A Test of Power, a Test of Faith
The conclusion of the Twelve Years’ Truce gave the United Provinces an interlude of peace abroad, but at home it was followed by one of the most severe conflicts to afflict the Republic in its entire history. The struggle which marked the decade from 1609 to 1619 pitted the Arminians or Remonstrants against the Gomarians or Contra-Remonstrants, but there was more to the controversy than an admittedly important contest between Calvinists of stern dogmatic persuasions and those who had an Erasmian tolerance and breadth of views. The Arminians and Gomarians battled with sermons and tracts not only to prove the truth of their own views but to win the adoption of their own concept of the proper relation of church and state. The Gomarians maintained that the ultimate and primary function of the state was to defend and serve the church, as God’s preeminent instrument on earth. This was, by one of history’s ironies, a continuation of the doctrine of the medieval papacy, so loathed by these staunch Calvinists, in its controversies with emperors and French kings. But it was the task of the church itself—preachers, professors of theology, and lay elders in synods and “classes” taking the place of the pope—to define its doctrines and to lay down its disciplinary decisions; the task of the state was to repress contrary doctrines and support the discipline decreed by the church.
KeywordsCorporal Punishment Free Exercise United Province Special Court Severe Conflict
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