Click here to
The Canons of Dordt
The Canons of Dordt were a response to a controversy within the
Reformed churches of the Netherlands in the late sixteenth and early
seventeenth centuries. James (Jacobus) Arminius, a Dutch Reformed
theologian, had challenged John Calvin and Theodore Beza’s formulation
of the classic Reformed doctrine of predestination (See
The Works of James Arminius
[external link]). While Arminius did not
depart far from the Reformed position, he gave a larger place to the
faith of the believer and came to a position of conditional
predestination rather than the absolute predestination of Calvin and the
double predestination of Beza.
After Arminius’ death (1609), his supporters under the leadership of
Simon Episcopius came to be called the Remonstrants (remonstrant-
"vigorously objecting or opposing") after issuing the Remonstrantiœ, a series of five
articles summarizing their divergence from certain aspects of accepted
Dutch Reformed theology. In The Articles of
the Remonstrants they advocated conditional rather than absolute
predestination, universal rather than limited atonement, the necessity
of regeneration and transformation through the Holy Spirit, and the
possibility of both resistance to and rejection of God’s grace (see
The Question, “What Is an Arminian?” Answered by
a Lover of Free Grace).
The response of the Dutch Reformed Church was the Synod of Dordt (or
Dordrecht) in 1618-19. While it was occasioned by the controversy within
the Netherlands, there were delegates to the Synod from eight other
countries, which gave the Canons more widespread authority.
It must be admitted that this was not a purely theological move, since
there were several subtle political factors at work. Since the church
was closely intertwined in both political and social spheres, such sharp
theological dissension threatened to spill over into political unrest.
However, the Synod basically dealt with the five points of the
Remonstrants in affirming Reformed Orthodoxy. While the Remonstrants had
hoped to gain a hearing for their views, they were functionally
condemned as heretics by the Synod and banished from the church until
the political climate changed with the death in 1625 of Prince Maurice,
who along with Franciscus Gomarus had led the movement to suppress the
views of Arminius.
The Canons of the Synod of Dordt rejected the Remonstrants’ views and
reaffirmed Reformed doctrine on the five points: total depravity,
unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the
perseverance of saints. These became the five pillars of Reformed
Orthodoxy remembered by many theology students and those in catechesis
classes by the acronym TULIP (See "TULIP" Calvinism
Compared to Wesleyan Perspectives; also available
in Dutch). The document is organized around
the five points, first presenting a summary of the Reformed position and
then rejecting what they saw as erroneous teachings of the Remonstrants,
frequently labeling them Pelagian.
Even though Arminius and the Remonstrants were condemned, the
controversy did not end and had a liberalizing effect on theology in
Europe and England, as well as the American colonies. By the mid 1700s
the basic positions of Arminius were refined and expanded in England
under the movement begun by John and Charles Wesley. In both England and
the newly formed United States, Methodism and an array of churches
followed what became known as Arminian-Wesleyan theology.
However, the views of Arminius and the Remonstrants are still held as
heretical by many in the Reformed tradition. The Canons of Dordt are
placed with the Heidelberg Catechism and the
Belgic Confession, as well
as the Westminster Confession, as articulating the basic Faith
confession of many Reformed churches.
The Canons of Dordt
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 men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are
deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving
them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account
of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Romans 3:19, "that every
mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."
And verse 23: "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
And Romans 6:23: "for the wages of sin is death."
Article 2 - The Manifestation of God's Love
But in this the love of God was manifested, that he sent his only
begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believes on him should not
perish, but have everlasting life. I John 4:9; John 3:16.
Article 3 - The Preaching of the Gospel
So that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the
messengers of these most joyful tidings, to whom he will and at what
time he pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and
faith in Christ crucified. Romans 10:14, 15: "How then shall they call
on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him
of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach except they be sent?"
Article 4 - A Twofold Response to the Gospel
The wrath of God abides upon those who do not believe this gospel.
But such as receive it, and embrace Jesus the Savior by a true and
living faith are by him delivered from the wrath of God and from
destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon them.
Article 5 - The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith
The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other sins is
no wise in God, but in man himself; whereas faith in Jesus Christ and
salvation through him is the free gift of God, as it is written: "By
grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God," Ephesians 2:8. "And unto you it is given in the behalf of
Christ, not only to believe on him," etc. Philippians 1:29.
Article 6 - God's Eternal Decision
That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not
receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are
all his works from the beginning of the world," Acts 15:18. "Who works
all things after the counsel of his will," Ephesians 1:11. According to
that decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however
obstinate, and inclines them to believe while he leaves the non-elect
in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. In this is
especially displayed the profound and merciful, and at the same time
the righteous, discrimination between men equally involved lost. This is
that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God,
which men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their
own destruction, yet affords unspeakable
consolation to holy and godly souls.
