Terhune Family

The Great Schism

Social and Religious Dissention in the 17th and 18th Century Dutch Reformed Church

Starting around 1664 and running for over 100 years, the Dutch Reformed Church in New York and New Jersey was wracked first by social division and then religious schism. This calamity resulted from several factors, separated in time, but related both in the theological sense and in the social mores of the Dutch congregations involved:

1. The initial Dutch West India Company control, the British takeover of the Dutch colonies in 1664, the brief recapture of New Netherland in 1674 by the Dutch, and Leisler's Rebellion in May 1689 resulted in bitter hatred between many of the common Dutch people on the one hand, and the wealthy Dutch traders, the English, and the New York Dominees on the other.

2. The Pietistic Calvinist preaching and theology of Dominee Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen and others.

3. A movement to transfer at least some of the church governing authority from the Netherland to America.

We will treat the three issues separately and sequentially. A map showing the location of many of these churches can be seen on page 22.

The Birth of Pietism in the Colonies

Pietism was a theology of informality, rejecting the "stiff and dry" preaching and rites of the earlier Orthodox Calvinists. It tended to differentiate itself from Catholicism a bit more than did the Orthodox or Lutheran. And it put overwhelming emphasis on Christian "rebirth" and the constant practice of Christian principles in everyday life.

Pietism was not conceived in the New World, but came over from Holland, England and Germany where it had been developed and expounded by teachers and ministers such as Undereyck, Lodenstein, and Voetius in the 17th Century. Guiliam Bertholf was the first Pietist Dominee in the colonies, settling in Bergen, New Jersey in 1683. He was a barrel maker and farmer by trade and relatively uneducated. However, he had been raised in the church of a Pietist minister in Sluis, Holland and was influenced by his teaching. He was noticed by Dominee Selyns and selected as a lay reader and church clerk in Harlem. He then moved to Hackensack, Neew Jersey and assumed the same positions in the Hackensack County and Passaic County churches. A lay reader could perform most ministerial functions, including preaching prepared sermons, but could not administer the sacraments.

Bertholf was embraced by the people of these communities, many of whom were Leislerians who had left New York after the rebellion. However, he rapidly became the object of the New York Dominees' scorn, both due to his Pietist teaching and his support by the Leislerians. Unlike them, he was willingly supported by his congregations. In 1693, Bertholf petitioned the Classis of Middleburg, Holland for official ordination, near his birthplace. He went to Holland and returned the next year as a fully ordained minister in 1694, much to the chagrin of the Classis of Amsterdam.

Bertholf was an extremely successful minister, organizing churches in Tappan, Belleville, Tarrytown, Oakland and later Raritan. His charismatic style and Leister leanings endeared him to his frontier congregations. He was very much the itinerant minister, traveling all over the Jersey area and occasionally New York to serve his congregations. His tenure was long and he died a few years after Frelinghuysen arrived in 1720. In the short period they were together, they became friends and mutual admirers. Since he was in New Jersey, he was outside the authority of the New York Dominees who could only complain about his theology.

Bernardus Freeman, the other early Pietist Domine was perhaps even more controversial than Bertholf. Unlike Bertholf, who was in the hinterlands of New Jersey, Freeman had several congregations; first in Schenectady, then in the five Long Island churches - all being in the purview and "backyard" of the New York Dominees. Again, Freeman was relatively uneducated, but a very intelligent man. Later he was to translate the Mohawk Indian language and compile an Indian language Bible. A tailor by trade, he was rejected by the Classis of Amsterdam for ordination. However, he had a wealthy merchant supporter, William Bancker, a pietist supporter who had him ordained by the Classis of Lingen in Westphalia.

In 1700 Freeman sailed for the New World to respond to a call from the Albany church to replace Dominee Dellius, who had decided to return to Holland. Meanwhile the Classis of Amsterdam had sent Johannes Lydius over for the same position. The New York Dominees were put in a bind, since Dominees were difficult to find. They reluctantly settled on installing Freeman at the Schenectady Church and Lydius at Albany. Freeman refused to acknowledge the authority of the Classis of Amsterdam.

Dominee Freeman continued to cause controversy. In 1703 the Long Island congregations, upon the death of Dominee Wilhelmus Lupardus in 1702, petitioned Holland for a minister. Freeman, however, petitioned the Governor and the congregations twice and they finally agreed to settle him at New Utrecht only. By 1706, the other four Long Island churches had become divided and Freeman replaced their consistories with members loyal to him and began preaching there. The Classis of Amsterdam, unaware of these developments, sent Dominee Vincenus Antonides to minister to Long Island. The English Governor, happy to incite division within the Dutch churches, denied Antonides the authority to preach in the churches. Initially, Antonides was left to minister to those members of these congregations, not loyal to Freeman, outside the church buildings. This Ecclesiastical war was to rage for over a decade. At times they would have brief compromises, taking turns preaching. But these compromises proved to be short lived and the stalemate dragged on.

Such was the situation that existed in 1720 when the churches in New Jersey's Raritan Valley petitioned Amsterdam to provide them with a full time minister. They only had the ministrations of Bertholf a few times a year to provide the sacraments and he was getting old. As was the case years earlier with Freeman, the wealthy Pietist merchant, Bancker exerted his influence to obtain a Pietist Dominee. The man selected was Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. He had received an excellent education at the University of Lingen and served as a Dominee at an East Friesland Church for one and a half years, as well as briefly at a Latin school as a teacher. Frelinghuysen accepted the call and sailed to the New World in the fall of 1719 along with a young man, Jacobus Schuurman to serve as his school teacher. The Schism was about to begin in earnest.

The Pietist Doctrine of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen

Much of the raw data relating to this matter is spelled out in the Ecclesiastic Records of the time and the reader can view the matter from the words of the 18th Century participants. This text is simply pointing out "the good, bad and ugly" in the events and teaching of the 18th Century Dominees. One should not view these matters from a 21st Century perspective; rather in terms of the religious and social attitudes of the times.

Understanding the term "Pietist" is critical to the understanding of this study. Pietist or Pietism is somewhat analogous to the term "experimental" or "evangelical". As a background, the Protestant reformation initiated by Martin Luther pre-dated our period of interest by about 200 years. Now divorced from the authority of Rome and the Pope, many Protestant ministers emerged to develop and advocate differing and competing theologies. Among them were John Calvin and later Dutch theologians, such as Johannes Coccejus and Gisbertus Voetius in the mid 1600s who expounded upon and modified the teachings of Calvin. Frelinghuysen attended the University of Lingen where the faculty was in the hands of the Voetians (followers of Voetius) and he accepted their Pietist philosophy. We will summarize the principle tenants of Frelinghuysen's Pietist theology.

