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多特法典

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引言

(注:CD The Canons of Dort的中文翻译有多种,有多特信经多特信条多特法典等等)

此信经是1618-1619年在荷兰多特召开的改革宗议会中完成的。此议会具有国际性质,不仅有荷兰改革宗教会的代表出席,包括35位本地牧师,几位长老,5位神学家,18位国家顾问;同时还有其他国家的二十七个代表参加,包括苏格兰、英格兰、比利时、瑞士、法兰西等等。 召开多特会议,是因当时阿民念主义的兴起和蔓延,导致教会内部出现了许多纷争。阿民念是荷兰莱顿大学(the University of Leyden)的神学教授,他的追随者在教义上,跟改革宗的教义有五个不同点。他们提出: 1. 有条件的拣选:神的拣选是根据他预见人的相信与不信。 2. 普世的救赎:虽然只有相信的人才得救,但基督的死是为所有的人。 3. 不完全的败坏:人性虽因堕落而受损,却仍有自由意志,有悔改和相信的能力,有择善而从的能力。 4. 可以抗拒的救恩:人可以拒绝神的救赎。 5. 救恩失落的可能性:重生的人在信心上并不蒙保守。 为了解决这一纷争,荷兰国会在1618年召开了议会,并判定阿民念派的五项提案为错误,完成了多特信经,反对的原因及观点被收录在多特信经,或称为反对抗议派的五项教义中。在信经里,议会针对这五点归纳了改革宗教义: 1. 无条件的拣选:神无条件的拣选,及人的信心皆为神的恩典。 2. 特定的救恩:虽然基督的死能赎所有人的罪,但赎罪的功效只临到神拣选的人身上。 3. 完全的败坏:世人都堕落了,不能自救,只有在神的主权和恩典中被召的人,才能重生,并且得新生命。 4. 不可抗拒的救恩。 5. 圣徒蒙保守:神必保守他呼召的人到底,所以即使信徒在极大的软弱中,仍有救恩的确据。 信经的每一项教义都包含了正面观点和反面观点两部分,前者是陈述改革宗的教义,后者是批判、回应阿民念派的错谬。虽然,在结构上信经只有四章,而且第三项和第四项教义合并为一章,我们还是称它为信经的五项教义,第三章通常也被称作第三/四项教义。 此信经对荷兰改革宗教会有极大的影响。而30年后完成的《韦斯敏斯德信条》(Westminster Confession of Faith)也是建立在它的神学根基上。 多特信经 The Canons of Dort (1618-1619)

多特信经 (于一六一八年与一六一九年为在多特所召开的荷兰改革宗教会全国总会所批准。)

From CMI title: Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions and Catechisms Translated by Dr. Charles Chao D. D. Edited by Dr. Jonathan Chao Copyright by China Ministries International P. O. Box 366, Taipei 112, Taiwan

引 言 第一项教义 论神的预定 第二项教义 论基督的死,和人借此所得的救赎 第三与第四项教义 论人的败坏,归向神及其方式 第五项教义 圣徒的坚守(一次得救,永远得救) 结 论

引言 二

此信经是1618年在荷兰多特召开的议会中完成的,当时阿民念派在教会中制造了许多纷争,他们不接纳加尔文的救恩神学观点,不认为神在人的救恩上有主权。阿民念提出:

神的拣选与否在于他预见人是否有信心。 虽然只有信的人才能得救,但基督已为所有的人死。 人极其败坏,若非神赐下先在的恩典而起信,否则人不能行善。 人可以拒绝神拯救之恩。 真正重生之人不一定在信仰上确被保守。 为了解决此争辩,荷兰国会在1618年召开一全国性的会议,并邀请各国改革宗教会的代表参加;当时有35位本地的牧师,几位长老,5位神学家,18位国家顾问,及27位外国代表列席,包括苏格兰、英格兰、比利时、瑞士、法兰西等。阿民念派本以为将以平等的身分共同参与会议,从没想到竟处于被告,且要为自己辩护的地位。议会为保守加尔文信仰传统,判定阿民念派的五项提案为错误,并完成《多特信经》,规定加尔文派教理五项,是加尔文预定论全备的推演:

神无条件的拣选及人的信皆为神的恩典。 虽然基督的死足可赎全世界人的罪,但赎罪的功能只临到神所拣选的人。 世上所有的人都堕落了,不能自救,只有在神的主权和恩典中被召的人,才能重生并且经历生命的更新。 同3。 神所呼召的,他必保守到底,所以信徒即使在极大的软弱中,仍能有救恩的确据。 此信经对荷兰改革宗教会有极大的影响。而30年后完成的《韦斯敏斯德信条》(Westminster Confession of Faith)也是建立在它的神学根基上。

第一项教义 论神的预定

第一条 因众人在亚当里都犯了罪,受咒诅,当受永死,所以神若令众人灭亡,因罪的缘故而被定罪,他也不算不公义。根据使徒保罗在罗马书三章19节说:“好塞住各人的口,叫普世的人都伏在神审判之下。”又在23节说:“因为世人都犯了罪,亏缺了神的荣耀。”又罗马书六章23节说:“因为罪的工价乃是死。”

第二条 但“神差遣他的独生子到世间来,神的爱就在此显明了,叫一切信他的,不至灭亡,反得永生。”(约壹四9;约三16)

第三条 为了使人相信,神便在他自己所定的时刻,本着他的恩慈,将传这大喜信息的使者,差派到他所预定要传的人中间;由于他们的传讲,人便悔改并相信钉十字架的基督。罗马书十章14-15节:“然而人未曾信他,怎能求他呢?未曾听见他,怎能信他呢?没有传道的,怎能听见呢?若没有奉差遣,怎能传道呢?”

第四条 神的忿怒常在那些不信此福音的人身上。但那些凭真实活泼的信心接受福音,并相信救主耶稣的人,却蒙他拯救,脱离神的忿怒,脱离死亡,并得到加在他们身上的永生恩赐。

第五条 此不信以及其他众罪的原因与罪孽,并不在于神,乃在于人自己;然而相信耶稣基督,并因他而得救,乃是神白白的恩赐,因为经上记着说:“你们得救是本乎恩,也因着信,这并不是出于自己,乃是神所赐的”(弗二8)。腓立比一章29节:“因为你们蒙恩,不但得以信服基督”等等。

第六条 有些人从神领受了相信的恩赐,有些人则否,这都是出于神永远的定旨,“这话是从创世以来,显明这事的主说的”(徒十五18)。“这原是那位随己意行作万事的,照着他旨意所预定的”(弗一11)。神按着这定旨,本着慈爱软化选民的心,不拘他们如何固执,也使他们相信;而任凭那非被拣选者,为他们自己的邪恶与硬心受神公义的审判。在此特别显示,那共同陷入灭亡中的人所有深奥、慈爱,同时又公义的区分;或显示拣选与遗弃的定旨,乃启示在神的话语中,虽然那些谬妄、不洁与不坚固的人对神的定旨加以强解,就自取败坏,可是对圣洁与敬虔的人,却给予不可言喻的安慰。

第七条 拣选是神不变的旨意,借此神在创立世界以前,只是出于他的慈爱,按着他主权的美意,从全人类中,就是由于自己的错谬而堕落,从他们原始无邪的状态,而堕入罪恶与败坏中的全人类,他拣选一定的人数而得基督的救赎,这位基督就是从永恒神所派定的选民的中保与元首,并为选民得救的根基。

此被选的人数,虽然在本性上比别人没有强到哪里,也不配,反陷于共同悲惨的命运中,可是神却定意将他们给予基督,被他救赎,有效地呼召他们并吸引他们,借着圣经和圣灵与神有交通,赐给他们真实的信心、称义与成圣,在与他儿子的交通上得蒙全力的保守;最后,为彰显他的慈爱,并他荣耀的恩典得著称赞,就使他们得荣耀;正如经上记着说:“就如神从创立世界以前,在基督里拣选了我们,使我们在他面前成为圣洁,无有瑕疵;又因爱我们,就按着自己旨意所喜悦的,预定我们借着耶稣基督得儿子的名份,使他荣耀的恩典得著称赞;这恩典是他在他爱子里所赐给我们的”(弗一4-6)。又在别处说:“预先所定下的人又召他们来;所召来的人又称他们为义,所称为义的人又叫他们得荣耀”(罗八30)。

第八条 并非有各种不同拣选的定旨,只有一个同一的定旨,就是关乎所有那些在旧新约之下要得救的人;因为圣经宣称神所喜悦、所预定的旨意只有一个,按此旨意,他从永远拣选我们得恩典与荣耀,得拯救并得救之法,就是他所安排我们要行在其中的。

