46. A Visitation of the Reformed Churches in the Classis of Dordrecht, May – June 1589

[Sliedrecht]: Since we [classical deputies] had heard several complaints about the minister, that he does not behave as he should, the elders and deacons, being asked, frankly confessed what we had been given to understand, whereupon we have first exhorted him to consider his office, that he should adorn the same with a godly life and, if he does otherwise, he shall have to account sorely for it before the Lord. We have also given him notice that, if we hear anything at all about this or any other matter, we shall bring it and the other [offence] to the notice of the [classical] meeting and that at he shall be, at the very least, suspended. Otherwise everything was in reasonable order and no other difficulty found.

[Westmaas]: After prayers had been offered the elders and deacons were asked about the condition of the minister, how he conducted himself in his ministry, whether they know anything concerning his doctrine and personal life which he should be told to reform, whereupon they answered together that they could only testify to his piety and that they could find nothing to say against his doctrine and life, for which they thank God the Lord.

Next, asked whether they hold their church meeting [consistory], they replied that they held it as far as possible every fortnight, unless something exceptional prevented it.

Concerning the diaconate there is also no problem and it is looked after by the congregation who maintain the poor in general and to the best of their ability.

Next concerning the church services and everything related to these; and there is no difficulty except that they want Frans Jansz. [the minister] to be relieved of the service at Klaaswaal so that the Catechism might be preached at Westmaas on Sunday afternoon and the congregation, as a result, might be better edified.

Some discussion also arose concerning the choice of elders. Among other matters it was said that Frans Jansz. visited the members [of the church] at home with the list of candidates presented to the congregation to have their vote for whom they wanted to elect as elders. Although this was done with the agreement of the consistory, some were suspicious. The consistory has therefore been admonished not to do this any more, but to act in accordance with the church order to prevent any suspicion.

[Alblasserdam]: The elders and deacons were first, in the absence of the minister, asked about the doctrine and conduct of the same and whether he carried out his ministry as he should, whereupon they answered that they can only speak well of him, thanking and praising God for the grace shown to him, although they wished that he also taught on Thursday so that the people therefore might be better instructed. When informed of this, he said that he was prepared to do as much, if the consistory would agree.

Secondly, asked whether they hold church assemblies, they replied that they do not have a set day, but come together if they have a problem. Hereupon they have been admonished to set a certain day, which they have promised to do.

In addition they were also admonished (since the marriages and the baptisms of the children were as yet not recorded) henceforth to record the same most diligently, which they have promised to do. [They] have also been admonished to keep good order in the election of elders and deacons in accordance with the church order (since the procedure followed until now is somewhat confused and might cause still more confusion), which they have promised to do.

[They] have also desired that the baljuw1 be persuaded to have the edicts concerning baptism by the priests and other matters, issued by the [provincial] court, published in the villages so that the local officers [schouten] would also respect these.

[Puttershoek]: Two brothers, members of the congregation, appeared there and [were] asked about the doctrine and conduct of the minister. They have nothing but good to testify concerning his doctrine and conduct, [for which] they thank and praise God.

As yet there are no elders or deacons on account of the small size of the congregation, and they therefore been exhorted to work in order to put the same in hand when God shall grant more growth.

Further, baptisms and marriages are conducted as they should and in accordance with the church order.

Baptised children and marriages are recorded as they ought to be.

[Heinenoord]: Four members of the church appeared as well as the local officer [schout] and some of the dyke board, who were asked about the doctrine and conduct of the minister, how he behaves. They answered together that they can only speak well of him [and they] give thanks and praise for his gifts and ministry. There is as yet only one service on Sunday.

Baptisms are administered as they should be during the service and then on a set day and are recorded with [the name of the] father and mother. Marriages are recorded and sometimes the relatives as well as the bridegroom and bride and sometimes none at all and therefore they have been exhorted to make an effort to put this in order.

We also asked about poor relief, how it is administered. It was found that it is still administered by the masters of the Holy Spirit2 and the local officer and the dyke board have promised next time, if it pleases God to spare their lives for so long, that they will then speak with the minister about this and reach an agreement and [they] have nothing against this.

[Oud-Beijerland]: The elders and deacons being assembled, they were asked about the doctrine and conduct of the minister; they answered that they know of nothing at all against either his doctrine and conduct, but they thank and praise God for his grace and for the gifts which he gave him and wished that it was so everywhere.

