(Connection: In the previous installment we learned: 1) That the Remonstrants were pushing for the appointment of Vorstius as the replacement for Arminius at Leiden. 2) That the Remonstrants gained a certain legal standing for their Five Points, so that candidates for the ministry could not be questioned about these. 3) That in this process the document called the Remonstrance finally came into the possession of the Reformed party. 4) That all of this led to the Conference at the Hague in 1611. At this Conference the two parties are in the process of debating the doctrinal issues when the Conference is interrupted by the issue concerning the appointment of Conrad Vorstius.)
While the Ministers were occupied in this Conference, Conradus Vorstius returned from Westphalia to Holland; and the States saw fit that he should be heard in the presence of all the Conferees. When he appeared on April 27, he made a long speech in which he tried to purge himself of the alleged errors. Thereupon the Conferees were asked by the States whether they had any objections on account of which they judged that the calling of Vorstius to the Theological Ministry in the Academy of Leiden should not take place. The Remonstrants plainly declared that they had nothing against Vorstius, also that they found nothing in his writings which was in conflict with the truth or with godliness. The other Ministers furnished their reasons in writing why they judged that this call of Vorstius would be very damaging and offensive to the Holland Churches. They pointed out his chief errors, both from the book of Socinus concerning the authority of Holy Scripture, which Vorstius had published, and also from the book concerning God and concerning the Divine Attributes which Vorstius had recently written and published. Concerning this they held Conference for some days between the Remonstrants and Festus Hommius, in the gathering of the States and in the presence of the Conferees. When this was finished, May 6, the Ministers from both sides were ordered .by the States to declare forthrightly whether Vorstius had satisfied them with his answers. The Remonstrants answered that they were fully satisfied, and therefore judged that it would be highly profitable for the Churches and the Academy if his call went through. The other Ministers declared in writing that the answers of Vorstius were so far from changing their first opinions that, on the contrary, they were more and more convinced by his answers that his call would work great harm both to the Churches and to the Academy and would be accompanied by marked danger of more disturbance if it went through. And on this account they submissively petitioned the States that the Churches should not be placed in that danger by this call.
After Vorstius had departed again, they returned to the Conference concerning the Five Articles. This was continued for some days and then brought to an end. Thereupon the States ordered the Conferees from both sides that that which had been treated orally and that which they judged was still necessary for a complete answer should be put in writing by both sides and turned over to the States by Uitenbogaard and Festus Hommius. And they ordered that meanwhile the Ministers should not boast over against one another concerning the victory that they had gained, but that they should modestly teach concerning the various Articles with edification, and should live in peace and love with one another. They also ordained that these Articles should continue in the same position (or standing) as before the Conference. In the case of Vorstius nothing was decided at that time. But when, not long thereafter, the esteemed Magistracy of the city of Dordrecht through their Deputies (the honorable Hugo Muys van Holy, Knight, Jakob de Witt, Adriaan Repelaar, and Johannes Berk, Pensionaris) requested the States, that his call might either be dropped or at least postponed, seeing that the rumors and errors and heresy of Vorstius were becoming stronger and stronger, the States ordered the Curators of the Academy that they should not proceed with his call.
When the report of this call reached his Majesty, the King of Great Britain, James I, protector of the faith, September 21, who according to his great and, especially in a king, wonderful experience in Theological matters, and according to his special zeal for the Reformed Religion, had himself read the book of Vorstius, “Concerning God,” and with his hand had indicated the chief errors, he had thought it good to admonish the States-General both by letters and an Embassador (the honorable Lord Rodolf Winwood). He admonished them that they should not admit to public office a person besmirched with so many serious errors and reproaches and allow him to teach the youth in the Academy, but should. rather make him leave their boundaries, so that the youth would not be corrupted by him with his evil and accursed errors, and so that the state of the country also should, not be weakened, seeing that also the welfare of the Republic was dependent on the uprightness of the Reformed doctrine and on the preservation thereof, in which the Netherlands Churches had until now maintained a lovely unity with the English Churches. And when there was postponement by reason of the
While these things were going on, certain students of Sacred Theology, who, having come from the home and school of Vorstius, did their best to besmudge the Academy of Franeker with Socinian errors, published in print a certain little book (of Faustus Socinus, “About The Office Of A Christian,” in which it was advised that all who seek the salvation of their souls should forsake the teachings and gatherings of the Reformed Churches and accept the views of the Photinians and the Ebionites) along with a foreword in which this little book was strongly recommended to the Churches. The States of Friesland were made aware of this, and also obtained certain familiar letters of these students in which they declared with what practices the common cause of Socinianism (which, so these letters plainly stated, was also promulgated by Vorstius, Uitenbogaard, and others in Holland) was to be secretly advanced. After they had burned many copies of those little books and had forced these students to leave their boundaries, admonished and petitioned the States themselves, first through missives of the Magistrates of the chief cities of Holland, but thereafter through the honorable Lord Kemp of Donia, that, seeing that upright agreement in the Reformed doctrine was the chief .bond and the foundation of unity and union between the United Provinces, they would not tolerate having this agreement weakened through the calling of a person who was thus suspected of public heresy, and would not allow themselves to be misled by such deceptions by which they knew that these people were trying to bring about this call. Besides, the, Ministers of Leeuwaarden, publishing the aforementioned letters of the students along with necessary notes, earnestly admonished all the churches to beware of such deceitful attempts of heretics, and especially of Vorstius. The States of the Principality of Gelderland and of the Duchy of Zutfen also warned the States of Holland about this. And the latter answered them that there was nothing of more concern to them than to preserve unbroken the unity with the other United Provinces in the common cause of Religion. They requested, November 15, that their neighboring comrades would hold themselves assured of this, their firm intention, declaring that meanwhile they would give their attention to this admonition and would order Vorstius to leave the City of Leiden and to take up residence at Gouda, and to purge himself of the errors laid to his charge by public writings.
The States of Holland and West-Friesland thereafter ordered that the participants in the Hague Conference from both sides should hand over in writing the differences of position, and should add to this their advice as to the manner in which they thought that these differences could be ironed out in the best way for the peace of the churches and the profit of the Republic. The Remonstrants, assuming the standpoint of the Hague Conference, judged that they could apply no more certain means of unity than that of mutual tolerance, namely, that both parties be permitted freely to teach and to promulgate their views concerning these Articles. The other Ministers declared that they could point to no more proper way than that a National Synod would be prescribed by the authority of the States-General, and that at this National Synod these and all other differences would be declared and investigated, and judgment would be rendered as to which view was in harmony with God’s Word and with the common opinion of the Reformed Churches, and consequently ought to be taught openly, in order that the cause of the truth should not be injured by the maintenance of various views, and in order that the peace of the churches should not be disturbed. With regard to this advice, the, votes of the States were divergent: some approved the advice of the Remonstrants, and others approved the advice of the other Ministers. The result was that in the whole matter nothing was decided with a view to bringing about an end to these differences.
When, further, the States had understood that, besides these Five Articles, there were many other disputes which were of no small importance and which were the cause of upheaval, then they decreed that in order to preserve the purity of doctrine, and in order at the same time to prevent innovations, the doctrine of the Holy Gospel in its purest form should be presented both in the Churches and in the public schools of this land. Accordingly they decreed that in the Churches and public schools of Holland and West-Friesland nothing else should be taught concerning the perfect salvation of our Savior Jesus Christ for our sins, concerning the justification of men before God, concerning saving faith, concerning original sin, concerning the certainty of salvation, and concerning the perfection of man in this life than that which was always taught in the Reformed Churches and had been taught in these Provinces until now.