    PREDESTINATION - Basic Calvinistic doctrine that man is born already saved or doomed to Hell by the will of the Creator.
    Overwhelming stress on the importance of validating, in practice, ones faith. This is the common denominator in all forms of pietism to include other theologies, such as the Puritans, Quakers, Shakers, Amish etc. In other words, practice your religion in everyday life constantly.
    REGENERATION - 3rd Chapter of John; "except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God". Perhaps nebulous to the secular, this is a very real, tangible concept in Pietism involving first concern, then self appraisal, contrition and repentance.
    CATEGORIZATION OF MAN - Frelinghuysen's perception of "man" was akin to that contained in the writings of Johan Verschuir: Strong Christian, Concerned Christian, Literal Man, and finally Ignorant Man. "Strong Christian" is a rare figure in Frelinghuysen's scheme. He sermonized "that even the righteous are scarcely saved." "Concerned Christian" was characterized by anxiety, a virtue to Frelinghuysen, who looked for signs of anxiety in himself. The "concerned Christian" was converted, but still was filled with doubts and despair. "Literal Man" was almost Christian, sometimes practicing the externals of religion and piety, but without regeneration. These were held by Frelinghuysen in utmost contempt. "Ignorant Man" had little or no knowledge of God or was a hypocrite with some superficial manifestations of religion. This categorization, of necessity, can put the pastor into the role of Judge!
    EXPERIMENTAL DIVINITY - The role of the individual, as with regeneration, was given new emphasis. The role of the Church was perhaps de-emphasized a bit; that is to say, the Church and congregation was primarily for the true Christian and the numbers of people in the congregation was less important.
    EXCOMMUNICATION - Frelinghuysen specified and preached that casting out the unworthy (in his opinion) from the Church was a neglected, but necessary tool of Reformed theology. And he practiced what he preached.
    THE COVENANTS - Frelinghuysen followed the Voetian philosophy that God's "bargain" with man was a continuum, over all time, even after death. This contrasted with the Cocceian belief of several phases; that is, before Moses, Moses until Christ and Christ until the end of the world.
    THE CATECHISMS - Frelinghuysen followed the Heidelberg Catechism, which was the primary standard of all the Reformed sects, but he also incorporated the Frisian Catechism and the Emden Catechism which he used in his first pastorate in the Netherland. The "Orthodox" Dutch Reformed Dominees were not pleased with the use of the latter two catechisms.

Frelinghuysen was ecumenical and by no means narrowly Dutch Reformed. He included Presbyterians, German Reformed and Anglican Calvinists among his friends and even allowed them to share some services. This embittered some Dutch who saw their precious Dutch identity and the use of the Dutch language threatened.

Frelinghuysen's commitment to a particular viewpoint resulted in his dissenting vehemently, and quite proudly, with his critics. He regarded controversy as spiritual alertness, pointing to the examples of Jesus and Paul in the Bible. Therefore, he did not waiver in defending his positions or compromise with his adversaries.

Frelinghuysen was an extremely outspoken man. Immediately upon arrival in New York in 1720, he was invited to preach in Dominee Henricus Boel's New York Church. Boel expressed amazement at Frelinghuysen's "howling prayers" and his stated opinions that praying of the Lord's Prayer was inconsequential. Frelinghuysen also criticized Dominee Gualtherus DuBois for the wall mirror that hung in DuBois' home as being too ostentatious, a comment not appreciated. But Frelinghuysen was a powerful preacher of the "Hell and damnation" school and many parishioners were drawn to his style. His sermons typically used relatively simple language, not given to the "flowery" oratory of many of his contemporaries.

The Life and Training of Frelinghuysen in Europe

Frelinghuysen was born in the city of Schwerte in Westphalia, Germany in 1691. Westphalia was East of the low countries of the Netherland and adjacent thereto. His father was Johan Henrick who trained for the ministry and became pastor of a small church in nearby Hagen, which was started by immigrant "reformed" iron-workers in 1682. He was noted for his peaceful ministry and accommodation with the nearby Lutheran churches.

Theodorus Frelinghuysen left home at 17 in 1709 to attend the reformed school ('gymnasium") at Hamm, about 18 miles northwest of Hagen in Westphalia. Here he studied about 2 years, the philosophy being that of the Cocceians previously mentioned. In 1711 he left Hamm and went to the University of Lingen in the Netherland where he studied for about 6 years until 1717. This was a significant shift in theological thought from that of Coccejus to the Pietism of Voetius (discussed previously).

In late 1717 Frelinghuysen accepted the call of a small church in East Friesland to the north in the low country, Loegumer Voorwerk and was ordained locally by the German Classis (local governing body) at Emden. He preached here only 14 months; but this would be a dreadful, stressful time. Shortly after his arrival, at Christmas, the dikes broke and resulted in one of the worst floods in history. Many thousands of people were drowned and the losses in property, farmland and livestock were devastating to the economy. The people of Friesland were concerned with repairing the dikes during the time of his ministry and were dispirited. There was some cynicism and loss of faith. This was a testing period for a young minister who had to preside over a .parish in a time of such calamity. It was also a time for developing friendships which Frelinghuysen did with a number of Frisian Domines who were deeply involved in the Pietist or "experimental divinity" movement. These and other likeminded friends in the Netherland' low country were later to support and sustain him as he met with great difficulties in his New World ministries.

