Chapter III:15: Controversy concerning the Number of Fundamental Articles, Part 2

These Fundamental Articles ought not to be excessively multiplied, as is done by the Papists according to their own will, to whom whatever the Roman Church defines to be Fundamental is Fundamental, the contradiction of which is to them an Error in Necessary Articles: see the Walenburch Brothers, in Examination III Principalibus, page 144. Now, among the necessary heads Rome has for some time now held the supremacy of the Roman Pope, Purgatory, Iconolatry, the real Presence, Auricular Confession, etc., with the Church thus determining at will. Especially the Papists with equal temerity and arrogance have everywhere set down the hay and stubble in the register of Fundamentals, whether dogmas or errors: for example, Victor Romanus, the Paschal controversy;[1] Pope Zacharias, the question concerning the Antipodes, urged by Virgil the Astronomer;[2] Benedict XII, historical faith concerning the stigmata of Francis;[3] Boniface VIII, the subjection owed to the Roman Pontiff by every creature:[4] indeed, Paul II decreed those that thereafter mention, either seriously or in jest, the name of Academy to be heretics:[5] with SPANHEIM relating examples of this sort, Disputation I de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 8, column 1292. Which things fall of themselves after those things that we observed concerning the Criteria of Fundamental Articles in § 12, both positively and negatively, Criteria not depending upon the mere determination of the Church.


As there is a sin in Excess, so there is a sin, on the other hand, in Defect. As by the Socinians, who maintain that the Number of Fundamentals is exceedingly Small, and concerning God they commonly deliver Six Necessary Heads, His Existence, etc.; thus the Catechesis Racoviensis, chapter I de Cognitione Dei, pages 25, 26, “What then are those things that touch upon the essence of God, and are altogether necessary for salvation? Response: These things; To Know that God is, that He is one only, that He is eternal, perfectly just, perfectly wise, and omnipotent.” And concerning the nature of Christ, they deliver Hardly Anything, and concerning Him in general they think that nothing else is to be held than what generally pertains to the Knowledge and Observation of the Will of God revealed through Christ: thus Socinus in Christianæ Religionis Institutione, opera, tome I, page 653b, “Question: First of all, therefore, what do you think is necessary to be known by us concerning the nature or essence of Christ? Response: That, as I said previously, without the knowledge of which the Will of God toward us, revealed through Christ Himself, would not be able either to be known or kept by us. Question: What then of those things that pertain to the nature or essence of Christ do you think to be of that sort? Response: Hardly Anything.” Thus also the Remonstrants, Præfatione ad Apologiam, in the determination of this business make do with these general things, page (…) 2 versa: “I call those dogmas Necessary that are necessarily to be kept and done out of a duty prescribed to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that we might escape as partakers of eternal salvation; which I comprehend in these three things: faith in the divine promises, obedience to the divine precepts, and due reverence for the Scriptures, in which are contained, in addition to the promises and precepts, all other divine oracles and pronouncements:” and in Apologia, page 11, in Examine Censuræ Præfationis, they have, “The Remonstrants say that they think that there are very few things that are necessary precisely to know and to believe to obtain eternal life.” Stephanus Curcellæus,[6] in his Præfatione operum Episcopii, * * 4 versa, has: “That all Christians agree on the foundation is evident from this, that there is no sect among Christians that does not embrace the Articles of faith contained in the Apostle’s Creed, and does not establish that life is to be arranged according to the precepts of Christ concerning manners.”


It is the Scope/Goal of these Adversaries to urge Indifference of Religion, to gather all men of whatever Religion or sect into one, to open wide the gates of the Church to all that merely wish to be called Christians and to take upon themselves those exceedingly few things conceded.


