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Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (28)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


When these letters were received, the States of each province convened the provincial or particular synods of their churches, which received the objections that would be brought to the national synod and delegated by common vote of the churches the persons who would be sent there with their mandates and instructions. These things took place in every province according to the manner that had been followed in these Reformed churches, with the exception of Holland and the Bishopric of Utrecht. Because of the great number of Remonstrants there, the ordinary procedure could not be followed in all things. Because in some classes of Holland there were separations, and the Remonstrants held separate classical meetings, the States of Holland thought that the classes in which there were no separations, according to the manner previously followed, should delegate by majority vote four men to send to the particular synod with regular power. To avoid confusion in the classes with separations both sides would delegate two men to be sent to the particular synod with equal power. In the Bishopric of Utrecht the churches were not divided into various classes. The States of that province thought that all the Remonstrants should gather separately in a synod, that the ministers who did not follow the Remonstrants’ views, of whom there were a goodly number, should gather in another synod, and that from each synod and each party three men with the power to judge should be delegated to the national synod. However, since the church of Utrecht was divided into parties, one of which followed the Remonstrants’ views and the other rejected their views and recently had been delivered from the oppression of the Remonstrants, it was not provided with ordinary ministers but was being served by Johannes Dibetz, minister of Dordrecht. Therefore he was lawfully delegated by the other synod in the name of the Utrecht churches that did not follow the Remonstrants.

When the synod of the churches of Gelderlandand of Zutphen gathered in Arnhem on June 25, the Remonstrants who were delegated from the classis of Bommel did not want to sit with the others unless certain conditions were promised to them beforehand, conditions that the synod judged to be in conflict with the resolution of the States. Because before this time the Remonstrants of the classes of Nijmegen, Bommel, and Tiel had delivered to the States of Gelderland and to the honorable court their ten articles that they said the other ministers taught, they were mandated to name openly those preachers who taught these things, in order to hail them before the synod and lawfully to determine whether this was true. For it was known that the Remonstrants had slanderously fabricated these articles against the Reformed ministers in order to make the government hate these articles. However, they could mention no one in the entire province besides the minister of Hattem, who had abundantly cleared himself in the classis. When the synod nevertheless wanted to hail him and to hear him, the Remonstrants no longer persisted. Henricus Arnoldi, minister at Delft,who was present there in the name of the South Holland churches, also declared that there was no one in South Holland who taught or agreed with the aforesaid articles.On this account the synod earnestly rebuked the Remonstrants for these grievous slanders and at once declared that the churches of Gelderland did not accept or support the doctrine comprehended in those articles as they had proposed them, although there were certain clauses in them that in themselves and taken in a proper sense could not be rejected.

The Remonstrants at last acknowledged their guilt concerning these unjust slanders and begged forgiveness. Then in the same synod the differences between the Remonstrants and the other ministers were described, and this was later passed on to the national synod. Since in that province many ministers were suspected of many other errors besides the five articles of the Remonstrance, such as being unlawfully inducted into the ministry and leading a scandalous life, some of these ministers were hailed before the synod. For these reasons (but in no wise on account of their views of the five articles, which were reserved for the national synod) they were suspended from the ministry. The cases of others were committed to certain delegates in the name of the synod, to whom the States also added their commissioners. After they fully investigated the cases of those men in the classes, they suspended some and at once deposed others from the ministry.

(To be continued…)

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (3) Week Two: Sessions 6-12

Session 6: Monday, November 19 AM
    In 1618, at least two Dutch Bible translations existed–a translation of the Latin Vulgate, and one of Luther’s German Bible. In response to a question which came from one of the provincial synods, the Synod of Dordt agreed that a new translation would profit the churches. Synod began to discuss how to implement this. (This translation would become the Statenvertaaling, the “States Translation”).

Session 7: Tuesday, November 20 AM
    The delegates from Great Britain explained the method used in translating the King James Version: six different committees were assigned separate portions of Scripture, after which the translation was carefully edited twice. The British delegation also mentioned the rules that governed the translators in their work.

Session 8: Tuesday, November 20 PM
    Continuing its discussion on Bible translation, the Synod decided that this translation: 1) should not be a revision of the existing translations, but a new translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek; 2) should be a careful translation of the Hebrew and Greek, treating God’s word carefully, and at the same time express the Scriptures in the vernacular Dutch; 3) should include a note on the side of the text, when the Hebrew or Greek was difficult to express in Dutch; and 4) should use a different font for words which were added to fill out the text (similar to the KJV’s use of italics).

Session 9: Wednesday, November 21 AM
    Should the Apocrypha also be translated? Some argued against it, because they were not inspired, they contradict the inspired Scriptures at some points, and neither the Jews nor the ancient Christian church included them. One of the Utrecht Remonstrant delegates retorted that the Heidelberg Catechism should be treated similarly. The Dutch Bibles of that day included the Catechism after the New Testament; this delegate said that the new translation should not include the Catechism, and that the Catechism should not be preached.
    The Synod did not make a final decision at this session.

Session 10: Thursday, November 22 AM
    Four hundred years later, the United States observes this day as Thanksgiving. We give thanks to God not only for His earthly and material gifts, but also for the Synod’s work, and the ways in which we benefit.
    After more discussion, the Synod decided to include the Apocryphal books in the Bible translation, but said that these did not need to be as carefully translated as did the inspired books, that the Apocrypha should be placed after the New Testament, and that it should be introduced by a disclaimer that these are human writings.
    Synod decided it would appoint three men to translate the Old Testament and three to translate the New. It also decided to ask the national government, through its delegation at the Synod, to promote and fund the translating work.

Session 11: Friday, November 23 AM
    The fifth Dutch professor delegated to the Synod (Prof. Lubbertus) arrived. So did John Hales, chaplain to the English delegate Carlton, who would observe the synod and write letters regarding the proceedings of the Synod.
    Synod decided that the work of Bible translation should begin three months after the Synod adjourned, and that the translators should report every three months regarding their progress.

Session 12: Saturday, November 24 AM
    Regarding Bible translation, Synod decided 1) to use the Dutch du when translating the second person singular pronoun referring to God (this meant that the less formal Dutch pronoun would be used); 2) to translate the word “Jehovah” in large letters (as the KJV does with LORD); 3) to use the Hebrew form, rather than the Dutch, in translating Old Testament proper names; 4) to use the current division of chapters and verses, but note in the margin where the chapter divisions are poor; and 5) to add a table of chronologies and genealogies at the end of the translation, but not to include any pictures.
    Not yet finished with the matter of Bible translation, Synod recessed for the Sabbath, as was its practice.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (2) Week One: Sessions 1-5

Session 1: Tuesday, November 13 AM
     The morning began with Balthasar Lydius preaching a sermon in Dutch, and Jeremias de Peurs in French. Probably these sermons were preached in two different churches, to different audiences. Both men were delegates to the Synod. As the minister in Dordrecht, Lydius was able to sleep in his own bed during the months the Synod met. De Peurs was minister of the French refugee (Walloon) church in Middelburg.
     After the sermons the delegates went in procession to the building in which the Synod met, the Kloveniersdoelen. The state delegation (representing the national government) welcomed the other delegations and showed them their assigned seats. Then Balthasar Lydius opened with prayer, after which Martin Gregorius made opening remarks. Gregorius was the president of the state delegation that week; this presidency rotated weekly.
     The 18 state delegates presented their credentials, which Balthasar Lydius read. Then they elected Daniel Heinsius as their secretary. He was to keep minutes of the meetings of the state delegation, and to create his own set of minutes of the Synod.

Session 2: Wednesday, November 14 AM
     The Dutch churches had 10 provincial (regional) synods, which delegated 37 ministers and 19 elders to the Synod of Dordt. These 56 Dutch delegates presented their credentials. The provincial synod of Utrecht sent 3 delegates who were Remonstrants (Arminians), and 3 who were Contra-Remonstrants. Stay tuned for more about the 3 Arminian delegates.
     Synod elected John Bogerman as its president, chose Jacob Rolandus and Herman Faukelius as its assessors, or vice presidents; and appointed Sebastian Dammannus and Festus Hommius to be its scribes.
     Four Dutch professors of theology were present, and showed their credentials.

Session 3: Wednesday, November 14 PM
     Synod read the letters that were attached to some of the credentials of the Dutch delegations. The synod of Overijsel expressed its insistence that the Arminian matter should be judged on the basis only of Scripture, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. With this Synod agreed.
     The credentials of the 3 Remonstrant delegates from Utrecht indicated that these were authorized to address only the Arminian issue, and could make no final decision without consulting their provincial synod. Synod questioned these delegates regarding their credentials, and they responding in writing the next day (session 4), to the Synod’s satisfaction. Again, stay tuned.
     Synod asked the 7 foreign delegations (23 men) who were already present to present their credentials. Their response was that they had already presented their credentials to the state delegation.
     Delegations from France and Brandenburg had been appointed, but were unable to come. The delegation from Nassau-Wetteravia would arrive later, as would one member of the British delegation who represented the churches of Scotland, and one other Dutch professor (see session 5).