As 1718 ended, his church could no longer support him (due to the devastation) and he preached his last sermon there in February 1719. He accepted a call to be corector of a Latin school in the Netherland at Enkhuizen (approximately 150 kilometers distant). The Amsterdam Classis was concerned with obtaining pastors for the New World. Frelinghuysen was shortly contacted at the Latin school and offered a ministry in the New World. He accepted and was reordained on the 5th of June 1719 in Amsterdam. It is noted that all involved in his recruitment and selection were men of deep pietistic and experimental religious convictions and intent upon spreading their views in the Americas. Indeed, some had earlier been involved in selecting Bernardus Freeman for Long Island and Cornelius van Sandvoort to be pastor for Staten Island, including the merchant, Willem Bancker who had helped Freeman earlier to be ordained. Frelinghuysen departed for New York on the ship King George on 4th Sept 1719. He was accompanied on this voyage by a young man (probably in his late teens) who was to serve as schoolmaster and lay reader in the church. His name was Jacobus Schuurman, possibly one of Frelinghuysen's students in the Latin school at Enkhuizen. Nothing is known of his European background. He was to become a lightning rod for criticism in the New World.

Ministry and Schism in the Raritan Valley

Frelinghuysen and Schuurman were outspoken and controversial even on the voyage to New York. They were said to have been overheard by the ship's Captain, Goelet, as declaring that most of the preachers in Holland were unregenerated (i.e., not re-born) men, as were the New York Dominee Boel and Dominee DuBois. Frelinghuysen had kept silent to avoid opposition to his call to the New World. We have enumerated previously his outspoken manner upon arrival in New York in January 1720. Shortly after his welcome in New York, Frelinghuysen headed for the Raritan Valley to take up his ministry.

The Dutch living in the Raritan Valley were a mix of fairly Orthodox and Leislerian radicals, coming to New Jersey from New York only shortly before 1700, many of them second generation. Some were adventurers buying land from the English and seeking gain in the superior farmlands of this valley. Many were Dutch in an English colony, intent on holding on to their ethnicity, their language, and their church to pass on to their children. The land was wild and forested with few roads. Frelinghuysen's several congregations were in widely scattered and isolated settlements over a 250 square mile area. These people had had only sporadic and infrequent services of a minister and some were unaccustomed to the strict Pietistic doctrines. The Orthodox tended to view the church as serving them, with their requirements of language, teachings, and ethnicity as well as salvation. In short, they expected a "kinder and gentler" ministry wherein the formalities of the Church were sacrosanct and forgiveness of sins was expected. Frelinghuysen, on the other hand, had an entirely different view. They, the congregation, were to serve the Church in its requirements of regeneration and its other doctrines.

Frelinghuysen had been preceded in the Raritan Valley by only one minister, and an itinerant Pietist one at that, Gulliam Bartholf. He was at first a layman in America who was sent back to Holland to be ordained. He returned in 1794 and served the northern New Jersey churches of Hackensack and Passaic. He also organized the Raritan church in 1699 and preached there but twice a year. The central New Jersey area contained the Raritan river valley and the four congregations served initially by Frelinghuysen: North Branch (Readington), Three Mill Run, Six Mile Run and New Brunswick.

