Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (18)

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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Meanwhile, the disunity, uproar, and disturbances in the churches sadly increased everywhere more and more. By inciting the magistrates by false accusations, the Remonstrants saw to it that especially the ministers who opposed their purposes were driven out of their ministry and out of the cities. In the churches that were not supplied with ministers, men who were besmirched with Arminian views were forced upon these churches. The Remonstrants did this by every possible means and wherever they could and excluded all other ministers, even though they were gifted with learning, godliness, and the necessary gifts for the ministry, and even though they were lawfully desired and called by the churches. This was the reason that the right-minded churches—with respect to those who either had oppressed and driven out their innocent fellow ministers, contrary to all justice and propriety, or who had been forced upon them against their desires and who daily with bitter and venomous sermons very grievously violated the doctrine of the Reformed churches—could not acknowledge them as their lawful pastors, listen to their sermons, or celebrate the Lord’s supper with them. They went to hear the sermons of sound pastors in neighboring places, although they had to suffer many reproaches, accusations, and mockery. These were the beginnings and the occasions of separations.

“They went to hear the sermons of sound pastors in neighboring places, although they had to suffer many reproaches, accusations, and mockery. These were the beginnings and the occasions of separations.”

The first church that was compelled to make such a separation was the church of Alkmaar. The North Holland churches suspended Adolphus Venator from his ministry there, on account of his unsound life and thoroughly unsound doctrine. But, appealing to the magistrates there and despising ecclesiastical censures, he continued in the office of minister. When there was a change of magistrates, as happened ordinarily every year, and when men were lawfully chosen who did not appear to be very favorable toward his cause and on whose protection he could no longer depend, Venator incited the common people against the lawful authority and caused them rebelliously to take up arms. They were not satisfied until they had deposed the lawful magistracy and replaced them by others who were alien to the Reformed religion and who sided with Venator’s cause. As soon as they were established in the government of the city through the instigation of Venator, these first forced the elders and deacons to lay down their office. Then they did the same things to the two ministers because they were against Venator’s errors. After the ministers had been deposed from their office, they were scandalously driven out of the city. One was Pieter Cornelissen, who had been minister for some fifty years with great edification, and the other was Cornelius Hillenius, a bright and pious man, both of them earnest defenders of the pure doctrine.

Next it became necessary for the church of Rotterdam to imitate this separation. When Nicolaus Grevinchovius noticed that his fellow minister Cornelius Geselius, a man of singular godliness, uprightness, and propriety, was very pleasing to the church of Rotterdam and opposed to Grevinchovius in his intention to introduce the doctrine of the Remonstrance, by means of the magistrates, he caused Geselius to be deposed from his ministry and then led out of the city by the city agents. The ministers of the classis of Rotterdam who were devoted to purity of doctrine refused to hold classical gatherings with Grevinchovius and others whom he had brought to the views of the Remonstrants. This took place after Grevinchovius, against the advice of the chief ministers, by the authority of the magistrates of Rotterdam had forced upon the church of Bleiswijk Simon Episcopius, to whom the church of Amsterdam had refused a testimony concerning his life and doctrine.

Remonstrant ministers or ministers who were favorable toward the Remonstrants were imposed on many churches in the villages. Since they could not without the greatest offense, grief, and unrest listen to the terrible slanders against sound doctrine that were daily heard in the sermons, the people of these congregations forsook their churches and went to hear the sermons of sound ministers in neighboring churches. Where they could not obtain the latter, they were taught by other ministers in their villages or by sound ministers in separate gatherings. When the Remonstrants sought in vain by strict prohibitions of the magistrates to prevent this, they aroused severe persecution against those churches

(To be continued…)