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much afflicted. For this church, rescued by the powerful hand of God from the tyranny of the Roman antichrist, and the horrible idolatry of popery; (or the popedom, papatus ;) and many times most miraculously preserved in the dangers of a long continued war; and flourishing in the concord of true doctrine and discipline, to the praise of her God, to an admirable increase of the republic and the joy of the whole reformed world; James Arminius and his followers, holding out the name of Remonstrants, by various errors, old as well as new, at first covertly, and then openly assaulted; (tentarunt,-) and, while it was pertinaciously disturbed with scandalous disentions and schisms, they had brought it into such extreme danger, that, unless the mercy of our Saviour had most opportunely interposed in behalf of this most flourishing church, they had at length consumed it with the horrible conflagration of discords and schisms.
But, blessed be the Lord for ever, who, after he had hid his face for a moment from us, (who by many ways had provoked his wrath and indignation,) hath testified to the whole world, that he doth not forget his covenant, nor contemn the sighs of his own people. For, when scarcely any hope of a remedy, humanly speaking, (humanitus,) appeared; he inspired this mind into the most illustrious and powerful the States General of confederated Belgium,' that, with the counsel and direction of the most illustrious and valiant the Prince of Orange, they determined to go forth to>meet these raging evils, by those legiti
'See Ezra vii. 27, 28.
mate means, which have been sanctioned by the examples of the apostles themselves, and of the Christian church that followed them, during a long course of years, and which have before this been had recourse to (usurpatce) in the Belgic church, with much advantage; and they called a Synod at Dort by their own authority, out of all the provinces which they governed; having sought out towards it both the favour of the most serene and powerful James king of Great Britain, and of illustrious Princes, Counts, and Republics, and having obtained also very many most grave theologians; that, by common judgment of so many divines of the reformed church, those dogmas of Arminius and of his followers might be decided on accurately, and by the word of God alone ; that the true doctrine might be confirmed, and the false rejected; and that concord, peace, and tranquillity might, by the divine blessing, be restored to the Belgic churches. This is that benefit of God, in which the Belgic churches exult; and they humbly acknowledge and thankfully proclaim the compassions of their faithful Saviour. Therefore this venerable Synod, (after a previous appointment and observance of prayers and fasting, by the authority of the supreme magistracy, in all the Belgic churches, to deprecate the wrath of God, and to implore his gracious assistance) being met together in the name of the Lord at Dort, fired with the love of God (divini numinis) and for the salvation of the church ; and, after having invoked the name of God, having bound itself by a sacred oath, that it would take the holy scriptures alone as the rule of judgment, and engage in the examination (cognitione) and decision of this cause with a good and upright conscience; they attempted diligently, with great patience, to induce the principal patrons of those dogmas, being cited before them, to explain more fully their opinion concerning the known fiye heads of doctrine, and the grounds (or reasons) of that opinion.
But, when they rejected the decision of the Synod, and refused to answer to their interrogatories in that manner which was equitable; and when neither the admonitions of the Synod, nor the mandates of the most honourable and ample the delegates of the States General; nor yet even the commands of the most illustrious and very powerful lords the States General, availed any thing with them; (the Synod) was compelled, by the command of the same lords, to enter on another way, according to the custom received of old, in ancient synods; and from writings, confessions, and declarations, partly before published, and partly exhibited to this Synod, an examination of those five dogmas (or points of doctrine) was instituted. Which when it was now completed, by the singular grace of God, with the greatest diligence, fidelity, and conscience, (or conscientiousness,) with the consent of all and every one; this Synod, for the glory of God, and that it might take counsel for the entireness (integritate) of the saving truth, and for the tranquillity of consciences, and for the peace and safety of the Belgic church, determined that the following judgment, by which both the true opinion, agreeing with the word of God, concerning the aforesaid five heads of doctrine is explained, and the false opinion, and that discordant with the word of God is rejected, should be promulgated.
REMARKS OF THE TRANSLATOR.
On this preface, I would make a few remarks: 1. If the expectations, which the persons constituting this Synod, and of those who were concerned in convening it, as to the useful tendency and beneficial effects of such assemblies, were indeed ill grounded, and of course the measure improper; the fault was not exclusively their's, but that of the age in which they lived, and indeed of almost all preceding ages. Not one of the reformers, or of the princes who favoured the Reformation, can be named, who did not judge, either in a general council, or national councils or Synods of some kind, proper measures for promoting the cause of truth and holiness, and counteracting the progress of schism, heresy, and false doctrine: and in every place, where the reformation was established, assemblies of the rulers and teachers of the church, under one form or other, were employed, either in framing, or sanctioning, the articles of faith, adopted in each church, and in regulating the several particulars respecting the doctrine to be preached, the worship to be performed by those who constituted each church, and the terms of officiating as ministers, in their respective societies. The system of independency, and individuality, so to speak, either of separate congregations, or ministers, or Christians, without any such common bond of union or concert, had not then been thought of, at least in modern times. And at this day, while numbers suppose that they steer their course at a distance from the rocks which endangered the first reformers, as well as the whole church in former ages, it may well be questioned whether they do not run into the opposite extreme. Solomon says, or God himself by him, " In the "multitude of counsellors there is safety;" yet who does not know, that through the evil dispositions, and selfish conduct of those, who constitute the counsellors, and senates, and parliaments of different nations, such abuses often occur in them, as form a manifest exception to this general maxim? Yet who does not also see, that parliaments, and counsellors, and laws, are in themselves very desirable; and far preferable to every thing being settled by the sole will and caprice of every one, who by any means obtains authority? or, that every man should do that which is right in his own eyes, as when there was no king in Israel? The abuse alone is the evil, and to be guarded against: the thing itself is allowedly beneficial.
The apostles themselves, when consulted by Paul and Barnabas, did not settle the question proposed to them by their own direct authority: but " the apostles and elders came together for "to consider of this matter." (Acts xv. 6.) It is evident that some, even in ' that first general 'council,' as it is very improperly called, had strong prejudices against the measure which was finally decided on: yet its decrees proved a blessing of no small magnitude to the churches of Christ, whether constituted of Jewish or Gentile