西敏斯特信仰告白 The Westminster Confession of Faith
西敏斯特小要理問答 The Westminster Shorter Catechism
使徒信經 Apostles' Creed
尼西亞信經 Nicene Creed
迦克頓信經 Chalcedonian Definition
西敏斯特小要理問答 The Westminster Shorter Catechism
使徒信經 Apostles' Creed
尼西亞信經 Nicene Creed
迦克頓信經 Chalcedonian Definition
the Canons of Dort
1618 年至 1619 年由在荷蘭多特召集的改革宗教會總會通過
《多特信條》原名為《多特總會對於在尼德蘭教義爭議中五大要義的決定》（The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands），又名《反抗辯派五大要義》（the Five Articles Against the Remonstrants），內容就是 1618 年至 1619 年多特總會所 採納的教義。儘管多特總會是荷蘭改革宗教會召開的一次全國性會議，但這個會議本身確實具有一 定的國際性，既有來自荷蘭各地的六十二位代表，也有來自其他八個國家的二十七位外國代表。
之所以召開多特總會，目的就是要解決當時荷蘭教會中由於阿米念派的出現而引發的嚴重 的教義爭議。阿米念（Jacob Arminius, 1560-1609）是當時萊登大學的神學教授，在很多重要教義上 偏離了改革宗信仰。在他死後，四十三位和他意見相同的牧師起草了一份《1610 年抗辯書》（the Remonstrance of 1610）闡明了他們所堅持的五大教義要點，並且遞交給荷蘭執政官。在這份文件和 以後的著述中，阿米念派，也就是“抗辯派”，教導說：1）上帝的揀選是基於上帝的預知；2）基 督的救贖之功是為普世所有人預備的；3）人的自由意志只是部分性地受到了罪的敗壞；4）人能夠 抵擋上帝拯救性的恩典之功；5）已經得救的人仍然有可能從蒙恩的境地墮落。他們希望修正改革 宗教會的教義標準，並且讓政府保護他們這些少數派的立場。當時阿米念派和加爾文宗的爭議非常 激烈，甚至使得整個荷蘭走向內戰的邊緣。最後，1617 年，荷蘭執政官以四比三的投票比率決定 召集一個全國性的總會，專門對付阿米念派的問題。
多特總會從 1618 年十一月到 1619 年五月在長達七個月的時間內先後召開了 154 輪正式的 會議。抗辯派有十三位神學家出席會議，為首的就是伊皮克普斯（Simon Episcopius）。他們用各 種方式方法來拖延總會的工作，在各個代表團之間進行瓦解分化，但最終他們的各樣手段都沒有得 逞。總會在博格曼（Johannes Bogerman）的帶領下，把抗辯派人士驅逐出去。然後總會通過了《多 特信條》，徹底駁斥了《1610 年抗辯書》，並根據聖經闡明了改革宗信仰在這些爭議性問題上的 立場，這就是現在眾人所說的“加爾文主義五大要義”：1）上帝無條件的揀選；2）基督救贖的特 定性；3）罪人在整體上的敗壞；4）上帝不可抵擋的恩典之功；5）聖徒的持守。儘管這五大要點 並沒有概括加爾文主義的全部內容，而是加爾文主義針對抗辯派五大錯謬所做出的答复，但這五大 要義在改革宗神學整個體系中確實處於核心地位，尤其是在改革宗救恩論中更是無比重要。改革宗 神學的首要原則就是上帝的絕對主權，而這五大要義乃是從這一首要原則發出的，因為非常重要。這五大要義也許用以下的表述更加清楚：1）揀选和信心乃是上帝基於祂自己至高無上的旨意而賜 下的恩賜；2）基督的受死足以補償全世界所有人的罪，但其救贖性功效唯獨成全在上帝的選民身 上；3）所有人都從整體上受到罪的敗壞和污染，所以他們在自身的救贖上不能發揮任何的效力；4） 上帝按照祂自己主權的恩典，不可抵擋地呼召祂的選民，並使他們重生，得享新生命；5）那些真 正得救的人，也繼續得蒙上帝的恩典的保守，即使他們在使自己的蒙召和揀選堅定不移的過程中為 許多軟弱所困，他們仍然能夠堅韌到底。一言以蔽之，我們可以說《多特信條》的主題就是人得救 完全是因為上帝主權的恩典：1）得蒙揀選是來自上帝主權的恩典；2）得蒙拯救是因為基督為他們 贏得了上帝主權的恩典；3）整體敗壞的罪人需要上帝主權的恩典；4）聖靈把上帝主權的恩典落實 在他們的身上；5）他們因著上帝主權的恩典而得蒙保守。
雖然《多特信條》在形式上分為四個部分，但我們仍然說信條闡明了五大教義要點，因為 這一信條的框架本身就是針對《1610 年抗辯書》所寫的。第三和第四部分之所以合在一起，是有 其深意的，因為參加多特會議的前輩們認為這兩個部分是不可分割的，因此就把這兩部分合稱為 “第三項與第四項教義”。
《多特信條》有著自己的特色，這一特色就是法理性，因為製定這一信條的目的就是針對 當時阿米念派所引發的教義爭議作出司法性的裁決。在原本的序言中稱這些要點為“判決，在相關 的五大教義要點上，把合乎聖經的正確主張闡明出來，同時也駁斥了不合乎聖經的錯誤主張。”當 然，信條本身也有其局限性，就是沒有覆蓋所有基本教義，而是針對當時爭議的五大要點作出了澄 清。每項教義都分為兩個方面，首先是從正面闡明改革宗神學的主張，其次是從反面駁斥相對應的 阿米念派錯謬。合在一起，《多特信條》一共有五十九條闡明正確主張，三十四條駁斥謬誤。
《多特信條》在其所闡明的各項教義上既合乎聖經，也保持平衡。在教會歷史上，這一信 條是第一次由教會會議闡明了當時各地改革宗教會在救恩論方面共同的立場。當時出席會議的荷 蘭代表和外國代表都毫無例外地簽署了這一信條，其中既有持守墮落前預定論者，也有主張墮落後 預定論者。信條完成之後，大會特地舉行了一次感恩性質的聚會，感謝上帝在改革宗教會中保守了 主權的恩典這一寶貴的真道。
《多特信條》最早的中文譯本是香港基督教文藝出版社 1957 年《歷代基督教信條》中的譯 本，然後是趙中輝牧師在 1993 年《教會工人培訓手冊》中的譯本，2008 年香港環球聖經公會有限 公司在《研讀本聖經--新譯本》中的譯本（ 該書把此信條譯為《多特法典》）。此處譯本在參考以 上中文譯本的基礎上，直接參考 1965 年俄德曼斯出版社的英文譯本，這一譯本長期為美國改革宗 教會和美國尼德蘭改革宗教會所採用（The Psalter, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965)，另外也參考了馬 丁博士所ᨀ供的最新英文譯本。聖經經文則取自中文和合本聖經。
所有人都在亞當裡犯了罪，處於咒詛之下，當受永死。因此，即使上帝任憑他們全 都滅亡，根據罪而將他們定罪，也毫無不義之處，正如使徒保羅所言：“好塞住各 人的口，叫普世的人都伏在上帝審判之下”（羅 3：19）；“因為世人都犯了罪， 虧缺了上帝的榮耀”（羅 3：23）；“因為罪的工價就是死”（羅 6：23）。
但是，上帝卻差派他的獨生愛子進入這個世界，叫一切信祂的，不至滅亡，反得永 生，上帝的大愛就在此顯明了。 “上帝差祂獨生子到世間來，使我們藉著祂得生， 上帝愛我們的心，在此就顯明了”（約壹 4：9）；“上帝愛世人，甚至將祂的獨 生子賜給他們，叫一切信祂的，不至滅亡，反得永生”（約 3：16）。
為了使人相信，出於祂的恩慈，上帝就在祂自己所悅納的時間，差派祂的使者，將 這大喜的信息傳遞給祂所定意的人。正是藉著這些使者的侍奉，人蒙召悔改，信靠 被盯死在十字架上的基督。 “然而人未曾信祂，怎能求祂呢？未曾聽見祂，怎能信 祂呢？沒有傳道的，怎能聽見呢？ 若沒有奉差遣，怎能傳道呢？”（羅 10：14- 15）。
上帝的震怒停留在那些一直不相信這一福音的人身上。但是，那些藉著真實的活潑 的信心接受福音，接納耶穌為獨一的救主的人，就得蒙祂的拯救，脫離上帝的震怒 和毀滅，得享永生的恩賜。
這種不信以及其他各種罪的原因或罪責絕不在於上帝，而是在於人自身；相反，對 耶穌基督的信心以及藉著祂而得到的救恩則是來自上帝白白的恩典，正如經上所記： “你們得救是本乎恩，也因著信，這並不是出於自己，乃是上帝所賜的”（弗 2： 8）；“你們蒙恩，……得以信服基督”（腓 1：29），等等。
有些人從上帝領受了信心的恩賜，其他人則沒有領受，這是出於上帝永世的預旨， 因為“上帝從創世之處就知道祂一切的作為”（徒 15：18；參英文欽定本重譯）。 “這原是那位隨己意行做萬事的，照著祂旨意所預定的”（弗 1：11）。根據這種 預旨，不管選民的心如何頑固，上帝都用祂的恩典予以軟化，引導他們相信，同時 上帝任憑那些未蒙揀選的人因著他們自身的邪惡和剛硬而遭受祂公義的審判。人與 人同樣陷入毀滅之中，最終卻受到如此的分別對待，此事特別顯明了上帝的作為不 可測度，滿有憐憫，同時又極其公正。這就是聖經中所啟示的揀選與棄絕的預旨。悖逆之人用不純潔、不堅固的心思對這一預旨枉加測度，就自取沉淪，而聖潔、敬 虔之人則從中得到不可言喻的安慰。
揀選是上帝不變的旨意，在創世之前就已立定，祂出於白白的恩典，按照祂自己至 高無上的意誌所喜悅的，從已經通過自身的錯謬而從原初正直狀態墮落到罪惡和毀 滅狀態的全人類中，選擇了特定數目的人，使他們在基督裡得救贖。上帝從永世中 指定基督為選民獨一的中保和元首，是救恩的獨一的根基。這些選民，在本性上並不比其他人更美善，也不比其他人更配得，而是和其他人一 樣出於同樣的愁苦之中。上帝預定把他們賜給基督，使他們藉著基督得蒙拯救。上 帝也預定藉著祂的聖言和聖靈有效地呼召並吸引他們與祂聯合，賜給他們真正的信 心、稱義和成聖。上帝也預定用祂自己的大能保守他們與祂的兒子的相交，並最終 使他們得榮耀，目的就在於顯明祂的慈愛，好使祂榮耀的恩典得著稱讚，正如經上 所記：“就如上帝從創立世界以前，在基督裡揀選了我們，使我們在祂面前成為聖 潔，無有瑕疵。又因愛我們，就按著自己意旨所喜悅的，預定我們藉著耶穌基督得 兒子的名分，使祂榮耀的恩典得著稱讚。這恩典是祂在愛子裡所賜給我們的”（弗 1：4-6）；“預先所定下的人又召他們來。所召來的人，又稱他們為義。所稱為義 的人，又叫他們得榮耀”（羅 8：30）。
對於揀選而言，不存在各不相同的預旨。不管是在舊約之下，還是在新約之下，關 於那些必蒙救贖的人，只有一個同樣的預旨。因為聖經已經宣告，上帝在永世之中 據以揀選我們的美意、心意、上帝的旨意的計劃只有一個。祂揀選我們，使我們不 僅蒙恩，也要得享榮耀；祂為我們預定了救恩，也為我們設定了得享救恩當行的道 路。
這一揀選並不是基於上帝預見到人會具有的信心，也不是基於信心的順服、聖潔或 人身上其他任何美好的資質、傾向，不是以這些為所依據的前ᨀ、原因或條件。相 反，上帝揀選人，從而使人有信心、信心的順服、聖潔等等。因此，上帝的揀選是 各樣救贖恩惠的源泉，由此而生髮信心、聖潔和其他各樣救贖的恩賜，最終包括永 生本身，這些都是由揀選所生髮的果效，正如使徒保羅所眼：“上帝從創立世界以 前，在基督裡揀選了我們，使我們在他面前成為聖潔，無有瑕疵”（弗 1：4）。
