Acts of the Synod of Dordrecht (6)

At the beginning of the Conference they again debated concerning the order of the Articles which would be treated. Arminius seemed to think that it was advantageous for his cause to begin with predestination. But, seeing that the article concerning justification seemed to be more necessary, Gomarus believed that they should begin with this; and this was also the pleasure of the States. Concerning this point of doctrine there was the same dispute as that which had taken place earlier before the High Council, namely; whether faith itself, in respect of the fact that it is a deed, is. through gracious acceptance by God the righteousness by which we are justified before God. In the second place, they treated the doctrine of divine predestination, which Arminius, by means of the same false consequences which he had not long previously presented in the gathering, of the States, sought to make hated. But Gomarus clung to the chief item of difference, that is, whether faith is a cause or preceding condition of election, or whether it is a fruit and effect of election. The third difference was concerning the grace of God and the free will of man. Arminius testified that he acknowledged all the operations of divine grace which one could posit in the conversion of man, provided that no grace would be proposed which is irresistible. Gomarus pointed out the ambiguity and deceit hidden in that wordirresistible; namely, that under it lay hidden the formerly condemned view of the Semi-Pelagians and the Synergists. And Gomarus maintained that in the regeneration of man such a grace is necessary which operates so powerfully that, having conquered the opposition of the flesh, by that grace all who partake of it are certainly and unmistakably converted. Finally, they treated the doctrine concerning the perseverance of the true believers. Arminius declared that he had never contested the doctrine of the certain perseverance of the true believers, and that also now he did not want to contest it, seeing that there is such testimony of Scripture in favor of it that he at present could not answer it. For this reason he would only point out those passages which, for him, occasioned doubt and suspicion 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. 

When this was finished, therefore, they asked the Conferees whether there were any more articles of doctrine about which they differed. Gomarus replied that there were indeed more, namely, the articles concerning original sin, concerning the providence of God, concerning the authority of Holy Scripture, concerning the certainty of salvation, concerning 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 also deal with these matters at that place, especially since these matters would have to be dealt with again in the Synod. But since the sickly condition of Arminius no longer allowed him to continue at the Conference,. the States deemed it good to terminate this Conference. But first, upon the request of Gomarus and the other Ministers with him, they promised, August 22, that this entire matter would be more thoroughly investigated and decided upon at the Provincial Synod which was to be convoked immediately. Moreover, they ordered the Conferees to deliver in writing, within fourteen days, their views, together with the proofs and the refutation of the contrary views, in order that these documents might be kept for the Provincial Synod. Gomarus sent his writings within the fixed time, and these were thereafter published in the Netherlands 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, September 16, that the Provincial Synod, which had been promised so often previously and also in this Conference, might be convened immediately. 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 would obey the orders of the States to admit to their gatherings Adolphus Venator and the Ministers siding with him. In order that this matter would not cause the postponement of the Provincial Synod, the Deputies of the Churches, traveling to Alkmaar, dealt with the Ministers of that Classis concerning this admission, and moved them to admit the Ministers who sided with Adolphus under honorable conditions; but they were not prepared to admit Venator himself. For this they furnished the Deputies so many and such weighty reasons that they themselves judged that they could not properly press this matter any further. Having made this known to the States, they still could not achieve the convening of the Synod. For the Ministers siding with Arminius brought it about that the Classis of Alkmaar was again ordered, October 15, to admit the aforementioned Ministers unconditionally. Since they could not do this, the convening of the Synod was again postponed. Meanwhile, Arminius by letter excused himself with the States, stating that because of physical weakness he could not prepare the document which he was ordered to prepare. This sickness soon became so severe that a short time later Arminius died. 

The preceding is an account of the arguments and the disputes by which the Academy and the Churches of Holland were troubled while Arminius was still living. 

After his death, October 19, 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 various places many Ministers in the Churches of Holland who adhered to his views and did not cease to propagate them, therefore the Deputies of these Churches considered it necessary nevertheless 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 would obey their orders. 

Meanwhile, when the Ministers siding with Arminius saw matters brought to the point that the convening of the Synod was prevented, they seemed to fear but little the judgment and the censures of the Churches, as became manifest from the degree of boldness and shamelessness to which they surrendered themselves. They began to strike out and to bellow against the pure doctrine of the Reformed Churches concerning election, the perseverance of the saints, the certainty of salvation, and other doctrines with extremely bitter and reproachful and abusive language, and to do so openly and in secret, to the great offense of the pious, to the joy of the enemies, and to the disturbance of the Churches. And it was not enough for them to upset the hearts of the common people and of the Regents alike by means of secret blasphemies and public uproarious sermons; but they also did so with open writings, which they distributed in great number 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 that they might the better win the favor of the Magistrates and inflame their feelings more and more against the other Ministers, they worked through Uitenbogaard, 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 a separate or equally high power for themselves. On this account, the Deputies of the Churches deemed it good to address the States again, May 25, and to request that they, by convening a Provincial Synod, would finally see fit to help with these troubles, which appeared to have reached new heights, by means of a lawful remedy. But when the States, on account of the great need, appeared to concur in this readily, then the Ministers devoted to the views of Arminius presented a new plan, in order that through this the convening of the Synod might either be prevented, or that the Synod might be so constituted, according to their idea, that their cause would remain sure and would suffer no harm. Their :proposal was that the men who would be called together at this Synod would not be delegated by the Churches (as was proper and as until now had been the practice), but that the States themselves should invite certain men. For if they succeeded in this, they would easily gain their end, namely, that only those men would be chosen who were adherents of their cause or who would not be very strongly opposed to it. Although they convinced some of the Regents of the Fatherland of this innovation, nevertheless 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. Nevertheless, while the matter was debated by the States, the adherents of Arminius succeeded in bringing it about that the convening not only of the Provincial Synod but also of the annual Synod, which heretofore had customarily been held almost every year, was by this means delayed and prevented. For as often as those who wished that all these evils might 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. For this reason also the Ministers who were committed to the views of Arminius, seeing that they had brought matters to the point that all fear of ecclesiastical judgment and censure seemed to be removed, became bolder; and without the knowledge and counsel of their Churches, and without the authority of the government, a large number of them held a secret gathering. And there, but subscribing their names, they mutually formed a confederation, a body 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 this they put the doctrine of the Reformed Churches concerning divine predestination, concerning the grace of God, and concerning the perseverance of the saints in bad faith, not without open and bitter slander. The 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 that to the simple their views would not seem to differ much from the truth. In addition, they requested the States to take them under their protection over against all ecclesiastical censures. This caused the Netherlands Churches to become very dejected, seeing that these differences had now burst forth into open schism. And they all diligently attempted to get a copy of this Remonstrance, so that they might be able to give an answer to all the slanders. But the Arminians, through the favor of those who tried to hold matters in safe keeping, easily brought it about that no copy of that Remonstrance could get into the hands of the other Ministers for a long time.