Session 4: Thursday, November 15 AM
     On November 11, 1617 (almost a whole year earlier!) the national government had adopted rules of order for the Synod. Synod read those rules.
     Synod then decided to order 13 Remonstrants to appear before it within 14 days. All delegates were exhorted to prepare for the appearance of the Remonstrants by reading their writings.

Session 5: Friday, November 16 AM
     Synod read and approved the letter which would be sent to the Remonstrants, summoning them. The state delegates also prepared a letter to send them.
     Noting that one professor of theology (Sybrand Lubbertus) had not yet arrived, Synod instructed him to come. He appeared on November 23.
While waiting for the Remonstrants to appear, Synod decided to treat other matters which the provincial synods placed on its agenda.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (1) Introduction

The Synod of Dordt met in 180 sessions from Tuesday, November 13, 1618 to Wednesday May 29, 1619. Four hundred years later, the dates and days correspond: November 13, 2018 falls on a Tuesday.

To commemorate the Synod’s 400th anniversary, I plan to write a weekly blog summarizing what the synod did at each session. In this blog I am not concerned with why the Synod decided what it did, or with a record of the discussion leading to the decision. I aim simply to state what the Synod accomplished at each session.

I will refer to sources only rarely, and then with abbreviated references. For full disclosure, here are the sources I am using.

Several sources are primary, that is, they contain the Synod’s original documents. My chief source is the Dutch translation of the Acts of the Synod as found in Acta of Handelingen der Nationale Synod te Dordrecht, (Kampen: J. H. Bos, n.d.). Another is the Latin edition of the Acts as published in Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser and Herman J. Selderhuis, eds., Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619), vol. I: Acta of the Synod of Dordt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015). I will refer to this source only when I find the Dutch problematic.

The Acts of the Synod from May 13-29, 1619 (sessions 155-180) have already been translated by Richard DeRidder, published in syllabus Translation of Ecclesiastical Manual Including the Decisions of the Netherlands Synods . . . (Grand Rapids: Calvin Theological Seminary, 1982), 176-203.

Secondary sources are books and writings about the Synod. One such source is Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and Other Ecclesiastical Transactions In And About the Low Countries, (London: T. Wood, 1722), 3:1-331. Brandt’s analysis of the Synod’s decisions reflect his sympathy to the Arminian cause. However, his record of Synod’s actions is reliable. Another secondary source is Anthony Milton, ed, The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) (Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press), 2005. Most of the documents in this book are not helpful for my purpose; only a few are.

One book that I probably will not use as a source for this blog, but which is an interesting reference work, is the collection of essays edited by Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg, entitled Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), (Leiden: Brill), 2011. I recommend it–or anything written by Donald Sinnema or Fred van Lieburg–to anyone who wishes to study the Synod of Dordt in more detail.

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

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (27)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


By subterfuge and quibbling [the Remonstrants] delayed for some time the sending of the letters and the postponing of the appointed day for the convening of the synod.

Meanwhile, Lord Dudley Carleton complained in the assembly of the States General that the honor of the king of Great Britain, his master, had been scandalously and shamelessly ridiculed in the dishonorable pamphlet Weegschaal that the Remonstrants, even after the edict of the States General, had translated and printed in French. After a brief and pertinent refutation of many Remonstrant objections, he made known to the States what method and manner his Royal Majesty of Great Britain was accustomed to use in the resolving of differences concerning religion or doctrine. Since this agreed with the resolution of the States General, the States were more and more confirmed in this holy purpose. Also the magistrates of the city of Amsterdam, having previously consulted with the ministers of that church and with others called together for this purpose, presented in writing in the gathering of the States of Holland and West Friesland on March 23, many and very weighty reasons by which it was plainly proved that these differences could at this time be resolved and laid to rest in no other way than by a national synod. At the same time they furnished a very basic answer to all the objections of the Remonstrants and all their proposals concerning a general synod. Shortly thereafter the magistrates of the city of Enkhuizen confirmed this with many reasons that were put in writing and delivered in the Apology of the Cities of Dordrecht, Amsterdam, Enkhuizen, etc. (104, 113). These reasons were later printed on March 27 so everyone would know how improperly the Remonstrants and their supporters had acted when they opposed so perversely with their new proposals the convening of the national synod and when they had sought to escape the judgment of such a national synod.

