Reformed Dutch (Church In America) (formerly Reformed Protestant Dutch Church), a religious body which arose in the Netherlands early in the 16th century, and attained its form and organization during the struggle against Philip II. under the leadership of the princes of Orange. For a long time those who embraced the evangelical doctrines could worship only with the utmost privacy, and they denominated their assemblies "the churches of the Netherlands under the cross." In 1561 a confession of faith was published by Guido de Bres, called the Belgic confession, modelled after that of the Calvinistic church of France. It was adopted by the first synod held in 1568 at Wesel on the Rhine. Public field preaching was introduced about the same time, and also singing in the native language. Churches were formed after the Genevan presbyterian model, and at the synod of Wesel rules of church order were adopted, and the, scattered churches were organized as one body. Soon afterward the yoke of Spain was formally thrown off by the provinces, and the Protestant faith became the religion of the state. In the early part of the 17th century the famous Arminian controversy distracted the church.
Arminius, professor of theology in the university of Leyden, advanced sentiments which were thought by his colleague Gomarus to be at variance with the standards of the church. A controversy arose, in which ministers and church members throughout the country took sides, the larger portion by far sympathizing with the Gomarists, while those who were high in political power for the most part favored the Arminians. In a remonstrance to the states, the views of the Arminians on the famous five points of predestination, redemption, depravity, conversion, and perseverance were defined. From this paper they were called Remonstrants, and their opponents were from their reply called Contra-Remonstrants. The Contra-Remonstrants urged the call of a national synod to decide on the new opinions, and the Remonstrants opposed it. The former contended for the independence of the church in matters of discipline; the latter deferred much to the authority of the civil government. At length, after a protracted controversy under the stadtholder Maurice, a national synod met at Dort in 1618, and continued in session six months. By it the doctrines of the Remonstrants were condemned, and those who had taught them were deposed from the ministry and deprived of all ecclesiastical and academical offices.
The decision of the synod was followed by the action of the states forbidding all assemblies of the Remonstrants, and banishing many of the deposed ministers. The Remonstrants were afterward tolerated, and have continued as a small sect in the Netherlands, while their doctrines have spread widely into other countries. By this last national synod of the church in the Netherlands her doctrines and order were finally settled. Through the remainder of the century she was greatly prospered, was zealously carried into all the Dutch colonies east and west, and was known especially for her tolerant spirit. The church and republic of the Netherlands furnished an asylum for the oppressed of every creed and nation. Of late, however, the ministers and members of the national church have to a great extent departed from the evangelical doctrines of the standards, and rationalistic and Socinian ideas greatly prevail among them. - The church was introduced into America early in the 17th century. The first permanent agricultural settlement in New Neth-erland was made in 1623, and soon the colonists enjoyed the services of two krankbe-soeckers or consolers of the sick, who were officers of the church, and whose duty it was to visit and pray with the sick, and conduct public worship in the absence of a minister.
These read the Scriptures and creeds to the people assembled in an upper room over a horse mill. In 1628 the Rev. Jonas Michae-lius arrived at Manhattan, organized a consistory, administered the sacraments, and performed all the functions of the ministry. He was succeeded in 1633 by the Rev. Everardus Bogardus, who was accompanied by the first schoolmaster, Adam Roelandsen. Bogardus married the widow Annetje Jansen, whose farm has now become the valuable property held by the corporation of Trinity church. In his time a plain wooden building was put up for worship in Broad street, between Pearl and Bridge. The second building was erected under the administration of Director Kieft in 1642, and stood within the walls of Fort Amsterdam on the Battery. After the surrender of New Amsterdam to the English in 1664, this church was used by the military chaplains when not occupied by the consistory; and after the Dutch people removed into their new edifice in Garden street, it was used by the English garrison for worship down to 1741. Public worship was commenced at Albany perhaps as early as at New Amsterdam, but the first minister there of whom we have knowledge was Johannes Me-gapolensis, who soon after his arrival in 1643 preached the gospel to the Indians who came to Fort Orange to trade.
