Canons of Dordt (1619)
The formal title of this document is "The Decision of the Synod of Dordt on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands". The synod, held in the city of Dordrecht was composed of delegates from eight foreign countries in addition to those from the Reformed Church of The Netherlands. The council was held in order to settle the Arminium controversy, which was causing a disturbance in the Dutch churches. Jacob Arminius, a theological professor at the University of Leyden, departed from the Reformed faith, and his followers (after his death) organized his teaching into five points, which they recorded Remonstrance of 1610, Their views differed from the Calvinists in that Arminius taught conditional election based upon foreknowledge of faith rather than sovereignty of God. The other Arminius points included universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace (loss of salvation). These views were rejected by the Synod, and the Reformed views of unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, invincible grace, and the perseverance of the saints were confirmed in what is now known as the Canons of Dordt (also sometimes spelled "Dort"), or the Five Articles Against the Remonstrants. Each of the Canons consists of a positive part (exposition of the Reformed doctrine) and a negative part, (repudiation of the corresponding Arminian error).
Canons of Dordt Contents
- First Head - Divine Election and Reprobation
- Second Head - The Death of Christ and the Redemption of Man Thereby
- Third and Fourth Head - The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God...
- Fifth Head - The Perseverance of the Saints
- Conclusion - Rejection of False Accusations
First Head of Doctrine - Divine Election and Reprobation
Article 1 - All Mankind Condemnable before God
Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and deserve eternal death, God would have done injustice to no one if He had willed to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn it on account of its sin, according to these words of the apostle: that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; and, the wages of sin is death.
Article 2 - The Sending of the Son of God
But in this the love of God was made manifest, that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Article 3 - The Preaching of the Gospel
So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified. For how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?
Article 4 - A Twofold Outcome
The wrath of God remains upon those who do not believe this gospel. But those who receive it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered by Him from the wrath of God and from destruction, and are given eternal life.
Article 5 - The Cause of Unbelief, The Source of Faith
The cause or guilt for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is by no means in God, but rather in man. Faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him, however, is the free gift of God, as it is written: By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God. Similarly, It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should believe in Him.
Article 6 - God’s Eternal Decree
That God in time confers the gift of faith on some, and not on others, proceeds from His eternal decree. For all His works He knows from eternity, and He accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will. According to this decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, no matter how hard they may be, and inclines them to believe; those not elected, however, He leaves in their own wickedness and hardness by a just judgment. And here especially is disclosed to us the profound, merciful, and at the same time just distinction between men equally worthy of condemnation, or that decree of election and reprobation which has been revealed in God’s Word. Although perverse, impure, and unstable men twist this decree to their own destruction, it provides unspeakable comfort for holy and God-fearing souls.
Article 7 - Election Defined
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God whereby, before the foundation of the world, out of the whole human race, which had fallen by its own fault out of its original integrity into sin and perdition, He has, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will, out of mere grace, chosen in Christ to salvation a definite number of persons, neither better nor more worthy than others, but with them involved in a common misery. He has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus He decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of His mercy and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace. As it is written: God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. He destined us in love to be His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. And elsewhere, Those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified.
Article 8 - One Decree of Election
There are not various decrees of this election, but it is one and the same decree concerning all those that are to be saved under both the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that the good pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the will of God is one. According to this purpose He has chosen us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which He prepared for us that we should walk in it.
Article 9 - Election not Based on Foreseen Faith
This election is not based on foreseen faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition, as a cause or condition in man required for being chosen, but men are chosen to faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, and so on. Election, therefore, is the fountain of every saving good, from which flow faith, holiness, and other saving gifts, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects. This the apostle teaches when he says, He chose us (not because we were, but) that we should be holy and blameless before Him.
Article 10 - Election Based on God’s Good Pleasure
The cause of this gracious election is solely the good pleasure of God. This good pleasure does not consist in this, that out of all possible conditions God chose certain qualities or actions of men as a condition for salvation, but in this, that out of the common mass of sinners he adopted certain persons to be His own possession. For it is written, Though they (the children) were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, and so on, she (namely, Rebecca), was told, "The elder will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." And, as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Article 11 - Election Unchangeable
As God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, all knowing and almighty, so His election can neither be undone and redone, nor changed, revoked, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number be diminished.