上帝的美意乃是這種恩惠的揀選的唯一原因。上帝的這種揀選並不是根據人可能具 有的各種品質和行為，從中選出一些為得救的條件，而是在同樣一群罪人之中，根 據祂自己所喜悅的，收納特定的一些人為一特別的人群，唯獨歸屬於祂，正如經上 所記：“雙子還沒有生下來，善惡還沒有作出來，只因要顯明上帝揀選人的旨意， 不在乎人的行為，乃在乎召人的主。上帝就對利百加說：將來大的要服事小的。 正如經上所記：雅各是我所愛的，以掃是我所惡的”（羅 9：11-13）；“凡預定 得永生的人都信了”（徒 13：48）。
既然上帝自己最有智慧，永不改變，全知全能，所以祂所做出的揀選既不會中斷， 也不會改變；既不會收回，也不會廢除。上帝所揀選的人既不會被拋棄，他們的數 目也不會減少。
選民女在適當的時間對於他們永恆的不變的揀選獲得確信，儘管程度各不相同。這 種確信的獲得併不是通過窺探上帝的隱蔽和深㯿之事，而是通過以屬靈的喜樂和聖 潔的愉悅之心觀察他們自己身上有聖經所指明的無謬的蒙選所生的果子，比如對基 督真實的信心、兒子般的敬畏、依著上帝的意思為罪憂傷、飢渴慕義等。
這種得蒙揀選的感覺和確信使上帝的兒女更加天天謙卑在祂的面前，更加讚美上帝 的慈愛的深厚，更加潔淨自己，更加以感恩之心熱愛上帝，是祂首先 向他們顯明了 這樣的大愛。思考這一揀選的教義絕不會使人忽略遵行上帝的誡命，也不會是人沉 浸在屬肉體的安全感中。根據上帝公正的判斷，這兩種傾向通常是那些拒絕走選民 當走的道路，卻對揀選的恩典枉加測度、隨意輕看的人才具有的。
既然上帝按照祂自己至為智慧的計劃進行揀選的教義是眾先知、基督自己和眾使徒 所宣告的，並且在舊新約聖經中都有清楚的啟示，所以，在上帝的教會中應當適時 適地加以宣講，因為這一教義本來就是特別為上帝的教會預備的。但在宣講這一教 義的時候，當存敬畏、審慎、虔誠之心，目的是為了榮耀上帝的至聖之名，振奮、 安慰上帝的子民，但不要試圖窺探至高者隱秘的道路。 “因為上帝的旨意，我並沒 有一樣避諱不傳給你們”（徒 20：27）；“深哉，上帝豐富的智慧和知識。祂的 判斷，何其難測！祂的踪跡，何其難尋！ 誰知道主的心？誰作過他的謀士呢？ 誰 是先給了祂，使祂後來償還呢？因為萬有都是本於祂，倚靠祂，歸於祂。願榮耀歸 給祂，直到永遠。阿們！”（羅 11：33-34）；“我憑著所賜我的恩，對你們各人 說，不要看自己過於所當看的。要照著上帝所分給各人信心的大小，看得合乎中道” （羅 12：3）；“照樣，上帝願意為那承受應許的人，格外顯明祂的旨意是不更改 的，就起誓為證。藉這兩件不更改的事，上帝決不能說謊，好叫我們這逃往避難所， 持定擺在我們前頭指望的人，可以大得勉勵”（萊 6：17-18）。
聖經向我們明確見證的是揀選出於上帝永世的白白的恩典。不僅如此，這一教義更 是特別地向我們說明，並不是所有的人都蒙上帝的揀選，只有一些人蒙揀選，而其 他人則在上帝的預旨中被棄置不顧。上帝出於祂那至高無上、極其公正、無可指摘、 永不改變的美意，預定這些人停留在他們自願陷入的愁苦之中，不把救贖性的信心 和歸正性的恩典賜給他們；反而在祂公義的審判中任憑他們自行其是， 最終為顯明祂的公義，將他們定罪，並使他們永遠滅亡，不僅因為他們的不信，也 因為他們其他一切罪，這就是棄絕的預旨，這一預旨絕沒有使上帝成為罪惡之源 （甚至連這樣的念頭都是褻瀆上帝性質的），反而顯明上帝是大而可畏、無可指摘， 祂是公義的審判者和報應者。
那些尚未在基督裡經歷活潑的信心、內心的確信、良心的平安，也沒有經歷像兒子 一般努力順服上帝，藉著基督榮耀上帝，雖然他們心中還沒有這種果子，但他們仍 然堅持使用上帝所設定的在我們心中生髮這些恩賜的諸般蒙恩之道，這樣的人不要 因為聽到棄絕就感到驚恐，也不要把自己算在被棄絕之列，應當殷勤地堅持使用這 蒙恩之道，並且心存熱望，以敬畏、謙卑之心候恩典更豐盛的時期來到。凡誠心歸 向上帝，唯願討上帝的喜悅，渴慕身體脫離死亡的人，即使還沒有到達他們所盼望 聖潔與信心的程度，也不必因遺棄的教義而驚懼。因為慈愛的上帝已經應許，將殘 的燈火祂不吹滅，壓傷的蘆葦祂不折斷。但是，對於那些忽視上帝與救主耶穌基督， 沉緬於世界和肉體快樂，尚未誠心歸向上帝的人，這一教義確實是可怕的。
既然我們是從上帝的聖言來分辨何為上帝的旨意，而上帝的聖言證明信徒的兒女是 聖潔的，不是由於他們的本性，乃是由於他們同父母所承受的恩典之約，所以，當 上帝按其美意將他們的子女在嬰孩時期召去時，敬畏上帝的父母沒有任何理由懷疑 他們的蒙選與得救。
上帝的揀選出於祂白白的恩典，上帝的棄絕出於祂嚴厲的公義。如果有人對此有所 抱怨，我們要當像使徒保羅那樣回答說：“你這個人哪！你是誰，竟敢向上帝強嘴 呢？”（羅九 20），又可引證我們救主的話說：“我的東西難道不可隨我的意思 用嗎？”(太二十 15)。因此，對於這些奧秘當存聖潔的景仰之心，我們當用使徒保 羅的話驚嘆說：“深哉！上帝豐富的智慧和知識。祂的判斷何其難測！祂的踪跡何 其難尋！誰知道主的心，誰作過祂的謀士呢？誰是先給了祂，使祂後來償還呢？因 為萬有都是本於祂，依靠祂，歸於祂。願榮耀歸給祂，直到永遠。阿們！”（羅 11：33-36）。關於揀選與遺棄的真實教義已經解釋清楚。因此，總會反對以下錯謬：
上帝的旨意是要拯救那些願意相信，並且願意在信心和信心的順服上繼續堅持的人， 這就是上帝揀選人得救的整全的預旨，關於此預旨在上帝的聖言中沒有別的啟示。駁斥：因為這些話蒙蔽單純的人，與聖經明明相悖。聖經宣告說，上帝不僅要拯 救那些要相信的人，也從永世就揀選了某些特定的人，超出其他的人，到了一定的 時候就賜給他們在基督裡的信心與恆忍。正如經上所記：“你從世上賜給我的人， 我已將你的名顯明與他們”(約 17：6)；“凡預定得永生的人都信了”(徒 13：48)； 又說：“就如上帝從創立世界以前，在基督裡揀選了我們，使我們在祂面前成為聖 潔，無有瑕疵”(弗 1：4)。
上帝揀選人得永生的種類不同：有一般性的不確定的揀選，也有特殊性的確定的揀 選。後者是不完全的、可撤銷的、不確定的、有條件的，而前者則是完全的、不可 撤銷的、確定的與絕對的。同樣，有一種揀選是得信心的揀選，另外則是得救的揀 選。所以，揀選可以得到稱義的信心的揀選，不一定必然就是確定的得救的揀選。駁斥：因為這是出於人心的幻想，是不顧聖經而發明的杜撰，用於敗壞揀選的道理， 破壞我們救恩的金鎖鏈：“預先所定下的人又召他們來；所召來的人又稱他們為義， 所稱為義的人又叫他們得榮耀” (羅 8：30)。
當聖經中談及揀選時，其中所說的上帝的美意與目的並不在於上帝揀選特定的人， 乃是說祂從各種可能的條件下（包括律法的作為）揀選人，或從事物的整體次序中 選擇以信心的行動為得救的條件。雖然信心的行動就其本質而言是不配得的，作為 得救的一個條件，本身也是不完全的順服，但上帝仍然恩慈地把信心的行動視為完 全的順服，並且配得永生的賞賜。駁斥：這種害人的謬論廢除了上帝的美意和基督的功勞，用無益的問題使人偏離賴 恩稱義的真理和聖經的單純性，並且攻擊使徒保羅的宣稱為虛假的：“上帝救了我 們，以聖召召我們，不是按我們的行為，乃是按祂的旨意和恩典。這恩典是萬古之 先，在基督耶穌裡賜給我們的” (ᨀ後 1：9)。
要蒙揀選，生信心，必須事先滿足一個條件，就是：正確運用自然之光，敬虔、謙 卑、溫柔、配得永生，這些都是蒙揀選所依賴的因素。駁斥：因為這有伯拉糾的教訓的味道，與使徒保羅的教訓恰恰相反。保羅說：“我 們從前也都在他們中間，放縱肉體的私慾，隨著肉體和心中所喜好的去行，本為可 怒之子，和別人一樣。然而神既有豐富的憐憫，因祂愛我們的大愛，當我們死在過 犯中的時候，便叫我們與基督一同活過來，(你們得救是本乎恩)。祂又叫我們與基 督耶穌一同復活，一同坐在天上，要將祂極豐富的恩典，就是祂在基督耶穌裡向我 們所施的恩慈，顯明給後來的世代看。你們得救是本乎恩，也因著信，這並不是出 於自己，乃是上帝所賜的；也不是出於行為，免得有人自誇”(弗 2：3-9)。
某些人得蒙揀選而得救，這種揀選是不完全、不確定的，並且這種揀選是基於上帝 預見到他們的信心、歸正、聖潔、敬虔。這些活著是僅僅開始，或者是持續一段時 間。但那完全的確定性的揀選責是基於上帝預先見到他們在信心、歸正、聖潔和敬 虔上恆忍到底，而這就是恩典性和福音性的配得，因為他之所以被揀選是因為他比 那些未蒙揀選的人更配得。因此，信心、信心的順服、聖潔、敬虔與堅忍，並非來 自上帝以不變的揀選使他們得榮耀的結果，而是事先的要求，上帝預先見到那些人 身上具有這些品質才完全揀選他們，所以這一切都是上帝以不變的揀選使他們得榮 耀的原因。駁斥：這種說法完全與聖經相悖。聖經所說的都是：揀選並非出自個人的行為，乃 是出於那呼召人的主。 “上帝揀選人的旨意，不在乎人的行為，乃在乎召人的主” (羅 9：11)；“凡預定得永生的人都信了”(徒 13：48)；“就如上帝從創立世界以 前，在基督裡揀選了我們，使我們在祂面前成為聖潔”(弗 1：4)； “不是你們揀 選了我，是我揀選了你們”(約 15：16)；“既是出於恩典，就不在乎行為”(羅 11： 6)；“不是我們愛上帝，乃是、上帝愛我們，差祂的兒子為我們的罪作了挽回祭， 這就是愛了”(約壹 4：10)。
並非每一個得救的揀選都是不變的，有些被選之人，雖有上帝的預旨。最終仍然滅亡，並且是真正的滅亡。駁斥：這種謬論使得上帝成為變幻莫測的上帝，破壞了敬虔之人從他們蒙選的可靠 性所得的安慰，與聖經相悖，因為聖經教導說，選民不會偏離正路：“因為假先知、 假基督將要起來，顯大神蹟、大奇事，倘若可行，連選民也就迷惑了”（太 24： 24）；基督不會丟棄那些天父所賜給他的人：“差我來這的意思就是：祂所賜給我 的，叫我一個也不失落”（約 6：39）；上帝也榮耀那些祂所預定、呼召和稱義的 人：“預先所定下的人又召他們來；所召來的人又稱他們為義；所稱為義的人又叫 他們得榮耀”（羅 8：30）。
是否得蒙上帝不變的揀選，最終得榮耀，我們在今生今世既沒有任何果實能夠證明， 也不會有任何意識，更不會有確信，除非這一切都依賴於一種可變的不確定的條件。駁斥：這種說法談及對不確定之事的確定，本身就是荒唐的，並且也與眾聖徒的經 歷相悖，因為聖徒意識到自己得蒙上帝的揀選，就於使徒保羅一同歡喜，讚美上帝 的恩典（弗 1）。基督也吩咐他的門徒們為自己的名字記錄在天上而歡喜：“要因 你們的名記錄在天上歡喜”（路 10：20）。聖徒確知自己得蒙上帝的揀選，就以 此確知來面對魔鬼的火箭，說：“誰能控告上帝所揀選的人呢？”（羅 8：33）
因為上帝的旨意是公義的，所以祂既沒有決定任憑人留在亞當的墮落中，一同處於 罪惡和被定罪的境況中；也沒有決定遺棄任何人，使他得不到生髮信心與歸正所必 需的恩典。駁斥：上帝的預旨非常明確：“上帝要憐憫誰，就憐憫誰；要叫誰剛硬，就叫誰剛 硬”（羅 9：18）。耶穌也回答說：“因為天國的奧秘，只叫你們知道，不叫別人 知道”（太 13：11）。同樣：“耶穌說，父啊，天地的主，我感謝你，因為你將 這些事，向聰明通達人就㯿起來，向嬰孩就顯出來。父啊，是的，因為你的美意本 是如此”（太 11：25-26）。
上帝為什麼把福音傳給一個人，而不傳給另外一個人，這並不是僅僅出於上帝的美 意，而是由於一個人比另外一個人更好，更值得接受福音。駁斥：摩西也反對這種觀點，他對以色列說：“看哪！天和天上的天，地和地上所 有的，都屬耶和華你的上帝。耶和華但喜悅你的列祖，愛他們，從萬民中揀選他們 的後裔，就是你們，像今日一樣”（申 10：14-15）。基督說： “哥拉汛哪，你有禍了！伯賽大啊，你有禍了！因為在你們中間所行的異能，若行在推羅、西頓， 他們早已披麻蒙灰悔改了”(太 11：21)。
上帝不僅極其慈愛，也極其公義。正如在祂的聖言中所啟示的那樣，上帝的公義要 求我們所犯的一切敵擋祂的無限威嚴的罪應受刑罰；在身體和靈魂兩個方面，不但 承受暫時的刑罰，也包括永遠的刑罰；除非滿足上帝的公義，否則我們就無法逃脫 這樣的刑罰。
既然我們自己不能補償上帝的公義，也不能自己救自己脫離上帝的忿怒，由於祂無 限的慈愛，上帝就樂意賜下祂的獨生愛子為我們的中保，使祂成為罪，為我們並代 替我們受了咒詛，從而替我們補償了上帝的公義。
基督之死具有無限價值與尊嚴，因為受死者不僅僅真實的人和完全的聖者，也是上 帝的獨生愛子，與聖父和聖靈擁有同一永遠、無限的本質，這些資格乃是擔任我們 的救主所必需的；又因為祂是有意承擔因著我們的罪而導致的上帝的忿怒和咒詛而 死。
此外，福音的應許就是：凡相信被釘死在十字架上的基督的人，不至滅亡，反得永 生。這一應許以及吩咐人悔改相信的命令，應當毫無區分地向萬國萬民宣揚公佈， 因為把福音傳遞給他們，乃是上帝的美意。
但是，那些真實相信，並藉著基督之死從罪惡與滅亡中得蒙拯救的人，得蒙這種好 處，完全是因為上帝的恩典；這恩典是上帝在永世之中在基督裡賜給他們的，並不 是因為他們自身的任何功德。
因為這是父上帝主權的計劃、極其恩惠的旨意與目的，就是叫祂兒子極其寶貴的 死亡所具有的複活與拯救的大能臨到所有的選民，使稱義的信心這一恩賜唯獨臨 到他們，從而使他們必然得救，絕不失敗。換言之，上帝的旨意乃是叫基督在十 字架上流血重申新約，有效地從各民、各族、各國中拯救那些—並且唯獨那些— 從永世就由聖父揀選得救，並賜給基督的人。祂又賜給他們信心，還有其他一切 來自聖靈的救贖性恩賜，都是基督藉著祂的受死所買來的。基督又用祂自己的寶 血除掉他們所有的罪，既包括原罪與本罪，也包括信前與信後的罪。同時，既然 基督信實地保守他們到底，最終必然把他們無暇無疵地帶到上帝面前，使他們得 享永遠的榮耀。
上帝對選民這種發自永遠之愛的旨意，從世界之始直到今日一直在大有能力地成全， 並且今後還要繼續成全。儘管有陰間的權柄一直抵擋上帝的這個旨意，但這種抵擋 是無效的，乃至時候滿足，上帝的選民必然要聚集為一體，而且世上絕不缺乏由信 徒組成的教會，為這教會奠定根基的就是基督所流的寶血。這教會以堅定不移的堅 貞之愛來愛基督，以基督為他們的救主。基督是教會的新郎，教會是基督的新婦， 祂在十字架上為他們捨命，使他們稱頌祂，從今世直到永遠。關於救贖的真義已經解釋清楚。因此，總會反對以下錯謬：
父上帝預定祂的兒子死在十字架上，並沒有特定的明確的拯救任何人的預旨。因此， 即使基督受死所贏得的救贖在事實上並沒有應用到任何人身上，其必要、恩益與價 值也已經存在，並在其各個部分中保持完整，完美無缺。駁斥：這種說法㰀視父上帝的智慧與耶穌基督的功德，與聖經相悖。因為我們的救 主耶穌曾經說過：“我為羊捨命，我也認識他們”(約 10：15，27)。關於這位獨一 的救主，先知以賽亞曾說：“耶和華以祂為贖罪祭。祂必看見後裔，並且延長年日， 耶和華所喜悅的事，必在祂手中亨通”(賽 53：10)。最後，這也與我們所認信的 《使徒信經》相悖：我們相信聖而公之基督教會。
基督之死的目的，並不是藉著祂的寶血重申新約，而是為父上帝獲得與人立此新約 的權利，不管是行為之約，還是恩典之約。駁斥：這種說法與聖經相悖，因為聖經教導說，基督已成為更美之約的中保，那就 是新約，這一聖約是藉著基督的受死而生效的。 “既是起誓立的，耶穌就作了更美 之約的中保”(來 7：22)。 “為此，他作了新約的中保，既然受死贖了人在前約之 時所犯的罪過，便叫蒙召之人得著所應許永遠的產業”(來 9：15)。 “因為人死了， 遺命才有效力；若留遺命的尚在，那遺命還有用處嗎？”(來 9：17)。
基督的補贖既沒有為任何人贏得救恩，也沒有為任何人贏得使人有效地支取基督的 這種補贖、從而得救的信心。基督僅僅為父上帝贏得了重新處理人，按照祂自己的 意願位人規定新條件的權柄。但是，人是否順福，關鍵還是在於人的自由意志。因 此，有可能沒有任何人滿足這些條件，也有可能所有人都會滿足這些條件。駁斥：這些說法極其㰀視基督的受死，毫不承認基督之死所贏得的極其重要的成果 和恩惠，是伯拉糾派的謬論從地獄復出。
藉著基督之死所發揮的中保作用，父上帝與人設立恩典的新約。這一新約並不在於 我們藉著信心接受基督的功德，在上帝面前因稱義而得救；而是在於以下的事實： 上帝取消了藉著信心完全順服上帝的律法這一要求，把信心本身和信心的順服—盡 管不完全—視為是對律法的完全順服，並認為信心和這種信心的順服本身藉著恩典 配得永生這一賞賜。駁斥：這些說法與聖經相悖。聖經教訓說：“如今卻蒙上帝的恩典，因基督耶穌的 救贖，就白白的稱義。上帝設立耶穌作挽回祭，是憑著耶穌的血，藉著人的信” (羅 3：24-25)。以上這些說法，正如可惡的索西奴派人士所主張的那樣，不合乎全 體教會的共識。
所有人都已經被上帝接納，與上帝和好，得享恩約之恩。因此，沒有人因為原罪之 故當被定罪，所以也沒有人因原罪而被定罪，一切人都脫離了原罪的罪債。駁斥：這種意見與聖經相悖，因為聖經教導說：“我們本為可怒之子”(弗 2：3)。
上帝的計劃就是讓所有人都同樣取得基督受死所贏得的恩惠。事實上，有些人得到 了赦罪和永生，其他人則沒有得到。之所以有這種不同，原因就在於他們各自的自 由意志。正是這種自由意志使得人與上帝的恩典聯繫起來。上帝的這種恩典是賜給 所有人的，沒有任何例外。人運用自己的自由意志與恩典相連，並不在於上帝賜給 特別的憐憫性的恩賜，大有能力地在他們心中做工，從而使得他們—而不是別人— 為自己取得救贖之恩。駁斥：這種說法區分救恩的贏得和支取，向那些沒有分辨力和經驗的人灌輸謬論。他們喬裝打扮，把這種區分說得頗有道理，其實他們的目的是企圖用伯拉糾派的錯 謬來毒害人們。
基督既不可能，也不需要，事實上並沒有為那些上帝至愛並揀選得永生的人受死， 因為這些人不需要基督的受死。駁斥：這些人所說的與使徒保羅的教訓相悖。保羅說：“基督愛我，為我捨己” (加 2：20)；又說：“誰能控告上帝所揀選的人呢？有上帝稱他們為義了。誰能定 他們的罪呢？有基督耶穌已經死了”(羅 8：33-34)。救主基督就是為他們而死，祂 說：“我為羊捨命”(約 10：15)；又說：“你們要彼此相愛，像我愛你們一樣，這 就是我的命令。人為朋友捨命，人的愛心沒有比這個大的”(約 15：12-13)。
人原是按照上帝的形象造的。他的認識中對於他的創造主和屬靈事務本來具有真正 的拯救性的知識。他的心靈與意志本來是正直的，他的一切情感也都是純潔的，全 人都是聖潔的。但是，因為受魔鬼的煽動，他就誤用自己意志的自由，背叛了上帝， 從而喪失了這些優美的恩賜，使自己陷入心靈的盲目、可怕的黑暗、空虛和妄斷之 中，在心靈與意誌上變為邪惡、背叛、頑梗，所有的情感也都成為不潔。
墮落之後，人按照自己的形像生兒育女。敗壞的族類產生了敗壞的子孫。因此，亞 當所有的後裔，除了基督之外，都從他們的始祖承受了敗壞，不是由於古時伯拉糾 派所專章的互相模仿，而是通過邪惡本性的傳殖。
因此，所有人都在罪中出生，按其本性而言都是可怒之子，不能施行任何具有拯救 性的善事，反而傾向行邪惡之事，死在罪中，被罪捆綁。假如沒有聖靈的重生之恩， 他們既不能夠，也不願意歸向上帝，革除本性的敗壞，甚至也不願意改革。
然而，墮落之後，人心之中仍然保留自然之光的餘輝，使他由此對於上帝、自然之 物和善惡之別仍然具有某些認識，對於社會公德、優良次序仍然有所發現，目的就 在於維持外部的次序。但是，這種自然之光遠遠不足以帶領人對上帝獲得救贖性的 認知，也不願援不足以帶領人真正歸向上帝。其實，在自然和社會事務上，他們也 不能正確使用這種知識。另外，儘管有這種自然之光，人在各方面污染這種亮光， 並且用種種不義來加以壓制。他們這樣行，在上帝面前情無可推諉。
我們要用同樣的亮光來看待上帝藉著摩西之手賜給祂的選民猶太人的十誡律法。雖 然這律法顯明罪惡之大，並且使人更加知罪，但它不既沒有指明解救之道，也沒有 賜給人脫離愁苦的力量。因此，這律法因著人的肉體而被削弱，將罪人留在咒詛之 下，人不能靠此律法獲得救恩。
不管是自然之光，還是十誡律法，都不能成就的事，卻由上帝藉著聖靈的運行，通 過聖言的傳講這勸人與上帝和好的職事完成了。這聖言是關乎彌賽亞的佳音，上帝 按照祂自己的美意用此來拯救在舊新約之下相信的人。
在舊約之下，上帝這一旨意的奧秘只對少數的人顯明。如今在新約之下，上帝不分 種族，將祂自己啟示給許多人。上帝這樣安排，其原因不在於一個民族比另一個民 族更尊貴，也不在於他們自身更加善用自然之光，完全由於上帝自己主權的美意和 白白的慈愛。因此，那些雖然遠遠不配，卻領受瞭如此浩大、如此恩慈的賜福的人， 當用謙虛與感恩之心承認這一賜福，同使徒一起發出驚嘆和讚美，不要以好奇之心 窺探上帝對其他未蒙恩之人所顯明的審判的嚴厲和公義。
凡蒙福音所召之人，都是真實蒙召。因為上帝在祂的聖言中，極其誠懇地宣布了祂 所喜悅的事，就是一切蒙召者，都當接受邀請。此外，祂野嚴肅地應許，凡來就近、 信靠祂的人，必然得享永生和安息。
那些得蒙福音呼召，卻拒絕前來歸正的人，不可歸咎於福音，也不可歸咎於福音中 所賜給的基督，更不可歸咎於那用福音呼召人並賜給他們給中恩賜的上帝。錯處在 於他們自己，其中有些人蒙召時，不顧他們的危險，拒絕生命之道；其他一些人， 雖然領受了福音，卻沒有放在心上。因此，他們的喜樂只是來自暫時性的信心，不 久消失，他們就跌倒退去。還有些人因為今生各樣的憂慮和快樂就把這真道的種子 給擠住了，就沒有結果子。這是我們的救主在撒種的比喻中所教導的（太 13 章）。第十條 其他得蒙福音呼召而順從、歸正傳的人，並不是因為他們正確的運用了個人的自由 意志，從而使他們不同於那些同樣具有足以使人相信、歸正之恩的人，正如伯拉糾 派驕傲的異端所主張的那樣。他們之所以順從、歸正，完全是由於上帝，祂既在永 世之中就在基督裡揀選了屬祂的人，就賜給他們信靠和悔改之心，把他們從黑暗權 勢中拯救出來，並把他們遷移到祂愛子的國度裡，使他們可以讚美那召他們出黑暗、 入奇妙光明者的美德，不是以自己誇口，乃是指著主誇口，這是眾使徒在聖經各處 所見證的。
當上帝在選民身上成就祂的美意，或者在他們心中成就真正的歸正時，祂不僅在外 部把福音傳給他們，也用聖靈大大地光照他們的心靈，使他們正確了解並分辨屬乎 上帝之靈的事。上帝運用那使人重生的聖靈的大能，穿透人的心靈深處，開啟並軟 化已經人封閉、剛硬的心靈，給那未受割禮的心靈施行割禮，把新性情注入到他那 已死的意誌之中，使之復甦，從而化惡為善，使人從悖逆轉向順服，從頑梗不化轉 向甘心樂意，並且激勵、堅固人的意志，使其好像一棵樹，結出各樣善行的果子。
