Canons of Dordt
FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE
Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof.
Article 1: 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: 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: Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by
nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead
in sin, and in bondage thereto, 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: 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 aright even in things natural
and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways
renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which
he becomes inexcusable before God.
5: In the same light are we to consider the law of the decalogue,
delivered by God to his peculiar people the Jews, by the hands of Moses.
For though it discovers the greatness of sin, and more and more convinces
man thereof, 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: What therefore neither the light of nature, nor
the law could do, that God performs by the operation of the Holy Spirit
through the word or ministry of reconciliation: which is the glad tidings
concerning the Messiah, by means whereof, it hath pleased God to save
such as believe, as well under the Old, as under the New Testament.
Article 7: This mystery of his will God discovered to but
a small number under the Old Testament; under 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: As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly
called. For God hath most earnestly and truly shown in his Word, what
is pleasing to him, namely, that those who are called should come to him.
He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as
shall come to him, and believe on him.
Article 9: It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ,
offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers
upon them various gifts, that 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; while others choke the seed
of the word by perplexing cares, and the pleasures of this world, and
produce no fruit. – This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower.
Article 10: 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, who 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 hath 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: But 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; but 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: 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 grace received.
Article 13: The manner of this operation cannot be fully
comprehended by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, 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: Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift
of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted
or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed,
and infused into him; or 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 believing also.
Article 15: 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? Nay, 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 is not made partaker thereof, is either altogether regardless
of these spiritual gifts, and satisfied with his own condition; or is
in no apprehension of danger, and vainly boasts the possession of that
which he has not. 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: But as man by the fall did not cease to be a
creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sin which pervaded
the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought
upon him depravity and spiritual death; 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 thereto; but 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 ruin.
Article 17: 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 hath
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. Wherefore, as the apostles,
and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning
this grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in
the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them 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
hath 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.
doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of
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
Romans 5:12. And: "The judgment came of one unto condemnation,"
Romans 5:16. And: "The wages of sin is death,"
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 therefrom in the fall. For such is contrary
to the description of the image of God, which the Apostle gives in
Ephesians 4:24, where he declares that it consists in righteousness
and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.
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; and 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,"
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
to God. For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture.
"Ye 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.
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;
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
showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statues and his ordinances unto Israel.
He hath 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
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 thy seed,"
Isaiah 44:3. And: "The love of God hath been shed abroad in our
hearts through the Holy Spirit which hath 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 thou
me, and I shall be turned,"
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,"
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 hath given unto
us all things that pertain unto life and godliness," 2
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 willeth, nor of him that
runneth, but of God that hath mercy,"
Romans 9:16. Likewise: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what
hast thou that thou didst not receive?" I
Corinthians 4:7. And: "For it is God who worketh in you both
to will and to work, for his good pleasure,"