(Connection: In the previous installment we saw that from all quarters pressure was building against the Remonstrants and for the holding of a National Synod. When the Remonstrants and their political allies in some of the provides saw that the convening of a National Synod was inevitable, they took the measure of raising city militia allegedly to defend the independence of their provinces, thus threatening civil war—a threat which was met with decisive action by the States-General and the Prince of Orange. Finally, in December of 1617 it was decided to convene a National Synod in May of the following year.)
This Resolution having been taken, 1618, the Remonstrants raged marvelously; and through various other measures and schemes they sought to upset it and to make it useless, working through those who were loyal to their cause. In Holland, through those who were favorable to them, they requested a Provincial Synod, something of which they had such a great abhorrence only a little while before. And seeing that it had been proposed to call foreign Theologians to the National Synod, therefore they thought that also to this Provincial Synod, foreign Theologians might be called, if men approved of this. But to this the answer was given that indeed formerly the Holland Churches had requested a Provincial Synod when there appeared to be no hope of gaining a National Synod and when the differences were confined to the Holland Churches; but since now the convening of a National Synod had been decided upon, and since the evil had spread through all the Provinces, so that it could not be removed by the Synod of one Province, therefore it was simply unreasonable to consider a Provincial Synod at this time for the resolving of these differences. Further, it was pointed out that as in every separate Province particular Synods must precede the National Synod, so also in Holland, both South—and North—Holland, particular Synods would precede. The Remonstrants nevertheless bravely persisted in this through their leaders, and they pressed for such a Synod. They did this either because they thought that their cause would be less of a hindrance in the eyes of the Provincial Synod, seeing that there were many among the Regents and Ministers in Holland loyal to them, or because they wanted to prevent the convening of the National Synod altogether through such subterfuges. However, when they saw that their request was so improper that they would not easily be able to convince anyone of it, they took refuge in a new measure; and they desired that this case should be brought to an Ecumenical Synod, that is, to a general Synod of all Churches. The answer was given to them that it was very uncertain whether and when an Ecumenical Synod would be able to be called together. Further, the answer was given that the current ills required an immediate remedy, and that this National Synod, which would be authorized by the States-General, would be like a General Synod, since delegates from most of the Reformed Churches would be present. If they thought themselves aggrieved by the judgment of such a Synod, then it would always be permissible and justified to appeal from this National Synod to the Ecumenical Synod, provided they were willing to submit to the judgment of the National Synod meanwhile. But by all these subterfuges and quibblings they accomplished so much, that the letters of convening were delayed for some time and that the appointed day for the convening of the Synod had to be postponed and changed.
Meanwhile, Lord Dudley Carleton openly complained in the assembly of the States-General that the honor of the King of Great Britain, his master, had been scandalously and shamelessly ridiculed in the dishonorable pamphlet called the Weegschaal, which the Remonstrants even after the edict of the States- General, had translated and reprinted in the French language. And after a brief and pertinent refutation of many objections of the Remonstrants, he made known to the States what method and manner his Royal Majesty of Great Britain was accustomed to use in the resolving of differences concerning Religion or doctrine. Since this agreed with the resolution of the States-General, therefore, the States were more and more confirmed in this holy purpose. Also the Magistrates of the City of Amsterdam, having previously consulted with the Ministers of that Church and with others called together for this purpose, presented in writing in the gathering of the States of Holland and West-Friesland, March 23, many and very weighty reasons by which it was very plainly proved that these differences could at this time be resolved and laid to rest in no other way than by a National Synod. At the same time they furnished a very basic answer to all the objections of the Remonstrants and all their proposals concerning a General Synod. Shortly thereafter, the Magistrates of the City of Enkhuizen confirmed this with many reasons which were put in writing and delivered in the Apology of the Cities of Dordrecht, Amsterdam, Enkhuizen, etc., p. 104 and 113; these reasons were later printed, March 27, in order that everyone might know how improperly the Remonstrants and their supporters acted when they opposed the convening of the National Synod so perversely with their new proposals and when they sought to escape the judgment of such a National Synod.
The States-General, judging that this highly necessary matter, already decided because of very proper and weighty reasons, ought no longer to be postponed for such proposals and subterfuges, decided anew that the convening of the National Synod should take place immediately, without any postponement and delay; and they ordered that the place of meeting would be the City of Dordrecht, and the day the first of November next. When certain among the States of Holland and West-Friesland who were loyal to the cause of the Remonstrants opposed this Resolution in the gathering of the States-General, complaining that thereby the dignity, the right, and the freedom of their Province was abridged, then the States-General declared in a public act that by this authorizing of the National Synod they did not desire to abridge or belittle in any wise the dignity, the right, and the freedom of any Province; but they declared that it was their upright intention, without any prejudgment of any Province, and also that of the Union or confederation itself, to resolve, lawfully, to God’s honor, and the peace of the Republic, through the ordinary judgment of the National Synod only the ecclesiastical differences which had arisen concerning the doctrine, seeing that these concerned all the Reformed Netherlands Churches.
