And once more, they quote from Hebrews 6:4-8, where we read: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
These passages of Scripture seem to be in opposition to the doctrine of the certain preservation and perseverance of the saints. It seems, therefore, that those who oppose this doctrine have a solid basis in Holy Writ. Arminius, of course, was accused of teaching that the saints could finally fall away. And in answer to that accusation he writes (Cf. The Writings of Arminius, Vol I, p. 280, ff.): “I say, that a distinction ought to be made between power and action. For it is one thing to declare that ‘it is possible for the faithful to fall away from faith and salvation’ and it is another to say, that ‘they do actually fall away.’ This distinction is of such extensive observance, that even antiquity itself was not afraid of affirming, concerning the elect and those who were to be saved, ‘that it was possible for them not to be saved;’ and that ‘the mutability by which it was possible for them not to be willing to obey God, was not taken away from them,’ although it was the opinion of the ancients,’ that such persons never would in reality be damned.’ On this very subject, true, the greater part of our own doctors lay down a different theory. For they say, ‘that it is possible for such persons to fall away, if their nature, which is inclined to lapses and defection, and if the temptation of the world and Satan, be the only circumstances taken into consideration: but that they will not finally fall away, because God will bring back to himself his own elect before the end of life.’ If one asserts ‘that it is not possible for believers, in consideration of their being elect persons, finally to fall away from salvation, because God has decreed to save them,’ I answer, the decree concerning saving does not take away the possibility of damning, but it removes damnation itself. For ‘to be actually saved,’ and ‘a possibility of not being saved,’ are two things not contrary to each other, but in perfect agreement.”
It certainly is not very clear what Arminius means in the words we just quoted of him. But this is usually the case with those that want to deny the Reformed truth and still claim to be Reformed and remain in the Reformed churches.
And Arminius writes further: “I therefore add, that in this way I have hitherto-discriminated between these two cases. At one time I did say, with an explanation subjoined to it, ‘that it was possible for believers finally to decline or fall away from faith and salvation.’ But at no period have I asserted, ‘that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation.’ This article, therefore, is ascribed to one who is not its author; and it is another offense against historical veracity.” Then Arminius explains that there is a vast difference between saying that it is possible for believers to decline from faith and that it is possible for believers to decline from salvation. And he explains this by saying: “For the latter, when rigidly and accurately examined, can scarcely be admitted; it being impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers, to decline from salvation. Because, were this possible, that power of God would be conquered which he has determined to employ in saving believers. On the other hand, if believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers.”
It is, however, evident, no matter what Arminius writes and however much he camouflages the truth, that he believes in the possibility of the saints falling away from faith and salvation.
All this is true not only of Arminius, who died in 1609, but also of the Remonstrants, who followed him and who composed their own Five Articles.
As I said before, it seems that Scripture teaches the possibility of a falling away of those that have been purified. by the blood of Christ, that have known the way of righteousness and have walked therein for a time, that were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift and were become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God and the power of the age to come, according to Hebrews 6, the text we just quoted above. According to Scripture, they fall away so definitely and finally that the end is worse than the beginning, that they increase in ungodliness, and that they can never be brought to repentance again. Besides, the Remonstrants argued that: the doctrine of the certain perseverance of the saints simply makes careless and profane men. And also this objection appears to have considerable weight. The whole Word of God admonishes the believers to watch and to pray, in. order that they may not fall away. They are admonished to be faithful, even unto death, that they keep that which they have, that no one take their crown. The Word of God admonishes the people of God that they shall not be high-minded, but rather fear, seeing that they also may be broken off as branches from the olive tree.