第九条 此拣选并非根据预先所见之信,以及信心的顺服、圣洁,或在人里面看见任何其他美好的品格与气质作为得救所依靠的先决条件;因此神的拣选才是各种得救后的美德,即如从此而来的信心、圣洁以及其他得救的恩赐,最终得着永生作为蒙选的果效,按着使徒保罗所说:“在基督里拣选了我们(不是因为我们已经),使我们在他面前成为圣洁,无有瑕疵”(弗一4)。

第十条 神的美意乃是此恩慈拣选的惟一原因,这并不在乎神拣选一些人,是出于人行动中一切可能的品格,作为得救的条件;而是出于他乐意从罪人的群众中,收养某些特作自己的子民,如经上记着说:“双子还没有生下来,善恶还没有作出来”等等;又对利百加说:“将来大的要服事小的。”正如经上所记:“雅各是我所爱的,以扫是我所恶的”(罗九11-13)。“凡预定得永生的人都信了”(徒十三48)。

第十一条 神既然是全智、不变、无所不知、无所不能的,所以他所作的拣选,既不能受挫,也不能改变、收回或作废;选民既不能被遗弃,人数也不能被减少。

第十二条 在适当的时候,蒙选召的人,对于他们永远与不改变拣选的确知上,会有些不同程度与各种大小,这并不是由于好奇问难地窥探神隐秘和深奥之事而来,乃是由于他们圣洁、属灵地观察到自己里面有圣经所指出蒙拣选的确实果子 即如在基督里真实的信心,儿子一般的敬畏,为罪的忧伤,饥渴慕义等。

第十三条 此蒙拣选的意识与确定性,会叫神的儿女每日在神面前更谦卑,更赞美他的深恩厚爱,并洁净自己,就是要报答他首先向他们所彰显如此的大爱。想到此拣选的教义,决不能叫人忽视神的命令,或沉缅于肉体上的安全;以上所说这些,由神公正的审判看来,乃是那些不行选民之道的人,对拣选之恩存轻率的假设,或存虚妄的与放肆的轻薄所得的结果。

第十四条 神按其至智旨意拣选的教义,既由先知、基督自己与众使徒所宣布,并清楚地在旧新约圣经中启示出来,所以仍须于神的教会中,适时适地予以发表,因为这是特别为教会预备的,应存敬畏的心,以分辨虔诚的态度,为求神至圣之名的荣耀,来鼓励并安慰他的子民,而不虚妄地企图去查考至高者的隐秘作为。“因为神的旨意,我并没有一样避讳不传给你们的”(徒二十27)。“深哉!神丰富的智慧和知识。他的判断何其难测!他的踪迹何其难寻!谁知道主的心?谁作过他的谋士呢”(罗十一33-34)。“我凭着所赐我的恩对你们各人说:不要看自己过于所当看的;要照着神所分给各人信心的大小,看得合乎中道”(罗十二3)。“这样,神愿意为那承受应许的人格外显明他的旨意是不更改的,就起誓为证。借这两件不更改的事,神决不能说谎,好叫我们这逃往避难所,持定摆在我们前头指望的人可以大得勉励”(来六17-18)。

第十五条 我们之所以特别注意并推举拣选之永远与白白的恩典,乃是因为圣经明明的见证,并不是所有的人,乃是一些人蒙拣选,而其他的人由于永恒的定旨被遗弃;这些人都是出于神的主权、极公义、无可指摘与不变的美意,预定了将他们弃置于他们自己所投入共同悲惨的境域中,并不将得救的信心与改正的恩典赐给他们;反而在他公正的判断中任他们自行己路;最后,为了宣扬他的公义,永远定他们的罪又刑罚他们,这不仅是因为他们的不信,也是因为他们所有别的罪。这就是遗弃的预旨,这决不使神成为罪恶之源(连有这种念头也是亵渎的),反而宣布他是可畏的、无可指摘和公义的审判者与报复者。

第十六条 那些尚未被神有效地造成经历在基督里活泼的信心,内心有确切把握,良心的平安,像儿子一般诚恳的顺服,和借基督荣耀神的人,应当坚持使用神所指定的这些蒙恩之道(法),在我们里面生发这些恩赐,不该为了以上所提的遗弃而惊慌,也不应该把自己列入被弃者之中,乃当殷勤恒常使用这蒙恩方法,并存着热望,敬畏谦虚地等候更丰盛恩典的时期来到。凡诚心愿意归向神,惟愿讨神喜悦,并愿身体脱离死亡,还没有到达所盼望圣洁与信心程度的人,更不必因遗弃的教义而惊惧;因为慈爱的神已经应许,将残的灯火他不吹灭,压伤的芦苇他不折断。但是这教义对那些忽视神与救主耶稣基督,沉缅于世界和肉体快乐,尚未诚恳归向神的人,才真是可怕的。

第十七条 既然我们是从神的话语来辨明神的旨意,而神的话证明信徒的儿女是圣洁的,不是由于他们的本性,乃是由于他们同父母所承受的恩典之约,所以爱神的父母,当神按其美意将他们的子女于婴孩时期召去时,决无理由怀疑他们的蒙选与得救。

第十八条 对那些因拣选白白的恩典,与遗弃公正的严厉而不平的人,我们要像使徒保罗回答说:“你这个人哪!你是谁,竟敢向神强嘴呢”(罗九20)?又引证我们救主的话说:“我的东西难道不可随我的意思用吗”(太二十15)?因此,对这些神秘要本着圣洁景仰的心,我们要用使徒保罗的话惊叹说:“深哉!神丰富的智慧和知识。他的判断何其难测!他的踪迹何其难寻!谁知道主的心,谁作过他的谋士呢?谁是先给了他,使他后来偿还呢?因为万有都是本于他,依靠他,归于他。愿荣耀归给他,直到永远。阿们”(罗十一33-36)!

关于拣选与遗弃的真实教义已经解说了;总的来说是反对以下的错谬:

一、有人教导说:神的旨意是拯救那些要相信并在信上坚持而顺服的人,这是拣选人得救的整个与完全的预旨,关于此预旨在神的话语中并未启示其他别的。

  因为这些欺骗的话明明与圣经相反,圣经说神不但拯救那些要相信的人,他也从永远拣选某些特定的人,超过别人到了时候要赐给他们在基督里的信心与恒忍;正如经上记着说:“你从世上赐给我的人,我已将你的名显明与他们”(约十七6)。“凡预定得永生的人都信了”(徒十三48)。又说:“就如神从创立世界以前,在基督里拣选了我们,使我们在他面前成为圣洁,无有瑕疵”(弗一 4)。

二、有人教导说:神拣选人得永生的种类不同:有一般的与不确定的,有特殊的与确定的;而后者照样是不完全的,可反悔的,不确定的与有条件的,或是完全的不可反悔的,确定的与决定的。同样,有一拣选得信心,另外是拣选得救,所以拣选可以得到称义的信心,未必然是确定的而得救。因为这都是人心的幻想,不照圣经而有的发明,以此来败坏拣选的道理,并破坏了我们救恩的金锁链:“预先所定下的人又召他们来;所召来的人又称他们为义,所称为义的人又叫他们得荣耀”(罗八30)。

三、有些人教导说:神的美意与目的(论此圣经在拣选的教义中提到)并不包括在拣选中,说神拣选某些人而遗弃某些人,乃是说他从可能的条件下拣选人(在其中也有律法的行为),或从事物的次序中拣选,从信心的作为上拣选;同时因其不完全的顺服作为得救的条件,而神要恩慈地考虑这些,作为完全的顺服,并且认为值得永生的赏赐。这种错谬的说法破坏了神的美意与基督的功劳,使之失去效力;而人从恩慈的因信称义,并从圣经的单纯性,被无用的问题而夺去,而使徒保罗的宣称被认为是不真实的:“神救了我们,以圣召召我们,不是按我们的行为,乃是按他的旨意和恩典。这恩典是万古之先,在基督耶稣里赐给我们的”(提后一9)。

四、有些人教导说:因信蒙选的条件事先已经要求了,即是说人应当正确用此自然之光而敬虔、谦卑、温柔而配得永生,正如这些事才是拣选所靠赖的。因为这正是伯拉纠所教导的,与使徒的教义正相反,保罗写着说:“我们从前也都在他们中间,放纵肉体的私欲,随着肉体和心中所喜好的去行,本为可怒之子,和别人一样。然而神既有丰富的怜悯,因他爱我们的大爱,当我们死在过犯中的时候,便叫我们与基督一同活过来,(你们得救是本乎恩)。他又叫我们与基督耶稣一同复活,一同坐在天上,要将他极丰富的恩典,就是他在基督耶稣里向我们所施的恩慈,显明给后来的世代看。你们得救是本乎恩,也因着信,这并不是出于自己,乃是神所赐的;也不是出于行为,免得有人自夸”(弗二3-9)。

五、有些人教导说:某些人在拣选而得救上不完全与未决定之事发生,乃因未见到他们的信心、圣洁、敬虔,就是才开始或已继续一段时间的缘故;但那些完全与决定拣选之发生,乃因预先见到他们在信心上的坚忍、归正、圣洁与敬虔;又因蒙拣选之人比未蒙拣选之人更蒙恩,更值得;因此信心、信心的顺服、圣洁、敬虔与坚忍,并非不变之拣选得救的结果,乃是事先见到所要求的条件为那些蒙拣选的所履行。

以上所说完全与圣经相反。圣经所说的常包括与此相似的声明:拣选并非出自行为,乃是出于那人的主。“神拣选人的旨意,不在乎人的行为,乃在乎召人的主”(罗九11)。“凡预定得永生的人都信了”(悚7b十三48)。“就如神从创立世界以前,在基督里拣选了我们,使我们在他面前成为圣洁”(弗一4)。“不是你们拣选了我,是我拣选了你们”(约十五16)。“既是出于恩典,就不在乎行为”(罗十一6)。“不是我们爱神,乃是神爱我们,差他的儿子为我们的罪作了挽回祭,这就是爱了”(约壹四10)。

六、有些人教导说:并不是每一被选得救之人是不变的,乃是有些被选之人,虽有神的预旨还是灭亡,而且真的灭亡。由于这种大错,而使神成为可改变的,并破坏了敬虔之人从他们蒙选的可靠中所得的安慰,而且与圣经相冲突;圣经教导说,蒙拣选之人永不能随流失去(太廿四24);基督永不能失落父所赐给他的人(约六39);而神也荣耀他所预定、所召、所称为义的人(罗八30)。

七、有些人教导说:我们今生不知道永远被拣选至荣耀里的事,也无果实,这一切都在乎改变与不确实的情况。说这不确实的话实在是荒谬的,也与圣经不符。圣徒由于他们蒙拣选与使徒一同快乐,赞美神恩。以弗所一章说按照基督的训诲,因名字记载在天上与他的门徒一同欢喜,路加也说要因你们的名字记录在天上欢喜(路加十20)。他们也以蒙拣选的确知来面对魔鬼的火箭,说“谁能控告神所拣选的人呢”(罗八33)?

八、有些人教导说:神并没有仅凭他公义的旨意,决定任凭人留在亚当的堕落中,与被定罪的共同情况中;或遗弃什么人,以致得不到信心与归正所必需的恩典上的交通。为此有神确定的预旨:“神要怜悯谁,就怜悯谁,要叫谁刚硬,就叫谁刚硬”(罗九18)。耶稣又回答说:“因为天国的奥秘,只叫你们知道,不叫别人知道”(太十三11)。同样:“耶稣说,父啊,天地的主,我感谢你,因为你将这些事,向聪明通达人就藏起来,向婴孩就显出来。父啊,是的,因为你的美意本是如此”(太十一25-26)。

九、有些人教导说:神为什么把福音传给一个人,而不给另外一个人,并不仅是出于神的美意,乃是由于一个人比另外一个人更好,并更值得接受福音的事实。为此摩西反对,他对以色列说以下的话:“看哪!天和天上的天,地和地上所有的,都属耶和华你的神。耶和华但喜悦你的列祖,爱他们,从万民中拣选他们的后裔,就是你们,像今日一样”(申十14-15)。基督说:“哥拉汛哪,你有祸了!伯赛大啊,你有祸了!因为在你们中间所行的异能,若行在推罗、西顿,他们早已披麻蒙灰悔改了”(太十一21)。

第二项教义 论基督的死,和人借此所得的救赎

第一条 神不仅极其慈爱,他也极其公义。他的公义要求(正如在他的话语中所启示的),所犯敌挡他无限尊严的罪应受刑罚;不但身体灵魂受暂时的,而且要受永远的刑罚;这刑罚除非满足神的公义,是不能逃脱的。

第二条 既因我们自己不能补偿,也不能救自己脱离神的忿怒,所以由于无限的慈爱,乐意赐下他的独生子作我们的保人,成为罪,为我们受了咒诅,并替我们补偿了神的公义。

第三条 神儿子的死是为罪所献唯一和最完全的祭与补偿;它有无限的价值,足以补偿全世界的罪。

第四条 由此可见基督之死的无限价值与尊严的理由,乃因受死者非仅一真实的人与一完全的圣者,而且是神的独生子,与圣父和圣灵有同一永远与无限的本质,这本质使他有资格作我们的救主;又因为他是本着为我们的罪,担当我们的罪,而受神的忿怒与咒诅而死的。

第五条 此外,福音的应许乃是:凡相信钉十字架基督的人,不至灭亡,反得永生。此应许以及吩咐人悔改相信的命令,应当毫无区分地向万国万民宣扬公布;因神是出于他的美意,向他们传扬福音。

第六条 而许多蒙福音呼召而不悔改,也不相信基督,反倒在不信中灭亡;这并不在于基督在十字架上所献的祭有任何缺失或不足,乃要完全归罪于他们自己。

第七条 但凡真实相信,并借基督之死从罪恶与灭亡中得蒙拯救的人,只是有由于神在基督里从永远赐给他们的恩典才得此恩典,并非由于他们自己的任何功德。

第八条 因为这是父神主权的旨意,与极恩惠的意愿与目的,叫他儿子极宝贵之死的复苏与拯救的效能临到所有选民,将称义信心的恩典唯独赐给他们,借此使他们确实得救;那就是,神的旨意乃是叫基督在十字架上所流的血,坚固了新约,并有效地从各民、各族、各国中拯救那些(唯独那些)从永远蒙选召的人得救,就是圣父所赐给他的那些人;他又赐给他们信心,这信心连同圣灵所有其他的恩赐,都是他借他的死所买来的;又除掉他们的原罪与本罪,不拘是他们相信以前或以后所犯的罪,都一并除清;并且既然信实地保守他们到底,就至终无瑕无疵,把他们带到神面前,得享永远的荣耀。

第九条 此对选民的旨意是从永远的爱所发出的,从世界之始以迄今日已经具有权能地完成了,以后要继续完成;虽然有阴间权柄所有无效的反抗,但选民在适当的时候就被集合成为一体,成为信者所组成的教会,这教会的根基就是基督的血。这教会要以坚贞的爱来爱他,并忠实地服事他们的救主,他如新郎为新妇在十字架上舍命,并在今世直到永远赞颂他。

此真实的教义已解释清楚,总会反对以下错谬:

一、有些人教导说:父神曾预定他的儿子死在十字架上,并没有确定的预旨去拯救任何人,所以基督由他的死所赚来的必须性、恩益与价值已经存在,并在其各部份中保持完整,甚至所赚来的救赎向来未用在任何人身上也是这样。这说法是藐视父神的智慧与耶稣的功劳,并与圣经相冲突。救主耶稣曾说过:“我为羊舍命,我也认识他们”(约十15、27)。关于救主,先知以赛亚说:“耶和华以他为赎罪祭。他必看见后裔,并且延长年日,耶和华所喜悦的事,必在他手中亨通”(赛五十三10)。最后,这也与我们的信条相冲突;根据这信条,我们相信圣而公之基督教会。

二、有些人教导说:基督之死的目的,并不是借着他的血坚固了新约,只不过是为父神获得了与人立此约的权利,或借恩典或凭行为,讨神的喜悦。此与圣经矛盾,因为圣经教导说,基督已成为更美之约的中保,那就是新约,就是由基督的死所立的约。“既是起誓立的,耶稣就作了更美之约的中保”(来七22)。“为此,他作了新约的中保,既然受死赎了人在前约之时所犯的罪过,便叫蒙召之人得着所应许永远的产业”(来九15)。“因为人死了,遗命才有效力;若留遗命的尚在,那遗命还有用处吗?”(来九17)。

三、有人教导说:基督借着他的补赎,即未为任何人获得救恩,也未获得信心,借此基督的补赎而有效地得救;乃是为父神获得了权柄或对待人的完全旨意,并附带新条件愿意顺服,全在乎人的自由意志,并因此或许无人,或许所有的人能履行这条件。以上这些说法乃是太轻视基督的死,毫未承认基督之死所获得极其重要的果实与恩益,这乃是伯拉纠派错谬的复活。

四、有些人教导说:神借基督之死的和解,与人立了恩典的新约,并不包括我们借信心接受基督的功劳,在神面前称义而得救,乃是事实上,神取消了完全顺服律法的要求,认为信心本身以及信心的顺服(虽然不完全)作为律法的完全顺服,并视为借着恩典得永生的赏赐。这与圣经相反:“如今却蒙神的恩典,因基督耶稣的救赎,就白白的称义。神设立耶稣作挽回祭,是凭着耶稣的血,借着人的信”(罗三24-25)。以上所说的那些,乃是可恶的索西奴派的人在神面前称义的新奇方法,是与全教会的一致意见相左。