Article 12 - The Assurance of Election
The elect in due time, though in various stages and in different measure, are made certain of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation. They attain this assurance, however, not by inquisitively prying into the hidden and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unfailing fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God—such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, and a hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
Article 13 - The Value of this Assurance
The awareness and assurance of this election provide the children of God with greater reason for daily humbling themselves before God, for adoring the depth of His mercies, for cleansing themselves, and for fervently loving Him in turn who first so greatly loved them. It is therefore not true at all that this doctrine of election and the reflection on it makes them lax in observing the commands of God or falsely secure. In the just judgment of God, this usually happens to those who rashly presume to have the grace of election, or idly and boldly chatter about it, but refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.
Article 14 - How Election is to be Taught
This doctrine of divine election, according to the most wise counsel of God, was preached by the prophets, by Christ Himself, and by the apostles, under the Old as well as the New Testament, and was then committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, also today this doctrine should be taught in the Church of God, for which it was particularly intended, in its proper time and place, provided it be done with a spirit of discretion, in a reverent and holy manner, without inquisitively prying into the ways of the most High, to the glory of God’s most holy Name, and for the living comfort of His people.
Article 15 - Reprobation Described
Holy Scripture illustrates and recommends to us this eternal and undeserved grace of our election, especially when it further declares that not all men are elect but that some have not been elected, or have been passed by in the eternal election of God. Out of His most free, most just, blameless, and unchangeable good pleasure, God has decreed to leave them in the common misery into which they have by their own fault plunged themselves, and not to give them saving faith and the grace of conversion. These, having been left in their own ways and under His just judgment, God has decreed finally to condemn and punish eternally, not only on account of their unbelief but also on account of all their other sins, for the declaration of His justice. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought is blasphemous!), but rather declares Him an awesome, blameless, and just judge and avenger thereof.
Article 16 - Responses to the Doctrine of Reprobation
Some do not yet clearly discern in themselves a living faith in Christ, an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ; nevertheless, they use the means through which God has promised to work these things in us. They ought not to be alarmed when reprobation is mentioned, nor to count themselves among the reprobate. Rather, they must diligently continue in the use of these means, fervently desire a time of more abundant grace, and expect it reverently and humbly. Others seriously desire to be converted to God, to please Him only, and to be delivered from the body of death. Yet they cannot reach that point on the way of godliness and faith which they would like. They should be even less terrified by the doctrine of reprobation, since a merciful God has promised not to quench the smoking flax nor to break the bruised reed. Still others disregard God and the Savior Jesus Christ and have completely given themselves over to the cares of the world and the lusts of the flesh. For them this doctrine of reprobation is rightly fearsome as long as they are not seriously converted.
Article 17 - Children of Believers who Die in Infancy
We must judge concerning the will of God from His Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy.
Article 18 - Not Protest, but Adoration
To those who argue against this grace of undeserved election and the severity of righteous reprobation, we reply with this word of the apostle: But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? And with this word of our Savior, Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to Me? We, however, with reverent adoration of these mysteries, exclaim with the apostle: O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsel? Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.
REJECTION OF ERRORS:
Having explained the true doctrine of election and reprobation, Synod rejects the following errors:
1. Error: The will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and obedience is the whole and entire decree of election to salvation. Nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God’s Word.
Repudiation: This error is deceptive and clearly contradicts Scripture, which declares not only that God will save those who believe but also that He has chosen specific persons from eternity. In time He grants to these elect, above others, both faith in Christ and perseverance. I have manifested Thy Name to the men whom Thou gave Me out of the world, Jn 17:6. And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, Acts 13:48. Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, Eph 1:4.
2. Error: There are various kinds of divine election to eternal life. One is general and indefinite, another is particular and definite. The latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or it is complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. In the same fashion there is an election to faith and another to salvation. Therefore election can be to justifying faith, without being decisive to salvation.
Repudiation: All this is an invention of the human mind without any basis in the Scriptures. The doctrine of election is thus corrupted and the golden chain of our salvation broken: And those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified, Rom 8:30.
3. Error: The good pleasure and purpose of God of which Scripture speaks in the doctrine of election is not that He chose certain persons and not others, but that He out of all possible conditions (such as the works of the law) chose or selected the act of faith, which in itself is without merit as the condition for salvation. In His grace He would count such faith as complete obedience and worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Repudiation: This offensive error deprives God’s good pleasure and Christ’s merits of all efficacy, and draws people away from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture. It contradicts the word of the apostle, Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of His own purpose and the grace which He granted us in Christ Jesus ages ago, 2 Tim 1:9.
4. Error: Election to faith depends on the condition that man should use the light of nature properly, and that he be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life.
Repudiation: If this were true, election would depend on man. This smacks of the teaching of Pelagius and is in open conflict with the teaching of the apostle in Ephesians 2:3-9, Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by faith you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.
5. Error: Incomplete and non-decisive election of specific persons to salvation took place on the ground of foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness, which either began or continued for some time. Complete and decisive election, however, occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness till the end. This is the gracious and evangelical worthiness because of which the person who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. Therefore faith, obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits of unchangeable election to glory. They are necessary conditions and causes required and foreseen as accomplished in those who would be fully elected.
Repudiation: This error militates against all of Scripture, which constantly impresses the following upon us: Election is not because of works but because of His call, Rom 9:11; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed, Acts 13:48; He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, Eph 1:4; you did not choose Me, but I chose you, Jn 15:16; but if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace, Rom 11:6; in this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son, 1 Jn 4:10.
6. Error: Not every election to salvation is unchangeable. Some of the elect can and do indeed perish everlastingly, notwithstanding any decree of God.
Repudiation: This gross error makes God changeable, destroys the comfort which the believers obtain from the firmness of their election, and contradicts Scripture: The elect can not be led astray, Mt 24:24; this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, Jn 6:39; those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified, Rom 8:30.
7. Error: In this life there is no fruit, consciousness, or certainty of the unchangeable election to glory, except such as is based upon a changeable and uncertain condition.
Repudiation: To speak about an uncertain certainty is not only absurd but also contrary to the experience of the believers. As a result of the awareness of their election, they glory with the apostle in this favor of God, Eph 1. With the disciples of Christ they rejoice that their names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20. They put the consciousness of their election over against the fiery darts of the devil, when they exclaim: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? Rom 8:33.
8. Error: God did not simply by an act of His righteous will decide to leave any person in the common state of sin and condemnation since his fall in Adam, nor did He decide to pass by any one in granting such grace as is necessary for faith and conversion.
Repudiation: Scripture, however, states, He has mercy upon whomever He wills, and He hardens the heart of whomever He wills, Rom 9:18. It also declares, To you has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given, Mt 13:11. Likewise, I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was Thy gracious will, Mt 11:25, 26.
9. Error: God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another not merely and solely because of the good pleasure of His will, but because one people is better and worthier than another to which the gospel is not preached.
Repudiation: Moses denies this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows, Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the LORD set His heart in love upon your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day, Deut 10:14, 15. And Christ says, Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes, Mt 11:21.
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Second Head - The Death of Christ and the Redemption of Man Thereby
Article 1 - The Justice of God requires Punishment
God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God.
Article 2 - The Satisfaction made by Christ
We ourselves, however, cannot make this satisfaction and cannot free ourselves from God’s wrath. God, therefore, in His infinite mercy has given His only Son as our Surety. For us or in our place He was made sin and a curse on the cross so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.
Article 3 - The Infinite Value of the Death of Christ
This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
Article 4 - Why His death has Infinite Value
This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Savior. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God which we by our sins had deserved.
Article 5 - The Universal Proclamation of the Gospel
The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe.
Article 6 - Why Some do not Believe
That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.
Article 7 - Why Others do Believe
But to those who truly believe and are by the death of Christ freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God’s grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. God owes this grace to no one.
Article 8 - The Efficacy of the Death of Christ
For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. It was His most gracious will and intent to give them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to Himself in splendor without any spot or wrinkle.
Article 9 - The Fulfillment of God’s Counsel
This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled, and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it. In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, and there will always be a Church of believers, founded on the blood of Christ. This Church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as Her Savior (who as bridegroom for his bride laid down His life for her on the cross) and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.
REJECTION OF ERRORS
Having explained the true doctrine of the death of Christ and the redemption of man by this death, Synod rejects the following errors:
1. Error: God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a specific and definite decree to save any. What Christ obtained by His death might have been necessary, profitable, and valuable, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even though the redemption He acquired had actually never been applied to any person.
Repudiation: This doctrine is offensive to the wisdom of the Father and the merits of Jesus Christ and is contrary to Scripture. For our Savior says: I lay down My life for the sheep, and I know them, Jn 10:15, 27. And the prophet Isaiah says concerning the Savior: When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring, He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand, Is 53:10. Finally, this contradicts the article of faith concerning the catholic Christian church.
2. Error: It was not the purpose of the death of Christ that He should confirm the new covenant of grace by His blood, but only that He should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish once more with man such a covenant as He might please, whether of grace or of works.
Repudiation: This militates against Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the surety and mediator of a better, that is, a new covenant, and that a will takes effect only in death, Heb. 7:22, 9:15,17.
3. Error: By His satisfaction Christ did not really merit for anyone either salvation itself or faith by which this satisfaction of Christ to salvation is effectually made one’s own. He acquired for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire. It depends, however, on the free will of man to fulfill these conditions. Therefore it might happen that either no one or all men would fulfill them.
