Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

187 Arminians


Persons who follow the doctrines of Arminius, who was pastor at Amsterdam, and afterwards professor of divinity at Leyden. Arminius had been educated in the opinions of Calvin; but, thinking the doctrine of that great man with regard to free will, predestination, and grace, too severe, he began to express his doubts concerning them in the year 1591; and, upon farther enquiry, adopted the sentiments of those whose religious system extends the love of the Supreme Being and the merits of Jesus Christ to all mankind. The Arminians are also called Remonstrants, because, in 1611, they presented a remonstrance to the states-general, wherein they state their grievances, and pray for relief.

The distinguishing tenets of the Arminians may be comprised in the five following articles relative to predestination, universal redemption, the corruption of man, conversion, and perseverance, viz.

I. That God, from all eternity, determined to bestow salvation on those who he foresaw would persevere unto the end; and to inflict everlasting punishments on those who should continue in their unbelief, and resist his divine succours; so that election was conditional, and reprobation in like manner the result of foreseen infidelity and persevering wickedness.

II. That Jesus Christ by his sufferings and death, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in general, and of every individual in particular; that, however, none but those who believe in him can be partakers of divine benefits.

III. That true faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, nor from the force and operation of free will; since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable either of thinking or doing any good thing; and that, therefore, it is necessary, in order to his conversion and salvation, that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.

IV. That this divine grace, or energy of the Holy Ghost, begins and perfects every thing that can be called good in man, and, consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone; that, nevertheless, this grace is offered to all, and does not force men to act against their inclinations, but may be resisted and rendered ineffectual by the perverse will of the impenitent sinner. Some modern Arminians interpret this and the last article with a greater latitude.

V. That God gives to the truly faithful who are regenerated by his grace, the means of preserving themselves in this state. The first Arminians, indeed, had some doubt with respect to the closing part of this article; but their followers uniformly maintain “that the regenerate may lose true justifying faith, fall from a state of grace, and die in their sins.”

After the appointment of Arminius to the theological chair at Leyden, he thought it his duty to avow and vindicate the principles which he had embraced; and the freedom with which he published and defended them, exposed him to the resentment of those that adhered to the theological system of Geneva, which then prevailed in Holland; but his principal opponent was Gomar, his colleague. The controversy which was thus begun became more general after the death of Arminius in the year 1609, and threatened to involve the United Provinces in civil discord. The Arminian tenets gained ground under the mild and favourable treatment of the magistrates of Holland, and were adopted by several persons of merit and distinction. The Calvinists or Gomarists, as they were now called, appealed to a national synod; accordingly, the synod of Dort was convened, by order of the states-general, 1618; and was composed of ecclesiastic deputies from the United Provinces as well as from the reformed churches of England, Hessia, Bremen, Switzerland, and the Palatinate. The principal advocate in favour of the Arminians was Episcopius, who at that time was professor of divinity at Leyden. It was first proposed to discuss the principal subjects in dispute, that the Arminians should be allowed to state and vindicate the grounds on which their opinions were founded; but, some difference arising as to the proper mode of conducting the debate, the Arminians were excluded from the assembly, their case was tried in their absence, and they were pronounced guilty of pestilential errors, and condemned as corrupters of the true religion. A curious account of the proceedings of the above synod may be seen in a series of letters written by Mr. John Hales, who was present on the occasion.

In consequence of the above-mentioned decision, the Arminians were considered as enemies to their country, and its established religion, and were much persecuted. They were treated with great severity, and deprived of all their posts and employments; their ministers were silenced, and their congregations were suppressed. The great Barneveldt was beheaded on a scaffold; and the learned Grotius being condemned to perpetual imprisonment, fled, and took refuge in France.

After the death of prince Maurice, who had been a violent partizan in favour of the Gomarists, in the year 1625, the Arminian exiles were restored to their former reputation and tranquility; and, under the toleration of the state, they erected churches and founded a college at Amsterdam, appointing Episcopius the first theological professor. The Arminian system has very much prevailed in England since the time of Archbishop Laud, and its votaries in other countries are very numerous. It is generally supposed that a majority of the clergy in both the established churches of Great Britain favour the Arminian system, notwithstanding their articles are strictly Calvinistic. The name of Mr. John Wesley hardly need be mentioned here. Every one knows what an advocate he was for the tenets of Arminius, and the success he met with.

Some of the principal writers on the side of the Arminians have been Arminius, Episcopius, Vorstius, Grotius, Curcellaeus, Limborch, Le Clerc. Wetstein, Goodwin, Whitby, Taylor, Fletcher, &c.

Some of the principal writers on the other side have been Polhill in his Book on the Decrees; John Edwards in his Veritas Redux, Cole in his Sovereignty of God; Edwards on the Will, and Original Sin; Dr. Owen in his Display of Arminianism, and on particular Redemption; Gill in his Cause of God and Truth; and Toplady, an almost all his works.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary