The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (4) Week Three: Sessions 13-18

Session 13: Monday, November 26 AM
     Previously the Synod had decided to appoint three men to translate the Old Testament, and three to translate the New. At this session the Synod named those men. It also appointed men from each province to oversee the translation work.
     Do you remember that the provincial synod of Utrecht sent to Dordt three delegates who favored Arminianism, and three who opposed it? Those who opposed it asked the Synod not to appoint overseers from Utrecht, but to permit the Utrecht provincial synod to appoint them later. Dordt agreed to this. Because the Utrecht churches had many Arminian ministers, the list of men available for the work of overseeing the translation would change significantly if the Synod were later to condemn Arminianism and insist that Arminian ministers be put out of office (which it later did).

Session 14: Tuesday, November 27 AM
     The previous national synod (‘s Gravenhage, 1586) had required every minister to explain briefly the Heidelberg Catechism at the Sunday afternoon services. For various reasons, this practice had fallen on hard times: the Remonstrants opposed the practice, some country churches had lively preaching only once a Sunday because they shared ministers, and many Dutch people preferred to spend their Sunday afternoons in work or recreation.
     The Synod of Dordt reiterated this requirement, later embodying it in Article 68 of its Church Order. Synod then asked the magistrates to forbid work and recreation on the Sabbath, and insisted that the church visitors ask whether the churches were complying with the requirement regarding catechism preaching. In the case of the country churches, Synod permitted the Catechism to be taught every other week.
     Hendrik van Hell, elder delegate from Zutphen, died on this day.

Session 15: Wednesday, November 28 AM
     The Synod deemed it necessary to provide more catechism instruction than was given on Sunday. The foreign delegations explained the methods of catechizing that their churches used.

Session 16: Thursday, November 29 AM
     Dr. Joseph Hall, a delegate from Great Britain, preached on Ecclesiastes 7:16. He exhorted the delegates to be righteous in their actions. He encouraged the Synod to maintain the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession, and advised it to require the Remonstrants to submit an explanation of Romans 9, “short, clear, and explicit, without colouring or artifice” (Milton, 131). He urged all to seek peace as brothers and members of the same body. His concluding wish was that error would be opposed, “that truth alone may see the light, alone may reign, and may bring safety to you, glory to the Church, and peace to the State” (Milton, 132-133).

Session 17: Friday, November 30 AM
     The Synod resumed its discussion regarding catechizing. The Remonstrant delegates from Utrecht continued to object to preaching and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism (see session 9).
     The synod emphasized the need for catechism instruction in three spheres: the homes, the schools, and the churches. In the churches, the Heidelberg Catechism itself would be preached; in the schools, a summary of the Catechism; and in the homes, a short catechism containing an explanation of the Apostle’s Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, sacrament, and church discipline, to all of which would be added some short prayers and Scripture passages.
     A committee was appointed to draw up the catechisms for school and home.

Session 18: Saturday, December 1 AM
     The Synod met during the Dutch Golden Age. Dutch merchants sent their ships to the Dutch East Indies, stopping at other Dutch colonies along the way. Dutch Reformed Christians inhabited these colonies, and took heathen children into their families, not as adopted children, but as servants. The delegates from North Holland asked whether these children might be baptized. The various delegations gave their advice, but the Synod did not finish treating the matter.
     Some reasons for the lack of Heidelberg Catechism preaching and teaching have already been given. Could another reason be that students for the ministry were not well trained? The delegates from Zeeland were of this opinion, and they presented suggestions how better to prepare students for the ministry. Synod decided that it would take up this matter the following Monday, and each delegation should prepare written advice over the weekend.
     After recessing, the Synod attended the burial of Elder Hendrik van Hell.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches