Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[The Arminian Heresy Nipped in the Bud, by Alexander Henderson, David Dickson, and Andrew Ramsay.]
A Discussion of Arminianism
In the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland, 1638.
By Alexander Henderson, David Dickson, & Andrew Ramsay.
[Excerpted from Alexander Peterkin's Records of the Kirk of Scotland, 156:A to 159:B.]

Moderator [Alexander Henderson]—You remember, right reverend and well-beloved, there was something spoken here by occasion of a particular complaint given in against Mr. David Mitchell, for maintaining points of Arminianism; and we desired one of our reverend brethren to speak somewhat for refutation of that errour.

Arminianism Discussed

Then Mr. David [Dickson] raised and spake as follows:—The task is large, the time is short; therefore I will set myself to as little time as I can; only I would have this preface in the beginning, that we would all labour to have errours in as great detestation as any corporal vice; and doubtless, if our eyes were open to see the beauty of truth and the good fruits of it, and to see the vileness of errours, and the fearful consequences of it, we would need no exhortation of this sort. For the preaching of errour is like the selling of poisoned {156:B} pestied bread, that slays the eater of it, and infects with the breath every man that comes near hand; and albeit the Lord hath brought in wholesome food in his house, and has held his table long covered, yet the malice of Satan, and the business of the Pope to recover his Kingdom, and the dalliance of worldly men, has set instruments on foot to trouble our Church again; and God, in his deep wisdom and justice, has suffered the matter to go that far on, that we might see what a fearful sin it was to put the keys of the house of God in wrong hands, and what evil freicks, errours in discipline would bring forth, and also that he might punish the unsanctified and proud wits of men that would take upon them to govern his Kirk, as also he would have these ministers in this land corrected for their negligence who are like the rest of the country, who thinks of arms whilest they are in peace. So have we done. In time of peace, we were all secure, and dreamed not of straits, and studied for no more but to get one sermon in the week; yet blessed be our God who has also many painful and faithful servants as will be sufficient to clear his truth of his Kirk against all that will say the contrary.

By the power of Jesus, I will take up my speech in these heads. First, I will lay out their errors in 4 heads; Secondly, I will lay out our doctrine in other 4; then, Thirdly, I will lay out before you the colours they use instead of probation; Fourthly, then I will lay before you some main reasons which are the cause and ground of all the errours, and the grounds whereupon the dispute runs wrong on their side; then I will show you the bulwark wherein our strength stands; Lastly, I will answer some objections, and so close. For the truth of our doctrine, I will content myself with a place or two, and is in the hinder end of the 52 [of] Isaiah, and 6 of John, 29th verse, which is sufficient for a confirmation of our all doctrine against all Arminians.

(1) For the first, The Arminians they grant an election; but such a one as makes man to be a chooser of God, and not God to be chooser of man, that by their course God shall choose a man 20 times, and refuse him or reprobate him 21 times, and the man to go to hell in the hinder end.

(2) For the death of Christ they make a great business for it, as if they were the only men that knew to extend the worth of it; but it comes home to this:—Christ lays down his blood, and buys no wares but a possibility of some man's salvation—that is to say, they extend his death in drawing on of a bargain betwixt God and man, to put man in the terms that Adam fell into, that man may take a new assay of himself, by the force of universal grace, to hold his feet where Adam fell.

(3) There is concerning man's conversion, wherein they would seem to plead for themselves, that they are seeking no more but to make man to be no stock nor block, and if they had no further, we should easily grant that he were not a stock in his conversion; but he is a quick devil, and when it comes to the upwith [end result], here do they shoot to put all the matters in man's own hand, that God shall be the giver of ability to convert by giving the man a power of free will, but the man shall have the glory to turn himself to God or receive grace.

(4) For the last and fourth point; they sever poor simple man, and set him alone with the staff of his free will tottering in his hand, and the Devil, the world, and sin tempting him; and then they dispute with him, saying, that there is no assurance of perseverance, and that the saints may fall away and all the rest of it, while, as they should join all {157:A} his helps with all his hindrances, and should put him in the hand of a cautioner and guide to teach him and correct him, and raise him up when he is fallen.