這就是聖經所最盛讚的重生，名之為新創造，是從死中復活，乃是上帝在我們裡面 做工，絲毫不借助我們的幫助。這絕不僅僅是通過福音外部的傳講、道德性的勸勉 而產生的，也不是上帝成就祂所做的那部分之後，人是否重生、歸正或繼續歸正， 在於個人的能力發揮。這顯然是超自然之工，大有能力，極其可悅，令人震驚，神 秘莫測，不可言喻。這種重生之工的功效並不次於創造和復活之工，正如那成就重 生之工的聖靈默示的聖經所宣布的那樣。因此，只要上帝以這樣奇妙的方式在人的 心靈中做工，這人就是確定、無誤、有效地重生了，並且也會真誠地相信。所以， 如此被上帝更新的意志，不僅得蒙上帝的激勵和影響，其自身也成為能動的意志。因此，也可以說，也可以說，藉著所領受的這種恩典，人自己相信、悔改。
這種運行的方式是信徒在今生不能完全明白的。儘管如此，他們知道並親身經歷上 帝的這種恩典，從而能夠用他們的心靈相信，並且愛慕他們的救主，這就使得他們 心滿意足了。
因此，信心是上帝的恩賜，並不是那種上帝賜給人，人可以根據自己定喜好接受或 拒絕的恩賜，乃是實實在在地由上帝賜給、發出、注入給人的。這種信心的恩賜也 不是上帝將相信的能力賜給人，然後期望人運用自己的自由意志，贊同得救的條件， 並真正相信基督。這種信心的恩賜乃是完全由上帝成就的，祂使人立志行事，運作 萬事，不僅使人生髮相信的意志，也使人產生相信的行動。
上帝沒有義務要將這恩典賜給任何人。既然任何人都沒有先給祂什麼，使祂不得不 償還，那祂欠誰的債呢？其實，除了罪惡和虛偽之外，人還有什麼呢？因此，那領 受上帝這種恩典的人當永遠對上帝有感激之心，向祂表示感謝。那些沒有領受這種 恩典的人，或是對於這些屬靈的恩賜漠不關心，對於自己的處境心滿意足，或是從 未想到自己所面臨的危險，吹噓自己擁有什麼，其實一無所有。此外，對於那些表 面上承認信仰，在生活上規規矩矩的人，我們一定要按照使徒的榜樣，在談論、判 斷他們的時候盡最大的善意，因為我們不知道人心中的隱秘。至於其他尚未蒙召的 人，我們應當為他們向那使無變有的上帝祈禱，不可以高傲的態度對待他們，彷彿 那使我們與人不同的，乃是我們自己一樣。
雖然人已經墮落，但仍然是有悟性和意志的受造者，那侵蝕全人類的罪耶沒有使人 喪失人性。墮落和罪惡給人帶來的只是敗壞和靈命上的死亡。所以，上帝使重生之 恩並沒有把人視為毫無知覺的草木瓦石，也沒有剝奪人的意誌及其屬性，更沒有用 強迫的方式侵犯人的意志；而是在靈命方面使人的意志得以甦醒，得到醫治，得到 更正，並且用甜蜜的大能的方式使其折服。此前人的意志完全順從肉體，悖逆不服， 如今卻甘心樂意、誠誠懇懇地順服聖靈，這順服使我們的意志得到真正屬靈的恢復 與自由。因此，除非那可佩服的，行作各樣善事的主，在我們裡面動了工，人不能 憑自己的自由意志希望從墮落中復原，他因妄用自由意志，從無辜的境況自陷於毀 滅中。
上帝通過其全能的運行來延續、維繫我們自然的生命，這不僅不排除，反而要求運 用無限仁慈、善良的上帝所選擇的發揮其影響的各樣蒙恩之道。同樣，此前所ᨀ及 的在我們重生時上帝所施加的超自然的運行，絕不排除或者推翻福音的運用，這福 音是至智的上帝所命定重生的種子與靈魂的食糧。因此，眾使徒和繼承他們的教訓 的眾教師，以虔誠之心將上帝的這項恩典教導人，目的就在於榮耀上帝，抑制人的 一切驕傲。同時，他們並沒有忽略用福音聖潔的訓誡來保守眾人，使其遵行聖道， 領受聖禮，接受教會的勸懲。所以，直至今日，無論是施教的，或是受教的，絕不 可在教會中試探上帝，將祂樂意緊密聯繫在一起恩典與蒙恩之道分開。因為恩典是 通過各種形式的勸勉這種蒙恩之道賜下的；我們越是甘心樂意地履行自己的本分， 上帝的這種賜福往往就會更加顯著地在我們裡面運行，而祂的工作也會更加直接地 得到推進。不管是各種蒙恩之道，還是它們所帶來的拯救的果子及其功效，都唯獨 屬於上帝，直到永遠。阿們！
不可說原罪本身足以使全人類被定罪，當受今生與永遠的刑罰。駁斥：這些說法與使徒保羅的教訓相悖，他說：“這就如罪是從一人入了世界，死 又是從罪來的；於是死就臨到眾人，因為眾人都犯了罪”（羅 5：12)；“原來審 判是由一人而定罪”(羅 5：16)。又說：“罪的工價乃是死”(羅 6：23)。
屬靈的恩賜，或者善良的品質與德行，比如良善、聖潔、公義，不可能在人最初受 造的時候就屬於人的意志；所以，在人墮落的時候，也不可能與人的意志分離。駁斥：這說法與使徒保羅在《以弗所書》四章 24 節所᧿述的上帝的形象相悖；包 羅明確地說，人所具有的上帝的形象就在於仁義和聖潔，而仁義和聖潔毫無疑問都 是屬於人的意志的。
在屬靈的死亡中，屬靈的恩賜並沒有與人的意志分離，因為人的意志就其自身而言 從類沒有受到敗壞，只不過是因悟性的昏暗與情感的紊亂而受到攔阻。只要除去這 些攔阻，人的意志就可以按其本有的能力運行。這就是說，對於呈現在它面前的美 善之事，人的意志本身能夠決定和選擇，也能夠不決定、不選擇。駁斥：這不過是一種杜撰，是錯謬的。這種說法傾向於抬高人的自由意志的能力， 欲先知的宣告相悖：“人心比萬物都詭詐，壞到極處”(耶 17：9)；也與使徒保羅 的教訓相衝突：“我們從前也都在他們中間，放縱肉體的私慾，隨著肉體和心中所 喜好的去行”(弗 2：3)。
未重生之人不是真正地、完全地死在罪惡之中，也不是喪失了一切施行屬靈之善的 能力；相反，未重生之人仍然能夠渴慕公義和生命，並且能夠獻上上帝所喜悅的憂 傷與痛悔的祭。駁斥：這些說法與聖經中明確的見證相悖。 “你們已經死在過犯罪惡之中” (弗 2： 1-5)；“人終日所思想的盡都是惡”(創 6：5)；“人從小時心裡懷著惡念” (創 8： 21)。此外，渴慕脫離愁苦，渴慕生命，渴慕向上帝獻上憂傷的祭，這是唯獨那些 已經重生，已經蒙召得福的人才具有的特徵。 “上帝啊！求你為我造清潔的心，並 全牲的燔祭；那時，人必將公牛獻在你壇上”(詩 51：19)；“飢渴慕義的人有福了！ 因為他們必得飽足”(太 5：6)。
敗壞屬血氣的人，能夠善用普遍恩典，藉此理解自然之光；或者善用墮落之後他身 上仍然具有的各樣恩賜，他們能夠逐漸獲得更大的恩典，也就是福音性或拯救性恩， 從而得救。如此一來，上帝確實表明祂願意將基督啟示給所有的人，因為祂賜給所 有人歸正所必需的充分的、有效的蒙恩之道。駁斥：歷世歷代的經驗和聖經本身都證明以上的說法是不可靠的。 “祂將祂的道指 示雅各，將祂的律例典章指示以色列。別國祂都沒有這樣待過；至於祂的典章，他 們向來沒有知道”(詩 147：19-20)。 “祂在從前的世代，任憑萬國各行其道”(徒 14：16)。經商又說：“聖靈既然禁止他們(保羅和他的同工)在亞西亞講道，他們就 經過弗呂家，加拉太一帶地方。到了每西亞的邊界，他們想要往庇推尼去，耶穌的 靈卻不許”(徒 16：6-7)。
在人真正的歸正中，上帝並沒有把新的品質、能力或恩賜注入到人的意志裡。因此， 我們首先藉以歸正並因此被稱為信徒的信心，並不是上帝注入到我們心中的品質或 恩賜，而僅僅只是人的作為，不可以稱之為恩賜，除非是說獲得這種信心的能力。駁斥：這些說法與聖經相悖，因為聖經說，上帝將信心、順服和對上帝的愛的意識 這些新品質注入到我們的心中：“我要將我的律法放在他們裡面，寫在他們心上” (耶 31：33)；“我要將水澆灌口渴的人，將河澆灌乾旱之地，我要將我的靈澆灌你 的後裔，將我的福澆灌你的子孫”(賽 44：3)。又說：“因為所賜給我們的聖靈， 將上帝的愛澆灌在我們心裡”(羅 5：5)。這些說法也與教會一直堅持的習慣做法相反，教會藉著先知的口如此祈禱說：“求你使我迴轉，我便迴轉”(耶 31：18)。
我們藉以歸向上帝的恩典不過是一種溫和的建議。有人解釋說，在人的歸正過程中， 這種建議式的方式乃是最高貴的運行方式，與人的本性極其相合。沒有任何理由反 對人主張單靠這種建議之恩就能使屬血氣的人變為屬靈的人。上帝唯獨使用這種建 議式的方式來促成人在意誌上的同意。上帝大能的運行至所以勝過撒但的工作，就 在於上帝所應許的是永恆的福分，而撒但所應許的不過是今世的暫時性的福氣。駁斥：這不過是伯拉糾派的主張，與整個聖經相悖。聖經在《以西結書》中所教導 的則是聖靈以大能的方式使人歸正，這種神聖大能的運行既不是建議，也遠遠超過 建議：“我也要賜給你們一個新心，將新靈放在你們裡面。又從你們的肉體中除掉 石心，賜給你們肉心”(結 36：26)。
在使人重生時，上帝並不用祂那無所不能的力量有力地、無誤地折服人的意志，使 人相信並歸正；上帝用以使人歸正的一切恩典之工已經完成，現在，當上帝想使人 歸正，要使人重生的時候，人仍然可以抵擋上帝與聖靈。事實上，人常常抵擋上帝 和聖靈，從而徹底攔阻了他自己的重生。所以，是否重生，還是在於人的能力。駁斥：這種說法直接否認上帝的恩典在我們的歸正上的功效，把全能的上帝的工作 置於人的意誌之下，是與眾使徒的完全相悖的。 “知道祂向我們這信的人所顯的能 力，是何等浩大”(弗 1：19)；“又用大能成就你們一切所羨慕的良善”(帖後 1： 11)；“上帝的神能已將一切關乎生命和虔敬的事賜給我們”(彼後 1：3)。
恩典與自由意志都是部分性的原因，二者加起來就是人的歸正的開始。在運行的次 序上，上帝的恩典不會先於人的意志的抉擇。這就是說，上帝不能有效地幫助人的 意志轉向歸正，除非是人的意志首先開始行動，並決定歸向上帝。駁斥：很早以前古代教會就已經把伯拉糾派這種教訓定為有罪，這完全是按照使徒 保羅的教訓：“據此看來，這不在乎那定意的，也不在乎那奔跑的，只在乎發憐憫 的神”(羅 9：16)。照樣，他又說：“使你與人不同的是誰呢？你有什麼不是領受 的呢”(林前 4：7)；“因為你們立志行事，都是上帝在你們心裡運行，為要成就祂 的美意”（腓 2：13）。
凡是上帝按祂自己的旨意呼召，與祂兒子—我們的主耶穌基督—相契，並蒙聖靈重 生的人，上帝也拯救他們在今生今世脫離罪惡的捆綁和奴役。但是，只要他們仍然 還在這個世界上，就仍然沒有完全脫離罪身和肉體的軟弱。
因此每天就有從肉體的軟弱所生髮的各種罪惡，聖徒最好的善行也附帶著污點。這 就使得他們常常在上帝面前謙卑下來，飛向被釘死在十字架上的基督那裡尋求庇護， 不斷地通過禱告和操練敬虔來治死肉體，向著完全這一目標竭力奔跑，直到最終脫 離這一必死的肉身，與上帝的羔羊在天上一同作王。
由於這些住在信裡的罪惡的殘餘，以及罪惡與世界的誘惑，那些已經歸正的人，假 如要靠自身的力量，也不能在恩典中持守到底。但是，上帝是信實的，祂既然賜恩 給他們，也必然用恩慈堅固他們，以大能保守他們在恩典之中，直到未了。
雖然人肉體的軟弱不能勝過上帝的大能，上帝親自堅固並保守真信徒在恩典之中， 但是，歸正者並不是一直處於上帝之靈的影響和感動之下，他們有時仍然偏離上帝 的恩典的引領，受到肉體的邪情私慾的引誘，並且順從。因此，他們必須常常儆醒 禱告，免得入了迷惑。如果他們忽略如此行，不僅會受到撒但、世界與肉體的誘惑， 犯下嚴重的可憎的罪惡，而且有時還會因著上帝公義的許可而陷入這些罪惡之中。聖經中所記載的大衛、彼得和其他聖徒所犯的可悲的墮落所表明的就是這一真理。
因為此類大罪，他們大大地得罪上帝，犯下當死的罪債，叫聖靈擔憂，中斷信心的 發揮，嚴重地傷害自己的良心，有時在一段時間內喪失得蒙上帝恩寵的感覺，直到 他們嚴肅地悔改，上帝慈父般的面光才重新照耀他們。
但是，上帝大有憐憫，祂根據祂自己的不變的揀選的旨意，即使當祂自己的子民陷 於悲慘的墮落之中的時候，上帝也沒有完全從他們收回聖靈，更沒有任憑他們墮落 到喪失兒子名分之恩和稱義的地位的地步；也沒有任憑他們犯罪至死，更沒有任憑 他們完全被棄，自陷於永遠的滅亡之中。
