R. Scott Clark Personal Pages
The Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618-1619)
First Head of Doctrine:
As all men have sinned in Adam1, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death,2 God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin,3 according to the words of the apostle'"that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God"'; (Rom 3:19). And'"for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God"'; (Rom 3:23). An d'"For the wages of sin is death"'; (Rom 6:23).
1 Rom 5:12; 2 Rom 6:23; 3 Eph 2:1-3
But in this the love of God was manifested, that He’“sent His only begotten Son into the world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"'; (1 Jn 4:9; Jn 3:16).
And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings1 to whom He will and at what time He pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified.2 Â“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 are sent?"'; (Rom 10:14-15).
1 Isa 52:7; Rom 10:14-17; 2 I Cor 1:23-24
The wrath of God abides upon those who believe not this gospel.1 But such as receive it2 and embrace Jesus the Savior by a true and living faith3 are by Him delivered from the wrath of God and from destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon them.4
1 Jn 3:36; Rom 1:18, 2:5; 2 Jn 1:12-13; 3 HC 21 4 Rom 10:9
The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other sins is no way in God,1 but in man himself;2 whereas faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him is the free gift of God, as it is written'"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"'; (Eph 2:8). Likewise'"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in himÂ…"'; (Php 1:29).
1 Jas 1:13, 17; 1 Jn 1:5; 2 Heb 4:6
That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from GodÂ’s eternal decree.1 Â“Known to God from eternity are all His works"'; (Acts 15:18). Â“Who works all things according to 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 obstinacy.2 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 it to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.
1 Rom 9:10-15; 2 1 Pt 2:8
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world,1 He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will,2 chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of uprightness 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,3 and effectually to call4 and draw them5 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,6 finally to glorify them7 for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace; as it is written'"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He bestowed grace upon us in the Beloved"'; (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere'"Whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified"'; (Rom 8:30).
1 Eph 1:4; 2 Eph 1:11; 3 Jn 17:2; 4 1 Cor 1:9; 5 Jn 6:37, 44; 6 Jn 17:12; 7 Jn 17:24
There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those who shall be saved,1 both under the Old2 and New Testament;3 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 to glory, to salvation and to the way of salvation, which He has ordained that we should walk therein.
1 Rom 8:28-30; 2 Dt 7:7, 9:6; 3 Eph 1:4-5, 2:10
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.1 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 the testimony of the apostle'"He chose us [not because we were, but]Â…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"'; (Eph 1:4).
1 Rom 8:29-30; Eph 2:9-10, 5:25-29
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 persons1 as a peculiar people to Himself, as it is written'"For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evilÂ…it was said to her [namely, to Rebekah],’‘the elder shall serve the younger.Â’ Even as it is written,’‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hatedÂ’"'; (Rom 9:11-13).2 Â“And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed"'; (Acts 13:48).
1 Eph 1:4-11; 2 Gen 25:23; Mal 1:2-3
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;1 neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.2
1 Rom 8:29-30; 2 Jn 6:37, 10:28
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,1 but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure2 the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God, such as, a true faith in Christ,3 filial fear of God,4 a godly sorrow for sin,5 a hungering and thirsting after righteousness,6 etc.
1 Dt 29:29; 2 Rom 4:18-5:2, 5; 3 1 Cor 2:10-11; 4 2 Cor 13:5; 5 2 Cor 7:10; 6 Mt 5:6
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,1 and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great love towards them.2 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 carelessness with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.
1 1 Jn 3:3, 7-10; 2 1 Jn 4:19
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 the New Testament, so it is still to be published in due time and place in the Church of God,1 for which it was peculiarly designed, provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety,2 for the glory of GodÂ’s most holy Name,3 and for enlivening and comforting His people,4 without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most High.5
1 Acts 20:27; 2 Rom 12:3; 3 Rom 11:33-36; 4 Heb 6:17-18; 5 Dt 29:29; Job 36:23-26; 1 Cor 4:6
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,1 while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign,2 most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves,3 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,2 at last, for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish 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.
