Early Arminian Connection to Anglicanism

The following are the affections expressed by Arminian-Remonstrant Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), a contemporary of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609), and whose philosophy influenced John Locke (1632-1704). Henry Newton (1618-1701) remarked regarding Grotius' godly character, his high regard for the Anglicans, as well as "how greatly he suffered in goods, honour, and report from the Calvinists, both in his own country and in his banishment."1 Grotius' son, also a godly man, dedicated his father's compliments of the British Protestants to then King of England Charles II.

Henry Newton records Grotius' words regarding the Church of England, from his letter to Johannes Corvinus (1582-1650), a Dutch-Remonstrant minister, jurist, and theologian, in the year 1638, writing:
You see how great a progress they have made in England, in purging out pernicious [Romish] doctrines; chiefly for this reason, because they who undertook that holy work, admitted of nothing new, nothing of their own, but had their eyes wholly fixed upon another world.

Then was it in a flourishing condition [the Reformation], before the civil war broke out, before the king was vanquished, taken captive, condemned and beheaded; and it afterwards sprung up and flourished again, contrary to all human hopes, when his son returned to the throne of his ancestors, to the surprise of all Europe, and, after various turns, threats, and fears, continues still to flourish secure and unhurt.2
Newton adds that Grotius' good opinion of the Church of England inspired him to exhort the Arminians to take holy orders from their Anglican bishops.3 Exiled by the intolerant Calvinists, after the conclusion of the Synod of Dordt, 1619 (a blight on the history of Calvinists), Newton encouraged the banished Arminians to "receive the laying on of hands from the Irish Archbishop ... and that when they are so ordained they afterwards ordain their pastors."4 If the Calvinists of Holland did not want these godly Arminian ministers, then the Anglican Protestants in England and Ireland would heartily embrace them in their churches!

Hugo Grotius was also affectionate toward William Laud (1573-1645), Arminian Archbishop of Canterbury, 1633-1645. The Ambassador of England in France remarked about Grotius (emphasis added):
Certainly...I am persuaded that he doth unfeignedly and highly love and reverence your [William Laud, an Arminian, and the Archbishop of Canterbury] person and proceedings. Body and soul he professeth himself to be for the Church of England, and gives this judgment of it, that it is the likeliest to last of any church this day in being.5
I was asked if I think Arminians find a place within Anglicanism. I was immediately reminded of Grotius' relationship with many in the Church of England, and his commendation to the Arminians who were exiled by Calvinists to seek ministry within the Church of England; as well as the godly ministry throughout England and the New World of those Arminian brothers, John and Charles Wesley, both of whom always remained Anglicans, and claimed to be Church of England men to their deaths.

HUGO GROTIUS PORTRAIT PRINTED ON MONEY

Yes, Arminians find a prominent, welcoming, and long-abiding place at the table of Anglicanism, and in the Church of England; Anglicanism itself belongs to the Arminian as much as it belongs to any others.

An individual known as Fr. Cholmondly wrote the following excerpt to Alexander Forrester with regard to Grotius' affection for the Anglican faith and the Church of England: That which you desire to know
of me concerning Hugo Grotius, who was one of the greatest men that ever any age produced, is this. It happened that I came to Paris [where Grotius fled when the Calvinists banished the Arminian ministers and theologians] a little while after the transaction of that matter. Being very well acquainted with Dr. Crowder, he often told me with assurance that it was the last advice this great man gave to his wife, as he thought it was his duty, that he declared he died in the communion of the Church of England, in which church he wished her to live.6
This wish was fulfilled after Grotius' death. She "received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at the hands of Dr. Crowder, then Chaplain to the Duke of York."7 Archbishop Bramhall (1594-1663), Primate of Ireland, concludes:
He [Grotius] was a friend in his affection to the Church of England, and a true Son in his love for it; he commended it to his wife and other friends, and was the cause of their firmly adhering to it as far as they had opportunity. I myself, and many others, have seen his wife obeying the commands of her husband, as she openly testified, in coming to our prayers and the celebration of the sacrament.8
You may wonder why Grotius did not join the Church of England, given his intense love for the Church of England and his desire to do so. A man named Matthew Turner gives the answer: the Ambassador to Sweden hindered the process. He remarks: "Otherwise he very highly approved of our doctrine and discipline, and wished to live and die in our communion."9 The early Anglicanism of William Laud, indeed including theological notions of Predestination and Free Will, is Arminian in nature.

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1 Hugo Grotius, The Truth of the Christian Religion, ed. John le Clerc (Edinburgh: Thomas Turnbull, 1819), 300.

2 Ibid., 301.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 303.

6 Ibid., 303-04.

7 Ibid., 304.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.