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ON THE STATE OF RELIGION IN HOLLAND-NO. II.
To the Editor of the Christian Review. My dear Brother, -- In my last I sent you some account of the first rise of those religious disputes in Holland, which gave occasion to the formation of the two great religious parties in that country, the Remonstrants and the Contra-Remonstrants. Those parties, under various modifications, have continued even to the present day; and without understanding something of their history and principles, we can understand little or nothing of the state of religion there at any subsequent period. Therefore it is, that, though I proposed, at your request, to give some account of the present state of religion in the Netherlands, I have gone back more than two hundred years, to speak of events and characters and discussions, chronologically indeed far remote, yet in their influence bearing immediately upon the state of things in our own days. In speaking of those disputes, I have been obliged to set forth in no very favourable point of view the character of a man who by his own party has been immeasurably idolized, and whose name is assumed by many who, I am sure, if they knew what the man really was, would be sorry to be classed along with him; and still more would shrink from any connection with the men who gathered around him during his life, and who maintained the same cause after his decease. Having brought down the history to the death of Arminius, I must now speak of these his followers, and in so doing must lay open some scenes of iniquity which I believe to almost all your readers will be new and surprising.
It has been common to represent the Dutch Arminians as altogether an oppressed and suffering party, and their opponents as cruel and bigoted persecutors. The fact, however, is, that the sufferings they endured were brought upon them by their own misconduct, and reiterated violation of established laws, both ecclesiastical and civil; and that, instead of being persecuted and oppressed, they were themselves the persecutors and oppressors. I will only give an example or two of their misdemeanors in both these respects.
The form of government in the Dutch churches I have said was Presbyterian. Each congregation, besides its minister, or ministers, had its elders and its deacons. These together formed the Consistory, of which a minister was always president; and in this body was vested the management and direction of that particular congregation. A certain number of the elders and deacons retired from office every year; and the new elders and deacons, to supply their places, were elected by the Consistory. To this body also appertained the calling of new ministers, whenever a vacancy occurred." The Consistory also watched over the conduct and doctrine of each particular minister, and maintained the order and discipline of the whole congregation. The ministers in a district, together with one or two elders, formed a Classis, which was a higher court, and exercised ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the churches in that district. Deputies from each Classis in a province met together, annually at least, and formed the Provincial Synod. And occasionally a National Synod was called, which was composed of deputies from all the provinces ; of which the great object was to preserve harmony and agreement as to doctrine throughout the whole of the United Provinces; and this was highly important, as the profession of one common faith, for which they were all contending, formed the very foundation of their union as one people, and was indeed the first and strongest bond which held them together. The disturbances and uncertainties occasioned by the long and eventful war with Spain, had, however, prevented the regular assembling of the National Synod : so that it had only met three times previous to the meeting of the Synod of Dordrecht (or Dort).
Such is a brief sketch of the form of government which had been adopted in the Dutch churches ; and there was a very strong feeling prevalent in favour of the established discipline, and against any innoyation, or any interference of persons in political power with ecclesiastical matters. The state, indeed, was called upon to honour, maintain, and protect the church in the exercise of its rights and jurisdiction; but there its power and its business ceased. So far it was the servant of the church, but in no respect its master : and it would be well if every government which professes and calls itself Christian, understood and acknowledged that its brightest honour was to be thus the servant of the church, and that its safety and glory was involved in the maintenance of Christian principles. Not as if the church needed the protection of the state--for her Defender is Almighty, and has promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her-but, on the contrary, that the state needs the protection of the church ; and must seek, by making one cause with her, to be interested in the prayers of all her true members, and in the care and love of her Almighty Helper and Defender.