The States General, judging that this highly necessary matter, already decided for very proper and weighty reasons, ought to be postponed no longer by such proposals and subterfuges. The States decided anew that the convening of the national synod should take place immediately, without any postponement and delay. And they ordered that the meeting place would be the city of Dordrecht and the day, the first of November next.

“The States decided anew that the convening of the national synod should take place immediately, without any postponement and delay.”

When men loyal to the Remonstrants’ cause among the States of Holland and West Friesland opposed this resolution in the gathering of the States General and complained that thereby the dignity, right, and freedom of their provinces were being abridged, the States General declared in a public act that by this authorizing of the national synod they did not desire to abridge or belittle in any way the dignity, right, and freedom of any province. On the contrary, it was their upright intention, without any prejudgment of any province, and that of the union, or confederation itself, through the ordinary judgment of the national synod lawfully to resolve only the ecclesiastical differences that had arisen concerning the doctrine, to God’s honor and the peace of the Republic, since these differences concerned all the Netherlands Reformed churches.

Thereafter the States General wrote to the States of every province and declared their purpose in the name of the Lord to authorize from all the churches of these provinces a national synod on the first of November next, in order lawfully to investigate the differences that had arisen in those churches and to resolve them in a proper manner (always maintaining the truth). And they exhorted the States of every province immediately to convene in their province, according to custom, a provincial synod from which six godly and learned men or three capable men who confessed the Reformed religion could be delegated. These men would receive a copy of the conditions, would investigate these differences at the national synod, and would remove these differences to preserve the truth. The States General also sent letters of similar content to the French churches in the Netherlands, which had been accustomed to have holding their own particular synod because the churches were spread throughout all the provinces.

(To be continued…)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


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…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (25)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


Since these long-standing differences in the churches and the Republic had brought about many evils, difficulties, disturbances, and confusion, everyone who had at heart the welfare of the United Provinces and the Reformed churches in those provinces understood clearly that the remedy of these miseries could no longer be postponed without noticeable damage to both the state and the churches. Since the States were unable thus far to agree on how to alleviate the situation, his Royal Majesty James I of Great Britain, according to his singular and upright devotion to these lands and churches, admonished the States General to allow no longer this cancer to eat at the body of the Republic, but immediately to oppose the unsalutary disputes, divisions, schisms, and partisanship that openly threatened the state. At the same time he also very earnestly prayed them to root out the errors and to restore in its former purity the old and true Reformed doctrine that they had always confessed, that had been established by the common consent of all Reformed churches, and that had always been the chief foundation and bond of the very close friendship and alliance of long standing between his kingdoms and these provinces. This, he believed, could take place most properly through a national synod, since that had been the ordinary, lawful, and most efficient remedy that Christians of old had used in such difficulties.

“He also very earnestly prayed them to root out the errors and to restore in its former purity the old and true Reformed doctrine that they had always confessed…This, he believed could take place most properly through a national synod…”

Also the illustrious Maurits, Prince of Orange and Stadhouder of the United Netherlands, continued very earnestly and gravely to admonish the States General and the States of Holland and West Friesland that as dear to them as was the preservation of the Republic and the church, so diligently should they labor to remedy immediately these very sore evils. To this end he also recommended above all the convening of a national synod as an ordinary and most certain remedy, and he persisted in this (May 10).

Also the States of Zeeland, through the honorable Lords Maldere, Brouwer, Pottej, and Bonifacious de Jonge, admonished and begged the States of Holland and West Friesland in their gathering on May 19, that since the disputes and disunity daily were becoming greater, to the very great danger of the Republic, and since many remedies had been tried in vain, they should consent to the convening of a national synod as an ordinary remedy for such evils, as something set forth by the Holy Ghost and always used by Christians.

The States of Gelderland, Friesland, Groningen and Ommelanden in a friendly manner requested the same through their deputies.

When the Remonstrants saw that the neighboring kings, princes, republics, allies, and the foremost and mightiest cities of Holland and West Friesland urgently recommended the authorizing of a national synod; when the Remonstrants feared that many of the States of Holland and West Friesland were inclined to it, industriously promoted it, and might consent to it; and when the Remonstrants realized that they might have to give account before an ecclesiastical tribunal concerning their doctrine and their actions, to escape this they proposed a new way to settle the differences. They proposed that the States of Holland and West Friesland choose a fixed and equal number of political and ecclesiastical men to take counsel with one another and to devise means of peace and unity that would be approved by the States and thereafter would be imposed upon the churches.