Repudiation: Those who teach this error think contemptuously of the death of Christ, in no wise acknowledge its most important fruit or benefit, and bring back out of hell the Pelagian error.
4. Error: The new covenant of grace which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not consist herein that we are justified before God and saved by faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merit of Christ. It consists in the fact that God has revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law and regards faith as such and the obedience of faith, though imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law. He graciously deems it worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Repudiation: This doctrine contradicts Scripture: They are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith, Rom 3:24, 25. Those who teach this error proclaim, as did the impious Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole Church.
5. Error: All men have been accepted into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one is liable to condemnation on account of original sin, and no one shall be condemned because of it, but all are free from the guilt of original sin.
Repudiation: This opinion militates against Scripture, which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath, Eph 2:3.
6. Error: As far as God is concerned, He has been minded to apply to all men equally the benefits acquired by the death of Christ; however, some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life and others do not. This difference depends on their own free will, which applies itself to the grace that is offered without distinction, and not on the special gift of mercy which so powerfully works in them that they rather than others apply this grace to themselves.
Repudiation: Those who teach this, misuse the difference between the acquisition and the application of salvation and confuse the minds of imprudent and inexperienced people. While they pretend to present this distinction in a sound sense, they seek to instill into the minds of people the pernicious poison of Pelagianism.
7. Error: Christ could not die, did not need to die, and did not die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, since these do not need the death of Christ.
Repudiation: This doctrine contradicts the apostle, who declares: The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me, Gal 2:20. Likewise: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, Rom 8:33, 34, namely, for them. And the Savior assures us: I lay down My life for the sheep, Jn 10:15. And: This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, Jn 15:12, 13.
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Third and Fourth Head - The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner in Which it Occurs
Article 1 - The Effect of the Fall
In the beginning man was created in the image of God. He was adorned in his mind with true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things; his will and heart were upright, all his affections pure, and therefore man was completely holy. But rebelling against God through the instigation of the devil and through his own free will, he deprived himself of these excellent gifts, and instead brought upon himself blindness, horrible darkness, vanity, and perverseness of judgment in his mind; malice, rebelliousness, and stubbornness in his will and heart; and impurity in all his affections.
Article 2 - Corruption Propagated
Since after the fall man became corrupt, he as a corrupt father brought forth corrupt children. Thus the corruption has spread from Adam to all his descendants, with the exception of Christ alone, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old maintained, but by the propagation of a vicious nature, according to the righteous judgment of God.
Article 3 - Man’s Total Inability
Therefore all men are conceived in sin and are born as children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in sins, and slaves of sin. And without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they neither will nor can return to God, reform their depraved nature, or prepare themselves for its reformation.
Article 4 - The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature
To be sure, there is left in man after the fall, some light of nature, whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honorable and shameful, and shows some regard for virtue and outward order. But he is so far from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters. Rather, whatever this light may be, man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness. By doing this, he makes himself inexcusable before God.
Article 5 - The Inadequacy of the Law
What holds for the light of nature also applies to the Ten Commandments, given by God through Moses particularly to the Jews, for though it reveals the greatness of sin, and more and more convicts man of his guilt, yet it neither points out a remedy nor gives him power to rise out of this misery. Rather, weakened by the flesh, it leaves the transgressor under the curse. Man cannot, therefore, through the law obtain saving grace.
Article 6 - The Need for the Gospel
What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God performs by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation, which is the gospel of the Messiah, by which it has pleased God to save men who believe, both under the old and new dispensation.
Article 7 - Why the Gospel is Sent to Some and Not to Others
Under the old dispensation God revealed this mystery of His will to few. Under the new dispensation, however, He took the distinction between the peoples away and revealed it to more. The cause of this very distribution of the gospel is not to be ascribed to the worthiness of one people above another, nor to the better use of the light of nature, but to the sovereign good pleasure and undeserved love of God. Therefore we to whom so great a grace is granted, beyond and contrary to all we deserve, ought to acknowledge it with a humble and grateful heart. But as regards others to whom this grace is not given, we ought with the apostle to adore the severity and righteousness of the judgments of God but by no means inquisitively to pry into them.
Article 8 - The Earnest Call by the Gospel
But as many as are called by the gospel are earnestly called, for God earnestly and most sincerely reveals in His Word what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He also earnestly promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.
