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§ 65. The Arminian Controversy. A.D. 1604–1619.


I. Arminian Sources.

Scripta adversaria Collationis Hagiensis. In Dutch, Gravenhage, 1612; in Latin, by Petrus Bertius, Leyden, 1616. This contains the authentic text of the Remonstrance.

Remonstrantia, or the Five Articles of 1610. A German translation in Böckel's Evang. Reform. Bekenntniss-Schriften. Leipzig, 1847, pp. 545–553.

Simon Episcopius (Prof. at Leyden, 1612; expelled by the Synod of Dort, 1618; Prof. at the Remonstrant Seminary, 1634; d. 1643): Confessio seu Declaratio Pastorum qui Remonstrantes vocantur, etc. Harderw. 1621 in Dutch, 1622 in Latin (German transl. in Böckel, l.c. pp. 572–640). Also his Apologia pro Confessione Remonstr., 1629. Both are included in the works of Episcopius, 2d ed. London, 1678, Vol. II. Part II. pp. 69 sqq.; 95 sqq.

Acta et Scripta Synodalia Dordracena ministrorum Remonstrantium in fœderato Belgio. 2 Cor. xiii. 8. Harderwiici, 1620. This volume (a copy of which is in the Union Theol. Seminary Library) contains the official acts and dogmatic writings of the Remonstrants in explanation and defense of their five articles against the decisions of the Synod of Dort, including a lengthy exposition of the ninth chapter of Romans and other Scripture passages quoted against them.

Jac. Arminius (1560–1609): Disputationes publicæ et privatæ. Ludg. Bat. 1614, 2d ed. (with the Oratio Petri Bertii de vita et obitu Arminii.). Armin. Opera, Lugd. Bat. 1629; and other editions. English translation of The Works of James Arminius, by James Nichols and William Nichols. London, 1825, 1828, and 1875, 3 vols.

Also the writings of Episcopius (d. 1643); Grotius (d. 1645); Limborch (d. 1714); Clericus (d. 1736); Wetstein (d. 1754), and other distinguished Arminian scholars. Comp. A. van Cattenburgh: Bibliotheca Scriptorum Remonstrantium. Amst. 1728.

II. Anti-Arminian or Calvinistic Sources.

The Acts and Proceedings of the National Synod of Dort: Acta Synodi Nationalis, in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi, autoritate ordinum generalium Fœderati Belgii provinciarum, Dortrechti habitæ anno 1818 et 1619. Accedunt plenissima de quinque articulis theologorum judicia. Dord. 1620, 4to. (The judicia theologorum are omitted in the Elzevir folio ed. of the same date.)

The Suffrage of the Divines of Great Britain concerning the Articles of the Synod of Dort, signed by them in 1619 [? Lond. 1624].

Reports of Breitinger, the Hessian, and other foreign delegates.

III. Historical and Controversial.

P. Molinæus (Calvinist): Anatome Arminianismi. Leyden, 1619, etc.

N. Vedel (Calv.): Arcana Arminianismi. Leyden, 1632–34, 4 Parts, 4to.

Peltius: Harmonia Remonstrantium et Socinianorum. Ludg. 1633.

Byssen: De prædestinatione contra Remonstrantes et Jesuitas. Gorchum, 1660.

Sam. Rhetorfort: Examen Arminianismi. Utrecht, 1668.

Janus Uytenbogaert (Arminian): Kerckelijcke Historie, etc. Rotterdam, 1647.

Jac. Triglandius (Calvinist): Kerekelijcke Geschiedenissen van de vereen. Nederlanden. Leyden, 1650.

Jo. Halesii Historia Concilii Dordraceni; J. L. Moshemius vertit, variis observationibus et vita Halesii auxit. Hamburg, 1724. John Hales (1584–1656), Canon of Windsor—called 'the Ever-memorable'—attended the Synod of Dort, by which he became a convert to Arminianism, and wrote Golden Remains; Letters from the Synod of Dort; Acta Synodi Dordr.; Sententia Arminii; see Works, 1765, 3 vols.

