Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (2)

Voice of Our Fathers, TheThe 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

The great unity during the preceding century among the congregations of the United Netherlands churches in all points of the pure doctrine and the good order and decency that were always maintained in the government of those churches are so well known in Christendom that it is hardly necessary to recount them at length.

Some men sought to disturb this peace and unity, which is lovely in the sight of God and pleasing to all the godly. These men, not fully purged of the leaven of the papacy, forsook the papacy, came to our churches, and were admitted to the ministry during the early period when there was a scarcity of preachers. These men, characterized by unbridled audacity, were Casper Coolhaas of Leiden, Hermannus Herbertz at Dordrecht and at Gouda, and Cornelius Wiggers at Hoorn. However, they did have great success. In the aforementioned places they gained some followers who were not too well versed in the Reformed religion. Nevertheless, the wicked audacity of these men was suppressed in due time by the authority of the government, the carefulness of other ministers, and appropriate censures of the churches. Coolhaas was dealt with in the national Synod of Middelburg; Herbertz in the Synod of South Holland; and Wiggers in the Synod of North Holland.

Thereafter Jacobus Arminius, preacher in the famous church of Amsterdam, boldly attempted the same thing. He had a keen understanding, but he delighted in novelty and seemed to be nauseated by the greater portion of the doctrines accepted in the Reformed churches, for no other reason than the churches’ acceptance of them. Arminius first openly and secretly prepared the way for his cause by belittling and blackening the name, fame, and authority of the most outstanding teachers of the Reformed church—Calvin, Zanchius, Beza, Martyr, and others—aiming to achieve respect for himself at the expense of their good names.

Thereafter he openly proposed and spread abroad various strange views that had great fellowship with the errors of the old Pelagians, especially his explanation of the epistle to the Romans. Through the carefulness and authority of the honorable consistory of the church of Amsterdam, his intention was partially frustrated and he could not bring about such upheavals in the churches as he apparently had intended.

He did not cease promulgating his opinions in every manner possible among the preachers in his own church and various other preachers, namely, Johannes Uytenbogaert, Adrianus van den Borre, and others, whose friendship and favor he had enjoyed as a fellow student. He even called into conference with regard to his views Franciscus Junius, the renowned professor of sacred theology at the college at Leiden.

When Doctor Junius was taken away from the Academy of Leiden by death on August 22, 1602, to the great sorrow of the Netherlands churches, Uytenbogaert, who already then supported the views of Arminius, diligently and earnestly recommended him to the honorable curators of the Academy of Leiden to replace Junius in the office of sacred theology. When the deputies of the churches understood this, they feared that calling a person so strongly suspected of strange doctrines would readily become the cause of confusion and schism in the churches, and they pleaded with the honorable curators not thoughtlessly to subject the churches to this danger. They would much prefer that the curators accept another capable person who was free from suspicion. They also admonished Uytenbogaert to withdraw his recommendation. Despising these admonitions, Uytenbogaert continued to promote this call until he gained his purpose.

When the call was issued, the consistory of Amsterdam did not approve the dismissal of Arminius chiefly because the most prudent among them considered that such a skittish and inquisitive mind would function with great danger in the academy that instructed the youth who had been accepted for the service of the churches. For in the academy there is more freedom of teaching than in the local churches, where that freedom is suppressed and held in check through the diligent oversight and authority of the consistory. Through repeated and numerous requests of the curators, Uytenbogaert, and Arminius himself, his dismissal was finally gained, with the condition that he would have a conference with Franciscus Gomarus concerning the chief points of doctrine. He was also required to clear himself of all suspicion of strange views by a forthright declaration of his views and firmly to promise that if he had a peculiar view not to spread it abroad.

This conference was conducted in the presence of the honorable curators and the deputies of the synod on May 6 and 7, 1603. In that conference Arminius testified that he expressly rejected the Pelagians’ chief points of doctrine concerning natural grace, the powers of the free will, original sin, the perfection of man in this life, predestination, and others. He testified also that he agreed with all that Augustine and other fathers had written against the Pelagians, yea, that he judged the Pelagian errors to have been rightly refuted and rejected by the fathers. Moreover, he promised to teach nothing that conflicted with the adopted doctrine of the churches. Thereafter he was admitted to the office of theology.

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (1)

Voice of Our Fathers, TheThe 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

This historical foreword furnishes a firsthand and detailed account of the involved events of the years preceding the Synod of Dordrecht. It also furnishes an insight into the ecclesiastical and political maneuverings of the Remonstrants prior to the synod. The foreword was prefixed to the published Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht. It is to be distinguished from the much briefer foreword adopted by the synod and prefixed to the Canons, which is not included in the common English versions of the Canons. For those interested in the church history leading up to the great synod, this foreword can be classified as a primary source.[1]

The author of the foreword is unknown, but it is evident that he had firsthand knowledge of the history, was probably a participant in many of the events, and had access to the records and documents. An educated guess would be that the author was Festus Hommius, one of the clerks of the synod.

