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THE SYMBOLIC BOOK OF THE ARMINIANS.
HE triumph of the reformed churches over the Arminians, at the synod of Dort, was rather apparent than substantial. It may be added to the numerous instances of the unavailing efforts of the temporal and ecclesiastical powers, even when they are united, to prevent the diffusion and adoption of opinions, which the public mind is strongly bent on receiving. Most of the leaders of the arminians were banished from the states of Holland, or found it necessary to quit them. Those who remained were persecuted, and the general body was subjected to continual vexation. But, after the death of Prince Maurice, a wiser conduct, in their regard, was pursued: the exiles were recalled, and the community at large was permitted to follow their religious principles without molestation. Insensibly, the toleration was so complete, that, with the connivance of the government, they built churches, founded seminaries for the instruction of their youth, and, for the propagation of their theological principles, established a college at Amsterdam. The first professor of theology at this celebrated institution was Episcopius. Many other of its professors, as Courcelles, Limborch, Le
Clerc, and Wetstein, were eminent for their learning. From their remonstrances against the proceedings of the synod at Dort, they obtained the appellation of remonstrants: from their opposition to the remonstrances, Gomar and his followers were called contra-remonstrants.
The great object of the arminian professors was, if we may be allowed to use their own expressions, to simplify the creed of christians, and bring them into one fold. In opposition to the followers of Calvin, they held 1st, That God, from all eternity, determined to bestow salvation on those, who, he foresaw, would persevere, to the end, in their faith in Jesus Christ; and to inflict everlasting punishment on those, who, he foresaw, would continue in their unbelief, and resist, unto the end, his divine succours: 2dly, That Jesus Christ, by his death and sufferings, atoned for the sins of all mankind; but, that those only, who believe in him, can be partakers of these benefits: 3dly, That true faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, or from the force and operation of free will, so that it is necessary to man's conversion and salvation, that he be regenerated and renewed, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ: 4thly, That the divine grace begins, advances, and brings to perfection every thing, that can be called good in man; but does not force man to act against
ineffectual by his perverse will: 5thly, That persons united to Christ by faith, are thereby furnished with abundant strength to triumph over the seduction of Satan and concupiscence; but, that the question, whether persons thus united to Christ may afterwards fall from their faith, and finally forfeit this state of grace, has not yet been resolved with sufficient perspicuity.
In reading these articles, the reader will naturally ask, which of them justified the religious persecution, which the arminians suffered, or called down upon them the interference of the civil power. Their persecution gave rise to the learned and eloquent treatise of Grotius," De jure summarum potestatum circa sacra." It was perhaps the first advocation of religious liberty that issued from any press. But Sir Thomas More had, long before, supposed its existence in Utopia.
It is observable, that the difference of opinion between the arminians and the reformed churches, on the points, which we have noticed, is the great subject of division between the Wesleyan and Whitfieldian methodists; and, in a great degree the apple of discord between the jesuits and jansenists.
The theological system of the arminians, after their return from Holland, underwent, if we credit Dr. Mosheim, a remarkable change. They appeared by his account, almost to coincide with
those, who exclude the necessity of divine succours
in the work of conversion and sanctification; and to think that Christ demands from man, rather virtue than faith; and has confined that belief, which is essential to salvation, to a few articles. Thus, the modern arminians, if we credit Dr. Mosheim, admit into their communion, 1st, All, who receive the holy scriptures, and more especially the New Testament; and they allow to every individual his own interpretation of the sacred books: —2d, All, who abstain from idolatry and polytheism :-3d, All, whose lives are regulated by the laws of God:-4th, And all, who neither persecute, nor bear ill will towards those, who differ from them in their religious principles. Their confession of faith was drawn up by Episcopius. It is entitled, Confessio, sive Declaratio sententiæ Pastorum, qui in Federato Belgio Remonstratenses vocantur, super præcipuos Articulos Religionis Christianæ MDCXXII. Four divines of the established church of Holland, Polyander, Rivetus, Walæus, and Thysæus, published A Refutation of this confession. The authors of the confession replied by their Apology in 1626.
The adversaries of the arminians have frequently attempted to fix on them the charge of deism; but this charge, the arminians have in
dignantly rejected. A writer in the Bibliotheque Germanique, (Tom. XLVI. Art. 12. P. 208.) relates, that the celebrated Anthony Collins
accompanied by some Frenchman of the confraternity of those, who think freely. They expected to find the religious opinions of Le Clerc in unison with their own; but they were surprised to find the strong stand which he made in favour of revelation. He proved to them, with great strength of argument, the truth of the christian religion. 'Jesus Christ, he told them, was born among the Jews: still it was not the jewish religion which he taught; neither was it the religion of the pagan neighbourhood; but a religion infinitely superior to both. One sees in it, the most striking marks of divinity. The christians, who followed, were incapable of imagining any thing so beautiful. Add to this, that the christian religion is so excellently calculated for the good of society, that, if we did not derive so great a present from heaven, the good and safety of men would absolutely demand for them an equivalent.'-Throughout the conversation, M. Le Clerc warmly reproached the deists for the hatred which they showed to christianity. He proved, that by banishing it from the world, they would overturn whatever was most holy and respectable among men; break asunder the surest bonds of humanity; teach men to shake off the yoke of law; deprive them of their strongest incitement to virtue; and bereave them of their best comfort. What,' he asked them, 'do you substitute in its place? Can you flatter yourselves that you will discover something better? You expect,