Thereafter they wrote to the States of every Province and declared it to be their purpose in the Name of the Lord, to authorize from all the Churches of these Provinces a National Synod on the first of November next, in order that by this means the differences which had arisen in those Churches might be lawfully investigated and might in a proper manner (always maintaining the truth) be resolved. At the same time they exhorted the States of every Province that they should immediately convene in their Province, according to custom, a Provincial Synod, from which six Godly, learned, or three other capable men, making confession of the Reformed Religion, should be delegated. These men, according to the conditions presented by them, of which they sent a copy, would investigate those differences at the National Synod, and, preserving the truth, remove them. They also sent to the French Churches here in the Netherlands, who were accustomed to have a particular Synod among themselves, seeing that they are spread through all these Provinces, letters of similar content.
When these letters were received, the States of each Province called together the Provincial or particular Synods of their Churches, in which the objections which would be brought to the National Synod and the persons who were to be sent there with their mandate and instructions were appointed and delegated by the common vote of the Churches. These things took place in every Province according to the manner which had been followed until this. time in these Reformed Churches, with the exception that in Holland and the Bishopric of Utrecht, because of the great number of the Remonstrants, the ordinary procedure could not be followed in all things. For, because in some Classes of Holland there had been separations, so that the Remonstrants had their own separate Classical gatherings and the other Ministers also had their own Classical gatherings, therefore the States of that Province had thought good that the Classes in which there had been no separation should, according to the manner previously followed, delegate by majority vote four men who would be sent to the particular Synod with regular power, and that in the other Classes, in order to avoid confusion, the Remonstrants should delegate two from their side, and the other Ministers should similarly delegate two men, who would be sent to the particular Synod with equal power. In the Bishopric of Utrecht the Churches were not yet divided into various Classes. On this account, the States of that Province thought it good that all the Remonstrants should gather separately in a Synod, and that the remaining Ministers, who did not follow the views of the Remonstrants, of whom there still remained a goodly number, should gather in another Synod, and that from each Synod and from each party three men should be delegated to the National. Synod with the power to judge. However, the Church of Utrecht, seeing that it was divided into parties, of which the one followed the views of the Remonstrants, and the other rejected those views, and seeing that, being only recently delivered from the oppression of the Remonstrants, it was not yet provided with ordinary Ministers, but at the time was served by Johannes Dibetz, Minister of Dordrecht—therefore it happened that he was lawfully delegated by that other Synod in the name of the Utrecht Churches which did not follow the views of the Remonstrants. When the Synod of the. Churches of Gelderland and of Zutfen was gathered at Arnhem, June 25, then the Remonstrants who were delegated from the Classis of Bommel did not want to sit with the others unless certain conditions were promised to them beforehand, conditions which the Synod judged to be in conflict with the Resolution of the States. And because before this time the Remonstrants of the Classis of Nijmegen, Bommel, and Tiel had delivered to the States of Gelderland and to the Honorable Court there ten Articles which they said that the other Ministers taught, they were mandated openly to name those Preachers who taught these things, in order that they might be hailed before the Synod and that it might be lawfully determined whether this was true. For it was known that the Remonstrants had slanderously fabricated these Articles against the Reformed Ministers, in order to make them hated by the Government. But they could mention no one else in the entire Province than the Minister of Hattern, who had abundantly cleared himself in the Classis. And when the Synod nevertheless wanted to hail him in order to be heard in its presence, then the Remonstrants no longer persisted in this. Hemicus Arnoldi, Minister at Delft, who was present there in the name of the South-Holland Churches, also declared that there was no one in South-Holland who taught or agreed with the aforesaid Articles. On this account, the Synod earnestly rebuked them for these grievous slanders, and at once declared that the Churches of Gelderland did not accept nor support the doctrine comprehended in those Articles as they had proposed them, although there were certain clauses in them which, in themselves and taken in a proper sense, could not be rejected. The Remonstrants at last acknowledged their guilt concerning these unjust slanders, and begged forgiveness. After this, in the same Synod the state of differences between the Remonstrants and the other Ministers was described, and this was later passed on to the National Synod. And, seeing that in that Province there were many Ministers who were suspected of many other errors besides the Five Articles of the Remonstrance, and other Ministers who had been unlawfully inducted into the ministry, and also others who led a scandalous life, therefore some of these were hailed before the Synod; and on account of these reasons (but in no wise on account of their views of the Five Remonstrant Articles, which were reserved for the National Synod) they were suspended from their ministry. The case of others was committed to certain delegates in the name of the Synod, to whom the States also added their commissioners. These, after they had fully investigated the cases of those men in the Classes, suspended some from their ministry; and others were at once deposed from the ministry.