Jakob Harmenszoon: collected works

Jakob’s works were translated from Latin by James Nichols and William Nichols, and published in three volumes in 1825, 1828 and 1875. The contents of Volumes 1 and 2 along with the Analysis of Romans 9 from Volume 3 have been typeset using modern typesetting conventions and are available as PDFs; in due course, it is hoped to make the rest of the contents of Volume 3 similarly available as PDFs.

The Analysis of the ninth chapter of St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, dedicated to Gellius Snecanus (1540–1596?), was written in the early 1590s when Arminius was pastor of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam and discusses the objections of the Jews to salvation by faith and Paul’s response to their arguments (Volume 3).

The Friendly discussion between François du Jon (1545–1602; professor of theology at Leiden 1592–1602) and Jakob arose from a letter which Jakob wrote to François probably in 1593.

In the letter, Jakob set out three versions of predestination: those of Calvin and Beza, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine:

François divided the letter into 27 propositions, calling this the first proposition, to each of which he responded. Jakob replied to each of François’ responses between 1594 and 1599 as he refers to Thesis 18 having been discussed in 1594 and in Proposition 20 to a disputation ‘On the providence of God’ by François having been discussed in 1598. In his reply to François’ response to the first proposition, Jakob wrote:

For they who believe are adopted, not they who are adopted receive the gift of faith: adoption is prepared for those who shall believe, not faith is prepared for those who are to be adopted, just as justification is prepared for believers, not faith is prepared for the justified.

In response to other propositions set out by François, he argued that God in his nature is not the author of sin, nor is Satan, but man and also that sin itself is not the marker of damnation. He also argued that it made no sense to say that some people will receive a reward without having to do anything for it and that others will receive a punishment without the opportunity to do anything about it.

François du Jon kept the letters without responding; they were published some time after his death along with the Theses he had set out in 1593 which had prompted Arminius’ first letter (Volume 3).

In A letter on sin against the Holy Ghost to John Uytenbogard, minister of the Church at The Hague (3 March 1599), he defines sin against the Holy Ghost as

That of those men who, being convinced in their consciences that Jesus is the Christ, by their infidelity still reject him;

that is, he excludes those who have never heard or heard but failed to understand. He differentiates it from sins against the Son of Man, for example, Peter’s denial, which are remissible (Volume 2).

In the Dissertation on the seventh chapter of Romans (1599; also published posthumously in 1612 by his children with a dedication to William Bardesius) he discusses falling from grace in great detail, specifically refuting charges of Pelagianism. He argues that Romans 7 refers to someone who is not yet under grace and therefore is not an excuse for Christians to continue sinning. He ends with an appeal for civilised Christian discussion (Volume 2).

In the Examination of a Treatise by William Perkins (1602) he deals with a number of Aunt Sallies which William Perkins (1558–1602) had set up to knock down and discusses ‘permission.’ He argues that there are many different ways in which God permits and prevents things and that different sins, whether of omission or commission, through ignorance, infirmity, malice or negligence, are permitted and prevented in different ways; he also argues that God may prevent an act from taking place but that does not negate the sin that was planned; he concludes with a detailed examination of Perkins’ presentation of his opponents’ views about predestination (Volume 3).

The Orations were delivered after his appointment at Leiden in 1603; the first three consist of a triptych discussing the object, author, end and certainty of theology while the fourth is his professorial lecture

  1. In ‘The object of theology,’ he argues that the object of theology is God and in particular his nature, actions and will but after the fall this had to be extended to Christ and that thereafter access to God is through belief in Christ.
  2. In ‘The author and the end of theology,’ he argues that the author is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit and that the end of theology is the union of God with man.
  3. In ‘The certainty of sacred theology,’ he argues that certainty may be based on experience, knowledge or faith; the certainty of sacred scripture is based on the divinity of scripture, the agreement of the doctrine in its parts, the prophecies, the miracles, the antiquity of the doctrine, the sanctity of those by whom it has been administered, the constancy of its professors and martyrs, the testimony of the church and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.
  4. In ‘The priesthood of Christ,’ he argues that this is based on His carrying out the sacrifice for our sins (delivered 16 July 1603).
  5. In ‘On reconciling religious dissensions among Christians,’ he discusses the origins and causes of schisms and the various remedies that have been proposed which he dismisses, proposing instead a World Council of Churches together with some guidelines for its operation (delivered 8 February 1606) (Volume 1).

