Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (16)

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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Accordingly, it pleased the States to put these thorny questions aside and to turn to the treatment of the articles of the Remonstrance. The ministers delegated by the churches presented in their document their proofs to establish every article. Concerning these reasons and arguments they debated orally in the gathering of the States. Festus Hommius spoke for the one side in the name of the ministers delegated by the churches; and on the other side in the name of the Remonstrants, first Adrianus Borrius spoke and thereafter by turn, Nicolaus Grevinchovius, Johannes Arnoldi, and Simon Episcopius.

While the ministers were occupied in this conference, Conradus Vorstius returned from Westphalia to Holland. The States decided to hear him in the presence of all the conferees. When he appeared on April 27, he made a long speech in which he tried to purge himself of his alleged errors. Thereupon the States asked the conferees if they had any objections to calling Vorstius to the theological ministry in the Academy of Leiden should not take place. The Remonstrants plainly declared that they had nothing against Vorstius and that they found in his writings nothing that conflicted with truth or godliness. The other ministers furnished written reasons for their judgment that the call of Vorstius would be very damaging and offensive to the Holland churches. They pointed out his chief errors from the book of Socinus concerning the authority of Holy Scripture that Vorstius had published and from the book concerning God and the divine attributes that Vorstius had recently written and published. Concerning this they held conference for some days between the Remonstrants and Festus Hommius in the gathering of the States and in the presence of the conferees.

On May 6 when this was finished, the States ordered the ministers from both sides to declare forthrightly whether Vorstius’ answers had satisfied them. The Remonstrants answered that they were fully satisfied and, therefore, judged that it would be highly profitable for the churches and the academy if his call went through. The other ministers declared in writing that the answers of Vorstius were so far from changing their opinions that on the contrary they were more and more convinced by his answers that his call would work great harm to the churches and the academy and would be accompanied by marked danger of more disturbances if it went through. On this account they submissively petitioned the States not to place the churches in that danger by his call.

“The other ministers declared in writing that…they were more and more convinced by [Vorstius’] answers that his call would work great harm to the churches and the academy and would be accompanied by marked danger of more disturbances if it went through”

After Vorstius had departed they returned to the conference concerning the Remonstrance. This continued for some days and then ended. Thereupon the States ordered the conferees from both sides to put in writing what had been treated orally and what they judged was still necessary for a complete answer. Uytenbogaert and Festus Hommius were to turn these writings over to the States. The States ordered that meanwhile the ministers should not boast over against one another concerning the victory they had gained, but they should modestly teach with edification concerning the various articles and live in peace and love with one another. They also ordained that these articles should continue in the same position, or standing, as before the conference.

Nothing was decided at this time in the case of Vorstius. Not long thereafter, when the esteemed magistracy of the city of Dordrecht through its deputies (the Honorable Hugo Muys van Holy, knight; Jakob de Witt; Adriaan Repelaar; and Johannes Berk, Pensionaris) requested the States either to drop or to postpone Vorstius’ call, because the rumors concerning his errors and heresy were becoming stronger and stronger, the States ordered the curators of the academy not to proceed with his call.

On September 21 when the report of this call reached His Majesty, King James I of Great Britain, protector of the faith, who according to his great and (especially in a king) wonderful experience in theological matters, and according to his special zeal for the Reformed religion, had read the book of Vorstius, Concerning God, and with his hand had indicated the chief errors, he admonished the States General by letters and an ambassador (the Honorable Lord Rodolf Winwood). King James admonished the States not to admit to public office a person besmirched with so many serious errors and reproaches and allow him to teach the youth in the academy, but to make him leave their boundaries, so the youth would not be corrupted by him and his evil and accursed errors and so the state of the country would not be weakened, since the welfare of the Republic was dependent on the uprightness and preservation of the Reformed doctrine, in which the Netherlands churches had until now maintained a lovely unity with the English churches. When there was postponement because the Remonstrants worked against this, and especially because Vorstius excused his errors with various explanations, responses, provisions, and modest and incomplete answers, his Royal Majesty did not neglect through repeated admonitions and with earnest protestation to insist that they should let Vorstius depart.

(To be continued…)