Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (13)

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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Meanwhile, when the ministers who sided with Arminius saw matters at the point where the convening of the synod was prevented, they feared little the judgment and the censures of the churches, as became manifest from their boldness and shamelessness. They began openly and secretly to strike out and to bellow with extremely bitter, reproachful, and abusive language against the pure doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning election, the perseverance of the saints, the certainty of salvation, and other doctrines, to the great offense of the pious, to the joy of the enemies, and to the disturbance of the churches. It was not enough for them to upset the hearts of the common people and the regents alike by means of secret blasphemies and by public, uproarious sermons. They also did so with writings that they distributed in great numbers and with equally great offense among the people. They tore to pieces the doctrine of the Reformed churches in such a way that only the sworn enemies of that doctrine could have done so with more bitterness and obscenity. And in order to win the favor of the magistrates and inflame their feelings more and more against the other ministers, they worked through Uytenbogaert, first through a speech given in the gathering of the States and later through a published document, and sought to convince the magistrates that the other ministers belittled the authority of the magistrates, sought to weaken it, and were striving for separate or equally high power for themselves.

“They tore to pieces the doctrine of the Reformed churches in such a way that only the sworn enemies of that doctrine could have done so with more bitterness and obscenity.” 

Therefore the church deputies addressed the States again on May 25 and requested that by convening a provincial synod, the States could lawfully remedy these troubles, which had reached new heights. When the States, on account of the great need, appeared ready to concur, the ministers devoted to the views of Arminius presented a new plan to either prevent the convening of the synod to so constitute it that their cause would remain sure and suffer no harm. Their proposal was that the men called together at this synod would not be delegated by the churches (as was proper and as had been the practice), but that the States would invite certain men. If they succeeded in this, they could easily gain their end, namely, that only those men would be chosen who adhered to their cause or were not very strongly opposed to it. Although they convinced some of the regents of the fatherland of this innovation, they could not move the most understanding men to do this; and the latter judged that the convening of the synod had to take place in the usual way.

While the States debated the matter, the adherents of Arminius succeeded in delaying the provincial synod and preventing the convening the annual synod that customarily had been held almost every year. As often as those who wished these evils to be removed from the churches through lawful means spoke of the convening of a synod, so often those who sided with Arminius renewed these debates about the manner of convening the synod. The ministers committed to the views of Arminius became bolder, since they had brought matters to the point where all fear of ecclesiastical judgment and censure seemed to be removed. Without the knowledge and counsel of their churches and the authority of the government, a large number of them held a secret gathering. There, by subscribing their names, they mutually formed a confederation separate from the existing body of their fellow ministers, thus bringing about open schism in the Reformed churches.

“There, by subscribing their names, they mutually formed a confederation separate from the existing body of their fellow ministers, thus bringing about open schism in the Reformed churches.”

At this time they delivered to the States a request, or as they called it, a Remonstrance (because of which they were hereafter called Remonstrants). This was published in June at the Hague Conference. In the Remonstrance, with open and bitter slander, they put the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning divine predestination, the grace of God, and the perseverance of the saints in bad faith. Their purpose was to arouse the hatred of the States against these doctrines. Along with this they added a declaration of their opinions concerning the same articles; but they sought to conceal their views under ambiguous and disguised words, in order to fool the simple into thinking that their views were not much different from the truth. In addition, they requested the States to take them under their protection against all ecclesiastical censures

(To be continued…)