32. Select Acts from the Synod of Dordrecht, 15-28 June 1574

1. It was recommended that a copy of the Confession and the Articles of the Synod [of Emden] should be kept in each consistory, or at least in each classis. [p. 134]

5. The ministers and elders shall see that in the consistories, classes and synods they only discuss ecclesiastical matters. But in those matters which belong both to the ecclesiastical and to the political spheres, (for example, many matrimonial matters belong there), they should seek the judgement and authority of the civil magistrate, if any difficulty should arise. [p. 149]

22. i) On the matter of schools it has been decided that the ministers of all the classes shall consider where there should be schools.
ii) [They should ask] whether the schoolmaster of the place in question previously received a public and regular stipend.
iii) They should ask the magistrates for leave to appoint a schoolmaster and [they should also ask] that the magistrates give instruction that he be paid the stipend which he used to receive.
iv) The ministers shall see that the schoolmasters subscribe to the Confession of faith, submit to the discipline and also instruct the youth in the catechism and other useful things.
v) If there are any schoolmasters who refuse to comply, the minister shall ask their magistrates to exclude or to dismiss these.
vi) If the ministers fail to obtain any of the above mentioned things from their magistrates, they shall petition the superior magistrates for satisfaction and press on with the matter. [pp. 154-55]

29. In those places where the Christian congregation does not derive any benefit from the income of the hospitals, the endowments administered by the Holy Spirit and other foundations for the relief of the poor, but only collects and distributes alms given in church or elsewhere, the procedure for the proper election of deacons already agreed shall remain in force.1 But where the magistrate permits [the Church] to share in endowments already mentioned, the consistory shall choose two men for each single vacancy and then present these to the congregation. If the congregation approves all these candidates, they shall present the said men to the magistrates, who shall select from this number one half: these shall then be elected [as deacons]. But where the former electoral procedure is equally acceptable, the same shall be followed as the most suitable. [pp. 149-50]

32. When the elders and deacons have been confirmed in office, they shall subscribe to the Confession and the Articles of discipline. [p. 155]

36. It has been decided that where the deacons have only alms to gather, they shall present their accounts every month to the consistory. But where they receive a share of the income from the Holy Spirit and the other foundations for the relief of the poor, they shall present their accounts to those whom the magistrates, together with some members of the consistory, shall appoint. And this shall be laid before the congregation on each occasion so that everyone who wishes to be present for the accounts may attend. [p. 150]

[The classis of Walcheren asked] whether it were good and expedient to make a request to His Excellency for a warrant to all officers to the end that the people be obliged on Sundays to attend the Word of God or incur some penalty; and likewise that public sales, taverns, commerce and manual work should close or cease on weekdays during the sermon, it being understood that the same would not extend beyond one hour. [p. 213]
47. The classes should ask their magistrates to forbid buying, selling, drinking, working and strolling during the sermon, especially on Sunday. If any magistrate should show reluctance in this matter, they should petition my lord the Prince [of Orange] that he admonish the magistrates to look to their office and to conduct themselves after the manner of those who had already put such [ordinances] into practice. [p. 144]

48. The ministers shall ask the magistrates to do away with profane and secular proclamations concerning buying, selling and lost property in the church. [p. 169]

58. Baptism shall only be administered in the public assembly of the church when the Word of God is proclaimed. [p. 146]

59. Where sermons are infrequent and yet there are children to be baptised, a time shall be appointed for the bringing of children to baptism and to make this known, the bell shall be rung to call the people together and a short sermon shall be delivered before the baptism. [p. 167]

68. The Lord’s Supper shall not be administered where there is no formal congregation, i.e. where there are no elders and deacons to supervise the receiving and regulation of those admitted [to the Table]…. [p. 149]

[The classis of Voorne and Putten] asked how one should treat the receiving of those who enter the congregation of God for the first time. Whether they should be publicly questioned in church about their faith, or whether this should be done in the consistory with a ‘yes’, because we see that many do not enter the congregation for fear of being questioned at length, though they are otherwise well-disposed to the same. [p. 200]

70. It has been decided that the receiving and examination of those who enter the congregation shall take place before a minister and two elders, or simply two ministers, who shall appoint a convenient time to visit these. And the profession of faith and submission to the discipline shall take place in public, either in the consistory or in the church, where everyone may attend, and the names of those who have been received shall be solemnly read out there. [p. 147]