To those that sin here in Defect ought also to be added Spinoza, in his Tractatu Theologico-Politico, chapter XIV, page 163, where he maintains that the fundamentals of the Faith and the dogmas of the Scripture all tend to this; that there is one supreme Being, to which belongs supreme Authority over all, which loves Righteousness and Charity, and which all are bound to obey, so that they might be saved. Which things, as it is evident from his Posthumis, he thus understands: that there is a Universe of things, and a destined connection between all things, to which it is fitting that men be subject; he says that Righteousness and Charity are summed up in love alone toward the neighbor, and thinks that Salvation consists in quiet of mind and happiness in this life: compare SPANHEIM’S Disputation II de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 7, opera, tome 3, part 2, column 1295. Thomas Hobbes, who in his Libro de Cive, chapter XVIII, § 5, 6, defines Fundamental Faith in only one Article, that is, that Jesus is the Christ, beyond which Article nothing is required of the Christian man as necessary for salvation: against whom COCQUIUS[7] disputes at length concerning this matter in his Anatome Hobbesianismi, locus IV, chapter VIII, pages 74-85. At the same time Hobbes confesses, that a profession of many dogmas is able to be necessary; for it is part of obedience due to the Laws: but he says that that obedience is able to be furnished, even if one does not believe internally whatever things are propounded by the Church: see Anatomen Hobbesianismi, locus IV, chapter VIII, pages 85, 86. The same is regarded as a fault in John Locke[8] by JOHN EDWARDS,[9] that he establishes only one article of faith, that Jesus is Messiah, and that for this reason, that all that he says concerning Him the Socinians are able easily able to admit; see BUDDEUS’ Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VII, § 9, tome 2, page 1296a. Edward Herbert, in his writings de Veritate et Causis Errorum and also de Religione Gentilium; in which from the account of necessary doctrines he separated Christian Faith, and held among the Fundamentals only those heads that the more prudent Gentiles admitted; see SPANHEIM’S Disputation II de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 5, opera, tome 3, part 2, column 1294. In addition, the English Latitudinarians, in Dialogo de Fidei suæ principiis, published in the vernacular as A Free Discourse, etc.,[10] who maintain that the Mysteries of Scripture are understood in a rational sense, that is, a sense accommodated to the principles of Reason; they eliminate from the register of Fundamentals the principal heads, against which human Reason rises; they think that it is sufficient for Salvation, if one in general assents to the truth of Scripture, and if one in particular understands what things God requires to be done by us, and sets up his life in accordance with those; see SPANHEIM’S Disputation II de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 4, 6, columns 1294, 1295, since it is not in keeping with our design now to speak of each of these distinctly and in detail.


Against the Socinians and Remonstrants we observe with our AUTHOR:


α. That they are easily set against themselves, since they also sometimes enumerate many Head, which is demonstrated out of Jonas Schlichting’s[11] contra Meisnerum[12] de Articulis Fundamentalibus, pages 19, 20, and out of Simon Episcopius’ Dutch Sermons on John 17:3, is by HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, book I, chapter IX, tome I, pages 195, 196, 199, 200.


β. We make use of the same, indeed stronger, arguments than they, to prove to be necessary the Faith of the Divine Persons, and of other Perfections not mentioned by them, both of Christ as the True and Sufficient Mediator, and of human Misery, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification: which things see explained individually and at length in HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismo confutato, book I, chapter IX, tome I, pages 195, 196, 199, 200, where he has his first argument against the Socinians: In what manner our adversaries, namely, the Socinians, prove those things that they themselves posit as dogmas to be Fundamentals, or in what manner those things are able to be proven to be of that sort; in the same manner also we prove the remaining things that we assert are to be added to be no less Fundamental; at least those things that they themselves confess with us to be true: Therefore, if their argument prevails, then both their opinion hitherto on behalf of those things that they hold also to be Fundamentals, and our opinion, are not able to be rejected, which in a similar manner prove themselves and their Fundamentals. Which argument he confirms on pages 215-217. And to this argument he adds another, page 217. If, in addition to those Six that the Socinians fundamentally posit concerning God and the knowledge of His Nature, yet others also concerning God are no less necessarily to be held for Salvation, Then in those Six the Fundamental dogmas concerning God are not summed up: but the former is true, therefore also the latter. Now, He demonstrates the truth of the Minor from this, that those things do not explain who God is, and omit that most weight of the Fundamental Articles, namely, the faith of the Trinity; concerning which he discourses, pages 217-249: that they also omit divine Perfections, no less necessary to be believed than those that they enumerate, namely, the spirituality, infinity, goodness, and immutability of the Divine Essence, as he shows on pages 249-251. That, concerning Christ as the true and sufficient Mediator, many things, omitted by the Socinians, are also to be held, he teaches on pages 251, 252. Finally, that those things that our AUTHOR mentions concerning man’s Misery, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification are not to be passed over in reckoning of Fundamental Articles, as is done by the Socinians, HOORNBEECK contends, pages 253, 254: compare also ARNOLDI’S[13] Refutationem Catecheseos Racovianæ, on chapter I, de Cognitione Dei, question III, § 3-7, pages 78-80.