1 Rom 9:6; 2 Rom 9:10-23; 3 Rom 9:22; 1 Pt 2:8; 2 Acts 14:16
Those in whom a living faith in Christ,1 and assured confidence of soul, peace of conscience, an earnest endeavor after filial obedience,2 a glorying in God through Christ,3 is not as yet strongly felt, and who nevertheless make 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 to be terrified by the doctrine of reprobation have they who, though they seriously desire to be turned to God, to please Him only, and to be delivered from the body of death,4 cannot yet reach that measure of holiness and faith to which they aspire;5 since a merciful God has promised that He will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed.6 But this doctrine is justly terrible7 to those who, regardless of God and of the Savior Jesus Christ, have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the world8 and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not seriously converted to God.
1 Jas 2:26; HC 21; 2 2 Cor 1:12; 3 Rom 5:11; Php 3:3; 4 Rom 7:24; 5 Rom 7:13-23; 6 Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20; 7 Heb 12:29; 8 Mt 13:22
Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy,1 not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.2
1 1 Cor 7:14; 2 Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39
To those who murmur at the free grace of election and the just severity of reprobation we answer with the apostle'"But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?"'; (Rom 9:20),1 and quote the language of our Savior'"Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with My own things?"'; (Mt 20:15). And therefore, with holy adoration of these mysteries, we exclaim in the words of the apostle'"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! Â‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid unto him again?Â’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever! Amen."'; (Rom 11:33-36).
1 Job 34:34-37
Rejection of Errors
The true doctrine concerning election and reprobation having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:
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, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in GodÂ’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 will grant in time, both faith in Christ and perseverance; as it is written’“I have revealed Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world"'; (Jn 17:6), and’“as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed"'; (Acts 13:48). And’“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him"'; (Eph 1:4).
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 menÂ’s minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this golden chain of our salvation is broken'"Whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified"'; (Rom 8:30).
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, that 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 has 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 to us in Christ Jesus before time began"'; (2 Tim 1:9).
Who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded 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 savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle when he writes'"Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast"'; (Eph 2:3-9).
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 of works but of Him who calls"'; (Rom 9:11).’“And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed"'; (Acts 13:48). Â“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him"'; (Eph 1:4).’“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit shall remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you"'; (Jn 15:16). Â“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works"'; (Rom 11:6). Â“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins"'; (1 Jn 4:10).
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 this gross error they make God 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 can not be led astray (Mt 24:24), that Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (Jn 6:39), and that God also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom 8:30).
Who teach: That there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of the unchangeable elect 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 favor of God; who according to ChristÂ’s admonition rejoice with his disciples that their names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20); who also place the consciousness of their election over against the fiery darts of the devil, asking: "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?" (Rom 8:33).
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 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 wills, and whom He wills He hardens" (Rom 9:18). And also this: "It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Mt 13:11). Likewise: "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight" (Mt 11:25-26).
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 which the gospel is not communicated. For this Moses denies, addressing the people of Israel as follows: "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The LORD delighted only in your fathers to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day" (Dt 10:14-15). And Christ said: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Mt 11:21).
Second Head of Doctrine:
The Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby
God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just.1 And His justice requires (as He has revealed Himself in His Word) that our sins committed against His infinite majesty should be punished,2 not only with temporal but with eternal punishments, both in body and soul; which we cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God.
1 Ex 34:6-7; HC 11; BC 16; 2 Rom 5:16; Gal 3:10
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 of His infinite mercy to give His only begotten Son for our Surety,1 who was made sin,2 and became a curse for us and in our stead,3 that He might make satisfaction to divine justice on our behalf.4
1 Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8; 2 2 Cor 5:21 3 Gal 3:13; 4 HC 12-14
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.2
1 Heb 9:26, 28, 10:14; 2 Jn 1:29, 4:42; 1 Jn 2:2
This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only truly and perfectly a holy man,1 but also, the only begotten Son of God,2 of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.3
1 Mt 1:23; Heb 4:15, 7:26; 2 Jn 1:18; 1 Jn 4:9; 3 Mt 27:46
Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life.1 This promise, together with the command to repent and believe,2 ought to be declared and published to all nations,2 and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.
1 Jn 3:16; 1 Cor 1:23; 2 Acts 2:38, 16:31; 3 Mt 28:19
And, whereas many who are called by the gospel1 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.2
1 Mt 22:14; 2 Ps 95:8-11; Mt 23:27; Heb 4:6
But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ,1 are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God2 given them in Christ from everlasting,3 and not to any merit of their own.4
1 2 Cor 5:18; Col 2:13-14; 2 Eph 2:8; 3 2 Tim 1:9; 4 Eph 2:9; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5
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,1 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,2 should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language,3 all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer 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,4 both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end,5 should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish,6 to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.
1 Mt 20:28; Jn 10:15, 17:9; Eph 5:25-27; 2 Lk 22:20; Heb 8:6; 3 Jn 11:51-52; Rev 5:9; 4 1 Jn 1:7; 5 Jn 10:28; 6 Eph 5:27
This purpose, proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell;1 so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one,2 and that there may always be a church composed of believers,3 the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ; which may steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as its Savior (who, as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down His life for them upon the cross);4 and which may celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.
1 Mt 16:18; 2 Jn 11:52; 3 1 Kgs 19:18; 4 Eph 5:25
Rejection of Errors
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:
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 Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep" and I know them"(Jn 10:15,27). And the prophet Isaiah says concerning the Savior: "Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand" (Isa 53:10). Finally, this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe that there is a church of God.
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 "Jesus has become a guarantee of a better covenant" the new covenant" and that "it has no power at all while the testator lives" (Heb 7:22, 9:15,17).
Who teach: That Christ by His satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for any one, 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 the death of Christ, in no way acknowledge that most important fruit or benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian error.
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 as a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Rom 3:24-25). And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinius, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
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 opposes Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3).
Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the careless and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as He is concerned, has willed to apply to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; and 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 pretend that they present this distinction in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of Pelagianism.
Who teach: That Christ neither could die, nor needed to die, and also 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. For they contradict the apostle, who declares, Christ’“loved me and gave Himself for me"'; (Gal 2:20). Likewise'"Who shall bring a charge against GodÂ’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died"'; (Rom 8:33-34), namely, for them; and the Savior who says'"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 one than this, than to lay down oneÂ’s life for his friends"'; (Jn 15:12-13).
Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine
The Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof
Man was originally formed after the image of God.1 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.2 But, revolting from God by the instigation of the devil and by his own free will,3 he forfeited these excellent gifts; and in the place thereof became involved in blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity, and perverseness of judgment; became wicked, rebellious, and obstinate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.4
1 Gen 1:26-27; 2 HC 6; 3 Gen 3:1-7; HC 9; 4 Rom 3:9-18; Eph 4:17-19
Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness.1 A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring.2 Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted,3 have derived corruption from their original parent,4 not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature, in consequence of the just judgment of God.
1 Gen 5:3; 2 Job 14:4; Ps 51:7; 3 Heb 4:15; 4 Rom 5:12-19
Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and are by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil,1 dead in sin,2 and in bondage thereto;3 and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit,4 they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, or to dispose themselves to reformation.
1 Gen 6:5; 2 Eph 2:1, 3 3 Jn 8:34; Rom 6:16-17; 4 Jn 3:3-6; Titus 3:5
There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. 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. By no means, further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted and hinders in unrighteousness, which by doing he becomes inexcusable before God.1
1 Rom 1:18-25
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 reveals the greatness of sin,1 and more and more convinces man thereof, yet, as it neither points out a remedy nor imparts strength to extricate him from his misery,2 but, being weak through the flesh,3 leaves the transgressor under the curse,4 and man cannot by this law obtain saving grace.
