THE REFORMATION PERIOD
THE SYNOD OF DORDT
Of interest is also the opinion of the synodical delegates of the Great Synod of Dordt of Emden in connection with the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. They first present the position of the Arminians and then refuter these propositions of the Remonstrants. These opinions of the delegates of Emden are of great interest. Our churches have been accursed in the past of permitting our logic to rule over our interpretation of the Scriptures. Our readers will do well to notice how these delegates are motivated in their writings by the power of logic:
I.Whether God died only for the elect and for those who are saved, or whether He also died for other men? This latter is asserted by the Remonstrants in the Conference at Hague, page 139, and page 184 of Brand.
II.Whether Christ died at all for all men. The Remonstrants say Yes; in the Hague Conference, page 141, etc. There they say that Christ died for all particular people, for them who are lost as well as for those who shall be saved. And the Geldersch Remonstrants, page 47. We say freely that Christ died without distinction for these and other people, considered as fallen and sinful, from the beginning of the world until the end. These same delegates (Gelderschen) say that Christ has obtained forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God for all and for everyone, from the beginning of the world until the end, whether repentant or unrepentant.
Over against this we place this proposition:
Christ has laid down His life only for His sheep, that is, for His elect, not at all for the goats,
Whereas this proposition has been proved diffusely in the Hague Conference by the honorable Brethren, we will not offer more proof.
III.Whether the ordination of the death and the suffering of Christ preceded in order the election unto salvation, etc. The Remonstrants say Yes.
The ordination of the Mediator and His death and suffering is, according to order, later than the election unto salvation, and is a means of the execution of election, For thus speaks
after he had spoken broadly and at length of the suffering and death of Christ: The will, or the decree, and good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand, But, whereas this has been provided extensively in our observations upon the first Article, we shall not add to this.
IV.Whether Christ died for all, according to the purpose, counsel and decree of the Father. The Remonstrants say Yes; in the Hague Conference, page 143 and 175, etc.
Christ, according to the intention, counsel, and the decree of the Father, has died only for the elect. (the undersigned, H.V., has already remarked that these delegates did not hesitate to reason from the Scriptures, to be motivated in their writings by the power of logic. This does not mean that their reason governed their interpretation of the Word of God, but was based upon that Word of God. After all, the Scriptures do not speak nonsense. And now notice how this is emphasized in the following quotations.)
Reason, For: 1. The good which God purposes, and, according to His decree and counsel, would have occur, that He also brings to pass. He does not cause all men to be saved through the death of Christ. Consequently, thus or therefore He did not intend this, neither did He will that it should happen (notice, please, how the fathers here reason from the result to the cause: it does not happen; so, the Lord did not intend that it should happen,—H.V.).
2. If God purposes something and decrees it, which does not come to pass, then He does not attain unto the end of His purposes; and so many things will happen outside of His purpose. But God, according to what the Remonstrants say, has purposed, decreed and willed, that all men should be saved through the death of Christ, which, however, does not occur. Consequently, He does not obtain the end of His purposes, and many things take place outside of His purpose. Which is absurd, yea, to say this is blasphemous. Therefore also this saying (this is also very logical, is it not?—H.V.).
3. If Christ, according to the counsel, purpose and decree of the Father, died for all men, then it follows that there is neither an election of some nor a reprobation of some, But we have shown above that there is election and reprobation. Consequently, Christ, according to the counsel, purpose and the decree of the Father, did not die for all men (logical, is it not? God elected some and reprobated others; hence, Christ did not die for all men.—H.V.).
4. If Christ, according to the purpose and counsel of the Father, died for all men, then God has the same purpose with respect to all men, equally and in the same manner. Likewise, then the saving grace is general. But God does not have the same purpose in the same manner with respect to all, and His grace is not general. For if this be true,
Where is #1 the gracious election?
Where is #2 the gracious calling of some, as of the Israelites,
Thus He did not do to all peoples.
Where is #3 the covenant, established with Abraham, and not with others?
Where is #4 the mystery of the calling of the Heathens, whereof the Prophets make mention so often?
Where is #5 that particular favor, love, grace, wherewith the Lord embraces His elect?
I.Whether Christ, for whom He did not merit the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, does not attribute the same; or whether He is not an intercessor for all those whose reconciler He is and for whom He died?
The Remonstrants say No expressly. In the Hague Conference, page 172, etc.
Our Scriptural Contra-Distinction.
Christ has also been raised for all those, for whom He died; for them He also sits at the right hand of God; for them He also prays, and attributes unto them the merited benefits.
1. Out of
He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? How should He then not pray for those, and appropriate unto them His benefits, for whom He died?
2. Christ is our High Priest, Who not only offered for us an offering, but also prays for us.
I pray for all who through their word shall believe in Me. And He is always heard. What kind of madness is this, what raging, to separate the parts of Christ’s Priesthood from each other.
3. Christ is a Saviour according to merits and power.
He baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
He causes our hearts to burn.
4. If He merely saves according to merits, and not according to power, then He is not a perfect Saviour. But He is a perfect Saviour, Who can save us perfectly,
Consequently, it is for us a blasphemous reason, to say that Christ is merely a Saviour according to merits, not according to power, or that Christ has merely obtained the forgiveness of sins, not the application of the merited benefits. For Christ, through the pouring out of His precious blood, has merited for us both, the forgiveness of sins as well as the Spirit of regeneration, appropriate unto ourselves the benefits through faith, which have been acquired by the blood of Christ. For He has come in order that He should put to nought all the works of the Devil in the elect.
5. We keep silent that, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also the salvation and life, as Luther declares. And
blessed are they whose sins are forgiven. There is then the acquiring of the forgiveness of sins, there is also the appropriation of the acquired benefit. Otherwise, how can they .be declared saved? A gift, exhibited from afar and not actually bestowed, cannot save anyone and make him blessed.
In summary, this doctrine of the universality of redemption and the obtaining of the forgiveness of sins for all men, is in conflict:
1. With God’s omnipotence. For He should have willed, that a benefit should have been merited which He, because of the evil of men, would not be able to bestow.
2. With His wisdom, for He should have purposed unto which He would not be able to attain. Of the conditional purpose and the intention of God, which the Remonstrants propose, we will speak later.
3. With His righteousness. For He has received from the Son full payment, and nevertheless He does not receive all in grace.
4. With His highest love. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten son. Now I ask: what, I pray you, would, the love of the Son be, or what benefit would it impart, if He did not at once bestow faith in His Son?
5. With the highest love of the Son, Who loved us, while we were yet sinners, to such an extent that He died for us;
And a benefit, so hard-earned and obtained with such a precious blood, He should not appropriate unto those for whom He merited them?
We will stop here at this time. The Lord willing, we will continue with this the next time. We consider these quotations of the fathers of Dordrecht of the greatest significance, also for our young people, and in our present day and age. It may be that these articles will “stretch out” because of these quotations, but surely they will help us to strengthen us in our conviction with respect to the particular character of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we repeat: how logical these delegates are! They do not hesitate to say that the doctrine of the universality of Christ’s atonement is in conflict with the doctrine of God’s election and reprobation, with the attributes of God’s omnipotence, wisdom, righteousness, love, His own love and the love of Christ. They declare that this doctrine of a general atonement is absurd, madness, a monstrosity. And how true this is. It is well in these days that all the emphasis be placed upon the doctrine that Christ died only for his own, for His sheep given Him of the Father from before the foundations of the world.