Acts of the Synod of Dordrecht: Historical Foreword (5)

At the Synod of the South Holland Churches, held at Dordrecht, they took cognizance of the fact that none of the Ministers siding with Arminius had been willing until now to reveal his objections against the adopted doctrine to his fellow Ministers, but that with various alibis they had all made mockery of the admonitions of the Churches and the decisions of the Synods. It was again decided that they should earnestly order them anew, within one month after this 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 in the Academy of Leiden and of Petrus Bertius, Regent of the Theological College. When these Ministers saw that they either had to reveal their views or undergo ecclesiastical censure, in order to escape these alternatives, with the help of Uitenbogaard they obtained authorizations from the States by which these Ministers were ordered to send their accusations, within a month’s time, sealed, to the States, to be kept and delivered to the Provincial Synod. When the Professors were requested by the deputies of the Synod to reveal any objections which they might have, Gomarus answered that he had detected nothing in the Confession or the Catechism of these churches which did not agree with God’s Word and which was in need of change or improvement. Arminius replied that he would in his own time answer this request in writing. And when he saw that he would in this way be pressed to declare his views, he revealed to the States in their full session in a wide-ranging speech what he believed concerning divine predestination, concerning the grace of God and the free wjll of man, concerning the perseverance of the saints, concerning the certainty of salvation, concerning the perfection of man in this life, concerning the deity of the Son of God, concerning the justification of man before God, and concerning other main points of doctrine. And he sought to prove that in these Reformed Churches a doctrine of divine predestination was being promulgated which conflicted with God’s nature, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness, with the nature of man, with his free will, with the work of creation, with the nature of eternal life and death, and, finally, with 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 an author of sin, was a hindrance to sorrow eve? sin, took away all godly carefulness, diminished diligence to do good, quenched the fervency of prayer, 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, finally, subverted the foundation not only of the Christian religion, but also of all religion. When Gomarus had learned of this, he, December 12, felt obligated better to inform the States, in order that their feelings might not perhaps be prejudiced by wrong pre-judgments 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 and concerning the free will of man, concerning the justification of man before God, concerning the perfection of man in this life, concerning predestination, concerning original sin, and concerning the perseverance of the saints. And he showed how Arminius had given just reasons for suspicion that he did not have the right view concerning Holy Scripture, concerning the Holy Trinity, concerning the providence of God, concerning the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, concerning the Church, concerning faith, concerning good works, and other main items of doctrine. Further, he exposed the practices of Arminius in spreading abroad his beliefs, how until now he had not revealed his views in public, though asked and begged to do so by the Churches, but had done so secretly, especially to the Ministers whom he hoped to draw to his side and to his pupils. He showed how Arminius diligently taught his views, how he undermined the chief proofs of those who sought to establish sound doctrine, how he supported the proofs of the Jesuits and other enemies by which they opposed the doctrine of the Reformed Church, how he inculcated various doubts concerning the truth of the adopted doctrine in his disciples, and how he presented the true doctrine first as being on an equal footing with the opposing doctrine, in order thereafter simply to reject the former. Gomarus pointed out that until now Arminius had been completely unwilling to make a declaration of soundness and agreement in the doctrine (although he was many times lovingly and fraternally asked to do so by the Churches), 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, and there had presented his complaints and accusations against the Churches, and with courtly practices had diligently labored to arouse favor for himself and hatred and disfavor for the Churches. Gomarus concluded by beseeching the States, seeing the Students of Sacred Theology in the Academy of Leiden and many preachers in various places were every day more and more falling away from sound doctrine, and seeing that the disagreements and disputes were increasing and that the Churches were disturbed and the citizens divided, that the promised National Synod might be held immediately, and that at this Synod the causes of the calamity might be lawfully investigated, and at last a proper remedy might be applied. The Deputies of the Churches repeatedly requested the same thing; but through the initiative of Uitenbogaard and others the convening of the Synod was always postponed. 

