Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

Chapter 6 - Classis Grand Rapids East, August 1924.

             Not many weeks elapsed after the adjournment of the Synod of Kalamazoo before it became evident that the decisions of that body were not conducive to a settlement of the controversy about the theory of common grace.

            Neither of the opposing sides was satisfied.

            This was not surprising.  In fact, it was exactly what might be expected.  The very nature of the decisions of synod was such as to give birth to further trouble.

            The conclusions of synod were too ambiguous to settle anything.

            On the one hand, synod adopted three doctrinal statements that were Arminian and Pelagian in tendency; it had declared, quite correctly, that the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema deviated from these doctrinal declarations; it had decided to admonish the two pastors to abide by the doctrinal decision of synod; and this might easily be enlarged upon by hostile opponents and be forged into new weapons of attack.

            On the other hand, synod had not condemned the views of the two pastors as being unreformed; it had even given them the splendid testimony that they were fundamentally reformed in the light of the Confession; it had failed to carry out its own decisions regarding the admonition that was to be administered to the two pastors; it had not demanded a single promise of them; it had examined their writings and had not demanded that they recant a single statement; and it had not decided that the two pastors should be disciplined because of their views.  What was more serious, before the synod adjourned the protest of the Reverend H. Danhof was read before that body, in which the protestant openly declared that he did not agree with the doctrinal declarations of the synod, that he would not abide by them, but that he would rather oppose them with every means at his command.  And even then synod had failed to take further action!

            It can readily be seen that the two pastors, though certainly not agreeing with the doctrinal declarations of synod, had every reason to take the stand that synod had given the opponents no further ground for action against them.  The entire matter, together with the request that the two pastors should be disciplined had been carried, directly and by way of appeal, to the broadest gathering of the churches.  And synod had virtually decided that there was no cause for action.  A motion of its committee to administer to the two pastors a synodical spanking it had rejected.  Although the synod had definitely settled nothing, on the basis of the synodical decisions no action could be undertaken against the two ministers.

            Yet, such action was started by the opponents soon after the Synod of Kalamazoo had adjourned.

            They were encouraged to renew their attacks on the two pastors by certain articles written by Doctor J. Van Lonkhuyzen, at that time pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, Ill., in Onze Toekomst, a paper edited by him about the time of our history; and by the articles of the Reverend I. Van Dellen in De Wachter, one of the official organs of the Christian Reformed Churches.  The former criticized the work of the Synod of Kalamazoo severely, because it had failed to make proper provisions for the exercise of discipline upon the two accused pastors.  He, indeed, lauded the work of the synod in as far as its doctrinal declarations were concerned and he heartily agreed with the “Three Points”.  But the synod had not finished its work, seeing it had failed to formulate definite advice with a view to necessary discipline.  And he stated as his position, which was undoubtedly correct, that the synod had left the two ministers at liberty to preach and teach and propagate their views with respect to the common grace question.  The Reverend Van Dellen, however, replied that it had exactly been the purpose of the synod to leave all actual discipline to the minor assemblies and to have it initiated by the consistories of the two pastors if necessary.  The latter’s opinion, however, was a mere personal and subjective interpretation of the decisions of synod, which, besides, can easily be proven erroneous.  Synod had considered the advice to disciplinary measures presented by its committee.  And it had rejected it, not on the ground that discipline must begin with the minor assemblies, but simply by adopting a substitute motion that without any expressed reason omitted the advice concerning discipline.  Yet, the very ambiguity of the synodical decisions afforded the Reverend Van Dellen room for his interpretations with a semblance of truth.

            Besides, the first three protestants that had started action against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, as well as the Reverend J. Vander Mey were still under censure.  And this censure provided a practical opportunity for the re-opening of the entire common grace case in Classis Grand Rapids East.

            It will, therefore, not be superfluous to recall at this time the chief factors in the history of this censure.  They are the following: 1. The three protestants, having refused to discuss the matter of their protest with their pastor, sought to have it received and acted upon by the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, alleging as a ground for its acceptance that the pastor was guilty of a public sin.  2. The consistory could not admit this ground and, therefore, refused to receive the protest, and demanded that the protestants retract their accusation.  When the latter refused to comply with the demand of the consistory they were barred from partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the ground that they could not sit at the table of communion with a pastor whom they accused of public sin.  3. The protestants then appealed to classis with their protest against the pastor, at the same time protesting against their being censured by the consistory.  The classis, as we have seen, decided after much wrangling that the protest against the pastor should be referred back to the consistory, but at the same time advised the consistory to raise the censure against the three protestants, without, however, advising the latter that they should retract their accusation.  4. The protestants thereupon took their entire protest by way of appeal to synod, so that it certainly became the task of that body to determine whether or not the pastor of Eastern Avenue was guilty of the alleged public sin.  Synod, however, as we have seen, made some ambiguous declarations and decisions, but in no way justified the three protestants in their accusation of public sin against the pastor.  On the contrary it had declared that the pastor was fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions. Such was the status of this case after synod had adjourned.

            As to the censure imposed upon the Reverend J. Vander Mey, it is sufficient to recall that he refused to confess his sin of having made propaganda against the pastor by distributing his protest in the form of a printed pamphlet even before it was presented to the consistory and without discussing the matter with the pastor or even offering him a copy of the protest.

            After the synod the consistory labored with the censured protestants.  They insisted that the three original protestants should retract their accusation of public sin, especially in view of the fact that in this accusation they had not been sustained by the decisions of synod; and they attempted to persuade the Reverend Vander Mey to confess his sin.  It was, however, all in vain.  The former replied with the unreasonable and unchristian demand that they be permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper while they maintained their accusation; the latter and his wife aggravated matters by assuming an attitude of hatred and disrespect over against the consistory. This matter, then, was brought to the attention of Classis Grand Rapids East, convened in the Bates Street Christian Reformed church on August 20, 1924.  And it was presented to classis by way of an overture from the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church, accompanied by a letter of information; and by way of protests on the part of the censured members.

            The overture was a request by the consistory of Eastern Avenue that the classis should rescind its former decision according to which the consistory had been advised to raise the censure of the protestants; in case the classis should refuse this request the consistory informed the classis that it would appeal to synod.

            The letter of information that accompanied this overture is here reprinted in full:

            “Information of the consistory of Eastern Avenue regarding its request that classis rescind its decision relative to the censure of the brethren W. Hoeksema, J. De Hoog, and H. Vander Vennen.

            “The consistory would bring to the attention of the classis, first of all, that the reason why the above mentioned brethren were barred from the Lord’s table must not be sought in the fact, that they protested against the pastor.  Thus the matter, has, indeed, been presented and this appears to be still the notion of many.  This allegation was also made on the floor of the synod; and thus it was also presented in that unchristian little article that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press of Aug. 16.  This presentation is entirely erroneous.  The brethren were barred from the table of the Lord only because of their direct accusation of public sin against the pastor and refused to retract their accusation when this was demanded of them by the consistory.  The consistory was of the opinion that they could not very well partake of the Lord’s Supper together with the pastor as long as they had in their heart and maintained this accusation against him.

            “Thus the case stood even before the last meeting of Classis.  At present, however, it has reached a more advanced stage.  For, the brethren took their protest to Classis.  When Classis judged that their protest should be referred back to the consistory, and at the same time that the censure over the three brethren should be lifted, they were not satisfied but took their protest to Synod.  by that broadest gathering of our Churches their protest, in which they alleged, explained and defended that the pastor was guilty of a public sin, was treated and finished.  The matter of their protest, therefore, was a closed case.  Synod, however, did not support their contention of public sin.  For it is evident that either of two alternatives must be demanded in case of a public sin: that the sinner make public confession of his sin; or that he be disciplined by the proper ecclesiastical body.  But Synod decided upon neither of these.  That body did not discipline the pastor, neither advised to discipline him.  Nor did it demand of him a public confession.  The pastor, therefore, is still a minister in good and regular standing, also after the Synod treated the protest of the three brethren.  Besides, synod expressed, indeed, that the pastor is one-sided in his views, but also that he is fundamentally Reformed.  The standpoint of Synod, therefore, certainly differs from that of the three brethren, who brought an accusation of public sin against him and demanded that he be disciplined.

            “The consistory is, therefore, of the opinion, that after Synod expressed itself, the brethren must abide within the limits of that synodical decision and their accusation of public sin must stop.  This, however, they refuse to do.  They want to maintain that the pastor is guilty of a public sin, continue to assume a hostile attitude against the pastor and the consistory and thus be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.  This the consistory cannot and may not permit.  As long as they maintain such an attitude against the pastor and the consistory they cannot be considered worthy partakers of the table of the Lord.

            “All this is corroborated by the attitude the brethren assumed since the last meeting of Classis.  They do not attend public worship, or are careful to attend when the pastor is not preaching.  Mr. Vander Mey and his wife were never in the Eastern Avenue Church again; both refused absolutely to attend church, he per letter, she orally before a committee of the consistory.  Besides, they refused to address the consistory as brethren.  The protest which the three brethren filed with the consistory a few weeks ago had first been introduced by the usual ‘Dear Brethren’ but after ward this had been roughly scratched out by a knife.  A committee of the consistory was put out of the house by Mrs. Vander Mey in a most impolite way.  Hardly had they entered when it was told them: ‘Get out! There is the door!’  The door was slammed behind them and the porch-light was extinguished before the brethren could come down the porch-steps.  And also the article that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press last Saturday evening, clearly shows what spirit is dominant in the brethren.  Thus the consistory is being insulted in every way and a spirit of bitter hostility is manifested.  And for these reasons the consistory cannot admit them to the Lord’s Supper.

            “The consistory demands nothing more than that the brethren keep themselves in word and attitude within the limits of the synodical decisions.  And according to these they may no longer maintain and spread abroad that the pastor is guilty of a public sin according to Art. 74 of the Church Order.  As soon as they are content with this they will be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

            “Now it is not clear to the consistory what is the force of the last decision of Classis with regard to the lifting of the censure of the three brethren.  It is not clear whether or not this decision is considered to have lost its force because the brethren took  their protest to the Synod and their case was treated by that body.  At any rate, the consistory requests the Classis that this decision be rescinded or be declared void, so that the censure need not be lifted as long as the brethren refuse to change their attitude.

            Classis appointed a committee to investigate this matter, formulate an opinion and serve the Classis with advice.  The delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church were asked to appear before this committee, complied with the request, delivered to them the letter of information printed above and served them with all possible information in the matter.  And they received the impression that the committee could very well understand that members with bitter enmity in their hearts against the pastor and the consistory could not be admitted to the supper of the Lord.

            However, when the same committee reported in the evening session of classis, it immediately became evident that they refused to see the matter in its proper light.

            The first part of their report concerned the case of Mr. Vander Mey.  The committee advised Classis to decide that the consistory of Eastern Avenue should remove this censure.  Their ground for this advice was that the censure of Mr. Vander Mey had been based on a false accusation.  It was not true, according to the committee, that he had distributed his protest against the pastor before he had delivered it to the consistory.  Only nine copies at most he had given away to parties outside of the consistory.  This part of the advice of the committee, however, was not adopted by the Classis.  In the discussion the consistory made plain that it made no essential difference to the point in question, whether Mr. Vander Mey had distributed nine copies or a thousand.  But, besides from the minutes of the Eastern Avenue consistory a statement by the Reverend Vander Mey was read to the effect that he had five hundred copies of his protest printed of which approximately four hundred were still in his possession.  These facts could not very well be denied.  The Classis, therefore, did not adopt the advice of its committee in this case.

            The second part of the report concerned the censure of the three original protestants.  This censure, they advised, should be lifted as soon as possible, on the ground that synod had sustained the accusation of these protestants against the pastor!

            And this part of the committee’s advice was adopted by Classis!  All the arguments of the delegates from the Eastern Avenue Church could not dissuade the Classis from taking this fatal decision.  It made no difference that they insisted that there was no item of proof in the Acta of Synod for the contention that this body had sustained the accusation of public sin against the pastor of Eastern Avenue; that they pointed out how Synod had utterly failed to give any advice with regard to discipline, although it passed judgment on the entire case, advice that certainly must have followed had it supported the protestants in their accusation of public sin in the sense of Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order; that they reminded the Classis of the fact that Synod had found and openly declared that the pastor was fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions; and that, finally, they emphasized that it was morally impossible and contrary to Scripture to admit the protestants to the table of the Lord in their manifestly bitter spirit and hostile attitude.  All of the arguments of the delegates fell on deaf ears.  It became evident that the Classis was determined to turn in the wrong direction.  The advice of the committee was adopted.

            It is hardly necessary to point out the injustice of this decision.

            It implied far more, of course, than the mere advice to lift the censure of the three protestants.  For, by implication the classis had decided to advise the consistory that its pastor should be suspended immediately. Had it not sustained the accusation of the protestants that the pastor was guilty of a public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order?  The Classis, therefore, had condemned the pastor without even a hearing on this point.  Before Synod convened, in the sessions of the May Classis, the pastor had earnestly invited the brethren to discuss the matter of the doctrine involved with him on the floor of the classis; but at that time the Classis refused all debate and discussion on the ground that Synod was the proper body to decide on matters of a doctrinal nature.  And after Synod, in its evening session of Aug. 20 the Classis simply sustained the accusation of public sin against the pastor, without even considering the matter, and in spite of the fact that the synodical decisions afforded no ground whatever for such a decision!

            Needless to say that the advice of the Classis was of such a nature that it was strictly impossible as well as morally wrong for the consistory to heed it.  And for this reason the decision was plainly the beginning of the end.  The wedge of separation, inserted by the Synod, was given a hard blow by Classis Grand Rapids East in its evening session of Aug. 20, 1924!

            Morally wrong it would be for the consistory to follow the advice of the Classis, because it implied that they would permit the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to be profaned.  To admit members to the table of the Lord of whom the consistory is convinced on more than sufficient ground that they are spiritually unworthy and wholly unfit to celebrate communion, that they can but eat and drink judgment to themselves, is a gross sin. Yet, to commit this sin was exactly the advice of the Classis!

            Impossible it was for the consistory to heed the advice of the Classis for this very reason, that they would have to obey God rather than men.  But it was equally impossible to follow the advice of the Classis, because by admitting the protestants to the Lord’s table the consistory would express its agreement with the ground of the classical advice, that the pastor was, indeed, guilty of public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order.  Here the consistory had no other choice than to follow the advice of the Classis, admit the protestants to communion and, at the same time, condemn and suspend its pastor, or to refuse to heed this advice.

            And it is necessary to state this concisely.

            The consistory of Eastern Avenue was often accused of stubbornness in dealing with this matter.  Had the consistory been less obstinate and headstrong, had they revealed a more conciliatory spirit and showed a willingness to make some concessions, the separation might have been avoided!  But let the reader judge.  What concessions could the consistory have made in this matter?  Is it, then, not convincingly clear that the Classis of August 20 placed the consistory before the alternative of admitting the protestants to the Lord’s table and suspending its pastor on the basis of the accusation of public sin, or taking the first step of separation: refusal to abide by the advice of Classis?  The former was impossible, for the consistory was deeply convinced that the accusation of public sin was utterly false.

            The Classis of Aug. 20, 1924 therefore, forced the consistory of Eastern Avenue to take the first step that finally must lead to separation.

            Not the consistory but the Classis was the real cause of the schism.

            Besides, it must be evident to any fair-minded reader that the Classis went  far beyond the decisions of the Synod of Kalamazoo.

            There is a wide different between the declaration that a minister is fundamentally in harmony with the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness, and the indictment of public sin according to Artt. 79 and 80 of the Church Order.

            The clear truth Classis would have expressed had it decided, that Synod had not found the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church guilty of a public sin and that, therefore, the protestants must withdraw their accusation before they could be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

            The die was cast!

            The wedge was driven in so deeply that it seemed impossible to extract it again.

            The consistory could not and surely would not follow the advice of Classis Grand Rapids East in this matter.  On this score there was no doubt.

            And the classical decisions of Aug. 20, 1924 were the first post-synodical step in the direction of the deposition of the consistory of Eastern Avenue.

Chapter 5 - The Synod of Kalamazoo: what it decided.

              We must now return to the work of the committee of pre-advice.

            On Tuesday, July 1, almost two weeks after synod first convened, it was ready with its report.

            The report consists of three main parts.

            In the first part the committee enumerates the various overtures and protests that had been filed with synod in connection with the common grace question.

            The second part represents the judgment of the committee regarding the legality of these various documents.

            The third part contains the advice of the committee regarding the contents of these documents and concerning the question itself.  This third part is again subdivided.  In the first subdivision the committee offers a list of the different points of doctrine involved in the case and submitted to the attention of the synod by the protests and overtures.  In the second subdivision the committee discards several of these points of doctrine, that, in its judgment, are more or less irrelevant; and singles out three doctrinal matters that are, in its opinion, of essential importance, viz., the general grace of God, the restraint of sin, and the ability of the natural man to do good. The third subdivision contains the advice of the committee with regard to these essential pints of doctrine, as well as its advice concerning the question of disciplining the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema.  The fourth subdivision deals with the problem of common grace in general, and advises synod not to formulate any dogma concerning that theory, but to urge all the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches to apply themselves diligently to the study of that problem.

            The whole is concluded by a testimony to the Churches in general.

            It is of importance to note that the  report cannot be found in full in the Acta of 1924.  True, in the Acta the report of the committee is introduced by the following: “The report of the committee of pre-advice concerning the common grace question is read by the reporter, Doctor C Bouma; it follows here in its entirety.” But this last statement is not true.  The following part, which ought to be inserted in the report on p. 134 of theActa, was left out: “If synod adopts the above-mentioned points, the question arises, whether synod ought to make it a case of a discipline immediately and bring the objections against the pastors Danhof and Hoeksema to the attention of the consistories concerned.  Your committee is of the opinion that this would not be the more desirable mode of procedure.  First, because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach the Reformed doctrine as contained in the Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and we will gladly assume that they erred in good faith.  Secondly, because it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths, even thought it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.

            “However, your committee advises that Synod through its president:

            “ (1) Seriously admonish the brethren with respect to their departures and demand of them the promise that in the future they will abide by the three points declared by the synod.

            “(2) Urge the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema that they refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views regarding the three points, in the churches.

            “(3) Point out to the brethren, that if it should appear, either now or in the future, that they will not abide by the decisions of synod, the latter to its profound regret will have to make the case pending with the consistories.”

            The reader will notice that it was the intention of the committee to make a covenant with the two accused pastors, a covenant that consisted of a condition, a promise, and a penalty.  The condition was: abide by the three points.  The promise: we will not bring your case to your consistories.  The penalty: if you prove disobedient, we will make the case pending with the consistories and demand discipline.

            The careful reader will likewise observe that the committee intended to turn the ecclesiastical screws rather tight.  First, the synod was to exact from the brethren a promise that they would abide by the three points; then, presumably after the brethren had promised the foregoing, the screws were to be given an extra twist and the two brethren were to be urged to abide by the three points; (“urge the brethren not to make propaganda against the three points”); and, lastly, lest the two brethren should ever attempt to tamper with the synodical screws, they were to be threatened with discipline in case they would not abide by the three points.

            From this it is also evident that the committee would not trust the two pastors any too well, if they should have experienced as sudden doctrinal conversion on the floor of synod (as the committee, evidently, considered possible), and promised what was demanded of them!  For, after the two pastors would have promised to abide by the three pints, the committee intended that the synodical president should urge them to keep their promise; and after they had so promised and listened to an insulting admonition to keep their promise, the committee proposed that the two pastors should be threatened with ecclesiastical extinction should they fail to keep their promise.

            Surely, the committee of pre-advice had intended a sound synodical spanking for the two culprits!

            The motive for this strange suggestion of synodical discipline is alleged to be that the committee gladly assumes that the two brethren erred in good faith!

            As if that were a sound reason why heretics should not be treated by their consistories!

            But, perhaps the committee had honestly introspected itself, it would have discovered another reason, why it preferred a synodical spanking rather than the usual order of discipline.  For, was there not every reason top believe that the consistories of Kalamazoo I and of Eastern Avenue would ignore the synodical mandate to discipline their pastors in this case?

