The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Eight: Sessions 176-180

Session 176: Monday, May 27 AM
Synod heard the advice of the committee regarding the appeal of the Remonstrant minister from Hoorn (session 175). It decided that the Synod of North Holland had judged him properly. At the same time, it decided to exhort the provincial synod to labor to get him to sign the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dordt; and, if he would sign these, to restore him to office.

Session 177: Monday, May 27 PM
Synod read the judgment it had made at the previous session to the delegates from North Holland and to the appellant.

The committee appointed to draw up two shorter catechisms (session 17) presented its drafts. Synod read and approved the shorter one. It decided not to read the longer one, but to permit its use.

Synod appointed a committee to thank the States General for calling and supporting the Synod, and to ask it to approve and enforce the decrees of the Synod. A letter was drawn up in which the States General was informed of specific decisions, particularly in the Post-Acta sessions (the sessions after the foreign delegates had left), and asked to ratify them.

Session 178: Tuesday, May 28 AM
One of the synod’s clerks had been tasked to abbreviate the acts of Synod before the Synod adjourned. Time was running out; the task could not be completed before the Synod adjourned. So Synod appointed one member from each of its Dutch delegations, including one professor, to meet at some point after Synod adjourned to review and approve the condensed Acts. Later in the session it also assigned this committee the task of reviewing the Dutch liturgical forms (an English translation of which is found on the back of the 1912 Psalter) with a view to adding them to the public editions of the Acts.

Synod made several decisions regarding the calling of the next national Synod. This synod was to be called in three years; however, the United Provinces never called another national synod. The next national synod was held in 1816, after the Dutch Republic had become the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Synod appointed Classis Dordrecht to arrange for the convening of the next national synod. It decided to ask the States General to invite the Dutch churches in Great Britain and Germany to the next national Synod. And it appointed four men to bring these requests to the States General, and to report to the next national synod.

Synod decided to close its meetings with a public worship service of thanksgiving at the Grote Kerk, led by Rev. Balthasar Lydius, the minister of the church at Dordtrecht.

The president and two vice-presidents were delegated to thank the magistrates of Dordrecht for their courtesy and help in hosting the Synod.

Session 179: Tuesday, May 28 PM
Synod read and approved the minutes of the sessions from May 22 to May 28.

Session 180: Wednesday, May 29 AM
Synod met at the Kloveniersdoelen for prayer, then proceeded to the great church in Dordrecht. There Balthasar Lydius preached on Isaiah 12:1-3. Lydius thanked God for his favor shown to the churches in the Netherlands and his blessing on the synod’s work, and asked God to bless the decisions of the Synod for the good of the churches. The delegates then returned to the Kloveniersdoelen, while the president and vice-presidents went to the city hall to thank the city magistrates. When all were gathered together again, one of the States General deputies thanked the Synod for its labors, and the officers of Synod returned thanks to the States General for their support. After other closing formalities, the Synod adjourned.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Eight: Sessions 167-175

Session 167: Monday, May 20 PM
At the end of the previous week, Synod had read the Dutch translation of the first head of the Canons. Synod now read the Dutch translation of the second head of the Canons.

Session 168: Tuesday, May 21 PM
Synod read the Dutch translation of the third, fourth, and fifth heads.

The provincial Synod of Utrecht was scheduled to meet soon. That synod had many Remonstrant ministers who were now disqualified from serving, and it would have to face the question of what to do with the Remonstrant ministers. At the request of the provincial synod, the Synod of Dordt appointed six minister delegates to help the Synod of Utrecht.

Session 169: Wednesday, May 22 AM
Synod had already declared worthy of suspension the two Remonstrant ministers from Kampen that Synod had required to appear before it, but who had never appeared (articles 83, 85). In their absence, and on the basis of documents that had been submitted to Synod, the Synod declared the ministers worthy of deposition. It asked the magistrates of Kampen to implement this decision, and advised the churches there to find and install orthodox ministers as soon as possible.

Session 170: Wednesday, May 22 PM
Synod read the Dutch translation of the introduction and conclusion to the Canons. It appointed two men to make some revisions to the Dutch translation of the Canons.

Session 171: Thursday, May 23 AM
Synod read the revised editions of the Belgic Confession, which editions appeared in both the Dutch and French languages. Suggestions for improvement were given.

Session 172: Thursday, May 23 PM
Synod concluded the work it had begun the previous session. Synod considered a proposed change to Article 22 of the Belgic Confession, to replace the words “many holy works which He had done for us” with the word “obedience,” referring to the obedience of Christ.

