Wednesday, July 6, 2011



A Discourse — Divine, Moral, and Physical.

SICKNESSES in men’s souls are bred like diseases in natural, or corruptions in civil bodies; with so insensible a progress, that they are not discerned till they be almost desperate. We can better brook our maladies than our remedies. In the head and other corporal parts there are many diseases, which I will not contend to find out; desiring only to slay, not all, but enough. I will borrow so much timber out of Galen’s wood, as shall serve me for a scaffold to build up my moral discourse.

Headache and Brain-sickness. — Headache is diverse, say physicians, according to the causes:— There is a headache called the megrim, henzi-crania, possessing lightly one side of the head, and distinguished by a seam that runs along in the skull. There is a disease in the soul not unlike this, and they that labour of it are called brain-sick men. They may have some pretty understanding in part of their heads, but the other part is strangely sick of crotchets, singularities, and toyish inventions; wherein because they frolic themselves, they think all the world fools that admire them not. They are ever troubling themselves with unnecessary thoughtfulness of long or short, white or black, round or square; confounding their wits with geometrical dimensions, and studying of measure out of measure. A square cap on another man’s head puts their head out of square, and they turn their brains into cotton with storming against a garment of linen. New Albutii, to moot the reasons, why if a cup fell down it brake; if a sponge, it brake not; why eagles fly, and not elephants. There be such students in the schools of Rome:— what shall be done with an ass, if he get into the church, to the font uncovered, and drink the water of baptism. Upon the strange hap of a clerk’s negligence, and a thirsty ass’s entering the church, which are uncertain, they make themselves asses in certain. Or if a hungry mouse filch the body of our Lord, &c. Brave wits to invent mouse-traps. These curiosities in human, but much more in divine things, prove men brain-sick.

The cause of the megrim is the ascending of many vaporous humours, hot or cold, by the veins or arteries. The cause of this spiritual megrim, or brain-sickness, is the unkindly concurrence of ignorance, arrogance, and affectation, like foggy clouds, obscuring and smothering the true light of their sober judgments; and bearing their affections like a violent wind upon one only point of the compass, new-fangled opinion:— they hate not to be observed, and had rather be notorious than not notable. Opinion is a foot too much, which spoils the verse. New physic may be better than old, so may new philosophy; our studies, observation, and experience perfecting theirs; beginning, not at the Gamoth, as they did, but, as it were, at the Ela:— but hardly new divinity; not that an ancient error should be brought out against a new truth. A new truth! Nay, an old newly come to light; for error cannot wage antiquity with truth. His desire is to be cross to regularity; and should he be enjoined a hat, a cap would extremely please him; were he confined to extemporal and enthusiastical labours, he would commend premeditation and study, which now he abhors, because they are put on him. He is unwise in being so bitter against ceremonies; for therein he is palpably against himself, himself being nothing else but ceremony. He loves not the beaten path; and because every fool, saith he, enters at the gate, he will climb over the wall. Whiles the door of the church stands open, he contends to creep through the window, John 10:1. The brain-sick are no less than drunk with opinion; and that so strangely, that sleep, which helps other drunkards, doth them no good. Their ambitious singularity is often so violent that if it be not restrained it grows to a kind of frenzy, and so the megrim turns into the staggers. Herein, because we will not credit their positions, nor receive their crotchets in our set music, they reel into the Low Countries.

Inconstancy, a kind of Staggers. — There is a disease in the soul called inconstancy, not unfitly shadowed to us by a bodily infirmity, possessing the superior part of man — vertigo, a swimming in the head, a giddiness, or the staggers. The disease in the body is described to be an astonishing and dusking of the eyes and spirits, that the patient thinks all that he seeth to turn round, and is suddenly compassed with darkness. The parallel to it in the soul is inconstancy, a motion without rule, a various aspect, a diversifying intention. The inconstant man is like a Pourcontrell; if he should change his apparel so fast as his thought, how often in a day would he shift himself! He would be a Proteus too, and vary kinds. The reflection of every man’s news melts him, whereof he is as soon glutted. As he is a noun, he is only adjective, depending on every novel persuasion; as a verb, he knows only the present tense. To-day he goes to the quay to be shipped for Rome, but before the tide come, his tide is turned. One party think him theirs, the adverse theirs:— he is with both, with neither, not an hour with himself. Because the birds and beasts be at controversy, he will be a bat, and get him both wings and teeth. He would come to heaven, but for his halting:— two opinions, like two watermen, almost pull him a-pieces, when he resolves to put his judgment into a boat, and go some whither; presently he steps back, and goes with neither. It is a wonder if his affections, being but a little lukewarm water, do not make his religion stomach-sick. Indifference is his ballast, and opinion his sail:— he resolves not to resolve. He knows not what he doth hold. He opens his mind to receive motions, as one opens his palm to take a handful of water — he bath very much, if he could hold it. He is sure to die, but not what religion to die in; he demurs like a posed lawyer, as if delay could remove some impediments. He is drunk when he riseth, and reels in a morning fasting. He knows not whether he should say his Pater nosier in Latin or English, and so leaves it and his prayers unsaid. He makes himself ready for an appointed feast:— by the way he hears of a sermon, he turns thitherward; yet betwixt the church gate and church door he thinks of business, and retires home again. In a controverted point he holds with the last reasoner he either heard or read; the next diverts him; and his opinion dwells with him perhaps so long as the teacher of it is in his sight. He will rather take dross for gold, than try it in the furnace. He receives many judgments, retains none, embracing so many faiths that he is little better than an infidel. Thus his breast is full of secret combats, contradictions, affirmations, negatives; and, whiles he refuseth to join with others, he is divided in himself, and yet will rather search excuses for his unstaidness, than ground for his rest. He loathes manna after two days’ feeding, and is almost weary of the sun for perpetual shining. If the temple-pavements be ever worn with his visitant feet, he will run far to a new teacher; and rather than be bound to his own parish, he will turn recusant. He will admire a new preacher till a quarter of the sand is out; but if the church doors be not locked up, he cannot stay out the hour. What he promiseth to a collection to-day, he forgets, or at least denies, the next morning.

The signs of this disease in the body are a mist and darkness coming upon every light occasion. If he see a wheel turning round, or a whirlpool, or any such circular motion, he is affected with giddiness. The symptoms of the spiritual staggers are semblable. He turns with those that turn, and is his neighbour’s chameleon. He hates staidness as an earthen dullness. He prosecutes a business without fear or wit; and rejecting the patience to consult, falls upon it with a peremptory heat:— but like water once hot, is soonest frozen, and instantly he must shift his time and his place; neither is he so weary of every place, as every place is weary of him. He affects an object with dotage, and as superstitiously courts it as an idolater his gilded block. But it is a wonder if his passionate love outlive the age of a wonder — nine days. He respects in all things novelty above goodness; and the child of his own brains within a week he is ready to judge a bastard. He salutes his wits after some invented toy, as a serving-man kisseth his hand; when instantly on another plot arising, he kicks the former out of doors. He pulls down this day what he builded the other, now disliking the site, now the fashion, and sets men on work to his own undoing.

For the curing of this bodily infirmity many remedies are prescribed:— odoriferous smells in weakness, the opening of a vein in better strength, cupping glasses applied to the hinder part of the head, with scarification, gargarisms, and sternutatory things together with setting the feet in hot r baths, &c. To cure this spiritual staggers, let the patient be purged with repentance for his former unsettledness; let him take an ounce of faith to firm his brains; let his repose be on the Scriptures, and thence fetch decision of all doubts; let a skilful physician order him a good minister. Let him stop his ears to rumours, and fix his eyes on heaven, to be kept from distracting objects. Let him keep the continual diet of prayer for the Spirit of illumination; and thus he may be re. covered.

Envy, a Consumption. — Envy fitly succeeds anger, for it is nothing else but inveterate wrath. The other was a frantic fit, and this is a consumption; a languishing disease in the body, the beginning of dissolution, a broaching of the vessel, not to be stopped till all the liquor of life is run out. What the other table is in the body, I list not to define, by reason that this spiritual sickness is a consumption of the flesh also, and a pining away of the spirits; now since they both have relation to the body, their comparison would be confusion. Envy is the consumption I singularly deal withal; which though I cannot cure, I will hopefully minister to.

The cause of envy is others’ prosperity, or rather an evil eye shot upon it. The angry man hath not himself, the envious must have no neighbour. He battens at the maligned’s misery; and if such a man riseth, he falls as if he were planet-struck. I know not whether he could endure to be in paradise with a superior. He hates to be happy with any company. Envy sits in a man’s eyes, and wheresoever through those windows it spies a blessing, it is sickness and death unto it. He is even quarrelling with God that his neighbour’s field bears better corn, and thinks himself poor if a near dweller be richer. He will dispraise God’s greatest blessings if they fall besides himself, and grow sullen, so far as he dares, with the prince that shall promote a better deserver. There is no law perfect, if he was not at the making it. He undertakes a great work, and when he cannot accomplish it, he will give leave to none other.

Idleness, the Lethargy. — Idleness in the soul is a dangerous disease, as the lethargy in the body. The very name of lethargy speaks the nature, for it is compounded of a jBp, forgetfulness, and finis) slothful; and so consequently is defined to be a dull oblivion. The idle man is a piece of base heavy earth, and moulded with muddy and standing water. He lies in bed the former half of the day, devising excuses to prevent the afternoon’s labour. He cannot endure to do anything by himself that may be done by attorney. He forestalls persuasion inducing him to any work, by forecasting the unprofitableness; he holds business man’s cruellest enemy, and a monstrous devourer of time. His body is so swollen with lazy humours, that he moves like a tun upon two pottle pots. He is tempted to covetous, for no other reason but to be able to keep servants; whom he will rather trust than step out to oversee. Neither summer nor winter scape the blame of his laziness; in the one it is too hot, in the other too cold, to work. Summer bath days too long, winter nights too cold; he must needs help the one with a nap at noon, the other with a good fire. He was very fit to be a monk:— spare him an early mass, and he will accept it; yet howsoever, he will rather venture the censure than forsake a lazy calling.

The cause of the lethargy is abundant phlegm, overmuch cooling the brain, and thereby provoking sleep; which putrefied in the brain, causeth a fever. The cause of idleness is indulgence to the flesh, a forgetfulness of the end of our creation, a wilful digression from man, for the lazy wretch is a dormouse in a human husk. To man motion is natural, the joints and eyes are made to move; and the mind is never asleep, as if it were set to watch the body. Sleep is the image of death, saith the poet; and therefore the church-sleeper is a dead corpse, set in his pew like a coffin, as if the preacher were to make his funeral sermon. He sings out harvest like the grasshopper; therefore may at Christmas dance for and without his dinner. He riseth at noon to breakfast, which he falls to unwashed, and removes not out of his chair without a sleep. Whilst he sleeps, the enemy over-sows the field of his heart with tares. He is a patient subject for the devil to work on, a cushion for him.

Covetousness. — Our spiritual dropsy. Covetousness is a disease bred in the soul, through defect of faith and understanding. It properly resides in the inferior powers of the soul, the affections; but ariseth from the errors of the superior intellectual faculty:— neither conceiving aright of God’s all-sufficient help, nor of the world’s all-deficient weakness.

Religion gives riches, and riches forget religion. Thus do our affections wheel about with an un-constant motion. Poverty makes us religious, religion rich, and riches irreligious. The covetous man is like a two-legged hog:— whiles he lives, he is ever rooting in the earth, and never doth good till he is dead; like a vermin, of no use till uncased. Himself is a monster, his life a riddle; his face (and his heart) is prone to the ground; his delight is to vex himself. It is a question whether he takes more care to get damnation, or to keep it; and so is either a Laban or a Nabal, two infamous churls in the Old Testament, spelling one another’s name backward. He keeps his god under lock and key, and sometimes, for the better safety, in his unclean vault. He is very eloquently powerful amongst his poor neighbours; who, for awful fear, listen to Pluto as if he were Plato.

His heart is like the East Indian ground, where all the mines be so barren, that it bears neither grass, herb, plant, nor tree. The lightness of his purse gives him a heavy heart, which yet filled, doth fill him with more cares. His medicine is his malady; he would quench his avarice with money, and this inflames it, as oil feeds the lamp, and some harish drinks increase thirst. His proctor in the law, and protector against the law, is his money. His alchemy is excellent, he can project much silver, and waste none in smoke. His rhetoric is how to keep him out of the subsidy. His logic is to prove heaven in his chest. His mathematics, to measure the goodness of anything by his own profit. His arithmetic is in addition and multiplication, much in subtraction, nothing in division. His physic is to minister gold to his eye, though he starve his body. Sculfitura is his Scrifitura; and he hath so many gods as images of coin. He is an ill harvest-man, for he is all at the rake, nothing at the pitchfork. The devil is a slave to God, the world to the devil, the covetous man to the world; he is a slave to the devil’s slave, so that his servant is like to have a good office. He foolishly buries his soul in his chest of silver, when his body must be buried in the mould of corruption. When the fisher offers to catch him with the net of the gospel, he strikes into the mud of avarice, and will not be taken. He sells his best grain, and feeds himself on mouldy crusts; he returns from plough, if he remembers that his cupboard was left unlocked. If once in a reign he invites his neighbours to dinner, he whiles the times with frivolous discourses, to hinder feeding; sets away the best dish, affirming it will be better cold; observes how much each guest eateth, and when they are risen and gone, falleth to himself, what for anger and hunger, with a sharp appetite. If he smells of gentility, you shall have at the nether end of his board a great pasty uncut up, for it is filled with bare bones:— somewhat for show, but most to keep the nether mess from eating. He hath sworn to die in debt to his belly. He deducts from a servant’s wages the price of a halter, which he cut to save his master, when he had hung him self at the fall of the market. He lends nothing, nor returns borrowed, unless it be sent for; which if he cannot deny, he will delay, in hope to have it forgotten. To excuse his base and sordid apparel, he commends the thriftiness of King Henry, how cheap his clothes were. His fist is like the prentices earthen box, which receives all, but lets out nothing till it be broken. He is in more danger to be sand-blind than a goldsmith. Therefore some call him avidum, a non videndo. He must rise in the night with a candle to see his corn, though he stumble in the straw, and fire his barn. He hath a lease of his wits, during the continuance of his riches:— if any cross starts away them, he is mad instantly. He would slay an ass for his skin; and, like Hermocrates dying, bequeath his own goods to himself. His case is worse than the prodigal’s; for the prodigal shall have nothing hereafter, but the covetous hath nothing in present.

Fri de and the Pleurisy. — The pleurisy is defined to be an inward inflammation; Pride is a pursy affection of the soul without law, for it is rebellious; without measure, for it delights in extremes; without reason, for it doth all things with precipitation. The proud man is bitten of the mad dog, the flatterer, and so runs on a garget. This spiritual disease ariseth from a blown opinion of one’s self:— which opinion is either from ignorance of his own emptiness, and so, like a tumbler full of nothing but air, makes a greater sound than a vessel of precious liquor; or from arrogance of some good, which the owner knows too well. He never looks short of himself, but always beyond the mark, and offers to shoot further than he looks; but ever falls two bows short — humility and discretion.

The symptoms of the pleurisy are difficult breathing, a continual fever, a vehement prickling on the affected side. The proud man is known by his gait, which is peripatetically, strutting like some new churchwarden. He thinks himself singularly wise, but his opinion is singular, and goes alone. In the company of good wits, he fenceth in his ignorance with the hedge of silence, that observation may not climb over to see his follies. He would have his judgment for wearing his apparel pass unmended, not uncommended. He shifts his attire on some solemn day, twice at least in twelve hours; but cannot shift himself out of the mercer’s books once in twelve months. His greatest envy is the next gentleman’s better clothes; which if he cannot better or equalise, he wears his own neglected. His apparel carries him to church without devotion; and he riseth up at the Creed to join with the rest in confession, not of his faith, but his pride; for sitting down hides much of his bravery. He feeds with no cheerful stomach, if he sit not at the upper end of the table and be called young master; where he is content to rise hungry, so the observant company weary him with drinking to:— on this condition he gives his obligation for the shot. He loves his lying glass beyond any true friend; and tells his credulous auditors how many gentlewomen have run mad for him, when if a base female servant should court him, I dare wager he proves no Adonis.

This fault is well mended when a man is well minded, — that is, when he esteems of others better than himself. Otherwise a proud man is like the rising earth in mountainous places:— this swells up monk, as he mentee; and the more either earth advanceth itself, perpetually they are the more barren. He lives at a high sail, that the puffy praises of his neighbours may blow him into the enchanted island, vainglory. He shines like a glow-worm in a dark village, but is a crude thing when he comes to the court. If the plethora swells him in the vein of valour, nothing but well-beating can hold him to a man. If ever he goes drunk into the field, and comes off with a victorious parley, he would swell to a son of Anak.

Palsy and Timorous justification. — The former sick were fumidi, these are timidi; they were bold to all evil, these are fearful to all good. This spiritual disease is a cowardly fearfulness and a distrustful suspicion both of actions and men.

The signs of the palsy are manifest; of this not very close and reserved. He conceives what is good to be done, but fancies difficulties and dangers, like to knots in a bulrush, or rubs in a smooth way. He would bowl well at the mark of integrity, if he durst venture it. He hath no journey to go, but either there are bugs, or he imagines them. Had he a pardon for his brother, (being in danger of death,) and a hare should cross him in the way, he would no further, though his brother hanged for it. He owes God some good-will, but he dares not show it. When a poor plaintiff calls him for a witness, he dares not reveal the truth, lest he offend the great adversary. He is a new Nicodemus, and would steal to heaven if nobody might see him. He makes a good motion bad by his fearfulness and doubting; and he calls his trembling by the name of con-science. He is like that collier, that passing through Smithfield, and seeing some on the one side hanging, he demands the cause; answer was made, for denying the supremacy to King Henry:— on the other side some burning, he asks the cause; answered, for denying the real presence in the sacrament:— Some, quoth he, hanged for Papistry, and some burned for Protestancy? Then hoit on, a God’s name:— I’ll be neither. His religion is primarily his prince’s, subordinately his landlord’s. Neither deliberates he more to take a new religion, to rise by it, than he fears to keep his old, lest he fall by it. All his care is for a ne noceat. He is a busy inquirer of all Parliament acts, and quakes as they are read, lest he be found guilty. He is sick, and afraid to die, yet holds the potion in a trembling hand, and quakes to drink his recovery. His thoughts are an ill balance, and will never be equally poised. He is a light vessel, and every great man’s puff is ready to overturn him. Whiles Christ stands on the battlements of heaven, and beckons him thither by his word, his heart answers, I would fain be there, but that some troubles stand in my way. He would ill with Peter walk to him on the pavement of the sea, or thrust out his hand with Moses, to take up a crawling serpent, or hazard the loss of himself to find his Saviour. His mind is ever in suspicion, in suspension, and dares not give a confident determination either way. Resolution and his heart are utter enemies; and all his philosophy is to be a sceptic. Whether is worse, to do an evil action with resolution that it is good, or a good action with dubitation that it is evil, somebody tell me. I am sure neither is well, for an evil deed is evil, whatsoever the agent think; and for the other, ‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ Negatively, this rule is certain and infallible:— ‘It is good to forbear the doing of that which we are not sure is lawful to be done.’ Affirmatively, the work being good, labour thy understanding so to think it.

Immoderate Thirst and Ambition. — There is a disease in the body called immoderate thirst; which is after much drinking, desired and answered, a still sensible dryness. By this I would (I suppose, not unfittingly) express that spiritual disease, ambition, — a proud soul’s thirst, when a draught of honour causeth a drought of honour; and like Tully’s strange soil, much rain of promotion falling from his heaven, the court, makes him still as dry as dust. He is a most rank churl, for he drinks often, and yet would have no man pledge him.

The signs of the disease are best discerned by the patient’s words. The cause of ambition is a strong opinion of honour; how well he could become a high place, or a high place him. He professeth a new quality, called the art of climbing; wherein he teacheth others by pattern, not so much to aspire, as to break their necks.

No stair pleaseth him if there be a higher; and yet, ascended to the top, he complains of lowness. He is not so soon laid in his bed of honour but he dreams of a higher preferment, and would not sit on a seat long enough to make it warm. His advancement gives him a fresh provocation, and he now treads on that with a disdainful foot, which erewhile he would have kissed to obtain. He climbs falling towers, and the hope to scale them swallows all fear of toppling down. He is himself an intelligencer to greatness, yet not without under-officers of the same rank. You shall see him narrow-eyed with watching, affable and open-breasted like Absalom, full of insinuation so long as he is at the stair-foot; but when authority hath once spoken kindly to him, with ‘Friend, sit up higher,’ he looks rougher than Hercules; so big as if the river of his blood would not be banked within his veins. Like a great wind, he blows down all friends that stand in his way to rising. Policy is his post-horse, and he rides all upon the spur, till he come to Nonesuch. His greatest plague is a rival.

He is a child in his gaudy desires, and great titles are his rattles, which still his crying till he see a new toy. He kisses his wits, as a courtier his hand, when any wished fortune salutes him; and it tickles him that he hath stolen to promotion without God’s knowledge. Ambition is the rack whereon he tortureth himself. The court is the sea wherein he desires to fish; but the net of his wit and hope breaks, and there he drowns himself. To cure the immoderate thirst of ambition, let him take from God this prescript:— He that exalteth himself shall be brought low; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ That he who sets himself down in the lower room hears the master of the feast’s invitation, Friend, sit up higher.’ That the first step to heaven’s court is humility:— Matt. 5:3, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ That he who walks on plain ground is in little danger to fall; if he do fall, he riseth with small hurt; but he that climbs high is in more danger of falling, and if he fall, of killing. That the great blasts of powerful envy overthrow oaks and cedars, that oppose their huge bodies, and pass through hollow willows, or over little shrubs, that grow under the wall. That the honours of this world have no satisfactory validity in them. The poor labourer would be a farmer; the farmer, after two or three dear years, aspires to a yeoman; the yeoman’s son must be a gentleman. The gentleman’s ambition flies justice-height. He is out of square with being a squire, and shoots at knighthood. Once knighted, his dignity is nothing, except worth a noble title. This is not enough, the world must count him a count, or he is not satisfied. He is weary of his earldom, if there be a duke in the land. That granted, he thinks it base to be a subject; nothing now contents him but a crown. Crowned, he vilifies his own kingdom for narrow bounds, whiles he hath greater neighbours; he must be Csared to a universal monarch. Let it be granted, is he yet content? No; then the earth is a molehill, too narrow for his mind, and he is angry for lack of elbow-room.

The Putrid Fever, or Hypocrisy. — For the signs of this fever they be not externally discerned. The hypocrite is exceedingly rotten at core, like a Sodom apple, though an ignorant passenger may take him for sound. He looks squint-eyed, aiming at two things at once:— the satisfying his own lusts, and that the world may not be aware of it. He is on Sunday like the Rubric, or Sunday-letter, zealously red; but all the week you may write his deeds in black. He fries in words, freezeth in works; speaks by ells, doth good by inches. He is a rotten tinder, shining in the night:— an ignis fatuus, looking like a fixed star; a ‘painted sepulchre,’ that conceals much rottenness; a crude glow-worm shining in the dark; a stinking dunghill covered over with snow; a fellow of a bad course, and good discourse; a loose-hung mill, that keeps great clacking, but grinds no grist; a lying hen, that cackles when she bath not laid. He is like some tap-house that hath upon the painted walls written, ‘Fear God, be sober, watch and pray,’ &c., when there is nothing but swearing and drunkenness in the house. His tongue is hot as if he had eaten pepper, which works coldly at the heart. He burns in the show of forward profession; but it is a poor fire of zeal, that will not make the pot of charity seethe. He is in company holy and demure, but alone demurs of the matter; so shuts out the devil at the gate, and lets him in at the postern.