However this may be, the important point is that synod did not adopt this part of the committee’s advice.  Later it adopted a substitute motion from which this entire section was eliminated.  And by adopting this substitute motion the synod naturally rejected the advice of its committee.  This is the more important in view of the fact that the substitute motion was passed after both the accused pastors had plainly and emphatically declared (the Reverend Hoeksema during his one speech he was allowed to make), that they did not agree with the contents of the three points and would never abide by them.  Nor was the synodical decision altered when the Reverend H. Danhof delivered a written protest to synod, in which he expressed elaborately his objection against the declarations and decisions of synod regarding the three points, and plainly stated that he would employ every means at his command to oppose them.

            These plain facts prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that synod did not want discipline.

            They also most clearly and convincingly disprove the interpretation that later was given of this omission on the part of synod, as if synod had been motivated by leniency and longsuffering in this rejection of the advice of its committee to discipline, on the floor of the synod, the two pastors.  One ceases to be lenient with a culprit that is openly rebellious and refuses blankly to mend his ways!

            And, finally, they characterize the subsequent action against the two pastors by the Classes grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids West, as a most wanton assumption of authority and violation of the decisions of synod in this case.

            How the section containing the advice to admonish the two pastors was eliminated form the official report in the Acta must remain a mystery.

            Doctor H. Beets, the state clerk of synod, testified in the Circuit Court of Grand Rapids that, when he received the report the section had been “blue pencilled.”

            Synod did not as readily adopt the report of its advisory committee as might have been expected.

            The trouble started when the doctrinal propositions of the committee became the subject of discussion on the floor of the synod.  Especially the declaration of the committee concerning god’s grace on the ungodly reprobates, which in different form was finally adopted in the “First Point,” caused a good deal of wrangling.

            The committee, after quoting quite at random from the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema some passages in which they limit the grace of God to the elect only, advised synod to adopt the following statement: “These expressions your committee deems to be in conflict with Holy Scripture, since according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established that God is favorably inclined and gives grace to those whom Scripture designates as ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.”

            This declaration, and especially the last part of it, received the lion’s share of the synod’s attention.  The other of the three “essential” points of doctrine were hardly considered.  No less than nine sessions of synod were devoted to the deliberation on the “First Point.”  To the synod it did not appear to be so obvious as to the committee that God is gracious to the reprobates, and that whenever the word of God speaks of the ungodly and the unrighteous the reprobates are necessarily included.  Even though the committee had referred to different passages from Scripture and from the Confessions to prove their point, synod did not seem to be prepared to adopt its declarations and advice.

            Several substitute motions were offered.

            One of these, presented on the evening of July 3, when synod was still in confusion on the matter under consideration, read as follows: “Synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established, not only that God is filled with wrath against the reprobates because of their sin, but also that He is favorable inclined and bestows blessings upon those whom Scripture calls the ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.

            No one seems to know that became of this motion, which, it must be acknowledge, is hardly an improvement upon the original of the committee.  In the general confusion it was probably forgotten that this motion was before the meeting.  It was never submitted to a vote.

            Mention deserves the substitute motion that was offered by the Reverend Manni.  It reads as follow: “Synod having duly considered the advice of the committee of pre-advice in the matter of the protests and objections against the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, decides to drop the common-grace case for the present, with the earnest admonition that thorough study be made of this matter, in the spirit of brotherly and mutual appreciation.

            “In order to execute this thorough study synod decides to appoint a large committee of which also the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema shall be members, which shall serve the next synod with more light on this very significant problem.

            “Finally, synod declares that the protestants (whose good intentions synod appreciates0 must be satisfied with this decision and abide by it, considering that synod is of the opinion that the time is not yet ripe for a more definite expression on the problem before which it was placed by the protestants.”

            This substitute motion is significant.

            First of all, because it was by far the truest reflection of the actual condition of the synod on the evening of July 3, after it had deliberated on the common grace question for several sessions, that was expressed.  the reader understands, that it is not the personal opinion of the Reverend Manni that is expressed in the motion, but his appraisal of the synodical state of mind.  From the wrangling and confusion on the floor of the synod he rightly judged that synod was not ready to formulate a sound opinion.  Neither the report of the committee, nor the synodical deliberations had sufficiently illuminated the synodical mind.

            And, secondly, the motion is significant, because it pointed out a better way.  Although in justice tot he Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema synod should have declared that the protestants had not succeeded to prove that the views of the two pastors were unreformed; and thought, for the rest, synod might have left the common grace question to the free discussion in the churches; yet, it must be admitted that he way the Reverend Manni pointed out was far preferable to the direction in which the committee advised synod to go.

            But synod was destined not to prefer the better way.

            The motion of the Reverend Manni was discussed until it was time to adjourn.

            Synod took a recess until July 7.

            We learn from the Act (p. 145) that when synod reconvened Doctor C. Bouma addressed the synod to explain the report of the committee.  This address occupied almost the entire afternoon session.  After this speech had been delivered the motion of the Reverend Manni was submitted to a vote and was rejected.

            Another substitute motion, that had, evidently, been prepared during the days of recess was now offered and after a brief discussion in the evening session of July 7 it was adopted.

            The final motion, that became the decision of the synod in the common grace question, consisted of four parts.  The first part contains three doctrinal declarations, the “Three Points”.  The second part expresses a judgment of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  The third part is a testimony to the churches in general.  And the last part is a statement concerning the theory of common grace.

            The “Three Points” read as follows:

                "1. Regarding the first point, touching the favorable attitude of God toward mankind in general and not only toward the elect, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession it is established, that besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect unto eternal life, there is also a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, II, 5 and II, IV, 8,9, where the general offer of the gospel is set forth; while it is also evident from the citations made from Reformed writers belonging to the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "2. Regarding the second point touching the restraint of sin in the life of the individual man and of society in general, synod declares that according  to Scripture and the Confession there is such a restraint of sin. This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Netherland Confession Art. 13 and 36, which teach that God by a general operation of His Sprit, without renewing the heart, restrains the unbridled manifestation of sin, so that life in human society remains possible; while the citations from the Reformed authors of the most flourishing period of Reformed Theology proves, moreover, that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "3. Regarding the third point, touching the performance of so-called civic righteousness by the unregenerated, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession, the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any spiritual good (Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 3) are able to perform such civic good.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 4, and from theNetherland Confession, Art. 36, which teach that God without renewing the heart, exercises sucyh an influence upon man that he is enabled to do civic good; while it is, moreover, evident from the citations made from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                For a discussion of these doctrinal declarations we refer the reader to the second part of this book.

                The second part of the synodical decisions contains an opinion of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema and an admonition addressed to the two brethren and to the churches in general.

                The synodical judgment regarding the teachings of the two pastors read as follows: "synod expresses that several statements in the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confession teach us regarding the above mentioned three points.  Synod also judges that the pastors referred to, in their writings use some strong expressions, from which it is evident that in their presentation of the truth they do not sufficiently adhere to the way in which our confessions express themselves, especially Point I of the Utrecht Conclusions.

"On the other hand, synod declares that these ministers in their writings, according to their own repeated declarations, do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach and maintain our Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of Scripture and the Confessions; and it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness."

                This judgment of the synod is partly true.

                It speaks the truth when it testifies of the two pastors that they never intended anything else than the propagation and development of the Reformed truth.  And they also faithfully accomplished this purpose. Again, synod speaks the truth when it declares that it cannot be denied that the two pastors are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions.  The two pastors may well be grateful for this testimonial respecting their soundness in Reformed doctrine, especially in view of the fact that that it was an admission made by a synod that had tried them for heresy.  And, on the other hand, the Christian Reformed Churches may well be ashamed that they, nevertheless, cast out of their synagogue two pastors concerning whose doctrinal soundness they offered such a splendid and unsolicited testimony.

            They are witnesses against themselves that in 1924 they would not tolerate in their fellowship ministers that were fundamentally Reformed, but whom they nevertheless expelled form their midst because of their doctrine.

            The synodical judgment, however, is also partly untrue.

            It is false when it declares that several statements in the writings of the two pastors cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confessions teach regarding the three points. It is, indeed, true that the statements referred to do not agree with the three points.  And we may add that no statements in their writings agree with these points.  But the reason for the disharmony must be sought in the fact that the “three Points” do not agree with the Scriptures and the confessions.  For exhaustive proof of this assertion we refer the reader to the second part of this volume.

            Finally, the synodical judgment is self-contradictory.

            Did not synod declare three fundamental and essential points of doctrine?  Do not the “Three Points” deal with such important truths as the grace of God and the depravity of the natural man?  How, then, can synod at the same time declare that the two pastors deviate from the line of doctrine indicated by the “Three Points”; and the dissenting pastors are, nevertheless, fundamentally Reformed in the doctrines formulated in the Confessions?  Surely, if the Confessions teach what the “Three Points” declare about these fundamental truths, and if the two pastors disagree with the “Three Points,” they cannot be fundamentally Reformed.  On the other hand, if the two pastors are sound in the fundamental doctrines as formulated in the Confessions, it follows that they cannot be in conflict with the teaching of the Confessions regarding the “Three Points.”  In the latter case the “Three Points” must be regarded as themselves in conflict with the fundamental doctrines of the confessions and synod condemns its own declarations.

Synod also adopted the following admonitions:

“With a view to the deviating sentiments of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema regarding the above mentioned three points, and with a view to the controversy that arose in our Church regarding the doctrine of Common or General Grace, synod admonishes the two brethren to abide in their teaching and writing by the standpoint of our Confession regarding the three points that were discussed, and at the same time she admonishes the brethren and the Churches in general to refrain from all onesidedness in the presentation of the truth, and to express themselves carefully and with sobriety and modesty.

“On the other hand, in as far as the pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema in their writings warn against worldly-mindedness, synod judges that there is, indeed, reason for such warning with a view to a possible misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace and, therefore, synod considers it its calling to send the following TESTIMONY to the churches.” (Here follows the testimony).

Whatever may have been the motive of synod in adopting these decisions, they certainly are unworthy of an ecclesiastical gathering.

It is and was not the calling of the synod to admonish, but to express a definite opinion and give advice in very concrete matters of doctrine and discipline.  In the Danhof-Hoeksema case there was a definite matter of doctrine and discipline before synod.  It was the task of that body to render a definite verdict with respect to the soundness or unsoundness of the teachings of the two pastors involved.  If synod found upon thorough investigation that the views of the accused pastors were in conflict with the Reformed Confessions, it was nothing but its plain duty to express this in unambiguous language.  And having rendered this verdict it would have been synod’s calling to inform the consistories of Kalamazoo I and Eastern Avenue of its decision in the matter and to advise these bodies to discipline their pastors.  On the other hand, if upon examination they found no guilt in the two pastors, if they discovered that the accused were fundamentally Reformed, they should have exonerated them in language that could leave no doubt.  Instead, after days of wrangling about the report of the committee it appears, that a most miserable compromise was attempted.  It is not improbable that those members of synod who were determined to effect the expulsion of the two pastors from the Church, began to realize that they would never gain an extreme decision in their favor; and fearful lest the two pastors should be exonerated, they consented to the compromise.

However this may be, the fact is that synod acted like the Sanhedrin in the case of Peter and John; they decided to admonish the brethren and let them go!

In one other respect the act of synod is comparable to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in respect to Peter and John.

            For, just as the Jewish tribunal was well aware of the fact that the apostles would not heed their admonitions nor be terrified by their threats, so that the Synod of Kalamazoo was fully conscious that the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema would not alter their preaching and writing.  They had emphatically declared themselves on the “Three Points” before the whole synod.  They had revealed their attitude toward the synodical decisions in no ambiguous language.  And even after synod had decided to admonish the brethren to abide by the “Three Points,” the Reverend H. Danhof filed a protest against the decisions of synod, in which he declared that he would do all that was in his power to oppose the doctrine of the synodical declarations.  Yet, synod was satisfied with a mere admonition of the brethren!

And from one point of view synod’s action was more cowardly than that of the Jewish supreme court.

                The latter, at least, called the two apostles before them and actually did administer the admonition.  But synod did not even carry out its decision in any form, neither by the spoken word through its president, nor by letter through the clerk.  The Reverend Hoeksema was no longer present when synod took its decision in this matter, nor was he ever summoned to receive an admonition, nor was he officially informed of the synodical decisions.  Nor was the admonition administered to the Reverend Danhof, who was delegate and probably voted against the motion that he should be admonished!

                As to the “Testimony” synod decided to send to the churches, it read as follows:

              “Now synod expressed itself on three points that were at stake in the denial of Common Grace and thereby condemned the entire disregard for this doctrine, she feels constrained at the same time to warn our Churches and especially our leaders earnestly against all one-sided emphasis on and misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace.  It cannot be denied that there exists a real danger in this respect.  When Doctor Kuyper wrote his monumental work on this subject he revealed that he was not unconscious of the danger that some would be seduced by it to lose themselves in the world.  And even now history shows that this danger is more than imaginary.  And also Doctor Bavinck reminded us of this danger in his Dogmatics.

                “When we consider the direction in which the spirit of the time develops round about us, it cannot be denied that our present danger lies more in the direction of worldly-mindedness than of false seclusion.  Liberal theology of the present time really obliterates the distinction between the Church and the world.  It is more and more emphasized by many that the great significance of the Church lies in her influence upon social life.  The consciousness of a spiritual-ethical antithesis becomes increasingly vague in the minds of many to make room for an indefinite notion of a general brotherhood.  The preaching of the Word concerns itself largely with the periphery of life and does not penetrate into its spiritual center.  The doctrine of particular grace in Christ is more and more pushed to the background.  There is a strong tendency to bring theology into harmony with a science that stands in the service of infidelity.  Through the agency of the press and various inventions and discoveries, which as such are,--undoubtedly, to be regarded as good gifts of God, the sinful world is to a great extent carried into our Christian homes.

“Because of all these and similar influences, exerted upon us from every side it is peremptorily necessary that the Church keep watch over the fundamentals; and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.  May she never permit her preaching to degenerate into mere social treatises or literary productions.  Let her be vigilant that Christ and He crucified and risen always remain the heart of the preaching.  Constantly she must maintain the principle that the people of God are a peculiar people, living from their proper root, the root of faith.  With holy zeal she must constantly send forth the call to our people, especially to our youth: ‘And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable will and perfect will of God.’ With the blessing of the Lord this will keep our churches form worldly-mindedness, that extinguishes the flame of spiritual ardor and deprives the Church of her power and beauty.

                What shall we say about this testimony?

                It proves clearly how conscious the synod was of the conflict between the so-called doctrine of Common Grace and the maintenance of the spiritual ethical antithesis of which this testimony speaks.  Nor only is this consciousness evident from the very fact that she deemed it necessary to accompany the declaration of the three points by this Testimony, but she also plainly expresses this consciousness of the existing conflict in the words: “and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.”  And in this respect the synod was right.  She is sadly mistaken, however, when she labors under the impression that a pious testimony will prevent the influence of a false doctrine.  The false doctrine is the theory of common grace, even in as far as it is officially adopted in the three points.  The inevitable result of that doctrine is obliteration of the distinction between the Church and the world, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, righteousness and unrighteousness.  And the practical fruit is worldliness.

                The “Testimony” never was sent to the churches!

                Outside of those that were present at the synod at the time this “Testimony” was read, and those that received or purchase an Acta of 1924, no one ever heard of it.

                Finally, with respect to the common grace question in general, synod adopted the following resolution.

                “In connection with the overtures that would urge synod to express itself on the doctrine of common grace as such, or to appoint a committee to study the matter, synod decides as follows:

                a. At the present to formulate no statement relative to the standpoint of the Church regarding the doctrine of general or common grace in every detail and all its implications.  Such a statement would presuppose that this doctrine had already been thoroughly considered and developed in all its details, which certainly is least of all the case.  Preparatory study, necessary to this purpose, is almost entirely wanting as yet.  Consequently, there is in the Reformed Churches as yet no consensus of opinion at all in this case.

                “b. Neither to appoint a committee to devote itself to the study of this matter, in order to reach the formulation of a dogma concerning this matter, which eventually may be received as part of the Confessions (Overture, Muskegon).

                “(1) Because dogmas are not made but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.  Participation in such a discussion must be as general as possible and must not be limited to a single group of churches.

                “(2) Because a certain truth must live clearly in the consciousness of the Church in general, or in the consciousness of a particular group of churches, before the Church is able to profess such a truth in her Confession.  It cannot be said, that this indispensable condition exists at the present or will exist after two or four years.

                “c. But to urge the leaders of our people, both ministers and professors, to make further study of the doctrine of common grace; that they give themselves account carefully of the problems that present themselves in connection with this matter, in sermons, lectures and publications.  It is very desirable that not a single individual or a small number of persons accomplish this task, but that many take part in it.  Grounds:

                “(1) This will be the most naturally conducive to a fruitful discussion of the question of Common Grace, and such an exchange of thoughts is the indispensable condition for the development of this truth.

                “(2) It will be instrumental to concentrate the attention of our people upon this doctrine, will serve to elucidate their conception of it and to cause them to feel its significance, so that they become increasingly conscious of this part of the contents of their faith.

                “(3) It will, undoubtedly, in the course of a few years, lead to a consensus of opinion in this matter, and thus it will gradually prepare the way in our churches for a united confession concerning Common Grace.”

                One who carefully compares this final resolution of synod with the preceding decisions of that body will find it difficult to discover the jewel of consistency.

                On the other hand, synod did not hesitate, in the midst of considerable confusion and difference of opinion to coin three new dogmas that are directly in conflict with the Reformed trend of thinking; on the other hand, it is rather belatedly mindful of the sound rule that “dogmas are not made, but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.”

                In the preceding decisions synod adopted the main fundamental tenets of the theory of common grace; in this last resolution it does not hesitate to declare that even all preparatory study, necessary for the formulation of a dogma of common grace is practically wanting.

                No doubt, this last resolution is by far the truest of all synod’s decisions.  If synod only had made this last declaration its starting point and proceeded accordingly, all would have been well.

                For the rest, it cannot escape the attention of the reader that this last resolution is somewhat derogatory of the work of others and smacks of conceit.  Preparatory study is almost entirely wanting with regard to the question of common grace!  But what, then, of the “monumental” work De Gemeene Gratie by Doctor A. Kuyper, Sr?  The synod of 1924, evidently, set this work aside as of no or little account, even as a preparatory study!

                And, as far as the earnest exhortation to the ministers and leaders of the churches is concerned to make a careful study of he question of common grace, one cannot fail to trace a strain of hypocrisy here.

                Forsooth!  Had not synod by its decisions in the common grace case killed all incentive to study this question, and, in fact, to study any question at all?  Were there in the Christian Reformed Churches two men that had earnestly begun to study the question like the two pastors that had just been condemned by synod because of their efforts?  Blindly the synod had condemned the fruit of their labors, without giving due consideration to what they had produced and published; without even considering the possibility that their view of the matter might be correct!  And after in this fashion having condemned the two pastors and having killed all incentive to study, synod brazenly adds that it is very desirous that as many as possible shall make study of the matter!

                Does it not call to one’ imagination the picture of the hangman, holding wide the noose, with two victims lying prostrate in the shade of the gallows, asking the question: Who likes to try next?

                Beside, the exhortation to study this question, as might be expected, proved rather futile.

                The request is far too general.  Everybody’s work is nobody’s work.  And, at the time of this writing, eleven years after the synodical exhortation was broadcast, no one responded, not even the broadcasters themselves!

                Nor is there any room left to study the question of common grace after the synod of 1924 raised  to dogmas the three main issues involved in the problem.  Synod put all its ministers and leaders in a strait-jacket, then addressed them and said: now, get a move on you, brethren!

                No, as far as the Christian Reformed churches are concerned, the matter is dead.

                There is no hope that the exhortation will ever bear positive fruit.

                  In the preceding chapter we characterized the Synod of Kalamazoo as a weak synod, ill prepared to deal with fundamental questions of doctrine.

                Our narrative of its transactions and decisions in the common grace case justified, we trust, our characterization.

                The synod of 1924 solved no problems.

                It did not advance the cause of the truth.

                But it did seriously tamper with the Reformed Confessions in its desperate attempt to make them teach the false doctrine of common grace.

                And it caused a good deal of trouble subsequently.

                It inserted the wedge, which the two Grand Rapids Classis only had to hammer in more deeply to cause a split in the Christian Reformed Churches.

                As the rest of this History will set forth.

Chapter 4 - The Synod of Kalamazoo: how it worked.