Session 173: Friday, May 24 AM
Synod decided not to make the change that it had considered at the previous session. It did decide, however, to add one phrase to Article 22 of the Belgic Confession: “and in our place.” Some other changes, editorial in nature, were made by common consent. Synod approved this revised (edited, but not substantially changed) version of the Belgic Confession in both the Dutch and French languages, and declared this edition to be the standard.

Session 174: Friday, May 24 PM
Synod read the minutes of some previous sessions. Synod also recognized that more overtures were waiting to be treated, and that it did not have time to treat them. It decided to postpone their treatment to the next national synod. As such a synod was not held until 1816, by which time the churches had progressed in apostasy, it is unlikely these were actually treated.

Synod appointed a committee to treat an appeal from three ministers of Hoorn against the decision of the Synod of North Holland (session 49).

Session 175: Saturday, May 25 AM
Two of the ministers from Hoorn withdrew their appeal. The third maintained his appeal. The committee to treat the matter met in an adjoining room.

Synod adopted the Formula of Subscription for theological professors and for visitors of the sick. It also adopted the Form for Adult Baptism (see session 162).

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Seven: Sessions 155-166

Session 155: Monday, May 13 AM
The foreign delegates had left, but the Dutch delegates remained in session to treat matters that pertained to the Dutch churches in particular. On this date, unrelated to the work of the Synod but relevant to the political context of its work, the national government beheaded Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.

The States General deputies informed Synod that it should review the Church Order adopted by the national synod of ’s Gravenhage in 1586. Synod read this Church Order.

Synod also decided to compare the Latin, French, and Dutch translations of the Belgic Confession. Various men had translated this confessions at different times, with the result that one translation sometimes used different words than another to express the meaning of the original. Anyone involved in translating from one language to another can understand how this would happen. Seeing the benefit of an authoritative Latin, French, and Dutch edition of the confession, Synod appointed four men to prepare such an edition.

Session 156: Monday, May 13 PM
Synod approved the substance of the articles of the 1586 Church Order. That Church Order, however, did not address every matter found in the Church Order that the Synod would finally adopt. Beginning with session 158, Synod would approve of additions to the Church Order, resulting finally in the Church Order of Dordt.

Synod began to discuss the “right of patrons.” Remember that the national government supported the clergy and had its say in the government of the church. In keeping with this, it had been the practice to permit certain nobles or other influential people to nominate clergymen to fill church vacancies. If we had this practice today, consistories of vacant churches would permit certain members of the church, probably some of the wealthier or more influential, to nominate a name for the next minister.

Synod discussed whether this practice should be abolished. The States General deputies informed Synod that abolishing the practice was not an option, but that the Synod could devise a way to correct any potential abuses.

Session 157: Tuesday, May 14 AM
Synod recommended to the States General that the national government approve the following regulations regarding the right of patrons:
• Before proposing a minister’s name, one must prove he has the right of patronage.
• The patron must make his nomination within three months after a vacancy begins.
• The patron’s right is limited to the proposing of a minister’s name. The patron does not have the right to dismiss a minister form office.
• The patron must support the minister financially, but was not permitted to treat the minister as if he was the patron’s employee.
• The patron may propose only men who are sound in doctrine and will serve the congregation well.
• If the church accepts the patron’s proposal, the nominee must still be examined by the classis.
• The church has the right to reject the proposed name. If the church and patron disagree regarding a nomination, the classis or synod must settle the matter or the name must be dropped.

Session 158: Tuesday, May 14 PM
Synod discussed six overtures, all relating to church political matters. One regarded appointing church visitors, a second regarded synodical deputies (which we also know as delegates ad examina), and a third regarded how the various provincial synods could correspond with each other to keep each other informed of their decisions. Synod also discussed overtures regarding admitting the insane to the ministry, regarding whether more than one minister per church may have a vote at classis, and regarding drawing up the Formula of Subscription.

Session 159: Wednesday, May 15 AM
Synod adopted its response to the six overtures that it had discussed at the previous session. Its answer to the first five overtures became incorporated in articles 44, 49, 48, 8, and 42 of the Church Order of Dordt, respectively. However, regarding the matter of how many ministers of any given church may vote at a classis meeting, Synod originally permitted any minister the right to vote, whereas our Church Order now permits any minister the right of advisory vote.

Synod decided to prepare the Formula of Subscription, by signing which ministers could give testimony of their doctrinal soundness. Six more overtures regarding church political matters were then read so that the delegates could consider them.

Session 160: Wednesday, May 15 PM
Synod discussed a proposed form for calling ministers. Desiring that some points be added to the proposed form, it “recommitted” the matter.

Session 161: Thursday, May 16 AM
Synod adopted a revision of the form for calling ministers. What Synod adopted is found in articles 4 and 5 of Dordt’s Church Order.

Synod also adopted a resolution regarding the relationship of the civil authorities to the church. Synod stated that civil authorities are duty bound to promote the worship service and to protect church officers. It then required church officers to impress on the congregations the calling to love, honor, and obey the magistrates.

Session 162: Thursday, May 16 PM
In response to the overtures that were read at session 159, Synod made decisions regarding the observance of ecclesiastical holidays (Church Order article 67), which songs could be sung in the worship services (article 69), and the use of the baptism forms and procedure to follow in adult baptism (articles 58-59). Other decisions that are not specifically reflected in the Church Order were:
• A person who had been baptized by a Romish priest or Anabaptist need not be rebaptized.
• Marriages of those who have not yet been baptized may not be solemnized in the churches.
• Synod would ask the States General to decide how to correspond with the foreign churches, especially the French, regarding the decisions of Synod.
• Synod would also request the States General to prepare a marriage ordinance that could be uniformly observed in the nation.
• Synod would exhort the churches to administer discipline in accordance with the articles of the Church Order. Synod’s point here was not to remind churches of the necessity of discipline, but of the proper manner of discipline.
Seven more overtures were read that would be treated in upcoming sessions. Synod also appointed a committee to draw up the Formula of Subscription, and questions to be asked of adults at adult baptism (see session 175).

Session 163: Friday, May 17 AM
Synod made several more significant decisions in responses to the overtures it had read at the previous session. First, it decided that baptism may be administered to the sick outside of the worship service only in instances of great need, with the consistory’s approval, and in the consistory’s presence.

Second, regarding admitting to the ministry those who are newcomers, or had been priests, monks, or members of a sect, Synod said this may happen only with great caution and after a time of testing; this was incorporated into Article 9 of the Church Order.

Third, it asked the States General to adopt some resolutions pertaining to the founding of universities and prestigious schools. These include that the curators be learned Reformed men who serve terms; that the appointment of professors of theology be approved by the provincial synods; that only those be appointed as professors whose godliness and piety is assured, who have never been lawfully suspected of unsoundness of doctrine, and who are proficient in Hebrew, Greek, theology, and other faculties. Also it asked the States General to prepare some guidelines for the lower schools, so that the fundamentals of grammar, logic, and rhetoric be uniformly taught.

Synod declared it unfitting that marriages of excommunicated persons or those unknown to Reformed churches be publicly solemnized and blessed in the churches.

Synod asked the States General to address the increasing abuse and desecration of the Sabbath.

Session 164: Friday, May 17 PM
Synod adopted the six principles regarding Sabbath keeping. These emphasized that the fourth commandment has both a ceremonial element that is no longer in force (resting the seventh day), and a moral element that remains (setting aside a day for worship and rest from earthly labor).

Synod adopted the Formula of Subscription as the Protestant Reformed Churches and some other Reformed denominations use it yet today. A similar document was drawn up for school teachers to sign.

Session 165: Saturday, May 18 AM
Synod read the Dutch translation of the first head of the Canons.

Session 166: Saturday, May 18 PM
Synod continued reading the Dutch translation of the first head of the Canons.

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Six: Sessions 153-154

Session 153: Monday, May 6 AM
After having opening devotions in the Kloveniersdoelen (the building in which the Synod had been meeting), the delegates went in a stately procession to the Grote Kerk (Great Church), to which many people and dignitaries had also come.

President Bogerman opened with prayer, after which the synodical clerks read the Canons. The church was so large, and the effort required of the speakers to be heard was so great, that their voices tired, and they had to take turns reading. A collection of thanksgiving was taken for the cause of benevolence. Then the scribes read the judgment against the Remonstrants as well as the written testimony of the States General deputies indicating that they approved the work of the Synod.

After Bogerman informed the audience that the Synod had approved the doctrine contained in the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism, he closed with a long prayer.

Session 154: Thursday, May 9 AM
After the opening prayer, the States General deputy Martin Gregorius prayed, thanked the delegates for their work, and made other announcements on behalf of the national government. President Bogerman then expressed thanks to God and to the foreign delegates who had come to assist the Dutch churches. After he dismissed the foreign delegates from service, all the delegates gathered for a feast.

This was Ascension Day, 1619. It was fitting that on the day on which the churches commemorated Christ’s ascension into heaven, the entire Synod gathered to give thanks to God for guiding them in responding to the Remonstrant heresies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty Four: Sessions 134-143

Session 134: Monday, April 22 AM
The previous week Synod had been discussing the proposed Conclusion to the Canons. At this session the States General delegation informed Synod that it approved this conclusion, and urged Synod to finish its work quickly. Synod then adopted the proposed Conclusion. The British delegates reminded Synod that they desired this conclusion to include more, but for the sake of peace and expediency they would not insist on it.

In the afternoon the drafting committee met to rework articles two and six in the Rejection of Errors section of the Second Head.

Session 135: Tuesday, April 23 AM
The First Head was again read, and all the delegations, both foreign and native, signed it. The changes that the drafting committee made to the Second Head were read; this included the removal of the entire sixth article that had been discussed.

Session 136: Tuesday, April 23 PM
The Second Head as revised, the last three Heads, and the section of the Conclusion in which the Synod rejected the blasphemous statements of others, were read and signed.

Session 137: Wednesday, April 24 AM
The drafting committee had asked someone to draft a proposed judgment that the Synod could pronounce on the Remonstrants. This draft was read. It called for the Remonstrants to be removed from their offices in the churches and universities. Most of the foreign delegations would not speak to the matter; they had been called to Synod to discuss doctrines, and thought it proper that only the Dutch should deal with persons. The Dutch delegates discussed whether this was a judgment they could pass, in light of the fact that the States General had authority over the minister’s offices. In the end Synod agreed to pass such a judgment, but decided to revise its wording.

Session 138: Wednesday, April 24 PM
The revision of the proposed judgment regarding the Remonstrants was read, and Synod adopted it. The States General delegation informed the Synod that it would report this adoption to the national government for its approval.

Session 139: Thursday, April 25 AM
Synod received the material relating to the case of John Maccovius. Maccovius, a strong defender of supralapsarianism, had been accused of heresy. The Classis of Franeker declared him guilty. He appealed to the Synod of Friesland, which forwarded the matter to the Synod of Dordt.

The introduction to the Canons was also read aloud. Most considered it too long and asked that it be revised.

Session 140: Thursday, April 25 PM
A revision of the proposed introduction to the Canons was read. [A new translation of this introduction is found in W. Robert Godfrey, Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2019), 27-30.] Some delegates desired that the phrase regarding the Antichrist, referring to the Romish papacy, be further revised. Synod adopted the revised introduction.

Synod had finished its treatment of the Remonstrant errors. Some of the States General deputies were sent to The Hague to inform the national government what Synod had done.

Session 141: Friday, April 26 AM
Synod began reading the material pertaining to the case of John Maccovius, including the fifty charges that had been made against him.

Session 142: Friday, April 26 PM
Synod continued reading the material of the Maccovius case, including his response to the charges.

Session 143: Saturday, April 27 AM
Synod appointed a committee of three Dutch delegates and three foreign delegates to bring recommendations regarding the Maccovius case.

The French king had prevented the French delegation from coming to the Synod. Pierre du Moulin, a Reformed minister from Paris who had been one of the French delegates, sent Synod his own judgment regarding the five points. Synod received and read du Moulin’s paper at this session. This paper revealed that he was emphatically opposed to the Remonstrant theology.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty-Three: Sessions 129-133

Session 129: Tuesday, April 16 AM
Synod had not met as a body since March 25, when it appointed a committee to draft the Canons. At its 129th session the delegates heard the first Head, including its Rejection of Errors, read aloud. Every delegate agreed that the doctrine contained in it conformed to Scripture and the Reformed confessions. Then the second Head was read. It soon became apparent that some delegates desired to discuss this at length.

Session 130: Thursday, April 18 AM
Synod discussed the second Head at length. Some delegates commented on article eight of the positive section, and articles two and six in the Rejection of Errors. Synod approved the substance of the second Head, but agreed to make some further revisions. Because of these further revisions, the entire sixth article of the Rejection of Errors that was in the version that the delegates were discussing is not found in the final version of the Canons (see session 135).

Session 131: Thursday, April 18 PM
The delegates heard the third and fourth Heads read. All agreed that the doctrine and its articulation were proper; only minor editorial changes were necessary. When Synod heard the fifth Head, all agreed to it.

The delegates from Great Britain thought it good to add a section opposing some slanderous expressions of the Remonstrants and Roman Catholics. President Bogerman suggested that in addition, a preface and conclusion should be written.

Session 132: Friday, April 19 AM
[Note: the Acts of the Synod say that this and the following session were held on Friday. The letters of Walter Balcanquahall, a British delegate, put the date for both sessions as Saturday the 20th. Donald Sinnema, who has done specialized work on the Synod, takes the view that the dates of the Acts are incorrect, and says that the drafting committee met on the 19th to draft the Conclusion to the Canons.]

The proposed Conclusion to the Canons, including statements opposing the slanders of the Remonstrants and Roman Catholics against orthodox Reformed teaching, was read. The delegates from Great Britain, Hesse, and Bremen asked the Synod to expand this section so that it would repudiate even more slanderous statements, as well as some harsh statements made by orthodox men. The drafting committee reworked its draft.

Session 133: Friday, April 19 PM
The second draft of the Conclusion and its rejection of slanderous statements was read. Although the section regarding slanderous statements was enlarged from the first draft, none of the additions included those that the British, Hessian, and Bremen delegates had desired. The reason for not including these was that the expressions and statements that these delegations desired to be expressly rejected had not been used by any Dutch theologians, but by English, French, and German theologians. The British again asked that more expressions be repudiated; however, the majority of the Synod was content with the statements as proposed. The Synod then recessed, allowing the delegation from the States-General to review this part of the Canons over the weekend.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt: The Drafting Committee

The following information is gleaned from one main source: Donald Sinnema, “The Drafting of the Canons of Dordt: A Preliminary Survey of Early Drafts and Related Documents,” in Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), edited by Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg (Leiden: Brill, 2011): 291-311.

The committee that drafted the Canons worked from March 26 through April 15. Using President Bogerman’s proposed drafts of Heads 1 and 2 as its starting point (see sessions 125-128), the committee completed its first draft of Head 1 by Thursday, March 28. On that day, while the committee continued working, one of synod’s secretaries dictated the draft to a representative of each delegation. The first draft of Head 2 was similarly copied out on March 29, the draft of Heads 3 and 4 on April 4, and the draft of Head 5 on April 5.

Each delegation considered these drafts and sent their responses to the drafting committee. On the basis of these responses, the committee drew up its second draft, containing almost 200 changes to the first draft. The committee completely redrafted the second Head in light of concerns expressed by the British and Bremen delegations. On April 8-10, these amendments were dictated to a representative of each delegation. On Friday, April 12, the delegations gave their comments in the morning, and the drafting committee responded to them in the afternoon.

On Monday, April 15, the third draft was dictated, containing over 100 changes to the second. That afternoon all the delegates except the British signed this version of the Canons. The British would not sign before seeing a neat, finished copy.

Although this third draft was signed, it was not the final draft. A few editorial changes still needed to be made, and two articles in the Rejection of Errors of Head 2 needed to be changed. The committee would eventually entirely delete of these articles, and would revise the second article in the second Head’s Rejection of Errors.

When the synod reconvened on April 16 it began reading and discussing the Canons. On Friday, April 19, the committee made the final changes to the Canons and drafted the Conclusion to the Canons.

The Canons of Dordt have stood the test of time in Reformed churches: four hundred years later they are still taught and loved. One reason for this is the carefulness with which they were drafted. Another is that the Canons explicitly set forth the teachings of Scripture regarding the doctrines of sovereign grace. These teachings have not changed, and God’s sovereign grace is as wonderful and lovely today as it ever was!

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Twenty: Session 128

Session 128: Monday, March 25 AM
The previous week President Bogerman had dictated his proposed draft of the first two heads of the Canons to a representative of each delegation. This representative copied Bogerman’s proposal and brought it to his delegation so that the delegations could discuss it.

By proposing a draft of the Canons, some thought Bogerman was taking too much authority to himself. The States-General delegation advised Synod to appoint a committee of several delegates to work with the president and his two assistants in drafting the Canons. Agreeing with this proposal, Synod formed a committee of nine. It included Bogerman and the two vice-presidents (Rolandus and Faukelius), three foreign delegates (Bishop Carleton from Great Britain, Jean Diodati from Geneva, and Abraham Scultetus from Heidelberg), and three Dutch delegates (Johannes Polyander, Antonius Walaeus, and Jacob Trigland).

This committee worked at least eight hours a day for over three weeks. While the committee met, Synod recessed; its next session would be held on April 16. Because of this, there will be no blog post next week. The following week the blog post will highlight some aspects of the work of the drafting committee.

