Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (18)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


Meanwhile, the disunity, uproar, and disturbances in the churches sadly increased everywhere more and more. By inciting the magistrates by false accusations, the Remonstrants saw to it that especially the ministers who opposed their purposes were driven out of their ministry and out of the cities. In the churches that were not supplied with ministers, men who were besmirched with Arminian views were forced upon these churches. The Remonstrants did this by every possible means and wherever they could and excluded all other ministers, even though they were gifted with learning, godliness, and the necessary gifts for the ministry, and even though they were lawfully desired and called by the churches. This was the reason that the right-minded churches—with respect to those who either had oppressed and driven out their innocent fellow ministers, contrary to all justice and propriety, or who had been forced upon them against their desires and who daily with bitter and venomous sermons very grievously violated the doctrine of the Reformed churches—could not acknowledge them as their lawful pastors, listen to their sermons, or celebrate the Lord’s supper with them. They went to hear the sermons of sound pastors in neighboring places, although they had to suffer many reproaches, accusations, and mockery. These were the beginnings and the occasions of separations.

“They went to hear the sermons of sound pastors in neighboring places, although they had to suffer many reproaches, accusations, and mockery. These were the beginnings and the occasions of separations.”

The first church that was compelled to make such a separation was the church of Alkmaar. The North Holland churches suspended Adolphus Venator from his ministry there, on account of his unsound life and thoroughly unsound doctrine. But, appealing to the magistrates there and despising ecclesiastical censures, he continued in the office of minister. When there was a change of magistrates, as happened ordinarily every year, and when men were lawfully chosen who did not appear to be very favorable toward his cause and on whose protection he could no longer depend, Venator incited the common people against the lawful authority and caused them rebelliously to take up arms. They were not satisfied until they had deposed the lawful magistracy and replaced them by others who were alien to the Reformed religion and who sided with Venator’s cause. As soon as they were established in the government of the city through the instigation of Venator, these first forced the elders and deacons to lay down their office. Then they did the same things to the two ministers because they were against Venator’s errors. After the ministers had been deposed from their office, they were scandalously driven out of the city. One was Pieter Cornelissen, who had been minister for some fifty years with great edification, and the other was Cornelius Hillenius, a bright and pious man, both of them earnest defenders of the pure doctrine.

Next it became necessary for the church of Rotterdam to imitate this separation. When Nicolaus Grevinchovius noticed that his fellow minister Cornelius Geselius, a man of singular godliness, uprightness, and propriety, was very pleasing to the church of Rotterdam and opposed to Grevinchovius in his intention to introduce the doctrine of the Remonstrance, by means of the magistrates, he caused Geselius to be deposed from his ministry and then led out of the city by the city agents. The ministers of the classis of Rotterdam who were devoted to purity of doctrine refused to hold classical gatherings with Grevinchovius and others whom he had brought to the views of the Remonstrants. This took place after Grevinchovius, against the advice of the chief ministers, by the authority of the magistrates of Rotterdam had forced upon the church of Bleiswijk Simon Episcopius, to whom the church of Amsterdam had refused a testimony concerning his life and doctrine.

Remonstrant ministers or ministers who were favorable toward the Remonstrants were imposed on many churches in the villages. Since they could not without the greatest offense, grief, and unrest listen to the terrible slanders against sound doctrine that were daily heard in the sermons, the people of these congregations forsook their churches and went to hear the sermons of sound ministers in neighboring churches. Where they could not obtain the latter, they were taught by other ministers in their villages or by sound ministers in separate gatherings. When the Remonstrants sought in vain by strict prohibitions of the magistrates to prevent this, they aroused severe persecution against those churches

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (17)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


While these things were going on, certain students of sacred theology who had come from the home and school of Vorstius did their best to besmudge the Academy of Franeker with Socinian errors by publishing a little book (of Faustus Socinus, About the Office of a Christian, in which he advised all who seek the salvation of their souls to forsake the teachings and gatherings of the Reformed churches and to accept the views of the Photinians and the Ebionites), along with a foreword that strongly recommended this book to the churches. The States of Friesland were made aware of this. They also obtained certain familiar letters of these students in which they declared how Socinianism (which these letters plainly stated was also promulgated by Vorstius, Uytenbogaert, and others in Holland) was to be secretly advanced. After they burned many copies of those little books and forced these students to leave their boundaries, they admonished and petitioned the States, first through missives of the magistrates of the chief cities of Holland, and thereafter through the Honorable Lord Kemp of Donia, that since upright agreement in the Reformed doctrine was the chief bond and the foundation of unity and union between the United Provinces, not to tolerate having this agreement weakened through the calling of a person who was suspected of public heresy, and not to allow themselves to be misled by such deceptions by these people who were trying to bring about this call. Besides, the ministers of Leeuwaarden, publishing the aforementioned letters of the students along with necessary notes, earnestly admonished all the churches to beware of such deceitful attempts of heretics, especially of Vorstius. The States of the Duchy of Gelderland and the Duchy of Zutphen also warned the States of Holland about this.

The latter answered that there was nothing of more concern to them than to preserve unbroken the unity with the other United Provinces in the common cause of religion. They requested on November 15 their neighboring comrades to remain assured of their firm intention, declaring that meanwhile they would give their attention to this admonition and would order Vorstius to leave the city of Leiden, to take up residence at Gouda, and to purge himself of the errors laid to his charge by public writings.

“[the States of Holland] answered that there was nothing of more concern to them than to preserve unbroken the unity with the other United Provinces in the common cause of religion.”

The States of Holland and West Friesland thereafter ordered the participants of both sides in the Hague Conference to hand over in writing the differences of position and to add to this their advice regarding the manner in which they thought that these differences could be ironed out in the best way for the peace of the churches and the profit of the Republic.

The Remonstrants, assuming the standpoint of the Hague Conference, judged that they could apply no more certain means of unity than mutual tolerance, namely, that both parties be permitted freely to teach and to promulgate their views concerning these articles.

The other ministers declared that they could point to no more proper way than that the States General would prescribe a national synod at which these and all other differences would be declared and investigated, a judgment rendered regarding which view was in harmony with God’s word and the common opinion of the Reformed churches and consequently ought to be taught openly, in order that the cause of the truth would not be injured by the maintenance of various views and that the peace of the churches would not be disturbed.

With regard to this advice, the votes of the States were divergent; some approved the advice of the Remonstrants, and others approved the advice of the other ministers. The result was that in the whole matter nothing was decided with a view to bringing about an end to these differences.

Further, when the States understood that besides these five articles there were many other important disputes and were causing upheaval, they decreed that to preserve the purity of doctrine and to prevent innovations, the doctrine of the holy gospel in its purest form should be presented in the churches and in the public schools of the land. Accordingly, they decreed that in the churches and public schools of Holland and West Friesland nothing else should be taught concerning the perfect salvation of Jesus Christ for our sins, the justification of men before God, saving faith, original sin, the certainty of salvation, and the perfection of man in this life than what was always taught in the Reformed churches and in these provinces

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (16)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


Accordingly, it pleased the States to put these thorny questions aside and to turn to the treatment of the articles of the Remonstrance. The ministers delegated by the churches presented in their document their proofs to establish every article. Concerning these reasons and arguments they debated orally in the gathering of the States. Festus Hommius spoke for the one side in the name of the ministers delegated by the churches; and on the other side in the name of the Remonstrants, first Adrianus Borrius spoke and thereafter by turn, Nicolaus Grevinchovius, Johannes Arnoldi, and Simon Episcopius.

While the ministers were occupied in this conference, Conradus Vorstius returned from Westphalia to Holland. The States decided to hear him in the presence of all the conferees. When he appeared on April 27, he made a long speech in which he tried to purge himself of his alleged errors. Thereupon the States asked the conferees if they had any objections to calling Vorstius to the theological ministry in the Academy of Leiden should not take place. The Remonstrants plainly declared that they had nothing against Vorstius and that they found in his writings nothing that conflicted with truth or godliness. The other ministers furnished written reasons for their judgment that the call of Vorstius would be very damaging and offensive to the Holland churches. They pointed out his chief errors from the book of Socinus concerning the authority of Holy Scripture that Vorstius had published and from the book concerning God and the divine attributes that Vorstius had recently written and published. Concerning this they held conference for some days between the Remonstrants and Festus Hommius in the gathering of the States and in the presence of the conferees.

On May 6 when this was finished, the States ordered the ministers from both sides to declare forthrightly whether Vorstius’ answers had satisfied them. The Remonstrants answered that they were fully satisfied and, therefore, judged that it would be highly profitable for the churches and the academy if his call went through. The other ministers declared in writing that the answers of Vorstius were so far from changing their opinions that on the contrary they were more and more convinced by his answers that his call would work great harm to the churches and the academy and would be accompanied by marked danger of more disturbances if it went through. On this account they submissively petitioned the States not to place the churches in that danger by his call.

“The other ministers declared in writing that…they were more and more convinced by [Vorstius’] answers that his call would work great harm to the churches and the academy and would be accompanied by marked danger of more disturbances if it went through”

After Vorstius had departed they returned to the conference concerning the Remonstrance. This continued for some days and then ended. Thereupon the States ordered the conferees from both sides to put in writing what had been treated orally and what they judged was still necessary for a complete answer. Uytenbogaert and Festus Hommius were to turn these writings over to the States. The States ordered that meanwhile the ministers should not boast over against one another concerning the victory they had gained, but they should modestly teach with edification concerning the various articles and live in peace and love with one another. They also ordained that these articles should continue in the same position, or standing, as before the conference.

Nothing was decided at this time in the case of Vorstius. Not long thereafter, when the esteemed magistracy of the city of Dordrecht through its deputies (the Honorable Hugo Muys van Holy, knight; Jakob de Witt; Adriaan Repelaar; and Johannes Berk, Pensionaris) requested the States either to drop or to postpone Vorstius’ call, because the rumors concerning his errors and heresy were becoming stronger and stronger, the States ordered the curators of the academy not to proceed with his call.

On September 21 when the report of this call reached His Majesty, King James I of Great Britain, protector of the faith, who according to his great and (especially in a king) wonderful experience in theological matters, and according to his special zeal for the Reformed religion, had read the book of Vorstius, Concerning God, and with his hand had indicated the chief errors, he admonished the States General by letters and an ambassador (the Honorable Lord Rodolf Winwood). King James admonished the States not to admit to public office a person besmirched with so many serious errors and reproaches and allow him to teach the youth in the academy, but to make him leave their boundaries, so the youth would not be corrupted by him and his evil and accursed errors and so the state of the country would not be weakened, since the welfare of the Republic was dependent on the uprightness and preservation of the Reformed doctrine, in which the Netherlands churches had until now maintained a lovely unity with the English churches. When there was postponement because the Remonstrants worked against this, and especially because Vorstius excused his errors with various explanations, responses, provisions, and modest and incomplete answers, his Royal Majesty did not neglect through repeated admonitions and with earnest protestation to insist that they should let Vorstius depart.

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (14)

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 [the remonstrance] caused the Netherlands churches to become very dejected, since these differences had burst forth into open schism. They all diligently attempted to get a copy of this Remonstrance in order to give an answer to all the slanders. But the Arminians, through the favor of those who tried to hold these matters in safe keeping, easily prevented for a long time any copy of the Remonstrance from getting into the hands of other ministers.

Along with this trouble in and misery of the churches, there came yet another, which increased the anxiety and the difficulties above measure. When they sought a person to replace Jacobus Arminius in the theological ministry, the deputies of the churches earnestly and in the public name of the churches petitioned and begged the curators of the Academy of Leiden to put in his place a person free from all suspicion of wrong doctrine, in order to end the differences of the Academy of Leiden and in due course to return peace to the churches. To this end they recommended certain excellent foreign and Dutch theologians, but in vain. The Remonstrants, who beforehand had won the hearts of some, recommended that Conradus Vorstius, professor at Steinfort (whom for years the Reformed churches had justly suspected of Socinianism), be called to the theological ministry to replace Arminius. To that end Uytenbogaert was sent to Steinfort.

The deputies of the churches judged it to be their solemn duty to admonish the States that such a person would be like a nail in the wound and that he should not be thoughtlessly admitted to this ministry, especially since the affairs of the church were in confusion.

“The deputies of the churches judged it to be their solemn duty to admonish the States that…[Vorstius] should not be thoughtlessly admitted to this ministry, especially since the affairs of the church were in confusion.”

To accomplish this more fruitfully, they requested through letters the theological faculty of Heidelberg, to whom Vorstius was very well known, forthrightly to declare whether they judged that in this situation he should be placed in charge of the youth of the churches in the Academy of Leiden to instruct them with fruit, peace, and edification. The deputies also stated on August 26 that Vorstius had recently published a book concerning God and the divine attributes, in which he had cast aside the doctrine of ancient and more recent theologians and taught that God according to his being had quantity, size, and finiteness and was composed of being and incidental matters; that according to his will he was changeable; that he was subject to a passive power; and other monstrous views. Further, they stated that ten years earlier Vorstius had been sent to Heidelberg to purge himself of Socinianism, of which the churches at that time accused him before the theological faculty, where Doctor Pezelius also was present. They stated further that Vorstius claimed to have purged himself of Socinianism, but that he had left behind a manuscript that did not confirm it, but on the contrary, often and in many ways, made him suspect. Moreover, they said Vorstius had in his head a nest full of monstrous ideas, with which he had corrupted the school and the youth of Steinfort. And they stated that if a person who was under such suspicion as to doctrine would be called to the renowned Academy of Leiden, it would be nothing else than trying to put out the fire with oil. When the deputies of the churches and the esteemed magistrates of the chief cities of Holland, Dordrecht, and Amsterdam informed the curators and the States of these things and petitioned them not to increase the difficulties of the churches and put them in danger of new and greater disturbances by calling such a person, the Remonstrants on October 18 clung with might and main to their position not to turn aside from this intended call. Meanwhile, Vorstius came to Holland. After being heard in the assembly of the States (no one else of the ministers being present except Uytenbogaert), he went back to Steinfort

“[The deputies of the churches”] stated that if a person who was under such suspicion as to doctrine would be called to the renowned Academy of Leiden, it would be nothing else than trying to put out the fire with oil.”

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (15)

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

Click here to start at the beginning of the series. 


About this time, when some students of sacred theology had been called to the ministry of the word and examined in various classes on August 22 and September 22, the Remonstrants influenced the commissioned advisors of the States to order the classes that with respect to the article concerning predestination and what is connected with it to require of no one a further explanation besides what in the five articles of the Remonstrance had been delivered to the classes. Besides, it was also forbidden to bar anyone from the service of the church who declared himself in agreement with the Remonstrants with respect to the aforesaid articles.

 “it was also forbidden to bar anyone from the service of the church who declared himself in agreement with the Remonstrants with respect to the aforesaid articles.”

Because the ministers for many reasons objected to this, the deputies of the churches at the ministers’ request presented their objections concerning this at the next gathering of the States of Holland and West Friesland. At the same time the ministers declared their readiness to show in a lawful synod that the five articles of the Remonstrance were in conflict with God’s word and with the Catechism and the Netherlands Confession. They further requested the States not in this manner to force upon the churches these unsound articles, which had never been properly investigated in any lawful assembly of these churches, but to convene a provincial synod—which so frequently had been requested and for a long time had been desired—in which the five articles of the Remonstrance would be lawfully investigated according to the rule of God’s word. They also pointed out the great offense and damage to the churches the intended calling of Vorstius would cause, and they petitioned that by the authority of the States his call would be prevented.

When this matter was taken under advisement, it was decided that at the next gathering of the States in The Hague, before the gathering of the States themselves, a conference of six ministers chosen from each side would be held concerning the five articles of the Remonstrance. The Remonstrants chose Johannes Uytenbogaert, minister in The Hague; Adriannus Borrius and Johannes Arnoldi Corvinus of Leiden; Nicolaus Grevinchovius of Rotterdam; Eduard Poppius, of Gouda; and Simon Episcopius of Bleiswijk. The ministers on the other side had through the deputies of every classis chosen Petrus Plancius, minister at Amsterdam; Johannes Becius of Dordrecht; Libertus Fraxinus of den Briel; Ruardus Acronius of Schiedam; Johannes Bogardus of Haarlem; and Festus Hommius of Leiden.

When they came together on March 11, 1611, the Remonstrants refused to confer with the other six ministers as deputies of the classes of Holland and West Friesland and as parties of the churches, which their credentials showed them to be. Indeed, if these ministers would not relinquish their capacity as ministers, the Remonstrants threatened to leave with matters unfinished.

After a long debate about this, the other ministers preferred to give way rather than to wrangle any longer. Those who had been delegated from the classes, before they entered into conference, requested of the States to renew the promise made to the churches two years earlier at the conference between Arminius and Gomarus (August 18, to wit, that when the conference was finished the judgment of this case would be left to the provincial or national synod and that the States would reserve judgment).

The meeting would follow this procedure: The parties on both sides would put the proofs of their views in writing and thereafter would hold an oral conference about them. Before they turned to the investigation of the articles, the ministers who had been delegated by the classes would furnish an answer against the Remonstrance, a copy of which they had at last obtained only a short time before the conference.

