In reply to some queries which Uytenbogard had addressed to Arminius, concerning these nine questions and their opposites, the latter gave his friend the following explanation, in a letter dated the 31st of January, 160vi,
|I. In answer to the First Question, this is the order of the decrees. (1.) It is my will to save believers. (2.) On this man I will bestow faith and preserve him in it. (3.) I will save this man. For thus does the first of these decrees prescribe, which must necessarily be placed foremost; because, without this, faith is not necessary to salvation, and therefore no necessity exists to administer the means for faith. But to this is directly opposed the opinion which asserts, that faith is bestowed on him on whom God had previously willed to bestow salvation. For, in this case, it would be his will to save one who did not believe. All that has been said about the difference of the decree and its execution, is futile; as if, in fact, God willed salvation to any one prior to faith, and yet not to bestow salvation on any others than believers. For, beside the consistent agreement of these, [the decree and its execution,] it is certain that God cannot will to bestow that which, on account of his previous decree, He cannot bestow. As therefore faith is, in a general manner, placed before salvation by the first decree; so it must, specially and particularly, be placed before the salvation of this and that man, even in the special decree which has the subsequent execution.
|III. To the Third Question I shall in preference oppose the following: Has God determined peremptorily to act with some men according to the strict rigor of the law, as He did with the fallen angels, and to act with others according to the grace of the Gospel? If they deny this, I have what I wish. But if they affirm it, such a sentiment must be overwhelmed with absurdities; because in such a case God would have acted towards many men with greater severity, than towards the fallen angels, who, as being creatures purely spiritual, each sinned of himself, through his own wickedness without persuasion from any one.
|IV. They will not be able to deny my Fourth opposite Question. For remission is promised to those who confess their sins; and the fear is called initial in reference to the filial fear which follows. If they acknowledge it, but say, Yet God is not induced by them;' I will then command them to erase the same word out of their interrogatory, and in a better form to enunciate their own opinion.
|V. They will not consider it their duty entirely to deny my Fifth opposing Question. If they affirm it, they will declare a falsehood, and will incur the ill opinion of all prudent persons, even of those who are weak. Let them therefore search out what they may place as an intermediate postulate between theirs and mine, and I will then show that it co-incides either with their postulate or with mine.
|VI. I have placed two questions in opposition to the Sixth, because their question is also a double one. On the First of them you require no observation. About the Second I have said, for the sake of explanation, that it is a circle, in which nothing is first and nothing last,' but in every part of it a beginning and an end are found -- which cannot, without absurdity, have place in the decrees of God. I ask, has God determined to bestow salvation on those who believe, or to bestow faith on those who are to be saved? If both of these be asserted, I ask, which of them is the first, and which the last? They will reply, neither; and it is then a circle. If they affirm the latter, that God has determined to bestow faith on those who are to be saved; I will prove, that He has determined to bestow salvation on those who believe, and shall then have formed a circle, notwithstanding their unwillingness. If they adduce the different respect, I will endeavour to confute it; which cannot be a work of much difficulty in so very plain a matter.
|VII. In the Seventh opposite Question, I had regard to the expression, is it his duty? for about its possibility there is no contention. But justifying faith is not that by which I believe that my sins are remitted; for thus the same thing will be the object and the effect of justifying faith. By this [justifying faith] I obtain remission of sins, therefore it precedes the other object; [the remission of sins;] and no one can believe that his sins are remitted, unless he knows that he believes by a justifying faith. For this reason, also, no one can believe that his future sins will likewise be remitted, unless he knows that he will believe to the end. For sins are forgiven to him who believes, and only after they have been committed; wherefore the promise of forgiveness, which is that of the New Testament, must be considered as depending on a condition stipulated by God, that is FAITH, without which there is no covenant.
|VIII. With respect to the Eighth Question, let a distinction be made between Faith as it is a quality or habit, and between the same as it is an art. Actual believing justifies, or the act of believing is imputed for righteousness. Because God requires actual faith; for our capability to perform which, He infuses that which is habitual. Therefore, as actual faith does not consist with moral sin, he who falls into mortal sin may be damned. But it is possible for a believer to fall into mortal sin, of which David is seen as an instance Therefore, he may fall at such a moment as, if he were then to die, he would be damned. If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.' Therefore, if it does condemn us, we have no confidence, we cannot have any; because God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.' What is said about the impossibility of this event, because, God has determined not to take such persons out of the world at that moment, conduces nothing in favour of their hypothesis. For this is opposed to final destruction, not to temporary, and to their total destruction for a season, which is the subject of their Eighth Question.
|IX. If it be replied to my Ninth opposing Question, that, in the covenant of grace, God requires a duty which is impossible to man; they will be forced to confess, that, in addition to this covenant, another is necessary, according to which God pardons a duty not performed according to that covenant of grace; as it was necessary that there should be another covenant, by which God might pardon a duty not performed according to the legal covenant. And thus shall we proceed on ad infinitum. At length we must arrive at the point from which we can say, God save sinners, of his infinite mercy, which is limited by no conditions prescribed by his equity. This seems to be an expression which will be entirely conformable to the whole doctrine of those who urge absolute predestination, For, since wrath and mercy are opposed to each other, as wrath is infinite, may not mercy too, be infinite? According to their doctrine, whatever they oppose to the contrary, wrath makes men sinners, that it may have those whom it can punish. But they expressly say, mercy makes men believers by an omnipotent force, and preserves them from the possibility of falling, that it may have those whom it can save. But, as Nicasius Van der Schuer says, if God could make a sinner, that He might have one whom He could punish; He could also punish without sin; therefore He could likewise mercifully save without faith. And as Wrath willed to have a just title for damnation, through the intervention of sin, so it became Mercy to save, without the intervention of any duty, that it might be manifest that the whole is of mercy without the semblance of justice. I say, without the semblance of justice; because it begets faith by an irresistible force, and by an irresistible force it causes man to continue in faith to the end, and thus necessarily to be saved, according to the decree, he that believes and perseveres, shall be saved This being laid down, all equity is excluded, as well from the decree of predestination to salvation, as from that of predestination to death. These objections, I am conscientiously of opinion, may, without calumny, be made to their sentiments; and I am prepared to maintain this very thing against any patron whatsoever of those sentiments. For they do not extricate themselves when they say, that man spontaneously sins, and believes by a spontaneous motion. For that which is spontaneous, and that which is natural, are not in opposition. And that which is spontaneous coincides with that which is absolutely necessary; as, a stone is moved downwards; a beast eats, and propagates its species; man loves that which is good for himself. But all excuses terminate in this spontaneous matter.|
The passage immediately subsequent to this, is the one which I have quoted in pages 179, 180 of the First Volume of these Works, respecting the two sick persons who were desirous of obtaining an assurance of the Divine Favour, and respecting the very important distinction to be observed between a faith which is merely historical, and that by which a sinner is justified, a distinction, the neglect of which has, in every age of the Church, been a prolific source of error among the professors of our common Christianity.