原因有二。首先，儘管聖徒陷於這些墮落之中，上帝仍然在他們心中保守那不會朽 壞的重生的種子，使其既不致消亡，也不被丟棄。其次，上帝必然用祂的聖言和聖 靈有效地更新他們，使他們悔改，以誠懇和敬虔之心為罪憂傷，從而使他們在獨一 中保基督的寶血中尋求並得著赦罪，再次感受到和好之上帝的眷愛，以信心讚美祂 的憐憫，並從此以後以恐懼戰兢之心，更加殷勤地行出他們已經領受的救恩。
因此，他們之所以沒有完全從信心與恩典中墮落，也沒有繼續退後，終至滅亡，並 不在於他們自己的功德或力量，而是在於上帝白白的憐憫。就他們自己而言，他們 不僅有滅亡的可能性，甚至有滅亡的必然性；但是，就上帝而言，這是完全不可能 的，因為上帝的計劃不會改變，祂的應許也不會落空，祂根據自己的旨意發出的呼 召也不會撤銷，基督的功德、代求與保守更不會歸於無效，而聖靈的印記既不會作 廢，也不會磨滅。
論到上帝對選民這種最終得救的保守，以及他們自己在信心上的持守，真信徒可以 並且必然根據他們自己的信心的程度得到確據，由此他們達到一定程度的確信，相 信他們永遠是教會中真實而活潑的肢體；也確信他們已經得著赦罪，並且最終必承 受永生。
但是，這種確據並非是在聖經之外，更不是與聖經相悖，在特殊啟示之下產生的。首先，這種確據出自對上帝諸般的應許，這些應許是上帝其聖言中為安慰我們而極 其豐富地顯明的；其次，這種確據出自聖靈內在的見證，聖靈與我們的心同證我們 是上帝的兒女（羅 8：16)；最後，這種確據出自我們嚴肅且聖潔的追求，這種願 望就是渴慕保守無虧的良心和施行各樣的善事。上帝的選民最終必然得勝，必然得 享永遠的榮耀。這給他們帶來堅定的安慰和無謬的保證。假如上帝的選民在這個世 界上缺乏這種安慰和保證，他們就比眾人更可憐。
同時，聖經也證實信徒在今生要與各種屬肉體的疑惑爭戰，並且在極惡劣的試探之 下，他們未必一直對這種信心具有完全的確信，對自己的持守具有確定的把握性。但上帝是賜下諸般安慰的父，祂不會讓他們受試探過於所能受的，必會在他們受試 探的時候，為他們開一條出路，使他們能忍受得住（林前 10：13)。上帝也會藉著 聖靈重新激勵他們，使他們再次得著持守的確信，從而得安慰。
然而，此持守的確定性絕不會促使信徒生髮驕傲的態度，也不會使他們產生屬肉體 的安全感；相反，這種確定性是信徒生髮謙卑之心、兒女般的敬畏之心、真誠的敬 虔之情、患難中的忍耐之心、祈禱的懇切之心、苦難中的恆忍之心的真正源泉，也 是促使他們認信真理，堅定地以上帝為樂的根源。因此，想到這樣的恩惠，人就會 得蒙激勵，嚴肅地持續地以感恩並行善，正如聖經中的諸般見證和眾聖徒的榜樣所 顯明的那樣。
那些靈命退後之後重新迴轉，重新獲得持守的確信的人，不會放蕩不羈，也不會置 敬虔於不顧。相反，這種重新獲得的確信會使他們更加警醒謹守，更加渴慕持守主 的聖道，這些聖道是主所命定的，叫行在其中的人持守的確信，免得有人濫用上帝 父般的仁慈，使上帝再次向他們收回祂的慈面。對於敬畏上帝的人而言，得見上帝 的慈面比生命更寶貴；失去上帝的慈面，比死亡更痛苦，他們的良心也必陷入更痛 苦的折磨之中。
上帝既然樂意通過福音的傳講，在我們心中開始這恩典之工，祂就通過聽道、讀經、 默想聖言，通過其中的勸勉、警告和應許，以及聖禮的運用，在我們心中保守、繼 續並完成此工。
屬血氣的人不能明白這一聖徒的持守以及聖徒的持守的確定性這一教義。這一教義 在上帝的聖言中有極其豐富的啟示，目的就在於使上帝的聖名得榮耀，敬虔之人得 安慰。這種安慰是上帝印在忠心持守的人心中的。這一教義受到撒但的痛恨、世人 的嘲笑、無知之輩和假冒為善者的妄用，和異端分子的抵制。但是，基督的新婦始 終極其喜愛這一教義，視為無價之寶，並且持續不斷地捍衛這一教義。沒有任何計 謀和權勢能夠勝過上帝，上帝必會繼續引導基督的新婦如此行。願尊貴、榮耀都歸 給聖父、聖子與聖靈獨一的上帝，直到永遠。阿們。關於聖徒的持守這一真實的教義已經解釋清楚。因此，總會反對以下錯謬：
真信徒的持守既不是發自揀選的果子，也不是藉著基督之死所贏得的上帝的恩賜， 而是新約所包含的一個條件，就是人在決定他蒙選並稱義之前，必須通過他的自由 意志來實行。駁斥：因為聖經證實這種持守原子上帝的揀選，因著基督的受死、復活與代求而賜 給上帝的選民：“惟有蒙揀選的人得著了，其餘的就成了頑梗不化的”(羅 11：7)。同樣，“上帝既不愛惜自己的兒子，為我們眾人捨了，豈不也把萬物和祂一同白白 的賜給我們嗎？誰能控告上帝所揀選的人呢？有上帝稱他們為義了。誰能定他們的 罪呢？有基督耶穌已經死了，而且從死裡復活，現今在上帝的右邊，也替我們祈求。 誰能使我們與基督的愛隔絕呢？”(羅 8：32-35)。
上帝的確為信徒ᨀ供了充分的能力去持守，也一直願意保守他們在祂裡面，但前ᨀ 就是信徒自己要儘自己的本分。儘管信徒持守真道、上帝用以保守信心所必需的一 切都可應用，信徒在真道上持守與否，仍然在於他們的意志是否願意。駁斥：這種觀點顯然屬於伯拉糾派的主張。這種主張雖然堅持了人的自由性，但卻 剝奪了上帝的尊榮，與基督教中主流性的主張相悖。基督教中主流性的主張一致強 調除去一切使人誇口的緣由，將人獲得這種恩寵的一切頌讚唯獨歸於上帝的恩典。這也與使徒保羅的教導相反，他說：“祂也必堅固你們到底，叫你們在我們主耶穌 基督的日子無可責備”（林前 1：8）。
真正相信、已經重生的信徒，不但會從稱義的信心中墮落，而且也會最終完全從恩 典與救恩中墮落。這不僅僅是可能性，事實上真正相信、已經重生的信徒也確實常 常從恩典與救恩重墮落，並且永遠失落了。駁斥：這種觀點使得恩典、稱義、重生以及基督的持續性保守變得毫無力量，與使 徒保羅的話命名相悖：“惟有基督在我們還作罪人的時候為我們死。……我們既靠 著祂的血稱義，就更要藉著祂免去神的忿怒”（羅 5：8—9）；也與使徒約翰的話 相悖：“凡從上帝生的，就不犯罪，因上帝的道存在他心裡；他也不能犯罪，因他 是由上帝生的”（約壹 3：9）；更與耶穌基督的教訓相悖：“我又賜給他們永生； 他們永不滅亡，誰也不能從我手裡把他們奪去。我父把羊賜給我，祂比萬有都大， 誰也不能從我父手裡把他們奪去”（約 10：28-29）。
真正相信、已經重生的信徒，仍然會犯以至於死的罪，甚至會抵擋聖靈。駁斥：這使徒約翰在《約翰一書》5 章 16 節與 17 節說到那些犯了至於死的罪的人， 不當為他們祈求之後，隨即在 18 節說：“我們知道凡從上帝生的，必不犯罪， （也就是上面所說的那種罪），從上帝生的，必保守自己，那惡者也就無法害他” （約壹 5：18）。
今生若沒有特殊性的啟示，我們就不會有將來持守到底的確定性。駁斥：這種教訓不僅剝奪了真信徒在今生確定的安慰，還把教皇派所引發的懷疑再 次介紹到教會中來。但是，聖經時常論及這種確據，不是從特殊性的啟示推演出來 的，而是來自上帝的子女所具有的真正標記以及上帝不斷重申的諸般應許。因此， 使徒保羅特別說：“受造之物，都不能叫我們與上帝的愛隔絕，這愛是在我們的主 基督耶穌裡的”（羅 8：39）；使徒約翰也說：“遵守上帝命令的，就住在上帝里 面，上帝也住在他裡面。我們所以知道上帝住在我們裡面，是因祂所賜給我們的聖 靈”（約壹 3：24）。
聖徒持守與得救的確定性這一教義，就其本身的特徵與性質而言，乃是使人怠惰的 原因之一，並且也對敬虔、美德、祈禱以及其他聖潔的操練都是有害的。相反，如 果主張當懷疑聖徒的持守與得救的確定性，則是值得稱讚的。駁斥：這些說法表明他們並不明白上帝的恩典的大能，也不明白住在聖徒心中的聖 靈的工作。並且他們的這些主張也與使徒約翰的教訓恰恰相反，約翰《約翰壹書》 明明地教訓說：“親愛的弟兄啊，我們現在是上帝的兒女，將來如何，還未顯明； 但我們知道，主若顯現，我們必要像祂，因為必得見祂的真體。凡向祂有這指望的， 就潔淨自己，像祂潔淨一樣”（約壹 3：2-3）。此外，這些主張也與舊新約聖經 中所記載的聖徒的例子相悖。這些聖徒確信他們的持守和救恩，仍常常常祈禱，並 且也其它敬虔的操揀上殷勤不惰。
那些暫時相信之人的信心與稱義和得救的信心，只是在存續的時間上有所不同，在 其它方面沒有任何分別。駁斥：這種說法是不正確的，因為基督親自在《馬太福音》13 章 20 節、《路加福 音》8 章 13 節以及其它地方明確地指出，除了在存續的時間上有所不同之外，那 些暫時性相信的人與真信徒之間還有三種不同。祂說，前者是種子落在石頭地上， 後者則是落在好土地或心靈中；前者是無根之信，而後者則有堅實之根；前者不結 果子，而後者則是不斷地穩定地結果子，雖然接過字的數量有所不同。
一個人喪失了第一次重生之後，會再次重生，甚至多次重生，這並沒有什麼荒唐之 處。駁斥：這種說法否定了上帝使我們重生的種子的不能朽壞性，與使徒彼得的見證相 悖：“你們蒙了重生，不是由於能壞的種子，乃是由於不能壞的種子”（彼前 1： 23）。
基督不曾在任何地方為信徒在信心上一直持續而祈求。駁斥：他們這樣說恰恰與基督的教訓相悖，祂說：“我已經為你（西門）祈求，叫 你不至於失了信心”（路 22：32）；使徒約翰宣告說，基督不但為眾使徒祈求， 也為那些因使徒的話而相信的人祈求：“聖父啊，求你因你所賜給我的名保守他們” （約 17：11）；又說：“我不求你叫他們離開世界，只求你保守他們脫離那惡者， 我不但為這些人祈求，也為那些因他們的話信我的人祈求”（約 17：15，20）。
以上所闡明的在比利時教會中爭辯的五大教義，以及對這些困擾教會相當長一短時 間的錯謬的駁斥，是出自正統教義的清楚、簡明、坦誠的聲明。總會認為，這些教 義源自生經，也與改革宗教會諸信條保持一致。因此，很顯然，那些試圖教唆公眾 一下觀點的人，已經違背真理、公平與愛德：“改革宗教會所主張的預定論及其附 屬論點，就其自身的本質和必然的傾向看來，引領人偏離敬虔與真道；是由肉體與 魔鬼所使用的鴉片，是盤踞攻擊人的堅固營壘；撒但由此出發傷害了許許多多的人， 用絕望與安全的火箭向人發動致命的打擊。這一此教義使上帝成為罪惡、不公、暴 虐與偽善 的源泉；是混進教會的斯多葛哲學、摩尼教、放縱派和穆罕默德派的毒 酵。這種教義使人相信任何東西都不能攔阻選民的得救，他們願意怎樣甚或就怎樣 生活吧，所以這種能夠教導使人具有屬肉體的安全感。因此，他們可以犯各種令人 髮指的罪行，卻仍然安全不懼；而那些被遺棄之人，即使真正做出聖徒的各項工作， 他們的順服對他們的得救上也沒有絲毫的貢獻；同時，這種教義還教導說，上帝獨 斷專行，一點也不考慮到任何罪，就已經預定世界上大多數人歸於永遠的滅亡，並 且就是為了這個目的而創造他們；同樣，在上帝這種獨斷的旨意中，揀選乃是信心 與善行的獨一源泉，遺棄乃是不相信和不虔誠的獨一原因；這種教義也把許多信徒 的子女，無辜地從他們母親的懷中奪去，殘暴地置於地獄之中；不管是他們所領受 的洗禮，還時他們受洗時教會的祈禱，對他們都毫無益處。”還有其它許多類似的 指控。改革宗教會對於此類主張不僅不予承認，並且極其憎惡。因此，本多特總會，奉主的名鄭重地呼籲一切求告救主耶穌基督之名的人，在 判斷改革宗教會的信仰的時候，既不要根據從各方面收集來的毀謗之詞，也不要根 據少數幾位古今學者所發表的個人性的意見--這些引證往往是斷章取義，牽強附會， 並不符合作者的原意，而是根據改革宗教會本身公開的信條，並根據總會各個成員 一致認可的關於正統教義的聲明來做出判斷。此外，本總會鄭重警告誹謗者，他們 作假見證，抵擋如此眾多的教會的認信，傷害軟弱弟兄的良心，想方設法地使使那 些誠信上帝之人所組成的群體受到懷疑，必有上帝可怕的審判在等候著他們。最後， 本總會勸勉在基督福音中的眾弟兄，不管是在學院中，還是在教會裡，在涉及此類 教義的時候當有敬虔之心；不管是教導中，還是在著述中，在談及此類教義的時候 要始終導向榮耀上帝的聖名，造就信徒生活的聖潔，使在患難中的人得安慰；又要 根據信仰類比，以聖經來規範他們的情感和言語；在斷定聖經真意的時候要遵守必 要的界限，避免超出此類界限，為傲慢無聊之徒ᨀ供口實，使他們攻擊、貶低改革 宗教會教義的一切言詞。願主耶穌基督，坐在天父右邊的上帝的獨一愛子，將諸般的恩賜賜給人，用真理使我們成聖，把那些錯謬的人帶到真理面前，封閉那些毀謗真道者的口，以智慧 和分辨的靈裝備那些忠心於上帝的聖言的牧者，使他們一切的講論都歸榮耀於上帝， 造就那些聽道的人。阿們。
