Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (2)

Voice of Our Fathers, TheThe following is an excerpt from “The Voice of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht” and is used by permission from the Reformed Free Publishing Association

The great unity during the preceding century among the congregations of the United Netherlands churches in all points of the pure doctrine and the good order and decency that were always maintained in the government of those churches are so well known in Christendom that it is hardly necessary to recount them at length.

Some men sought to disturb this peace and unity, which is lovely in the sight of God and pleasing to all the godly. These men, not fully purged of the leaven of the papacy, forsook the papacy, came to our churches, and were admitted to the ministry during the early period when there was a scarcity of preachers. These men, characterized by unbridled audacity, were Casper Coolhaas of Leiden, Hermannus Herbertz at Dordrecht and at Gouda, and Cornelius Wiggers at Hoorn. However, they did have great success. In the aforementioned places they gained some followers who were not too well versed in the Reformed religion. Nevertheless, the wicked audacity of these men was suppressed in due time by the authority of the government, the carefulness of other ministers, and appropriate censures of the churches. Coolhaas was dealt with in the national Synod of Middelburg; Herbertz in the Synod of South Holland; and Wiggers in the Synod of North Holland.

Thereafter Jacobus Arminius, preacher in the famous church of Amsterdam, boldly attempted the same thing. He had a keen understanding, but he delighted in novelty and seemed to be nauseated by the greater portion of the doctrines accepted in the Reformed churches, for no other reason than the churches’ acceptance of them. Arminius first openly and secretly prepared the way for his cause by belittling and blackening the name, fame, and authority of the most outstanding teachers of the Reformed church—Calvin, Zanchius, Beza, Martyr, and others—aiming to achieve respect for himself at the expense of their good names.

Thereafter he openly proposed and spread abroad various strange views that had great fellowship with the errors of the old Pelagians, especially his explanation of the epistle to the Romans. Through the carefulness and authority of the honorable consistory of the church of Amsterdam, his intention was partially frustrated and he could not bring about such upheavals in the churches as he apparently had intended.

He did not cease promulgating his opinions in every manner possible among the preachers in his own church and various other preachers, namely, Johannes Uytenbogaert, Adrianus van den Borre, and others, whose friendship and favor he had enjoyed as a fellow student. He even called into conference with regard to his views Franciscus Junius, the renowned professor of sacred theology at the college at Leiden.

When Doctor Junius was taken away from the Academy of Leiden by death on August 22, 1602, to the great sorrow of the Netherlands churches, Uytenbogaert, who already then supported the views of Arminius, diligently and earnestly recommended him to the honorable curators of the Academy of Leiden to replace Junius in the office of sacred theology. When the deputies of the churches understood this, they feared that calling a person so strongly suspected of strange doctrines would readily become the cause of confusion and schism in the churches, and they pleaded with the honorable curators not thoughtlessly to subject the churches to this danger. They would much prefer that the curators accept another capable person who was free from suspicion. They also admonished Uytenbogaert to withdraw his recommendation. Despising these admonitions, Uytenbogaert continued to promote this call until he gained his purpose.

When the call was issued, the consistory of Amsterdam did not approve the dismissal of Arminius chiefly because the most prudent among them considered that such a skittish and inquisitive mind would function with great danger in the academy that instructed the youth who had been accepted for the service of the churches. For in the academy there is more freedom of teaching than in the local churches, where that freedom is suppressed and held in check through the diligent oversight and authority of the consistory. Through repeated and numerous requests of the curators, Uytenbogaert, and Arminius himself, his dismissal was finally gained, with the condition that he would have a conference with Franciscus Gomarus concerning the chief points of doctrine. He was also required to clear himself of all suspicion of strange views by a forthright declaration of his views and firmly to promise that if he had a peculiar view not to spread it abroad.

This conference was conducted in the presence of the honorable curators and the deputies of the synod on May 6 and 7, 1603. In that conference Arminius testified that he expressly rejected the Pelagians’ chief points of doctrine concerning natural grace, the powers of the free will, original sin, the perfection of man in this life, predestination, and others. He testified also that he agreed with all that Augustine and other fathers had written against the Pelagians, yea, that he judged the Pelagian errors to have been rightly refuted and rejected by the fathers. Moreover, he promised to teach nothing that conflicted with the adopted doctrine of the churches. Thereafter he was admitted to the office of theology.