Article 7 - Election
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God by which he has out of
mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, before the
foundation of the world, chosen from the whole human
race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive
state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of
persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the
Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of Salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving
than the others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has
decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call
and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon
them true faith, justification and sanctification. Having powerfully
preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, God decreed to glorify them
for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious
grace; as it is written: "According as he has chosen us in him, before
the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame
before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of
children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of
his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made
us accepted in the beloved," Ephesians 1:4,5,6. And elsewhere: "Whom he
did predestine, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also
justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified," Romans 8:30.
Article 8 - A Single Decision of Election
There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same
decree respecting all those who shall be saved, both under the Old and
New Testament, since the scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose
and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he has
chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the
way of salvation, in which he has ordained that we should walk.
Article 9 - Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith
This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience
of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition in man, as
the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are
chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore
election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith,
holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life
itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: "He
has chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and
without blame, before him in love," Ephesians 1:4.
Article 10 - Election Based on God's Good Pleasure
The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election;
which does not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and
actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that
he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain
persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, "For the
children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil," etc.,
it was said (namely to Rebecca): "the elder shall serve the younger; as
it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," Romans
9:11,12,13. "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,"
Article 11 - Election Unchangeable
And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and
omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor
changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor
their number diminished.
Article 12 - The Assurance of Election
The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different
measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable
election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of
God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy
pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of
God - such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for
sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.
Article 13 - The Fruit of This Assurance
The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of
God additional matter for daily humiliation before him, for adoring the
depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and rendering grateful
returns of ardent love to him, who first manifested so great love
towards them. The consideration of this doctrine of election is so far
from encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands, or
from sinking men in carnal security, that these, in the just judgment of
God, are the usual effects of rash presumption, or of idle and wanton
trifling with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the
ways of the elect.
Article 14 - Teaching Election Properly
As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise counsel of God,
was declared by the prophets, by Christ himself, and by the apostles,
and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, both of the Old and New
Testament, so it is still to be published in due time and place in the
Church of God, for which it was peculiarly designed, provided it be done
with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety, for the glory of
God's most holy name, and for enlivening and comforting his people,
without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most
High. Acts 20:27; Romans 11:33,34; 12:3; Hebrews 6:17,18.
Article 15 - Reprobation
What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal
and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred
Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are
passed by in the eternal election of God; whom God, out of his
sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure,
has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully
plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the
grace of conversion; but leaving them in his just judgment to follow
their own ways, 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.
Article 16 - Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation
Those who do not yet experience a lively faith in Christ, an assured
confidence of soul, peace of conscience, an earnest endeavor after
filial obedience, and glorying in God through Christ, efficaciously
wrought in them, and do nevertheless persist in the use of the means
which God has appointed for working these graces in us, ought not to be
alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to rank themselves among the
reprobate, but diligently to persevere in the use of means, and with
ardent desires, devoutly and humbly to wait for a season of richer
grace. Much less cause have they to be terrified by the doctrine of
reprobation, who, though they seriously desire to be turned to God, to
please him only, and to be delivered from the body of death, cannot yet
reach that measure of holiness and faith to which they aspire; since a
merciful God has promised that he will not quench the smoking flax, nor
break the bruised reed. But this doctrine is justly terrible to those,
who, regardless of God and of the Savior Jesus Christ, have wholly given
themselves up to the cares of the world, and the pleasures of the flesh,
so long as they are not seriously converted to God.
Article 17 - The Salvation of the Infants of Believers
Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which
testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in
virtue of the covenant of grace in which they, together with the
parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the
election and salvation of their children, whom it pleases God to call
out of this life in their infancy.
Article 18 - The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation
To those who murmur at the free grace of election, and just severity
of reprobation, we answer with the apostle: "Nay, but, O man, who are
you that replies against God?" Romans 9:20, and quote the language of
our Savior: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?"
Matthew 20:15. And therefore with holy adoration of these mysteries, we
exclaim in the words of the apostle: "O the depths of the riches both of
the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and
his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or
who has been his counselor? or who has first given to him, and it shall
be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him
are all things: to whom be glory for ever. - Amen."
Rejection of the Errors by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been Disturbed
The true doctrine concerning Election and Reprobation having been
explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:
I Who teach: That the will of God to save those who would
believe and would persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith, is
the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing
else concerning this decree has been revealed in God's Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures,
which declare that God will not only save those who will believe, but
that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular persons to whom
above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and
perseverance; as it written: "I manifested your name unto the men whom
you gave me out of the world," John 17:6. "And as many as were ordained
to eternal life believed," Acts 13:48. And: "Even as he chose us in him
before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without
blemish before him in love," Ephesians 1:4.
II Who teach: That there are various kinds of election of
God unto eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other
particular and definite; and that the latter in turn is either
incomplete, revocable, non-decisive and conditional, or complete,
irrevocable, decisive and absolute. Likewise: that there is one election
unto faith, and another unto salvation, so that election can be unto
justifying faith, without being a decisive election unto salvation.
