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churches produced an answer to the remonstrance, a copy of which they had at length obtained.
Much time was spent in this conference, and when the discussion was brought to a close, the parties were required to express their opinion, how these dissensions could be most effectually healed. The remonstrants answered, that, in their judgment, the only method to promote peace, was to grant mutual toleration, and liberty to each party to teach and inculcate its own opinions. The answer of the pastors was, that the proper remedy was the calling of a national Synod. On this subject, the States General divided, and went to different sides.
After much controversy and many petitions and solemn warnings from various quarters, it was determined, that Vorstius should remove from Leyden, where he had taken up his residence, and that Simon EPISCOPIUS, a leader among the Arminians, should be the successor of Arminius. Before this, Gomar had resigned his office, and Polyander, an able and orthodox theologian, was put in his place.
A. D. 1613. Another attempt was made to promote peace and restore order to the agitated churches. Three men were selected by each party, who should confer together on the best method of bringing about a better state of things. new effort was made, at the earnest suggestion of the Count of Nassau, who took a deep interest in the concerns of the afflicted and agitated church. He applied to Utenbogard and to Festus Hommius, begging them to consider and inquire whether some practicable method of restoring peace to the church might not be discovered. And as all attempts to change the opinions of the parties by conference or disputation had proved abortive, whether some plan of mutual toleration could not be devised. The remonstrants had continually pleaded for toleration; but it was such a toleration as would virtually nullify the Confession and Catechism of the Belgic churches. The deputies of the churches, therefore, had uniformly resisted their demand; especially, on the ground, that many of the Arminians entertained opinions of a Pelagian or Socinian kind, which were utterly subversive of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel.
Festus, in answer to the applications from the Count of Nassau, declared, that if the remonstrants held nothing more objectionable than what was contained in the five articles published in their remonstrance, that, in his opinion, a plan of reconciliation and mutual toleration might be agreed upon; but he alleged, that there were other points of difference, and more important than these, which had not been brought forward. And he expressed the opinion, that the only method of establishing such a plan that would be at all satisfactory to the churches, would be by a national or provincial Synod.
When the illustrious the States had heard that such a plan of conference was in contemplation, they highly approved it, and directed that it should immediately be carried into effect. The persons selected on the part of remonstrants were, Utenbogard, Borrius, and Grevenchovius. On the part of the orthodox, Beccius, Bogardus, and Festus Hommius. In this conference, the remonstrants still insisted on unlimited toleration as the only effectual plan of peace; the other pastors considered it necessary to obtain from them a declaration, that they received the fundamental doctrines of the Confession; and they still urged the calling of a national or provincial Synod, as the most regular and only probable plan of quieting the disturbed churches. This conference, therefore, ended as all former ones had done, without any other effect than to increase the uneasiness of the churches, and to render them more suspicious of the designs of the remonstrants. But the Arminians being in favour with the ruling powers of the State, by various artifices, succeeded in obtaining a decree for such a toleration as they had always demanded. As the churches considered this decree as repugnant to the fundamental principles of the Belgic constitution, many of them resisted it, and chose rather to incur the displeasure of the States General, than give their consent to an arbitrary decree on the subject of religion, when the matters contained in it had never been submitted to the judgment of a lawful Synod.
A state of miserable confusion and even persecution now ensued. Many of the orthodox pastors were suspended, and others driven from their charges, because they could not conscientiously receive the remonstrants into the communion of the church.
By these commotions on account of religion, the very pillars of the state were shaken, and things were manifestly approaching a crisis, when James I. King of England, addressed a friendly, but admonitory epistle, to the States General, in which he earnestly recommended the calling of a national Synod, to restore tranquillity and the genuine doctrines of the reformation. This occurred early A. D. 1617.
The same thing was urged, with great earnestness, by MAURICE, the illustrious Prince of Orange, and Governor of confederated Belgium. When the remonstrants saw that their opinions were in danger of being subjected to the judgment of a national Synod, they had recourse to several expedients to prevent it; but proving unsuccessful in these attempts, they began to manifest and encourage, in many places, a spirit of revolt and sedition. But these disturbances only served to show in a more convincing manner, the necessity of calling, with as little delay as possible, a national Synod. Accordingly, a decree was made by the States General, that a national Synod should convene on the first of the next November, and letters were addressed to each of the States of each of the provinces. The method prescribed for the constitution of the national Synod was, that a provincial Synod should meet in each of the provinces, from which six persons should be delegated, and the letters of convocation required that their deputies should be learned and pious men, and greatly loving peace; three or four of the six were required to be pastors; the others, persons well qualified to sit in the general Synod, and examine and remove the existing controversies.
Special and equitable regulations were prescribed for appointing deputies from those classes in which part held with the remonstrants, and a part were opposed to them.
In addition to the letters of convocation addressed to the United Provinces, the States General addressed letters also to James I. King of England; to the Reformed Churches of France; to the Elector Palatine; to the Elector of Brandenburg; to the Landgrave of Hesse; to the four reformed Republics of Helvetia; to the Counts of Correspondentia and Wedevarica; and to the Republics of Geneva, Bremen, and Emben, requesting them to send of their own theologians, excelling in learning, piety, and prudence, to aid the deputies of the Belgic churches to settle the controversies which had arisen, and to restore peace to the same.
All these preparatory steps having been taken, the Synod, according to appointment, convened at Dort, or Dordrecht, on the 13th day of November, A. D. 1618.
Deputies from all the provinces of Holland, and from all the foreign reformed churches which had been invited, attended; except that the theologians of the reformed churches of France were prohibited by the King from attending.
Papers containing elaborate discussions of the five points of controversy, were also sent to the Synod by theologians of eminence, who could not attend, which were read, and inserted in the acts of the Synod.
The theologians who composed the Synod, were among the most learned, pious, and moderate, who ever met in any ecclesiastical council. And that the divine blessing might be obtained on the labours of this venerable body, a day of fasting and prayer was appointed by the government in all the Belgic churches, to deprecate the wrath of God, and to implore his gracious assistance. The Synod being met, and the divine aid and blessing being solemnly invoked, every member bound himself by a sacred oath, THAT HE WOULD TAKE THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ALONE AS THE RULE OF JUDGMENT; AND ENGAGE IN THE EXAMINATION AND DECISION OF THE CAUSE WITH A GOOD AND UPRIGHT CONSCIENCE.
The result of the deliberations of this venerable Synod, may be seen in the translation of the decision to which they came on the five disputed points, as given by Doctor Scott, in the little volume from which we have abridged the above history; and we believe that a knowledge of the facts here stated, may be useful to the American churches at the present time.
But to those who are capable of reading them, we would strongly recommend the perusal of the whole of the acts of this very important Synod, and of all the theological discussions which were read before it; all of which have been printed, and furnish as able a defence of the doctrines of grace, as can be found in any language. And as to the small diversities of opinion which appeared among the theologians of this Synod, they only serve to prove, that while they were firm and zealous in defending the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, they knew how to exercise a tolerant and liberal spirit towards those who differed from them in matters of minor importance.
Dr. Scott, in speaking of the solemn obligation under which the members came to judge of all matters according to the Holy Scriptures alone, gives this testimony: “In fact, I must give it as my opinion at least, that they did fulfil their solemn engagement; and must confess, THAT FEWER THINGS APPEAR TO ME UNSCRIPTURAL IN THESE ARTICLES, THAN IN ALMOST ANY HUMAN COMPOSITION I HAVE READ ON THE SUBJECT.'
ART. VIII.-MEMOIR OF THE REV. JOSEPH STIBBS
Memoir of the Rev. Joseph Stibbs Christmas. By E.
Lord. New York, Haven f. Leavitt. 12mo. pp. 213. 1831.
This is a memorial of a remarkable young servant of Christ, who, to highly respectable talents, added fervent piety, unwearied activity during his short course in the cause of his Master, and those peculiary attractive and amiable qualities which excite ardent affection, as well as respect, and which rendered his early removal by death, a peculiarly mournful event to those who knew him.
Joseph Stibbs Christmas was born in Georgetown, Beaver county, Pennsylvania, April 10th, 1803. His father was a native of England, who had settled in this country a number of years before. He very early manifested an ardent thirst for knowledge, and an elegant taste in the imitative arts. After passing through the usual preparatory academic course, he entered Washington College, Pennsylvania, in which institution he graduated in 1819; the first honours of his class having been, without hesitation, conferred upon him by the Board of Trustees. In the summer of that year, while a member of college, his mind underwent a happy revolution on the subject of religion. In his own opinion, and that of his friends, he then practically embraced the faith and hope of the Gospel. It was not, however, until the month of May, 1821, that he united himself in full communion with the Church. The account of his religious experience, which he delivered, in writing, to the Church Session, on that occasion, is preserved in this memoir, and affords a pleasing proof, at once, of the intelligence, the candour, and the piety of the writer.
Soon after thus becoming united with the Church, he resolved to devote himself to the work of the ministry; and, with that view, in the autumn of 1821, he entered the Theo. logical Seminary at Princeton. Here he continued nearly three years; and in the course of his connexion with the institution, manifested that piety, talent, love of knowledge, amiable temper, and polished manners, which distinguished him to the end of his course.