Article VII. Who teach: That there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of the unchangeable election to glory, nor any certainty, except that which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition. For not only is it absurd. to speak of an uncertain certainty, but also contrary of the experience of the saints, who by virtue of the consciousness of their election rejoice with the Apostle and praise this favor of God,Eph. 1; who according to Christ’s admonition rejoice with his disciples that their names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20; who also place the consciousness of their election over against the fiery darts of the devil, asking: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Rom. 8:33.
Just as the sixth article of the Rejection deals negativity with the same truth that is treated positively in Article 11 of Chapter 1, so the seventh article of the Rejection deals negatively with the same truth that is treated positively in Article 12 of Chapter 1, namely, the doctrine of the assurance and fruit of the unchangeable election to glory. The preceding article condemned the error of the Arminians whereby they took away all the objective ground and testimony of the surety and unchangeableness of election. The preceding article condemned the error of the Arminians whereby they deny all the subjective assurance and fruit of unchangeable election.
It may be well to analyze this error of the Arminians carefully.
And then, in the first place, let us state in what this error does not consist, lest there be misunderstanding as to what is the Reformed position. First of all, the Arminian error was not that they taught that faith’s assurance of election could be and is present in various degrees and in different measures. The latter is sound Reformed doctrine. For not only do the vessels of mercy differ in size and capacity, so that some have a comparatively large measure of assurance; while others have a small measure thereof; but it is also true that assurance varies at different times and under various circumstances in the same Christian. The assurance of our election goes up and down according as the level of our spiritual life is high or low. And secondly, the error of the Arminians was not that they maintained that there is a very intimate and unbreakable connection between the assurance of election and the walk and life of the Christian in the midst of the world. It is certainly Reformed to teach that there is such a connection, so that, subjectively considered, the assurance of election arises out of the “infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God—such as a true faith in Christ, a filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.” If the above had been the teachings of the Remonstrants, they would have been justified on the Synod of Dordrecht without any doubt.
But this was not the case.
Their error was indeed an error.
And this error stands closely connected with the words “no fruit and no consciousness” in this article. As we explained more in detail under Article 12 of the positive section of this chapter, the assurance of election arises out of the fruits of election. If there are no fruits of election, then there is also no assurance, or consciousness, of our unchangeable election to glory. But there are such fruits. And furthermore, those fruits are infallible. They are unmistakably the fruits of election only; and they are the inevitable fruits of election. They are fruits that surely come to manifestation in every elect child of God. And hence, every elect child of God attains the assurance, or consciousness, of his election just as surely and inevitably as the infallible fruits of election are borne in him. The order, therefore, is this: 1) Sovereign, unchangeable election, as the fountain-head of all the blessings of salvation. 2) The infallible fruits of election mentioned in article 12, coming forth out of that fountain, and realized in all the elect. 3) The assurance, or consciousness, of election, attained in various degrees and different measures, and spontaneously achieved by the elect as they observe in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the fruits pointed out in the Word of God. One more factor must be remembered: it is the element maintained in the preceding article, namely, that assurance of election is assurance of unchangeable election unto glory.
Now the significance of this is plain. Even though for a time I may fall deeply, may apparently fall away completely, even though there may be times when, because of a failure to live a sanctified life, my assurance of election grows very dim, yea, for a time fades completely away, yet, when I have that assurance, it is completely transcendent, victorious. It is an assurance of unchangeable election unto glory, an assurance, therefore, that though by my sins I forfeit the grace of election a thousand times over, that though in the future I may fall so horribly that no one would think me a Christian, and that though in the future I for a time completely lose all consciousness of my election through such a horrible falling into sin, that I am, have been from eternity, and forever shall remain the object of elective love, that therefore my myriad sins can never obliterate my election, yea, that that very elective love shall lift me up should, I fall ever so deeply, and that that same elective love will restore unto me the joy of my salvation, should I lose that assurance temporarily, and at last bring me infallibly into the glory of God’s everlasting kingdom of peace.
