29. Extracts from the Consistory book of the Reformed Church at Dordrecht, 1572-1574

Anno 1572

In July 1572 D. Johannes Lippius came from Wesel to begin his ministry in Dordrecht. In August 1572 D. Bartholdus Wilhelmi came from London to begin his ministry at Dordrecht. In September these two ministers summoned those whom they considered well-disposed to the gospel into the consistory and had some of these chosen to hold provisionally the office of elder and deacon: and this was done. But since most of these disdained this service, the aforesaid two ministers of the Word had many times to choose provisionally others until elders and deacons were chosen in the proper fashion.

Anno 1573

On 14 June 1573 there took place the first public confession of faith of those who professed the holy Gospel. And on the following Thursday a public fast and day of prayer was held for the election of the elders, which election took place in the following way.

We two ministers of the Word and some of the magistrates who had made profession of their faith proposed twelve brethren whom we thought the most suitable to the congregation and exhorted them to choose from the twelve and to write down [the names] in the consistory of those whom they considered best qualified.

The names of those brethren proposed were as follows:

1. Jan Adriaenssen, cloth merchant; 2. Cornelis Evertzen; 3. ……;
4. Jan Canin, printer; 5. ……; 6. Claes Janssen Jager, skipper; 7. Cornelis Jacobzen, bowyer; 8. Jan Aertzen, hatter; 9. Jan Anthonissen; 10. Simon Franssen; 11. Meuwes Janssen; 12. Bouwen Aertzen.

…..the members of the congregation were exhorted to register in the consistory any objections about the doctrine and conduct of the chosen elders between Thursday [25 June 1573] and …. ; and those who were chosen by the most votes from the twelve were these:

1. Jan Adriaenssen ;2. Jan Canin; 3. Cornelis Evertzen; 4. Jan Thonissen; 5. Meuwes Janssen; 6. Claes Janssen.

On 28 June the aforesaid brethren, who had been proposed, were confirmed in their ministry in the Grote Kerk before midday after the sermon, since nothing had been said against any of them which might prevent their confirmation.

On the same day the elders gathered with the two aforesaid ministers for the first time and discussed the Lord’s Supper and the administration of the Lord’s Supper, which was to be administered to the congregation next Sunday. [It was] decided by common consent that Bartholdus should administer on the first occasion and Lippius, our fellow minister, should read for as long as the proceedings took. Also decided that Jan Canin and Jan Thonissen should serve at the Table.

First Lord’s Supper.

On 5 July the Lord’s Supper was held for the first time in this town of Dordrecht and the number of communicants was 368.

9 July in the Consistory

The brethren of the consistory, being assembled, discussed the election of the deacons and it was decided to hold a fastday on 14 July and on that occasion to propose certain men to the congregation so that they should choose the best qualified for the office of deacon from these. And the brethren, who were proposed on the appointed day were as follows:

1. Jasphar Walen; 2. Cornelis Franssen; 3. Jacob Franssen; 4. Jan Pieterzen; 5. Steven Willemzen; 6. Herman Bachrach; 7. Jan Bronckhorst; 8. Aert Pieterzen; 9. Jan Martzen; 10. Jan Aertzen; 11. Bouwen Aertzen; 12. Cornelis Jacobzen; 13. Gerardt Lievessen 14. Cornelis Aertzen; 15. Adriaen Godtschalck; 16. Jacob Block.

The congregation was exhorted to choose eight from the sixteen brethren, who were fitted to serve in the office of deacon.

These following eight brethren were chosen by the most votes:

1. Jaspar Walen; 2. Cornelis Franssen; 3. Jacob Franssen; 4. Jan Pieterzen; 5. Steven Willemzen; 6. Jan Martzen; 7. Cornelis Jacobzen; 8. Jan Bronckhorst

On 19 [July], having been presented to the congregation, these were publicly confirmed in their ministry before the congregation.

21 July in the Consistory

[The case of] a certain Jan Hendrickzen, pinmaker, was discussed by the brethren in the Consistory. He had remained for several years with his wife without being married because his conscience, as he said, did not permit him to be married by the priests. Nevertheless this was known to none save some private friends although they were held and regarded by all burghers as properly married persons. After the Consistory had diligently considered all the circumstances and reflected what would be most edifying, the brethren resolved that they should both be exhorted in the consistory to confess their sin and to repent and to marry privately in the consistory. This also took place on 23 [July] on the conditions set down in writing.

26 August [1573] in the Consistory.

The Calling of Jacobi

Jacobus Michael, minister of the Word, appeared in the consistory. He was informed that he had been called as minister to this congregation by the consistory, which desired him to accept his calling. But we told him in advance that the salaries of the two ministers of the Word were badly in arrears on account of the defective payments, which happened there. And if he also suffered the same, he should not say that he had not been warned. Jacobus replied that he was not worried about payment and he also doubted not that all should be well, not least because Monsieur Nieuvelti had been appointed schout. Jacobus said that on the matter of the calling, he wished to obey it provided that, if at some time the door opened at ‘s-Hertogenbosch,1 he wanted to go there without hindrance, because he had made, as he said, a promise to them. He was told that his call by the congregation at Dordrecht took precedence over the promise, which he had made to them. Jacobus however refused to accept this. So it was later agreed that if those of ‘s-Hertogenbosch could at some time demonstrate to the Classis that they had a better claim to Jacobus than the congregation at Dordrecht and the Classis upheld this claim, then Jacobus should go there; if the congregation of Dordrecht had a better title, then he should remain with it.

I Jacobus Michael acknowledge the foregoing.