When this did not succeed (since men of understanding noted what kind of persons would compose this gathering and what was expected of it, and besides that such a course was unusual in the churches and was not appropriate for the removal of doctrinal and ecclesiastical differences), the Remonstrants recognized that they had to attempt extreme measures to stop the convening of the national synod. Some regents took the position that the convening of the national synod was contrary to the dignity and freedom of the provinces, since every province had complete power to decide in religious matters. They said it was unseemly and improper to subject their freedom to the judgment of other provinces and they ought to defend this right of supremacy in every way, even with weapons.

“…The Remonstrants recognized that they had to attempt extreme measures to stop the convening of the national synod.”

By these and similar reasons the feelings of those who were less cautious were so inflamed that the regents of some cities plotted together and decided to engage city militia who were not bound by an oath of allegiance to the States General or to his Excellency the Prince of Orange, the commander-in-chief, but only bound to themselves. They did this to protect the cause of the Remonstrants and their own authority, which they had endangered for the sake of the Remonstrants. This happened at Utrecht, where the States General had a garrison strong enough to protect against every uprising and mutiny, and at Haarlem, Leiden, Gouda, Schoonhoven, Hoorn, and various other places. The Remonstrants incited the magistrates of the cities to do this, as can be clearly proven from some of their letters that were captured later.

(To be continued…)

Bill Langerak

Rev. Bill Langerak has been the pastor at Southwest Reformed Church in
Wyoming Michigan since 2003.  He is a graduate of the 
Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.  He and his wife Karen have 6 children and 6 grand children.

Rev. Langerak will speak on The Synod and the Church Order

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (24)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


Meanwhile, [the Remonstrants] worked to get these resolutions enacted wherever they knew the magistrates were favorable to them. When because of this many pious people were punished by confiscation of goods and with imprisonments and exile, they appealed to the highest court of justice and sought help against this new violence. The Honorable Lord Counselors of the High Council sought to come to the help of the oppressed; but the Remonstrants saw to it through the advocate that the High Council was forbidden to help and that the hands of the High Court of Justice were tied.

When on March 18, 1616,  many leading cities of Holland, among them especially the mightiest city, Amsterdam, took a position against the enforcement of these resolutions, Hugo Grotius and others were sent to Amsterdam on April 24  through their eloquence to persuade the magistrates of that city to accept the resolutions. When he tried to do this with a wide-ranging speech, the magistrates answered that they could not approve that men could bypass the lawful synodical gatherings, take ecclesiastical matters under advisement in the gathering of the States, make decisions in those matters, and put those decisions into effect. Further, they answered that their intention was to stand for the true Christian religion, the exercise of which had flourished in these lands for fifty years. And they judged that the very least change of this religion would be damaging to the Republic unless it was first properly investigated by a lawful synod. The magistrates answered further that on this account they could not consent to various proposals and various actions that had taken place since 1616, nor could they consent to this last proposition. They did not desire any decisions to be made, much less be put into effect, under the name of the city of Amsterdam (since it was an important member of the gathering of the States), nor anything to be decided against those who confessed the Reformed religion, unless lawful synods, under the authority of the lords of the States, previously investigated and treated the differences and changes in religion and ecclesiastical matters.

“[The Magistrates of Amsterdam] answered that their intention was to stand for the true Christian religion, the exercise of which had flourished in these lands for fifty years”

Meanwhile, they did not desire the preachers who were loyal to the views of the Reformed religion and defended by the contra-Remonstrants to be suspended from their ministry because they could not with a good conscience maintain ecclesiastical unity with the Remonstrants. They also did not desire the churches that followed those views to be hindered in the practice of religion, either under pretense of schism or because they had scruples of conscience against hearing the sermons of the Remonstrants. They declared further that they would approve all these things until by the authority of the States a lawful synod could be authorized to investigate properly and to treat the differences and innovations. Thus the labor and attempts of the Remonstrants and of those favorable to them were in vain, especially since the magistrates of the cities of Dordrecht, Enkhuizen, Edam, and Purmerend openly approved this advice of the magistrates of Amsterdam.

About this time the ministers of the Kampen church in the Province of Overijsel, which had accepted the views of the Remonstrants, with the help of the magistrates cast out of the ministry a very learned man who adhered to the truth, their fellow minister and doctor of sacred theology Wilhelmus Stephani, because he opposed their purposes. By means of slanderous pamphlets and public sermons, they sought to make the Reformed religion hated among the people.

