Praefatio Preface
Bavinck, Herman. "Praefatio." In Synopsis purioris theologiae: disputationibus quinquaginta duabus comprehensa ac conscripta per Johannem Polyandrum, Andream Rivetum, Antonium Walaeum, Antonium Thysium, S.S. Theologiae Doctores et Professores in Academia Leidensi. Editio sexta. Edited by Herman Bavinck, ed, iii–vii. Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Didericum Donner, 1881. Bavinck, Herman, Henk van den Belt and Mathilde de Vries-van Uden. "Herman Bavinck’s Preface to the Synopsis Purioris Theologiae." The Bavinck Review 8 (2017): 101–14.

3 Praeclaram hanc Purioris Theologiae SYNOPSIN, primum anno 1625 editam, deinde non longo intervallo quater typis repetitam, data opera laudibus celebrare lectorique commendare nihil attinet; pauca autem quaedam de libri scriptoribus, de ejus forma, virtute, auctoritate, omnino de fatis ejus sextae editioni, jamjam in lucem proditurae, praemittere haud ab re esse mihi videtur. Opus enim hoc auctorum ejus aetate per quinquaginta ferme annos studiosis theologiae aliisque notissimum omnium fere in manibus erat, hodie autem jacet longe plurimos latens.

110 This excellent Synopsis of a Purer Theology, first edited in 1625 and afterwards reprinted four times with short intervals, doesn’t need to be praised much or to be recommended to the reader. However, I don’t think it improper at all to say some things about the writers of the book, about its design, quality, authority, and about its fate, as an introduction to the sixth edition. For this work was, in the time of its writers, for approximately fifty years very well-known among theological scholars and others, and read by nearly everyone, while nowadays it is unknown to most people.

Vox „purioris” jam tempus indicat, quo conscripta Synopsis est. Nimirum in lucem emissa est, paulo postquam Ecclesia Theologiaque Reformata ex acri certamine cum Remonstrantismo victrices prodierunt. In Synodo Dordracena confessio Reformata denuo ad Lydium lapidem Sacrae Scripturae examinata atque probata erat. Placita Arminiana ceteraque heterodoxa refutata et convicta ex Ecclesia Reformata expulsa erant.

The word “purer” itself already indicates in which time the Synopsis was written. For it surely came into being shortly after the Reformed Church and theology had triumphed over the Remonstrants after their fierce dispute. At the Synod of Dort the Reformed confession was once again examined according to the touchstone of Holy Scripture, and approved of. The Arminian and other heterodox doctrines were turned away, refuted and banished from the Reformed Church.

Dignitas atque auctoritas Synodi prodiit illis temporibus praesertim 4 in reformanda Academia, a qua Rcmonstrantismus ortum duxerat. Academia enim Lugduno-Batava, cujus cathedrae a variis et inter se saepe parum congruentibus professoribus occupatae erant, annuente Synodo quatuor professoribus ornata est, qui ex toto animo ac corde confessionem Reformatam amplexabantur. Jam anno 1611 in Gomari locum substitutus est Polyander, quem anno 1619 secutus est Walaeus. Eodem anno Thysius, professor Harderovicensis, inauguratus est. Et Rivetus e Gallia vocatus, quartus, anno 1620 munus suscepit.

111 The Synod’s dignity and authority were especially evident those days in reforming the Academy, where Remonstrantism had come into being. For the Academy of Leiden, the chairs of which were held by different professors, who often didn’t agree with one another, acquired, on recommendation from the Synod, four professors, who had accepted the Reformed confession with all their heart. Already in 1611 Gomarus21 was replaced by Polyander,22 and in 1619 Walaeus23 followed. In the same year Thysius,24 professor in Harderwijk, inaugurated. And Rivetus,25 as the fourth, took his position in 1620, after he was called from France.

Professores hi quatuor, praeclari et doctissimi viri, sine dubio optime de Ecclesia Reformata meriti, egregie inter se congruebant, se invicem, suis quisque ingenii dotibus ac facultate, mutua pace moderantes corrigentes compensantes. Operae pretium est, referre quod Walaei filius de eorum mutuo consensu et cujusque animi dotibus narrat. Quisque, inquit, ut assolet, prae ceteris quibusdam animi dotibus eminuit. Memoria praepollebat Thysius, ingenio Walaeus et Rivetus, qui et judicio ad concludendum excelluere, sed dexteritate ad exsequendum Polyander. In agendo fervidus erat Thysius, vigore plenus Walaeus, quo remissior Rivetus, sed sedatus erat Polyander. In exprimendis animi conceptibus elegans Polyander, voce tamen et eloquio Rivetus et Walaeus praecellebant. In Philosophicis exercitatus magis Walaeus, in linguis Thysius, Hebraea praesertim, nam et Graecae peritior Walaeus. In Theologia diffusam magis eruditionem habebant Thysius et Rivetus, solidam Walaeus et Polyander. Peritior in Historia Ecclesiastica Thysius, in lectione Patrum Rivetus, in Theologia Scholastica Walaeus. Versatior in controversiis Socinianorum, Anabaptistarum et Remonstrantium Walaeus, Pontificiorum Rivetus. Praelegebat Thysius diffuse, Rivetus plene, solide et breviter Walaeus, ad praxin accommodate Polyander.

