The Arminians took their name from Jacob Arminius. The Arminians took the view that Man had far greater freedom to shape his future than was stated in predestination. Such views obviously concerned those who led the Church in England and in 1622, James I ordered that only people with a Bachelor of Divinity or higher were allowed to preach about such lofty ideas as predestination etc. as they were far too complicated to be understood let alone be discussed by the common majority. This limitation concerned some who believed that the discussion of such beliefs was healthy and modernising for the Church.


This was the only issue on which the Arminians and James clashed and it was primarily a philosophical/ideological one. The Arminians did all they could to avoid controversy and this appealed to James. As an example, the early years of the Thirty Years War clearly represented a threat to the Protestant Church as the forces of Catholicism seemed to be sweeping all before it. Despite this, the Arminians were tolerably liberal in their views on Rome and declared that it was the mother church of Christendom. They refused to condemn the Pope but they were scathing about the corruption in the Roman Catholic Church which, they stated, did not exist in the Anglican Church.


The Arminians also found favour with James by publicly declaring their support for the royal prerogative. Richard Neile, a prominent Arminian, also publicly criticised Parliament for failing to give its full support to the king. Neile stated that the king had a full right to impose Impositions and that Parliament was a “factious, mutinous, seditious assembly”. The Arminian Lancelot Andrewes stated that when James was experiencing financial problems, the people should be prepared to help the king out regardless of their own financial position as this is what God would want them to do.


Such comments obviously found the full support of James. The king’s stance on the Arminians was tested when a rector from Essex, Richard Montagu, wrote “A New Gag for an Old Goose” in 1624. This was a response to a pro-Catholic pamphlet that had been distributed in his parish called “The Gag for the New Gospel”. In his pamphlet Montagu stressed the Catholic elements in the Anglican Church and stated that the Church was not Calvinist – as “The Gag for the New Gospel” had claimed. Many in Parliament were alarmed by Montagu’s pamphlet and complained to James that it expressed the views of Jacob Arminius at the expense of the Thirty Nine Articles. James told the Bishop of London, George Abbot, to investigate. Abbot told Montagu to re-write the book in a more acceptable manner. Montagu refused to do this and he wrote a book that pushed his beliefs even further – “Appello Caesarem”. Montagu was called to explain his beliefs to James in person. After listening to Montagu, James responded with “By God! If this be popery, I am a papist.” The Dean of Carlisle, Francis White, was asked to declare on “Appello Caesarem” and he concluded that it contained nothing controversial and authorised its publication. The Bishop of St. David’s, William Laud, wrote to the Duke of Buckingham on Montagu’s behalf offering his support for Montagu’s views.


James died in 1625 but the Arminian issue and the career of William Laud were to have a major impact on England in the reign of Charles I.

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