For this is a fancy of men's minds, invented regardless of the
Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this
golden chain of our salvation is broken: "And whom he foreordained, them
he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he
justified, them he also glorified," Romans 8:30.
III Who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God,
of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not
consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but
in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are
also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act
of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its
incomplete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would
graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it
worthy of the reward of eternal life.
For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of
Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away by useless
questions from the truth of gracious justification and from the
simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged
as untrue: "Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not
according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal." 2 Timothy 1:9.
IV Who teach: that in the election unto faith this
condition is beforehand demanded, namely, 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 we also all once
lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of
the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but
God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even
when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with
Christ (by grace have you been saved), and raised us up with him, and
made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, that in the
ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness
towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have you been saved through
faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works,
that no man should glory," Ephesians 2:3-9.
V Who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election
of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith,
conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for
some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because
of foreseen perseverance unto the end in faith, conversion, holiness and
godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for
the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is not
chosen; and that therefore faith, the obedience of faith, holiness,
godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election
unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were
foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes
without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly
inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not out of works,
but of him that calls. Romans 9:11. "As many as were ordained to eternal
life believed," Acts 13:48. "He chose us in him before the foundation of
the world, that we should be holy," Ephesians 1:4. "You did not choose
me, but I chose you," John 15:16. "But if it be of grace, it is no more
of works," Romans 11:6. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that
he loved us, and sent his Son," I John 4:10.
VI Who teach: That not every election unto salvation is
unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God
notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish.
By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the
comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election,
and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect can not
be led astray, Matthew 24:24; that Christ does not lose those whom the
Father gave him, John 6:39; and that God has also glorified those whom
he foreordained, called and justified. Romans 8:30.
VII Who teach: That there is in this life no fruit and no
consciousness of the unchangeable election to glory, nor any certainty,
except that which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition.
For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain certainty, but
also contrary to the experience of the saints, who by virtue of the
consciousness of their election rejoice with the Apostle and praise this
favor of God, Ephesians 1; who according to Christ's admonition rejoice
with his disciples that their names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20;
who also place the consciousness of their election over against the
fiery darts of the devil, asking: "Who shall lay anything to the charge
of God's elect?" Romans 8:33.
VIII Who teach: That God, simply by virtue of his righteous
will, did not decide either to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in
the common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass anyone by in the
communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion.
For this is firmly decreed: "He has mercy on whom he will, and whom
he will he hardens" Romans 9:18. And also this: "Unto you it is given to
know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not
given," Matthew 13:11. Likewise: "I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding,
and revealed them unto babes; yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing
in your sight," Matthew 11:25,26.
IX Who teach: That the reason why God sends the gospel to
one people rather than to another is not merely and solely the good
pleasure of God, but rather the fact that one people is better and
worthier than another to whom the gospel is not communicated.
For this Moses denies, addressing the people of Israel as follows:
"Behold unto Jehovah your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens,
the earth, with all that is therein. Only Jehovah had a delight in your
fathers to love him, and he chose their seed after them, even you above
all peoples, as at this day," Deuteronomy 10:14,15. And Christ said:
"Woe unto you, Chorazin! woe unto you, Bethsaida! for if the might works
had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes," Matthew 11:21.
Second Head of Doctrine - Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption
of Men Through His Death
Article 1 - The Punishment That God's Justice Requires
God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. And his
justice requires (as he has revealed himself in his Word), that our sins
committed against his infinite majesty should be punished, not only with
temporal but with eternal punishment, both in body and soul. This we
cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God.
Article 2 - The Satisfaction Made by Christ
Since therefore we are unable to make that satisfaction in our own
persons, or to deliver ourselves from the wrath of God, he has been
pleased in his infinite mercy to give his only begotten Son, for our
surety, who was made sin, and became a curse for us and in our stead,
that he might make satisfaction to divine justice on our behalf.
Article 3 - The Infinite Value of Christ's Death
The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice
and satisfaction for sin; and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly
sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
Article 4 - Reasons for This Infinite Value
This death derives its infinite value and dignity from these
considerations, because the person who submitted to it was not only
really man, and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God,
of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy
Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute him a Savior
for us; and because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse
of God due to us for sin.
Article 5 - The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All
Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believes in
Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This
promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be
declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously
and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the
Article 6 - Human Responsibility for Unbelief
And, whereas many who are called by the gospel, do not repent, nor
believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this is not owing to any
defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the
cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.
Article 7 - Faith God's Gift
But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin
and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this
benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from
everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.
Article 8 - The Saving Effectiveness of Christ's Death
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and
purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of
the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for
bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring
them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that
Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant,
should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and
language, all those, and those only, who were from 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, both original and actual, whether committed before or after
believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should
at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of
glory in his own presence forever.
Article 9 - The Fulfillment of God's Plan
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, so
that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that
there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the
foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may
steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a
bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross,
and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.
Rejection of the Errors
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors
I 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," John 10:15,27. And the prophet
Isaiah says concerning the Savior: "When you shall make his soul an
offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and
the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand," Isaiah 53:10.
