Canons of Dort - Chapter I

Article 1: All Mankind Condemnable before God

Forasmuch as all men have sinned in Adam, and are become guilty of the curse, and of eternal death (Rom 5:12); God had done wrong unto no man, if it had pleased him to leave all mankind in sin, and under the curse, and to condemn them for sin: according to those words of the apostle: All the world guilty before God (Rom 3:19). And: All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And: The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).

Article 2: The Sending of the Son of God

But herein was the love of God made manifest, in that he sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have life everlasting (1 John 4:9; John 3:16).

Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel

And, that men may be brought unto faith, God in mercy sends the preachers of this most joyful message, to whom he will, and when he will (Isa 52:7); by whose ministry, men are called unto repentance, and faith in Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23-24). How they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? (Rom 10:14-15).

Article 4: A Twofold Outcome

Whosoever believe not these glad tidings, the wrath of God remains upon them (John 3:36; John 3:18; Rom 1:16-17): but they which receive them, and embrace our Saviour Jesus with a true and lively faith, they are delivered by him from the wrath of God, and destruction, and eternal life is given them (Mark 16:16; Rom 10:9).

Article 5: The Cause of Unbelief, the Source of Faith

The cause, or fault of this unbelief, as of all other sins, is no wise in God, but in man (Heb 4:6). But faith in Jesus Christ, and salvation through him, is the free gift of God; as it is written, By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). In like manner, Unto you it is (freely) given to believe in Christ. (Phil 1:29).

Article 6: God’s Eternal Decree

But whereas, in process of time, God bestoweth faith on some, and not on others, this proceeds from his eternal decree (Acts 13:48). For from the beginning of the world God knoweth all his works (Acts 15:18). Who worketh all things after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however otherwise hard; and as for those who are not elect, he in just judgment leaveth them to their malice and hardness (1 Pet 2:8).

And here especially is discovered unto us the deep, and both merciful and just, difference put between men, equally lost; that is to say, decree of election and reprobation, revealed in God’s word. Which as perverse, impure, and wavering men do wrest unto their own destruction (2 Pet 3:16), so it affords unspeakable comfort to godly and religious souls.

Article 7: Election Defined

Now election is the unchangeable purpose of God, by which, before the foundation of the world, according to the most free pleasure of his will, and of his mere grace, (Eph 1:4, 11), out of all mankind (fallen, through their own fault, from their first integrity into sin and destruction) he hath chosen in Christ unto salvation a set number of certain men, neither better nor more worthy than others, but lying in common misery with others. Which Christ also from all eternity he appointed the Mediator, and head of all the elect, and foundation of salvation (John 17:2, 12, 24; 6:37, 44). And so he decreed to give them to him to be saved, and by his word and Spirit effectually to call and draw them to communion with him (1 Cor 1:9): that is, to give them a true faith in him, to justify, sanctify, and finally glorify them, being mightily kept in communion of his Son, to the demonstration of his mercy, and the praise of the riches of his glorious grace; as it is written, He hath chosen us (in Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:4-6). And: Whom he hath predestinated, them also he hath called; and whom he hath called, them also he hath justified; and whom he hath justified, them also he hath glorified (Rom 8:30).

Article 8: One Decree of Election

This election is not manifold, but one and the same of all which are to be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: because the Scripture speaks but of one only good-pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the will of God (Deut 7:7; 9:6; Eph 1:4-5); by which he hath chosen us from eternity both unto grace and glory, both unto salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath prepared that we should walk therein (Rom 8:30; Eph 2:10).

Article 9: Election not Based on Foreseen Faith

This said election was made, not upon foresight of faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or of any other good quality or disposition, as a cause or condition before required in man to be chosen; but unto faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, &c. And therefore election is the fountain of all saving good, from whence faith, holiness, and the residue of saving gifts, lastly everlasting life itself, do flow, as the fruits and effects thereof (Rom 8:30); according to that [testimony] of the apostle, He hath chosen us (not because we were, but) that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love (Eph 1:4).

Article 10: Election Based on God’s Good Pleasure

The true cause of this free election is the good-pleasure of God is; not consisting herein, that, from among all possible means, he chose some certain qualities, or actions of men, as a condition of salvation: but herein, that out of the common multitude of sinners he called out to himself, for his own peculiar, some certain persons; as it is written, Ere yet the children were born, when they had neither done good nor evil. (Rom 9:11-13) it was said unto her (namely to Rebecca), The elder shall serve the younger (Gen 25:23): as it is written, Jacob have I loved, and have hated Esau (Mal 1:2-3). And, As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed (Acts 13:48).

Article 11: Election Unchangeable

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent: so the election made by him can neither be interrupted, nor changed, revoked, or disannulled (Heb 6:17-18), nor the elect cast away (John 6:37), nor their number diminished (John 10:28).

