Blog

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (11)

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices 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. 


All of this served to make bolder the ministers who sided with Arminius. They began openly to bring their strange beliefs to the people, attacking the adopted doctrine with false complaints and striking out against it in a grievous and despicable manner. The chief among these ministers was Adolphus Venator, minister of the church of Alkmaar in North Holland. Besides not being very pious in his life, with unbelievable shamelessness he publicly and privately spread the Pelagian and Socinian errors. For this he was suspended from his office by a lawful judgment of the North Holland churches. But despising the judgment of the churches, he continued in his office. The right-minded ministers in the classis of Alkmaar judged that this evil man, as also the other lesser ministers whom he had drawn to his side and who had stubbornly refused to express agreement with the doctrine of the Reformed churches, could not properly be admitted to their gathering. These ministers complained about this to the States, and with the help of Uytenbogaert they obtained an order for classis Alkmaar to admit them into their gathering. Since the orthodox ministers could not in good conscience allow this, they humbly petitioned the States that they should not be aggrieved by such orders, which they could not obey in good conscience. Since these disagreements and offenses were increasing every day, the deputies of the church again earnestly petitioned the States in the name of the churches to convoke immediately the promised provincial synod for the removal of these evils.

“Since these disagreements and offenses were increasing every day, the deputies of the church again earnestly petitioned the States in the name of the churches to convoke immediately the promised provincial synod for the removal of these evils.”

When Uytenbogaert and the other ministers who sided with Arminius saw that the States were inclined to do this, they wanted to avoid any ecclesiastical judgment. They succeeded, through the influence of some who favored their cause, to bring about instead of a provincial synod a conference in the gathering of the States between Gomarus and Arminius concerning the articles of doctrine about which they disagreed. In this conference each man could be accompanied by four ministers whose advice they could use. Arminius chose Uytenbogaert, minister in The Hague; Adrianus Borrus of Leiden; Nicolaus Grevinchovius of Rotterdam; and Adolphus Venator of Alkmaar. Gomarus chose Ruardus Acronius, minister at Schiedam; Jacobus Rolandus of Amsterdam; Johannes Bogardus of Haarlem and Festus Hommius of Leiden.

When they came together, Gomarus and his fellow ministers requested two items: to prevent evil rumors, that the conference be conducted by means of written documents delivered by both sides; that these documents would thereafter be delivered to the national synod for the church to pass judgment on this ecclesiastical matter. Gomarus and his fellows also judged it to be improper to admit to the conference Adolphus Venator, who had been suspended from office by lawful ecclesiastical censures because of his unsound doctrine and life. They claimed that his admittance would greatly prejudice the ecclesiastical censures, and they requested someone else to be accepted in his place, which they could not gain because Arminius was vehemently against it.

The States desired the conference to be oral, but to help the memory one was allowed the use of documents. They promised by a public act that after this case was heard at this conference it would be reserved for the judgment of the provincial synod; that everything dealt with orally would be put in writing and these documents would be delivered immediately to the synod.

“[The States] promised by a public act that after this case was heard at this conference it would be reserved for the judgment of the provincial synod; that everything dealt with orally would be put in writing and these documents would be delivered immediately to the synod.”

At the beginning of the conference they debated the order in which the articles would be treated. Arminius thought it would be advantageous for his cause to begin with predestination. Since the article concerning justification seemed to be more necessary, Gomarus believed they should begin with it. This was also the pleasure of the States. Concerning justification there was the same dispute as had occurred earlier before the High Council, namely, whether faith, in the sense of a deed, is through God’s gracious acceptance the righteousness by which we are justified before God.

Second, they treated the doctrine of divine predestination, which Arminius tried to make hated by means of the same false consequences he had previously presented in the gathering of the States. But Gomarus clung to the chief item of difference: is faith a cause, or a preceding condition, of election or an effect, or fruit, of election?

“But Gomarus clung to the chief item of difference: is faith a cause, or a preceding condition, of election or an effect, or fruit, of election?”

The third difference concerned the grace of God and the free will of man. Arminius testified that he acknowledged all the operations of divine grace in the conversion of man, except irresistible grace. Gomarus pointed out the ambiguity and deceit hidden in the word irresistible, namely, that under it was hidden the formerly condemned view of the semi-Pelagians and synergists. Gomarus maintained that in the regeneration of man such a grace is necessary that operates so powerfully that, having conquered the opposition of the flesh, all who partake of it are certainly and unmistakably converted.