On March 26 the Remonstrants informed the States-General by letter that they thought the Synod had wronged them, and asked permission to return home. The States-General denied their request. On the same day, the two Remonstrant ministers from Kampen submitted their written answer to the charges that Synod had leveled against them (see session 108).

March 31, 1619 was Easter Sunday . On that day the Remonstrants at Dordt gathered in a private house for a worship service that included the baptism of an infant. Some consider this date to mark the beginning of a Remonstrant church that was separate from the state Reformed church.

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

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt, Week Nineteen: Sessions 118-127

Session 118: Monday, March 18 AM
The Synod of Dordt had been in session for four full months. Due to sickness and other circumstances, the delegates from Brandenburg had never arrived (see session 3). At session 118, Synod received a letter from the Marquis of Brandenberg explaining the absence of his delegates. Convinced that Synod’s response to the Remonstrants would conform to the Reformed confessions, the Marquis asked Synod to send him its final judgment so that the clergy in his realm might sign it. The Acts of Synod do not indicate how Synod responded to this letter.

Synod continued to read the judgments of the various delegations regarding the third and fourth articles of the Remonstrants. At this session Synod read the judgments of the delegates from South Holland, North Holland, Zeeland, and Utrecht.

Session 119: Monday, March 18 PM
Synod concluded reading the judgments regarding the third and fourth articles. The judgments of the delegations from Friesland, Overijsel, Groningen, Drenthe, and the Walloon churches were read.

Session 120: Tuesday, March 19 AM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Great Britain and from the Palatinate regarding the fifth article of the Remonstrant teachings. This article regarded the preservation of the saints.

On this day the Remonstrants presented the States-General delegates with the Remonstrants’ defense of the fourth and fifth articles. In their conclusion they expressed why they rejected the orthodox (Contra-Remonstrant) position: “being instructed by the Holy Scriptures, we firmly believe that they are repugnant to the honour of God, destructive to piety, and a scandal to the Christian religion” (Brandt 3:258).

Session 121: Tuesday, March 19 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegates from Switzerland, Hesse, Wetteravia, Geneva, and Bremen, regarding the fifth article. All of these opposed the Remonstrant position.

Session 122: Wednesday, March 20 AM
Synod read the judgments of the Emden delegates, the Dutch professors, and the delegations from Gelderland and South Holland.

Session 123: Wednesday, March 20 PM
In a session open to visitors, Professor Crocius from Bremen addressed Synod regarding the question whether God, in justifying humans, accepts our activity of faith as a substitute for the righteousness that God requires of us in His law. The Arminians and Socinians taught that God did indeed do so; the orthodox denied this. Crocius defended the orthodox position.

Session 124: Thursday, March 21 AM
Synod read the judgments from the delegations of North Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, and Friesland regarding the Remonstrants’ fifth article.

Session 125: Thursday, March 21 PM
Synod read the judgments of the delegations from Overijssel, Groningen, Drenthe, and the Walloon churches. This concluded the reading of the judgments of the various delegations.

The nineteen delegations (eight international, the Dutch professors, and ten Dutch provincial) had each submitted their written judgment regarding the five articles of the Remonstrants. In total, Synod had read seventy-six reports responding to the teachings of the Remonstrants.

President Bogerman noted with thanks to God that the delegations were united in their doctrinal convictions. This unanimity would make the next step, formulating a final response to the Remonstrants, easier. The States-General was hoping that Synod would finish this work by the end of the month–that is, within ten more days.

Bogerman informed synod that he had begun to formulate a proposed response. The next day each delegation was to send someone to copy Bogerman’s proposal as he read it. That person would then return to his delegation so that the delegations could discuss the proposal in committee, and could suggest any changes to Bogerman or his assessors (assistants).

Session 126: Friday, March 22 AM
President Bogerman read his proposed response to the first article of the Remonstrants, while representatives of the various delegations wrote it out. He also expressed his desire that the Canons have a preface, a section explaining the true doctrine and rejecting the Remonstrant error, and a conclusion.

Session 127: Friday, March 22 PM
The president read his proposed response to the second article of the Remonstrants.

Four hundred years ago the clerks of the synod and the scribes of the various delegations had no electronic word processors, no manual typewriters, no copy machines, and no carbon paper. They wrote many pages by hand. This in itself must have taken weeks. We can be thankful for the technology available today, and the greater ease with which we can do our work.

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