Gerard Brandt’s Peaceable Christian (± 1664), Irenicism and Religious Dissent,

by Joris van Eijnatten,

Early-modern thought on religious unity and religious toleration tends to be interpreted from the point of view of phenomena that have interested theologians, philosophers, law scholars and historians ever since the nineteenth century: ecumenism and religious pluralism. Both phenomena have been bound up with the development of the modern nation-state, in which churches have to all practical purposes functioned as independent institutions, and citizens have been expected to reflect a tolerant and humanistic ethos. As far as early-modern history is concerned, this interest in ecumenism and the ethos of toleration has often prevented the old regime from being interpreted in its own terms. Thus, the whys and wherefores of the seventeenth-century irenical tradition are still frequently taken at face value. Irenicists claimed to adopt sixteenth-century humanism and to ground their proposals for unity on patristic studies practised in interconfessional harmony; their activities, they said, arose from disappointment over needless schisms and were inspired by the ideal of a tolerant and peaceful society. Surprisingly few accounts of 'irenicism' go beyond this pacifist rhetoric, well-intentioned as it was, to analyze the text in question as an integral part of the institutional and political setting in which it was written. More specifically, the pursuit of religious concord has usually been treated as a matter not unconnected with but essentially external to the exercise of political authority. The same applies to discussions of toleration. The focus is usually on aspects that foreshadow the future, i.e. freedom of religion in modern society, rather than those that connect the text in question with the past, i.e. the control of religion within the old regime.

In the Christian tradition, peace, mutual forbearance and brotherhood have always been regarded as the resultants of truth and charity; but prior to the nineteenth century no theologian was unaware of the fact that any serious plea for religious unity or religious toleration was intimately bound up with institutionalized power. The relationship between religious pluralism and secular power was intrinsic to the early-modern socio-political order. In other words, 'irenicist' and 'tolerationist' texts did not transcend the old regime and did not only, or not necessarily, reflect a timeless moral or humanist standpoint, let alone a modern one. In the following a typical seventeenth-century 'irenicist' tract is examined, a didactic poem called De vreedzame Christen (The peaceable Christian) by the seventeenth-century Dutch Remonstrant Gerard Brandt (1626-1685). My aim is to examine the way in which early-modern writings on toleration such as The peaceable Christian contrived a link between religious concord, institutionalized religion and political power.

If at all, Brandt is known, in and outside the Netherlands, for his unfinished Historie der Reformatie (1671-1704). This four-volume opus magnum was translated into English between 1720 and 1723 as The history of the Reformation and other ecclesiastical transactions in and about the Low Countries, and soon followed by abridgements in both English and French. The Historie der Reformatie is generally regarded as a major accomplishment. It was the first comprehensive account of the Reformation in the Netherlands, still usable because Brandt inserted into his chronicle a number of important texts no longer extant. It is also often seen as a significant contribution to the development of toleration in the Netherlands. This latter judgement applies also to The peaceable Christian, Brandt’s irenicist poem. With a little good will the poem could be regarded as a counterpart to Locke’s Epistola de tolerantia. Both are repositories of arguments in favour of, respectively, irenicism and toleration. Both are relatively concise and to the point. Both argue for restrictions on the control of Church and state over individual religious faith. And both were written against a Dutch Remonstrant background. Unlike Locke’s little masterpiece, The peaceable Christian was not destined to exert much influence on spiritual life in the Netherlands, or for that matter anywhere else. But like the Epistola, the poem’s message was not particularly novel, and like the English philosopher, Brandt combined arguments drawn from a broad selection of authors. The peaceable Christian is of interest precisely because Brandt made a point of explicitly mentioning his sources. He appended to his poem no less than 121 footnotes, most of them very extensive (there are about three pages of annotations to one page of verse), in which he documented a large variety of writings concerned with religious peace.

Through both his verse and his footnotes, Brandt can be interpreted as re-inventing a tradition: an 'irenical' tradition, originating with the early Christians, culminating in the writings of Erasmus and Cassander, continued by noteworthy scholars of his own day, and conducive (as he hoped) to the establishment of religious peace in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Brandt’s re-invention of the irenical tradition reflects his endeavour to contrive a discourse that justified religious dissent and called for a reform of the religious and social order through an appeal to secular power. In the following I shall first outline the contents of the poem and discuss Brandt’s sources, and then examine the way in which the poem links religion with political power. Finally, I shall draw some inferences from this analysis with reference to early-modern religious dissent.