五、有些人教导说:所有的人都在和好的状况中被接纳,并得到恩约之恩,所以无一人为原罪之故而被定罪,既然无一人因此而被定罪,所以一切的人都脱离原罪。这种意见与圣经冲突,圣经教导说:“我们本为可怒之子”(弗二3)。

六、有些人教导说:有人在凭功德与支取之间作区分,结果他们将这教训放在老实与无经验之人的心中,说神将基督之死所得之恩益同等地应用在所有的人身上;虽然有的人得到罪的赦免,有的人则否,这种不同乃在乎他们的自由意志,因他们的自由意志毫无例外地取得恩典,并不在乎神特别的施恩,就是神用大能在他们中间所作的工,以致他们比别人能得到此恩典。这些话虽然他们伪装是出于善意,提出此分别,其实是企图将伯拉纠派错谬之毒放在人们的心中。

七、有些人教导说:基督不能,不需要,也并未为那些神所爱并拣选得永生之人而死,因为这些人不需要基督的死。这些人所说的与使徒保罗相反,保罗说:“基督爱我,为我舍己 ”(加二20);又说:“谁能控告神所拣选的人呢?有神称他们为义了。谁能定他们的罪呢?有基督耶稣已经死了”(罗八33-34)。也就是为他们,救主说:“我为羊舍命”(约十15)。又说:“你们要彼此相爱,像我爱你们一样,这就是我的命令。人为朋友舍命,人的爱心没有比这个大的”(约十五12-13)。

第五项教义 圣徒的坚守(一次得救,永远得救)

第一条 按神旨意蒙召与他的儿子,我们的主耶稣基督有相交,并蒙圣灵重生的人,他也从今世罪恶的统治与奴役中拯救出来;虽然当他们还在世上的时候,不能救他们完全脱离罪身和肉体的软弱。

第二条 因此就生出每天所犯的软弱之罪,从此在圣徒最好的善行上附带着污点;要使他们时常在神面前谦卑,并飞奔到被钉十字架的基督那里避难;用祈祷的心以及圣洁敬虔的操练多多治死肉体,并向着完全的标竿努力前进,直到至终脱离肉身的死亡,他们就在天上与神的羔羊一同作王。

第三条 由于住在里面残余的罪,以及罪恶与世界的引诱,那些悔改归主的人,如果要靠自己的力量,就不能在恩典的境况中恒忍。但是神是信实的,他既赐恩给他们,以恩慈坚固他们,并以大能保守他们,直到末了。

第四条 虽然说肉体的软弱不能胜过神的大能,他能坚固并保守真信徒在恩典的境况中;可是,悔改归主者并不时常受神的灵感动,而有时在特殊情况下犯罪,离开神恩典的引导,受肉体私欲引诱而顺从肉体;因此,他们必须时常儆醒祈祷,免得入了迷惑。当他们忽略这些事的时候,不仅有被撒但、世界与肉体诱入大而且恶之危险中,而且有时因神公义的许可而实际陷入这些邪恶之中。这由大卫、彼得可悲的堕落,以及圣经所描述的其他圣徒所显示出来了。

第五条 虽然他们因此类的罪,大大地干犯了神,负担致死的罪债,叫圣灵担忧,不能再发挥信心,严重地伤害自己的良心,有时失去了神的恩宠,可是一旦他们以严肃悔改的心归回正道,神如慈父的面光才再照耀着他们。

第六条 但是满有怜悯的神,按照他不变的拣选旨意,甚至当他自己的子民陷于悲惨的堕落中,他也没有完全收回圣灵;也不让他们进行到丧失儿子名份之恩,以及称义的地位,或犯以至于死的罪;不害他们完全被弃,自陷于永远的灭亡中。

第七条 因为首先在这些堕落中,他在他们里面保守那不能朽坏的重生种子不致败坏,或完全丧失;再者,用他的道和灵重新使他们真正悔改,诚恳为罪忧伤,使他们靠中保之血寻求并得到罪的赦免,可以再经历到和好之神的眷爱,借着信心赞美他的怜悯,并从此以后怀着恐惧战兢,更殷勤地作成自己得救的工夫。

第八条 这样,他们之所以不至完全从信仰与恩典中堕落,也不至继续退后,终至灭亡的原因,不在于他们自己的功德或力量,乃在于神白白的怜悯。论到他们自己,不仅有灭亡的可能,而且是必然的;但在神那方面说,灭亡是决不可能的,因为他的旨意不能改变,他的应许不能落空,按他旨意的选召不能撤回,基督的功德、代求与保守不能失效,圣灵的印证也不能受挫或作废。

第九条 论到选民这种终必得救的恒忍,以及他们在信上的坚忍不拔,真信徒按照他们信心的程度,能够而的确得到确据;借此他们确实知道,自己要继续在教会中作一真实而活泼的肢体,经历罪的赦免,并至终承受永生。

第十条 然而,这确知并非与圣经相冲突,或在圣经以外的特殊启示所产生的,乃是从为了安慰我们在他话语中所丰富启示的,相信神的应许而来的;是出于圣灵与我们的心同作见证我们是神的儿女(罗八16);最后是出自一个要保守无亏的良心,并行各种善事真挚和圣洁的愿望。假如神的选民缺乏这种至终得胜的坚定安慰,以及永远得荣的这种确切凭据,他们就算比众人更可怜。

第十一条 圣经更证明信徒在今生要与各种属肉体的疑惑争斗,并且在极恶劣的试探之下,他们不常常感觉到这种信仰的完全确知,与坚忍的把握。但那慈爱的父神不叫他们受试探过于所能受的,在受试探的时候,总要给他们开一条出路,叫他们能忍受得住 (林前十13);并且借圣灵感动他们,使他们再有坚忍的确据。

第十二条 然而,此坚守的确实性决不刺激信徒骄傲的态度,或使他们有属肉体的安全感;相反地,却使信徒谦卑,如儿女般尊敬,真正虔诚,在患难中忍耐,热心祈祷,在苦难中恒忍,见证真理,并以神为坚实喜乐的根源。所以,人一想到这恩惠,就应当激起严肃的、立即的感恩行动并行善,正如圣经的见证和众圣徒的榜样所表现的。

第十三条 那些从退后而转回,重新得到坚守确据的人,也不至于生出放纵,或不虔,反倒使他们更留心并更渴望谨守主道,这道就是主已命定,叫行在其中的人可以持守坚忍的凭据,免得有人滥用神慈父般的仁慈,神便收回他的慈容,瞻仰这慈容对敬虔信徒来说,比生命更宝贵;若被收回就比死亡更痛苦,结果他们便陷入良心更愁苦的折磨中。

第十四条 神既已乐意用福音的传讲,在我们里面开始了这恩典之工,他就用听道、读经、默想其中的道,并借着劝勉、警告与应许,以及圣礼的运用,在我们里面保守、继续并完成此工。

第十五条 此圣徒蒙保守和确据的教义,是属血肉之心所不能理解的,就是神为他名的荣耀,并安慰敬虔之人的心,而在圣经中极其丰富地启示了,又印在信徒的心上。为撒但所痛恨,为世界所嘲笑,为无知和假冒为善者所妄用,为异端分子所反对;但基督的新妇总是最喜爱它,保卫它,以之为无价之宝;而那位胜过一切计谋和权能的神要使她继续此行为,一直到底。愿尊贵、荣耀归给独一的神,圣父、圣子与圣灵,直到永远。阿们。

真实教义既经解释,总会就反对以下的错谬:

一、有人教导说:真信徒的恒忍并非拣选的果实,或因基督之死所得到神的恩赐,乃是新约的条件,就是人在决定他蒙选与称义前,所必须借自由意志所履行。因为圣经证明此恒忍乃是出自拣选,因基督的死、复活与代求所赐给选民的:“惟有蒙拣选的人得着了,其余的就成了顽梗不化的”(罗十一7)。照样:“神既不爱惜自己的儿子,为我们众人舍了,岂不也把万物和他一同白白的赐给我们吗?谁能控告神所拣选的人呢?有神称他们为义了。谁能定他们的罪呢?有基督耶稣已经死了,而且从死里复活,现今在神的右边,也替我们祈求。谁能使我们与基督的爱隔绝呢?”(罗八32-35)

二、有人教导说:神的确赐给信徒充份的能力去恒忍,如果他要履行此本份,就能在他里面恒忍这些;但虽然一切在信心上必须恒忍的,就是神用以保守信心的,也必须看人的意志愿意不愿意去恒忍。此观念含有伯拉纠主义,虽然是使人得到自由,但却剥夺了神的尊荣,与福音派一致的用意相冲突;福音派除去一切人为的夸口,而将一切的颂赞唯独归给神的怜悯和恩典。这也与使徒保罗相反,他说:“他也必坚固你们到底,叫你们在我们主耶稣基督的日子无可责备”(林前一8)。

