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THE subject of these memoirs lived in an age marked by fierce theological strife, as carried on between the followers of Calvin and Arminius. The prominent part he took in this conflict, with the extraordinary talents he displayed in defence of Arminianism, and the sufferings to which he was exposed in consequence of his attachment to it, have given his name distinction in the reli. gious history of the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, as an extended account of him is only to be found in foreign publications, it is hoped that the following Memoirs, chiefly selected from such works, will not be unacceptable.
The design of the writer in publishing this work is, to present an impartial portrait of the character of Episcopius, which has been greatly misrepresented by bigoted and prejudiced authors. The Synod of Dort, by which he was condemned as a heretic, divested of his honours as a scholar, deprived of his office as a professor, and excluded from the ministry, for defending the doctrines of Arminius, is particularly noticed in the following pages; while his banishment from Holland, the imprisonment of his brother ministers, the prohibition of the religious assemblies of the Remonstrants, the fines inflicted upon some of them, the confiscation of the property of others, and
the butchery of several, under the direction of the Dutch Calvinistic authorities, by a ruthless soldiery, when detected in celebrating Divine worship, are alluded to in the spirit of fidelity, and not of acrimony and bigotry.
The imprisonment of Grotius, and the judicial assassination of Barneveldt, the two great lay-defenders of the Arminian cause, it was thought were events deserving a place in a work professing to give a history of the affairs of the Remonstrants.
As the patron and able advocate of religious toleration, the reader will learn, in perusing these Memoirs, how much is due to the memory of Episcopius, on account of his labours in behalf of so important and righteous a
The progress of religious opinion, since the Synod of Dort, in its approximation to the benevolent and expansive views of Arminius, both on the continent and in this country, has been noticed as contributing to generate a spirit of tolerance among various religious bodies; while the existence of that Christian sympathy in the various sections of the Church, manifested in the adoption of measures designed to bring the whole family of man under the hallowing teachings of the Gospel, is traced to the same cause.
The writer had intended to have appended to these Memoirs a translation of the Confession of the Remonstrants, as drawn up by Episcopius; but from the extent to which he has carried out his work, he is compelled, though reluctantly, to abandon this part of his design. Of this Confession, it has been said by a former translator in his address to the reader: "Touching the worth of this book as a summary of Christian religion, if Dr. Jeremy Taylor's judgment be of credit with thee, I am credibly informed he should prefer it to be one of those two or three which, next to the Holy Bible, he would
have preserved from the supposed total destruction of books. A high encomium from the mouth of so learned and pious a divine!"
The Remonstrants, in their preface to this work, say, "It has been submitted to our brethren, not excepting those who are in prisons and dungeons, and carefully examined and compared by them in the fear of the Lord with the Holy Scriptures; and now, without one dissent. ing voice, is approved and set forth by us to vindicate our opinions, free ourselves from the charge of gross heresy, and maintain our innocency against the foul and calum. nious accusations which have been brought against us."
As a substitute for this incomparable Confession, we have, in an appendix, given the opinions of the Remonstrants on the Five Points, as presented by them to the Synod of Dort, adding thereto, from the Confession, their sentiments on the subject of the holy Trinity, that the reader himself may judge whether, according to their own statement, they merited to be condemned as heretics, and banished their fatherland.*
The writer here begs leave to record his acknowledgments to THOMAS WALKER, Esq., of Stockton, for procuring for him, through the medium of his connections on the continent, several works necessary to enable him to compose the following Memoirs, as also to Mr. NICHOLS, of London, for the loan of several Dutch works presented to him by Arminian clergymen in Holland, after the publication of his translation of the works of Arminius.†
It is unnecessary to give the titles of several of the publications consulted in drawing up these Memoirs, they
* Mosheim says they were thus treated for maintaining “that the love of God extends itself equally to all mankind; that no mortal is rendered unhappy by an eternal and invincible decree; and that the misery of those that perish comes from themselves."
↑ From a German correspondent the writer learns that Mr. Nichols' works have also found their way into Germany.
being scarce books in the Dutch and German languages; only the writer would remark, that he has principally obtained his materials from the Leven van Simon Episcopius, by Limborch, and the more enlarged edition of it as translated into Latin; and Bentham's Hollandischer Kirch und Schulen Staat, a singular and rare mélange of German, Dutch, Latin, and French, giving a history of all the sects existing in Holland shortly after the time of Episcopius, with the confession of each Church, a brief memoir of its most eminent ministers, and whatever was deemed interesting in its history, extending through seventeen hundred pages.