These being their four errors, I oppose to them the doctrine of the Kirk of Scotland, whereof we may all think good the day, and thank God most heartily for it; and seeing I have gotten leave to speak, I bless God in Jesus Christ our Lord, that ever looked upon the Kirk of Scotland, to give us a doctrine that will not suffer itself to be disgraced by errors or false doctrine, but will take the place of it in the hands of weak Ministers who will not boast of their learning, but whose glory is simple truth; and in that we will glory more nor [than] in all the learning in the world, finding ourselves guarded against all the Scribes and disputers of the world, since [we] have the truth of Christ in simplicity according to the word.
1. We give this for our doctrine out of the word of God—That there is a number severed out, in God's special purpose, from the race of mankind, and advanced above the state of nature, to the estate of Grace and Glory, by a special designation, and that for no foreseen good works in the man, but for his free Grace and good purpose who helped to make the man, then to put the soul in him, and then to put such and such graces in his soul, and restore what was fallen in him, and so make him do good works. This ground is clear from Scripture. Ye know he will have mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardens; for he is a Sovereign Lord, and, of his own workmanship, he can advance one part higher of it than another, and do no wrong to the rest.

2. For the matter of Christ's purchase by his death, we teach that our Lord made no blind block, but wist [knew] well what he bought, as the Father wist what he sold; and had his sheep before his eyes and was content to lay down his life for them; all things that belong to life and Salvation he laid down such a price to the Father, and declared, by a voice from Heaven, that he was pleased with it—"This is my beloved Son."

3. For conversion we say, that how quick, how reasonable soever a man is in the hour of his conversion, considering him as he is, a natural man and so wicked in himself, that there is so much power in the Gospel of Grace, the Spirit of God concurring therewith, that he is able, not only morally to persuade and convince the man, but effectually to induce the mind of him—keeping himself still in a freedom of will, that most willingly and freely makes the man turn unto God, and to take his Mediator and God in his arms, who before was in the arms of Satan.

4. For the fourth we say, that, albeit it is true there is nothing vainer nor [than] man—nothing lighter than he—he being laid in the balance, and nothing fickler nor [than] he, for at his best estate he is altogether vanity—yet He that has bought him dear will never leave him nor forsake him. That man that he has begun to take by the heart, and to speak to as he uses to do to these whom he sets his mind upon and calls according to his purpose, he so admonishes him, reproves him, corrects him, and causes him to eat the fruit of his own ways in case he deborred, that he causes him cast all consolations from himself—from men—from the world—from sin—and makes him fain to creep in under his Lord's wings, and brings him through all doubts, and rubs difficulties and temptations, and never leaves him till he set him before his Master and Lord.

Now, their colours are chiefly three—first, from {157:B} Scriptures, rend one of them from another, as if there were no Scripture but that text which they would seem to prove their errours by, which text of theirs being compared with others, is our doctrine; and by so doing they deal like sophists rather than telling the mind of the Spirit of God, who tells not all his mind in one sentence, but must be waited on till he tell his last word; and reason it be so—as, for example, when the matter of man's salvation and conversion is spoken of, to say the Lord swears he loves not the death of a sinner, and we oppose to them another Scripture, that he laughed at the destruction of the wicked; where they take the one place and not the other, and takes not that which agrees with—but he rejoices at their destruction—not as it is a destruction of the creature: but when man wilfully rejects grace and mercy and scorns God, it is righteous with God to rejoice in his destruction when the man will not rejoice in his mercy.

Another of their colours is a number of calumnies of our doctrine, where before the ignorant and unlearned, that understand not what we teach, they seem to speak to them with some face, as if our doctrine did open a door to sin; whereas howsoever as in other professions there are too many profane among them, if all of them be not so, yet amongst us, the doctrine is not such that if any man be profane or abuse the truth that is spoken, he bears the blame himself and not the Lord.

Their third colour is plausible human reasons and discourse, drawn from the corrupt judgment of unsanctified men—as if men were to sit down and lay the platform of his own Salvation, and not to leave it to the Word and to the Lord; but human reason shall prove a fool when it comes to the contrary of these two.