γ. And while our Adversaries glory that they receive the Apostle’s Creed, and hence desire to be thought to admit all the Fundamental Articles, we observe with our AUTHOR that we to the confounding of our Adversaries are able to show that those heads just now mentioned in Argument β as necessary are contained both in the Creed, and among those things that are enumerated by them, for example, by Schlichting and Episcopius. Consult here again HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, book I, chapter IX, tome I, pages 255 and following.


δ. In any event, it is shameful for Christians to affirm concerning Christ that Hardly Anything is necessary to be known, from whom alone they hope for salvation; yet apart from Christ, says our AUTHOR in his Medulla Theologiæ, there is no salvation, and the Gentiles are excluded from the hope of Salvation, according to Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:12: and so the Socinians ought to be ashamed of this assertion. Compare what things against Acontius’[14] Stratagemata Satanæ TRIGLAND disputes at length concerning Necessary Articles, part 3, Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, pages 326-336; concerning which Acontius and his writing just mentioned, GERDES[15] is also able to be consulted in his Syllabo Italorum Reformatorum, pages 165-167.

[1] Victor was Bishop of Rome from 189 to 199. Very early, a difference arose between the Eastern and Western churches concerning the proper date for Paschal celebration. The Eastern churches celebrated Passover on the fourteenth of the Jewish month Nisan, irrespective of the day of the week (sometimes called the Quartodecimanism); the Western churches celebrated Easter on the following Sunday. This difference was tolerated until Victor excommunicated those refusing to conform to the practice of the West. Victor reversed his decision due to push-back from other Western bishops, including Irenæus.


[2] In the eighth century, Virgil, an Irish monk, asserted that there were men on the other side of the world (Antipodes), and another sun and moon. Pope Zacharias (reigning from 741 to 752)) denied and condemned these propositions.


[3] Benedict XII was Pope from 1334 to 1342. He instituted the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis.


[4] Boniface VIII was Pope from 1294 to 1303. In his Bull Unam Sanctam, he asserted that all power, temporal and spiritual, was under the Roman Pope’s jurisdiction.


[5] Paul II, Pope from 1464 to 1471, was an opponent of Humanist learning.


[6] Etienne de Courcelles (1586-1659) was an Arminian theologian. He studied in Zurich, and later succeeded Simon Episcopius at the Remonstrant seminary in Amsterdam. He was a personal friend of Descartes, and was influential in introducing Cartesian rationalism into Dutch Arminian circles.


[7] Gisbertus Cocquius (1630-1708) of Utrecht was a Reformed thinker and doctor of philosophy; he opposed Hobbes.


[8] John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher and a founder of the school of Empiricists. He denied that man has any innate ideas, but is rather born as a tabula rosa, a blank slate.


[9] John Edwards (1637-1716) was an English Churchman and Calvinistic Theologian. He wrote Socinians’ Creed as an answer to John Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity.


[10] A Free Discourse in Defence of the Practices of Certain Moderate Divines Called Latitudinarians was written by Edward Fowler (1632-1714), an Anglican Churchman, and Bishop of Gloucester from 1691 to 1714.


[11] Jonas Schlichting (1592-1661) was a theologian of the Socinian Polish Brethren. He wrote commentaries on most of the books of the New Testament.


[12] Balthasar Meisner (1587-1626) was a German Lutheran theologian. He defended Lutheran orthodoxy against the Socinians.


[13] Nicolaus Arnoldi (1618-1680) was Professor of Theology at Franeker (1651-1680).


[14] Giacomo Aconcio (c. 1520-c. 1566) was an Italian philosopher and theologian. He repudiated Roman doctrine, and settled in England. Embracing tenents of the Radical Reformation, he advocated for religious toleration, seeking Christian unity based upon a minimal doctrinal basis.


[15] Daniel Gerdes (1698-1765) was a German Reformed Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Duisburg (1726-1735), Professor of Theology at Groningen (1736-1765), and Professor of Church History at Groningen (1752-1765).

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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