三、有人教导说:真正重生的信徒,不但能从称义的信心中堕落,同样也能完全从恩典与救恩中堕落,而永远灭亡。这种观念使恩典、称义、重生并继续蒙基督保守毫无能力,明明与使徒保罗的话相冲突:“惟有基督在我们还作罪人的时候为我们死。……我们既靠着他的血称义,就更要借着他免去神的忿怒”(罗五8-9)。也与使徒约翰的话相违:“凡从神生的,就不犯罪,因神的道存在他心里;他也不能犯罪,因他是由神生的”(约壹三9)。也与耶稣基督的话相冲突:“我又赐给他们永生;他们永不灭亡,谁也不能从我手里把他们夺去。我父把羊赐给我,他比万有都大,谁也不能从我父手里把他们夺去”(约十28-29)。

四、有人教导说:得蒙重生的真信徒能犯以至于死的罪,甚或抵挡圣灵。这使徒约翰既在约翰一书五章16节与17节说到那些犯了至于死的罪的,不当为他们祈求之后,他立刻在18节说:“我们知道凡从神生的,必不犯罪(即上面所说的那种罪),从神生的,必保守自己,那恶者也就无法害他”(约壹五18)。

五、有人教导说:在今生若没有特殊的启示,我们就不会有将来蒙保守的把握。因为这种教训,真信徒在今生的真正安慰就给剥夺无遗了,而且天主教的怀疑又被介绍到教会中来了,而圣经时常确论此种确据,并非从特殊的启示,乃是从神儿女的一般表显,并从神的应许中得此确论。所以使徒保罗特别说:“受造之物,都不能叫我们与神的爱隔绝,这爱是在我们的主基督耶稣里的”(罗八39)。使徒约翰说:“遵守神命令的,就住在神里面,神也住在他里面。我们所以知道神住在我们里面,是因他所赐给我们的圣灵”(约壹三24)。

六、有人教导说:恒忍与得救把握的教义,就其本身性质来说,乃是使人怠惰之主因,也是对敬虔、良好道德、祈祷,以及其他圣洁行为是有害的,相对的也是值得怀疑的。这表明他们不知道神恩典的大能,以及圣灵在圣徒里面的工作。并且他们与使徒约翰相反,约翰在他的第一书信中明明教导与以上相反的事:“亲爱的弟兄啊,我们现在是神的儿女,将来如何,还未显明;但我们知道,主若显现,我们必要像他,因为必得见他的真体。凡向他有这指望的,就洁净自己,像他洁净一样”(约壹三2-3)。此外,这些似乎与旧新约圣徒的例子相冲突--虽然他们知道他们蒙保守与救恩,但仍时常祈祷以及其它敬虔上的操拣。

七、有人教导说:那些暂时相信之人的信心与称义和得救的信心,除了时间之外,并无分别。说这话是不对的,因为基督自己在马太福音十三章20节,路加福音八章13节与别处,在此时间之外,又明明地说到,在那些暂时相信的人与真信徒之间有三种不同,他说前者种子落在土浅石头地上,但后者落在好土或心里,前者无根,但后者有稳固的根;前者无果子,但后者必然结出不同数量的果子。

八、有人教导说:一个人失掉了头一次重生之后,往往再能重生一次,这并没有什么荒唐之处。这教训与神不能朽坏借以重生的种子是相冲突的,与使徒彼得的见证相反:“你们蒙了重生,不是由于能坏的种子,乃是由于不能坏的种子”(彼前一23)?

九、有人教导说:基督未曾祷告说信徒要在信上一直坚固。他们说这话是与基督相反,他说:“我已经为你(西门)祈求,叫你不至于失了信心”(路廿二32);使徒约翰说,基督不但为使徒们祈求,也为那些因使徒的话而相信的人祈求:“圣父啊,求你因你所赐给我的名保守他们(约十七11)”;又说:“我不求你叫他们离开世界,只求你保守他们脱离那恶者,我不但为这些人祈求,也为那些因他们的话信我的人祈求”(约十七15、20)。

结 论

以上乃有关在比利时教会中争辩的五条款之纯正教义,最清楚、简明、坦诚的声明;并附带错谬的反驳,此错谬曾困扰教会为时已久。此教义经总会由圣经中提出,又与改革宗教会信条一致。因此,可以清楚看见,有些存心不良之辈,已经违犯一切真理、公平与爱心,企图公开教唆以下诸点:

“有关预定之改革宗教会的教义,以及附加各点,由其特徵与倾向看来,领导人偏离敬虔与信仰;是由肉体与魔鬼所主使的麻醉剂,撒但的据点,准备攻击各人;从此伤害多人,用失望与安全的火箭致命地打击多人;此教义使神成为罪恶、不公、暴虐与假冒之源;不是别的,乃混入斯多亚派、阴阳教与宗教自由派等等毒素;使人得到肉体上的安全,因为他们被劝导说,没有任何事可以阻挡选民的救恩,让他们任意而行;因此,他们可以犯各样的大罪而不惧怕;如果被遗弃之人,若真正履行圣徒各项工作,他们的顺服对他们的得救上,也丝毫无用;同时这教义还教导说,神本着他武断的旨意,一点不考虑到任何罪,已经预定了世界大多数的人永远灭亡,并且就是为了这个目的而创造他们;同样,在此旨意中,拣选乃信心与善行之源,遗弃乃不信与邪恶之因,许多信者之子女,无辜地从他们母亲的怀中被夺去,残暴地被抛置在地狱中;所以,在他们洗礼时所受的洗与教会的祈祷,对他们毫无益处。”以及其他许多类似的事情,改革宗教会不但不加以承认,反而极端的加以拒绝。

因此,本多特总会,奉主的名召聚一切求告救主耶稣基督之名的人,来判断改革宗教会的信仰,并非根据从各方面收集的毁谤,也不是根据几位古今的教师所发表的个人意见,这些往往出自不诚实的引证,或牵强附会与他们的原意不合;乃是根据教会本身公开的承认,并根据正统信仰的声明,并经由全体总会各会员一致的同意而批准。此外,总会郑重警告诬毁者要想到,为了作假见证,抵挡如此众多教会的信徒,为了伤害软弱弟兄的良心,并为努力使真实信者的社团受到怀疑,有神可怕的刑罚在等候着他们。最后,本总会劝勉在基督福音中的众弟兄,要在大学与教会中处理此教义上愈发敬虔;为了荣耀神的名,造就信徒圣洁生活,并安慰在患难中的人,在讲论与著述中要指导他们,要根据信仰的比喻,用圣经来规范他们,不仅规范他们的情绪,也要规范他们的言语,免除一切与圣经真义不符的词句;并为了那傲慢的诡辩者无情的攻击,或甚至说改革宗教会之教义的坏话,提出公正的辩词。

愿主耶稣基督,坐在天父右边的神的儿子,将诸般的恩赐赐给人,用真理使他们成圣,把那些错谬的人带到真理面前,封闭那些毁谤真道者的口,以智慧和分辨的灵坚固真道信实的牧者,使他们一切的讲论都归荣耀于神,并造就听者。阿们。

The Canons of Dordt

The Decision of the Synod of Dordt on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands is popularly known as the Canons of Dordt. It consists of statements of doctrine adopted by the great Synod of Dordt which met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. Although this was a national synod of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, it had an international character, since it was composed not only of Dutch delegates but also of twenty-six delegates from eight foreign countries.

The Synod of Dordt was held in order to settle a serious controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. Jacob Arminius, a theological professor at Leiden University, questioned the teaching of Calvin and his followers on a number of important points. After Arminius's death, his own followers presented their views on five of these points in the Remonstrance of 1610. In this document or in later more explicit writings, the Arminians taught election based on foreseen faith, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace. In the Canons the Synod of Dordt rejected these views and set forth the Reformed doctrine on these points, namely, unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of saints.

The Canons have a special character because of their original purpose as a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute during the Arminian controversy. The original preface called them a "judgment, in which both the true view, agreeing with God's Word, concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine is explained, and the false view, disagreeing with God's Word, is rejected." The Canons also have a limited character in that they do not cover the whole range of doctrine, but focus on the five points of doctrine in dispute.

Each of the main points consists of a positive and a negative part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter a repudiation of the corresponding errors. Each of the errors being rejected is shown in bold maroon type. Although in form there are only four points, we speak properly of five points, because the Canons were structured to correspond to the five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. Main Points 3 and 4 were combined into one, always designated as Main Point III/IV.

This translation of the Canons, based on the only extant Latin manuscript among those signed at the Synod of Dordt, was adopted by the 1986 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. The biblical quotations are translations from the original Latin and so do not always correspond to current versions. Though not in the original text, subheadings have been added to the positive articles and to the conclusion in order to facilitate study of the Canons.

