(Canons of Dordrecht. part 3)
eternal, while Satan promises only temporal goods. But this is
altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture which, besides
this, teaches yet another and far more powerful and divine manner of
the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in Ezekiel: "A
new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within
you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I
will give you a heart of flesh," Ezek. 36:26.
8. Who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such
powers of his omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man's will
to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been
accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist
God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration and wills
to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist that he
prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in
man's power to be regenerated or not. For 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,
which is contrary to the Apostles, who teach: "That we believe
according to the working of the strength of his power," Eph. 1:19.
And: that God fulfill every desire of goodness and every work of faith
with power," 2 Thess. 1:11. And: "That his divine power has given unto
us all things that pertain unto life and godliness," 2 Peter 1:3.
9. Who teach: That grace and free will are partial causes, which
together work the beginning of conversion, and that grace, in order of
working, does not precede the working of the will; that is, that God
does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the
will of man moves and determines to do this. For the ancient Church
has long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the
words of the Apostle: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of
him that runneth, but of God that has mercy," Rom. 9:16. Likewise:
"For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not
receive?" 1 Cor. 4:7. And: "For it is God who worketh in you both to
will and to work, for his good pleasure," Phil. 2:13.
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Fifth Head of Doctrine
Of the Perseverance of the Saints
Article 1. Whom God calls, according to his purpose, to the communion
of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit,
he delivers also from the dominion and slavery of sin in this life
though not altogether from the body of sin, and from the infirmities
of the flesh, so long as they continue in this world.
Article 2. Hence spring daily sins of infirmity, and hence spots
adhere to the best works of the saints; which furnish them with
constant matter for humiliation before God, and flying for refuge to
Christ crucified; for mortifying the flesh more and more by the spirit
of prayer, and by holy exercises of piety; and for pressing forward to
the goal of perfection, till being at length delivered from this body
of death, they are brought to reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.
Article 3. By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the
temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not
persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God
is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and
powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.
Article 4. Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against
the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state
of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by
the Spirit of God, as not in some particular instances sinfully to
deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by, and
comply with the lusts of the flesh; they must, therefore, be constant
in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation. When
these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great
and heinous sins, by Satan, the world and the flesh, but sometimes by
the righteous permission of God actually fall into these evils. This,
the lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in
Holy Scripture, demonstrates.
Article 5. By such enormous sins, however, they very highly offend
God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the
exercise of faith, very grievously wound their consciences, and
sometimes lose the sense of God's favour, for a time, until on their
returning into the right way of serious repentance, the light of God's
fatherly countenance again shines upon them.
Article 6. But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his
unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy
Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor
suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and
forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death
nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge
themselves into everlasting destruction.
Article 7. For in the first place, in these falls he preserves in them
the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing, or being
totally lost; and again, by his Word and Spirit certainly and
effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow
for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood
of the Mediator, may again experience the favour of a reconciled God,
through faith adore his mercies, and hence forward more diligently
work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
Article 8. Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or
strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from
faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backsliding;
which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would
undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible,
since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can
the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit,
intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor
the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated.
Article 9. Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of
their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and
do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby
they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue
true and living members of the church; and that they experience
forgiveness of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life.
Article 10. This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar
revelation contrary to, or independent of the Word of God; but springs
from faith in God's promises, which he has most abundantly revealed in
his Word for our comfort; from the testimony of the Holy Spirit,
witnessing with our spirit, that we are children and heirs of God,
Rom. 8:16; and lastly, from a serious and holy desire to preserve a
good conscience, and to perform good works. And if the elect of God
were deprived of this solid comfort, that they shall finally obtain
the victory, and of this infallible pledge or earnest of eternal
glory, they would be of all men the most miserable.
Article 11. The Scripture moreover testifies, that believers in this
life have to struggle with various carnal doubts, and that under
grievous temptations they are not always sensible of this full
assurance of faith and certainty of persevering. But God, who is the
Father of all consolation, does not suffer them to be tempted above
that they are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to
escape, that they may be able to bear it, 1 Cor. 10:13, and by the
Holy Spirit again inspires them with the comfortable assurance of
Article 12. This certainty of perseverance, however, is so far from
exciting in believers a spirit of pride, or of rendering them carnally
secure, that on the contrary, it is the real source of humility,
filial reverence, true piety, patience in every tribulation, fervent
prayers, constancy in suffering, and in confessing the truth, and of
solid rejoicing in God: so that the consideration of this benefit
should serve as an incentive to the serious and constant practice of
gratitude and good works, as appears from the testimonies of
Scripture, and the examples of the saints.