During the Dutch rule churches were also established at Esopus (Kingston, N. Y.), Flatbush and Flatlands, and Brooklyn. New Amsterdam at the time of its surrender contained only about 1,500 inhabitants, and in the entire province of New Netherland there were five churches and six ministers. From that time until recently the progress of the church in America has been necessarily slow, for the following reasons: 1. The emigration from the Netherlands almost entirely ceased, and many families, willing to live only under their native government, returned to the Netherlands. 2. Government patronage was removed on the transfer of the province to the British and the introduction of the English church, to which church also advantages were given amounting to its virtual establishment by law in New York, Westchester, Queens, and Richmond. 3. The Dutch language was used exclusively in worship down to the year 1763; consequently the church could not gather within her fold those who used another language, nor extend herself to new settlements. Meanwhile the English language was used in schools and in public business, and had at last become the prevailing and popular tongue.
Although English preaching was introduced in 1763, the Dutch continued to be the prevailing language in the various pulpits down to the present century, but after that it rapidly gave way to the English, and now is no more heard in public worship, save in the churches composed of recent emigrants from Holland. The minutes of the general synod began to be kept in English in 1794. 4. The church suffered from a deficiency of ministers, and the obstacles that were in the way of obtaining a supply. She had no educational institutions, and no church judicatory with power of ordination; her ministers all belonged to the classis of Amsterdam, and to that classis she applied for ministers, and to it she sent her candidates to receive ordination. By these means the congregations were often subjected to great delay and expense. Then arose the noted coetus and conferentie controversy. The coetus was a body formed in 1747, which possessed no ecclesiastical, but only advisory powers. From this sprang the coetus party, who proposed that this assembly should be changed into a regular classis, that an educational institution should be established, and that the church should thus boldly undertake to supply herself with a ministry.
This was opposed by the conferentie, who zealously advocated a continuance of the state of dependence on Holland. At last, through the agency of the Rev. John H. Livingston, D. D., the breach was healed, and in 1771 an independent church organization was effected. A convention of ministers and elders met in New York in October of that year, by which three objects were secured: 1, the internal arrangement and government of the churches, embracing the organization of superior church judicatories and measures for the establishment of a professorship of theology; 2, healing of dissensions; 3, correspondence with the church in Holland. The acts of the convention were soon followed by the approbation, good wishes, and prayers of the classis of Amsterdam. The church in Holland made it an express condition of the independence of the church in America that she should at once initiate measures for the training of a learned ministry. The classis of Amsterdam was therefore petitioned to send over a professor of theology, but instead of this they recommended the appointment of Dr. Livingston. On account of the breaking out of the revolutionary war, his appointment was delayed till 1784. During the war the congregations in New York were scattered, the houses of worship desecrated, and of the four pastors, three never returned to their field of labor.
The church now completed her organization by the formation of a general synod, which at first met triennially, but after 1812 annually. A constitution, compiled by Drs. Livingston and Romeyn from the acts of the synod of Dort, and adapted to the church in this country, was adopted. In 1770, through efforts of the coetus party, a charter had been obtained for a college, to be called Queen's, which was established at New Brunswick, N. J. A chief object of this college was, as its charter declares, to prepare young men for the ministry of the Reformed Dutch church, and it was required that its president should be a member of that church. From fear of awakening old prejudices, the professorship of theology was kept separate from the college till 1810, when Dr. Livingston removed to New Brunswick, and in addition to his professorship held the office of president of Queen's college. In 1825 the college, whose exercises had for some years been suspended, was revived under the name of Rutgers, and a new covenant was framed between the synod and board of trustees. (See New Brunswick, and Rutgers College.) - Members of the Dutch church cooperated in 1793 with many from other churches in forming the New York missionary society.
Ministers were also sent on missionary tours to Kentucky and Canada, and some churches were established, but by reason of distance and inherent weakness they were soon lost. The efforts at extension were afterward mainly directed to western New York, and about the year 1830, when the present board of domestic missions was organized, a number of important posts were occupied. In 1836 missions to the western states were commenced. At present there are 76 churches in the western states, of which a large number are composed of emigrants from Holland. There are no churches in New England, and none south of Philadelphia. Five sixths of the churches are in the states of New York and New Jersey. Two thirds of all the churches in the connection have been organized within the past 50 years, and during that time the ministry has increased more than fourfold. In 1817 the general synod cooperated with the Associate Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the formation of the united foreign missionary society, which in 1826 was merged in the American board of commissioners for foreign missions.