The ministers’ answer demonstrated that the Remonstrants had presented the views of the Reformed churches in a bad light and had slanderously fabricated many things against those views. They also showed that the Remonstrants had not forthrightly revealed their views nor presented all the articles concerning which they had differences. Because there were other points of disagreement than those declared in the five articles, the ministers humbly petitioned the States to order the Remonstrants to reveal clearly and forthrightly their views concerning all of the remaining points of doctrine.

“The ministers’ answer demonstrated that the Remonstrants had presented the views of the Reformed churches in a bad light and had slanderously fabricated many things against those views.”

Accordingly, when they investigated the first article of the Remonstrance, which set forth that God from eternity decided to save the persevering believer (which no Christian denies), and when this article was presented as though it embodied the doctrine of God’s eternal election, the Remonstrants were requested, for clarification of their views expressed in this article, to declare two things more precisely: whether they held that this article comprehended the entire decree of predestination and whether they believed that faith and perseverance in faith are causes, or conditions, that precede election unto salvation, or whether they are fruits that come forth from election and follow upon the same

After the Remonstrants for some time had given excuses, they finally answered. To the first question they answered that they acknowledged no other predestination to salvation than what they had expressed in the first article. To the second they answered that faith, in the consideration and view of God precedes election to salvation and does not follow it as a fruit. Thereupon the Remonstrants presented in return seven questions about election and reprobation, to which they desired the ministers delegated from the classes to answer. Since these questions did not belong to the point of difference concerning the first article, and many of them were also unnecessary and very involved and were presented for the purpose of leading the discussion off into tangents and away from the chief point of difference, the ministers by request demonstrated to the States this improper manner.

The ministers did not request, however, that they would not be required to reveal their views concerning reprobation (as the Remonstrants frequently falsely accused them). The ministers clearly declared, orally and in writing, their views insofar as they were sufficient for the peace and edification of the churches. They declared that when they posited an eternal decree of election of particular persons, they also posited an eternal decree of reprobation, a passing by of some particular persons, since it is impossible to have election without reprobation, or passing by. They declared further that recklessly to investigate all difficult questions concerning this article would fill the churches with useless disputes and strivings that would serve no good purpose and would disturb the peace of the churches. Further, they declared that their explanation as expressed in the petition ought to be sufficient for every temperate and peace-loving mind, namely, that they believe and teach that God condemns no one and has decided to condemn no one except justly on account of his own sins.

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (13)

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. 


Meanwhile, when the ministers who sided with Arminius saw matters at the point where the convening of the synod was prevented, they feared little the judgment and the censures of the churches, as became manifest from their boldness and shamelessness. They began openly and secretly to strike out and to bellow with extremely bitter, reproachful, and abusive language against the pure doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning election, the perseverance of the saints, the certainty of salvation, and other doctrines, to the great offense of the pious, to the joy of the enemies, and to the disturbance of the churches. It was not enough for them to upset the hearts of the common people and the regents alike by means of secret blasphemies and by public, uproarious sermons. They also did so with writings that they distributed in great numbers and with equally great offense among the people. They tore to pieces the doctrine of the Reformed churches in such a way that only the sworn enemies of that doctrine could have done so with more bitterness and obscenity. And in order to win the favor of the magistrates and inflame their feelings more and more against the other ministers, they worked through Uytenbogaert, first through a speech given in the gathering of the States and later through a published document, and sought to convince the magistrates that the other ministers belittled the authority of the magistrates, sought to weaken it, and were striving for separate or equally high power for themselves.

“They tore to pieces the doctrine of the Reformed churches in such a way that only the sworn enemies of that doctrine could have done so with more bitterness and obscenity.” 

Therefore the church deputies addressed the States again on May 25 and requested that by convening a provincial synod, the States could lawfully remedy these troubles, which had reached new heights. When the States, on account of the great need, appeared ready to concur, the ministers devoted to the views of Arminius presented a new plan to either prevent the convening of the synod to so constitute it that their cause would remain sure and suffer no harm. Their proposal was that the men called together at this synod would not be delegated by the churches (as was proper and as had been the practice), but that the States would invite certain men. If they succeeded in this, they could easily gain their end, namely, that only those men would be chosen who adhered to their cause or were not very strongly opposed to it. Although they convinced some of the regents of the fatherland of this innovation, they could not move the most understanding men to do this; and the latter judged that the convening of the synod had to take place in the usual way.