1 Rom 3:19-20; Gal 3:19; 2 Rom 7:10, 13; 2 Cor 3:6-7; 3 Rom 8:3; 4 Gal 10; 5 Rom 3:20; Gal 3:11
What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law could do, that God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit1 through the word or ministry of reconciliation;2 which is the gospel concerning the Messiah, by means whereof it has pleased God to save such as believe,3 as well under the Old as under the New Testament.4
1 Jn 3:1-8; 2 2 Cor 5:18-19; 3 1 Cor 1:21; 4 Heb 4:2
This mystery of His will God reveals to but a small number under the Old Testament; under the New Testament (the distinction between various peoples having been removed1) He reveals it to many. The cause of this dispensation is not to be ascribed to the superior worth of one nation above another, nor to their better use of the light of nature, but results wholly from the sovereign good pleasure2 and unmerited love of God.3 Hence they to whom so great and so gracious a blessing is communicated,4 above their desert, or rather notwithstanding their demerits, are bound to acknowledge it with humble and grateful hearts, and with the apostle to adore, but in no wise curiously to pry into,5 the severity and justice of GodÂ’s judgments displayed in others to whom this grace is not given.
1 Rom 2:11; Gal 3:28; Eph 2:14; Col 3:11; 2 Jer 9:23-24; Eph 1:9; 3 Dt 7:7-8; 4 Mt 11:26; 5 Dt 29:29; 6 Rom 11:22-23; Rev 16:7
As many as are called by the gospel are sincerely called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come unto Him.1 He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him2 and believe.3
1 Isa 55:1; Mt 22:4; Jn 6:37; Rev 22:17; 2 Mt 11:28-29; 3 Php 1:29
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 many who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves;1 some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the Word of life; others, though they receive it, do not allow it 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 Savior teaches in the parable of the sower.2
1 Mt 11:20-24, 22:1-8, 23:3; 2 Mt 13:1-23
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 conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains); but it must be wholly ascribed to God,1 who, as He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He calls them effectually in time,2 confers upon them faith3 and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness,4 and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son;5 that they may show forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light,6 and may glory not in themselves but in the Lord,7 according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.
1 Rom 9:16; 2 Rom 8:29-30; Titus 1:2-3; 3 Eph 2:8; 4 Gal 1:4; 5 Col 1:13; 6 1 Pt 2:9; 7 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17
But when God accomplishes His good pleasure in his 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,1 that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God;2 but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit He pervades the inmost recesses of man;3 He opens the closed and softens the hardened heart,4 and circumcises that which was uncircumcised;5 infuses new qualities into the will, which, though heretofore dead, He quickens;6 from being evil, disobedient, and obstinate, 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.7
1 Heb 6:4-5; 2 1 Cor 2:10-14; 3 Heb 4:12; 4 Acts 16:14; 5 Dt 30:6; 6 Ezek 11:19, 36:26; 7 Mt 7:18; Gal 5:22-25
And this is that regeneration so highly extolled in Scripture, that renewal,1 new creation,2 resurrection from the dead,3 making alive,4 which God works in us without our aid.5 But this is in no way 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.6 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 himself is rightly said to believe and repent by virtue of that grace received.
1 Jn 3:3; 2 2 Cor 4:6, 5:17; 3 Jn 5:25; Rom 4:17; Eph 5:14; 4 Eph 2:5; 5 Php 2:13; 6 Jn 6:63-65
Believers in this life cannot fully comprehend the manner of this operation.1 Nevertheless, they are satisfied to know and experience that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart and to love their Savior.2
1 Jn 3:8; 2 Rom 10:9
Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God,1 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 upon him, breathed and infused into him; nor 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,2 works in man both to will and to believe, and indeed He works all in all.
