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not supported by the establishment, provided they did this peaceably. At most, only very general restrictions should have been required. But such teachers of separate congregations,' and of schools, were not then known, or at least not recognized : nearly all places of worship and schools, were in the hands of the established authorities, and every thing attempted must be done secretly, and then, on that very ground, condemned as a conventicle or seditious meeting.
Excommunication, according to scripture, is nothing more than simple exclusion from the communion of the church: “Let him be as a “ heathen man, and a publican :” except when God miraculously by his apostles, who could in that respect “ do nothing against the truth, but “ for the truth," inflicted salutary chastisements, “ for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit “ might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus ;”. or that “ others might learn not to blaspheme.” But when, in addition to such an exclusion, many heavy consequences followed, extending even to fines, banishment, imprisonment, exclusion from the common benefits of society, and even death, the very word excommunication became dreadful and hateful; and the relaxation of all discipline, nay, almost its annihilation, has been the consequence. Restore the matter to its original use ; let the communicants become such of their own voluntary choice, admitted on a simple and credible profession of those things in which Christianity consists ; and let them, if they act inconsistently, be excluded from communion, and left, in their former state, till they give proof of repentance ; considered as equally entitled to good
will and good offices in temporal things as our other neighbours; admitted to any means of grace which may aid their recovery; conversed with in every way which does not sanction their misconduct; and “ restored,” if it may be, in “ the spirit of meekness :" on this plan, I apprehend, discipline might again be established, and great benefit arise from it. But they, who cannot inflict miraculous judgments, surely are not authorised to attempt other punishment of excommunicated persons, which have a thousand times oftener been exercised “ against the truth, than “ for the truth."
The distinctions among the different offenders, and the mandates given to the different subordinate classes and presbyteries, appear in no other way exceptionable, than as the presbyterian plan will of course be objected to, both by episcopalians and independents. But the Synod, as it has been seen, attempted far too much; and, forgetful of our Lord's prohibition, were so eager “ to root up the tares,” that they greatly endangered the wheat also.
THE APPROBATION OF THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND VERY POWERFUL LORDS THE STATES GENERAL.
The States General of Federated Belgium to all who shall see and read this, health (or salvation, salutem). We make it kņown (that) when, in order to take away those lamentable and pernicious controversies, which a few years since, with great detriment to the republic, and disturbance of the peace of the churches, arose con. cerning the well known five heads of Christian doctrine, and those things which depend on them ; it seemed proper to us, according to the order in the church of God, and thus also in the Belgie church, to convene at Dort a national Synod of all federated Belgium ; and that this might be held (celebrari) with the greatest fruit and advantage of the republic, not without much inconvenience (molestia) and great expenses, we sought for and obtained, unto the same, very many, the most excellent, learned, and celebrated foreign divines of the reformed church; as it may be seen from the subscription of the decrees of the aforesaid Synod, after each of the heads of doctrine: our delegates moreover being also commissioned (deputatis) from each of the provinces, for the direction of the same; who, from the beginning to the end being present, should take care that all things might there be handled in the fear of God, and in right order, from the word of God alone, in agreement to our sincere intention. And this aforesaid Synod, having now, by the singular blessing of God, judged with so great a consent of all and every one, as well foreigners, as Belgians, concerning the aforementioned five heads of doctrine, and the teachers of them; and, we having been consulted and consenting, published, on the sixth of May last past, the decrees and determination affixed to these presents; We, that the much wished-for fruits of this great and holy work (such a one as the reformed churches have never before this time seen,) might be abundant to the churches of these countries; seeing that nothing is to us equally desired and cared for as the glory of the most holy name of God, the preservation and propagation of the true reformed Christian religion, (which is the foundation of prosperity and bond of union of federated Belgium,) the concord, the tranquillity, and the peace of the churches, and likewise the preservation of the concord and communion of the churches in these regions with all foreign reformed churches, from which we never ought, nor are able to separate ourselves; having seen, and known, and maturely examined and weighed the aforementioned judgment and decision of the Synod, we have fully in all things approved, confirmed, and ratified them, and by these presents do approve, confirm, and ratify them ; willing and enacting, (statuentes,) that no other doctrine concerning the aforesaid five heads of doctrine be taughtor propagated in the churches of these regions, besides that which is conformable and agreeable to the aforesaid judgment: enjoining and commanding with authority, to all the ecclesiastical assemblies, the ministers of the churches, the professors and doctors of sacred theology, the rulers of colleges, and to all in general, and to every one in particular, whom these things can in any way concern or reach unto, that, in the exercise of their ministerial offices and functions, they should in all things follow them faithfully, and sincerely conduct themselves consistently with them. And that this our good intention may every where be fully and in all things satisfied, (or complied with,) we charge and command the orders, governors, deputies of the orders, counsellors, and deputed orders of the provinces of Gelderland, and the county of Zutphen, of Holland, West Friesland, Zealand, Utrecht, Friesland, Overyssel, and of the state of
Groningen and the Omelands, and all their officiaries, judges, and justiciaries, that they should promote and defend the observation of the aforesaid 'Synodical judgment, and of those things which depend on it; so that they should not either themselves make any change in these things, or permit it by any means to be done by others : because we judge that it ought to be so done, to promote the glory of God, the security and safety of the state of these regions, and the tranquillity and peace of the church. Given (actum) under our seal, and it hath been sealed by the sealing of the president, and the subscription of our secretary, at the Hague, the second of July, in the year 1619.
And beneath, By the mandate of the aforesaid High Mightinesses the States General,
Subscribed, C. AERSSEN. And in the (blank) space the aforesaid seal had been impressed on red wax.
REMARKS OF THE TRANSLATOR.
On this document it must be again observed, that the measure adopted by the rulers of Belgium, in respect of the decisions of the Synod of Dort, ought not to be judged according to the generally prevailing sentiments of modern times. An immense revolution in opinion, on these subjects, has taken place within the last two centuries : and to render these rulers and this Synod amenable to what we may call statutes long after enacted,