Born in Amsterdam as a second-generation Remonstrant, Brandt set out in life as a watchmaker. His talents as a poet soon attracted the attention of the scholar Caspar Barlaeus (1584-1648), whose daughter Suzanne he married, and who enabled him to study theology under Stephanus Curcellaeus (Etienne de Courcelles, 1586-1659) at the Remonstrant Seminary in Amsterdam. Brandt was duly called to the ministry, first in Nieuwkoop (1652), later in Hoorn (1660) and finally in Amsterdam (1667), where he became a colleague of Philippus van Limborch (1633-1712). As a clergyman he continued to devote himself to scholarship, writing exclusively in the vernacular. Apart from his Historie der Reformatie, he wrote, among others, excellent biographies of the poet and historiographer Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and the admiral Michiel de Ruyter. He edited the first collection of letters in Dutch, an anthology which included letters by Arminius, Uytenbogaert, Grotius and Episcopius. Brandt died in Rotterdam in 1685.

The peaceable Christian was probably written in 1663 or 1664 and published the next year in a collection of edifying poetry. It comprises 998 alexandrines and is divided into 11 sections of unequal length. Alexandrines were habitually employed by early-modern Dutch poets when writing didactic verse. This particular metre has not been fashionable in Dutch poetry since a century and a half, but even in terms of seventeenth-century literary theory The peaceable Christian hardly qualifies as the best in its genre. If Brandt was an able writer of verse, he was not an outstanding poet, despite his friendship with the 'prince of poets' Joost van den Vondel. But the lack of je ne sais quoi in the poem is amply compensated for by its contents.

In the opening lines the general theme is addressed, to wit, the duty to foster peace in the Church. The poem is a repudiation of the discord that saddens all pious and peace-loving Christians. But how did discord arise in the first place? After the Ascension the Church was established, albeit under the cross. The members of the early Christian communities were one at heart and moved by a single spirit. But as the Church came out into the open needless dissension disturbed this early tranquillity. Prosperity led to the intrusion of secular interests into the Church. Infatuated with personal honour and worldly matters, proud men refused to support Jesus’ gentle yoke and chose wilfulness over unity. Ambition and pride were at the root of discord. To obtain personal honour, hairs were split over incomprehensible matters, while pride led to an insatiable lust for a knowledge far beyond the human understanding. In a short period of time innumerable articles of faith were fabricated. Hate corrupted the Church. Innocent brothers were charged with heresy and differences no longer forborn. The consequences for the Church were disastrous. While the pious looked with commiseration upon a spectacle of hatred, the weak were brought to despair, while libertines rejected Christ’s Church altogether. Through discord godlessness entered into many a carefree heart, and the Church had been all but turned into a murderers’ den.

Hence the purpose of the poem, which is to inspire Christians to remain true to the Kingdom of Jesus, by gently constraining hate through love for peace. The causes of schism have to be countered. Humility must be substituted for pride, contentment for lust, and love for hate. In short, the simplicity (eenvoudigheit) of the early Christians must be embraced. 'O that the Church may in the end return to her beginnings'! To bring this about, it is imperative to repress the uninhibited lust for knowledge. For he who does not want to know what is not revealed will seldom err. This is learned ignorance. Secret things belong to God). He in his wisdom asks of us to know little, but to exercise virtue incessantly. Away, then, with the subtleties that lead us away from Jesus into the clutches of Plato and Aristotle. 'O that inquisitiveness remain content with the books of God!' The Word of God is the best judge in religious differences. Do not, then, seek to bind anyone to anything beyond the Word. Accept things that surpass our understanding, but regard with suspicion what is not revealed by God or contradicts reason. It is not necessary to explain at the risk of causing discord all the obscure scriptural texts, which are irrelevant to our conduct anyway. Learn to distinguish between what is more and what is less true, between the necessary and the unnecessary, between the certain and the uncertain. Brandt sings in praise of Christendom’s fundamental articles:

'Och, wou de Christenheit, des Heilants dierbre bruidt,
Eens luistren naar dees les, wat wiert 'er quaats gestuit!
Hoe zou eenvoudigheit haar zuivre zy bekleden!
Haar eerste zuiverheit zou blinken in haar leden.
Men zou in ’t nodige malkandren haast verstaan;
't Onnodig bygeloof ook met der tydt vergaan.
Maar die hoogwaardige en noodtzakelyke stukken
Zyn weinig in getal, en lichtelyk uit te drukken,
Wanneer men letten wil op ’t onverzierde Woort;
Daar Godt zich openbaart, en Christus wort gehoort.'

'O, if Christendom, the Saviour’s precious bride,
should listen to this lesson, how much harm could be prevented!
How simplicty would clothe her pure flank!
Her pristine purity would shine upon her limbs.
People would understand each other in essential things;
While inessential superstitions would waste away in time.
Yet those eminent and necessary tenets
Are but few in number, and easily expressed,
If the unadorned Word is but paid attention to;
Where God reveals himself, and Christ is heard.'