His words are precise, his deeds concise; he prays so long in the church, that he may with less suspicion prey on the church; which he doth the more peremptorily, if his power be answerable. If his place will afford it, his grace will without question. He bears an earnest affection to the temple, as a hungry man to his meat, only to devour it. Some are so charitable, that having got the tithe-corn from the church, they reserve from the presented incumbent their petty tithes also; like monstrous thieves, that having stolen the whole piece, ask for the remnants. Nay, it is not enough that they devour our parsonages, but they also devour our persons with their contumelious slanders. Advantage can make his religion play at fast and loose, for he only so long grows full of devotion, as he may grow full by devotion. His arguments are weak or strong, according to his cheer; and he discourses best after dinner. Self-conceit swells him, and popular applause bursts him. He never gives the law good words but when it bath him upon the hip. Like a kind hen, he feeds his chickens fat, starves himself. He forceth formal preciseness, like a porter, to hold the door, whiles devils dance within. He gives God nothing but show, as if he would pay him his reckoning with chalk; which increaseth. the debt. If ever his alms smell of bounty, he gives them in public. He that desires more to be seen of men than of God commend me to his conscience by this token, he is a hypocrite. He is false in his friendship, heartless in his zeal, proud in his humility. He rails against interludes, yet is himself never off the stage; and condemns a mask, when his whole life is nothing else. He sends a beggar from his gate bountifully feasted with Scripture sentences; and (though he likes them not) so much of the statutes as will serve to save his money. But if everyone were of his profession, charity’s hand would no longer hold up poverty’s head. What his tongue spoke, his hands recant; and he weeps when he talks of his youth, not that it was wicked, but that it is not. His tongue is his dissimulation’s lacquery, and runs continually on that errand:— he is the stranger’s saint, his neighbour’s sycophant, his own politician; his whole life being nothing else but a continual scribbling after the set copy of hypocrisy.

Vainglory. — You shall easily know a vain-glorious man. He stands so pertly, that you may know he is not laden with fruit. If you would drink of his wisdom, knock by a sober question at the barrel, and you shall find by the sound his wits are empty. In all companies, like chaff, he will be uppermost; he is some surfeit in nature’s stomach, and cannot be kept down. A goodly cypress tree, fertile only of leaves. He drinks to none beneath the salt; and it is his grammar-rule without exception, not to confer with an inferior in public. His impudence will overrule his ignorance to talk of learned principles, which come from him like a treble part in a bass voice, too big for it. Living in some under-stair office, when he would visit the country, he borrows some gallant’s cast suit of his servant, and therein, player-like, acts that part among his besotted neighbours. When he rides his master’s great horse out of ken, he vaunts of him as his own, and brags how much he cost him. He feeds upon others’ courtesy, others’ meat; and (whether more?) either fats him. At his inn he calls for chickens at spring, and such things as cannot be had; whereat angry, he sups, according to his purse, with a red herring. Far enough from knowledge, he talks of his castle, (which is either in the air, or enchanted,) of his lands, which are some pastures in the fairy-ground, invisible, nowhere. He offers to purchase lordships, but wants money for the earnest. He makes others’ praises as introductions to his own, which must transcend; and calls for wine, that he may make known his rare vessel of deal at home:— not forgetting to tell you, that a Dutch merchant sent it him for some extraordinary desert. He is a wonder everywhere:— among fools for his bravery, among wise men for his folly. He loves a herald for a new coat, and hires him to lie upon his pedigree. All nobility, that is ancient, is of his alliance; and the great man is but of the first head, that doth not call him cousin. In his hall, you shall see an old rusty sword hung up, which he swears killed Glendower in the hands of his grandsire. He fathers upon himself some villainies, because they are in fashion; and so vilifies his credit to advance it. If a new famous courtesan be mentioned, he deeply knows her; whom indeed he never saw. He will be ignorant of nothing, though it be a shame to know it. His barrel hath a continual spigot, but no tunnel; and like an unthrift, he spends more than he gets. His speech of himself is ever historical, histrionically. He is indeed admiration’s creature, and a circumstantial mountebank.

The Busybody moots more questions in an hour than the seven wise men could resolve in seven years. There is a kind of down or curdle on his wit, which is like a gentlewoman’s train, more than needs. He would sing well, but that he is so full of crotchets. His questions are like a plume of feathers, which fools would give anything for, wise men nothing. He hath a greater desire to know where hell is, than to scape it; to know what God did before he made the world, than what he will do with him when it is ended; his neighbours’ estate to a penny and wherein he fails he supplies by intelligence from their flattered servants:— he would serve well for an informer to the subsidy-book. He delays every passenger with inquiry of news; and because the country cannot satiate him, he travels every term to London for it:— whence returning without his full load, himself makes it up by the way. He buys letters from the great city with capons; which he wears out in three days, with perpetual opening them to his companions. If he hears but a word of some state act, he professeth to know it and the intention, as if he had been of the council. He hears a lie in private, and hastes to publish it; so one knave gulls him, he innumerable fools, with the ‘strange fish at Yarmouth,’ or the serpent in Sussex.’ He can keep no secret in, without the hazard of his buttons. He loves no man a moment longer than either he will tell him, or hear of him, news. If the spirit of his tongue be once raised, all the company cannot conjure it down. He teaches his neighbour to work unsent for, and tells him of some dangers without thanks. He comments upon every action, and answers a question ere it be half propounded. Alcibiades having purchased a dog at an unreasonable price, cut off his tail, and let him run about Athens; whiles every man wondered at his intent, he answered that his intent was their wonder, for he did it only to be talked of. The same author reports the like of a gawish traveller that came to Sparta, who standing in the presence of Lacon a long time upon one leg, that he might be observed and admired, cried at the last, ‘0 Lacon, thou canst not stand so long upon one leg.’ ‘True,’ said Lacon; but every goose can.’

Flattery. — The main cause of flattery is a kind of self-love:— for he only commends others to mend himself. The communis terminus, where all his frauds, dissimulations, false phrases and praises, his admirations and superlative titles, meet, is his purse. His tongue serves two masters, his great one’s ear, his own avarice.

He is after the nature of a barber; and first trims the head of his master’s humour, and then sprinkles it with court-water. He scrapes out his diet in courtesies; and cringeth to his glorious object, as a little cur to a mastiff, licking his hand, not with a healing, but poisoning tongue. Riches make many friends:— truly, they are friends to the riches, not to the rich man. A great proud man, because he is admired of a number of hang-byes, thinks he bath many friends. So the ass that carried the goddess thought all the knees bowed to her, when they reverenced her burden. They play like flies in his beams, whiles his wealth warms them. Whilst, like some great oak, he stands high and spreads far in the forest, innumerable beasts shelter themselves under him, feeding like hogs on his acorns; but when the axe of distress begins to tell him, there is not one left to hinder the blow. Like burrs, they stick no longer on his coat than there is a nap on it. These kites would not flock to him, but that he is a fat carcase. Sejanus, whom the Romans worship in the morning as a semi-god, before night they tear a-pieces. Even now stoops, and presently strokes. You may be sure he is but a gallipot, full of honey, that these wasps hover about; and when they have fed themselves at his cost, they give him a sting for his kindness.