Finally, they treated the doctrine of the perseverance of true believers. Arminius declared that he had never contested the doctrine of the certain perseverance of true believers and that he did not want to contest it because there is such a scriptural testimony in favor of it that he at present could not answer it. For this reason he would only point out those passages that occasioned him to doubt and to be suspicious regarding this article. After Gomarus had replied to those passages, he established the doctrine of certain perseverance over against them with many clear testimonies from God’s word

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (10)

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices 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 Gomarus learned of this [Arminius’ declaration to the States] on December 12, he felt obligated to inform the States to prevent any prejudice by wrong prejudgments against the orthodox doctrine. On this account, having sought consent to speak, he declared at length what the real view of Arminius was concerning the grace of God, the free will of man, the justification of man before God, the perfection of man in this life, predestination, original sin, and the perseverance of the saints. He showed how Arminius had given just reasons for suspicion that he did not have the right view concerning Holy Scripture, the holy trinity, the providence of God, the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, the church, faith, good works, and other main items of doctrine. Further, he exposed Arminius’ practice of spreading abroad his beliefs, how he had not revealed his views publicly, although the churches had asked and begged him to do so, but had spread them secretly, especially to his pupils and to the ministers whom he hoped to draw to his side. He showed how Arminius diligently taught his views, undermined the chief proofs of those who sought to establish sound doctrine, supported the proofs of the Jesuits and other enemies by which they opposed the doctrine of the Reformed church, inculcated in his disciples various doubts concerning the truth of the adopted doctrine, and presented the true doctrine as being on an equal footing with the opposing doctrine, in order thereafter to reject the former.

“[Gomarus] showed how Arminius diligently taught his views, undermined the chief proofs of those who sought to establish sound doctrine, …and presented the true doctrine as being on an equal footing with the opposing doctrine…”

Gomarus pointed out that Arminius had been completely unwilling to make a declaration of soundness in and agreement with the doctrine (although many times the churches had lovingly and fraternally asked to do so) and that he had done his utmost to prevent his errors, which had been exposed before the High Council, from becoming known to the churches. And he showed how Arminius, having despised the judgments and decisions of the synods, classes, and consistories, had for the first time walked into a trap before the government, where he had presented his complaints and accusations against the churches and with courtly practices diligently had labored to curry favor for himself and to arouse hatred and disfavor for the churches. Since the students of sacred theology in the Academy of Leiden and many preachers in various places were more and more falling away from sound doctrine, the disagreements and disputes were increasing, and the churches were being disturbed and the citizens divided, Gomarus concluded by beseeching the States immediately to convene the promised national synod, lawfully to investigate the causes of the calamity, and to apply a proper remedy.

The deputies of the churches repeatedly requested the same thing, but through the initiative of Uytenbogaert and others the convening of the synod was always postponed. They also admonished Arminius various times to keep his promise to deliver his objections in writing.

He finally answered on April 4, 1609, that he did not deny having promised this, but since he understood that the States had ordered the ministers to send their objections sealed to the States, he changed his mind and would wait until the same order came to him.

Petrus Bertius, regent of the theological college, was admonished by the same deputies that if he had anything against the adopted doctrine of the churches freely to declare this. On February 13 he forthrightly and without alibi declared his views concerning many points of doctrine and declared that in the articles concerning the justification of man before God, predestination, the grace of God and free will, and the final perseverance of the saints he had different views from the doctrine of the Netherlands churches.

This increased the concern of the churches, because Arminius in the academy and Bertius in the theological college, a “greenhouse” of the Holland churches, presented strange doctrine to the youth entrusted to them and dedicated to the service of the churches, led them away from sound doctrine, and instilled in them new beliefs. The churches saw all of this and were grieved. Although they greatly wished for and considered it highly necessary to make lawful provision in this matter and to remedy this evil, they could not accomplish this because Uytenbogaert and others, whose influence was great with many regents of the fatherland, diligently prevented all the synodical gatherings and ecclesiastical judgments

“The churches saw all of this and were grieved.”

