A DISPLAY OF ARMINIANISM:
A DISCOVERY OF THE OLD PELAGIAN IDOL FREE-WILL, WITH THE NEW GODDESS CONTINGENCY, ADVANCING THEMSELVES INTO THE THRONE OF THE GOD OF HEAVEN, TO THE PREJUDICE OF HIS GRACE, PROVIDENCE, AND SUPREME DOMINION OVER THE CHILDREN OF MEN;
THE MAIN ERRORS BY WHICH THEY ARE FALLEN OFF FROM THE RECEIVED DOCTRINE OF ALL THE REFORMED CHURCHES, WITH THEIR OPPOSITION IN DIVERS PARTICULARS TO THE DOCTRINE ESTABLISHED IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, ARE DISCOVERED AND LAID OPEN OUT OF THEIR OWN WRITINGS AND CONFESSIONS, AND CONFUTED BY THE WORD OF GOD.
Produce your cause, saith the LORD: bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. — Isaiah 41:21.
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. — Isaiah 45:9
Qe>v w+ Ake>si>lai kli>maka kai< mo>nov ajna>bhqi eijv to<n oujrano>n. — Constant., apud Socrat., lib. 1. cap. 10..13
THE relation of man to his Creator has engaged the attention of earnest and thoughtful minds, from the days of the patriarch of Uz to the most recent controversies of modern times. The entrance of sin into the world has vastly complicated this relationship; so that, considered in its various bearings, it involves some of the most difficult problems with which the human intellect has ever attempted to grapple. The extent to which the intellect itself has been weakened and beclouded by the corruption of our nature, renders us the less able to penetrate into the deep mysteries of human duty and destiny. Whether man sins now as essentially affected with the taint of the first sin, and involved in the responsibilities of the first sinner, or sins wholly on his own account and by his own free act, under the bias of no connection with Adam, except what connection obtains between example on the one hand and imitation on the other? whether, on the supposition of a scheme of saving grace, grace is simply divine and external aid to the will of man, already operating freely in the direction of what is good, and so establishing a meritorious claim upon God for the bestowal of such aid, or a supernatural influence creating in man the very liberty itself to will and to do what is good? and whether, in the latter view of divine grace, as bestowed in divine sovereignty, and therefore according to a divine purpose, it can be reconciled with human responsibility? — are the questions which produced the sharp encounter of keen and conflicting wits between Pelagius and Augustine of old.
Towards the middle of the ninth century, these questions again assumed distinctive prominence in the history of theological speculation. Gottschalc, a monk of Orbais, distinguished himself by his advocacy of the doctrines of Augustine. It was the doctrine of predestination chiefly on which he insisted; and the controversy in his hands assumed this peculiar modification, that not merely the application of gracious influence, but the reference of the atonement, was exhibited as under the limit and regulation of the divine sovereignty and purpose. Not that in this respect he was at variance with Augustine, but the point seems to have been specially and formally mooted in the discussions of this age. His view of predestination embraced an element which may be reckoned an advance on the Augustinian doctrine; for according to him, predestination was twofold, comprehending the punishment of the reprobate as well as the salvation of the elect; but while he held the predestination of men to the punishment of their sin, he was far from holding, as his opponents alleged, that they were predestinated to the commission of sin. Council warred with council in the case of Gottschalc. Gottschalc himself expiated by a death in prison his audacious anticipation of the rights of private judgment and free inquiry in a dark age.
The next revival of the same controversy in substance, though under certain modifications, took place after the Reformation. It is remarkable that at this period discussion on these weighty questions sprang up almost simultaneously in three different parts of Europe, and in three schools of theology, among which a wide diversity existed. The shackles of mediaeval ignorance were burst asunder by the awakening intelligence of Europe; and if we except the controversy between Protestantism and Popery, on which the Reformation hinged, no point could more naturally engage the mind, in the infancy of its freedom, than the compatibility of the divine purpose with human responsibility; on the solution of which problem the nature of redemption seemed to depend, and around which, by the spell of the very mystery attaching to it, human speculation in all ages had revolved. When an interdict still lay on theological inquiry, Thomists and Scotists had discussed it in its metaphysical form, and under a cloud of scholastic subtleties, lest the jealousies of a dominant church should be awakened. But now, when a measure of intellectual freedom had been acquired, and the dispute between free-will on the one hand and efficacious grace on the other involved a practical issue between Rome and Geneva, the question received a treatment almost exclusively theological.
