Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (21)

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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On February 27 they came together for this purpose in the city of Delft. Present from the Remonstrants were Johannes Uytenbogaert, Adrianus Borrius, and Nicolaus Grevinchovius; ministers from the side were Johannes Becius, Johannes Bogardus, and Festus Hommius. The States admonished the men through their deputies to put aside all secret hatred and evil passions and to exert all the power of their understanding to find some proper way of peace. They declared how pleasing this would be to God, to the churches, to all the pious, and especially to the States. Then all the individual ministers testified that they had come with a peace-seeking intention and would do all in their power to make peace. Thereupon a friendly conference was held between them.

“The States admonished the men through their deputies to put aside all secret hatred and evil passions and to exert all the power of their understanding to find some proper way of peace.” 

In this conference the Remonstrants declared that they could point to no other way to peace than the way of mutual tolerance (as they called it), to wit, that every party should be allowed to teach openly in the churches his views concerning the five articles. They requested of the other ministers to declare whether they considered the views expressed in the five articles to be in that manner allowable and tolerable. If they held them to be insufferable, it was not necessary to take under further advisement anything concerning the way to peace, for according to their judgment there was no way to peace left.

The other ministers judged that the most sure and proper way to peace was for each party to subject its case to the lawful judgment of the Netherlands churches, since on both sides were ministers of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands who wanted to be counted as such. To that end they should labor earnestly and uprightly for the authorization by the States General of the national synod of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands as soon as possible. At this synod the entire matter should be lawfully investigated and considered, and it should be determined which of the two views ought from then on to be taught in the churches as being in accord with God’s word, and it should be determined with the united advice of all the churches whether or not the so-called way of tolerance should be followed as being according to the word of God. Moreover, they declared their readiness to submit to the judgment of this synod. And if the Remonstrants were willing to do the same, in this manner peace could be established. They declared that tolerance, which would be limited by various conditions—however much they had exercised it before and however much they appeared still to desire it—could not serve to the peace and edification of the churches.

“They declared that tolerance, which would be limited by various conditions—however much they had exercised it before and however much they appeared still to desire it—could not serve to the peace and edification of the churches.”

But if they were willing to limit tolerance by honorable conditions, they declared their readiness to confer with the Remonstrants about these conditions, provided the Remonstrants were willing first by forthright declaration to assure the churches that except for the five articles, they would hold no views other than those of the Reformed churches in any other point of doctrine. They pointed out that for two years now, December 3, 1611, the States had expressed by name six points of doctrine concerning which they forbade anyone to teach differently than what until this time had been taught in the Netherlands churches, namely, concerning the complete satisfaction of Jesus Christ for our sins, the justification of man before God, saving faith, original sin, the certainty of salvation, and the perfection of man in this life. Therefore they requested especially that the Remonstrants be willing to declare their support for the views of these points of doctrine as expressed in the Confession and the Catechism, which they had summarized in certain articles out of those documents, and their rejection of contrary views in certain contra-articles from the writings of Arminius, Bertius, Vorstius, Venator, and others.

Over against this the Remonstrants said that they could not see how these differences could be settled by a national synod and that on this account they could not consent in this situation to the authorizing of such a synod, nor request it. Further, they declared that this matter could not be helped by synodical decisions and that they did not believe that in the matter of religion the Province of Holland would be subject to the decisions of other provinces. They stated that they would take counsel with the other Remonstrants concerning the demanded declaration. When they had briefly summarized in writing the views of both sides, they separated from one another with nothing accomplished.

(To be continued…)