Finally, this contradicts the article of faith according to which we
believe the catholic Christian church.
II Who teach: That it was not the purpose of the death of
Christ that he should confirm the new covenant of grace through his
blood, but only that he should acquire for the Father the mere right to
establish with man such a covenant as he might please, whether of grace
or of works.
For this is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that
Christ has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, the new
covenant, and that a testament is of force where death has occurred.
Hebrews 7:22; 9:15,17.
III Who teach: That Christ by his satisfaction merited
neither salvation itself for anyone, nor faith, whereby this
satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but
that he merited for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to
deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as he might desire,
obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that
it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should
fulfill these conditions.
For these adjudge too contemptuously of the
death of Christ, do in no wise acknowledge the most important fruit or
benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian error.
IV 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 the law, 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 has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his
blood," Romans 3:24,25. And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a
new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus
of the whole church.
V 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
For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches
that we are by nature children of wrath. Ephesians 2:3.
VI Who use the difference between meriting and
appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the
imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is
concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits
gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of
sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on
their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered
without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of
mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others
should appropriate unto themselves this grace.
For these, while they
feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to
instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors.
VII Who teach: That Christ neither could die, needed to
die, nor did die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and
elected to eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not
need the death of Christ.
For they contradict the Apostle, who declares:
"Christ loved me, and gave himself for me," Galatians 2:20. Likewise:
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that
justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus that died,"
Romans 8:33,34, namely, for them; and the Savior who says: "I lay down
my life for the sheep," John 10:15. And: "This is my commandment, that
you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no man
than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John 15:12,13.
Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine - Of the Corruption of Man, His
Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs.
Article 1 - The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature
Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding
was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of
spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections
pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the
instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he
forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself
blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of
judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and
impure in his affections.
Article 2 - The Spread of Corruption
Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt
stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam,
Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original
parent, not by imitation as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the
propagation of a vicious nature.
Article 3 - Human Inability
Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of
wrath, incapable of any saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in
bondage to it, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit
they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the
depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.
Article 4 - The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature
There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of
natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural
things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some
regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly
external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being
sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true
conversion, that he is incapable of using it rightly even in things
natural and civil. Instead, even this light, man in various ways totally
distorts, and holds it in unrighteousness, and is so doing becomes
inexcusable before God.
Article 5 - The Inadequacy of the Law
In the same light are we to consider the Ten Commandments, delivered
by God to his peculiar people the Jews by the hands of Moses. For though
it exposes the greatness of sin, and more and more convinces man of sin,
yet as it neither points out a remedy nor imparts strength to extricate
him from misery, and thus being weak through the flesh, leaves the
transgressor under the curse, man cannot by this law obtain saving
Article 6 - The Saving Power of the Gospel
What therefore neither the light of nature nor the law could do, that
God accomplishes by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the word or
ministry of reconciliation. This is the glad tidings concerning the
Messiah, by means which it has pleased God to save those who
believe, in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Article 7 - God's Freedom in Revealing the Gospel
This mystery of his will God revealed to only a small number in the
Old Testament; in the New, (the distinction between various peoples
having been removed), he reveals himself to many, without any
distinction of people. The cause of this dispensation is not to be
ascribed to the superior worth of one nation above another, nor to their
making a better use of the light of nature, but results wholly from the
sovereign good pleasure and unmerited love of God. Hence they, to whom
so great and so gracious a blessing is communicated, above their desert,
or rather notwithstanding their demerits, are bound to acknowledge it
with humble and grateful hearts, and with the apostle to adore, not
curiously to pry into the severity and justice of God's judgments
displayed to others, to whom this grace is not given.
Article 8 - The Serious Call of the Gospel
As many as are called by the gospel, are genuinely called. For God
has most earnestly and truly shown in his Word what is pleasing to him,
namely, that those who are called should come to him. Moreover, he
seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to
him, and believe on him.
Article 9 - Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel
It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered through the
gospel, nor of God who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them
various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word
refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves, some of
whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the word of life.
Others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting
impression on their heart. Therefore, their joy, arising only from a
temporary faith, soon vanishes and they fall away. 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. Matthew 13.
Article 10 - Conversion as the Work of God
But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are
converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will,
whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with
grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of
Pelagius maintains. But it must be wholly ascribed to God. As he has
chosen his own from eternity in Christ, so he confers upon them faith
and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates
them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the
praises of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous
light, and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the
testimony of the apostles in various places.
Article 11 - The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion
When God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect or works in them
true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached
to them and powerfully illumines their minds by his Holy Spirit that
they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God,
he also by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit pervades the
inmost recesses of the man. He opens the closed, and softens the
hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses
new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens.
From being evil, disobedient and refractory, he renders it good,
obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good
tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions.
