Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (22)

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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After this the States summoned Uytenbogaert and Festus to learn from them what hope of peace and unity there was. Festus forthrightly told them what had taken place and declared that there was hope if the Remonstrants were willing straightforwardly to declare their views concerning the articles they had previously delivered to the States. Uytenbogaert had deceitfully arranged to be heard only in the absence of Festus more freely to present what he thought would serve his purpose. After he had at length censured the dealings of the other ministers, as though by their demand of a declaration (which he had nevertheless promised before the conference) they sought to introduce a new and entirely intolerable inquisition, he managed to have them forbidden any longer to exact from the Remonstrants the aforesaid declaration. In addition, they were at once ordered more broadly to declare in writing their advice concerning the best way of peace and the conditions by which they believed toleration should be limited. When they had done this and had also shown that the proposed articles, concerning which the declaration had been desired, stood in so many words in the Confession and the Catechism of the Netherlands churches and that the contra-articles could be found in public documents of many with whom the Remonstrants had great fellowship in these lands, and after this their writing had been openly read, the Remonstrants accomplished through the advocate strictly to forbid this to be passed on to any man, either in print or in handwriting. Since they saw that the deputies of the churches or the synods, to whom the common care of the churches was committed, through their labors (as was in harmony with their office) were much in the way, they also brought it about, even as previously all annual synods had been forbidden, that it was forbidden anyone from now to use the name of deputies of the churches or of the synod, or to serve in such an office. Their purpose was to take away all care for the welfare and the peace of the churches, and thus to be free to rage against them. Through this conduct the Remonstrants made themselves more and more suspect with the churches, since all those with understanding judged that if they did not differ from the churches in these points of doctrine, they would have no reason to avoid this declaration, because to the ambassador of the States General, this would tend in particular to the advancement of the peace of the churches and to the benefit of their name and fame.

“Through this conduct the Remonstrants made themselves more and more suspect with the churches, since all those with understanding judged that if they did not differ from the churches in these points of doctrine, they would have no reason to avoid this declaration…”

To gain more easily through public authority this toleration (for which they pressed so much as the way by which  they hoped to introduce their doctrine in the churches), they used this strategy. The advocate Hugo Grotius sent from England to the ambassador of the States General a certain writing in which the true state of the differences was incorrectly presented, along with the draft of a letter requesting the ambassador to petition King James I of Great Britain, that because only tolerance could lay to rest this matter, would it please his Royal Majesty to write according to the draft of the enclosed letter to the States General. This end was secretly and privately obtained, and such a letter was sent to the States General on May 6. The Remonstrants rejoiced greatly about this, and hoping to attain their purpose, they worked through the advocate to establish by the public authority of the States a certain formula of toleration (the same as is in chapter 11, articles 4 and 5 of the Church Order of Utrecht) and to impose it upon the churches. Although the feelings of many in the gathering of the States were inclined in this direction, the most understanding among them were valiantly opposed to this, considering it improper to force upon the churches a toleration in matters of faith that had never been properly investigated in a lawful ecclesiastical gathering, and that brought with it a manifest change in doctrine. Further, they considered also that the peace of the churches could not be obtained in this way, because they feared that if toleration were permitted men might present from the same pulpit and for the same gathering views that differed so greatly from one another that the peace of the churches would be more and more disturbed, even as experience had taught to this point.

“…they feared that if toleration were permitted men might present from the same pulpit and for the same gathering views that differed so greatly from one another that the peace of the churches would be more and more disturbed…”

Nevertheless, the Remonstrants continued to press in every way for toleration and to recommend it publicly and secretly by writings and sermons, using especially the reason that the articles in question were of little importance and did not concern the fundamentals of salvation, and for this reason people ought to be tolerant. Contrary to the wishes and strivings of some of the foremost and strongest cities of Holland and West Friesland, the Remonstrants on July 25, 1614, finally caused this resolution of tolerance to be printed. It was clothed with some scriptural expressions and those of the old fathers, among whom was Faustus Regins, former head of the semi-Pelagians.

(To be continued…)