Article 13. Neither does renewed confidence of persevering produce
licentiousness, or a disregard to piety in those who are recovering
from backsliding; but it renders them much more careful and solicitous
to continue in the ways of the Lord, which he has ordained, that they
who walk therein may maintain an assurance of persevering, lest by
abusing his fatherly kindness, God should turn away his gracious
countenance from them, to behold which is to the godly dearer than
life: the withdrawing whereof is more bitter than death, and they in
consequence hereof should fall into more grievous torments of
Article 14. And as it has pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel,
to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and
perfects it by the hearing and reading of his Word, by meditation
thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings; and promises thereof,
as well as by the use of the sacraments.
Article 15. The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this doctrine of
the perseverance of the saints, and the certainty thereof; which God
has most abundantly revealed in his Word, for the glory of his name,
and the consolation of pious souls, and which he impresses upon the
hearts of the faithful. Satan abhors it; the world ridicules it; the
ignorant and hypocrite abuse, and heretics oppose it; but the spouse
of Christ has always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it,
as an inestimable treasure; and God, against whom neither counsel nor
strength can prevail, will dispose her to continue this conduct to the
end. Now to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and
glory, forever. AMEN.
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors
of those:
1. Who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is not a
fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of Christ,
but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man
before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through
his free will. For the Holy Scripture testifies that this follows out
of election, and is given the elect in virtue of the death, the
resurrection and intercession of Christ: "But the elect obtained it
and the rest were hardened," Rom. 11:7. Likewise: "He that spared not
his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also
with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the
charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that
condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised
from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh
intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Rom. 8:32-35.
2. Who teach: That God does indeed provide the believer with
sufficient powers to persevere, and is ever ready to preserve these in
him, if he will do his duty; but that through all things, which are
necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve
faith, are made use of, it even then ever depends on the pleasure of
the will whether it will persevere or not. For this idea contains an
outspoken Pelagianism, and while it would make men free, it makes them
robbers of God's honour, contrary to the prevailing agreement of the
evangelical doctrine, which takes from man all cause of boasting, and
ascribes all the praise for this favour to the grace of God alone; and
contrary to the Apostle, who declares: "That it is God, who shall also
confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreprovable in the day of our
Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 1:18.
3. Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall
from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and
to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.
For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification,
regeneration, and continued keeping by Christ, contrary to the
expressed words of the Apostle Paul. "That while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood,
shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him," Rom. 5:8, 9. And
contrary to the Apostle John: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no
sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is
begotten of God," l John 3:9. And also contrary to the words of Jesus
Christ: "I give unto 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." John 10:28, 29.
4. Who teach: That true believers and regenerate can sin the sin unto
death or against the Holy Spirit. Since the same Apostle John, after
having spoken in the fifth chapter of his first epistle, vss. 16 and
17, of those who sin unto death and having forbidden to pray for them,
immediately adds to this in vs. 18: "We know that whosoever is
begotten of God sinneth not (meaning a sin of that character), but he
that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him
not," 1 John 5:18.
5. Who teach: That without a special revelation we can have no
certainty of future perseverance in this life. For by this doctrine
the sure comfort of the true believers is taken away in this life, and
the doubts of the papist are again introduced into the church, while
the Holy Scriptures constantly deduce this assurance, not from a
special and extraordinary revelation, but from the marks proper to the
children of God and from the constant promises of God. So especially
the Apostle Paul: "No creature shall be able to separate us from the
love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Rom. 8:39. And John
declares: "And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he
in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which
he gave us." 1 John 3:24.
6. Who teach: That the doctrine of the certainty of perseverance and
of salvation from its own character and nature is a cause of indolence
and is injurious to godliness, good morals, prayers and other holy
exercises, but that on the contrary it is praiseworthy to doubt. For
these show that they do not know the power of divine grace and the
working of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And they contradict the Apostle
John, who teaches the opposite with express words in his first
epistle: "beloved, now are we the children of God, and it is not yet
made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be
manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.
And every one that has this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as
he is pure," 1 John 3:2, 3. Furthermore, these are contradicted by the
example of the saints, both of the Old and the New Testament, who
though they were assured of their perseverance and salvation, were
nevertheless constant in prayers and other exercises of godliness.
7. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does
not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.
For Christ himself, in Matt. 13:20, Luke 8:13, and in other places,
evidently notes, besides this duration, a threefold difference between
those who believe only for a time and true believers, when he declares
that the former receive the seed in stony ground, but the latter in
the good ground or heart; that the former are without root, but the
latter have a firm root; that the former are without fruit, but that
the latter bring forth their fruit in various measure, with constancy
and steadfastness.