All this the Arminian denies. And his doctrine is such that he necessarily teaches men to live in doubt until their very dying breath, and to live in dread fear of hell-fire all the days of their lives. For, first of all, as we have seen, the Remonstrant denies the unchangeablecharacter of election, thereby removing the objective ground of assurance. Secondly, he denies that faith, holiness, godliness, etc., are the fruits of that unchangeable election, and that they are infallible fruits. And thirdly, he makes of faith and all the other Christian virtues changeable and uncertain conditions; and since even he must grant that assurance arises out of these Christian virtues, he can only absurdly speak of an “uncertain certainty.” He denies all assurance, and all real possibility of assurance. He destroys the objective ground of assurance, namely, the Word of God concerning unchangeable election to glory, and substitutes for it the ground of faith as a condition foreseen as fulfilled by man, but even then not necessarily persevered in. Thus the Arminian destroys the whole divine order of election and salvation, fruits of election and realization of the blessings of salvation in us, and assurance of unchangeable election of the blessings of salvation in us, and assurance of unchangeable election and absolutely certain glory. It is no wonder that the fathers reduce this Arminian position to the absurdity of “an uncertain certainty.” The Arminian’s picture of the Christian indeed is the picture of a man who spiritually attempts to lift himself up by his own suspenders. To the apostle’s and the saints’ expressions of joy (Eph. 1) at this certainty of predestinating grace the Arminian must shrug the shoulder in doubt. To the Lord’s admonition to rejoice that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20) the Remonstrant must object that there is no reason for rejoicing in an uncertain certainty, that he can only rejoice if, if, if he finally arrives in the heavenly country and discovers that. God did not erase his name, And the victorious challenge ofRomans 8:33 he can never use as a sure protection over against the fiery darts of the devil.
Article VIII. Who teach: That God, simply by virtue of his righteous will, did not decide either to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass anyone by in the communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion. For this is firmly decreed: “He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth,” Rom. 9:18. And also this: “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given,” Matt. 13:11. Likewise: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes; yea, Father, for so it was well pleasing in thy sight,”Matt. 11:25, 26.
This paragraph deals with the Arminian denial of reprobation, and is coordinate with Article 15 of the positive section of this chapter.
When we speak of the Arminian denial of reprobation, we do not have in mind the denial of the term as such, bid the denial of the true concept reprobation, as it is set forth in this eighth article of the Rejection. Even though he might rather grudgingly, if at all, speak of reprobation, the Remonstrant in fact denied it.
And this stands to reason. Because he played hocus-pocus with election by introducing the element of conditionality, and by introducing the notion of all kinds of decrees of election, some indefinite and general, some definite and particular some indecisive, incomplete, and conditional, and absolute, the Arminian was necessarily compelled to do with reprobation the very same thing. As general, indefinite, conditional, indecisive, and incomplete as election is, so must reprobation also be. And if the decisive, complete, and absolute election (of which the Arminians also spoke) was conditioned by foreseen perseverance unto the end, so also the decisive, complete, and absolute reprobation was conditioned by foreseen failure to persevere or foreseen perseverance in unbelief. The result is plain: reprobation, the reprobation of the Scriptures, is gone.
This article mentions two respects in which the Arminian denied reprobation.
In the first place, the Arminian denied that God decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam. Concerning this let us note: 1) The Arminian had to deny this by reason of his conception of a general and indefinite decree of election, as well as by reason of his conditional teaching concerning what the Arminian called particular and definite election. These elements simply leave no room for a definite divine decision to leave some certain persons in the common state of sin and condemnation. 2) The Arminian would not even accept the “milder,” infralapsarian presentation of reprobation which is expressed in the words “leave . . . in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation.” 3) The Arminian oilers as a ground for this denial God’s righteousness. He claimed that God’s righteousness required that if He were willing to save some sinners, He could not decide to “leave” any sinners. Intrinsic in this view is the idea that the sinner, any sinner, can have a claim on the almighty and that if God decides to save one sinner, another sinner has a claim on the same grace of salvation. In this connection, confer also Article 1 of the positive section of this chapter.