At which point Brandt, of course, invokes an impressive number of witnesses in the footnotes, ranging from Tertullian and Columbanus to David Pareus and John Dury.
If all the issues on which the various churches agree were amassed, the poem continues, it will become clear that there is a firm basis for unity. A clarification of fundamental doctrines is, then, the shortest route to peace. A proper way to achieve this is to organize an international convention of ‘the most lenient’ (reklyksten) divines to weigh the various differences. This assembly of wise men must then publish its findings (i.e. the fundamental articles) in clear and concise language. Obscure matters and scholastic subtleties that disrupt the peace must be left out. The existing formularies of faith must be shortened, so that they consist only of necessary articles, clearly expressed. For it is better to err in unnecessary matters than to achieve absolute truth at the cost of unity. Forbearing each other in diversity is mandatory in order to achieve peace. Such ‘proper latitude’ has always found support among pious men. Never will peace be achieved in Jesus’ Church if the freedom to profess one’s beliefs is not respected. This should not be a freedom to disturb the Church with self-invented beliefs, but a limited freedom which leads us along the middle way between slavery and dissoluteness. For this reason we must bear in others what others bear in us.

'Dit is verdraagzaamheit, die God zal behagen
Verdraagzaamheit, die wys de zaken onderscheit,
Zo hoog geprezen van de beste Christenheit.'

'This is the forbearance that will please God.
A forbearance which wisely distinguishes the matters at issue,
And is so highly praised by the best of Christendom.'

This is the forbearance which has been recommended by so many illustrious writers. But of course there are those who protest against such lenience, and the poet duly replies to their objections. He then provides some practical lessons for the benefit of his fellow ministers. Be aware, he admonishes, that although you may build a house of gold on the foundation of faith, others may use wood. Teach your flock what Christian charity entails. Charity is gentle, and loves both friend and enemy; it is longsuffering and kind. It is not misled by pride and jealousy. It does not judge lightly. It is not self-seeking, nor is it bitter. It is sincere and takes pleasure in truth. If charity is inculcated in the people, latitude and peace will reign. Therefore, exercise moderation and open as wide as possible the Church of peace, so as to further Christian brotherhood. There will then be peace among men, and slander will cease. The different names given to the denominations will disappear, Papist, Lutheran, Calvinist, Arminian, and Mennonite. The Church of peace will become a ‘consumer of sects’ (een verslindster aller sekten), a place where only the necessary and the useful is taught. Peace will unite Christendom. And where there is peace, there is God. The poem ends with a prayer to the Prince of Peace, a supplication for divine assistance in the face of discord.

In an introductory passage, Brandt explains that his many references (a little less than 300, in 121 footnotes) were necessary for two reasons. The first is to show the reader that the important matters broached in his Irenicum have been endorsed by 'Teachers' of renown. The second is to rebut those who do not judge on the basis of the arguments put forward, but simply draw their conclusions beforehand by disqualifying the person who argues. This group of sceptics will not be able to denounce in Brandt what is supported by eminent leaders of the Christian tradition like Augustine, Cyprian, Bucer, Calvin, Junius, Pareus, Davenant, and Hall. Their authority and distinction, Brandt believes, will nurture truth, love and peace. By applying to the present arguments adduced in the past, he has tried to take the ‘way of impartiality’. He values the authors quoted only insofar as they have laboured in favour of truth and love, as ‘examples of peacefulness, and lodestars of latitude’ (voorbeelden van vreedzaamheit, en leidstarren van reklykheit).

These lodestars of latitude are quoted throughout in the footnotes, but they are also abundantly praised in the poem itself as men of exemplary piety and learning who emphasized the need to practise forbearance through charity. Brandt’s list of latitudinarians is roughly chronological, but it is more helpful to classify the writers he mentions into several groups. The first comprises the Church Fathers: above all Cyprian (a popular example among seventeenth-century irenicists), Augustine, and Gregory Nazianzenus. The second group consists of the Roman Catholic irenicists. Brandt quotes various writings of Erasmus (1469-1536) throughout The peaceable Christian, including the letters, the prefaces to his editions of Hilary and Cyprian, his annotations to Matthew and the Letter to the Galatians, the Adagia and the Querela pacis. Erasmus had been more or less appropriated by the Arminians in the course of the seventeenth century, having been warmly defended as a kind of proto- Remonstrant by Grotius, Barlaeus, and Episcopius. Brandt also mentions Georg Cassander (1513- 1566), referring to De officio pii viri (1561), a treatise he borrowed from Van Limborch. The third Roman Catholic author is Marco Antonio de Dominis (1566-1624), the Dalmatian jezuit who, observes Brandt, stood upon the shoulders of both Erasmus and Cassander.