1 Eph 2:8; 2 Php 2:13
God is under no obligation to confer this grace upon any; for how can He be indebted to one who had no previous gifts to bestow as a foundation for such recompense?1 By no means, how can He be indebted to one who has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood?2 He, therefore, who becomes the subject of this grace owes eternal gratitude to God,3 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. Further, with respect to those who outwardly profess their faith and amend their lives, we are bound, after the example of the apostle, to judge and speak of them in the most favorable 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.4 But we are in no way to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ.5
1 Rom 11:35; 2 Jer 7:4; Amos 6:1; Rom 14:10; 3 Lk 17:12-19; 4 Rom 4:17; 5 1 Cor 4:7
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;1 so also this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor take away their will and its properties, or do violence thereto; but it 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;2 in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist.3 Wherefore, unless the admirable Author of every good work so deal with us,4 man can have no hope of being able to rise from his fall by his own free will, by which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin.
1 Gen 2:17; Eph 2:1; 2 Acts 2:46-47; Rom 8:2; 3 Ps 51:12; 4 Php 2:13
As the almighty operation of God whereby He brings forth and supports this our natural life does not exclude but requires the use of means by which God in His infinite mercy and goodness has chosen to exert His influence, so also the aforementioned supernatural operation of God by which we are regenerated in no way excludes or subverts the use of the gospel,1 which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration2 and food of the soul.3 Wherefore, as the apostles and the teachers who succeeded them piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God,4 to His glory and to the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them, by the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the influence of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline;5 so even now it should be far from those who give or receive instruction in the Church to presume to tempt God 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 clearly this favor of God, working in us, usually manifest itself, and the more directly His work is advanced; to whom alone all the glory, both for the means and for their saving fruit and efficacy, is forever due. Amen.6
1 Isa 55:10-11; 1 Cor 1:21; 2 Jas 1:18; 1 Pt 1:23, 25; 3 1 Pt 2:2; 4 Acts 2:42; Rom 10:14-17; 2 Cor 5:11-21, 6:1; 2 Tim 4:2; 5 BC 29; 6 Jude 24-25
Rejection of Errors
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:
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, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned"'; (Rom 5:12). And'"For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation"'; (Rom 5:16). And’“the wages of sin is death"'; (Rom 6:23).
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, cannot have been separated therefrom in the fall. For such is contrary to the description of the image of God which the apostle gives in Ephesians 4:24, where he declares that it consists in righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.
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 affection; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its natural 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 beyond cure"'; (Jer 17:9); and of the apostle'"Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others"'; (Eph 2:3).
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 things are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture'"you who were dead in your trespasses and sins"'; (Eph 2:1,5). And'"every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"'; (Gen 6:5, 8:21). Moreover, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed (Ps 51:17; Mt 5:6).
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, that is, 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 both the experience of all ages and the Scriptures testify that this is untrue. Â“He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them"'; (Ps 147:19-20). Â“who in past generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways"'; (Acts 14:16). And'"Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them"'; (Acts 16:6-7).
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Baptism, Election and the Covenant of Grace
Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant
Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (editor)
Classic Reformed Theology (series editor)
Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (editor)
Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment (co-editor)
Recovering the Reformed Confession
He has written essays and articles in various publications, including:
A Companion to Paul in the Reformation (contributor)
Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed (contributor)
Concordia Theological Quarterly
Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (contributor)
Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (contributor)
Reforming or Conforming? (contributor)
Sober, Strict, and Scriptural (contributor)
The Compromised Church (contributor)
The Confessional Presbyterian
The Faith Once Delivered (contributor)
The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics (contributor)
The New Dictionary of Theology (contributor)
The Pattern of Sound Doctrine (contributor)
The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century (contributor)
Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes (contributor)
Westminster Theological Journal
CH528 Ecclesiastical Latin II
CH601 The Ancient Church
CH602 The Medieval Church and the Reformation
HT566 History of Covenant Theology
HT602 Patristics Seminar
HT606 Medieval Theology Seminar
HT611 Reformed Scholasticism
HT615A Reformed Confessions
HT709 Thesis Proposal
ST615A Reformed Confessions & Catechisms
Course descriptions are available in the WSC Catalogue.