Article 12: The Assurance of Election

Of this their eternal and immutable election unto salvation, the elect, in their time, (although by several degrees, and in different measure,) are assured; and that, not by searching curiously into the depths and secrets of God (Deut 29:29; 2 Pet 1:10; 1 Cor 2:10-11), but by observing in themselves (2 Cor 13:5), with spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election, marked out unto us in God’s word; such as are, a true faith in Christ, a filial fear of God, grief for our sins according to God (2 Cor 7:10), hungering and thirsting after righteousness, (Matt 5:6).

Article 13: The Value of This Assurance

Out of the sense and certainty of this election, the children of God daily draw more and more matter of humbling themselves before God, of adoring the depth of his mercies, of purifying themselves (1 John 3:3), and of loving him fervently who first loved them so much (1 John 4:19): so far in this doctrine of election, and the meditation thereof, from making them carnally secure, or backward in observing God’s commandments. Which abuse, by God’s just judgment, is want to befall those, who either rashly presume, or vainly and malaperty prate the grace of election, refusing withal to walk in the ways of the elect.

Article 14: How Election Is to Be Taught

And as this doctrine touching God’s election was by God’s appointment declared by the prophets, Christ himself, and the apostles, as well under the Old Testament as the New, and afterwards commended to the records of holy writ; so at this day in God’s Church (Acts 20:27; Job 36:23-26) (for which it is peculiarly ordained) it is be propounded with the spirit of discretion, religiously and holily, in its place and time, without any curious searching into the ways of the Most High, and that to the glory of God’s most holy name, and lively comfort of his people (Rom 11:33-34; 12:3; 1 Cor 4:6; Heb 6:17-18).

Article 15: Reprobation Described

Moreover, the holy scripture herein chiefly manifests and commends unto us this eternal and free grace of our election, in that it further witnesseth, that not all men are elected, but some not elected, or passed over in God’s eternal election (Rom 9:22): whom doubtless God in his most free, most just, unreproachable and unchangeable good pleasure hath decreed to leave in the common misery (whereinto by their own fault they precipitated themselves (1 Pet 2:8), and not to bestow saving faith and the grace of conversion upon them; but, leaving them in their own ways, and under just judgment (Acts 14:16), at last to condemn and everlastingly punish them, not only for their unbelief, but also for their other sins, to the manifestation of his justice. And this is the decree of reprobation, which in no wise makes God the author of sin, (a thing blasphemous once to conceive,) but a fearful, unreproveable, and just judge and revenger.

Article 16: Responses to the Doctrine of Reprobation

Those who as yet do not effectually perceive in themselves a lively faith (Jas 2:26) or a sure confidence of heart in Christ, the peace of conscience, an endeavour of filial obedience, a glorying in God through Christ (2 Cor 1:12; Rom 5:11; Phil 3:3), and nevertheless use the means by which God hath promised that he will work these things in us; such as these ought not to be cast down at the mention of reprobation, nor reckon themselves amongst the reprobate, but must diligently go forward in the use of those means, and ardently desire, and humbly and reverently expect, the good hour of more plentiful grace. Much less then ought those to be terrified with the doctrine of reprobation, who, albeit they heartily desire to turn unto God, to please him only, and to be delivered from this body of death (Rom 7:24), yet cannot make such progress in the way of godliness and faith, as they wish. For our merciful God hath promised that he will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the shaken reed (Isa 42:3; Matt 12:20); but to those, who, forgetting God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, have wholly enthralled themselves to the cares of the world and pleasures of the flesh (Matt 13:22), this doctrine is not without cause terrible, so long as they are not seriously converted unto God (Heb 12:29).

Article 17: Children of Believers Who Die in Infancy

Seeing we must judge of God’s will by his word, which testifies unto us that the children of the faithful are holy, not in their own nature, but by the benefit of the gracious covenant, wherein they together with their parents are comprised; godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children, whom God calls out of this life in their infancy (Gen 17:7; Isa 59:21; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14).

Article 18: Not Protest but Adoration

Whosoever murmurs at this grace of free election, and severity of just reprobation (Job 34:34-37; 40:1–5), we stop his mouth with that of the apostle: O man, who art thou, that repliest against God? (Rom 9:20). And that of our Saviour: Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? (Matt 20:15). But we, for our part, religiously adoring these mysteries, cry out with the apostle: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath given to him first, and it shall be recompensed to him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen (Rom 11:33-36).

A Rejection of the Errors wherewith the Churches of the Low Countries Have Now a Long Time Been Troubled

The Synod, having delivered the orthodox doctrine concerning Election and Reprobation, rejecteth the errors of those:

Who teach, That the will of God to save such as shall believe, and persevere in faith, and the obedience of faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation; and that nothing else concerning this decree is revealed in the word of God. For these teachers deceive the simpler sort, and plainly gainsay the holy scripture, which witnesseth that God not only will save such as shall believe, but also from eternity hath chosen some certain men, upon whom, rather than others, he would bestow faith in Christ, and perseverance: as it is written: I have declared thy name unto the men which thou gavest me (John 17:6). In like manner, As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed (Acts 13:48). And: He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, etc. (Eph 1:4).

