dordt5

Head
of Doctrine: Index 1
2 3 4
5 Conclusion

The
Canons of Dordt

FIFTH HEAD
OF DOCTRINE

Of the Perseverance of the Saints


Article 1: 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: Hence spring daily sins of infirmity, and hence
spots adhere to the best works of the saints; which furnish them with
constant matter for humiliation before God, and flying for refuge to Christ
crucified; for mortifying the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayer,
and by holy exercises of piety; and for pressing 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: By reason of these remains 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 herein, even to the end.


Article 4: Although 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,
demonstrates.


Article 5: 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 upon them.


Article 6: 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 destruction.


Article 7: 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 henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation
with fear and trembling.


Article 8: 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;
which, with respect to themselves, 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: 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: This assurance, however, is not produced by
any peculiar revelation contrary to, or independent of the Word of God;
but 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: 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, I
Corinthians 10:13
, and by the Holy Spirit again inspires them with
the comfortable assurance of persevering.


Article 12: 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: so that 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 the saints.


Article 13: Neither does renewed confidence or persevering
produce licentiousness, or a disregard to piety in those who are recovering
from backsliding; but it renders them much more careful and solicitous
to continue in the ways of the Lord, which he hath ordained, that they
who walk therein may maintain an assurance of persevering, lest by abusing
his fatherly kindness, God should turn away his gracious countenance from
them, to behold which is to the godly dearer than life: the withdrawing
thereof is more bitter than death, and they in consequence hereof should
fall into more grievous torments of conscience.


Article 14: And as it hath 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
thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof,
as well as by the use of the sacraments.


Article 15: The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this
doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and the certainty thereof;
which God hath 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 spouse of
Christ hath 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.
AMEN.

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 free
will. 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 justifieth;
who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that
was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh
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 ye 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 doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he
can not 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 hath given them to me, is greater
than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand,"

John 10:28,29
.


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, vss.
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 sinneth not (meaning a sin of that character), but
he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth
him not," 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 keepeth his commandments
abideth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth 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 doubt. 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 hath this hope in him purifieth
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
duration. 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 steadfastness.


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,"
I
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 thee (Simon), that thy faith fail not,"

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 thy name," and:
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that
thou shouldest keep them from the evil one,"
John 17:11, 15, 20
.

CONCLUSION

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. Whence it clearly appears, that some whom such
conduct by no means became, 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,
Turcism; 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 soul. Wherefore, this Synod of Dort,
in the name of the Lord, conjures 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 piously 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 names.


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.

Head
of Doctrine: Index 1
2 3 4
5 Conclusion