John D. Wagner, editor of Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards by Daniel D. Whedon, as well as Redemption Redeemed: A Puritan Defense of Unlimited Atonement by John Goodwin, brought us Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, published by Wipf & Stock, 2011. In this post, Arminius writes on the supremacy of Scripture to the adoption of confessions, catechisms and creeds.
To sum up the whole: The blood of the martyrs tends to confirm this truth, that they have made profession of their faith "in simplicity and sincerity of conscience" [2 Cor. 1:12]. But it is by no means conclusive, that the Confession they produced is free from every degree of reprehension or superior to all exception, unless they had been led by Christ into all truth and therefore rendered incapable of erring.
If the Church be properly instructed in that difference which really does and always ought to exist between the word of God and all human writings, and if the Church is also rightly informed concerning that liberty she and all Christians possess, and which they will always enjoy, to measure all human compositions by the standard rule of God's word, she will neither distress herself on that account, nor will she be offended on perceiving all human writings brought to be proved at the touchstone of God's word.
On the contrary, she will rather feel far more abundant delight, when she sees that God has bestowed on her in this country [Holland] such pastors and teachers, as try at the chief touchstone their own doctrine, in a manner at once suitable, proper, just, and worthy of perpetual observance. That they do this, is to be able exactly and by every possible means to express their agreement with the word of God, and their consent to it even in the most minute particulars.
But it is no less proper, that the doctrine once received in the Church should be subjected to examination, however great the fear may be "lest disturbances should ensue, and lest evil disposed persons should make such revision an object of ridicule, calumny [slander] or accusation," or should even turn it to their own great advantage [by representing the matter so as to induce a persuasion], "that those who propose this examination are not sufficiently confirmed in their own religion;" when, on the contrary, this is one of God's commands: "search and try the spirits whether they be of God" (1 John 4:1). If cogitations [to take careful thought] of that description had operated as hindrances in the minds of Luther, Zwingli, and others, they would never have pried into the doctrine of the Papists [Roman Catholics], or have subjected it to a scrutinizing examination.
Nor would those who adhere to the Augustinian Confession have considered it proper to submit that formulary again to a new and complete revision, and to alter it in some particulars. This deed of theirs is an object of our praise and approval. And we conclude that when Luther towards the close of his life was advised by Philip Melanchthon to bring the eucharistic controversy on the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to some better state of concord (as it is related in the writings of our own countrymen), he acted very improperly in rejecting that counsel, and in casting it back as a reproach on Philip, for this reason, as they state his declaration, "lest by such an attempt to effect an amicable conclusion, the whole doctrine should be called in question."
Besides, if reasons of this kind ought to be admitted, the Papists with the best right and the greatest propriety formerly endeavored to prevent the doctrine, which had for many preceding centuries been received in the Church, from being called in question or subjected again to examination.
But it has been suggested, in opposition to these reasons, "that if the doctrine of the Churches be submitted to an entirely new revision as often as a National Synod shall be held, the Church would never have anything to which it might adhere or on which it might fully depend, and it will be possible to declare with great justice, concerning Churches thus circumstanced, that, 'they have an anniversary faith,' are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14)."
My first answer to these remarks, is, the Church always has Moses and the Prophets, the Evangelists and the Apostles, that is, the Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament; and these Scriptures fully and clearly comprehend whatever is necessary to salvation. Upon them the Church will lay the foundation of her faith, and will rest upon them as on an immovable basis, principally because, how highly soever we may esteem Confessions and Catechisms every decision on matters of faith and religion must obtain its final resolution in the Scriptures.
Some points in the [Belgic] Confession [as well as the Heidelberg Catechism] are certain and do not admit of a doubt: these will never be called in question by anyone, except by heretics. Yet there are other parts of its contents that are of such a kind, as may with the most obvious utility become frequent subjects of conference and discussion between men of learning who fear God, for the purpose of reconciling them with those indubitable articles as nearly as is practicable.
Let it be attempted to make the Confession contain as few articles as possible; and let it propose them in a very brief form, conceived entirely in the expressions of Scripture. Let all the more ample explanations, proofs, digressions, redundancies, amplifications and exclamations, be omitted; and let nothing be delivered in it, except those truths which are necessary to salvation. The consequences of this brevity will be, that the Confession will be less liable to be filled with errors, not so obnoxious to obloquy [ill repute, calumny], and less subject to examination.
Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, ed. John D. Wagner (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 84-86.