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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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