Canons of Dordrecht
Ratified in the National Synod of the Reformed Church
Held at Dordrecht, in the Years 1618 and 1619
First Head of Doctrine
Of Divine Predestination
Article 1. As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and
are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by
leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation
on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Rom. 3:19,
"that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty
before God." And verse 23: "Yet all have sinned, and come short of the
glory of God." And Rom. 6:23: "for the wages of sin is death."
Article 2. But in this the love of God was manifested, that he sent
his only begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believeth on him
should not perish, but have everlasting life. 1 John 4:9. John 3:16.
Article 3. And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully
sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he will and
at what time he pleases; by whose ministry men are called to
repentance and faith in Christ crucified. Rom. 10: 14, 15. "How then
shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall
they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they
hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be
Article 4. The wrath of God abides upon those who believe not this
gospel. But such as receive it, and embrace Jesus the Saviour by a
true and living faith, are by him delivered from the wrath of God, and
from destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon
Article 5. The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other
sins, is no wise in God, but in man himself; whereas faith in Jesus
Christ, and salvation through him is the free gift of God, as it is
written: "By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. "And unto you it is
given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him," etc. Phil.
Article 6. That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do
not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God
are all his works from the beginning of the world," Acts 15:18. "Who
worketh all things after the counsel of, his will," Eph. 1:11.
According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the
elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he
leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and
obduracy. And herein is especially displayed the profound, the
merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between
men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and
reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of
perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction,
yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.
Article 7. Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby,
before the foundation of the world, he has out of mere grace,
according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from
the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from
their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a
certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from
eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the
foundation of Salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving
than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has
decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call
and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon
them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having
powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to
glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of
his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he has chosen us
in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy,
and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the
adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good
pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein
he has made us accepted in the beloved." Eph. 1:4, 5, 6. And
elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he
called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also
glorified." Rom. 8:30.
Article 8. There are not various decrees of election, but one and the
same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the
Old and New Testament: since the scripture declares the good pleasure,
purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which
he has chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation
and the way of salvation, which he has ordained that we should walk
Article 9. This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the
obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition
in man, as the prerequisite, cause or condition on which it depended;
but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness,
etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from
which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and
finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to
that of the apostle: "He has chosen us (not because we were) but that
we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love." Eph. 1:4.
Article 10. The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this
gracious election; which does not consist herein, that out of all
possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a
condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass
of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to
himself, as it is written, "For the children being not yet born
neither having done any good or evil," etc., it was said (namely to
Rebecca): "the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob
have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Rom. 9:11, 12, 13. "And as many
as were ordained to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48.
Article 11. And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient
and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted
nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away,
nor their number diminished.
Article 12. The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in
different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and
unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and
deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual
joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out
in the Word of God -such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a
godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness,
Article 13. The sense and certainty of this election afford to the
children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before him,
for adoring the depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and
rendering; grateful returns of ardent love to him, who first
manifested so great love towards them. The consideration of this
doctrine of election is so far from encouraging remissness in the
observance of the divine commands, or from sinking men in carnal
security, that these, in the just judgment of God, are the usual
effects of rash presumption, or of idle and wanton trifling with the
grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the
Article 14. As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise
counsel of God, was declared by the prophets, by Christ himself, and
by the apostles, and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, both of
the Old and New Testament, so it is still to be published in due time
and place in the Church of God, for which it was peculiarly designed,
provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and
piety, for the glory of God's most holy name, and for enlivening and
comforting his people, without vainly attempting to investigate the
secret ways of the Most High. Acts 20:27; Rom. 11:33, 34; 12:3; Heb.
6:17, 18.
Article 15. What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us
the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony
of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while
others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of his
sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure,
has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have
wilfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith
and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment
to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice,
to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their
unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of
reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very
thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful,
irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.
Article 16. Those who do not yet experience a lively faith in Christ,
an assured confidence of soul, peace of conscience, an earnest
endeavour after filial obedience, and glorying in God through Christ,
efficaciously wrought in them, and do nevertheless persist in the use
of the means which God has appointed for working these graces in us,
ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to rank
themselves among the reprobate but diligently to persevere in the use
of means, and with ardent desires, devoutly and humbly to wait for a
season of richer grace. Much less cause have they to be terrified by
the doctrine of reprobation, who, though they seriously desire to be
turned to God, to please him only, and to be delivered from the body
of death, cannot yet reach that measure of holiness and faith to which
they aspire; since a merciful God has promised that he will not quench
the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed. But this doctrine is
justly terrible to those, who, regardless of God and of the Saviour
Jesus Christ, have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the
world, and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not
seriously converted to God.
Article 17. Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word,
which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by
nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they,
together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no
reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom
it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.
Article 18. To those who murmur at the free grace of election, and
just severity of reprobation, we answer with the apostle: "Nay, but, O
man, who art thou that replies against God?" Rom. 9:30, and quote the
language of our Saviour: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will
with mine own?" Matt. 20:15. And therefore, with holy adoration of
these mysteries, we exclaim in the words of the apostle: "O the depth
of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how
unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who
has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? or who
has first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and to him are all things: to whom be
glory for ever. - Amen.
