Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (3)

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


At first he [Jacobus Arminius] sought to free himself from all suspicion of strange doctrine by defending the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning the satisfaction of Christ, justifying faith, justification through faith, the perseverance of true believers, the certainty of salvation, the imperfection of men in this life, and other chief points of doctrine, all of which he later contradicted and which his disciples oppose today in public disputations, contrary to his own views (as Johannes Arnoldi Corvenus openly admitted in a certain German document).

After serving in his office [at the University of Leiden] for a year or two, Arminius openly and secretly slandered many doctrines accepted in the Reformed churches and created suspicion among his pupils. He sought to render impotent the chief proofs by which these doctrines had been established from God’s word, using the same exceptions and subterfuges that the Jesuits, Socinians, and other enemies of the Reformed church had attempted to use, and Arminius exalted the proofs of the opposite doctrines. Moreover, to his students he secretly distributed his handwritten tracts in which he had incorporated his views. Besides, he recommended the writings of Castalio, Cornhert, Suarez, and such like writers to his pupils and spoke deprecatingly of the writings of Calvin, Beza, Martyr, Zanchius, Ursinus, and other outstanding teachers of the Reformed churches. Yea, he also openly testified that he had many insights and suspicions against the adopted doctrine that he would reveal in his own time.

Some preachers who associated with Arminius boasted that he had an entirely new theology. When his students came home from the academy or departed to other academies, they brazenly took doctrinal positions against the Reformed churches and disputed, contradicted, and criticized the Reformed doctrine. Noting these and other things and being rightly concerned that the orthodoxy of the Reformed doctrine was thus weakened, and that the youth, who were being trained in this “greenhouse” for the hope of the churches, were taken in by strange doctrines, and that this matter would ultimately burst forth to the great harm, disturbance, and detriment of the churches, the Holland churches deemed it necessary through their delegates (to whom the common care of the churches was entrusted) to take more careful note of this entire matter, so that at the next synod provisions could be made to prevent damage to the church. For this reason the South and North Holland church deputies went to Arminius and confronted him regarding rumors about him and his doctrine. They told him how much all the churches were concerned and in a friendly manner begged him uprightly to inform the brethren if he had anything to say concerning these adopted doctrines, in order that either he could be satisfied through a friendly conference or the whole matter could be brought to a lawful synod.

Arminius answered these deputies that he had never given just cause for such rumors and he did not deem it advisable to go into conference with them as deputies (if they would make a report of this to the synod). If they would put aside their capacity as deputies, he would not refuse to confer with them as private preachers concerning the doctrine, with the condition that if they did not agree they would not report that to the synod.

Since the deputies judged this to be improper and since such a conference would not free the churches of their concern, they parted ways with the matter unresolved. Nevertheless, the deputies understood from other professors of theology that among the students of theology various disputes and questions concerning predestination, free will, preservation of the saints, and other chief points of doctrine were being conducted with great seriousness, such as had not taken place among them prior to Arminius’s arrival.

On July 26, 1604 Arminius was also admonished by the church of Leiden, where he was a member. Two elders of that church—the honorable Phaedo van Brouckeroven, mayor of Leiden, and Paulus Merula, professor of history—admonished him to come to a friendly conference with his colleagues or fellow professors in the presence of the consistory of the church of Leiden to make known his disagreements with the adopted doctrine. The purpose of the conference was to bring out whether he would agree or not agree with his colleagues and other preachers and to specify the points of doctrine on which there was agreement or disagreement. Arminius answered the elders that he could not do such a thing without the consent of the honorable curators and that he did not see what profit the church would gain from such a conference.