Article 9 - Why Some who are Called do not Come
It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of the Christ offered by the gospel, nor of God, who calls through the gospel and who even confers various gifts upon them, that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not converted. The fault lies in themselves. Some of them do not care and do not receive the word of life. Others do indeed receive it, but not into their hearts, and therefore, after the joy of a temporary faith has vanished, they turn away. Still others choke the seed of the word by the thorns of the cares and the pleasure of this world, and bring forth no fruit. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the seed, Mt 13.
Article 10 - Why Others who are Called do Come
Others who are called by the ministry of the gospel do come and are converted. This is not to be ascribed to man. He does not distinguish himself by his free will above others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith or conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). It is to be ascribed to God. He has chosen His own in Christ from eternity and calls them effectually in time. He gives them faith and repentance; He delivers them from the power of darkness and transfers them to the kingdom of His Son. All this He does that they may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light, and may boast not of themselves but of the Lord, according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.
Article 11 - How God brings about Conversion
God carries out His good pleasure in the elect and works in them true conversion in the following manner. He takes care that the gospel is preached to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God. By the efficacious working of the same regenerating Spirit He also penetrates into the innermost recesses of man. He opens the closed and softens the hard heart, circumcises that which was uncircumcised, and instills new qualities into the will. He makes the will, which was dead, alive; which was bad, good; which was unwilling, willing; and which was stubborn, obedient. He moves and strengthens it so that, like a good tree, it may be able to produce the fruit of good works.
Article 12 - The Divine Character of Regeneration
This conversion is that regeneration, new creation, resurrection from the dead, making alive, so highly spoken of in the Scriptures, which God works in us without us. But this regeneration is by no means brought about only by outward preaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a mode of operation that, after God has done His part, it remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not regenerated, converted or not converted. It is, however, clearly a supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, marvelous, mysterious, and inexpressible work. According to Scripture, inspired by the Author of this work, regeneration is not inferior in power to creation or the resurrection of the dead. Hence all those in whose hearts God works in this amazing way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectually regenerated and do actually believe. Therefore the will so renewed is not only acted upon and moved by God but, acted upon by God, the will itself also acts. Hence also man himself is rightly said to believe and repent through the grace he has received.
Article 13 - Regeneration is Incomprehensible
As long as they are in this life, believers cannot fully understand the way in which God does this work. Meanwhile, however, it is enough for them to know and experience that by this grace of God they believe with the heart and love their Savior.
Article 14 - Faith is a Gift of God
Faith is therefore a gift of God, not because it is merely offered by God to the free will of man, but because it is actually conferred on man, instilled and infused into him. It is not a gift in the sense that God confers only the power to believe and then awaits from man’s free will the consent to believe or the act of believing. It is, however, a gift in the sense that He who works both to will and to work brings about in man both the will to believe and the act of believing, and indeed all things in all.
Article 15 - Christian Attitude with Respect to God’s Undeserved Grace
This grace God owes to no one. For what could He owe to man? Who has given Him first that he might be repaid? What could God owe to one who has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood? He, therefore, who receives this grace owes and renders eternal thanks to God. He who does not receive this grace, however, either does not care at all for these spiritual things and is pleased with what he has, or in false security vainly boasts that he has what he does not have. Further, about those who outwardly profess their faith and amend their lives we are to judge and speak in the most favorable way, according to the example of the apostles, for the inner recesses of the heart are unknown to us. As for those who have not yet been called, we should pray for them to God, who calls into existence the things that do not exist. But we must by no means act haughtily towards them, as if we had distinguished ourselves.
Article 16 - Man’s Will not Taken Away but Made Alive
Man through his fall did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will; and sin, which has pervaded the whole human race, did not deprive man of his human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death. So also this divine grace of regeneration does not act upon men as stocks and blocks and does not take away the will and its properties, or violently coerce it, but makes the will spiritually alive, heals it, corrects it, pleasantly and at the same time powerfully bends it. As a result, where formerly the rebellion and resistance of the flesh fully dominated, now a prompt and sincere obedience of the Spirit begins to prevail, in which the true, spiritual renewal and freedom of our will consists. And unless the admirable Author of all good should deal with us in this way, man would have no hope of rising from his fall through this free will, by which he, when he was still standing, plunged himself into ruin.
Article 17 - The Use of Means
The almighty working of God whereby He brings forth and sustains this our natural life does not exclude but requires the use of means, by which He according to His infinite wisdom and goodness has willed to exercise His power. So also the aforementioned supernatural working of God whereby He regenerates us, in no way excludes or overthrows the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul. For this reason the apostles and the teachers who succeeded them, in the fear of the Lord instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory and to the abasement of all pride. In the meantime, however, they did not neglect to keep them, by the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the administration of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. So today those who give or receive instruction in the Church should not dare to tempt God by separating what He in His good pleasure has willed to be kept very close together. For grace is conferred through admonitions, and the more readily we do our duty, the more this favor of God, who works in us, usually manifests itself in its lustre and the more directly His works proceed. To God alone all glory, both for the means and for their saving fruit and efficacy, is due throughout eternity. Amen.