The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been
explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:
1. Who teach: That the will of God to save those who would believe and
would persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith, is the whole
and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else
concerning this decree has been revealed in God's Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures,
which declare that God will not only save those who will believe, but
that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular persons to
whom above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and
perseverance, as it is written: "I manifested thy name unto the men
whom thou gavest me out of the world." John 17:6. "And as many as were
ordained to eternal life believed," Acts 13:48. And: "Even as he chose
us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and without blemish before him in love." Eph. 1:4.
2. Who teach: That there are various kinds of election of God unto
eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other particular and
definite; and that the latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable,
non-decisive and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive and
absolute. Likewise: that there is one election unto faith, and another
unto salvation, so that election can be unto justifying faith, without
being a decisive election unto salvation. For this is a fancy of men's
minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of
election is corrupted, and this golden chain of our salvation is
broken. "And whom he foreordained, them he also called; and whom he
called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also
glorified." Rom. 8:30.
3. Who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which
Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist
in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in
this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are
also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the
act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its
incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would
graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count
it worthy of the reward of eternal life. For by this injurious error
the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect,
and men are drawn away by useless questions from the truth of gracious
justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this
declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: "Who saved us, and
called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but
according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ
Jesus before times eternal." 2 Tim. 1:9.
4. Who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is
beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature
aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on
these things election were in any way dependent. For this savours of
the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the
apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also all once lived in the
lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and
were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich
in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were
dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by
grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to
sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to
come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness
towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have ye been saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of
works, that no man should glory." - Eph. 2:3-9.
5. Who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election of
particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith,
conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for
some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred
because of foreseen perseverance unto the end in faith, conversion,
holiness and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical
worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy
than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, the obedience of
faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the
unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being
required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be
fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election
to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly
inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not out of
works, but of him that calleth. 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," Eph. 1:4.
"Ye did not choose me, but I chose you," John 15:16. "But if it be of
grace, it is no more of works," Rom. 11:6. "Herein is love, not that
we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son," 1 John 4:10.
6. Who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable,
but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet
perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be
changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the
firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which
teaches, that the elect cannot be led astray. Matt. 24:24; that Christ
does not lose those whom the Father gave him. John 6:39; and that God
has also glorified those whom he foreordained, called and justified.
Rom. 8:30.
7. Who teach: That there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness
of the unchangeable election to glory, nor any certainty, except that
which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition. For not only is
it absurd to speak of an uncertain certainty, but also contrary to the
experience of the saints, who by virtue of the consciousness of their
election rejoice with the Apostle and praise this favour of God, Eph.
l; who according to Christ's admonition rejoice with his disciples
that their names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20; who also place the
consciousness of their election over against the fiery darts of the
devil, asking: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? "
Rom. 8:33.
8. Who teach: That God, simply by virtue of his righteous will, did
not decide either to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the
common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass anyone by in the
communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion.
For this is firmly decreed: "He has mercy on whom he will, and whom he
will he hardeneth," Rom. 9:18. And also this: "Unto you it is given to
know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not
given," Matt. 13:11. Likewise: "I thank thee; Q Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and
understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes; yea, Father, for so
it was wellpleasing in thy sight," Matt. 11:25, 26.
9. Who teach: That the reason why God sends the gospel to one people
rather than to another is not merely and solely the good pleasure of
God, but rather the fact that one people is better and worthier than
another to whom the gospel is not communicated. For this Moses denies,
addressing the people of Israel as follows: "Behold unto Jehovah thy
God belongeth heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all
that is therein. Only Jehovah had a delight in thy fathers to love
him, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples,
as at this day," Dent. 10: 14, 15. And Christ said: "Woe unto thee,
Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been
done into Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes," Matt. 11:21.
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Second Head of Doctrine
Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby
Article 1. God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely
just. And his justice requires (as he has revealed himself in his
Word), that our sins committed against his infinite majesty should be
punished, not only with temporal, but with eternal punishment, both in
body and soul; which we cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to
the justice of God.
Article 2. Since therefore we are unable to make that satisfaction in
our own persons, or to deliver ourselves from the wrath of God, he has
been pleased in his infinite mercy to give his only begotten Son, for
our surety, who was made sin, and became a curse for us and in our
stead, that he might make satisfaction to divine justice on our
Article 3. The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect
sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; and is of infinite worth and
value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
Article 4. This death derives its infinite value and dignity from
these considerations, because the person who submitted to it was not
only really man, and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of
God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the
Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute him a
Saviour for us; and because it was attended with a sense of the wrath
and curse of God due to us for sin.
Article 5. Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever
believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting
life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe,
ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons
promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good
pleasure sends the gospel.
Article 6. And, whereas many who are called by the gospel, do not
repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this is not
owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by
Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.
Article 7. But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved
from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for
this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from
everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.
Article 8. For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will
and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy
of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect,
for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to
bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God,
that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new
covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe,
nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from
(continued in part 2...)
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