(To be continued…)

Prof. Doug Kuiper

Prof. Kuiper graduated from Calvin College in 1991 and from the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary in 1995. He pastored Protestant Reformed Churches in Byron Center, MI (1995-2001), Randolph, WI (2001-2012), and Edgerton, MN (2012-2017). Synod 2017 appointed him to replace Prof. Dykstra as professor of church history and New Testament.  Currently Prof. Kuiper is working on getting his ThM degree from Calvin Seminary, with a concentration in church history

Prof. Kuiper  will speak on the Canons and the Covenant

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (9)

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices 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. 


This conference [between Arminius and Gomarus], however, had not removed the anxieties of the churches, but increased them, especially since what took place at the conference was not made known to the churches. Not without reason the people judged that this was done to favor Arminius so that his views would not become revealed. The churches meanwhile through their deputies continued earnestly to petition that the States in the gathering of a lawful provincial or national synod immediately investigate and dispose of this ecclesiastical matter, which could not be postponed without great danger to the churches.

When Arminius learned of this, he worked through Uytenbogaert, who had great influence with many regents of the fatherland, so that the States ordered the postponement of even the annual synods of both South and North Holland (the time of which was approaching).

Because this postponement was extremely damaging to the churches, they made known anew their objections to the States. They requested that either the synods of South and North Holland be held as usual or that from the two synods one provincial synod would immediately be authorized (as had also been requested previously).

In answer to this request the States on June 28, 1608, declared its intention to convene a provincial synod for this purpose during the following October. When the churches learned of this, all the ministers siding with Arminius were again admonished on September 4 and 12 that they should reveal their objections, each in his own classis, so these could be brought lawfully to the coming synod. But just as before and with the usual alibis, everyone refused.

When it was almost October, and the churches persisted in requesting the convening of the promised provincial synod, it was again postponed for two months. Meanwhile, the churches were allowed to hold the annual particular synods in South and North Holland, with the condition that the matter of Arminius could not be treated, but was to be reserved for the provincial synod.

At the synod of the South Holland churches held in Dordrecht, they took note that none of the ministers who sided with Arminius had been willing to reveal his objections against the adopted doctrine to his fellow ministers, but that with various alibis they had all made a mockery of the admonitions of the churches and the decisions of the synods.

“At the synod of the South Holland churches held in Dordrecht, they took note that none of the ministers who sided with Arminius had been willing to reveal his objections against the adopted doctrine to his fellow ministers”

It was again decided that they should earnestly order them anew, within one month after the warning, to make known their objections, under penalty of ecclesiastical censures against those who stubbornly refused. The synod also decided to require the same thing of the professors of sacred theology at the Academy of Leiden and of Petrus Bertius, regent of the theological college [Leiden Statencollege].

When these ministers saw that they either had to reveal their views or undergo ecclesiastical censure, to escape these alternatives, with the help of Uytenbogaert, they obtained authorizations from the States that ordered these ministers to send their sealed accusations within a month’s time to the States, which they would keep and deliver to the provincial synod. When the deputies of the synod requested the professors to reveal their objections, Gomarus answered that he had detected nothing in the Confession or the Catechism that disagreed with God’s word and that needed to be changed or improved. Arminius replied that in his own time he would answer this request in writing. When he saw that he would be pressed to declare his views, he revealed in a wide-ranging speech to a full session of the States what he believed concerning divine predestination, the grace of God and the free will of man, the perseverance of the saints, the certainty of salvation, the perfection of man in this life, the deity of the Son of God, man’s justification before God, and other main points of doctrine. He at once sought to prove that in the Reformed churches a doctrine of divine predestination was being promulgated that conflicted with God’s nature, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness; with man’s nature and free will; and with the work of creation, the nature of eternal life and death, and the nature of sin. Further, he charged that this doctrine undermined the grace of God, was opposed to the honor of God, was a hindrance to the salvation of man, made God the author of sin, was a hindrance to sorrow over sin, took away all godly carefulness, diminished diligence to do good, quenched the fervency of prayers, deprived of the fear and trembling with which we must work out our salvation, produced despair, perverted the gospel, was against the ministry of the word, and subverted the foundation of the Christian religion and of all religion.

“[Arminius] charged that this doctrine undermined the grace of God, was opposed to the honor of God, was a hindrance to the salvation of man, …and subverted the foundation of the Christian religion and of all religion.”

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (8)

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices 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. 


