Saturday, March 29, 2008

THE ARMINIAN CONFESSION OF FAITH - 1622


1. ON PREDESTINATION.


1. God never decreed to elect any man to eternal life, or to reprobate him from it, by his mere will and pleasure, without any regard to his foreseen obedience or disobedience, in order to demonstrate the glory of his mercy and justice, or of his power or absolute dominion.


2. As the decree of God concerning both the salvation and the destruction of every man is not the decree of an end absolutely fixed, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that decree as through them both the elect and the reprobate may efficaciously and inevitably be brought to the destined end.


3. Wherefore, neither did God with this design in one man, Adam, create all men in an upright condition, nor did he ordain the fall or even its permission, nor did he withdraw from Adam necessary and sufficient grace, nor does he now cause the Gospel, to be preached and men to be outwardly called, nor does he confer on them the gifts of the Holy Spirit,-(he has done none of these things with the design) that they should be means by which he might bring some of mankind to life everlasting, and leave others of them destitute of eternal life. Christ the Mediator is not only the executor of election, but also the foundation of the very decree of election itself. The reason why some men are efficaciously called, justified, persevere in faith, and are glorified, is not because they are absolutely elected to life eternal: nor is the reason why others are deserted and left in the fall, have not Christ bestowed upon them, or, farther, why they are inefficaciously called, are hardened and damned, because these men are absolutely reprobated from eternal life.


4. God has not decreed, without the intervening of actual sins, to leave by far the greater part of mankind in the fall, and excluded from all hope of salvation.


5. God has ordained that Christ shall be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and, in virtue of this decree, he has determined to justify and save those who believe in him, and to administer to men the means which are necessary and sufficient for faith, in such a manner as he knows to be befitting his wisdom and justice. But he has not in any wise determined, in virtue of an absolute decree, to give Christ as a Mediator for the elect only, and to endow them alone with faith through an effectual call, to justify them, to preserve them in the faith, and to glorify them.


6. Neither is any man by some absolute antecedent decree rejected from life eternal, nor from means sufficient to attain it: so that the merits of Christ, calling, and all the gifts of the Spirit, are capable of profiting all men for their salvation, and are in reality profitable to all men, unless by an abuse of these blessings they pervert them to their own destruction. But no man whatever is destined to unbelief, impiety, or the commission of sin, as the means and causes of his damnation.


7. The election of particular persons is absolute, from consideration of their faith in Jesus Christ and their perseverance, but not without consideration of their faith and of their perseverance in true faith as a prerequisite condition in electing them.


8. Reprobation from eternal life is made according to the consideration of preceding unbelief and perseverance in the same, but not without consideration of preceding unbelief or perseverance in it.


9. All the children of believers are sanctified in Christ; so that not one of them perishes who departs out of this life prior to the use of reason. But no children of believers who depart out of this life in their infancy and before they have in their own persons committed any sin, are on any account to be reckoned in the number of the reprobate! So as that neither the sacred laver of baptism is, nor are the prayer of the Church, by any means capable of profiting them to salvation.


10. No children of believers who have been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost, and while in the state of infancy, are by an absolute decree numbered among the reprobate.


II. ON THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE MERIT OF CHRIST.


1. The price of redemption which Christ offered to his Father is in and of itself not only sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but it has also, through the decree, the will, and the grace of God the Father, been paid for all men and every man; and therefore no one is by an absolute and antecedent decree of God positively excluded from all participation in the fruits of the death of Christ.


2. Christ, by the merit of his death, has thus far reconciled God the Father to the whole of mankind, -that he can and will, without injury to his justice and truth, enter into and establish a new covenant of grace with sinners and men obnoxious to damnation.


3. Though Christ has merited for all men and for every man reconciliation with God and forgiveness of sins, yet, according to the tenor or terms of the new and gracious covenant, no man is in reality made a partaker of the benefits procured by the death of Christ in any other way than through faith; neither are the trespasses and offenses of sinful men forgiven prior to their actually and truly believing in Christ.