The grounds of their mistaking are these:—1. That they confound the decree of God concerning the last end of man with the manner of the execution of the decree of the means: as, for example, they draw all their objections from the matter of God's treating with the Visible Church, wherein God takes up the ridle and seif and fyne [instruments for separating grain] of his promise and commandments, threatenings, and conditional offices, and sifts out the man that is his own, and leaves the rest inexcusable. They draw out a decree of this, as if God had been unresolved when he began to speak conditionally to man—as if there had been no more determined concerning the man he had a purpose unto, nor [than] the preacher that must speak to every one of his auditors; and this error draws very deep, for they make God's decree, reduced according to his free will, lays God's decree by, while [until] man falls in his lap, and so makes God resign his Sovereignty, while [until] the end of the world they make man go and God to stand by: for man will guide the matter of his salvation by his free will, and so they make God a spectator or a furnisher of directions only as he is called by the man's free will. God comes in at free-will's back and furnishes directions, and free-will determines; and so they give a Godhead to free-will, and make God resign his Sovereignty while [until] doomsday, and only now coming in at the back of free-will, following the designations of man.

Another reason of theirs is this—that they extend the death of Christ only to a possibility of the salvation of all men, and to the possibility of the salvation of no man—making Christ's death to have the one operation sufficiently, if Christ facilitate the way betwixt God and man; howbeit, Christ never got a man saved nor ever eat the fruit of his labours, whereas our Lord was never so evil a {158:A} Merchant as to lay down his life, and never will therefore, nor such a fool as to make a bargain which might be suspended by man's fickle free-will, who has that much prudence that he foresee a loss or danger he will govern it.

A third errour is this—That they think God's effectual working in the conversion of man cannot subsist with the reservation of the nature of his own free-will, even as if the saints in Heaven, and the spirits that are perfected, and Jesus Christ our Lord, in his manhead, had never done, nor could never do, a turn but of necessity, and nothing of free-will; for, except they got this sovereignty to man's free-will, if the will of God overrule him, and determine him to do good, presently they cry out, he's destroyed the man's free-will; as when a man preaches morally to an auditor, leaving nothing undone to persuade them by his word, he has left their freedom never a straw the less.

According to the Popish and Arminian grounds, the man being left standing his alone, he must fall away from Grace; for sure Christ has done all that can be done by a Mediator, and then only stand beside as a spectator (as they say.) I wonder nothing that they speak of perseverance as they do; for if the world were left to us our alone, we would fall in the mire; whereas, in the perseverance of the Saints, the man and the master goes together—the debtor and the cautioner goes together—the captain and the soldier goes together—Christ and the man never sheds [part]; and howsoever we grant that without Christ we can do nothing, and that if there were no more nor [than] our strength, all would go wrong; yet, with Christ, we are able to do all things, and bring any thing about that he is to employ us in.

Their main errour is this, (let me speak it with reverence towards your learning)—not knowing the Scriptures, and the power of God in the matter of the Covenant of redemption betwixt God and Christ; yet there is enough of it in the Scripture. They pointed at it themselves, which, if they should have followed, they might sein all their matter in the midst; for the Covenant of Salvation betwixt God and man is one thing, and the Covenant of Redemption betwixt God and Christ is another thing. The Covenant betwixt God and Christ was done and ended before ever there was a word of it in the world; but the Covenant betwixt God and man is by the means of the Mediator, which makes all sufficient, and he is our strength and bulwark; and when all their objections are made, we step to our Magna Charta, and where we can get any gripping we hold it fast, to wit—the Articles of a Superior Covenant made by Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate, in which there are articles contradictory to all Arminians, that so there shall be no more possibility of the breaking of these Articles, nor of garring [causing] God and Christ fail. When an end of a bridge falls, the other must fall with it; so when our free-will is the one end, and Christ the other, then must it stand; and heir [here], I say, is our bulwark.