IntroductionThe Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands is popularly known as the Canons of Dort. It consists of statements of doctrine adopted by the great Synod of Dort, which met in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. Although this was a national synod of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, it had an international character, since it was composed not only of Dutch delegates but also of twenty-six delegates from eight foreign countries.
The Synod of Dort was held in order to settle a serious controversy in the Dutch churches initiated by the rise of Arminianism. Jacob Arminius, a theological professor at Leiden University, questioned the teaching of Calvin and his followers on a number of important points. After Arminius’s death, his own followers presented their views on five of these points in the Remonstrance of 1610. In this document and in later more explicit writings, the Arminians taught election based on foreseen faith, the universal application of Christ’s atonement available to all who freely choose to accept it, limited human depravity, the resistibility of God’s grace, and the possibility of a fall from salvation. In the Canons the Synod of Dort rejected these views and set forth the Reformed teaching on these points with the purpose of offering a deeper assurance of salvation to believers in accordance with the teaching of the Scriptures.
The Canons are thus unique among the Reformed confessions because of their original purpose as a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute during the Arminian controversy. The original preface called them a “judgment, in which both the true view, agreeing with God’s Word, concerning the aforesaid five points of doctrine, is explained, and the false view, disagreeing with God’s Word, is rejected.” The Canons also have a narrower scope than the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism in that they do not cover the whole range of doctrine but focus on the five points of doctrine in dispute.
Although in form there are only four points in the Canons of Dort, we speak properly of five points, because the Canons were structured to correspond to the five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance. Main Points Three and Four were combined into one, always designated as Main Point Three/Four. Each of the main points consists of a positive and a negative part, the former being an exposition of the Reformed doctrine on the subject, the latter a repudiation of the corresponding errors. While the Reformed Church in America does not give confessional status to the Rejection of Errors, it nevertheless recognizes that the rejections help interpret the Canons by highlighting the specific errors addressed.
The biblical quotations in the Canons are translations from the original Latin and so do not always correspond to current versions. Though not in the original text, subheadings have been added to the positive articles and to the conclusion in order to facilitate study of the Canons
The First Main Point of DoctrineDivine Election and Reprobation
The Judgment 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 PeopleSince 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” (Rom. 3:19), “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
Article 2: The Manifestation of God’s LoveBut 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 (1 John 4:9; John 3:16).
Article 3: The Preaching of the GospelIn order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends messengers of this very joyful message to the people and at the time he wills. 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?” (Rom. 10:14-15).
Article 4: A Twofold Response to the GospelGod’s wrath remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God’s wrath and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.
Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of FaithThe cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in humanity. 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” (Eph. 2:8). Likewise: “It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ” (Phil. 1:29).