4. Those only for whom Christ has died are obliged to believe that Christ has died for them. But those whom they call reprobates, and for who Christ has not died, can neither be obliged so to believe, nor can they be justly condemned for the contrary unbelief; but if such persons were reprobates, they would be obliged to believe that Christ has not died for them.


III. and IV. ON THE OPERATION OF GRACE IN THE CONVERSION OF MAN.


1. Man has not saving faith from and of himself, nor has he it from the powers of his own free will; because in a state of sin he is able for and of himself to think, will, or do nothing that is good, nothing that is indeed savingly good; of which description., in the first place, is saving faith. But it is necessary that, by God in Christ through his Holy Spirit, he should be regenerated and renewed in his understanding, affections, will, and in all his powers, that he may be capable of rightly understanding, meditating, willing, and performing such things as are savingly good.


2. We propound the grace of God to be the beginning, the progress, and the completion of every good thing; so that even the man who is born again is not able without this preceding and prevenient, this exciting and following, this accompanying and co-operating grace, to think, to will, or to perform any good, or to resist any temptations to evil: so that good works, and the good actions which any one is able to find out by thinking, are to be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.


3. Yet we do not believe that all the zeal, care, study, and pains, which are employed to obtain salvation, before faith and the Spirit of renovation, are vain and useless; much less do we believe that they are more hurtful to man than profitable. But, on the contrary, we consider that to hear the word of God, to mourn on account of the commission of sin, and earnestly to seek and desire saving grace and the Spirit of renovation, (none of which is any man capable of doing without Divine grace,) are not only not hurtful and useless, but that they are rather most useful and exceedingly necessary for obtaining faith and the Spirit of renovation.


4. The will of man in a lapsed or fallen state, and before the call of God, has not the capability and liberty of willing any good that is of a saving nature, and therefore we deny that the liberty of willing as well what is a saving good as what is an evil, is present to the human will in every state or condition.


5. Efficacious grace, by which any man is converted, is not irresistible: and though God so affects the will of man by his word and the inward operation of his Spirit, as to confer upon him a capability of believing , or supernatural power, and actually causes man to believe; yet man is of himself capable to spurn and reject this grace, and not believe; and, therefore, also, to perish through his own culpability.


6. Although, according to the most free and unrestrained will of God, there is very great disparity or inequality of Divine grace, yet the Holy Spirit either bestows, or is ready to bestow, upon all and upon every one to whom the word of faith is preached, as much grace as is sufficient to promote in its gradations the conversion of men; and therefore grace sufficient for faith and conversion is conceded not only to those who God is said to be willing to save according to his decree of absolute election, but likewise to those who are in reality not converted.


7. Man is able, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to do more good than he actually does, and to omit more evil than he actually omits. Neither do we believe that God absolutely wills that man should do no more good than that which he does, and to omit no more evil than that which he omits; nor do we believe it to have been determinately decreed from all eternity that each of such acts should be so done or omitted.


8. Whomsoever God calls, he calls them seriously, that is, with a sincere and not with a dissembled intention and will of saving them. Neither do we subscribe to the opinion of those persons who assert that God outwardly calls certain men whom he does not will to call inwardly, that is, whom he is unwilling to be truly converted, even prior to their rejection of the grace of calling.


9. There is not in God a secret will of that kind which is so opposed to his will revealed in his word, that according to this same secret will he does not will the conversion and salvation of the greatest part of those whom, by the word of his Gospel, and by his revealed will, he seriously calls and invites to faith and salvation.


10. Neither on this point do we admit of a holy dissimulation, as it is the manner of some men to speak, or of a twofold person in the Deity.


11. It is not true that, through the force and efficacy of the secret will of God or of the Divine decree, not only are all good things necessarily done, but likewise all evil things; so that whosoever commit sin, they are not able, in respect of the Divine decree, to do otherwise than commit sin; and that God wills, decrees, and is the manager of men's sins, and of their insane, foolish, and cruel actions, also of the sacrilegious blasphemy of his own name; that he moves the tongues of men to blaspheme, etc.