            Fifty miles due south of Grand Rapids is situated the considerably smaller but thrifty city of Kalamazoo.

            It is more of a railroad center than the Furniture City.

            It has over one hundred ninety manufacturing plants.

            And although it is advisable to take it with a grain of salt when in our country something is declared to be the largest in the world, Kalamazoo is said to be the largest celery market in that unlimited sense of the word.

            A goodly element of its population is of Dutch descent.

            In Kalamazoo there were, at the time of which we are writing, three Christian Reformed Churches, simply designated as the “First”, the “Second”, and the “Third” Christian Reformed Church.

            Of the First Christian Reformed Church the Reverend H. Danhof was pastor at the time when the Synod of Kalamazoo was held.

            And as the first classis that deliberated upon the question of “Common Grace” was held in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, of which the Reverend H. Hoeksema was pastor at that time, so the Synod that “settled” that question held its session in the first Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich.

            It convened on June 18, 1924.

            A synod, according to Reformed Church polity, may be defined as the broadest representative gathering of churches of the same faith that have voluntarily entered into a federative union, for the purpose of manifesting and realizing as much as possible the essential unity of believers as members of the body of Christ.

            Even as a classis cannot properly be called a higher judicatory than the consistory of a local church, so a synod may never be defined as the highest judicatory.  It is no supreme ecclesiastical court.  The different churches, that voluntarily enter into denominational union and are represented by the synod, acknowledge no other judicatory power than that which is lodged in the consistory.  The power of a synod is always derivative and advisory.  It may not rule over the local congregations.  It does not appoint or install office-bearers.  Neither does it have the power to depose them.  If a synod should be called to deliberate upon the question of the deposition of a minister of the Word of God and should reach the conclusion that a certain pastor is worthy of deposition, it can advise the consistory concerned of its conclusion and decision in the matter, but it would not have the power to exercise discipline and to execute the deposition in the local congregation.  Such an act of discipline would have to be left to the consistory of the local church of which the minister is pastor.

            And if the local consistory should prove to be recalcitrant and refuse to act in accordance with the advice of synod, the latter could not exercise discipline either over the pastor or over the rebellious consistory to depose them from their respective offices in the congregation they serve.

            Its sole power in such a case would be to declare that such a consistory stands separated from that particular union of churches that is represented by the synod.

            A synod of the Christian Reformed Churches is composed of six delegates from each classis.

            In 1924, the entire Christian Reformed denomination was divided into thirteen classical districts, so that the synod numbered seventy-eight members.

            It is customary to invite the presence of the Theological Faculty at all synodical meetings, and to them is given the right of advisory vote in all matters that appear on the synodical agendum.

            With reference to the question of common grace, one of the most important matters on the program of the synod of 1924, it cannot be said that the Synod of Kalamazoo was “packed”.

            It happens sometimes that synods are “packed”.

            The nature of the decisions to be taken by a synod naturally depends on the views and attitude of the majority of the delegates that constitute it.  By a “packed” synod is meant a synod that is purposely and consciously constituted of delegates that, in certain important items on the synodical program, are known to be of determined convictions and to have made up their minds before any discussion on such matters.  A packed synod, therefore, is not unbiased but prejudiced.

            It can hardly be said that the delegates present at the synod of 1924 were unfavorably prejudiced in the Danhof-Hoeksema case.

            The long and often bitter wrangling that ensued on the floor of the synod about the question of Common Grace proves the very opposite.  The delegates were not of one mind.  There were, indeed, those who were known as determined defenders of the common grace theory, who were friends of Doctor Janssen and assumed a hostile attitude toward the two accused pastors.  Even the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen was one of the delegates from Classis Illinois.  There were others, that had always simulated friendship toward the two pastors and doctrinal kinship with them, that would prove to be their opponents.  But over against this stands the fact, that also the Reverend H. Danhof had been delegated and that there were those who made an honest attempt to “save” the brethren, although they were too weak and finally succumbed.  And, finally, as is always the case, there were a number of delegates that acted as mere voters without a proper understanding of the question at issue, and were ready to go along with the majority as easily as straws with the wind.  A packed synod, therefore, it could not be called.

            But it certainly was a weak synod.

            Ill-prepared the synod was to deal with questions of important points of doctrine.  The common grace question it did not understand.  Its implications the synod did not discern.  This may justly be said even of those that played a leading role in the opposition against the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema.  For, not only was this evident at the time from the wrangling and discord manifest in the discussions about this question, but it is also abundantly proven by subsequent history.  One may well be amazed at the foolhardiness of synod, when it recklessly adopted three doctrinal declarations of fundamental importance at a time when it was clearly evident that it was not at all prepared for such action.

            And as the years go by and the smoke of strife and contention that beclouded the minds of the leaders of the opposition in 1924 rises, it will have to become increasingly clear, that the common-grace decision reached by the Synod of Kalamazoo was a gigantic mistake.

            God’s cause is not furthered by a spirit of discord and confusion!

            Usually, to expedite matters and to conduce to orderly procedure, the synod appoints committees of pre-advice

            Such committees are very influential and are largely responsible for the direction of the discussions on the floor of the synod and even for the final decisions of that largest gathering of the churches.  Into their hands is delivered all the material that pertains to a certain matter.  They convene separately to deliberate upon that material, arrange it, pass upon its legality and advise synod as to what material is acceptable; they compose a report and draw conclusions; and, finally, they offer definite points of advice to synod in regard to decisions that ought to be taken in the matters under consideration.

            The Committee appointed by the Synod of Kalamazoo in the common grace case consisted of the following delegates: Doctor Y. P. De Jong, Doctor C. Bouma, Reverend E. F. J. Van Halsema, Reverend A Bliek, Reverend T. Vander Ark; and Elders S. Dekker, J. Verbrugge, J. T. Brandsma.  Professor L. Berkhof was added to this committee as advisory member.

            The appointment of the latter may be considered somewhat abnormal.  The subject matter upon which the committee was to deliberate and give advice to synod was strictly of a dogmatical nature.  At that time not Professor L. Berkhof, but Professor F.M. Ten Hoor was the incumbent of the chair of dogmatic Theology at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches.  Under normal circumstances it would have been proper that the latter were added to the pre-advisory committee on the common grace question.  The reason why, nevertheless, this appointment fell to Professor Berkhof, was, probably, that Professor Ten Hoor was somewhat doubtful on the question to be considered.  On the floor of the synod he made the remark, that he had studied the problem for forty years, that he felt quite sure that there was such a thing as common grace, but he did not know what it was!

            A considerable mass of material was delivered to the committee for its consideration.

From Classis Grand Rapids East there were: its own overture in the matter, elicited from the pretended overture from the consistory of Kellogsville, and the various protests, which had been referred back to the consistory of Eastern Avenue Church by the classis, but which the protestants had delivered to the synod by way of appeal; this also included the protest of the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen, who at the same time personally offered the same protest directly to synod according to the advice of Classis Grand Rapids West.  Besides, there were the following protests: 1. From Kalamazoo II against the decision of Classis West in re the Van Baalen protest; 2. From Kalamazoo II against the calling of a special meeting of Classis West on June 10, 1924: 3. Idem from the consistory of the Lamont Christian Reformed Church; 4. Idem from the consistory of Kalamazoo I; 5. Protest from Kalamazoo I against the decision of Classis West in re the Van Baalen protest: 6. Protest by the Reverend H. Hoeksema against the overture from Classis Grand Rapids East.  And lastly, there were some overtures regarding the question of common grace from the following classes: Hackensack, Hudson, Sioux Center, and Muskegon.

            For several days the committee held its sessions.

            And it must be recorded here that its members evidently considered themselves perfectly self-sufficient, and well capable of handling the situation and formulating an opinion, without even granting a hearing to the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, whose views they were discussing, concerning whom they formed a judgment.  The committee never asked the two brethren involved to appear before them, to inquire of them about their views or to discuss the matter with them.  They did not summon them to appear as witnesses in their own case!

            This may be regarded an exceptionally strange method of procedure on the part of the committee.

            If you peruse the Acta of different synods you will discover that in similar cases the committee of pre-advice always met with the person involved in the case under consideration.

The committee of pre-advice on the Bultema-case in 1918 reported to synod: “Your committee deemed it advisable, before it formed its conclusions and advice to synod, to invite the Rev. Bultema to our meeting.  the purpose of the committee was to remove all possible misunderstanding, or in case the Reverend B would recant to proceed no further … A long time the committee met with the Reverend Bultema … and it decided to inform the synod as follows: (1) Although the Reverend Bultema insisted that he, according to this own conviction, is not in conflict with the Confession of our Churches, yet he did not succeed to make evident to your committee the harmony between his standpoint as presented in “Maranatha” and our Confession. (2) The Rev. Bultema persistently refused to retract the statements in his book as quoted above.” (Acta 1918, pp. 79,80).

            Here was a case much similar, from a formal viewpoint, to the common grace case in 1924.  The committee of pre-advice, however, invited the Reverend Bultema, met with him a long time, gave him an opportunity to defend his views, and asked him whether he would not recant.

            In 1920 a committee of  pre-advice was appointed in the well-known Janssen-case.  In the Acta of 1920, p. 80, one reads: “We gave Dr. Janssen a personal hearing once and again.  We also gave the other professors an opportunity to express their sentiments to the committee.”

            In 1922, another committee of pre-advice served in the Janssen-case.  In the Acta, p. 88, we read: “That we (the committee) ask Dr. Janssen to appear on the meeting of the committee, and that we offer him the opportunity to replete with his own notes the material from the Student Notes and Individual Notes, as quoted in the Majority and Minority-reports, or to correct these notes if he has any objections to them”

            But the committee on the Danhof-Hoeksema case never invited the accused brethren to appear before them; never gave them an opportunity to defend themselves; never asked them a single question!

            It is difficult, indeed, to justify this serious omission on the part of the committee.  Regard for the truth certainly does not shun discussion.  Love does not avoid the brethren.

            But whatever may have motivated the committee in this strange mode of procedure, the fact is that they violated on of the most fundamental principles of justice, when they condemned the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema without having heard them or given them an opportunity for self-defense.

            The injustice, however, was aggravated when the synod itself followed the example of the committee with respect to the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  The Reverend H. Danhof was himself a delegate and could not very well be denied the right to defend his case.  But with regard to the Reverend Hoeksema it was quite a different matter.  He was not a delegate to synod.  Common decency and justice would have prompted synod, therefore, to summon him, to invite him to its meetings, to examine him if necessary, to offer him an opportunity to defend his views.

            Synod, however, was utterly negligent in this respect.

            The Acta of 1924 fail to tell the story of this negligence, which is, nevertheless, too important to be omitted here.  They merely state: “Reverend H. Hoeksema asks permission to speak in order to shed light on his case.  Decided to give him full opportunity to do this in the evening session, which is to begin at half past seven.” p. 139.  And later: “The Reverend H. Hoeksema delivers an address of an hour and a half long, in which he attempts to explain his standpoint to synod.” p. 141.

            The complete story in this matter, however, must leave quite a different impression than these isolated statements in the Acta.

            For, the fact is, that the synod never served a summons on the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  It never invited him to attend its meetings.  He was never asked by synod to give account of his views.  Synod never willingly offered him the right to speak in his own case.  It proceeded to treat him as if he had absolutely nothing to do with it, in spite of the fact that he was present in the auditorium where synod held its sessions, in plain view of the brethren.

            The fact is, that when the Reverend H. Hoeksema noticed that synod evidently purposed to ignore him, though they were deliberating upon his case and in his presence, he broke the rules of order and arose to ask for the floor as often as three times.  He first did so, when the synod was deliberating upon his protest against the legality of the overture from Classis East, an extract from the pretended overture of the consistory of the Kellogsville church.  Synod was about to accept the advice of its committee, to declare the overture legal and the protest against it as without grounds, when the Reverend Hoeksema arose in the rear of the auditorium and asked for the privilege to speak a word in behalf of his own protest.  He was refused this privilege, however, on the ground that he had nothing to do with the particular matter under discussion!  This left at least the impression that synod would be more liberal when matters were discussed in which the Reverend Hoeksema would be vitally concerned.  Yet, the discussion on the pre-advisory report continued, the proposed “Three Points,” in which the above named pastor certainly was concerned, were the subject of the synod’s deliberation, but never did the synod suggest that it was inclined to consider the Reverend Hoeksema at all.  It continued to treat his case as if he were not concerned whatsoever.  Then the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church broke the rules once more, arose in the audience and asked for the floor in order that he might present his own views in connection with the proposed “Three Points”.  He requested that the evening session should be given him and that his time should not be limited.  To induce the synod to grant his request he foolishly promised that he would not ask to speak again.  This promise was foolish on his part, for he certainly had a right to an unlimited opportunity to speak in his own case, as any defendant has.  But it was prompted by the well-founded fear that synod did not intend to give him such opportunity at all.   And the synod certainly had no right to accept this condition, still less to make use of it.  This request was granted, and at the evening session before a packed auditorium and deeply interested audience, the pastor expounded his views before synod.  However, when in a later session synod was hopelessly confused about the contents of the “First Point” (the contents of which we discuss in the Second Part of this volume), the pastor of Eastern Avenue could not refrain from asking the liberty to speak once more.  Synod refused, giving as the ground of their refusal, that the Reverend Hoeksema had promised not to ask for the floor a second time!

            The pastor then left the meeting and never appeared again.

            An illustration of grosser injustice could hardly be conceived.

            A defendant certainly must have full opportunity to defend himself, either personally or by counsel, before the court that tries him.

            And such opportunity other synods had always offered in the past to others that were accused of heresy and whose cases were tried by the largest representative body of the churches.

            Yet, the Reverend Hoeksema was never invited to speak in his own behalf, was never asked a question, was refused the floor twice, and the one opportunity granted him in no wise testifies of the courtesy and sense of justice on the part of the synod, but must be attributed to the importunity of the pastor that was compelled to break the rules of order in order to obtain the privilege.

            It is, then, not too strong a statement to assert that a worldly court would not treat a defendant as the broadest ecclesiastical court of the Christian Reformed Churches treated the Reverend H. Hoeksema in 1924.

            In retrospect, now at the time of this historical review after more than eleven years have rolled by since the synod of 1924, one cannot help by musing on the question what would have happened had the spirit that prevailed at synod been different.

            We know not.

            What would have been the course of events if synod had not listened to those that were determined to oust the two pastors and to coin the theory of common grace into a confessional dogma of the first importance; if it had been actuated by a pure desire to further the cause of the truth and to seek the spiritual well-being of the churches it represented; and if its decisions had been motivated by the spirit of brotherly love?

            We can only conjecture.

            To us it appears impossible that synod in that case would have adopted the “Three Points.”

            It might have acknowledged that it was dealing with an extra-confessional question; that it was not ready to formulate any definite doctrinal declarations; that the development of the question would have to be left, for some time to come, to the free interchange of ideas in the churches; that there was no cause for action against the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema, seeing that their views were not in conflict with the Reformed Confessions; and that, therefore, the protestants and appellants would have to cease agitating and refrain from further heresy-hunting.

            One can readily see that such decisions would have given a direction to subsequent history considerably different from the actual course after 1924.  And synod would not have laid the basis for the expulsion from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches of ministers concerning whom it was compelled to testify “that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as formulated by the Confessions.”

            But, however this may be, the actual course of events is always and was also in this case the unfolding of God’s good pleasure.

            And He causes all things, not excluding the rashness of synodical decisions, to work for the good of His cause.

            And, though deploring the necessity of separation and division in the Church of Christ in the world, the Protestant Reformed Churches, rather than wistfully glancing back at what might have been in the past, may well rest in God’s sovereign good pleasure, and stretch themselves to what lieth before!

Chapter 3 - Classical wranglings, May 1924.

As the reader knows, a classis is a broader gathering of neighboring churches of the same faith, that have voluntarily entered into a federative union for the purpose of realizing and manifesting as much as possible the essential union of the Body of Christ and to co-operate in such matters as pertain to the churches thus united in general.

            Not infrequently one meets with the notion that such a classis assumes the character of a higher judiciary, serves as a kind of superior court with relation to the local consistories.

            Even classical gatherings themselves sometimes labored on that assumption and acted accordingly.

            This, however, is a very serious mistake.

            Pure Reformed Church polity knows of no lower and higher judiciary bodies.  It acknowledges the consistory as the sole ruling power over the local congregation.  A classis possesses no power over the local churches whatsoever.  Whatever power it possesses is derivative, secondary, limited, advisory.

            Two of such classes are constituted by the Christian Reformed Churches of Grand Rapids and vicinity.  They are distinguished as Classis Grand Rapids East and Classis Grand Rapids West.  Under the former the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church resorted; with the latter the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo was united.

            It happened that Classis Grand Rapids East was destined to be the first to consider the case against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, although naturally it could deliberate on it only in as far as the latter was connected with it.

            On the twenty-first day of May, 1924, it convened in the auditorium of the Eastern Avenue Church, and received the various protests to which the reader’s attention was called in the previous chapter.

            The first protest received and considered by classis was the petition of the Reverend M. M. Schans, pretending to be an overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Kellogsville, Mich. Regarding this “petition” the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church had filed a protest with classis, in which it begged that gathering not to accept the pretended overture.  The consistory argued that although the “overture” alleged to be a mere petition, it virtually and really was a protest against the teachings of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And it had always been and still was an inviolable rule that no protest could be accepted by classis unless the party against whom it was directed had received a copy of such protest.  And this the Reverend Schans had failed to observe.  He never had taken the Reverend Hoeksema into consideration at all, but had directly applied to classis.  In the second place the consistory called the attention of the classis to the fact that this so-called petition of the Reverend Schans had been distributed among all the consistories belonging to the classis even before this body had received it and had been given an opportunity to decide on its legality.  And it had always been a standing rule that, unless a protest is declared acceptable by classis, it is returned to the protestant without being read and made public to the members of the classis.  In the third place the consistory made plain that the classis was not the proper body to receive and consider a protest against the pastor of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  If the Reverend Schans or even the consistory of Kellogsville felt constrained to protest against the doctrine of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, such protest should properly have been filed with his consistory who had jurisdiction over the pastor.  And not until it should have appeared that the consistory were unwilling or incapable to deal with the matter, could the protestant have appealed to classis.

            Classis, however, did not pay the slightest attention tot he plea of the consistory of Eastern Avenue.  It made no attempt to contradict the clear argument presented, nor did it furnish the consistory with an answer in any form.  It rather chose to ignore completely the consistory’s presentation of the matter and passed a motion that the “overture” of Kellogsville was legally before classis.

            The pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, acting upon a premonition that the Classis would receive as legal the protest by the Reverend Schans, however irregular such procedure might be, had prepared himself against such an event.  He had with him a written answer to the protest under consideration and asked and was given leave to read it before the classical gathering.  This answer consisted of two parts.  The first part dealt with the overture from Kellogsville from a church-political aspect, the second treated its doctrinal contents and weighed its alleged objections against the pastor’s teaching.

            In the first part the pastor argued as the consistory had done, that the overture pretended, indeed, to be a mere petition requesting classis to bring a certain doctrinal matter to the attention of synod, but that it virtually was a protest and indictment against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, as well as against the Reverend H. Danhof of Kalamazoo.  Yet, in violation of every rule pertaining to such matters, the overture had been delivered directly to classis without consideration of the pastor or of his consistory.  The pastor, therefore, protested against the action of classis whereby it had approved of this illegal and unbrotherly procedure of the Reverend Schans and received the protest.  Besides, the pastor called the attention of the gathering to the fact, that the overture also intended to ignore classis, as far as the treatment of its contents was concerned, for it requested classis merely to adopt its contents as an overture to synod, in order that the broadest gathering of the churches might act upon the matter.  Clearly it was the intention of the overture to avoid all discussion of the matter on the floor of the classis and leave all the deliberation to Synod.  Such a procedure would relieve the protestant of the rather unpleasant task of meeting the pastor he accused face to face in an open discussion of the indictments contained in the protest.  Surely, it must be evident to classis, that if the Reverend Schans entertained serious doubts regarding the orthodoxy of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and, therefore, considered it necessary that the latter be subjected to an examination, the proper way to proceed would have been that he apply first of all to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church to conduct such an examination; thereupon, if the consistory should have failed to satisfy the petitioner, he could have appealed to classis; and only after also the classis had failed to allay the serious doubts of the Reverend Schans, he could petition synod to institute such an examination.  Such would have been the regular and orderly way of procedure as is also suggested by the Formula of Subscription in the following words: “And further, if at any time the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism or the explanation of the National Synod, we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition.”

