Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (24)

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] worked to get these resolutions enacted wherever they knew the magistrates were favorable to them. When because of this many pious people were punished by confiscation of goods and with imprisonments and exile, they appealed to the highest court of justice and sought help against this new violence. The Honorable Lord Counselors of the High Council sought to come to the help of the oppressed; but the Remonstrants saw to it through the advocate that the High Council was forbidden to help and that the hands of the High Court of Justice were tied.

When on March 18, 1616,  many leading cities of Holland, among them especially the mightiest city, Amsterdam, took a position against the enforcement of these resolutions, Hugo Grotius and others were sent to Amsterdam on April 24  through their eloquence to persuade the magistrates of that city to accept the resolutions. When he tried to do this with a wide-ranging speech, the magistrates answered that they could not approve that men could bypass the lawful synodical gatherings, take ecclesiastical matters under advisement in the gathering of the States, make decisions in those matters, and put those decisions into effect. Further, they answered that their intention was to stand for the true Christian religion, the exercise of which had flourished in these lands for fifty years. And they judged that the very least change of this religion would be damaging to the Republic unless it was first properly investigated by a lawful synod. The magistrates answered further that on this account they could not consent to various proposals and various actions that had taken place since 1616, nor could they consent to this last proposition. They did not desire any decisions to be made, much less be put into effect, under the name of the city of Amsterdam (since it was an important member of the gathering of the States), nor anything to be decided against those who confessed the Reformed religion, unless lawful synods, under the authority of the lords of the States, previously investigated and treated the differences and changes in religion and ecclesiastical matters.

“[The Magistrates of Amsterdam] answered that their intention was to stand for the true Christian religion, the exercise of which had flourished in these lands for fifty years”

Meanwhile, they did not desire the preachers who were loyal to the views of the Reformed religion and defended by the contra-Remonstrants to be suspended from their ministry because they could not with a good conscience maintain ecclesiastical unity with the Remonstrants. They also did not desire the churches that followed those views to be hindered in the practice of religion, either under pretense of schism or because they had scruples of conscience against hearing the sermons of the Remonstrants. They declared further that they would approve all these things until by the authority of the States a lawful synod could be authorized to investigate properly and to treat the differences and innovations. Thus the labor and attempts of the Remonstrants and of those favorable to them were in vain, especially since the magistrates of the cities of Dordrecht, Enkhuizen, Edam, and Purmerend openly approved this advice of the magistrates of Amsterdam.

About this time the ministers of the Kampen church in the Province of Overijsel, which had accepted the views of the Remonstrants, with the help of the magistrates cast out of the ministry a very learned man who adhered to the truth, their fellow minister and doctor of sacred theology Wilhelmus Stephani, because he opposed their purposes. By means of slanderous pamphlets and public sermons, they sought to make the Reformed religion hated among the people.

Because of these changes and the consequent disruptions of the churches, the Remonstrants, who were more and more hated, presented to the states a second Remonstrance in March 1617. In it they sought with unbelievable shamelessness to remove the blame for all the innovations from themselves and to place it upon the ministers who had remained firm in the adopted doctrine of these churches. Over against this the other ministers presented an extensive and pertinent reply, which they also delivered to the same States

(To be continued…)