12. We also consider it to be a false and horrible dogma, that God by secret means impels men to the commission of those sins which he openly prohibits; that those who sin do not act in opposition to the true will of God, and that which is properly so called; that what is unjust, that is, what is contrary to God's command, is agreeable to his will; nay, farther, that it is a real and capital fault to do the will of God.


V. ON THE PERSEVERANCE OF TRUE BELIEVERS IN FAITH.


1. The perseverance of believers in faith is not the effect of that absolute decree of God by which he is said to have elected or chosen particular persons circumscribed with no condition of their obedience.


2. God furnishes true believers with supernatural powers or strength of grace, as much as according to his infinite wisdom he judges to suffice for their perseverance, and for their overcoming the temptations of the devil, the flesh, and the world; and on the part of God stands nothing to hinder them from persevering.


3. It is possible for true believers to fall away from true faith, and to fall into sins of such a description as cannot consist with a true and justifying faith; nor is it only possible for them thus to fall, but such lapses not infrequently occur.


4. True believers are capable by their own fault of falling into flagrant crimes and atrocious wickedness, to persevere and die in them, and therefore finally to fall away and to perish.


5. Yet though true believers sometimes fall into grievous sins, and such as destroy the conscience, we do not believe that they immediately fall away from all hope of repentance; but we acknowledge this to be an event not impossible to occur, -that God, according to the multitude of his mercies, may again call them by his grace to repentance; nay, we are of opinion that such a recalling has often occurred, although such fallen believers cannot be "most fully persuaded" about this matter, that it will certainly and undoubtedly take place.


6. Therefore do we with our whole heart and soul reject the following dogmas, which are daily affirmed in various publications extensively circulated among the people, namely: (1.) "True believers cannot possibly sin with deliberate counsel and design, but only through ignorance and infirmity." (2.) "It is impossible for true believers, through any sins of theirs, to fall away from the grace of God." (3.) "A thousand sins, nay, all the sins of the whole world, are not capable of rendering election vain and void." If to this be added, "Men of every description are bound to believe that they are elected to salvation, and therefore are incapable of falling from that election," we leave men to think what a wide window such a dogma opens to carnal security. (4.) "No sins, however great and grievous they may be, are imputed to believers; nay, farther, all sins, both present and future, are remitted to them." (5.) "Though true believers fall into destructive heresies, into dreadful and most atrocious sins, such as adultery and murder, on account of which the Church, according to the institution of Christ, is compelled to testify that it cannot tolerate them in its outward communion, and that unless such persons be converted, they will have no part in the kingdom of Christ; yet it is impossible for them totally and finally to fall away from faith."


7. As a true believer is capable at the present time of being assured concerning the integrity of his faith and conscience, so he is able and ought to be at this time assured of this own salvation and of the saving good will of God toward him. On this point we highly disapprove of the opinion of the Papists.


8. A true believer, respecting the time to come, can and ought, indeed, to be assured that he is able, by means of watching, prayer, and other holy exercises, to persevere in the true faith; and that Divine grace will never fail to assist him in persevering. But we cannot see how it is possible for him to be assured that he will never afterward be deficient in his duty, but that he will persevere, in this school of Christian warfare, in the performance of acts of faith, piety, and charity, as becomes believers; neither do we consider it to be a matter of necessity that a believer should be assured of such perseverance.


ON THE HOLY TRINITY.


1. God is moreover to be considered distinctly in three persons or substances, as he has exhibited himself in the word of God, and as such to be known and contemplated by us. This Trinity of persons is known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One of these Divine persons or hypostases in the Godhead is avaitios, that is, unoriginated or unbegotten; the other begotten or generated by the Father, or the Father's only begotten; and the other proceeding alike and emanating from the Father by the Son.


2. The father alone is underived or unbegotten, but hath from all eternity communicated his own Divinity to his only begotten Son, made a Son, not indeed by creation, as angels were made the sons of God; not be adoption, as we, who are believers, are constituted sons of God; nor merely by a gracious communication of Divine might or glory as being mediator, but by a real, though mysterious and ineffable, generation; and also to the Holy Spirit, who hath, from all eternity, proceeded from both, by an incomprehensible emanation or spirationem. Therefore the Father is justly held to be the fountain or original of the whole Deity.