Peter Heylin (a friend of Laud and Arminian, d. 1662): Historia Quinquarticularis; or, a Declaration of the Judgment of the Western Churches, and more particularly of the Church of England, in the Five Controverted Points, reproached in these last times by the name of Arminianism. London, 1660, in 3 Parts.

Gerhard Brandt (Remonstrant preacher at Amsterdam, d. 1685): Historie der Reformatie (History of the Reformation in and about the Low Countries, from the Eighth Century down to the Synod of Dort), Amst. 1677–1704, 4 vols. Very full on the Remonstrant controversy. An English translation, by Chamberlayne, London, 1720–23, 4 vols. fol. (The last volume gives the history from 1600 to 1623.) Also in French, 1726.

Zeltner (d. 1738): Breviarium controversiarum cum Remonstrantibus agitatarum. Norimb. and Altdorf, 1719.

Jac. Regenboog: Hist. der Remonstranten, in Dutch, Amsterd. 1774 sqq., 3 vols.; in German, Lemgo, 1741–84.

G. S. Franke: Historia dogmatum Arminianorum. Kiel, 1814.

Thomas Scott: The Articles of the Synod of Dort; with a History of Events which made way for that Synod, etc. London, 1818. (Calvinistic.)


James Nichols (Arminian): Calvinism and Arminianism compared in their Principles and Tendency. Lond. 1824, 2 vols. (An ill-digested mass of materials.)

M. Graf: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Synode von Dordrecht. Basle, 1825.

D. de Bray: L’histoire de l’Église Arminienne. Strasburg, 1835.

Joannes Tideman (Remonstrant preacher at Rotterdam): De Remonstrantie en het Remonstrantisme. Historisch onderzoek. Te Haarlem, 1851 (pp. 131).

H. Heppe (Melanchthonian): Historia Synodi Nat. Dordr. in Niedner's Zeitschrift für hist. Theol., 1853, pp. 227–327. Contains the Report of the Hessian deputies to Landgrave Moritz, with Introduction and Notes. The same: Art. Dortrecht in Herzog's Real-Encykl. Vol. III. p. 486.

Alex. Schweizer: Centraldogmen. Zurich, Vol. II. (1856) pp. 31–201.

G. Frank: Geschichte der Protest. Theol. Leipz. 1862, Vol. I. pp. 403 sqq.

M. Schneckenburger (independent, d. 1848): Vorlesungen über die Lehrbegriffe der kleineren protest. Kirchenparteien, ed. by Hundeshagen. Frankf. a. M. 1863, pp. 5–26.

William Cunningham (Calvinist): Historical Theology. Edinb. 1864, Vol. II. ch. xxv. pp. 371–513.

E. Böhl (Calvinist): Blätter der Erinnerung an die Dordrechter Synode, 250 Jahre nach ihrem Zusammentritt allen Freunden der reform. Lehre gewidmet. Detmold, 1868 (41 pp.).

John L. Motley: The Life and Death of John of Barneveld, Advocate of Holland. N.Y. 1874, 2 vols. chs. viii. and xiv. Motley gives the political history of the period, but barely touches on the Synod of Dort, and with strong antipathy to Calvinism.

Comp. also Whedon (Methodist), art. Arminianism, and A. A. Hodge (Presbyterian), Calvinism, both in Johnson's Cyclop. Vol. I. (1874), representing both sides. Also art. Arminianism, in M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclop. Vol. I. p. 412 (Methodist).