First, perhaps, in the order of time, this discussion was revived in Poland, and in connection with the heresies of Socinus. The divinity of Christ, the nature of the atonement, and the corruption of human nature, are all doctrines essentially connected. It is because Christ is divine that an adequate satisfaction has been rendered, in his sufferings, to the claims of divine justice; and such an atonement is indispensable for our salvation, if man, because dead in sin, has no power to achieve salvation by any merit of his own. A denial of the total corruption of our nature seems essential to the Unitarian system; so far there is common ground between the systems of Pelagius and Socinus. It is not wonderful that this measure of identity should develop consequences affecting the doctrine of the divine purposes and of predestination, though it is beyond our limits to trace either the necessary or the historical evolution of these consequences. Spanheim, in his “Elenchus Controversiarum,” p. 237, ascribes the origin of the Arminian controversy in Holland to certain emissaries, Ostorodius and Voidovius, dispatched by the Polish Socinians into the Low Countries, for the purpose of propagating the tenets of their sect. Their tenets respecting the Trinity and the atonement took no root in these countries; but Spanheim affirms that it was otherwise in regard to certain opinions of Socinus, “quae ille recoxit ex Pelagii disciplinā,” on predestination, free-will, and the ground of justification before God.
About the same time, the Church of Rome was shaken to its center by the same controversy. The Jesuits had always Pelagian leanings, and in the Council of Trent their influence was triumphant, and, so far as its decrees stereotype the Romish creed, sealed the doom of the waning authority of Augustine. Louis Molina, in 1588, made an attempt, in his lectures on “The Concord of Grace and Free-will,” to unite the conflicting theories. The Jesuits regarded his attempt with no favor. A lengthened controversy arose, in which Molinism, as partly a deviation from, and partly a compromise of, the fundamental principles of the Augustinian system, was effectually assailed by the piety of Jansen, the learning of Arnauld, and the genius of Pascal, till the bull Unigenitus secured a lasting triumph for Jesuitism, by the authoritative condemnation of the doctrines of Augustine, as declared in the collection of extracts from his writings which Jansen had published under the title “Augustinus.”
But it was in Holland that the controversy on this point arose which had the chief influence on British theology, and reduced the questions at issue to the shape under which they are discussed by Owen in his “Display of Arminianism.” On the death of an eminent theologian of the name of Junius, Arminius was called to the vacant chair in the University of Leyden. Gomar, a professor in the same university, and the Presbytery of Amsterdam, opposed his appointment, on the ground of his erroneous principles. On giving a pledge that he would teach nothing at variance with the Belgic Confession and Catechism, he was allowed to enter on his office as professor in 1603. Gomar and he again fell into a dispute on the subject of predestination, — the origin of prolonged troubles and controversies in the Church of Holland. Gomar and his party were supported by the majority of the clergy in the church. Arminius depended upon the political support of the state. The former sought a national synod to adjudicate on the prevailing controversy. The latter, having the ear of the state, contrived to prevent it. Stormy scenes ensued, amid which Arminius died, and Episcopius became the leader of the Remonstrants, as his followers were called, from a remonstrance which they submitted in 1610 to the States of Holland and West Friesland. The Remonstrants levied soldiers to sustain their cause, and the provinces resounded with military preparations. At last, profiting by the confusion, Maurice, the head of the house of Orange, by a series of daring and reckless movements, seized upon the government of the States. In deference to Gomar and his party, he convened a general synod on the 13th November 1618. The doctrines of Arminius were condemned, and five articles were drawn up and published as the judgment of the synod on the points in dispute. The first asserts election by grace, in opposition to election on the ground of foreseen excellence; in the second God is declared to have willed that Christ should efficaciously redeem all those, and those only, who from eternity were chosen to salvation; the third and fourth relate to the moral impotence of man, and the work of the Spirit in conversion; and the fifth affirms the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. The Church of France embodied these articles among her own standards. The Church of Geneva as cordially acquiesced in them.