The third group of authors are the first- and second-generation Reformers. Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) led the way among the Protestants, explains Brandt, admonishing theologians to devote their energy to explaining necessary articles only, lest they ‘bite and devour one another’ (Gal. v. 15). A similar point was made by Martin Bucer (1491-1551), that ‘great and peace-loving divine’. Brandt frequently refers to Bucer’s Epistola nuncupatoria ad Academiam Marpurgensem de servanda unitate ecclesiae (1529), prefixed to the 1530 edition of his Enarrationes perpetuae in sacra quatuor evangelia. The third Reformer mentioned is John Calvin (1509-1564). ‘Yes, even Calvin speaks of the need to indulge error’, and Brandt duly quotes the pertinent passages in the Institutio religionis Christianae. Johann Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), writer of the Confessio Helvetica and mediator between Calvinists and Lutherans, is recommended, as well as the Calvinist Hieronymus Zanchius (1516-1590). Brandt also praises Charles Perrot (1541-1608), a Genevan minister who in 1584 had advised Johannes Uytenbogaert not to condemn lightly those who did not seem to agree on all accounts with the doctrines of the Reformed church, as long as they upheld the main and fundamental teachings of Christendom. Forbearance, he said, was the only means to foster a ‘godly union and Church peace’. The bishop of Lambeth, John Jewel (1522-1571), is present in Brandt’s footnotes with his influential defence of the English Reformation, the Apologia pro ecclesia Anglicana (1562). Finally, Brandt mentions the Swiss divine Benedict Aretius (?-1574)17 and the French-Dutch Calvinist Franciscus Junius (or Du Jon, 1545-1602). Whereas the latter’s Eirenicum (1593) is quoted only three times, his 1,400 page Amiable confrontation, a confutation of the Roman Catholic theologian Pierre Charron (1541-1603), is one of the most oft-cited writings in The peaceable Christian. It would seem nonetheless that the very title of the poem was borrowed from the original French version of Junius’ Eirenicum: Le paisible Chrestien, which had appeared in Dutch in 1612 as Den vreedsamen Christen.

Seventeenth-century Protestants constitute the fourth and final group. Brandt naturally mentions the German Reformed divine David Pareus (1548-1622), whose famous Irenicum (1614) is quoted a number of times in both the Latin and Dutch versions. The French Huguenots are represented by Philippe du Mornay (1549-1623), who is cited only twice, and Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658), who is quoted repeatedly. Also mentioned is De Christiana inter Europaeos Euangelicos concordia (1647) by Godefroid Hotton (1596-1656), a preacher at the Walloon (French) church in Amsterdam, who had studied at Heidelberg under Pareus. Brandt further refers to the Lutherans Georg Calixt (1586-1656), the well-known ‘syncretist’ of Helmstedt, and the Swede Johann Matthiae (1593-1670), bishop of Strengnäs. The most oft-cited authorities in The peaceable Christian, apart from Erasmus, Junius and Du Moulin, are two Anglicans, Davenant and Hall. John Davenant (1576-1641), bishop of Salisbury, was a logical choice. He wrote a commentary on religious peace addressed to John Dury, a work quoted repeatedly by Brandt. Joseph Hall (1574-1656), the Calvinist bishop of Exeter and later of Norwich, and like Davenant a participant at the Synod of Dort, was a much-translated author in the Netherlands. Symbolizing in his person the union of Puritan theology and Anglican episcopalism, Hall was clearly a mediator to Brandt’s liking, a man who had argued time and again for leniency and moderation. Brandt quotes several of his treatises extensively: Christian Moderation (1640), Peace- Maker (1645), Pax Terris (1648) which was also included in Dury’s Prodromus, and an address on Ecclesiastes vii. 16 held in Dort in 1618. The Irish are represented in The peaceable Christian with a sermon on Eph. iv. 13 preached in 1624 by James Ussher (1581-1656), bishop of Armagh, correspondent of Hugo Grotius and Gerard Vossius. The Scots are represented, of course, by John Dury (1596-1680), who (as Brandt says) travelled from land to land to preach forbearance to the churches.