            The Reverend Schans, however, would rather ignore the consistory that had sole jurisdiction over the pastor, pass by the classis and directly request synod to conduct the proposed examination.  To such irregular procedure the pastor declared himself to be opposed and he vigorously protested against it.  The pastor further called the attention of the classis to the fact that it was too late to bring the matter to the synod.  The rule is that all matters for synod must be filed with the stated clerk before the first of May of the synodical year.  The wisdom and propriety of this rule is obvious, for violation of it would deprive any defendant of the opportunity to file a protest against any action the classis might take against him.  And this rule would certainly be violated if the classis should act favorably upon the request of the Reverend Schans.  The pastor also once more vigorously protested against the high-handed method of circulating a protest through the classis by the stated clerk, before it had been declared legal and acceptable by the classis itself.  And in conclusion of this part of his answer he warned the classis that neither he nor his consistory would submit to such a hierarchical and tyrannical yoke, should classis attempt to put it on their necks.

            In the second part of his reply to the “overture of Kellogsville” the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church argued that the Reverend Schans did not have sufficient reasons for his pretended anxiety and doubt regarding the views and teachings of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  The Formula of Subscription clearly states that an office-bearer must have given occasion seriously to doubt his doctrinal soundness, before one can file a request that he be examined by consistory, classis or synod.  Now, the Reverend Schans petitioned classis to send an overture to synod requesting that the pastor of Eastern Avenue be examined on some fundamental points of doctrine.  But what reasons did the Reverend Schans adduce in his petition why the orthodoxy of his colleague might justly be doubted?  It appears from his petition that personally he had none.  In the “overture” he urges that there is unrest in the churches because of the common grace controversy.  He also speaks of it that the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church had been openly accused of unreformed tendencies.  But the Reverend Schans failed to show in what respect the Reverend Hoeksema had given him personally any occasion to doubt the soundness of his doctrine and preaching.  What reason could he possibly have to doubt that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church preached the gospel in a truly reformed and Biblical sense?  The objector had never heard the Reverend Hoeksema preach.  Nor did he ever make any inquiry, in the proper way, concerning his preaching.  On the contrary, he well knew that the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church always had approved their pastor’s preaching.  Evidently, if the Reverend Schans entertained doubts on this score he had listened to gossip.  And why should he doubt the Reverend Hoeksema’s soundness with respect to the doctrine of predestination?  From the “overture” it is evident that the author of it is troubled because he fears that his colleague over-emphasized these truths.  But he produces no evidence at all that he has any reasonable ground for this fear.  Further, he would have the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church examined on the questions of the restraint of sin and civic righteousness.  But this request proceeds on the false assumption that the Scriptures and the Confessions actually teach these doctrines.  Moreover, when the protestant raises the question of the responsibility of man and is, apparently, worried that the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church denies this truth, he does so without good reason, for the pastor always openly taught that man is responsible for his own acts before God.  And when, finally, the Reverend Schans refers to the providence of God and His rule over all things, it is quite uncertain to what heresy on the part of the Reverend Hoeksema he refers and it may justly be regarded as doubtful whether on this point he understands himself.

            Thus did the suspected pastor reply to the alleged overture.

            He closed by calling the attention of the classis to the fact that a careful scrutiny of the petition by the Rev. Schans might well raise serious doubts as to whether the latter were sound in doctrine and had ever understood Reformed truth.

            A substitute motion--substitute for what was surely illegally before the classis and, therefore, itself illegal--was presented by Doctor H. H. Meeter.  It differed from the original “overture” in that it eliminate the request for the personal examination by the synod of the Reverends H. Hoeksema and H. Danhof and proposed to request that largest gathering of the churches merely to institute an inquisition into the writings of the two pastors.

            The reader must remember that, without a doubt, the majority of the delegates present at that particular gathering of classis Grand Rapids East, had never taken cognizance of the contents of these writings, still less carefully examined them.

            Without a thorough and open discussion of the doctrinal points at issue they certainly would not be able intelligently to vote on either the original overture or the substitute motion.

            How could they decide whether or not the writings of the two ministers had given sufficient reason to suspect their doctrinal soundness to be subjected to an official inquisition by synod?

            The Reverend Hoeksema, therefore, suggested that the various doctrinal questions involved should be openly discussed on the floor of the classis.  He begged the classis to debate with him.  He implored the gathering to appoint one of their number, preferably of those that entertained doubts as to the pastor’s doctrinal soundness, to discuss the points of issue with him before the whole meeting.  He offered to defend his views as thoroughly Reformed over against any six of the delegates the classis might appoint.

            It was all in vain.

            Classis desired no open discussion on the matter.  It adopted the substitute motion of Doctor Meeter without having deliberated on its contents.

            The following day, May 22, the classis began a discussion of the protest filed by the three members of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.  The reader will remember that the consistory had refused to acknowledge the ground on which they had presented their protest to that body, the allegation that it dealt with a public sin on the part of the pastor.

            On the same ground, together with the added reason that the consistory had refused to receive it they now presented their protest to the classis.  Besides the original protest, they presented to the classis an elucidation of their appeal and a second protest against the censure that had been imposed upon them by the consistory because of their accusation of public sin against the pastor.

            The purpose of the appealing protestants was clear.

            Regarding their original protest they demanded, not merely that the classis should give advice as to whether or not the consistory was right in refusing to receive it on the ground on which it was presented, the alleged public sin of the pastor, but that the classis should treat the contents of the protest and thus directly submit the pastor to an examination and to classical discipline.

            And with respect to their censure they demanded that the classis should advise the consistory that it should be lifted.

            The reader will readily understand that, in case the classis would accede to the request of the appellants, it would violate two fundamental rules.

            First of all, it would set aside the rule of Art. 30 of the Church Order: “In major assemblies only such matters shall be dealt with as could not be finished in minor assemblies, or such as pertain to the churches of the major assembly in common.”  The classis, under this rule, certainly had jurisdiction to express itself on the question whether or not the consistory had the right to refuse to receive the protest of the appellants on the ground on which they had presented it; but it could not possibly treat the matter of the protest proper.  Even if the classis should decide that the consistory were obliged to receive the protest under the circumstances, it still would have to refer the matter back to the consistory for the simple reason that it had not been proven that the latter assembly was not able to finish it.

            And secondly, it would assume the stand of the protestants, the public sin of the pastor, thereby beg the question as to whether or not the denial of common grace were a sin, and thus condemn the pastor before he had a hearing.

            The consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church presented to classis a counter protest in which they strenuously maintained that the matter presented to classis by the appellants was not properly a matter for the classis to act upon, but was certainly a consistorial matter.  The consistory, therefore, warned the classis not to treat the protest and thus trample upon the rights of the consistory.  They explained that they had rightly refused to receive the protest as long as the ground upon which its acceptance was demanded was the allegation of the pastor’s public sin.  They informed the classis that they were entirely willing to receive a protest; but that they could not possibly receive an accusation of public sin.  And they attempted to make clear to the classis the difference between a protest and an accusation of public sin.  That the pastor’s preaching and teaching werepublic they, of course, admitted.  That, however, this public preaching and instruction were a sin they did not concede to the protestants.  This would be a matter of investigation and this investigation they were wholly willing to conduct.  But what was to be a matter of investigation could not be assumed before hand as already established and, therefore, could not possibly serve as a ground upon which the consistory could accept the protest.  Besides, the consistory referred the classis to Art. 30 of the Church Order, and maintained that the exercise of discipline over a pastor certainly is, in the first instance, a matter for the minor, not for the major assembly.

            Classis, however, turned a deaf ear to the plea of the consistory.

            After the protest of the appellants had been received and read Doctor H. H. Meeter made the motion “that the classis treat the matter of the protest.”

            For a proper understanding of the sequel of this matter it is necessary to note that this motion was presented upon the ground that the consistory had had ample time to treat the protest.

            The motion was adopted.

            And had the classis had the courage of what appeared to be its conviction on the afternoon of May 22, 1924, the break of the Eastern Ave. Church with Classis Grand Rapids East, would have been an accomplished fact on that date.

            The consistory was firmly convinced of the autonomy of the local church.  It would have nothing of the collegialistic church polity that considered the classis as a higher judicatory than the consistory.

            Foreseeing the possibility that classis might ignore its plea and decide to treat the protest of the appellants, it had instructed its delegates, that in case the classis should assume such authority they should deliver a written protest and leave the meeting.

            In the written protest which the consistory had prepared for this possible turn of events it explained to classis, that it could not permit the major assembly to trample upon the rights and obligations of the duly installed office-bearers of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And this the classis surely attempted to do by taking out of the consistory’s hands a matter that so plainly belonged to the latter’s jurisdiction only.  The only course, therefore, that was left for the consistory to take was to cast off this hierarchical yoke and instruct its delegates no longer to act as its representatives at the meeting of classis.  And, besides, the consistory pointed out that by the decision of classis to treat the protest, which demanded nothing less than the discipline of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church, the latter had really become defendant and could not very well sit as judge in his own case.  The consistory, therefore, kindly requested the classis to inform them of their decision in the matter concerning their pastor as soon as such decision were reached.

            The delegates, the pastor and Elder O. Van Ellen, acted as they were instructed.  They calmly presented the protest of their consistory to the chairman of the classis and made their departure.

            From that moment the classis, instead of acting in accordance with its own decision, attempted to make an honorable retreat.

            What the clearest argument had not been able to effect was evidently accomplished by the departure of the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church: the classis began to see its own foolishness.  It hesitated; it became confused.  On the same afternoon the delegates that had departed received a classical delegation urging them to return.  The delegates, however, replied that they would never return unless the classis would first rescind its decision regarding the protest.

            All that afternoon and even an evening session, conducted with closed doors, the classis spent in wrangling and debating about the legality of its own decision and a possible plan of action.

            The next morning classis convened in the Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church.  It is alleged that the change of meeting-place was motivated by fear of an uproar among the members of the Eastern Avenue Church, although there was not the slightest reason for such fear.  For, although the members of the Eastern Avenue congregation manifested a keen interest in the proceedings, their conduct was not characterized by disorder whatsoever.

            Finally, after well-nigh the entire forenoon of May 23 had been devoted to a continuation of the discussion of the previous afternoon and evening, the classis reached the following remarkable decision: it expressed that it had never decided to treat the protest and enter into its subject matter!

            Along what meanderings of argumentation the classis had discovered this way out of the labyrinth, it is impossible to describe since the classis met with closed doors and there were no witnesses.  For the same reason it is equally beyond our power to analyze the various sophistries that must have convinced the classis of the truth of this last decision.  Suffice it to remind the reader of the fact that the principle of the primacy of the intellect does not always hold, and that the human mind is easily inclined to see matters as the desires of the heart dictate.

            However this may be, this final decision of the classis certainly did not fit the facts.  For, had not classis on the previous day decided, after it had received and read the protest, that it would treat the matter of the protest?  And was not the alleged ground for this decision that the consistory had had ample time to treat it?

            And, surely, the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church might have winked at this “error” of the classis and permitted that body to make this honorable retreat out of a difficult corner; were it not for the fact that by this decision the departure of the two delegates from the meeting was placed in a rather peculiar light, as if the entire matter had been a misunderstanding on their part!

            Classis sent a delegation, of which Doctor Meeter, who had presented the original motion, was a member, to the pastor of Eastern Avenue, to inform him of this last decision, and to persuade him that the way was entirely clear for him to return to the meeting of classis.

            The pastor, however, could not be persuaded.  He was naturally indignant at such evident hypocrisy.  He answered the delegates that he could not be satisfied with what was so plainly a falsehood.  He promised the delegation, however, that immediately after the hour of noon he would appear before the gathering of classis to convince them of their error.  And this he did.  To the evident satisfaction of the classis he made plain: first, that classis certainly had passed the motion to treat the protest of the three appellants, and that this was abundantly evident from the ground that had been adduced, viz., that the consistory had had ample time to treat it; secondly, that there were but two ways open to the classis; rescind the decision of the previous day or treat the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church; that the delegates of the Eastern Avenue Church could not and would not return unless the action of the previous day were repealed.

            Classis saw the light.

            And it decided to rescind its action concerning the protest of the three appellants.  And it further determined that the protest should be referred back to the consistory.

            The same decision was reached with reference to the protests of the Reverends J. K. Van Baalen and J. Vander Mey, who, as the reader will remember, had also appealed to classis.

            All the protestants disagreed with these decisions of the classis and informed that body that most probably they would appeal to synod.

            Classis, therefore, had really acted unfavorably on all the protests of the appellants.  The latter had failed to reach their objective.

            The major assembly, however, made one serious error, that would prove to the cause of considerable trouble in the future.

            Before the pastor of Eastern Avenue Church, who was called to conduct a funeral on that afternoon of May 23, could return to the meeting of the classis it had decided that the censure of the three protestants that accused their pastor of a public sin should be lifted.

            It as certain that the consistory would not follow up that advice unless the censured members retract their accusation and change their attitude over against their pastor.

            Further conflict between the classis and the consistory was inevitable.

            It had been an extraordinary busy classis.

            Not often in its history had it occurred that there was much more to be discussed than the usual routine business, to finish which one day was ordinarily more than sufficient.

            This time, the classis had been in session for three days!

            And it was late.  The clock in the auditorium of the Sherman Street Church almost pointed to the hour of midnight.

            Then, too, the delegates were weary.

            Yet, one of the delegates at this late hour remembered the rule, which, though it is most frequently forgotten, is, nevertheless, very sound and salutary to preserve the proper brotherly relationship among the delegates to a major assembly, that at the close of its session classis should exercise censure over its members in case, in the heat of their discussions, they should have expressed themselves improperly or in an unbrotherly fashion. He recalled that the Reverend H. Hoeksema had dropped the remark that even among Christian Reformed ministers one would have “to search with a candle” for true Reformed preaching!  (The Dutch idiom is: met een kaarsje zoeken).  And he presented a motion to request of the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Church that he retract this statement!

            Dissension arose among the brethren about the question, whether the guilty pastor had used the expression “with a lantern” or “with a candle.”

            This threatened to become the occasion of a lengthy debate, despite the advanced hour of the night.

            The pastor concerned proposed the following amendment to the motion: “Unless he can prove the truth of his statement.”

            Then the matter was dropped and the meeting adjourned.

            And thus we may close this part of our history with an anecdote.

            The First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., belonged to that group of churches that sent its delegates to Classis Grand Rapids West.

            Of that church, as the reader will recall, the Reverend H. Danhof was pastor.

            As the consistories of the Eastern Avenue Church and of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo had taken joint action with reference to the protest of the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen, it is readily understood that the latter had also appealed to Classis Grand Rapids West.

            That body assembled a few days after the sessions of Classis Grand Rapids East, just described, in the La Grave Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.  With respect to the common grace question only the protest of the Reverend Van Baalen appeared on its agendum.

            Its program, therefore, was much simpler than that of Classis Grand Rapids East.  And its sessions lasted only one day.

            In the case, Van Baalen vs. Danhof, it reached a rather extraordinary decision.

            After considerable wrangling it was decided: 1. That a colloquy or personal conference should be arranged between the brethren Danhof and Van Baalen for the purpose of discussing the matter of the protest of the latter against the former’s teachings.  2.  That after this colloquy was held between the two brethren and no satisfactory conclusions were reached, the Reverend Van Baalen would have the opportunity immediately to bring the matter of his protest to the attention of the consistory of the First Christian Reformed church of Kalamazoo.  3.  That, in case the Reverend Van Baalen were not satisfied with the action of the consistory in the case, he would have the privilege of calling a special meeting of Classis Grand  Rapids West on June 10, 1924.

            This was a rather strange decision.

            There was, of course, nothing strange or improper in the decision that the protestant should first discuss the matter of his protest with his opponent.  It was, further, entirely proper that the protestant should have the opportunity to bring the matter of his protest to the attention of the consistory of Kalamazoo I, in case he were not satisfied with the results of the personal conference.

            But it was certainly improper to offer the protestant the privilege of calling a special session of Classis Grand Rapids West at his pleasure.  This was all the more strange and improper in view of the fact, that the consistory of Kalamazoo I had offered to the protestant virtually the same proposition, which offer had been flatly refused by the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen.

            The outcome was entirely as might be expected.

            The colloquy between the protestant and the Reverend H. Danhof was held.  There were no witnesses, so that the conversation cannot be recorded.  But the result was that the Reverend H. Danhof claimed that the protestant had no ground of accusation left; the latter insisted that he could not be satisfied and claimed that there was a discrepancy between the views of the Reverend H. Danhof as expressed in the personal conference and the views set forth in his public writings.

            And who, in view of the fact that there were no witnesses, was to decide in the matter?

            When, therefore, on the evening of the day when the colloquy was held the protestant brought the matter to the attention of the consistory of Kalamazoo I, that body appears to have followed the only possible course left to them, when they decided that the colloquy should be repeated in their presence.

            This, however, the Reverend Van Baalen refused.

            He called for the special meeting of Classis Grand Rapids West on June 10, 1924.

            And now the classis decided that the Reverend Van Baalen should address his protest to Synod directly, seeing it concerned a matter that was of import to the churches in general.

            Looking back upon this part of our history, one naturally contemplates the possibility that the two classes had taken a definite stand in the matter of common grace, had acted favorably upon the protests that were presented and had advised that the two pastors concerned should be disciplined.

            How different would have been the course of events!

            And how different, too, would have been this history, if Classis grand Rapids East had had the courage of its conviction when the Eastern Avenue delegates had left the meeting.

            Even then, the separation seemed imminent.

            Yet, thus it was not the will of God!  And glancing back, it is not difficult to acknowledge that the Lord’s way was the best way.

            His be the glory!

Chapter 2 - A furious storm of protests and accusations.

The beginning of the year 1924 introduced a period of busy and troublesome days for the consistories of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich., and of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.

            Days were impending in which their affirmative response to the question, whether they did not feel in their hearts that they were “lawfully called of God’s Church, and consequently, of God Himself” to their respective holy offices, would acquire a new meaning, and would be severely put to the test.

            They were days when excited and very impatient protestants would call upon them to consider highly important problems of a doctrinal and church-political nature, yet would allow them no time to deliberate calmly upon these questions.

            It was a time of long and many special sessions of the consistories, especially for the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church.  And it was a period when it behooved them that were called to watch over the flock to look diligently, lest the roots of bitterness that were springing up at sundry spots in the flock of Christ’s Church and that wee being carefully cultivated by evil spirits of hatred and envy, would trouble the congregation and thereby many be defiled.

            Days they were when the most deliberate would occasionally be inclined hastily to take a step in the wrong direction; when the most self-possessed might well lose his mental equilibrium.

            An epoch of Sturm Und Drang!

            It was the nineteenth of January by the calendar and Saturday morning.

            Three men, members of the Eastern Avenue congregation, whose names, J. De Hoog, W. Hoeksema and H. Vander Vennen, are worthy to be preserved on the pages of this history because of the part they played in it, were calling on their pastor, the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and gathered with him in the parlor of the parsonage.

            They revealed that they had serious objections against the views and teachings of their pastor as expressed in his preaching and writings.

            However, he would be mistaken that would now draw the conclusion that they had come to visit their pastor in order to unburden their hearts, to discuss the matters that so heavily weighed upon their soul with him, or even to deliver a brotherly and Christian admonition.

            They hastened to state that they had committed their objections to writing and that the purpose of their present visit was merely to deliver a written protest; and they added, that they would like to be favored with a reply as soon as possible.

            When the pastor had received this protest and hastily perused it, he called the attention of the protestants to the fact that their document had been addressed by them, not to the pastor, but to the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, and that, for this reason, he could not very well proceed in the matter seeing it was not proper for him alone to decide in matters that pertain to the consistory.  This apparently insignificant detail is worthy of notice, because it shows how far it was from the minds of these protestants to discuss their objections with their pastor.  From the very outset they were so determined upon the way of a legal ecclesiastical procedure, that a protest, pretended to be for the pastor personally, was addressed to the consistory.

            However, when their attention was called to this formal error, they amended their mistake and soon afterwards offered the same protest now addressed to the pastor.

