To those most honourable and Prudent Gentlemen, the Burgomaster, Aldermen, and Sheriffs, who are the very Worthy Magistrates of the Famous City of Leyden, and our most Revered Lords and Patrons.
Most Prudent and honourable Gentlemen,
It is now eight years since our reverend father, who lately died in the Lord, was, by your authority and command, and by that of the most noble the Curators, summoned to this illustrious University, from the very flourishing Church of Amsterdam, to which he had devoted his pastoral labours for fifteen years, and was called to fill the vacant situation of Doctor Francis Junius, of pious memory, who was then recently deceased. We, his nine orphan children, the three youngest of whom have been born in this city, removed here at the same time with our mother, who is at present plunged in the deepest affliction. From that period our ever-to-be honoured father had no higher object than that of bestowing the whole of his time, industry and endeavours, in promoting the interests of your University, and in strictly discharging his functions with as much fidelity as accorded with his abilities and his duty. We call upon your honours as competent witnesses to this, our testimony, respecting his fidelity and diligence, because he exercised these virtues under your immediate inspection, for the space of six years; and the truth of our declaration can be no secret to those persons who, while he was in the act of performing his duty to the University, were themselves either not far from the scene of action, or openly beheld and admired his daily and unwearied labours in public and private. With regard to his uncommon industry and accurate skill in communicating instruction, which gifts had been bestowed on him by Almighty God, in his ineffable liberality, independently of any merits either on his part or on ours, you always approved of these qualities by your honourable suffrages, and, on all occasions when you considered it either necessary or expedient, you extolled his genius. You also exhibited to him the most indubitable and lucid expressions not only of your very laudable opinion of his talents, but likewise of your consequent intimate affections for him, during the whole period in which he devoted his labours to your honourable service. So that he scarcely ever felt a desire for any thing which he did not obtain.
But the best testimony to this character of our father is that given to him, by those persons who either assiduously attended his daily lectures in immense numbers, and several of whom are now performing most important services to the Churches; or by those who resorted, often from places at a great distance, to hear his disputations, and all of whom admired and abundantly eulogized his acute and penetrating genius, but especially his incredible acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, on which alone he was almost constantly meditating, and to the study of which he had devoted the choicest years of his life. These persons were also continually and pertinaciously importunate that the Theses which had been proposed for disputation under him, and which had been written out and placed in order by himself, should be published without the least delay, and brought forth to the light of men, for the benefit of the public, and especially of those who were far removed from Leyden. To their pressing solicitations, after much reluctance on the part of our father, he was at length induced to yield; and he put to press and published those Theses which were extant in his class of Public Disputations, and which, after being written out by himself in so many words, had been appointed, and soon afterwards disputed and discussed under him [as Moderator.] That collection is now republished, with the sole addition of one Thesis on Repentance.
But, that we may make the studies and labours of our most excellent father still better known to you than they are, most honourable and prudent gentlemen, and to foreigners, as well to those whose residence is nearer to us, we now publish those Theses likewise which he proposed for disputation in his own house, at moments of leisure and on extraordinary occasions; for he had devoted himself entirely to the promotion of the welfare of the students. They were proposed as subjects in the last class of his Private Disputations, and were also written out and composed by himself, at the very earnest intreaty of those youthful scholars. Indeed, we publish these Theses in preference to any others; for having already served the purposes of his private disputations, they may now afford abundant testimony to the fidelity and diligence of our father in instructing and adorning the candidates for holy orders. Beside the matter or subject on which he treated with so much faithfulness and accuracy, our excellent father, who was a severe judge of method, thought that he would exhibit the order which ought to be observed in compiling a correct system of Theology. Such a plan he had often and long revolved in his mind; and for this purpose had perused, with very great care, almost all the Synopses or large Treatises of Divinity that had been published. He was in some measure induced to give a representation of this scheme in the following Theses proposed for private disputation. Let the learned decide upon the skill with which he has sketched this outline, which it was his wish to display as an attempt at a Synopsis, for the sake of exercise. O, that it had been the will of Almighty God, to have enabled him to finish, as he had desired, this body of Theological Theses which he was forced to leave incomplete. For it is believed, that upwards of twenty Theses are still wanting to crown the undertaking. By an untimely death, which is a source of the deepest affliction to us, as well as to all good men, his design was frustrated; though the consummation of it would, beyond any thing else in this life, have been an object of the fondest gratification to us, his sorrowing offspring.
