We concluded our first and preceding article on this subject with the observation that as citizens of the kingdom of heaven we must be pilgrims and strangers in the earth, ever seeking to promote the cause of God and of His Christ. Doing this, however, we will experience the trials and afflictions of this present time. These trials are unavoidable. This means that we must fight, witnessing of Christ and of His Cause, and oppose all the unfruitful works of sin and darkness. And this means that our survival in the midst of the world will become, humanly speaking, impossible. We will be confronted by the powers of sin and evil, within us and all around us, with which we cannot possibly cope and contend. Yet, fight we must, regardless of the odds. But then our preservation and perseverance become a very vital matter. Whether or not we will survive becomes a tremendously vital and pertinent question. How wonderful, then, it is to know that the work which God has once begun shall by His grace be fully done! How wonderful it is that we then may repeat after the apostle Paul what we read in Romans 8:37-38: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” To this wonderful truth we will now, the Lord willing, call attention in subsequent articles. Indeed, a wonderful truth this is.
The truths of preservation and perseverance are surely scriptural and confessional. The Arminians or Remonstrants also professed to believe in preservation, as is evident from Article 5 of their Five Articles of the Remonstrants. We now quote this article.
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of His life-giving Spirit, have thereby full powers to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well 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,
“Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, or 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.
In connection with this article we would call attention to the following. First, we read here 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. This sounds very Reformed, although we must always bear in mind that, according to the Arminian, this is all dependent upon the free will of the sinner. But, it sounds very Reformed. This Reformed speech is characteristic of the heretic. We must bear in mind that the Arminian is speaking here. The heretic will invariably clothe himself in a Reformed garment. We must never forget this. How necessary it is, therefore, that all the preaching and teaching in our churches continue to be distinctive. We must not merely be positive in our preaching and teaching but also distinctive. Always we must expose every heresy in all our activities. Article 55 of our Church Order demands this, and we quote: “To ward off false doctrines and errors that multiply exceedingly through heretical writings, the ministers and elders shall use the means of teaching, of refutation, or warning, and of admonition, as well in the ministry of the Word as in Christian teaching and family-visiting.” How the Scriptures warn us to be on our guard against and to oppose the wolves who appear in sheep’s clothing! Mind you, they appear in sheep’s clothing. They appear as sheep, these false preachers and teachers. But, according to the Savior, they are ravening, desperately hungry wolves. They are determined to devour the sheep. How important it is that we constantly expose and unmask them! And then this fifth article of the Remonstrance continues: “it being well 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.” Here the Arminian begins to reveal himself, here he begins to come out of his shell. Notice, he speaks of the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus Christ assists them through His Spirit, extends to them His hand, and also that they must be ready for the conflict, desire His help, and are not inactive. Then, finally, the Remonstrant really reveals himself when he writes that he is not ready to say that the Christian will be preserved and persevere unto the very end. This he declares must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds. This, of course, we understand, is deliberate camouflage. As if, if you please, it must still be determined whether the child of God will persevere until the very end. The truth is that, as far as the Arminian is concerned, this has been determined, namely that the certain perseverance of the Christian is uncertain, and that it is uncertain exactly because it is dependent upon the sinner’s free will. The truth is that he does not believe in the certain perseverance of the saints. The Reformed man has no difficulty with this. He declares emphatically that the child of God shall be preserved and that he will persevere. This is exactly what the Arminian will not say and does not believe.
The truth of preservation is set forth in our Confessions, in the Canons of Dordt, Article III of the fifth Head, and we quote: “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.”
And then we read in Article VIII of the fifth Head:
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.
However, the truth of the perseverance of the saints is also confessional. Already in Heads III and IV this truth is set forth.
In Article 12 of Heads III and IV we read:
But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sin which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of regeneration does not treat man as senseless stocks and blocks, nor takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Therefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin.
Notice in the above quotation that man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin. But now, because the admirable author (of course, the Holy Spirit—H.V.) of every good work wrought in us, and is working in us, man does have hope of recovery from his fall and the absolutely sure confidence that he will be saved unto the very end.
And then we have that wondrously beautiful setting forth of the truth by our fathers in Article 12 of Heads III and IV:
And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation: a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel (how often it is presented today that this occurs through the preaching of the gospel, which is nothing else than a sickening well-meaning, general offer of grace—H.V.), by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed His part, it will still remain in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted, or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable, not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe.—Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received.
How beautifully our fathers in this article set forth the truth that the work of regeneration is truly and exclusively a mighty, irresistible work of God, even likened to a resurrection, not inferior to such a resurrection from the dead.
We conclude our confessional references in this article by quoting Article 13 of Heads III and IV: “The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior.”
Indeed, the Reformed truth is believed. Arminianism is characterized by rationalism. And yet, although rationalistic, it is utterly foolish and senseless. Does it make sense that an almighty God is dependent upon the free will of an impotent sinner. The Lord willing, we will continue with this confessional proof, establishing the perseverance of the saints as set forth in the fifth Head of our Canons of Dordt.