Four English deputies, Drs. Carleton, Hall, Davenant, and Ward, together with Dr. Balcanquhal from Scotland, by the command of James VI., repaired to Holland, and took their place in the Synod of Dort, in accordance with a request of the Dutch Church to be favored with the aid and countenance of some delegates from the British Churches. The proceedings of the Synod of Dort had the sanction of these British divines. No doubt can be entertained that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England were not Arminian; but on the elevation of Laud to the see of Canterbury, Arminianism grew strong within its pale. A royal prohibition was issued against all discussion of the controverted points in the pulpit. All ecclesiastical preferments at the disposal of the Crown were bestowed on those who leaned to Arminian views. “The fates of our church,” says Owen, in the note to the reader prefixed to the following treatise, “having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked truth into a corner.” It would, however, be neither fair nor correct if the statement of these facts left an impression that Arminianism made progress solely through the help of royal and prelatic favor. It was embraced and supported by some authors to whom no sinister motives can be imputed; and the cause has never found an abler advocate than John Goodwin, whose name, for his publications against the royal interest, was associated with that of Milton, in the legal proceedings instituted against them both at the Restoration.
At this juncture, Owen felt it his duty to oppose the innovations on the received doctrine of the church, by the publication of a work in which the views of the Arminians are exhibited on all the leading topics of the controversy, with the exception of three points, relating to universal grace, justification, and the perseverance of the saints. He substantiates his statements regarding the Arminian tenets by copious quotations from the works of the Dutch Remonstrants; and contrasts them, at the close of each chapter, with passages from Scripture. Exception may be taken to this course, as the sentence of any author, detached from the context, may convey a meaning which is essentially modified by it. Some of these quotations are so far accommodated by Owen as to present a full statement of a particular opinion, instead of appearing in the parenthetic and incidental form which they present in the original works, as merely parts of a sentence. We did not feel it needful to interfere with them in this shape; for, so far as we can judge, our author evinces perfect integrity in all the quotations to which he has recourse, and the slight alterations occasionally made on them never superinduce a dishonest or mistaken gloss on the views of the authors from whom the passages are selected. It may be questioned if Owen sufficiently discriminates the doctrine of Arminius from the full development which his system, after his death, received in the hands of his followers. Sometimes, moreover, opinions possessing the distinctive features of Pelagianism are confounded with Arminianism, strictly so called. Our author, perhaps, may be vindicated on the ground that it was his object to exhibit Arminianism as current and common in his day; and his quotations seem to prove that his Display of it was not far from the truth, though, from the refinement of modern discrimination on some of the points, many an Arminian would hardly subscribe to some of the statements as a correct representation of his creed, and a Calvinistic author is under obvious temptation to run up Arminian views into what he may esteem their legitimate consequences in the extravagance of the Pelagian theory. The style is simple; some polish appears in the composition; and occasionally a degree of ornament and pleasantry is employed (as when he enters on the question of Free-will, chap. 12.), which is rare with Owen, who perhaps prided himself on the studious rejection of literary elegance. It could be wished that he had risen superior to the vice of the age in such discussions, by manifesting less acerbity of temper and diction in the refutation of the views which he combats in this work. It was Owen’s first publication (1642), and immediately brought him into notice. The living of Fordham in Essex was conferred upon him by the Committee of Religion, to whom the work is dedicated. — ED.
2 Martii, anno Domini 1642.
IT is this day ordered, by the Committee of the House of Commons in Parliament for the Regulating of Printing and Publishing of Books, That this book, entitled “A Display of Arminianism,” be printed.