Brandt concludes his section on these 'lodestars of latitude' by noting that he has refrained from naming other possible authorities because they are all too often arrogantly condemned for their leniency. It is not clear whom he means exactly, but he was obviously referring to more radical writers whom it was not prudent to mention. The footnotes to The peaceable Christian refer to more authors than the ones extolled in the main text, but none of these is particularly unconventional. Such further references include Theodore Beza’s De pace Christianararum (1566); Lewis Bayly’s The practise of piety (1613), in both a French and a Dutch translation;30 Isaac Casaubon’s Epistolae, which included an extended letter on religious peace written at the behest of James I to Cardinal J.-D. Duperron (1556- 1618); De vrai usage des Pères, by the Amyraldist Jean Daillé (1594-1670); the Unterscheidt und Vergleichung der Euangelischen in Lehr und Ceremonien by the Brandenburger Calvinist Johann Bergius (1587-1658); and writings by Georg Sohn (1551-1589) and Abraham Scultetus (1566-1624), both German Reformed theologians. Brandt did not, of course, collect this broad array of witnesses (totalling more than 65) all by himself. For instance, he also refers to the Huguenot David Blondel (1590-1655), a professor of immense erudition at the Amsterdam academy who published a vast collection of 'authentic documents' on peace and fraternal love between Protestants. Among the extracts included by Blondel was a short treatise written by Pierre du Moulin in 1615, the ‘Ouvertures pour travailler à l’union des Eglises Chrestiennes qui ont secoué le joug de la Papauté’, of which Brandt made good use. It is also evident that Brandt had read closely the Historia sacra & ecclesiastica (1659) by Timan Gesselius, a vice-rector of the Latin school in the Dutch town of Amersfoort who was removed from office, most likely on account of his Remonstrantism. Gesselius, following Cassander and Calixt, believed in the existence of a patristic consensus providing a basis for Christian unity. Apart from the two authorities mentioned, Gesselius also referred to Melanchthon, Beza and Peter Martyr – writers quoted also by Brandt.

But who were the authors not mentioned by Brandt? One book which he must have read was a Dutch translation of Sebastian Castellio’s De haereticis, an sint persequendi (1554). The translator, Nicolaas Borremans (?-1683), was a Remonstrant, a pupil of Curcellaeus, and a close friend of Brandt. Castellio was clearly one of the authorities 'condemned for their latitude' by the Calvinist establishment, and Brandt does not refer to him. His list of unconventional Christians most likely also included the preacher Hubert Duifhuis (1531-1581), an early opponent of organized Calvinism who holds a place of honour in the Historie der Reformatie. Brandt may have had in mind his personal friend, the poet Joachim Oudaan (1628-1692), a declared opponent of ecclesiastical formularies. In the notes to The peaceable Christian Brandt also refers to his own Verhaal van de Reformatie, which appeared in 1663, and which can be seen as a first version of Books I to X of the first volume of the Historie der Reformatie. It contains an extensive bibliography that included works by antipredestinarians like Caspar Coolhaes (1534-1615), Jacob Acontius (± 1500-1567), and Dirck Volkertsz Coornhert (1522-1590) – unconventional authors regarded by the Contra-Remonstrants as outright heretics, but whose presence as witnesses in an ‘impartial’ work of history would have been less controversial than in a poem arguing for religious concord.

The peaceable Christian, then, is a didactic poem with a forceful moral tenor, its message vindicated by a sizable cloud of witnesses. Brandt’s place of distinction among the leading lights of Dutch toleration is, again, wholly deserved; but there is more to say on the subject. The crucial point in any historical appreciation of the poem is not only that it was inspired by avowedly humanistic values, but that Brandt strongly suggests that such values ought to form the basis of the religious-political establishment. In other words, through his re-invention of an irenical tradition, Brandt was trying to put forward an alternative spiritual basis for the existing establishment. The basis Brandt envisaged was much broader and more 'lenien' than the strict confessional orthodoxy of the Reformed church, but, more importantly, his appeal to synodal authority and secular power did not differ in principle from that of the dominant Calvinist clergy. This may have been part of a strategy on his part to secure a maximum of latitude within the established church, after which the scope of tolerated beliefs could be broadened so that even men like Castellio and Coornhert could feel at ease. But there is no evidence that this is what Brandt had in mind, and if he did he understandably made no mention of it. How did Brandt attempt to link theological latitude, institutionalized religion and political power? For one, Brandt, like the 'humanists' and 'irenicists' who preceded him, called for a synod of men of wisdom and leniency to lay down the fundamentals of faith in a clear and concise confession of faith. He quotes Du Moulin, who suggested that a number of theologians should convene to write such a confession of faith, preferably in Zeeland, since this Dutch province was close to England and easily accessible to travellers on the continent. This convocation was to include two representatives sent by the King of England, two by the French churches and two by the Dutch, two by the Swiss Cantons, and one or two by each German prince belonging to the Reformed confession. Brandt also refers to Davenant’s belief that the best way to unite the various churches in one confession was through 'a friendly, calm and peaceful colloquy between a number of theologians, chosen for the purpose on the authority of Princes' – or any other 'High Authorities', adds Brandt, with the Republic in mind. He further cites Jean Daillé’s apology for the French national synods of 1637 and 1645. But the call for an amicabilis conventio, a formal colloquy among established churches, had been put forward by many others, including Beza and above all Pareus.

