Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (15)

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voice 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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About this time, when some students of sacred theology had been called to the ministry of the word and examined in various classes on August 22 and September 22, the Remonstrants influenced the commissioned advisors of the States to order the classes that with respect to the article concerning predestination and what is connected with it to require of no one a further explanation besides what in the five articles of the Remonstrance had been delivered to the classes. Besides, it was also forbidden to bar anyone from the service of the church who declared himself in agreement with the Remonstrants with respect to the aforesaid articles.

 “it was also forbidden to bar anyone from the service of the church who declared himself in agreement with the Remonstrants with respect to the aforesaid articles.”

Because the ministers for many reasons objected to this, the deputies of the churches at the ministers’ request presented their objections concerning this at the next gathering of the States of Holland and West Friesland. At the same time the ministers declared their readiness to show in a lawful synod that the five articles of the Remonstrance were in conflict with God’s word and with the Catechism and the Netherlands Confession. They further requested the States not in this manner to force upon the churches these unsound articles, which had never been properly investigated in any lawful assembly of these churches, but to convene a provincial synod—which so frequently had been requested and for a long time had been desired—in which the five articles of the Remonstrance would be lawfully investigated according to the rule of God’s word. They also pointed out the great offense and damage to the churches the intended calling of Vorstius would cause, and they petitioned that by the authority of the States his call would be prevented.

When this matter was taken under advisement, it was decided that at the next gathering of the States in The Hague, before the gathering of the States themselves, a conference of six ministers chosen from each side would be held concerning the five articles of the Remonstrance. The Remonstrants chose Johannes Uytenbogaert, minister in The Hague; Adriannus Borrius and Johannes Arnoldi Corvinus of Leiden; Nicolaus Grevinchovius of Rotterdam; Eduard Poppius, of Gouda; and Simon Episcopius of Bleiswijk. The ministers on the other side had through the deputies of every classis chosen Petrus Plancius, minister at Amsterdam; Johannes Becius of Dordrecht; Libertus Fraxinus of den Briel; Ruardus Acronius of Schiedam; Johannes Bogardus of Haarlem; and Festus Hommius of Leiden.

When they came together on March 11, 1611, the Remonstrants refused to confer with the other six ministers as deputies of the classes of Holland and West Friesland and as parties of the churches, which their credentials showed them to be. Indeed, if these ministers would not relinquish their capacity as ministers, the Remonstrants threatened to leave with matters unfinished.

After a long debate about this, the other ministers preferred to give way rather than to wrangle any longer. Those who had been delegated from the classes, before they entered into conference, requested of the States to renew the promise made to the churches two years earlier at the conference between Arminius and Gomarus (August 18, to wit, that when the conference was finished the judgment of this case would be left to the provincial or national synod and that the States would reserve judgment).

The meeting would follow this procedure: The parties on both sides would put the proofs of their views in writing and thereafter would hold an oral conference about them. Before they turned to the investigation of the articles, the ministers who had been delegated by the classes would furnish an answer against the Remonstrance, a copy of which they had at last obtained only a short time before the conference.

The ministers’ answer demonstrated that the Remonstrants had presented the views of the Reformed churches in a bad light and had slanderously fabricated many things against those views. They also showed that the Remonstrants had not forthrightly revealed their views nor presented all the articles concerning which they had differences. Because there were other points of disagreement than those declared in the five articles, the ministers humbly petitioned the States to order the Remonstrants to reveal clearly and forthrightly their views concerning all of the remaining points of doctrine.

“The ministers’ answer demonstrated that the Remonstrants had presented the views of the Reformed churches in a bad light and had slanderously fabricated many things against those views.”

Accordingly, when they investigated the first article of the Remonstrance, which set forth that God from eternity decided to save the persevering believer (which no Christian denies), and when this article was presented as though it embodied the doctrine of God’s eternal election, the Remonstrants were requested, for clarification of their views expressed in this article, to declare two things more precisely: whether they held that this article comprehended the entire decree of predestination and whether they believed that faith and perseverance in faith are causes, or conditions, that precede election unto salvation, or whether they are fruits that come forth from election and follow upon the same

After the Remonstrants for some time had given excuses, they finally answered. To the first question they answered that they acknowledged no other predestination to salvation than what they had expressed in the first article. To the second they answered that faith, in the consideration and view of God precedes election to salvation and does not follow it as a fruit. Thereupon the Remonstrants presented in return seven questions about election and reprobation, to which they desired the ministers delegated from the classes to answer. Since these questions did not belong to the point of difference concerning the first article, and many of them were also unnecessary and very involved and were presented for the purpose of leading the discussion off into tangents and away from the chief point of difference, the ministers by request demonstrated to the States this improper manner.

The ministers did not request, however, that they would not be required to reveal their views concerning reprobation (as the Remonstrants frequently falsely accused them). The ministers clearly declared, orally and in writing, their views insofar as they were sufficient for the peace and edification of the churches. They declared that when they posited an eternal decree of election of particular persons, they also posited an eternal decree of reprobation, a passing by of some particular persons, since it is impossible to have election without reprobation, or passing by. They declared further that recklessly to investigate all difficult questions concerning this article would fill the churches with useless disputes and strivings that would serve no good purpose and would disturb the peace of the churches. Further, they declared that their explanation as expressed in the petition ought to be sufficient for every temperate and peace-loving mind, namely, that they believe and teach that God condemns no one and has decided to condemn no one except justly on account of his own sins.

(To be continued…)