBASSADOR, FROM THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE, THE ELECTOR PALATINE, TO THE SEVEN UNITED DUTCH PROVINCES, JAMES ARMINIUS WISHETH HEALTH AND SUCCESS
MOST NONOURABLE SIR:
When I was lately admitted to a conversation with you, you had the kindness to intimate to me the reports which you understood had been circulated at Heidelberg about my heterodoxy in certain articles of our faith; and you gave me this information, not only that you might yourself hear from me personally the whole truth about the matter, but, much more, that, by the intervention of your good offices, the suspicions concerning me, which have been so unhandsomely conceived and propagated, might be removed from the minds of other persons, since this is a course which truth requires. I endeavoured at that interview, with diligence and seriousness to comply with your obliging request, and by returning a frank and open reply to each of those questions which your excellency proposed, I instantly disclosed my sentiments about those several Articles. For, in addition to my being bound to do this, by my duty as a Christian man, and especially as a divine, such a course of conduct was demanded from me by the great candour, condescension and benevolence which you exhibited towards me.
But my explanation was so agreeable to your excellency, (which I ascribe to an act of the divine Benignity towards me,) as to induce you, on that occasion, to think it requisite that those propositions of mine should be committed to writing and transmitted to you, not only for the purpose of being thus enabled the more certainly and firmly to form your own judgment about the matter when you had maturely reflected upon it, but also with the design of communicating my written answers to others, that they might confute the calumny and vindicate my innocence. Having followed the counsel of your prudence, and firmly relying on the same hope, I now accede to your further wishes, in this letter; and I intreat your excellency to have the goodness to peruse its contents with the same candour and equanimity as were displayed when you listened to their delivery. Unless my mind greatly deceives me, your excellency will find in this letter that which will not only be able to obliterate, but also completely to eradicate, every unjust suspicion concerning me, from the minds of those good men who know that every one is the best interpreter of his own sentiments, and that the utmost credit is to be given to him who sacredly, and in the presence of God, bears testimony to his own meaning.
The articles of doctrine about which your excellency made inquiries, were, as far as my memory serves me, the following: the Divinity of the Son of God, Providence, Divine Predestination, Grace and Free Will, and Justification. Beside these, you inquired about the things which concerned our opinions, in answer to the interrogatories of the States of Holland, concerning the mode of holding the proposed synod. But as the latter relate to that most eminent man, the Revelation John Uytenbogard, minister of the church at the Hague, as much as to me, I leave them to be explained by him, whose residence is much nearer to that of your excellency.
With regard to all these doctrinal Articles, I confidently declare that I have never taught anything, either in the church or in the university, which contravenes the sacred writings, that ought to be with us the sole rule of thinking and of speaking, or which is opposed to the Dutch Confession of Faith, or to the Heidelberg Catechism, that are our stricter formularies of consent. In proof of this assertion I might produce, as most clear and unquestionable testimonies, the theses which I have composed on these several Articles, and which have been discussed as Public Disputations in the university; but as those theses are not entirely in readiness for every one, and can be with difficulty transmitted, I will now treat upon each of them specially, as far as I shall conceive it necessary.