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The Reign of James I page 17

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We may close this chapter with the relation of a circumstance in which the king was as much deserving of censure as he was innocent of all participation in the death of his son.

A Dutch clergyman named Vorstius had written a treatise on the nature and attributes of the Deity. In fact, religious controversy was running high in the Low Countries. Arminius, the pastor of the cathedral at Amsterdam, and afterwards professor at Leyden, had broached the doctrine of free-will in opposition to the predestinarianism of Calvin. The whole country became divided into two hostile sections on these points, which no human intellect has ever been able to settle to the satisfaction of all parties. The Arminians acquired the name of Remonstrants, from the remonstrance of Arminius against Calvinism. Barneveldt, the patriot, stood at the head of the remonstrants, prince Maurice of Nassau at the head of the anti-remonstrants, or Gomarists. On the death of Arminius, Vorstius was elected to his chair at Leyden, and put forth a treatise in defence of his predecessor's opinions. This treatise was put into James's hands whilst he was in the country hunting, and in the space a single hour he had picked out of it a long list of what he termed damnable heresies. Forthwith he conceived that it rested with him to settle the fierce controversy which had whirled in its vortex all the intellects of Holland. He wrote to Winwood, his ambassador there, to accuse Vorstius before the states of heresy and infidelity, charging him with denying the omniscience of the godhead and the divinity of Christ.

The Dutch were by no means pleased with this foreign interference in their affairs, and in a respectful manner made answer to that effect. But James wrote them back with his own hand that he could not be thus put by; that he was willing, "if the professor could excuse his blasphemies, he should escape the stake, though no heretic ever deserved it better." He bade them remember that the king of England was the defender of the faith, and that if they would not separate from the heretic, he would separate from them; and he warned them that in that case "he would call in other foreign powers to remand to hell such abominable doctrines."

The states still obstinately ignoring James's interference, he published a declaration against Vorstius in French, and the Gomarists combining with the king's friends, at length succeeded in getting Vorstius expelled from his professorship, and banished from Leyden. James had thus succeeded in ruining a worthy and distinguished man for his religious opinions, and caused him to be driven into banishment. For about seven years Vorstius concealed himself from Ms bigoted enemies in Tergau, but James would not let him rest there; he sent a number of English and Scotch divines to the Synod of Dort, in 1619, who loudly demanded the further proscription of Vorstius. They succeeded, and the unfortunate advocate of Arminianism was expelled from Holland. After wandering about in poverty and obscurity, hiding from the face of his enemies, who would well have liked to kill him, the duke of Holstein, in 1622, offered him an asylum in his states, with seven hundred families of his adherents, who had been exiled with him. But the persecuted man was now sinking under his miseries, and died in the autumn of that year. The king's hand was now in for persecution, and he proceeded to practice all that he had preached to the Dutch. He set up the flaming stake again in Smithfield, and has the grim distinction of being the last English monarch who signed the writ de heretico comburendo.

His first victim was Bartholomew Legate, an Arian, or Unitarian, who, after being examined by James himself and his bishops, was sentenced by the Consistory Court to be burnt, and suffered accordingly in Smithfield, on the 18th of March, 1612. Next came Edward "Wightman, an enthusiast or lunatic, who was burnt at Lichfield on the 11th of April, 1613; and other victims were in preparation, when the indignation of the public scared the merciless bigots from their prey.

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