Who teach, That the election of God unto salvation is manifold; one general and indefinite, another singular and definite: and this again either incomplete, revocable, not peremptory, or conditional; or else complete, irrevocable, peremptory, or absolute. Likewise, that there is one election unto faith, another unto salvation: so that election unto justifying faith may be without peremptory election unto salvation. For this is a figment of man’s brain, devised without any ground in the scripture, corrupting the doctrine of election, and breaking that golden chain of salvation: Whom he hath predestinated, them also he hath called; and whom he hath called, them also he hath justified: and whom he hath justified, them also he hath glorified (Rom 8:30).

Who teach, That the good pleasure and purpose of God, whereof the Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, doth not consist herein, that God did elect some certain men rather than others; but in this, that God from among all possible conditions (amongst which are the works of the law also), or out of the rank of all things, did choose, as a condition unto salvation, the act of faith, in itself ignoble, and the imperfect obedience of faith, and was graciously pleased to repute it for perfect obedience, and account it worthy of the reward of everlasting life. For by this pernicious error, the good pleasure of God, and the merit of Christ,  is weakened: besides that, by such unprofitable questions, men are called off from the truth of free justification, and from the single plainness of the scriptures; and that of the apostle is outfaced as untrue: God hath called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose, and grace, which was given to  us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Tim 1:9).

Who teach, That in the election unto faith this condition is first required; viz. that man use the light of reason aright, that he be honest, lowly, humble, and disposed unto life eternal, as though in some sort election depended on these things. For these teachers have a strong tang of Pelagius, and broadly enough tell the apostle that he is wide, when he says, We all had our conversation, in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, as well as others. But God which is rich in mercy, through his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that he might shew, in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ. For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any one should boast (Eph 2:3-9).

Who teach, That the incomplete and not peremptory election of singular persons is made by reason of foreseen faith, repentance, sanctity, and godliness begun, and continued for some time; but the complete and peremptory election by reason of final perseverance of foreseen faith, repentance, sanctity, and godliness: and that this is the gracious, and evangelical worthiness, by which he that is chosen becomes worthier than he that is not chosen: and therefore that faith, the obedience of faith, sanctity, godliness, and perseverance are not the fruits or effects of unchangeable election unto glory, but conditions and causes, sine quibus non (that is to say, without which a thing is not brought to pass) before required, and foreseen, as already performed by those who are completely to be chosen. A thing repugnant to the whole scripture, which everywhere beats into our ears and hearts these and such like sayings: Election isnot of works, but of him that calleth (Rom  9:11). As many as were ordained unto life eternal believed(Acts 13:48). He hath chosen us that we should be holy (Eph 1:4). Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16). If of grace, not of works (Rom 11:6). Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son, etc. (1 John 4:10).

Who teach, That not all election unto salvation is unchangeable; but that some which are elected, withstanding God’s decree, may perish, and for ever do perish. By which gross error they both make God mutable, and overthrow the comfort of the godly concerning the certainty of their salvation, and contradict the holy scriptures, teaching, That the elect cannot seduced (Matt 24:24). That Christ doth not lose those which are given to him of his Father (John 6:39). That God, whom he hath predestinated, called, and justified, them he doth also glorify (Rom 8:30).

Who teach, That in this life there is no fruit, no sense, no certainty of immutable election unto glory, but upon condition contingent and mutable. For, besides that it is absurd to make an uncertain certainty, these things are contrary to the  experience of the godly: who, with the apostle, triumph upon the sense of their election, and extol this benefit of God (Eph 1); who rejoice with the disciples, according to the admonition of Christ, that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20); and lastly, who oppose the sense of their election against the fiery darts of devilish temptations (Eph 6:16), demanding: Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?(Rom 8:33).

Who teach, That God out of his mere just will hath not decreed to leave any man in the fall of Adam, and common state of sin and condemnation, or to pass over any in the communication of grace necessary unto faith and conversion. For that stands firm, He hath compassion upon whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom 9:18). And that, To you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given (Matt 13:11). In like manner, I glorify thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding men, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, O Father, because thy good pleasure was such (Matt 11:25-26).

Who teach, That the cause, why God sends the Gospel rather unto this nation than to another, is not the mere and only good pleasure of God; but because this nation is better, and more worthy of it than that unto which he hath not communicated the Gospel. For Moses gainsays this, speaking thus unto the people of Israel, Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, and the earth with all that therein is: notwithstanding the Lord set his delight in thy fathers to love them, and did choose their seed after them, even you above all people, as appeareth this day (Deut 10:14-15). And Chris, Woe be to thee, Chorazin! woe be to thee, Bethsaida! for if the great works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they had repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Mat 11:21).