            The pastor then expressed his desire to discuss the contents of their protest with the protestants personally and individually.  One of them, J. De Hoog, complied with this request, but when in a private conference in which the pastor asked for light upon certain parts of the protest that were not very clear to him, this particular protestant proved to be incapable of elucidating his own protest and rather evinced that he was but poorly acquainted with its contents.  The other protestants refused to discuss the matter with their pastor, unless they would be permitted to do so together.  This the pastor refused, first because he maintained that each of the protestants certainly was individually responsible for his protest; and, secondly, because the pastor suspected from the start that none of the three protestants was the final author of the written document they had delivered, and, if at all possible, the author ought to be lured from his hiding-place and called to account.  Later, this suspicion proved to be well grounded.  None of the three protestants had composed the protest.  Much later, through a forced testimony in the worldly court, one of the protestants revealed that his brother, a neighboring pastor, the Reverend G. Hoeksema, was the writer of that first protest.

            The protestants, by this insistence of the pastor to discuss the matter of their protest with him individually and by their own aversion and refusal to do so, were compelled to change their ground of procedure, if they would carry out their original purpose of presenting their protest to the consistory.  They, therefore, alleged that they were under no obligation to discuss the matter  of their protest with their pastor according to the rule of Matthew 18.  For, they claimed, the matter really concerned a public sin on the part of the pastor, and as such they could lodge a complaint with the consistory against him directly.  And they now acted in accordance with this claim.  On the basis that the pastor had committed a public sin they lodged their protest with the consistory and demanded of that body that they should treat the pastor.

            This accusation on the part of the protestants of a public sin against the pastor of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church was destined to become an important factor in the future development of this history.

            The consistory could not accept the ground on which the protestants claimed to possess the right to file their protest with that body, without a previous discussion with the accused pastor according to Matthew 18. They could not receive the protest because they could not admit the ground on which it was offered: the public sin of the pastor.  The protestants were begging the question.  They demanded of the consistory to assume what was still to be proven.  They gave the protestants to understand that, of course, they were well aware of the fact that the preaching and teaching of the pastor were public; that, however, this teaching and preaching constituted a sin, in other words, that the pastor was guilty of teaching a false doctrine, they could not admit.  As to themselves, they were convinced of the very opposite and had always given testimony to that effect.  The burden of proof, therefore, rested with the protestants.  The very thing they demanded of the consistory to assume beforehand they were obliged to prove in their protest, viz., that in his teaching and preaching the pastor committed a public sin.  The consistory, therefore, asked of the protestants that they retract their accusation of public sin against the pastor.  And when they refused to comply with this demand of the consistory, they were told that they would have to refrain from partaking of the Lord’s Supper, on the ground that with this accusation of public sin against the pastor in their hearts they could not very well partake of communion with him.

            The minutes of the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Church inform us that at their meeting of April 24, 1924, another protest was filed by the protestants mentioned above.  In this protest they reiterated in the most emphatic language their accusation of public sin against their pastor, referring even to Articles 79 and 80 of the Church Order; secondly, they demanded of the consistory that, while they maintained their accusation against the pastor, their censure should be lifted and they should be allowed to partake of communion; and, thirdly, they notified the consistory that, if their demands should be refused, they would appeal to the classis.  The consistory decided to abide by its former decision in this matter and the three protestants carried out their appeal to Classis Grand Rapids East, which convened on May 21.

            In the meantime the consistory had received another protest of a similar nature.

            This time the protestant was Reverend J. Vander Mey, minister without a charge and, therefore, no minister at all, financial secretary of the Theological School and member of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

            The story of this protest is briefly as follows:

            On that morning of January 19, when the first three protestants visited their pastor and delivered their protest to him, they informed him that also Mr. J. Vander Mey had declared his intention of signing their protest. A few days later, however, Mr. Vander Mey, who at that time was in Chicago, Ill., wrote a latter to his pastor in which he informed him that he was not quite ready to affix his signature to the protest of the three brethren, but that he would prefer a personal conference with the pastor before he took any definite action.  In the same missive, however, he accused the pastor of a wrong conception of God, an erroneous view of Holy Scripture and a mistaken view of life in this world.  After Mr. Vander Mey had returned from Chicago, however, he appeared to be in no particular hurry to make arrangements for the personal conversation he had proposed in his letter, and the conference was not held til the beginning of April.  In this interview the pastor reminded Mr. Vander Mey of the threefold indictment he made against him in the letter referred to above, and demanded that he should prove the accusation or retract.  In the course of the conversation it became plainly evident, to the satisfaction of the accused and the accuser, that the latter was not able to sustain his indictments; yet he refused to retract them.  The pastor then asked him, whether he still intended to sign the protest of the first three protestants, to which he replied in the negative.  Nor did he intimate that he entertained the slightest intention of preparing a separate protest.  The impression he left was rather that he felt quite incapable of defending his first accusation and of sustaining them in the light of the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions.

            Imagine, then, the surprise of the pastor, when at the following consistory meeting he was informed that Mr. Vander Mey had filed a protest against him!  The pastor informed the consistory of what had taken place between Mr. Vander Mey and himself and that the former had not delivered a copy to the pastor of his protest so that the latter was wholly ignorant of its contents.  the consistory informed the protestant that he would have to comply with the rule, which required of him to present a copy of his protest to the pastor before he could file it with the consistory.  Thereupon Mr. Vander Mey had his protest printed.  And though, when the consistory inquired into the matter, he at first insisted that he had kept the matter private and had not distributed copies of the printed protest, persistent questioning finally made him admit that, while he had five hundred copies printed, he had approximately four hundred of them still in his possession.  Let the reader judge whether the consistory was right when it judged that by his action Mr. Vander Mey had become guilty of making secret and false propaganda against his pastor and demanded of him that he should confess his sin.  He refused, however, to comply with the demand of the consistory and informed them that he also would file his protest with the classis at its meeting of May 21.

            The protest of Mr. Vander Mey contained five alleged objections against the views of the Reverend H. Hoeksema.

            The first objection concerned the pastor’s conception of God.  The protestant objected particularly to the pastor’s view that the grace of God is at all times particular, that is, that He is gracious to the elect only and not to the ungodly reprobate.  Though this is simply the plain teaching of Holy Writ and of the Reformed Confessions, Mr. Vander Mey did not hesitate to declare that he considered this a horrible doctrine, that he abhorred it and would always witness against it.  On his part he maintained the view that God loves and is gracious to all men without distinction, that is, in this world and with respect to the things pertaining to this present life.  It is noteworthy that he, too, refers to the “well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God to everybody,” as a proof of this general or common grace of God.  Secondly, the protestant objected to the pastor’s excessive emphasis on the doctrine of predestination and on the counsel of God in general.  In the preaching and teaching of the pastor, man’s responsibility is not sufficiently emphasized, according to Mr. Vander Mey’s protest, though he admits that he is not able to prove that the pastor denies man’s accountability.  Thirdly, the pastor was accused of maintaining and teaching a wrong world-and-life view.  The natural man is incapable of doing any good at all, and always sins.  The good of the world, as manifested in science and art, in philanthropy, social reform and in many other movements and deeds, is not properly appreciated by the pastor.  He denies that God restrains the process of sin in man and that by virtue of this restraint the natural man is able to do much good.  Mr. Vander Mey, on the other hand, insisted that, although the sinner is inclined to evil, he still is capable of performing many good works and actually accomplishes much good in this world, so that he even puts to shame the child of God.  The fourth objection alleged that the pastor fails to sound the true gospel note in his preaching.  The earnest invitation and well-meant offer of salvation to all are lacking.  Mr. Vander Mey was convinced that God offers salvation to all men promiscuously and that in this offer He reveals His sincere willingness to save all that hear.  Thus, we are able, he declared in his protest, to gain our neighbor for Christ; to win souls for Jesus is the work of men.  The fifth and last objection against the pastor was that he makes the second table of the law of none effect.  The pastor teaches that we must hate those that hate God, while Mr. Vander Mey denied this and defended the view that we must love all men without distinction.  According to the pastor’s view there is no room for fellowship with the world in the battle for truth and righteousness; while Mr. Vander Mey would defend the very opposite and maintain that the ungodly often stand on a higher level than the people of God.

            The entire protest is one strong plea for common grace over against particular grace, for the good works of the ungodly in opposition to the doctrine of total depravity; a plea, too, for appreciation of the good works of the ungodly and for fellowship with the world in opposition to the antithetical view of life and the separation of light and darkness.

            About this time still another protest was filed with both the consistories of the Eastern Avenue Church and of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Mich.  The author of it was the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen of Munster, Ind.  And it was directed against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema combined.

            Like the protest by Mr. Vander Mey that of the Reverend Van Baalen mentioned five objections against the teachings of the two pastors. The first is that the accused pastors deny that God is gracious to the ungodly reprobate.  This the protestant considers the chief error of his opponents.  The second error is closely related to the first and consists in the fact that, according to the protestant, the two accused ministers co-ordinate election and reprobation.  Van Baalen's third objection concerns the denial of the restraint of sin through an influence of God's common grace.  Again, closely related to the third objection stands the fourth, against the denial by the two pastors that man is able to perform any good works.  And his final grievance is rather of a practical nature.  The indicted pastors accused many officebearers in the Christian Reformed Churches as well as of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands of being unreformed in doctrine and worldly minded in life and walk.  Thus Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen formulated his grievances.  And he earnestly requested the consistories to treat their pastors accordingly, and expressed the sincere hope that they might succeed to persuade them to recant and to turn them from their way of error!

        Acting upon a suggestion of the consistory of the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, both the consistories concerned served the protestant with a combined answer, in which they offered him the opportunity on April 22, to discuss the matter of his protest with the two pastors involved; and in which they informed him, that, if after such an all-day discussion the protestant was not satisfied, opportunity would be given him in the evening of the same day to present is objections to the respective consistories.  The consistories were convinced, not only that this was the proper way of procedure, but also that through the means of such a personal conversation many if not all of the objections of the Reverend Van Baalen could be removed.

            Such a meeting with the two pastors face to face the protestant however, refused.  And he let the consistories know, that if they did not furnish him with a final and definite reply to this protest before or on April 30, he would be constrained to appeal to the classes.  The consistories, however, did not alter their decision and the Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen carried out his appeal.

            In this connection mention must be made of the document that pretended to be an overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church at Kellogsville and was composed by the Reverend M. M. Schans, not, however, without the cooperation of others, as he himself confessed.

            The Rev. M. M. Schans had never openly voiced objections against the views of his fellow-minister, the Reverend H. Hoeksema.  Never had he discussed any doctrinal questions with him personally.  Never had he, or any of his associates in the matter declared his intention of protesting against the views of the Rev. H. Hoeksema.  Nor had he had the decency of offering a copy of his protest to the pastor concerned.

            Yet it appeared before the consistory of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church!

            And it was received and acted upon by Classis Grand Rapids East!

            It appeared in the form of a printed pamphlet.  On the first page one may read in heavy capital letters: "Overture from the consistory of the Christian Reformed Church of Kellogsville, Mich."  Fact is, however, that its contents never were adopted by the consistory of the church at Kellogsville.  The author of this history was informed later by the clerk of that consistory, that the Rev. M. M. Schans had, indeed, presented his protest or petition to his consistory and requested them to pass on it and send it through to Classis Grand Rapids East, but that by a majority vote the consistory had refused this request of their pastor.  This document, therefore, was not what it claimed to be, viz., an overture from the consistory of the church of Kellogsville.

            Nevertheless, copies of this pretended overture were distributed among all the consistories of Classis Grand Rapids East, in sufficient number  for each individual member of each consistory to receive one, some weeks before classis convened and even before the pastor concerned was aware of the fact that such a document against him had been composed and circulated!

            The pastor that was personally concerned in this "overture" first learned of the activities of the Reverend Schans against him, when he filled a classical appointment at East Martin, Mich.  In the home of one of the consistory of that church, with whom the Reverend H. Hoeksema took dinner that day, he found a copy of this document.  When he expressed his amazement at this discovery to the elder, the latter was in turn surprised that the Reverend H. Hoeksema was ignorant of this matter of the "overture" and informed him that it had already been circulated through the classis by the stated clerk, so that each member of all the consistories possessed a copy!

            The Reverend Schans, therefore, had really ignored and trampled under foot all rules of order, not to speak now of his brotherly obligations, by distributing copies of a protest among the members of the consistories belonging to Classis Grand Rapids East, before said protest had been formally received by the classis and declared legal by that body, and before he had even breathed of his purpose to the pastor involved.

            As to the contents of this document, it pretended to be a mere petition, although it certainly implied several accusations against the Pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  It openly expressed serious doubt with respect to the orthodoxy of the two ministers, and it requested the classis to send an overture to synod, petitioning that body to examine the two pastors on several points of doctrine.  The first of these points of doctrine concerned the well-meaning offer of salvation in the preaching of the gospel.  It is rather striking that this objection appeared in all the protests that were filed.  And it reveals how widespread was the Arminian view that salvation is an offer on the part of God to all among the ministers of the Christian Reformed Churches at that time.  The views of the late Professor Heyns had struck root!  The second point on which the two pastors were to be questioned concerned the doctrine of election and reprobation.  the petitioner discovered an over-emphasis on these matters in the teachings of the suspected pastors.  Thirdly, the "overture" would have the two pastors examined on the question of the restraint of sin.  It is curious to note that, although the three forms of unity certainly do not speak of any restraint of the process and influence of sin, all the protests tacitly assume that this error is reformed truth!  Fourthly, the two ministers were suspected on the point of civic righteousness.  Fifthly the petition requested that the two pastors should be questioned on the score of the responsibility of man. And,, finally, the subject of God's all over-ruling providence was mentioned in the petition as a line along which the proposed examination might be conducted. 

            Further, to make quite sure that no remnant of heresy would be left in the two pastors, the "overture of Kellogsville" would have classis to petition synod, after the two suspects had passed a satisfactory examination , also to investigate the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, and if anything objectionable should be found in these writings to demand of their authors that they recant.

            It seems to us as we review these protests and their contents, that any unprejudiced reader must be strangely impressed with the fact that such protests could actually originate with men that pretended to defend the reformed truth!

            Or does it not sound unbelievable that in the name of reformed truth it is possible to protest as follows:

            1. Against particular grace in favor of common grace.

            2. Against efficacious grace in favor of a well-meaning offer.

            3. Against emphasis on predestination in favor of man’s responsibility.

            4. Against insistence on total depravity in favor of the good that sinners do?

            Yet, when one expresses the matter briefly and succinctly, shorn of all sophistries, the above were the chief features of all the protests that were filed with Classis Grand Rapids East, that convened on May 21, 1924.

            And if the matter of these protest had been hurried by the protestants in order to have it determined by the classis, from now on it required more haste still.

            For, the classis convened only a few weeks before the opening of synod!

Chapter 1 - In which the events of 1924 are properly introduced to the reader.

One who, in the latter part of the year of our Lord 1924, lived in the beautiful "Furniture City" that owes its name to the rapids of the Grand River on whose banks it is situated, might have witnessed a somewhat extraordinary excitement and commotion among the good people of Dutch descent that lived in the southeastern part of that otherwise quiet and peaceful town.

For three weeks in succession a considerable number of men and women would betake themselves daily to one of the church edifices located in that vicinity. At first the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church was the center of their interest; later it was to the Oakdale Christian Reformed Church that the excited people would flock.

Among them might be seen gray-haired men and women that had evidently passed the age of the strong as well as young people still in their teens. There were men whose attire plainly witnessed to the fact that they had just abandoned their jobs and places of business, and women that had rushed though their early morning housework, in order to be able to attend the meetings that were held in one or the other of the aforementioned church-buildings. Men and women, old and young, appeared to be deeply interested in whatever was transacted in those meetings.

Some sauntered along, alone and apparently lost in thought, their features expressing concern and determination; others hurried along in companies, engaged in animated conversation upon subjects of a doctrinal or church-political nature, although it could hardly be said that their discussions were confined to abstract theological and ecclesiastical problems. Their personal interest in the subjects of their deliberations was, no doubt, deepened by the fact that living persons, well-known to them, were involved. Perhaps, it might even be truthfully stated that these common folk did not always distinguish between doctrines and persons. Nor were the remarks that were made always intended to be preserved on the page of history.

Similar scenes might have been witnessed not many weeks later, this time with their center of interest in the La Grave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, located in the heart of the aforementioned Furniture City.

What was the cause of all this excitement?

The occasion was the gathering of Classis Grand Rapids East and of Classis Grand Rapids West, the former commencing its sessions in the Neland Avenue Church and bringing them to a close in the Oakdale Church, the latter meeting in the Church at La Grave Avenue.

The doctrinal point of interest was the question of common grace that had, in July of the same year of our Lord, 1924, received an official formulation and adoption by the Synod of Kalamazoo.

From a church-political viewpoint the discussions concentrated around the abstract question whether a classis had the authority to depose ministers and consistories; and around the very concrete question whether, in the particular cases upon which the two classes then deliberated, they would have the courage to assume and exercise such authority.

And the personal interest concentrated around the names of Pastors H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema and G.M. Ophoff and those of their respective consistories.

The first of these pastors at that time served the First Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan; the second was minister of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich.; the third ministered unto the flock of the Christian Reformed Church at Riverbend, Mich., known as the Hope Christian Reformed Church.

The two classes considered it their duty to bring the three pastors and their consistories into subjection under the ecclesiastical yoke that had been manufactured by the Synod of Kalamazoo, i.e., to elicit from them a promise of fidelity to the three doctrinal statements regarding common grace that had been adopted by that synod; or, in case these ministers and consistories should appear to be stubbornly recalcitrant, to impose the proper penalties and apply the necessary discipline.

The overwhelming majority of the membership of the churches served by the three pastors stood with them and were prepared to maintain this stand whatever the two classes might decide.

And this explains the extraordinary commotion in the otherwise tranquil city of Grand Rapids, during the months of November and December 1924 and January 1925.

The immediate result of the deliberations of these two Grand Rapids classes was that the three pastors with their consistories were deposed from office.

These pastors and consistories, however, refused to acknowledge the justice of this deposition as well as the authority of the classes to decree and execute such deposition. They refused to submit and remained in office.

The ultimate outcome of the classical decisions was that a new church-group originated, known as the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And it is with the origin and establishment of these churches that the history recorded in this book is concerned.

The history of the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches is the history of a reformation.

And reformations do not spring up overnight. They are prepared. To understand them correctly you must assume the proper standpoint, from which you may view and judge them in their proper light, just as rightly to appreciate the beauty of a painting you must view it at a proper distance and in the right light. What is true of all history is applicable to the history of churches.

"In 't verleden ligt het heden

In het nu wat worden zal."

In order to understand the reformation that gave rise to the Protestant Reformed Churches, it is necessary that we are somewhat acquainted with the history and condition of the Christian Reformed Churches from which they were separated, and especially with those events that led up to that secession.

Let us, then, go back as far as about the year 1918, the year when, not without a struggle, the error of premillennialism was officially condemned by the synod of the Christian Reformed Churches.

Even before this time, it must be recorded, the Christian Reformed Churches had never been wholly purged from the leaven of Pelagianism and Arminianism. The churches were, indeed, officially Reformed, united on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity as their standards, but the actual condition was by no means in full accord with this official stand. The error of two irreconcilable wills of God, according to which, on the one hand, God willed that all men should be saved, while, on the other hand, He had predestinated His own from before the foundation of the world and reprobated the others, had found a ready acceptance in the churches. So deeply had the error, that the gospel of salvation is a well-meaning offer of grace on the part of God to all men, struck root, and so generally was it accepted as Reformed truth, that it had become the general tenor of preaching and instruction, that it was openly and officially taught in the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches, and that denial of this evident error was considered a dangerously extreme or one-sided view, if not a downright heresy. Indeed, we do not misrepresent the matter when we state that a strong Arminian tendency had always existed and strongly asserted itself under the pretense of being Reformed and with the claim of being sustained by the Reformed Confessions.

Nor is this all that must be said.

