Article V. Who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance unto the end in faith, conversion, holiness and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not out of works, but of him that calleth. Rom. 9:11. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy,” Eph. 1:4. “Ye did not choose me, but I chose you,” John 15:16. “But if it be of grace, it is no more of works,” Rom. 11:6“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son,” I John 4:10.
Quite correctly did Rev. T. Bos in his “The Canons of Dordrecht, Explained,” observe in connection with this article (translation from the Dutch mine, H.C.H.): “The divine order is turned about by the Remonstrants. That order is that according to the Scriptures all is of God. According to the Remonstrants God waits in His doings upon that which man does. Logically reasoned through, they must come to this, that the glory of heaven shall one day consist in the glorification of man.”
In this fifth article of the Rejection the fathers expose completely the diabolical scheme of the Arminians whereby they seek to overturn any idea of a “particular and definite election” while, deceitfully clinging to the expression as such. For an analysis of this fifth article certainly brings to light the fact that the Arminian election is neither “particular and definite,” nor, in any real sense, election.
This article treats the distinctions in election mentioned in Article I of the Rejection. And it deals specifically with the twofold distinction which the Remonstrants made in the particular and definite brand of election. At the same time we must bear in mind their distinction between an election unto faith and an election unto salvation, the latter being, again, either decisive or non-decisive. In the first place, according to the Arminians, there is a particular and definite election which is “incomplete and non-decisive.” This is an election: a) Unto salvation; and, b) occurring because of a foreseen faith conversion, holiness, godliness. And in the second place, there is, according to the Arminians, a particular and definite election which is “complete and decisive.” This election occurs because of foreseen perseverance unto the end. And this foreseen perseverance is “the gracious and evangelical worthiness” which distinguishes the chosen as more worthy that the unchosen. Hence, the Arminian rejects the idea that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are fruits of the unchangeable election to glory, and substitutes the notion that they are conditions and causes of the unchangeable election to glory.
It is to be noted that the Synod does not present any argumentation against this view, but merely presents the view itself in order then to quote Scripture against it. There is not even any exegesis of the Scriptural passages offered; Scripture is simply quoted. Evidently the Synod felt that a factual presentation of the Arminian view would so evidently expose its faults that a simple literal quotation of Scripture would be quite sufficient to contradict this error and to condemn it in the eyes of all. And it must be admitted that in this the fathers were quite correct, and that their choice of Scripture for such literal contradiction of the Arminian error could not have been happier.
Nevertheless, it is not amiss in this connection to call attention to some of the salient points of this erroneous presentation, as well as to the connection between it and the preceding presentation in Article IV. We may note the following:
1) Whereas in Article IV the Arminian is presented as speaking of an election unto faith, conditioned by the right use of the light of nature, etc. here he speaks of faith itself as a condition of election. God foresees, sees ahead of time, who will believe, who will convert himself, be holy, and be godly; and these He chooses unto salvation.
2) However, this election unto salvation is not decisive and complete. It implies that those chosen unto salvation have salvation, but do not necessarily have it permanently. They have it, but do not have it. And hence, after all they have nothing. It is entirely possible that though they believe, convert, are holy and godly, they will nevertheless be among the damned in hell.
3) Notice the very limited and materialistic conception of salvation that is implied in this view. Salvation merely means going to heaven instead of to hell. It is overlooked or deliberately ignored that faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness are integral elements of salvation, and that he who possesses them actually possesses Salvation itself.
4) There is also an election unto salvation that is decisive and complete. This is conditioned by foreseen perseverance unto the end. God foresees not only who will believe, but also who will keep on believing; not only who will convert, but who will persevere in conversion; not only who will for a time be holy and godly, but also who will be holy and godly to the very end. And these latter he chose completely and decisively unto salvation. They are the only ones ultimately who will be saved. Thus the way of salvation is literally strewn with conditions until the moment of our death. For, mark you, the condition of perseverance implies that one persists in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness until he has breathed his last. If his dying sigh is one of unbelief, he still goes lost. And if God foresaw from eternity that that dying sigh would be one of unbelief, that man would not be included in the complete and decisive election unto salvation. He would be elect, but still non-elect; he would have salvation, but still not have it. The matter is in doubt all the way, and the decision is not God’s but man’s. Nor must we be confused by the adjective “absolute” as applied in Article II to this complete and decisive election. It does not mean that this election is unconditional, for the condition is perseverance. It merely means that this is the last of that series of elections, and that after this there are no more conditions. Hence, the least that can be said is that the Arminian realized the folly of imposing conditions on a corpse, even though he does not hesitate to impose them on those dead in trespasses and sins.
5) This foreseen perseverance unto the end is the “gracious and evangelical worthiness” of the elect. This expression refers again to the supposed grace that lies in the fact that the act of faith and its incomplete obedience is accepted as of as much value as complete obedience. And it is called “evangelical” by the Arminians, that is, “gospel worthiness,” in distinction from law-worthiness, or work-worthiness. Cunning distinctions these are, which enable the Arminian still to speak of grace and of the gospel, though he actually denies both.
6) Furthermore, it is to be noted that the Arminian, according to the fathers, posits conditions rather than fruits of election, and that these conditions are bothprerequisites (required before hand), and indispensable causes of election. In the view of the fathers, therefore, the concepts condition, prerequisite, and cause are identical, and stand over against the concept fruits.
Once more we cannot refrain from calling attention to the very obvious consequence of the Synod’s teachings in this article, namely, that the condemnation of the error of conditional election requires the condemnation of the error of conditional salvation. No more than election, which is the divine thoughts of our salvation, is dependent upon what God foresees of human thoughts about salvation, no more is salvation, which is the realization of those divine thoughts, dependent upon those human thoughts and desires. In all of Scripture and in all of the Canons election and salvation are so intimately connected, yea, identified, as the fountain and the stream, the cause and the effect, that if the one is unconditional, the other must needs be.
Finally, we call brief attention to the Scripture passages cited in this article. Rom. 9:11, in its connection, teaches literally that the divine purpose of election stands not of works, but of Him that calleth. This is therefore in literal contradiction of the. Arminian idea of foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, and the perseverance in these as the basis of election. The Arminian says: election stands of works, not of Him that calleth. Acts 13:48 teaches plainly that faith is the fruit of election unto eternal life, not the condition. Eph. 1:4 teaches the same of holiness. John 15:16 emphasizes that the choice of election is not man’s, but God’s. Rom. 11:6 emphasizes the mutual exclusiveness of the principles of grace and works, in contradiction of the Arminian, who confuses grace and works. And I John 4:10teaches that the love of the God of our salvation is first, sovereign, independent, and free, while the Arminian, even though he puts these conditions in God’s foresight, nevertheless makes man first in all the process of election and salvation. Plainly this Arminian view is repugnant to Scripture.
Article VI. Who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect cannot be led astray. Matt. 24:24; that Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him. John 6:39; and that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called and justified. Rom. 8:30.
This error that is here rejected is simply a consequence of the errors that have already been rejected, and the rejection of it is likewise a consequence of the rejection of the c preceding errors. We can, therefore, be very brief in our treatment of this sixth rejection.
Principally the error rejected here is the error of changeable election, or the error of the denial of unchangeable election. We have already seen that the Arminians had many kinds of election. And of these many kinds of election there was only one election which was unchangeable. And the one unchangeable election was that which was conditioned by perseverance unto the end. Hence, there was no certainty, no decisiveness, and no completeness in the decree of election unto salvation until that condition of perseverance unto the end, that is, unto and including a man’s dying breath, was foreseen as fulfilled. All other election is changeable. And the change is the only one conceivable: the change of election into reprobation. Hence, in the Arminian view,—and note the pointed criticism implied in the phrase already,—”any decree of God notwithstanding,” some of the elect both can and do perish.
Imagine! A decree of God, who is really God, who is eternal, unchangeable, whose counsel shall stand, and Who performs all His good pleasure,—such a decree is not of enough power to prevent the elect from perishing! Such is the caricature of God and His decrees which the Arminian invented when he manufactured the myth of a changeable election!
This error is rejected on two grounds: 1) It makes God changeable,—a charge which is so obvious that it needs no elucidation. 2) It destroys the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election. Also this is plain. Since the only unchangeable election is that conditioned by perseverance unto the end, and since all other kinds of election are changeable, all the assurances of Scripture, such as those quoted in this very article, are absolutely valueless. The Arminian must take his Bible and insert after all such passages the words: “But this is changeable.” None of the elect in this life are ever able to say: my election is firm, because God’s decree is unchangeable.
The Scripture passages also need no elucidation; they speak for themselves. And it is clear without any exegesis that all these passages contradict the Arminian error of changeable election.