But since it has been the pleasure of our gracious God, against whom it does not become us frowardly to contend, to call our father from this miserable valley of tears to his own celestial mansion; we wish that he had obtained [among survivors] some equitable and candid judges of his labourious exertions and innocency; and that it had been possible for him, even by death, to escape from the rancorous teeth of calumny, which, in conformity to the precept and the example of Jesus Christ our only saviour, he endured, as long as his life was spared, without any attempt to render railing for railing, yet with such consummate patience, as almost excited the indignation of his friends against him. We wish also that a certain person had not expressed doubts respecting the eternal salvation of our father, whom we with many others openly beheld, (as we here do testify,) in a manner the most placid, surrendering up his soul to God, like one that was falling asleep, amidst unceasing and most ardent prayers, and confessing his own wretchedness and weakness, but at the same time extolling that only saving grace which shines forth upon those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Author of our salvation. We repeat our wishes, that there had not been a person who uttered serious doubts about the eternal salvation of our father. Far be it from any of us to condemn him whom God has absolved, and for whom Jesus Christ testifies, that he came into the world, and suffered death.
Alas! were we not already sufficiently unhappy in having lost one of our parents, while we are all of an age comparatively tender, the eldest of us not being yet quite seventeen years old! But may our God forbid, that they who deliver their souls into his merciful hands in the name of Jesus Christ alone, should not be made partakers of eternal salvation, or should be disappointed of their hopes of a life of blessedness! May he rather grant unto all of us, that, faithfully and constantly treading in the footsteps of our beloved father, and being active in the pursuit of truth and piety, with integrity and sincerity of mind, we may approve our lives and all our studies to God and to all good men, as highly as our revered parent, we humbly hope, approved himself and all his concerns to your mightinesses, as long as he lived. Of the great esteem in which you held him, you have afforded abundant proofs, in those innumerable and never sufficiently to-be- recounted benefits which he received from you while he lived. But stronger evidence of this you gave immediately after his decease, in the benefits which you have bestowed on our dearest mother, and on each of us their children, and which you most liberally continue to this day. O, that the time may at length arrive in which we may be enabled to requite you for these, your numberless acts of kindness to us. May God assist us thus to repay you.
But, in the mean time, that some token of a grateful mind towards your mightinesses may be extant on our part, at the earliest opportunity we bring forth from the library of our deceased parent, under the auspices of your honourable names, this rich and costly casket; and we will afterwards draw out of the same treasury, each in its due order and time, not a few other things of the same, or of a different kind which he has left in our possession, provided those which we now offer shall meet with a suitable reception from the students of Theology. But we are deeply conscious, that this offering of ours is contemptible, when placed in competition with your kindness towards us. Of all persons we should be the most ungrateful, if we did not make this acknowledgment; and still more so, if we did not confess that this is a present from our deceased parent, rather than from us. Should it hereafter be seen, that our revered father has bequeathed to us, as his heirs, his industry, piety and virtue, (which may God of his infinite mercy grant,) as he has already made us the inheritors of this production and of the other fruits of his studies; we will use our utmost endeavours never to be found deficient in our duty, but to propose to ourselves throughout the whole of our future lives, by all the means in our power, to gain the approbation of your mightinesses, and to prove ourselves always grateful to you.
May Almighty God long preserve you in safety, and render you still propitious to us. May he in the most bountiful manner crown your government with every blessing from above! So pray Your mightinesses' most devoted servants, the seven sons of James Arminius, a native of Oudewater, in our own names, and in the names of our two sisters, HERMAN, PETER, JOHN, LAURENCE, ARMINUS, JAMES, WILLIAM, DANIEL.