Imatges de pàgina
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therefore, accurately weighed in the balances of his judgment the connection of all the parts of that chapter, and calling in to his aid the commentaries of Bucer and other writers on that subject, he openly taught and established this proposition :“St. Paul does not in this passage speak of himself in refer“ence to what he then was, neither does he allude to a man “who is living under the grace of the gospel; but he personi“fies the character of one who was placed under the law, on “whom the law of Moses had discharged its office, in whom “ true contrition on account of sin had been effected by the aid “ of the Holy Spirit, and who, being experimentally convinced “ of the weakness of the law and its incompetency to procure “salvation, was seeking a Deliverer, and although such a “person could not be called regenerate, yet he was in the very “threshold of regeneration.”

Such was his clear illustration of a difficult passage in St. Paul's writings; and though in that discourse he studiously refrained even from an allusion to the adverse interpretation of other divines, yet it brought down upon him the most virulent expressions of malevolence; and the only requital which he received from several of his brethren in the ministry, for this novel elucidation of the whole chapter, was not of the most gratifying description. Some of them attempted to charge him with Pelagianism, because he had attributed too great a portion of goodness to an unregenerate man. Others made the same charge against him, for no other reason than because Socinus, under the feigned name of Prosper Dysidæus, had expounded this chapter of the Epistle to the Romans in nearly the same manner. Several persons were loud in their complaints that he had uttered many things from the pulpit which were repugnant to the Confession of the Belgic Churches and to the Palatine Catechism; and had rashly adduced, in support of his opinions, the testimony of some of the Ancient Fathers of the Church, and other Divines who lately fourished.

In the infancy of the liberties of the United Provinces, when the legitimate boundaries of neither Church nor State had been accurately defined, reports and surmises of this kind would operate injuriously against the individual accused, because cvery patriot was a professor of religion, and scarcely a religious man could be found that was not a patriot. For this reason, the least variation from the religious opinions espoused by the prevailing party was viewed with great jealousy, and was frequently denounced as a crime that had some affinity to both

treason and blasphemy. This remark, while it is no excuse for persecution, is some clue to the extreme animosity with which religious disputes were at that time conducted. The Ecclesiastical Senate of Amsterdam therefore were soon informed of these charges, and passed a decree to summon Arminius before them, that after they had instituted a conference with him, he might be convinced of his error and of his perverse doctrine, and be brought to adopt an interpretation of his 'sentiments that accorded better with the standard of purity.” — When Arminius heard of this decree, he declared himself perfectly ready to enter into the proposed Conference, provided it was held before the magistrates of the city or their delegates; or, if that was thought to be an improper request, he should be allowed to discuss this affair with his brethren in the ministry, in the absence of the Elders of the Church.—The meeting took place according to the terms of the latter stipulation.After prayer had been offered up to God, the debate commenced between Arminius and Peter Plancius; in which many objections were urged against the former, that were proved never to have been uttered in the course of his sermon, or to have been delivered by him with another intention, and in a different serise to that which had been affixed to them. To the charge of Pelagianism he replied with much spirit, that he entirely rejected those errors which were commonly attributed to the Pelagians, and that they could on no account be collected from his explanation of the Apostle's meaning; on the contrary, he asserted that those errors were in direct opposition to the arguments which he had employed on that occasion. As to the authorities cited in his discourse, he confessed that he had said “the chief of the Ancient Fathers both of the Greek and Latin Churches were favourable to his exposition,” and he was prepared to defend that remark by a multitude of quotations. He declared his unconsciousness of having produced any modern doctors of the Church as supporting his sentiments on that subject, except Bucer, who had adopted a different mode of expressing his meaning; yet Desiderius Erasmus, a name deservedly held in high estimation among the Reformed, had given a similar interpretation of that passage.-Plancius then began to speak greatly in disparagement of the authority of the Ancient Fathers, and to weaken their credit.-Arminius highly disapproved of what Plancius was pleased to say, and asserted that it neither became him nor any modern teacher in the Church to think or to speak in such slighting terms of those great and holy men, to whom all Christendom was under the greatest obligations.-Some mention having then been made of the Confession and Catechism, Arminius showed at great, length, that he had taught nothing against those two formularies of mutual consent, and that the doctrine which he had delivered was quite in unison with them. He added that he considered himself as by no means bound to adopt all the private interpretations of the Reformed, and that he was undoubtedly at liberty and had the power to expound the lively oracles of God, and any passage in them, according to the dictates of his conscience; and that he always exercised extreme caution in the doctrines which he taught, lest any of them might be perverted to root up the foundations of the Christian Faith.

In the course of this debate reference was frequently made by Plancius to the matter of Predestination, all notice of which Arminius studiously avoided ; and when he was pressed to explain his views on that point, he refused, alleging that in his exposition of this seventh chapter he had spoken nothing that bore at all on that controverted subject. Being further interrogated respecting his sentiments on the perfection of man in this life, he replied, that such a requisition appeared to him to be quite unnecessary, when he had more than a hundred times stated his views of that subject, while engaged in expounding the sixth and seventh chapter of that Epistle. Some of his answers to other objections of this description, may be seen in his very accurate Dissertation on the true and genuine sense of the Seventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, which, in consequence of these commotions, he afterwards wrote at his moments of leisure and completed it about the beginning of the year 1600.