REJECTION OF ERRORS
Having explained the true doctrine of the corruption of man and his conversion to God, Synod rejects the following errors:
1. Error: It is improper to say that original sin as such is sufficient to condemn the whole human race or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment.
Repudiation: This contradicts the apostle, who declares: Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned, Rom 5:12. And in verse 16: The judgment following one trespass brought condemnation. Also Rom 6:23: The wages of sin is death.
2. Error: The spiritual gifts or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and can therefore not have been separated from his will when he fell.
Repudiation: This error is contrary to the description of the image of God which the apostle gives in Eph 4:24, when he connects it with righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.
3. Error: In spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will as such has never been corrupted but only hampered through the darkness of the understanding and the unorderliness of the passions. If these hindrances have been removed, the will can exert its full innate power. The will is of itself able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it.
Repudiation: This is an innovation and an error, and tends to extol the powers of the free will, contrary to what the prophet Jeremiah states in chapter 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt. And the apostle Paul writes: Among these (the sons of disobedience) we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of the body and mind, Eph 2:3.
4. Error: The unregenerate man is not really or totally dead in sins, or deprived of all powers unto spiritual good. He can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit which is pleasing to God.
Repudiation: These things militate against the express testimony of Scripture: You were dead through your trespasses and sins, Eph 2:1, 5. And every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually, Gen 6:5 and 8:21. Moreover, only the regenerate and those who are called blessed hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery and after life, and offer to God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, Ps 51:19 and Mt 5:6.
5. Error: The corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (which for the Arminians is the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, that is, the evangelical or saving grace, and salvation itself. In this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ to all men, since He administers to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary for the knowledge of Christ, for faith and repentance.
Repudiation: Both the experience of all ages and Scripture testify that this is untrue. He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation, they do not know His ordinances, Ps 147:19, 20. In past generations He allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways, Acts 14:16. And Paul and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them, Acts 16:6, 7.
6. Error: In the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers, or gifts can be infused by God into the will. Therefore faith, through which we are first converted and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God but only an act of man. It cannot be said to be a gift, except with respect to the power to attain to this faith.
Repudiation: This teaching contradicts the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of His love into our hearts: I will put My law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts, Jer 31:33. And: I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. And: God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us, Rom 5:5. This also militates against the constant practice of the Church, which prays by the mouth of the prophet: Bring me back that I may be restored, Jer 31:18.
7. Error: The grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising. This manner of working which consists in advising is the most noble manner in the conversion of man and is most in harmony with man’s nature. There is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual. Indeed, God does not bring about the consent of the will except through this moral suasion. The power of the divine working surpasses the working of Satan, in that God promises eternal while Satan promises only temporal goods.
Repudiation: This is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture, which teaches beyond this moral suasion yet another, far more powerful and divine manner of the working of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of man: A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, Ezek 36:26.
8. Error: In regenerating man God does not use the powers of His omnipotence so as to forcefully and infallibly bend man’s will to faith and conversion. Even if all the works of grace have been accomplished which God employs to convert man and even if God intends his regeneration and wills to regenerate him, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, and indeed often does so resist, that he entirely prevents his regeneration. It therefore remains in man’s power to be regenerated or not.
Repudiation: This is nothing less than the denial of all the efficiency of God’s grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of Almighty God to the will of man. It is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe according to the working of His great might, Eph 1:19, pray that our God may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by His power, 2 Thess 1:11, and declare that His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, 2 Pet 1:3.
9. Error: Grace and free will are partial causes which together work the beginning of conversion. In the order of these cause grace does not precede the working of the will. God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the will of man moves itself and determines to do this.
Repudiation: The ancient Church has long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the apostle: So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy, Rom 9:16. Also: For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? 1 Cor 4:7. And: God is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure, Phil 2:13.
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Fifth Head - The Perseverance of the Saints
Article 1 - The Regenerate not free from Indwelling Sin
Those whom God according to His purpose calls into the fellowship of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by His Holy Spirit, He certainly sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, but not entirely in this life from the flesh and from the body of sin.
