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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - JUSTIFICATION
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The last article is on justification, about which these are my sentiments: Faith, and faith only, (though there is no faith alone without works,) is imputed for righteousness. By this alone are we justified before God, absolved from our sins, and are accounted, pronounced and declared righteous by God, who delivers his judgment from the throne of grace.
I do not enter into the question be the active and the passive righteousness of Christ, or that of his death and of his life. On this subject, I walk at liberty: I say "Christ has been made of God to me righteousness" -- "he has been made sin for me, that through faith, I may be the righteousness of God in him."
Nor yet do I refuse to confer with my brethren on this question, provided such conference be conducted without bitterness, and without an opinion of necessity, [that the partial view of any one should be generally received,] from which scarcely any other result can ensue than the existence of distraction, and of increased effervescence in the minds of men, especially if this discussion should occur between those who are hot controversialists, and too vehement in their zeal.
But some persons charge me with this as a crime -- that I say the act itself of faith, that is, believing itself, is imputed for righteousness, and that in a proper sense, and not by a metonymy. I acknowledge this charge, as I have the apostle St. Paul, in Romans 4, and in other passages, as my precursor in the use of this phrase. But the conclusion which they draw from this affirmation, namely, "that Christ and his righteousness are excluded from our justification, and that our justification is thus attributed to the worthiness of our faith," I by no means concede it to be possible for them to deduce from my sentiments.
For the word "to impute ," signifies that faith is not righteousness itself, but is graciously accounted for righteousness; by which circumstance all worthiness is taken away from faith, except that which is through the gracious condescending estimation of God. But this gracious condescension and estimation is not without Christ, but in reference to Christ, in Christ, and on account of Christ, whom God hath appointed as the propitiation through faith in his blood.
I affirm, therefore, that faith is imputed to us for righteousness, on account of Christ and his righteousness. In this enunciation, faith is the object of imputation; but Christ and his obedience are the impetratory [procuring] or meritorious cause of justification. Christ and his obedience are the object of our faith, but not the object of justification or divine imputation, as if God imputes Christ and his righteousness to us for righteousness. This cannot possibly be, since the obedience of Christ is righteousness itself, taken according to the most severe rigor of the law. But I do not deny that the obedience of Christ is imputed to us; that is, that it is accounted or reckoned for us and for our benefit, because this very thing -- that God reckons the righteousness of Christ to have been performed for us and for our benefit -- is the cause why God imputes to us for righteousness our faith, which has Christ and his righteousness for its object and foundation, and why he justifies us by faith, from faith, or through faith.
If any one will point out an error in this my opinion, I will gladly own it, because it is possible for me to err, but I am not willing to be a heretic.
The preceding, then, as far as I remember, are the Articles which your excellency mentioned to me, with my explanations of them produced from sincerity of mind; and as thus sincere, I wish them to be accounted by all who see them. This one favour I wish I could obtain from my brethren, who are associated with me in the Lord by the profession of the same religion, that they would at least believe me to have some feeling of conscience towards God. And this favour ought to be easily granted by them, through the charity of Christ, if they be desirous to study his disposition and nature.
Of what service to me can a dissension be which is undertaken merely through a reckless humour of mind, or a schism created in the church of Christ, of which, by the grace of God and Christ, I profess myself to be a member? If my brethren suppose that I am incited to such an enterprise through ambition or avarice, I sincerely declare in the Lord, that they know me not. But I can confess that I am so free from the latter of these vices, as never to have been tickled, on any occasion, with even the most enticing of its snares -- though it might be in my power to excuse or palliate it under some pretext or other. With regard to ambition, I possess it not, except to that honourable kind which impels me to this service -- to inquire with all earnestness in the Holy Scriptures for divine truth, and mildly and without contradiction to declare it when found, without prescribing it to any one, or labouring to extort consent, much less through a desire to "have dominion over the faith of others," but rather for the purpose of my winning some souls for Christ, that I may be a sweet savour to him, and may obtain an approved reputation in the church of the saints. This good name I hope I shall obtain by the grace of Christ, after a long period of patient endurance; though I be now a reproach to my brethren, and "made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things" to those who with me worship and invoke one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, in one spirit and with the same faith, and who have the same hope with me of obtaining the heavenly inheritance through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope the Lord will grant unto me, that they and I may meekly meet together in his great name, and institute a Christian conference about those things which appertain to religion. O may the light of that sacred and happy day speedily shine upon me. In that assembly, I engage, through the grace of God, to manifest such moderation of mind, and such love for truth and peace, as ought deservedly to be required and expected from a servant of Christ Jesus.