Their general objections are three. The first is, that our doctrine is not good, for we terrify them, telling them that God has a special election and special reprobation; and our doctrine, say they, is not good for tender consciences that are converted. We desire no better answer for the time, nor [than to] retort their objections back again upon them; and we say that their doctrine is not good for conversion, because they keep the man unhumbled and impenitent. They never gar [make] a man say, "I have no strength nor ability to do any {158:B} good to myself—Lord amend me!" But they keep a man from denying himself, and how shall [he] follow Christ? But our doctrine lays man in the dust, and gars [makes] him peep of it: and so our doctrine for conversion is very fit; and if our doctrine prevail that far with any man as to gar [make] him grant that he has nothing, then presently our Lord keeps him, and gives Grace to that unworthy body [person]. Every man that takes with his sinfulness, our doctrine pulls that man in the arms of it. I say more: our doctrine draws any man from that—"I will not be saved albeit God bid me," but gars [makes] him either come to a note, or profess himself to be hypocrite; and for these that are tender and weak, he carries the matter so, that he will not break the bruised reed, if he grant he has inlaiked [been deficient] and would be helped of yow, but if (a [he] would be helped) he keeps him, and props him up on all hands. Upon the other hand, our doctrine will not let a man lay his platt [plan, plot] upon Heaven: that is, not in the way to it. It will not let him say he is a believer, except he be labouring to work by love, and express his faith by his obedience; and we retort this upon them, for they say it is in the man's power, when, how, and in what measure he will determine what he pleases; and so a man may say, "I am young, and I may delay till death comes, for it will come not so soon but I will get half an hours advertisement;" and so their doctrine opens a door to sinning rather than ours.

Now for the grounds. Look what the Scripture says for us, and that will settle the business. The last part of the 52 Chapter of Isaiah—"Behold my servant shall deal prudently; he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high." There Christ is called the Father's servant, because he was designed to take on our nature, and to bring in the Elect Children. It is said of him, that he shall deal prudently—he shall keep up the doctrine of election and reprobation, so that never man shall get the door dung [struck] in his schafts that would be in, but does good to all, to the kind and to the unkind, and lays no stumbling block before them that perishes. No man shall ken [know] the reprobation of any; but election shall have many marks, whereby the man may climb up to the Palace, and bytime read his name in the Book of Life. How will this matter be brought about, his visage was so marred more nor [than] any man? They say that indeed Christ will get a blecked [slapped] face by the gate; and he get this done, he must waide the glarre myre of our sins and the punishment thereof. Our Lord got his visage marred; but what will be uncertain of recompence? This it was told him 5000 years ago, that he should be exalted, extolled, and be very high, and that kings should speir [ask] for him. Take ye all good heart. The cause that we are about the day [today], Kings shall speir [ask] for it, and shall be forced to hear it in due time, by Christ's wise bringing about the matter; and because men would think this universal, he tells in the beginning of the next chapter that it was for none but these to whom the Lord's arm is revealed. The reasons wherefore the reprobates would not believe:—he tells us there are some wicked persons, who, tho all the miseries were before them, and were dealt with by never so many arguments to turn from their former wickedness, yet they will not leave their own ways, but wilfully choose the ways of death of their own accord. And (John 6) our Master tells—"All that the Father has given to me shall come to me; and they that comes to me I will not cast out, but will raise them up at the last day." He must keep not only your souls but your bodies, yea, and your very dust, and shall {159:A} never be taken off the hand of the Son of God till he render up the Kingdom to the Father.

Now I will close my Speech. By all means let Christ's part in the Scripture, and the things that concerns his kingdom and person be better studied by us; let this Covenant, made betwixt God and Christ, and betwixt God and us through Christ, be better studied; for since the whole Bible takes the denomination from this Covenant, it is recommended to us to study it better, where ye see our Lord has taken course to make all things fast, and has so wisely expressed in the scripture, that no man shall have leave to presume to despair, to be profane or abuse the doctrine of Grace upon any just ground.

Now for the theses. They shall be given in write reply at a convenient time.

1. There is a Covenant of redemption betwixt God and the Mediatour Christ, preceding the Covenant of Grace and Salvation made betwixt God and the faithful Man through Christ, which is the ground of all this treating that God has with Man in the preaching of the Gospel.

2. In this Covenant of redemption betwixt God and the second person, designed Mediatour betwixt God and Man, the elect were designed and condescended particularly upon their number and names, with their gifts and graces of grace and glory to be bestowed upon them, and the time and means to bestow it, was all condescended and agreed upon.