The flatterer is young gallants’ schoolmaster, and enters them into book learning. Your cheating tradesman can no more be without such a factor than a usurer without a broker. The fox in the fable, seeing the crow highly perched, with a good morsel in his mouth, flattered him that he sung well, with no scant commendations of his voice; whereof the crow proud, began to make a noise, and let the meat fall:— the foolish bird seeing now himself deceived, soon left singing, and the fox fell to eating. I need not moral it. The instrument, his tongue, is tuned to another’s ear; but, like a common fiddler, he dares not sing an honest song. He lifts up his patron at the tongue’s end, and sets him in a superlative height; like a Pharos, or the eye of the country, when he is indeed the eye-sore. He swears to him that his commending any man is above a justice of peace’s letter, and that the eyes of the parish wait upon him for his grace. He insinuates his praise, most from others’ report; wherein, very rankly, he wrongs three at once; he belies the named commender; the person to whom this commendation is sent; and most of all himself, the messenger. Whilst he supplies a man with the oil of flattery, he wounds his heart; like thunder, which breaks the bone without scratching the skin. He seldom speaks so pompously of his friend, except he be sure of porters to carry it him. He is the proud man’s earwig, and having once gotten in, imposthumes his head.

Conclusion. — Innumerable are the body’s infirmities:— introilus unus, innumeri exitus, there being but one means of coming into the world, infinite of going out; and sickness is death’s liege ambassador. But they are few and scant, if compared to the soul’s, which being a better piece of timber, hath the more tiredness breeding in it; as the fairest flower bath the most cantharides attending on it.

There be three things, say physicians, that grieve the body:— First, the cause of sickness, a contra-natural distemper, which lightly men bring on themselves, though the sediments rest in our sin-corrupted nature. Secondly, sickness itself. Thirdly, the coincidents that either fellow it or follow it. In the soul there be three grievances:— First, original pravity, a natural rivopia — proclivity to evil, contradiction to good. Secondly, actual sin, the main sickness. Thirdly, the concomitant effects, which are punishments corporal and spiritual, temporal and eternal. For all sin makes work, either for Christ or Satan:— for Christ, to expiate by his blood, and the efficacy of that once performed, ever available passion; or for the devil, as God’s executioner to plague. Many remedies are given for many diseases; the sum is this — the best physician is Christ Jesus, the best physic the Scriptures. Ply the one, fly to the other. Let this teach thee, he must cure thee that ‘express image of his Father’s person, and brightness of his glory,’ Heb. 1:3, in whom the graces of God shine without measure. Oft have you seen in one heaven many stars; behold in this sun, as in one star, many heavens; for ‘in him dwelleth all fullness,’ Col. 1:19. Let us fly by our faithful prayers to this physician, and entreat him for that medicine that issued out of his side, ‘water and blood,’ to cure all our spiritual maladies. And when in mercy he hath cured us, let our diet be a conversation led after the canon of his sacred truth; that whatsoever become of this frail vessel, our flesh, floating on the waves of this world, the passenger, our soul, may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Amen.


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1618-1619 The Canons of Dordrecht

The Canons of Dordrecht (1618-1619)

The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands

The First Main Point of Doctrine:

  • Divine Election and Reprobation,
  • The Judgement Concerning Divine Predestination,
  • Which the Synod Declares to Be in Agreement with the Word of God and Accepted Till Now in the Reformed Churches,
  • Set Forth in Several Articles:

Article 1: God’s Right to Condemn All People

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God (Romans 3:19), All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Article 2: The Manifestation of God’s Love

But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel

In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Romans 10:14-15).

Article 4: A Twofold Response to the Gospel

God’s anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Saviour with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God’s anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.

Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith

The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Likewise: It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ (Philippians 1:29).

Article 6: God’s Eternal Decision

The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For all his works are known to God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgement he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act–unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just–of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God’s Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.

Article 7: Election

Election [or choosing] is God’s unchangeable purpose by which he did the following:

Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.

God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.

As Scripture says, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6). And elsewhere, Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:30).

Article 8: A Single Decision of Election

This election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God’s will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith

This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of each of the benefits of salvation. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects. As the apostle says, He chose us (not because we were, but) so that we should be holy and blameless before him in love (Ephesians 1:4).

Article 10: Election Based on God’s Good Pleasure

But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad…, she (Rebecca) was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:11-13). Also, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

Article 11: Election Unchangeable

Just as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing, and almighty, so the election made by him can neither be suspended nor altered, revoked, or annulled; neither can his chosen ones be cast off, nor their number reduced.

Article 12: The Assurance of Election

Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God’s Word– such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

Article 13: The Fruit of This Assurance

In their awareness and assurance of this election God’s children daily find greater cause to humble themselves before God, to adore the fathomless depth of his mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in return to him who first so greatly loved them. This is far from saying that this teaching concerning election, and reflection upon it, make God’s children lax in observing his commandments or carnally self-assured. By God’s just judgement this does usually happen to those who casually take for granted the grace of election or engage in idle and brazen talk about it but are unwilling to walk in the ways of the chosen.

Article 14: Teaching Election Properly

Just as, by God’s wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election has been proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in Old and New Testament times, and has subsequently been committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures, so also today in God’s church, for which it was specifically intended, this teaching must be set forth–with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be done for the glory of God’s most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.

Article 15: Reprobation

Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election– those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgement), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.

And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.

Article 16: Responses to the Teaching of Reprobation

Those who do not yet actively experience within themselves a living faith in Christ or an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ, but who nevertheless use the means by which God has promised to work these things in us–such people ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to count themselves among the reprobate; rather they ought to continue diligently in the use of the means, to desire fervently a time of more abundant grace, and to wait for it in reverence and humility. On the other hand, those who seriously desire to turn to God, to be pleasing to him alone, and to be delivered from the body of death, but are not yet able to make such progress along the way of godliness and faith as they would like–such people ought much less to stand in fear of the teaching concerning reprobation, since our merciful God has promised that he will not snuff out a smouldering wick and that he will not break a bruised reed. However, those who have forgotten God and their Saviour Jesus Christ and have abandoned themselves wholly to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh–such people have every reason to stand in fear of this teaching, as long as they do not seriously turn to God.

Article 17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers

Since we must make judgements about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

Article 18: The Proper Attitude Toward Election and Reprobation

To those who complain about this grace of an undeserved election and about the severity of a just reprobation, we reply with the words of the apostle, Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? (Romans 9:20), and with the words of our Saviour, Have I no right to do what I want with my own? (Matthew 20:15). We, however, with reverent adoration of these secret things, cry out with the apostle: Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways beyond tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Or who has first given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

Rejection of the Errors

by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been Disturbed

Having set forth the orthodox teaching concerning election and reprobation, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I. Who teach that the will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire decision of election to salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decision has been revealed in God’s Word.

For they deceive the simple and plainly contradict Holy Scripture in its testimony that God does not only wish to save those who would believe, but that he has also from eternity chosen certain particular people to whom, rather than to others, he would within time grant faith in Christ and perseverance. As Scripture says, I have revealed your name to those whom you gave me (John 17:6). Likewise, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48), and He chose us before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy… (Ephesians 1:4).

II. Who teach that God’s election to eternal life is of many kinds: one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and the latter in turn either incomplete, revocable, non-peremptory (or conditional), or else complete, irrevocable, and peremptory (or absolute). Likewise, who teach that there is one election to faith and another to salvation, so that there can be an election to justifying faith apart from a peremptory election to salvation.

For this is an invention of the human brain, devised apart from the Scriptures, which distorts the teaching concerning election and breaks up this golden chain of salvation: Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:30).

III. Who teach that God’s good pleasure and purpose, which Scripture mentions in its teaching of election, does not involve God’s choosing certain particular people rather than others, but involves God’s choosing, out of all possible conditions (including the works of the law) or out of the whole order of things, the intrinsically unworthy act of faith, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of salvation; and it involves his graciously wishing to count this as perfect obedience and to look upon it as worthy of the reward of eternal life.

For by this pernicious error the good pleasure of God and the merit of Christ are robbed of their effectiveness and people are drawn away, by unprofitable inquiries, from the truth of undeserved justification and from the simplicity of the Scriptures. It also gives the lie to these words of the apostle: God called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of works, but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9).