The minister was asked in private about the condition of the elders and deacons, how they conduct themselves in their service. Whereupon he replied that he can only speak well of them, but wants them to be exhorted to diligence in their service. Done.

There are three services a week, one during the week and two on Sunday, but only every second Sunday since he [preaches] at Nieuw-Beijerland on the other Sunday.

Further, marriages are recorded as they should be and both parties appear before the minister.

Poor relief is still administered by the masters of the Holy Spirit, yet there are also deacons, but they do not have a collection. They have been exhorted to work so that the collection might be done by the deacons, whereupon they replied that they will work to this end, [that they] have worked for this already for a considerable time using many means. And they shall persevere, hoping that eventually they shall accomplish the same, if God now grants [His] grace so that they acquire in the congregation persons of more substance for this purpose.

The brethren have also told of a man, who has stayed away for a considerable time from the Lord’s Supper and has adhered to several heresies and, despite being admonished, he does not repent, but goes so far that he will acknowledge no visible church; they desire advice as to how they should proceed in this matter, because the church ought to exercise her office in this. We have therefore recommended to them that the minister should visit him with an elder and admonish him once again and, if he gives no answer, that they shall deal with him in accordance with Christ’s commandment.3

As for the school, there is no difficulty here, thanks be to God, but the schoolmaster has been exhorted to let the children sing the psalms at school; if they also [sing] these repeatedly they might in time sing the same in church.

[Strijen]: Elders and deacons, being asked about the doctrine and conduct of the minister, can only speak well, [they] praise and thank God for grace and gifts He has given him. Then the minister is also asked about the elders and deacons, [he], for his part, also knows nothing but good of them.

Two sermons on Sunday and one on a weekday and marriage and baptism is administered on Sunday after the blessing because the people otherwise leave [the church] and he sees no means to remedy the same. [He] is exhorted therefore to do what he can to strive here for edification.

Poor relief resides with the church, yet there are still masters of the Holy Spirit. The choice of elders and deacons is made by the whole congregation because the congregation is small.

The ecclesiastical meeting is held once a fortnight. The baptised children and the marriages are recorded as they should be. Otherwise everything is in good order, thanks be to God.

[Klundert]: Some of the elders and deacons as well as a few members came together and, being asked about the doctrine and conduct of the minister, replied that they can only speak well of his doctrine, and they thank God for his gifts, yet they do wish that he sometimes studied rather better. As for his conduct they testify that they would have preferred if his way of life had been an adornment to his doctrine. And at bottom that he is a bit headstrong and he is also given on occasion to visiting the watches.4 When we admonished him in this matter, he paid little heed to our warning; on the contrary he says that he will not stop.

As for baptisms, marriages and election of elders and deacons everything is done in conformity with the church order.

As for his absence from the classis he made some excuse about the danger and the expense, and although we thought this unsatis-factory, we have left the next classis to call him to account for this as well as other matters such as visiting the watches and suchlike.

[Fijnaart]: The deputy and a few members, questioned about the condition of the minister’s doctrine and conduct, could only speak well, thanking God for his gift.

They were also asked about the condition of the schoolmaster, how well he looks after the school. They have also answered that they know of nothing particular, though they would that he took somewhat better care of the school, about which he, being admonished, has promised improvement.

Baptisms and marriages are conducted properly and also recorded.

[Willemstad]: The elders and deacons, questioned about the doctrine and conduct of the minister, give thanks and praise to God for the grace bestowed on him. Baptism is only administered in the proper service, which takes place twice on Sundays and once during the week; [they] are exhorted to record the same. As for marriages, these are recorded in the proper way.

Poor relief is not as yet in the care of the church, but they have striven, and also still strive and they hope eventually to get control of the same.

The election of elders takes place in accordance with the church order.

[They] have also told of a woman, who has entered into marriage irregularly, having previously lived in sin, and is a member [of the church]. The deputies [of the classis] have given them advice in this matter as to how to treat this most conveniently.

Source : Classicale Acta 1573-1620 Particuliere synode Zuid-Holland. I: Classis Dordrecht 1573-1600 ed. J.P. van Dooren (The Hague, 1980) 265-269.

1 The baljuw of South Holland, Jacob Muys van Holy. The country districts in Holland were divided into bailiwicks. The bailiff acted as the representative of the central authority and was, as such, responsible for local government and justice.
2 These overseers of the poor were appointed by the parish and therefore not accountable to the Reformed consistory.
3 Matthew 18 vv. 15-18.
4 The minister, Johannes Blocquius, subsequently served for a time as an army chaplain.