The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (7) Week Six: Sessions 34-38

Session 34: Monday, December 17 AM
     The delegates from Nassau-Wetteravia arrived, showed their credentials, and took the synodical oath.
     The Remonstrants delivered in writing their opinions of the second, third, fourth, and fifth articles of “The Remonstrance (1610).”
     Synod had previously told them to express their opinions positively (saying what they did believe) rather than negatively (saying what they did not believe). Because Synod was to judge their opinions and writings, a forthright declaration of what they believed was necessary. At this session, they brought fifteen reasons why they expressed their opinions negatively. Hoping to put Synod on the defensive, they also gave seven reasons why Synod should express its judgment on reprobation, not only on election. One was that the writings of some Reformed men included “terrible and blasphemous claims regarding reprobation” that detracted from God’s glory and from godliness.
     Synod required them to deliver their objections to statements in the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession by the following day and in writing. When they said that this was expected of them too soon, Synod gave them four days.

Session 35: Tuesday, December 18 AM
     Some members of the church in Kampen came to Synod, seeking permission to address it. They were told that they could on the following day.
     The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America reads its script minutes at the end of each day. The Synod of Dordt did not do so, partly because the scribes had to write into the record all the supplements (the judgments of the various delegations and the writings which the Remonstrants submitted). This took considerable time. At this session the minutes of some of the preceding sessions were read.

Session 36: Wednesday, December 19 AM
     The men from Kampen alleged that four Remonstrant ministers in Kampen were preaching new doctrines. The delegates from the provincial synod of Overijssel said that the provincial synod was not finished treating the case. However, the Synod of Dordt agreed at least to investigate the matter, and ordered some of the ministers to appear.
     Synod planned to recess from December 22-26 to observe the Christmas holiday. All delegates were exhorted to remain in the city so that the sessions could resume promptly. The elders from Friesland informed the synod that they needed to return home “for important causes.” They were permitted to leave, but urged to hurry back.

Session 37: Thursday, December 20 AM
     The member of the British delegation who represented the church of Scotland, Dr. Blancanqual, arrived, was admitted to the synod, and took the oath.
     The Remonstrants were reminded to bring their objections to statements in the Catechism and Confession. Synod also did its part to clear up a misunderstanding on the part of the Remonstrants. They had been submitting lengthy documents to synod, thinking they were free to give their opinions at length. Synod pointed out that they serve Synod better by being briefer, and that Synod had required them to give only their opinions on the Five Points, not an expansion of them. Even today, one who brings a matter to a broader assembly or is judged by that assembly helps the assembly, and usually his own cause, by being brief and to the point.
     President Bogerman suggested that the Synod draw up a historical account of the rise and progress of the ecclesiastical dissensions. Synod would later agree to this. (See the translation of this document in Homer Hoeksema, Voice of Our Fathers, 45-102, which has been republished on this blog).
     President Bogerman also suggested that each Dutch delegation write out statements from Arminian writings to which the Synod ought respond, so that the synodical scribes could formulate a list of them to distribute to all the delegates.

Session 38: Friday, December 21 AM
     The public galleries were full, and anticipation was high. The news around town was that the Remonstrants would present their reservations about some teachings of the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism. The Remonstrants said that they were not able to finish preparing their evaluation of the Catechism, but they would read their reservations to doctrines contained in the Confession. Synod instructed them not to read the document, but simply to hand it in.
     After reviewing the document, the States General delegation admonished the Remonstrants for not providing their reservations to the Catechism within the required time, and required them to provide these by Thursday, December 27. They also admonished them for presenting their objections to the Confession as a body, rather than each doing so individually. Because the Remonstrants kept appealing to the wording of the summons letters to justify their actions, the States General delegation told them to stop their “animal-like sophistries.”
     The Remonstrants expressed surprise at being accused of disobedience when they had simply done their duty, and had done it as best they could under the time constraints given them.
     Synod then recessed for the Christmas holiday.

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