The Arminian controversy is the most important which took place within the Reformed Church. It corresponds to the Pelagian and the Jansenist controversies in the Catholic Church. It involves the problem of ages, which again and again has baffled the ken of theologians and philosophers, and will do so to the end of time: the relation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. It started with the doctrine of predestination, and turned round five articles or 'knotty points' of Calvinism; hence the term 'quinquarticular' controversy. Calvinism represented the consistent, logical, conservative orthodoxy; Arminianism an elastic, progressive, changing liberalism. Calvinism triumphed in the Synod of Dort, and excluded Arminianism. So, in the preceding generation, strict Lutheranism had triumphed over Melanchthonianism in the Formula of Concord. But in both Churches the spirit of the conquered party rose again from time to time within the ranks of orthodoxy, to exert its moderating and liberalizing influence or to open new issues in the progressive march of theological science.


The Arminian controversy arose in Holland towards the close of the heroic conflict with foreign political and ecclesiastical despotism. This very contest of forty-five years' duration, so full of trials and afflictions, stimulated the intellectual and moral energies of an honest, earnest, freedom-loving, and tenacious people, and made the Protestant 510part of the Netherlands the first country in Christendom for industry, commerce, education, and culture. The Universities of Leyden, founded in 1575, as the city's reward for its heroic resistance to Spain, Franecker (1585), Groningen (1612), Utrecht (1636), and Harderwyk (1648) soon excelled older schools of learning. The general prosperity of the United Provinces excited the admiration of the foreign delegates to the Synod of Dort, where they found clean and stately mansions, generous hospitality, and every comfort and luxury which commerce could bring from all parts of the earth. This was the soil on which the Calvinistic system was brought to its severest test. The controversy was purely theological in its nature, but owing to the intimate connection of Church and State it became inevitably entangled in political issues, and shook the whole country. The Reformed Churches in France, Switzerland, Germany, England, and Scotland took a deep interest in it, and sided, upon the whole, with the Calvinistic party; while the Lutheran Church sympathized to some extent with the Arminian.

The founder of Arminianism, from whom it derives its name, is James Arminius (1560–1609).977977   His Dutch name is Jacob van Hermanns or Hermanson, Harmensen. He studied under Beza at Geneva, was elected minister at Amsterdam (1588), and then professor of theology at Leyden (1603), as successor of Francis Junius, who had taken part in the revision of the Belgic Confession. He was at first a strict Calvinist, but while engaged in investigating and defending the Calvinistic doctrines against the writings of Dirik Volckaerts zoon Koornheert,978978   Koornheert was Secretarius at Haarlem, and a forerunner of the Remonstrants (d. 1590). He attacked the doctrine of Calvin and Beza on predestination and the punishment of heretics (1578), wrote against the Heidelberg Catechism (1583), and advocated toleration and a reduction of the number of articles of faith. His works were published at Amsterdam, 1630. See Bayle, art. Koornheert, and Schweizer, Vol. II. p. 40. Another forerunner of Arminianism was Caspar Koolhaas, preacher in Leyden, who was protected by the civil magistrate, but excommunicated by a provincial Synod at Haarlem, 1582. It should be remembered also that Erasmus, the advocate of free-will, against Luther, was held in high esteem in his native country, and that the views of Castellio, Bolsec, and Huber had made some impression. at the request of the magistrate of Amsterdam, he found the arguments of the opponent stronger than his own convictions, and became a convert to the doctrine of universal grace and of the freedom of will. He saw in the seventh chapter of Romans the description of a legalistic conflict of the awakened but unregenerate man, while Augustine 511and the Reformers referred it to the regenerate. He denied the decree of reprobation, and moderated the doctrine of original sin. He advocated a revision of the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. He came into open conflict with his supralapsarian colleague, Francis Gomar (1563–1645), who had conferred on him the degree of doctor of divinity, but now became his chief antagonist. Hence the strict Calvinists were called 'Gomarists.' The controversy soon spread over all Holland. Arminius applied to the Government to convoke a synod (appealing, like the Donatists, to the very power which afterwards condemned him), but died of a painful disorder before it convened.979979   In the same year (1609) the Pilgrim Fathers of New England arrived in Leyden, where they enjoyed religions freedom till their departure for America (1620). Arminius was born in the same year in which Melanchthon died (1560). He was a learned and able divine; and during the controversy which embittered his life he showed a meek, Christian spirit. 'Condemned by others,' said Grotius, 'he condemned none.' His views on anthropology and soteriology approached those of the Melanchthonian school in the Lutheran Church, but the tendency of his theology was towards a latitudinarian liberalism, which developed itself in his followers.980980   Caspar Brandt: Historia vitæ J. Arminii, ed. by Gerhard Brandt (son of the author), with additions by Mosheim, 1725; Engl. transl. by Guthrie, Lond. 1854. Bangs's Life of Arminius, N. York, 1843. Mosheim calls him 'a man whom even his enemies commend for his ingenuity, acuteness, and piety.' His motto was, 'A good conscience is a paradise.' In his testament (see extract in Gieseler, Vol. IV. p. 508, note 7), he affirms that he diligently labored to teach nothing but what he could prove from the Scriptures, and what tended to edification and peace among Christians, excepting popery, 'with which,' he says, 'there can be no unity of faith, no bond of piety and peace.' Grotius was much milder towards the Catholics.