- Nor was it to be expected, that those who were fighting and suffering unto death for the free exercise of their religion, should permit every man, who could get the authority of the magistrate on his side, to interfere with them in what pertained to the worship of God. The Arminians, however, having (through the influence of Oldenbarneveld and his party) the , magistracy in many of the cities decidedly on their side, attempted in various instances to carry every thing their own way. For instance: at Alkmaar there were three ministers, Petrus Cornelii, Cornelius Hillenius, and Adolphus Venator whom I have already mentioned. The first was, on account of his advanced years, entitled to become Emeritus, but was still desirous of discharging the duties of his ministry. The other party, however, insisted that he should entirely desist from it. They then only wanted to ged rid of Hillenius, who was staunch for the old orthodox doctrine ; but in order to do this they must needs have a new Consistory: therefore, without considering who had served out their time and who not, the magistrates dismissed all the elders and deacons, and commanded the two ministers to give
notice on the Sunday, that all men who were members of the church should assemble in the church at two o'clock next day, each with a paper containing the names of thirty-two persons who loved peace and hated schism, and would hear one preacher as readily as another – (i. e. a Pelagian or Socinian, like Venator, just as soon as an evangelical and faithful minister, like Hillenius !!!)—out of which number they would choose eight elders and eight deacons. Hillenius said, that all this was contrary to the laws and discipline of the church -as no doubt it was, and that most grossly. This, however, did not avail. A great multitude assembled ; and, amid much tumult, the business was carried through by main force. Thus Venator triumphed, and Hillenius was oppressed, because he would not act with the new Consistory. This was in May 1610. In July the Classis met at Alkmaar, and Hillenius was president. The whole Consistory was by them declared illegal, and they refused to admit the new elder of Alkmaar to their assembly ; but resolved to remove thence with their minute book, and to meet elsewhere six weeks after. The next day Hillenius was summoned before the magistracy ; examined ; and the same day suspended, and commanded to leave the place within a fortnight! The new Consistory called in his place Philip Pynaker, a zealous partizan of Arminius, just such a colleague as Venator wished. The States of Holland, being under the influence of Oldenbarneveld, confirmed the proceedings of the magistracy of Alkmaar ; but the Classis of Amsterdain protested against the whole business, and refused to consider the Consistory of Alkmaar as regular and legal.
This is the first instance I meet with of the gross misconduct and illegal proceedings of the Arminian party. Certainly, when order was re-established in the churches, such men had no reason to complain of persecution, if they were arraigned, censured, and punished. Similar transactions occurred at other places; and in various towns the orthodox ministers were much worse used than Hillenius. At Rotterdam, on the 6th February, 1612, Cornelius Geselius, an orthodox Reformed minister of that city, was taken out of his house by the police officers before day-light, and forcibly thrust out of the city, because he refused to acknowledge his Remonstrant colleagues as pure and orthodox ministers of the Reformed church. His hearers, not liking to go to church to hear the Remonstrant preachers, held private meetings ; which, however, were forbidden by the magistrates, under penalty of one hundred guilders for everyone who attended any such meeting, and two hundred for anyone who lent his house or harn for such
purpose. The Contra-Remonstrants accordingly went out of the city, to hear the faithful preachers : whereupon their contemptuous opponents (observing, I suppose, that they returned from the villages oftentimes bespattered with mud, by reason of the foulness of the ways) honoured them with the name of Slyk-geusen (Mud-beggars): that is, with a slight addition, gave them the very same title which the Spaniards had conferred upon the suffering and persecuted Protestants; with whom they thus unwittingly identified the Contra-Remonstrants, while they
VOL. III.-NO. I.
