Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (26)

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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Thus the disunities of the Remonstrants would have brought these most flourishing provinces into danger of an internal and civil war unless the States General, through their singular carefulness, and his Excellency the Prince of Orange, through his never sufficiently praised watchfulness and bravery, had in a timely manner stamped out and suppressed this delirious madness. The States General saw how the provinces and churches were in the great danger, and they decided not to postpone the convening of the national synod any longer, but to promote it at the earliest moment—the more so since the illustrious Lord Dudley Carleton, ambassador of the royal court of Great Britain, on October 6 had alerted the States by an excellent and careful address, which the Remonstrants did not respect but publicly and shamelessly slandered with a pamphlet titled Weegschaal. No one, regardless of his position—even the States General, the Prince of Orange, and the Royal Majesty of Great Britain—was excluded from the insults and ridicule of their slanderous tongues. This pamphlet the States General condemned in a public edict as dishonorable and seditious, and they posted a liberal reward for anyone who would identify the author.

Later Johannes Casimirus Junius, son of the renowned Franciscus Junius, thoroughly refuted this pamphlet.

“The States General saw how the provinces and churches were in the great danger, and they decided not to postpone the convening of the national synod any longer…”

On December 11 the States General ordered the convening of the national synod to be held in the name of the Lord on May 1 of the following year. At the same time they proposed some rules according to which the national synod would be authorized and held. Since the Remonstrants did not think much of the judgment of the Netherlands churches, and constantly attempted to convince the people that their views were no different from the Reformed churches, the States General invited theologians—outstanding in godliness, learning, and wisdom—from all Reformed churches in neighboring lands, principalities, and republics to support the delegates of the Netherlands churches with their judgments and counsel. Thus these differences could be investigated and judged by a common judgment of all Reformed churches and laid to rest more certainly, expeditiously, firmly, and with great joy.

This resolution was adopted in 1618, and the Remonstrants raged marvelously. Through various other measures, schemes, and workingthrough those who were loyal to their cause, the Remonstrants tried to upset itand to make it useless. In Holland, through those favorable to them, theyrequested a provincial synod, which a little while before they had greatlyabhorred. Because the calling of foreign theologians to the national synod hadbeen proposed, the Remonstrants thought the foreign theologians should also becalled to the provincial synod, if men would approve this. But the answer wasgiven that formerly the Holland churches had requested a provincial synod whenthere appeared to be no hope of gaining a national synod and when thedifferences were confined to the Holland churches. Since the convening of anational synod had been decided and the evil had spread throughout all theprovinces and could not be removed by the synod of one province, it was unreasonableto consider a provincial synod at this time for the resolving of thesedifferences. Further, it was pointed out that as in every separate provinceparticular synods must precede the national synod, so also in South and NorthHolland, particular synods would precede.

“…the Remonstrants raged marvelously.”

The Remonstrants through their leaders nevertheless bravely persisted in this and pressed for such a synod. They did this either because they thought their cause would be less of a hindrance in the eyes of the provincial synod, since many of the regents and ministers in Holland were loyal to them, or because they wanted to prevent through such subterfuges the convening of the national synod altogether.

When they saw that their request was so improper that they would not easily convince anyone of it, they took refuge in a new measure. They desired that this case be brought to an ecumenical synod, that is, to a general synod of all churches. The answer was given to them that it was very uncertain whether and when an ecumenical synod would be able to be called. Besides, the current ills required an immediate remedy, and the authorized national synod would be like a general synod, since delegates from most of the Reformed churches would be present. If the Remonstrants thought they had been aggrieved by the judgment of such a synod, it would be permissible and justified for them to appeal from the national synod to an ecumenical synod, provided they were meanwhile willing to submit to the judgment of the national synod

(To be continued…)