(Canons of Dordrecht. part 2)
eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he
should confess upon them faith, which together with all the other
saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death;
should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether
committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved
them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot
and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.
Article 9. This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the
elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully
accomplished, and will hence forward still continue to be accomplished
notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell,
so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and
that there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the
foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may
steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Saviour, who as a
bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross,
and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors
of those:
1. Who teach: That God the Father has ordained his Son to the death of
the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that
the necessity, profitableness and worth of what Christ merited by his
death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete,
perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact
been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising
of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is
contrary to Scripture. For thus says our Saviour: "I lay down my life
for the sheep, and I know them," John 10:15, 27. And the prophet
Isaiah says concerning the Saviour: "When thou shalt make his soul an
offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand," Isa. 53:10.
Finally, this contradicts the article of faith according to which we
believe the catholic christian church.
2. Who teach: That it was not the purpose of the death of Christ that
he should confirm the new covenant of grace through his blood, but
only that he should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish
with man such a covenant as he might please, whether of grace or of
works. For this is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that Christ
has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, the new
covenant, and that a testament is of force where death has occurred.
Heb. 7:22; 9:15,17.
3. Who teach: That Christ by his satisfaction merited neither
salvation itself for anyone, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of
Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that he merited
for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again
with man, and to prescribe new conditions as he might desire,
obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that
it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should
fulfill these conditions. For these adjudge too contemptuously of the
death of Christ, do in no wise acknowledge the most important fruit or
benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian
4. Who teach: That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father,
through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not
herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits
of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact that
God having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith, regards
faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the
perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward
of eternal life through grace. For these contradict the Scriptures:
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in
Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in
his blood," Rom. 3:24, 25. And these proclaim, as did the wicked
Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against
the consensus of the whole church.
5. Who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of
reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is
worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one
shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt
of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which
teaches that we are by nature children of wrath. Eph. 2:3.
6. Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the
end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and
inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has
been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the
death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and
eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own
free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without
exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy,
which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should
appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign
that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill
into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.
7. Who teach: That Christ neither could die, needed to die, nor did
die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to
eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not need the
death of Christ. For they contradict the Apostle, who declares "Christ
loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal. 2:20. Likewise: "Who shall
lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth;
who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died," Rom. 8: 33,
34, viz., for them; and the Saviour who says: "I lay down my life for
the sheep," John 10:15. And: "This is my commandment, that ye love one
another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends," John 15:12, 13.
Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine
Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner
Article 1. Man was originally formed after the image of God. His
understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his
Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all
his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from
God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his
own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary
entailed On himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and
perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in
heart and will, and impure in his affections.
Article 2. Man after the fall begot children in his own likeness. A
corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of
Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their
original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted,
but by the propagation of a vicious nature.
Article 3. Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature
children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in
sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the
Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to
reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to
Article 4. There remain, however, in man since the fall, the
glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of
God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil,
and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for
maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light
of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of
God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright
even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it
is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in
unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.
Article 5. In the same light are we to consider the law of the
decalogue, delivered by God to his peculiar people the Jews, by the
hands of Moses. For though it discovers the greatness of sin, and more
and more convinces man thereof, yet as it neither points out a remedy,
nor imparts strength to extricate him from misery, and thus being weak
through the flesh, leaves the transgressor under the curse, man cannot
by this law obtain saving grace.
Article 6. What therefore neither the light of nature, nor the law
could do, that God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit
through the word or ministry of reconciliation: which is the glad
tidings concerning the Messiah, by means whereof, it has pleased God
to save such as believe, as well under the Old, as under the New
Article 7. This mystery of his will God discovered to but a small
number under the Old Testament; under the New, (the distinction
between various peoples having been removed), he reveals himself to
many, without any distinction of people. The cause of this
dispensation is not to be ascribed to the superior worth of one nation
above another, nor to their making a better use of the light of
nature, but results wholly from the sovereign good pleasure and
unmerited love of, God. Hence they, to whom so great and so gracious a
blessing is communicated, above their desert, or rather
notwithstanding their demerits, are bound to acknowledge it with
humble and grateful hearts, and with the apostle to adore, not
curiously to pry into the severity and justice of God's judgments
displayed to others, to whom this grace is not given.
Article 8. As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly
called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in his Word,
what will be acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called,
should comply with the invitation. He, moreover, seriously promises
eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe
on him.
Article 9. It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered
therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon
them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the
word, refuse to come, and be converted: the fault lies in themselves;
some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the word
of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a
lasting impression on their heart; therefore their joy, arising only
from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while
others choke the seed of the word by perplexing cares, and the
pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. - This our Saviour
teaches in the parable of the sower. Matt. 13.
Article 10. But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the
call, and are converted, is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise
of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally
furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the
proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to
God, who as he has chosen his own from eternity in Christ, so he
confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of
darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that
they may show forth the praises of him, who has called them out of
darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves,
but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various
Article 11. But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect,
or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be
externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by
his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand and discern the
things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same
regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens
the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which
was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though
heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and
refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and
strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits
of good actions.