Article 6: God’s Eternal DecreeThe fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decree. For “all his works are known to God from eternity” (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). In accordance with this decree God graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of the elect and inclines them to believe, but by a just judgment God leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us God’s act—unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just—of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decree of election and reprobation revealed in God’s Word. The wicked, impure, and unstable distort this decree to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.
Article 7: ElectionElection 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, God 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. God 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 God decreed to give to Christ those chosen for salvation, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through the Word and Spirit. In other words, God decreed to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of the Son, to glorify them.
God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of God’s 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” (Eph. 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” (Rom. 8:30).
Article 8: A Single Decree of ElectionThis election is not of many kinds, but one and the same 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 God prepared in advance for us to walk in.
Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen FaithThis 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 every saving good. 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” (Eph. 1:4).
Article 10: Election Based on God’s Good PleasureBut the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve God’s choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as God’s 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’” (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, “All who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
Article 11: Election UnchangeableJust as God 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 God’s chosen ones be cast off, nor their number reduced.
Article 12: The Assurance of ElectionAssurance of 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 AssuranceIn 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 God’s mercies, to cleanse themselves, and to give fervent love in return to the One 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 judgment 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 ProperlyBy God’s wise plan, this teaching concerning divine election was proclaimed through the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, in Old and New Testament times. It was subsequently 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 God’s people.
Article 15: ReprobationMoreover, 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 decree:
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 those who have been left in their own ways and under God’s just judgment, not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.
And this is the decree 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 ReprobationThose 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 God 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 not to snuff out a smoldering wick or break a bruised reed.* However, those who have forgotten God and their Savior 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 BelieversSince we must make judgments 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 ReprobationTo 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?” (Rom. 9:20), and with the words of our Savior, “Have I no right to do what I want with my own?” (Matt. 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 judgments, and his ways beyond tracing out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? 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” (Rom. 11:33-36).
Rejection of the Errors by Which the Dutch Churches Have for Some Time Been DisturbedHaving set forth the orthodox teaching concerning election and reprobation, the Synod rejects the errors of those
IWho 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 . . .” (Eph. 1:4).
IIWho 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, conditional, or else complete, irrevocable, and 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 nonconditional election to salvation.
For this is an invention of the human mind, 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” (Rom. 8:30).
IIIWho 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 Tim. 1:9).
IVWho teach that in election to faith a prerequisite condition is that humans 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” (Eph. 2:3-9).
