43. Select Acts from the Synod of The Hague, 20 June – 1 August 1586

The Ministries

4. In both the towns and villages the valid calling of those who have not before served requires: first, the election, which shall be made be consistory and deacons with the opinion of the classis or of two or three of the nearest ministers, and in those places without a consistory, by the classis, with prayers and fasting; secondly, the examination or investigation of both doctrine and conduct, on the basis of which they shall be chosen, it being however understood that novices, mass-priests, monks and those who have otherwise left some sect shall not be admitted until they have been tried for a period of time; thirdly, the approbation and approval of the local magistracy (who shall be informed to see whether they have any legitimate cause to object on account of their behaviour and civil conversation) and of the whole congregation to see whether, once the name of the minister has been made known in the churches for a period of fourteen days, there are any objections; finally, the public confirmation before the congregation, which shall take place with proper conditions, examination, exhortations, prayers and the laying on of hands by the minister responsible for the confirmation (or by some others where there are several ministers), in conformity with the order on this matter. It is understood that the laying on of hands may, in the case of newly ordained ministers who are to be sent to the churches under the cross, take place in the meeting of the classis.

14. The office of the minister consists in the continuation of [public] prayer and the ministry of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, the good care of his fellow brethren, elders and deacons as well as the congregation, and finally, with the elders, in the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline and to ensure that in everything honesty and order prevail.

24. Where there are wardens for the poor in receipt of relief at home or other almoners, the deacons shall seek to reach each a good understanding so that the alms may be better distributed to those in greatest need.

Ecclesiastical Assemblies

34. Every church shall have a consistory made up of the ministers of the Word and elders, which shall meet at least once a week. The minister of the Word (or ministers if there are several) shall preside here in turn and keep order. And the respective local magistrates may, if they so please, have one or two of their number who are church members in attendance to hear and also to consider the business coming before the consistory.

44. The National synod shall take place usually once every three years, unless there is some urgent need to hold it earlier. Each particular synod, both Dutch and French-speaking, shall send two ministers and two elders. Then the church responsible for appointing the time and place of the general synod (if the same is called is called within the three-year period) shall convene its particular synod and the same [church] shall also inform the nearest church of the other language and that [church] shall send four persons hence to determine in consultation the time and place. The same church, which has been chosen to call the General Synod shall, after consultation with the classis about the time and place, inform the superior magistrate in good time so that the business may be decided with its knowledge and, if it wishes to send anyone to the classis) in the presence of and with the advice of its commissioners.

Doctrine, Sacraments and other Ceremonies

47. The ministers of the Word and likewise the professors of theology (though it also behoves the other professors) shall subscribe to the Confession of faith of the Churches in the Low Countries. Those ministers who refuse shall de facto be suspended from their ministry by the consistory or classis until they have entirely cleared themselves; if they obstinately persist in their refusal, they shall be utterly dismissed from their ministry.

48. Likewise, the schoolmasters shall also be obliged to subscribe to the above articles or instead to the Christian catechism [Heidelberg Catechism].

54. No one shall be admitted to the Lord’s Table unless he conforms to practice of the church he is joining and has made profession of the Reformed religion as well as furnishing a testimony to his pious conversation. Without this those who also come from other churches shall not be admitted.

Reprimands and Ecclesiastical Admonitions

69. Whoever obstinately rejects the admonition of the consistory or commits a public or other grave offence shall be suspended from the Lord’s Supper. And if he who has been suspended shows no sign of repentance after several admonitions, you shall proceed to the ultimate remedy, namely excommunication, following the procedure appointed for this purpose in accordance with the Word of God. But no one shall be excommunicated without the classis having first been consulted.

Instructions of the Deputies at the Synod

8. Forasmuch as it shall also be necessary to establish good order, to abolish sundry superstitions,pilgrimages, redundant altars and such like, the more so because many priests, monks and beguines, who receive a pension, maintain their popish superstitions and turn simple men away from the pure doctrine of truth.

Zuid-Holland. 12. And since one also finds that priests and béguines are still tolerated and given pensions, even though they are often enemies of their country and of the Religion and maintain their superstitious masses and papist abuses, whereby the people are led away from God’s truth and the pure Religion. Such [abuses] should be prevented and utterly abolished.

Zuid-Holland. 17. That the altars and remnants of superstitions practices, for example at Wilsveen, ‘s-Gravezande and such like places, and that the pilgrimages to the same should be abolished.

Noord-Holland. 6. And since the papist superstition is greatly nourished by the clandestine infiltration of mass-priests and monks who still continue to teach, baptise, marry and re-marry; furthermore, by the practice of pilgrimages, processions the leading of animals around the churches and other such blasphemies; also since the advance of the Gospel is much hindered by Anabaptist conventicles, these should be prevented.

Noord-Holland 13. Since one also finds that the priests and monks are greatly encouraged in their superstition by their annual pension, would it not be advisable to put the money to better use, for example, to maintain students and suchlike?

Noord-Holland 14. Since the beguines in some towns also continue in some towns to go about in their customary superstitious habits, causing great offence, and are also confirmed in their blasphemies by living together, it is urged that the same should be prevented.

27. An urgent demand shall be made that the manifold and appalling profanations which occur on Sundays and on other days when there are pious assemblies, and about which almost every church complains greatly shall be abolished.

H.7. The deputies of the general synod shall also recount how grievously Sundays, feast-days, fast days and days of prayers are profaned because shops stay open for trade, markets take place on such days; because public dances, dancing schools, plays, fencing- masters, rhetoricians, drinking-bouts in taverns, tennis and sports occur around the church during the services; because the country folk gossip before the church-door and on the dykes, because the dyke-reeves, dyke-inspectors, courts, guilds and such like meet at such times, because writ servers, court messengers and other officials lease lands, collect debts and assemble to transact worldly affairs. Something must be done because the authorities do little or nothing about it and the common people drink themselves silly, even on fast days,and sometimes start fighting.

H.8. Since the schouten, secretaries and other officials are themselves also largely responsible for this state of affairs because they often keep taverns or come to the taverns at such times to collect fines and connive at all the disorders committed by the people, indeed they compound with the people for their disorders, and themselves have no concern for godliness and the Word of God, devout people, who are well-disposed towards the Religion, should be appointed as officers, in order to prevent the subjects from following all evil examples.

H.9. And forasmuch as it is found that on Sundays drinking parties, games, singing, running round the church, gossiping and dancing schools take place during the service, thereby profaning and hindering the Word of God; and that crowds also pack the pathways to deride those who wish to hear God’s Word and that in some places it happens that the country people bind themselves not to hear the Word of God on pain of a forfeit, it is demanded that these matters be put right.

Source : Acta van de Nederlandsche synoden der zestiende eeuw , ed. F.L. Rutgers (Utrecht, 1889) 487-643.