proved themselves to be of the same temper and spirit with the proud and persecuting Romanists! By all which we may see, that it is only necessary to let such men have their own way for a little space of time, and they plainly shew what they are. In other places, the arbi. trary proceedings against the orthodox preachers, and those who suffered them to preach in their houses, when they had been thrust out of the churches by illegal interference of the magistrates, and even by violence, were carried to yet greater lengths. Troops of boys assembled about those who went out of the towns into the villages to hear their faithful ministers; called them all manner of names ; threw mud and filth upon them; assaulted their houses, and encouraged one another to attempt more serious outrages : so that the Remonstrants shewed all the symptoms of the bitter enmity of the world against vital Christianity, and the Contra-Remonstrants had to endure that persecution and reproach for conscience sake which has marked the true disciples of Christ in all ages, and which their fathers had endured (with circumstances of more cruelty indeed) from the Papists. Those who permitted the faithful congregations to assemble in their houses were fined, banished from the cities, forbidden to exercise their lawful callings, and in every way oppressed: while all their efforts to obtain legal redress were rendered vain by the power and influence of the opposite party ; till at length the Synod of Dordrecht settled the disputed points, and restored the order and discipline of the churches,
And here I must add one instance more of the illegal and violent proceedings of the Remonstrants, which may serve to shew, to every considerate mind, what spirit they were of. At Goedereede, Adrian Roman was forced into the church by the influence of the Remonstrants. At first he conducted himself with moderation ; but, after a time, went to such extremes in his preaching, that the Consistory and the whole congregation (with the exception of five or six women and an old man) separated themselves from him, and went to church at a place called Ouddorp. Afterwards they met together in a house, where a minister from the neighbourhood came and preached to them; but, the room being too small for the congregation, they requested permission to assemble in the church on the Tuesday. This was refused; but, with advice of some of the magistrates, and with the knowledge of others, they agreed to have a sermon in the church on the morning of Friday the 19th of January, 1618. The bell rung accordingly. The people began to assemble very quietly. There was a mob collected without. Roman cried out, “My brave fellows, fight for the church.” It was proposed, to murder in the church the whole congregation, consisting of seventy persons !! This, however, was overruled; but two deacons were taken to prison. Those who came out of the church were stoned and beaten with fists; much violence was perpetrated; and, on more than one day, arms were actually resorted to: and all the complaints of the oppressed and injured party, were for many months in vain. In the end of that year, however, affairs took a new turn; and in November, Roman was regularly deposed from his ministry by a decree of the Synod of Holland. But when such judgments were pronounced, and the sentences put in execution, by the regularly constituted authorities, whose business it was to maintain peace and order both in church and state, Roman and his party complained loudly of persecution and oppression !
Through the influence of Oldenbarneveld and Grotius with the States of Holland, three measures were adopted, which tended much to help the Remonstrants, and promote their interests. First, the States attempted to introduce into the churches entirely new regulations as to the calling and removal of ministers. According to the constitution of the church, this pertained exclusively to the Consistory. By the new regulation, which had indeed been proposed many years before, merely (as it should seem) to serve political purposes, and increase the power and influence of the Aristocracy, this matter was put into the hands of a Committee, consisting of four political and four ecclesiastical members : and all means were used to compel the different cities and congregations to conform to this new order of things, which had no other object than to exclude such ministers as were not agreeable to the magistrates and persons of political influence in the different places: and these (as I have already mentioned) greatly leaned to the side of the Remonstrants, as being more worldly and compliant, both as to doctrine and practice.--Secondly, Oldenbarneveld, Uitenbogaard, and Grotius, agreed upon a scheme of doctrine, which was drawn up by the latter, according to which all the ministers in Holland were to regulate their preaching and instructions; and they endeavoured to give this the force of a law, by a resolution of the States, and to impose it on all the churches. Four of the principal cities, with Amsterdam at the head, protested against this resolution ; which was, in fact, setting aside, by a mere act of a political body, the Confession and Catechism which had been received by the churches, and subscribed by all the ministers.-And, thirdly, an attempt was made to compel the Contra-Remonstrants to acknowledge and act with the Remonstrants as faithful brethren, and true ministers and members of the Dutch Reformed Church. This was proposed under the specious pretext of mutual toleration, and of preserving peace and unity. But the strict and orthodox part of the ministers maintained that peace and unity were not to be purchased at the expense of truth and purity of doctrine. “ The wisdom which is from above, is first PURE, then peaceable:" and we must not invert this order. And the pretence of toleration always serves the purpose of an innovating and heretical party, who would gladly disseminate their false and dangerous opinions, undisturbed by the opposition and exposure of the faithful preachers of the truth; and every man who conscientiously maintains the uncompromising purity and strictness of scriptural doctrine, is with them a persecutor and a bigot, though he use no weapon against them but “the sword of the Spirit.” And such