3. The Son, therefore, and Holy Spirit, as to their real being or substance, are truly distinct from the Father; nevertheless, they are really partakes of the same Godhead and absolutely distinguished by the same Divine essence with the Father, which appears most evident from the holy Scripture giving them the same titles, and attributing to them the same properties as to the Father. Hence the Apostles' Creed on this subject, which we cordially believe, and whose declarations we adopt; that is, we "believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, etc. - And in the Holy Ghost, etc."


4. The above declarations are sufficient in relation to this holy mystery, a subject which we think it is expedient and becoming always to treat with modesty, prudence, and religious reverence; and we hold it to be the safest course, when speaking of this profound subject, to express ourselves, as much as possible, in the very words, and according to the mode and phrases in which it is presented to us by the Holy Ghost himself, seeing that the Spirit of God himself must best know himself, and is the most capable of stating and exhibiting his own nature and being; and so far as it was necessary to be declared and revealed, it has pleased him to reveal it to us. It is therefore especially becoming of us, that with reverence, humility, and devout feeling, we follow the mode thus presented to us of speaking on this subject, until we be permitted to see God face to face, when in the glory of that bright and celestial world, he will perfectly make known himself to us, amid the unclouded visions and manifestations of his being and will.

THE END


SIMON EPISCOPIUS, D.D. - 1623.


MEMORIAL TO JAMES ARMINIUS


Arminius, that servant of Christ, in order to approve himself before God, chose to endure the hatred and contradiction of all mankind, rather than to violate his conscience. - He held out to the whole Christian world the ensign of peace and concord, and he wished a commencement to be made in the Reformed Churches. Being a man of prudence and mild in spirit, he perceived that those Churches were distracted and separated from each other in many ways, and that in these days neither measure nor end was observed in making secessions; that endeavours were therefore to be used to induce the contending parties to lay aside animosity, and to sing a funeral song over their unnecessary enmities and quarrels; that every exertion was then to be employed, to take an accurate account of such doctrines as are absolutely necessary, and each party to confine itself within those limits; that, with regard to all the rest, whatever was capable of being tolerated, or did not hinder salvation, should receive toleration; that the rule of Prudence and Charity alone is sufficient for this purpose; and that, without these, continual strife and hatred must be perpetuated, which would cause the tears of the Church afresh to flow. This was the design of Arminius; and he persisted in it to the close of his life, nothing being such a source of grief and sorrow to him, as the obstinate resistance of those who ought to have shewn themselves the most favourable to this design. Whether it was laudable or not, let those judge who are affected with commiseration at the sight of the whole of Christendom divided into most minute parties: I entertain no doubt myself of its being a pious purpose.

Arminius was too great an admirer and practiser of that Apostolic direction, Let your moderation be known to all men, ever to indulge in bitter or reviling expressions. He will never be detected in having traduced, much less in having rendered odious and infamous, or in having injured by a single word, those whom Capellus calls "the Reformers." Indeed, no one ever dissented from them with greater moderation. Let the writings of Arminius be inspected, and my assertion will be found correct. Such, in fact, was the modesty of this pious and learned man, that he thought all errors, especially those which he accounted to be injurious to piety, ought to be attacked with boldness and according to the meaning of their authors; but that the wanderers in error themselves ought to be treated with mildness and according to the mind of Christ Jesus. For he knew, how easy it is to commit a mistake, how unjust to visit with reproaches him who is in error, how disgraceful to speak evil of a pious man, and how necessary it is for a Christian, and particularly for a Bishop, to be no striker, but patient, (1 Tim. iii.3,) gentle to all men, and in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. (2 Tim. ii.24.) Such were his sentiments, such was his conduct, - most opposite to those opprobrious arts which Capellus employs!