VWho teach that the incomplete and conditional 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 nonconditional 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” (Rom. 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” (Eph. 1:4); “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16); “If by grace, not by works” (Rom. 11:6); “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son” (1 John 4:10).
VIWho 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” (Matt. 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” (Rom. 8:30).
VIIWho teach that in this life there is no fruit, no awareness, and no assurance of one’s unchangeable election to glory, except as conditioned 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?” (Rom. 8:33).
VIIIWho 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” (Rom. 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” (Matt. 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” (Matt. 11:25-26).
IXWho 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” (Deut. 10:14-15). And also Christ: “Woe to you, Korazin! 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” (Matt. 11:21).
The Second Main Point of Doctrine
Christ's Death and Human Redemption Through It
Article 1: The Punishment Which God’s Justice RequiresGod is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. This justice requires (as God has revealed 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 ChristSince, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God’s wrath, God in 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 DeathThis 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 ValueThis death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is—as was necessary to be our Savior—not only a true and perfectly holy human, 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 wrath and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.
Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to AllMoreover, 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, a Human ResponsibilityHowever, 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 GiftBut all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ’s death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God’s grace—which God owes to no one—given to them in Christ from eternity.
Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s DeathFor 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 the elect, in order that God 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 Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ 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 Fulfillment of God’s PlanThis plan, arising out of God’s eternal love for the elect, 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 elect 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 Savior who laid down his life for her on the cross, as a bridegroom for his bride.
Rejection of the ErrorsHaving set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those 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 Savior 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 Savior: “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” (Isa. 53:10). Finally, this undermines the article of the creed in which we confess what we believe concerning the Church.
IIWho 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 humanity, 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 (Heb. 7:22; 9:15), “and that a will is in force only when someone has died” (Heb. 9:17).
IIIWho 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 humanity and to impose such new conditions as he chose, and that the satisfying of these conditions depends on human free choice; consequently, that it was possible that either all or none would fulfill 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.
IVWho teach that what is involved in the new covenant of grace which God the Father made with humanity 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” (Rom. 3:24-25). And along with the ungodly Socinus, they introduce a new and foreign justification of humanity before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
VWho 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.
VIWho make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order to instill 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.
VIIWho 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” (Gal. 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 (Rom. 8:33-34). They also contradict the Savior, 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 one’s 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 NatureHuman beings were originally created in the image of God and were furnished in mind with a true and sound knowledge of the Creator and things spiritual, in will and heart with righteousness, and in all emotions with purity; indeed, the whole human being was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by their own free will, they deprived themselves of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place they brought upon themselves blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in their minds; perversity, defiance, and hardness in their hearts and wills; and finally impurity in all their emotions.
Article 2: The Spread of CorruptionHuman beings brought forth children of the same nature as themselves after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt they brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God’s just judgment, from Adam and Eve to all their 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 their perverted nature.
Article 3: Total InabilityTherefore, 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 NatureThere is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in all people after the fall, by virtue of which they retain some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral, and demonstrate a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior. But this light of nature is far from enabling humans to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to him—so far, in fact, that they do not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways they completely distort this light, whatever its precise character, and suppress it in unrighteousness. In doing so all people render themselves without excuse before God.
Article 5: The Inadequacy of the LawIn 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 humans cannot obtain saving grace through the Decalogue, because, although it does expose the magnitude of their sin and increasingly convict them of their guilt, yet it does not offer a remedy or enable them to escape from human misery, and, indeed, weakened as it is by the flesh, leaves the offender under the curse.
Article 6: The Saving Power of the GospelWhat, 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 Testaments.
Article 7: God’s Freedom in Revealing the GospelIn the Old Testament, God revealed this secret of his will to a small number; in the New Testament (now without any distinction between peoples) God 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 judgments on the others, who do not receive this grace.
Article 8: The Earnest Call of the GospelNevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called earnestly. For urgently and most genuinely God makes known in the Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to God. God also earnestly promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who do come and believe.
Article 9: Human Responsibility for Rejecting the GospelThe 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 Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).
Article 10: Conversion as the Work of GodThe fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to human effort, as though one distinguishes oneself 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 God chose his own in Christ, so within time God 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 the One who called them out of darkness into this marvelous 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 ConversionMoreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, God 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, God also penetrates into the inmost being, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. God infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant. God 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 WorkAnd 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’s work is done, it remains in human 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 marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not less 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 marvelous 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, people themselves, by that grace which they have received, are also rightly said to believe and to repent.
Article 13: The Incomprehensible Way of RegenerationIn 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 Savior.
Article 14: The Way God Gives FaithIn this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for people to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on them, breathed and infused into them. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that God who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people and produces in them both the will to believe and the belief itself.
Article 15: Responses to God’s GraceGod does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to those who have nothing to give that can be paid back? Indeed, what could God owe to those who have nothing of their own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore those who receive this grace owe and give eternal thanks to God alone; those who do not receive it either do not care at all about these spiritual things and are satisfied with themselves in their condition, or else in self-assurance foolishly boast about having something which they lack. Furthermore, following the example of the apostles, we are to think and to speak in the most favorable 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 EffectHowever, just as by the fall humans did not cease to be human, 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. In this the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consists. Thus, if the marvelous Maker of every good thing were not dealing with us, we would have no hope of getting up from our fall by our own free choice, by which we plunged ourselves into ruin when still standing upright.
Article 17: God’s Use of Means in RegenerationJust as the almighty work by which God 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 that divine power, so also the aforementioned supernatural work by which God regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in 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 God 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 God 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 that work advances. To God alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and effectiveness, all glory is owed forever. Amen.
Rejection of the ErrorsHaving set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those
IWho 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 people because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12); also: “The guilt followed one sin and brought condemnation” (Rom. 5:16); likewise: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
IIWho teach that the spiritual gifts or the good dispositions and virtues such as goodness, holiness, and righteousness could not have resided in the human will at creation, 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.
IIIWho teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been separated from human 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” (Jer. 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: “All of us also lived among them” (the children of disobedience) “at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3).
IVWho teach that unregenerate humanity is not strictly or totally dead in sin 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” (Eph. 2:1, 5); “The imagination of the thoughts of the human heart is only evil all the time” (Gen. 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 (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:6).
VWho teach that corrupt and natural humanity 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 they are 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 God 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” (Ps. 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).
VIWho teach that in the true conversion of men and women new qualities, dispositions, or gifts cannot be infused or poured into their 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 a human act, 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” (Jer. 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” (Isa. 44:3); “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 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” (Jer. 31:18).
VIIWho 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 conversion that is most noble and suited to human nature is that which happens by persuasion, and that nothing prevents this grace of moral persuasion even by itself from making the natural person spiritual; indeed, that God does not produce the assent of the will except in this manner of moral persuasion, 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 human 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. . . .”
VIIIWho teach that God in regenerating people does not bring to bear that power of his omnipotence whereby God may powerfully and unfailingly bend the human will to faith and conversion, but that even when God has accomplished all the works of grace which he uses for their conversion, they nevertheless can, and in actual fact often do, so resist God and the Spirit in their intent and will to regenerate them, that they completely thwart their own rebirth; and, indeed, that it remains in their 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 human will; it is contrary to the apostles, who teach that “we believe by virtue of the effective working of God’s mighty strength” (Eph. 1:19), and that “God fulfills the undeserved good will of his kindness and the work of faith in us with power” (2 Thess. 1:11), and likewise that “his divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).
IXWho 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 the human will to come to conversion before that 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 human willing or running but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16); also: “Who makes you different from anyone else?” and “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7); likewise: “It is God who works in you to will and act according to his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine
The Perseverance of the Saints
Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from SinThose people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, God also sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, though not entirely from the flesh and from the body of sin as long as they are in this life.
Article 2: The Believer’s Reaction to Sins of WeaknessHence daily sins of weakness arise, and blemishes cling to even the best works of saints, 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 ConvertedBecause 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 SinsThe 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 SinsBy 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 right way by genuine repentance, God’s fatherly face again shines upon them.
Article 6: God’s Saving InterventionFor God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of election does not take the Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does God 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 God, into eternal ruin.
Article 7: Renewal to RepentanceFor, in the first place, God preserves in those saints when they fall the imperishable seed from which they have been born again, lest it perish or be dislodged. Secondly, by his Word and Spirit God 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 God’s mercies; and from then on more eagerly work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
Article 8: The Certainty of This PreservationSo 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. God’s plan cannot be changed; God’s promise cannot fail; the calling according to God’s 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 PreservationConcerning 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 this faith 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 AssuranceAccordingly, this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which are very plentifully revealed in the Word for our comfort, from the testimony of “the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God’s children and heirs” (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. 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 AssuranceMeanwhile, 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 Cor. 10:13), and by the Holy Spirit revives in them the assurance of their perseverance.
Article 12: This Assurance as an Incentive to GodlinessThis 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 crossbearing 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 CarelessnessNeither 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 which the Lord 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 God’s fatherly goodness, the face of the gracious God (for the godly, looking upon that 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 PerseveranceAnd, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so God preserves, continues, and completes this 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 PerseveranceThis teaching about the perseverance of true believers and saints, and about their assurance of it—a teaching which God has very richly revealed in the Word for the glory of his name and for the comfort of the godly, and which God 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 the church will continue to do this. To this God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
Rejection of the Errors Concerning the Teaching of the Perseverance of the SaintsHaving set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those
IWho 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 people, before what they call their “peremptory” election and justification, must fulfill by their 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” (Rom. 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?” (Rom. 8:32-35).
IIWho teach that God does provide believers with sufficient strength to persevere and is ready to preserve this strength in them if they perform their 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 human will whether or not to persevere.
For this view is obviously Pelagian; and though it intends to make people free it makes them sacrilegious. It is against the enduring consensus of evangelical teaching which takes from humanity 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 Cor. 1:8).
IIIWho 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” (Rom. 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).
IVWho 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” (v. 18).
VWho 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” (Rom. 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” (1 John 3:24).
VIWho 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.
VIIWho 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.
VIIIWho teach that it is not absurd that people, after losing their 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 Pet. 1:23).
IXWho 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” (v. 11); and “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you preserve them from the evil one” (v. 15).
ConclusionRejection of False AccusationsAnd 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:
Therefore this Synod of Dort in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment 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 judgment 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 humanity, 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 God’s 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.
- 西敏斯特信仰告白 The Westminster Confession of Faith
- 西敏斯特大要理問答 The Westminster Larger Catechism
- 西敏斯特小要理問答 The Westminster Shorter Catechism
- 使徒信經 Apostles' Creed
- 尼西亞信經 Nicene Creed
- 迦克頓信經 Chalcedonian Definition