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE
THE LORDS AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE FOR RELIGION,
THE many ample testimonies of zealous reverence to the providence of God, as well as affectionate care for the privileges of men, which have been given by this honorable assembly of parliament, encourage the adorers of the one, no less than the lovers of the other, to vindicate that also from the encroachments of men. And as it was not, doubtless, without divine disposition that those should be the chiefest agents in robbing men of their privileges who had nefariously attempted to spoil God of his providence; so we hope the same all-ruling hand hath disposed of them to be glorious instruments of re-advancing his right and supreme dominion over the hearts of men whose hearts he hath prepared with courage and constancy to establish men in their inviolated rights, by reducing a sweet harmony between awful sovereignty and a well-moderated liberty. Now, the first of these being demandated to your particular care, I come unto you with a bill of complaint against no small number in this kingdom, who have wickedly violated our interest in the providence of God, and have attempted to bring in the foreign power of an old idol, to the great prejudice of all the true subjects and servants of the Most High. My accusation I make good by the evidence of the fact, joined with their own confessions. And because, to waive the imputation of violent intrusion into the dominion of another, they lay some claim and pretend some title unto it, I shall briefly show how it is contrary to the express terms of the great charter of Heaven to have any such power introduced amongst men. Your known love to truth and the gospel of Christ makes it altogether needless for me to stir you up by any motives to hearken to this just complaint, and provide a timely remedy for this growing evil; especially since experience hath so clearly taught us here, in England, that not only eternal but temporal happiness also dependeth on the flourishing of the truth of Christ’s gospel.
Justice and religion were always conceived as the main columns and upholders of any state or commonwealth; like two pillars in a building, whereof the one cannot stand without the other, nor the whole fabric without them both. As the philosopher spake of logic and rhetoric, they are artes anti>strofai, mutually aiding each other, and both aiming at the same end, though in different manners; so they, without repugnancy, concur and sweetly fall in one with another, for the reiglement and direction of every person in a commonwealth, to make the whole happy and blessed: and where they are both thus united, there, and only there, is the blessing in assurance whereof Hezekiah rejoiced, — truth and peace. An agreement without truth is no peace, but a covenant with death, a league with hell, a conspiracy against the kingdom of Christ, a stout rebellion against the God of heaven; and without justice, great commonwealths are but great troops of robbers. Now, the result of the one of these is civil peace; of the other, ecclesiastical: betwixt which two there is a great sympathy, a strict connection, having on each other a mutual dependence. Is there any disturbance of the state? it is usually attended with schisms and factions in the church; and the divisions of the church are too often even the subversions of the commonwealth. Thus it hath been ever since that unhappy difference between Cain and Abel; which was not concerning the bounds and limits of their inheritance, nor which of them should be heir to the whole world, but about the dictates of religion, the offering of their sacrifices. This fire, also, of dissension hath been more stirred up since the Prince of Peace hath, by his gospel, sent the sword amongst us; for the preaching thereof, meeting with the strongholds of Satan and the depraved corruption of human nature, must needs occasion a great shaking of the earth. But most especially, distracted Christendom hath found fearful issues of this discord, since the proud Romish prelates have sought to establish their hell-broached errors, by inventing and maintaining uncharitable, destructive censures against all that oppose them: which, first causing schisms and distractions in the church, and then being helped forward by the blindness and cruelty of ambitious potentates, have raised war of nation against nation, — witness the Spanish invasion of ‘88; [and war] of a people within themselves, as in the late civil wars of France, where, after divers horrible massacres, many chose rather to die soldiers than martyrs.
