Arminius on Predestination (Part 12)
XX. Lastly. This doctrine of Predestination has been rejected both in former times and in our own days, by the greater part of the professors of Christianity.
1. But, omitting all mention of the periods that occurred in former ages, facts themselves declare, that the Lutheran and Anabaptist Churches, as well as that of Rome, account this to be an erroneous doctrine.
2. However highly Luther and Melancthon might at the very commencement of the reformation, have approved of this doctrine, they afterwards deserted it. This change in Melancthon is quite apparent from his latter writings: And those who style themselves “Luther’s disciples,” make the same statement respecting their master, while they contend that on this subject he made a more distinct and copious declaration of his sentiments, instead of entirely abandoning those which he formerly entertained. But Philip Melancthon believed that this doctrine did not differ greatly from the fate of the Stoics: This appears from many of his writings, but more particularly in a certain letter which he addressed to Gasper Peucer, and in which, among other things, he states: “Lælius writes to me and says, that the controversy respecting the Stoical Fate is agitated with such uncommon fervour at Geneva, that one individual is cast into prison because he happened to differ from Zeno. O unhappy times! When the doctrine of salvation is thus obscured by certain strange disputes!”
3. All the Danish Churches embrace a doctrine quite opposed to this, as is obvious from the writings of Nicholas Hemmingius in his treatise on Universal Grace, in which he declares that the contest between him and his adversaries consisted in the determination of these two points: “do the Elect believe ,” or, “are believers the true elect?” He considers “those persons who maintain the former position, to hold sentiments agreeable to the doctrine of the Manichees and Stoics; and those who maintain the latter point, are in obvious agreement with Moses and the Prophets, with Christ and his Apostles.”
4. Besides, by many of the inhabitants of these our own provinces, this doctrine is accounted a grievance of such a nature, as to cause several of them to affirm, that on account of it, they neither can nor will have any communion with our Church. Others of them have united themselves with our Churches, but not without entering a protest, “that they cannot possibly give their consent to this doctrine.” But, on account of this kind of Predestination, our Churches have been deserted by not a few individuals, who formerly held the same opinions as ourselves: Others, also, have threatened to depart from us, unless they be fully assured that the Church holds no opinion of this description.
5. There is likewise no point of doctrine which the Papists, Anabaptists, and Lutherans oppose with greater vehemence than this, and through whose sides they create a worse opinion of our Churches or procure for them a greater portion of hatred, and thus bring into disrepute all the doctrines which we profess. They likewise affirm “that of all the blasphemies against God which the mind of man can conceive or his tongue can express, there is none so foul as not to be deduced by fair consequence from this opinion of our doctors.”
6. Lastly. Of all the difficulties and controversies which have arisen in these our Churches since the time of the Reformation, there is none that has not had its origin in this doctrine, or that has not, at least, been mixed with it. What I have here said will be found true, if we bring to our recollection the controversies which existed at Leyden in the affair of Koolhaes, at Gouda in that of Herman Herberts, at Horn with respect to Cornelius Wiggerston, and at Mendenblich in the affair of Tako Sybrants. This consideration was not among the last of those motives which induced me to give my most diligent attention to this head of doctrine, and endeavour to prevent our Churches from suffering any detriment from it; because, from it, the Papists have derived much of their increase. While all pious teachers ought most heartily to desire the destruction of Popery, as they would that of the kingdom of Antichrist, they ought with the greatest zeal, to engage in the attempt, and as far as it is within their power, to make the most efficient preparations for its overthrow.
The preceding views are, in brief, those which I hold respecting this novel doctrine of Predestination. I have propounded it with all good faith from the very expressions of the authors themselves, that I might not seem to invent and attribute to them any thing which I was not able clearly to prove from their writings.