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melancholy falls; nor suffers thein 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.
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 favour of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
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 undoubted. ly 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.
Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue true and living members of the church; and that they experience forgiveness of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life.
This assurance however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation contrary to, or independent of the word of God; but springs from faith in God's promises, which he has most abundantly revealed in his word for our comfort
; from the testimony of the holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit, that we are children and heirs of God, Rom. vii, 16; and lastly, from a serious and holy desire to preserve a good conscience, and to perform good works. And if the elect of God were deprived of this solid comfort, that they shall finally obtain the victory; and of this infallible pledge or earnest of eternal glory, they would be of all men the most miserable.
The scripture moreover testifies, that believers in this life have to struggle with various carnal doubts, and that under grievous temptations they are not always sensible of this full assurance of faith, and certainty of persevering. But God, who is the father of all consolation, does not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it; 1 Cor. x. 13. and by the holy Spirit again inspires them with the comfortable assurance of persevering.
ART. XII. This certainty of perseverance however, is so far from exciting in believers a spirit of pride, or of rendering them carnally secure, that on the contray, it is the real source of humility, filial reverence, true piety, patience in every tribulation, fervent prayers, constancy in suffering, and in confessing the truth, and of solid rejoicing in God: so that the consideration of this benefit should serve as an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works, as an. pears from the testimonies of scripture, and the examples of the saints.
Neither does renewed confidence of persevering produce licentiousness, or a disregard to piety in those who are recovered from backsliding; but it renders them much more careful and solicitous to continue in the ways
of the Lord, which he hath ordained, that they who walk therein may maintain an assurance of persevering, lest by abusing his Fatherly kindness, God should turn away his gracious countenance from them, to behold which is to the godly dearer than life; the withdrawing whereof is more bitter than death; and they in consequence hereof should fall into more grievous torments of conscience.
And as it hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to begin this work of grace in us, so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof, as well as by the use of the sacraments.
The carnal mind is unable to comprehend this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and the certainty thereof; which God hath most abundantly revealed in his word, for the glory of his name, and the consolation of pious souls, and which he impresses upon the hearts of the faithful : satan abhors it ; the world ridicules it; the ignorant and hypocrite abuse, and heretics oppose it ; but the spouse of Christ hath always most tenderly loved and constantly defended it, as an inestimable treasure : and God, against whom neither counsel por strength can prevail, will dispose her to continue this conduct to the end. Now, to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
ND this is the perspicuous, simple, and ingenu
ous declaration of the orthodox doctrine respecting the five articles which have been controverted in the Belgic churches; and the rejection of the errors with which they have for some time been troubled. This doctrine, the Synod judges to be drawn from the word of God, and to be agreeable to the confessions of the Reformed churches. Whence it clearly appears, that some, whom such conduct by no means became, have violated all truth, equity, and charity, in wishing to persuade the public,
“ Tbat the doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning predestination, and the points annexed to it, by its own genius and necessary tendency, leads off the minds of men from all piety and religion ; that it is an opiate administered by the flesh and the devil, and the strong hold of satan, where he lies in wait for all; and from which he wounds multitudes, and mortally strikes through many with the darts both of despair and security ; that it makes God the author of sip, unjust, tyranical, hypocritical ; that it is nothing more than interpolated Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, Turcism; that it renders men carnally secure, since they are persuaded by it that nothing can hinder the salvation of the elect, let them live as they please; and therefore, that they may safely perpetrate every species of the most atrocious crimes ; and that, if the reprobate should even perform truly all the works of the saints, their obedience would not in the least contribute to their salvation; that the same doctrine teaches, that God, by a mere arbitrary act of his will,
without the least respect or view to any sin, has predestinated the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation ; and, has created them for this very purpose ; that in the same manner in which election is the fountain and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety; that many children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their mother's breasts, and tyranically plunged into hell ; so that, neither baptism, nor the prayers of the church at their baptism, can at all profit them.” And many other things of the same kind, which the Reformed churches not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with their whole soul. Wherefore, this Synod of Dort, in the name of the Lord, conjures as many as piously call upon the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to judge of the faith of the Reformed churches, not from the calumnies which, on every side, are heaped upon it; nor from the private expressions of a few among ancient and modern teachers, often dishonestly quoted, or corrupted, and wrested to a meaning quite foreign to their intention ; but from the public confessions of the churches themselves, and from this declaration of the orthodox doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent of all and each of the members of the whole Synod. Moreover, the Synod warns calumniators themselves, to consider the terrible judgment of God which awaits them, for bearing false witness against the confessions of so many churches, for distressing the consciences of the weak ; and for labouring to render suspected the society of the truly faithful. Finally, this Synod exhorts all their brethren in the gospel of Christ, to conduct themselves piously and religiously in handling this doctrine, both in the universities and churches ; to direct it, as well in discourse, as in writing, to the glory of the Divine Name, to holiness of life, and to the consolation of afflicted souls; to regu