Second Lord’s Supper

On 13 December the Lord’s Supper was again administered to the congregation by Joannes Lippius and the number of communicants was 436. On the same day Janneken Gerardts, the wife of Jan Nordthoudt, and Lijntgen, her sister, both from Ghent, did public penance and both were reconciled with the congregation of Christ and received publicly with much edification with the kiss of peace.

Third Lord’s Supper Anno 1574

On 21 March 1574 the Holy Communion was administered again to the congregation by Jacobus Michael and the number of communicants was then 536. On the same day His Excellence the Prince [of Orange] broke bread with us.

The Ordinance for the Consistory2

1. First, the ministers of the Word with the elders shall meet every Sunday after the midday sermon and on Thursday at two in the afternoon and also exceptionally in necessity, when they are required, in the consistory to treat with one another all matters concerning the upbuilding of Christ’s Church in the fear of the Lord. Anyone not in his place in the consistory when the Lord’s Name is invoked after the appointed hour shall be fined on each occasion one half stiver, unless he has a legitimate excuse, of which the Consistory shall be the judge.

2. Secondly, the ministers of the Word shall preside each week in the Consistory and before any business is discussed, the president shall call on the Lord’s Name and after the business, before they leave, he shall praise and thank God. The same minister shall also seek the opinions of the brethren on all matters, which are discussed. That which is decided unanimously [or] with the most votes in accordance with the Word of God shall be diligently noted and pronounced to be the judgement of the Consistory. He shall also take care by exhortation and, if need be, by punishment to see that good order is kept in the Consistory. In addition he shall also demand the fines payable on pain of incurring the same.

3. Thirdly, if the presiding minister does not diligently minute what the brethren of the consistory have unanimously decided so that they may take note of what business has come before them, and he consequently fails in his summing up, he shall forfeit on each occasion one half stiver. And anyone who also interrupts when the presiding minister is busy with some party, without first obtaining leave, shall also forfeit one half stiver on each occasion.

4. Fourth, the presiding minister shall endeavour to present the business as clearly as possible so that the brethren, understanding the same, may propose and pronounce suitable counsel. To ensure that this occurs, the brethren shall also listen attentively when the business is introduced.

5. Fifth, if any member of the Consistory is caught, during the meeting, shouting, playing, whispering, jesting, chattering, lying down, wandering, etc., he shall forfeit one half stiver on each occasion.

6. Sixth, no member of the Consistory shall during the questioning interrupt another while he is speaking, but each shall in turn give his advice and counsel reverently as though he were in the presence of God. And if there is anyone among the brethren who does not have a sound opinion on some matters, he should not be ashamed to change his opinion and submit to that which has been decided by the sanest and largest number of votes on the basis of God’s Word. He should not obstinately maintain that his own opinion is best, but rather he should be tractable, even if he be a minister of the Word. And should anyone try to impose his opinions stubbornly, insolently and vehemently, he shall be dealt with as a disturber of the common peace.

7. Seventh, the ministers and brethren of the Consistory shall treat and speak to one another during the discussion and debating of business, which is presented, graciously and reverently. And if anyone should use unseemly language to another, or speak in a contemptuous, irreverent or contentious manner, he shall forfeit three stivers on each occasion. And if there is anyone whose stubbornness is not restrained by such penalties, he shall be denied admission to the Consistory, or a heavier punishment shall be imposed as the Consistory may think most proper.

8. Eighth, every time the Consistory meets, all the resolutions and anything useful for the government of the church shall be diligently and faithfully minuted in the consistory book and whenever a matter is decided and written down, it shall be read again in case it needs any amendment. At the following meeting the decisions of the previous meeting shall be read out. The ministers shall decide among themselves who is to do this.

9. Ninth, the ministers and elders shall at once promise that no one may speak, write or otherwise disclose or make known to anyone whatever is discussed in the Consistory. But it shall be kept secret on pain of severe punishment at the discretion of the Consistory.

10. Tenth, no one may open letters addressed to the Consistory or the ministers on their own. These shall be opened in the Consistory, when the brethren are gathered after God’s Name has been invoked. On pain of a punishment to be determined by the Consistory.

11. Eleventh, no minister of the Word or elder may absent himself on the days appointed for the Consistory, unless he is prevented by some serious cause. The minister should inform his fellow minister and the elder his fellow elder, who should make his apologies to the Consistory, on pain of a forfeit of two stivers for each offence. And the Consistory will judge whether or not the reason is sufficient.

12. Twelfth, no member of the Consistory may leave as long as the Consistory is in session, without first having permission from the Consistory, on pain of a forfeit of one stiver. And the meeting shall not go on beyond six o’clock, unless the majority of the Consistory consider it necessary for certain reason to extend the time.

We the ministers and elders freely submit ourselves to the aforesaid consistory ordinance as we testify by subscribing our names. Enacted, 29 June 1573. Joannes Lippius, minister of the Word, Bartholdus Wilhelmi, minister of the Word, Jacobus Michael, minister of the Word, Christianus Venlo, minister of the Word. Jan Adriaens., Cornelis Evertz., Claes Janss. Jager, Jan Canin, Meeus Jansz., Jan Anthonisz.

Source : Uw Rijk Kome, Acta van de kerkeraad van de nederduits gereformeerd gemeente te Dordrecht, 1573-79 (Dordrecht, 1981), pp. 1-8.

1 That is when the Reformed Church could be established there.
2 The procedures adopted here closely resemble the Ordnunge der vorsamlinge der predicanten und olderlingen so alhyr underholden wert in force at Emden, see: Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des XVI.Jahrhunderts , ed. E. Sehling. Niedersachsen; Die ausserwelfischen Lande 1. Halbband (Tübingen, 1963) 452-54.
i. Willem van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1538-1608).