And, oh, that this truth might not, at this day, be written with the blood of almost expiring Ireland! Yea, it hath lastly descended to dissension betwixt private parties, — witness the horrible murder of Diazius, whose brains were chopped out with an axe by his own brother Alphonsus, for forsaking the Romish religion; what rents in [the] State, what grudgings, hatreds, and exasperations of mind among private men, have happened by reason of some inferior differences, we all at this day grieve to behold. “Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!” Most concerning, then, is it for us to endeavor obedience to our Savior’s precept, of seeking first the kingdom of God, that we may be partakers of the good things comprised in the promise annexed. Were there but this one argument for to seek the peace of the church, because thereon depends the peace of the commonwealth, it were sufficient to quicken our utmost industry for the attaining of it. Now, what peace in the church without truth? All conformity to anything else is but the agreement of Herod and Pilate to destroy Christ and his kingdom. Neither is it this or that particular truth, but the whole counsel of God revealed unto us, without adding or detracting, whose embracement is required to make our peace firm and stable. No halting betwixt Jehovah and Baal, Christ and Antichrist; as good be all Philistine, and worshippers of Dagon, as to speak part the language of Ashdod and part the language of the Jews: hence, hence hath been the rise of all our miseries, of all our dissensions, whilst factious men labored everyday to commend themselves to them who sat aloft in the temple of God, by introducing new popish-arminian errors, whose patronage they had wickedly undertaken. Who would have thought that our church would ever have given entertainment to these Belgic semi-Pelagians, who have cast dirt upon the faces and raked up the ashes of all those great and pious souls whom God magnified, in using as his instruments to reform his church; to the least of which the whole troop of Arminians shall never make themselves equal, though they swell till they break? What benefit did ever come to this church by attempting to prove that the chief part in the several degrees of our salvation is to be ascribed unto ourselves, rather than God? — which is the head and sum of all the controversies between them and us. And must not the introducing and fomenting of a doctrine so opposite to that truth our church hath quietly enjoyed ever since the first Reformation necessarily bring along with it schisms and dissensions, so long as any remain who love the truth, or esteem the gospel above preferment? Neither let any deceive your wisdoms, by affirming that they are differences of an inferior nature that are at this day agitated between the Arminians and the orthodox divines of the reformed church. Be pleased but to cast an eye on the following instances, and you will find them hewing at the very root of Christianity. Consider seriously their denying of that fundamental article of original sin. Is this but a small escape in theology? — why, what need of the gospel, what need of Christ himself, if our nature be not guilty, depraved, corrupted? Neither are many of the rest of less importance. Surely these are not things “in quibus possimus dissentire salvā pace ac charitate,” as Austin speaks, — “about which we may differ without loss of peace or charity.” One church cannot wrap in her communion Austin and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius. I have here only given you a taste, whereby you may judge of the rest of their fruit, — “mors in olla, mors in olla;” their doctrine of the final apostasy of the elect, of true believers, of a wavering hesitancy concerning our present grace and future glory, with divers others, I have wholly omitted: those I have produced are enough to make their abettors incapable of our church-communion. The sacred bond of peace compasseth only the unity of that Spirit; which leadeth into all truth. We must not offer the right hand of fellowship, but rather proclaim iJero<n po>lemon, “a holy war,” to such enemies of God’s providence, Christ’s merit, and the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit. Neither let any object, that all the Arminians do not openly profess all these errors I have recounted. Let ours, then, show wherein they differ from their masters. We see their own confessions; we know their arts, ba>qh kai< meqodei>av tou~ Santana, — “the depths and crafts of Satan;” we know the several ways they have to introduce and insinuate their heterodoxies into the minds of men. With some they appear only to dislike our doctrine of reprobation; with others, to claim an allowable liberty of the will: but yet, for the most part, — like the serpent, wherever she gets in her head, she will wriggle in her whole body, sting and all, — give but the least admission, and the whole poison must be swallowed. What was the intention of the maintainers of these strange assertions amongst us I know not, — whether the efficacy of error prevailed really with them or no, or whether it were the better to comply with Popery, and thereby to draw us back again unto Egypt; — but this I have heard, that it was affirmed on knowledge, in a former parliament, that the introduction of Arminianism amongst us was the issue of a Spanish consultation. It is a strange story that learned Zanchius tells us, how, upon the death of the Cardinal of Lorraine there was found in his study a note of the names of divers German doctors and ministers, being Lutherans, to whom was paid an annual pension, by the assignment of the cardinal, that they might take pains to oppose the Calvinists; and so, by cherishing dissension, reduce the people again to Popery. If there be any such amongst us, who, upon such poor inconsiderable motives, would be won to betray the gospel of Christ, God grant them repentance before it be too late! However, upon what grounds, with what intentions, for what ends soever, these tares have been sowed amongst us by envious men, the hope of all the piously learned in the kingdom is, that, by your effectual care and diligence, some means may be found to root them out. Now, God Almighty increase and fill your whole honorable society with wisdom, zeal, knowledge, and all other Christian graces, necessary for your great calling and employments; which is the daily prayer, of your most humble and devoted servant,
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER.