8. Who teach: That it is not absurd that one having lost his first
regeneration, is again and even often born anew. For these deny by
this doctrine the incorruptibleness of the seed at God, whereby we are
born again. Contrary to the testimony of the Apostle Peter: "Having
been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible," 1
Peter 1:23.
9. Who teach: That Christ has in no place prayed that believers should
infallibly continue in faith. For they contradict Christ himself, who
says: "I have prayed for thee (Simon), that thy faith fail not," Luke
22:32; and the Evangelist John, who declares, that Christ has not
prayed for the Apostles only, but also for those who through their
word would believe: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name," and: "I pray
not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou
shouldest keep them from the evil one," John 17:11,15, 20.
And this is the perspicuous, simple, and ingenuous declaration of the
orthodox doctrine respecting the five articles which have been
controverted in the Dutch churches; and the rejection of the errors,
with which they have for some time been troubled. This doctrine, the
Synod judges to be drawn from the Word of God, and to be agreeable to
the confessions of the Reformed churches. Whence it clearly appears,
that some whom such conduct by no means became, have violated all
truth, equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public:
"That the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning
predestination, and the points annexed to it, by its own genius and
necessary tendency, leads off the minds of men from all piety and
religion; that it is an opiate administered by the flesh and the
devil, and the stronghold of Satan, where he lies in wait for all;
and from which he wounds multitudes, and mortally strikes through
many with the darts both of despair and security; that it makes God
the author of sin, unjust, tyrannical, hypocritical; that it is
nothing more than interpolated Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism,
Turcism; that it renders men carnally secure, since they are
persuaded by it that nothing can hinder the salvation of the elect,
let them live as they please; and therefore, that they may safely
perpetrate every species of the most atrocious crimes; and that, if
the reprobate should even perform truly all the works of the saints,
their obedience would not in the least contribute to their salvation
that the same doctrine teaches, that God, by a mere arbitrary act of
his will, without the least respect or view to any sin, has
predestinated the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation;
and, has created them for this very purpose; that in the same manner
in which the election is the fountain and the cause of faith and
good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety; that
many children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their
mothers' breasts, and tyrannically plunged into hell; so that,
neither baptism, nor the prayers of the Church at their baptism, can
at all profit by them;"
and many other things of the same kind, which the Reformed Churches
not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with their whole soul.
Wherefore, this Synod of Dort, in the name of the Lord, conjures as
many as piously call upon the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to
judge of the faith of the Reformed Churches, not from the calumnies,
which, on every side, are heaped upon it; nor from the private
expressions of a few among ancient and modern teachers, often
dishonestly quoted, or corrupted, and wrested to a meaning quite
foreign to their intention; but from the public confessions of the
Churches themselves, and from the declaration of the orthodox
doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent of all and each of the
members of the whole Synod. Moreover, the Synod warns calumniators
themselves, to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits
them, for bearing false witness against the confessions of so many
Churches, for distressing the consciences of the weak; and for
labouring to render suspected the society of the truly faithful.
Finally, this Synod exhorts all their brethren in the gospel of
Christ, to conduct themselves piously and religiously in handling this
doctrine, both in the universities and churches; to direct it, as well
in discourse, as in writing, to the glory of the Divine Name, to
holiness of life, and to the consolation of afflicted souls; to
regulate, by the Scripture, according to the analogy of faith, not
only their sentiments, but also their language; and, to abstain from
all those phrases which exceed the limits necessary to be observed in
ascertaining the genuine sense of the holy Scriptures; and may furnish
insolent sophists with a just pretext for violently assailing, or even
vilifying, the doctrine of the Reformed Churches.
May Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, seated at the Father's right
hand, gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, bring to the truth
those who err, shut the mouths of the calumniators of sound doctrine,
and endue the faithful minister of his Word with the spirit of wisdom
and discretion, that all their discourses may tend to the glory of
God, and the edification of those who hear them. AMEN.
That this is our faith and decision we certify by subscribing our
Here follow the names, not only of President, Assistant President, and
Secretaries of the Synod, and of the Professors of Theology in the
Dutch Churches, but of all the Members who were deputed to the Synod,
as the Representatives of their respect live Churches, that is, of the
Delegates from Great Britain, the Electoral Palatinate, Hessia,
Switzerland, Wetteraw, - the Republic and Church of Geneva, - The
Republic and Church of Bremen, - The Republic and Church of Emden, -
The Duchy of Gelderland and of Zutphen, - South Holland, - North
Holland, - Zeeland, - The Province of Utrecht, - Friesland, -
Transylvania, the State of Groningen and Omland, - Drent, - The French
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