Article 2 - Daily Sins of Weakness
Therefore daily sins of weakness spring up and defects cling to even the best works of the saints. These are for them a constant reason to humble themselves before God, to flee to the crucified Christ, to put the flesh to death more and more through the Spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of godliness, and to long for the goal of perfection until at last, delivered from this body of death, they reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.
Article 3 - God Preserves His Own
Because of these remains of indwelling sin and also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who have been converted could not persevere in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who mercifully confirms them in the grace once conferred upon them and powerfully preserves them in that grace to the end.
Article 4 - Saints may Fall into Serious Sins
The power of God whereby He confirms and preserves true believers in grace is so great that it cannot be conquered by the flesh, yet the converted are not always so led and moved by God that they cannot in certain particular actions turn aside through their own fault from the guidance of grace and be seduced by and yield to the lusts of the flesh. They must therefore constantly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptation. When they do not watch and pray, they not only can be drawn away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into serious and atrocious sins, but with the righteous permission of God are sometimes actually drawn away. The lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints, described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates this.
Article 5 - The Effects of such Serious Sins
By such gross sins, however, they greatly offend God, incur deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith, very grievously wound their consciences, and sometimes for a while lose the sense of God’s favor—until they return to the right way through sincere repentance and God’s fatherly face again shines upon them.
Article 6 - God will Not Permit His Elect to be Lost
But God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of His election, does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall. Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin unto death or the sin against the Holy Spirit and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin.
Article 7 - God will Again Renew His Elect to Repentance
For in the first place, in their fall, He preserves in them His imperishable seed of regeneration, so that it does not perish and is not cast out. Further, through His Word and Spirit He effectually renews them to repentance. As a result they grieve from the heart with a godly sorrow for the sins they have committed; they seek and obtain through faith with a contrite heart forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator; they again experience the favor of a reconciled God and adore His mercies and faithfulness. And from now on they more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
Article 8 - The Grace of the Triune God Preserves
So it is not through their own merits or strength but through the undeserved mercy of God that they neither totally fall back from faith and grace nor persist in their backslidings and are finally lost. As far as they are concerned, this could not only easily happen but would undoubtedly happen. But as far as God is concerned, this cannot possibly happen, since His counsel cannot be changed, His promise cannot fail, the calling according to His purpose cannot be revoked, the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be frustrated nor destroyed.
Article 9 - The Assurance of this Preservation
Believers themselves can be certain and are certain of this preservation of the elect to salvation and the perseverance of true believers in the faith. This assurance is according to the measure of their faith, by which they surely believe that they are and always shall remain true and living members of the Church, and that they have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.
Article 10 - The Ground of this Assurance
This assurance is not produced by a certain private revelation besides or outside the Word, but by faith in the promises of God, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort; by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God; and, finally, by the serious and holy pursuit of a good conscience and of good works. And if the elect of God did not have in this world the solid comfort of obtaining the victory and this unfailing pledge of eternal glory, they would be of all men the most miserable.
Article 11 - This Assurance not Always Felt
Scripture meanwhile testifies that believers in this life have to struggle with various doubts of the flesh and, placed under severe temptation, do not always feel this full assurance of faith and certainty of per severing. But God, the Father of all comfort, will not let them be tempted beyond their strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, and by the Holy Spirit will again revive in them the certainty of persevering.
Article 12 - This Assurance does not Lead to Complacency
So far, however, is this certainty of perseverance from making true believers proud and complacent that, on the contrary, it is the true root of humility, childlike reverence, genuine godliness, patience in every conflict, fervent prayers, constancy in the cross and in the confession of the truth, and lasting joy in God. Further, the consideration of this benefit is for them an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.
Article 13 - This Assurance does not Lead to Carelessness
This renewed confidence does not produce carelessness or neglect of godliness in those who have been restored after their fall; rather, it renders them more careful and diligent to discern the ways of the Lord so that by walking in them they may retain the certainty of persevering. They do this lest, because of their abuse of His fatherly goodness, the reconciled God should again turn away His face from them (the contemplation of which is to the godly sweeter than life, and the withdrawal of it more bitter than death), and they should fall into more severe torments of soul.
Article 14 - The Use of Means Included
As it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the preaching of the gospel, so He maintains, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His Word, by meditation upon it, by its exhortations, threatenings, and promises, and by the use of the sacraments.