But the strong reasons which he adduced on that occasion, for the purpose of disproving the crimes with which he was charged, did not prevent some men from creating him almost daily disquietude: Peter Plancius was the leader of this party of traducers. These sinister reports and accusations arose to such a height, in the year 1592, that after Martin Lydius,* the very

• This was among the last public acts of the very useful life of MARTIN Lydius, for he died in 1600. He was born at Lubec. After having been many years minister of the Church at Amsterdam, during which period he watched over the expanding energies of the mind of Arminius with almost parental solicitude, he was chosen Professor of Divinity at Franekerin Friezland. He was well versed both in Sacred aud Profane learning. His love of peace prompted him to compose all the differences which arose among the Clergy. Very few of his literary productions were published. His grandson James

learnedperson who had requested Arminius to answer the Delft brethren, had heard of them, he proceeded to the Hague and earnestly implored the assistance of John Uitenbogardt in terminating these ecclesiastical controversies. Lydius accosted this good man in most persuasive language, and besought him (by the tender affection which he entertained for the flourishing church of Amsterdam, that had some years before been under his pastoral care,) to address a conciliatory letter to Arminius, against whom, he confessed, the Presbytery had proceeded in a manner much too peremptory,-or rather to go to Amsterdam, and persuade him, for the sake of preserving peace, to yield a little on his side to his brethren in the minis try and to the Presbytery, as far as that could be done without . compromising his principles, or wounding his conscience.

Lydius felt no doubt respecting the readiness of Arminius to attend to the suggestions of his friend, on account of the great influence and authority which Uitenbogardt possessed in almost every Church within the United Provinces, and on account of the intimacy which had then for a long time subsisted between them. Induced by these intreaties, Uitenbogardt travelled to Amsterdam, and, as the best course for him to pursue, he went in the first instance to the house of the Rev. John Taffinus, minister of the Walloon Church,* to whom, before he had spoken to any one else, he communicated his reasons for undertaking this journey; and, having learnt from him the actual bearing of the whole controversy, he strongly importuned him to lend his assistance in healing these wounds and appeasing these distractions. Taffinus, who was a great admirer of peace and christian piety, very readily complied with this request, and gladly entered with Uitenbogardt on the blessed office of peace-makers. When therefore they had advised with each other, uniting their forces they went first to the Presbytery and afterwards to Arminius, and made a humble offer of their services to effect a reconciliation and to restore their former concord. Both parties gratefully accepted the proffered mediation, and intimated that nothing could occur to them of à nature more agreeable, than to have suitable means devised for bringing about this most salutary measure. A meeting therefore was soon appointed to be held in the house of Taffinus ; and the duty of managing this affair on behalf of the Presbytery was committed to certain members of their own body. From this meeting, after the party that preferred the accusations and the party accused had been heard, they both retired without having effected an union. But Taffinus and Uitenba gardt thought, that they ought not to cease from their pacific endeavours, although the commencement of them had not been very gratifying; and they prevailed on the members of the Ecclesiastical Senate soon afterwards to summon an extraordinary session, at which they presented a form of renewed amity between the parties, conceived in the following terms;

Lydius, minister of Dort, had in his possession some of his grandfather's manuscript Discourses on several parts of the Old Testament, and a justification of Erasmus, which, it is said, proved his discretion and good temper in watters of religion.

* From the remarkable commercial posperity of Holland, which was at that period one of the most flourishing marts for trade in Europe, the continued influx of foreigners into its various large towns and cities was uncommonly great. To meet the religious wants of such occasional visitors, and of the resident foreigners who in the capacity of agents transacted business for their principals in other parts of Europe,-the fathers of the infant republic were anxious to provide suitable public means of religious instruction; and as the French language was then most generally understood and employed in com'mercial as well as diplomatic intercourse, Christian Ministers were appointed,

to preside in nearly every large town over French congregations, which were called “Walloon Churches," but which resembled the other churches of THE REFORMED in being subject to regular Presbyterian jurisdiction.

Over one of the Walloon churches John TAFFINUS presided successively in Antwerp, Haerlem, and Amsterdam. In the latter of these cities he died, in the year 1692, aged 73 years. He was descended from a family of high respectability. His brother, Mr. Du Pre, was Charge d'Affaires from the States General to the Court of France. Taffinus was much respected for his learning, moderation and experience in public affairs. The chief reputed blemish in his character was his zeal against the Anabaptists,-a sect that bad, by the revolutionary principles avowed by some branches of their community, rendered themselves almost as much suspected as the Jesuits. Taffinus, several years before his death, advised the Rev. J. Uitenbogardt to improve his residence as Walloon minister at the Hague, to the geueral benefit of the tarily subscribing his name to this document he is desirous of • solemnly pledging himself,—that he will, hereafter, not only Churcb, by endeavouring to gain and secure the favour of Oldenbarnevelt, the Advocate of Holland, and next to the Prince of Orange in official authority. To excite bim to this laudable enterprise, be stated, “ that the Clergy had formerly cultivated too little correspondence with the Advocate,-although all public matters passed through his hands, and he had it in his power to Tender great services to the Church.” The effects of that advice will be discovered in a succeeding part of this narrative. The Motto of Taffinus was, To GOD THY LIFE, IN GOV TUY END,

The testimony of James Arminius,-Although he is unconscious of holding or teaching any sentiments that are at "variance with the contents of the Confession and Catechism, ‘or of having afforded just cause to any one to cherish “such a suspicion against him; yet, for the sake of testifying “his earnest desire for the peace of the Church, and that he may eradicate from the minds of some persons all the undue prejudices which they have conceived against him, by volun

aving effected an whad been heard, theed the accusa

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