How detailed and thorough the fathers are in their rejection and repudiation of the Arminian error! In this Second Head of the Canons they not only set forth the truth of the atonement positively, but not less than seven lengthy articles are devoted by them in their rejection if this heresy in the section of the Canons called: The Rejection of Errors. This heresy of Arminianism must be completely throttled and stamped out in the hearts and minds of the people and church of the Lord. Is this a lesson for us? Does it not teach us that we, too, must be zealous and very thorough in our zeal and determination to fight the teaching and heresy of the Remonstrant? Fact is, this pernicious teaching is also with us today.
In our preceding article we were calling attention to Article III of the second part of Head II of our Canons, in which the fathers set forth the error of the Remonstrants and their repudiation of it. They call attention to the fact that the Arminians taught that our Lord Jesus Christ merited neither salvation itself nor faith for anyone. And they also taught that what happened upon the cross was that Christ merited for the Father the authority or will to deal with man again in whatever manner He wished. Of course, God could simply have left all men in their sin. But now Christ merits for the Father the authority or will to deal again with man in whatever manner He wished. The Lord could now prescribe new conditions, upon the fulfillment of which man would receive eternal life and be saved. What this new condition is, is not set forth in this article. And the idea is that the obedience to these conditions would then again depend upon the free will of man.
How, now, do the fathers answer this heresy of the Arminians? Now we must bear in mind that this teaching of the Remonstrants was diametrically opposed to the Reformed truth. The Reformed truth teaches that Christ certainly merited salvation through His satisfaction upon the cross, and this only for His own. According to the Arminian, Christ did not merit salvation for anyone, but only the authority and will of the Father to deal again with the sinner and to prescribe new conditions for that sinner. Christ made something possible for the Father. Did He make it possible for the Father to give salvation unto His own? This the Remonstrant would not say. No, Christ made it possible for the Father to have dealings again with the sinner. Does this speak of salvation? Not at all! These dealings are of such a nature that now the Father can again confront the sinner with conditions which he must fulfill in order to be saved. But the Reformed truth teaches very emphatically that Christ merited salvation for His own through His satisfaction upon the cross of Calvary. In the second place, the Reformed truth also teaches that Christ also merited for them faith, whereby they become partakers of that salvation. This is clearly stated in Article VIII of Head II of the Canons, and we quote: “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation.” And, thirdly, the Reformed truth also taught that in time He also surely bestows that faith and that salvation.
How, now, in Article III, do the fathers characterize the teaching of the Arminians? First, they declare that the Remonstrants adjudge contemptuously of the death of Christ. Imagine: the fathers of Dordt declare that the Remonstrants speak contemptuously of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ! This is exactly the charge which the Arminians hurled at the Reformed fathers. They contended that the fathers of Dordt spoke contemptuously of the death of Christ. You see, the fathers taught that Christ died only for the elect, that Christ, therefore, died only for some of the human race. The Arminians taught that Christ died for the whole human race. And the Arminians accused the fathers, therefore, of belittling the death of Christ. How much richer, they declared, is their conception of the cross of Calvary! But the fathers do not hesitate to hurl this charge into the face and teeth of the Remonstrants. And how correct they are! According to the Arminian, all that Christ merited upon the cross was the authority and will of the Father to have dealings with the sinner. But, according to the Remonstrant, then it could very well come to pass that no one would be saved by the death of Christ; and that Christ would have suffered in vain. Now I would like to call attention to the fact that, in the light of the view of the Remonstrant, Christ certainly died in vain to a very large extent. Does he not teach that Christ died for the whole human race, that it was His desire to merit salvation and life for every man, head for head? And must not also he admit that not all men are saved, that, in comparison with those who perish, only a few are saved? Is it then not true that, with respect to all those who perish, Christ died in vain for them? Hence, how much of that precious blood of the Lamb of Calvary was spilled in vain! But this is not all. The Arminian teaches a salvation of the sinner which is dependent upon the will of the sinner. The Arminian cannot possibly know who will be saved. Christ has merely merited for the Father the authority to offer salvation to the sinner. Does not, then, the possibility exist, as far as the Remonstrant is concerned, that no sinner will accept this proffer-red salvation? How true is the charge of the fathers of Dordt that, according to the Arminian presentation, it could come to pass that no one is actually saved by the death of Christ. And this is certainly a contemptuous speaking with respect to the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the fathers of Dordt declare that by this error the Arminians reject and deny the foremost benefit of the death of Christ, namely, salvation itself. How true is this charge of our fathers! The Arminians did not teach that Christ merited salvation by His death upon the cross. They did not teach that Christ merited for the Father the right to give salvation upon the sinner. They taught that Christ merely merited for the Father the right and authority to deal again with the sinner, to prescribe new conditions unto his salvation. Of course, the Arminians were compelled to say this. They could not teach that Christ actually merited salvation for His own. Then, of course, all those for whom He died would also actually have to be saved. So, the Arminians reject and deny the foremost benefit of the death of Christ, namely, salvation itself. Of course, there are also other benefits of this death of Christ. Faith is also a benefit of this death of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the benefits of salvation flow forth from the cross of Calvary. But salvation is the foremost benefit. And the Scriptures certainly teach that Christ merited salvation by His suffering and dying upon the cross of Calvary. Does not the Word of God speak of the death of the cross as a redemption, as in I Pet, 1:18, 19: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” To redeem means: to buy with a price. God’s people have been redeemed by the blood of Calvary. They have been purchased out of all the power of sin and of the devil. This is simply a fact. It is for this reason that the apostle Peter speaks of this blood of the cross as the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And notice what we read in Heb. 10:10, 14: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” This passage certainly speaks for itself. How true it is that Christ merited salvation for His own by His death upon the cross of Calvary; and how true it is that the Arminians reject and deny this foremost benefit of the death of Christ!
And finally, the Arminians by their doctrine again bring the Pelagian error out of hell. Strong language? Yes. But it is so true! Pelagianism is the error that teaches the free will of the sinner. Christ did not merit salvation for men, only the authority and will of the Father to deal again with the sinner. This means that the sinner’s salvation is dependent upon his free will. He is not saved because Christ died for him, but only because he chooses to accept the salvation that is offered to him. And the fathers say that this error is brought again out of hell. Hell is the source of the lie. The devil is the liar from the beginning. The truth is from above. The lie is from below. And we must not hesitate to say this. We must not soft-pedal these departures from the truth. Pelagianism and Arminianism are heresies that have their origin below, in him who is the liar from the beginning. And they who teach these false and pernicious doctrines are called in the Word of God wolves in sheep’s clothing, ravening wolves, desperately hungry wolves, wolves who would devour and destroy the church of the living God. Never grant them a place within the church of the Lord.
Who teach: That the new covenant of grace, which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not herein consist that we by faith, in as much as it accepts the merits of Christ, are justified before God and saved, but in the fact. that God having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith, regards faith itself and the obedience of faith, although imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law, and does esteem it worthy of the reward of eternal life through grace. For these contradict the Scriptures: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; Whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.”
And these proclaim, as did the wicked Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
We understand that the phrase, “but in the fact that God having revoked the demand of perfect obedience of faith,” should read: “but in the fact that God having revoked the demand of the perfect obedience of the law.”
In this article of the Rejection of Errors, the Remonstrants are presenting what the condition is upon which God will bestow life and salvation. In Article III the Arminians declare that Christ by His death upon the cross merited for the Father the authority and will to deal again with the sinner, to prescribe new conditions for that sinner unto his salvation. But they did not state as yet what those conditions are. Now the fathers of Dordt tell us what the condition is upon which God will bestow life and salvation. To this we plan to call attention in our following article.