After his death the learned Simon Episcopius (Bisschop, 1583–1644), his successor in the chair of theology at Leyden, afterwards professor in the Arminian College at Amsterdam,981981   Limborch: Vita Episcopii. Amst. 1701. and the eloquent Janus Uytenbogaert (1557–1644), preacher at the Hague, and for some time chaplain of Prince Maurice, became the theological leaders of the Arminian party. The great statesman, John van Olden Barneveldt (1549–1619), Advocate-General of Holland and Friesland, and Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), the most comprehensive scholar of his age, equally distinguished as statesman, jurist, theologian, and exegete, sympathized with the Arminians, gave them the weight of their powerful influence, 512and advocated peace and toleration; but they favored a republican confederacy of States rather than a federal State tending to monarchy, against the ambitious designs of Maurice, the Stadtholder and military leader of the Republic, who wished to consolidate his power, and by concluding a truce with Spain (1609) they incurred the suspicion of disloyalty.982982   On Barneveldt, see the work of Motley; on Hugo Grotius, the monograph of Luden, Berlin, 1806. The Calvinists were the national and popular party, and embraced the great majority of the clergy. They stood on the solid basis of the recognized standards of doctrine. At the same time they advocated the independent action of the Church against the latitudinarian Erastianism of their opponents.

The Arminians formularized their creed in Five Articles (drawn up by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the representatives of Holland and West Friesland in 1610 under the name of Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. The Calvinists issued a Counter-Remonstrance. Hence the party names Remonstrants (Protestants against Calvinism), and Counter-Remonstrants (Calvinists, or Gomarists). A Conference was held between the two parties at the Hague (Collatio Hagiensis) in 1611, but without leading to an agreement. A discussion at Delft, 1613, and the edict of the States of Holland in favor of peace, 1614, prepared by Grotius, had no better result.


At last, after a great deal of controversy and complicated preparations, the National Synod of Dort983983   In Dutch, Dordrecht or Dordtrecht; in Latin, Dordracum—an old fortified town in which the independence of the United Provinces was declared in 1572. was convened by the States-General, Nov. 13, 1618, and lasted till May 9, 1619. It consisted of eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. Of these fifty-eight were Dutchmen, the rest foreigners. The foreign Reformed Churches were invited to send at least three or four divines each, with the right to vote.

James I. of England sent Drs. George Carleton, Bishop of Llandaff (afterwards of Chichester); John Davenant, Bishop of Salisbury; Samuel Ward, Professor of Cambridge; the celebrated Joseph Hall, afterwards Bishop of Exeter and Norwich (who, however, had to leave 513before the close, and was replaced by Thomas Goad), and Walter Balcanquall, a Scotchman, and chaplain of the King. The Palatinate was represented by Drs. Abraham Scultetus, Henry Alting, Professors at Heidelberg, and Paulus Tossanus; Hesse, by Drs. George Cruciger, Paul Stein, Daniel Angelocrator, and Rudolph Goclenius; Switzerland, by Dr. John Jacob Breitinger, Antistes of Zurich, Sebastian Beck and Wolfgang Meyer of Basle, Marcus Rutimeyer of Berne, John Conrad Koch of Schaffhausen, John Deodatus and Theodor Tronchin of Geneva; Bremen, by Matthias Martinius, Henry Isselburg, and Ludwig Crocius. The Elector of Brandenburg chose delegates, but excused their absence on account of age. The national Synod of France elected four delegates—among them the celebrated theologians Chamier and Du Moulin—but the King forbade them to leave the country. King James instructed the English delegates to 'mitigate the heat on both sides,' and to advise the Dutch ministers984984   See the nine instructions of James to the delegates, in Fuller, Ch. H. of Brit. Vol. V. p. 462. 'not to deliver in the pulpit to the people those things for ordinary doctrines which are the highest points of schools and not fit for vulgar capacity, but disputable on both sides.'

The Synod was opened and closed with great solemnity, and held one hundred and fifty-four formal sessions, besides a larger number of conferences.985985   The Dutch delegates held twenty-two additional sessions on Church government. The expenses were borne by the States-General on a very liberal scale, and exceeded 100,000 guilders.986986   The five English delegates were allowed the largest sum, viz., ten pounds sterling per day—more than any other foreign divines.—Fuller, l.c. p. 465. The sessions were public, and crowded by spectators. John Bogerman, pastor at Leuwarden, was elected President; Festus Hommius, pastor in Leyden, first Secretary—both strict Calvinists. The former had translated Beza's tract on the punishment of heretics into Dutch; the latter prepared a new Latin version of the Belgic Confession. The whole Dutch delegation was orthodox. Only three delegates from the provincial Synod of Utrecht were Remonstrants, but these had to yield their seats to the three orthodox members elected by the minority in that province. Gomarus represented supralapsarian Calvinism, but the great majority were infralapsarians or sublapsarians.

Thus the fate of the Arminians was decided beforehand. Episcopius and his friends—thirteen in all—were summoned before the Synod simply as defendants, and protested against unconditional submission.


Orthodox Calvinism achieved a complete triumph. The Five Articles of the Remonstrance were unanimously rejected, and five Calvinistic canons adopted, together with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. A thorough and most excellent revision of the Dutch Bible from the Hebrew and Greek was also ordered, besides other decisions which lie beyond our purpose.

The victory of orthodoxy was obscured by the succeeding deposition of about two hundred Arminian clergymen, and by the preceding though independent arrest of the political leaders of the Remonstrants, at the instigation of Maurice. Grotius was condemned by the States-General to perpetual imprisonment, but escaped through the ingenuity of his wife (1621). Van Olden Barneveldt was unjustly condemned to death for alleged high-treason, and beheaded at the Hague (May 14, 1619). His sons took revenge in a fruitless attempt against the life of Prince Maurice.

The canons of Dort were fully indorsed by the Reformed Church in France, and made binding upon the ministers at the Twenty-third National Synod at Alais, Oct. 1, 1620, and again at the Twenty-fourth Synod at Charenton, Sept., 1623. In other Reformed Churches they were received with respect, but not clothed with proper symbolical authority. In England there arose considerable opposition.987987   See Hardwick's History of the Thirty-nine Articles, ch. ix., and Heylin's Historia Quinquarticularis. The only Church outside of Holland where they are still recognized as a public standard of doctrine is the Reformed Dutch Church in America.