The Canons of Dordt

Formally Titled

The Decision of the Synod of Dordt on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands

The First Main Point of Doctrine

Divine Election and Reprobation The Judgment Concerning Divine Predestination Which the Synod Declares to Be in Agreement with the Word of God and Accepted Till Now in the Reformed Churches, Set Forth in Several Articles

Article 1: God's Right to Condemn All People

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God (Rom. 3:19), All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).*

--*All quotations from Scripture are translations of the original Latin manuscript.--

Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love

But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel

In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

Article 4: A Twofold Response to the Gospel

God's anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God's anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.

Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith

The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Likewise: It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ (Phil. 1:29).

Article 6: God's Eternal Decision

The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For all his works are known to God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act--unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just--of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.

Article 7: Election

Election [or choosing] is God's unchangeable purpose by which he did the following:

Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ's fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.

God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.

As Scripture says, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

Article 8: A Single Decision of Election

This election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God's will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith

This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of each of the benefits of salvation. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects. As the apostle says, He chose us (not because we were, but) so that we should be holy and blameless before him in love (Eph. 1:4).

Article 10: Election Based on God's Good Pleasure

But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad..., she (Rebecca) was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

Article 11: Election Unchangeable

Just as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing, and almighty, so the election made by him can neither be suspended nor altered, revoked, or annulled; neither can his chosen ones be cast off, nor their number reduced.

Article 12: The Assurance of Election

Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word-- such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

Article 13: The Fruit of This Assurance

In their awareness and assurance of this election God's children daily find greater cause to humble themselves before God, to adore the fathomless depth of his mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in return to him who first so greatly loved them. This is far from saying that this teaching concerning election, and reflection upon it, make God's children lax in observing his commandments or carnally self-assured. By God's just judgment this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling to walk in the ways of the chosen.

Article 14: Teaching Election Properly

Just as, by God's wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election has been proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in Old and New Testament times, and has subsequently been committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures, so also today in God's church, for which it was specifically intended, this teaching must be set forth--with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be done for the glory of God's most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.

Article 15: Reprobation

Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God's eternal election-- those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.

Article 16: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation

Those who do not yet actively experience within themselves a living faith in Christ or an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ, but who nevertheless use the means by which God has promised to work these things in us--such people ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to count themselves among the reprobate; rather they ought to continue diligently in the use of the means, to desire fervently a time of more abundant grace, and to wait for it in reverence and humility. On the other hand, those who seriously desire to turn to God, to be pleasing to him alone, and to be delivered from the body of death, but are not yet able to make such progress along the way of godliness and faith as they would like--such people ought much less to stand in fear of the teaching concerning reprobation, since our merciful God has promised that he will not snuff out a smoldering wick and that he will not break a bruised reed. However, those who have forgotten God and their Savior Jesus Christ and have abandoned themselves wholly to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh--such people have every reason to stand in fear of this teaching, as long as they do not seriously turn to God.

Article 17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers

Since we must make judgments about God's will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

Article 18: The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation

To those who complain about this grace of an undeserved election and about the severity of a just reprobation, we reply with the words of the apostle, Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? (Rom. 9:20), and with the words of our Savior, Have I no right to do what I want with my own? (Matt. 20:15). We, however, with reverent adoration of these secret things, cry out with the apostle: Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways beyond tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom. 11:33-36).

Rejection of the Errors

by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been Disturbed

Having set forth the orthodox teaching concerning election and reprobation, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I

Who teach that the will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire decision of election to salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decision has been revealed in God's Word.

For they deceive the simple and plainly contradict Holy Scripture in its testimony that God does not only wish to save those who would believe, but that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular people to whom, rather than to others, he would within time grant faith in Christ and perseverance. As Scripture says, I have revealed your name to those whom you gave me (John 17:6). Likewise, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48), and He chose us before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy... (Eph. 1:4).

II

Who teach that God's election to eternal life is of many kinds: one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and the latter in turn either incomplete, revocable, nonperemptory (or conditional), or else complete, irrevocable, and peremptory (or absolute). Likewise, who teach that there is one election to faith and another to salvation, so that there can be an election to justifying faith apart from a peremptory election to salvation.

For this is an invention of the human brain, devised apart from the Scriptures, which distorts the teaching concerning election and breaks up this golden chain of salvation: Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

II

Who teach that God's good pleasure and purpose, which Scripture mentions in its teaching of election, does not involve God's choosing certain particular people rather than others, but involves God's choosing, out of all possible conditions (including the works of the law) or out of the whole order of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as worthy of the reward of eternal life.

For by this pernicious error the good pleasure of God and the merit of Christ are robbed of their effectiveness and people are drawn away, by unprofitable inquiries, from the truth of undeserved justification and from the simplicity of the Scriptures. It also gives the lie to these words of the apostle: God called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:9).

IV

Who teach that in election to faith a prerequisite condition is that man should rightly use the light of nature, be upright, unassuming, humble, and disposed to eternal life, as though election depended to some extent on these factors.

For this smacks of Pelagius, and it clearly calls into question the words of the apostle: We lived at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive with Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with him and seated us with him in heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages we might show the surpassing riches of his grace, according to his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:3-9).

V

Who teach that the incomplete and nonperemptory election of particular persons to salvation occurred on the basis of a foreseen faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness, which has just begun or continued for some time; but that complete and peremptory election occurred on the basis of a foreseen perseverance to the end in faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness. And that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, on account of which the one who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. And therefore that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits or effects of an unchangeable election to glory, but indispensable conditions and causes, which are prerequisite in those who are to be chosen in the complete election, and which are foreseen as achieved in them.

This runs counter to the entire Scripture, which throughout impresses upon our ears and hearts these sayings among others: Election is not by works, but by him who calls (Rom. 9:11-12); All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48); He chose us in himself so that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16); If by grace, not by works (Rom. 11:6); In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (1 John 4:10).

VI

Who teach that not every election to salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the chosen can perish and do in fact perish eternally, with no decision of God to prevent it.

By this gross error they make God changeable, destroy the comfort of the godly concerning the steadfastness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scriptures, which teach that the elect cannot be led astray (Matt. 24:24), that Christ does not lose those given to him by the Father (John 6:39), and that those whom God predestined, called, and justified, he also glorifies (Rom. 8:30).

VII

Who teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no assurance of one's unchangeable election to glory, except as conditional upon something changeable and contingent.

For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil's temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom. 8:33).

VIII

Who teach that it was not on the basis of his just will alone that God decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation or to pass anyone by in the imparting of grace necessary for faith and conversion.

For these words stand fast: He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he hardens whom he wishes (Rom. 9:18). And also: To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matt. 13:11). Likewise: I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your pleasure (Matt. 11:25-26).

IX

Who teach that the cause for God's sending the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely God's good pleasure, but rather that one people is better and worthier than the other to whom the gospel is not communicated.

For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day (Deut. 10:14-15). And also Christ: Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. 11:21).

The Second Main Point of Doctrine

Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through Its

Article 1: The Punishment Which God's Justice Requires

God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. His justice requires (as he has revealed himself in the Word) that the sins we have committed against his infinite majesty be punished with both temporal and eternal punishments, of soul as well as body. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is given to God's justice.

Article 2: The Satisfaction Made by Christ

Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God's anger, God in his boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.

Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ's Death

This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value

This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is--as was necessary to be our Savior--not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.

Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 6: Unbelief Man's Responsibility

However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault.

Article 7: Faith God's Gift

But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ's death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God's grace--which he owes to no one--given to them in Christ from eternity.

Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ's Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

Article 9: The Fulfillment of God's Plan

This plan, arising out of God's eternal love for his chosen ones, from the beginning of the world to the present time has been powerfully carried out and will also be carried out in the future, the gates of hell seeking vainly to prevail against it. As a result the chosen are gathered into one, all in their own time, and there is always a church of believers founded on Christ's blood, a church which steadfastly loves, persistently worships, and--here and in all eternity--praises him as her Savior who laid down his life for her on the cross, as a bridegroom for his bride.

Rejection of the Errors

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I

Who teach that God the Father appointed his Son to death on the cross without a fixed and definite plan to save anyone by name, so that the necessity, usefulness, and worth of what Christ's death obtained could have stood intact and altogether perfect, complete and whole, even if the redemption that was obtained had never in actual fact been applied to any individual.

For this assertion is an insult to the wisdom of God the Father and to the merit of Jesus Christ, and it is contrary to Scripture. For the Savior speaks as follows: I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them (John 10:15, 27). And Isaiah the prophet says concerning the Savior: When he shall make himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days, and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand (Isa. 53:10). Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we believe concerning the Church.

II

Who teach that the purpose of Christ's death was not to establish in actual fact a new covenant of grace by his blood, but only to acquire for the Father the mere right to enter once more into a covenant with men, whether of grace or of works.