To make his point, Brandt was also bound to argue that it was possible, theologically, to unite Arminianism and Calvinism within one church. He allowed his authorities to speak for him. Du Moulin, for instance, had been popular among the Remonstrants ever since the troubles early in the century, in spite of the fact that he had congratulated the deputees sent to Dort with their triumph over Arminianism even before the Synod began. Yet, even he had argued that at the pan-Protestant convention all Reformed confessions were to be subject to discussion, and that the dispute over Arminianism did not pertain to salvation. His ‘Ouvertures’ had been translated into Dutch in 1618, with a slight change of title that made it especially pertinent to the situation in the Republic. The translator, incidentally, was the same person who had rendered Pareus’ Irenicum into Dutch in 1615: Johannes van Lodensteyn, a member of an old ruling family from Delft, and indubitably a man of Arminian sympathies. Also popular among the Remonstrants was Bucer. His Epistola had been translated into Dutch in 1616 by none other than Uytenbogaert, who dubbed it 'the golden letter'.
Davenant had observed that the controversies on predestination and free will ought not to impede the realization of Christian unity. Hall had actually argued the point at Dort, observing that mere humans ought not to penetrate into the secret councils of the deity. Obviously, the major example of Calvinism and Arminianism subsisting within a single church under the aegis of strong political power was the early seventeenth-century Church of England, and like most ‘irenicists’, Brandt evinced strong sympathies for the Anglican church.

A third strategy used by Brandt was to include oblique references to orthodox but (as he hoped) broad-minded Calvinists. He abundantly praised Junius as an example to all. He especially valued the Amiable confrontation for its emphasis on the distinction between necessary and non-necessary doctrines. Du Moulin, like Junius an Aristotelian defender of Calvinist orthodoxy, fulfilled the same purpose. And so to all appearances did Augustine, Bayly and Hall, as well as the Puritan William Perkins (1558-1602), who was immensely popular among Dutch Calvinists. Brandt’s general message was that strict predestinarianism is not incompatible with a broad church. The only contemporary orthodox Calvinist Brandt did mention explicitly was the Cartesian Abraham Heidanus (1597-1678), professor of divinity at Leiden. Heidanus belonged to the Cocceian party, the followers of Johannes Cocceius, who propounded a non-scholastic but orthodox Calvinist theology. Whereas the Cocceians often supported the States-oriented (as opposed to Orangist) political factions, the Voetians (i.e. the followers of Gisbertus Voetius) were associated by their opponents with Aristotle, Puritanism, intolerance, and the stadholderate. Heidanus was often invoked by Remonstrants in support of their cause, in spite of the fact that he had authored a major denunciation of Arminianism. While Brandt made an appropriate selection of orthodox Calvinists, the major Arminians were all but missing. Thus Hugo Grotius is mentioned only once, and Episcopius not at all. Brandt mainly limited himself to Reformed writers of undisputed erudition if somewhat questionable orthodoxy, like the Saumurian Blondel, who had been suspected of Arminian sympathies and accused of animosity towards the church, and Casaubon, who during the Dutch disputes had expressed his revulsion of both Pelagianism and Manicheism, and proposed to follow a middle course.

Another basic ingredient of Brandt’s recipe was the invocation of secular power to foster, guide and enforce synodal negotiations, and to impose the new confession on ecclesiastical life. He quotes Johann Matthiae: 'It is the duty of princes to promote and advance to the best of their abilities all these things we have summed up thus far, according to their authority which is second only to the divine.' Du Moulin made a similar point. In fact, many authorities quoted by Brandt favoured an Erastian church policy as well as absolutist reign. Casaubon, for instance, countenanced the rule of James I. Hall, like Davenant an emissary of James I, strongly defended Erastian church policy. In his Pax Terris he argued that the secular arm ought to suppress sectarians and destroy seditious heretics. Blondel was a staunch royalist, like Du Moulin and many other Huguenots, and irritated his Dutch compatriots by his defence of Charles I. Brandt himself had great admiration for Charles I, as well as for William Laud. Johann Bergius too had favoured absolutist reign as a means to church unification. And Junius, while he held a characteristically Calvinist view on secular authority circa sacra, had a high regard for Henry IV.

