Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (4)

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


The time had come for the annual synod of the churches of South and North Holland. According to custom the protests of the churches of every classis were forwarded to the synod. Among others, there was this objection from the classis of Dordrecht: “Since the report is abroad that in the academy in the church of Leiden certain differences have arisen concerning the doctrine of the Reformed churches, the classis considered it necessary that the synod deliberate concerning the means by which these differences can be resolved in the best and speediest way, in order that all schisms and offenses that might arise from this can be promptly warded off and the unity of the Reformed churches can be preserved against the slanders of the enemies.”

Arminius took this very ill and did his best to have this objection recalled. When he could not achieve this, he obtained from his fellow professors, with the help of the honorable curators of the academy, a testimony dated August 10 that there were indeed more disputes among the students than pleased them, but that among the professors of theology, as far as was known to them, there was no differences regarding the fundamentals.

On August 30 the synod of the South Holland churches was convened in Rotterdam. The delegates of the classis of Dordrecht informed the synod that there were many and weighty reasons for sending this protest. The synod also heard from the synodical deputies concerning the situation at Leiden and matters under discussion with Arminius and the other professors. After due deliberation, the synod decided promptly to pursue that creeping evil and not to postpone the matter on the basis of the uncertain hope that a national synod would be convened. For this reason they charged the deputies of the synod to find out with all diligence which points of doctrine the students of theology in the Academy of Leiden were especially disputing. Further, the deputies were instructed to request the honorable curators to charge the professors of theology forthrightly and uprightly to declare their views concerning these points of doctrine, in order to reveal their agreement or disagreement and thus to free the churches of concern regarding the seriousness and existence of differences, and in case the differences were found to be serious, to take prompt remedial action. The synod on November 8 also enjoined all the ministers to testify of their agreement in doctrine by subscribing to the Confession and Catechism of these churches, something which had been neglected in many classes and refused by others.

The synodical deputies, after diligent investigation of the case, delivered to the curators nine questions about which there was much dispute, and they begged the curators to demand the theological professors to declare fully their views concerning these questions. The curators answered that there was some hope that within a short time a national synod would be called, and therefore they deemed it more advisable to reserve those questions for the synod, rather than to give more occasion for disunity through further investigation.

There were also ministers who had adopted the view of Arminius and here and there in the classes refused to obey the order of the synod to subscribe to the Confession and the Catechism. The concern of the churches increased when they saw that these ministers, banking upon the favor of some, despised the synod’s authority and boldly proceeded in their purpose.

Since the evil could not be remedied in this manner, the synodical deputies showed the States General in detail the great danger the churches were in. To ward off this evil, they petitioned the States General to decree at the earliest opportunity the convening of a national synod, which had for so many years been postponed.