The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Five: Sessions 144-152

Session 144: Monday, April 29 AM
Synod continued reading the treatise from Pierre du Moulin (session 143) and decided to thank him for sending it.

The States General deputies who had gone to The Hague (session 140) reported that the national government was pleased with the Synod’s response to the Arminians and with the Canons. The government also desired Synod to examine the Belgic Confession, to revise it if necessary, and to finish its work with haste. Synod was getting expensive!

Session 145: Tuesday, April 30 AM
The British delegation reported that it found no teaching of the Belgic Confession to be in conflict with Scripture. The Synod had decided that the British should not speak to the articles in the Belgic Confession regarding church government because the British and Dutch Reformed used two different systems of church government: the Dutch used the presbyterian system, while the British used the episcopal.

Synod attended the funeral of fellow delegate Lambert Canterus, an elder from Utrecht, who had died on April 24. After the funeral, it heard the report of the committee to which the Maccovius case was assigned. Synod did not adopt its recommendations, but recommitted the matter (session 152).

Session 146: Tuesday, April 30 PM
The foreign and Dutch delegations all declared the doctrines in the Belgic Confession to be in harmony with Scripture. The foreign delegates encouraged the Dutch to be faithful to this confession and to teach it to the coming generations.

Session 147: Wednesday, May 1 AM
The States General deputies informed Synod that the national government desired Synod to examine the Heidelberg Catechism as well. The Catechism was read aloud, and every delegation was told to prepare its judgment regarding it.

Session 148: Wednesday, May 1 PM
All the delegations expressed their judgment that the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism was faithful to Scripture and needed no improvement, and that the Catechism was suitable for instruction of children and adults.

Session 149: Thursday, May 2 AM
To this point Synod had said nothing about the teachings of Conrad Vorstius, although two delegates had referred to his teachings in earlier speeches (sessions 100, 112). Vorstius was a Remonstrant, but his errors went beyond the Remonstrant errors that Synod had condemned in the Canons: Vorstius held to heretical views regarding the Trinity, some of God’s attributes, God’s works of creation and providence, the union of Christ’s two natures in his person, the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement, and justification by faith alone. The States General informed Synod that the national government desired Synod to examine Vorstius’s writings and pass judgment regarding them. Synod decided not to require Vorstius to appear before it, but did read a letter that he had sent Synod.

Session 150: Friday, May 3 AM
Each of the delegations read its judgment regarding Vorstius. All agreed that his teachings were false, and that he should be disciplined.

Session 151: Saturday, May 4 AM
Synod read aloud the first draft of a judgment against Vorstius. Various suggestions for changes were made.

Session 152: Saturday, May 4 PM
Synod approved its condemnation of Vorstius. It declared him unworthy to hold the office of minister and asked the States General to depose him.

Synod met late into the evening to finish the Maccovius case. It declared Maccovius to be not guilty of heresy, but to have been unwise in his use of certain expressions and terms. It exhorted him to adhere more closely to the language of Scripture.

The following week, Synod would wrap up its business that required the presence of the foreign delegates. The Dutch delegates would continue meeting until the end of May to treat other matters.

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