The Synod of Dort is the only Synod of a quasi-œcumenical character in the history of the Reformed Churches. In this respect it is even more important than the Westminster Assembly of Divines, which was confined to England and Scotland, although it produced superior doctrinal standards. The judgments of the Synod of Dort differ according to the doctrinal stand-point. It was undoubtedly an imposing assembly; and, for learning and piety, as respectable as any ever held since the days of the Apostles. Breitinger, a great light of the Swiss Churches, was astonished at the amount of knowledge and talent displayed by the Dutch delegates, and says that if ever the Holy Spirit were present in a Council, he was present at Dort. Scultetus, of the Palatinate, thanked God that he was a member of that Synod, and 515placed it high above similar assemblies. Meyer, a delegate of Basle, whenever afterwards he spoke of this Synod, uncovered his head and exclaimed 'Sacrosancta Synodus! Even Paolo Sarpi, the liberal Catholic historian, in a letter to Heinsius, spoke very highly of it. A century later, the celebrated Dutch divine, Campegius Vitringa, said: 'So much learning was never before assembled in one place, not even at Trent.'988988   Schweizer, Vol. II. pp. 26, 143 sq.; also, Graf, and Böhl, 1.c.

On the other hand, the Remonstrants, who had no fair hearing, abhorred the Synod of Dort on account of its Calvinism and intolerance. The Lutherans were averse to it under the false impression that the condemnation of Arminianism was aimed at their own creed. Some secular historians denounce it as a Calvinistic tribunal of inquisition.989989   Motley (Life and Death of John of Barneveld, Vol. II. p. 309) caricatures the Synod of Dort in a manner unworthy of an impartial historian. 'It was settled,' he said, 'that one portion of the Netherlands and of the rest of the human race had been expressly created by the Deity to be forever damned, and another portion to be eternally blessed. . . . On the 30th April and 1st May the Netherland Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism were declared infallible.'

The Canons of Dort have for Calvinism the same significance which the Formula of Concord has for Lutheranism. Both betray a very high order of theological ability and care. Both are consistent and necessary developments. Both exerted a powerful conservative influence on these Churches. Both prepared the way for a dry scholasticism which runs into subtle abstractions, and resolves the living soul of divinity into a skeleton of formulas and distinctions. Both consolidated orthodoxy at the expense of freedom, sanctioned a narrow confessionalism, and widened the breach between the two branches of the Reformation.


The banishment of the Arminians was of short duration. After the death of Prince Maurice of Nassau (1625), and under the reign of his milder brother and successor, Frederick Henry, they were allowed to return and to establish churches and schools in every town of Holland, which became more and more a land of religious toleration and liberty. In this respect their principles triumphed over their opponents.990990   Hugo Grotius carried the principle of toleration so far that it was said Socinus, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, the Pope, and Arius contended for his religion as seven cities for the birth of the divine Homer. See the verse of Menage, quoted by G. Frank, Geschichte der Protest. Theologie, Vol. I. p. 410. They 516founded a famous Theological College at Amsterdam (1630), which exists to this day, and has recently been removed to Leyden.

Peace was not so favorable to their growth as controversy. They gradually diminished in number, and are now a very small sect in Holland, almost confined to Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

But their literary and religious influence has gone far beyond their organization. Their eminent scholars, Hugo Grotius, Episcopius, Limborch, Curcellæus, Clericus (Le Clerc), and Wetstein, have enriched exegetical and critical learning, and liberalized theological opinions, especially on religious toleration and the salvation of unbaptized infants. Arminianism, in some of its advocates, had a leaning towards Socinianism, and prepared the way for Rationalism, which prevailed to a great extent in the Established Churches of Holland, Geneva, and Germany from the end of the last century till the recent reaction in favor of orthodox Calvinism and Lutheranism. But many Arminians adhered to the original position of a moderated semi-Pelagianism.

The distinctive Arminian doctrines of sin and grace, free-will and predestination, have been extensively adopted in the Episcopal Church since the reign of Charles I., and in the last century by the Methodists of Great Britain and America, and thereby have attained a larger territory and influence than they ever had in the land of their birth.991991   The Wesleys were Arminians, while Whitefield was a Calvinist. They separated on the question of predestination. Methodism holds to the essential doctrines of the Reformation, but also to the five points of Arminianism, with some important evangelical modifications.

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