As the churches persisted in trying to resolve matters through lawful ecclesiastical judgment, Arminius tried to escape this trap. Through requests to the States on April 30, 1608, he managed to get his case treated by the counselors [politicians in distinction from ecclesiastics] in the High Council. On May 14 Gomarus was ordered to appear before the counselors in conference with Arminius in the presence of the ministers from South and North Holland who recently had been in a preparatory gathering.

The deputies of the churches, having understood this, again requested the States of Holland and West Friesland to authorize the provincial synod instead of this conference before the High Council, so the synod could understand this ecclesiastical matter and pass judgment concerning it. Their reason was that ecclesiastical persons, experienced in these things and lawfully delegated by the churches and empowered to pass judgment, should deal with this matter. The States answered that to take cognizance of such a matter was enjoined upon the High Council and that judgment concerning it would thereafter be left to the provincial or national synod.

At this conference they first debated at length concerning the order of treatment. Arminius asserted that Gomarus must assume the position of accuser and that he [Arminius] was responsible only to defend himself. Gomarus thought that such a procedure was unfair and improper, especially in an ecclesiastical matter before political judges. Further, he said that he was indeed ready to show before a lawful synod that Arminius had proposed doctrines that conflicted with God’s word and the Confession and the Catechism, but that this showing could not be done without prejudgment of the case. Rather than conducting the conference by mutual accusations, Gomarus believed each of them should clearly present and express his views concerning every item of doctrine. According to him this was the best way to bring out clearly on what points they agreed or disagreed and this procedure would adhere to the purpose of the States. He stated that he would not refuse to declare fully and forthrightly his views concerning all matters of doctrine, as much as might be desired of anyone. He also said that if he wanted to present himself as a faithful teacher, Arminius was obligated to declare his views in the same way and no longer to use alibis.

“He [Gomarus] also said that if he wanted to present himself as a faithful teacher, Arminius was obligated to declare his views in the same way and no longer to use alibis.”

In spite of this Arminius stuck to his original intention, so that he finally cried out that he was amazed—considering the various rumors of his false teachings flying through all the churches, and considering that they said that the fire he had kindled was bursting out above the roofs of the churches—that until now no one had been found who dared to present any accusation against him.

To counteract Arminius’ boldness Gomarus proved that Arminius taught one of the chief articles of the Reformed faith—the justification of man before God—in such a way that his doctrine conflicted with God’s word and the Netherlands Confession. For proof he adduced Arminius’ words from a document written in his own hand, in which he had asserted that in man’s justification before God the righteousness of Christ is not reckoned for righteousness, but that faith itself, or the act of faith, through God’s gracious acceptance is by him held and accounted for righteousness whereby man is justified before God.

When Arminius saw that he was trapped and that because of the clear proof he could not deny this accusation, he proposed a different procedure, namely, everyone should put in writing and sign his opinions concerning the chief items of doctrine about which he believed there was disagreement, should comprehend these views in certain articles, and thereafter everyone would signify his objections from the opposite side.

This conference being ended, the counselors of the High Council gave a report of it to the States, saying that they judged that insofar as they had been able to gather from the conference, the differences between the two professors were not of such great importance and consisted chiefly of some cunning disputes concerning predestination that through the exercise of mutual forbearance could be overlooked. But Gomarus insisted that the difference in their views were so important that with the views of Arminius he would not dare appear in the judgment of God.

“Gomarus insisted that the differences in their views were so important that with the views of Arminius he would not dare appear in the judgment of God. “

Moreover, he warned that unless in due time they would remedy matters, in a short time one province would rise against the other, one church against the other, one city against the other, and the citizens against one another. 

The States wanted the documents signed by both sides in this conference to be kept in the High Council until the national synod and the contents imparted to no one.

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (7)

Voice of Our Fathers, The

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices 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.


The following summer, when the annual synod of the South Holland churches met in Delft, Uytenbogaert was admonished to give account to synod of the reasons he had sided with Arminius and had differed with the other ministers in giving advice concerning the manner in which the national synod would be convened. The intention was that synod would consider these reasons and pass judgment on them. Uytenbogaert answered that he was accountable only to the States and not to the synod. Having been requested to state what he had against the doctrine of the Confession and the Catechism, he answered that he was not prepared to do this and it did not appear advisable to do this in that gathering.