READER, — Thou canst not be such a stranger in our Israel as that it should be necessary for me to acquaint thee with the first sowing and spreading of these tares in the field of the church, much less to declare what divisions and thoughts of heart, what open bitter contentions, to the loss of ecclesiastical peace, have been stirred up amongst us about them. Only some few things, relating to this my particular endeavor, I would willingly premonish thee of: —
First, Never were so many prodigious errors introduced into a church, with so high a hand and so little opposition, as these into ours, since the nation of Christians was known in the world. The chief cause I take to be that which AEneas Sylvius gave why more maintained the pope to be above the council than the council above the pope, — because popes gave archbishoprics, bishoprics, etc., but the councils sued “in forma pauperis,” and, therefore, could scarce get an advocate to plead their cause. The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old way to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.
My intention in this weak endeavor (which is but the undigested issue of a few broken hours, too many causes, in these furious malignant days, continually interrupting the course of my studies), is but to stir up such who, having more leisure and greater abilities, will not as yet move a finger to help [to] vindicate oppressed truth.
In the meantime, I hope this discovery may not be unuseful, especially to such who, wanting either will or abilities to peruse larger discourses, may yet be allured by their words, which are smoother than oil, to taste the poison of asps that is under their lips. Satan hath ba>qh kai< meqodei>an, depths where to hide, and methods how to broach his lies; and never did any of his emissaries employ his received talents with more skill and diligence than our Arminians, laboring earnestly, in the first place, to instill some errors that are most plausible, intending chiefly an introduction of them that are more palpable, knowing that if those be for a time suppressed until these be well digested, they will follow of their own accord. Wherefore, I have endeavored to lay open to the view of all some of their foundation-errors, not usually discussed, on which the whole inconsistent superstructure is erected, whereby it will appear how, under a most vain pretense of farthering piety, they have prevaricated against the very grounds of Christianity; wherein, —
First, I have not observed the same method in handling each particular controversy, but followed such several ways as seemed most convenient to clear the truth and discover their heresies.
Secondly, Some of their errors I have not touched at all, — as those concerning universal grace, justification, the final apostasy of true believers, — because they came not within the compass of my proposed method, as you may see chap. 1., where you have the sum of the whole discourse.
Thirdly, I have given some instances of their opposing the received doctrine of the church of England, contained in divers of the Thirty-nine Articles; which would it did not yield us just cause of farther complaint against the iniquity of those times whereinto we were lately fallen! Had a poor Puritan offended against half so many canons as they opposed articles, he had forfeited his livelihood, if not endangered his life. I would I could hear any other probable reason why divers prelates were so zealous for the discipline and so negligent of the doctrine of the church, but because the one was reformed by the word of God, the other remaining as we found it in the times of Popery.
Fourthly, I have not purposely undertaken to answer any of their arguments, referring that labor to a farther design, even a clearing of our doctrine of reprobation, and of the administration of God’s providence towards the reprobates, and over all their actions, from those calumnious aspersions they cast upon it; but concerning this, I fear the discouragements of these woeful days will leave me nothing but a desire that so necessary a work may find a more able pen.