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§ 66. The Remonstrance.
The Arminian or quinquarticular controversy started with opposition to the doctrine of absolute decrees, and moved in the sphere of anthropology and soteriology. The peculiar tenets are contained in the five points or articles which the Arminians in their 'Remonstrance' laid before the estates of Holland in 1610. They relate to predestination, the extent of the atonement, the nature of faith, the resistibility of grace, and the perseverance of saints.
The Remonstrance is first negative, and then positive. It rejects five Calvinistic propositions, and then asserts the five Arminian propositions. The doctrines rejected are thus stated:
1. That God has, before the fall, and even before the creation of man, by an unchangeable decree, foreordained some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation, without any regard to righteousness or sin, to obedience or disobedience, and simply because it so pleased him, in order to show the glory of his righteousness to the one class and his mercy to the other. (This is the supralapsarian view.)
2. That God, in view of the fall, and in just condemnation of our first parents and their posterity, ordained to exempt a part of mankind from the consequences of the fall, and to save them by his free grace, but to leave the rest, without regard to age or moral condition, to their condemnation, for the glory of his righteousness. (The sublapsarian view.)
3. That Christ died, not for all men, but only for the elect.
4. That the Holy Spirit works in the elect by irresistible grace, so that they must be converted and be saved; while the grace necessary and sufficient for conversion, faith, and salvation is withheld from the rest, although they are externally called and invited by the revealed will of God.
5. That those who have received this irresistible grace can never totally and finally lose it, but are guided and preserved by the same grace to the end.
These doctrines, the Remonstrants declare, are not contained in the Word of God nor in the Heidelberg Catechism, and are unedifying, yea dangerous, and should not be preached to Christian people.
Then the Remonstrance sets forth the five positive articles as follows:
Conditional Predestination.—God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36).
Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men.
Universal Atonement.—Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, and his grace is extended to all. His atoning sacrifice is in and of itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and is intended for all by God the Father. But its inherent sufficiency does not necessarily imply its actual efficiency. The grace of God may be resisted, and only those who accept it by faith are actually saved. He who is lost, is lost by his own guilt (John iii. 16; 1 John ii. 2).
The Arminians agree with the orthodox in holding the doctrine of a vicarious or expiatory atonement, in opposition to the Socinians; but they soften it down, and represent its direct effect to be to enable God, consistently with his justice and veracity, to enter into a new covenant with men, under which pardon is conveyed to all men on condition of repentance and faith. The immediate effect of Christ's death was not the salvation, but only the salvability of sinners by the removal of the legal obstacles, and opening the door for pardon and reconciliation. They reject the doctrine of a limited atonement, which is connected with the supralapsarian view of predestination, but is disowned by moderate Calvinists, who differ from the Arminians in all other points. Calvin himself says that Christ died sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter pro electis.
Saving Faith.—Man in his fallen state is unable to accomplish any thing really and truly good, and therefore also unable to attain to saving faith, unless he be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit (John xv. 5).
Resistible Grace.—Grace is the beginning, continuation, and end of our spiritual life, so that man can neither think nor do any good or resist sin without prevening, co-operating, and assisting grace. But as for the manner of co-operation, this grace is not irresistible, for many resist the Holy Ghost (Acts vii.).
The Uncertainty of Perseverance.—Although grace is sufficient and abundant to preserve the faithful through all trials and temptations for life everlasting, it has not yet been proved from the Scriptures that grace, once given, can never be lost.
On this point the disciples of Arminius went further, and taught the possibility of a total and final fall of believers from grace. They appealed to such passages where believers are warned against this very danger, and to such examples as Solomon and Judas. They moreover denied, with the Roman Catholics, that any body can have a certainty of salvation except by special revelation.
These five points the Remonstrants declare to be in harmony with the Word of God, edifying and, as far as they go, sufficient for salvation. They protest against the charge of changing the Christian Reformed religion, and claim toleration and legal protection for their doctrine.
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