3. The price of the redemption, what and how much should be paid by the Redeemer for the purchase of all these gifts, how long he should be holden captive of death, &c. all was determined.

4. The Mediatour was made sure of success before he put hand to the making of the world; and all the elect were given to him and their salvation put in his hand, with all power in heaven and earth given to him to bring it to pass; and so he is sure to find out the man to persuade and convert, to lead him through toutches and temptations, through fears and falls, till he bring him to peace; and this refuge of the soul is a sufficient post against all Arminians doubts.

5. He manages this matter in the dispensation of the Gospel so wisely, as it gives no man any reasonable ground either to presume of God's mercy or to despair of God's grace; he tempers it so that the holiest man shall have no matter of comfort except he walk in the way of holiness, and the wickedest man shall not be put out of hopes but to be received whensoever he will turn in to seek Grace, and life, and holiness in Jesus.

Then Mr. Andrew Ramsay was desired by the Moderator to speak somewhat of that subject.

Mr. Andrew said—I have nothing premeditate; but this shortly, ex tempore. The questions betwixt us and the Arminians are these—1. Whether our salvation runs upon the hinges of our own will or upon God's grace? Our salvation is considered in five respects—1. As it is ordained; 2. As it is purchased; 3. As it is offered; 4. As it is applied; 5. As it is perfected.

First, as it is ordained, it depends on God, according as he foresaw man's works, (as they say,) and swa [so] to depend on man's will. Some he saw their works would be good, and he choosed them; some he saw their works to be evil, and he rejected them; and so they make the first original charter to depend on man's will, salvation being ordained.

2. Then it is considered as purchased, either {159:B} actually or potentially; potentially, as Christ died for all; effectually, as it depends on our will; actually he died for all. Who would receive his grace should be received, and who rejected should be damned.

3. As it is offered by God or accepted by us, it depends on man's will.

4. As it perseveres, it depends on man's will; and so they make his whole salvation to depend on his will. He elected us because he saw our will that we would accept grace, and died effectually for these whom he saw would accept grace, and that he would offer grace to such as he saw would persevere.

(1) We say it depends upon God's grace, and that he elected such and such to salvation when he might have condemned all.

(2) We say that Christ's sacrifice was not offered for all, nor for one of the reprobates.

(3) That the effectual calling of man, when the Lord offers grace, the man may potentially reject, but not effectually; for he writes the law in his heart that he can [not] reject it.

(4) It stands not by man's will, but by God's grace; so the Arminians question our salvation in these points, and say it depends on man's will. We say it depends on God's grace. Our reasons are these—1. If it depend on man's will, and not on God's grace, then Christ had not said, "I thank thee, O Father, that hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes; even so, Father, because it was thy pleasure." 2. If our salvation depended on our will, then grace should depend upon nature, and should be a subservient cause to nature. 3. God, who is a independent being, should become a dependent being; for, if his will depended on man, then God's will, who is independent, should become dependent. 4. Last, it is against that action in the schools: for actus secundus should be prestantior primo; and so they give all the glory to man, and we give it to God; and we have the consent of all the ancients, and the whole Roman Kirk, (till of new some Jesuits has risen up,) that our election depends on God's grace.

Then the Moderator said—We have reason to bless the Lord for his gracious providence, that before this errour spread very far, it has pleased him to nip it in the bud; and God be thanked, who has raised up some spirits in our time to acquaint themselves with this errour, that they are able to refute it. I have sometimes heard that there be two very small points, as would seem, wherein this great errour does consist. They are like two grammarians: the one is, whether the word Elect, or, in Latin, Electi, is nomen or participium. The question is, whether we do believe, because we are chosen to faith? They say God chooses men because they believe. We say this—That we are elected comes from God's free grace. There is one other word about the signification of ante and pro. They take pro, that Christ has died, pro omnibus, for the behove and benefit of all. We say that it has another signification, vice omnium—I mean as Scripture takes it—that is, for all sorts, and if it be taken vice electorum, they must be saved in whose place Christ hath died.