IV. Who teach that in election to faith a prerequisite condition is that man should rightly use the light of nature, be upright, unassuming, humble, and disposed to eternal life, as though election depended to some extent on these factors.

For this smacks of Pelagius, and it clearly calls into question the words of the apostle: We lived at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in transgressions, made us alive with Christ, by whose grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with him and seated us with him in heaven in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages we might show the surpassing riches of his grace, according to his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God) not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:3-9).

V. Who teach that the incomplete and non-peremptory election of particular persons to salvation occurred on the basis of a foreseen faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness, which has just begun or continued for some time; but that complete and peremptory election occurred on the basis of a foreseen perseverance to the end in faith, repentance, holiness, and godliness. And that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, on account of which the one who is chosen is more worthy than the one who is not chosen. And therefore that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits or effects of an unchangeable election to glory, but indispensable conditions and causes, which are prerequisite in those who are to be chosen in the complete election, and which are foreseen as achieved in them.

This runs counter to the entire Scripture, which throughout impresses upon our ears and hearts these sayings among others: Election is not by works, but by him who calls (Romans 9:11-12); All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48); He chose us in himself so that we should be holy (Ephesians 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16); If by grace, not by works (Romans 11:6); In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son (1 John 4:10).

VI. Who teach that not every election to salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the chosen can perish and do in fact perish eternally, with no decision of God to prevent it.

By this gross error they make God changeable, destroy the comfort of the godly concerning the steadfastness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scriptures, which teach that the elect cannot be led astray (Matthew 24:24), that Christ does not lose those given to him by the Father (John 6:39), and that those whom God predestined, called, and justified, he also glorifies (Romans 8:30).

VII. Who teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no assurance of one’s unchangeable election to glory, except as conditional upon something changeable and contingent.

For not only is it absurd to speak of an uncertain assurance, but these things also militate against the experience of the saints, who with the apostle rejoice from an awareness of their election and sing the praises of this gift of God; who, as Christ urged, rejoice with his disciples that their names have been written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and finally who hold up against the flaming arrows of the devil’s temptations the awareness of their election, with the question Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Romans 8:33).

VIII. Who teach that it was not on the basis of his just will alone that God decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation or to pass anyone by in the imparting of grace necessary for faith and conversion.

For these words stand fast: He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he hardens whom he wishes (Romans 9:18). And also: To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matthew 13:11). Likewise: I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your pleasure (Matthew 11:25-26).

IX. Who teach that the cause for God’s sending the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely God’s good pleasure, but rather that one people is better and worthier than the other to whom the gospel is not communicated.

For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day (Deuteronomy 10:14-15). And also Christ: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21).

The Second Main Point of Doctrine: Christ’s Death and Human Redemption Through It

Article 1: The Punishment Which God’s Justice Requires

God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. His justice requires (as he has revealed himself in the Word) that the sins we have committed against his infinite majesty be punished with both temporal and eternal punishments, of soul as well as body. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is given to God’s justice.

Article 2: The Satisfaction Made by Christ

Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God’s anger, God in his boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.

Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value

This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is–as was necessary to be our Saviour–not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God’s anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.

Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 6: Unbelief Man’s Responsibility

However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault.

Article 7: Faith God’s Gift

But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ’s death from their sins and from destruction receive this favour solely from God’s grace – which he owes to no one – given to them in Christ from eternity.

Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

Article 9: The Fulfilment of God’s Plan

This plan, arising out of God’s eternal love for his chosen ones, from the beginning of the world to the present time has been powerfully carried out and will also be carried out in the future, the gates of hell seeking vainly to prevail against it. As a result the chosen are gathered into one, all in their own time, and there is always a church of believers founded on Christ’s blood, a church which steadfastly loves, persistently worships, and–here and in all eternity–praises him as her Saviour who laid down his life for her on the cross, as a bridegroom for his bride.

Rejection of the Errors

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I. Who teach that God the Father appointed his Son to death on the cross without a fixed and definite plan to save anyone by name, so that the necessity, usefulness, and worth of what Christ’s death obtained could have stood intact and altogether perfect, complete and whole, even if the redemption that was obtained had never in actual fact been applied to any individual.

For this assertion is an insult to the wisdom of God the Father and to the merit of Jesus Christ, and it is contrary to Scripture. For the Saviour speaks as follows: I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them (John 10:15, 27). And Isaiah the prophet says concerning the Saviour: When he shall make himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days, and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10). Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we believe concerning the Church.

II. Who teach that the purpose of Christ’s death was not to establish in actual fact a new covenant of grace by his blood, but only to acquire for the Father the mere right to enter once more into a covenant with men, whether of grace or of works.

For this conflicts with Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the guarantee and mediator of a better – that is, a new-covenant (Hebrews 7:22; 9:15), and that a will is in force only when someone has died (Hebrews 9:17).

III. Who teach that Christ, by the satisfaction which he gave, did not certainly merit for anyone salvation itself and the faith by which this satisfaction of Christ is effectively applied to salvation, but only acquired for the Father the authority or plenary will to relate in a new way with men and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of these conditions depends on the free choice of man; consequently, that it was possible that either all or none would fulfil them.

For they have too low an opinion of the death of Christ, do not at all acknowledge the foremost fruit or benefit which it brings forth, and summon back from hell the Pelagian error.

IV. Who teach that what is involved in the new covenant of grace which God the Father made with men through the intervening of Christ’s death is not that we are justified before God and saved through faith, insofar as it accepts Christ’s merit, but rather that God, having withdrawn his demand for perfect obedience to the law, counts faith itself, and the imperfect obedience of faith, as perfect obedience to the law, and graciously looks upon this as worthy of the reward of eternal life.

For they contradict Scripture: They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ, whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Romans 3:24-25). And along with the ungodly Socinus, they introduce a new and foreign justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.

V. Who teach that all people have been received into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one on account of original sin is liable to condemnation, or is to be condemned, but that all are free from the guilt of this sin.

For this opinion conflicts with Scripture which asserts that we are by nature children of wrath.

VI. Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order to instil in the unwary and inexperienced the opinion that God, as far as he is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are gained by Christ’s death; but that the distinction by which some rather than others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace to themselves.

For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.

VII. Who teach that Christ neither could die, nor had to die, nor did die for those whom God so dearly loved and chose to eternal life, since such people do not need the death of Christ.

For they contradict the apostle, who says: Christ loved me and gave himself up for me (Galatians 2:20), and likewise: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died, that is, for them (Romans 8:33-34). They also contradict the Saviour, who asserts: I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:15), and My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).

The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine:

Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs

Article 1: The Effect of the Fall on Human Nature

Man was originally created in the image of God and was furnished in his mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place he brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgement in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and finally impurity in all his emotions.

Article 2: The Spread of Corruption

Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God’s just judgement, from Adam to all his descendants– except for Christ alone–not by way of imitation (as in former times the Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of his perverted nature.

Article 3: Total Inability

Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.

Article 4: The Inadequacy of the Light of Nature

There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrates a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behaviour. But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him–so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness. In doing so he renders himself without excuse before God.

Article 5: The Inadequacy of the Law

In this respect, what is true of the light of nature is true also of the Ten Commandments given by God through Moses specifically to the Jews. For man cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does expose the magnitude of his sin and increasingly convict him of his guilt, yet it does not offer a remedy or enable him to escape from his misery, and, indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.

Article 6: The Saving Power of the Gospel

What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.

Article 7: God’s Freedom in Revealing the Gospel

In the Old Testament, God revealed this secret of his will to a small number; in the New Testament (now without any distinction between peoples) he discloses it to a large number. The reason for this difference must not be ascribed to the greater worth of one nation over another, or to a better use of the light of nature, but to the free good pleasure and undeserved love of God. Therefore, those who receive so much grace, beyond and in spite of all they deserve, ought to acknowledge it with humble and thankful hearts; on the other hand, with the apostle they ought to adore (but certainly not inquisitively search into) the severity and justice of God’s judgements on the others, who do not receive this grace.