They also admonished Arminius various times that he should keep his promise to deliver his objections in writing. He finally answered, April 4, 1609, that he did not deny having promised this, but that seeing he had understood that the States had ordered the Ministers to send their objections sealed to the States, he had 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 in case he had anything against the adopted doctrine of the Churches, he should declare this freely. And on February 13 he declared his views concerning many points of doctrine forthrightly and without any alibi, and declared that in the Articles concerning the justification of man before God, concerning predestination, concerning the grace of God and free will, and concerning the final perseverance of the saints, he had different views than the doctrine of the Netherlands Churches. This increased the concern of the Church, seeing that not only Arminius in the Academy but also Bertius in the Theological College, a “greenhouse” of the Holland Churches, presented a strange doctrine to the youth entrusted to him and dedicated to the service of the Churches, and, leading them away from sound doctrine, instilled in them new beliefs. All this the Churches saw, and they were grieved. And although they greatly wished and considered it highly necessary to make lawful provision in this matter and to remedy this evil, they nevertheless could not accomplish this by reason of the fact that Uitenbogaard and others, whose influence at that time was great with many Regents of the Fatherland, diligently prevented all synodical gatherings and ecclesiastical judgments. All of this served to make the Ministers siding with Arminius bolder; and they began to bring their strange beliefs to the people openly, attacking the adopted doctrine with false complaints, and striking out against it in a grievous and despicable manner. Among these Ministers, the chief was a certain Adolphus Venator, minister of the Church of Alkmaar in North-Holland. He (besides the fact that he was not very pious in his life) openly spread abroad in public and in private the Pelagian and Socinian errors with unbelievable shamelessness. 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 nevertheless continued in his office, in spite of anything the Churches did. The right-minded Ministers in the Classis of Alkmaar judged that this evil man, as also 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, might not properly be admitted to their gathering. These Ministers complained about this to the States; and, with the help of Uitenbogaard, they obtained an order for Classis Alkmaar to admit them into the 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 in good conscience could not obey. The Deputies of the Churches, seeing that all these disagreements and offenses were increasing every day, again earnestly petitioned the States, in the name of the Churches, that the promised Provincial Synod for the removal of these evils might immediately be convoked. When Uitenbogaard and the other Ministers who sided with Arminius saw that the States were inclined to do this, they wanted to avoid any ecclesiastical judgment. And they succeeded in bringing about through the influence of some who seemed to favor their cause that, instead of a Provincial Synod, a Conference should be held between Gomarus and Arminius, in the gathering of the States, concerning the Articles of doctrine about which they disagreed. In this Conference each man might be accompanied by four Ministers, of whose advice they might make use. Arminius chose Uitenbogaard, minister in the Hague, Adrianus Borrus of Leiden, Nicolaus Grevinchovius of Rotterdam, and the aforementioned Adolphus Venator of Alkmaar. Gomarus on the other hand, chose Ruardus Acronius, minister at Schiedam, Jacobus Rolandus of Amsterdam, Johannes Bogardus of Haarlem, and Festus Hommius of Leiden. When they had come together, Gomarus and his fellow Ministers requested these two items: 1.) that this Conference might take place by written document, delivered by both sides, in order that by this means all kinds of evil rumors might be prevented; 2.) that these documents might thereafter be delivered to the National Synod, in order that the judgment of an ecclesiastical matter might at the same time be reserved by the Churches. The States desired that the Conference should take place orally, but that for the help of the memory one might use documents. And they promised by a public act that this case, after they would have taken cognizance of it at this Conference, would be reserved for the judgment of the Provincial Synod, and that to that end everything which was dealt with orally would afterwards be put in writing and that these documents would immediately be delivered to the Synod. The same Ministers (Gomarus and his fellows) judged it also to be improper that Adolphus Venator, who had been suspended from office by lawful ecclesiastical censures on account of his unsound doctrine and life, should be admitted to such a conference. They claimed that this could be done only with great prejudice to the ecclesiastical censure; and they requested that on this account someone else might be accepted in his place—something which they could not gain because Arminius was vehemently against it.