Arminius on Faith

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Arminius’ accusers charged him of believing and teaching:

FAITH is not the pure gift of God, but depends partly on the grace of God, and partly on the powers of Free Will; that, if a man will, he may believe or not believe. To which he responded:

“I NEVER said this, I never thought of saying it, and, relying on God’s grace, I never will enunciate my sentiments on matters of this description in a manner thus desperate and confused.

“I simply affirm that this enunciation is false, ‘Faith is not the pure gift of God;’ that this is likewise false, if taken according to the rigour of the words, ‘Faith depends partly on the grace of God, and partly on the powers of Free Will;’ and that this is also false when thus enunciated, ‘If a man will, he can believe or not believe.’

“If they suppose that I hold some opinions from which these assertions may by good consequence be deduced, why do they not quote my words? It is a species of injustice to attach to any person those consequences which one may frame out of his words as if they were his sentiments: But the injustice is still more flagrant if those conclusions cannot by good consequence be deduced from what he has said.

“Let my brethren, therefore, make the experiment, whether they can deduce such consectaries as these from the things which I teach; but let the experiment be made in my company and not by themselves in their own circle: For that sport will be vain, equally void of profit or of victory; as boys sometimes feel when they play alone at chess with their own dice.

“For the proper explanation of this matter a discussion on the Concurrence and Agreement of Divine Grace and of Free Will, or of the human Will, would be required; but because this would be a labour much too prolix [prolonged and drawn out], I shall not now make the attempt. To explain the matter I will employ a simile, which yet, I confess, is very dissimilar; but its dissimilitude is greatly in favour of my sentiments.

“A rich man bestows on a poor and famishing beggar alms by which he may be able to maintain himself and his family. Does it cease to be a pure gift because the beggar extends his hand to receive it? Can it be said with propriety that ‘the alms depended partly on the liberality of the Donor and partly on the liberty of the Receiver,’ though the latter would not have possessed the alms unless he had received it by stretching out his hand? Can it be correctly said because the beggar is always prepared to receive that ‘he can have the alms or not have it just as [or when] he pleases?’ [No.]

“If these assertions cannot be truly made about a beggar who receives alms, how much less can they be made about the gift of faith for the receiving of which far more acts of Divine Grace are required!

“This is the question which it will be requisite to discuss, ‘What acts of Divine Grace are required to produce faith in man?’ If I omit any act which is necessary, or which concurs (in the productions of faith), let it be demonstrated from the Scriptures and I will add it to the rest.

“It is not our wish to do the least injury to Divine Grace, by taking from it anything that belongs to it: But let my brethren take care that they themselves neither inflict an injury on Divine Justice by attributing that to it which it refuses; nor on Divine Grace by transforming it into something else, which cannot be called GRACE.

“That I may in one word intimate what they must prove, such a transformation they effect when they represent ‘the sufficient and efficacious grace, which is necessary to salvation, to be irresistible,’ or as acting with such potency that it cannot be resisted by any free creature.”

1 James Arminius, “Apology Against Thirty-One Theological Articles,” The Works of Arminius, Vol. II, trans. James Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 51-52.