About the time of which we are writing, other evils developed. There was a gradually growing spirit of confessional indifferentism, largely caused by ignorance of the Reformed truth and not infrequently manifesting itself in open disdain of and antagonism against the Reformed principles; and as might be expected, there developed a pronounced tendency toward a falsely conceived "broad-mindedness" together with the manifestation of a spirit of worldly-mindedness, that would hide behind the name of "Calvinism" as a shield. Especially during the years of the World War, of which several of the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches were enthusiastic supporters, with its spread of much false and pernicious propaganda, its confusion of the truth with purely humanistic philosophy, its hastening of the inevitable process of Americanization of the churches, long, perhaps, too long restrained, these evil tendencies received a new impetus and asserted themselves with a new confidence and emphasis. There began to appear what may be called a latitudinarian party in the churches, a group of men that assumed a certain leadership, who opposed the antithesis, stood for a "broader" view of the Christian's life and calling in the world, and strove to abridge the gap between the world and the Church. These men were wont to speak of the urgent need of a "restatement" of the truth; they lauded the movement of the jongeren in the Netherlands, who clamored for something new though they knew not what; and they frequently appealed to the alleged development of a "new mentality," that required new methods of approach, new forms and new truths. This 'broad-minded" party, it must be recorded, did not appear to have any sympathy with the views of Doctor Abraham Kuyper Sr., until they discovered that his theory of Common Grace offered them a philosophy that would support their latitudinarian views in the name of Calvinism. The antithetical conception of Kuyper they fairly disdained. Common grace became the warp and the woof of their life-view. "Calvinism" and "Common Grace" became synonyms. Only they that believed and emphasized the theory of common grace were the true Calvinists. And all that opposed them and refused to believe and proclaim this theory of common grace, they proudly and disdainfully branded as Anabaptists! By a dexterous hocus-pocus, Calvinism, always known the world over for its doctrine of predestination and particular grace, had been changed overnight into a philosophy of common grace!

Those who made this discovery and propagated this conception of Calvinism were, generally speaking, the men of Religion and Culture, which was the name of a magazine they published and in which propaganda was made for the "broader" views.

There were those, indeed, that were alarmed at the spread of these synthesizing ideas and sought to oppose their being disseminated. Men like Professors L. Berkhof, S. Volbeda and K. Schoolland and the Reverends Y.P. De John, H.J. Kuiper, H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, frequently discussed the lamentable condition of the churches in general and the rise of this new movement in particular, and for a time they even held their monthly meetings for this purpose. They all agreed that an attempt must be made to save the church from the inroads of Arminianism and from the grave danger of being swallowed up into the world.

Under such circumstances arose the famous Janssen controversy.

In 1914 Doctor R. Janssen, a man of wide erudition and an able scholar, had been appointed to the chair of Old Testament Exegetical Theology at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Churches. Before many years elapsed he was suspected by his colleagues in the seminary of modernistic tendencies in his teaching. His case became a matter of official investigation and, at the same time, of public interest, when, in the spring of 1919, the colleagues of Doctor Janssen, the Professors L. Berkhof, W. Heyns, F.M. Ten Hoor and S. Volbeda, presented a combined request to the Board of Trustees, urging the necessity of inquiring into the nature and tendency of Doctor Janssen's instruction. They lodged no direct indictment or accusation against their fellow-professor, but simply presented a request for investigation. And as they brought no definite charges, the grounds for their request were rather vague and uncertain. Their request was based on mere rumors. Nor had they, previous to their presentation of this request, approached their suspected colleague on the matter. The decision of the Board of Trustees in this case was to the effect, that they condemned the action of the four fellow-professors of Doctor Janssen as unethical, because they acted without first seeing their colleague; and, further, that for this reason they would not enter into the matter of the request. The four petitioners, however, were not satisfied and could not abide by this decision of the Curatorium. They appealed to synod. That body, which convened in June 1920 in the auditorium of the Theological School, investigated the case. Ample opportunity was given to the four professors to present the grounds for their request, as well as to the suspected professor to explain and defend his instruction. The result was that the four colleagues of Doctor Janssen were utterly defeated and the latter was fully justified. Synod decided that it had not become evident that Doctor Janssen's instruction was in conflict with the Reformed faith. Once again, therefore, the four professors had lost their case against their fellow instructor in the seminary.

Still they were not satisfied.

Instead of abiding by the decision of the broadest ecclesiastical tribunal, they openly criticized its position and appealed to the people in the form of a pamphlet.

In the meantime, the Reverend H. Hoeksema had interested himself in the case. He had collected a considerable mass of material in the form of student-notes containing class-dictations of Doctor Janssen, for the purpose of investigating the case for himself. They study of these notes convinced him that the decision of synod, though it might be true as it was formulated, was based on a very imperfect investigation of the case. Being editor of the department "Our Doctrine" in The Banner, one of the official organs of the Christian Reformed Churches, he inserted a few articles in which he showed (1) that the conclusion reached by synod was a purely negative one: it merely declared that it had not become evident that Doctor Janssen's instruction was contrary to the Reformed faith; (2) he maintained that this negative character of its decision was due to improper and insufficient investigation of the case; (3) he sustained his position by quotations from the student notes. To these articles Doctor Janssen replied. However, instead of denying responsibility for the quotations made from his notes and defending his instruction, he chose to launch a counter-attack upon the supposedly erroneous views of his opponent regarding common grace. After Doctor Janssen had published several articles without ever coming to the point, the Publication Committee closed The Banner for further discussion of the matter.

Still another pamphlet was published in reply to a brochure by Doctor Janssen. The pamphlet was entitled: Waar het in de zaak Janssen om gaat (The point at issue in the Janssen case) and was signed by the four colleagues of Doctor Janssen and four ministers, including the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema. about this time, too, a new magazine appeared bearing the name of the Witness. Its publication was occasioned chiefly by the Janssen controversy, although it aimed no less at exposing and opposing the views of the "broadminded" party in the Church, which, speaking generally, rose to the support of Doctor Janssen. The result was that in the spring of 1921 the matter was considered once more by the Curatorium of the Theological School. This time that body appointed an investigating committee, consisting of the Reverends J. Van Lonkhuyzen, D. Kromminga, H. Danhof, H.J. Kuiper, G. Hoeksema, H. Hoeksema and J. Manni. In the fall of the same year this committee held its meetings in the parlors of the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, Ill. For ten days the committee held its sessions, labored through piles of student-notes (the only material the committee had in its possession since Doctor Janssen had refused to co-operate), and finally attempted to formulate a united opinion. This, however, proved to be impossible. Almost from the start the committee appeared to be divided into two opposing camps. Doctor Van Lonkhuyzen, and the Reverends D. Kromminga and G. Hoeksema were evidently inclined to defend the views of Doctor Janssen and to maintain the professor in his position at the school of the churches; while the rest of the committee became more and more convinced that the instruction of Professor Janssen could not be tolerated at a Reformed seminary. The conclusions of the committee, therefore, were presented to the Board of Trustees in the form of two printed reports, the Majority Report by the Reverends Manni, Danhof, H. Hoeksema and Kuiper, and the Minority Report by the Reverends Van Lonkhuyzen, G. Hoeksema and Kromminga. The final outcome of this controversy was that the conclusions of the Majority Report were virtually adopted and its advice was followed by the Synod of Orange City, Iowa, in the summer of 1922. Doctor Janssen’s views were condemned and he was relieved of his professorship at the Theological School.

And it was not until after the Janssen controversy had been definitely and finally settled that a veritable ecclesiastical storm broke loose over the heads of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, that had played such an important part in the defeat of the liberal faction!

Even before this, especially wile the controversy about Doctor Janssen’s views was raging, a cloud like a man’s hand had appeared occasionally on the horizon, but not until Doctor Janssen had been deposed did the ecclesiastical sky assume a threatening aspect.

And it is in the light of these precursory events only that the history of the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches can fully be understood.

We do not mean to suggest--let this be emphasized--that the history of the common grace controversy must be viewed solely in the light of the troubles about Doctor Janssen’s instruction; nor that the deposition of the Reverends H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema, and G.M. Ophoff was motivated only by the desire to avenge the deposed professor. The suggestion was sometimes made by some well-meaning brethren in the Christian Reformed Churches, that the separation of 1924 would never have taken place had there been no Janssen controversy, that the Synod of Kalamazoo can only be explained in the light of the Synod of Orange City, and that the Three Points were merely formulated as a means to an end. Such a view of the history of 1924 is not capable of explaining all. It fails to explain how the four professors, whose cause against Doctor Janssen the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema so strongly supported that without their support the professors would have suffered defeat most probably, after 1922 turned against the two ministers and co-labored with their own enemies for their deposition. It does not account for the fact that, when after the Janssen controversy was closed, the Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema suggested that as editors of The Witness they would further develop their views in that magazine, the staff rather accepted their resignation. Nor does it explain how, after the two ministers had resigned from the staff of The Witness, the latter could be amalgamated with Religion and Culture, the publication of the "broad" party, an amalgamation which proved to be the death of both publications. And how could it possibly explain the fact of the Three Points, their adoption by the Synod of Kalamazoo and their subsequent defense by Professor L. Berkhof, who is also supposed to be their chief author?

Besides, the fact must not be overlooked, that after 1922 the pro- and con-Janssen factions united, not only in their combined opposition against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, but also in permanent peace and positive cooperation. Since Doctor Janssen was deposed there was no more controversy, in spite of the fact that all the supporters of the deposed professor remained within the fold of the Christian Reformed Church and some of them have been appointed to professorships at the Theological School.

Due allowance, therefore, may and must be made for the effect of the Janssen controversy upon the history of 1924 and the origin of the Protestant reformed Churches, but it is certainly a serious mistake to maintain that the former is the cause of the latter.

The Janssen controversy certainly served to accentuate existing differences in doctrinal views, differences that were quite fundamental and radical; it became the occasion of their being more sharply defined and definitely expressed than before. it also became the occasion of a faster development of the conflict, and it ultimately forced the issue and led to a premature conclusion of the common grace controversy. There is no denial of the fact that personal elements, motives of hatred and envy, of jealousy and malice, the desire to avenge the blood of Doctor Janssen played an important part in the action against the Reverends H. Danhof, H. Hoeksema and G.M. Ophoff. Doctrinally the Christian Reformed Churches were not at all prepared in 1924 to settle the question of common grace, witness the synodical confusion that gave birth to the Three Points. Eliminate the Janssen controversy and you are at a loss to explain why the separation of 1924 occurred at that early date. The reformation that gave rise to the Protestant Reformed Churches would have had a later date and a different setting.

But when due allowance is made for the influence of the Janssen controversy upon the history of 1924, the fact remains that the former cannot be regarded as the cause of the latter.

In the light of subsequent history it is a patent fact that the alignment of the pro- and con- faction in the Janssen case was not purely determined by its deepest underlying principle, but rather by secondary and superficial considerations of agreement and disagreement.

The fact that the four professors and others of the opponents of Doctor Janssen could unite with the pro-Janssen faction against the three ministers that were deposed in 1924-1925, plainly reveals that, apart from superficial differences, there was a fundamental agreement in principle. There was in the Janssen controversy an underlying principle which, had it not been violently and intentionally forced into the background, would have paralyzed every effort of the four professors to combat Doctor Janssen’s views and would have aligned them from the beginning with the pro-Janssen faction against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

This underlying principle is the theory of common grace!

On this fundamental principle all agreed, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema!

It is deplorable that Doctor Janssen in his defense tried to prove that also the four professors and others of his leading opponents denied the theory of common grace. For, in the first place, this was untrue (except, perhaps, in the case of Doctor Volbeda). but in the second place, it would have been more fruitful for a proper discussion had he proceeded from the correct assumption that his opponents, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, do accept the theory of common grace, and that, therefore, they must also in deepest principle agree with him in regard to his views on revelation, inspiration, canonicity, the miracles and related subjects, even though, due to a lack of consistency on their part, they differed with him in ultimate conclusions.

In the light of subsequent history it was evidently a mistake on the part of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, that they cooperated with the four professors in the Janssen controversy, rather than to oppose his views separately and from their own standpoint; that, for practical reasons, they allowed the deepest principles involved to be pushed into the background and the controversy to be confined to surface questions and differences.

And it was an error on the part of the four professors to oppose their colleague, with whom, as subsequent history plainly reveals, they agreed fundamentally. There is, in our opinion, no radical and principle difference between Doctor Janssen and Professor Berkhof. In as far as the latter’s teaching with respect to such fundamental questions as revelation, inspiration, the canonicity of the Scripture-books and the miracles is reformed and orthodox, it is not to be attributed to fundamental soundness of principle and method, but largely to an inconsistent drawing of sound conclusions from unsound principles!

This interpretation of history will explain all the facts. it will also answer the question, who the four professors and the entire anti-Janssen faction could, after 1922, unite to oust the chief opponents of Doctor Janssen.

And it will serve to shed the proper light upon the origin of the Protestant Reformed Churches, which is not to be viewed as a deplorable, accidental but unavoidable result of the Janssen controversy, but as a reformationof the churches, a return from the erroneous and dangerous path of common grace to the fundamentally Reformed line of the Synod of Dordrecht as drawn in the Three Forms of Unity.

Thus the storm clouds quickly lowered.

The friends of Doctor Janssen, realizing that their idol had been irrevocably cast down, and his foes, acting from the subconscious motive of fundamental agreement with the underlying principles of the instruction they had opposed, now combined their attacks upon the two ministers that had performed the lion’s share of the work in the Janssen controversy and borne the brunt of the battle.

The Reverend Jan Karel Van Baalen published a pamphlet entitled: Loochening Der Gemeene Gratie, Gereformeerd or Doopersch? (Denial of Common Grace, Reformed or Anabaptistic?), to which the two ministers replied with another pamphlet bearing the tile: Niet Doopersch Maar Gereformeerd (Not Anabaptistic but Reformed). Professor Berkhof wrote an article in The Witness under the deceiving heading: "Genade Voor De Onbekeerden" (Grace for the unconverted). The two ministers personally approached the professor with the direct question, whether he had thus written in ignorance or intentionally. and the professor promised to make amends, the attempt to do which made matters worse. Van Baalen followed up his first attack by the publication of Nieuwigheid en Dwaling (Innovation and Error), to which as well as to other attacks the accused pastors replied in the brochure: Lans Zuivere Banen (Along Straight Paths), which was very soon followed by still another pamphlet entitled Om Recht en Waarheid (For the Sake of Justice and Truth). They also had published their chief work of that period: Van Zonde en Genade (Of Sin and Grace).

And in the meantime formal protests had been filed against the two pastors and legal action had been started.

The battle that had apparently been won at the synod of 1922, for the salvation of the Christian Reformed Churches, was fundamentally and hopelessly to be lost for those churches at the Synod of Kalamazoo.

Foreword

1stPRCHistBookTitlePgTo speak at this early date of a history of the Protestant Reformed Churches might, perhaps, be considered presumptuous. Eleven years of existence and development would, it might appear to some, hardly yield sufficient material to write such a history, especially if it concerns a small and outwardly insignificant group of churches. Then, too, it would probably seem premature to write judiciously about the origin of these churches. A longer period must first elapse, it might be argued, before the events of 1924-25 can be perceived in their proper perspective.

Several considerations, however, may be urged in favor of a publication of this kind, even at this early date. The first and chief of these is that the rising generation in our Protestant Reformed Churches certainly must have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the history of the churches of which they are members. It is especially with the practical purpose in view to offer them this opportunity that this history was written. Secondly, though it may be true that at a later date a better perspective might be obtainable of the events narrated, it is equally true that "distance lends enchantment to the view," and that under the spell of such enchantment the events of the past may appear somewhat distorted. In favor of this early publication is the fact that the events described are still fresh in the memory, not only of the author, but also of many that with him passed through the history of 1924-25. The latter may be summoned as witnesses that the facts of this history were not distorted in the narrative of them that is hereby offered to the public. And, thirdly, it is certainly desirable that the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, especially as to their origin, be narrated by one of their own men, that was witness of the events here described. And I consider it no weakness but a point in favor of this narrative that it is told from the Protestant Reformed viewpoint.

In Part II of this book the reader will find a discussion of the doctrinal differences that, since 1924 exist between the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches.

May the Lord bless this effort and cause it to be effective unto the purpose for which it was written.

Rev. H. Hoeksema

Grand Rapids, Mich., 1936

 

Eleven years elapsed since the first edition of The Protestant Reformed Churches in America was offered to the public. If, at the time of its first edition, reasonable doubt might be raised whether such a history as this could be written, and the facts related in it could be viewed and evaluated in their proper perspective, this doubt has now been removed. Except for the fact that the injustice committed against those that were ejected from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924 stands out in bolder relief at this later date, there was no reason to make any substantial alterations in this second edition. Hence except for some minor additions, this edition is quite like the first.

May it, under God's blessing, continue to instruct our own people, as well as others, in the history and specific doctrinal basis of the Protestant Reformed Churches, which should never be forgotten.

The Author

Grand Rapids, Mich., 1947

Study Guide

1st edition. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reprinted in any form without permission from the publisher, except in the case of a brief quotation used in connection with a critical article or review. For information, address:

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Introduction 

This study guide is intended to be a companion volume to Saved by Grace - a Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It can be used as a personal study guide by those who work through the material presented in the book on their own. It can also be used in a group Bible study. In this case, answers to the various questions in the study guide can be compared and discussed for the mutual profit of the members of the group. In either case, use of the study guide is intended to enrich understanding of and appreciation for the doctrines of grace, which are commonly referred to as the Five Points of Calvinism.

The purpose of the study guide is not only to reinforce the material presented in Saved by Grace. But the purpose is to go beyond what is written in the book by way of one's own further study and personal application of the Five Points of Calvinism. The study guide is also designed to be a tool for personal, spiritual growth so that these grand truths will not only be understood and confessed but lived. Then our sovereign God, Whose glory is held forth in these doctrines, will be praised.

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Authors

Chapter 1

The Sovereignty of God

Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that "the central truth proclaimed by Calvinism ... is the absolute sovereignty of God"? 

2. What do you understand by the sovereignty of God? 

3. What is meant when it is said that God is absolutely sovereign?

4. What is included in the sovereignty of God?

5. Does the sovereignty of God make God the author of sin? Explain.

6. Does the sovereignty of God rule out the responsibility of the sinner? Explain.

7. How does communism deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?

8. How does the teaching of evolution deny the truth of the sovereignty of God?

9. How does all Arminianism and free willism deny the sovereignty of God?

10. How is the sovereignty of God important for the right worship of God?

11. Explain how the glory of God is at stake in the truth of His sovereignty.

12. How does belief in the sovereignty of God affect one's view of history?

13. How does the comfort of God's people depend on the sovereignty of God?

14. How is the truth of the sovereignty of God related to the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove God's sovereignty in general.

2. Prove God's sovereignty over the brute creation. 

3. Prove God's sovereignty over His rational, moral creature, man.

4. Prove God's sovereignty in salvation.

5. Prove God's sovereignty over the evils (adversities) of earthly life.

6. Prove God's sovereignty over sin and the sinner. 

Questions for Reflection:

1. What difference does belief of God's sovereignty make in your life?

2. Recall a time in your life when God sovereignly brought trouble upon you that in the end proved to be for your good.

3. What relation is there between the sovereignty of God and prayer?

4. Can a person be saved who does not believe the sovereignty of God?

5. How does belief in the sovereignty of God differ from fatalism?

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 115:3But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

2. Daniel 4:34, 35And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

3. Matthew 10:29, 30Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 

4. Luke 22:22And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!

Chapter 2

Total Depravity

Study Questions:

1. What do you understand by man's depravity?

2. Why do we speak of man being totally depraved? 

3. What is "original sin"?

4. How does Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity? 

5. How does Semi-Pelagianism deny the truth of total depravity?

6. How does Arminianism deny the truth of total depravity? 

7. How does the teaching of common grace deny the truth of total depravity?

8. How does the free offer of the gospel deny the truth of total depravity?

9. How does the notion that man has a free will contradict the truth of total depravity?

10. Is there any validity to the distinction between absolute depravity and total depravity?

11. What is the relation between total depravity and repentance?

12. What is the relation between total depravity and the preaching of the gospel?

13. Of what practical significance is the truth of total depravity for parents in the bringing up of their children? 

14. Explain what is meant by the "antithesis." 

15. How is the truth of total depravity related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of total depravity.

2. Prove that all men are depraved.

3. Prove that man's depravity extends to his nature. 

4. Prove the inability of man to save himself.

5. Prove the truth of original sin.

Questions for Reflection:

1. If all men are totally depraved, why do not all men commit every sin?

2. Adam was the head and representative of us all, so that his sin became our sin. Can you think of examples in everyday life where this principle of headship holds true?

3. Does God still today punish sin with sin? Explain. 

4. What considerations might enter into a man's doing deeds that are only outwardly "good"?

5. React to the statement: "You can't legislate morality."

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 14:1-3The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

2. Psalm 51:5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

3. Romans 8:7, 8Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

4. Ephesians 2:1: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.

Chapter 3

Unconditional Election

Study Questions:

1. Why can predestination be called "the heart of the gospel"?

2. What is predestination? What is election?

3. What are the outstanding characteristics of election? 

4. What is meant by "double" predestination? What is reprobation?

5. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the truth that God is a God of love? Explain.

6. Does the teaching of predestination contradict the righteousness of God? Explain.

7. Does the teaching of predestination deny man's responsibility and lead to determinism? Explain.

8. How is the teaching of free will a denial of predestination? 

9. How is the teaching of common grace a denial of predestination?

10. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel a denial of predestination?

11. What connection is there between predestination and the antithesis?

12. How does the truth of predestination provide a motivation to the church in the preaching of the gospel?

13. How does the truth of predestination inspire humility in the believer?

14. How does the truth of predestination relate to the glory of God?

15. How is the truth of unconditional election related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the doctrine of election.

2. Prove that election is definite and personal. 

3. Prove that election is an eternal decree.

4. Prove that election is unto salvation.

5. Prove that election is gracious and unconditional. 

6. Prove that the basis for election is in Jesus Christ.

7. Prove the doctrine of reprobation.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Hypothetically, God could have chosen to save all men, or He could have chosen to save none. He did neither; He chose to save some. Why would this be His will, rather than one of the other alternatives?

2. How can a person be sure that he is an elect child of God?

3. Is it possible for an elect child of God to lose the assurance of his election? If so, how?

4. Is it possible for a reprobate person to be convinced mistakenly that he is an elect child of God?

5. Ought we to be concerned that the preaching of election and reprobation might frighten genuine believers and plant seeds of doubt in their minds?

Memory Work:

1. John 15:16: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

2. Romans 9:11-13: (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

3. Ephesians 1:3-5: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.

4. Jude 4: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 4

Limited Atonement

Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the atonement?

2. Why do we speak of the atonement as limited? 

 

3. Did Christ's death on the cross merely make salvation possible? Explain.

4. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain I Timothy 2:4-6.

5. In light of the truth of limited atonement, explain John 3:16.

6. How does the teaching of universalism deny the truth of limited atonement?

7. How does the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church contradict the truth of limited atonement?

8. How does the teaching of Arminianism deny the truth of limited atonement?

9. What does modernism teach about the death of Christ? 

10. How does the teaching of the free offer of the gospel stand at odds with the truth of limited atonement?

11. How does the truth of limited atonement impact the preaching of the gospel?

12. How does the truth of limited atonement affect the church's mission work?

13. How does the truth of limited atonement relate to the assurance of salvation?

14. How is the glory of God at stake in the truth of limited atonement?

15. How is the truth of limited atonement related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove limited atonement.

2. Prove that Christ laid down His life for certain particular persons.

3. Prove the efficacy of the death of Christ.

4. Prove that Christ's death was satisfaction of God's justice.

5. Quote a Bible text that speaks of Christ's death as:

a. Propitiation.

b. Reconciliation.

c. Redemption.

Questions for Reflection:

1. How does the justice of God relate to the truth of limited atonement?

2. What does it mean that Christ died for the "ungodly," Romans 5:6?

3. Why was it necessary that Christ's death should be by crucifixion?

4. Christ's death was vicarious or substitutionary. What does this mean? Of what importance is this truth?

5. What was the greatest suffering endured by Christ on the cross?

6. Sometimes the distinction is made between Christ's active obedience and His passive obedience. What is the distinction? What is your evaluation of this distinction?

Memory Work:

1. Isaiah 53:11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. 

2. Matthew 1:21: And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

3. John 10:11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

4. Acts 20:28: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Chapter 5

Irresistible Grace

Study Questions:

1. What does it mean that we are saved by grace? 

2. What is meant by irresistible grace?

3. Does irresistible grace imply that man is saved contrary to his will? Explain.

4. What is the fruit of God's grace in the sinner? 

5. Does the truth of irresistible grace preclude the use of means, particularly the means of the preaching of the gospel? Explain.

6. How can you explain those passages of Scripture (like Matthew 23:37 and Acts 7:51) which seem to teach that it is possible for the sinner to resist God's grace?

7. How is the teaching of free will a denial of irresistible grace?

8. How does the teaching of common grace lead to a denial of irresistible grace?

9. How is the teaching of the free offer of the gospel an implicit denial of irresistible grace?

10. What is the importance of maintaining that grace is irresistible as far as the truth that salvation is by grace alone is concerned?

11. What is the importance of the doctrine of irresistible grace in relation to the believer's assurance?

12. What impact has the doctrine of irresistible grace on the truth of conversion?

13. How is the truth of irresistible grace related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove that salvation is by grace alone.

2. Prove that salvation is not on account of man's works.

3. Prove that even our repenting and believing are due to the grace of God.

4. Prove that the grace of salvation is irresistible. 

5. Quote a passage of Scripture that speaks of salvation as re-birth, re-creation, or resurrection. Explain how this passage proves irresistible grace.

Questions for Reflection:

1. What impact has the truth of irresistible grace on the Reformed view of the preaching of the gospel? Is the methodology of Reformed preaching different from the methodology employed in Arminian preaching because of the doctrine of irresistible grace?

2. Is it possible for a man to be brought to salvation by "natural light" apart from the grace of God?

3. What are the fruits of irresistible grace for which a Christian ought to look in his life and by which he may be assured that he is the object of God's grace? Are these fruits of grace present in your life?

4. Is it a matter of "grace" that a man outwardly conforms himself to the law of God? What considerations might enter in here?

5. Is the truth of irresistible grace experienced by the believer? Explain.

Memory Work:

1. Romans 8:29, 30For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 

2. Romans 9:16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 

3. Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

4. John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Chapter 6

The Perseverance of the Saints

Study Questions:

1. What is meant by the perseverance of the saints? 

2. Why do we speak of those whom God preserves as saints?

3. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and God's preservation of them?

4. Do the saints fall? Do the saints fall away? Explain. 

5. In light of the perseverance of the saints, explain Hebrews 6:4-6.

6. Does the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints lead to careless living? Explain.

7. How does Roman Catholicism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

8. How does Arminianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

9. How does the teaching of free will contradict the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

10. How does Antinomianism deny the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

11. How does perfectionism overthrow the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

12. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and prayer?

13. What is the relation between the perseverance of the saints and the preaching of the gospel?

14. How does the believer's assurance rest on the truth of the perseverance of the saints?

15. How is the truth of the perseverance of the saints related to the other of the Five Points of Calvinism?

Scripture References:

1. Prove the truth of the perseverance of the saints. 

2. Prove that it is God Who preserves the saints. 

3. Prove that the saints' preservation is a preservation of them in holiness.

4. Prove that God always renews His people to repentance when they fall into sin.

5. Prove that it is by means of the Word of God and the preaching of the Word that we are preserved in salvation. 

6. Prove that it is by means of prayer that we are enabled to persevere to the end.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Is there such a thing as a "carnal Christian"? 

2. What means does God use to preserve us in salvation? Have you been diligent to make use of these means?

3. God preserves us not as so many individuals in isolation from each other, but as saints in relation to each other. Of what significance is membership in the church for the perseverance of the saints?

4. Will it be necessary for God to preserve us in salvation also in heaven? Explain.

5. Why is God pleased to make us perfect in the life to come, but not yet in this life?

Memory Work:

1. Psalm 37:23, 24: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

2. John 10:27-29: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

3. Philippians 1:6: Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

4. I Peter 1:5: Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Appendix

Citations from the Creeds

Since the doctrines covered by the Five Points are expressed in a very concise way in the creeds of the church, especially in the Reformed and Presbyterian creeds, it is helpful, in trying to understand the doctrine, to make reference to some of these statements. Most of the quotations given below are from the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt, the three major creeds of those churches that have the name Reformed, and from the Westminster Creed and Catechisms, the confessions of those churches that have the name Presbyterian. Please note, too, that since the Canons of Dordt are the original Five Points of Calvinism, their statements concerning the Five Points are of special significance.

A. The Sovereignty of God

1. The Heidelberg Catechism.

a. Lord's Day IX, Question and Answer 26.

What believest thou when thou sayest, "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?"
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.
Gen. 1 & 2; Ps. 33:6; 115:3; Matt. 10:29Heb. 1:3Jn. 5:17; 1:12, 16; Rom. 8:15, 16Gal. 4:5, 6Eph. 1:5I Jn. 3:1Ps. 55:22Matt. 6:26Rom. 8:28; 4:21; 10:12; Matt. 7:9-11.

b. Lord's Day X, Question and Answer 27, 28.

What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.
Acts 17:25-28Heb. 1:3Jer. 5:24Acts 14:17Jn. 9:3Prov. 22:2Job 1:21Matt. 10:29, 30Eph. 1:11.
What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence doth still uphold all things?
That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.
Rom. 5:3Ps. 39:10Deut. 8:10I Thess. 5:18Rom. 5:3-6; 8:38, 39; Job 1:12; 2:6; Matt. 8:31; Is. 10:15.
c. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 50, 51.
Why is it added, "And sitteth at the right hand of God?"
Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as the head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.
Eph. 1:20-22Col. 1:18Matt. 28:18Jn. 5:22.
What profit is this glory of Christ, our Head, unto us?
First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8Ps. 2:9Jn. 10:28.

d. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 128.

How dost thou conclude thy prayer?
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever"; that is, all these we ask of thee, because thou, being our King and Almighty, art willing and able to give us all good; and all this we pray for, that thereby not we, but thy holy Name, may be glorified for ever.
Matt. 6:13Rom. 10:12II Pet. 2:9Jn. 14:13Ps. 115:1; Phil. 4:20.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XII. Of the Creation.

We believe that the Father, by the Word, that is, by his Son, hath created of nothing, the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, as it seemed good unto him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator. That he doth also still uphold and govern them by His eternal providence, and infinite power, for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God. 

b. Article XIII. Of Divine Providence.

We believe that the same God after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most heavenly Father; who watches over us with paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power, that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow, can fall to the ground, without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded, that he so restrains our enemies, that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance. 

3. The Canons of Dordt.

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4, 5, 6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

b. I, 11.

And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter II, Article 2.

God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being, of Whom, through Whom, and to Whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever Himself pleaseth.
Jn. 5:26Acts 7:2Ps. 119:68I Tim. 6:15Rom. 9:5Acts 17:24, 25Job 22:2, 3Rom. 11:36Rev. 4:11Dan. 4:25, 35Heb. 4:13Rom. 11:33, 34Ps. 147:5Acts 15:18Ezek. 11:5Ps. 145:17Rom. 7:12Rev. 5:12-14.

b. Chapter V, Article 1.

God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
Heb. 1:3Dan. 4:34, 35Ps. 135:6Acts 17:25-28Job 38-41Matt. 10:29-31Prov. 15:3Ps. 104:24; 145:17; Acts 15:18Ps. 94:8-11Eph. 1:11Ps. 33:10, 11; Is. 43:14; Eph. 3:10Rom. 9:17Gen. 45:7; Ps. 145:7.

c. Chapter V, Article 4.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined it with a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, Who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
Rom. 11:32-34II Sam. 24:1I Chron. 21:1I Kings 22:22, 23; I Chron. 10:4, 13, 14II Sam. 16:10Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28; 14:16; Ps. 76:10II Kings 19:28Gen. 50:20; Is. 10:6, 7, 12; James 1:13, 14, 17I Jn. 2:16Ps. 50:21.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 7.

What is God?
God is a Spirit, in and of Himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Jn. 4:24Ex. 3:14Job 11:7-9Acts 7:2I Tim. 6:15Matt. 5:48Gen. 17:1Ps. 90:2Mal. 3:6James 1:17I Kings 8:27Ps. 139:1-13Rev. 4:8Heb. 4:13Ps. 147:5Rom. 16:27; Is. 6:3; Rev. 15:44Deut. 32:4Ex. 34:6.

B. Total Depravity

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day II, Question and Answer 5.

Canst thou keep all these things (of the law) perfectly?
In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.
Rom. 3:10I Jn. 1:8Rom. 8:7Tit. 3:3.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answers 7, 8.

Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.
Gen. 3:6Rom. 5:12, 18, 19Ps. 51:5Gen. 5:3.
Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5Job 14:4; 15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5Eph. 2:5

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 56.

What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Jer. 31:34Ps. 103:3, 4, 10, 11Rom. 8:1-3Jn. 3:18.

d. Lord's Day XXIII, Question and Answer 60.

How art thou righteous before God?
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 by 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.
Rom. 3:9ff.; 7:23; 3:24; Tit. 3:5Eph. 2:8, 9

e. Lord's Day LI, Question and Answer 126.

Which is the fifth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"; that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ's blood, not to impute to us poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.
Ps. 51:1I Jn. 2:1, 2.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God. But being in honor, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin, and consequently to death, and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his whole life, having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he hath lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received from God, and only retained a few remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not: where St. John calleth men darkness. Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin; and hath nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XVI. Of Original Sin.

We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother's womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as the root thereof; and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God, that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain; notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by his grace and mercy is forgiven them. Not that they should rest securely in sin, but that a sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from the body of this death. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin proceeds only from imitation.

The following two articles demonstrate the relationship between the doctrine of total depravity and the other four points, i.e., since men are totally depraved, salvation must be and is all of grace in all its parts.

c. Article XVI. Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

d. Article XVII. Of the Recovery of Fallen Man.

We believe that our most gracious God, in his admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into temporal and eternal death, and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him when he trembling fled from his presence, promising him that he would give his son, who should be made of a woman, to bruise the head of the serpent, and would make him happy.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 1.

As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Rom. 3:19, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." And verse 23: "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." And Rom. 6:23: "for the wages of sin is death."

b. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

c. III, IV, 1.

Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.

d. III, IV, 2.

Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature.

e. III, IV, 3.

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to all evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation.

f. III, IV, 4.

There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.

It should be noted here that each section of the Canons is divided into two parts, a positive section in which each doctrine is explained and a negative section in which various errors are condemned and rejected. These sections are valuable not only because they help in sharply and clearly defining the truths under discussion but also because they contain many proof texts for these truths.

g. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That it cannot properly be said, that original sin in itself suffices to condemn the whole human race, or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment. For these contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). And: "The judgment came of one unto condemnation" (Rom. 5:16). And: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

h. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues, such as: goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall. For such is contrary to the description of the image of God, which the Apostle gives in Ephesians 4:24, where he declares that it consists in righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.

i. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it. This is an innovation and an error, and tends to elevate the powers of the free will, contrary to the declaration of the Prophet: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt" (Jer. 17:9); and of the Apostle: "Among whom (sons of disobedience) we also once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. 2:3).

j. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a broken spirit, which is pleasing to God. For these are contrary to the express testimony of Scripture. "Ye were dead through trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1, 5); and: "Every imagination of the thought of his heart are (sic) only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5; 8:21).
Moreover, to hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery, and after life, and to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit, is peculiar to the regenerate and to those that are called blessed (Ps. 51:10, 19Matt. 5:6).

k. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, viz., the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on his part shows himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to conversion. For the experience of all ages and the Scripture do both testify that this is untrue. "He showeth his Word unto Jacob, his statutes and ordinances unto Israel. He hath not so dealt with any nation: and as for his ordinances they have not known them" (Ps. 147:19, 20). "Who in the generations gone by suffered all nations to walk in their own way" (Acts 14:16). And: "And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:6, 7).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter VI. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof.

Article 1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.
Gen. 3:8II Cor. 9:3Rom. 9:32.
Article 2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
Gen. 3:6-8Eccl. 7:29Rom. 3:23.
Article 3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:16, 17; Acts 17:26 with Rom. 5:12, 15-19I Cor. 15:21, 22, 45, 49Ps. 51:5Gen. 5:3Job 14:4; 15:14.
Article 4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; 7:18; Col. 1:21Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10-12James 1:14, 15Eph. 2:2, 3Matt. 15:19.
Art. 5. This corruption of the nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and though it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.
I Jn. 1:8, 10Rom. 7:14, 17, 18, 23James 3:2Prov. 20:9Eccl. 7:20Rom. 7:5, 7, 8, 25Gal. 5:17.
Article 6. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary there unto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
I Jn. 3:4Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19; Eph. 2:8Gal. 3:10Rom. 7:23Eph. 4:18Rom. 8:20Matt. 15:41II Thess. 1:9.

b. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself there unto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5Rom. 3:10, 12Eph. 2:1, 5Col. 2:13Jn. 6:44, 65Eph. 2:2-5I Cor. 2:14Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, not only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13Heb. 12:23I Jn. 3:2Jude 24.

c. Chapter XVI. Of Good Works.

Article 7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.
II Kings 10:30, 31I Kings 21:27, 29; Phil. 1:15, 16, 18; Gen. 4:5Heb. 11:4, 6I Cor. 13:3; Is. 1:12; Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; Hag. 2:14Tit. 1:15Amos 5:21, 22Hos. 1:4Rom. 9:16Tit. 3:15Ps. 14:4; 36:3; Job 21:14, 15Matt. 25:41-45; 23:3.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 25.

Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called Original Sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
Rom. 5:12, 19; 3:10-19; Eph. 2:1-3Rom. 5:6; 8:7, 8; Gen. 6:5James 1:14, 15Matt. 15:19.

b. Question and Answer 27.

What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
The fall brought upon man the loss of communion with God, His displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to the punishments in this world, and that which is to come.
Gen. 3:8, 10, 24Eph. 2:2, 3II Tim. 2:26Gen. 2:17Lam. 3:39Matt. 15:41, 46Jude 7.

c. Question and Answer 149.

Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Jam. 3:2Jn. 15:5Rom. 8:8Eccl. 7:20I Jn. 1:8, 10Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:18, 19Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:9-19Jam. 3:2-13.

C. Unconditional Election

1. Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the holy, catholic church of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XVI, Of Eternal Election.

We believe that all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin, by the sin of our first parents, God did then manifest himself such as he is; that is to say, merciful and just: Merciful, since he delivers and preserves from this perdition all, whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, hath elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: Just in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

c. I, 9.

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 pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to 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 that of the apostle: "He hath chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love" (Eph. 1:4). 

d. I, 10.

The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which doth not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, "For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil," etc., it was said (namely to Rebecca): "the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:11-13). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).

e. I. 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

f. I, 15.

What particularly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decrees; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but permitting them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and perish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof.

g. I, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the will of God to save those who would believe and would persevere in faith, is the whole and entire decree of election unto salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decree has been revealed in God's Word.
For these deceive the simple and plainly contradict the Scriptures which declare that God will not only save those who believe, but that he has from eternity chosen certain particular persons to whom above others he in time will grant both faith in Christ and perseverance; as it is written: "I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:6). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). And: "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph. 1:4).

h. I, Rejection of Errors, 2.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That there are various kinds of election of God unto eternal life: the one general and indefinite, the other particular and definite; and that the latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute. Likewise: that there is one election unto faith, and another unto salvation, so that election can be unto justifying faith without being a decisive election unto salvation. For this is a fancy of men's minds, invented regardless of the Scriptures, whereby the doctrine of election is corrupted, and this golden chain of our salvation is broken: "And whom he foreordained, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

i. I, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others, but in this that he chose out of all possible conditions (among which are also the works of the law), or out of the whole order of things, the act of faith which from its very nature is undeserving, as well as its complete obedience, as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life. For by this injurious error the pleasure of God and the merits of Christ are made of none effect, and men are drawn away by useless questions from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture, and this declaration of the Apostle is charged as untrue: "Who saved us, and called us by an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal" (II Tim. 1:9).

j. I, Rejection of Errors, 4.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine of the apostle, when he writes: "Among whom we also once lived in the lust of our flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:3-9).

k. I, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time; but that the complete and decisive election occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness; and that this is the gracious and evangelical worthiness, for the sake of which he who is chosen, is more worthy than he who is not chosen; and that therefore faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions, which, being required beforehand, were foreseen as being met by those who will be fully elected, and are causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.
This is repugnant to the entire Scripture, which constantly inculcates this and similar declarations: Election is not of works but of him that calleth (Rom. 9:11). "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). "He chose us in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph. 1:4). "Ye did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). "But if it be of grace, it is no more of works" (Rom. 11:6). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son" (I John 4:10).

l. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect cannot be lead astray (Matt. 24:24). That Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (John 6:39). And that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

The next four articles from the Canons show the relationship between unconditional election and limited atonement, that is, that Christ died for the elect.

m. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

n. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

o. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

p. II, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That Christ neither could die, nor did die for those whom God loved in the highest degree and elected to eternal life, and did not die for these, since these do not need the death of Christ. For they contradict the Apostle, who declares: "Christ loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Likewise: "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died" (Rom. 8:33, 34), viz., for them; and the Savior who says: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15). And: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12, 13).

The last four articles from the Canons quoted here show how unconditional election is fulfilled and carried out by irresistible grace and the preservation of saints.

q. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.

r. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw his Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be wholly deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

s. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not wholly fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be obliterated.

t. V, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his own free will. For the Holy Scripture testifies that this follows out of election, and is given to the elect in virtue of the death, the resurrection and intercession of Christ: "But the elect obtained it and the rest were hardened" (Rom. 11:7). Likewise: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:32-35)

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means there unto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff., Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn 2:19.

b. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 12.

What are the decrees of God?
God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He hath, for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.
Eph. 1:11Rom. 11:33; 9:14, 15, 18; Eph. 1:4, 11Rom. 9:22, 23; Ps. 33:11.

b. Question and Answer 13.

What hath God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to His sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of His own will (whereby He extendeth or withholdeth favour as He pleaseth), hath passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonour and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of His justice.
I Tim. 5:21Eph. 1:4-6II Thess. 2:13, 14Rom. 9:17, 18, 21, 22; Matt. 1:25, 26II Tim. 2:20Jude 4I Pet. 2:8.

c. Question and Answer 14.

How doth God execute His decrees?
God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will.
Eph. 1:11.

D. Limited Atonement

1. Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 29.

Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is a Savior?
Because he saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins; and likewise, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.
Matt. 1:21Acts 4:12.

In the preceding quotation we have an excellent example of many articles in all the creeds which use the words "we" and "us" to describe those who benefit from Christ's death - words that are by their very nature exclusive and not inclusive.

Though the next article does not answer directly the question "For whom did Christ die?" it nonetheless supports the doctrine of limited atonement by insisting that those for whom Christ died are completely saved in Him and that salvation is not just made possible for them. In fact, the Belgic Confession in Article XXII, below, calls the idea that Christ only makes salvation possible a gross blasphemy.

b. Lord's Day XI, Question and Answer 30.

Do such then believe in Jesus the only Savior, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, or themselves, or anywhere else?
They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Savior; for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Savior; or that they, who by a true faith receive this Savior, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.
I Cor. 1:13, 31Gal. 5:4Col. 2:20; Is. 9:6, 7; Col. 1:19, 20.

c. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and Word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

b. II, 7, 8.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.
For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

c. II, Rejection of Errors, 1.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God the Father had ordained his Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by his death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person. For this doctrine tends to the despising of the wisdom of the Father and of the merits of Jesus Christ, and is contrary to the Scripture. For thus saith our Savior: "I lay down my life for the sheep, and I know them" (John 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah saith concerning the Savior: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Is. 53:10). Finally this contradicts the article of faith according to which we believe the catholic Christian church (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day XXI, 54).

d. II, Rejection of Errors, 5.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That all men have been accepted unto the state of reconciliation and unto the grace of the covenant, so that no one is worthy of condemnation on account of original sin, and that no one shall be condemned because of it, but that all are free from the guilt of original sin. For this opinion is repugnant to Scripture which teaches that we are by nature children of wrath.

e. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. 

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn. 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.
Rom. 5:19Heb. 9:14, 16; 10:14; Eph. 5:2Rom. 3:25, 26Dan. 9:24, 26Col. 1:19, 20Eph. 1:11, 14Jn. 17:2Heb. 9:12, 15.
Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2Rom. 8:34Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2II Cor. 4:13Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter XI. Of Justification.

Article 3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father's justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
Rom. 5:8-10, 19I Tim. 2:5, 6Heb. 10:10, 14Dan. 9:24, 26; Is. 53:4-6, 10-12; Rom. 8:32II Cor. 5:21Matt. 3:17Eph. 5:2Rom. 3:24Eph. 1:7Rom. 3:26Eph. 2:7.
Article 4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
Gal. 3:8I Pet. 1:2, 19, 20Rom. 8:30.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 38.

Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that He might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to His sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure His favour, purchase a peculiar people, give His Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
Acts 2:24, 25Rom. 1:4; 4:25; Heb. 9:14Acts 20:28Heb. 7:25-28Rom. 3:24-26Eph. 1:6Matt. 3:17Tit. 2:13, 14Gal. 4:6Luke 1:68, 69, 71, 74Heb. 5:8, 9; 9:11-15.

b. Question and Answer 41.

Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
Our Mediator was called Jesus, because He saveth His people from their sins.
Matt. 1:21.
c. Question and Answer 44.
How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in His once offering Himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be reconciliation for the sins of His people; and in making continual intercession for them.
Heb. 9:14, 28;2:17; 7:25.

d. Question and Answer 46.

What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein He for our sakes, emptying Himself of His glory, took upon Him the form of a servant, in His conception and birth, life, death, and after His death, until His resurrection.
Phil. 2:6-8; Luke 1:31II Cor. 8:9Acts 2:24

e. Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8II Cor. 4:13.

E. Irresistible Grace

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 14:7-9I Cor. 3:23I Pet. 1:18, 19I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Lk. 21:18; Matt. 10:30Rom. 8:28II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day III, Question and Answer 8.

Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
Gen. 6:5Job 14:4;15:14, 16; Jn. 3:5Eph. 2:5

c. Lord's Day XX, Question and Answer 53.

What believest thou concerning the Holy Ghost?
First, that he is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son; secondly, that he is also given me, to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all his benefits, that he may comfort me and abide with me forever.
Gen. 1:2; Is. 48:16; I Cor. 3:16Matt. 28:19II Cor. 1:22Gal. 3:14I Pet. 1:2Acts 9:31Jn. 14:16I Pet. 4:14.

d. Lord's Day XXXII, Question and Answer 86.

Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that everyone may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 6:13;12:1, 2; I Pet. 2:5, 9, 10Matt. 5:16I Pet. 2:12II Pet. 1:10Gal. 5:6, 24I Pet. 3:1, 2Matt. 5:16Rom. 14:19.

2. The Belgic Confession

a. Article XIV. Of the Creation and Fall of man, and his Incapacity to perform what is truly good.

Therefore we reject all that is taught repugnant to this, concerning the free will of man, since man is but a slave to sin, and has nothing of himself, unless it is given from heaven. For who may presume to boast, that he of himself can do any good, since Christ saith, No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me draw him? Who will glory in his own will, who understands, that to be carnally minded is enmity against God? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God? In short, who dare suggest any thought, since he knows that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God? And therefore what the apostle saith ought justly to be held sure and firm, that God worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For there is no will or understanding, conformable to the divine will and understanding, but what Christ hath wrought in man; which he teaches us when he saith, Without me ye can do nothing.

b. Article XXII. Of Faith in Jesus Christ.

We believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.

c. Article XXIV. Of man's Sanctification and Good Works.

We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith which worketh by love, which God has commanded in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification. For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?), nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, for it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.

3. The Canons of Dordt

Here are three articles from the first chapter of the Canons that show the relationship between irresistible grace and unconditional election, for an election which is truly unconditional demands a grace so powerful.

a. I, 6.

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God's eternal decree, "For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men, equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

b. I, 7.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world, he hath, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.
This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally, to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).

c. I, 8.

There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: since the Scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he hath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath ordained that we should walk therein.

The following four articles are taken from the second chapter of the Canons and show how the atonement of Christ, limited to the elect, is made powerful and infallible by the irresistible grace of God.

d. II, 7.

But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.

e. II. 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing on them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot or blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever. 

f. II, 9.

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.

g. II, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: Who use the difference between meriting and appropriating, to the end that they may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace. For these, while they feign that they present this distinction, in a sound sense, seek to instill into the people the destructive poison of the Pelagian errors. 

h. III, IV, 10.

But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places. 

i. III, IV, 11.

But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly discern the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man; he opens the closed, and softens the hardened heart, and circumcises that which was uncircumcised, infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth fruits of good actions.

j. III, IV, 12.

And this is the regeneration so highly celebrated in Scripture, and denominated a new creation; a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid. But this is in no wise effected merely by the external preaching of the gospel, by moral suasion, or such a mode of operation, that after God has performed his part, it still remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not, to be converted or to continue unconverted; but it is evidently a supernatural work, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead, as the Scripture inspired by the author of this work declares; so that all in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received. 

k. III, IV, 13.

The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by believers in this life. Notwithstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior. 

l. III, IV, 14.

Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected by him at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also.

m. III, IV, 16.

But as man by the fall did not cease to be a creature, endowed with understanding and will, nor did sins which pervaded the whole race of mankind, deprive him of the human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death; so also this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin. 

n. III, IV, 17.

As the almighty operation of God, whereby he prolongs and supports this our natural life, does not exclude, but requires the use of means, by which God of his infinite mercy and goodness hath chosen to exert his influence, so also the before mentioned supernatural operation of God, by which we are regenerated, in no wise excludes or subverts the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration, and food of the soul. Wherefore, as the apostles, and teachers who succeeded them, piously instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to his glory, and the abasement of all pride, and in the meantime, however, neglected not to keep them by the sacred precepts of the gospel in the exercise of the Word, sacraments and discipline; even so to this day, be it far from either instructors or instructed to presume to tempt God in the church by separating what he of his good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. For grace is conferred by means or admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of means, and of their saving fruit and efficacy is forever due. Amen.

o. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That in the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers or gifts can be infused by God into the will, and that therefore faith through which we are first converted, and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God, but only an act of man, and that it cannot be said to be a gift, except in respect of the power to attain to this faith. For thereby they contradict the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of his love into our hearts: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will I write it" (Jer. 31:33). And: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed" (Is. 44:3). And: "The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which hath been given us" (Rom. 5:5). This is also repugnant to the continuous practice of the church, which prays by the mouth of the Prophet thus: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned" (Jer. 31:18).

p. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 7.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, or (as others explain it), that this is the noblest manner of working, which consists in advising, is most in harmony with man's nature; and that there is no reason why this advising grace alone should not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual, indeed, that God does not produce the consent of the will except through this manner of advising; and that the power of the divine working, whereby it surpasses the working of Satan, consists in this, that God promises eternal, while Satan promises only temporal good. But this is altogether Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture which, besides this, teaches yet another and far more powerful and divine manner of the Holy Spirit's working in the conversion of man, as in Ezekiel: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).

q. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 8.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of his omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man's will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed man often does so resist, that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not. For this is nothing less than a denial of all the efficiency of God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of the Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the Apostles, who teach: "That God fulfills every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power" (II Thess. 1:11). And: "That his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Pet. 1:3).

r. III, IV, Rejection of Errors, 9.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That grace and free will are partial causes, which together work the beginning of conversion, and, that grace, in order of working, does not precede the working of the will; that is, God does not efficiently help the will of man unto conversion until the will of man moves and determines to do this. For the ancient church has long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the Apostle: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy" (Rom. 9:16). Likewise: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (I Cor. 4:7) And: "For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

a. Chapter III. Of God's Eternal Decree.

Article 6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only.
Jn. 17:9Rom. 8:28ff.; Jn 6:64, 65; 10:26; 8:47; I Jn. 2:19

b. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

Article 8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, He doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Jn. 6:37, 39;10:15, 16; I Jn. 2:1, 2Rom. 8:34Jn. 15:13, 15; Eph. 1:7-9Jn. 17:6; 14:16; Heb. 12:2II Cor. 4:13Rom. 8:9, 14; 15:18, 19; Jn. 17:17.

c. Chapter IX. Of Free Will.

Article 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto.
Rom. 5:6; 8:7; Jn. 15:5Rom. 3:10, 12Eph. 2:1, 5Col. 2:13Jn. 6:44, 65Eph. 2:2-5I Cor. 2:14Tit. 3:3-5.
Article 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
Col. 1:13Jn. 8:34, 36; Phil. 2:13; Rom. 6:18, 22Gal. 5:17Rom. 7:15, 18-20, 23.
Article 5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
Eph. 4:13Heb. 12:23I Jn. 3:2Jude 24.

5. The Westminster Larger Catechism

Question and Answer 59.

Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.
Eph. 1:13, 14Jn. 6:37, 39; 10:15, 16; Eph. 2:8II Cor. 4:13

F. The Perseverance of Saints

1. The Heidelberg Catechism

a. Lord's Day I, Question and Answer 1.

What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
I Cor. 6:19, 20Rom. 14:7-9I Cor. 3:23I Pet. 1:18, 19I Jn. 1:7; 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15Jn. 6:39; 10:28, 29; Luke 21:18Matt. 10:30Rom. 8:28II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:14; 7:22.

b. Lord's Day XII, Question and Answer 31.

Why is he called Christ, that is anointed?
Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in (the enjoyment of) that salvation, he has purchased for us.
Heb. 1:9Deut. 18:18Acts 3:22Jn. 1:18; 15:15; Matt. 11:27Ps. 110:4Heb. 7:21; 10:14; Rom. 8:34Ps. 2:6Luke 1:33Matt. 28:18Jn. 10:28.

c. Lord's Day XVIII, Question and Answer 49.

Of what advantage is Christ's ascension into heaven?
First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."
Heb. 9:24I Jn. 2:2Rom. 8:34Jn. 14:2Eph. 2:6Jn. 14:16II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Col. 3:1; Phil. 3:20.

d. Lord's Day XIX, Question and Answer 51.

What profit is this glory (of his exaltation) of Christ, our head, to us?
First that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.
Eph. 4:8Ps. 2:9Jn. 10:28.

e. Lord's Day XXI, Question and Answer 54.

What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.
Jn. 10:11Gen. 26:4Rom. 9:24Eph. 1:10Jn. 10:16; Is. 59:21; Deut. 10:14, 15Acts 13:48I Cor. 1:8, 9Rom. 8:35ff

f. Lord's Day XXII, Question and Answer 58.

What comfort takest thou from the article of "life everlasting?"
That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" to conceive, and that, to praise God therein for ever.
II Cor. 5:2, 3, 6Rom. 14:17Ps. 10:11I Cor. 2:9.

g. Lord's Day LII, Question and Answer 127.

Which is the sixth petition (of the Lord's Prayer)?
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"; that is, since we are so weak in ourselves, that we cannot stand a moment; and besides this, since our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us, do thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of thy Holy Spirit, that we may not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes, till at last we obtain a complete victory.
Matt. 6:13Rom. 8:26Ps. 103:14I Pet. 5:8Eph. 6:12Jn. 15:19Rom. 7:23Gal. 5:17Mat. 26:41Mark 13:33I Thess. 3:13; 5:23.

2. The Belgic Confession

Article XXVII. Of the Catholic Christian Church.

We believe and profess, one catholic or universal Church, which is an holy congregation, of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost. This Church hath been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, which, without subjects, cannot be. And this holy Church is preserved or supported by God, against the rage of the whole world; though she sometimes (for a while) appears very small, and in the eyes of men, to be reduced to nothing: as during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord reserved unto him seven thousand men, who had not bowed their knees to Baal. Furthermore, this holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the same power of faith, in one and the same spirit. 

3. The Canons of Dordt

a. I, 7.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ, to be saved by him, and effectually to call and draw them to his communion by his Word and Spirit, to bestow upon them true faith, justification and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of his Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of his mercy, and for the praise of his glorious grace; as it is written: "According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). 

b. I, 11.

And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

c. I, Rejection of Errors, 6.

The true doctrine concerning Election and Rejection having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That not every election unto salvation is unchangeable, but that some of the elect, any decree of God notwithstanding, can yet perish and do indeed perish. By which gross error they make God to be changeable, and destroy the comfort which the godly obtain out of the firmness of their election, and contradict the Holy Scripture, which teaches, that the elect can not be led astray (Matt. 24:24); that Christ does not lose those whom the Father gave him (Jn. 6:39); and that God hath also glorified those whom he foreordained, called, and justified (Rom. 8:30).

These articles from the Canons are especially valuable because they demonstrate the connection between unconditional election and the perseverance of saints, just as the next article shows the connection between perseverance and limited atonement.

d. II, 8.

For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.

The remaining articles are from Chapter V, the chapter on perseverance. 

e. V, 3.

By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms, and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.

f. V, 6.

But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

g. V, 7.

For in the first place, in these falls he preserves in them the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing, or being totally lost; and again, by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. 

h. V, 8.

Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which with respect to themselves is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ, be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated. 

i. V, Rejection of Errors, 3.

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever. For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued keeping by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the Apostle Paul: "That while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him" (Rom. 5:8, 9). And contrary to the Apostle John: "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God" (I Jn. 3:9). And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who hath given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (Jn. 10:28, 29).

4. The Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XVII. Of the Perseverance of Saints.

Article 1. They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
Phil. 1:6; II Pet. 1:10Jn. 10:28, 29I Jn. 3:9I Pet. 1:5, 9.
Article 2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
II Tim. 2:18, 19Jer. 31:3Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:20, 21; 9:12, 13-15; Rom. 8:33-39Jn. 17:11, 24Luke 22:32Heb. 7:25Jn. 14:16, 17I Jn. 2:27; 3:9; Jer. 32:40Jn. 10:28II Thess. 3:3I Jn. 2:19.

5 The Westminster Larger Catechism

a. Question and Answer 79.

May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from a state of grace?
True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and His decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, His continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Jer. 31:3II Tim. 2:19Heb. 13:20, 21II Sam. 23:5I Cor. 1:8, 9Heb. 7:25Luke 22:32I Jn. 3:9; 2:27; Jer. 32:40Jn. 10:28I Pet. 1:5.

b. Question and Answer 80.

Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in a state of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.
I Jn. 2:3I Cor. 2;12; I Jn. 3:14, 18, 19, 21, 24; 4:13, 16; Heb. 6:11, 12Rom. 8:16I Jn. 5:13.

Recommended Reading

The following list of books is recommended to those who might be interested in further study of the doctrines of grace. The list is not intended to be exhaustive but nevertheless fairly comprehensive. Some of the books are currently in print, others are not. Recommendation of a book is not to be understood as endorsement of every idea set forth by its author.

Best, W.E. Free Grace Versus Free Will. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, 53 pages.

Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1978, 440 pages.

Buis, Harry. Historic Protestantism and Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1958, 142 pages.

Calvin, John. Calvin's Calvinism: Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God and the Secret Providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, (no date), 354 pages.

Clark, Gordon H. Biblical Predestination. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, 155 pages.

Coles, Elisha. God's Sovereignty. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 298 pages.

Coppes, Leonard H. Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism. Manassas: Reformation Educational Foundation, 1980, 197 pages.

Engelsma, David J. Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 216 pages.

Girardeau, John L. Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism Compared as to Election, Reprobation, Justification, and Related Doctrines. Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1984, 574 pages.

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will. Translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957, 320 pages.

McNeill, John T. The History and Character of Calvinism. London: Oxford University Press, 1973, 470 pages.

Ness, Christopher. An Antidote to Arminiamism. North Hollywood: Puritan Heritage Publications, 1978, 90 pages.

Palmer, Edwin H. The Five Points of Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972, 109 pages.

Pink, Arthur W. The Sovereignty of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963, 322 pages.

Reid, W. Stanford, ed. John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982, 415 pages.

Spencer, Duane Edward. TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, 77 pages.

Sproul, R.C. Chosen by God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1986, 213 pages.

Steele, David N. and Curtis C. Thomas. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1963, 95 pages.

Thornwell, James Henly. Election and Reprobation. Jackson: Presbyterian Reformation Society, 1961, 97 pages.

Warburton, Ben A. Calvinism: Its History and Basic Principles, Its Fruits and Its Future, and Its Practical Application to Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955, 249 pages.

Zanchius, Jerom. The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination. Translated by Augustus M. Toplady. Grand Rapids: Baker Bok House, 1977, 170 pages.

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