Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (17)

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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While these things were going on, certain students of sacred theology who had come from the home and school of Vorstius did their best to besmudge the Academy of Franeker with Socinian errors by publishing a little book (of Faustus Socinus, About the Office of a Christian, in which he advised all who seek the salvation of their souls to forsake the teachings and gatherings of the Reformed churches and to accept the views of the Photinians and the Ebionites), along with a foreword that strongly recommended this book to the churches. The States of Friesland were made aware of this. They also obtained certain familiar letters of these students in which they declared how Socinianism (which these letters plainly stated was also promulgated by Vorstius, Uytenbogaert, and others in Holland) was to be secretly advanced. After they burned many copies of those little books and forced these students to leave their boundaries, they admonished and petitioned the States, first through missives of the magistrates of the chief cities of Holland, and thereafter through the Honorable Lord Kemp of Donia, that since upright agreement in the Reformed doctrine was the chief bond and the foundation of unity and union between the United Provinces, not to tolerate having this agreement weakened through the calling of a person who was suspected of public heresy, and not to allow themselves to be misled by such deceptions by these people who were trying to bring about this call. Besides, the ministers of Leeuwaarden, publishing the aforementioned letters of the students along with necessary notes, earnestly admonished all the churches to beware of such deceitful attempts of heretics, especially of Vorstius. The States of the Duchy of Gelderland and the Duchy of Zutphen also warned the States of Holland about this.

The latter answered that there was nothing of more concern to them than to preserve unbroken the unity with the other United Provinces in the common cause of religion. They requested on November 15 their neighboring comrades to remain assured of their firm intention, declaring that meanwhile they would give their attention to this admonition and would order Vorstius to leave the city of Leiden, to take up residence at Gouda, and to purge himself of the errors laid to his charge by public writings.

“[the States of Holland] answered that there was nothing of more concern to them than to preserve unbroken the unity with the other United Provinces in the common cause of religion.”

The States of Holland and West Friesland thereafter ordered the participants of both sides in the Hague Conference to hand over in writing the differences of position and to add to this their advice regarding the manner in which they thought that these differences could be ironed out in the best way for the peace of the churches and the profit of the Republic.

The Remonstrants, assuming the standpoint of the Hague Conference, judged that they could apply no more certain means of unity than mutual tolerance, namely, that both parties be permitted freely to teach and to promulgate their views concerning these articles.

The other ministers declared that they could point to no more proper way than that the States General would prescribe a national synod at which these and all other differences would be declared and investigated, a judgment rendered regarding which view was in harmony with God’s word and the common opinion of the Reformed churches and consequently ought to be taught openly, in order that the cause of the truth would not be injured by the maintenance of various views and that the peace of the churches would not be disturbed.

With regard to this advice, the votes of the States were divergent; some approved the advice of the Remonstrants, and others approved the advice of the other ministers. The result was that in the whole matter nothing was decided with a view to bringing about an end to these differences.

Further, when the States understood that besides these five articles there were many other important disputes and were causing upheaval, they decreed that to preserve the purity of doctrine and to prevent innovations, the doctrine of the holy gospel in its purest form should be presented in the churches and in the public schools of the land. Accordingly, they decreed that in the churches and public schools of Holland and West Friesland nothing else should be taught concerning the perfect salvation of Jesus Christ for our sins, the justification of men before God, saving faith, original sin, the certainty of salvation, and the perfection of man in this life than what was always taught in the Reformed churches and in these provinces

(To be continued…)