Frelinghuysen ran into trouble almost immediately. He restricted the general access to the communion table including the wife of a prominent member, Jan Teunisse. Schuurman also was a source of controversy having joined the Three Mile Run church in April 1720. He was accused of serious breaches of morality by the congregation. However, he was admitted to communion by Frelinghuysen while others were turned away. Dominee DuBois, from the New York, visited Schuurman in May and was turned away; and with both he and Dominee Boel, the other New York minister, being denounced. Later, the Long Island Dominee Freeman was to refer to Schuurman as an "ass, the source of much of Frelinghuysen's problems". Bertholf also had a poor opinion of Schuurman, recommending to Frelinghuysen that he disassociate himself from him. Frelinghuysen insisted that it was only necessa.ry that Schuurman pray, not in keeping with his previous pattern of severe moral judgment. Frelinghuysen also wrote to Dominee Boet early on in 1721 asking his help in buying a pocket watch for Schuurman. His closing admonition in this letter also offended Boel, because it implied that Boel might need God's help, probably an unintended assumption.

Other sources of contention were the use of the Frisian Catechism, a favorite of the "experimental" Pietist, but not the Orthodox, such as Boel and DuBois; the excommunication of Vroom, Wyckoff, Dumont and others; and numerous other complaints. Many in some of his congregations, but not New Brunswick, became alienated. They banded together in 1723, in a group called the "Klagers" (complainants) and turned first to Dominee Freeman and then to Dominee Boel for support. Freeman was unsympathetic, but Boel and others were. Meanwhile, supporters of Frelinghuysen sent letters of condemnation to the Klagers. They became known as the "Dagers" (summoners). The battle lines were drawn and culminated in the publication of the "Klagte", also known as "Boel's Complaint", in 1725 which was also sent to the Classis in the Netherland. It was a long, 150 pages, document expounding the errors of Frelinghuysen's ways and the Heterodoxy of his thinking.

The sailing ships of the day made communication between Holland and New York rather tedious and time consuming. A reply from the Classis to the Klagte charges came on June 1726. The Classis first stated they would make no judgment until they had heard from Frelinghuysen. They then spelled out 17 questions to him which they felt summarized the Klagte and closed by practically begging him to make peace with his parishioners. It would be April 1727 before they received a reply. Meanwhile Dominees Freeman and Van Santvoord had published tracts supporting Frelinghuysen. These were roundly criticized by the Classis as only fomenting further strife.

Some of the key points (Articles) of the Classis summary of the Klagte are summarized as follows. We have omitted some of the more tedious charges principally involving church formalities. The page numbers following the articles refer to pages in the "Klagte".

    1. That you had forbidden Simon Wyckoff the communion on account of a difficulty he had with a woman neighbor that had been settled; that you, by such means had caused to be chosen a certain Fisher, (Hendrick Fisher) as deacon, who had been accused, by two witnesses of unchastity with amarried woman. Upon being informed of this, you asserted the accusation to be false. (pages 20 to 22)
    2. That you had departed from the Church Order in the election of the Consistory, annotating the same according to your own option; while before, every male member might nominate.
    3. That you had without reason and without the advice of elders, suspended from the communion the wife of Jan Teunisse; page 24...
    7. That you had treated Schuurman in a different manner; that he was never proposed to the church, or published as a member, either by certificate or on confession.
    8. That you had forbidden Alvah Blaauw and wife to teach their children the "Our Father, etc" , because they were unregenerate people and unworthy which act Schuurman had also defended; page 27..
    10. That you already said, upon the vessel on which you went over, that the Reverends DuBois and Boel were "natural ministers", and that you had kept silence in Holland, that you might not be hindered in your call thither; page 34...
    12. That you incited husband and wife, parents and children against one another; pages 80 and 81.
    13. That you said that the wrath of God was so kindled against the Church that the children could not believe; page 99..
    15. Further, there is laid to your charge something which has grieved us most of all, and which, whether true or false, one cannot read without perturbation of heart; and that is, that both in public and at home, you were in the habit of frequently embracing and kissing Schuurman; page 109...
We hope you will be able fully to defend yourself against all these charges.. .In the meantime we desire to urge you very earnestly and to exhort you in the Lord, to do all in your power to prevent further estrangements; and to do whatever tends to peace and edification. Remember that zeal without knowledge cannot be acceptable to God, and often spoils much good. Remedies must never be used which are worse than the disease itself."

[signed by] CLASSIS

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