At this synod inquiry was also made whether according to the decision of the preceding synod any objections or comments concerning the Confession and the Catechism were handed to the classes. The delegates of each classis answered that almost all of the ministers in the classes had testified that they had no objections against the adopted doctrine and that those who had some objections had not been willing to make them known, either because they said they were not yet ready or they did not deem it advisable. On this account the synod again decided to order anew that without any excuses, refusals, and postponements they immediately reveal all their objections against the adopted doctrine, each in his own classis. It also became clear that among the people, to the great damage and disturbance of the churches, various disputes and arguments concerning the doctrine were heard. Yea, the beginnings of schisms were noticed.

It also became clear that among the people, to the great damage and disturbance of the churches, various disputes and arguments concerning the doctrine were heard. Yea, the beginnings of schisms were noticed.

Further, it became known that the ministers who sided with Arminius often held secret meetings in which they laid plans concerning the advancements of their doctrinal views. And it became plain that the people everywhere were becoming more and more divided. On this account the synod—judging that the remedy for this evil should no longer be postponed and that the hope of gaining a national synod was very uncertain on account of the divergence of advice and judgments—decided upon the advice of the delegates to request of the States of Holland and West Friesland that from the two South and North Holland synods a provincial synod be authorized at the first opportunity for the quieting and removal of these difficulties (as had been done before in similar difficulties). The deputies of both synods showed thoroughly these daily increasing difficulties to the States and requested the immediate convening of a provincial synod for their removal. Although on September 14 they had been given great hope, they were unable to obtain a provincial synod, because the States were busy with very important matters of the Republic, including negotiations for a truce with the enemy, they were unable to consider these ecclesiastical matters

(To be continued…)

Prof. Barry Gritters

Prof. Barry Gritters graduated from the 
Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and earned his Th.M degree from Calvin Theological Seminary.   He served two congregations in the PRCA before accepting the appointment to serve as the professor of  Practical Theology and New Testament Studies in the  Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.  He and his wife Lori have 
6 children and 19 grandchildren.

Prof. Gritters will be speaking on the Canons and Assurance.

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (6)

Voice of Our Fathers, The

The following is an excerpt from  “The Voices of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht” and is used by permission from the Reformed Free Publishing Association


On May 23, 1606, the States General called together theologians from every province, namely, Johannes Leo and Johannes Fontanus, from Gelderland; Franciscus Gomarus, Jacobus Arminius, Johannes Uytenbogaert, and Johannes Becius from South Holland; Werner Helmichius and Gerardus Hermannus from North Holland; Hermannus Faukelius and Henricus Brandius from Zeeland; Everardus Botius and Henricus Johannes from the Province of Utrecht; Sybrandus Lubbertus and Johannes Bogerman from Friesland; Thomas Goswynius from Overijsel; Johannes Acronius and Johannes Nicafius from the cities of Groningen and Ommelanden, to obtain their advice concerning the time, place, and convening of the national synod. The States General presented to them various items to be treated at this gathering. It was unanimously declared that it was necessary to convene the synod immediately at the beginning of the coming summer. They declared that the most suitable place to hold the synod would be in the city of Utrecht. They also declared that every provincial synod should bring to the national synod the objections to be treated at the synod; that four ministers and two elders should be delegated from every particular synod, by vote of the same; that in place of the elders they could also delegate men of singular learning, experienced in theological matters, and of pious testimony, even though they were not serving in any ecclesiastical office; that these delegates would be given power not only to deliberate, but also to make decisions and to give decrees in all matters treated at the synod; that the rule according to which judgment would be made in all differences concerning doctrine and morals would be only the word of God, the Holy Scriptures; that not only the churches in the United Netherlands—those of Dutch and of French languages, but also those of the Netherlands scattered outside of the Netherlands, whether under the cross or elsewhere—would be accredited to the national synod; that they should request the States General to send their commissioners, men making confession of the Reformed religion, to the synod; that these commissioners would preside over the order in the name of the States General; and that the professors of sacred theology should be called to the synod.