A fifth and final strategy consciously employed by Brandt to link institutionalized religion and political power was the use of humanist discourse. Brandt’s ascription of discord to the doings of Satan, ingenium nonullorum hominum, avaritia, ambitio, and curiositas, is based on Johann Matthiae’s account, which (says Brandt) in turn derived its material from an anonymous De sacrorum dissidiorum causis, effectis, et remediis. The author of this treatise was Samuel Petit (1594-1643), professor of theology at Nîmes and a noteworthy member of the seventeenth-century Republic of Letters. Similar causes of discord were mentioned also by Davenant and Du Moulin. Such notions, as has been pointed out recently, were intrinsically connected with a humanist rhetoric of toleration, with classical decorum and skepticism, resulting in injunctions to circumscribe the claims of reason, avoid extremes and suspend judgement. If anything, The peaceable Christian is replete with humanist ideas, derived primarily and directly from Erasmus. These ideas range from denunciations of theological rashness (vermetelheid, audacia) and warnings concerning the proliferation of dogma, to docta ignorantia. One important precondition to the realization of the humanist ideal was the existence of a stable political and social order, for only in tranquil circumstances was it possible to properly pursue the truth. It is precisely such a rhetorical environment that Brandt sought to secure through his call for a synod of wise and moderate men of varying theological leanings, who were to discuss fundamentals under the watchful eye of 'High Authorities'.

Through his selection of irenical literature, Brandt forces upon the reader the conclusion that religious moderation must be institutionalized and that it is a concomitant of strong secular rule. The notion central to his conception of a comprehensive church is reklykheit, which is best translated as either 'leniency' or 'latitude', and implies the twin virtues of forbearance and indulgence. From the sixteenth century to the eighteenth, and from one side of the Christian spectrum to the other, these virtues were seen to underlie Christian brotherhood, constituting the basis of mutua Christianorum tolerantia within a single church or between churches sharing the same doctrinal foundation. Such notions of forbearance, indulgence and latitude can be, and in the early-modern era in fact were, distinguished from toleration or tolerantia in the sense of a formal decree issued by the authorities, specifying a permission or licence to continue, for the sake of political and social expedience, certain practices otherwise considered reprehensible. Brandt evidently makes out a case for formally institutionalizing mutual forbearance within a comprehensive church. He was hardly the only one to do so – orthodox Calvinist divines such as Du Moulin and Heidanus made the same point. The difference was that Brandt was a Remonstrant, a member of a religious community that derived its status, not from the promulgation of an edict legitimating it, but from the suspension of an edict outlawing it. And for such a person the attempt to link institutionalized religion and religious latitude on the basis of political power was tantamount to an act of subversion.

Interestingly, in 1657, only six or seven years before he composed his Peaceable Christian, Brandt had written a pamphlet in which he called upon his brothers not to leave their congregations to attend Contra-Remonstrant sermons. A true Remonstrant, he wrote, is obliged to suffer rather than leave his community, which he cannot do without sacrificing his conscience. He should not even join Contra- Remonstrant services in order to pave the way to church unification, since the public church has always refused the tokens of brotherhood held out by the Remonstrants. The ministers of the public church have sought only to suppress the Remonstrants, and it will not do to strengthen their number and promote both dissension and tyranny. Adriaan Paets (±1630-1686), a lawyer who was associated with the ruling elite and sympathized with the Remonstrants, warned Brandt that his views would not please those of 'a moderate disposition', i.e. Calvinists among both the clergy and the magistrate who favoured Arminianism. In The peaceable Christian Brandt had not necessarily changed his views. What he suggested now was, first, that the Calvinist clergy treat the Remonstrants as equals, and, second, that powerful men of a moderate disposition force the clergy to comply. It is as an apology for Arminianism with a direct appeal to political power that The peaceable Christian can be interpreted as a seditious piece of writing.

In this sense the poem is comparable to the Historie der Reformatie. When Brandt was commissioned by the Remonstrant Brotherhood to write the Historie, a colleague warned that his work might have serious repercussions. Brandt replied that this was no reason to cancel the project. Apparently, he wrote, some were afraid to disturb the magistrate, the descendants of the regenten who had sided with the Contra-Remonstrants in 1618, and, above all, the Calvinist clergy. But the truth must prevail, and a history sympathetic to the Remonstrants may encourage 'many lukewarm Remonstrants' to follow their ancestors’ example by showing their true colours and joining the Brotherhood. The attempt to force a fundamental shift in the magistrate’s religious leanings was one of the main objectives of the Historie, and one from which the established Calvinist clergy for obvious reasons recoiled. The second volume of the Historie (1674), which treated the period between 1600 and 1618, predictably caused more controversy than the first. Moreover, Brandt rather sarcastically dedicated his work to the ministers of the public church in the Province of Holland, discussing the advice of Junius, Du Moulin, Pareus and Hall, and expressing his hope that the book would contribute to peace between the Calvinists and the Remonstrants. The main attack on Brandt was executed by the Calvinist minister Henricus Ruyl (1611-1680) in a vitriolic pamphlet in which the 'impartial' and 'irenic' rhetoric of the Historie was countered with one that made good use of insinuation, slander and invective. Under the motto 'The words of his mouth were smoother than butter' (Psalm lV. 21), Ruyl generally accused Brandt of hypocrisy and lovelessness. The Arminian was a biassed historian who disguised his real purpose in a pacifist and unionist rhetoric intended to force the States, the magistrates, the Prince of Orange, the synods and the clergy to recant their condemnation of souldestroying errors. Ruyl rejected the Historie as a seditious book that revived the factious collaboration of rebellious elements among the magistrate and the clergy. Not surprisingly, it was condemned at the Provincial Synod of Holland in 1676 because of its 'injurious expressions' regarding the clergy, the princes of Orange and several members of the States of Holland.

