A Display of Arminianism

John Owen


BEING

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;

Wherein

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,j w= Ake,si,lai kli,maka kai. mo,noj avna,bhqi eivj to.n ouvrano,n) - Constat., apud Socrat., lib. 1. cap. 10.


CHAPTER 1. ON THE TWO MAIN ENDS AIMED AT BY THE ARMINIANS, BY THEIR INNOVATIONS IN THE RECEIVED DOCTRINE OF THE REFORMED CHURCHES.

CHAPTER 2. ON THE ETERNITY AND IMMUTABILITY OF THE DECREES OF ALMIGHTY GOD, DENIED AND OVERTHROWN BY THE ARMINIANS.

CHAPTER 3. OF THE PRESCIENCE OR FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND HOW IT IS QUESTIONED AND OVERTHROWN BY THE ARMINIANS.

CHAPTER 4. OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IN GOVERNING THE WORLD DIVERSELY, THRUST FROM THIS PRE-EMINENCE BY THE ARMINIAN IDOL OF FREE-WILL.

CHAPTER 5. WHETHER THE WILL AND PURPOSE OF GOD MAY BE RESISTED, AND HE BE FRUSTRATE OF HIS INTENTIONS.

CHAPTER 6. HOW THE WHOLE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION IS CORRUPTED BY THE ARMINIANS.

CHAPTER 7. OF ORIGINAL SIN AND THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE.

CHAPTER 8. OF THE STATE OF ADAM BEFORE THE FALL, OR OF ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS.

CHAPTER 9. OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST, AND OF THE EFFICACY OF HIS MERITS.

CHAPTER 10. OF THE CAUSE OF FAITH, GRACE, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.

CHAPTER 11. WHETHER SALVATION MAY BE ATTAINED WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OF, OR FAITH IN, CHRIST JESUS.

CHAPTER 12. OF FREE-WILL, THE NATURE AND POWER THEREOF.

CHAPTER 13. OF THE POWER OF FREE-WILL IN PREPARING US FOR OUR CONVERSION UNTO GOD.

CHAPTER 14. OF OUR CONVERSION TO GOD.


TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE 

THE LORDS AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE FOR RELIGION,1 

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;2 [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,3 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 salvâ 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 i`ero.j po,lemon4 “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.5 We see their own confessions; we know their arts, ba,qh kai. meqode,iaj 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 Zanchius6 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, 

JOHN OWEN.


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,aj, 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.


Endnotes:

  1. This committee was appointed by the House of Lords, March 12, 1640. It sometimes bears the name of the Committee of Accommodation, and consisted of ten earls, ten bishops, and ten barons. To prepare the subjects of discussion, some bishops and several divines of different persuasions were appointed a subcommittee. The duty of the committee was to examine all innovations in doctrine and discipline, illegally introduced into the church since the Reformation. See Neal’s History, vol. 2:395.
  2. He alludes to the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. In France the civil wars on account of religion were terminated about 1628, when the Protestants secured the confirmation of the Edict of Nantes, but lost possession of the towns that had been given in guarantee for the faithful observance of it.
  3. Sleid. Com.
  4. Greg. Naz.
  5. Profitentur Remonst, hasce ad promotionem causae sure artes adhibere, ut apud vulgus non ulterius progrediantur quam de articulis vulgo notis, ut pro ingeniorum diversitate quosdam lacte din alant, alios solidiore cibo, etc. — Festus Hom. praestat ad specimen Con. Bel.
  6. Hieron. Zanch. ad Holderum. Res. Miscel.