(Connection: In the previous section we saw that the Remonstrant party continued its underhanded maneuverings to gain “toleration” for itself. However, in several cities the Contra-Remonstrants had the support of the civil authorities in continuing to insist that the differences in the churches had to be resolved by synodical decision. Among these were Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Enkhuizen, Edam, and Purmerend.)
About this time the Ministers of the Church of Kampen, in the Province of Overijsel, who had accepted the views of the Remonstrants, with the help of the Magistrates cast out of the Ministry their fellow Minister Wilhelmus Stephani, Doctor of Sacred Theology, a very learned man who adhered to the truth, because he opposed their purposes. And by means of printed pamphlets and public sermons, full of slanders, they sought to make the Reformed Religion hated among the people.
Because of these changes and the consequent disruptions of the Churches, the Remonstrants, seeing that they were more and more hated, presented to the States a second Remonstrance, in March, 1617. In it they sought, with unbelievable shamelessness, to remove the blame for all the innovations from themselves and to place it upon the Ministers who had remained firm in the adopted doctrine of these Churches. Over against this the other Ministers presented an extensive and pertinent reply, which they also delivered to the same States.
Since these long standing differences, both in the Churches and in the Republic, had brought about such a large number of evils, difficulties, disturbances, and confusion that every one who had at heart the welfare of the United Provinces and of the Reformed Churches in those Provinces understood clearly that the remedy of these miseries might no longer be postponed without noticeable damage to both the State and the Churches, but since the States were unable thus far to agree as to how to alleviate the situation, therefore his Royal Majesty, James I of Great Britain, according to his singular and upright devotion to these Lands and Churches, deemed it good to admonish the States-General no longer to allow this cancer to eat at the body of the Republic, but immediately to oppose those unsalutary disputes, divisions, schisms, and partisanship which openly threatened the State. At the same time he also very earnestly prayed them that they would restore in its former purity the old and true Reformed doctrine which they had always confessed and which was established by the common consent of all Reformed Churches, and which had always been the chief foundation and bond of the very close friendship and alliance of long standing between his Kingdoms and these Provinces, and that they would root out the errors. This, he believed, could take place most properly through a National Synod, seeing that this was the ordinary, lawful, and most efficient remedy, which from of old had been used by Christians in such difficulties. Also the Illustrious Prince of Orange, Maurits, Stadhouder of the United Netherlands, did not cease to admonish the States-General, as well as the States of Holland and West-Friesland very earnestly and gravely—even as often previously, so now also daily—that as dear to them as was the preservation of the Republic and of the Church, so diligently also they should labor that these very sore evils might be remedied immediately. To this end, he also recommended above all the convening of a National Synod as an ordinary and most certain remedy; and he persisted in this, May 10. Also the States of Zeeland, through the honorable lords Maldere, Brouwer, Pottej, and Bonifacious de Jonge, admonished and begged the States of Holland and West-Friesland in their gathering, May 19, that since the disputes and disunity were becoming daily greater, to the very great danger of the Republic, and since many remedies had been tried until now in vain, they should give consent for the convening of a National Synod as an ordinary remedy for such evils, as something set forth by the Holy Ghost and always used by Christians. The States of Gelderland, Friesland, Groningen and Ommelanden in a friendly manner request the same through their Deputies. But when the Remonstrants saw that the authorizing of a National Synod was so urgently recommended by the neighboring Kings, Princes, Republics, and Allies, yea, also by the chiefest and mightiest Cities of Holland and West-Friesland, and when they feared that the States of Holland and West-Friesland, of whom many were inclined to this and industriously promoted it, might at last be moved to consent to this, and that thus they would have to give account before an ecclesiastical tribunal concerning their doctrine and their actions, in order to escape that, they first proposed a new means to iron out the differences. They proposed that certain men, both political and ecclesiastical, of a fixed and equal number, should be chosen by the States of Holland and West-Friesland, and that these men should take counsel with one another and devise certain means of peace and unity which would be approved by the States and would thereafter be imposed upon the Churches.
But when this did not succeed (since men of understanding noted of what kind of persons this gathering would be composed and what was to be expected of it, and besides, that such a course was unusual in the churches and was not appropriate for the removal of ecclesiastical differences of doctrine), then they considered that rather than to be driven to this necessity they had to attempt extreme measures; and on this account they took desperate measures.
For some Regents took the position that the convening of the National Synod which was then under discussion was contrary to the dignity and freedom of the Provinces, since every Province had complete power to decide in the matter of Religion as it thought good. They took the position that it was unseemly and improper to subject this their freedom to the judgment of the other Provinces; and they took the position that they ought to defend this right of supremacy in every way, yea, even if it be with weapons. Through these and similar reasons the feelings of those who were less cautious were so inflamed that the Regents of some Cities, plotting together, decided to engage city militia men who were bound by an oath of allegiance neither to the States-General, nor to his Excellency the Prince of Orange, the commander-in-chief, but only to themselves; they did this in order to protect the cause of the Remonstrants and their own authority, which they had endangered for the sake of the Remonstrants! This happened at Utrecht, in which city the States-General had a garrison, strong enough to protect; against every uprising and mutiny; at Haarlem; at Leiden; and also at Gouda, Schoonhoven, Hoorn, and various other places. The Remonstrants incited the Magistrates of the Cities to do this, as can be clearly proved from various of their letters which were later captured. And thus the disunities of the Remonstrants would have brought these most flourishing Provinces in danger of an internal and civil war, unless the States-General, through their singular carefulness, and his Excellency, the Prince of Orange, through his never sufficiently praised watchfulness and bravery, had in a timely manner stamped out and suppressed this delirious madness. The States-General, seeing that the Provinces and the Churches were being brought into the greatest danger, deemed it good that the National Synod should no longer be postponed, but should be promoted at the earliest moment—the more so, seeing that the illustrious Lord Dudley Carleton, Ambassador of the royal court of Great Britain, had alerted them by a very excellent and careful address, October 6, which address the Remonstrants did not respect, but publicly slandered with a completely and shamelessly slanderous pamphlet under the title ofWeegschaal. No one, whatever his position, even the States-General, the Prince of Orange, yea, even the Royal Majesty of Great Britain, was excluded from the slander and ridicule of their slanderous tongue. This pamphlet the States-General condemned in a public edict as dishonorable and seditious; and they posted a liberal reward for anyone who would identify the author. Later Johannes Casimirus Junius, son of the very renowned Franciscus Junius, thoroughly refuted this pamphlet. At long last, December 11, the States-General ordered the convening of the National Synod, to be held, in the name of the Lord, on May 1 of the following year. At the same time they proposed some rules according to which they wanted the National Synod to be authorized and held. And since the Remonstrants did not appear to think much of the judgment of the Netherlands Churches, and had always attempted to convince the people that they had no other views than did the Reformed Churches, therefore the States-General also saw fit to invite from all Reformed Churches from neighboring Lands, Principalities, and Republics certain theologians outstanding in Godliness, learning, and wisdom, in order that they should support the delegates of the Netherlands Churches by their judgments and counsel, and that thus these differences, having been investigated and judged as by a common judgment of all Reformed Churches, might be laid to rest more certainly, expeditiously, firmly, and with greater joy.