In the second place, the Arminian denied that God ever decided to pass anyone by in the communication of grace which is necessary for faith and conversion. Concerning this it may be observed: 1) Intrinsic in this view is the error that grace is not really grace. One must make himself worthy of the grace necessary for faith and conversion. Hence, the decision of reprobation is not God’s, but man’s. 2) Implied in this view is also the error of resistible grace. 3) In the words “pass anyone by” it is expressed again that the Arminian does not even war& the infralapsarian view of reprobation. 4) Also this view the Arminian sought to sustain on the ground of God’s righteous will. He taught that it would be unfair on the part of God to make His grace available to some, but not all, sinners.
The Scripture passages cited clearly contradict this error. Rom. 9:18 speaks of a hardening according to God’s will. Matt. 13:11 speaks of the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom as a matter of being given ornot being given. And in Matt. 11:25, 26 the Lord Jesus gives thanks for a hiding and revealing that has its source in God’s good pleasure. Striking, however, is the fact that the Scripture passages cited do not at all employ the infralapsarian and “mild” terminology of a “leaving” and a “passing by.” They speak of an active “hardening” and “hiding.”
Article IX. Who teach: That the reason why God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely the good pleasure of God, but, rather the fact that one people is better and worthier than another to whom the gospel is not communicated. For this Moses denies, addressing the people of Israel as follows: “Behold unto Jehovah thy God belongeth heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is therein. Only Jehovah had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day,” Deut. 10:14, 15. And Christ said: “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes.” Matt. 11:21.
This article stands as the counterpart of Article 3 in the positive section of this chapter, but it also stands in close connection with the Arminian denial of sovereign election and reprobation.
The Arminian wants man, not the Lord God, from beginning to end. Let alone election and reprobation, he cannot even tolerate it that the time and place of the proclamation of the gospel is a matter of God’s will. Even this must be conditional: it is determined not by God’s good pleasure, but by the worthiness or unworthiness of men. The very divine use of the means whereby the counsel of election and reprobation is worked out in time is, according to the Arminian, still dependent upon a. sort of evangelical worthiness or unworthiness of men. If God foresees that they will in large part receive the gospel, or at least that they by the right use of the light of nature are receptive for the gospel, then He will send the gospel to them; otherwise not. By this means the Arminian is able also to deny the sovereign reprobation of the millions upon millions who never come into contact with the proclamation of the gospel, who never had a “chance” to believe, and who, thus the Remonstrant accuses the Calvinist, would be very unfairly treated if reprobation were sovereign. But now, so the Arminian says, the decision is all in their hands whether they will have the gospel preached to them, or not; and so God’s righteousness in the proclamation bf the gospel is vindicated.
The fathers, however, contradict this error with two well-chosen Scripture passages. That from Deuteronomy 10shows plainly that the reason why God chose Israel to be the only nation in the entire world to whom he would send the gospel in the old dispensation lay not in them, but solely in His own good pleasure: He had a delight in their fathers to love them. And the New Testament passage, from the “woes” of Matthew 11 upon the unrepentant generation of the Lord Jesus’ time, who were like the contrary children of the marketplace, demonstrates that, if anything, Chorazin and Bethsaida, to whom the gospel was sent, were less worthy still than Tyre and Sidon, to whom the gospelnot sent.
Thus the fathers of Dordrecht maintain that all, from beginning to end, is solely a matter of God’s good pleasure. And they clearly demonstrate, with the Scriptures in hand, that every teaching repugnant to this fundamental truth is not the gospel of Christ, since it is contradicted, not supported, by the Scriptures.
And he who would be Reformed and true to the Scriptures must imitate these fathers in their godly and pious maintenance of the truth of sovereign predestination, but also, if he would be steadfast, in their persistent rejection of every error repugnant thereto.