The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Eighteen: Sessions 107-117

Session 107: Monday, March 11 AM
On January 18 (session 63) Johannes Biesterveld, a member of the Nassau-Wetteravian delegation, died. His replacement, Georg Fabricius, arrived at the present session, presented his credentials, took the synodical oath, and was seated.

The previous Friday Synod had begun reading the judgment of the Dutch professors regarding the first article of the Remonstrants. Synod continued that now. The professors agreed that the Remonstrant position was wrong, but disagreed whether God’s decree of election was supralapsarian or infralapsarian (see session 105 for a fuller explanation).

Session 108: Monday, March 11 PM
At numerous sessions (36, 56, 62, 81, 83, 85, 98) Synod had discussed the matter of the four Remonstrant ministers from Kampen whom it had summoned. Two had never appeared, and had been suspended from the ministry. Synod required the other two to submit a written defense of the charges against them, but they had not met the deadline Synod gave them. Synod decided that if these did not provide their answer within two weeks, it would declare them also to be suspended from the ministry.

Synod continued to read the judgments of the various deputies regarding the first article of the Remonstrants (election and reprobation). At this session, Synod read the judgments of the deputies from Gelderland, South Holland, North Holland, and Zeeland. All stated that they disagreed with Gomarus’ supralapsarian position, but the delegates of South Holland also stated that they did not see the need to resolve the matter.

Session 109: Tuesday, March 12 AM
Synod read the judgments of the deputies from Utrecht, Friesland, Overijssel, and Groningen.

Session 110: Tuesday, March 12 PM
Synod read the last of the judgments regarding the first article of the Remonstrants–those of the deputies from Drenthe and from the Walloon churches.

Synod then turned to the judgments of the various delegations regarding the second article of the Remonstrants, which pertained to the extent and effectiveness of Christ’s work. Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain, the Palatinate, Hesse, and Switzerland. The last three delegations stated that when Scripture says Christ died for all, it means He died for the elect, not for every individual. For the elect, they added, His death effectively saved.

The delegates from Great Britain did not touch on this point. These delegates had realized earlier (session 74) that they were not agreed among themselves on the interpretation of their own creed, the Thirty-Nine Articles. This realization led them to ask advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He responded that the British delegates should not speak more specifically than did the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Session 111: Wednesday, March 13 AM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Wetteravia, Geneva, Emden, and Bremen regarding the second article. The first three of these delegations agreed that Christ died only for the elect. The delegates from Bremen disagreed among themselves. Heinrich Isselburg was of the mind that Christ died for the elect throughout the world, and effectually saved them. Matthew Martinius held the opposite view, that Christ died for all and every human. The third took a middle ground, but in the end opposed Martinius.

Session 112: Wednesday, March 13 PM
Professor Isselburg addressed Synod regarding Christ’s atoning work. He opposed the error of Socinianism, which Synod understood Conrad Vorstius to be defending (see sessions 100, 152). Isselburg emphasized the necessity of satisfaction, and that Christ fully satisfied for the sins of God’s elect. Brandt relates a quotable: according to Isselburg, “in Christ were one person, two natures, three offices, and four capital benefits, he [Christ] being to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and perfect redemption,” and all this can be considered “the four wheels, upon which the chariot of salvation moved” (Brandt, 3:256).

Session 113: Thursday, March 14 AM
Synod read the judgment of the five Dutch professors. These all agreed that Christ died only for all the elect, and that for them His death was both sufficient and effective. Synod then read the judgments of the delegates from the Provincial Synods of Gelderland, South Holland, and North Holland.

Session 114: Thursday, March 14 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegates from Zeeland, Utrecht, Friesland, Overijsel, and Gronigen, regarding the second article. On the matter of the extent of Christ’s atonement, these all agreed with the majority consensus that would be later expressed in the Canons, Head II, Article 8.

Session 115: Friday, March 15 AM
Synod concluded reading the judgments of the delegations regarding the second article; the last two judgments that it read were those of the delegates of Drenthe and the Walloon churches.

In their third article, the Remonstrants taught that fallen man could do nothing good in himself, and needed to be regenerated. In their fourth article, they taught that humans can resist God’s grace. Synod, recognizing that the real error of the Remonstrants regarding fallen man manifested itself in the fourth article, decided to treat the two articles together. At this session, Synod heard the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain and the Palatinate regarding these two articles.

Session 116: Friday, March 15 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegates from Hesse, Switzerland, Wetteravia Geneva, and Bremen, and began reading the judgment of the delegates from Emden.

Session 117: Saturday, March 16 AM
Synod concluded reading the judgment of the Emden theologians, which was rather lengthy. It also read the judgments of the Dutch professors and the deputies from Gelderland.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary