Psalms, Hymns, Spiritual Songs, and Instruments In The Latin Bibles

We Reformed folk like to think that what we do now in public worship is what we have always done. This is especially easy to do when we are cut off from or unaware of the original sources and practices of our tradition or when our practice has been changed and we are unaware of the changes that have been made. The history of the Reformed practice of worship is not well known nor is it easy to discover. Frequently, those who write about it do so either with an interest in defending our modern practice. Sometimes histories are written by those who do not sympathize with the original Reformed understanding of and approach to worship—now known as the regulative principle of worship.

There are, however, significant differences between the way we tend to think about Reformed worship and the way they did. We know this because our practice tends to vary, in some ways, considerably from the original Reformed practice. For example, today, virtually all Reformed congregations use musical instruments in public worship. In the Reformation, however, virtually none of our congregations used musical instruments in public worship. Instruments were banished from Reformed congregations in Zürich, Geneva, Heidelberg, the Netherlands, France, Scotland, and England. Instruments were absent from Christian worship for the first six centuries of church history and did not become widely used until the high middle ages. They were a relative novelty when the Reformed cast them out in the 16th century. They did not return widely until the 18th and 19th centuries. In some quarters they were still controversial in the early 20th century. For more on this see Recovering the Reformed Confession. What we sing in public worship also varies considerably from what we sang in the 16th and 17th centuries. In Geneva, in the Netherlands, in France, and in the British Isles Reformed congregations sang God’s Word in worship. They did not sing non-canonical hymns.1

Most of the time the shift from the original Reformed practice to our practice is either accepted without question or ignored. Sometimes we assume (as I did for a number of years) that our current practice is the historic practice. Sometimes, however, the original Reformed understanding of worship is ridiculed. One sees this in the discussion of the proper interpretation of the expression in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18: “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” The older Reformed writers tended to interpret this phrase as a reference to the 150 Psalms. More than once, however, I have heard contemporary interpreters appeal to this expression as a grounds for an “inclusive” position whereby a Reformed congregation would sing Psalms, extra-canonical hymns, and contemporary songs. This interpretation, however, is not probable. Most likely the phrase “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” refers to three parts of the Psalter in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint and symbolized with the Roman numerals LXX). When the Apostle Paul used the expression “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” he was using an expression with a history, which readers would have understood in context.

When our Reformed forefathers interpreted this phrase they were influenced by their experience with the Latin Bible. This is not something that most Reformed Christians in North America (or anywhere else) experience today, at least not directly. Most of us read Scripture in our own language (e.g., English) and then there those who read the original languages but relatively few of us read Latin any more but our Reformed theologians did. Indeed, when they were not reading Scripture in the original languages they were typically reading Scripture in Latin. Most of the time, when they quote Scripture in their Latin writings, it is in Latin. Sometimes they quote existing translations and sometimes they made their own translation. The Latin Bible that most influenced the Western church was the Biblia Vulgata, the Vulgate. It became the standard text of the Latin Bible through the middle ages and through much of the 16th century. The text was revised and republished by Rome as part of the Counter-Reformation response to the Protestants in 1590. That edition is referred to as the Clementine Vulgate. The Reformed were so familiar with and committed to reading Scripture in Latin that they even created their own Latin translation. Immanuel Tremellius (1510–80) and Franciscus Junius (1545–1602) translated the entire Old Testament and Theodore Beza (1519–1605) translated the New Testament. As Todd Rester explains, this translation became the “standard Latin biblical text of the scholarly Reformed world from 1579 through 1764.” It was widely published and widely used.

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in the Vulgate

In the Vulgate (abbreviated Vg) the terms psalmus (psalm), hymnus (hymn), and canticum (song) appear in the superscriptions to the Psalms. The stem psal– occurs 153 times in the Vg, mostly, of course, in the Psalms. This would include the noun Psalmus (e.g., Ps 2:1 “Psalmus David“) and  also the verb Psallo, to sing (a psalm) as in 1 Cor 14:15. It also is Isaiah 38:20; Lamentations 3:63; Habbakuk 3:19 and in the NT. We can’t survey all of these uses in a blog post but it is instructive to notice how the terms “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” and related words were used in these two Latin Bibles and how that might have influenced the way the Reformed understood them. Of course the noun “Psalm” occurs in the superscriptions of a many of the Psalms, e.g., 4:1, 6:1, 29:1, 32:2 but the terms canticum and hymnus also occur apparently following the pattern of the LXX. Sometimes the terms occur together as in Ps 47:1 (the superscription to Ps 48 in English): Canticum Psalmi… (a song of a Psalm…). See also Ps 65:1 (superscription to 66 in English).

The noun hymnus occurs only twice in the Psalms, in Ps 118:171 (English 119:171) and in the superscription to Psalm 144:1 (145:1 in English), which is a “Hymn of David.” It only occurs 21 times in the whole of Scripture in the Vulgate. In 1 Kings 8:28 hymnus is used as a synonym for oratio (prayer). In 1 Chron 16:36 the congregation says an “amen” and a hymn to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 7:6 says:

The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments (organis carminum) for music to the Dominus that King David had made for giving thanks to the Dominus—for his eternal mercy—whenever David sang his hymnby their hands; then the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

Here we see that, in the Vulgate, hymns, the levitical ministry, and musical instruments are quite interconnected. Hymns are also sung in Ezra 3:1, Nehemiah 12:8. Hymnusoccurs several times in the Apocryphal books (Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, 2 Esdras). It is used in the NT in Matthew 26:30, “and when they sang a hymn…” This is undoubtedly the source of the misleading English translation with which the reader is familiar. The Greek text, of course, uses a participle which simply means “having sung” and transliterating it thus, in English, gives the false impression that our Lord and the disciples sang the same sort of extra-canonical song that congregations sing today. As we have seen, however, It is a type of Psalm or other song sung in the canonical period, by canonical actors in the history of redemption.

The typical English translation of Acts 16:25 is also a little misleading. E.g., ESV has Paul and the others “singing hymns” about midnight. The Greek text uses the noun transliterated as “hymn” (ὕμνουν) but, again, the transliteration creates a misleading impression in the modern ear that Paul and company were doing just what we do today. The translation of “psalm” (ψαλμὸν) in 1 Corinthians 14:26 as “hymn” is even more misleading. Why transliterate “hymnos” in one place but not transliterate psalmos in another?

It is quite interesting also to note how the noun canticum (song) appears in the Psalter. Sometimes it appears in conjunction with psalmus, as we have observed, but sometimes it is used to characterize the entire Psalm as in Ps 3:1 (= superscription to Ps 3 in English). The Vulgate says, “A canticle of David when he fled from the face of Absalom (Abesselon) his son.” Psalms 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,22, 23, 28, 30, are all a canticles. The noun canticum occurs 88 times in the Psalms and most of them in the superscription. As I mentioned, some of them are used together with Psalmus. By contrast, the noun psalmus occurs only 18 times in the Vulgate and usually in the superscription. This ratio suggests that, for readers of the Vulgate, the Psalms were more a collection of songs (canticles) than “Psalms” and that the two words were virtually identical in their sense.

In short, when the Reformed thought about “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Colossians and Ephesians, given their background in the Latin Bible, they would not have interpreted that phrase as “the canonical psalms, a type of non-canonical song, and another type of non-canonical song.” The evidence from the Latin Bible simply will not allow such an interpretation. When they read those nouns, they understood them against the background of their use in the Latin Bible. When they read “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in Colossians and Ephesians they read them as types of Psalms or as synonyms for Psalms or other typological forms of praise.

Singing And Instruments

We have already noted that there is a connection between the stems psal–, hymn–, and cant– and the use of instruments by the Levitical priests. When the Reformed thought about the use of musical instruments in Scripture they thought of the typological period of redemption or the Old Testament in the broad sense. The first use of the verb Psallooccurs in Judges 5:3:

Domino canam psallam Domino Deo Israhel (I will play an instrument, I will sing [a psalm] to the Lord, to the Lord God of Israel))

In 1 Sam 10:5 the “harp” is a psalterium (psalterium et tympanum et tibiam et citharam) and in 16:16 a man who knows how to play (psallere) the cithara is sought. Similar uses occur in 1 Sam 18:10; 19:9; 2 Kings 3:15. They associated the use of musical instruments particularly with the Levitical, priestly ministry as in Nehemiah 12:27:

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres (ESV).

In the Vulgate the Levites are praising God “in cantico in cymbalis psalteriis et citharis” (in song with cymbals, stringed instruments, and lyres).

We see this pattern also in 1 Chronicles 15;16 where the leaders (chiefs) of the Levites are to appoint some of their brothers to play on “organs musicorum” (on the instruments of music). We see the same connection in 2 Chronicles 29:26 where the Levites are standing with the instruments (organa) of David and the levitical priests are playing trumpets (tubas). Again in 2 Chronicles 20:31 the Levites and the priests are playing musical instruments (organa) as in 2 Chronicles 34:12.

It is often asked (as I myself asked Bob Godfrey 23 years ago), “Why do you want us to sing Psalms but you won’t let us do what they say?” (i.e., play instruments). After all, Psalm 150 lists a number of instruments. The Vulgate, in Psalm 151:2 (English 150:4) even lists the “organ” as one of them. The difficulty that the Reformed saw with this line of reasoning is that it proves too much. They were convinced that the period of types and shadows had been fulfilled in Christ. This is why, in the new covenant, the church did not seek to kill the Canaanites. That commission ended with the death of Christ. In the “once for all” (Heb 7:27) death of Christ the bloody sacrificial ministry of the Levitical priesthood ended. Jesus’ priesthood was greater than Aaron’s and Levi’s. Those priests had to sacrifice for themselves. Jesus did not. His sacrifice was for us.

The Reformers knew their history, that the early church accepted these principles and worshipped without musical instruments for the first 7 centuries—8 if we count the Apostolic church. They knew that the reintroduction of musical instruments mean the return to types and shadows, to the priesthood and that is exactly what happened. By the 9th century medieval theologians were theorizing about the transformation of the elements of the Supper into the body and blood of Christ. After that, increasingly ministers became regarded as priests who were making offerings. Indeed, by the 9th century the Holy Roman Emperor is increasingly being seen as a new Davidic king. What had expired on the cross was being resurrected and the church was returned to types and shadows. The Reformers rejected the new priesthood, the new (memorial, propitiatory) sacrifices just as they rejected the medieval neo-levitical reintroduction of instruments.

As we wrestle with the interpretation of the expression “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” we should try to understand sympathetically the traditional Reformed reading and we can do that if we account for the influence of the Latin Bible on their interpretation.

The Latin Bible was a major formative influence on the way the Reformed theologians interpreted Scripture. The King James Version/Authorized Version (1611) particularly reflects the influence of the Latin Bible but its influence reverberates in many English translations. It influenced their word choice in translation. Since our theologians in the 16th and 17th centuries used a Latin Bible for their personal study, it also influenced their understanding of the meaning of Scripture.

In the first post in this series we looked at how the Psalms are categorized in the superscriptions of the Psalms in the Vulgate. We also considered the way those words are used in the NT.

From 1579, however, the Reformed orthodox had a new study tool. It didn’t have a clever title e.g., The New International Reformed Study Bible but that is what it was. When the Reformed orthodox writers used a Latin Bible they tended to use the edition produced by Franciscus Junius, Immanuel Tremellius, and Theodore Beza. It was titled Biblia sacra sive testamentum vetus et testamentum novum (Sacred Bible: Old Testament and New Testament).

Recently I have worked through the Biblia sacra to see how the psalms were classified in the superscriptions and the results are enlightening.

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

The question before us is this: Against what background did the orthodox Reformed understand the expression in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18, “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”?

In Beza’s Latin NT the expression reads:

psalmis, hymnes, et cantionibus spiritualibus

The only the difference between the Vulgate and Beza’s text is Beza’s choice of cantio in place of canticum for “songs.” Cantio is a relatively rare word, a late, post-classical word. It does not occur in the pre-Clementine Vulgate but and occurs only once (Ps 136:3) in the Clementine Vulgate (1592). That it occurs in Beza’s 1556 Latin New Testament suggests the word had found favor in the second half of the 16th century. Perhaps this noun was favored by the humanists for some reason? Calvin used it 4 times in the 1559 Institutes (3.8.11, 4.13.19, 4.19.22, 4.19.24). Was he influenced by Beza’s 1556 translation or were they both influenced by a broader trend?

How did Junius and Tremellius translate the superscriptions to the Psalms and how might that have influenced the Reformed understanding of the Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16? The other question we pursued was how the Vulgate translated the terms for musical instruments and how that influenced the Reformers. We will ask the same question of Tremellius/Junius.

This work was more difficult because there is no digitized version of Junius’ and Tremellius’ (hereafter Junius/Tremellius) translation but I went through the text carefully by hand.

41 of the Psalms in have no superscription and thus no classification for the psalm. 44 of the Psalms were classified as a Psalm (psalmus) of David or of Asaph et al. 19 of the psalms were classified as a canticum (song). 26 were classified as an ode, which is a transliteration of the Greek term used in Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19. 4 psalms were classified as an oratio (prayer), 6 as a canticum et pslamus (song and psalm) and 1 as a carmen Davidis (a song of David).

These categories were not isolated or sealed from one another. Some psalms were classified as psalms and as something else, e.g., a canticum. No Psalms were classified as a hymnus but none are classified as a cantio, Beza’s word for canticum. The fact that ode was used suggests the retrospective influence of Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 on Junius/Tremellius. Their choices also suggest that the line between “psalm” and other forms of song is blurry, if it existed at all. The noun psalm occurs more frequently in Junius/Tremellius than in the Vulgate psalter.

They did not seem to have followed the LXX pattern exactly but there are some patterns. Psalmus tends to occur earlier in the psalter (books 1 and 2) and canticumoccurs with more frequency later in the psalter (book 5). Ode occurs throughout the psalter but occurs in most often in books 1 (1-41), 2 (42-72), and 3 (73-89) of the psalter.

Following the humanist pattern they used a greater diversity of terms (oratio, carmen, ode) than the Vulgate.

2 of the 3 terms used in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 were used interchangeably in the Junius/Tremellius translation of the superscriptions of the psalter and they used Paul’s word ode, which seems to connect their understanding of Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 directly to their understanding of the Psalter. Arguably, canticum stands for hymnus

Outside the psalter, e.g., in Matthew 26:30 Beza translated ὕμνουν as “hymn” and in Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas were “singing (canebant) hymns to God.” Like the Vulgate, Beza used the transliterated (Latinized) the Greek except that he turned the singular (in both the Majority Text and the NA 28) to a plural. That choice raises its own questions that we cannot pursue here. The caveats from last time still apply. We cannot anachronistically re-interpret “hymn” in light of our modern (largely psalm-less) experience. The question is how it was understood in the 16th and 17th centuries.

We get greater clarity about how Junius/Tremellius and Beza understood Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 in Beza’s translation of 1 Corinthians 14:26 where the Vulgate transliterated ψαλμὸν (psalm) Beza chose canticum. This is illuminating. He did not choose to transliterate psalm, which is the noun that Paul used, but instead chose to translate it with a different noun. Why? Because, in his understanding, and arguably that of the rest of the Reformed orthodox, there was no substantive difference between a psalm and a canticum (song) and, we should add, an ode nor was there any discernible difference between a canticum (Vulgate) and cantio (Beza). They signify the same thing.

In short, the Reformed orthodox would not have understood the objection against interpreting Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 against the background of the Psalter. In their minds, the two were bound together. For them, when Paul said “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” he was referring to the superscriptions of the psalms. Nor would they have sympathized with the argument that “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” must refer to distinct types of songs and certainly they had no sympathy for the notion that “psalm” refer to a canonical psalm, a hymn to a type of non-canonnical song, and “spiritual song” to another type of non-canonical song.

Musical Instruments

One of the more interesting facets the Junius/Tremellius psalter is their translation of the directions to the musician. In 55 psalms, in all five books of the psalter, this superscription appears:

To the master of the symphonia (magistro symphoniae).

Typically in our English Bibles, e.g., in the ASV and ESV, the superscription over Psalm 4 reads, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” The 1559 Geneva bible has “To him that excelleth on Neginoth.” Thus, they left the Hebrew untranslated—though we have already observed how the editors/translators addressed the use of musical instruments in the new covenant, in the note on Psalm 150:3. KJV/AV revised the Geneva Bible slightly: “To the chief musician on Neginoth….” The Geneva/KJV tells the English reader less than the ASV/ESV but none of them has quite the same effect of the Junius/Tremellius translation. Symphonia was a transliteration of the Greek term (συμφωνία). According to Liddell and Scott (the precursor to Liddell, Scott, and Jones), a Symphonia, in this context, is a band or an orchestra. It features percussive instruments (drums, cymbals) but apparently included wind instruments since the superscriptions to Psalms 53 and 75 include instructions to the “master of the symphonia” regarding the use of a “pneumatic instrument.”

Outside the psalter, terms for musical instruments occur most frequently in 1-2 Chronicles, in conjunction with the Levitical, priestly ministry (and often in the context of burnt offerings and sacrifices). In 1 Chronicles 15:16, the Levites were playing “with instruments of music, psalteries, cithara, and cymbals. In 16:42 it is “trumpets and cymbals for resonating and musical instruments….” In 2 Chronicles 29 the Levites were using “musical instruments” including various horns. This fits the evidence we saw in the superscriptions to 2 psalms regarding the use of particular instruments.

What does the Junius/Tremellius translation tell us about how they saw musical instruments in the psalter and redemptive history? First, whereas the terms for a symphonia and musical instruments generally and certain instruments particularly occurred with regularity in the Psalter and in 1-2 Chronicles, they occur, of course, not at all in Beza’s NT. Second, it would have been very difficult for the Reformed orthodox, for whom the Junius/Tremellius/Beza Latin Bible became the study Bible (apart from the original text), not to think of musical instruments as inextricably tied to the typological period of redemptive history and to the sacrificial ministry of the Levites. Where our translations sometimes encourage us to thing of a vocal choir, their translation encouraged them to think of the use of musical instruments in the psalms. In that respect, our experience of the psalter is quite different from theirs. The use of “choir” or “choirmaster” anachronistically tends to create the impression that the Israelites did just as many modern congregations do but for the Reformed orthodox, who composed our confessions, when they thought of the psalter and Old Testament worship generally, they thought of musical instruments, sacrifices, and even holy war (Psalm 149) against the enemies of God’s national people.

This helps explain why the churches in Geneva, Heidelberg, the Netherlands, France, and the British Isles removed or sought to remove musical instruments from Reformed churches. They were relics of the era of types and shadows, intimately, inextricably bound up with the Levitical sacrifices.

Obviously, the predominant contemporary understanding of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” varies rather sharply from that reflected in the standard Latin study Bible used by our orthodox Reformed forefathers. Further, their is considerable discontinuity between the way modern Reformed folk tend to think about musical instruments and the way the Reformed theologians and churches thought of them in the formative, classical period (16th and 17th centuries) of Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

It is useful to know that most (but not all!) of us no longer agree with our Reformed sources. We need to wrestle honestly with the facts. It is simply not satisfactory to say, “Well they were wrong.” That might be the case but we cannot simply assert that. We must show why they were wrong. Why were they wrong to read “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” in light of the superscriptions in the psalter? Why were they wrong to see the cultic (i.e., the use in public worship as distinct from the general, cultural) use of musical instruments as inextricably bound up with the types and shadows of the temporary, Israelite, national cultus and polity? It is an a fact of redemptive history that Levites played musical instruments so long as the burnt offerings were being made (2 Chron 29). They stopped with the sacrifices stopped. It is a fact of redemptive history that the same psalms that exhort us to dance and play musical instruments also exhort us to holy war against God’s national enemies.

When our theologies were being written and when our confessions were being framed, this was the understanding that informed them as they confessed that we may do in worship only that which God has commanded. In light of their understanding of redemptive history they removed instruments from the churches and sang only God’s Word (usually psalms) in response to God’s Word. They did not see musical instruments as circumstances. They saw them as elements just as the sacrifices were elements.


1. There are two possible exceptions to this rule. The Strasbourg Psalter of 1545 seems to have included some non-canonical songs. The songbook used in Heidelberg in 1563 and 1573 seems to have contained non-canonical hymns. I am investigating whether non-canonical songs were sung in public worship. The Apostles’ Creed was the only non-canonical song sung in the Genevan liturgy but it was sung in place of the reading of the Word or as a summary of the Word. When the conjugation responded to the Word they also prayed or sang the Word. The Church Order of Dort (1619) provided for the singing of a song that may have been a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer or it may have been a non-canonical song. It is lost.

Molly Worthen on Mark Driscoll (and Calvin)

You should probably read Molly Worthen’s essay on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill (HT: Justin Taylor). I don’t know if she gets Driscoll right. If (that’s a big condition. It means if the condition isn’t met then what follows is irrelevant) what she says about how they practice discipline is true, however, I suggest they look into a Reformed church order. Reformed Churches do not practice discipline that way. It usually takes us a couple years before someone is actually excommunicated and shunning is an Anabaptist practice. We have local, regional, and national assemblies to hear appeals and to give advice on matters of discipline. In our polity, our consistory cannot proceed to the final steps of discipline without consulting the regional assembly of ministers and elders!

More to the point, she resurrects the worst caricatures of Calvin. I suppose her resuscitation of them a good reminder that we have to keep repeating the history. I admit, I don’t remember hearing or reading any story about Calvin making “a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness.”  As far as I know the polity in Geneva, he didn’t have that sort of authority. Typically the Consistory fined people. I’ve never seen any instances of this sort of discipline. If everyone who criticized Calvin in Geneva was made to do this there would have been no place to walk!


As a follow-up, I admit that I don’t know much about Mark Driscoll. As a historian I’m generally much more interested in dead people than the living. I do think, however, that the R&R folks need to dig a little more deeply into the Reformed confession. We have a theology, a piety, and a practice. I’m glad that folk are enthused about aspects of the Reformation but welding those aspects to American revivalism and pietism and evangelicalism will probably create a monster. If these emerging/R&R guys want to be “Reformed” why don’t they identify themselves with the Reformed Churches? I have my guesses as to why not but it says something about folk who like Calvin’s soteriology but who reject his church.

Ms Worthen was kind enough to respond to a query about her about this passage:

The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. [Benedict cites the Calvini Opera 21:21, 367, 370-77 and several secondary texts as evidence for this episode].

In fairness, Worthen has a word count and an editor so things get compressed. Nevertheless, this compressed account of Calvin’s authority in Geneva reinforces the old and false stereotypes about Calvin, Calvinism, and the Reformed Churches as inherently authoritarian and tyrannical.

Here’s the text of my reply:

Hi Molly,

I won’t detain you long.

Thanks for the quick reply and the lead. I appreciate the difficulties and compromises required by editors! You can imagine, however, that my concern is that the sort of shorthand you used feeds what P. E. Hughes called “the popular fantasy” of Calvin as tyrant of Geneva. Calvin was more refugee than tyrant. At any rate, church-state relations in Geneva were fluid and complex.

I have Benedict (Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed) in front of me (very good memory you have!) and on p. 103 he says,

“When Ameaux’s words found their way to Calvin, he demanded action from the council. It decided to have Ameaux apologize on bended knees to Calvin before the assembly of the Two Hundred, but this was not a public penance enough to suit the minister. He refused to present himself for the ceremony and was not satisfied until the council condemned Ameaux to process through the city, kneeling at every major square or intersection to proclaim his regret at having dishonored the Word of God, the magistrates, and the ministers.”

Yes, it happened because Calvin insisted, but technically it was the city council who effected the sentence and, more importantly, it was part of a metaphorically bloody political fight, dating to the mid-40s, over the direction of the city and the church. This was less about Calvin’s person than it was about the authority of the church to make ecclesiastical policy. Ameaux was a member of a party contesting the Consistory’s authority and especially Calvin’s. Benedict’s account, in this respect, is a little overdrawn. In a survey a certain amount of nuance goes by the boards.*

As to authoritarianism and Calvinism generally, there’s a serious argument, that Bruce Gordon, I, and others have advanced that Calvinism in the period was a religion of refugees not tyrants. After all no other group suffered more martyrs in that period than the Reformed.

As to Driscoll and Mars Hill, he would not be admitted as a member of most [confessional] Reformed Churches much less as a minister. He’s a typical evangelical religious entrepreneur, part of a long line of such going back to the 18th century, but he’s hardly Reformed. The Calvin-Driscoll link, in that respect, is quite tenuous.

Thanks for your time,



ps. I see Gordon has a biography of Calvin appearing in May. I expect it will be terrific.

*I should add that this followed a legal and an ecclesiastical case (Register of the Company of Pastors, 1.309-10) concerning Ameaux’s wife, so there was some history there. Further, Ameaux wasn’t just “some guy.” He was a member of the city council (i.e., a member of either the Petit Conseil or the Two Hundred, it’s not clear) and a leading member of the “Libertine” party seeking to discredit Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva. Pierre Ameaux was a businessman who manufactured playing cards. According to Bernard Cottret, Calvin, 187, “he was sentenced to make a circuit of the city, his head bare, a lighted torch in his hand.” This is a translation CO 21.377, Registres du Conseil 41, fol. 68.

Here is the text of the French:

Ameaulx. Ayans vheu le contenuz de ces responces par lesquelle nous appert que il a meschamment parle contre Dieu le magestral et M. Calvin ministre etc. comment amplement est conpensez voz que ce pays soyt vostre? il est a moy tenus en ces responces: Ordonne qui soyt conet a mes compagnyons et serez gouvernés par nous dampne a debvoyer fere le tour a la ville en chemise teste nue une torche allumee en sa maien et dempuys devant le tribunal venyr crie mercy a Dieu et a la justice les genoulx a terre confessant avoyer mal parle le condampnant aussy a tous despens et que la sentence soyt profere publiquement.

Surely it strikes us as severe today—It wasn’t for nothing that Calvin was called “The Accusative Case” by his fellow students—but remember the times and the context. See Parker, John Calvin: A Biography, 99. According to Parker, what was at stake was the authority of the Word. Was it a confusion of the two kingdoms for Calvin to demand civil penalties for being identified with the sufferings of Christ? Absolutely! From the perspective of the 2 kingdoms, Calvin might have had a case before the Consistory but not before the Two Hundred.

This post first appeared in two parts, in 2009, on the Heidelblog.

More Than the Institutes And More Than Calvin

In case you’ve missed it, the Calvinpalooza [a term coined  on the Heidelblog on 29 January 2008]  that began last year is in full swing now with Calvin conferences popping up all over the globe. WSC is having its very own Calvin Conference: Calvin’s Legacy, on the 16th and 17th of this month. Calvin is a monumentally important figure in the history of Western Civilizations  and he is quite worth studying and celebrating. He is one of the fathers of the Reformed Churches, so those of us who live ecclesiastically and theologically in his tradition have a second reason for remembering him. As we do, however, we should bear in mind that he was one of our fathers and that he wrote more than his famous Institutes.There are a few programs for reading through the Institutes this year and that’s terrific. I sometimes fear that the Institutes are more talked about than read. At the same time those who are new to the Reformed tradition and those who’ve been influenced by the notion that Calvin is the sum of the Reformed tradition should know that, prior to the 20th century, Calvin was not generally regarded as the be all and end all of the Reformed faith.

vitringa_institutesPictured is a small handbook of Reformed theology by Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722), a Cocceian biblical scholar, theologian, and church historian and a student of Herman Venema. It’s just a text I happened to have on my desk (thanks to Wes White). I don’t know that the reader will want to drop his copy of Calvin’s Institutes to pick up Vitringa, but the latter is symbolic of the fact that there were literally dozens of important theological texts in the Reformed tradition after the Institutes. Some of Richard Muller’s journal articles have been collected in After Calvin and his work on the Reformed tradition (including Calvin) extending to the early 18th century is summarized in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols). If you want a serviceable introduction to this period in Reformed theology see Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment. Many of the primary works from this period are overlooked because they have yet to be translated but this problem is being addressed by the Classic Reformed Theology project and by the work of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, which is responsible for publishing Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics and is now working on other projects.

Already in the early days of the Calvinpalooza one sees all the competing Calvins emerging. There is the tolerant, “mainline” Calvin who sounds remarkably like Karl Barth. There is the “Five Point” Calvin who sounds like the Restless and Reforming fellows but, as Muller has reminded us in The Unaccommodated Calvin, as we spend 2009 re-reading and re-assessing Calvin we should do so with the consciousness that he was at the headwaters of a stream and that he should be read in the light of that stream.

Calvin wasn’t a Barthian or even a proto-Barthian. He wasn’t a proto-Schleiermachian. He wasn’t a proto-evangelical. He wasn’t restless but he was Reformed. He was at the headwaters of  and part of a churchly, orthodox, confessional tradition of reading the Scriptures. In the modern world that tradition has largely been swamped by other movements, but there continues to exist a remnant of orthodox Calvinists who still believe what Calvin taught and practices the faith as Calvin practiced it. That little band receives him as a honored father but also as primus inter pares.

Part Of A Broader Movement
By the time Calvin published the first edition of his Institutes in 1536 Luther and Melanchthon had been establishing the foundation for Protestant thought for more than 15 years. The first edition of Melanchthon’s Common Places appeared in 1521. Luther’s Bondage of the Will was published in 1525. The Augsburg Confession, which Calvin would later sign, was published in 1530.  As early as 1523 there had begun to develop a distinct Reformed confession. Heinrich Bullinger published the first treatise on covenant theology in 1534. The point is that, though he is often treated by modern writers as the singular Reformed voice, Calvin was heir to a broader Protestant consensus.During his life, Calvin was part of a broader movement. He wrote, taught, and preached, and was conscious of doing so, alongside a good lot of other Reformed writers, preachers, and teachers. Martin Bucer was becoming a Protestant, a follower of Luther, in the late teens. He began writing Protestant and Reformed theology in the 1520s and 30s. When he got to Geneva Guillaume (William) Farel had already been there for several years, laying the foundation of the Reformed Church. Peter Martyr Vermigili and Girolamo Zanchi became Reformed in the 1540s. Martyr helped to lead the Reformed reformation in Zurich, alongside Heinrich Bullinger, and Zanchi taught in Strasbourg, and later in Heidelberg.  Pierre Viret was a key figure in the Reformation of Lausanne and Geneva in the 1540s and 50s and traveled widely as a preacher after leaving Geneva. Theodore Beza began teaching in 1549 and became Calvin’s colleague in Geneva and his representative to the French Churches and his Stand-in during the 1550s and his successor from 1564 to 1605.

We know relatively less about these other figures because, in the 20th century, for reasons that had more to do with systematic theology rather than history or historical theology, Calvin became virtually sole face of Reformed theology, as if the entire Reformed faith teetered on one man’s head.

Calvin had a great lot of students who studied at his feet, read his Institutes, heard him lecture on Scripture, observed his work in Geneva, and who learned his theology, piety, and practice. They took that instruction with them to plant churches in France, in Germany, and across Europe. Among these students understood Calvin’s theology, piety, and practice and translated it, adapted it, and modified it to suit their needs in different circumstances. We should note that, unlike many scholars since the early 20th century, they did not treat the Institutes as if dropped from heaven like the Quran. They treated Calvin with great, deserved, respect. They treated him as a revered teacher, leader, and in some respects, a pioneer. They did not treat him or his Institutes as the end of Reformed theology. They treated Calvin as a father and the Institutes as a starting place for Reformed theology. As circumstances changed, as seminal Reformed ideas (e.g. covenant theology) needed to be expanded, as his practice (e.g. worship)  needed to be refined, they did so and they did it without guilt or without hesitation because they understood that they were operating with shared assumptions, shared principles, and a shared hermeneutic. They could elaborate and adapt Calvin’s theology, piety, and practice to new circumstances because that is what Calvin taught them to do, because that is what Calvin did with the theology, piety, and practice he inherited from Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer.

The Relative Absence Of Calvin In Reformed Orthodoxy
So far I have tried to put Calvin into a broader historical and theological context. This being the 500th anniversary of his birth there is bound to be a certain amount of parochial pride and hyperbole but contrarian that I am, I hope that the gentle reader will remember that, as important as Calvin was and remains, the peculiar position he occupies today is largely a modern invention.By saying this I am not diminishing Calvin nor am I diminishing his astonishing accomplishments, about which I will say more below. I am, however, doing what historians do, and that is attempting to spoil the party a little. That’s what contextualization is: spoiling the party. Modern folk like to think that they are the brightest and best that have ever been. Narcissists that we are, we think that if we are the brightest and best that have ever been and if we think Calvin was the be all and end all of Reformed theology, then that must be so.

One of the more surprising and even shocking things I found when I began advanced studies in Reformation and post-Reformation history and theology is how infrequently, relative to modern writing, Calvin was cited by his orthodox followers. In many discussions I’ve had since c. 1980, apart from God’s Word and the Reformed confessions, one way to end a discussion was to quote Calvin. If it is so for us, why wasn’t it so for them?  This was truly troubling. Calvin was a profound influence on me. One of the history profs at my undergraduate university allowed me to do a lot of directed study so that I did a sort of great books course on my own. One semester I read the Institutes from cover to cover. That was the first comprehensive account of the faith I ever read. I hadn’t read Berkhof (in any version). I hadn’t read Sproul. I think I had read Packer’s Knowing God and I had probably read Van Til’s The Case for Calvinism.

As I began my doctoral work I expected to see Calvin’s name appear as routinely in those  texts as he does in modern texts. I didn’t expect footnotes (which are a relatively recent invention) but I did expect to see acknowledgment of Calvin’s importance. When I did not I began to theorize as to why not. I theorized that he was too controversial and that it wouldn’t have served the rhetorical purpose of the author to associate himself too closely with such a controversial figure. That was probably true in some cases. There were probably other reasons for not openly citing him but I had a nagging, almost guilty, feeling that there was another reason he wasn’t being cited as often as I expected: he wasn’t as important to them as he has become to us.

The relative absence of Calvin in the writings of Reformed orthodoxy doesn’t mean that he wasn’t important. In fact the practice of citation varied widely. Some authors cite almost no one or they cite primarily patristic writers or some other group of writers determined by rhetorical needs and circumstances. On the other hand, the great Dutch Reformed theologian Gijsbertus Voetius cited authors casually and extensively almost  like a modern writer. Still, Calvin does not appear as often as one might expect.

One reason for this disappointment is the disproportionate influence Calvin has come to have over the Reformed identity in the 20th century in the wake of Karl Barth. As I write I’m not even certain any longer how much Barth actually cited Calvin, but I think it’s fair to say that Barth saw himself as recovering Calvin’s theology and certainly Barth’s followers have attempted to position him as the genuine, modern heir of Calvin’s theology over against the decretal, federal theology of Calvin’s orthodox successors. Because of Barth’s massive importance and influence in the 20th century there has arisen a sort of Calvin Studies industry. Of course this is part of the trend toward academic specialization in the same period.

The body of literature on Calvin, however, is truly amazing especially when one considers the relative lack of literature on other Reformed figures in the same period beginning with the 400th anniversary of Calvin’s birth in 1909. How many English language biographies of Calvin have been published since 1909? How many of them make a genuine contribution (i.e. add something new to our understanding of Calvin)?  How many summaries of the Institutes are there? How many surveys of Calvin’s theology? I call this “dogpiling” and I urge my students not to do it. Dogpiling occurs in when a writer either does not know the secondary literature or doesn’t care and jumps on the pile any way. Why would someone willingly pile on? Because the compulsion to contribute something on Calvin is too strong. It’s almost sacrilege for a self-identifying Calvinist not to write on Calvin. Why is the compulsion so strong? In part it is the intrinsic attraction of and to Calvin. In part, however, it is the social importance Calvin has attained in the period. In other words, it’s about creating identity markers, not about actual Calvin scholarship. Here’s an interesting bit of evidence for my thesis. Did you know that there is yet an untranslated (into English) Latin treatise on the Trinity? In the same time when multiple biographies have been written, a new edition of an English translation of Calvin’s NT commentaries (an attempted revision of the OT commentaries did not come to fruition) appeared, no one has bothered to translate this work into English. There’s a Korean translation but not an English translation. Further, not all of his correspondence is translated. Few things are as important for understanding a figure than his own diaries or his own correspondence. If we really want to understand Calvin more fully why hasn’t that work been done? How can that be? If Calvin and Calvin studies are so important, why, when there is so much labor being expended in the study of and writing about Calvin, has not this basic  work been done? The partial answer is that the interest has too often been less in what Calvin actually said and wrote, where, when, how, and why, but in the use to which a version of the Calvin story can be put for various modern agendas.

Reading Calvin Well
The phenomenon that stimulated this series is the appearance of several plans to read through the Institutes. This is fine and salutary, especially for those who have not read the Institutes or for those who’ve not read them for a long time. To see folk, especially those outside the Reformed tradition and outside the confessional Reformed orbit, reading Calvin is a wonderful thing. Nevertheless, there is much more to Calvin than the Institutes.

Curmudgeon that I am, I fear that, in the enthusiasm of the anniversary, will read the Institutes stop there. This has been one of the great sins of the modern Calvin studies movement. There is an inordinate number of essays in which Calvin’s view of x or y is described with great finality solely on the basis of the Institutes and then often from a few lines.

Take his view on the Christian Sabbath. Most accounts of Calvin’s view of the Sabbath would have it that he was a lawn-bowling, Sabbath-denying antinomian. If all one reads of Calvin are a few lines from the Institutes in splendid isolation from his historical context (against which “sabbatarians” was he arguing and why?). If, however, one reads Calvin’s sermons on Deuteronomy (and other sermons), one gains a rather more complete picture of his theology, piety, and practice of the Sabbath. Calvin’s rhetoric on the Sabbath was virtually indistinguishable from that of the later Puritans.

In fact, if we’re to read Calvin correctly, we must read him the way he intended to be read. The Institutes were the harvest of his biblical exegesis. He revised the Institutes almost constantly on the basis of his biblical study. His biblical study also came to expression, however, in his preaching. The three endeavors are organically linked. To read Calvin rightly one needs to take account of not only what Calvin said in the Institutes, when he said it, why he said it and to whom and in what circumstance, but what else he said in his biblical commentaries and his sermons.

For the truly thorough Calvin student it shouldn’t stop at this troika. Calvin wrote other treatises on many other topics and thus one should consult the relevant treatises. One should also consult, where possible, his correspondence. His intentions and context are much illuminated by his personal, often private, account given to his friends of his work. Thankfully, much of this work is in English.

There is one other body of literature that the Calvin student will want to consult. It’s the body of literature to which almost no one but a few hearty scholars pay attention but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I refer to the records of Calvin’s ecclesiastical life. Some of this is found in the correspondence and in the sermons and in a few treatises, but most of it is found in the minutes of the Register of the Company of Pastors.

These minutes are a wonderful insight into Calvin the pastor, the shepherd of needy and broken sheep. In Reformed Churches before Calvin and since there have always been a series of related ecclesiastical assemblies. One is the congregation itself, with which most are familiar. Another, however, is the consistory, which, in Dutch Reformed practice is the monthly (or so) meeting of pastors and elders to consider pastoral issues in the congregation. Another assembly, in Dutch Reformed terms, is the Council (which includes the deacons) and that assembly is to address the practical needs of the congregation. Beyond that  are regional and national assemblies.

To my shame I am not expert in the church polity in Geneva. I shall have to work on it this year. I believe, however, that there were local consistories in the congregations in Geneva, there was at least one body of deacons to address the temporal (financial and physical) needs of the congregations and certainly there was a broader assembly of ministers, the Compangie des Pasteurs (Company of Pastors) which included pastors from Geneva and the surrounding rural areas. I don’t believe there was a formal Swiss Synod, in which Geneva participated (though the Genevan churches often consulted with Bern, Zürich, and other cantons), but there were French Synods to which Calvin corresponded and in which Beza was active.

In the Register of the Company of Pastors one finds a record of a living, breathing, ordinary congregation. The company of pastors seems to have functioned in the way a local consistory would today. They dealt with venal and venial sins as well as gross sins. They heard confessions of sin, they counseled, sought reconciliation between sinners, they disciplined, they prayed, and they planned. Because of the nature of church-state relations in the 16th century the Company had the power to level financial penalties. Forgive me for thinking that might be an especially effective tool in some congregations today!

As a pastor I’ve always found it encouraging to know that my forebears faced the very same problems then that I do now. They held the same sorts of long, difficult meetings. They disciplined recalcitrant, stubborn, and impenitent sinners. They heard confessions by repentant sinners, whom they embraced with affection. They had to sort out thorny ethical problems, including the divorce of Calvin’s own brother Antoine!

There are a couple of ways of accessing these minutes. Philip Edgecumbe Hughes made a translation of the minutes that covers the periods when Calvin was in Geneva. There is a broader academic project that is preparing a critical French text (it’s very difficult work!) and from that a critical English translation. I doubt that the Hughes edition is still in print but I think the more recent critical edition is available. A quick search on suggests that both versions are still available.

Calvin wasn’t just a writer and theologian. He reckoned himself a pastor. He had a theology, yes. He had a piety, yes, but he also had a churchly practice and that churchly practice was vitally important to him and inseparable from his theology and piety. I hope that the enthusiasm for Calvin that so many are demonstrating in 2009 will translate into an appreciation of not only his doctrine of salvation but also the rest of his theology and in the way that it worked itself out in the life of the church.

This post first appeared as a series, in 2009, on the Heidelblog and appears here slightly revised.

Semi-Pelagianism And Faith As The Instrument Of Existential-Mystical Union With Christ

William Perkins (1558-1602), in his 1595 Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, on the question of effectual call, wrote:

Againe, if the Vocation of every man be effectual, then faith must be common to all men either by nature, or by grace, or both: now to say the first, namely, that the power of believing is common to all by nature, is the heresie of the Pelagians, and to say it is common to all by grace, is false. All men have not faith, saith Paul. 2. Thess. 3. 2. nay many to whom the Gospel is preached, doe not so much as understand it and give assent unto it; Satan blinding their minds that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should not shine unto them, 2. Cor. 4. 4. And to say that faith is partly by nature and partly by grace, is the condemned heresie of the semi Pelagian: for we cannot so much as thinke a good thought of our selves, 2. Cor. 3. 5.

This understanding of the teaching of Pelagius, who denied that “in Adam’s fall sinned we all, i.e., he denied that either Adam or Christ were federal representatives, who denied the doctrine of original sin, who made sin a matter of imitation so that we become sinners when we sin, is the common property of the majority of the Western, Augustinian tradition.

Further, Perkins spoke for the entire Reformation when he distinguished between full-blown Pelagianism and “semi-Pelagianism” which admits the federal relationship and original sin but which tends to downplay the effects of sin. As Perkins observed, semi-Pelagianianism also affirmed the necessity of grace but just as it watered down the effects of sin so it weakened the necessity of and the power of grace. Like Pelagius, for the semi-Pelagians, which included some of Augustine’s opponents in the early 5th century and much of the medieval church, faith is “partly by nature and partly by grace.” The semi-Pelagian view is that grace helps but it is not decisive. The free exercise of the human will, or in some cases, the human intellect or affections is decisive and essential for faith, justification, and salvation. According to semi-Pelagianism, from a Pauline and Protestant point of view justification is no longer by grace alone, through faith (trusting) alone, but now through grace and works (our cooperation with grace).

There is, thus, a good lot of Pelagius in semi-Pelagianism. This is why the Synod of Dort condemned the Arminian (Remonstrant) doctrines of having brought “again out of hell the error of Pelagius.” (Rejection of Errors, 2.3). If one reads Pelagius’ commentary on Romans one sees that the Synod had a point. Pelagius and semi-Pelagius weren’t that far apart.

With that background in mind one can imagine how surprised I was to hear the claim that  it is semi-Pelagian to teach that faith is the instrument of mystical or existential union with Christ is “semi-Pelagian.”

Above we saw that, according to William Perkins, semi-Pelagianism asserts that the will (or other faculties) are able to operate in salvation partly on the basis of nature, i.e., they are not entirely dependent upon grace. In contrast, the Reformed argue that all humans are, by virtue of our union with the first Adam in his disobedience and sin (his violation of the covenant of works; see Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 7), dead in sins (Eph 2). In the providence of God our corrupted faculties are able to function toward civil good or civil righteousness but not for spiritual good or righteousness before God. This is the doctrine of total or extensive depravity (corruption). As the colonial Puritans put it: “In Adam’s fall sinned we all.” As Pauline and Augustinians we understand that sin brings death. Hence, Paul teaches that we “dead in sins and trespasses” (Eph 2:1).

The Reformed ordo salutis (the logical order of the application of redemption) has typically taught that God the Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to give new life to the elect, and having done, gives them faith in Christ and through that faith resting and receiving Christ, regenerated believers are justified and united to Christ.

Nevertheless, despite this apparently simple and straightforward account of the faith, there seems to be genuine confusion about

  • whether there is or should be an ordo salutis;
  • what the Reformed ordo salutis is;
  • where, in the Reformed ordo salutis, the doctrine of union with Christ should appear.

There is also apparently some confusion about what is meant by “union with Christ.” This is understandable because the doctrine has three or four aspects and, in contemporary discussion, all participants have not always been as cautious as necessary to make sure we are talking about the same aspect at the same time in the same way.

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) represented the mainstream of the Reformed tradition when he spoke of the “federal union” that all the elect have with Christ (Systematic Theology, 448). This aspect of union is relative to the eternal, pre-temporal (before time) “covenant of redemption” (pactum salutis) between the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit). According to Ps 110, John 17 and other passages, the Father gave to his Son a people and the Son volunteered to be their Mediator, their federal representative, and their Savior; i.e., to earn their salvation. This is one of the three or four aspects of our union with Christ. For more on this see the chapter on the “Covenant Before the Covenants” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.

Berkhof wrote of a second aspect of our union with Christ, which he called the “union of life” (ibid). This union refers to the natural, organic relation that all humans have with the first Adam, who was the federal representative of all humanity (Rom 5). The corollary to our natural union with Adam, in whom we would have entered in glorious life had he (and we in him) obeyed the commandment of life (“you shall not eat”). In the covenant of redemption God constituted a union between the Son, who would be the Last Adam (1Cor 15) and his people. Implicitly, the Holy Spirit was a party to this covenant as that person who would apply redemption to the people given to the Son. The Second Adam (Rom 5), Jesus, fulfilled that covenant of works for all those whom he represented, for whom he died and for whose justification he was raised.

We might also speak of a third aspect of our union with Christ, which we might call decretal union, i.e., the union that exists between Christ and his people by virtue of God’s decree to elect, in Christ, some out of the mass of fallen humanity to redemption. Paul spoke to this aspect of our union with Christ when he wrote that we were chosen “in Christ” before the foundations of the world (Eph 1). This aspect is, of course, a corollary to the federal union and the union of life mentioned above.

The last aspect is mystical union (or sometimes referred to as “existential union”) and it refers to the subjective application of redemption purposed from eternity in the decree, covenanted among the Trinitarian person in the pactum salutis, accomplished by Christ in his active and suffering obedience, and applied to the elect by the Holy Spirit. Mystical union is, as Berkhof put it, that “intimate, vital, and spiritual” connection “between Christ and his people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation” (Systematic Theology, 449).

Ordo Salutis
The debate that has arisen in the last few decades has raised questions about whether we should speak of an ordo salutis. Some contemporary writers have called for us to make a “decisive break with the ordo salutis thinking.” Such a proposal, however, is quite radical in comparison to the Reformed tradition. The existence and necessity of a logical order of the application of redemption seems clear in Romans 8:29–30:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

When we speak of a “logical order” all that is meant is this: God’s decree of predestination is logically prior to vocation or effectual calling. Thus, those whom God the Spirit effectually calls, are the elect. Those who believe and through faith alone are justified are those whom God has elected in Christ and effectually called. The sanctified and glorified are those whom God elected in Christ, effectually called by the Spirit, and justified through faith alone.

That’s the ordo salutis or the logical order of the application of redemption. This is why all the Reformed theologians since the beginning of the Reformation have taught this basic order of the application of redemption. Indeed, the entire Reformation conflict between Rome and the Protestants may be said to have been over the logical order of the application of redemption. The medieval Western church taught and the Roman communion teaches that justification is God’s recognition of our sanctification through the infusion of medicinal grace, through “charity poured into the heart” and cooperation with grace, the combination of which is said to create inherent justice.

The Reformation, however, taught and teaches that God justifies sinners by his unmerited favor (grace) on the basis of Christ’s perfect (condign) righteousness accomplished for us and imputed to us and received through Spirit-wrought faith alone. The Reformation was built upon the logical order of the application of redemption taught by Paul in Romans.

Covenant Theology
Thus far everything seems fairly clear. The historic Reformed view is opposed to semi-Pelagianism and on the Reformation doctrine of election (shared by all the magisterial Reformers) and justification sola gratia, sola fide. It is built on the Pauline order of the application of redemption and a particular understanding of the history of redemption and covenant theology taught by the Reformed theologians and reflected to varying degrees in the Reformed confessions.

Whence the difficulty and confusion? Part of the explanation lies in the discomfort that some began to have with traditional covenant theology. The traditional Reformed view of mystical union, as represented by Berkhof, is built upon the traditional covenant theology (covenant of redemption, covenant of works, and covenant of grace). That scheme was subject to criticism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Lutherans, Socinians, and the Remonstrants (Arminians).  In the twentieth century, that scheme also came under sustained assault by Barthians and by the modern “biblical theology” movement which, unlike the older and more orthodox biblical theologians (e.g., Caspar Olevianus, Johannes Cocceius, Geerhardus Vos, B. B. Warfield, and John Murray) thought of dogmatic or systematic theology as an enemy of a true account of the faith. They sought to overcome traditional distinctions and spoke disparagingly of “scholastic” or “systematic” theology as derived from ideas foreign to Scripture and imposed upon Scripture. There was even a proposal by a notable Reformed writer, in the early 1970s, to replace the categories and vocabulary of systematic theology which those of “biblical theology.”

Others, under the influence of the “biblical theology” movement (dominated in the 20th century by Barthians), came to reject the covenant of redemption (before time) and the covenant of works before the fall. In this scheme the covenant of grace swallowed up everything. According to G. C. Berkouwer (1903–96), this is what happened in the theology of Karl Barth (d. 1968). The decree of election, which seems to have included everyone) obliterated the distinction between law and gospel, and between the covenants of works and grace. Berkouwer himself came to reject the covenant of redemption as a speculative assault on the doctrine of the Trinity. That criticism has been echoed in contemporary, otherwise confessional, Reformed circles. Thus, two parts of the foundation of the historic and confessional Reformed understanding of union with Christ were weakened and the way was opened for new proposals based on either a rejection of the ordo salutis or a re-ordering it.

Where Does Faith Fit?

That faith which secures eternal life; which unites us to Christ as living members of his body; which makes us the sons of God; which interests us in all the benefits of redemption; which works by love, and is fruitful in good works; is founded , not on the external or the moral evidence of the truth, but on the testimony of the Spirit with an by the truth to the renewed soul (Systematic Theology, 3.68).

…The first effect of faith, according to the Scriptures is union with Christ. We are in him by faith. There is indeed a union between Christ and his people, founded on the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son in the counsels of eternity. We are, therefore, said to be in Him before the foundation of the world.

…But it was also, as we learn from the Scriptures, included in the stipulations of that covenant, that his people, so far as adults are concerned, should not receive the saving benefits of that covenant until they were united to Him by a voluntary act of faith. They are ‘by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’ (Eph. ii.3) They remain in this state of condemnation until they believe. Their union is consummated by faith. To be in Christ, as to believe in Christ are, therefore , in the Scriptures, convertible forms of expression. They mean the same thing, and therefore, the same effects are attributed to faith as are attributed to union with Christ” (Ibid, 3.104)

So says Charles Hodge (1797–1878), who taught at Old Princeton for about fifty years, on the relation between faith and union. We should note that he distinguished between different aspects of our union with Christ. In the quotation above, he named explicitly “federal union” and distinguished implicitly between what we might call “decretal union” and federal union. He also connected his doctrine of mystical union to the doctrine of the covenant of redemption (see the previous post).

His main focus, and the aspect of union in view in this series, however, was mystical (or existential) union. According to Hodge, faith, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, unites us to Christ, i.e., the mystical aspect of union is an effect of faith but its relation to faith is so close that the one may be said to be the other.

We should also observe that he described faith as a voluntary act, i.e., as an act of the will. To be sure, Hodge incorporated other faculties of the soul in the act of faith, but he did describe it as voluntary. Was his doctrine of mystical union semi-Pelagian? It would have been had he taught that we believe before we are regenerated (given new life) or if he had written that regeneration (so defined) is the result of faith but he did not. In the section of his Systematic Theology preceding faith he taught that faith is a consequence of regeneration.

In Hodge’s ordo salutis (the logical order of the Spirit’s application of redemption to the elect) mystical (or existential) union is not said to exist until faith. Faith is not a result of mystical union. Rather, mystical union is, as Hodge said, “the first effect of faith.”

“The proximate effect of this union, and consequently the second effect of faith is justification.” In Hodge’s ordo it is those who are mystically united to Christ by faith who are justified. “Faith,” he wrote, “is the condition on which God promises in the covenant of redemption, to impute unto men the righteousness of Christ. As soon, therefore, as they believe, they cannot be condemned. They are clothed with a righteousness that answers all the demands of justice” (Ibid, 3.105).

I would be happier had Hodge reversed these order of justification and union since, Hodge’s order has it that it is those who are as yet unjustified who are considered to be in mystical union with Christ but the point of this series to gain some clarity about the instrumentality of faith in Reformed theology relative to union. It should be clear that, in Reformed theology, regeneration precedes faith and faith precedes mystical union.

What Is The Nature Of Our Mystical Union?
William Perkins on Mystical Union:

The benefits which we receive by this Mystical union are manifold. For it is the ground of the conveyance of all grace. The first is, that by means hereof every Christian as he is a Christian or a man regenerate, hath his beginning and being in Christ, howsoever as he is a man he hath his being and subsisting in himself, as Paul saith, 1. Cor. 1. 30. Ye are of God in Christ. And, Eph. 5. 30. Ye are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.(An exposition of the symbole or creed of the apostles, according to the tenour of the scripture, and the consent of orthodox Fathers of the Church, 1595; Works 300.)

His first job under this heading is to sort out the nature of our mystical union, i.e., the nature of the connection between the believer and Christ and its importance. We cannot benefit from Christ’s work until we are mystically united to him. This was Calvin’s point in Institutes 3.1. “Regenerate” here apparently refers to the Spirit’s work of raising to life the spiritually dead.

How (will some say) can this be? After this manner: The comparison is taken from our first parents. Eve was made of a rib taken out of Adams side, he being cast into a slumber: this being done, Adam awaked and said, This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. Gen. 2. 23. Christ was nailed on the cross, and his most precious blood was shed, and out of it arise and spring all true Christians: that is, out of the merit of Christ’s death and passion, whereby they become new creatures.

Our mystical union with Christ is intimate. It is interesting in this section, however, that Perkins did not say, as we might have expected him to say, that the Spirit is the source of union. Of course it’s true that the Spirit raises the spiritually dead and grants them new life. Here, however, he turns to the work of Christ for us before turning to his work in us. We are new creatures because of Christ’s death.

Secondly, every one that believes in Christ by reason of this union hath an unspeakable prerogative: for hereby he is first united to Christ, and by reason thereof is also joined to the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the holy Ghost, and shall have eternal fellowship with them.

Were this text being published now there would be comma after “Christ” in order to make his logic clear. We should understand Perkins to be saying, “everyone who believes in Christ, by virtue of this union, has a great benefit: union with Christ, and thus with the whole Trinity.”

In other words, when Perkins thought of the source of our spiritual life, he connected it closely to the objective work of Christ for us. When he thought of coming into possession of union with Christ, he thought of Spirit-wrought faith. We have the intimate union (and communion) with Christ, by grace alone, through faith alone.

Thirdly, sundry men, specially Papists, deride the doctrine of justification by imputed righteousness: thinking it is absurd, that a man should be just by that righteousness which is inherent in the person of Christ: as if we would say, that one man may live by the soul of another: or be learned by the learning of another. But here we may see, that it hath sufficient foundation.

The importance of the forensic, objective aspect of salvation and justification appears again. Notice how that, as soon as Perkins thinks of the application, he turns back to that which is applied. Notice too that he’s concerned that the reader understand that this is a Protestant doctrine. The ground of our acceptance with God is not our union with Christ— Bernard of Clairveaux had a strong doctrine of union with Christ but he did not have a Protestant doctrine of justification on the basis of the imputation of Christ’s (condign) merit.

Implicitly here too is his answer to the frequent criticism that the Protestants teach justification on the basis of a “legal fiction.” Perkins was saying, in effect, “Nonsense!” The ground of our justification is not fiction. It’s the only actual, real, condign merit that has ever been achieved: that of Jesus. By faith we are united to that Jesus and thus benefit by what he accomplished for us.

For there is a most near and straight union between Christ and all that believe in him: and in this union Christ with all his benefits according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, is made ours really: and therefore we may stand just before God by his righteousness; it being indeed his, because it is in him as in a subject; yet so, as it is also ours; because it is given unto us of God.

The medieval and Tridentine Roman church taught (falsely) that we are accepted by God on the basis of the Spirit’s work in us and our cooperation with that grace. The ground of our acceptance with God was said to be “inherent righteousness” (iustitia inhaerens) or sometimes “charity poured forth into our hearts.” This is what some Romanist apologists are now calling the “Agape” model, as if exchanging the Latin “caritas” (charity) for the Greek Agape makes a substantial difference.

In contrast to the Romish doctrine, Perkins wanted to be clear that, relative to acceptance with God, Christ’s righteousness is truly extra nos (outside us) but he himself does not remain so. Again, one hears Calvin saying: If Christ remains outside of us, he is of no benefit to us. By virtue of Sprit-wrought union with Christ, we become bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.

On the other hand, in some contemporary accounts of mystical union it almost seems as if mystical union is everything and faith has become a mere technicality to be affirmed formally and then locked away. Having fulfilled its function faith goes away and mystical union now is said to do what for Perkins and most other Reformed writers faith was thought to do. In Perkins, however, we do not find that mystical union swallows up or replaces the forensic doctrine. Rather, Spirit-wrought faith and mystical (Spirit-wrought) union complement each other and faith plays an essential role in justification, in union, and in the Christian life that flows from our mystical union with Christ.

What Does The Church Say?
William Perkins taught that believers are given new life by the Spirit and by the same Spirit given faith and through that faith united to Christ. It is particularly useful to be aware of Perkins as we come to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

It is good for us to close this essay by considering the Westminster Shorter Catechism since as important as our theologians are, we do not confess their work. We confess God’s Word as summarized by the churches in the confessions and catechisms. The Shorter Catechism has a clear survey of the nature of union with Christ. It should clarify remaining questions.

Since the mid-1970s there has been a number of Reformed theologians who have sought to revise the Reformed doctrines of justification and union with Christ. Some have proposed the doctrine that sinners are accepted with God through faith and works. Yes, it has been put that baldly. “What?” You might object, “Didn’t we settle that in the Reformation?” Yes, for those of us who still believe what the Reformation believed, yes it is settled. Formally, the doctrine of the Reformed churches, as summarized by the confessions and catechisms, has not changed but under the surface, as a matter of history, that revision was accepted and defended by more than a few as the genuine “Reformed” doctrine (as distinct from the ostensibly, allegedly defective Lutheran doctrine). When objections were raised the view was reformulated to teach acceptance with God through “faithfulness.” Nothing was changed, however. The revised doctrine taught (and teaches) that we are justified through trust and obedience or cooperation with grace.

As part of this revision, it was proposed that we are brought into a conditional union with Christ by baptism and that we remain in union with Christ by cooperation with grace, i.e., by works. In this way, our perseverance and our assurance of salvation was placed in jeopardy in the name of achieving a truly and distinctly “Reformed” doctrine of justification (and union with Christ).

As we’ve seen, some have proposed a revision of the doctrine of union that disregards the idea of an ordo salutis arguing that a proper doctrine of union with Christ renders the idea a logical order of salvation invalid. All of Christ’s benefits, it is claimed, flow from existential, mystical union.

Thus, it behooves us to notice the logical and pedagogical order of salvation relative to mystical union with Christ in the catechism. In the questions leading up to this section the catechism has been summarizing the accomplishment of redemption by Christ. Questions 24–28 account for Christ’s triplex munus (threefold office): prophet, priest, and king.

Question 29 asks,

How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

As we saw in Perkins, in the Shorter Catechism, redemption is accomplished outside of us (extra nos), for us (pro nobis, by Christ alone (solo Christo) and applied to us the Holy Spirit.

Those who benefit from Christ’s work do so by “effectual application” worked by the Spirit. How does this work? The adjective “effectual” signals that we’re thinking about that which the Spirit does, as distinct from what is offered generally to all in the preaching of the Gospel.

Question 30 answers

The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (emphasis added).

So far there is no question about who applies Christ and his benefits to us: the Holy Spirit. The next question is how the Spirit applies Christ’s benefits to us. The answer is “by working faith in us.” In the context of the current discussions and confusion about the doctrine of union with Christ we must appreciate the simplicity and clarity of the Shorter Catechism. Once more: The Holy Spirit applies the redemption that Christ purchased, earned for us “by working faith in us.”

According to some accounts of mystical or existential union with Christ, we might have expected to see the catechism say, “through [mystical] union with Christ” but that is not what the catechism says. Union with Christ is not the instrument through which we apprehend Christ and his benefits, faith is.

There is a second aspect to this answer. There is a subordinate clause beginning with the word “thereby.” The clause says: “thereby uniting us to Christ.” To what does the “thereby” refer? Faith. How does the Spirit apply redemption? By faith. What else does faith do? It unites us to Christ. Not only is faith the instrument of justification it is also the instrument of union with Christ.

Remember, according to Perkins, there are multiple aspects of union with Christ. There isn’t any genuine disagreement over the decretal union or the federal (representative) union with Christ. The aspect over which there has been confusion has been mystical or existential union with Christ.

This is how the following questions characterize and describe the work of the Spirit in effectual calling:

Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

The Spirit convicts, renews, enlightens, and renews the heretofore spiritually dead, unregenerate will. The Spirit is said to “persuade and enable” the renewed faculties to “embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” That embrace is faith. Those who’ve been given new life, who’ve been given faith, who by grace have embraced Christ through faith alone, receive “justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.”

Finally, it should be noted again that we have been considering the logical, not temporal order of salvation. This discussion has to do with how we should think and speak (and teach) about the work of the Spirit and the instrumental role of faith in justification and sanctification. We should think and speak of the Spirit working through the “due use of the ordinary means,” i.e., through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ’s actively obedient suffering, death, and victorious resurrection. We should think and speak of the Spirit creating new life in the elect, giving faith to those renewed, and through that faith conferring union with Christ, justification, adoption, etc.

Contrary to the way some are speaking today, faith is not simply the instrument of justification, it is also the instrument of union and if we are going to characterize the Christian life as a life lived in union and communion with Christ, then we must also characterize it as a life lived by faith. It is not that faith has only one function and that it fulfills its one function in justification and then is locked away in a box for safe keeping. If faith is the instrument of union and union is of the essence of the Christ life then faith is of the essence of sanctification just as it is of the essence of justification.

Historically, some Reformed folk have been tempted to place predestination in the foreground of Reformed theology. Our best theologians and certainly our confessional documents tend to treat predestination as a source of explanation for why things are the way they are but it remains in the background. For example, Theodore Beza (like Calvin) and the Reformed orthodox typically discouraged believers from asking, “Am I elect?” That’s the wrong question because we cannot know, in the abstract, if we are elect. It would require knowledge of God’s decree and such knowledge is hidden from us (Deut 29:29). The question we should ask is: “Do I believe?” The logic is thus: Only the elect believe, I believe, therefore I’m elect. That’s the Reformed faith.

Our theologians and ecclesiastical documents tend to treat mystical union in a similar way. Rather than asking, “Do I have mystical union with Christ?”—again, how, in the abstract would we know?—we should ask, “Do I believe?” The Reformed faith teaches: Believers have union with Christ. I believe. Therefore I have union with Christ. If we start with mystical union or if we focus on it we tend to lose Christ, who is the object of faith and the source of our life. After all, the point of mystical union is to connect us to Christ not to call attention to itself.

Johannes Althusius (1557–1638): A Brief Introduction To A Pioneering Reformed Social Theorist

We seem to live in a Malthusian age, i.e., an age of increasing scarcity or perhaps fear of scarcity, where concern over how to divide an economic (and environmental) pie of limited size (called a “zero sum game”) has replaced the idea of expanding the economic pie, as it were.

The original modern theorist of increasing scarcity and over population (whose ideas were influential in the 1970s during the Carter “malaise” years) was Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834). Malthus theory of future scarcity and over population helped to prepare the ground for Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Malthus’ fears, in the context of Darwin’s theory, with the ugliness of early urban industrialism, combined with Thomas Hobbes’ (1588–1679) theory that without a powerful central state (a “leviathan”) life would devolve into a dystopian “state of nature,” a state of war of “all against all,” in which life would be “solitary, nasty, brutish, and short” helped to propel the modern creation of centralizing state. Hobbes and Malthus’ theories were united by a common fear about the future. Hobbes explicitly rejected the Christian account of God and man and intentionally turned the covenant of works on its head.

Malthus or Althusius?
There was an alternative to this dark picture that was informed by an Augustinian and Calvinist doctrine of post-lapsarian human depravity but which distinguished between various spheres and webs of human relationships in a series of concentric circles. We might call him the original Reformed theorist of sphere sovereignty. That theorist was Johannes Althusius (1557–1638). Born in Westphalia (Germany) just after the Peace of Augsburg, Althusius spent his life under the shadow of religious and political tensions which finally broke out into open warfare in 1618. He died a decade before peace came to Europe but those tensions and that war left their marks.

An orthodox, confessional Reformed Christian, Althusius was not a minister. He was a legal scholar who taught first in the Academy in Herborn (whose first rector was Caspar Olevianus, 1536–87, though the academy is sometime dated from 1592) and served for many years as a (ruling) elder in the Reformed church in Emden (Friesland) and as a political leader there. A great deal has been written about Althusius in the last few decades. Alain de Benoist has written a helpful survey of the literature and Daniel J. Elazar and Charles McCoy and others have pointed to Althusius as one of the sources of 18th century political federalism. In 2004 the English historian John Coffey offered this summary of Althusius’ “relational” political theory.

In 1603 Althusius produced the first edition of his great treatise, Politics Methodically Digested and Illustrated from Profane [secular] and Sacred [biblical] Examples(Politica methodice digesta atque exemplaris sacris et profanis illustrata). The work would go through three editions between 1604–1614 and was published in an abridged English translation by Frederick S. Carney in 1964. It’s available in hardcover and online here and here.

It’s been a while since I read Politica but I thought that, in the wake of the election, and in light of the sense of confusion and uncertainty that I am hearing from people (via email and phone calls) it might be well to look at Althusius to see what we can learn from him. He is interesting and useful because he illustrates the relative sophistication of Reformed political theory at the turn of the 17th century, on the cusp of the early modern world. He benefited from the earlier work by Theodore Beza (De iure magistratuum; 1574) and the pseudonymous, Vindication Against Tyrants (1579) but he moved beyond their occasional tendency (their theology not withstanding) to treat the post-canonical state as if it were equivalent to national Israel.

Althusius actually attempted to formulate a theory of human relations on the basis of the natural, created, divinely established order. He attempted to establish from nature (and confirm from Scripture) what the most basic social unit is and then he reasoned from that natural unit of association out to other social associations. He did his work in light of medieval legal texts and theories, the Reformation (e.g., Calvin), the development of covenant theology (Olevianus et al), and all this during the time Reformed orthodox theology was becoming more sophisticated.

We’ll be taking a look at Althusius’ Politica in the coming weeks as an antidote to some of the angst to which one might be tempted. As a Reformed theorist who appreciated natural law Althusius will be an interesting alternative to some of the approaches being touted today.

Athusius’ Use Of Natural Law
Thanks to Mark for reminding me about the terrific chapter in John Witte Jr’s volume The Reformation of Rights on Johannes Althusius. He places our author in the context of the Dutch rebellion against Spain. The crown was waging a bloody war of religious repression against the Reformed in the Netherlands, during which time about 12,000 Reformed Christians were martyred for the gospel. The problem the Reformed in the French Wars of Religion (from 1562) and by the Reformed in the Netherlands was how to justify resistance against tyranny. Calvin had theorized (Institutes 4.20) that “lesser magistrates” had divinely endowed authority to put tyrants in check. Can that right be transferred or does it belong in some way to a broader body, even to the people? In the Netherlands, nearly two centuries before the American Revolution, the Estates General invoked natural law (143) as the basis for their right of self-determination over against Spanish and Romanist civil and religious tyranny.

Witte provides a brief but helpful biographical sketch of Althusius. There’s a minor error (151) in the date of the Heidelberg Catechism. It’s 1563 not 1568. He notes that Althusius drew from the Protestant resistance theory including Beza, the pseudonymous “Brutus,” and various Dutch writers. He was also well read in classical legal sources. He thought that under the rubric natural law they could be harmonized with the biblical teaching of natural law (156).

Althusius offered: (1) a ‘demonstrative theory’ of natural law that focused on the concordance between Christian and classical, biblical and rational teachings of law and authority; and (2) ‘a symbiotic theory of human nature’ that focused on the natural and necessary attachments of the person to God, neighbor, and society (155).

The Reformed had universally accepted the divisio triplex of the Mosaic law: moral, civil, and ceremonial. The moral law of Scripture, summarized in the decalogue (ten commandments) was regarded as an expression of the natural law. They are universal (164). The Israelite civil laws were temporary, typological expressions of that law for the Israelites. Hence they were regarded as “expired” and “abrogated” (WCF 19) except insofar as they serve as a witness to universal natural civil principles (“general equity”). Of course, the ceremonial, religious, ritual, religious laws were understood likewise to have been fulfilled and abrogated by Christ. Thus, not all biblical law is equivalent to “natural law” (163). The Mosaic civil laws were the “positive law” of the Jewish state. Althusius picked up this distinction and attempted to work out a theory of civil life that was more consistent with this notion than had been expressed by the earlier theorists.

As I mentioned in Part 1 the earlier resistance theorists had articulated the threefold division (Beza wrote a treatise defending the distinction) but they had not always been consistent in treating Israel’s civil polity as a temporary, typological (and in that sense unique) civil polity. In their zeal to urge the civil magistrate to restrain themselves from persecuting the Reformed they drifted into treating the magistrate as if he were a new David and e.g., France as a post-canonical Israel. Althusius attempted to work out a theory of human organizations that was grounded in creation.

According Witte, for Althusius, “we can know the norms of the natural law if we study both Scripture and tradition, revelation and reason very carefully” (159). The Scripture gives a fuller account of the natural law but it is substantially the same as the natural law. What is in Scripture “cannot be a new form of natural law, for God would not and could not contradict the natural law that he already revealed to us in and through our human nature” (ibid). “God and Scripture have rewritten the natural law for believers…reason and experience have rewritten this natural law for non-believers to discover” (ibid).

For this reason a common body of law is found across time and in various communities, even those who “have had no contact with each other” (160). All communities know from nature that certain functions must be discharged and Althusius saw considerable uniformity in the way the particulars came to expression (ibid). This uniformity is the ground of “common laws” and the “laws of nations.” (see also pp, 161–63).

One more point. Witte notes that, as we will see, Althusius defined freedom in terms of the absence of restraint.

There is a freedom of the body by which the civil law allows a person to use his bodily members to do or conduct anything in a way that is both agreeable and permissible. This is given to us as a natural right, unless obvious exceptions are made. (Johannes Althusius, Dicaeologicae libri tres, totum et universum jus, quo utimur, methodice complectentes [Frankfurt, 1618], 1.25.7) in ibid, 166.

It is significant that, for Althusius, freedom relative to civil authorities is defined as the relative absence of restraint. I have heard it suggested that such a definition of freedom is an Enlightenment conception. Althusius, however, was not an Enlightenment figure. He was a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment figure. He didn’t assume the sort of autonomy of human reason that the Enlightenment figures tended to assume. He did not place himself over Scripture. He did not regard himself as a “Enlightened” relative to benighted, ignorant pre-Enlightenment folk. He wasn’t a deist. In short, he wasn’t Hobbes. He was not Locke. He was Rousseau or Franklin or Jefferson. His roots were in Christian (medieval and Reformation) understandings of God and man. In contrast to the Enlightenment he did not begin with an autonomous self. Where Descartes (d. 1650) would begin with “I” (cogito) but with God and his creational order.

The second thing that makes this definition interesting is that I have encountered some resistance to this definition of freedom. Some have suggested that the only way Christians can define freedom is something like “conformity to the divine will.” That definition may work in some contexts but does it work in the civil context? Does it account for the distinctions that Althusius assumed?

The intellectual framework behind his attempt to describe the divinely established universal pattern of human relations was the Christian account of creation. There is a state of nature but it wasn’t what Hobbes thought it was. Hobbes had turned the Reformed view on its head. He had read dystopia of the fall back into nature. Locke had gone in a more Pelagianizing (and rationalist) direction by downplaying the effects of fall. Althusius, by contrast, sought to account for nature, the fall, grace, and providence. We’ll see how it plays out in Politica but it will be interesting to find out whether and how Althusius employed the Reformed distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, between law and gospel. At the very time Althusius was working out his theories the Reformed orthodox were polishing and elaborating the distinction between the covenants of works and grace. These doctrines would have been in his ears regularly in church and, as an elder and a teacher in the university, he would have worked with them.

Free Conscience And Free Exercise
According to John Witte Jr., Althusius did consider the question of religious liberty, whether a private person has the right to “alterm amend, or even abandon” the duties prescribed under the first table (the first four commandments) of the Decalogue. Do civil officials have the authority to “propound, prescribe, or at least prefer one formulation of religious duties over another?” (The Reformation of Rights, 171). This was not a purely theoretical question. The Spanish crown was vigorously seeking to subdue his Dutch subjects and to impose upon them all strict adherence to the dogma and decrees of the Council of Trent. If God has established the magistrate (and about that there was no debate) and if Christian citizens must submit to the magistrate, even an evil one such as Philip II (again, about which there was no debate), then how could Althusius avoid the apparently inescapable conclusion that Spain had the authority to impose Romanism on a reluctant Dutch population?—and it was not only Protestants who were reluctant, some Dutch Romanists resented Spain as well.

Althusius resolved these questions by defending the absolute liberty of conscience (libertas conscientiae) but insisting on only a qualified right of religious exercise (ius relgionis exercitium (ibid, 171). See Johannes Althusius, Dicaeologicae libri tres, totum et universum jus, quo utimur, methodice complectentes [Frankfurt, 1618] 1.25.8; idem, Politica, 28.14, 37–73).

He saw the “the absolute liberty of conscience as the natural corollary to the absolute sovereignty of God….” (ibid, 171). Only God is Lord of the conscience. No magistrate can usurp that authority. He drew that inference from the prologue of the Decalogue. Only God can change the heart. No human may coerce another to act against his conscience. As Witte has it, “faith must be persuaded, not commanded.” This was no assertion of Modernist, Enlightenment autonomy. “Fides suadenda non imponenda” (The faith is for persuading not for imposing)) was the slogan of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153).

The magistrate has a duty to preserve this natural, divinely given liberty (relative to the state), this “libertas animi.” In so doing the magistrate is not threatening Christianity but rather “testifying to its “cogency” (ibid).

Freedom of conscience was not, however, the same as free exercise. That, for Althusius, would lead to the erosion of the integrity of society. Once more, Althusius was not an 18th-century, Enlightened advocate of the free exercise. Nevertheless, he was aware of the religious pluralism of the Netherlands. Some provinces had a strong Romanist presence and others a strong Arminian contingency.

Witte observes, “Althusius was all for the state establishment of Calvinism…. This gave Calvinist churches special political protection and patronage and gave Calvinist ministers special privileges and prerogatives in the community” (ibid, 173). This was his application of the first table. Jews, Romanists, and others, however, were to be tolerated. Jews could not build synagogues. They had to remain segregated from the Christian community and had to wear badges. This was only better by degrees from pogroms, banishment, and worse. Roman Catholics, Witte notes, fared a little better. They were to be tolerated but could not have their own buildings or Roman worship. Of course, in the case that Philip had been bent on re-imposing Roman worship by force it is easier to see how the Reformed might be less tolerant of the re-introduction of Romanism where it had been eliminated. Only those heretics who are “open and notorious” should face civil punishment (ibid, 174). As “churlish” (Witte’s word) as Althusius’ theory might seem today it was, in its own time, fairly “generous” (ibid).

There was in Althusius’ relatively liberal (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) approach to religious liberty and the application of the first table a certain tension. The potential for free exercise seems to have been implicit in Althusius’ theory but he still saw the application of the first table through the eyes of Constantine, as it were. After 1648, after the Peace of Westphalia, and through the course of the 18th century the principle of civil enforcement weakened and was replaced, at least in the American colonies, with the free exercise clause.

The Most Basic Social Unit
According to John Witte Jr, for Althusius,
the “most elementary and most essential association of any commonwealth is the marital household—husband and wife, parents and children, who are sometimes joined by servants, grandparents, grandchildren, and other relatives” (p. 184). He called this a “domestic commonwealth.” This is the association or society on which every other society is built and it is grounded in creation, in the divinely established order, the nature of things.

The family is also a voluntary association. We were created to be social, to be relation to other image bearers (humans), to be attracted (male and female) to each other, to procreate (185). Marriage, however,is an act of the will, a “volitional contract” (ibid) between a man and a woman when they’ve reached the age of consent. This marital household is the “bedrock of law, politics, and society” (186). It is the “first school of justice and mercy, piety and charity, virtue and citizenship’ ibid). The head of this most basic social unit is the paterfamilias. He leads theextended family, which is still a private association.

As a member of the family, each has certain rights which are theirs by divine intention—the right “to enjoy affection, love, and good will” (Althusius) of the family and to be assured of natural affection and support when needed (see p. 186 for citations to Althusius). The private, natural (creational) societies form voluntary associations (collegia) with others.

These voluntary associations are businesses, guilds, corporations, schools and the like (ibid). These voluntary associations may be “secular” or “religious.” For Althusius, the word “secular” did not carry the negative connotations it has come to carry in 21st century America. It simply meant “not overtly religious.” It didn’t mean “rebelling against God” or even “not under God’s sovereignty.”

For Althusius everything occurs under divine sovereignty but not everything is administered under the same heading or in the same sphere. These private associations are governed by the creational pattern ordained by God. Althusius described this pattern as “natural law.” He assumed that it was discernible in the nature of things. These associations are corporations, or corporate persons
(187). The members of these entities have dual roles, that as a private individual and that as a member of the corporation. The responsibilities in these spheres are complementary. Civil associations result when “groups of private (natural or voluntary) associations covenant together to form public (political) associations.

The simplest such publication associations and the earliest to develop are hamlets and villages, then larger towns,counties, and cities” (187). These smaller civil associations “eventually covenant together” to form larger associations (e.g., provinces or territories) and, in turn, they may form even broader associations such as commonwealths (ibid, 187–88).

Althusius appealed to the development from the Abrahamic household to the civil polity of Israel as an example of the formation of such political associations and commonwealths. He appealed to that history to justify his doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” (189), the notion that the people are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” (language is from the Declaration but exactly what Althusius was saying) and one of those is the right to elect representatives to govern themselves.

This means that, insofar as any commonwealth is divinely instructed by the law of nature has civil power, it can transfer this power to another or to others, who, under the title of kings, princes, consuls, or other magistrates, assume the direction of its common life (Althusius, Politica cited in Witte, The Reformation of Rights, 189)

Althusius argued that even God respected this right to popular sovereignty when, even though he had every right to govern them directly himself, as he had done for hundreds of years, he “yielded [as it were-rsc] to their choice” for a king (ibid, 189). God administers the civil realm through the people and through their elected representatives. The people, Althusius wrote, following Beza and Calvin, can exist without the sovereign, but the sovereign cannot exist without the people (ibid). Thus, the formation of these civil associations never alienates the people from their fundamental, creational, divinely endowed right to rule themselves. Each association retains its right of self-rule relative to the higheror broader association (ibid, 193).

Entering into a relation with a broader association is not an alienation of the sovereignty of the smaller association “but a confirmation of it” (ibid). This federal, constitutionalism was his bulwark against the rising tide of royal absolutism and “nationalist sovereignty” (194).

The Synod Of Dort On Election, Conditions Of Salvation, And Fruit

The Reformed churches have endured discussions and disagreements about salvation (justification, sanctification, and deliverance from the wrath to come) before. Beginning in the late 16th century a Reformed minister in Amsterdam began offering significant revisions of the Reformed understanding of Scripture. Early on critics accused him of corrupting the faith but he was allied by marriage with some powerful families and therefore was protected. When a teaching position opened up at the most prestigious university in the land he was nominated to fill the post. Despite misgivings by faculty members and others he was appointed and almost immediately there was controversy. He was accused of replacing orthodox textbooks with unorthodox ones. He was accused of denying the Reformation doctrine of salvation. He denied the charges and always, throughout the controversy, played the victim—a rhetorical stance which has become standard for his followers since. Over the years it became clear that this revisionist was not merely trimming the edges of Reformed theology but advocating a revolution. His movement not only placed the churches in jeopardy but threatened to become a cause of civil war. Within a year after his death, his followers published a five-point summary of what he had been teaching, four points of which conceded what had been charged against him. The fifth point, on perseverance, was deliberately obscure and finally, in 1618, 9 years after his death, an international synod met to address the crisis and to stem the spread of the movement he had unleashed. Of course we are talking about Jacobus Arminius (d. 1609) and the Remonstrant movement he created, Arminianism.

One of the theological motives of the Remonstrants, which is not always fully appreciated, was that they had concluded that the Reformation doctrine of salvation (e.g., definitive justification and consequent progressive sanctification) would never produce the sort of godliness and good works they thought ought to mark the life of the Christian. Thus, they created a system whereby good works are not merely the fruit and evidence of salvation but an antecedent condition thereof. That is, where the orthodox Reformed had faith as the “sole instrument” or antecedent condition of justification, sanctification, and deliverance from the wrath to come (salvation), the Remonstrants had faith and works.

In the Remonstrant theology even election was said to be conditional. The Remonstrants taught that God had determined to save those who “shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere.” Salvation, they taught, was conditioned upon foreseen faith (fides praevisa) and upon our cooperation with grace. They used the word grace, as moralists usually do, but the clear effect of their revision was to take the Reformed churches back to the medieval system of salvation by grace and cooperation with grace or salvation by grace and works. Indeed, their doctrine of the election was worse than some taught by the medievals since Gottschalk (d. c. 867), Thomas (d. 1274), and e.g., Thomas Bradwardine (d. 1349) had taught unconditional election before the Reformation. The Remonstrants turned the gracious Reformation doctrine of salvation sola gratia, sola fide on its head. Note carefully how vociferously and with what terms the Synod rejected the Remonstrant theology:

We reject the errors of those who teach hat Christ by His satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for any one, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that He merited for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire, obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should fulfill these conditions. For these adjudge too contemptuously the death of Christ, in no way acknowledge that most important fruit or benefit thereby gained, and bring again out of hell the Pelagian error (Rejection of Errors 2.3).

The Reformed churches of the Netherlands, France (in absentia), Great Britain, the Palatinate, Geneva, Bremen, Zürich, and elsewhere with one voice rejected these revisions in the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618–19). These canons (or rulings) of the Synod are helpful in the current discussions about sanctification, conditions in the covenant of grace, good works, and salvation. The Canons are organized under 5 “heads of doctrine,” corresponding to the Five Points of the Remonstrance.

The term “conditio” occurs about 10 times in the Canons. It occurs first in Canons 1.9 and that use tells us a good bit about the concerns of the orthodox about the Remonstrant theology.

This election was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc. Therefore election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to the testimony of the apostle: “He chose us [not because we were, but]…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph 1:4).

One of the most fundamental things that the Reformed needed to re-assert was the total inability of fallen man and the radical, free favor (grace) of God, in Christ, toward helpless sinners. The Remonstrant revision had it that we are not as sinful as Augustine and the Reformation had said. They posited some ability to cooperate with grace. Indeed, arguably, they collapsed grace into nature. By nature, even after the fall, we had sufficient ability to do our part. In this scheme, grace becomes a helper but not the marvelous, sovereign free favor earned for us by Christ and given unconditionally to sinners. According to the Synod, there are no conditions that we must meet in order to warrant God’s favor in salvation. Rather, by contrast, the Reformed taught that election is the “fons (the source) of all salvation (fons omnis salutaris). Notice that the divines singled out not only “foreseen faith” but also “the obedience of faith, sanctity, or other good quality and disposition.” The Remonstrant position had the effect of moving the ground of our salvation from Christ’s righteousness for us (pro nobis) back to qualities intrinsic to us. According to the Remonstrants we are saved partly on the basis of things done by us and wrought in us by grace and cooperation with grace. Such a system raises the question: how much must one do, in cooperation with grace, in order to be saved? That such a question necessarily arises tells us that we are no longer living in the house of the Reformation and that we are not talking about “grace alone” and “faith alone” but grace plus works. The Remonstrants turned the covenant of grace into a covenant of works (E.g., Rejection of Errors 2.2).

We know that the orthodox Reformed concern was the reception of eternal life because the Canons themselves say so. That is why the Reformed churches re-asserted that “faith, sanctity, and the remaining saving goods, and then eternal life itself flows from (profluunt) and is the effect of ” God’s sovereign, unconditional election. We are not elect because we are sanctified or obedient or because of foreseen faith but but we are being graciously, gradually sanctified by God because of God’s unconditional electing grace in Christ.

This was the doctrine of art. 10 also. The “cause” of our election is only (solum) God’s good pleasure (Dei beneplacitum). Salvation is not the outcome of our sanctification and good works. Rather, our sanctification and the consequent good works are the result of our salvation. The Remonstrants had set up “possible human qualities and actions” as a “condition of salvation” (salutis conditionem). The Reformed taught that God unconditionally, freely elected out of the “common multitude of sinners” (communi peccatorum multitudine) some to salvation. Their proofs? Romans 9:11–13 and Acts 13:48. Jacob believed and was saved because he was unconditionally elect. The Reformed make salvation a benefit freely given to sinners in the covenant of grace.

According to Canons 1.12, God’s free, sovereign decree of election comes to expression in history “in due time” in various ways. In other words, our experience varies. Even though our salvation is as sure as God’s free grace and election our subjective experience of assurance varies. It is interesting then to note how the divines spoke of the “infallible fruits of election” (fructus electionis infallibiles). According to the divines (and contrary to the popular caricature of Reformed theology and piety) we are never to ask “Am I elect?” Rather, the divines would have us ask, “Do I believe? Is there some evidence of true faith?” God’s grace produces observable effects. We are not to rest in but we are to observe the effects of election: true faith in Christ (vera in Christum fides), a filial fear of God—not a servile fear. Believers are in a covenant of grace, not a covenant of works. We respect (timor) our holy God but we do not fear him as if we are under judgment. Christ has endured that judgment for us. Because we have been saved and are being saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we have a genuine sorrow (dolor) for sin, a hungering and thirsting for our own actual righteousness. Our sanctification and good works are the fruits of God’s gracious election and salvation, which he bestows unconditionally upon his people.

The divines were aware of the Remonstrant doctrine that there are different kinds of election: “general and indefinite” (general et indefinitam) and “singular and definite” (singularem et definitam). We have faced the exact same threat in our time in the self-described “Federal Vision” theology, which posits two kinds of election, eternal and conditional. The Reformed approach to assurance is to start with the objective, Christ’s work for us, which is credited to us and received by us through faith alone (sola fide). We observe the fruits of God’s grace and give thanks to him for them. We rest in Christ and his promises (gospel) but we recognize that he is working in us, however slowly that almost imperceptibly that work may sometimes seem to us. We do not have to choose between the objective and the subjective. We embrace them both. Neither do we need to become de facto sacerdotalists by turning baptism into magic so that our only answer to doubt is “I am baptized” (and ergo necessarily saved ex opere operato). No, baptism itself is not salvation but a sacrament of our salvation, i.e., a sign and seal of what is true of those who believe. Baptism is not the “sole instrument” (Belgic Confession art. 22) of our salvation. Faith is is the alone instrument of our salvation (sola fide).

The divines also, however, rejected as an error the notion that there is an election unto faith (electio ad fidem) or unto justifying faith (ad fidem justificantem) but which nevertheless leaves one “without a preemptory election to salvation (absque electione peremptoria ad salutem; rejection of errors 1.2). The Remonstrants were trying to set up a system where our salvation is in stages. We are justified now but not yet saved, which is the second stage. Here was their opportunity to make room for our good works and cooperation with grace co-instruments of our salvation. According to the Reformed churches, however, under such a construction, “the doctrine of election is corrupted” and the “golden chain of our salvation is dissolved” (auream hanc salutis catenam dissolvens). To that end they re-asserted the ordo salutis (order of salvation) by quoting Romans 8:30. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (ESV). This fact should give us pause when we encounter those contemporary writers who wish to “move beyond” what they dismiss as “ordo salutis thinking.” There is an order to the application of redemption. It is the elect who are given new life, who come to faith, who through faith are justified, united to Christ, adopted,  saved, and glorified. Our salvation is not contingent upon our performance, even if that performance is qualified as “cooperation with grace.” Any such construction necessarily turns the covenant of grace into a covenant of works.

One consequence of abandoning the biblical and Reformed order of the application of redemption is our current confusion over the nature of salvation (justification, sanctification, and deliverance from the wrath to come), conditions in the covenant of grace, and the role of good works. This confusion is not new. There was confusion in the 1590s and in the early 17th century leading up to the Synod of Dort. The Remonstrants were not satisfied with the Reformation doctrines. They wanted our cooperation with grace and our good works to be more than the fruit and evidence of our justification and our sanctification, more than those necessary accompaniments to true faith and sanctification. In response the the Synod made not only our sanctification and good works but our new life and our faith to be fruit and evidence of our unconditional election. In so doing, they effectively re-contextualized the whole debate. Where the Remonstrants, who denied the pre-lapsarisan covenant of works, had put believers in a covenant of works for salvation, the Reformed churches re-asserted that believers are in a covenant of grace for salvation. As a result of the Synod’s reassertion of the Reformation against the Remonstrants, the question concerning good works was no longer, “How much must I do to warrant salvation?” but “How should I respond in gratitude for God’s unconditional favor to me in Christ?”

The Fifth Article Of The Remonstrance
Now we want to consider the fifth article of the 1610 Remonstrance, on perseverance. It was vague and confusing and must be read carefully, word by word, phrase by phrase, and clause by clause. It began with promising language, by speaking of those who are “incorporated into Christ by a true faith,” who have “thereby become partakers….” This sort of language was very familiar to the Reformed and created a false impression that the Remonstrants were more sympathetic to the Reformed cause than they really were. As I always say: keep reading. According to the Remonstrants, we are partakers of Christ’s “life-giving Spirit….” This is a subtle move since the truth is that it is the Spirit who has sovereignly and unconditionally made us alive (regenerated us), given us true faith, and who, through the sole instrument of faith, united us to Christ. We are already partakers of Christ’s life-giving Spirit.

The second sentence of 5 could expresses the underlying Perfectionism of the Remonstrants. B. B. Warfield saw this connection and identified two sources for the Perfectionism he encountered in the 19th century: Mysticism and the Remonstrants. According to the Remonstrants, those so united to the Spirit have “full power” to “win the victory.” This language may be interpreted more or less favorably but it is not exactly that of Heidelberg Catechism 56, which speaks of “the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long…” nor of Heidelberg 60, which testifies that even as a Christian, in union with Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit nevertheless “that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil….” One document is full of the spirit of Paul, Augustine, and Martin Luther and the other is not.

The Remonstrants always find a way to put the believer “on the hook” for his final salvation. Grace is never really free. It is never really amazing. As with Rome, grace is reduced to a helper. The Remonstrants wrote of “the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit” and that Jesus Christ “assists” us poor sinners “if only” we are “ready for the conflict and desire his help, and are not inactive….” Here the true nature of the Remonstrant doctrine of perseverance emerges: God helps those who help themselves by cooperating with his “assisting grace.” This is quite another picture of salvation. Here God has not parted the Red Sea and led us through, by the hand, as it were (Jer 31:32; Ex 14:16). Rather, according to the Remonstrants, God has covenanted to co-act with those who do what lies within them (facientibus quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam). The Remonstrants turned Reformed theology into the Pelagian covenant theology of the Franciscan theologian Gabriel Biel (c. 1420–95). Those who meet these antecedent conditions—the Remonstrants turned the covenant of grace into a covenant of works—cannot be plucked out of Christ’s hands. If we only read the first few lines and then let our eyes slip down to quotation of John 10:28 we might get entirely the wrong impression. Once, however, we read the words in between the picture becomes much clearer. The Remonstrants re-contextualized John 10:28 and the evangelical (in the original, sixteenth-century sense of the word), Protestant, Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

Then comes the last part of the article, in which the Remonstrants feigned modesty and uncertainty about whether it was possible for one, who had been regenerated, “through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace….” Whether that might be true, the offered, “must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.” In light of history we may say with confidence that the Remonstrants made up their minds quickly.

Synod Reasserts The Reformation Doctrine
Of course, the Synod was having none of it. They categorically rejected this doctrine as Pelagianizing, to whom or to which heresy they referred no fewer than 8 times. Remember, what is at stake here is the salvation of the elect. What is the nature of salvation (justification, sanctification, and deliverance from the wrath to come)? Is it by “assisting grace” and sufficient cooperation with the same or by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide)? In the Rejection of Errors under the Fifth Head of Doctrine (on perseverance) Synod explicitly labelled the Remonstrant doctrine “Pelagianism:”

We reject the error of those who teach: That God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient powers to persevere ( sufficientibus ad perseverandum viribus), and is ever ready to preserve these in him if he will perform his office (si officium faciat); but that, though all things which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will use to preserve faith are furnished to us, even then it ever depends on the pleasure of the will (pendere semper a voluntatis arbitrio) whether it will persevere or not. For this idea contains manifest Pelagianism (manifestum Pelagianismum), and while it would make men free, it make them robbers of God’s honor, contrary to the consensus (consensum) of evangelical doctrine (evangelicæ doctrinæ), which takes from man all cause of boasting, and ascribes all the praise for this favor to the grace of God alone (soli divinæ gratiæ); and contrary to the apostle, who declares that it is God who “will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8).

This paragraph alone makes clear that, for the Reformed Churches of Great Britain, France (in absentia), Geneva, Zürich, the Palatinate, Bremen, and the Netherlands the Reformation was at stake. Under the guise of promoting greater sanctity, the Remonstrants were attempting to lead the Reformed Churches back to medieval moralism: salvation by grace and cooperation with grace. That scheme they could only say that our cooperation with grace was tantamount to the doctrine of salvation by works condemned by the Apostle Paul: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6; ESV).

Where the Remonstrants posited salvation by assisting grace and sufficient cooperation with grace by those who are willing , the Reformed taught that it is by God’s grace alone that we persevere. We are justified by grace alone. We are sanctified by grace alone. We are saved by grace alone. One ground of their insistence upon grace was their stout Pauline, Augustinian, and Protestant assessment of the human condition. The Remonstrants downplayed the effects of the fall. The Reformed understood Scripture to teach that, by nature, we are desperately wicked (Jer 17:9), dead in sins and trespasses (Rom 1–3; Eph 2:1–4). The Remonstrants had collapsed grace into nature. As far as they were concerned, God had endowed us with all we need, if only we will exercise our free will to “do what lies within us,” as the Franciscans had put it. Just as the entire confessional Reformation rejected the Franciscan covenant as Pelagian, so also the Reformed rejected the Remonstrant doctrine of perseverance as its latest manifestation.

Whereas the Remonstrants implied the possibility of perfect sanctification in this life (Perfectionism), the Synod rejected it. Though we are “though not altogether from the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh, so long as they continue in this world” (5.1). As long as we are in this life all our good works shall be spotted with sin. This is a cause of humiliation that causes us to turn Christ and by his grace to put to death the old man and to be made alive in the new. We press forward toward heaven, where perfection rests (5.2). The Synod rejected the over-realized eschatology of the Remonstrants.

Left to “what lies within” us, to cooperation with assisting grace, we would be lost. Instead, the churches declared, “God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end” (5.3). Where the Remonstrants said “we can,” the Reformed said, “But God.” The Remonstrants gave us law but the Reformed preached the gospel of free grace in Christ to helpless sinners.

Because of our struggle with sin in this life. Sometimes we are not always “so influenced and actuated” by the Spirit as ought to be. That is why we sometimes “sinfully deviate from the guidance of divine grace.” That is why we do not always experience the presence of God (5.11) and the strong sense of assurance that is ours by right. Sin and the struggle against sin are both real. That is why we confess that it is the “power of God who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace…” (5.4). It is by the “righteous permission of God” that we, like David, Peter, and other believers “actually fall into these evils…” (5.4). Such sins are truly offensive. They grieve the Spirit. They interrupt the exercise of faith. They wound the conscience and we may even, for a time, lose the sense of God’s presence (Ps 51:11). In such cases we have not fallen from grace. We have not lost our salvation but we have given ourselves great cause to lament our fallen state, our actual sins, and to repent of them and to seek, by grace alone, to mortify them. Whatever our experience may tell us, the Gospel tells us (5.10) that God never abandons his people. He never permits “them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.” (5.5,6). Even in sanctification (mortification and vivification), the Christian life is still a covenant of grace, not a covenant of works. Assurance is restored to believers as their property under the gospel (5.9).

In order to produce sanctity among believers, the Remonstrants sought implicitly to put Christians back under the law, under a covenant of works, for salvation. In contrast, as the Reformed churches understood that it is by grace we are saved, through faith (Eph 2:8–10) unto good works appointed by God for us. God’s grace produces in us a desire to be conformed to Christ (5.13). It is not by the law that we are sanctified, though those who are being sanctified seek earnestly to bring their lives into conformity to God’s holy law. Rather, Synod said:

And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his Word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof, as well as by the use of the Sacraments (5.14).

The ground of the Christian life, of perseverance is the gospel of God’s free (to us) favor earned for us by Christ and received through faith alone. By his grace he strengthens us. By hearing his Word, by meditating on the gospel, we are drawn back to Christ. By meditating on the law—the threatenings of what happens to those who do not believe—we are driven back to Christ’s righteousness for us but we are not placed under a covenant of works. It is impossible for believers, those for whom Christ died, to be placed back under works for salvation.

As the churches said (5.15), this doctrine will not be received favorably by all. The Socinians rejected it for the same reason as the Remonstrants. Both were essentially rationalists—thus explaining why so many Remonstrants became Socinians after Dort—and wanted to remove the gospel mystery of sanctification and perseverance. To those who know the greatness of their sin and misery and how utterly dependent they are on Christ for salvation (justification, sanctification, and deliverance from the wrath to come) the doctrine of perseverance by grace alone, through faith alone is a great consolation. It is explains our experience. It is a roadmap. It teaches us what to expect and how to understand our experience. Sinners sin but believers repent and seek to be conformed to Christ. We shall not reach perfection in this life but Christ was perfect for us. We shall be perfected after this life or at Christ’s return, whichever happens first. In the ordinary providence of God we shall endure periods of doubt and struggle but God has promised not to abandon us, whatever our experience may suggest. Christ has met the conditions of the covenant of works for us. We, who believe, are in a covenant of grace: All that he did is credited to us and God has graciously worked in us true faith, the sole instrument of our salvation. The Spirit has united us to Christ and is even now sanctifying us in Christ’s image and he shall glorify us.

Children At The Lord’s Table? A Review

Cornelis P. Venema, Children at the Lord’s Table?: Assessing the Case for Paedocommunion (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009).

Note: This review was published originally on the Heidelblog as a series in 2009 and is slightly revised.

In his latest book Cornelis Venema has tackled a serious problem in the Reformed world that needed to be addressed and he has done so in a thoughtful, thorough, biblical, and confessionally Reformed manner.

Background to the Review
Before we begin the review it will be useful to put the current question in its immediate historical and ecclesiastical context.

Over the last forty years the conservative and confessional Reformed churches (the two groups are not always identical) have been afflicted with a series of movements which reflect what I call the Quest for Illegitimate Certainty (QIRC—on this see Recovering the Reformed Confession). Among these movements have been the theonomic and Christian Reconstruction movements, the Federal Vision movement, and the paedocommunion movement.

Each of these three movements has attracted followers from evangelical fundamentalism into the Reformed sphere and in the NAPARC (sideline) Reformed and Presbyterian churches. They have also stimulated ecclesiastical committees, reports, and controversies. Over the years, most of the NAPARC churches have addressed theonomy (e.g., the the RCUS and PCA have had Synodical and GA reports and most of the NAPARC denominations have rejected the self-described Federal Vision movement. A few have tackled paedocommunion. The Presbyterian Church in America, the largest of the NAPARC bodies, addressed infant communion in a 1998 report. The majority concluded, “It is the thesis of this report that…the main argument [for paedocommunion] is not sustained. The PCA is well advised to continue the classical Reformed practice of delaying the admission of children to the Lord’s Table until they reach a 
level of maturity at which they can profess their faith and partake of the elements with discernment.” We should be grateful that the GA adopted the majority report and recommendation that: “That the PCA continue the practice defined in our standards and administer the Lord’s Supper “only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

About the same time that the PCA addressed this problem, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) received a report containing a majority report which rejected paedocommunion (and two minority reports advocating it). As the OPC site notes, these reports have no constitutional authority but they probably reflect the range of opinion in the OPC.

The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) addressed the doctrine and practice of paedocommunion at Synod in 2004. Synod concluded, “The confessions to which the URCNA subscribe (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort) accurately summarize the teaching of scripture in, for example, 1 Cor 11.24–25; 28. Thus our confessions, in harmony with the scripture, require that the Lord’s Supper be administered only to those who have publicly professed their faith, in the presence of God and His holy church.” The question of paedocommunion has also been addressed recently by Matthew Winzer, in the Confessional Presbyterian (2007): 27–36.

Nevertheless, the paedocommunion problem persists. There was a minority report in the PCA written by Robert S, Rayburn (pastor of Faith PCA in Tacoma) which argued “That the common opinion of the Reformed church on this matter was and remains ill-considered.” This was essentially an Anabapist argument: the Reformation did not go far enough, it remained unduly influenced by medieval theology and practice. There are other advocates of paedocommunion, many of whom are federal visionists, theonomists, or at least sympathetic to theonomy or the federal vision. A website propounding paedocommunion provides a “Who’s Who” list of paedocommunion advocates which confirms this judgment. It offers the names of 15 proponents several of which are advocates of the FV or the NPP (e.g., James Jordan, Steve Wilkins, N. T. Wright) and many others of which are associated with the theonomic movement either as ought right advocates (e.g. Gary North, R. J. Rushdoony) or as advocates of quasi-theonomic ethic (e.g., G. I. Williamson who wrote essays in the 1980s advocating a sort of quasi-theonomic ethic). A couple of names on the list are a little surprising—Jack Collins (OT Prof at Covenant Theological Seminary, the denominational seminary of the PCA) and William Willimon, a mainline (UMC) Methodist and insightful critic of contemporary Christianity. There are other advocates of paedocommunion, however, who are not listed: Douglas Wilson, the de facto head of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches and a Tim Gallant (a graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary, who operates a website devoted to paedocommunion), who advocated paedocommunion within the URCNA and whose views were rejected by the URCNA and who has since left for the Christian Reformed Church. The move by the CRCNA in 1995 to open the door to paedocommunion—recently ratified at synod—was overlooked in the furor over women in office, but the admission of infants to the Lord’s Table is arguably as significant a sign of the inroads of fundamentalism and evangelicalism into the CRCNA as the admission to women to presbyterial and ministerial office is a sign of liberalism.

As a matter of logic the fact that the primary and most vociferous proponents of infant communion are advocates of, associated with, or tolerant of aberrant movements such as the Federal Vision and theonomy does not, in itself, prove that paedocommunion is wrong. The provenance of the doctrine, however, is relevant for understanding its impetus and its adoption in segments of the Reformed world. In my experience since 1980, many of those who are attracted to paedocommunion are recent converts to the Reformed faith from fundamentalism.

It is also worth noting that it is beyond doubt and admitted by all intelligent proponents of paedocommunion that the Reformed Churches do not and never have confessed paedocommunion. It is a fact that the Reformed Churches were aware of the theology and practice of paedocommunion as they formed their confession and practice of the Supper. As we begin the survey of Venema’s book, we should understand that the questions are really these: “Have the Reformed Churches been fundamentally wrong about the nature of holy communion and the relations between the sacraments of baptism and the Supper since the early 16th century?”

I realize that this is a prejudicial way of stating the question. That is intentional. On matters indifferent to the being or safety of the churches we may be dispassionate and open-minded but on matters touching the being or essential theology, piety, and practice of the Reformed Churches we should be more than careful. We should be aggressively defensive of the Reformed confession. At ordination, Reformed ministers vow to take such a stance toward the confession. It may be that our confession is wrong. We confess the primary and unique authority of holy Scripture and thus our confession is subject to revision, but when the Donatists, Novatians, Valentinians, or more recently, the Anabaptists, or the Federal Visionists come knocking, we have every right to place the burden of proof squarely where it belongs (upon their shoulders) and to demand that they meet the highest standard of evidence and to exercise the greatest caution about their proposals. In the case that, in the NAPARC world at least, the theology and practice of paedocommunion usually comes wrapped in a theonomic or federal visionist bundle should also make us abundantly hesitant about it.

What We Confess
The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 81 asks, Who are to come to the Lord’s Table?

Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the passion and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the impenitent and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.

In his introduction, Venema makes the point that how we frame the question makes a good deal of difference. If we ask, “Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated?” we beg the question (i.e. assume the conclusion in the premise). I would add that we distort the question because “excommunication” presumes that one was “communicated” in the first place. The author says, “The historic view does not deny that the children of the covenant are invited to the Lord’s Table. As a matter of fact, if thier baptism means anything, it means that they are invited to respond in faith to the Lord’s Gracious promise, which would qualify them to receive the sacrament that nourishes that faith. Therefore, the only thing preventing such children, or any others, from coming to the Table is the absence of an appropriate response to the invitation” (2).

What is meant by “covenant children” and “paedocommunion.” He distinguishes between a “soft” version of paedocommunion which advocates communion earlier than middle to late adolescence (2-3). It admits those who’ve made a simple but credible profession of faith. The second class of paedocommunionists he calls “strict,” i.e. those who favor “the admission of any baptized child of believing parents who is physically able to receive the communion elements.” These two views, he rightly says, are “quite distinct.” Indeed, I was not aware that arguing for communion prior to “middle to late adolescence” made one a paedocommunionist of any kind.

Some advocates of the “strict” view (which seems to me to be paedocommunion proper) like to call their position “covenant communion.” With the “strict” view, however, “there is only one basis for admission to the Table of the Lord, namely, membership in the covenant community” (3). Venema is quite rightly unwilling to concede the term “covenant communion” to the strict paedocommunionists.” The Reformed Churches have reckoned their practice of communion as “covenantal” since the 16th century. For paedocommunionists to appropriate (hijack?) the adjective “covenant” is to assume what needs to be proven (more question begging; 4).

He acknowledges that the appropriate age for communion is not easily determined (4). More on this below.

The rest of the introduction quickly sketches the four main areas of discussion: the history of paedocommunion, the nature and administration of the covenant of grace, the matter of the analogy with Passover, and the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11.

As one who is sympathetic to the notion that communion might occur before “middle to late adolescence” I am a little skeptical of Venema’s assertion that “middle to late” adolescence is the “historic” position of the Reformed Churches. It may have been the practice of some of the Dutch Reformed Churches in the modern (since the 18th century) period but my understanding is that Calvin expected children to learn a catechism which was rather larger than the Heidelberg and to be ready to make profession of faith and come to the table by age 10 (see below). Would this make Calvin a “soft” paedocommunionist? I think not.

Calvin wrote:

How I wish that we might have kept the custom which, as I have said, existed among the ancient Christians before this misborn wraith of a sacrament came to birth! Not that it would be a confirmation such as they fancy, which cannot be named without doing injustice to baptism; but a catechizing, in which children or those near adolescence would give an account of their faith before the church. But the best method of catechizing would be to have a manual drafted for this exercise, containing and summarizing in simple manner most of the articles of our religion, on which the whole believers’ church ought to agree without controversy. A child of ten would present himself to the church to declare his confession of faith, would be examined in each article, and answer to each; if he were ignorant of anything or insufficiently understood it, he would be taught. Thus, while the church looks on as a witness, he would profess the one true and sincere faith, in which the believing folk with one mind worship the one God (Institutes 4.19.13).

Article 54 of the Acts of the Synod of the Hague (1586), a regional synod of the Dutch Reformed Churches, declared:

No one shall be admitted to the Lord’s Table unless he conforms to practice of the church he is joining and has made profession of the Reformed religion as well as furnishing a testimony to his pious conversation. Without this those who also come from other churches shall not be admitted.

This was the language of Art. 61 of Church Order of the Synod of Dort (1619):

No person shall be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, but those who make confession of their faith in the Reformed religion (Gereformeerde Religie), agreeably to the practice of the churches to which they are joined, and who also have the testimony of pious deportment; without which also, none coming from other churches shall be received.

These two articles do not answer when that profession was made but neither do they stipulate that it can only be made in mid to late adolescence.

The Historical Argument
The historical argument for paedocommunion, according to its proponents, is that the evidence is mixed but it was “likely the original practice of the church” (11). Proponents argue that the loss of paedocommunion in the Western Church was due to the rise of the doctrine of transubstantiation (i.e. the doctrine that the elements of the supper become the literal body and blood of Christ). “In contrast to the relatively strong evidence for the early and general practice of infant baptism, clear evidence for the practice of paedocommunion in some segments of the church begins in the middle of the third century (12).

Justin Martyr made reference to the “proper recipients of the Supper” in his First Apology (12-13) where he taught that only those who have embraced the teaching of the church and who have resolved to live in accord with the gospel are to be communicated. Clement of Alexandria restricted access to the table “to active believers” (13). Origen also “seems to suggest that small children (parvuli) are restricted from communion.

There is some evidence from Cyprian that, during the Decian persecution, may have come to the table. Venema argues that this practice was probably not widespread (15). Contemporaneous evidence suggests that the earlier practice of restricting children from the table was the practice.

Paedocommunion became a “normal practice” of the church in the 4th and 5th centuries (16). This is clear from many places in Augustine’s writings and was closely connected to his realism (i.e., things do what they do because they are what they are) and his view that the sacraments work ex opere (i.e., by the working, the use of the sacraments) it is worked. The thing signified isthe sign. It was closely connected to his doctrine of baptismal regeneration.

It is not clear when paedocommunion became the dominant practice In the Eastern church but the “practice of Eastern Orthodoxy since the fourth century certainly lends support to the argument that paedocommunion enjoys the sanction of church history” (19).

Venema disputes the account of medieval history given by proponents of paedocommunion as “unduly simplistic” (20). The evidence, however, is that “prior to the eleventh century, paedocommunion was practiced” (20-21) but it diminished in the period leading up to the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) where admission to the supper was granted to those age 7 or older. Between the 13th century and the Reformation the practice of baptism was separated from the practice of communion.

By the Reformation, “the only groups practicing paedocommunion were the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Armenian church, and the Bohemian Hussites.” In the Reformation the Lutheran and the Reformed admitted children only after catechism training. Venema distinguishes between the Lutheran practice of “confirmation” and the Reformed practice “profession of faith” (22). He continues by surveying Calvin’s approach to the differences between baptism as “the sign of new birth and incorporation into Christ” and the Supper as a “means of nourishing the faith of believers” (23).

Wolfgang Musculus was one of the “few dissenters to the prevailing view…” (24) He argued for paedocommunion “on the ground that children are included in the covenant of grace with their parents.” His view was “an exception to the rule among the Reformed churches of the continent and the British Isles.”

Venema observes that observance of paedocommunion was only “in some sectors of the church” by the middle of the third century, but it was never as prevalent in the Western church as in the Eastern. He reminds us to take note of the diverse reasons offered for it. We should note the connection between the rise of paedocommunion and sacerdotalism. He reminds us that, though transubstantiation may have had a role in the decline of paedocommunion, there were other reasons for challenging it even in the medieval period, including the long-standing view in favor of an informed reception of the Supper. Finally, he notes that the Reformed churches stressed the distinct function of the Supper as distinct from baptism. The argument for paedocommunion from history is “inconclusive” (26).

Sola Scriptura Is Not Biblicism
Venema observes that the Reformed Churches are committed to the principle of sola Scriptura which means that the Scriptures are to be “regarded as the supreme standard for their faith and life” (27) but that principle does not mean that we read the Scriptures in isolation from the church or from church history.

One of the marks of biblicism is doing just that: refusing to read the Scriptures with the church. This is a quite different principle than that by which Rome operates. She makes the Scripture the product of the church. That’s exactly backward. The church is the product of the divine Word. The Word is not the product of the church. So the Reformed Churches neither conform to the general pattern of evangelical biblicism (though more than a few Reformed folk have become biblicists in the modern period) nor do we conform to the Roman pattern of making church norm the Scripture.

Venema says that the question of paedocommunion cannot be settled merely by appealing to Scripture. “It is also necessary to study what the Reformed churches have confessed regarding the proper recipients of the sarament of the Lord’s Supper.”  The evidence from the confessions is that “Reformed believers held that the Lord’s Supper ought to be administered only to professing believers.” In distinction from the Baptists, the Reformed  churches affirm that “the children of believers, together with their parents, are recipients of the gospel promise and ought to receive the sacrament of baptism, which is a sign and seal of incorporation into Christ and membership in the covenant community of the church.”  The Reformed churches also require, however, that children undergo instruction prior to attending to the table (27).

He proceeds to give a summary of the confessional teaching on the relation of the Word and sacraments, the distinctive nature of the sacraments, the two sacraments of the New Covenant, and the proper recipients of the Lord’s Supper. His claim that the dictum often assigned to Cyprian (but actually a received summary of his teaching on this question),  “extra ecclesiam nulla salus est” (outside of the [visible] church there is no salvation) is “not explicitly echoed”  (29) in the Reformed confessions is hard to understand since in footnote 2 (p. 29)  he writes, “Cyprian’s dictum is using the the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. XXV….and the Belgic Confession, Art. 28….” One wonders if the “not” was an editorial oversight?

In the Reformed confessions, the preaching of the gospel has ‘a priority” in relation to the sacraments (29-30). “The sacraments do not communicate anything other than the grace of God in Christ, the grace that is communicated firstly and primarily through the preaching of the gospel,” (30).

The sacraments are auxiliaries, appendices to the preached gospel. This is the teaching of HC 65. He addresses the question of the relative necessity of the sacraments. Are they indispensable? Venema writes, “the best answer to this question…must be that ordinarily the sacraments are necessary and indispensable.”  That indispensability is not absolute. It is a consequence of the Lord’s “appointment of the sacraments for the believer’s benefit.” (30-31). It is ingratitude to neglect the sacraments.

The sacraments have the most intimate relation to the grace signified and yet they are distinct from that grace. They are signs and not the thing signified (32–33). They add nothing new to the grace of Christ promised in the gospel and like the gospel they must be received in faith (33). Thus the Reformed rejected the doctrine of sacramental regeneration apart from the the Spirit’s working through the Word. They “do genuinely serve, as means of grace, to confer and to communicate the grace of God in Christ” but only as the Spirit “is working through them and as they confirm the faith required on the part of their recipients” (34).

As addressed above the Reformed churches confess two distinct sacraments, with two distinct roles or functions (35). Baptism is the sign and seal of the adoption of believers. The emphasis falls on the privileges of baptism but the Westminster Larger Catechism also teaches the accompanying obligations of baptism (36). They do not teach baptism regeneration but they do teach “a real efficacy” in “conferring the grace of God in Christ on believers” (36). It is not merely a visible testimony to the believer’s subjective state. Because it is a promise by God and commanded by God, baptism is to be administered to believers and to their children (37). We don’t baptize infants on the ground of presumed regeneration or infant faith (38).

The Supper is the sign and seal by which God ‘continually nourishes and strengthens the faith of its recipients” (39). Unlike Baptism, it is meant to be repeated. The governing metaphor in the confessions is that the Supper is a “sacred meal” (39). It is a memorial but not merely that (39-40). It is a means of assurance. It is a holy communion with Christ. “It also serves the purpose of uniting believes more intimately with Him and calling them to a life of loving obedience and holy consecration” (40). Those who receive “Christ through the sacrament with the mouth of faith genuinely partake of him” (41). “In several of the confessions, the language used to describe Christ’s presence is quite robust” (41). Nevertheless, we reject the Roman and Lutheran doctrines of the Supper.

The proper recipients of the Supper are limited by  the nature of the Supper as a sacrament and its intended purposes. The confessions describe the “kind of faith that is competent to remember, proclaim and receive Christ through the Lord’s Supper” (43). This is why we fence the table. Unbelievers are not to be admitted. It violates the nature of the sacrament to allow the unbelieving or impenitent to the table (44). The confessions require the active participation of believers in the Supper (44). They warn against the danger of eating and drinking judgment to oneself (45). They explicitly limit participation to those who are capable of articulating their faith who are, as HC 81 says, “displeased with themselves for their sins and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake Christ….” (45). The marks of true faith in Q. 81 are the same as the three parts of the HC: guilt, grace, and gratitude. This was intentional. This was the consensus of the Reformed churches in Europe and Britain (46-48).

What Does Scripture Say?
At the heart of the revisionist, paedocommunionist case is that the confessional and historic Reformed theology and practice of the supper effectively denies the OT pattern of, as it were infant communion, and excommunicates children unjustly.

Venema does a fine job surveying the paedocommunionist case (53-59). He concludes that “the Old Testament does not provide a case for the admission of children to the Lord’s Supper….” (59). In his critical evaluation of the paedocommunionist appeal to the OT, he notes that they tend to slight two principles of interpretation: 1) “the ultimate norm for the practice of the church must be the New Testament description of the administration of the new covenant.” 2) “participation in the observances of the covenant….must be governed by the Lord’s insistence that His people worship him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) (59).

Reformed covenant theology has always acknowledged that the old and new covenants are “one in substance” and various in “mode of administration” (WCF 7.6; p. 60). He also notes (61) that we cannot assume that “simple membership in the covenant community automatically grants to believers and their children access to all its rites and observances.”

The paedocommunionist appeal to the manna in the wilderness (1 Cor 10; Ex 16–17) proves too much. It is true that children ate the manna. Presumably strangers to the covenant ate the manna as did animals (62). The manna was a type, not a blueprint. It was also a means of bodily sustenance. The sacrament is a means of spiritual sustenance but it is not intended for bodily sustenance. There are differences between the OT types and the NT fulfillment. Circumcision was, in the nature of the thing, applied only to males. Baptism is applied to both sexes. The Passover was annual and the Supper was frequently administered (62).

Children participated in the feats of weeks and booths (63) but children did not participate in those that “more directly ‘typify’ the sacrifice of Christ, which the Lord’s Supper commemorates and proclaims….” The work of atonement and their accompanying meals was restricted to Levitical priests. Venema faults the paedocommunionists for highlighting those places that teach the participation of children while “downplaying those that stipulate restrictions” (64).

One of his more interesting observations/arguments, one that I find compelling, is the NT usage of Exodus 24 (Heb 9:20). The NT regards this as perhaps the most important OT precedent for the Supper. Moses, the covenant mediator, “sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings before the Lord” (65). He spread the blood over both the altar and the people (including the children). The accompanying fellowship meal was celebrated on the mountain. Infants did not participate in this meal, but our Lord appealed to this typological event in the institution of the Supper. There are significant OT precedents for the Supper that do not support paedocommunion (66).

As to the Passover, there is “no indisputable evidence for or against the claim that all of the children of the covenant participated fully in its celebration” (67). Venema helpfully distinguishes between the first celebration of the Supper and its subsequent celebrations (68).  The initial celebration was a household event, but the subsequent celebrations were pilgrim feasts that “required only male  members of the covenant community to keep the Passover and the other two pilgrim feasts…(68) (i.e. feasts and booths). Since there is no “clear biblical evidence that women or children attended the pilgrim Passovers” it doesn’t follow, therefore, that exclusion from Passover was tantamount to excommunication.

Perhaps the most helpful thing Venema does in this chapter is to challenge some of the more fundamental paedocommunionist assumptions about the way things “must” have been and about the way continuities between typological and fulfillment periods in redemptive history should be viewed and used.

In ch. 5 Venema addresses the NT evidence (or lack thereof) for infant communion in the NT. Thus far he has argued that the case from history is mixed at best. The case for paedocommunion from the Reformed confessions does not exist. If the case from the OT is lacking, then the case for paedocommunion is tottering precariously at best.

He proposes to resolve the debate “only on the basis of an argument that considers general features of the New Testament doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and its relation to the Word of the gospel” (78). E.g. the accounts of the institution of the Supper in the gospels “reflect an understanding that may suggest how this question should be answered.

He notes (80) is the difference between Baptism as a sacrament of initiation that, in the nature of the case, can only be administered once. Either one is baptized or one is not. The Lord’s Supper, however, “is to be celebrated regularly in the context of Christian worship and the ministry of the Word of God until Christ comes again.” Thus Paul quotes the words of institution (1 Cor 11:25) “this do as oft as ye drink it” with the “obvious implication” that the Supper is to be “celebrated frequently by the church….”

The Supper is to be observed and celebrated “in remembrance of Christ.” Participation is “in response to an imperative….” The sacrament is a sign to be received “remembering and believing” (emphasis original). The Supper requires “the active participation” from the recipient that is not required in baptism (80). This is “particularly significant” for the question of paedocommunion.

He notes that Jesus’ meal with the two men on the road to Emmaus has been understood to refer to the Holy Supper (81) and that the men “knew” that he was the risen Lord. Acts 2:42 records the practice of the Apostolic church and the “breaking of bread” “may be an allusion to the regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper…” (82). If so, then it is is significant that those who ate the Supper are said to have received the preached Word. Communion is observed in the context of the preaching of the Gospel. He points to two possible allusions to the Supper in Rev 3;20 and 19:1-9 wherein it is described as a means of fellowship with Christ and in which it could be withdrawn as a matter of discipline.

Thus far, he says, nothing “in this evidence argues for the admission of non-professing children to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” (83). “In its basic form, the argument of many paedocommunionists is easily stated” if all children (with the exception of unweaned infants) in the old covenant participated fully in the Passover meal, and if the Lord’s Supper is a new covenant form of the old covenant Passover, it follows that children should be admitted to the Lord’s Table.”  (84) The middle premise here is that the Supper is a NT Passover. To this question Venema now turns his attention.

Since the Supper was instituted in connection with the pascha, the premise has “apparent plausibility.”  (85). It has been traditionally believed that the elements used in the institution of the Supper were passover elements, but, he notes, that traditional belief has been questioned. There is some “apparent discrepancy” between the synoptic (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) accounts and John’s account (86). One resolution to read John’s language as indicating that the meal occurred on “Friday of Passover week.” The “similarities between the Lord’s Supper and the Passover should not be overstated on this account” since “there are several important differences between them” (86). First, there are the words of institution which were derived from “the covenant renewal ceremony of Exodus 24—a ceremony that was reminiscent of the way the Lord had confirmed His covenant with Abraham…” (87). Like M. G. Kline Venema observes that these OT antecedents of the Supper involved a bloodletting to signify the “solemn bond between them.” The Lord bound himself to them with a “self-maledictory oath” and taught that covenant breaking requires a blood atonement. Thus “Christ’s words of institutions do not connect the Supper with the Passover, but with the covenant renewal meal that Moses and the elders of Israel celebrated on Mount Sinai” (emphasis original). The Passover was the setting but the true antecedent was not the private family Passover meal, but the public, religious fellowship meal shared by Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders.

The Passover commemorated the Exodus. The Supper commemorates “Christ’s sacrificial death, which is the fulfillment of of all the types and ceremonies of the law, especially the sin and guild offerings of the old covenant. (emphasis original). The Passover is certainly fulfilled in the Supper, but the Supper recapitulates and fulfills much more (87-88).

Is membership covenant in the covenant of grace sufficient ground for admission to the table? To answer this question Venema appeals to John 6 and 1 Cor 11. The former has important implications for our understanding of the Supper (90-91). Here Venema is following Calvin (93), quoting his commentary on John 6:56: What is in view in John 6 is not the Supper directly but rather the eating of Christ by faith. That eating says Calvin, however, “is figured and actually presented to believers in the Lord’s Supper” (93; emphasis original in Venema’s quotation). For Calvin, Christ made the Supper a “seal of this discourse.” It is necessary to participate in Christ but the only way to participate in Christ then, is to do so by faith and the Supper is the sign and seal of that faith (94-97).

Thus, in the Belgic Confession, we confess that “the manner of our partaking [of Christ by means of the Lord’s Supper] is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith” (Art. 35; quoted on p. 98). The Belgic echoes the teaching of John 6. The “general teaching of John 6 regarding how believers participate in Christ’s body and blood has a clear and compelling implication for any mode of communion with Christ, whether by by means of the gospel Word or the sacrament that accompanies the Word” (emphasis original; 98). Thus “the church’s requirement that those who are admitted to the Table of the Lord” make a credible profession of faith before communing is a “legitimate application of the teaching of this passage.”

According to Venema, the “most important and compelling piece of New Testament evidence that bears on the question of paedocommunion is undeniably 1 Corinthians 11:17–34” (101). This is the because this passage is “the most extensive and comprehensive New Testament passage on the Lord’s Supper.” The Supper has no exact analogy in the old covenant. The “scriptures of the new covenant must determine how it is administered and received.”

The historic Reformed interpretation of 1 Cor 11 “Paul’s instructions regarding what it means to participate ‘unworthily’ in the sacrament are viewed as normative for all members of the new covenant community.” Paul used this particular instance to articulate not only specific guidance but general guidelines for the administration of the holy Supper.

The “most important features of the traditional interpretation” focus on vv. 27–29 (103). Paul required self-examination before communing. The point of the self-examination was to “test” (Venema’s term) whether one’s faith and conduct are “in accord” with one’s profession. This requirement has been implemented variously in the Reformed tradition. Generally it has been taken to mean that “believers must test themselves in terms of the normal requirements of of a Christian profession.” Here he cites HC 81 in a footnote. It’s worth repeating here to set the context:

81. Who are to come to the table of the Lord?

Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the passion and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the impenitent and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.

After the requirement for self-examination paul adds that “all who partake of the sacrament must do so only as they properly ‘discern’ the body of Christ (v.29). Such discernment includes an understanding of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and its implications for the conduct of believers in relation to him and others” (103). Thus, as Venema notes, the Reformed Churches have restricted the Supper to professing members in good standing. Paul’s teaching that some ate and drank judgment to themselves has weighed heavily on the Reformed as they’ve interpreted this passage and that weight is reflected in the language of the Belgic Confession (1561) Art. 25 when it makes self-examination a prerequisite for communion. The HC Lord’s Day 30 also appeals to this language (104).

Contemporary advocates for paedocommunion allege that the Reformed Churches have misunderstood this passage. They argue that the passage “commends the admission of all members of the church, young and old alike.” The traditional view wrongly “divides segments of the covenant community (in this case, professing and non-professing members) in a manner that is reminiscent of the unwarranted divisions in the Corinthian church.” They argue that the historic Reformed view and practice actually comes under the apostle’s rebuke since it “excludes some members of the community from full participation in Christ” (105).

Their view depends considerably upon their reconstruction of the circumstances prompting Paul’s response. For the paedocommunionists, the problem was not “orthodoxy” but “orthodopraxis” (right practice). The problem was not “unworthy” participants but ungodly pride and factionalism. [Here one hears echoes of the NPP/FV reconstruction of the 2nd-temple Judaism and of Paul’s response to it. Justification not about “acceptance with God” or “courtroom metaphors” but about “boundary markers” and the like. It’s not hard to see how the argument “The Reformation misunderstood Paul on justification” could easily become the argument, “The Reformation also misunderstood Paul on the Supper”—rsc] They argue that the language of “remembrance” and “showing” (vv.24–26) does not necessarily exclude infants from communion. They argue that the Supper is itself an exhibiting of the body and a remembrance, not that anyone necessarily has to remember. Advocates of paedocommunion argue that what the Corinthians failed to discern was their membership in the body of Christ. I have previously responded to this claim. Venema quite rightly concludes that the paedocommunionist interpretation of this passage has “clear and startling implications for the practice of paedocommunion” (107).

Essential to the paedocommunionist interpretation of 1 Cor 11 is their reconstruction of the original setting and problems that provoked Paul to write this section of the epistle. According to Venema the most basic premise of the paedocommunionist argument is that “the Lord’s Supper represents, in a  most powerful way, the unity and fellowship of the whole body of Christ” (108). He concedes that the theme of the unity of the body and the “full participation” of members in that body runs like a thread through 1 Corinthians. The Lord’s Supper is a “beautiful expression of the oneness of the body of Christ.” The theme of the Supper as an expression of the unity of the body is not isolated to 1 Cor 10:16-17. It is expressed in 1 Cor 7:14 and the early verses of 1 Cor 10. Does 1 Cor 10:16-17 support the case for paedocommunion?

Venema says, “No.” The Supper is a powerful witness to the unity of the body but “it seems premature to argue from the theme enunciated in 1 Corinthians 10:16–17 to the conclusion that all covenant children should be admitted to the Lord’s Table lest the oneness of the body of Christ be compromised” (109). If the historic Reformed view of 1 Cor 11:17–34 is correct then the paedocommunionist reconstruction of the original situation and their reading of 1 Corinthians 10 fails. 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 “must retain its unique status as the single most decisive biblical teaching for determining whether such children should be admitted to the Lord’s Table” (110).

If infants are not allowed to commune, is there status as members of the covenant of grace jeopardized? Well, Venema notes that the “participation in Christ” described in 1 Corinthians 10 included uncircumcised males and even animals! As previously noted, the paedocommunionist reading of 1 Corinthians 10 proves too much.

There are 4 sections in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34. Vv. 17-22 identifies the problem, vv. 23–26 contains Paul’s summary of the institution of the Supper, vv. 27–32 instructs us on how to receive the body and blood of Christ, and vv. 33–34 return to the original problem (111).

The problem is not reconstructing the original context and problems (112–14). Venema argues, however, that the advocates of paedocommunion use their reconstruction of the original context to obviate Paul’s clear instructions in ch. 11. In other words, because we do not have the same problems today (namely turning the Supper into factional meals) as described in 1 Corinthians 11 it  does not really apply directly to us. In other words, in the historic Reformed reading of 1 Corinthians 11, it is normative for our understanding of the Supper even if our circumstances have changed whereas for the paedocommunionist it is not so normative because of the change in circumstances. This move allows them to control the understanding of the supper via their reconstruction of the original situation and via their reading of 1 Corinthians 10.

Another question/problem raised by the paeodcommunionist reading of 1 Cor 11 is their “handling of the words of institution” by which they argue that we should translate “this do in remembrance of me” as “do this unto my remembrance.” The force of the revision is to move the locus of the act from the person remembering (which requires of certain level of cognition) to a purely objective state of affairs so that whenever the Supper is administered (including infants) it is done as an objective, corporate memorial along the lines of Leviticus 24:7 (115). From an historical-theological perspective this is a sort extreme anti-Zwinglianism. Is the “of me” in 1 Corinthians 11:24–25 subjective or objective? Is it “remembrance of me” or “my remembrance”? Contra the paedocommunionist reading most English translations (115–16) take it as “remembrance of me.” Venema argues, the “point of the Lord’s words of institution is that the participant in the sacrament is placed under the obligation to obey the Lord’s command, to act in such a way that expressed informed remembrance and believing proclamation of his death” (116).

The historic Reformed understanding of this passage recognized some distinction between the original context and our, post-apostolic, post-canonical context. This difference, however, did not stop them from rightly finding general principles in 1 Corinthians 11 that preclude infant communion (117–18). Paul’s instructions are “applicable to any celebration of the Lord’s Supper on the part of any believer” (118; emphasis original). Even if one no is not committing the very same sin committed by the Corinthians, it is nevertheless possible to eat and drink unworthily (note the adverb). The “closes parallel to this passage is 2 Corinthians 13:5 where the apostle summons all believers to “[e]xamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove [test-rsc] your own selves. Know ye not that your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (Venema quotes the AV following RHB publication guidelines). The ESV reads:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Venema points to Gal 6:4 as another parallel passage that has the same reflexive language. He also observes that the “idea of self-examination in verse 28 has often been freighted with the excess baggage of protracted, introspective process of spiritual inventory-taking, the term requires only a responsible testing on the part of the believer to see whether his faith is genuine” (119).

A second issue is the intent behind the language “discern the [Lord’s] body.” There is a textual variant here. The older text omits the qualifier “Lord’s.” This has allowed paeodcommunionists to argue that what should be discerned is the “church” not the body of Christ in the Supper. I have already addressed this claim. Venema concludes that the shorter reading is the best text but that the shorter reading does not support the paedocommunionist claim (121). The body to be discerned is not the congregation but rather the body which “he gave as a sacrifice on behalf of his people” (121).

I hope that readers will see that the historic Reformed, confessional theology, piety, and practice of the Lord’s Supper is not and has not been mere conservatism. The Reformed Churches have paid close attention to Scripture and from it have formed a covenant theology (i.e. a reading of redemptive history) and a view of the sacraments of the covenant of grace (baptism and the Supper). As Venema notes 127–28), the impetus for the modern revival of the error of paedocommunion in some Reformed denominations and federations is not a superior biblical exegesis or superior theology of the Supper but rather a covenant theology that is not Reformed, which is alien to the Reformed reading of Scripture.

He says, “[s]ome contemporary advocates of paedocommunion claim that all covenant members without exception—believers and their children who are recipients of the covenant promise and the accompanying sacrament of covenant incorporation, baptism—enjoy a full and saving union with Christ.”

He is correct to highlight the connection between the covenant nomism of the so-called and self-described “Federal Vision” movement. You can read more about this erroneous covenant theology in the booklet, Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace, in this more academic essay, and in the volume, Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. To add a layer of complication that Venema does not mention but which draws the FV covenant theology perilously close to that advocated by the Remonstrants and rejected soundly at Dort, is their doctrine that the benefits conferred in baptism must be retained by grace and cooperation with grace. This, in their view, is the second part of “the covenant.” God has done his part and now you must do yours.

Since, in the FV theology, “the baptism of the children of believers effectively unites them to Christ and grants them full participation in his saving work, baptism by itself provides a sufficient warrant for admitting such children to the Table of the Lord without requiring a preceding profession of faith” (141). Venema is exactly right about this. The argument over paedocommunion, at least in our circles, is really an argument about covenant theology. What i the covenant theology of the Reformed Churches? The answer, of course, is that it is that which has been taught and confessed since the early 16th century and since that time we have consistently rejected paedocommunion because we reject the biblical exegesis of the paedocommunionist argument and because we have a different covenant theology. The FV view borders on (or crosses over into) “sacramentalism” (145). We understand, in the language of the Westminster Confession 27.2 that there is a “sacramental union” between the sign and the grace signified. The sign is not the grace signified.

Chapter 7 is particularly useful for its brief survey of the historical, exegetical, and theological issues and for a summary of the confessional Reformed response. One might do well to begin his reading with this chapter to get an overview before going to chapter 1. There is an appendix to the work, a chapter on covenant theology and baptism.

Venema has produced a truly helpful survey and analysis of the arguments being advanced by contemporary (Federal Visionist) proponents of paedocommunion. If you are tempted by the FV or its arguments for paedocommunion (and it is a temptation) you should read this book for yourself. All of us who value the historic, confessional Reformed reading of Scripture, the Reformed covenant theology, the Reformed Word and sacrament piety, and the Reformed practice of the Supper owe a debt of thanks to Venema for this fine work.

Justified Through Our Faithfulness?

As I mentioned in an earlier post in Romans 2:13 Paul writes, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (ESV).1 The chapter begins with matter of judgment. Since 1:18 Paul has been prosecuting the Gentiles on the basis of their natural knowledge of God, which we suppress. Because of the effects of sin all our faculties and desires are corrupted. Because we all know the moral law of God in our consciences we are without excuse before God. Chapter 2 begins with a reiteration of this law principle: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (ESV). Now he turns his attention to Jews, those who had received the old covenant, the Mosaic law, the national covenant (Romans 9:4–5; 3:1–3; ESV). The whole of chapter 2 is a prosecution of the Jews according to the standard that had been revealed to them, the Mosaic law. God had exercised forbearance with the Israelites but because of the hardness of their hearts (vv.4–5) they are storing up judgment instead. Judgment will be rendered according to “works” (v 6). Those who seek “for glory and honor” by patience will receive eternal life (v. 7). Those who do not “obey the truth” (v. 8) will be judged. Because God is impartial, both Jews and Greeks will be judged according to their works (v. 9–11). Those who sinned under the Mosaic law will be judged by that standard and those who sinned under the natural law by that standard (v.12). The rest of the chapter after v. 13 continues in the same vein. The Gentiles have the substance of the moral law written on their conscience (vv. 14–15). The Jews, who boast about having the Mosaic law, will be judged by the standard of the law given at Sinai (vv. 16–29). Thus, when Paul contrasts “hearers” and “doers” it is hearers and doers of the law. Both Jews and Gentiles are under substantially the same law: love God with all one’s faculties and one’s neighbor as himself (Matt 22:37–40) but, as Paul shows in chapter 3, no one does this. In chapter 5 he explains why this is, because, as the New England Puritans put it, “In Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” The only reference to the gospel in this section is the broad use of the word, the promise that God will judge law breakers. There is no good news for sinners here.

The magisterial Protestant interpretation of Romans 1–3 was that these chapters were largely a presentation of the law, with the intent of demonstrating to Jews and Gentiles the impossibility of sinners of meeting the standard of righteousness. As quoted in the earlier post, Calvin’s interpretation reflects this reading:

They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law.

For Calvin, this passage is law, an expression of God’s righteous demand. Anyone who would present himself to God on the basis of the law must actually keep the law. The only thing that satisfies justice is actual, complete, perfect fulfillment of the law. The slightest disobedience to God’s holy law merits only one thing: condemnation. Calvin found no good news for sinners in this section of Romans.

In light of its overwhelming thematic and conceptual unity, in light of the Reformation reading of Romans 1:18–3:20, it is difficult to see how or why any confessional Protestant could or would read this section differently but in 1978 a professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), Norman Shepherd, in the midst of what would become a seven-year long controversy over whether a Reformed Christian may teach justification “through faith and works” or “through faithfulness” proposed 34 theses for discussion and debate. Among them was this one:

20. The Pauline affirmation in Romans 2:13, “the doers of the Law will be justified,” is not to be understood hypothetically in the sense that there are no persons who fall into that class, but in the sense that faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified (Compare Luke 3:21; James 1:22-25).

This reading dispensed with the historic Protestant (Lutheran and Reformed) distinction between the two principles of law and gospel. Instead, this reading proposed that, in Romans 2:13, Paul was not prosecuting sinners on the basis of the law, that he was not pressing the righteous and holy demands of God upon them to teach them their sins and misery and to drive them to Christ. Rather, according to this re-reading, Paul was speaking of Christians who will so cooperate with grace as to be sufficiently righteous as to be accepted by God was a radical re-reading of this passage.

This radical re-reading of Romans 2:13 continues to reverberate in some Reformed circles to the present day.

The Problem With Progressive Justification
What has been neglected is a 1978 proposal that, at the judgment, “faithful disciples” will be justified before God through their faithfulness.  The current controversy over sanctification is, however, part of an argument that began long before 1978. It has its roots in the late 1520s when Johann Agricola (1494–1566) denounced the doctrine that God’s holy moral law governs the life of the Christian, i.e., what we know as the “third use of the law” (tertius usus legis). In the confessional Lutheran (e.g., in the Book of Concord) and Reformed understanding of justification, salvation, and the Christian life no Christian is “under the law” with respect to his acceptance with God (justification). That cannot be. Paul was repeatedly explicit about this:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:15–16; ESV).


For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:10–14; ESV)


For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28; ESV)

Much of the medieval church had concluded and Council of Trent confirmed a doctrine of progressive justification through sanctification by medicinal grace (divine and semi-divine substances as distinct from divine favor or approval) and cooperation with grace.

At Trent, Session 6 (1547) Canon 11, Rome declared:

If any one says, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favor of God; let him be anathema.

According to Rome, in the sacraments, the Christian is endued with a certain power with which he must cooperate. Justification is through grace and cooperation with grace. Canon 9 made clear the necessity of cooperation with grace unto justification:

If any one says, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

She continued by denouncing the pan-Protestant definition of faith in the act of justification as “confidence in the divine mercy.” No, according to Rome, faith justifies because it works and through working. Faith does what it does not because of its object but because of what it is, because it is formed by love (fides formata caritate). According to Rome, Christ has done his part, on the cross and in baptism, of making salvation possible but we must do our part. This remains the Roman doctrine of justification in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church (§1987ff). To a man the magisterial, confessional Protestants rejected this scheme as no different from “the works of the law” denounced by the Apostle Paul. The Protestant churches confessed the same.

The theological unity on this point, however, did not prevent all difficulties. In the 1550s the Lutheran theologian George Major (1502–74) proposed that good works are “necessary for retaining salvation.” There is nothing new about the NPP/FV doctrine of “in by grace, stay in through works.” The Reformed categorically rejected that doctrine in favor of teaching that sinners are justified (declared righteous) out of God’s favor alone (sola gratia), received through faith alone (sola fide) resting in, receiving, trusting in  Christ, his finished work for us, and in his promises alone. New life and true faith necessarily results in sanctity, which, in turn, produces good works as fruit and evidence of true faith and justification. When faced with the potential modifying this doctrine  the Synod of Dort replied in effect: We get in by grace and we stay in by grace.

Nevertheless, some Reformed Protestants have sometimes given in to the temptation to reintroduce a version of the “works of the law,” i.e., grace and cooperation with grace, into Reformed theology. Sometimes it comes in the front door, as in the case of Norman Shepherd’s doctrine of justification “through faith and works” or “through faithfulness.” Sometimes, however, justification by grace and cooperation with grace has been reintroduced through the backdoor, as it were, by distinguishing explicitly or implicitly between an initial justification and a final justification. In this scheme sinners are said to be justified initially, in this life, by grace alone (sola gratia), sola fide (through faith alone) but finally justified, in the same legal sense as in the first instance, also partly on the basis of inherent righteousness and sanctity produced through union with Christ. Proponents of this approach limit the function of faith to forensic, legal justification in this life. Once we are justified talk of faith recedes and “existential union with Christ” becomes more prominent. Justification and sanctification are said to be logically twin benefits issuing from existential (formerly known as mystical) union with Christ initiated by God at regeneration. In this view there is and can be no logical order between justification and sanctification. At least one proponent (though we can hardly think he is alone in his sentiments) has argued that Reformed Christians must “move on” from “ordo salutis thinking.” Another critic of the traditional (and arguably confessional) Reformed view has labelled as “semi-Pelagian” the notion that, in the application of redemption, in regeneration (defined as awakening from spiritual death to spiritual life) the Holy Spirit creates or endows the elect with new life and with that new life the gift of faith, and through faith creates a mystical union with Christ and his believer. This would seem to the doctrine and intent of the Westminster Shorter Catechism when it says,

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. [emphasis added]

The catechism’s “thereby” would seem to signal that Spirit-wrought faith and not regeneration per se is the “instrument” of our existential, mystical union with Christ in the application of redemption. In other words, according to the catechism, existential or mystical union (as distinct from that union that may said to exist in the decree, from all eternity, and that federal union that may be said to have existed in Christ’s acting for us in his obedient life and death) is unavoidably part of a logical order. It is the regenerated who believe and it is believers who are united to Christ (and that faith is the gift of God) and is believers united to Christ who are justified.

Two Stage Justification And Double Justification
Sometimes proponents of a “two-stage” doctrine of justification have appealed to the language of “double justification” and implied that the Reformed, under that rubric, taught a two-stage doctrine of justification. The evidence does not support this suggestion. When the Lutherans and the Reformed wrote of a “double justification” (duplex iustitia) they were not establishing either two grounds of standing before God (imputed righteousness and inherent righteousness)—that was the Romanist view advocated at Regensburg (1541)—nor were they imply that there are two stages to justification, initial and final. Rather, they were distinguishing between justification as a legal, forensic act, whereby God declares those who are intrinsically unjust to be legally just on the basis of Christ’s condign merit imputed to them and the process of progressive sanctification whereby the consequences of that justification are worked out gradually, graciously in the lives of believers as they are conformed to Christ in mortification (putting to death the old man) and vivification (the making alive of the new man). This doctrine was effectively that taught by Calvin as the “twofold grace of God” (duplex gratia Dei) and by Olevianus and others as the “double benefit” (duplex beneficium) of the covenant of grace: justification and sanctification. According to Calvin, Olevianus and others, the same Spirit who raised us to life, who gave us the grace of faith, who, through that faith united us to Christ, is also at work in us sanctifying us. This is why they had no need of a “two-stage” doctrine of justification and, instead, distinguished between justification and vindication. We are justified in this life and shall be vindicated in the next. This is how Luther and the rest of the magisterial Protestants related Paul and James. Paul was speaking of a forensic, legal justification and James, in chapter 2, was speaking of evidence of faith or vindication of the claim to be a believer.

Ordo Salutis And A Two Stage Sequence
In the course of the original (or first stage of the) Shepherd controversy (1974–81) many informal documents were created. There was a faculty report and responses to the faculty report and addenda to those documents. There were also public letters to supporters of the seminary and responses to those letters and then finally a report by the board of trustees. Not all of the documents are dated so it’s not completely certain when they were drafted or circulated. I believe the document below to be from 1978 but cannot be completely certain. This document, written in defense of Shepherd, shows the beginnings of what would become a more fully developed approach to Romans 2:13 in which it was interpreted not as an expression of the pedagogical use the law (sometimes denominated the first use, sometimes denominated the second) but as an indication that there are two stages of justification, initial and final, and that Romans 2:13 contains a promise of final acceptance with God on the basis of Spirit-wrought sanctity.

I quote extensively from the document (pages 5–7). The only omissions are internal outline numbering and internal references to other parts of the document on the grounds that to retain these would be confusing to the reader. Nothing of substance in this section of the paper has been omitted. The document was signed but I omit the name in order to focus on the substance of the issue.

The author writes:

The Roman Catholic notion of faith formed by love and other serious misunderstandings of this verse [Gal 5:6] must be recognized and avoided….Faith justifies only as it rests in Christ and his finished righteousness, not as it looks too its working in love. Love and good works do not have a function or instrumentality for justification separate from, parallel to, or beyond that of faith. The sole instrument of justification is faith, from which working through love flows [sic] as the necessary and integral fruit or manifestation. Where the relationship between faith and its working (good works) is not expressed in this or some other equivalent way, the unique function (instrumentality) of faith for justification and so too, then, Christ’s finished righteousness as the exclusive ground of justification threatened to be obscured or denied.

This seems to be a fairly robust affirmation of the traditional Reformed doctrine of justification on the basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone through faith alone. The subordinate clause, “from which working through love flows” is not entirely clear grammatically but the intent seems to be to say that those who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone will produce the fruit of sanctification.

There is, however, an interesting qualification that should not be missed. “Love and good works do not have a function or instrumentality for justification separate from or parallel to or beyond that of faith.” Though the statement denies the Roman doctrine of “faith formed by love” it seems as if the definition of faith offered here is not far from it. Certainly we should agree with the author that sanctification and consequent good works do flow as fruit of justification and union with Christ but what is the result of saying that sanctification and good works are a constituent of faith in the act of justification? There is a certain degree of ambiguity. Since this was an informal document perhaps we shouldn’t press it too hard and yet this language does suggest that we will want to pay attention to what follows.

Next, the author appeals to the example of Abraham:

The experience of Abraham implies that as long as the believers earthly life continues, perseverance In the state of justification (from which he can never fall, WCF, 11:5) is essential to his being justified (cf. J. Edwards, works (1974), 1:640–642).

The citation of Edwards is fascinating. As anyone who has studied Edwards’ doctrine of justification it is fraught with difficulties to say the least. A recent volume sought to exonerate his doctrine of justification but, so far as I was able to tell, it never made reference to the article that highlighted the great difficulty in the first place: Thomas A. Schafer, “Jonathan Edwards and Justification By Faith,” Church History 20 (1951): 55–67. It may not be possible to say exactly what Edwards’ doctrine of justification was or that he had a single, coherent doctrine of justification. For more on this see the relevant section in Recovering the Reformed Confession.

More significantly, the author appeals to Abraham’s perseverance (which was mixed at best) not as fruit and evidence of his faith (despite the manifold evidences to the contrary—he was a serial liar and doubter. Abraham was a perfectionist’s nightmare) as “essential to his being justified.” Now the picture is clearer. The Canons of Dort (1619) want us to think and say that perseverance is a fruit of our election not condition (to which the Remonstrants added the qualification “foreseen”; CD First Head of Doctrine, rejection of errors, para. 5). Nowhere does the Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 60) include perseverance as essential to justification. The justified will persevere but they do so by God’s grace as an outworking or a consequence of election and justification. Obedience is essential to perseverance and if perseverance is essential to justification have we not made obedience essential to justification?

This formulation would seem to contradict the express teaching of WCF 11.1 that believers are justified

not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God [emphasis added]

Perseverance is wrought in us but it is an “evangelical obedience” that attends justification, that gives evidence of justification but is no part of the ground, instrument, or even essence of justification.

The document continues:

Paul and James. The much-debated question of the relationship between James 2:14ff. and the relevant passages in Paul can be addressed briefly in the light of the preceding discussion, particularly in view of their common appeal to Genesis 15:6 and the experience of Abraham. The two are not in conflict. Paul looks at Abraham’s faith as it rests in the promise (the promised seed, righteousness) and so receives the forgiveness of sin. James looks at the same faith as it is active and working (2:22); out of trust in the same promise he offered up his only son (seed), Isaac (vs. 21). That James calls this “justification by works” is because he sees Abraham’s deed only as the manifestation and fruitage of his faith, the faith that continues to rest in the promised seed. The justification of which James speaks is not in place of nor a repetition of justification in Paul’s sense (the once-for-all imputation of Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness of sins). Rather, the former, with a view to the persevering of faith working through love, is the reconfirmation or revalidation of the latter. The one, no less than the other, is forensic and declarative, and both have God as their subject. It is not necessary to insist on a demonstrative, as distinct from or excluding a declarative, sense in James.

We should agree with this account right up to the penultimate sentence. “The one, no less than the other, is forensic and declarative, and both have God as their subject.” The author continues by denying that the justification to which James refers is “declarative” as distinct from Paul’s “forensic” (legal). If by these two sentences the author means to blur the distinction between a forensic (legal, declarative act) and justification in the sense of vindication, i.e., the recognition of what is the case, then we should dissent dissent strongly. James refers to our works as evidence of our claim to faith. This is vindication. Paul refers to God’s declaration that sinners are declared to be righteous on the basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness received through faith alone. These are two distinct things that should not be muddled.

Justification and Sanctification. Justification and sanctification are different, yet they are inseparable (WLC, 77).

They differ in that they address distinctly different exigencies. Justification deals with the guilt and condemnation of sin and is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the pardoning of sin; sanctification deals with the corrupting power of sin and the production of righteousness and the subduing of sin within the believer by the power of Christ’s Spirit.

They are inseparable in that they both inhere and derive from the believer’s vital union with Christ (WLC, 69).

We should agree with the first paragraph and question and qualify the second. There is a double benefit of the covenant of grace, a double benefit of our vital union with Christ. Amen. There is, however, a logical order to the benefits. Without being too graphic consider the birth of twins. Ordinarily, apart from a C-section, twins do not emerge from the womb simultaneously. They emerge in order. Now, that is a chronological sequence. With the double benefit we do not have a temporal, chronological sequence but a logical sequence. It is the justified who are progressively sanctified. I contend that the denial of the logical order has contributed to the original controversy and continues to reverberate in the current confusion.

While it is equally important to distinguish justification and sanctification from each other as it is not to separate them, they are properly distinguished only as their inseparability in Christ is appreciated (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30). Although sanctification in its progressive aspect obviously follows justification in time, the distinction between them is not well expressed by saying, out of concern to safeguard the purity of justification, that it is the basis of sanctification, or by speaking of the priority of justification to sanctification. Much better is the model proposed by Calvin (institutes, 3:11:6): Christ, the sole source of righteousness, is the sun from which proceeds, without confusion or separation, or relative priority both light (justification) and heat (sanctification).

Here we should agree with the author as to what the issue is even as we disagree with his prescription and his analysis of Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ. Since this controversy there has been considerable historical work by Cornelis Venema, Todd Billings, and Richard Muller, to name but three who’ve reached quite different conclusions about Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ and the duplex gratia. My own research into Caspar Olevianus’ doctrine of the duplex beneficium reached similar conclusions regarding his teaching that parallels those of Billings, Venema, and Muller regarding Calvin. More recently, John Fesko has argued the historical case for the logical priority of justification to sanctification.

The temporal sequence is not in question. We should, however, affirm the logical priority of justification to progressive sanctification. ” We have prima facie evidence in Romans 8:30 for thinking this way:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30; ESV).

It is the elect who are effectually called. It is those who are called who are justified. It is the justified who shall be glorified and glorification is the consummation of progressive sanctification in this life. In Paul’s brief order of salvation here sanctification is represented by and subsumed under glorification.

As the argument unfolds the connection to a two-stage doctrine of justification becomes clearer:

Justification and final judgment.

A pervasive strand of New Testament teaching is that at the end of this age, at Christ’s return all men, including believers, will appear before God (Christ) for judgment (e.g., Matt. 16:27; 25:31–46; John 5:27–29; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:6, 16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27; 2 Pet. 3:7; 1 John 4:17).

While some of these passages neighbor for to the differing rewards granted to believers relative to each other, others unmistakably describe, not merely relative degrees a blessing for believers, but a judgment involving all men and in which the issue for all including believers, is the ultimate outcome of either internal life or eternal destruction (E. G. , Matt. 25,: 31ff.; John 5:29; Rom. 2:5–8).

While, in the case of believers, the final judgment is not called “justification” (although see Matt. 12:36, 37 and probably, too, Rom. 2:13; cf. Also the future “hope of righteousness,” Gal. 5:5), the essential features involved—a judicial transaction issuing in an irreversible verdict with eternal consequences—are precisely those at stake in Paul’s doctrine of justification. The positive outcome of the final judgment is in fact, if not in name, a justification.

What was implied and suggested above is now more explicit: a two-stage justification. In this case, however, we have observed that the distinction between them is not sharp. We have seen affirmations of the traditional Reformed doctrine of justification sola gratia, sola fide on the basis of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and significant qualifications of the definition of faith and justification which, if allowed to stand unchecked, would be fatal to the biblical and Reformed doctrine of justification.

The final justification envisioned in the section quoted above is distinct from the initial justification but continuous with it. Where the traditional doctrine has sinners justified once for all in this life and that justification vindicated at the judgment, this re-casting clear has them justified a second a second time.

Believers Are Already Justified
Above we began looking at a document, from 1978, which proposed a two-stage doctrine of justification. It recognized that there is some risk, some difficulty, in speaking of a present justification and a future justification. Nevertheless, the document contends that biblical text requires us to speak this way.

The question of the relationship, for believers, of justification already received to the final judgment, although difficult, is unavoidable; cannot be pushed aside, out of the proper concern to protect the once-for-all, definitive character of justification, by saying that the final judgment has “nothing to do” with justification. The unavoidability of this question in the case of Paul, especially, is playing. Paul’s gospel is eschatological through and through. Justification is the verdict of the final judgment already pronounced on the believer, in view of the eschatological significance of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. age. Ridderbos, Paul, pp. 161–166). For Paul, justification by faith is a piece of “realized eschatology,” demanding to be related in it’s organic ties to the still future eschatological aspects of his gospel.

The document contends that we cannot say that the final judgment has “nothing to do” with justification. Since it uses quotation marks we are left to assume that someone, in the course of the discussion, used this language but it rightly responds that the two are related, that justification sola gratia, sola fide, is an eschatological (final) declaration realized in time and space. The question before us is whether a doctrine of a two-stage justification preserves or jeopardizes the definitive, once-for-all character of justification.

The final judgment, with its dual outcome of eternal life or death, is a judgment according to works [Emphasis original] (Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10) [emphasis original].

In 2009 Rick Phillips gave five reasons why we should not say that we are justified “according to works.”

      • Scripture teaches that justification through faith alone is not provisional in character but utterly definitive in securing God’s righteous verdict.
      • The idea of a future justification of believers suggests that Christians must stand before the Lord with respect to their sinful deeds.
      • According to the vision of final judgment in Revelation 20:11-15, it is only those outside of Christ who will be judged according to their works.
      • Believers will not stand for judgment on the basis of their own works. He explains:

Their key passage is Romans 2:6-13, where Paul speaks of “the doers of the law” being justified (2:13). Reformed theology has classically regarded this passage as describing how religious people hope to be justified apart from Christ. In chapter 1, Paul wrote of the condemnation of pagan idolaters, but in chapter 2 he addresses the religious Jew. Paul warns them against the idea that the law – the Torah – saves them, because one is saved not merely by possessing the law but by keeping it. If you are trying to be justified by the law, Paul says, then you have to do it, not merely possess it. John Calvin explains of Romans 2:13: “The sense of this verse, therefore, is that if righteousness is sought by the law, the law must be fulfilled, for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” This is why Paul proceeds to make the point that “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10), and “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The point of Romans 2:6-13 is to show those who seek to be justified by their works that they will have to keep the law perfectly, which Paul then shows they cannot hope to do. Given its clear context, Calvin comments on Romans 2:13, “Those who misinterpret this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works deserve universal contempt.”

The doctrine of judgment “according to works” does not seem to be used extensively by the Reformed Churches in their confessions. It does not occur in the Belgic Confession (1560), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Canons of Dort, the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), or the Westminster Standards (1648). The Scots Confession (1560) chapter 25 does use it:

Yea, the Eternal, our God, shall stretch out his hand on the dust, and the dead shall arise incorruptible, and in the very substance of the selfsame flesh which every man now bears, to receive according to their works, glory or punishment. Such as now delight in vanity, cruelty, filthiness, superstition, or idolatry, shall be condemned to the fire unquenchable, in which those who now serve the devil in all abominations shall be tormented forever, both in body and in spirit. But such as continue in well doing to the end, boldly confessing the Lord Jesus, shall receive glory, honor, and immortality, we constantly believe, to reign forever in life everlasting with Christ Jesus, to whose glorified body all his chosen shall be made like, when he shall appear again in judgment and shall render up the Kingdom to God his Father, who then shall be and ever shall remain, all in all things, God blessed forever. To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, now and ever. Amen.

It is not clear that this section of the Scots Confession is teaching the same thing proposed in the (1978) document since the confession does not distinguish between two stages of justification nor does it equate the judgment according to works to justification.

The document continues:

In the case of believers, the final judgment (justification) does not involve a different principle than justification by faith, as if the sinner is first justified by his faith in the righteousness of Christ and then, at the final judgment on the basis of his works. Such a construction would bring Paul into contradiction with himself and destroy the assurance ministered by his doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, from beginning to end (final judgment) the ground of acceptance with God and his justifying judgment is the finished righteousness of Christ.

This passage is interesting because it addresses one of the concerns animating this series on Romans 2:13. It’s interesting that the document recognizes the possibility that the reader might reach this conclusion. Has the document pushed a boulder down the hill—in other words, is there a good, logical reason to prevent the reader from drawing the conclusion the document hopes to avoid?

In the case of believers, the final judgment according to works is the culmination of the justification by works of which James speaks. “Works” in this instance is an abbreviation for “faith working by love”; works are the criterion or fruit (manifestation) of the faith which all along, from beginning to end (final judgment), rest in Christ and his imputed righteousness. In a word, for the believer the final judgment according to work is the consummation of justification by faith.

Since the document speaks of the judgment as the “culmination” of justification it is difficult to see how justification, in this life, really is once-for-all and final. Does this way of thinking and speaking really accord with Paul’s language: “having therefore been justified by faith, we have peace with God”? (Rom 5:1) Scripture does not say “Since justification has been inaugurated will be consummated in the judgment according to works, we have peace with God.” To read Paul this way would turn his intent on its head. His intent is for the believer to know, with a “certain knowledge and hearty trust” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 21) that he is now presently, irrevocably accepted by God for Christ’s sake alone and this not “of works” or “according to works” but “of faith.” This is why Paul says, in Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Again, Scripture does not say that, though there is now no condemnation but there remains a future and final adjudication. The catechism picks up on this teaching:

Q. 58. What comfort takest thou from the article of “life everlasting”?

A. That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man” to conceive, and that to praise God therein for ever.

Q. 59. But what does it profit thee now that thou believest all this?

A. That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life.

Q. 60. How are thou righteous before God?

A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

When the catechism thinks about the future, even the judgment, it does not envision a second justification nor a second stage of justification. Question 52 assumes that we are already justified.

Q. 52. What comfort is it to thee that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead”?

A. That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory.

For believers the judgment is not a new adjudication, a second justification but a blessing and a vindication of the justification received by grace alone, through faith alone.

The document takes a step in this direction:

In so far as the final judgment may be viewed, in the case of believers, as a justification, the difference between it and the justification that takes place when the sinner is united to Christ may be expressed at the lead of 2 Corinthians 5:7, by the distinction between justification by faith and justification by sight (cf. WSC, 38: “openly acknowledged and acquitted”), or perhaps between justification by faith and justification in the (resurrected) body (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10).

Yet the document ignores the fact that the divines who framed the standards used different language and categories precisely to distinguish between justification and vindication—”openly acknowledged and acquitted.” What has already been declared, namely the justification of sinners, is recognized. We should not accept the document’s facile equation of an ostensible future justification with the vindication of believers.

The document wants to include our future, final justification “according to works” in the gospel.

The inclusion of the final judgment according to works for believers as an integral element of the Gospel, among other things, serves as a reminder that justification by faith is not only something that has happened in the past experience of the believer but is a present, ongoing concern (cf. The title of Calvin’s Institutes, 3:14). Most assuredly, the removal of condemnation, the invitation of Christ righteousness, the forgiveness of sins, all of which take place at the moment the sinner is first united to Christ by faith, are once-for-all and your reversible, and initiate the state of justification from which believers can never fall (W CF, 11:5). Any presentation of the Gospel or formulation of the doctrine of justification that obscures or denies this is simply unfaithful to Scripture. But at the same time it must also be kept clear that this irrevocable justification is received by faith with a view to it’s persevering to the end…. As true faith, wrought and sustained by the sovereign power of God, it is bound to persevere; but it must in fact persevere, of faith which, as it continues to rest in Christ and receive everything from him, works by love.

Justification is not merely initiated. No, it is declared. Justification has been accomplished and applied. We should not accept that way of speaking about justification.

If we simply allow the judgment to be what it is: acknowledgment of what God has already declared and what he has wrought in them as fruit and evidence, we have resolved the matter

To connect justification and perseverance in this way is not to introduce a note of fear or uncertainty into the gospel or confound the entire graciousness of justification with an element of legalism. Rather it is to make intelligible to the congregation its existence between justification and final judgment, as the people who serve the living and true God as they wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead for their justification, Jesus, who delivers them from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:9,10; Rom. 4:25).

The document does not want to introduce fear and uncertainty but has it succeeded? The document seems dissatisfied with the historic Reformed approach of Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude (the three parts of the Heidelberg Catechism) and the gospel mystery of sanctification graciously, gradually wrought within justified believers united to Christ. It begs leave to connect our perseverance to a putative future justification. This is a new thing. The medieval and later the Tridentine Roman communion sought to induce believers to greater sanctity through a two-stage doctrine of justification: an initial justification in baptism and a final justification through sanctification (by grace and cooperation with grace).

The document wants to avoid this outcome but there are too many similarities between the medieval and Roman schemes to the scheme proposed here to ignore.

Belgic Confession art. 24 makes clear that we believe that believers will be sanctified, they will produce fruit, they will do good works in light of Christ’s work for them and in union with him as he works in them.

In the ordinary course of things believers will do good works, as they should, as they must, as befits those who have received such free favor from God, in Christ. This is the “way of salvation,” i.e., the ordinary process by which the Spirit works salvation (definitive justification and progressive sanctification). These good works are evidence and fruit of the Spirit’s work. The ground of our one justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed. The only instrument of our justification and salvation is faith alone. We do not advance our understanding of Scripture or our confession of faith by re-defining justification or by tying it to sanctification and works.

1. The NA28 says: “οὐ γὰρ οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου δίκαιοι παρὰ [τῷ] θεῷ, ἀλλʼ οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου δικαιωθήσονται.” The Vulgate reads: “non enim auditores legis iusti sunt apud Deum sed factores legis iustificabuntur.” Theodore Beza’s Latin New Testament has “(non enim qui audiunt legem justi sunt apud Deum; sed qui legem praestant justificabantur.” Arguably the Vulgate is a more straightforward translation. What make’s Beza’s interesting is the insertion of the prepositional phrase apud Deum (with God), the insertion of parentheses (in my 1834 edition) which extend to v. 15, and the use of the somewhat more ambiguous praestant in place of factores. Praestant has a number of senses among them “to fulfill.” It seems as if Beza wanted to make clearer the sense that the law is something that must be performed completely or perfectly and not merely attempted. One of the two notes on this verse in the Geneva Bible (1599 edition) says: “Shall be pronounced just before God’s judgment seat: which is true indeed, if any such could be found that had fulfilled the law: but seeing Abraham was not justified by the Law, but by faith, it followeth that no man can be justified by works.”

The Logic Of Fruit As Evidence

The Patristic Period
One of the earliest concerns of the Christian church, beginning with the apostles and intensifying through the patristic and medieval periods, was that those who profess the Christian faith should live in a way befitting their profession of faith. In the apostolic and patristic periods our theologians were often writing within a hostile culture to converts from paganism. There was much that Christians could not control: what the pagans thought of them (e.g., they drown babies, they were cannibals, they were a burial cult etc). The Greco-Roman pagans seemed determined to try to force the Christians to conform outwardly to Greco-Roman piety. They were happy to add Jesus to the pantheon but they (and the non-Christian Jews) were greatly troubled by his crucifixion and they could not tolerate the notion that he had claimed (and the Christians confessed) that he is the only way to God. There offended too by the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as unreasonable and others were critical of the claim that Jesus was born of a Virgin. Occasionally, in the patristic periods, there were even sporadic outbreaks of government-sponsored persecution intended either deal with the problem of the Christians. Those pogroms failed and the Christians persisted. One thing the Christians could control, one claim the Christians could make was that their behavior was exemplary. Those who investigated the Christians from the outside reported (e.g., Pliny the Younger c. 112 AD) that the Christians covenanted among themselves not make false oaths, not to steal, not to desire the belongings of others etc. They recited the Ten Commandments in their services. As part of their apologetic (i.e., defense of the faith) Justin Martyr and Tertullian repeatedly challenged the pagans to find anything wrong with the way Christians behaved. Christians, they argued, were good citizens and could sustain any trial to which the pagans might put them. They repeatedly begged the authorities to leave the Christians alone so they could pursue their lives peacefully.

The Medieval Period
Beginning in the late Patristic period and continuing through the medieval period, however, the high Christian doctrine of the moral and apologetic necessity of good behavior morphed into something else: part of the ground and instrument of the Christian’s standing before God, part of the ground and reason of their final salvation from the wrath to come. By the high middle ages (e.g., as reflected the teaching of Anselm. Bernard of Clairvaux. and Thomas Aquinas) it was widely held, though never formally confessed by the church, that salvation is by sanctification and that sanctification is by grace and free cooperation with grace. The mainstream doctrine became that Christians needed to accumulate merit and that was that free will, i.e., the un-coerced act of the will was essential merit. Behind this lay a set of philosophical assumptions that were received more or less uncritically, chief among which was the notion that God can only say “righteous” or “sanctified” if the Christians is actually, inherently, intrinsically righteous and sanctified. Particularly in the West and entire doctrine of salvation (soteriology) was established to explain how that was and what one must do to be saved (sanctified and therefore justified and finally delivered from the wrath to come).

The became that Christians are infused with a sort of medicine (a metaphor frequently used for grace) which produces new life (there is nothing new about sovereign, prevenient grace) with which the Christian must cooperate toward the formation of a kind of merit that has intrinsic worth. The medieval theologians called this “condign merit.” They recognized, however, in different ways that our cooperation with grace is imperfect or that our good works are still imperfect (different writers put it differently) and therefore God must impute perfection to our best efforts. They called this congruent merit. There was a widespread conviction that the only way to promote sanctity (holiness) and obedience among Christians is to suspend their final standing before God (salvation) upon their cooperation with grace. Good works were not evidence of a right standing with God and salvation but essential to the ground and instrument of our justification and salvation. Where at least some of the Fathers had spoken of justification and salvation by grace through faith in something like the way the Protestants would later do, the medievals defined faith rather differently. They defined faith as sanctification. They taught that faith is a virtue, that it has intrinsic power, and that it is “formed” in us through sanctification, i.e., by grace and cooperation with grace. Where Paul had written, “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) the medievals (e.g., Thomas) taught “faith formed by love.” They spoke of the “theological virtues” of 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope, and love. Faith was thought to be the gift of God but it does not given to us fully developed. We must nurture it and since love (caritas from which we get charity) is the greatest virtue, we must develop it by our free cooperation with grace toward the formation of faith. Thus, for the medieval theologians, faith is not so much trusting in Christ and looking to Christ but rather a measurement of the degree of love formed within us, a measurement of our actual sanctity and inherent righteousness.

This prevailing medieval doctrine of salvation by grace and cooperation with grace, however, left the Christian in a state of suspension. Assurance was regarded as ordinarily impossible for the ordinary Christian and undesirable. Indeed, the notion of that one might have certainty that one was saved and would be saved from the wrath to come was regarded as presumption, as arrogance and that was an indication that one was not sufficiently sanctified. Christians were intended in a state of uncertainty. In at least one Saxon Augustinian monk that crisis created by the medieval system would produce a revolution in Western theology, piety, and practice.

The Reformation
When Luther rebelled against the medieval doctrine of justification and salvation by sanctification he re-defined justification as God’s unconditional declaration of justification (righteousness) on the ground of Christ’s condign merit imputed to believers and that received through faith alone (sola fide). Faith in justification and salvation was redefined as the sole instrument through which Christians receive God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness. This is why the sola of sola fide was so important. Love was said to be the fruit and evidence of justification and salvation. Grace was also redefined. Luther and the Protestants found that the medievals had departed from the biblical definition of grace as God’s free favor toward sinners and had turned it into a medicine. They found that some of the Fathers and many of the medievals had downplayed the effects of sin so as to be able to teach our ability to cooperate freely with grace. They recaptured St Paul’s and St Augustine’s doctrine of sin and its deadly consequences.

Where the medievals had come to teach that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection made it possible for Christian to do his part, if he would, Luther and the Protestants declared that the gospel is that Christ had accomplished salvation once-for-all and that he freely distributes it to all who believe, that faith is a free gift of grace, and that even though we are never fully, inherently sanctified or righteous in this life nevertheless we are already fully justified before God and saved from the wrath to come. We are simultaneously righteous even though we remain actually sinners (simul iustus et peccator). That was something that virtually no medieval theologian could say and it was flatly contrary to what became formal Romanist dogma in the mid-16th century.

What of sanctification? Whereas the medievals made sanctification the instrument of our justification and salvation Luther and the Protestants taught that our actual, progressive sanctification is the necessary consequence of our justification and our salvation from the wrath to come. Like the Fathers and the medievals they believed and taught the moral necessity of holiness and obedience to God’s moral law (the ten commandments) but unlike the medievals they taught Christian obedience to the law is the fruit of our justification and evidence of our salvation. There were those, particularly in the 1550s, who dissented from the Protestant consensus. One theologian (Osiander) taught that God accepts us on the basis of our union with the indwelling Christ. Another tried to wedge in the medieval doctrine, by teaching that good works were more than evidence but this revision was universally rejected. The overwhelming consensus among Reformed theologians by the mid-16th century was that sanctification is the necessary consequence of our justification and the evidence of our salvation.

Protestants On Obedience As Fruit And Evidence
Where Rome (e.g., Trent), the Socinians, and Richard Baxter made good works the antecedent condition of our salvation (the law of works), i.e., they played the same role as faith, the Protestants made good works the necessary consequence of our salvation. According to the moralists, we do good works in order to be saved. According to the Protestants, we do good works because we have been saved. One says, in effect, that we are saved from the flood (judgment) partly through faith and partly through our good works. The other says we obey out of gratitude, in union and communion with the risen Christ, because we have been saved, as it were, from the flood. This is the best understanding of Ephesians 2:8–10. Our salvation and the faith by which we receive it, it’s all God’s gift.

Martin Luther
It was Luther who gave us the adjective antinomian, those who reject the abiding validity of God’s holy moral law as the norm for the Christian. Almost as soon as Luther and the Protestants had recovered the gospel of free salvation by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), resting in and receiving Christ and all his benefits, a movement arose that rejected the abiding validity of the moral law. Luther defended not only the first use of the moral law (whereby we learn the greatness of our sin and misery) but also the third use whereby the moral law norms the Christian life. We keep the law not in order to be saved but because we have been saved.

Good works, he taught, are the a necessary consequence of our justification and salvation:

We conclude with Paul that we are justified solely by faith in Christ, without the Law and works. But after a man is justified by faith, now possesses Christ by faith, and knows that He is his righteousness and life, he will certainly not be idle but, like a sound tree, will bear good fruit (Matt. 7:17). For the believer has the Holy Spirit; and where He is, He does not permit a man to be idle but drives him to all the exercises of devotion, to the love of God, to patience in affliction, to prayer, to thanksgiving, and to the practice of love toward all men.1

He was not finished. In the very next paragraph Luther wrote

Therefore we, too, say that faith without works is worthless and useless. The papists and the fanatics take this to mean that faith without works does not justify, or that if faith does not have works, it is of no avail, no matter how true it is. That is false. But faith without works—that is, a fantastic idea and mere vanity and a dream of the heart—is a false faith and does not justify.2

For Luther, as for all the confessional Protestants following him, good works do not make faith what it is but neither can one claim to have true faith without them any more than a tree can be said to be good without fruit. The fruit demonstrates what the tree is. The fruit is evidence that the tree is alive.

This, of course, never satisfies the moralist. He will have good works as part of faith both in justification and for our final entrance into glory:

On the other hand, the weak, who are not malicious or slanderous but good, are offended when they hear that the Law and good works do not have to be done for justification. One must go to their aid and explain to them how it is that works do not justify, how works should be done, and how they should not be done. They should be done as fruits of righteousness, not in order to bring righteousness into being. Having been made righteous, we must do them; but it is not the other way around: that when we are unrighteous, we become righteous by doing them. The tree produces fruit; the fruit does not produce the tree.3

This metaphor of good works as fruit was widely adopted by Protestant writers. It became a standard feature of Reformed theologians in the British Isles and across Europe. It was so widely accepted that it became a the way that the Reformed churches spoke about good works in their confessions.

The Reformed Confessions And Theologians
Perhaps the locus classicus (the most typical place) is Belgic Confession article 24:

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification— for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

The charge made by Rome and the Anabaptists, among others, was that the evangelical doctrine of salvation sola gratia, sola fide would make Christians cold and careless about their sanctification. The Reformed churches refuted that charge by arguing that the same grace by which we have been given new life also produces faith and it is “impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful.” True faith is God’s gift. It unites us to the risen and ascended Christ who, by his Spirit, works in us conformity to himself and to his moral will. This is how we understand “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Rome, remember, turned “faith working through love” into “faith formed by love” (on this see part 1). In response, Calvin wrote on Galatians 5:6, “When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle.”

In the 1559 edition of the Institutes Calvin wrote at length on the relationship between the grace of justification and the grace of sanctification.

But, since the question concerns only righteousness and sanctification, let us dwell upon these. Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces [1 Cor. 1:13]. Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.4

Notice that, for Calvin, we are not justified “without” works but we are not justified “through” them. They are concomitant to our justification and our salvation but they are not the instrument (“through”) of our salvation. This is the difference between through and is. He continued in the next section to give a series of biblical quotations and allusions proving that “no one can put sharper spurs to them than those derived from the end of our redemption and calling” (3.16.2). In other words, contra the moralists, guilt, grace, and gratitude (lived in union and communion with Christ) is enough to empower and enable the Christian life of sanctification and the fruit of good works. He asked rhetorically, “Could we be aroused to love by any livelier argument than that of John’s: that “we love one another as God has loved us”? (ibid). God’s gracious for our present tribulation produces fruit: “Let us always remember that this promise, like all others, would not bear fruit for us if the free covenant of his mercy had not gone before, upon which the whole assurance of our salvation depended” (3.18.7).

In the Second Helvetic Confession (published 1566) the Swiss Reformed confessed:

The same apostle calls faith efficacious and active through love (Gal. 5:6). It also quiets the conscience and opens a free access to God, so that we may draw near to him with confidence and may obtain from him what is useful and necessary. The same faith keeps us in the service we owe to God and our neighbor, strengthens our patience in adversity, fashions and makes a true confession, and in a word brings forth good fruit of all kinds, and good works (ch. 16).

We obey because God has graciously redeemed us. The very same grace and faith that saves also produces the fruit of good works, the evidence of our salvation.

For we teach that truly good works grow out of a living faith by the Holy Spirit and are done by the faithful according to the will or rule of God’s Word. Now the apostle Peter says: “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control,” etc.(II Peter 1:5 ff.). But we have said above that the law of God, which is his will, prescribes for us the pattern of good works. And the apostle says: “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from immorality…that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in business” (I Thess. 4:3 ff.).

We are not antinomian but we use the law the way it was intended to be used: as the norm of our new life, not the instrument or ground of our salvation.

The Westminster Confession could not have been clearer about the relationship between faith and fruits:

2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life (chapter 16).

Our good works do not justify us. They do not sanctify us. They do not save us but they are the “fruit and evidences” of a true and lively faith. Christ saved us by his obedience, death, and resurrection. The Spirit sanctifies by his grace. Our good works are the fruit of God’s gracious for us and in us.

The logic is this: God graciously works in us new life and faith. Through that faith we apprehend Christ and all his benefits for our salvation. Through that faith the Spirit works union and communion with Christ in which we are sanctified and out of that faith, union, and communion are produced the fruit of our new life and sanctification in Christ. Fruit is a metaphor. As the Belgic Confession has it, good trees produce good fruit. The fruit is evidence of the life in the tree. So, the Spirit produces new life, faith, union with Christ, justification and sanctification in the sinner. Our good works are the fruit of the Spirit’s work in us and evidence of the salvation that we have by grace alone, through faith alone.


1. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 154–155. I am indebted to John Fonville for his help with this post.

2. Luther’s Works, 26.155.

3. Luther’s Works, 26.169.

4. Calvin, Institutes (Battles edition), 3.16.1.


Who Are The True Catholics?

There are truly important works that have simply been forgotten or unjustly ignored. One of those is William Ames’ Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in defense of the Reformed theology and practice of worship. Another is William Perkins’ 1597 treatise, A Reformed Catholic subtitled Or a Declaration Showing How Near We may Come to the Present Church of Rome in Sundry Points of Religion and Wherein We Must Forever Depart From Them. To this he added, With An Advertisement [a statement calling attention to something] to “All Favorers of the Roman Religion Showing How the Said Religion is Against the Catholic Principles and Grounds of the [English] Catechism.”

William Perkins (1558–1602) is worthy of our attention for a few reasons. First, he was one of the most important English Reformed theologians of the Reformation/post-Reformation periods. The other is John Owen. Arguably Perkins should be on anybody’s short list of Great English Theologians. Second, his teaching was a great influence on the Westminster Assembly, and thus to understand Perkins is to understand our own confession more fully. Third, he articulated Reformed theology at a time when the Reformation was under assault from the Socinians, the Arminians (Remonstrants), and a renewed Romanism. We still face these challenges in our day. We know the Socinians as “The Unitarians” today but they were influential upon many of the followers of Arminius (post-Episcopius) and their methodological influence is still felt in American Evangelical circles. The advocates of Open Theism rely on essentially a Socinian view of God and biblical hermeneutic (approach to reading Scripture). “Biblicism,” i.e., the idea that one is going to read the Bible as if no one has ever read it before, is not only deliberately ignorant and contrary to the Reformation approach to reading Scripture with the church past and present, is essentially a Socinian approach to Scripture that yielded a denial of Christ’s divinity, the Trinity, and the atonement, among other things.

Most Reformed folk who are familiar with Perkins might think of his Golden Chaine, his exposition of the doctrine of predestination, and the criticism he received from Jacob Arminius but Perkins was much more than a theologian of predestination. He was a member of the “Spiritual Brotherhood” at Cambridge. He was a Reformed churchman who understood that theology is not mere theory. He defined it as the “science of living blessedly forever. ” He was as devoted to cultivating true piety as he was to defending true theology. For Perkins the two were inseparable. For more on his life and setting see Paul Schaefer’s The Spiritual Brotherhood, 49–107.

Were the Reformation a boxing match, it appeared in the first half of the sixteenth century that Rome was flat on the canvas. Beginning with Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) in the 1540s, Rome got off the canvas, as it were, and began counter-punching theologically and militarily. Rome would try to recover her geo-political influence and the struggle would not end until the close of the Thirty-Years War (1648). The Jesuits and others proved to be a genuine difficulty for the Reformation. They began to make more sophisticated appeals to tradition and to Scripture that required increased sophistication from the Reformed.

In this essay we cannot survey all that Perkins wrote but we will look at how his soteriology (doctrine of salvation) responded to Rome. Perkins’ argument was that it was the Reformed (and the Reformation doctrine more broadly), not Rome, that was the home of truly catholic (universal), Christian theology.

The Reformed Response To The Roman Counter-Reformation
This treatise is an interesting and useful example of the way the Reformed responded to the Roman response (the “Counter Reformation” or the “Catholic Reformation”). Perkins responded by challenging a central Romanist assumption: that the Roman communion is the “Catholic Church.”

Perkins began his assault on Rome in the dedicatory epistle. [NB: I’ve modernized the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation on C. S. Lewis’ theory that we tend to impute ignorance to older writers when we see variance from our practice.]

RIGHT worshipful, it is a notable policy of the devil, which he has put into the heads of sundry men in this age, to think that our religion, and the religion of the present Church of Rome are all one for substance: and that they may be re-united as (in their opinion) they were before. Writings to this effect are spread abroad in the French tongue, and respected of English Protestants more then is meet, or ought to be. For, let men in show of moderation, pretend the peace and good estate of the Catholic Church as long as they will; this union of the two religions can never be made, more then the union of light and darkness. And this shall appear, if we do but a little consider, how they of the Roman Church have razed the foundation.

For though in words they honor Christ, yet in deed they turn him to a Pseudo-Christ, and an idol of their own brain. They call him our Lord, but with this condition, that the Servant of Servants of this Lord, may change and add to his commandments: having so great power, that he may open and shut heaven to whom he will; and bind the very conscience with his own laws, and consequently be partaker of the spiritual kingdom of Christ.

Again, they call him a Savior, but yet in us: in that he gives this grace unto us, that by our merits, we may partake in the merits of the saints. And they acknowledge, that he died and suffered for us, but with this caveat, that the fault being pardoned, we must satisfy for the temporal punishment, either in this world, or in purgatory. In a word, they make him our Mediator of Intercession unto God: but withal, his Mother must be the Queen of Heaven, and by the right of a Mother command him there.

Thus, in word, they cry Hosanna, but indeed they crucify Christ. Therefore we have good cause to bless the name of God, that hath freed us from the yoke of this Roman bondage, and hath brought us to the true light and liberty of the Gospel. And it should be a great height of unthankfulness in us, not to stand out against the present Church of Rome, but to yield our selves to plots of reconciliation.

To this effect and purpose I have penned this little treatise, which I present to your worship, desiring it might be some token of a thankful mind, for undeserved love. And I crave withal, not only your worshipful (which is more common) but also your learned protection; being well assured, that by skill and art you are able to justify whatsoever I have truly taught. Thus wishing to you and yours the continuance and the increase of faith and good conscience, I take my leave.

Cambridge, June 28. 1597.

Your W. in the Lord,


Notice the issues that Perkins highlighted: the unique authority (and Spirit-wrought) clarity of the Scriptures, its corollary Christian freedom, the uniqueness of Christ’s once-for-all work, and the Roman denial of the assurance of faith that is gift of God to believers as a consequence of the first two.

These are the issues that face us today. Perkins was concerned about a false ecumenism then and we have just as much right to be concerned about it now. As Rome begins its year-long celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II it is well to remember that Vatican II changed none of the doctrines against which the Reformation reacted. The issues remain. The popular, informal role of Mary as mediatrix has become formalized. The Roman doctrine of the necessity of cooperation with grace as part of progressive sanctification unto eventual justification (after purgatory), the mediation of the saints, the authority of the church, all these issues are as divisive today as they were at Trent and Perkins’ re-assertion of the genuine catholicity (university) of the Reformed faith, against the pretension of the Roman Bishop and councils, is as relevant today as the day it was first published.

In his treatise defending the Reformation understanding of Scripture against resurgent Romanism Perkins counted 22 issues between Protestants (his term) and Rome:

  1. Of Free-will.
  2. Of Original sin.
  3. Assurance of salvation.
  4. Justification of a sinner.
  5. Of Merits.
  6. Satisfactions for sin.
  7. Of Traditions.
  8. Of Vows.
  9. Of Images.
  10. Of Real presence.
  11. The sacrifice of the Mass.
  12. Of Fasting.
  13. The state of Perfection.
  14. Worshipping of Saints departed.
  15. Intercession of Saints.
  16. Implicit faith.
  17. Of Purgatory.
  18. Of the Supremacy.
  19. Of the efficacy of the Sacraments.
  20. Of Faith.
  21. Of Repentance.
  22. The sins of the Roman Church

He began he exposition with a decidedly unfriendly quotation from Revelation 18:4:

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Go out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues….

His intent, as he went on to make clear, was to identify Rome as the whore of Babylon:

And the whore of Babylon, as by all circumstances may be gathered, is the state or regiment of a people that are the inhabitants of Rome and appertain thereto. This may be proved by the interpretation of the holy Ghost: for in the last verse of the seventeenth Chapter, the woman, that is, the whore of Babylon, is said to be a city which reigns over the kings of the earth: now in the days when Saint John penned this book of Revelation, there was no city in the world that ruled over the kings of the earth but Rome; it then being the seat where the Emperor put in execution his imperial authority. Again, in the seventh verse she is said to sit on a beast having seven heads and ten horns: which seven heads be seven hills, verse 9. whereon the woman sits, and also they be seven kings. Therefore by the whore of Babylon is meant a city standing on seven hills. Now it is well known, not only to learned men in the Church of God, but even to the heathen themselves, that Rome alone is the city built on seven distinct hills….

In response to the charge that to separate from Rome is schism, Perkins replied:

…all those who will be saved, must depart and separate themselves from the faith and religion of this present church of Rome. And whereas they are charged with schism that separate on this manner; the truth is, they are not schismatics that do so, because they have the commandment of God for their warrant: and the party is the schismatic in whom the cause of this separation lies: and that is the Church of Rome, namely, the cup of abomination in the whores hand, which is their heretical and schismatical religion

The Problem Of Sin And Free Will
His first charge against Rome, which he notes is not the principal issue, is that the Roman communion has corrupted the doctrine of sin. It comes under the heading of free will, which he defined thus:

Free-will both by them and us, is taken for a mixed power in the mind and will of man; whereby discerning what is good and what is evil, he doth accordingly choose or refuse the same.

He identified three aspects of free will. Natural, human, and spiritual. The question is whether, after the fall, humans have this power. He began to address this question the same way Augustine began with the Pelagians (and semi-Pelagians!) and the way Thomas Boston would do after Perkins, with the fourfold state of humanity:

Man must be considered in a four-fold estate, as he was created, as he was corrupted, as he is renewed, as he shall be glorified. In the first estate, we ascribe to mans will liberty of nature, in which he could will or not nill [to be unwilling] either good or evil: in the third, liberty of grace: in the last, liberty of glory. All the doubt is of the second estate: and yet therein also we agree

“All the doubt is of the second….” The issue between Rome and Protestants is what are the effects of the fall. How sinful are we? The great attraction of semi-Pelagianism has always been that they avoid to obvious and gross error of the Pelagians, who denied any legal or spiritual connection between Adam and us, formally by affirming our connection with Adam. They affirm that in Adam’s fall sinned we all but they deny what Paul, Augustine, the medieval neo-Augustinians, and the Protestants affirm, namely that the effect of Adam’s sin is extensive and intensive. According to the semi-Pelagians, whether in Rome or out, we’re not that sinful. In this case, they assert that we are not so sinful that we cannot do our part in cooperation with grace, which is said to make it possible.

He distinguished between different aspects of human freedom. On the question of what Luther and Melanchthon called “external freedom,” i.e., the lack of compulsion, there is no disagreement:

Human actions are such as are common to all men good and bad, as to speak, and use reason, the practice of [al]mechanical and liberal arts, and the outward performance of civil and ecclesiastical duties; [such] as to come to [the] church, to speak and preach the word, to reach out the hand to receive the Sacrament, and to lend the ear to listen outwardly to that which is taught. And hither we may refer the outward actions of civil virtues: as namely, justice, temperance, gentleness, and liberality.

The Augustinian and Protestant doctrine of corruption (pravitas) does not teach that humans are as wicked as they could be. In the providence of God, by which the Spirit restrains evil, humans are capable of civil, outward, virtues.

Protestants agree with Rome that when fallen humans sin they do so without compulsion.

[I]n these we likewise join with the Papists, and teach, that in sins or evil actions man have freedom of will.

On Free Will And Regeneration
Perkins says that we Protestants even agree with Rome, in part on a second part of spiritual willing.

We likewise in part join with the Church of Rome, and say, that in the first conversion of a sinner, man’s free-will concurs with Gods grace, as a fellow or co-worker in some sort. For in the conversion of a sinner three things are required: the Word, God’s spirit, and man’s will, for man’s will is not passive in all and every respect, but has an action in the best conversion and change of the soul. When any man is converted, this work of God is not done by compulsion, but he is converted willingly: and at the very time when he is converted, by Gods grace he wills his conversion.

The point of discussion is what we now call “regeneration,” not sanctification as much as the moment of awakening from death to life. He quoted Augustine to the effect that when God gives quickening grace he also gives “a desire and will” simultaneously. We will freely but we do so with a renewed, Spirit-given, will. When he gives faith the Spirit gives a new will causing the will to “desire faith and to willingly receive the gift of believing….” So, even in regeneration we do not act under compulsion because, as Perkins noted, “no man can receive grace utterly against his will, considering [that] will constrained is no will.”

On free will, the difference between confessional Protestants and Rome is the effect of the fall.

The Papists say, mans will concurs and works with Gods graces in the first conversion of a sinner, by itself, and by it own natural power: and is only helped by the Holy Ghost. We say, that mans will works with grace in the first conversion: yet not of it self, but by grace. Or thus: They say, will has a natural cooperation: we deny it, and say it has cooperation only by grace, being in itself not active but passive, willing well only as it is moved by grace, whereby it must first be acted and moved, before it can act or will.

The difference between Rome and Protestants is illustrated by the different analogies we use. They use the analogy of a prisons and prisoners, who are said to be bound and weak, who are “but living in part” i.e., “not wholly dead” and therefore “yet has ability to stir….” On this image, if the warden [the Holy Spirit] “and do but untie his bands, and reach him his hand of grace, then can [the prisoner] stand of himself, and will his own salvation, or any thing else that is good.”

We Protestants, however, use a different image to describe the human condition after the fall: death. Perkins wrote that we must describe the prisoner as he actually is, “even stark dead” and “one that lies rotten in the grave, not having any ability or power to move or stir: and therefore he cannot so much as desire to do any thing that is truly good of himself” who is utterly dependent upon the Spirit, who

must first come and put a new soul into him, even the spirit of grace to quicken and revive him: and then being thus revived, the will begins to will good things at the very same time, when God by his spirit first infuses grace.

This is, as Perkins wrote, “the true difference between us and the Church of Rome in this point of free will.” The issue is not whether we sinned in Adam but whether, as Perkins put it, “after baptism…how far forth it remains after baptism.” In other words, after baptism, how sinful are we. This is important because, as he wrote, “hereupon depend many points of Popery.”

The Reformed and Romanists agree that after baptism “natural corruption” is abolished but we disagree as to what extent. For Perkins there were three things in original sin:

  1. The punishment (the first and second death)
  2. Guiltiness (the binding up of the creature unto punishment)
  3. The fault (offending of God)

Under the third heading he addressed our guilt in Adam, the corruption of the heart, i.e., a natural inclination and proclivity to “any thing that is evil or against the law of God.”

According to Perkins, for the regenerate, in baptism, “the punishment of original sin is taken away” because “There is no condemnation (saith the Apostle) to them that be in Jesus Christ, Rom. 8. 1.”

Working backward, guilt is also taken away in the regenerate (i.e., those given new life). He cautioned that this is true of the person regenerate but not of the “sin in the person.” His clear intent was to restrict these benefits to the regenerate and he did not attribute the power of regeneration (new life) to the sacrament of baptism. In effect he was saying that Baptism was the sign and seal to the regenerate of what is promised in the gospel. He continued to explain that the corruption of sin remains until death.

Where he differ with Rome, however, concerns “the manner, and the measure of the abolishment of this sin.” Rome teaches, he argued, that, in baptism, original sin is “taken away” so completely that “it ceases to be a sin properly” so that it is now, after baptism, only a “want, a defect, a weakness” which leaves the potential of sin “like tinder” that is ready to burst into flames. They take this position in order to make it possible for them to “uphold some gross opinions of theirs namely, that a man in this life may fulfill the law of God: and do good works void of sin: that he may stand righteous at the bar of God’s judgement by them.”

In contrast, the Reformed teach that though “original sin be taken away in the regenerate” nevertheless it remains in them after baptism not only as “a want and weakness” but “as sin….”

He appealed to Romans 7:17. Sin, not mere want or weakness, dwells in baptized believers. Further, baptized infants “die the bodily death before they come to the years of discretion.” If baptism removes original sin in the way Rome claims there would be no cause of death them. Third, concupiscence (sinful desire) remains after baptism (Galatians 5:17 and (James 1:14). Finally, under this heading, Perkins appealed to Augustine (Epistle 29), where he argued that in baptism the reigning power of sin is broken but not that there is no sin whatever.

Perkins concluded this section by addressing four objections the essence of which has to do with defining sin. According to Perkins, Rome is Pelagianizing. Rome’s account of sin does not match the biblical doctrine of sin and it doesn’t square with Augustine’s (mature) doctrine of sin against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians. Rome is implicitly perfectionist. Once again, according to Rome, in Adam we are sinful but we are not so sinful (depraved) that we cannot do our part, cooperate with grace unto sanctification and thence to justification.

Assurance Of Salvation
Perkins’ third point against Rome concerned the assurance of salvation. According to Perkins, the Protestants and Rome agree that:

  1. A man in this life may be certain of salvation; and the same thing does the Church of Rome teach and hold (William Perkins, A Reformed Catholic 562).
  2. A man is to put a certain trust [“affiance”] in God’s mercy in Christ for the salvation of his soul
  3. Assurance of salvation in our hearts is joined doubting; and there is no man so assured of his salvation, but he at sometime doubts
  4. A man may be certain of the salvation of men, or of the Church by Catholic faith: and so say we.
  5. A man by faith may be assured of his own salvation through extraordinary revelation, as Abraham and others were, and so do we.

The disagreements between the Reformed faith and Rome on assurance are quite substantial. Perkins wrote,

We hold that a man may be certain of his salvation in his own conscience even in this life, and that by ordinary and special faith. They hold that a man is certain of his salvation only by hope: both of us hold a certainty, we by faith, they by hope (ibid, 563).

There have been some Reformed writers who made assurance a second blessing. There are some who continue to teach that assurance may be had only by a special work of the Spirit. This is closer to the Roman dogma than to the confessional Reformed faith. According to Roman dogma, assurance is only “only probable.” Further, by contrast we “hold and avouch that our certainty by true faith is infallible.”

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), which had been widely used in Latin and English by the time Perkins wrote, confessed that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. The first question began with “trust” (German) or “consolation” (Latin). Our comfort, trust, consolation is that we belong to Christ. It’s not that might belong or we belong if we meet a test. Our comfort is that we cannot be separated from Christ.

According to the Heidelberg Catechism, true faith is “a certain knowledge and a hearty trust” (following the German text). The Latin text, with which Perkins was certainly familiar defined faith as not only knowledge (notitia) “by which we firmly assent to all things, which God works in us by his Word, but also a certain trust (certa fiducia) kindled (accensa) in my heart by the Holy Spirit through the gospel….” In fact, the catechism refers to certainty no fewer than nine times.

Perkins summarized the difference between Rome and the Reformed thus:

our confidence comes from certain and ordinary faith: theirs from hope, ministering (as they say) but a conjectural certainty.

He anticipates three objections from Rome:

  1. Where there is no word, there is no faith, for these two are relatives: but there is no word of God, saying, Cornelius believe thou, Peter believe thou, and thou shalt be saved (ibid);
  2. It is no article of the Creed, that a man must believe his own salvation: and therefore no man is bound thereto
  3. We are taught to pray for the pardon of our sins day by day, Mat. 6 12. and all this were needless, if we could be assured of pardon in this life.

Perkins replied:

It is true. God does not speak to men particularly, “Believe and you shall be saved. But yet does he that which is answerable hereunto, in that he gives a general promise, with a commandment to apply the same: and has ordained the holy ministry of the word to apply the same to the persons of the hearers in his own name: and that is as much as if the Lord himself should speak to men particularly. To speak more plainly: in the Scripture the promises of salvation be indefinitely propounded: it does not say any where, “If John will believe, he shall be saved;” or “if Peter will believe, he shall be saved;” but “whosoever believes shall be saved.” Now then comes the minister of the word, who standing in the room of God, and in the stead of Christ himself, takes the indefinite promises of the Gospel, and lays them to the hearts of every particular man: and this in effect is as much as if Christ himself should say, “Cornelius believe thou, and thou shalt be saved: Peter believe thou, and thou shalt be saved.”

These promises are not for “hypocrites, heretics, and unrepentant persons.” They are presumptuous, not believing. “Nevertheless it is true in all the elect having the spirit of grace, and prayer: for when God in the ministry of the word being his own ordinance….” When the offer of the gospel comes, they believe by divine grace.

Rome Does Not Understand The Creed

for in that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, every article implies in it this particular faith. And in the first article, “I believe in God,” are three things contained: the first, to believe that there is a God, the second, to believe the same God to be my God, the third, to put my confidence in him for my salvation: and so much contain the other articles, which are concerning God.

Finally, to the objection that we cannot have assurance since that denies the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer that asks for the forgiveness of sins:

The fourth petition must be understood not so much of our old debts or sins, as of our present and new sins: for as we go on from day to day, so we add sin to sin: and for the pardon of them must we humble our selves and pray. I answer again, that we pray for the pardon of our sins; not because we have no assurance thereof, but because assurance is weak and small: we grow on from grace to grace in Christ, as children do to mans estate by little and little (ibid, 564).

According to Perkins “true faith” is “both an infallible assurance, and a particular assurance of the remission of sins, and of life everlasting.” True faith is not simply a categorical faith that certain things are true of believers but a particular faith, i.e., that things are true of one’s self. He appealed to Matthew 14:31, our Lord’s rebuke of the disciples’ unbelief. To doubt is not to believe. To believe is to trust. As Perkins says, “to be certain and to give assurance is of the nature of faith.” He also quoted Romans 4:20, 22. Abraham, he reminds us, “did not doubt” God’s promise but believed. The “property of faith is to apprehend and apply the promise, and the thing promised, Christ with his benefits” John 1:12).

The very act of communion presupposes a personal, particular assurance:

[H]e sets forth his best hearers, as eaters of his body and drinkers of his blood; and…he intends to prove this conclusion, that to eat his body and to drink his blood, and to believe in him, are all one. Now then, if Christ be as food, and if to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, be to believe in him, then must there be a proportion between eating and believing (ibid, 564).

Perkins also argued the “Holy Ghost particularly testifies to us our adoption, the remission of our sins, and the salvation of our soul. Therefore we may and must particularly and certainly by faith believe the same” (ibid, 565). Rome says that the Spirit does witness to us about our adoption but they reduce it to a “bare sense” or mere “comfortable feeling of God’s love and favor” but it is weak “and oftentimes deceitful.”

Law And Gospel
By definition, the command to pray presupposes faith. One cannot ask anything of God unless he believes that God has made a promise. Part of the Roman problem is that they do not distinguish the law and the gospel:

God in the Gospel commands us to believe the pardon of our own sins, and life everlasting; and therefore we must believe thus much, and may be assured thereof. This proposition is plain by the distinction of the commandments of the law, and of the Gospel, The commandments of the law show us what we must do, but minister no power to perform the thing to be done; but the doctrine and commandments of the Gospel do otherwise, and therefore they are called spirit and life: God with the commandment giving grace that the thing prescribed may be done. Now this is a commandment of the Gospel, to believe remission of sins, for it was the substance of Christ’s ministry, repent and believe the Gospel.

Since Rome makes all of Scripture a species of law (old law or new law) they see no free promise in Scripture. It’s worth noting how naturally Perkins turns to this distinction. It was a basic part of his hermeneutic (way of interpreting Scripture) and a quite uncontroversial piece of mental furniture.

Again, the gospel is not believed in general but in particular. It’s more than a vague hope. When Rome speaks of “hope” she makes it essentially uncertainty. Biblically, hope is certainty. “For the property of true and lively hope is never to make a man ashamed, Romans 5:5.” Rome objects that we can never be sure of our own disposition (to which we we come in the next post the series) and Perkins agrees. We cannot be certain of our disposition but we can be certain of God’s toward us and we may be, on the basis of his gracious promise in Christ revealed in his Holy Word.

The Formal And Material Principles Of The Reformation
In theological terms, there were two principles of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation: the formal principle and the material principle. The first, the formal principle, was the doctrine that Scripture is the sole, unique, and infallible authority for Christian faith and life. The second, the material principle, was the pan-Protestant consensus that sinners are justified, i.e., accepted by God as righteous, solely on the basis of righteousness or merit Christ earned for his people and imputed to them and received by faith that rests and trusts in Christ and his finished work.

In his fourth point, Perkins turned his attention to the material principle of the Reformation, the “justification of a sinner.” He first summarizes the Protestant position and then the Roman view indicating where we disagree. We get a glimpse into the significance of this section (and the heat with which it was composed) when he added, “wherein we are to stand against them, even to death.”

He began with “four rules:”

Rule I. That justification is an action of God, whereby he absolves a sinner, and accepts him to life everlasting for the righteousness and merit of Christ.
Rule II. That justification stands in two things: first, in the remission of sins by the merit of Christ his death: secondly, in the imputation of Christ his righteousness; which is another action of God whereby he accounts and esteems that righteousness which is in Christ, as the righteousness of that sinner which believes in him. By Christ his righteousness we are to understand two things, first, his sufferings specially in his death and passion, secondly, his obedience in fulfilling the law: both which go together: for Christ in suffering obedience and obeying suffered. And the very shedding of his blood to which our salvation is ascribed, must not only be considered as it is passive, that is, a suffering; but also as it is active, that is, an obedience, in which he showed his exceeding love both to his Father and us, and thus fulfilled the law for us. This point if some had well thought on, they would not have placed all justification in remission of sins as they do.

A word of explanation is in order here. Under this point Perkins not only gave a brief account of the Protestant doctrine of justification but articulated it in light of developments after Calvin, one of which was the denial by the Lutheran theologian Kargius and the Reformed theologian Piscator (and others) of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. To do this they first made a chronological distinction between the obedience Christ owed for himself, which he accomplished in order to qualify himself to be the Savior of sinners by his death. His passion, or “suffering” then, they argued is that part of Christ’s obedience intended to be substitutionary.The majority of the Reformed theologians, however, rejected the chronological distinction in Christ’s work. They taught that his “whole obedience” (to use the language that was proposed at the Westminster Assembly but rejected in favor of “perfect obedience” in order to satisfy the minority who opposed IAO) was both active and passive. This is why Perkins says that Christ suffered while he obeyed and he obeyed while he suffered. For more on this see the chapter on the imputation of active obedience in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.

Rule III. That justification is from Gods mere mercy and grace, procured only by the merit of Christ.
Rule IV. That a man is justified by faith alone; because faith is that alone instrument created in the heart by the holy Ghost, whereby a sinner lays hold of Christ his righteousness, and applies the same unto himself. There is neither hope, nor love, nor any other grace of God within man, that can do this but faith alone.
In contrast, Perkins wrote, the Roman communion teaches that before justification there must be a “preparation” which is worked partly by the Holy Spirit and partly by the “power of natural free will” by which a man disposes himself or a “habitus” is created in him toward future justification.

When Rome says “faith” they mean “a general knowledge” or an intellectual apprehension of one’s sins, “a fear of hell, hope of salvation, love of God, repentance and the like….” When we have attained to these things they are said by Rome to be “fully disposed” to their justification. In short, for Rome, justification is the process, the result of sanctification or grace and cooperation with grace.

For Rome, justification is not God’s declaration that we are righteous on account of what Christ has done for us but a recognition of the righteousness that has been wrought in us by grace and cooperation with grace.

To effect this, two things are required: first, the pardon of sin, which is one part of the first justification: secondly, the infusion of inward righteousness, whereby the heart is purged and sanctified, and this habit [disposition] of righteousness stands specially in hope and charity.

This is the first justification. According to Rome there is a second, when a “just man is made better and more just: and this, say they, may proceed from works of grace: because he which is righteous by the first justification, can bring forth good works: by the merit whereof he is able to make himself more just and righteous: and yet they grant that the first justification comes only of Gods mercy by the merit of Christ.”

The great difference between the Protestants and Rome is the “cause” or ground of justification with God. We say: “Nothing but the righteousness of Christ, which consists partly in his sufferings and partly in his active obedience in fulfilling the rigor of the law.” Rome grants that “in justification sin is pardoned by the merits of Christ, and that none can be justified without remission of sins” and they concede that “the righteousness whereby a man is made righteous before God, comes from Christ” alone. Further, the “most learned among them” teach that Christ’s satisfaction and merit is “imputed to every sinner” who believes and we agree.

The “very point of difference”is that we say that Christ made satisfaction for us and Rome says

The thing…that makes us righteous before God, and causes us to be accepted to life everlasting, is remission of sins, and the habit of inward righteousness; or charity with the fruits thereof.

Perkins hastened to add that we believe in a “habit of righteousness.” We call it sanctification and it is the “most excellent gift of God” but it not the ground of justification but rather the fruit of justification.

William Perkins illustrates the Reformed contention that Rome, by embracing the very error rejected at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), by effectively turning its back on Augustine, by rejecting the biblical doctrines of sin, grace, free will, regeneration, and the biblical distinction between law and gospel, removed itself from true catholicity. Perkins thought that catholicity was a significant category. He valued universality. In other words, he did not consider the Reformed a mere sect nor the Reformation a sectarian movement. In that he might be thought to have answered critics of the Reformation such as Hillaire Belloc, who classified the Reformation as one of the great heresies in the history of the church.

Canones Synodi Dordrechtanae


Habitæ Dordrechti Anno MDCXVIII. et MDCXIX. Cui Plurimi insignes Theologi Reformatarum Ecclesiarum Magnæ Britanniæ Germaniæ, Galliæ, interfuerunt, de Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus in Ecclesiis Belgicis Controversis: Promulgatum VI. Maii MDCXIX.



Inter plurima, quæ Dominus et Servator noster Jesus Christus militanti suæ Ecclesiæ in hac ærumnosa peregrinatione dedit solatia, merito celebratur illud, quod ei ad Patrem suum in cœleste sanctuarium abiturus reliquit: Ego, inquiens, sum vobiscum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem sæculi. Hujus suavissimæ promissionis veritas elucet in omnium temporum Ecclesia, quæ quum non solum aperta inimicorum violentia, et hæreticorum impietate, sed etiam operta seductorum astutia inde ab initio fuerit oppugnata, sane, si unquam salutari promissæ suæ præsentiæ præsidio eam destituisset Dominus, pridem aut vi tyrannorum fuisset oppressa, aut fraude impostorum in exitium seducta. Sed bonus ille Pastor, qui gregem suum, pro quo animam suam posuit, constantissime diligit, persecutorum rabiem tempestive semper, et exserta sæpe dextera, miraculose repressit, et seductorum vias tortuosas, ac consilia fraudulenta detexit atque dissipavit, utroque se in Ecclesia sua præsentissimum esse demonstrans. Hujus rei illustre documentum exstat in historiis piorum imperatorum, regum, et principum, quos Filius Dei in subsidium Ecclesiæ suæ toties excitavit, sancto domus suæ zelo accendit, eorumque opera, non tantum tyrannorum furores compescuit, sed etiam Ecclesiæ cum falsis doctoribus religionem varie adulterantibus conflictanti, sanctarum synodorum remedia procuravit, in quibus fideles Christi servi conjunctis precibus, consiliis, et laboribus pro Ecclesia et veritate Dei fortiter steterunt, Satanæ ministris, licet in angelos lucis se transformantibus, intrepide se opposuerunt, errorum et discordiæ semina sustulerunt, Ecclesiam in religionis puræ concordia conservarunt, et sincerum Dei cultum ad posteritatem illibatum transmiserunt.
Simili beneficio fidelis noster Servator Ecclesiæ Belgicæ, annos aliquam multos afflictissimæ, gratiosam suam præsentiam hoc tempore testatus est. Hanc enim Ecclesiam a Romani antichristi tyratnnide et horribili papatus idololatria potenti Dei manu vindicatam, in belli diuturni periculis toties miraculose custoditam, et in veræ doctrinæ atque disciplinæ concordia ad Dei sui laudem, admirabile reipub. incrementum, totiusque reformati orbis gaudium efflorescentem, JACOBUS ARMINIUS ejusque sectatores, nomen Remonstruntium præ se ferentes, variis, tam veteribus, quam novis erreribus, primum tecte, deinde aperte tentarunt, et scandalosis dissensionibus ac schismatibus pertinaciter turbatam, in tantum discrimen adduxerunt, ut florentissimæ Ecclesiæ, nisi Servatoris nostri miseratio opportune intervenisset, horribili dissidiorum et schismatum incendio tandem conflagrassent. Benedictus autem sit in sæcula Dominus, qui postquam ad momentum faciem suam a nobis (qui multis modis iram et indignationem ejus provocaveramus) abscondisset, universo orbi testatum fecit, se fœderis sui non oblivisci, et suspiria suorum non spernere. Cum enim vix ulla remedii spes humanitus appareret, illustrissimis et præpotentibus Belgii fæderati ordinibus generalibus hanc mentem inspiravit, ut consilio et directione illustrissimis et fortissimi principis Arausicani legitimis mediis, quæ ipsorum apostolorum, et quæ eos secutæ Ecclesiæ Christianæ exemplis longo temporum decursu sunt comprobata, et magno cum fructu in Ecclesia etiam Belgica antehac usurpata, sævientibus hisce malis obviam ire decreverint, synodumque ex omnibus, quibus præsunt, provinciis, authoritate sua, Dordrechtum convocarint, expetitis ad eam et favore serenissimi ac potentissimi Magnæ Britanniæ regis JACOBI, et illustrissimorum principum, comitum, et rerumpublicarum, impetratis plurimis gravissimis theologis, ut communi tot Reformatæ Ecclesiæ theologorum judicio, ista ARMINII ejusque sectatorum dogmata accurate, et ex solo Dei verbo, dijudicarentur, vera doctrina stabiliretur, et falsa rejiceretur, Ecclesiisque Belgicis concordia, pax et tranquillitas, divina benedictione, restitueretur. Hoc est illud Dei beneficium, in quo exultant Ecclesiæ Belgicæ, et fidelis Servatoris sui miserationes humiliter agnoscunt, ac grate prædicant.
Hæc igitur veneranda Synodus (prævia per summi magistratus authoritatem in omnibus Belgicis Ecclesiis, ad iræ Dei deprecationem et gratiosi auxilii implorationem, precum et jejunii indictione et celebratione) in nomine Domini Dordrechti congregata, divini Numinis et salutis Ecclesiæ accensa amore, et post invocatum Dei’uomen, sancto juramento obstricta, se solam Scripturam sacram pro judicii norma habituram, et in caussæ kujus cognitione et judicio, bona integraque conscientia versaturam esse, hoc egit sedulo magnaque patientia, ut præcipuos horum dogmatum patronos, coram se citatos, induceret ad sententiam suam de Quinque notis doctrinæ Capitibus, sententiæque rationes, plenius exponendas. Sed cum Synodi judicium repudiarent, atque ad interrogatoria, eo, quo æquum erat, modo respondere detrectarent, neque Synodi monitiones, nec generosorum atque amplissimorum ordinum generalium Delegatorum mandata, imo ne ipsorum quidem illustrissimorum et præpotentum DD. ordinum generalium imperia, quicquam apud illos proficerent, aliam viam eorundem Dominorum jussu, et ex consuetudine jam olim in synodis antiquis recepta, ingredi coacta fuit; atque ex scriptis, confessionibus, ac declarationibus, partim antea editis, partim etiam huic Synodo exhibitis, examen illorum quinque dogmatum institutum est. Quod cum jam per singularem Dei gratiam, maxima diligentia, fide, ac conscientia, omnium et singulorum consensu absolutum sit, Synodus hæc ad Dei gloriam, et ut veritatis salutaris integritati, conscientiarum tranquillitati, et paciac saluti Ecclesiæ Belgicæ consulatur, sequens judicium, quo et vera verboque Dei consentanea de praedictis Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus sententia exponitur, et falsa verboque Dei dissentanea rejicitur, statuit promulgandum.


Quam Synodus Dordrechtana Verbo Dei consentaneam atque in Ecclesiis, Reformatis hactenus receptam esse, judicat, quibusdam Articulis exposita.



Cum omnes homines in Adamo peccaverint, et rei sint facti maledictionis et mortis æternæ, Deus nemini fecisset injuriam, si universum genus humanum in peccato et maledictione relinquere, ac propter peccatum damnare voluisset, juxta illa Apostoli, Totus mundus est obnoxius condemnationi Dei. Rom. 3:19. Omnes peccaverunt et destituuntur gloria Dei. Ver. 23. Et, Stipendium peccati mors est. Rom. 6:23.


Verum in hoc manifestata est charitas Dei, quod Filium suum unigenitum in mundum misit, ut omnis qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam. 1 Johan. 4:9; Johan. 3:16.


Ut autem homines ad fidem adducantur, Deus clementer Iætissimi hujus nuntii præcones mittit, ad quos vult, et quando vult, quorum ministerio homines ad resipiscentiam et fidem in Christum crucifixum vocantur. Quomodo enim credent in eum, de quo non audierint? quomodo autem audient absque prædicante? quomodo prædicabunt, nisi fuerint missi? Rom. 10:14, 15.


Qui huic Evangelio non credunt, super eos manet ira Dei. Qui vero illud recipiunt, et Servatorem Jesum vera ac viva fide amplectuntur, illi per ipsum ab ira Dei et interitu liberantur, ac vita æterna donantur.


Incredulitatis istius, ut et omnium aliorum peccatorum, caussa seu culpa neutiquam est in Deo, sed in homine. Fides autem in Jesum Christum et salus per ipsum, est gratuitum Dei donum, sicut scriptum est: Gratia salvati estis per fidem, et hoc non ex vobis, Dei donum est. Ephes. 2:8. Item: Gratis datum est vobis in Christum credere. Phil. 1:29.


Quod autem aliqui in tempore fide a Deo donantur, aliqui non donantur, id ab æterno ipsius decreto provenit; Omnia enim opera sua novit ab æterno: Actor. 15:18; Ephes. 1:11; secundum quod decretum electorum corda, quantumvis dura, gratiose emollit, et ad credendum inflectit, non electos autem justo judicio suæ malitiæ et duritiæ relinquit. Atque hic potissimum sese nobis aperit profunda, misericors pariter et justa hominum æqualiter perditorum discretio; sive decretum illud electionis et reprobationis in verbo Dei revelatum. Quod ut perversi, impuri, et parum stabiles in suum detorquent exitium, ita sanctis et religiosis animabus ineffabile præstat solatium.


Est autem electio immutabile Dei propositum, quo ante jacta mundi fundamenta ex universo genere humano, ex primæva integritate in peccatum et exitium sua culpa prolapso, secundum liberrimum voluntatis suæ beneplacitum, ex mera gratia, certam quorundam hominum multitudinem, aliis nec meliorum, nec digniorum, sed in communi miseria cum aliis jacentium, ad salutem elegit in Christo, quem etiam ab æterno Mediatorem et omnium electorum caput, salutisque fundamentum constituit; atque ita eos ipsi salvandos dare, et ad ejus communionem per verbum et Spiritum suum efficaciter vocare ac trahere; seu vera et ipsum fide donare, justificare, sanctificare, et potenter in Filii sui communione custoditos tandem glorificare decrevit, ad demonstrationem suæ misericordiæ, et laudem divitiarum gloriosæ suæ gratiæ, sicut scriptum est: Elegit nos Deus in Christo, ante jacta mundi fundamenta, ut essemus sancti et inculpati in conspectu ejus, cum charitate; qui prædestinavit nos quos adoptaret in filios, per Jesum Christum, in sese, pro beneplacito voluntatis suæ, ad laudem gloriosæ suæ gratiæ, qua nos gratis sibi acceptos fecit in illo dilecto. Ephes. 1:4, 5, 6. Et alibi: Quos prædestinavit, eos etiam vocavit; ct quos vocavit, eos etiam justificavit; quos autem justificavit, eos etiam glorificavit. Rom. 8:30.


Hæc electio non est multiplex, sed una et eadem omnium salvandorum in Vetere et Novo Testamento, quandoquidem Scriptura unicum prædicat beneplacitum, propositum, et consilium voluntatis Dei, quo nos ab æterno elegit et ad gratiam et ad gloriam; et ad salutem et ad viam salutis, quam præparavit ut in ea ambulemus.


Eadem hæc electio facta est non ex prævisa fide, fideique obedientia, sanctitate, aut alia aliqua bona qualitate et dispositione, tanquam caussa sen conditione in homine eligendo prærequisita, sed ad fidem, fideique obedientiam, sanctitatem, etc. Ac proinde electio est fons omnis salutaris boui: unde fides, sanctitas, et reliqua dona salvifica, ipsa denique vita æterna, ut fructus et effectus ejus profluunt, secundum illud Apostoli: Elegit nos (non quia eramus, sed) ut essemus sancti et inculpati in conspectu ejus in charitate. Ephes. 1:4.


Caussa vero hujus gratuitæ electionis, est solum Dei beneplacitum, non in eo consistens, quod certas qualitates seu actiones humanas, ex omnibus possibilibus, in salutis conditionem elegit; sed in eo, quod certas quasdam personas ex communi peccatorum multitudine sibi in peculium adscivit, sicut scriptum est: Nondum natis pueris, cum neque boni quippiam fecissent neque mali, etc., dictum est (nempe Rebeccæ), Major serviet minori, sicut scriptum est, Jacob dilexi, Esau odio habui. Rom. 9:11, 12, 13. Et, Crediderunt quotquot erant ordinati ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48.


Atque ut Deus ipse est sapientissimus, immutabilis, omniscius, et omnipotens: ita electio ab ipso facta nee interrumpi, nec mutari, revocari, aut abrumpi, nec electi abjici, nee numerus eorum minui potest.


De hac æterna et immutabili sui ad salutem electione, electi suo tempore, variis licet gradibus et dispari mensura, certiores redduntur, non quidem arcana et profunditates Dei curiose scrutando; sed fructus electionis infallibiles, in verbo Dei designatos, ut sunt vera in Christum fides, filialis Dei timor, dolor de peccatis secundum Deum, esuries et sitis justitiæ, etc., in sese cum spirituali gaudio et sancta voluptate observando.


Ex hujus electionis sensu et certitudine, filii Dei majorem indies sese coram Deo humiliandi, abyssum misericordiarum ejus adorandi, seipsos purificandi, et eum, qui ipsos prior tantopere dilexit, vicissim ardenter diligendi, materiam desumunt: tantum abest, ut hac electionis doctrina atque ejus meditatione in mandatorum divinorum observatione segniores, aut carnaliter securi, reddantur. Quod iis justo Dei judicio solet accidere, qui de electionis gratia, vel temere præsumentes, vel otiose et proterve fabulantes, in viis electorum ambulare nolunt.


Ut autem hæc de divina electione doctrina sapientissimo Dei consilio per prophetas, Christum ipsum, atque Apostolos, sub Veteri æque atque sub Novo Testamento, est prædicata, et sacrarum deinde literarum monumentis commendata: ita et hodie in Ecclesia Dei, cui ea peculiariter est destinata, cum spiritu discretionis, religiose et sancte, suo loco et tempore, missa omni curiosa viarum altissimi scrutatione, est proponenda, idque ad sanctissimi nominis divini gloriam, et vividum populi ipsius solatium.


Cæterum æternam et gratuitam hanc electionis nostri gratiam eo vel maxime illustrat, nobisque commendat Scriptura Sacra, quod porro testatur non omnes homines esse electos, sed quosdam non electos, sive in æterna Dei electione præteritos, quos scilicet Deus ex liberrimo, justissimo, irreprehensibili, et immutabili beneplacito decrevit in communi miseria, in quam se sua culpa præcipitarunt, relinquere, nec salvifica fide et conversionis gratia donare, sed in viis suis, et sub justo judicio relictos, tandem non tantum propter infidelitatem, sed etiam cætera omnia peccata, ad declarationem justitiæ suæ damnare, et æternum punire. Atque hoc est decretum reprobationis, quod Deum neutiquam peccati authorem (quod cogitatu blasphemum est) sed tremendum, irreprehensibilem, et justum judicem ac vindicem constituit.


Qui vivam in Christum fidem, seu certam cordis fiduciam, pacem conscientiæ, studium filialis obedientiæ, gloriationem in Deo per Christum in se nondum efficaciter sentiunt, mediis tamen, per quæ Deus ista se in nobis operaturum promisit, utuntur, ii ad reprobationis mentionem non consternari, nec se reprobis accensere, sed in usu mediorum diligenter pergere, ac horam uberioris gratiæ ardenter desiderare et reverenter humiliterque expectare debent. Multo autem minus doctrina de reprobatione terreri debent ii, qui cum serio ad Deum converti, ei unice placere, et e corpore mortis eripi desiderant, in via tamen pietatis et fidei eo usque, quo volunt, pervenire nondum possunt, siquidem linum fumigans se non extincturum, et arundinem quassatam se non fracturum, promisit misericors Deus. Iis autem hæc doctrina merito terrori est, qui Dei et Servatoris Jesu Christi obliti, mundi curis et carnis voluptatibus se totos manciparunt, quamdiu ad Deum serio non convertuntur.


Quandoquidem de voluntate Dei ex verbo ipsius nobis est judicandum, quod testatur liberos fidelium esse sanctos, non quidem natura, sed beneficio fœderis gratuiti, in quo illi cum parentibus comprehenduntur, pii parentes de electione et salute suorum liberorum, quos Deus in infantia ex hac vita evocat, dubitare non debent.


Adversus hanc gratuitæ electionis gratiam, et justæ reprobationis severitatem, obmurmuranti opponimus hoc apostolicum: O homo! tu quis es qui ex adverso responsas Deo? Rom. 9:20. Et illud Servatoris nostri, An non licet mihi quod volo facere in meis? Matt. 20:15. Nos vero hæc mysteria religiose adorantes, cum Apostolo exclamamus: O profunditatem divitiarum tum sapientiæ tum cognitionis Dei! Quam imperascrutabilia sunt Dei judicia, et ejus viæ impervestigabiles! Quis enim cognovit mentem Domini? Aut quis fuit ei a consiliis? Aut quis prior dedit ei ut reddatur ei? Nam ex eo, et per eum, et in eum sunt omnia. Ipsi sit gloria in sæcula. Amen. Rom. 11:33–36.


Quibus Ecclesiæ Belgicæ sunt aliquamdiu perturbatæ. Exposita doctrina Orthodoxa de Electione et Reprobatione, Synodus rejicit Errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Voluntatem Dei de servandis credituris, et in fide fideique obedientia perseveraturis, esse totum et integrum electionis ad salutem decretum; nec quicquam aliud de hoc decreto in verbo Dei esse revelatam.’ Hi enim simplicioribus imponunt, et Scripturæ sacræ manifeste contradicunt, testanti Deum non tantum servare velle credituros, sed etiam certos quosdam homines ab æterno elegisse, quos præ aliis in tempore fide in Christum et perseverantia donaret; sicut scriptum est, Manifestum feci nomen tuum hominibus, quos dedisti mihi. Johan. 17:6. Item, Crediderunt quotquot ordinati erant ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48. Et, Elegit nos ante jacta mundi fundamenta, ut essemus sancti, etc. Ephes. 1:4.


Qui docent, ‘Electionem Dei ad vitam æternam esse multiplicem; aliam generalem et indefinitam, aliam singularem et definitam; et hanc rursum vel incompletam, revocabilem, non peremptoriam, sive conditionatam: vel completam, irrevocabilem, peremptoriam, seu absolutam.’ Item, ‘Aliam electionem esse ad fidem, aliam ad salutem; ita ut electio ad fidem justificantem absque electione peremptoria ad salutem esse possit.’ Hoc enim est humani cerebri commentum extra Scripturas excogitatum, doctrinam de electione corrumpens, et auream hanc salutis catenam dissolvens: Quos prædestinavit, eos etiam vocavit: et quos vocavit, eos etiam justificavit: quos autem justificavit, eos etiam glorificavit. Rom. 8:30.


Qui docent, ‘Dei beneplacitum ac propositum, cujus Scriptura meminit in doctrina electionis, non consistere in eo, quod Deus certos quosdam homines præ aliis elegerit, sed in eo, quod Deus ex omnibus possibilibus conditionibus (inter quas etiam sunt opera legis) sive ex omnium rerum ordine actum fidei, in sese ignobilem, et obedientiam fidei imperfectam, in salutis conditionem elegerit; eamque gratiose pro perfects obedientia reputare, et vitæ æternæ præmio dignam censere voluerit.’ Hoc enim errore pernicioso beneplacitum Dei et meritum Christi enervatur, et homines inutilibus quæstionibus a veritate justificationis gratuitæ, et simplicitate Scripturarum avocantur; illudque Apostoli falsi arguitur; Deus nos vocavit vocatione sancta; non ex operibus, sed ex suo proposito et gratia, quæ data est nobis in Christo Jesu ante tempora sæculorum. 2 Tim. 1:9.


Qui docent, ‘In electione ad fidem hanc conditionem prærequiri, ut homo lumine naturæ recte utatur, sit probus, parvus, humilis, et ad vitam æternam dispositus, quasi ab ipsis electio aliquatenus pendeat.’ Pelagium enim sapiunt, et minime obscure falsi insimulant Apostolum scribentem: Versati sumus olim in cupiditatibus carnis nostrœ, facientes quæ carni et cogitationibus libebant, eramusque natura filii iræ, ut et reliqui. Sed Deus, qui dives est misericordia, propter multam charitatem suam, qua dilexit nos, etiam nos cum in offensis mortui essemus, una vivificavit cum Christo, cujus gratia estis servati, unaque suscitavit, unaque collocavit in cœlis in Christo Jesu; ut ostenderet in seculis supervenientibus supereminentes illas opes suæ gratiæ, pro sua erga nos benignitate in Christo Jesu. Gratia enim estis servati per fidem (et hoc non ex robis, Dei donum est), non ex operibus, ut ne quis glorietur. Ephes. 2:3–9.


Qui docent, ‘Electionem singularium personarum ad salutem, incompletam et non peremptoriam, factam esse ex prævisa fide, resipiscentia, sanctitate et pictate inchoata, aut aliquamdiu continuata: completam vero et peremptoriam ex prævisæ fidei, resipiscentiæ, sanctitatis, et pietatis finali perseverantia: et hanc esse gratiosam et evangelicam dignitatem, propter quam qui eligitur dignior sit illo qui non eligitur: ac proinde fidem, fidei obedientiam, sanctitatem, pietatem, et perseverantiam non esse fructus sive effectus electionis immutabilis ad gloriam, sed conditiones, et caussas sine quibus non, in eligendis complete prærequisitas, et prævisas, tanquam præstitas.’ Id quod toti Scripturæ repugnat, quæ hæc et alia dicta passim auribus et cordibus nostris ingerit: Electio non est ex operibus, sed ex vocante. Rom. 9:11. Credebant quotquot ordinati erant ad vitam æternam. Act. 13:48. Elegit nos in semetipso ut sancti essemus. Ephes. 1:4. Non vos me elegistis, sed ego elegi vos. Johan. 15:16. Si ex gratia, non ex operibus. Rom. 11:6. In hoc est charitas, non quod nos dilexerimus Deum, sed quod ipse dilexit nos, et misit Filium suum. 1 Johan. 4:10.


Qui docent, ‘Non omnem electionem ad salutem immutabilem esse, sed quosdam electos, nullo Dei decreto obstante, perire posse et æternam perire.’ Quo crasso errore et DEUM mutabilem faciunt, et consolationem piorum de electionis suæ constantia subvertunt, et Scripturis sacris contradicunt docentibus, Electos non posse seduci: Matt. 24:24. CHRISTUM datos sibi a Patre non perdere: Johan. 6:39. DEUM quos prædestinavit, vocavit et justificavit, eos etiam glorificare. Rom. 8:30.


Qui docent, ‘Electionis immutabilis ad gloriam nullum in hac vita esse fructum, nullum sensum, nullam certitudinem, nisi ex conditione mutabili et contingente.’ Præterquam enim quod absurdum sit ponere certitudinem incertam, adversantur hæc experientiæ sanctorum, qui cum Apostolo ex sensu electionis sui exultant, Deique hoc beneficium celebrant, qui gaudent cum discipulis, secundum Christi admonitionem, quod nomina sua scripta sunt in cœlis: Luc. 10:20; qui sensum denique electionis ignitis tentationum diabolicarum telis opponunt, quærentes, Quis intentabit crimina adversus electos Dei? Rom. 8:33.


Qui docent, ‘Deum neminem ex mera justa sua voluntate decrevisse in lapsu Adæ et in communi peccati et damnationis statu relinquere, aut in gratiæ ad fidem et conversionem necessariæ communicatione præterire.’ Stat enim illud, Quorum vult, miseretur; quos vult, indurat. Rom. 9:18. Et illud, Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni cœlorum, illis autem non est datum. Matt. 13:11. Item, Glorifico te, Pater, Domine cæli et terræ, quad hæc occultaveris sapientibus et intelligentibus, et ea detexeris infantibus: etiam, Pater, quia ita placuit tibi. Matt. 11:25, 26.


Qui docent, ‘Caussam cur Deus ad hanc potius, quam ad aliam gentem Evangelium mittat, non esse merum et solum Dei beneplacitum, sed quod hæc gens melior et dignior sit ea, cui Evangelium non communicatur.’ Reclamat enim Moses, populum Israeliticum sic alloquens, En Jehovæ Dei tui sunt cæli, et cæli cœlorum, terra, et quicquid est in ea: Tantum in majores tuos propensus fuit amore Jehova diligendo eos; unde selegit semen eorum post eos, vos inquam, præ omnibus populis, sicut est hodie. Deut. 10:14, 15. Et Christus: Væ tibi Chorazin, væ tibi Bethsaida, quia si in Tyro et Sidone factæ essent virtutes illæ quæ in vobis factæ sunt, in sacco et cinere olim pœnitentiam egissent. Matt. 11:21.

Ita nos sentire et judicare, manuum nostrarum subscriptione testamur.

JOHANNES BOGERMANNUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leoverdiensis et Synodi Præses.
JACOBUS ROLANDUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis et Præsidis Assessor.
HERMANNUS FAUKELIUS, Pastar Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis et Præsidis Assessor.
SEBASTIANUS DAMMAN, Pastor Ecclesiæ Zutphaniensis et Synodi Scriba.
FESTUS HOMMIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leydensis et Synodi Scriba.


JOHANNES DAVENANTIUS, Presbyter; Doctor ac Sacrœ Theologiæ publicus Professor in Academia Cantabrigiensi et Collegii Reginalis ibidem Præses.
SAMUEL WARDUS, Presbyter, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Archidiaconus Fauntonnensis, et Collegii Sidneyani in Academia Cantabrigiensi Præfectus.
THOMAS GOADUS, Presbyter, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Cathedralis Ecclesiæ Paulinæ Londinensis Præcentor.
GUALTERUS BALCANQUALLUS, Scoto-Britannus, Presbyter, S. Theologiæ Baccalaureus.


ABRAHAMUS SCULTETUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Professor in Academia Heydelbergensi.
PAULUS TOSSANUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor, et Consiliarius in Senatu Ecclesiastico inferioris Palatinatus.
HENRICUS ALTINGIUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Professor in Academia Heydelbergensi.


GEORGIUS CRUCIGER, S. Theologiæ Doctor, Professor, et pro tempore Rector Academiæ Marpurgensis.
PAULUS STEINIUS, Concionator Aulicus et S. Theologiæ in Collegio Nobilitatis Adelphico Mauritiano Professor, Cassellis.
DANIEL ANGELOCRATOR, Ecclesiæ Marpurgensis Pastor, et vicinarum ad Lanum et Æderam Superintendens.
RODOLPHUS GOCLENIUS, Senior. Philosophiæ purioris in Academia Marpurgensi Antecessor primarius, et nunc Decanus.


MARCUS RUTIMEYERUS, S. Theologiæ Doctor et Ecclesiæ Bernensis Minister.
SEBASTIANUS BECKIUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Novi Testamenti Professor in Academia Basiliensi, ibidemque Facultatis Theologice Decanus.
WOLFGANGUS MAYERUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, Ecclesiæ Basiliensis Pastor.
JOHANNES CONRADUS KOCHIUS, Ecclesiæ Schaphusianœ Minister.


JOHANNES HENRICUS ALSTEDIUS, in illustri Schola Nassovica, quw est Herbornæ, Professor ordinarius.
GEORGIUS FABRICIUS, Ecclesiæ Windeccensis in Comitatu Hanovico Pastor, et vicinarum Inspector.


JOHANNES DEODATUS, in Ecclesia Genevensi Pastor, et in eadem Schola SS. Theologiæ Professor.
THEODORUS TRONCHINUS, Divini verbi Minister in Ecclesiæ Genevensi, et ibidem SS. Theologiæ Professor.


MATTHIAS MARTINIUS, illustris Scholæ Bremensis Rector, et in ea Divinarum literarum Professor.
HENRICUS ISSELBURG, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, in Bremensi Ecclesia ad B. Virginis Jesu Christi servus et in Schola Novi Testamenti Professor.
LUDOVICUS CROCIUS, SS. Theologiœ Doctor, Ecclesiæ Bremensis ad S. Martini Pastor, et in illustri Schola Veteris Testamenti et Philosophiœ Professor.


DANIEL BERNARDUS EILSHEMIUS, Emdanæ Ecclesiæ Pastor senior


JOHANNES POLYANDER, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, atque in A cademia Leydensi Professor.
SIBRANDUS LUBERTUS, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Professor in A cademia Frisiorum.
FRANCISCUS GOMARUS, Sacrosanctæ Theologiæ Doctor, et Professor in Academia Groningæ et Omlandiæ.
ANTONIUS TYSIUS, Sacræ Theologiœ in illustri Schola Geldro-Velavica, quæ est Hardervici, Professor.
ANTONIUS WALÆUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis, et ex ejusdem urbis illustri Schola inter Theologos ad Synodum evocatus.


GUILIELMUS STEPHANI, SS. Theologiæ Doctor, et Arnhemiensis Ecelesiæ Pastar.
ELLARDUS A MEHEN, Ecclesiæ Hardrovicenæ Pastor.
JOHANNES BOUILLET, Pastor Ecclesiæ Warnsfeldensis.
JACOBUS VERHEYDEN, Senior, Ecclesiæ Noviomagensis et Scholæ Rector.


BALTHASAR LYDIUS, M. F. Pastor Ecclesiæ Dei in urbe Dordrechto.
HENRICUS ARNOLDI, Ecclesiastes Delphensis.
GISBERTUS VOETIUS, Ecclesiæ Heusdanæ Pastor.
ARNOLDUS MUSIUS AB HOLY, Baillivus Suyd-Hollandiæ, Senior Ecclesiæ Dordrechtanæ.
JOHANNES DE LAET, Senior Ecclesiæ Legdensis.


JACOBUS TRIGLANDIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.
ABRAHAMUS A DORESLAER, Pastor Ecclesiæ Enchusanæ.
SAMUEL BARTHOLDUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Monachodammensis.
THEODORUS HEYNGIUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.
DOMINICUS AB HEEMSKERCK, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.


GODEFRIDUS UDEMANNUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Ziericzeanœ.
CORNELIUS REGIUS, Ecclesiæ Goesanæ Pastor.
LAMBERTUS DE RYCKE, Ecclesiæ Bergizomianœ Pastor.
JOSIAS VOSBERGIUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Middelburgensis.
ADRIANUS HOFFERUS, urbis Zirizææ Senator, et Ecclesiæ ibidem Senior.


JOHANNES DIBBEZIUS, Pastor Dordracenus, Synodi Orthodoxæ Ultrajectinæ Deputatus.
ARNOLDUS OORTCAMPIUS, Ecclesiæ A mersfortianæ Pastor.


FLORENTIUS JOHANNES, Jesu Christi crucifixi Servus in Ecclesia Snecana.
PHILIPPUS DANIELIS EILSHEMIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Harlingensis.
KEMPO HARINXMA A DONIA, Senior Ecclesiæ Leoverdiensis.
TACITUS AB AYSMA, Senior Ecclesiæ in Buirgirt Hichtum, et Hartwardt.


CASPARUS SIBELIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Daventriensis.
HERMANNUS WIFERDINGIUS, Ecclesiæ Swollanæ in Evangelio Christi Minister.
HIERONYMUS VOGELLIUS, Hasseltanæ Ecclesiæ Pastor, tempore deputationis inserviens Ecclesiæ Orthodoxæ Campensi.
JOHANNES LANGIUS, Ecclesiastes Vollenhovianus.
JOHANNES A LAUWICK, tanquam Senior deputatus.


CORNELIUS HILLENIUS, Servus Jesu Christi in Ecclesia Groningana.
GEORGIUS PLACIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Appingadammonensis.
WOLFGANGUS AGRICOLA, Pastor Ecclesiæ Bedumanæ.
WIGBOLDUS HOMERUS, Ecclesiæ Midwoldanæ Pastor.
EGBERTUS HALBES, Ecclesiæ Groninganæ Senior.
JOHANNES RUFELAERT, Senior Ecclesiæ Stedumanæ.


THEMO AB ABSCHEBERG, Pastor Ecclesiæ Meppelensis.
PATROCLUS ROMELINGIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Rhuinensis.


DANIEL COLONIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Leydensis, et Regens Collegii Gallo-Belgici in Academia Leydensis.
JOHANNES CRUCIUS, Pastor Ecclesiæ Haerlemensis.
JOHANNES DOUCHER, Pastor Ecclesiæ Flissinganæ.
JEREMIAS DE POURS, Ecclesiæ Gallo-Belgicæ Middelburgensis Pastor.
EVERARDUS BECKERUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Gallo-Belgicæ Middelburgensis.
PETRUS PONTANUS, Senior Ecclesiæ Amstelodamensis.


Articulus Primus.

Deus non tantum est summe misericors, sed etiam summe justus. Postulat autem ejus justitia (prout se in verbo revelavit), ut peccata nostra, adversus infinitam ejus majestatem commissa, non tantum temporalibus, sed etiam æternis, tum animi, tum corporis, pœnis puniantur: quas pœnas effugere non possumus, nisi justitiæ Dei satisfiat.


Cum vero ipsi satisfacere, et ab ira Dei nos liberare non possimus, Deus ex immensa misericordia Filium suum unigenitum nobis Sponsorem dedit, qui, ut pro nobis satisfaceret, peccatum et maledictio in cruce pro nobis, seu vice nostra, factus est.


Hæc mors Filii Dei est unica et perfectissima pro peccatis victima et satisfactio, infiniti valoris et pretii, abunde sufficiens ad totius mundi peccata expianda.


Ideo autem hæc mors tanti est valoris et pretii, quia persona, quæ eam subiit, non tantum est verus et perfecte sanctus homo, sed etiam unigenitus DEI Filius, ejusdem æternæ et infinitæ cum Patre et Spiritu S. essentiæ, qualem nostrum Servatorem esse oportebat. Deinde, quia mors ipsius fuit conjuncta cum sensu iræ Dei et maledictionis, quam nos peccatis nostris eramus commeriti.


Cæterum promissio Evangelii est, ut quisquis credit in Christum crucifixum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam. Quæ promissio omnibus populis et hominibus, ad quos Deus pro suo beneplacito mittit Evangelium, promiscue et indiscriminatim annunciari et proponi debet cum resipiscentiæ et fidei mandato.


Quod autem multi per Evangelium vocati non resipiscunt, nec in Christum credunt, sed infidelitate pereunt, non fit hoc hostiæ CHRISTI in cruce oblatæ defectu, vel insufficientia, sed propria ipsorum culpa.


Quotquot autem vere credunt, et per mortem CHRISTI a peccatis, et interitu liberantur ac servantur, illis hoc beneficium, ex sola Dei gratia, quam nemini debet, ab æterno ipsis in CHRISTO data, obtingit.


Fuit enim hoc Dei Patris liberrimum consilium, et gratiosissima voluntas atque intentio, ut mortis pretiosissimæ Filii sui vivifica et salvifica efficacia sese exereret in omnibus electis, ad eos solos fide justificante donandos, et per eam ad salutem infallibiliter perducendos: hoc est, voluit Deus, ut Christus per sanguinem crucis (quo novum fœdus confirmavit) ex omni populo, tribu, gente, et lingua, eos omnes et solos, qui ab æterno ad salutem electi, et a Patre ipsi dati sunt, efficaciter redimeret, fide (quam, ut et alia Spiritus Sancti salvifica dona, ipsis morte sua acquisivit) donaret, ab omnibus peccatis, tum originali, tum actualibus, tam post, quam ante fidem commissis sanguine suo mundaret, ad finem usque fideliter custodiret, tandemque absque omni labe et macula gloriosos coram se sisteret.


Hoc consilium, ex æterno erga electos amore profectum ab initio mundi in præsens usque tempus, frustra obnitentibus inferorum portis, potenter impletum fuit, et deinceps quoque implebitur: ita quidem ut electi suis temporibus in unum colligantur, et semper sit aliqua credentium Ecclesia in sanguine Christi fundata, quæ illum Servatorem suum, qui pro ea, tanquam Sponsus pro sponsa, animam suam in cruce exposuit, constanter diligat, perseveranter colat, atque hic et in omnem æternitatem celebret.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, rejicit Synodus errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Quod Deus Pater Filium suum in mortem crucis destinaverit, sine certo ac definito consilio quemquam nominatim salvandi, adeo ut impetrationi mortis Christi sua necessitas, utilitas, dignitas sarta tecta, et numeris suis perfecta, completa atque integra constare potuisset, etiamsi impetrata redemptio nulli individuo unquam acta ipso fuisset applicata.’ Hæc enim assertio in Dei Patris sapientiam meritumque Jesu Christi contumeliosa, et Scripturæ contraria est. Sic enim ait Servator: Ego animam pono pro ovibus, et agnosco eas. Johan. 10:15, 27. Et de Servatore Esaias propheta: Cum posuerit se sacrificium pro reatu, videbit semen, prolongabit dies, et voluntas Jehovæ in manu ejus prosperabitur. Esai. 53:10. Denique, articulum Fidei, quo Ecclesiam credimus, evertit.


Qui docent, ‘Non fuisse hunc finem mortis Christi, ut novum gratiæ fœdus suo sanguine reipsa sanciret, sed tantum, ut nudum jus Patri acquireret, quodcunque fœdus, vel gratiæ, vel operum, cum hominibus denuo ineundi.’ Hoc enim repugnat Scripturæ, quæ docet, Christum melioris, id est, novi fœderis Sponsorem et Mediatorem factum esse. Heb. 7:22. Et, Testamentum in mortuis demum ratum esse. Heb. 9:15, 17.


Qui docent, ‘Christum per suam satisfactionem, nullis certo meruisse ipsam salutem et fidem, qua hæc Christi satisfactio ad salutem efficaciter applicetur, sed tantum Petri acquisivisse potestatem vel plenariam voluntatem, de novo cum hominibus agendi, et novas, quascunque vellet conditiones, præscribendi, quarum præstatio a libero hominis arbitrio pendeat, atque ideo fieri potuisse, ut vel nemo, vel omnes eas implerent.’ Hi enim de morte Christi nimis abjecte sentiunt, primarium fructum seu beneficium per eam partum nullatenus agnoscunt, et Pelagianum errorem ab inferis revocant.


Qui docent, ‘Fœdus illud novum gratiæ, quod Deus Pater, per mortis Christi interventum cum hominibus pepigit, non in eo censistere, quod per fidem, quatenus meritum Christi apprehendit, coram Deo justificemur et salvemur; sed in hoc, quod Deus, abrogate perfectæ obedientiæ legalis exactione, fidem ipsam et fidei obedientiam imperfectam pro perfecta legis obedientia reputet, et vitæ æternæ præmio gratiose dignam censeat.’ Hi enim contradicunt Scripturæ, Justificantur gratis, ejus gratia, per redemptionem factam in Jesu Christo, quem proposuit Deus placamentum per fidem in sanguine ejus. Rom. 3:24, 25. Et cum impio Socino, novam et peregrinam hominis coram Deo justificationem, contra totius Ecclesiæ consensum, inducunt.


Qui docent, ‘Omnes homines in statum reconciliationis et gratiam fœderis esse assumptos, ita ut nemo propter peccatum originale sit damnationi obnoxius, aut damnandus, sed omnes ab istius peccati reatu sint immunes.’ Hæc enim sententia repugnat Scripturæ, affirmanti nos natura esse filios iræ. [Ephes. 2:3.]


Qui impetrationis et applicationis distinctionem usurpant, ut incautis et imperitis hanc opinionem instillent: Deum, quantum ad se attinet, omnibus hominibus ex æquo ea beneficia voluisse conferre, quæ per mortem Christi acquiruntur; quod autem quidam præ aliis participes fiant remissionis peccatorum, et vitæ æternæ, discrimen illud pendere ex libero eorum arbitrio, se ad gratiam indifferenter oblatam applicante, non autem ex singulari misericordiæ dono, efficaciter in illis operante, ut præ aliis gratiam illam sibi applicent. Nam isti, dum simulant se distinctionem hanc sano sensu proponere, populo perniciosum Pelagianismi venenum conantur propinare.


Qui docent, ‘CHRISTUM, pro iis, quos DEUS summe dilexit, et ad vitam æternam elegit, mori nec potuisse, nec debuisse, nec mortuum esse, cum talibus morte CHRISTI non sit opus.’ Contradicunt enim Apostolo dicenti: Christus dilexit me, et tradidit seipsum pro me. Galat. 2:20. Item, Quis est, qui crimina intentet adversus electos DEI? DEUS est is, qui justificat. Quis est qui condemnet? CHRISTUS est, qui mortuus est. Rom. 8:33, 34: nimirum, pro illis. Et Salvatori assevcranti, Ego pono animam meam pro ovibus meis, Johan. 10:15. Et, Hoc est præceptum meum, ut diligatis alii alios, sicut ego dilexi vos. Majorem dilectionem nemo habet, quam ut ponat animam suam pro amicis. Johan. 15:12, 13.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.


Articulus Primus.

Homo ab initio ad imaginem DEI conditus vera et salutari sui creatoris et rerum spiritualium notitia in mente, et justitia in voluntate et corde, puritate in omnibus affectibus exornatus, adeoque totus sanctus fuit; sed Diaboli instinctu, et libera sua voluntate a Deo desciscens, eximiis istis donis seipsum orbavit: atque e contrario eorum loco cœcitatem, horribiles tenebras, vanitatem, ac perversitatem judicii in mente, malitiam, rebellionem, ac duritiem in voluntate et corde, impuritatem denique in omnibus affectibus contraxit.


Qualis autem post lapsum fuit homo, tales et liberos procreavit, nempe corruptus corruptos; corruptione ab Adamo in omnes posteros [solo Christo excepto] non per imitationem [quod Pelagiani olim voluerunt], sed per vitiosæ naturæ propagationem, justo Dei judicio, derivata.


Itaque omnes homines in peccato concipiuntur, et filii iræ nascuntur, inepti ad omne bonum salutare, propensi ad malum, in peccatis mortui, et peccati servi; et absque Spiritus Sancti regenerantis gratia, ad Deum redire, naturam depravatam corrigere, vel ad ejus correctionem se disponere nec volunt, nec possunt.


Residuum quidem est post lapsum in homine lumen aliquod naturæ, cujus beneficio ille notitias quasdam de Deo, de rebus naturalibus, de discrimine honestorum et turpium retinet, et aliquod virtutis ac disciplinæ externæ studium ostendit: sed tantum abest, ut hoc naturæ lumine ad salutarem Dei cognitionem pervenire, et ad eum se convertere possit, ut ne quidem eo in naturalibus ac civilibus recte utatur, quinimo qualecumque id demum sit, id totum variis modis contaminet, atque in injustitia detineat, quod dum facit, coram Deo inexcusabilis redditur.


Quæ luminis naturæ, eadem hæc Decalogi per Mosen a Deo Judæis peculiariter traditi est ratio: cum enim is magnitudinem quidem peccati retegat, ejusque hominem magis ac magis reum peragat, sed nec remedium exhibeat, nec vires emergendi ex miseria conferat, adeoque per carnem infirmatus transgressorem maledictione relinquat, non potest homo per eum salutarem gratiam obtinere.


Quod igitur nec lumen naturæ, nec lex potest, id Spiritus Sancti virtute præstat Deus, per sermonem, sive ministerium reconciliationis, quod est Evangelium de Messia, per quod placuit Deo homines credentes tam in Veteri, quam in Novo Testamento servare.


Hoc voluntatis suæ mysterium Deus in Veteri Testamento paucioribus patefecit, in Novo Testamento pluribus, sublato jam populorum discrimine, manifestat. Cujus dispensationis caussa, non in gentis unius præ alia dignitate, aut meliore luminis naturæ usu, sed in liberrimo beneplacito, et gratuita dilectione DEI est collocanda. Unde illi, quibus præter et contra omne meritum tanta fit gratia, eam humili et grato corde agnoscere, in reliquis autem, quibus ea gratia non fit, severitatem et justitiam judiciorum DEI cum Apostolo adorare, nequaquam vero curiose scrutari debent.


Quotquot autem per Evangelium vocantur, serio vocantur. Serio enim et verissime ostendit DEUS verbo suo, quid sibi gratum sit, nimirum, ut vocati ad se veniant. Serio etiam omnibus ad se venientibus et credentibus requiem animarum, et vitam æternam promittit.


Quod multi per ministerium Evangelii vocati, non veniunt et non convertuntur, hujus culpa non est in Evangelio, nec in Christo per Evangelium oblato, nec in Deo per Evangelium vocante, et dona etiam varia iis conferente, sed in vocatis ipsis, quorum aliqui verbum vitæ non admittunt securi; alii admittunt quidem, sed non in cor immittunt, ideoque post evanidum fidei temporariæ gaudium resiliunt; alii spinis curarum et voluptatibus sæculi semen verbi suffocant, fructusque nullos proferunt; quod Servator noster seminis parabola docet, Matt. 13.


Quod autem alii, per ministerium Evangelii vocati, veniunt et convertuntur, id non est adscribendum homini, tanquam seipsum per liberum arbitrium ab aliis pari vel sufficiente gratia ad fidem et conversionem instructis discernenti (quod superba Pelagii hæresis statuit), sed Deo, qui ut suos ab æterno in Christo elegit, ita eosdem in tempore efficaciter vocat, fide et resipiscentia donat, et e potestate tenebrarum erutos in Filii sui regnum transfert, ut virtutes ejus, qui ipsos e tenebris in admirandam hanc lucem vocavit, prædicent, et non in se, sed in Domino, glorientur. Scriptura apostolica passim id testante.


Cæterum, quando Deus hoc suum beneplacitum in electis exequitur, seu veram in iis conversionem operatur, non tantum Evangelium illis externe prædicari curat, et mentem eorum per Spiritum Sanctum potenter illuminat, ut recte intelligant et dijudicent quæ sunt Spiritus Dei, sed ejusdem etiam Spiritus regenerantis efficacia ad intima hominis penetrat, cor clausum aperit, durum emollit, præputiatum circumcidit, voluntati novas qualitates infundit, facitque eam ex mortua vivam, ex mala bonam, ex nolente volentem, ex refractaria morigeram, agitque et roborat eam, ut, ceu arbor bona, fructus bonarum actionum proferre possit.


Atque hæc est illa tantopere in Scripturis prædicata regeneratio, nova creatio, suscitatio e mortuis, et vivificatio, quam Deus sine nobis, in nobis operatur. Ea autem neutiquam fit per solam forinsecus insonantem doctrinam, moralem suasionem, vel talem operandi rationem, ut post Dei (quoad ipsum) operationem, in hominis potestate maneat regenerari vel non regenerari, converti vel non converti; sed est plane supernaturalis, potentissima simul et suavissima, mirabilis, arcana, et ineffabilis operatio, virtute sua, secundum Scripturam (quæ ab Authore hujus operationis est inspirata) nec creatione, nec mortuorum resuscitatione minor, ant inferior, adeo ut omnes illi, in quorum cordibus admirando hoc modo Deus operatur, certo, infallibiliter, et efficaciter regenerentur, et actu credant. Atque tum voluntas jam renovata, non tantum agitur et movetur a Deo, sed a Deo acta, agit et ipsa. Quamobrem etiam homo ipse per gratiam istam acceptam credere et resipiscere recte dicitur.


Modum hujus operationis fideles in hac vita plene comprehendere non possunt; in eo interim acquiescentes, quod per istam DEI gratiam, se corde credere, et Servatorem suum diligere, sciant ac sentiant.


Sic ergo fides Dei donum est, non eo quod a Deo hominis arbitrio offeratur, sed quod homini reipsa conferatur, inspiretur, et infundatur. Non etiam quod Deus potentiam credendi tantum conferat, consensum vero seu actum credendi ab hominis deinde arbitrio expectet, sed, quod et velle credere, et ipsum credere in homine is efficiat, qui operatur et velle et facere, adeoque omnia operatur in omnibus.


Hanc gratiam DEUS nemini debet. Quid enim debeat ei, qui prior dare nihil potest, ut ei retribuatur? Imo quid debeat ei, qui de suo nihil habet, præter peccatum et mendacium? Qui ergo gratiam illam accipit, soli Deo æternas debet et agit gratias; qui illam non accipit, is aut hæc spiritualia omnino non curat, et in suo sibi placet: aut securus se habere inaniter gloriatur, quod non habet. Porro de iis, qui externe fidem profitentur, et vitam emendant, optime secundum exemplum apostolorum judicandum et loquendum est, penetralia enim cordium nobis sunt incomperta. Pro aliis autem qui nondum sunt vocati, orandus est Deus, qui quæ non sunt vocat tanquam sint. Neutiquam vero adversus eos est superbiendum, ac si nosmetipsos discrevissemus.


Sicuti vero per lapsum homo non desiit esse homo, intellectu et voluntate præditus, nec peccatum, quod universum genus humanum pervasit, naturam generis humani sustulit, sed depravavit, et spiritualiter occidit; ita etiam hæc divina regenerationis gratia, non agit in hominibus tanquam truncis et stipitibus, nec voluntatem ejusque proprietates tollit, aut invitam violenter cogit, sed spiritualiter vivificat, sanat, corrigit, suaviter simul ac potenter flectit: ut ubi antea plene dominabatur carnis rebellio et resistentia, nunc regnare incipiat prompta, ac sincera Spiritus obedientia; in quo vera et spiritualis nostrœ voluntatis instauratio et libertas consistit. Qua ratione nisi admirabilis ille omnis boni opifex nobiscum ageret, nulla spes esset homini surgendi e lapsu per liberum arbitrium, per quod se, cum staret, præcipitavit in exitium.


Quemadmodum etiam omnipotens illa Dei operatio, qua vitam hanc nostram naturalem producit et sustentat, non excludit sed requirit usum mediorum, per quæ Deus pro infinita sua sapientia et bonitate virtutem istam suam exercere voluit: ita et hæc prædicta supernaturalis DEI operatio, qua nos regenerat, neutiquam excludit, aut evertit usum Evangelii, quod sapientissimus DEUS in semen regenerationis, et cibum animæ ordinavit. Quare, ut Apostoli, et qui eos secuti sunt doctores, de gratia hac DEI ad ejus gloriam et omnis superbiæ depressionem, pie populum docuerunt, neque tamen interim sanctis Evangelii monitis, sub verbi, sacramentorum, et disciplinæ exercitio eum continere neglexerunt: sic etiamnum, absit, ut docentes aut discentes in Ecclesia DEUM tentare præsumant, ea separando, quæ DEUS pro suo beneplacito voluit esse conjunctissima. Per monita enim confertur gratia, et quo nos officium nostrum facimus promptius, hoc ipso DEI in nobis operantis beneficium solet esse illustrius, rectissimeque ejus opus procedit. Cui soli omnis, et mediorum, et salutaris eorum fructus atque efficaciæ debetur gloria in sæcula. Amen.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, Synodus rejicit errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Proprie dici non posse, quod peccatum originis per se sufficiat toti generi humano condemnando, aut temporales et æternas pœnas promerendo.’ Contradicunt enim Apostolo, dicenti, Rom. 5:12: Per unum hominem peccatum in mundum introiit, ac per peccatum mors, et ita in omnes homines more transiit, in quo omnes peccaverunt. Et vers. 16: Reatus ex uno introiit ad condemnationem. Item, Rom. 6:23: Peccati stipendium mors est.


Qui docent, ‘Dona spiritualia, sive habitus bonos, et virtutes, ut sunt bonitas, sanctitas, justitia, in voluntate hominis, cum primum crearetur, locum habere non potuisse, ac proinde nec in lapsu ab ea separari.’ Pugnat enim hoc cum descriptione imaginis Dei, quam Apostolus ponit Ephes. 4:24; ubi illam describit ex justitia et sanctitate, quæ omnino in voluntate locum habent.


Qui docent, ‘Dona spiritualia non esse in morte spirituall ab hominis voluntate separata, cum ea in sese nunquam corrupta fuerit, sed tantum per tenebras mentis, et affectuum inordinationem impedita; quibus impedimentis sublatis, liberam suam facultatem sibi insitam exerere, id est, quodvis bonum sibi propositum ex se, aut velle, sive eligere, aut non velle, sive non eligere possit.’ Novum hoc et erroneum est, atque eo facit ut extellantur vires liberi arbitrii, contra, Jeremiæ prophetæ dictum, cap. 17:9: Fraudulentum est cor ipsum supra omnia et perversum. Et Apostoli, Ephes. 2:3: Inter quos (homines contumaces) et nos omnes conversati sumus olim in cupiditatibus carnis nostrœ, facientes voluntates carnis ac cogitationum.


Qui docent, ‘Hominem irregenitum non esse proprie nec totaliter in peccatis mortuum, aut omnibus ad bonum’ spirituale viribus destitutum, sed posse justitiam vel vitam esurire ac sitire, sacrificiumque Spiritus contriti, et contribulati, quod Deo acceptum est, offerre.’ Adversantur enim hæc apertis Scripturæ testimoniis, Ephes. 2:1, 5: Eratis mortui in offensis et peccatis. Et Gen. 6:5 et 8:21: Imaginatio cogitationum cordis hominis tantummodo mala est omni die. Adhæc liberationem ex miseria et vitam esurire ac sitire, Deoque sacrificium Spiritus contriti offerre, regenitorum est, et eorum qui beati dicuntur. Psa. 51:19 et Matt. 5:6.


Qui docent, ‘Hominem corruptum et animalem gratia communi, quæ ipsis est lumen naturæ, sive donis post lapsum relictis, tam recte uti posse, ut bono isto usu majorem gratiam, puta evangelicam, sive salutarem, et salutem ipsam gradatim obtinere possit. Et hac ratione DEUM se ex parte sua paratum ostendere, ad Christum omnibus revelandum, quandoquidem media ad Christi revelationem, fidem, et resipiscentiam necessaria, omnibus sufficienter et efficaciter administret.’ Falsum enim hoc esse præter omnium temporum experientiam Scriptura testatur. Psa. 147:19, 20: Indicat verba sua Jacobo, statuta sua et jura sua Israeli, non fecit ita ulli genti, et jura ista non noverunt. Act. 14:16: Deus sivit præteritis ætatibus omnes gentes suis ipsarum viis incedere. Act. 16:6, 7: Prohibiti sunt (Paulus cum suis) a Spiritu Sancto loqui sermonem DEI in Asia. Et, Quum venissent in Mysiam, tentabant ire versus Bithyniam, sed non permisit eis Spiritus.


Qui docent, ‘In vera hominis conversione, non posse novas qualitates, habitus, seu dona in voluntatem ejus a Deo infundi, atque adeo fidem, qua primum convertimur, et a qua fideles nominamur, non esse qualitatem seu donum a Deo infusum; sed tantum actum hominis, neque aliter donum dici posse, quam respectu potestatis ad ipsam perveniendi.’ Contradicunt enim hæc sacris literis, quæ testantur DEUM novas qualitates fidei, obedientiæ, ac sensus amoris sui cordibus nostris infundere. Jer. 31:33: Indam legem meam menti eorum, ac cordi eorum inscribam eam. Esa. 44:3: Effundam aquas super sitientem, et fluenta super aridam; effundam Spiritum meum super semen tuum. Rom. 5:5: Charitas Dei effusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum Sanctum, qui datus est nobis. Repugnant etiam continuæ praxi Ecclesiæ, sic apud prophetam orantis: Converte me, Domine, et convertar. Jer. 31:18.


Qui docent, ‘Gratiam’ qua convertimur ad Deum, nihil aliud esse quam lenem suasionem; seu’ (ut alii explicant) ‘nobilissimum agendi modum in conversione hominis, et naturæ humanæ convenientissimum esse, qui fiat suasionibus; nihilque obstare quo minus vel sola moralis gratia homines animales reddat spirituales; imo Deum non aliter quam morali ratione consensum voluntatis producere: atque in eo consistere operationis divinæ efficaciam, qua Satanæ operationem superet, quod Deus æterna bona, Satan autem temporaria promittat.’ Omnino enim hoc Pelagianum est, et universæ Scripturæ contrarium, quæ præter hunc etiam alium, et longe efficaciorem ac diviniorcm Spiritus Sancti agendi modum, in hominis conversione agnoscit. Ezech. 36:26: Dabo vobis cor meum, et spiritum novum dabo in medio vestri, et auferam cor lapideum, daboque cor carneum, etc.


Qui docent, ‘Deum in hominis regeneratione eas suæ omnipotentiæ vires non adhibere, quibus voluntatem ejus ad fidem et conversionem potenter et infallibiliter flectat; sed positis omnibus gratiæ operationibus, quibus Deus ad hominem convertendum utitur, hominem tamen Deo, et Spiritui regenerationem ejus intendenti, et regenerare ipsum volenti, ita posse resistere, et actu ipso sæpe resistere, ut sui regenerationem prorsus impediat, atque adeo in ipsius manere potestate, ut regeneretur vel non regeneretur.’ Hoc enim nihil aliud est, quam tollere omnem efficaciam gratiæ Dei in nostri conversione, et actionem Dei omnipotentis subjicere voluntati hominis, idque contra Apostolos, qui docent, Nos credere pro efficacitate fortis roboris Dei. Ephes. 1:19. Et, Deum bonitatis suæ gratuitam benevolentiam et opus fidei potenter in nobis complere. 2 Thess. 1:11. Item, Divinam ipsius vim omnia nobis donasse, quæ ad vitam et pietatem pertinent. 2 Pet. 1:3.


Qui docent, ‘Gratiam et liberum arbitrium esse causas partiales simul concurrentes ad conversionis initium; nec gratiam ordine causalitatis efficientiam voluntatis antecedere;’ id est, ‘Deum non prius hominis voluntatem efficaciter juvare ad conversionem, quam voluntas ipsa hominis se movet ac determinat.’ Hoc enim dogma Ecclesia prisca in Pelagianis jam olim condemnavit, ex Apostolo Rom. 9:16: Non est volentis nec currentis, sed Dei miserentis. Et, 1 Cor. 4:7: Quis te discernit? Et, Quid habes quod non acceperis? Item, Phil, 2:13: Deus est qui in vobis operatur ipsum velle et perficere pro suo beneplacito.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.


Articulus Primus.

Quos Deus secundum propositum suum, ad communionem Filii sui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, vocat, et per Spiritum sanctum regenerat, eos quidem et a peccati dominio et servitute, non autem a carne, et corpore peccati, penitus in hac vita liberat.


Hinc quotidiana infirmitatis peccata oriuntur, et optimis etiam sanctorum operibus nævi adhærescunt: quæ illis perpetuam sese coram Deo humiliandi, ad Christum crucifixum confugiendi, carnem magis ac magia per Spiritum precum et sancta pietatis exercitia mortificandi, et ad perfectionis metam suspirandi, materiam suggerunt; tantisper dum hoc mortis corpore soluti, cum Agno Dei in cœlis regnent.


Propter istas peccati inhabitantis reliquias, et mundi insuper ac Satanæ tentationes, non possent conversi in ista gratia perstare, si suis viribus permitterentur. Sed fidelis est Deus, qui ipsos in gratia semelcollata misericorditer confirmat, et in eadem usque ad finem potenter conservat.


Etsi autem illa potentia Dei vere fideles in gratia confirmantis et conservantis, major est, quam quæ a carne superari possit; non semper tamen conversi ita a Deo aguntur et moventur, ut non possint in quibusdam actionibus particularibus a ductu gratiæ, suo vitio, recedere, et a carnis concupiscentiis seduci, iisque obsequi. Quapropter ipsis perpetuo est vigilandum et orandum, ne in tentationes inducantur. Quod cum non faciunt, non solum a carne, mundo, et Satana, in peccata etiam gravia et atrocia abripi possunt, verum etiam interdum justa Dei permissione abripiuntur. Quod tristes Davidis, Petri, aliorumque sanctorum lapsus, in sacra Scriptura descripti, demonstrant.


Talibus autem enormibus peccatis Deum valde offendunt, reatum mortis incurrunt, Spiritum S. contristant, fidei exercitium interrumpunt, conscientiam gravissime vulnerant, sensum gratiæ nonnunquam ad tempus amittunt: donec per scriam resipiscentiam in vitam revertentibus paternus Dei vultus rursum affulgeat.


Deus enim, qui dives est misericordia, ex immutabili electionis proposito, Spiritum Sanctum, etiam in tristibus lapsibus, a suis non prorsus aufert, nec eousque eos prolabi sinit, ut gratia adoptionis, justificationis statu excidant, aut peccatum ad mortem, sive in Spiritum Sanctum committant, et ab eo penitus deserti in exitium æternum sese præcipitent.


Primo enim in istis lapsibus conservat in illis semen illud suum immortale, ex quo regeniti sunt, ne illud pereat aut excutiatur. Deinde per verbum et Spiritum suum, eos certo et efficaciter renovat ad pœnitentiam, ut de admissis peccatis ex animo secundum Deum doleant, remissionem in sanguine Mediatoris, per fidem, contrito corde, expetant, et obtineant, gratiam Dei reconciliati iterum sentiant, miserationes per fidem ejus adorent, ac deinceps salutem suam cum timore et tremore studiosius operentur.


Ita non suis meritis, aut viribus, sed ex gratuita Dei misericordia id obtinent, ut nec totaliter fide et gratia excidant, nec finaliter in lapsibus maneant aut pereant. Quod quoad ipsos non tantum facile fieri posset, sed et indubie fieret; respectu autem Dei fieri omnino non potest: cum nec consilium ipsius mutari, promissio excidere, vocatio secundum propositum revocari, Christi meritum, intercessio, et custodia irrita reddi nec Spiritus Sancti obsignatio frustranea fieri aut deleri possit.


De hac electorum ad salutem custodia, vereque fidelium in fide perseverantia, ipsi fideles certi esse possunt, et sunt pro mensura fidei, qua certo credunt se esse et perpetuo mansuros vera et viva Ecclesiæ membra, habere remissionem peccatorum, et vitam æternam.


Ac proinde hæc certitudo non est ex peculiari quadam revelatione præter aut extra verbum facta, sed ex fide promissionum Dei, quas in verbo suo copiosissime in nostrum solatium revelavit: ex testimonio Spiritus Sancti testantis cum spiritu nostro nos esse Dei filios et hæredes. Rom. 8:16 Denique ex serio et sancto bonæ conscientiæ et bonorum operum studio. Atque hoc solido obtinendæ victoriæ solatio, et infallibili æternæ gloriæ arrha, si in hoc mundo electi Dei destituerentur, omnium hominum essent miserrimi.


Interim testatur Scriptura fideles in hac vita cum variis carnis dubitationibus conflictari, et in gravi tentatione constitutos hanc fidei plerophoriam, ac perseverantiæ certitudinem, non semper sentire. Verum Deus, Pater omnis consolationis, supra vires tentari eos non sinit, sed cum tentatione præstat evasionem. 1 Cor. 10:13. Ac per Spiritum Sanctum perseverantiæ certitudinem in iisdem rursum excitat.


Tantum autem abest, ut hæc perseverantiæ certitudo vere fideles superbos, et carnaliter securos reddat, ut e contrario humilitatis, filialis reverentiæ, veræ pietatis, patientiæ in omni lucta, precum ardentium, constantiæ in cruce et veritatis confessione, solidique in Deo gaudii vera sit radix: et consideratio istius beneficii sit stimulus ad serium et continuum gratitudinis et bonorum operum exercitium, ut ex Scripturæ testimoniis et sanctorum exemplis constat.


Neque etiam in iis, qui a lapsu instaurantur, lasciviam aut pietatis injuriam procreat rediviva perseverantiæ fiducia; sed multo majorem curam de viis Domini solicite custodiendis, quæ præparatæ sunt ut in illis ambulando perseverantiæ suæ certitudinem retineant, ne propter paternæ benignitatis abusum propitii Dei facies (cujus contemplatio piis vita dulcior, subductio morte acerbior) denuo ab ipsis avertatur, et sic in graviores animi cruciatus incidant.


Quemadmodum autem Deo placuit, opus hoc suum gratiæ per prædicationem Evangelii in nobis inchoare; ita per ejusdem auditum, lectionem, meditationem, adhortationes, minas, promissa, nec non per usum sacramentorum illud conservat, continuat, et perficit.


Hanc de vere credentium ac sanctorum perseverantia, ejusque certitudine, doctrinam, quam Deus ad nominis sui gloriam, et piarum animarum solatium, in verbo suo abundantissime revelavit, cordibusque fidelium imprimit, caro quidem non capit, Satanas odit, mundus ridet, imperiti et hypocritæ in abusum rapiunt, spiritusque erronei oppugnant; sed sponsa Christi ut inæstimabilis pretii thesaurum tenerrime semper dilexit, et constanter propugnavit: quod ut porro faciat procurabit Deus, adversus quem nec consilium valere, nec robur ullum prævalere potest. Cui soli Deo, Patri, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto sit honor et gloria in sempiternum. Amen.


Exposita doctrina orthodoxa, Synodus rejicit errores eorum:


Qui docent, ‘Perseverantiam vere fidelium non esse effectum electionis, aut donum Dei morte Christi partum, sed esse conditionem novi fœderis, ab homine ante sui electionem ac justificationem’ (ut ipsi loquuntur) ‘peremtoriam, libera voluntate præstandam.’ Nam sacra Scriptura testatur eam ex electione sequi, et vi mortis, resurrectionis et intercessionis Christi electis donari. Rom. 11:7: Electio assecuta est, reliqui occalluerunt. Item, Rom. 8:32: Qui proprio Filio non pepercit, sed pro omnibus nobis tradidit ipsum, quomodo non cum eo nobis omnia donabit? Quis intentabit crimina adversus electos Dei? Deus est qui justificat Quis est qui condemnet? Christus in est qui mortuus est, imo qui etiam resurrexit, qui etiam sedet ad dexteram Dei, qui etiam intercedit pro nobis: Quis nos separabit a dilectione Christi?


Qui docent, ‘Deum quidem hominem fidelem sufficientibus ad perseverandum viribus instruere, ac paratum esse eas in ipso conservare si officium faciat: positis tamen illis omnibus, quæ ad perseverandum in fide necessaria sunt, quæque Deus ad conservandam fidem adhibere vult, pendere semper a voluntatis arbitrio, ut perseveret, vel non perseveret.’ Hæc enim sententia manifestum Pelagianismum continet; et homines, dum vult facere liberos, facit sacrilegos, contra perpetuum evangelicæ doctrinæ consensum, quæ omnem gloriandi materiam homini adimit, et hujus beneficii laudem soli divinæ gratiæ transcribit; et contra Apostolum testantem: Deum esse qui confirmabit nos usque in finem inculpatos in die Domini nostri Jesu Christi. 1 Cor. 1:8.


Qui docent, ‘Vere credentes et regenitos non tantum posse a fide justificante, item gratia, et salute totaliter et finaliter excidere, sed etiam reipsa non raro ex iis excidere, atque in æternum perire.’ Nam hæc opinio ipsam justificationis ac regenerationis gratiam, et perpetuam Christi custodiam irritam reddit, contra diserta Apostoli Pauli verba, Rom. 5:8, 9: Si Christus pro nobis mortuus est, quum adhuc essemus peccatores, multo igitur magis, jam justificati in sanguine ejus, servabimur per ipsum ab ira. Et contra Apostolum Johannem, 1 John 3:9: Omnis qui natus est ex Deo, non dat operam peccato: quia semen ejus in eo manet, nec potest peccare, quia ex Deo genitus est. Nec non contra verba Jesu Christi, Johan. 10:28, 29: Ego vitam æternam do ovibus meis, et non peribunt in æternum, nec rapiet eas quisquam de manu mea; Pater meus, qui mihi eas dedit, major est omnibus, nec ullus potest eas rapere de manu Patris mei.


Qui docent, ‘Vere fideles ac regenitos posse peccare peccato ad mortem, vel in Spiritum Sanctum.’ Quum idem Apostolus Johan. [Ep. I.] cap. 5 postquam vers. 16, 17 peccantium ad mortem meminisset, et pro iis orare vetuisset, statim ver. 18 subjungat: Scimus quod quisquis natus est ex Deo, non peccat (nempe illo peccati genere), sed qui genitus est ex Deo, conservat seipsum, et malignus ille non tangit eum.


Qui docent, ‘Nullam certitudinem futuræ perseverantiæ haberi posse in hac vita, absque speciali revelatione.’ Per hanc enim doctrinam vere fidelium solida consolatio in hac vita tollitur, et pontiflciorum dubitatio in Ecclesiam reducitur. Sacra vero Scriptura passim hanc certitudinem, non ex speciali et extraordinaria revelatione, sed ex propriis filiorum Dei signis, et constantissimis Dei promissionibus petit. Imprimis Apostolus Paulus, Rom. 8:39: Nulla res creata potest nos separare a charitate Dei, quæ est in Christo Jesu, Domino nostro. Et Johannes, Epist. I. 3:24: Qui servat mandata ejus, in eo manet, et ille in eo: et per hoc novimus ipsum in nobis manere, ex Spiritu quem dedit nobis.


Qui docent, ‘Doctrinam de perseverantiæ ac salutis certitudine, ex natura et indole sua, esse carnis pulvinar, et pietati, bonis moribus, precibus aliisque sanctis exercitiis noxiam; contra vero de ea dubitare, esse laudabile.’ Hi enim demonstrant se efficaciam divinæ gratiæ, et inhabitantis Spiritus S. operationem ignorare: et contradicunt Apostolo Johanni contrarium disertis verbis affirmanti, Epist. I. 3:2, 3: Dilecti mei, nunc filii Dei sumus; sed nondum patefactum est id quod erimus: scimus autem fore, ut quum ipse patefactus fuerit, similes ei simus, quoniam videbimus eum, sicuti est. Et quisquis habet hanc spem in eo, purificat seipsum, sicut et ille purus est. Hi præterea sanctorum tam Veteris quam Novi Testamenti exemplis redarguuntur, qui licet de sua perseverantia et salute essent certi, in precibus tamen, aliisque pietatis exercitiis, assidui fuerunt.


Qui docent, ‘Fidem temporariorum a justificante et salvifica fide non differre nisi sola duratione.’ Nam Christus ipse Matt. 13:20 et Luc. 8:13 ac deinceps, triplex præterea inter temporarios et veros fideles discrimen manifesto constituit, quum illos dicit semen recipere in terra petrosa, hos in terra bona, seu corde bono: illos carere radice, hos radicem firmam habere: illos fructibus esse vacuos, hos fructum suum diversa mensura, constanter seu perseveranter proferre.


Qui docent, ‘Non esse absurdum, hominem priore regeneratione extincta, iterato, imo sæpius renasci.’ Hi enim per hanc doctrinam negant seminis Dei, per quod renascimur, incorruptibilitatem: adversus testimonium Apostoli Petri, Epist. I. 1:23: Renati non ex semine corruptibili, sed incorruptibili.


Qui docent, ‘Christum nunquam rogasse pro infallibili credentium in fide perseverantia.’ Contradicunt enim ipsi Christo, dicenti, Luc. 22:32: Ego rogavi pro te, Petre, ne deficiat fides tua; et Evangelistæ Johanni testanti, Johan. 17:20, Christum non tantum pro apostolis, sed etiam pro omnibus, per sermonem ipsorum credituris, orasse, ver. 11: Pater sancte, conserva eos in nomine tuo; Et ver. 15: Non oro ut eos tollas e mundo, sed ut conserves eos a malo.


Atque hæc est perspicua, simplex, et ingenua Orthodoxæ de Quinque Articulis in Belgio controversis doctrinæ declaratio, et errorum, quibus Ecclesiæ Belgicæ aliquamdiu sunt perturbatæ, rejectio, quam Synodus ex verbo Dei desumptam, et Confessionibus Reformatarum Ecclesiarum consentaneam esse judicat. Unde liquido apparet eos, quos id minime decuit, citra omnem veritatem, æquitatem, et charitatem, populo inculcatum voluisse:
‘Doctrinam Ecclesiarum Reformatarum de prædestinatione et annexis ei capitibus, proprio quodam genio atque impulsu, animos hominum ab omni pietate et religione abducere: esse carnis et Diaboli pulvinar, arcemque Satanæ, ex qua omnibus insidietur, plurimos sauciet, et multos tum desperationis, tum securitatis jaculis lethaliter configat: eandem facere Deum authorem peccati, injustum, tyrannum, hypocritam; nec aliud esse quam interpolatum Stoicismum, Manicheismum, Libertinismum, Turcismum: eandem reddere homines carnaliter securos, quippe ex ea persuasos electorum saluti, quomodocunque vivant, non obesse, ideoque eos secure atrocissima quæque scelera posse perpetrare; reprobis ad salutem non prodesse, si vel omnia sanctorum opera vere fecerint: eadem doceri Deum nudo puroque voluntatis arbitrio, absque omni ullius peccati respectu, vel intuitu, maximam mundi partem ad æternam damnationem prædestinasse et creasse: eodem modo, quo electio est fons et caussa fidei ac bonorum operum, reprobationem esse caussam infidelitatis et impietatis: multos fidelium infantes ab uberibus matrum innoxios abripi et tyrannice in gehennam præcipitari, adeo ut iis nec baptismus, nec Ecclesiæ in eorum baptismo preces prodesse queant.’
Et quæ ejus generis sunt alia plurima, quæ Ecclesiæ Reformatæ non solum non agnoscunt, sed etiam toto pectore detestantur. Quare quotquot nomen Servatoris nostri Jesu Christi pie invocant, eos Synodus hæc Dordrechtana per nomen Domini obtestatur, ut de Ecclesiarum Reformatarum fide, non ex coacervatis hinc inde calumniis, vel etiam privatis nonnullorum, tum veterum tum recentium doctorum dictis, sæpe etiam aut mala fide citatis, aut corruptis, et in alienum sensum detortis, sed ex publicis ipsarum Ecclesiarum Confessionibus, et ex hac orthodoxæ doctrinæ declaratione, unanimi omnium et singulorum totius Synodi membrorum consensu firmata, judicent. Calumniatores deinde ipsos serio monet, viderint quam grave Dei judicium sint subituri, qui contra tot Ecclesias, contra tot Ecclesiarum Confessiones, falsum testimonium dicunt, conscientias infirmorum turbant, multisque vere fidelium societatem suspectam reddere satagunt.
Postremo hortatur hæc Synodus omnes in Evangelio Christi symmystas, ut in hujus doctrinæ pertractatione, in scholis atque in ecclesiis, pie et religiose versentur, eam tum lingua, tum calamo, ad Divini nominis gloriam, vitæ sanctitatem, et consternatorum animorum solatium accommodent, cum Scriptura secundum fidei analogiam non solum sentiant, sed etiam loquantur; a phrasibus denique iis omnibus abstineant, quæ præscriptos nobis genuini sanctarum Scripturarum sensus limites excedunt, et protervis sophistis justam ansam præbere possint doctrinam Ecclesiarum Reformatarum sugillandi, aut etiam calumniandi. Filius Dei Jesus Christus, qui ad dextram Patris sedens dat dona hominibus, sanctificet nos in veritate, eos qui errant adducat ad veritatem, calumniatoribus sanæ doctrinæ ora obstruat, et fidos verbi sui ministros spiritu sapientiæ et discretionis instruat, ut omnia ipsorum eloquia ad gloriam Dei, et ædificationem auditorum, cedant. Amen.

Huic capiti eadem quæ prius subscribuntur nomina.

Hæc omnia de Quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus Controversis supra comprehensis, ita esse gesta testatur Illustrissimorum ac Præpotentium DD. Ordinum Generalium ad hanc Synodum Deputati, manuum nostrarum subsignatione.


MARTINUS GREGORII D., Consiliarius Ducatus Geldriæ, et Comitatus Zutphaniæ.
HENRICUS VAN ESSEN, Consiliarius Ducatus Geldriæ, et Comitatus Zutphaniæ.




SYMON SCOTTE, Consiliarius et Secretarius Civitatis Middelburgensis.
JACOBUS CAMPE, Ordinum Zelandiæ Consiliarius.




ERNESTUS AB AYLVA, Ordinum Frisiæ Consiliarius, Orientalis Dongriæ Grietmannus.
ERNESTUS AB HARINXMA, Consiliarius primarius in Curia Provinciali Frisiæ





Et Illustribus ac Amplissimis DD. Delegatis a Secretis,


Explicata hactenus, et asserta, per Dei gratiam, veritate, erroribus rejectis, et damnatis, abstersis iniquis calumniis; SYNODUS HÆC DORDRECHTANA (quæ ipsi porro cura superest) serio, obnixe et pro auctoritate, quam ex Dei verbo in omnia suarum Ecclesiarum membra obtinet, in Christi nomine rogat, hortatur, monet, atque injungit omnibus et singulis in Fœderato Belgio Ecclesiarum Pastoribus, academiarum et scholarum Doctoribus, Rectoribus, et Magistris, atque adeo omnibus in universum, quibus vel animarum cura, vel juventutis disciplina est demandata, ut missis quinque notis Remonstrantium Articulis, qui et erronei sunt, et mera errorum latibula, hanc sanam veritatis salutaris doctrinam, ex purissimis verbi divini fontibus haustam, sinceram, et inviolatam, pro viribus et munere suo, conservent: illam populo et juventuti fideliter et prudenter proponant et explicent; usumque ejus suavissimum atque utilissimum, tum in vita, tum in morte, diligenter declarent: errantes ex grege, secus sentientes, et opinionum novitate abreptos, veritatis evidentia mansuete erudiant, si quando det ipsis Deus resipiscentiam, ad agnoscendam veritatem: ut saniori menti redditi, uno spiritu, ore, fide, charitate, Ecclesiæ Dei, et sanctorum communioni, denuo accedant; atque tandem coalescat vulnus Ecclesiæ, et fiat omnium ejus membrorum cor unum et anima una in Domino.
At vero, quia nonnulli e nobis egressi, sub titulo Remonstrantium (quod nomen Remonstrantium ut et Contra-Remonstrantium, SYNODUS perpetua oblivione delendum censet), studiis et consiliis privatis, modis illegitimis, disciplina et ordine Ecclesiæ violato, atque fratrum suorum monitionibus et judiciis contemptis, Belgicas Ecclesias antea florentissimas, in fide et charitate conjunctissimas, in his Doctrinæ Capitibus, graviter et periculose admodum turbarunt: errores noxios et veteres revocarunt, et novos procuderunt, publice et privatim, voce ac scriptis, in vulgus sparserunt, et acerrime propugnarunt: doctrinam, hactenus in Ecclesiis receptam, calumniis et contumeliis enormibus insectandi, nec modum nec finem fecerunt: scandalis, dissidiis, conscientiarum scrupulis, et exagitationibus, omnia passim compleverunt: quæ certe gravia in fidem, in charitatem, in bonos mores, in Ecclesiæ unitatem et pacem, peccata, cum in nullo homine tolerari juste possint, in Pastoribus censura severissima ab omni ævo in Ecclesia usurpata, necessario animadverti debent; SYNODUS, invocato Dei sancto nomine, suæ auctoritatis ex verbo Dei probe conscia, omnium legitimarum tum veterum tum recentium Synodorum vestigiis insistens, et illustrissimorum DD. Ordinum Generalium auctoritate munita, declarat atque judicat, Pastores illos, qui partium in Ecclesia ductores, et errorum doctores sese præbuerunt, corruptæ religionis, scissæ Ecclesiæ unitatis, et gravissimorum scandalorum, citatos vero ad hanc Synodum, intolerandæ insuper adversus supremi magistratus in hac Synodo publicata decreta, ipsamque hanc venerandam Synodum, pervicaciæ, reos et convictos teneri. Quas ob causas, primo Synodus prædictis citatis omni ecclesiastico munere interdicit, eosque ab officiis suis abdicat, et academicis functionibus etiam indignos esse judicat, donec per seriam resipiscentiam, dictis, factis, studiis contrariis abunde comprobatam, Ecclesiæ satisfaciant, et cum eadem vere et plene reconcilientur, atque ad ejus communionem recipiantur: quod nos in ipsorum bonum, et totius Ecclesiæ gaudium unice in Christo Domino nostro exoptamus. Reliquos autem, quorum cognitio ad Synodum hanc Nationalem non devenit, Synodus Provincialibus, Classibus, et Presbyteriis, ex ordine recepto, committit: quæ omni studio procurent ne quid Ecclesia detrimenti vel in præsens capere, vel in posterum metuere possit. Errorum istorum sectatores spiritu prudentiæ discriminent: refractarios, clamosos, factiosos, turbatores, quam primum officiis ecclesiasticis, et scholasticis, quæ sunt suæ cognitionis et curæ, abdicent: eoque nomine monentur, ut nulla interjecta mora, post acceptum hujus Synodi Nationalis judicium, impetrata ad hoc magistratus auctoritate, conveniant, ne lentitudine malum invalescat et roboretur. Ex infirmitate, et vitio temporum lapsos, vel abreptos, et in levioribus forte hæsitantes, aut etiam dissentientes, modestos tamen, sedatos, vitæ inculpatæ, dociles, omni lenitate, charitatis officiis, patientia, ad veram atque perfectam concordiam cum Ecclesia provocent: ita tamen, ut diligenter sibi caveant, ne quemquam ad sacrum ministerium admittant, qui doctrinæ hisce synodicis constitutionibus declaratæ subscribere, eamque docere recuset: neminem etiam retineant, cujus manifesta dissensione, doctrina in hac Synodo tanto consensu comprobata violari, et Pastorum concordia, Ecclesiarumque tranquillitas denuo turbari queat. Præterea veneranda hæc Synodus serio monet ecclesiasticos omnes cœtus, ut invigilent diligentissime in greges sibi commissos, omnibus subnascentibus in Ecclesia novitatibus mature obviam eant, easque tanquam zizania ex agro Domini evellant: attendant scholis et scholarum moderatoribus ne qua ex privatis sententiis et pravis opinionibus juventuti instillatis, postmodum Ecclesiæ et reipub. pernicies denuo creetur. Denique illustrissimis et præpotentibus DD. Fœderati Belgii Ordinibus Generalibus, gratiis reverenter actis, quod tam necessario et opportuno tempore, afflictis et labentibus Ecclesiæ rebus, Synodi remedio clementer succurrerint, probos et fideles DEI servos in suam tutelam receperint, pignus omnis benedictionis et præsentiæ divinæ, verbi nempe ipsius veritatem, in suis ditionibus sancte et religiose conservatam voluerint: nulli labori, nullis sumptibus ad tantum opus promovendum et perficiendum pepercerint: pro quibus eximiis officiis largissimam a Domino et publice et privatim, et spiritualem et temporalem, remunerationem toto pectore SYNODUS comprecatur: Eosdem porro Dominos clementissimos obnixe et demisse rogat, ut hanc salutarem doctrinam, fidelissime ad verbum Dei et Reformatarum Ecclesiarum consensum a Synodo expressam, in suis regionibus solam et publice audiri velint et jubeant: arceant suborientes omnes hæreses et errores, spiritus inquietos et turbulentos compescant: veros et benignos Ecclesiæ nutritios ac tutores sese probare pergant: in personas supra dictas sententiam pro jure ecclesiastico, patriis legibus confirmato, ratam esse velint, et auctoritatis suæ adjecto calculo, synodicas constitutiones immotas et perpetuas reddant.


FESTUS HOMMIUS, Eccl. Leydensis Pastor, et Synodi Nat. Actuarius.

In testimonium Actorum, DANIEL HEINSIUS.


Ordines Generales Fœderati Belgii omnibus qui hasce visuri aut lecturi sunt, salutem. Notum facimus, Quum ad tollendas tristes et noxias illas controversias, quæ aliquot abhine annis cum magno reipubl. detrimento, et pacis Ecclesiarum perturbatione, exortæ sunt super quinque notis Doctrinæ Christianæ Capitibus, eorumque appendicibus, visum nobis fuerit, ex ordine in Ecclesia Dei, ipsaque adeo Belgica, Dordrechtum convocare Synodum Nationalem omnium Ecclesiarum Fæderati Belgii; utque illa maximo cum fructu et reipubl emolumento celebrari posset, non sine gravi molestia, magnisque impensis, ad eandem expetiverimus et impetraverimus complures præstantissimos, doctissimos, et celeberrimos Reformatæ Ecclesiæ Theologos exteros, uti ex prædictæ Synodi Decretorum subscriptione, post singula doctrinæ Capita videre est; delegatis insuper ex singulis provinciis ad ejusdem directionem nostris deputatis, qui in eadem ab initio usque ad finem præsentes curam gererent, ut omnia ibidem in timore Dei, et recto ordine, ex solo Dei verbo, sinceræ nostrœ intentioni congruenter, possent pertractari: Cumque prædicta hæc Synodus singulari Dei benedictione tanto omnium et singulorum, tam exterorum quam Belgicorum, consensu, de prædictis quinque Doctrinæ Capitibus, eorumque doctoribus jam judicarit, nobisque consultis et consentientibus sexto Maii proxime præterito decreta et sententiam hisce præfixa promulgarit; Nos, ut exoptati fructus ex magno et sancto hoc opere (quale nunquam antehac Ecclesiæ Reformatæ viderunt), ad Ecclesias harum regionum redundare queant, quandoquidem nihil nobis æque cordi et curæ est, quam gloria Sanctissimi Nominis Divini, quam conservatio et propagatio veræ Reformatæ Christianæ Religionis (quæ fundamentum est prosperitatis et vinculum unionis Fœderati Belgii), quam concordia, tranquillitas, et pax Ecclesiarum; itemque conservatio concordiæ et communionis Ecclesiarum, quæ sunt in hisce regionibus, cum omnibus exteris Reformatis Ecclesiis, a quibus nos separare nec debuimus, nec potuimus, Visis, cognitis, et mature examinatis atque expensis, prædicto judicio et sententia Synodi, ista plene in omnibus approbavimus, confirmavimus, et rata habuimus, approbamus, confirmamus, et rata habemus per præsentes: Volentes ac statuentes, ut nulla alia doctrina de quinque prædictis Doctrinæ Capitibus in Ecclesiis harum regionum doceatur aut propagetur, præter hanc, quæ prædicto judicio sit conformis atque consentanea; Mandantes atque imperantes omnibus ecclesiasticis cœtibus, Ecclesiarum Ministris, Sacrosanctæ Theologiæ Professoribus et Doctoribus, Collegiorum Regentibus, omnibusque in universum et singulis, quos hæc aliquatenus concernere queant aut attingere, ut in suorum ministeriorum et functionum exercitio eadem in omnibus fideliter et sincere sequantur, iisque convenienter sese gerant. Utque bonæ nostrœ intentioni plene ac per omnia ubique possit satisfieri, Denunciamus et mandamus Ordinibus, Gubernatoribus, Deputatis Ordinum, Consiliariis et Ordinibus Deputatis provinciarum Geldriæ, et comitatus Zutphaniæ, Hollandiæ, et Westfrisiæ, Zelandiæ, Ultrajecti, Frisiaæ, Transisalaniæ, civitatis Groningæ et Omlandiarum, omnibusque aliis Officiariis, Judicibus, et Justitiariis, ut prædicti Judicii Synodici, eorumque quæ inde dependent, observationem promoveant et tueantur, ac promovere et tueri faciant, adeo ut nullam in hisce mutationem aut ipsi faciant, aut ab aliis ullo modo fieri permittant: Quoniam ad promovendam Dei gloriam, securitatem et salutem status harum regionum, tranquillitatem et pacem Ecclesiæ, ita fieri debere judicamus.
Actum sub nostro sigillo, signatione Præsidis, et subscriptione nostri Graphiarii, Hagæ-Comitis, secundo Julii, anno millesimo, sexcentesimo et decimo nono, signatum erat.

A. PLOOS, ut
Et inferius
Ex mandato prædictorum Præpotentium Dominorum Ordinum Generalium
Eratque spatio impressum prædictum sigillum in cera rubra.

Source: Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 550–80.

The 5 Articles Of Remonstrance (1610)

ARTICLE I. That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

ART. II. That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness ef sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only. but also for the sins of the whole world.”

ART. III. That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. b: “Without me ye can do nothing.”

ART. IV. That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, elm neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost, -Acts vii., and elsewhere in many places.

ART. V. That those who an incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his lifegiving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict. and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable. through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.