The Apology or Defence of James Arminius (November 1605) is a response to 31 allegations made against him followed by Nine questions and a Letter to John Uytenbogard of January 1606 clarifying aspects of the Nine questions; some allegations he rejects as false; others he reinterprets. In Article 25, he quotes Public Disputation 19 (Volume 1).

In a Letter to Hippolytus A Collibus (5 April 1608) he refers to Public Disputations 10 and 11 and remarks that ‘infallibility is an affection of the mind.’ He defends himself against charges of Pelagianism and Socianism and appends a copy of ‘Certain articles’ which had been circulating before he wrote the letter; these summarise his beliefs as found elsewhere (Volume 2).

The Declaration of Sentiments was originally delivered in Dutch on 30 October 1608 and was translated into Latin by another. (For a translation from the original Dutch, see Arminius and his Declaration of Sentiments by Stephen Gunter.)

  1. In ‘Predestination’ he argues that the Calvinistic position is anti-Christian and unsupported by anyone else in the history of the church; he proposes that ‘predestination’ simply means that God knew in advance who would repent and believe.
  2. In ‘The Freedom of the Will’ he argues for a modified free will, that is, the capacity to do good is only fully realised with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
  3. In ‘The Divinity of the Son of God’ he defends himself against misrepresentation of his views.
  4. In ‘The Justification of Man before God’ he argues that he holds similar views to Calvin on this.
  5. In ‘The Revision of the Dutch Catechism and the Heidelberg Confession’ he argues against a clause exempting the Dutch Catechism and the Heidelberg Confession from examination on the grounds that only the Scriptures are above examination (Volume 1).

The 79 Private disputations were published posthumously in 1610.

  1. In 38 ‘Christ’s Humiliation and Exaltation’ he describes Christ as Mediator and intercessor rejecting insubstantiation and consubstantiation at the Lord’s supper.
  2. In 40 ‘The Predestination Of Believers’ he argues that predestination has to be understood through the nature of Christ and the expression of God’s love for all men through Christ; it is predestined for all believers — the corollary being that unbelievers are predestined for death.
  3. In 63 ‘On Baptism And Paedo-Baptism’ he argues that external baptism by water and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a personal confirmation for a believer of their internal baptism by Christ and a visible sign of joining the church; the water does nothing.
  4. In 64 ‘On The Lord’s Supper’ he argues that the bread and the water do not change and that communion reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice, of our need to love others and of our membership of the communion of believers (Volume 2).

The Public disputations of which there are 25 were published posthumously by his children in 1617 with a dedication to the city of Leiden. They include ‘On the nature of God’ — his Doctoral Thesis.

  1. In ‘The Righteousness Of God’s Providence Concerning Evil’ (disputed in May 1605 as noted in Article 23 of the Apology and referred to in the Letter to Collibus) he elaborates on the theme of permission, saying that the consequence of granting free will also allows God to demonstrate how to turn evil to good.
  2. In ‘On Repentance,’ he distinguishes repentance (μετανοια), penitence (μεταμελεια) and conversion (επιsτρrοφη), adding that
    Those persons act harshly who, from the example of God not pardoning sins except to him that is penitent, refuse to forgive their brother unless he confesses his fault, and earnestly begs pardon.
  3. In ‘On Magistracy’ he argues that it should be for the good of the whole and is best if carried out by a Christian (Volume 1).