Historical foreword addressed to the Reformed churches of Christ (in which the origin and progress of the differences in the Netherlands, for the removal of which this synod was chiefly convened, are briefly and faithfully recounted).

Two summers ago there was published in canons, or articles, the opinion of the honorable Synod of Dordrecht concerning some main points of doctrine about which, until the synod, there was disagreement that greatly disturbed the Netherlands churches. When the States General, the supreme authority of the United Provinces, convened the most illustrious synod, mainly for the purpose of removing these religious differences, the States at first thought it sufficient to publish only the judgment of the synod concerning the doctrinal differences. However, later when it was discovered that many had failed to learn from the synodical proceedings themselves what had taken place, besides the adoption of the canons, especially how the synod had dealt with the ministers called Remonstrants. Since the Remonstrants, to hide their stiff-neckedness, would surely not publish anything trustworthy concerning these matters, the States General for the benefit of the churches printed the acts and proceedings of the synod, faithfully reproduced from the public documents.

Among these acts and proceedings are many items belonging to the history of the Netherlands churches that cannot be understood by those who are unacquainted with that history. For this reason the national synod (as is evident in various sessions) appointed the delegates of the South Holland churches to write a brief account of what was done with the Remonstrants. Hence at the beginning of this foreword is an account of certain public events in order for the churches, especially the foreign churches, to understand the origin and the progress of these differences and the occasion and the reasons that at such great expense the States General convened this very excellent synod. This is especially necessary because the Remonstrants claimed in their writings many things that did not harmonize with the truth of the events.

[1] Donner and Van den Hoorn, Acta of Handelingen der Nationale Synode, v–xxxviii.

Key Dates

The Synod of Dordt met from November 1618 to May 1619.  Below is an article discussing key dates written by Prof. D. Kuiper and published in the August 2018 Standard Bearer.

1604: Two professors at Leiden, Jacobus Arminius and Franciscus Gomarus, publicly debate the doctrine of predestination.

1607: Church delegates gather for a national synod to settle the issue. The national government refuses to call a national synod, in part because it is preoccupied with war against Spain. At this time, the national government sympathizes with the Arminians.

1610: Some Arminian sympathizers write five position statements. The statements are called the Remonstrance, and the Arminians became known as the “Remonstrants,” because the word “remonstrate” can mean to present a written demonstration of error or protest. The five heads of the Canons correspond to the Remonstrance.

1611: A conference between Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants (representing the truly Reformed position) fails to help settle the issue.

1617, Nov: The national government, now opposed to the Arminians, approves calling a national synod.

1618, Oct. 17: The national government designated this day one of fasting and prayer for God’s blessing on the synod.

1618, Nov. 13: Synod begins. It treats matters of Bible translation, Heidelberg Catechism preaching, baptism of slave children in the Dutch East Indies, and the training of ministers.

1618, Dec. 6: Synod begins treating the Arminian controversy.

1619, Jan. 14: President Bogerman dismisses the Arminians with a memorable speech.

1619, Mar. 25-Apr. 16: Synod recesses while a committee drafts the Canons of Dordt. The word “Canons” refers to a rule or standard; the Synod of Dordt adopted the Canons of Dordt as the standard of orthodoxy regarding the five contested points of doctrine.

1619, May 6: The date on which the Canons were officially adopted in their final form.

1619, May 9: The foreign delegates are dismissed. Synod adopts the Church Order, an official translation of the Belgic Confession, the liturgical forms, and the Formula of Subscription. It also gives its pronouncements regarding Sabbath observance.

1619, May 29: Synod adjourns.

Rev. Angus Stewart

Rev. Angus Stewart

Rev. Angus Stewart is the pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) in N. Ireland and chairman of the British Reformed Fellowship. He has spoken at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Portugal, and participated in television debates on Calvinism, Charismaticism and the cross. The dozens of articles he has written in various American and British journals, magazines and newspapers can be found on the extensive CPRC website (, which also contains the largest on-line collection of translations of the Canons of Dordt.

Rev. Stewart will be speaking on the Canons as the Original ‘Five Points’


Welcome to the Dordt400 conference blog.  We are excited about the upcoming conference and hope to use this blog to share our excitement as well as some information about the upcoming conference.

To help our readers gain more of an understand of the context of the Synod of Dordt we are going to be republishing excerpts of the “Historical Foreword to the Acts of the Synod of Dordrecht.”  These excerpts come from Voice of Our Fathers and we are thankful that the RFPA is allowing us to use them.

Lord willing, we will also be publishing excerpts from the Acts of the Synod of Dordt starting in November.  Our intent is to give insight into the week-by-week activities of the Synod.  We are thankful to Prof. Kuiper for his work on this project.

Once the speakers and the topics of the conference are finalized we will be publishing those here are well.

We hope that you share our excitement and  that you would share these posts with others to help build interest for this very important event.