Article 12. And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in
Scripture, and denominated a new creation: resurrection from the dead,
a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in
no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by
moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has
performed his part, it still remains in the power of man to be
regenerated or not, to be converted, or to continue unconverted; but
it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same
time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not
inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead,
as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that
all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly,
infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. -
Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced
by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active.
Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by
virtue of that grace received.
Article 13. The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended
by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, they rest satisfied
with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are
enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Saviour.
Article 14. Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God,
not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or
rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred,
breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power
or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the
exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and
actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to
will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will
to believe, and the act of believing also.
Article 15. God is under no obligation to confer this grace upon any;
for how can he be indebted to man, who had no previous gifts to
bestow, as a foundation for such recompense? Nay, who has nothing of
his own but sin and falsehood? He therefore who becomes the subject of
this grace, owes eternal gratitude to God, and gives him thanks
forever. Whoever is not made partaker thereof, is either altogether
regardless of these spiritual gifts, and satisfied with his own
condition; or is in no apprehension of danger, and vainly boasts the
possession of that which he has not. With respect to those who make an
external profession of faith, and live regular lives, we are bound,
after the example of the apostle, to judge and speak of them in the
most favourable manner. For the secret recesses of the heart are
unknown to us. And as to others, who have not yet been called, it is
our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not,
as if they were. But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards
them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ.
Article 16. But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature,
endowed with understanding and will, nor did sin which pervaded the
whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought
upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of
regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor
takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence
thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same
time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and
resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience
begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and
freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of
every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering
from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state
of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin.
Article 17. As the almighty operation of God, whereby he prolongs and
supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use
of means, by which God of his infinite mercy and goodness has chosen
to exert his influence, so also the before mentioned supernatural
operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes, or
subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained
to be the seed oŁ regeneration, and food of the soul. Wherefore as the
apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the
people concerning this grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement
of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them
by the sacred precepts of the gospel in the exercise of the Word,
sacraments and discipline; so even to this day, be it far from either
instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by
separating what he of his good pleasure has most intimately joined
together. For grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more
readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing
of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to
whom alone all the glory both of means, and of their saving fruit and
efficacy is forever due. Amen.
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors
of those:
1. Who teach: that it cannot properly be said, that original sin in
itself suffices to condemn the whole human race, or to deserve
temporal and eternal punishment. For these contradict the Apostle, who
declares: "Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world,
and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all
sinned," Rom. 5:12. And: "The judgment came of one unto condemnation,"
Rom. 5:16. And: "The wages of sin is death," Rom. 6:23.
2. Who teach: That 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 that these,
therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall. For
such is contrary to the description of the image of God, which the
Apostle gives in Eph. 4:24, where he declares that it consists in
righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.
3. Who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not
separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been
corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding
and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances
having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native
powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to
choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may
be presented to it. This is an innovation and an error, and tends to
elevate the powers of the free will, contrary to the declaration of
the Prophet: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is
exceedingly corrupt," Jer. 17:9; and of the Apostle: "Among whom (sons
of disobedience) we also all once lived in the lusts of the flesh,
doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind," Eph. 2:3.
4. Who teach: That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead
in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that 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.
For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "Ye were
dead through trespasses and sins," Eph. 2:1, 5; and: "Every
imagination of the thought of his heart are only evil continually,"
Gen 6:5; 8:21.
Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery, and
after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is
peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed. Ps.
51:10, 19; Matt. 5:6.
5. Who teach: That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the
common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the
gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by
their good use a greater, viz. the evangelical or saving grace and
salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself
ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all
sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For
the experience of all ages and the Scriptures do both testify that
this is untrue. "He showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statutes and his
ordinances unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any nation: and as
for his ordinances they have not known them," Ps. 147:19. 20. "Who in
the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own
way," Acts 14:16. And: "And they (Paul and his companions) having been
forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they
were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and
the Spirit suffered them not," Acts 16:6, 7.
6. Who teach: That in the true conversion of man no new qualities,
powers or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that
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, and that it cannot be said to be a gift,
except in respect of the power to attain to this faith. For thereby
they contradict 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 in their inward parts, and in
their hearts will I write it," Jer. 31:33. And: "I will pour water
upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour
my Spirit upon thy seed," Isa. 44:3. And: "The love of God has been
shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given
us," Rom. 5:5. This is also repugnant to the continuous practice of
the Church, which prays by the mouth of the Prophet thus: "Turn thou
me, and I shall be turned," Jer. 31:18.
7. Who teach: That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a
gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is the noblest
manner of working in the conversion of man, and that this manner of
working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man's
nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone
should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual, indeed,
that God does not produce the consent of the will except through this
manner of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby
it surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this, that God promises
(continued in part 3...)
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