James Arminius on Original Sin: A Few Quotes

, posted by AndrewH

Did Arminius affirm “original sin?” What effect did Arminius think Adam’s sin had on later humankind? Here are a few excerpts from The Works of James Arminius:

In Volume 2, Disputation 31 “On the Effects of the Sin of Our First Parents,” at  IX, he states:

But because the condition of the covenant into which God entered with our first parents was this, that, if they continued in the favour and grace of God by an observance of this command and of others, the gifts conferred on them should be transmitted to their posterity, by the same divine grace which they had, themselves, received; but that, if by disobedience they rendered themselves unworthy of those blessings, their posterity, likewise, should not possess them, and should be liable to the contrary evils. This was the reason why all men, who were to be propagated from them in a natural way, became obnoxious to death temporal and death eternal, and devoid of this gift of the Holy Spirit or original righteousness. This punishment usually receives the appellation of “a privation of the image of God,” and “original sin.”


In Volume 1, Disputation 7 “On the First Sin of the First Man,” at XVI, Arminius writes:

The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v.12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii.3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v.12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.


In Volume 1, Disputation 18 “On the Church and Its Head,” at IV, Arminius details:

Before the fall, this church in reality consisted only of our first parents, Adam and Eve; but in capacity it embraced the whole of the human race that were included in their loins, and that were afterwards to proceed from them by natural propagation. This was done by God’s constant and perpetual ordinance, according to which he included all their posterity in the covenant into which He had entered with the parents, provided the parents continued in this covenant. (Gen. xvii.7; Rom. v.12, 14.) And in this respect, the church before the fall may take to itself the epithet of “Catholic.” But, as a promise of the remission of sins was not annexed to this covenant, when our first parents transgressed this law, which had been imposed as a trial of obedience, they fell from the covenant and ceased to be the church of God, (Jer. xi.3,) they were expelled from the tree of life and out of Paradise, the symbols of life eternal and of the place in which it was to be enjoyed, and were thus by nature rendered “children of wrath.” (Gen.3.)


Finally, in Volume 1, Disputation 11 “On The Free Will of Man and Its Powers,” beginning at VI, he explains the effects of the fall, stating:

… he transgressed the command given to him for life. By this foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is Under The Dominion of Sin. For “to whom any one yields himself a servant to obey,” (Rom. vi.16,) and “of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage,” and is his regularly assigned slave. (2 Pet. ii.19.)

VII. In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

VIII. The mind of man, in this state, is dark, destitute of the saving knowledge of God, and, according to the Apostle, incapable of those things which belong to the Spirit of God. For “the animal man has no perception of the things of the Spirit of God;” (1 Cor. ii.14;) in which passage man is called “animal,” not from the animal body, but from anima, the soul itself, which is the most noble part of man, but which is so encompassed about with the clouds of ignorance, as to be distinguished by the epithets of “vain” and “foolish;” and men themselves, thus darkened in their minds, are denominated “mad” or foolish, “fools,” and even “darkness” itself. (Rom. i.21, 22; Ephes. iv.17, 18; Tit. iii.3; Ephes. v.8.) This is true, not only when, from the truth of the law which has in some measure been inscribed on the mind, it is preparing to form conclusions by the understanding; but likewise when, by simple apprehension, it would receive the truth of the gospel externally offered to it. For the human mind judges that to be “foolishness” which is the most excellent “wisdom” of God. (1 Cor. i.18, 24.) On this account, what is here said must be understood not only of practical understanding and the judgment of particular approbation, but also of theoretical understanding and the judgment of general estimation.

IX. To the darkness of the mind succeeds the perverseness of the affections and of the heart, according to which it hates and has an aversion to that which is truly good and pleasing to God; but it loves and pursues what is evil. The Apostle was unable to afford a more luminous description of this perverseness, than he has given in the following words: “The carnal mind is enmity against God. For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. viii.7.) For this reason, the human heart itself is very often called deceitful and perverse, uncircumcised, hard and stony.” (Jer. xiii.10; xvii, 9; Ezek. xxxvi.26.) Its imagination is said to be “only evil from his very youth;” (Gen. vi.5; viii, 21;) and “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,” &c. (Matt. xv.19.)

X. Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii.18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi.44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii.7;) therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi.20; 2 Tim. ii.26.)

XI. To these let the consideration of the whole of the life of man who is placed under sin, be added, of which the Scriptures exhibit to us the most luminous descriptions; and it will be evident, that nothing can be spoken more truly concerning man in this state, than that he is altogether dead in sin. (Rom. iii.10-19.) To these let the testimonies of Scripture be joined, in which are described the benefits of Christ, which are conferred by his Spirit on the human mind and will, and thus on the whole man. (1 Cor. vi.9-11; Gal. v.19-25; Ephes. ii.2-7; iv, 17-20; Tit. iii.3-7.) For, the blessings of which man has been deprived by sin, cannot be rendered more obviously apparent, than by the immense mass of benefits which accrue to believers through the Holy Spirit; when, in truth, nature is understood to be devoid of all that which, as the Scriptures testify, is performed in man and communicated by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” (2 Cor. iii.17;) and if those alone be free indeed whom the Son hath made free;” (John viii.36;) it follows, that our will is not free from the first fall; that is, it is not free to good, unless it be made free by the Son through his Spirit.


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