Modern History Sourcebook:
The Canons of the Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619
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 red 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.
--from CRTA Website
The Canons of Dordt
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
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
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
God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his
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.
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
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
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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
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).
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
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 It
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
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
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
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.
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they
attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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.
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).
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).
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 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).
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
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).
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....
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
This text is part of the Internet
Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
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© Paul Halsall, August 1998