Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (11)

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

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All of this served to make bolder the ministers who sided with Arminius. They began openly to bring their strange beliefs to the people, attacking the adopted doctrine with false complaints and striking out against it in a grievous and despicable manner. The chief among these ministers was Adolphus Venator, minister of the church of Alkmaar in North Holland. Besides not being very pious in his life, with unbelievable shamelessness he publicly and privately spread the Pelagian and Socinian errors. For this he was suspended from his office by a lawful judgment of the North Holland churches. But despising the judgment of the churches, he continued in his office. The right-minded ministers in the classis of Alkmaar judged that this evil man, as also the other lesser ministers whom he had drawn to his side and who had stubbornly refused to express agreement with the doctrine of the Reformed churches, could not properly be admitted to their gathering. These ministers complained about this to the States, and with the help of Uytenbogaert they obtained an order for classis Alkmaar to admit them into their gathering. Since the orthodox ministers could not in good conscience allow this, they humbly petitioned the States that they should not be aggrieved by such orders, which they could not obey in good conscience. Since these disagreements and offenses were increasing every day, the deputies of the church again earnestly petitioned the States in the name of the churches to convoke immediately the promised provincial synod for the removal of these evils.

“Since these disagreements and offenses were increasing every day, the deputies of the church again earnestly petitioned the States in the name of the churches to convoke immediately the promised provincial synod for the removal of these evils.”

When Uytenbogaert and the other ministers who sided with Arminius saw that the States were inclined to do this, they wanted to avoid any ecclesiastical judgment. They succeeded, through the influence of some who favored their cause, to bring about instead of a provincial synod a conference in the gathering of the States between Gomarus and Arminius concerning the articles of doctrine about which they disagreed. In this conference each man could be accompanied by four ministers whose advice they could use. Arminius chose Uytenbogaert, minister in The Hague; Adrianus Borrus of Leiden; Nicolaus Grevinchovius of Rotterdam; and Adolphus Venator of Alkmaar. Gomarus chose Ruardus Acronius, minister at Schiedam; Jacobus Rolandus of Amsterdam; Johannes Bogardus of Haarlem and Festus Hommius of Leiden.

When they came together, Gomarus and his fellow ministers requested two items: to prevent evil rumors, that the conference be conducted by means of written documents delivered by both sides; that these documents would thereafter be delivered to the national synod for the church to pass judgment on this ecclesiastical matter. Gomarus and his fellows also judged it to be improper to admit to the conference Adolphus Venator, who had been suspended from office by lawful ecclesiastical censures because of his unsound doctrine and life. They claimed that his admittance would greatly prejudice the ecclesiastical censures, and they requested someone else to be accepted in his place, which they could not gain because Arminius was vehemently against it.

The States desired the conference to be oral, but to help the memory one was allowed the use of documents. They promised by a public act that after this case was heard at this conference it would be reserved for the judgment of the provincial synod; that everything dealt with orally would be put in writing and these documents would be delivered immediately to the synod.

“[The States] promised by a public act that after this case was heard at this conference it would be reserved for the judgment of the provincial synod; that everything dealt with orally would be put in writing and these documents would be delivered immediately to the synod.”

At the beginning of the conference they debated the order in which the articles would be treated. Arminius thought it would be advantageous for his cause to begin with predestination. Since the article concerning justification seemed to be more necessary, Gomarus believed they should begin with it. This was also the pleasure of the States. Concerning justification there was the same dispute as had occurred earlier before the High Council, namely, whether faith, in the sense of a deed, is through God’s gracious acceptance the righteousness by which we are justified before God.

Second, they treated the doctrine of divine predestination, which Arminius tried to make hated by means of the same false consequences he had previously presented in the gathering of the States. But Gomarus clung to the chief item of difference: is faith a cause, or a preceding condition, of election or an effect, or fruit, of election?

“But Gomarus clung to the chief item of difference: is faith a cause, or a preceding condition, of election or an effect, or fruit, of election?”

The third difference concerned the grace of God and the free will of man. Arminius testified that he acknowledged all the operations of divine grace in the conversion of man, except irresistible grace. Gomarus pointed out the ambiguity and deceit hidden in the word irresistible, namely, that under it was hidden the formerly condemned view of the semi-Pelagians and synergists. Gomarus maintained that in the regeneration of man such a grace is necessary that operates so powerfully that, having conquered the opposition of the flesh, all who partake of it are certainly and unmistakably converted.

Finally, they treated the doctrine of the perseverance of true believers. Arminius declared that he had never contested the doctrine of the certain perseverance of true believers and that he did not want to contest it because there is such a scriptural testimony in favor of it that he at present could not answer it. For this reason he would only point out those passages that occasioned him to doubt and to be suspicious regarding this article. After Gomarus had replied to those passages, he established the doctrine of certain perseverance over against them with many clear testimonies from God’s word

(To be continued…)