Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (25)

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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Since these long-standing differences in the churches and the Republic had brought about many evils, difficulties, disturbances, and confusion, everyone who had at heart the welfare of the United Provinces and the Reformed churches in those provinces understood clearly that the remedy of these miseries could no longer be postponed without noticeable damage to both the state and the churches. Since the States were unable thus far to agree on how to alleviate the situation, his Royal Majesty James I of Great Britain, according to his singular and upright devotion to these lands and churches, admonished the States General to allow no longer this cancer to eat at the body of the Republic, but immediately to oppose the unsalutary disputes, divisions, schisms, and partisanship that openly threatened the state. At the same time he also very earnestly prayed them to root out the errors and to restore in its former purity the old and true Reformed doctrine that they had always confessed, that had been established by the common consent of all Reformed churches, and that had always been the chief foundation and bond of the very close friendship and alliance of long standing between his kingdoms and these provinces. This, he believed, could take place most properly through a national synod, since that had been the ordinary, lawful, and most efficient remedy that Christians of old had used in such difficulties.

“He also very earnestly prayed them to root out the errors and to restore in its former purity the old and true Reformed doctrine that they had always confessed…This, he believed could take place most properly through a national synod…”

Also the illustrious Maurits, Prince of Orange and Stadhouder of the United Netherlands, continued very earnestly and gravely to admonish the States General and the States of Holland and West Friesland that as dear to them as was the preservation of the Republic and the church, so diligently should they labor to remedy immediately these very sore evils. To this end he also recommended above all the convening of a national synod as an ordinary and most certain remedy, and he persisted in this (May 10).

Also the States of Zeeland, through the honorable Lords Maldere, Brouwer, Pottej, and Bonifacious de Jonge, admonished and begged the States of Holland and West Friesland in their gathering on May 19, that since the disputes and disunity daily were becoming greater, to the very great danger of the Republic, and since many remedies had been tried in vain, they should consent to the convening of a national synod as an ordinary remedy for such evils, as something set forth by the Holy Ghost and always used by Christians.

The States of Gelderland, Friesland, Groningen and Ommelanden in a friendly manner requested the same through their deputies.

When the Remonstrants saw that the neighboring kings, princes, republics, allies, and the foremost and mightiest cities of Holland and West Friesland urgently recommended the authorizing of a national synod; when the Remonstrants feared that many of the States of Holland and West Friesland were inclined to it, industriously promoted it, and might consent to it; and when the Remonstrants realized that they might have to give account before an ecclesiastical tribunal concerning their doctrine and their actions, to escape this they proposed a new way to settle the differences. They proposed that the States of Holland and West Friesland choose a fixed and equal number of political and ecclesiastical men to take counsel with one another and to devise means of peace and unity that would be approved by the States and thereafter would be imposed upon the churches.

When this did not succeed (since men of understanding noted what kind of persons would compose this gathering and what was expected of it, and besides that such a course was unusual in the churches and was not appropriate for the removal of doctrinal and ecclesiastical differences), the Remonstrants recognized that they had to attempt extreme measures to stop the convening of the national synod. Some regents took the position that the convening of the national synod was contrary to the dignity and freedom of the provinces, since every province had complete power to decide in religious matters. They said it was unseemly and improper to subject their freedom to the judgment of other provinces and they ought to defend this right of supremacy in every way, even with weapons.

“…The Remonstrants recognized that they had to attempt extreme measures to stop the convening of the national synod.”

By these and similar reasons the feelings of those who were less cautious were so inflamed that the regents of some cities plotted together and decided to engage city militia who were not bound by an oath of allegiance to the States General or to his Excellency the Prince of Orange, the commander-in-chief, but only bound to themselves. They did this to protect the cause of the Remonstrants and their own authority, which they had endangered for the sake of the Remonstrants. This happened at Utrecht, where the States General had a garrison strong enough to protect against every uprising and mutiny, and at Haarlem, Leiden, Gouda, Schoonhoven, Hoorn, and various other places. The Remonstrants incited the magistrates of the cities to do this, as can be clearly proven from some of their letters that were captured later.

(To be continued…)