He was universally beloved in the university, and his own college (Christ's) would have chosen him for the mastership. A party opposition, however, led to the election of Valentine Gary, who had already quarrelled with Ames for disapproving of the surplice and other outward symbols.
One of Ames's sermons became historical in the Puritan controversies. It was delivered on St. Thomas' Day (December 21, 1609) before the Feast of Christ's Nativity, and in it he rebuked sharply "lusory lotts" and the "heathenish debauchery" of the students during the twelve days ensuing. The scathing vehemence of his denunciations led to his being summoned before the Vice-Chancellor, who suspended him "from the exercise of his ecclesiastical function and from all degrees taken or to be taken."
The fisherman-controversialist made a great stir, and from that day became known and honoured in the Low Countries. Subsequently Ames entered into a controversy in print with Grevinchovius on universal redemption and election, and cognate problems. He brought together all he had maintained in his Coronis ad Collationem Hagiensem – his most masterful book, which figures largely in Dutch church history. At Leiden, Ames became intimate with the venerable Mr Goodyear, pastor of the English church there. While thus resident in comparative privacy he was sent for to the Hague by Sir Horatio Vere, the English governor of Brill, who appointed him a minister in the army of the states-general, and of the English soldiers in their service, a post held by some of the greatest of England's exiled Puritans. He married a daughter of Dr Burgess, who was Vere's chaplain, and, on his father-in-law's return to England, succeeded to his place.
It was at this time he began his memorable controversy with Episcopius, who, in attacking the Coronis, railed against the author as having been "a disturber of the public peace in his native country, so that the English magistrates had banished him thence; and now, by his late printed Coronis, he was raising new disturbances in the peaceable Netherlands." It was a miserable libel and was at once rebutted by Goodyear.
The Coronis had been primarily prepared for the Synod of Dordrecht, which sat from 13 November 1618 until 9 May 1619. At this celebrated Synod the position of Ames was a peculiar one. The High Church party in England had induced Vere to dismiss him from the chaplaincy; but he was still held, deservedly, in such reverence, that it was arranged he should attend the synod, and accordingly he was retained by the Calvinist party at four florins a day to watch the proceedings on their behalf and advise them when necessary.
A proposal to make him principal of a theological college at Leiden was frustrated by Archbishop Abbot; and when later invited by the state of Friesland to a professoriate at Franeker, the opposition was renewed, but this time abortively. He was installed at Franeker on May 7, 1622, and delivered a most learned discourse on the occasion on Urim and Thummin. He soon brought renown to Franeker as professor, preacher, pastor and theological writer. He prepared his Medulla Theologiae, a manual of Calvinistic doctrine, for his students.
At Rotterdam he drew all hearts to him by his eloquence and fervour in the pulpit, and his irrepressible activity as a pastor. Home-controversy engaged him again, and he prepared his Fresh Suit against Ceremonies—the book which made Richard Baxter a Nonconformist. It ably sums up the issues between the Puritan school and that of Hooker. It was posthumously published. He did not long survive his removal to Rotterdam. Having caught a cold from a flood which inundated his house, he died in November 1633, at the age of fifty-seven, apparently in needy circumstances. He left, by a second wife, a son and a daughter. His valuable library found a home in New England.
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