Article 8: The Serious Call of the Gospel

Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called seriously. For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.

Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the Gospel

The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called. Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life’s cares and with the pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Saviour teaches in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).

Article 10: Conversion as the Work of God

The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvellous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.

Article 11: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Conversion

Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

Article 12: Regeneration a Supernatural Work

And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man’s power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvellous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvellous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Article 13: The Incomprehensible Way of Regeneration

In this life believers cannot fully understand the way this work occurs; meanwhile, they rest content with knowing and experiencing that by this grace of God they do believe with the heart and love their Saviour.

Article 14: The Way God Gives Faith

In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for man to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on man, breathed and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent–the act of believing–from man’s choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that he who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people produces in man both the will to believe and the belief itself.

Article 15: Responses to God’s Grace

God does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to one who has nothing to give that can be paid back? Indeed, what could God owe to one who has nothing of his own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore the person who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual things and is satisfied with himself in his condition, or else in self-assurance foolishly boasts about having something which he lacks. Furthermore, following the example of the apostles, we are to think and to speak in the most favourable way about those who outwardly profess their faith and better their lives, for the inner chambers of the heart are unknown to us. But for others who have not yet been called, we are to pray to the God who calls things that do not exist as though they did. In no way, however, are we to pride ourselves as better than they, as though we had distinguished ourselves from them.

Article 16: Regeneration’s Effect

However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and–in a manner at once pleasing and powerful–bends it back. As a result, a ready and sincere obedience of the Spirit now begins to prevail where before the rebellion and resistance of the flesh were completely dominant. It is in this that the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvellous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, man would have no hope of getting up from his fall by his free choice, by which he plunged himself into ruin when still standing upright.

Article 17: God’s Use of Means in Regeneration

Just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means, by which God, according to his infinite wisdom and goodness, has wished to exercise his power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work of God by which he regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul. For this reason, the apostles and the teachers who followed them taught the people in a godly manner about this grace of God, to give him the glory and to humble all pride, and yet did not neglect meanwhile to keep the people, by means of the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the administration of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. So even today it is out of the question that the teachers or those taught in the church should presume to test God by separating what he in his good pleasure has wished to be closely joined together. For grace is bestowed through admonitions, and the more readily we perform our duty, the more lustrous the benefit of God working in us usually is and the better his work advances. To him alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever. Amen.

Rejection of the Errors

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I. Who teach that, properly speaking, it cannot be said that original sin in itself is enough to condemn the whole human race or to warrant temporal and eternal punishments.

For they contradict the apostle when he says: Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death passed on to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12); also: The guilt followed one sin and brought condemnation (Romans 5:16); likewise: The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

II. Who teach that the spiritual gifts or the good dispositions and virtues such as goodness, holiness, and righteousness could not have resided in man’s will when he was first created, and therefore could not have been separated from the will at the fall.

For this conflicts with the apostle’s description of the image of God in Ephesians 4:24, where he portrays the image in terms of righteousness and holiness, which definitely reside in the will.

III. Who teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been separated from man’s will, since the will in itself has never been corrupted but only hindered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the emotions, and since the will is able to exercise its innate free capacity once these hindrances are removed, which is to say, it is able of itself to will or choose whatever good is set before it–or else not to will or choose it.

This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: The heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts (Ephesians 2:3).

IV. Who teach that unregenerate man is not strictly or totally dead in his sins or deprived of all capacity for spiritual good but is able to hunger and thirst for righteousness or life and to offer the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit which is pleasing to God.

For these views are opposed to the plain testimonies of Scripture: You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5); The imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5; 8:21). Besides, to hunger and thirst for deliverance from misery and for life, and to offer God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is characteristic only of the regenerate and of those called blessed (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:6).

V. Who teach that corrupt and natural man can make such good use of common grace (by which they mean the light of nature) or of the gifts remaining after the fall that he is able thereby gradually to obtain a greater grace– evangelical or saving grace–as well as salvation itself; and that in this way God, for his part, shows himself ready to reveal Christ to all people, since he provides to all, to a sufficient extent and in an effective manner, the means necessary for the revealing of Christ, for faith, and for repentance.

For Scripture, not to mention the experience of all ages, testifies that this is false: He makes known his words to Jacob, his statutes and his laws to Israel; he has done this for no other nation, and they do not know his laws (Psalm 147:19-20); In the past God let all nations go their own way (Acts 14:16); They (Paul and his companions) were kept by the Holy Spirit from speaking God’s word in Asia; and When they had come to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow them to (Acts 16:6-7).

VI. Who teach that in the true conversion of man new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into his will by God, and indeed that the faith [or believing] by which we first come to conversion and from which we receive the name “believers” is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be called a gift except in respect to the power of attaining faith.

For these views contradict the Holy Scriptures, which testify that God does infuse or pour into our hearts the new qualities of faith, obedience, and the experiencing of his love: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33); I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring (Isaiah 44:3); The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). They also conflict with the continuous practice of the Church, which prays with the prophet: Convert me, Lord, and I shall be converted (Jeremiah 31:18).

VII. Who teach that the grace by which we are converted to God is nothing but a gentle persuasion, or (as others explain it) that the way of God’s acting in man’s conversion that is most noble and suited to human nature is that which happens by persuasion, and that nothing prevents this grace of moral suasion even by itself from making natural men spiritual; indeed, that God does not produce the assent of the will except in this manner of moral suasion, and that the effectiveness of God’s work by which it surpasses the work of Satan consists in the fact that God promises eternal benefits while Satan promises temporal ones.

For this teaching is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole of Scripture, which recognizes besides this persuasion also another, far more effective and divine way in which the Holy Spirit acts in man’s conversion. As Ezekiel 36:26 puts it: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh….

VIII. Who teach that God in regenerating man does not bring to bear that power of his omnipotence whereby he may powerfully and unfailingly bend man’s will to faith and conversion, but that even when God has accomplished all the works of grace which he uses for man’s conversion, man nevertheless can, and in actual fact often does, so resist God and the Spirit in their intent and will to regenerate him, that man completely thwarts his own rebirth; and, indeed, that it remains in his own power whether or not to be reborn.

For this does away with all effective functioning of God’s grace in our conversion and subjects the activity of Almighty God to the will of man; it is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe by virtue of the effective working of God’s mighty strength (Ephesians 1:19), and that God fulfils the undeserved good will of his kindness and the work of faith in us with power (2 Thessalonians 1:11), and likewise that his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

IX. Who teach that grace and free choice are concurrent partial causes which cooperate to initiate conversion, and that grace does not precede–in the order of causality–the effective influence of the will; that is to say, that God does not effectively help man’s will to come to conversion before man’s will itself motivates and determines itself.

For the early church already condemned this doctrine long ago in the Pelagians, on the basis of the words of the apostle: It does not depend on man’s willing or running but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:16); also: Who makes you different from anyone else? and What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Corinthians 4:7); likewise: It is God who works in you to will and act according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine: The Perseverance of the Saints

Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin

Those people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also sets free from the reign and slavery of sin, though in this life not entirely from the flesh and from the body of sin.

Article 2: The Believer’s Reaction to Sins of Weakness

Hence daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best works of God’s people, giving them continual cause to humble themselves before God, to flee for refuge to Christ crucified, to put the flesh to death more and more by the Spirit of supplication and by holy exercises of godliness, and to strain toward the goal of perfection, until they are freed from this body of death and reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.

Article 3: God’s Preservation of the Converted

Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.