In 1832 the synod made an arrangement with the American board, under which in 1836 a band of missionaries went forth from the Dutch church destined for the Dutch East Indies. Stations were begun on the island of Borneo, and soon a part of the band was sent to establish a mission at Amoy in China. On account of a diminution of the numbers of the missionaries and a lack of reinforcements, the stations in Borneo were after a few years abandoned. The missionaries at Amoy have been eminently successful. In southern India are several churches forming the classis of Ar-cot, which at first were ministered to by five sons of the Rev. Dr. John Scudder. The arrangement with the American board continued in force till 1857, when an amicable separation was effected, and the missions of Amoy and Arcot were transferred to the Reformed Dutch church. In 1859 missionaries were sent to Japan, where they have done an admirable work, especially in education. Mission work is also to a limited extent conducted among the Indian tribes in the far west.
Besides the boards of domestic and foreign missions, the general synod established a board of Sabbath school union, which has since been abolished; a board of education for the aid of pious indigent young men in preparing for the ministry; a board of publication, which aims to spread a sound religious literature; a relief fund for the aid of disabled ministers and the families of deceased ones; and a fund for church extension. - In 1822 the Rev. Solomon Froeligh, D. D., of Hackensack and Schraalenburgh, N. J., and a few other ministers, seceded with their congregations from the Dutch church, on the alleged ground of a prevailing laxness in doctrine and discipline, and organized the "True Reformed Dutch church." It has only a few congregations. - The doctrinal standards of the church are: 1, the Belgic confession of faith; 2, the Heidelberg catechism; 3, the canons of the synod of Dort. The Belgic confession of faith was published in 1561, and adopted as a standard by the synod of Wesel in 1568. This was the basis of the organization of the Reformed church in the Netherlands, and in its 37 articles presents a complete systematic view of the doctrines of the reformation. The Heidelberg catechism was received about the same time.
It had been composed by order of the elector Frederick III. for the Palatinate, by Ursinus, a professor in the university of Heidelberg, and Olevianus, a court preacher. It was intended by the elector to be a harmonizing symbol of faith, to be received by both the Lutherans and Reformed in his dominions. The church in the Netherlands heartily adopted it, divided it into 52 Lord's days, and ordered that it should not only be taught to the youth, but expounded once in the course of every year from the pulpit. The canons were adopted by the synod of Dort in 1619, and framed with special reference to the five points of the Arminians which were condemned by that synod. In the church of the Netherlands, forms of prayer were at first used in ordinary public worship in connection with extemporaneous prayers. Such forms are now found in the liturgy of the Reformed church in America, but their use, though allowed, is not enjoined. Practically they are regarded as directories for the performance of that part of the service. There are other portions of the liturgy the use of which is made obligatory by the constitution, viz., forms for the administration of the sacraments, for the ordination and installation of ministers, elders, and deacons, and for the excommunication and readmission of members.
This liturgy in its essential parts was composed for the church in London in 1551 by Jan Laski or John ą Lasco, who used the labors of Calvin, Polanus, and others. This church in London was composed of Protestant refugees from Germany and the Netherlands, who in Britain under the reign of Edward VI. found an asylum from persecution. Driven back to the continent on the accession of Mary, they carried their liturgy with them. It was rearranged by Dathenus and adopted substantially by the synod of Wesel in 1568. It was afterward revised and confirmed by the synod of Dort. The English translation now in use in this country was first published by the consistory of the collegiate church of New York in 1767. In 1853 a movement was made for the revision and amendment of the liturgy. This subject was under consideration till 1858, when it was decided that no alterations should be made. The synod of 1874 adopted a revised liturgy, the use of which is optional. The prescribed order of public worship in the morning is as follows: 1, after a space for private devotion, invocation; 2, salutation; 3, reading the ten commandments or some other portion of Scripture, or both; 4, singing; 5, prayer; 6, singing; 7, sermon; 8, prayer; 9, collection of alms; 10, singing; 11, benediction.