These four professors, excellent and very scholarly men, who have been undoubtedly very profitable for the Reformed Church, agreed with each other exceptionally well. They also complemented one another with their talents and capabilities, by moderating and correcting each other. It’s worth referring to what Walaeus’ son tells about their mutual consensus and about the intellectual gifts of each. He says that
each of them, as it tends to be, excelled the others in certain intellectual capacities. Thysius was superior in his memory, Walaeus and Rivetus excelled in their mental abilities and judgement in drawing conclusions, but Polyander in his skilfulness in explaining. In expressing himself Thysius was fervent, Walaeus full of energy, Rivetus gentler, but Polyander was calm. Polyander was good at expressing thoughts, while in voice and eloquence Rivetus and Walaeus surpassed the others. Walaeus was more schooled in philosophy, Thysius in languages: especially Hebrew, because Walaeus was more clever in Greek. In theology Thysius and Rivetus had a more extensive knowledge, Walaeus and Polyander more a solid 112 one. Thysius was more learned in church history, Rivetus in reading the Church Fathers and Walaeus in Scholastic Theology. Walaeus was kept busy by the conflicts of Socinians, Anabaptists, and Remonstrants, Rivetus by those of the Roman Catholics. Thysius taught in a detailed manner, Rivetus in a comprehensive, Walaeus in a brief and concise manner, and Polyander adapted his teachings to practice.26

5 Praesertim nos, viventes in tempore, quo tanta doctrinae est discrepantia inter theologos, admiratione et gaudio afficit Θεία quaedam ἁρμονία sententiarum consensusque super omnibus sacrae religionis capitibus, qui inter hos quatuor professores semper adfuit. Imo, quemadmodum in Walaei vita legimus, decreverunt et observarunt continuo, neminem judicium de religionis controversia, Ecclesiae regimine, sive casu conscientiae, seorsim, sed nonnisi una cum collegis suis daturum.

We, that live in a time where theologians have very different opinions on doctrine, are especially filled with admiration and joy, while seeing the unanimity and consensus about every aspect of the holy religion, that was always found among these four professors. They even, as we can read in the “Life of Walaeus,” decided and observed continually, that none of them would express their opinion on religious disputes, the church government, or a case of conscience, on their own, but only together with their colleagues.

Purioris igitur theologiae haec Synopsis mutui eorum consensus ipsa monumentum est amplissimum. Quinquaginta duarum disputationum, es quibus constat, quaeque alia ab alio scripta est. Noveni disputationes primae in hoc ordine, a Polyandro, Walaeo, Thysio, ceterae (a decima usque ad ultimam) alternatim a Polyandro, Riveto, Walaeo, Thysio, ita ut a Polyandro quatuordecim, a Riveto undecim, a Walaeo quatuordecim et a Thysio tredecim disputationes conscriptae sint. In quaque disputatione theses adhibentur, vulgo quadraginta aut quinquaginta, in aliis plures, in aliis pauciores. Interdum etiam thesibus corollaria quaedam vel antitheses adjunctae sunt. Haec disputationum forma ex academica institutione sumta, toti operi tribuit perspicuitatem et suavitatem, etiam ubi argumentum interdum tractatur aridissimum et implicatissimum.

So, this Synopsis of a Purer Theology is a very grand monument of their consensus. Each of the fifty-two disputations, of which it consists, was written by one of them alternately. The first nine disputations were written in this order: by Polyander, Walaeus, and Thysius, and the others (from the tenth up to the last one) alternately by Polyander, Rivetus, Walaeus, and Thysius, so that fourteen disputations were written by Polyander, eleven by Rivetus, fourteen by Walaeus and thirteen by Thysius. Each disputation consists of theses, mostly forty or fifty, but sometimes more or less. Sometimes corollaries or antitheses are added. This form of the disputations, taken from the academic instruction, added clarity and charm to the entire work, even where the argument is very tedious and tough.