Article 12 - Regeneration a Supernatural Work
And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and
denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making
alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise
effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral
suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed his
part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to
be converted, or to continue unconverted. But it is evidently a
supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful,
astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable, not inferior in efficacy to
creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired
by the author of this work declares, so that all in whose heart God
works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and
effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will
thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in
consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also,
man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that
Article 13 - The Incomprehensible Way of Regeneration
The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by
believers in this life. In spite of this, they rest satisfied with
knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to
believe with the heart, and love their Savior.
Article 14 - The Way God Gives Faith
Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not because
it is offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure;
but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him.
It is not 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 that salvation, and actually believe in Christ,
but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all
things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of
Article 15 - Responses to God's Grace
God is under no obligation to confer this grace upon any. For how can
he be indebted to man, who had no precious gifts to bestow, as a
foundation for such recompense. Indeed, what could God owe to to one who
has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood? He therefore who becomes
the subject of this grace owes eternal gratitude to God and gives him
thanks forever. Whoever does not receive it either does not care about
these spiritual gifts and is satisfied with his own condition, or is in
no apprehension of danger and vainly boasts the possession of that which
he does not have. With respect to those who make an external profession
of faith and live regular lives we are bound, after the example of the
apostle, to judge and speak of them in the most 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. But we are in no
wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had
made ourselves to differ.
Article 16 - Regeneration's Effect
Man by the fall did not cease to be a creature endowed with
understanding and will, nor did sin which pervaded the whole race of
mankind, deprive him of the human nature but brought upon him depravity
and spiritual death. So also this grace of regeneration does not treat
men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor take away their will and its
properties, neither does violence tp it. Rather, 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, in which the
true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist.
Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us,
man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will,
by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into
Article 17 - God's Use of Means in Regeneration
As the almighty operation of God, whereby he prolongs and supports
this our natural life, does not exclude but requires the use of means by
which God of his infinite mercy and goodness has chosen to exert his
influence, so also the before mentioned supernatural operation of God,
by which we are regenerated in no wise excludes or subverts the use of
the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of
regeneration, and food of the soul. For this reason, the apostles, and
teachers who succeeded them instructed the people in a godly manner
concerning this grace of God to his glory and the abasement of all
pride, and yet did not neglect to keep the people by the sacred precepts
of the gospel in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline. So
even to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to
presume to tempt God in the church by separating what he of his good
pleasure has most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by
means of admonitions, and the more readily we perform our duty, the more
eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more
directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of
means, and of their saving fruit and efficacy is forever due. Amen.
Rejection of Errors
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors
I Who teach: That it cannot properly be said that original
sin in itself suffices to condemn the whole human race, or to deserve
temporal and eternal punishment.
For these contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Therefore as through
one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death
passed unto all men, for that all sinned," Romans 5:12. And: "The
judgment came of one unto condemnation," Romans 5:16. And: "The wages of
sin is death," Romans 6:23.
II Who teach: That the spiritual gifts or the good
qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could
not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these,
therefore, could not have been separated from it 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.
III Who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts
are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has
never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the
understanding and the irregularity of the affections. Also, that these
hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation
its native powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and
to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which
may be presented to it.
This is an innovation and an error, and tends to elevate the powers
of the free will, contrary to the declaration of the Prophet: "The heart
is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt," Jeremiah
17:9; and of the Apostle: "Among whom (sons of disobedience) we also all
once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and
of the mind," Ephesians 2:3.
IV 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
For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "You
were dead through trespasses and sins," Ephesians 2:1,5; and: "Every
imagination of the thought of his heart are only evil continually,"
Genesis 6:5; 8:21. Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from
misery, and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken
spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed.
Psalm 51:10, 19; Matthew 5:6.
V 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, namely, the evangelical or saving grace and
salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself
ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all
sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion.
For the experience of all ages and the Scriptures do both testify
that this is untrue. "He shows his Word unto Jacob, his statues and his
ordinances unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for
his ordinances they have not known them," Psalm 147:19, 20. "Who in the
generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own way,"
Acts 14:16. And: "And they (Paul and his companions) having been
forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they
were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the
Spirit suffered them not," Acts 16:6, 7.
VI Who teach: That in the true conversion of man no new
qualities, powers or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that
therefore faith through which we are first converted, and because of
which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God,
but only an act of man, and that it can not be said to be a gift, except
in respect of the power to attain to this faith.
For thereby they contradict the Holy Scriptures, which declare that
God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the
consciousness of his love into our hearts: "I will put my law in their
inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it," Jeremiah 31:33. And:
"I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams upon the dry
ground; I will pour my spirit upon your seed," Isaiah 44:3. And: "The
love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit
which has been given us," Romans 5:5. This is also repugnant to the
continuous practice of the Church, which prays by the mouth of the
Prophet thus: "Turn me, and I shall be turned," Jeremiah 31:18.
