The Colloquy of Thorn (1645)

1. Common Confession of the Doctrine of the Reformed Church in the Kingdom of Poland, and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Respective Provinces of the Kingdom, For the Clarification of
Disputed Points at the Colloquy at Thorn, in 1645,

Presented on September 1.

1) From sin and death, there is no salvation or justification by the power of nature or through the righteousness of the law, but only through the grace of God in Christ, who redeemed us from wrath and the curse who were dead in sins through that only sacrifice of His death and through the merit of His perfect obedience in which He worked sufficiently for our, and not only for our, but also for the sins of the entire world. . . .

5) We are falsely accused, however, as if we deny that the death and merit of Christ suffices for all or as if we diminish His power. For we teach much the same as that which the Council of Trent taught in its sixth session, in the third chapter, namely: “although Christ died for all yet not all enjoy the benefit of His death; rather only they to whom the merit of His suffering is imparted:” We profess also that the cause or blame for this, whereby it is not imparted to all, lies in men themselves and in no way in the death and merit of Christ.

6) We are also falsely accused, as if we teach that not all those called through the Word of the gospel are earnestly, sincerely, or sufficiently called to repentance and blessedness by God, but rather that most are only seemingly and deceitfully called, only by signs through the revealed will, whereas the inner will of God’s counsel is lacking and He does not therein wish blessedness for all. We profess that we are far removed from this notion, for which people have charged us, either through false understanding or by the up toward words of a few; and that in God we attribute the highest truth and fidelity to all of His words and works, but in particular to those words which accompany the grace which calls to salvation, we do not attribute to Him a will which stands in constant contradiction to itself.

“The Colloquy of Thorn (1645)” in, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 4:212, 213-214. [Underlining mine.] [Note: one could reasonably conclude from the above that, at that time, the entire body of Reformed churches in both Poland and Lithuania were hypothetical universalists!]

[Extended note: 1) What is interesting is that one can compare the wording from the confession to that of Bullinger and Calvin, respectively:


Also they declare by the way, whom he has redeemed: that is to wit, men of all tribes, &c. In which rehearsal he does imitate Daniel in the 7. chapt. and signifies an universality, for the Lord has died for all: but that all are not made partakers of this redemption, it is through their own fault. For the Lord excludes no man, but him only which through his own unbelief, and misbelief excludes himself. &c. Henry Bullinger, A Hvndred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ. (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, Dwellyng ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 79-80.


He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him. John Calvin. Romans 5:18.


“To bear,” or, “take away sins”, is to free from guilt by his satisfaction those who have sinned. He says the sins of many, that is, of all, as in Romans 5:15. It is yet certain that not all receive benefit from the death of Christ; but this happens, because their unbelief prevents them. John Calvin, Hebrews 9:28.

The sentiment and, indeed, the wording, is strikingly similar. Similarities such as these further preclude that in the case of Calvin, specifically, he was only speaking “aspirationally” (Paul Helm) or that he was being “wonderfully broad” (Iain Murray).

2) Dennison’s introduction:

Begun as a proposal to King Vladislaus (Władysław) IV Vasa (1595- , 1648) of Poland, the Colloquy of Thorn/Toruń (western Prussia) was an ambitious attempt at rapprochement in the seventeenth century. Vladislaus was joined by his chancellor, George/Jerzy Ossoliński (1595- 1650), and Bartholomew Nigrinus (1594-1646), a Roman Catholic visionary from Danzig/Gdańsk. Union of all Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic) in Poland was the goal. To accomplish this, the Colloquium Charitativum, a "friendly conversation" involving all parties, was scheduled for October 1644. However, a Reformed synod in Orła/ Podlachia (Poland) in August 1644 petitioned the monarch for more time to prepare for the joint discussions. The king rescheduled the gathering for August 28, 1645.

Before the appointed day, the synod of the Reformed-Bohemian churches of Major Poland met at Leszno/Lissa (Poland) on April 23, 1645, in order to choose delegates for the Thorn Colloquy. The Lutherans were also meeting in Leszno at the same time. The Reformed-Bohemian synod then appealed to the Lutherans to join them in unity against the ‘common enemy" (Catholicism) at Thorn. The Lutherans submitted the matter to the theologians at the University of Wittenberg, who informed them that cooperation with the Bohemian and Reformed brethren was impossible. The differences between the Bohemian and Reformed communions and the Augustana posed. an insurmountable obstacle to joint cooperation. The Polish Lutherans, however, did send a delegation to the colloquy despite the advice from Germany.

On August 28, seventy-six theologians representing Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Bohemian, and Reformed churches gathered at Thorn. The king was present at the outset, but his chancellor, George Ossolinski, presided. He was assisted by the royal deputy, John Leszczyński of Gniezno/Gnesen (Poland). The Catholic delegation was led by Bishop George Tyszkiewicz (1596-1656) of Samogitia (western Lithuania). The Bohemian (Czech) and Reformed (Helvetian) representatives sat together under Zbigniew Gorajski (1596-1655) of Chełm (eastern Poland). The chief spokesman of this united group was to be the famous educator, John Amos Comenius (Komenský, 1592-1670). The Lutherans were initially led by Sigismund Guldenstein of Sztum (Poland), but he became sick and was replaced by the theologian, John Hiisselmann/Hiilsemann (1602-1661) of Wittenberg. The Dutch Remonstrant (Arminian) Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was to be present, but he died en route at Rostock.

The initial decision was to read a clear and precise (liquidation) version of the confession of each group. The Roman Catholic confession was read on September 16. The Reformed confession, titled Declaratio doctrinae ecclesiarum Reformatarum catholicae, was also read on September 16. The Lutheran confession was prepared for presentation by September 20, but was never read. What was to be an irenic reading turned into a rhubarb. The confessions, of course, contained some strong language about the theological and liturgical positions of the other bodies. The result was months of haggling over procedural ,matters and the colloquy became most unfriendly (colloquium irratativum). The colloquy dissolved on November 21, 1645, without accomplishing the reconciliation envisioned by its original proponents (if, in fact, such living-in-denial were even actually possible).

Our translation is from the German version printed in E. G. A. Bockel, Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-reformirten Kirche (1847), 864-84, as clarified by the Latin text in Niemeyer, 669-89. We have also examined the English translation of pages 870-74 of Bockel as it appears in B. B. Warfield’s article "Predestination in the Reformed Confessions;” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review 12 (1901): 49-128; cf. 84-87 for the Bockel material. Dennison, Reformed Confessions, 4:205-206.]

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