In the mean time [till this assembly can be convened], let my brethren themselves remain quiescent and suffer me to be quiet, that I may be at peace, and neither annoy them, nor create any uneasiness. If they entertain other thoughts concerning me, let them institute an [ecclesiastical] action against me; I will not shun or evade the authority of a competent judge, neither will I forfeit my recognizances by failing to appear.
If it be supposed that the minds of those who hear me are preoccupied in my favour, at a distance, by some politic subtlety which I display, and that the matter is so managed through cunning, as makes my brethren neither to consider it advisable to arraign me before the judges, nor to account it sufficiently safe to commit to my care the youthful students; and therefore, that the black stain which I have deserved ought to be affixed to my reputation, that my pupils and hearers may be frightened away; therefore, lest the result of this should be that the deferring of such a conference be productive of certain danger, behold I now offer myself, that I may, in company with them, address, solicit, and intreat those high personages who are invested with the power of issuing a summons for a convention of this kind, or of granting it, not to suffer us any longer to continue in this anguish and disquietude of mind, but either themselves to apply a speedy remedy, or allow it to be applied by others, but still by their order and under their direction.
I will not refuse to place myself before any assembly whatsoever, whether it be composed of all the ministers in our United Netherlands, or of some to be convoked from each of the seven provinces, or even of all the ministers of Holland and West Friesland, to which province our university at Leyden belongs, or of some ministers to be selected out of these, provided the whole affair be transacted under the cognizance of our lawful magistrates. Nor do I avoid or dread the presence of learned men, who may be invited from other countries, provided they be present at the conference on equitable conditions, and subject to the same laws as those under which I must be placed.
To express the whole matter at once -- let a convention be summoned, consisting of many members or of few, provided some bright hope of success be afforded [to them], a hope, I repeat it, which I shall be able, by sound arguments, to prove destitute of good foundation. Behold me, this day, nay, this very hour, prepared and ready to enter into it. For I am weary of being daily aspersed with the filthy scum of fresh calumnies, and grieved at being burdened with the necessity of clearing myself from them. In this part of my conduct, I am assuredly dissimilar from heretics, who have either avoided ecclesiastical assemblies, or have managed matters so as to be able to confide in the number of their retainers, and to expect a certain victory.
But I have finished. For I have occupied your attention, most honourable sir, a sufficient length of time; and I have made a serious encroachment on those valuable moments which you would have devoted to matters of greater importance. Your excellency will have the condescension to forgive the liberty which I have taken to address this letter to you, as it has been extorted from me by a degree of necessity -- and not to disdain to afford me your patronage and protection, just so far as divine truth and the peace and concord of the Christian church will allow you to vouchsafe.
I pray and beseech Almighty God long to preserve your excellency in safety, to endue you yet more with the spirit of wisdom and prudence, by which you may be enabled to discharge the duties of the embassy which has been imposed upon you, and thus meet the wishes of the most illustrious prince, the Elector Palatine. And, after you have happily discharged those duties, may he benignantly and graciously grant to you a prosperous return to your own country and kindred.
Your excellency's most devoted servant, JAMES ARMINIUS, Professor of Theology in the University of Leyden.
LEYDEN, April 5, 1608
END OF THE LETTER TO HIPPOLYTUS A COLLIBUS