...

Article 7. 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 Matt. 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 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.

We have no major corrections to make in the above trans­lation. There are, however, a few minor differences to be noted: 1) Instead of “notes” it would be more correct to have “posits” or “establishes.” 2) The phrase “besides this duration” is in the original simply “besides.” If the term is to be expanded in translation, it would be better to have “besides this difference of duration.” 3) The terms “former” and “latter” are in the original “those” and “these.” 4) The terms “constancy” and “steadfastness” could probably better be translated “faithfully” and “perseveringly,” eliminating the preposition “with.”

We also have a suggested correction as to the textual references in the article. They are not accurate either in the original or in the translation. The reference from Matthew 13 should include verses 21 and 23. And the reference from Luke 8 should include verse 15. That this is true is evident from the fact that the article makes a comparison which it is impossible to make except with the additional verses men­tioned. Besides, the reference to “faithfulness” and “per­severance” is found directly in Luke 8:15.

The error that is treated in this article is quite clear in itself, and, we may add at once, quite consistent with the fundamental Arminian position. This, at least, may usually be said for the Arminians—and it is no compliment—that they are consistent in their erroneous views. They want nothing of the truth, but insist upon their own lie all the way through, even when it is obviously contrary to Scripture.

The treatment of this error in the article under discus­sion is of value for more than one reason. In the first place, this is one of the instances from Scripture which the Ar­minians often cited as proof of the falling away of the saints. In the second place, there is an apparent reason in Scripture for citing this as proof. The Arminians, who, by the way, are often literalists, can point to the fact that the Scriptures themselves speak in this connection of a falling away, as well as of those who believe for a time, Luke 8:13: “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” And, in the third place, this treatment is valuable because our fathers with a few brief strokes draw the line of the truth that is set forth in the parable of the sower, thus exposing the Arminian error once more.

Let us then, first of all, say a few words about this error and its implications.

The Remonstrants taught that there is only a difference of duration between true, saving faith and the faith of those who believe for a time, or so-called temporary faith. The emphasis, of course, falls upon the fact that the Arminians maintain that there is only a difference of duration. Accord­ing to them, there is no other difference; and this difference of duration is the fundamental difference. All depends upon whether your faith is permanent or temporary, whether you persevere, therefore, or whether you fall away. The faith is the same; the difference is solely in duration. Now we too, of course, believe that there is a difference of duration between saving and justifying faith and the faith of those who believe for a time. For it is in the nature of the case that saving faith is permanent and temporary faith is temporary. But we do not believe that this is the only difference, first of all. Nor do we believe that this is the essential difference, as becomes very clear in Article 7. The question is: why do some fall away, and from what do they fall away? And: why do some persevere, and in what do they persevere? What is the underlying reason why temporary faith is necessarily only for a time and why saving faith is necessarily permanent? When these questions are asked, the Arminian and the Reformed views come to a radical parting of the ways. And basically, these questions all revolve around the one question: what is saving faith? If you give the correct answer to this question, you cannot avoid giving the correct answer to the question treated in this article: what is the real difference between saving faith and temporary faith.

The Arminians—such is the implication of their error—admit of no true, saving faith in distinction from the faith which Holy Scripture denotes a “dead faith” or a “vain faith.” They make no essential distinction between a true faith and a show-faith, a counterfeit faith. There is only a distinction of time: the faith of the one perseveres unto the end, and the faith of the other is lost. In other words, the so-called temporary faith is also true, saving faith; and the only difference is that the believer does not keep his faith.

Now we may note, first of all, that the Arminian is com­pelled to teach this. He who maintains that there is a falling away of the saints, of the true believers, must necessarily teach that this temporary faith of those who fall away is essentially true, saving faith. Either this is the case, or else there is no falling away, that is, no falling away of the saints.

But we may well observe, in the second place, that this view of the Arminian is thoroughly in harmony with his idea of faith itself. We must always keep in mind that, according to the Arminian, faith is, first of all, a deed, an act, not a bond and a power. According to him, faith is not something which you possess or do not possess, but it is always something which you do or don’t do. If you believe, then you are a believer, a saint; if you do not believe, and as soon as you do not believe, then you are not a saint. And secondly, according to the Arminian, that deed of faith is always the deed of the human will, not the work of the Spirit of God. Faith is not in final analysis a gift of God at all, but a work of man. Hence, it is at any given moment up to man and his free will whether he will believe or not be­lieve, whether he will persevere in faith or whether he will cease believing. When at a given moment he ceases believing, there is no more faith in that man: for faith is only in the deed, and when that deed is not performed, there is nothing left but unbelief. Hence, such a man is a saint that has fallen away. He might return, according to the Arminian, and again believe; he might also never believe again, and go lost forever. Such is the Arminian, free-willist position.

Of the Scriptural teaching that man is by nature dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of any good, and inclined to all evil, the Arminian wants nothing; and he refuses to proceed from this truth. Of the Scriptural teaching that true faith is essentially life, implanted in the dead sinner by almighty grace through the wonder of regeneration, without the aid of that sinner, the Arminian will not hear. Of the truth that only they who have the life of faith in them are in a position to believe, and that this believing continues because the life of faith cannot die, the Arminian will admit nothing. And the truth that it is God who works that life in a man, thereby setting him in living communion with Christ, and Who quickens that life of faith into conscious activity, thereby bringing him into conscious possession of all the benefits of salvation merited by Christ—that truth too the Arminian denies.

To these truths our fathers call attention, maintaining that the difference between true faith and temporary faith is much more than a difference of duration merely, but an essential difference. A temporary faith can never be a true faith; and a true faith can never be temporary.

And the fathers do this by referring to the so-called parable of the sower, which might more accurately be called the parable of the four kinds of soil. They single out just two of the four kinds of soil for this comparison; and they make their comparison only with reference to the question at stake in this Arminian error, namely, the difference be­tween a temporary faith and true, saving faith. In order to understand and benefit from this comparison we should have the Scriptural references to the stony ground and the good soil in mind. In Matthew 13 you have the picture and the explanation of the stony soil into which the seed of the Word falls in Matt. 13:5, 6, 20, 21: “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away . . . But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” In the same chapter you find the picture and the explanation of the good soil in verses 8 and 23: “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold . . . But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” In Luke 8 you find the same parable. And because of some dif­ferences in presentation we will also quote from this chapter. The stony soil is pictured and explained in verses 6 and 13: “And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture . . . They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” And Luke presents the Lord’s description of the good soil in verses 8a and 15: “And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold . . . But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” The same parable is also recorded in Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; but we need not quote that passage here since there are no additional points of note.

The fathers call attention to a three-fold distinction be­tween those represented by these two kinds of soil. In the first place, there is a difference of soil: stony soil or good soil, representative of an evil heart or a good heart. In the second place, there is a difference of root: temporary faith is without root, and true faith is characterized by a firm root. In the third place, there is a difference of fruit: temporary faith is void of fruit, and true faith brings forth fruit faith­fully and perseveringly, though in various measure.

To the details of this three-fold distinction we must give our attention next time, D.V.

H.C.H.