For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the guarantee and mediator of a better--that is, a new-covenant (Heb. 7:22; 9:15), and that a will is in force only when someone has died (Heb. 9:17).

III

Who teach that Christ, by the satisfaction which he gave, did not certainly merit for anyone salvation itself and the faith by which this satisfaction of Christ is effectively applied to salvation, but only acquired for the Father the authority or plenary will to relate in a new way with men and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of these conditions depends on the free choice of man; consequently, that it was possible that either all or none would fulfill them.

For they have too low an opinion of the death of Christ, do not at all acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon back from hell the Pelagian error.

IV

Who teach that what is involved in the new covenant of grace which God the Father made with men through the intervening of Christ's death is not that we are justified before God and saved through faith, insofar as it accepts Christ's merit, but rather that God, having withdrawn his demand for perfect obedience to the law, counts faith itself, and the imperfect obedience of faith, as perfect obedience to the law, and graciously looks upon this as worthy of the reward of eternal life.

For they contradict Scripture: They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ, whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:24-25). And along with the ungodly Socinus, they introduce a new and foreign justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.

V

Who teach that all people have been received into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one on account of original sin is liable to condemnation, or is to be condemned, but that all are free from the guilt of this sin.

For this opinion conflicts with Scripture which asserts that we are by nature children of wrath.

VI

Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order to instill in the unwary and inexperienced the opinion that God, as far as he is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are gained by Christ's death; but that the distinction by which some rather than others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace to themselves.

For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.

VII

Who teach that Christ neither could die, nor had to die, nor did die for those whom God so dearly loved and chose to eternal life, since such people do not need the death of Christ.

For they contradict the apostle, who says: Christ loved me and gave himself up for me (Gal. 2:20), and likewise: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, that is, for them (Rom. 8:33-34). They also contradict the Savior, who asserts: I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:15), and My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine

Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs

Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature

Man was originally created in the image of God and was furnished in his mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil's instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place he brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and finally impurity in all his emotions.

Article 2: The Spread of Corruption

Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God's just judgment, from Adam to all his descendants-- except for Christ alone--not by way of imitation (as in former times the Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of his perverted nature.

Article 3: Total Inability

Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.

Article 4: The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature

There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him--so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.

Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law

In this respect, what is true of the light of nature is true also of the Ten Commandments given by God through Moses specifically to the Jews. For man cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does expose the magnitude of his sin and increasingly convict him of his guilt, yet it does not offer a remedy or enable him to escape from his misery, and, indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.

Article 6: The Saving Power of the Gospel

What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.

Article 7: God's Freedom in Revealing the Gospel

In the Old Testament, God revealed this secret of his will to a small number; in the New Testament (now without any distinction between peoples) he discloses it to a large number. The reason for this difference must not be ascribed to the greater worth of one nation over another, or to a better use of the light of nature, but to the free good pleasure and undeserved love of God. Therefore, those who receive so much grace, beyond and in spite of all they deserve, ought to acknowledge it with humble and thankful hearts; on the other hand, with the apostle they ought to adore (but certainly not inquisitively search into) the severity and justice of God's judgments on the others, who do not receive this grace.

Article 8: The Serious Call of the Gospel

Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called seriously. For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.

Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel

The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called. Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life's cares and with the pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).

Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.

Article 11: The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion

Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work

And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man's power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Article 13: The Incomprehensible Way of Regeneration

In this life believers cannot fully understand the way this work occurs; meanwhile, they rest content with knowing and experiencing that by this grace of God they do believe with the heart and love their Savior.

Article 14: The Way God Gives Faith

In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent--the act of believing--from man's choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that he who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself.

Article 15: Responses to God's Grace

God does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to one who has nothing to give that can be paid back? Indeed, what could God owe to one who has nothing of his own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore the person who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual things and is satisfied with himself in his condition, or else in self-assurance foolishly boasts about having something which he lacks. Furthermore, following the example of the apostles, we are to think and to speak in the most favorable way about those who outwardly profess their faith and better their lives, for the inner chambers of the heart are unknown to us. But for others who have not yet been called, we are to pray to the God who calls things that do not exist as though they did. In no way, however, are we to pride ourselves as better than they, as though we had distinguished ourselves from them.

Article 16: Regeneration's Effect

However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and--in a manner at once pleasing and powerful--bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.

Article 17: God's Use of Means in Regeneration

Just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means, by which God, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, has wished to exercise his power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work of God by which he regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul. For this reason, the apostles and the teachers who followed them taught the people in a godly manner about this grace of God, to give him the glory and to humble all pride, and yet did not neglect meanwhile to keep the people, by means of the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the administration of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. So even today it is out of the question that the teachers or those taught in the church should presume to test God by separating what he in his good pleasure has wished to be closely joined together. For grace is bestowed through admonitions, and the more readily we perform our duty, the more lustrous the benefit of God working in us usually is and the better his work advances. To him alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever. Amen.

Rejection of the Errors

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I

Who teach that, properly speaking, it cannot be said that original sin in itself is enough to condemn the whole human race or to warrant temporal and eternal punishments.

For they contradict the apostle when he says: Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death passed on to all men because all sinned (Rom. 5:12); also: The guilt followed one sin and brought condemnation (Rom. 5:16); likewise: The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

II

Who teach that the spiritual gifts or the good dispositions and virtues such as goodness, holiness, and righteousness could not have resided in man's will when he was first created, and therefore could not have been separated from the will at the fall.

For this conflicts with the apostle's description of the image of God in Ephesians 4:24, where he portrays the image in terms of righteousness and holiness, which definitely reside in the will.

III

Who teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been separated from man's will, since the will in itself has never been corrupted but only hindered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the emotions, and since the will is able to exercise its innate free capacity once these hindrances are removed, which is to say, it is able of itself to will or choose whatever good is set before it--or else not to will or choose it.

This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: The heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked (Jer. 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts (Eph. 2:3).

IV

Who teach that unregenerate man is not strictly or totally dead in his sins or deprived of all capacity for spiritual good but is able to hunger and thirst for righteousness or life and to offer the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit which is pleasing to God.

For these views are opposed to the plain testimonies of Scripture: You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5); The imagination of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Besides, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to offer God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is characteristic only of the regenerate and of those called blessed (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:6).

V

Who teach that corrupt and natural man can make such good use of common grace(by which they mean the light of nature)or of the gifts remaining after the fall that he is able thereby gradually to obtain a greater grace-- evangelical or saving grace--as well as salvation itself; and that in this way God, for his part, shows himself ready to reveal Christ to all people, since he provides to all, to a sufficient extent and in an effective manner, the means necessary for the revealing of Christ, for faith, and for repentance.

For Scripture, not to mention the experience of all ages, testifies that this is false: He makes known his words to Jacob, his statutes and his laws to Israel; he has done this for no other nation, and they do not know his laws (Ps. 147:19-20); In the past God let all nations go their own way (Acts 14:16); They (Paul and his companions) were kept by the Holy Spirit from speaking God's word in Asia; and When they had come to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow them to (Acts 16:6-7).

VI

Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and indeed that the faith [or believing] by which we first come to conversion and from which we receive the name "believers" is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in respect to the power of attaining faith.

For these views contradict the Holy Scriptures, which testify that God does infuse or pour into our hearts the new qualities of faith, obedience, and the experiencing of his love: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jer. 31:33); I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring (Isa. 44:3); The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5). They also conflict with the continuous practice of the Church, which prays with the prophet: Convert me, Lord, and I shall be converted (Jer. 31:18).

VII

Who teach that the grace by which we are converted to God is nothing but a gentle persuasion, or(as others explain it) that the way of God's acting in man's conversion that is most noble and suited to human nature is that which happens by persuasion, and that nothing prevents this grace of moral suasion even by itself from making natural men spiritual; indeed, that God does not produce the assent of the will except in this manner of moral suasion, and that the effectiveness of God's work by which it surpasses the work of Satan consists in the fact that God promises eternal benefits while Satan promises temporal ones.

For this teaching is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole of Scripture, which recognizes besides this persuasion also another, far more effective and divine way in which the Holy Spirit acts in man's conversion. As Ezekiel 36:26 puts it: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh....

VIII

Who teach that God in regenerating man does not bring to bear that power of his omnipotence whereby he may powerfully and unfailingly bend man's will to faith and conversion, but that even when God has accomplished all the works of grace which he uses for man's conversion, man nevertheless can, and in actual fact often does, so resist God and the Spirit in their intent and will to regenerate him, that man completely thwarts his own rebirth; and, indeed, that it remains in his own power whether or not to be reborn.

For this does away with all effective functioning of God's grace in our conversion and subjects the activity of Almighty God to the will of man; it is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe by virtue of the effective working of God's mighty strength (Eph. 1:19), and that God fulfills the undeserved good will of his kindness and the work of faith in us with power (2 Thess. 1:11), and likewise that his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

IX

Who teach that grace and free choice are concurrent partial causes which cooperate to initiate conversion, and that grace does not precede--in the order of causality--the effective influence of the will;that is to say,that God does not effectively help man's will to come to conversion before man's will itself motivates and determines itself.

