That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ His Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of a fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in John 3:36: ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,’ and according to other passages of Scripture also.
That, agreeably thereunto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the gospel of John 3:16: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And in the first epistle of John 2:2: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’
That man has not saving grace (should be: faith, H.C.H.) of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as saving faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5: ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and co-operative grace, can neither think, will nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being we’ll understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.’ But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.*
These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the Word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or to descend deeper.
*Note: The expression “the first beginnings of their life in Christ” is not quite accurate, as a comparison with the Dutch text will show. The original Latin version inserts the Greek expression, teen archeen tees hupostaseoos Christmi kataleipein, which only verifies the fact that “beginsel” is correctly translated “principle”, so that the expression should be translated “principle of their being in Christ.” —H.C.H.
It is not our intention to enter into a detailed criticism of these articles. The Canons themselves take care of that matter. And in order that we may have before us, in an official document and in condensed form, those errors which occasioned the composition of the Canons we have taken the trouble to quote this product of the convocation at Gouda.
However, it will do no harm to make some general remarks in connection with these five propositions and their conclusion. As to their method, it cannot escape the attention that the Arminians once more make a crafty effort to sound Reformed and to be mild in their criticism. They freely employ not only expressions from Scripture, but terms and expressions that have a Reformed sound. They speak, for example, of God’s unchangeable decree. At the same time it is to be noted that they carefully avoid any use of the term condition or any literal mention of a conditional election and salvation. In the second place, we may notice that the Remonstrants piously forsake the tried and true method of an appeal to the Confessions. Studiously they avoid any citations from either the Heidelberg Catechism or the Belgic Confession, and try to make an appeal directly to Scripture. This, mind you, at a time when they were trying to overthrow the Confessions, but nevertheless had never entered a gravamen against them. Finally, from the conclusion of the articles it is evident that the Arminians reveal a haughty contempt for the deeper and basic aspects of the truth concerning salvation, and attempt to present their views in pointed distinction from the views of their opponents as “edifying” and “sufficient for salvation”. How modern they were! Or rather, how old is the method that disdains and condemns “deep” doctrine! And how right were our fathers when they turned the accusation around and accused the Arminians of “deceiving the simple” and attempting “to take away the comfort of the true believers!”
As to the implied exegesis of the several texts which the Arminians quote, it must be evident at once that it is characterized by superficiality of the shallowest sort, and that for the reason that it violates the fundamental rule which must govern all exposition of the Scriptures, the regula Scripturae, Also this our fathers expose in the Canons.
And as to their doctrinal contents, it must be evident to anyone who studies these articles in the light of our Confessions that they constitute what was meant to be an underhanded, mortal blow at the very heart of the Reformed faith, the doctrine of sovereign, elective grace. So far had the glory of the Calvinistic Reformation been bedimmed within the span of a century, and that by the enemy within the gate!
But God be thanked, who never allows His truth and His cause to be vanquished! The rallying of the enemy at Gouda only served the purpose of further uniting and alerting the staunch defenders of the faith of our fathers, and of causing them with, one mind to contend for the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ.