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All Articles For The Voice Of Our Fathers

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It need scarcely be mentioned that again the Canonsin this connection are infralapsarian, at least by implication. Strictly speaking, this article speaks of God’s work in time, of the fact that in time He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, and that in time He leaves the non-elect in His judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. Nevertheless, it cannot escape our attention that this work of God in time comes forth from His eternal decree, and that therefore by implication the Canons present the infralapsarian conception of the decrees of God.

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The quotations made from the opinions of the very fathers who drew up the Canons serve to furnish us with information as to the background of Article 17. In the first place, it becomes evident that the basic question with which the fathers were occupied was not the narrow question of the salvation of children of believers who die in infancy, but the fact of the Arminian denial of either election or reprobation of children. And it is only in connection therewith that the Synod felt constrained to make some kind of statement also about the salvation of infant children...

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In the remainder of this article we find a discussion, first of all, concerning the manner in which the truth of election is to be preached. The fathers mention here the following elements: 1) the spirit of discretion; 2) piety (The Dutch has here: “met Godvruchtige eerbiedigheid, heiliglijk.” The Latin has: “religiose et sancte.”; 3) in due time and place (literally: in its own time and place); 4) without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the most high.

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Article 7. Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the mediator and head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation. 

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It is in the light of what the fathers state as to the attributes of the decree of reprobation that we must also understand what this article states as to the relation between election and reprobation, and, in connection therewith, the purpose of the decree of reprobation. Of these two subjects the Coons surely speak in this 15th Article.

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With the above general observations in mind we may well profit from the stipulations set forth in this article. In the first place, we are told that the spirit of discretion must characterize our preaching of election. Discretion is prudence, or the practical application of wisdom. It takes into consideration reality. And in this case, discretion takes into consideration the reality of the earthly existence and manifestation of the church for which the truth of election “was peculiarly designed.” That church is, of course, essentially the gathering, the assembly, of the elect.

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Since we are to judge of the will of God from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children, whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy. 

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