There was reason enough for the Contra-Remonstrant clergy to be anxious. Brandt was valued by certain factions within the magistracy. The regenten of Enkhuizen had asked him to write a history of their town, which was published, albeit anonymously, in 1666. The Stichtelijke Gedichten, the collection in which The peaceable Christian was published, was dedicated to Pieter de Groot (1615- 1678), Hugo’s son. De Groot had married the daughter of an extremely wealthy Catholic and in the 1660s was pursuing an unsuccessful career within the States-oriented factions as a magistrate in Amsterdam. The Historie der Reformatie was published with a formal privilege granted by the States of Holland, and dedicated to an Amsterdam magistrate, Cornelis Cloeck (1622-1693). Cloeck, whose 'moderate' views Brandt praised, was a known Remonstrant sympathizer, on account of which his progress through the echelons of power seems to have been particularly slow. In 1663, having read the manuscript of the Verhaal, he wrote to Brandt that the book was clearly intended to 'make the world or at least reasonable people understand that the only cure that can be found to heal divided Christianity, is, according to the judgement of the noblest and greatest minds, the forbearance praised and preached for so long among the Remonstrants. May God give his blessing for this purpose and [may he give] peaceable and wise sentiments to the Regenten, so that they, making a beginning in this land (as it is said that the High Authorities have thoughts and considerations to renew the edict on toleration of the year, ni fallor, 1614) may point out to other potentates the way to peace and all kinds of well-being and prosperity.'

If such ideas actually were current among the magistrate, the leaders of the public church had good cause to be worried. The regenten to whom Cloeck was referring indubitably belonged to the Statesoriented factions, with whom Brandt also sided – it has been suggested that in the 1670s he was actually mixed up in political affairs. No wonder that the clergy was upset when the second volume of the Historie appeared. It is telling that although by this time the tide had turned in favour of the Orangists, the States, responding to an official complaint lodged by the Synod, withdrew their privilege only grudgingly.

The peaceable Christian did not provoke a controversy, in spite of the fears of some of Brandt’s friends. He himself had believed that 'the embitterment of some people' could restrict the effects of his argument for peace. His brother-in-law Jan de Bisschop (1628-1671), a lawyer, warned Brandt not to include two passages in which he suggested that the Synod of Dort ought to be revised. The passages appeared to imply that Brandt was merely eager to obtain his share in ecclesiastical power. Brandt reconsidered his argument and deleted several lines, and in the printed version Dort is referred to only obliquely:

'Hoe dikmaal is er in Koncilien gemist?
Wat warenze oorzaak van veel onverzoenbren twist?
Hoe dikwils heeft men daar de waarheit bits verstoten?
Men heeft zich dan voor geen Synode neêr te buigen,
Als of ’t onfeilbaar waar. Men neem die wetten aan,
Zo d’uitspraak met Godts wille en woorden kan bestaan.
Maar laat den Christen aan den regel van Godts boeken,
Die zekren keursteen, al die regels onderzoeken.'

'How often have mistakes been made at Councils?
How often have they been the cause of irreconcilable disputes?
How often has the truth been brusquely brushed aside there?
Man has no obligation to bow before a Synod,
As if it were infallible. Its laws must be accepted only
If they can be harmonized with God’s will and words.
But leave each Christian free to examine all those rules
Using God’s own books, the unerring touchstone.'

Another friend soothed Brandt’s anxieties, observing 'that the most caustic parties will not dare to oppose it, since they will not be able to find anything within reason which their rage can slander. Cloeck wondered whether the clergy would not be deterred by the poem, and advised his friend not to include a dedication to Arnout Hooft, the son of the famous historian, and probably another Arminian suspect. Brandt followed this advice.

end text