VII Who teach: that the grace whereby we are converted to
God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is
the noblest manner of working in the conversion of man, and that this
manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with
man's nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone
should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual, indeed, that
God does not produce the consent of the will except through this manner
of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby it
surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this, that God promises
eternal, while Satan promises only temporal goods.
But this is altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture
which, besides this, teaches another and far more powerful and divine
manner of the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in
Ezekiel: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put
within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and
I will give you a heart of flesh," Ezekiel 36:26.
VIII Who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does
not use such powers of his omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend
man's will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace
having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet
so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration
and wills to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist
that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore
remains in man's power to be regenerated or not.
For this is nothing less than the denial of all the efficiency of
God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of
Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the Apostles, who
teach: "That we believe according to the working of the strength of his
power," Ephesians 1:19. And: "That God fulfills every desire of goodness
and every work of faith with power," 2 Thessalonians 1:11. And: "That
his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and
godliness," 2 Peter 1:3.
IX Who teach: That grace and free will are partial causes,
which together work the beginning of conversion, and that grace, in
order of working, does not precede the working of the will; that is,
that God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until
the will of man moves and determines to do this.
For the ancient Church has long ago condemned this doctrine of the
Pelagians according to the words of the Apostle: "So then it is not of
him that wills, nor of him that runs but of God that has mercy," Romans
9:16. Likewise: "For who makes you to differ? and what do you have that
you did not receive?" I Corinthians 4:7. And: "For it is God who works
in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure," Philippians
Fifth Head of Doctrine - Of the Perseverance of the Saints
Article 1 - The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin
Whom God calls, according to his purpose, to the communion of his
Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he
delivers also from the dominion and slavery of sin in this life; though
not altogether from the body of sin, and from the infirmities of the
flesh, so long as they continue in this world.
Article 2 - The Believer's Reaction to Sins of Weakness
Hence spring daily sins of infirmity and as a result blemishes adhere
to the best works of the saints. This furnishes them with constant
matter for humiliation before God, and flying for refuge to Christ
crucified, to put the flesh to death more and more by the spirit of
prayer and by holy exercises of piety, and to press forward to the goal
of perfection, till being at length delivered from this body of death,
they are brought to reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.
Article 3 - God's Preservation of the Converted
Because of these remnants of indwelling sin and the temptations of
sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a
state of grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who
having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and powerfully preserves
them in grace, even to the end.
Article 4 - The Danger of True Believers' Falling into Serious Sins
The weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God,
who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace. Yet
converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God,
as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the
guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by and to comply with the
lusts of the flesh. They must, therefore, be constant in watching and in
prayer that they be not led into temptation. When these are neglected,
they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins by
Satan, the world and the flesh, but sometimes by the righteous
permission of God actually fall into these evils. This, the lamentable
fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in Holy Scripture,
Article 5 - The Effects of Such Serious Sins
By such enormous sins, however, they very highly offend God, incur a
deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, interrupt the exercise of faith,
very grievously wound their consciences, and sometimes lose the sense of
God's favor, for a time, until on their returning into the right way of
serious repentance, the light of God's fatherly countenance again shines
Article 6 - God's Saving Intervention
But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose
of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own
people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so
far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of
justification, or to commit sins unto death; nor does he permit them to
be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting
Article 7 - Renewal to Repentance
For in the first place, in these falls he preserves them in the
incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing or being totally lost;
and again, by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them
to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they
may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again
experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his
mercies, and from that point more diligently work out their own
salvation with fear and trembling.
Article 8 - The Certainty of This Preservation
Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but
of God's free mercy that they do not totally fall from faith and grace,
nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings. Left to their own
that is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen. But with
respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be
changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his
purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of
Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be
frustrated or obliterated.
Article 9 - The Assurance of This Preservation
Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of their
perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and ought
to obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby
they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue true
and living members of the church; and that they experience forgiveness
of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life.
Article 10 - The Ground of This Assurance
This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation
contrary to, or independent of the Word of God. Rather, it springs from
faith in God's promises, which he has most abundantly revealed in his
Word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing
with our spirit, that we are children and heirs of God, Romans 8:16, and
lastly, from a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience,
and to perform good works. And if the elect of God were deprived of this
solid comfort, that they shall finally obtain the victory, and of this
infallible pledge or earnest of eternal glory, they would be of all men
the most miserable.
Article 11 - Doubts Concerning This Assurance
The Scripture moreover testifies that believers in this life have to
struggle with various carnal doubts and that under grievous temptations
they are not always sensible of this full assurance of faith and
certainty of persevering. But God, who is the Father of all consolation,
does not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but will
with the temptation also make a way to escape that they may be able to
bear it, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and by the Holy Spirit again inspires them
with the comfortable assurance of persevering.
Article 12 - This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness
This certainty of perseverance, however, is so far from exciting in
believers a spirit of pride, or of rendering them carnally secure, that
on the contrary, it is the real source of humility, filial reverence,
true piety, patience in every tribulation, fervent prayers, constancy in
suffering, and in confessing the truth, and of solid rejoicing in God.
