Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (9)

The 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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


This conference [between Arminius and Gomarus], however, had not removed the anxieties of the churches, but increased them, especially since what took place at the conference was not made known to the churches. Not without reason the people judged that this was done to favor Arminius so that his views would not become revealed. The churches meanwhile through their deputies continued earnestly to petition that the States in the gathering of a lawful provincial or national synod immediately investigate and dispose of this ecclesiastical matter, which could not be postponed without great danger to the churches.

When Arminius learned of this, he worked through Uytenbogaert, who had great influence with many regents of the fatherland, so that the States ordered the postponement of even the annual synods of both South and North Holland (the time of which was approaching).

Because this postponement was extremely damaging to the churches, they made known anew their objections to the States. They requested that either the synods of South and North Holland be held as usual or that from the two synods one provincial synod would immediately be authorized (as had also been requested previously).

In answer to this request the States on June 28, 1608, declared its intention to convene a provincial synod for this purpose during the following October. When the churches learned of this, all the ministers siding with Arminius were again admonished on September 4 and 12 that they should reveal their objections, each in his own classis, so these could be brought lawfully to the coming synod. But just as before and with the usual alibis, everyone refused.

When it was almost October, and the churches persisted in requesting the convening of the promised provincial synod, it was again postponed for two months. Meanwhile, the churches were allowed to hold the annual particular synods in South and North Holland, with the condition that the matter of Arminius could not be treated, but was to be reserved for the provincial synod.

At the synod of the South Holland churches held in Dordrecht, they took note that none of the ministers who sided with Arminius had been willing to reveal his objections against the adopted doctrine to his fellow ministers, but that with various alibis they had all made a mockery of the admonitions of the churches and the decisions of the synods.

“At the synod of the South Holland churches held in Dordrecht, they took note that none of the ministers who sided with Arminius had been willing to reveal his objections against the adopted doctrine to his fellow ministers”

It was again decided that they should earnestly order them anew, within one month after the warning, to make known their objections, under penalty of ecclesiastical censures against those who stubbornly refused. The synod also decided to require the same thing of the professors of sacred theology at the Academy of Leiden and of Petrus Bertius, regent of the theological college [Leiden Statencollege].

When these ministers saw that they either had to reveal their views or undergo ecclesiastical censure, to escape these alternatives, with the help of Uytenbogaert, they obtained authorizations from the States that ordered these ministers to send their sealed accusations within a month’s time to the States, which they would keep and deliver to the provincial synod. When the deputies of the synod requested the professors to reveal their objections, Gomarus answered that he had detected nothing in the Confession or the Catechism that disagreed with God’s word and that needed to be changed or improved. Arminius replied that in his own time he would answer this request in writing. When he saw that he would be pressed to declare his views, he revealed in a wide-ranging speech to a full session of the States what he believed concerning divine predestination, the grace of God and the free will of man, the perseverance of the saints, the certainty of salvation, the perfection of man in this life, the deity of the Son of God, man’s justification before God, and other main points of doctrine. He at once sought to prove that in the Reformed churches a doctrine of divine predestination was being promulgated that conflicted with God’s nature, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness; with man’s nature and free will; and with the work of creation, the nature of eternal life and death, and the nature of sin. Further, he charged that this doctrine undermined the grace of God, was opposed to the honor of God, was a hindrance to the salvation of man, made God the author of sin, was a hindrance to sorrow over sin, took away all godly carefulness, diminished diligence to do good, quenched the fervency of prayers, deprived of the fear and trembling with which we must work out our salvation, produced despair, perverted the gospel, was against the ministry of the word, and subverted the foundation of the Christian religion and of all religion.

“[Arminius] charged that this doctrine undermined the grace of God, was opposed to the honor of God, was a hindrance to the salvation of man, …and subverted the foundation of the Christian religion and of all religion.”

(To be continued…)