Article 15 - This Doctrine Hated by Satan but Loved by the Church
This doctrine of the perseverance of true believers and saints, and of the certainty of it, which God has most abundantly revealed in His Word, for the glory of His Name and for the consolation of the godly, and which He impresses on the hearts of believers, the flesh does not really understand. Satan hates it, the world ridicules it, the ignorant and hypocrites abuse it, and the heretics oppose it. The Bride of Christ, however, has always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it as a treasure of inestimable value, and God, against whom no counsel can avail and no strength can prevail, will see to it that she continues to do so to the end. To God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
REJECTION OF ERRORS
Having explained the true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Synod rejects the following errors:
1. Error: The perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election or a gift of God obtained by the death of Christ. It is a condition of the new covenant, which man before his so-called decisive election and justification must fulfill through his free will.
Repudiation: Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows out of election and is given to the elect in virtue of the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ: The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, Rom 11:7. Also: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Rom 8:32-35.
2. Error: God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient powers to persevere, and is ready to preserve these in him if he will do his duty. But though all these things have been established which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve faith, even then it still always depends on the decision of the will whether he will persevere or not.
Repudiation: This idea contains outright Pelagianism. While it wants to make men free, it makes them robbers of God’s honor. It militates against the consistent consensus of the evangelical doctrine, which takes from man all cause of boasting, and ascribes all the praise for this benefit to the grace of God alone. It is also contrary to the apostle, who declares that it is God who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor 1:8.
3. Error: True regenerate believers not only can fall completely and definitely from justifying faith and also from grace and salvation, but indeed they often do fall from them and are lost forever.
Repudiation: This opinion makes powerless the grace of justification and regeneration and the continuous preservation by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the apostle Paul: God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God, Rom 5:8, 9. And contrary to the apostle John: No one born of God commits sins; for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God, 1 Jn 3:9, and also to the words of Jesus Christ: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, Jn 10:28, 29.
4. Error: True regenerate believers can commit the sin unto death or the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Repudiation: After the apostle John had spoken in the fifth chapter of his first letter, verses 16 and 17, of those who sin unto death and he had forbidden to pray for them, he immediately added verse 18: We know that any one born of God does not sin (namely, with that kind of sin), but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
5. Error: Without a special revelation we can have no certainty of future perseverance in this life.
Repudiation: By this doctrine the sure comfort of the true believers in this life is taken away, and the doubts of the followers of the pope are again introduced into the Church. The Holy Scriptures, however, always deduce this assurance, not from a special and extraordinary revelation, but from the very marks of the children of God and from the very constant promises of God. So especially the apostle Paul declares that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, Rom 8:39. And John writes: All who keep his commandments abide in Him, and He in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us, 1 Jn 3:24.
6. Error: By its very nature the doctrine of the certainty of perseverance and salvation causes false security and is harmful to godliness, good morals, prayers, and other holy exercises. On the contrary, it is praiseworthy to doubt.
Repudiation: This doctrine ignores the effective power of God’s grace and the working of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. It contradicts the apostle John, who teaches the opposite with these express words in his first letter: Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure, 1 Jn 3:2, 3. Furthermore, it is refuted by the example of the saints both of the Old and New Testament who, although they were certain of their perseverance and salvation, nevertheless continued in prayer and other exercises of godliness.
7. Error: The faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except with respect to its duration.
Repudiation: In Mt 13:20-23 and Luke 8:13-15 Christ Himself clearly indicates, besides this duration, a threefold difference between those who believe only for a time and true believers. He declares that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, but the latter on good soil or in a good heart; that the former are without root, but the latter have a firm root; and that the former are without fruit, but the latter bring forth fruit in various measures, constantly and steadfastly.
8. Error: It is not absurd that one, having lost his first regeneration, is again and even often born anew.
Repudiation: This doctrine denies that the seed of God, by which we are born again, is incorruptible. It is contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, 1 Pet 1:23.
9. Error: Christ has prayed nowhere that believers should infallibly continue in faith.
Repudiation: This contradicts Christ Himself, who says: I have prayed for you (Simon) that your faith may not fail, Luke 22:32. It also contradicts the apostle John, who declares that Christ has not prayed for the apostles only, but also for all who through their word would believe: Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name, and I do not pray that Thou should take them out of the world, but that Thou should keep them from the evil one, Jn 17:11, 15, 20.
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Conclusion - Rejection of False Accusations
And so this is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the orthodox teaching on the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well as the rejection of the errors by which the Dutch churches have for some time been disturbed. This explanation and rejection the Synod declares to be derived from God’s Word and in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears that those of whom one could hardly expect it have shown no truth, equity, and charity at all in wishing to make the public believe:
- that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold of Satan where he lies in wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;
- that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, and Mohammedanism;
- that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the chosen, no matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works of the saints;
- that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in their innocence from their mothers’ breasts and cruelly cast into hell so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.
Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities--statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning--but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.
Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.
Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.
May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.
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