Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (20)

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 Remonstrants continued diligently to push their cause, to win the favor of the great, to gain the hearts of the magistrates, and to render suspect and prevent all synodical gatherings with the political leaders, to gain the vacant churches, to spread their views through public sermons and writings, to violate sound doctrine with terrible slanders, to draw the people to their side, and more and more to alienate them from the doctrine of the Reformed churches. To this end they spread abroad booklets among the people, written in the mother language, under such titles as Firebells, Further Information, Signpost, and others. In these they not only upheld their doctrine and enhanced Vorstius, but they also with bitter and shameless eloquence and in a most horrible manner struck at the adopted doctrine of the Netherlands churches with the most shameless slander and by evilly and faithlessly drawing from that doctrine the most senseless consequences or conclusions. Because of this there arose among the people everywhere bitter disputes and quarrels, through which the closest friends and acquaintances were embittered against one another and were frightfully alienated and torn apart from one another, to the great injury of love, to the disturbance of the church and the common peace, and to the great grief and offense of the pious. Since in many places the Remonstrants had the magistrates on their side, and through Johannes Uytenbogaert were permitted everything by the advocate of Holland, they were also haughty and scornful against their churches and fellow ministers. Meanwhile, all pious lovers of the fatherland and of the church pitifully mourned and bemoaned this terrible misery of the churches. Because they saw clearly where these upheavals would end if they were not promptly attended to and that the public authority had not been able thus far to do this, they began seriously to consider whether or this evil could be removed in one way or at least stemmed.

“Because they saw clearly where these upheavals would end if they were not promptly attended to and that the public authority had not been able thus far to do this, they began seriously to consider whether or this evil could be removed in one way or at least stemmed.”

Especially the illustrious Count of Nassau, Willem Lodewijk, governor of Friesland, in harmony with his outstanding love toward the churches and the Republic, admonished in particular Uytenbogaert, on the one side, and Festus Hommius, on the other side, in friendly and brotherly fashion to consider whether or not an honorable means could be found whereby this grievous dispute could be quieted and unity attained, because the condition of the Republic was severely upset by these ecclesiastical disputes.

Festus declared that if the Remonstrants did not differ from the other ministers in any other articles than in the five concerning predestination and the related points, he believed a way could be found to establish peace between the parties until the entire controversy could be resolved in a national synod. But since there were weighty reasons that the churches believed many Remonstrants diverged in almost all of the more important doctrines from the adopted doctrines of the Netherlands churches, and since they ought not to tolerate very grievous errors to be introduced into the churches under the cover of the five articles, he believed that there appeared to be no hope of achieving peace with the Remonstrants unless they would uprightly declare that with the exception of these five articles, they were of one mind with the Reformed Netherlands churches in all other points of doctrine.

Uytenbogaert, when questioned about this, answered that he only differed on the five articles and that he was always prepared to declare his views concerning the other points. Also, he did not doubt that many Remonstrants would do the same thing. Further, he wished nothing so much as that for this reason a conference would be held among certain ministers who were moderate in their feelings. When he had renewed the same declaration at Leiden and particularly to Festus, they agreed that they would both, each with his own people, cause three ministers from each side to be delegated. These ministers would come together with one another in a friendly way and seriously consider together a proper way of peace, and thereafter submitted this to the churches for their approval. The States of Holland, understanding that this was being taken under advisement in secret, praised their intentions and publicly ordered this conference to be held at once.

(To be continued…)