While the States debated the matter, the adherents of Arminius succeeded in delaying the provincial synod and preventing the convening the annual synod that customarily had been held almost every year. As often as those who wished these evils to be removed from the churches through lawful means spoke of the convening of a synod, so often those who sided with Arminius renewed these debates about the manner of convening the synod. The ministers committed to the views of Arminius became bolder, since they had brought matters to the point where all fear of ecclesiastical judgment and censure seemed to be removed. Without the knowledge and counsel of their churches and the authority of the government, a large number of them held a secret gathering. There, by subscribing their names, they mutually formed a confederation separate from the existing body of their fellow ministers, thus bringing about open schism in the Reformed churches.

“There, by subscribing their names, they mutually formed a confederation separate from the existing body of their fellow ministers, thus bringing about open schism in the Reformed churches.”

At this time they delivered to the States a request, or as they called it, a Remonstrance (because of which they were hereafter called Remonstrants). This was published in June at the Hague Conference. In the Remonstrance, with open and bitter slander, they put the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning divine predestination, the grace of God, and the perseverance of the saints in bad faith. Their purpose was to arouse the hatred of the States against these doctrines. Along with this they added a declaration of their opinions concerning the same articles; but they sought to conceal their views under ambiguous and disguised words, in order to fool the simple into thinking that their views were not much different from the truth. In addition, they requested the States to take them under their protection against all ecclesiastical censures

(To be continued…)

Historical Forward to the Acts of the National Synod of Dordrecht (12)

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 this was finished, they [the States] asked the conferees whether there were more articles of doctrine about which they differed. Gomarus replied that there were indeed more, namely, the articles concerning original sin, the providence of God, the authority of Holy Scripture, the certainty of salvation, the perfection of man in this life, and certain others. He further stated that he would leave it to the discretion of the States whether they would deal with these matters, especially since they would have to be dealt with again in the synod.

Since Arminius’ sickly condition no longer allowed him to continue at the conference, the States terminated it. But first, upon the request of Gomarus and the other ministers with him, they promised on August 22 that this entire matter would be more thoroughly investigated and decided upon at the provincial synod that was to be convoked immediately. Moreover, they ordered the conferees to deliver their views in writing within fourteen days, together with the proofs and the refutation of the contrary views, so these documents could be kept for the provincial synod.

Gomarus sent his writings within the fixed time, and these were published in the Dutch language. Since the difficulties of the churches were increased rather than removed by this conference, the deputies of the churches again humbly petitioned the States on September 16 immediately to convene the provincial synod, which previously had been promised so often and also in this conference.

“Since the difficulties of the churches were increased rather than removed by this conference, the deputies of the churches again humbly petitioned the States on September 16 immediately to convene the provincial synod, which previously had been promised so often and also in this conference.”

To this petition the answer was given, although some were opposed, that the summoning of the provincial synod would take place only after the ministers of the classis of Alkmaar obeyed the orders of the States to admit to their gatherings Adolphus Venator and the ministers who sided with him. To not cause postponement of the provincial synod, the deputies of the churches traveled to Alkmaar and moved the classis to admit under honorable conditions the ministers who sided with Venator. But the classis was not prepared to admit Venator. They gave to the deputies many weighty reasons to stop pressing this matter.

Having made this known to the States, they still could not achieve the convening of the synod, for the ministers who sided with Arminius caused that the classis of Alkmaar was again ordered on October 15 unconditionally to admit the aforementioned ministers. Since they could not do this, the convening of the synod was postponed again.

Meanwhile, by a letter Arminius excused himself with the States, stating that because of physical weakness he could not prepare the document he had been ordered to prepare. This sickness soon became so severe that a short time later Arminius died on October 19.

After his death all the pious hoped that for the most part the difficulties would be removed and buried along with Arminius, since he had been the instigator and the author of all these entanglements.

“After his death all the pious hoped that for the most part the difficulties would be removed and buried along with Arminius, since he had been the instigator and the author of all these entanglements.”

Yet since there were in many ministers in the churches of Holland who adhered to his views and did not cease to propagate them, the deputies of these churches considered it necessary to press for the convening of the provincial synod. However, they were again given the answer that the States would see to the convening of an ecclesiastical gathering only when the classis of Alkmaar obeyed their orders.

(To be continued…)

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…)

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…)