In the other services the reading of the commandments is omitted, and the last service is always to be concluded with the doxology. Formerly the apostles' creed was recited, and a clerk (voorlezer), who was also chorister, conducted the opening services from his desk below the pulpit by reading the commandments and a chapter, and announcing and leading in the singing of a psalm. The minister had an hour glass standing on the pulpit, to measure the time to be occupied by the sermon, which was recommended not to exceed an hour. On some part of every Sabbath a portion of the Heidelberg catechism was expounded. Children were almost universally baptized, and provision was made for their instruction in Christian doctrine by parents, church officers, and schoolmasters. The school was an appendage of the church, taught by a schoolmaster appointed by the consistory, and was constantly visited by the minister and elders. The school came with the church into this country, but the continued connection became in time impracticable. Interest has lately been reawakened in this subject, and parochial schools have been established in some congregations. In public worship only such psalms and hymns are sung as have been recommended by the general synod.
Singing in the English language was introduced in 1767. In 1813 the Rev. Dr. Livingston, by order of the general synod, compiled the "Book of Psalms and Hymns" now in use, to which large additions of hymns have been made. Another book called "Hymns of the Church," with tunes, was authorized in 1869, and is in use in many of the churches. The observance of the principal feast days, as Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsuntide, was denounced by the early synods in the Netherlands; but as it was found that the people would otherwise devote them to their pleasures, it was afterward ordained that public worship should be conducted on them. In accordance with this they were for a long time carefully observed by the church in America, nor has respect for them ceased in some of the congregations to this day. - The government of the church is according to the Genevan presbyterian model. The officers are ministers, elders, and deacons, to whom may be added professors of theology. The elders have in connection with the ministers the spiritual oversight of the church. They receive, watch over, dismiss, and discipline members. The board of elders corresponds to the session in the Presbyterian church. The deacons collect and administer alms.
The minister, elders, and deacons, or the elders and deacons if there be no minister, compose the consistory, to which the government of the individual church belongs.
In the great majority of cases they are also the trustees to whom the management of the temporalities is committed. The elders and deacons are elected on the organization of a church by the male communicants, and subsequently either by the consistory or the communicants, and in both cases their names are published to the congregation for approval. They hold office for two years, at the expiration of which term they may be reėlected. The classis corresponds to the presbytery in the Presbyterian church, and is composed of ministers, with elders delegated, one from each church within a certain district. The classis is a court of appeal from the judicial decisions of consistories. It approves of calls, dissolves pastoral connections, and ordains and deposes ministers. The particular synods, of which there are four, New York, Albany, New Brunswick, and Chicago, are delegated bodies composed of four ministers and four elders from each classis within the bounds of the synod. These are courts of appeal from the decisions of the classes; they form new classes, and transfer congregations from one classis to another. The general synod is the highest court of appeal, and is composed of three ministers and three elders from every classis in the connection.
In a few instances of large classes, four ministers and four elders are delegated. It constitutes particular synods, appoints theological professors, has the management of the theological seminary and the various boards, and exercises a general supervisory power over the concerns of the church. It cannot alter or amend the constitution of the church, but may recommend alterations, which can be adopted only by the votes of a majority of the classes. At a meeting of the general synod held at Geneva, N. Y., in June, 1867, it was voted to drop the word Dutch from the corporate name of the body, it being alleged that many were repelled by this foreign designation from joining the church. The question was submitted to the classes, assented to, and the action completed at an extra session of the general synod in Albany, N. Y., Nov. 20 of the same year. A revised constitution was adopted in 1874. The reports of 1874 give the following statistics: particular synods, 4; classes, 34; churches, 489; ministers, 520; communicants, 69,149; contributions, $276,464. "The Christian Intelligencer," which is devoted to the interests of the church and mainly supported by its members, is the oldest religious weekly in the city of New York next to the " New York Observer," having been established in 1828. The boards publish a semi-monthly paper called the "Sower and Gospel Field." There are two theological seminaries, one at New Brunswick, N. J., the other in connection with Hope college at Holland, Mich., the professors of which are appointed and the course of studies prescribed by the general synod, and which all students in theology contemplating entrance into the ministry of this church are by the constitution required to attend.
Much has been done recently for the completion of the endowment of the seminary at New Brunswick, and for furnishing it with the necessary buildings and library. The James Suydam hall contains a gymnasium, chapel, museum, and lecture rooms. The Gardner A. Sage library is a spacious fire-proof building. Many thousands of dollars have been contributed by various friends of the church for books, by the expenditure of which a theological library will be secured second in value to none in the country.