Arminius was as averse to a new Confession, as he was to a schism. Those things which he considered as desiderata in the Church, he wished to be corrected by the Church and within herself; and he thought those things could be amended there more efficaciously and with greater safety. From new Confessions he did not hope for a remedy, but feared more dangerous paroxysms. To adhere to the scriptures alone; or, where any Confession was established, to tolerate certain improper phrases, solely through a hatred of schism, and either to reconcile them with scripture by the benefit of a mild interpretation, or to correct them by the aid of a lawful revisions, - was, in his opinion, a much better course than to expend labour upon new Confessions which might serve to foment schisms. For as a prudent man he perceived, in this age fruitful in strifes and quarrels, the usual consequence is, that wherever new Confessions are formed, there the minds of men are separated and distracted by their different opinion. - At no period of his life did he assert, much less did he contend, that the article on Predestination in the Dutch Confessions was false or bore evident marks of falsehood, that it contained heresies or abounded with them, much less that it abounded with a multitude of them: As an unexceptionable proof of this it may be stated, that he always endeavoured to establish his sentiments by many and strong arguments from the Dutch Confession itself; and he professed that he was prepared to retire from the ministry, if at any time, either in secret or in public, he had spoken or written any thing contrary to that formulary. He always denied, that the sentiments which he opposed were those of the Confession: He said, they were those of some particular divines, from which he was perfectly at liberty to dissent.

Arminius never said, that the whole human race was at the same time reconciled and healed by the satisfaction of Christ. He was a man of greater accuracy, than to speak in that manner. He has said, that mankind were reconciled by the satisfaction of Christ: But who, except a dotard, would say that they were healed? Arminius only teaches, that God for Christ's sake bestows, on those who are reconciled to Him through Christ, a new power (ability), when they are called by the Gospel, that they may be enabled to free themselves from that servitude, provided they use diligent endeavours, and be not wanting to themselves and to the grace of God. But he who teaches this, teaches a doctrine contrary to that which Capellus wishes. For such a man teaches, that those who are reconciled are still under the servitude of sin; but that, by the aid of grace which is newly bestowed on them by God, it is possible for them to be gradually healed of that servitude. For it is one thing to impart an ability to any one, by which he may come out of his servitude: It is another thing, actually to come out of servitude, or to be healed of it.

Those persons who have lived with Arminius, and who, as the phrase is, have eaten a bushel of salt in his company, can bear testimony to his candour and integrity. France, your country, never produced a spirit possessed of greater integrity. Unless he had been studious of these virtues, he would neither have incurred the chance of so much hatred, no have subjected himself to the peril of such obstinate contradiction. If he occasionally used prudence, out of a greater regard to his own conscience and to the public peace, he did nothing more than what was the duty of a good man and a Christian. He could do this, and he actually did it, without any design to deceive; nay, he did it with the design to approve himself the more to God, who alone inwardly inspects the heart, and to whom, he knew, a hypocrite is more hateful than a man that is openly wicked: For when a bad man wishes to appear a good one, he is then the worst of all.

What could any one desire that was more open, candid, and nervous, than the Declaration of Arminius before the states of Holland? I wish his adversaries had, with equal candour and ingenuousness, declared their sentiments on Reprobation, at the Hague Conference, and more recently at the Synod of Dort! But if ever any persons employed dissimulation, or declined to disclose their sentiments, they were certainly the members of those two assemblies. Indeed it is a thing common in its occurrence, - for a man, when he perceives himself to be guilty of a crime, to use indecent haste in boldly charging it upon others, that he may seem to be at the greatest possible distance from it himself.

In conclusion therefore I say, that Arminius acted in all things with perfect good faith and candour; that he openly professed the doctrine which he held; that according to his own declaration, he always ingeniously believed this doctrine to be contained in the formularies of the Churches; that he never condemned those formularies; and that he never disclosed, except in the assembly of the States and at their command, the considerations which he had marked down according to the decree of the Supreme Magistrate and at the request of the Synod. Capellus therefore, without any just cause, laments the absence of candour in this most candid breast. -Examen Thesium I. Capelli

1 comments:

Westwind said...

I'm working through the full confession right now. For what it is worth, the full confession is a good 100 pages long and makes for an interesting read. Look for the condfession published under the title, The Arminian Confession of 1621 (Princeton Theological Monograph).

Eric Landstrom