For the early church already condemned this doctrine long ago in the Pelagians, on the basis of the words of the apostle: It does not depend on man's willing or running but on God's mercy (Rom. 9:16); also: Who makes you different from anyone else? and What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7); likewise: It is God who works in you to will and act according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine

The Perseverance of the Saints

Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin

Those people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also sets free from the reign and slavery of sin, though in this life not entirely from the flesh and from the body of sin.

Article 2: The Believer's Reaction to Sins of Weakness

Hence daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people, giving them continual cause to humble themselves before God, to flee for refuge to Christ crucified, to put the flesh to death more and more by the Spirit of supplication and by holy exercises of godliness, and to strain toward the goal of perfection, until they are freed from this body of death and reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.

Article 3: God's Preservation of the Converted

Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.

Article 4: The Danger of True Believers' Falling into Serious Sins

Although that power of God strengthening and preserving true believers in grace is more than a match for the flesh, yet those converted are not always so activated and motivated by God that in certain specific actions they cannot by their own fault depart from the leading of grace, be led astray by the desires of the flesh, and give in to them. For this reason they must constantly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptations. When they fail to do this, not onlycan they be carried away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into sins, even serious and outrageous ones, but also by God's just permission they sometimesare so carried away--witness the sad cases, described in Scripture, of David, Peter, and other saints falling into sins.

Article 5: The Effects of Such Serious Sins

By such monstrous sins, however, they greatly offend God, deserve the sentence of death, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith, severely wound the conscience, and sometimes lose the awareness of grace for a time--until, after they have returned to the way by genuine repentance, God's fatherly face again shines upon them.

Article 6: God's Saving Intervention

For God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election does not take his Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does he let them fall down so far that they forfeit the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin which leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves, entirely forsaken by him, into eternal ruin.

Article 7: Renewal to Repentance

For, in the first place, God preserves in those saints when they fall his imperishable seed from which they have been born again, lest it perish or be dislodged. Secondly, by his Word and Spirit he certainly and effectively renews them to repentance so that they have a heartfelt and godly sorrow for the sins they have committed; seek and obtain, through faith and with a contrite heart, forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator; experience again the grace of a reconciled God; through faith adore his mercies; and from then on more eagerly work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

Article 8: The Certainty of This Preservation

So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.

Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation

Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Article 10: The Ground of This Assurance

Accordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God's children and heirs (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if God's chosen ones in this world did not have this well-founded comfort that the victory will be theirs and this reliable guarantee of eternal glory, they would be of all people most miserable.

Article 11: Doubts Concerning This Assurance

Meanwhile, Scripture testifies that believers have to contend in this life with various doubts of the flesh and that under severe temptation they do not always experience this full assurance of faith and certainty of perseverance. But God, the Father of all comfort, does not let them be tempted beyond what they can bear, but with the temptation he also provides a way out (1 Cor. 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit revives in them the assurance of their perseverance.

Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness

This assurance of perseverance, however, so far from making true believers proud and carnally self-assured, is rather the true root of humility, of childlike respect, of genuine godliness, of endurance in every conflict, of fervent prayers, of steadfastness in crossbearing and in confessing the truth, and of well-founded joy in God. Reflecting on this benefit provides an incentive to a serious and continual practice of thanksgiving and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.

Article 13: Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness

Neither does the renewed confidence of perseverance produce immorality or lack of concern for godliness in those put back on their feet after a fall, but it produces a much greater concern to observe carefully the ways of the Lord which he prepared in advance. They observe these ways in order that by walking in them they may maintain the assurance of their perseverance, lest, by their abuse of his fatherly goodness, the face of the gracious God (for the godly, looking upon his face is sweeter than life, but its withdrawal is more bitter than death) turn away from them again, with the result that they fall into greater anguish of spirit.

Article 14: God's Use of Means in Perseverance

And, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and also by the use of the sacraments.

Article 15: Contrasting Reactions to the Teaching of Perseverance

This teaching about the perseverance of true believers and saints, and about their assurance of it--a teaching which God has very richly revealed in his Word for the glory of his name and for the comfort of the godly and which he impresses on the hearts of believers--is something which the flesh does not understand, Satan hates, the world ridicules, the ignorant and the hypocrites abuse, and the spirits of error attack. The bride of Christ, on the other hand, has always loved this teaching very tenderly and defended it steadfastly as a priceless treasure; and God, against whom no plan can avail and no strength can prevail, will ensure that she will continue to do this. To this God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.

Rejection of the Errors

Concerning the Teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I

Who teach that the perseverance of true believers is not an effect of election or a gift of God produced by Christ's death, but a condition of the new covenant which man, beforewhat they callhis "peremptory" election and justification, must fulfill by his free will.

For Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows from election and is granted to the chosen by virtue of Christ's death, resurrection, and intercession: The chosen obtained it; the others were hardened (Rom. 11:7); likewise, He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not, along with him, grant us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died--more than that, who was raised--who also sits at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:32-35).

II

Who teach that God does provide the believer with sufficient strength to persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in him if he performs his duty, but that even with all those things in place which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God is pleased to use to preserve faith, it still always depends on the choice of man's will whether or not he perseveres.

For this view is obviously Pelagian; and though it intends to make men free it makes them sacrilegious. It is against the enduring consensus of evangelical teaching which takes from man all cause for boasting and ascribes the praise for this benefit only to God's grace. It is also against the testimony of the apostle: It is God who keeps us strong to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8).

III

Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again not only can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the end, but also in actual fact do often forfeit them and are lost forever.

For this opinion nullifies the very grace of justification and regeneration as well as the continual preservation by Christ, contrary to the plain words of the apostle Paul: If Christ died for us while we were still sinners, we will therefore much more be saved from God's wrath through him, since we have now been justified by his blood (Rom. 5:8-9); and contrary to the apostle John: No one who is born of God is intent on sin, because God's seed remains in him, nor can he sin, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9); also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: I give eternal life to my sheep, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (John 10: 28-29).

IV

Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again can commit the sin that leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit).

For the same apostle John, after making mention of those who commit the sin that leads to death and forbidding prayer for them (1 John 5: 16-17), immediately adds: We know that anyone born of God does not commit sin (that is, that kind of sin), but the one who was born of God keeps himself safe, and the evil one does not touch him (v. 18).

V

Who teach that apart from a special revelation no one can have the assurance of future perseverance in this life.

For by this teaching the well-founded consolation of true believers in this life is taken away and the doubting of the Romanists is reintroduced into the church. Holy Scripture, however, in many places derives the assurance not from a special and extraordinary revelation but from the marks peculiar to God's children and from God's completely reliable promises. So especially the apostle Paul: Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39); and John: They who obey his commands remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us: by the Spirit he gave us (1 John 3:24).

VI

Who teach that the teaching of the assurance of perseverance and of salvation is by its very nature and character an opiate of the flesh and is harmful to godliness, good morals, prayer, and other holy exercises, but that, on the contrary, to have doubt about this is praiseworthy.

For these people show that they do not know the effective operation of God's grace and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they contradict the apostle John, who asserts the opposite in plain words: Dear friends, now we are children of God, but what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he is made known, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3). Moreover, they are refuted by the examples of the saints in both the Old and the New Testament, who though assured of their perseverance and salvation yet were constant in prayer and other exercises of godliness.

VII

Who teach that the faith of those who believe only temporarily does not differ from justifying and saving faith except in duration alone.

For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.

VIII

Who teach that it is not absurd that a person, after losing his former regeneration, should once again, indeed quite often, be reborn.

For by this teaching they deny the imperishable nature of God's seed by which we are born again, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: Born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Pet. 1:23).

IX

Who teach that Christ nowhere prayed for an unfailing perseverance of believers in faith.

For they contradict Christ himself when he says: I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32); and John the gospel writer when he testifies in John 17 that it was not only for the apostles, but also for all those who were to believe by their message that Christ prayed: Holy Father, preserve them in your name (v. 11); and My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you preserve them from the evil one (v. 15). Conclusion

Rejection of False Accusations

And so this is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the orthodox teaching on the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well as the rejection of the errors by which the Dutch churches have for some time been disturbed. This explanation and rejection the Synod declares to be derived from God's Word and in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears that those of whom one could hardly expect it have shown no truth, equity, and charity at all in wishing to make the public believe:

--that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold of Satan where he lies in wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;

--that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, and Mohammedanism;

--that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the chosen, no matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works of the saints;

--that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in their innocence from their mothers' breasts and cruelly cast into hell so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.

Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities--statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning--but on the basis of the churches' own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.

Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.

Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God's name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.

May God's Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.