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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).

One sentence summary of the significance of the Synod of Dordt

Below are the one sentence summary of the importance of the Synod of Dordt that Prof. Dykstra used in his speaker introduction.

Rev. Angus Stewart
That people read the Canons and believe it first hand.

Rev. Brian Huizinga
Adopting the Canons to give a loud and clear voice to this song of heaven in the troubled church of Christ on earth: “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb,”
(Rev. 7:10).

Rev. Mark Shand
The upholding of the one true gospel of salvation over and against the error and deception of autosoterism.

Rev. William Langerak
When this ecumenical synod formulated and adopted the Canons, the Lord powerfully preserved and validated the reformed faith so that the truth of the Canons was actually on display in the work: Using men depraved by nature and sinful in themselves, Christ alone, by His Spirit alone, in grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone, saved His people from a mighty enemy to the glory of God alone.

Prof. Douglas Kuiper
That it remains relevant for the church of all ages; some controversies that have arisen in the 1800s, 1900s, and at present can be profitably addressed by understanding the Synod’s doctrinal statement.

Prof. Barry Gritters
The Canons aim at the heart, via the head, with clear biblical teaching that even teenagers can (and must!) understand.

Prof. Ron Cammenga
At Dordt, truth was confessed and defended boldly. Knowing that the truths of sovereign grace were offensive to many, still Dordt maintained the truth. It is my prayer that the church today may exhibit the same boldness.

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

Speeches

Thanks to everyone who showed up. We had a great turn out and great fellowship with saints from all over the country and the world. We also heard some very edifying speeches.

We intend to make the speeches available and will post that information shortly.

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

Live Stream

All sessions of the Dordt400 conference will be live streamed on the sermon audio website for Trinity Protestant Reformed Church. That website is https://www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=trinityprc

Artifacts

There will be several artifacts on display at the Dordt400 conference. The seminary will have two old Bibles on display. Chuck Terpstra has some information on one of the Bibles on his blog. We anticipate having an early Latin edition of the Canons on display. There will also be some pictures and a wood carving on display.

In addition, conference-goers will be able to buy replicas of the medallions that were given to the delegates.


The Dort-400 Anniversary Limited Edition Medallion Set

A portion of the certificate of authenticity is quoted below.

As the deliberations were drawing to a close, the momentous significance of this Synod was beginning to dawn upon observers as well as the appointees.

So in commemoration of the event, two medallions were minted for the occasion. A gold penning was presented to the international delegates and silver to the domestic participants. The 17th Century artist is unknown.

The obverse side of the medal pictures what has become the iconic depiction of the great Synod itself meeting in the Great Hall of the Kleveneiersdoelen building. Circling the scene are the words, “Religione Asserta”—Defending Religion.

The reverse represents secure-eternal Mount Zion, with threatening winds of false doctrine beating down upon the church from all sides. Undeterred, pilgrims are faithfully making their journey up to the heavenly Jerusalem under the shining light of the Name of the Lord, etched in Hebrew. The circumference is imprinted with, “Erunt ut
mons Sion CIC IC CXIX” [ORN 1000+500+119]—They shall be as Mount Zion 1619, echoing Psalm 125:1.

Certificate of Authenticity The Dort-400 Anniversary Limited Edition Medallion Set