As a result, the consideration of this benefit should serve as an
incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good
works, as appears from the testimonies of Scripture, and the examples of
Article 13 - Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness
Neither does renewed confidence or persevering produce
licentiousness, or a disregard to piety in those who are recovering from
backsliding. Rather, it renders them much more careful and solicitous to
continue in the ways of the Lord, which he has ordained. They continue
in them so that they may maintain an assurance of persevering, lest by
abusing his fatherly kindness, God should turn away his gracious
countenance from them (for to behold the face of the gracious God is
dearer than life to the godly, and its withdrawal is more bitter than
death), and as a result they should fall into more grievous torments of
Article 14 - God's Use of Means in Perseverance
And as it has pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin
this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by
the hearing and reading of his Word, by meditation on it, and by the
exhortations, threats, and promises contained in it, as well as by the
use of the sacraments.
Article 15 - Contrasting Reactions to the Teaching of Perseverance
The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this doctrine of the
perseverance of the saints, and its certainty, which God has most
abundantly revealed in his Word, for the glory of his name and the
consolation of pious souls, and which he impresses upon the hearts of
the faithful. Satan abhors it; the world ridicules it; the ignorant and
hypocrite abuse, and heretics oppose it; but the Bride of Christ has
always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it, as an inestimable
treasure; and God, against whom neither counsel nor strength can
prevail, will dispose her to continue this conduct to the end. Now, to
this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, forever.
Rejection of Errors
The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the
errors of those:
I Who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is
not a fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of
Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man
before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his
For the Holy Scripture testifies that this follows out of election,
and is given the elect in virtue of the death, the resurrection and
intercession of Christ: "But the elect obtained it and the rest were
hardened," Romans 11:7. Likewise: "He that spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give
us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It
is God that justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus that
died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right
hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?" Romans 8:32-35.
II Who teach: That God does indeed provide the believer
with sufficient powers to persevere, and is ever ready to preserve these
in him, if he will do his duty; but that though all things, which are
necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve
faith, are made use of, it even then ever depends on the pleasure of the
will whether it will persevere or not.
For this idea contains an outspoken Pelagianism, and while it would
make men free, it makes them robbers of God's honor, contrary to the
prevailing agreement of the evangelical doctrine, which takes from man
all cause of boasting, and ascribes all the praise for this favor to the
grace of God alone; and contrary to the Apostle, who declares: "That it
is God, who shall also confirm you unto the end, that you be
unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," I Corinthians 1:18.
III Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not
only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and
salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and
are lost forever.
For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification,
regeneration, and continued keeping by Christ, contrary to the expressed
words of the Apostle Paul: "That while we were yet sinners Christ died
for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, shall we be saved
from the wrath of God through him," Romans 5:8,9. And contrary to the
Apostle John: "Whosoever is begotten of God does not sin, because his
seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God," I
John 3:9. And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: "I give unto
them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch
them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than
all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand," John
IV Who teach: That true believers and regenerate can sin
the sin unto death or against the Holy Spirit.
Since the same Apostle John, after having spoken in the fifth chapter
of his first epistle, verses 16 and 17, of those who sin unto death and
having forbidden to pray for them, immediately adds to this in vs. 18:
"We know that whosoever is begotten of God does not sin (meaning a sin
of that character), but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and
the evil one does not touch him," I John 5:18.
V Who teach: That without a special revelation we can have
no certainty of future perseverance in this life.
For by this doctrine the sure comfort of all believers is taken away
in this life, and the doubts of the papist are again introduced into the
church, while the Holy Scriptures constantly deduce this assurance, not
from a special and extraordinary revelation, but from the marks proper
to the children of God and from the constant promises of God. So
especially the Apostle Paul: "No creature shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Romans 8:39.
And John declares: "And he that keeps his commandments abideth in him,
and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit
which he gave us," I John 3:24.
VI Who teach: That the doctrine of the certainty of
perseverance and of salvation from its own character and nature is a
cause of indolence and is injurious to godliness, good morals, prayers
and other holy exercises, but that on the contrary it is praiseworthy to
For these show that they do not know the power of divine grace and
the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And they contradict the
Apostle John, who teaches the opposite with express words in his first
epistle: "Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it is not yet
made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested,
we shall be like him, for we shall see him even as he is. And every one
that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure," I John
3:2, 3. Furthermore, these are contradicted by the example of the
saints, both of the Old and New Testament, who though they were assured
of their perseverance and salvation, were nevertheless constant in
prayers and other exercises of godliness.
VII Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a
time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in
For Christ himself, in Matthew 13:20, Luke 8:13, and in other places,
evidently notes, besides this duration, a threefold difference between
those who believe only for a time and true believers, when he declares
that the former receive the seed in stony ground, but the latter in the
good ground or heart; that the former are without root, but that the
latter have a firm root; that the former are without fruit, but that the
latter bring forth their fruit in various measure, with constancy and
VIII Who teach: That it is not absurd that one having lost
his first regeneration, is again and even often born anew.
For these deny by this doctrine the incorruptibleness of the seed of
God, whereby we are born again. Contrary to the testimony of the Apostle
Peter: "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of
incorruptible," 1 Peter 1:23.
IX Who teach: That Christ has in no place prayed that
believers should infallibly continue in faith.
For they contradict Christ himself, who says: "I have prayed for you
(Simon), that your faith does not fail," Luke 22:32; and the Evangelist
John, who declares, that Christ has not prayed for the Apostles only,
but also for those who through their word would believer: "Holy Father,
keep them in your name," and: "I pray not that you should take them out
of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one," John
17:11, 15, 20.
And this is the perspicuous, simple, and ingenious declaration of the
orthodox doctrine respecting the five articles which have been
controverted in the Belgic churches; and the rejection of the errors,
with which they have for some time been troubled. This doctrine, the
Synod judges to be drawn from the Word of God, and to be agreeable to
the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears, that
those of whom one could hardly expect it, have violated all truth,
equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public:
-that the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning
predestination, and the points annexed to it, by its own genius and
necessary tendency, leads off the minds of men from all piety and
religion; that it is an opiate administered by the flesh and by the
devil, and the stronghold of Satan, where he lies in wait for all;
and from which he wounds multitudes, and mortally strikes through
many with the darts both of despair and security;
-that it makes God the author of sin, unjust, tyrannical,
hypocritical; that it is nothing more than interpolated Stoicism,
Manicheism, Libertinism, Mohammedanism;
-that it renders men carnally secure, since they are persuaded by
it that nothing can hinder the salvation of the elect, let them live
as they please; and therefore, that they may safely perpetrate every
species of the most atrocious crimes; and that, if the reprobate
should even perform truly all the works of the saints, their
obedience would not in the least contribute to their salvation;
-that the same doctrine teaches, that God, by a mere arbitrary
act of his will, without the least respect or view to sin, has
predestinated the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation;
and, has created them for this very purpose; that in the same manner
in which the election is the fountain and cause of faith and good
works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety; that many
children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their mothers'
breasts, and tyrannically plunged into hell; so that, neither
baptism, nor the prayers of the Church at their baptism, can at all
profit by them; and many other things of the same kind, which the
Reformed Churches not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with
their whole heart.
Wherefore, this Synod of Dordt, in the name of the Lord, pleads as
many as piously call upon the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, to judge
of the faith of the Reformed Churches, not from the calumnies, which on
every side are heaped upon it, nor from the private expressions of a few
among ancient and modern teachers, often dishonestly quoted, or
corrupted, and wrested to a meaning quite foreign to their intention;
but from the public confessions of the Churches themselves, and from the
declaration of the orthodox doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent
of all and each of the members of the whole Synod. Moreover, the Synod
warns calumniators themselves, to consider the terrible judgment of God
which awaits them, for bearing false witness against the confessions of
so many Churches, for distressing the consciences of the weak; and for
laboring to render suspected the society of the truly faithful.
Finally, this Synod exhorts all their brethren in the gospel of
Christ, to conduct themselves godly and religiously in handling this
doctrine, both in the universities and churches; to direct it, as well
in discourse, as in writing, to the glory of the Divine Name, to
holiness of life, and to the consolation of afflicted souls; to
regulate, by the Scripture, according to the analogy of faith, not only
their sentiments, but also their language; and, to abstain from all
those phrases which exceed the limits necessary to be observed in
ascertaining the genuine sense of the holy Scriptures; and may furnish
insolent sophists with a just pretext for violently assailing, or even
vilifying, the doctrine of the Reformed Churches.
May Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who, seated at the Father's right
hand, gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, bring to the truth
those who err, shut the mouths of the calumniators of sound doctrine,
and endue the faithful minister of his Word with the spirit of wisdom
and discretion, that all their discourses may tend to the glory of God,
and the edification of those who hear them. AMEN.
That this is our faith and decision we certify by subscribing our
[Here follow the names, not only of President, Assistant
President, and Secretaries of the Synod, and of the Professors of
Theology in the Dutch Churches, but of all the Members who were
deputed to Synod, as the representatives of their respective
Churches, that is, of the Delegates from Great Britain, the
Electoral Palatinate, Hessia, Switzerland, Wetteraw, the Republic
and Church of Geneva, The Republic and Church of Bremen, The
Republic and Church of Emden, The Duchy of Gelderland and of Zutphen,
South Holland, North Holland, Zeeland, The Province of Utrecht,
Friesland, Transylvania, The State of Groningen and Omland, Drent,
The French Churches.]
The Canons of the Second Council of Orange (529)
The Question, “What Is an Arminian?” Answered
by a Lover of Free Grace
For a reflective analysis of the decline of five point
Calvinism in the modern religious world, see
The Triumph of Arminianism (and its dangers)
Creeds and Confessions
The Five Articles of the Remonstrants
Compared to Wesleyan Perspectives