Synopsis, in lucem vix prolata, regina doctrinae Reformatae creata videtur. Erat enim enchiridium studiosis theologiae suave et commodum, breve, lucem claram afferens multis ac variis rebus, controversias cum Remonstrantibus et Pontificiis acute, subtiliter ac perspicue sed tamen sine ira et studio exponens et persequens, ac denique conscriptum per quatuor professores, qui fiducia et amore Ecclesiae gaudentes tum ob pietatem tum ob doctrinam ab omnibus fere colebantur. Synopsis ipsa exemplum clarum et speculum perlucidum nobis est orthodoxae doctrinae, 6 quae in Synodo Dordracena principatum obtinuerat. Quod autem haec doctrina per dimidium seculnm regnavit et regnare potuit, nemini mirum videbitur, qui hanc Synopsin legerit ac volverit. Nulli alii enchiridio illius temporis acumine atque argumentandi subtilitate cedit, splendet non raro διανοίας μεγαλοπρεπείᾳ, veritatis S. Scripturae et confessionis Reformatae plane conscia et gnara est, ab aridis autem, futilibus atque insul sis ratiocinationibus et hallucinationibus scholasticis libera. Et quanti momenti fuerit quantaque ejus auctoritas in variis Academiis, diligentissime persecutus est Clarissimus Sepp *). Quinquies brevi temporis spatio edita est. Editio prima in lucem prodiit anno 1625, secunda anno 1632, tertia decem annis post anno 1642, quarta iterum decem annis post anno 1652, quinta anno 1658. Duae postremae prodierunt, scriptoribus omnibus jam mortuis. Rivetus enim omnium postremus vita defunctus est anno 1651. Omnes quinque editiones, exceptis nonnullis variis lectionibus minoris momenti, inter se plane concinunt.

With the Synopsis, just brought into light, the queen of Reformed doctrine seemed to be born. It was indeed an attractive and useful 113 manual for students of theology; it was brief and shed bright light on many and various matters. It showed and investigated the conflicts with the Remonstrants and Roman Catholics in a very fine, subtle and clear manner, but still without indignation or partiality, and eventually was written by four professors, who were happy to have the confidence and love of the church, and who were respected by nearly everybody, not only on account of their piety, but also of their doctrine. The Synopsis itself is a clear example and a bright mirror for us of the orthodox doctrine that was preferred at the Synod of Dort. The fact that this doctrine has ruled, and was able to rule, for half a century, won’t be a surprise to anybody who has read and thought over this Synopsis. It was not replaced by any other manual at that time, thanks to its acuteness and its subtle way of arguing, and it shines very often by its excellent insight. It is also very conscious of and versed in the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the Reformed confession, however free from dry, useless and dull scholastic discourse and hallucinations. Our excellent Sepp27 has very carefully investigated how important it has been and of what great authority in different Academies. Within a short period, it was edited five times. The first edition was in 1625, the second in 1632, the third ten years after that, in 1642, the fourth again ten years later, in 1652 and the fifth in 1658. The last two editions came when all authors had already died, because Rivetus, the last of all, died in 1651. All five editions are entirely similar, except for some varying readings of minor importance.

Sed tempora mutantur. Transiit etiam Synopseos hujus imperium diuturnum. Aliud tempus aliud postulabat. Coccejus aliique theologi aliam methodum introduxerunt, et Synopsis paulatim in oblivionem abiit.

But times change. The long dominion of this Synopsis also faded. Another time required something different. Coccejus28 and other 114 theologians introduced another method, and the Synopsis was gradually forgotten.

Nunc, plus quam ducentis annis post ultimam editionem, sexta haec editur, non inopportuno tempore, opinor. Quae enim Ecclesia Reformata Separata in patria nostra jam diu confessa est, eadem doctrinae principia hodie extra eam quoque 7 reviviscere incipiunt. Ad haec igitur bene cognoscenda aliisque dilucide explicanda Synopseos, certae ac summa fide dignae ducis, quippe Synodi Dordracenae quasi sub oculis confectae, sexta haec editio quam maxime proficiat.

Now, more than two hundred years after the last edition, this sixth one is being edited, in my opinion at a very favorable time. For the same principles of doctrine that have been confessed by the Seceded Reformed Church in our country for a long time,29 are beginning to revive outside of her too in these days. Therefore, I hope that this sixth edition of the Synopsis, which is a reliable and very trustworthy guide, put together as it were under the eyes of the Synod of Dort, will be very helpful to know these principles well, and to clearly explain them to others.


Franequerae, mense Oct. mdccclxxxi.
H. Bavinck

* Vide Het Godgeleerd Onderwijs in Nederland gedurende de 16de en 17de Eeuw, door Christiaan Sepp. Tweede Deel, p. 23—94.


Franeker, the month of October 1881
H. Bavinck.

21 Franciscus Gomarus (1563-1641).

22 Johannes Polyander van Kerckhoven (1568-1646).

23 Antonius Walaeus (1573-1639).

24 Antonius Thysius (1565-1640).

25 Andreas Rivetus (1572-1651).

26 The quote is from “The Life of Walaeus” included by his son Johannes Walaeus (1604-1649) in his father’s Latin Works. Johannes Walaeus “Vita Antonii Walaei,” in Antonius Walaeus, Opera Omnia (Leiden, 1647), 1: [27].

27 In a footnote Bavinck refers to Christiaan Sepp, Het godgeleerd onderwijs in Nederland gedurende de 16e en 17e eeuw (Leiden: De Breuk en Smits, 1873), 2:23–94.

28 Johannes Cocceius (1603–1699).

29 Herman Bavinck was a pastor in the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk that consisted of congregations that had separated themselves from the Hervormde Kerk in the Secession of 1834, known as the Afscheiding.

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