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De Irenische Perkins-Vertaling Van De Arminiaan Everard Booth (1577-1610) 1

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image of Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis / Dutch Review of Church History
For more content, see Church History and Religious Culture.

Booth's Translation of an Irenical Perkins-Book In 1604 the Utrecht minister Everard Booth (1577-1610) published a translation of William Perkins' 'A Reformed Catholike'. Because of this translation, biographical dictionaries and other literature say that he must have agreed more or less with the predestinarian views of Franciscus Gomarus. In the conflict between Franciscus Gomarus and Jacobus Arminius, Perkins played an important part. He owes this to Arminius, who wrote a book against him and utterly disliked his ideas on predestination, the certainty of faith and final perseverance. The problem is that Booth attended the Conventus Praeparatorius (1607), a meeting meant for the preparation of a national synod. Here he agreed with Arminius on the question of whether the Belgic confession ought to be revised or not. In 1610, the year of his death, Booth's position raises even less doubt. He proved himself to be an Arminian. So his translation of Perkins might point to a change in his outlook or to a moderate stand. However, there is a better solution to the riddle of how a potential Arminian could like Perkins. Perkins' 'A Reformed Catholike' (1597) is an item in the syllabus of irenical writings, released by the French diplomat Jean Hotman in 1607 and extended later on. Utrecht was a former cathedral city which still had a high percentage of Roman Catholic inhabitants. Presumably Booth's attention was drawn to 'A Reformed Catholike' because of its irenical character. He may have considered the book as a means to bring his Catholic fellow citizens to other thoughts. In the same year, 1604, a second Dutchman, Vincent Meusevoet, translated 'A Reformed Catholike' too. He published it together with a translation of a highly polemical book written by Perkins, 'A Warning against the Idolatrie of the Last Times'. Booth did not do things in this way. Incidentally, he took a Latin edition of Perkins' book as his source, not the original English work, as Meusevoet did. 'A Reformed Catholike' is, indeed an irenical treatise. Perkins started his chapters with a discourse on the issues agreed on among Catholics and Protestants. Especially illustrative is the sixteenth chapter dealing with the faith. In the first part of this chapter, devoted to the common elements, he discussed his favourite theme for bruised consciences, namely that a small portion of faith, a faith as a grain of mustard seed, is sufficient in the eyes of God for salvation. So Roman Catholics who desired to believe could assume that they would be children of God, according to Perkins. As a matter of course, nobody was entitled to be satisfied with a small sparkle of faith: man had to aim at an increasing faith. Yet the 'infolded faith' really had a great importance according to Perkins. He showed himself open to the Roman Catholics on a central point in his theological thinking. Booth must have felt attracted to thoughts like those mentioned in 'A Reformed Catholike'. He was an irenical theologian. In the Dutch predestinarian conflict, the irenicists often turned out to be Arminians later on. Notwithstanding his English example Booth's irenical feelings placed him alongside the Arminians with their less unquestioning ideas. One indication of Booth's gifts as an irenicist is what became of the Utrecht Reformed community after his arrival (1602). For many years it had been in a state of turmoil. There were many people who steadfastly refused to go to church in Utrecht. They blamed the Consistory because it danced to the piping of the magistrate. After his arrival the situation improved. During his ministry (1602-1610) the Utrecht church enjoyed a period of peace. This may be mainly due to his influence. Booth was a pupil of the Leiden professor Franciscus Junius, the author of the 'Eirenicum de Pace Ecclesiae Catholicae'. Junius tried to mediate between the religious parties in Utrecht from 1593 onwards. Everard Booth followed in his footsteps.


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