Article 4: The Danger of True Believers’ Falling into Serious Sins

Although that power of God strengthening and preserving true believers in grace is more than a match for the flesh, yet those converted are not always so activated and motivated by God that in certain specific actions they cannot by their own fault depart from the leading of grace, be led astray by the desires of the flesh, and give in to them. For this reason they must constantly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptations. When they fail to do this, not only can they be carried away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into sins, even serious and outrageous ones, but also by God’s just permission they sometimes are so carried away–witness the sad cases, described in Scripture, of David, Peter, and other saints falling into sins.

Article 5: The Effects of Such Serious Sins

By such monstrous sins, however, they greatly offend God, deserve the sentence of death, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith, severely wound the conscience, and sometimes lose the awareness of grace for a time–until, after they have returned to the way by genuine repentance, God’s fatherly face again shines upon them.

Article 6: God’s Saving Intervention

For God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election does not take his Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does he let them fall down so far that they forfeit the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin which leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves, entirely forsaken by him, into eternal ruin.

Article 7: Renewal to Repentance

For, in the first place, God preserves in those saints when they fall his imperishable seed from which they have been born again, lest it perish or be dislodged. Secondly, by his Word and Spirit he certainly and effectively renews them to repentance so that they have a heartfelt and godly sorrow for the sins they have committed; seek and obtain, through faith and with a contrite heart, forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator; experience again the grace of a reconciled God; through faith adore his mercies; and from then on more eagerly work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

Article 8: The Certainty of This Preservation

So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God’s undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.

Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation

Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Article 10: The Ground of This Assurance

Accordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children and heirs (Romans 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if God’s chosen ones in this world did not have this well-founded comfort that the victory will be theirs and this reliable guarantee of eternal glory, they would be of all people most miserable.

Article 11: Doubts Concerning This Assurance

Meanwhile, Scripture testifies that believers have to contend in this life with various doubts of the flesh and that under severe temptation they do not always experience this full assurance of faith and certainty of perseverance. But God, the Father of all comfort, does not let them be tempted beyond what they can bear, but with the temptation he also provides a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit revives in them the assurance of their perseverance.

Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to Godliness

This assurance of perseverance, however, so far from making true believers proud and carnally self-assured, is rather the true root of humility, of childlike respect, of genuine godliness, of endurance in every conflict, of fervent prayers, of steadfastness in cross-bearing and in confessing the truth, and of well-founded joy in God. Reflecting on this benefit provides an incentive to a serious and continual practice of thanksgiving and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.

Article 13: Assurance No Inducement to Carelessness

Neither does the renewed confidence of perseverance produce immorality or lack of concern for godliness in those put back on their feet after a fall, but it produces a much greater concern to observe carefully the ways of the Lord which he prepared in advance. They observe these ways in order that by walking in them they may maintain the assurance of their perseverance, lest, by their abuse of his fatherly goodness, the face of the gracious God (for the godly, looking upon his face is sweeter than life, but its withdrawal is more bitter than death) turn away from them again, with the result that they fall into greater anguish of spirit.

Article 14: God’s Use of Means in Perseverance

And, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and also by the use of the sacraments.

Article 15: Contrasting Reactions to the Teaching of Perseverance

This teaching about the perseverance of true believers and saints, and about their assurance of it–a teaching which God has very richly revealed in his Word for the glory of his name and for the comfort of the godly and which he impresses on the hearts of believers–is something which the flesh does not understand, Satan hates, the world ridicules, the ignorant and the hypocrites abuse, and the spirits of error attack. The bride of Christ, on the other hand, has always loved this teaching very tenderly and defended it steadfastly as a priceless treasure; and God, against whom no plan can avail and no strength can prevail, will ensure that she will continue to do this. To this God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory forever. Amen.

Rejection of the Errors

Concerning the Teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints

Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

I. Who teach that the perseverance of true believers is not an effect of election or a gift of God produced by Christ’s death, but a condition of the new covenant which man, before what they call his “peremptory” election and justification, must fulfil by his free will.

For Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows from election and is granted to the chosen by virtue of Christ’s death, resurrection, and intercession: The chosen obtained it; the others were hardened (Romans 11:7); likewise, He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not, along with him, grant us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised–who also sits at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:32-35).

II. Who teach that God does provide the believer with sufficient strength to persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in him if he performs his duty, but that even with all those things in place which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God is pleased to use to preserve faith, it still always depends on the choice of man’s will whether or not he perseveres.

For this view is obviously Pelagian; and though it intends to make men free it makes them sacrilegious. It is against the enduring consensus of evangelical teaching which takes from man all cause for boasting and ascribes the praise for this benefit only to God’s grace. It is also against the testimony of the apostle: It is God who keeps us strong to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8).

III. Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again not only can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the end, but also in actual fact do often forfeit them and are lost forever.

For this opinion nullifies the very grace of justification and regeneration as well as the continual preservation by Christ, contrary to the plain words of the apostle Paul: If Christ died for us while we were still sinners, we will therefore much more be saved from God’s wrath through him, since we have now been justified by his blood (Romans 5:8-9); and contrary to the apostle John: No one who is born of God is intent on sin, because God’s seed remains in him, nor can he sin, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9); also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: I give eternal life to my sheep, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).

IV. Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again can commit the sin that leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit).

For the same apostle John, after making mention of those who commit the sin that leads to death and forbidding prayer for them (1 John 5:16-17), immediately adds: We know that anyone born of God does not commit sin (that is, that kind of sin), but the one who was born of God keeps himself safe, and the evil one does not touch him (1 John 5:18).

V. Who teach that apart from a special revelation no one can have the assurance of future perseverance in this life.

For by this teaching the well-founded consolation of true believers in this life is taken away and the doubting of the Romanists is reintroduced into the church. Holy Scripture, however, in many places derives the assurance not from a special and extraordinary revelation but from the marks peculiar to God’s children and from God’s completely reliable promises. So especially the apostle Paul: Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39); and John: They who obey his commands remain in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he remains in us: by the Spirit he gave us (1John 3:24).

VI. Who teach that the teaching of the assurance of perseverance and of salvation is by its very nature and character an opiate of the flesh and is harmful to godliness, good morals, prayer, and other holy exercises, but that, on the contrary, to have doubt about this is praiseworthy.

For these people show that they do not know the effective operation of God’s grace and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they contradict the apostle John, who asserts the opposite in plain words: Dear friends, now we are children of God, but what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he is made known, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3). Moreover, they are refuted by the examples of the saints in both the Old and the New Testament, who though assured of their perseverance and salvation yet were constant in prayer and other exercises of godliness.

VII. Who teach that the faith of those who believe only temporarily does not differ from justifying and saving faith except in duration alone.

For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.

VIII. Who teach that it is not absurd that a person, after losing his former regeneration, should once again, indeed quite often, be reborn.

For by this teaching they deny the imperishable nature of God’s seed by which we are born again, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: Born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Peter 1:23).

IX. Who teach that Christ nowhere prayed for an unfailing perseverance of believers in faith.

For they contradict Christ himself when he says: I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32); and John the gospel writer when he testifies in John 17 that it was not only for the apostles, but also for all those who were to believe by their message that Christ prayed: Holy Father, preserve them in your name (John 17:11); and My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you preserve them from the evil one (John 17:15).

Conclusion: Rejection of False Accusations

And so this is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the orthodox teaching on the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well as the rejection of the errors by which the Dutch churches have for some time been disturbed. This explanation and rejection the Synod declares to be derived from God’s Word and in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears that those of whom one could hardly expect it have shown no truth, equity, and charity at all in wishing to make the public believe:

–that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold of Satan where he lies in wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;

–that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manichaeism, Libertinism, and Mohammedanism;

–that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the chosen, no matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works of the saints;

–that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in their innocence from their mothers’ breasts and cruelly cast into hell so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.

Therefore this Synod of Dort in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ to form their judgement about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities–statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning–but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.

Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgement of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.

Finally, this Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner, in the academic institutions as well as in the churches; to do so, both in their speaking and writing, with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and, finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures and which could give impertinent sophists a just occasion to scoff at the teaching of the Reformed churches or even to bring false accusations against it.

May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.

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