They agreed on all of these points, but not on certain others. Arminius, Uytenbogaert, and the two delegates from Utrecht, whom Arminius and Uytenbogaert had attracted to their side, pressed for three items in addition to the others. First, whatever was approved by the majority vote of those who were delegated to the synod, not what was decided by the votes of all delegated ministers, would count as a decision and judgment of the synod. The name synod would refer not only to the delegates, but also to all the delegating ones. Second, the delegates would be free as often as they pleased, and if they were aggrieved in any matter, they could freely leave for the purpose of asking advice. Third, the revision of the Confession and the Catechism was completely necessary, and on this account they saw no reason that the clause concerning revision of these documents should not be placed in the letters of authorization.

The other ministers and professors judged, first, that whatever was decided either by unanimous or majority vote of the delegates to the synod would be counted as a decided opinion of the synod. Further, that the name synod would refer only to those who were gathered together and lawfully delegated with power to decide. Second, to take time off to consult with one’s own people would be freely permitted, but the proceedings of synod were not to be disrupted; that when, how, and for what reasons one could be excused should not be according to the whim of every individual delegate, but according to the judgment of the whole synod. Third, the Confession and Catechism could be reviewed insofar as synod for proper reasons judged it necessary; that anyone would be free to present to synod whatever objections he had against these documents, so that synod could consider the same and pass judgment on them. Since placing the clause concerning revision in the letters of authorization would give to one an offense and to others too great a freedom to bring up all kinds of innovations, they judged that it was proper for the peace of the churches to request the States General to omit this clause in the letters of authorization. Instead of this clause these or similar words should be proposed, namely, that the synod is convened for the establishment, agreement, and furtherance of the pure and sound doctrine; for the preservation of peace and good order in the church; and for the provision of the true religion among the inhabitants of these lands.

Many among them showed that this was also their mandate from their churches and the States of their provinces. This division of judgment and advice constituted a new obstacle to the national synod. Those who up to this time had been against convening the synod eagerly grasped this opportunity and worked in every way to prevent the convening of the synod. In this gathering the other professors and ministers most earnestly pleaded with Arminius to reveal freely and fraternally to them, his fellow ministers, his objections against the doctrine expressed in the Confession and the Catechism. They promised him full satisfaction and that he could be reconciled with his colleagues under a honorable condition, and they pleaded for living peaceably from now on. They also promised that if reconciliation were achieved they would say nothing outside of this meeting of what he had revealed. He said that this was not advisable for him, and he claimed that he was not bound to do this, since this gathering was not called for that purpose.

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (5)

Voice of Our Fathers, TheThe following is an excerpt from “The Voices of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht” and is used by permission from the Reformed Free Publishing Association


The States General declared on November 26 that the States of all the provinces had consented to the convening of a national synod, but that some among them had added to their letters of consent the condition that at the synod the Confession and the Catechism should be revised. On this account the States General declared that the authorization of the national synod could not be made without prejudice to the States of such a province unless this condition was added to the decree.

Since it was well-known who had for some years advised and pressed the States of Holland to add this condition, since it was feared that if this condition were stated in the letters convening the synod those who sought change in the doctrine would misuse it for their own purpose, and since it would cause great offense to the churches (especially in the present situation), as though the States or the churches had doubts concerning the truth of the doctrine contained in the Confession and Catechism, on November 30 the deputies of the churches requested that the convening of the synod be authorized and proclaimed in general terms according to the old custom. Further, the deputies pointed out that this clause did not appear to be necessary, since in all national synods anyone who had an objection against any article of the creeds could present the same freely and according to proper order.

In reply the States General declared that this clause must not be understood as if they wanted to change the doctrine of these churches, since review does not always bring about change, but it can imply establishment of the doctrine. Even so, they declared that the clause could not be left out without the preceding judgment of the province that had expressly added it. Accordingly, on March 15, 1606, they gave to the deputies of the churches letters of consent that included this clause. The deputies sent these letters to the churches of the respective provinces and also informed them how diligently they had attempted to have this additional clause omitted.

Having received these letters, the Netherlands churches were indeed happy that after so many years of waiting consent had finally been won for the convening of a national synod, but they were greatly offended by the added clause. The problem was not a lack of willingness to revise the Confession and the Catechism at the national synod in the ordinary and proper manner, but they feared that those who were attempting to get changes in doctrine would thereby be emboldened, just as by this clause the public authority of the States had allowed them to upset and to change everything as they pleased, and just as the disputes and differences had arisen not out of curiosity, but out of a desire to fulfill the States’ will. The States General also let it be known in these letters that they wanted to call some learned and peaceable theologians from every province to take counsel with them concerning the time, place, and convening of the national synod.

The annual synod of the Holland churches was held at Gorinchem in August 1606. At this synod, after the deputies of the churches had reported what they had done in the matter of the national synod and what the States had decided, the synod instructed the deputies diligently to seek the convening of a national synod. Although the synod judged that the Confession and the Catechism could be reviewed in the national synod according to normal procedure, they wanted those whom the States of Holland would call from South Holland to the meeting—at which they would decide the time, place, and convening of the national synod—to be instructed to seek from the States General, in the name of these churches, the omission of the aforementioned clause from the letters of authorization, for the reasons already cited, and the addition of softer and less offensive words.

Since Arminius and the ministers siding with him frequently boasted that they had many reservations, suspicions and insights regarding the doctrine of the Confession and the Catechism, synod demanded all ministers of the South Holland churches and all professors of sacred theology at the Academy of Leiden immediately to make known these objections, each minister in his own classis and the professors to the deputies of the churches. The purpose was to bring these objections lawfully to the national synod, insofar as they could not be dealt with in the classis.

When this was placed before the ministers who adhered to Arminius, they refused to present their reservations to the classis, claiming they were not ready and promising to do so in the right place and at the proper time. Arminius, whom the deputies of the churches also admonished about this, replied that he was unable at that time to do so in an edifying manner, but that he would reveal his reservations in full at the national synod.

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (4)

Voice of Our Fathers, TheThe following is an excerpt from “The Voices of Our Fathers: An Exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht” and is used by permission from the Reformed Free Publishing Association


The time had come for the annual synod of the churches of South and North Holland. According to custom the protests of the churches of every classis were forwarded to the synod. Among others, there was this objection from the classis of Dordrecht: “Since the report is abroad that in the academy in the church of Leiden certain differences have arisen concerning the doctrine of the Reformed churches, the classis considered it necessary that the synod deliberate concerning the means by which these differences can be resolved in the best and speediest way, in order that all schisms and offenses that might arise from this can be promptly warded off and the unity of the Reformed churches can be preserved against the slanders of the enemies.”

Arminius took this very ill and did his best to have this objection recalled. When he could not achieve this, he obtained from his fellow professors, with the help of the honorable curators of the academy, a testimony dated August 10 that there were indeed more disputes among the students than pleased them, but that among the professors of theology, as far as was known to them, there was no differences regarding the fundamentals.

On August 30 the synod of the South Holland churches was convened in Rotterdam. The delegates of the classis of Dordrecht informed the synod that there were many and weighty reasons for sending this protest. The synod also heard from the synodical deputies concerning the situation at Leiden and matters under discussion with Arminius and the other professors. After due deliberation, the synod decided promptly to pursue that creeping evil and not to postpone the matter on the basis of the uncertain hope that a national synod would be convened. For this reason they charged the deputies of the synod to find out with all diligence which points of doctrine the students of theology in the Academy of Leiden were especially disputing. Further, the deputies were instructed to request the honorable curators to charge the professors of theology forthrightly and uprightly to declare their views concerning these points of doctrine, in order to reveal their agreement or disagreement and thus to free the churches of concern regarding the seriousness and existence of differences, and in case the differences were found to be serious, to take prompt remedial action. The synod on November 8 also enjoined all the ministers to testify of their agreement in doctrine by subscribing to the Confession and Catechism of these churches, something which had been neglected in many classes and refused by others.

The synodical deputies, after diligent investigation of the case, delivered to the curators nine questions about which there was much dispute, and they begged the curators to demand the theological professors to declare fully their views concerning these questions. The curators answered that there was some hope that within a short time a national synod would be called, and therefore they deemed it more advisable to reserve those questions for the synod, rather than to give more occasion for disunity through further investigation.

There were also ministers who had adopted the view of Arminius and here and there in the classes refused to obey the order of the synod to subscribe to the Confession and the Catechism. The concern of the churches increased when they saw that these ministers, banking upon the favor of some, despised the synod’s authority and boldly proceeded in their purpose.

Since the evil could not be remedied in this manner, the synodical deputies showed the States General in detail the great danger the churches were in. To ward off this evil, they petitioned the States General to decree at the earliest opportunity the convening of a national synod, which had for so many years been postponed.