Because of these changes and the consequent disruptions of the churches, the Remonstrants, who were more and more hated, presented to the states a second Remonstrance in March 1617. In it they sought with unbelievable shamelessness to remove the blame for all the innovations from themselves and to place it upon the ministers who had remained firm in the adopted doctrine of these churches. Over against this the other ministers presented an extensive and pertinent reply, which they also delivered to the same States

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (23)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


After Jacobus Trigland, minister at Amsterdam, had replied to this [resolution of tolerance] in a public writing, Uytenbogaert took in hand a lengthy defense of this resolution, in which he scandalously slandered and attacked both the doctrine of the Reformed churches and the foremost lights thereof: Calvin, Beza, Zanchius, and others. Over against Uytenbogaert’s writing, Trigland prepared a careful reply for the defense of both the honor and the doctrine of the teachers of the Reformed churches.

When the Remonstrants saw that the resolution of toleration, which they called a resolution of the situation, did not have much authority, they attempted another strategy to obtain what they wanted. To that end, during September and October 1615, they invited the ministers everywhere in Holland, both secretly and in their gatherings, to subscribe to a formula of toleration that was written in deceitful language by some who secretly adhered to their party and their views, but who were not considered to be Remonstrants.

However, when even then they could not get their way, they judged that those who could not be talked over to their side would have to be coerced by the authority of the regents, and that at last they could break through this matter and bring it to an end. To this end, they achieved in the name of the States the sending of this resolution of mutual tolerance, published the preceding year, to every classis. It simply ordered the ministers to subscribe to it without contradiction.

“…When even then [the Remonstrants] could not get their way, they judged that those who could not be talked over to their side would have to be coerced by the authority of the regents…”

To get more easily into the service of the churches those who were of the Remonstrant party and to exclude all others, the Remonstrants caused another resolution to be added, which in the calling of ministers and elders allowed the use of the order devised in the year 1591 but not approved. According to this rule, four would be elected who had been delegated by the government, and four others who had been delegated by the consistory. After these resolutions had been sent to the classes, many classes sent their deputies to the States to declare openly and in writing their objections, or gravamina, against these resolutions and to ask that the introduction of them be withdrawn. When the deputies arrived at The Hague for this purpose, they learned from the delegates of some of the chief cities that the resolutions, although they had been forwarded, had not been established by full and formal approbation of all the States and therefore could not yet have the force of a law. The deputies therefore found it advisable to refrain from their intended request until the resolutions were enforced.

This last resolution gave occasion again in many places for new disputes and disturbances, especially in the churches of Haarlem. For when certain of the magistrates wanted to have the ministers called according to his new order, and the church did not approve that, they refused to have ecclesiastical fellowship with the congregations where the ministers were called in the aforesaid manner, and they refused to acknowledge them as lawful ministers. Through the same decisions some classes in Holland had maintained unity with the Remonstrants in the government of the churches for the sake of peace, but now they were divided because many ministers could not consent to these decisions, and the Remonstrants desired the churches to be governed according to them. To force this authoritatively upon their fellow ministers, the Remonstrants introduced into the classical gatherings politicians who were either alienated from the Reformed religion or loyal to the Remonstrants. Thus they sought to exercise dominance in the churches. The right-minded ministers, being tired and weary of these disputes that arose daily on account of these things with the Remonstrants, deemed it better to come together without them and to take care of their churches in peace, rather than to be plagued by continual disputes with the Remonstrants.

“The right-minded ministers, being tired and weary of these disputes…deemed it better to come together without them and to take care of their churches in peace, rather than to be plagued by continual disputes with the Remonstrants.”

Meanwhile, Uytenbogaert arranged through the authority of certain leaders, that his fellow ministers were ordered to obey these resolutions. When his fellow minister Henricus Roseus said he could not promise with a good conscience to obey, he was suspended from the office of minister by their authority and at Uytenbogaert’s corrupt instigation. Therefore the members of the church of The Hague who loved the purity of the Reformed doctrine continued the practice of religion in a separate church, first in the village of Rijswijk and then in The Hague after they obtained ministers on loan from other churches.

Later, at these services the chief men from the States and from the counselors of the Courts of Justice and other colleges, the Prince of Orange and Count Willem Lodewijk of Nassau, forsaking the gathering of the Remonstrants, came to these services to testify of their agreement in the sound doctrine and their inclination toward the same. The Remonstrants very hatefully called this schism and sought in every manner to prevent it or to avenge it

(To be continued…)