Sectarian Quarrels in Post-Reformation Europe:
An Exhibition of Prelapsarian Intellect

By Andrew Dickson White

 

From SEVEN GREAT STATESMEN (Century, 1896), pp 65-66:

Nothing is more wretched in the history of Europe in the period which followed the Reformation than the sectarian quarrels which cursed every country. No theological question seemed too slight a cause for bitter hatred and even for civil war. Germany, England, France, were convulsed with squabbles between various sects and factions, about questions really contemptible. In each of these countries Protestants were not only in a life and death struggle with Catholics, but were seeking to exterminate one another. The Netherlands were no exception to the rule. A professor at the University of Leyden, Arminius, happening to take a different side on the eternal question of fate and free will, his colleague Gomarus became vitriolic; his disciples caught the spirit of their master, and soon the Reformed Church in Hol- land was split into two hostile sects,-each heaping syllogisms and epithets on the other,-Arminius preach- ing free will, Gomarus predestination. The debate went on from bad to worse; it could hardly be pretended that salvation was dependent upon holding the right metaphysical theory upon this question, and Arminius had the rashness to urge toleration; but his foes found this idea yet deadlier. Gomarus declared that Arminius was a supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, and that his doctrine led to skepticism and infidelity. It was difficult for reasoning men to see how the same man could be a Roman Catholic and an infidel, but the vast majority did not reason,-they only believed. Heavy words were hurled: "supralapsarian," "infralapsarian" and the like; and these crushed out the common sense of the populace. Gomarus won the victory.

 

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