72. It has been decided that, while the Church is yet young, those who have already been examined shall profess their faith by answering ‘yes’. [p.147]

88. Since the officials of the Antichrist annexed the authority and jurisdiction of the civil powers in the matter of divorce during the popery, the magistrates shall be entreated and exhorted by the ministers from God’s Word to assist those who need and desire their help in such matters, according to the tenor of God’s Word and other laws. [p. 156]

89. The innocent party, having convicted the [other] party of adultery, shall sue the magistrates for a verdict of divorce. Should the magistrates not wish to grant this, he shall ask leave of the magistrates that the consistory be permitted to act as it judges right from God’s Word. If this also cannot be obtained, the consistory should advise [the innocent party] to go where he may gain the consent of the magistrate. [p. 157]

[The classis of Voorne and Putten] sought advice as to the best means of combatting the sect of the Anabaptists. For they do not attend the preaching of the Word nor can they be persuaded to enter into debates. In the meanwhile their false doctrine spreads like a cancer: besides it spreads out from the village of Zwartewaal, where the majority are inclined to the sect, to infect the whole of Voorne, including the chief villages, such as Heenvliet, Zuidland and Abbenbroek etc., and in some villages no children at all are baptised. [p. 196]

art.Qu.3 To the question raised by the [classis] of Walcheren how to combat the Anabaptists or to bring them back to the right path, it has been decided that the ministers should entreat the magistrates not to accept or to allow any who do not take a valid oath to obey the authorities. And to exhort those who already live there to hearken to God’s Word and to bring their children to baptism. If they refuse to do so, they should be summoned into the presence of the ministers and obliged to declare and to justify their opinions. Furthermore, it would also be good if the ministers seek to enter their secret meetings and to indicate and demonstrate that their conduct is wrong. [p. 161]

art.Qu.3 [To] the question raised by [the church of] Delft, whether a moneylender may be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, is replied in the negative. Although such a trade is permitted by the magistrates, it is nevertheless permitted more on account of the hardness and wickedness of man’s heart, than on account of God’s will. Besides, many hundreds of people would be offended if such a person were admitted. [p. 163]

Organisation of Poor Relief at Den Briel

4. The number of poor among us is very great and the revenues small so that we only have what is gathered in church during the sermon and what is collected with the help of the magistrates in house-to-house collections. The groans and lamentations of the wretched, who cry out to the Lord in their hunger and nakedness, often grieve us, yet we cannot help them.

5. Hitherto we have ministered through the deacons to all the poor in our town without distinction, both to the members of our own congregation and to those outside, according to our ability. But henceforth we need only minister to our fellow-members, for the following reasons.

i) Those who are called the masters of the Holy Spirit receive the revenues from the foundations for the relief of the poor by custom and since the revenues and the administration of these should be kept together, we think it proper to send all poor people, who are not known to us as fellow members, to the masters of the Holy Spirit, as they have a claim on the revenues of the Holy Spirit, and not to minister to these any longer.
ii) Because we see that the Holy Spirit allows us to minister each week to the poor who are their concern, but when these die, they lay claim to the estates which the poor have left and directly after their death, they take it away in wheelbarrows.
iii) As our deacons are ordinary craftsmen, they must gain their livelihood by working and they cannot abandon their families and enter the service of the whole town, for which purpose the masters of Holy Spirit have been appointed.

6. The members cannot be relieved in accordance with their needs unless we have other means than we have at present.

7. The ministers of the poor [i.e.deacons] complain about the great influx from all sides because they are situated on the frontier, and they declare that henceforth they shall assist no strangers unless they receive help in this respect from other churches, for the poor are sent to us from all sides contrary to article 45 [of the Synod of Emden]. [pp. 205-206]

[The classis of Zierikzee asked whether] magistrates who did not belong to the church should have any voice in the appointment of ministers. [p.211]

Source : ‘De acta der provinciale synode te Dordrecht, 15-28 juni 1574’, in: Acta van de Nederlandsche synoden der zestiende eeuw , ed. F. Rutgers (Utrecht, 1889) 131-217.

1 A reference to articles 13-14 of Synod of Emden.