THE THIRD AND
Fourth Chapters, or
Doctrinal Heads, namely,
and conversion to God, together with
the manner thereof
The first Article
Man in the beginning, being made according to Godís image, was adorned in his mind with true, and saving knowledge of his creator, and of things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, in all his affections with purity; and so was in all his parts, and faculties holy: But he, by the Devilís instigation, and liberty of his own will, revolting from God, bereaved himself of these excellent gifts, and contrariwise, in lieu of them, he contracted in his mind horrible darkness, vanity, and crookedness of judgment, in his heart and will, malice, rebellion, and obduration, and in all his affections impurity.
††††††††† And such as man was after the fall, such children he begat, namely a corrupt issue from a corrupt father, this corruption being by the just judgment of God derived from Adam to all his posterity (Christ only excepted) and that not by imitation (as of old the Pelagians would have it) but by the propagation of nature with her infection.
††††††††† All men therefore are conceived in sin, and born the children of wrath, untoward to all good tending to salvation, forward to evil, dead in sins, slaves of sin; and neither will nor can (without the grace of the holy Ghost regenerating them) set straight their own crooked nature, no nor so much as dispose themselves to the amending of it.
Indeed, there are still in lapsed men some remains of the light of nature, by virtue whereof he retains some principles concerning God, and of things natural, and of the difference between good and evil, as also he shows some care of virtue, and of outward discipline: But so far short is he from being enabled by this inbred light, to come to the saving knowledge of God, and to convert himself unto him, that he doth not make right use thereof in natural things, and civil affairs: nay, that which it is, he many ways defiles it all, and withholds it in unrighteousness; and by so doing becomes inexcusable before God.
††††††††† As it is with him for the light of nature, so is it also touching the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, delivered to the Jews from God in special manner by the hand of Moses. For, inasmuch as the Law doth indeed lay open the grievousness of sin, and more and more deeply attends man at the bar of justice, but neither extends any remedy, nor affords strength to escape out of misery, and so being weakened through the flesh, it leaves a sinner under the curse, it is not possible that by it a man should obtain saving grace.
††††††††† That therefore, which neither the light of nature, nor the Law could do, God brings to pass by the power of the holy Ghost, through his word, or the ministry of reconciliation, namely the Gospel concerning Messiah, whereby it pleased God to save those that believe, as well under the Old, as New Testament.
††††††††† Under the Old Testament God disclosed unto but a few this secret of his will, but in the new (the distinction of people being taken away) he manifests the same unto many. The cause of which his divers dispensation is not to be imputed to the worthiness of one nation above another, or to the better using of the light of nature by some than by others, but to Godís most free good-pleasure, and undeserved love. And therefore they, to whom, without any their good desert, nay, notwithstanding all their ill-desert, so great a favor is vouchsafed, are bound for their part, to acknowledge the same with all humility, and thankfulness, and as for others, to whom such grace is not afforded, without curious sifting, to admire (with the Apostle) the severity and justice of Godís judgments upon them.
††††††††† Now, as many soever as are called by the Gospel, are called seriously. For God by his word doth seriously, and most truly declare, what is acceptable to him, namely, that those that are called, come unto him: and moreover doth seriously promise to all such, as come to him, and believe in him, rest for their souls, and life eternal.
††††††††† Whereas many, being called by the Gospel, do not come, and are not converted, this default is not in the Gospel, nor in Christ offered by the Gospel, nor in God, who calls them by his Gospel, and moreover bestows divers special gifts upon them, but in themselves, that are called; of whom some are so careless, that they give no entrance at all to the word of life: others entertain it, but suffer it not to sink into their hearts, and so, having only a fading smack of joy, bred by a temporary faith, afterward revolt: others choke the seed of the word with the thorns of worldly cares, and fleshly pleasures, and so bring forth no fruit at all, as our Savior teaches us in the parable of the sower, Matthew 13.
††††††††† But whereas others, being called by the ministry of the Gospel, do come, and are converted, this is not to be ascribed unto man, as by his free-will differencing himself from others, enabled with the same, or with like sufficient grace for their belief, and conversion (so Pelagius, in the pride of his heresy, would have it) but must be attributed unto God, who, as he hath from all eternity chosen in Christ those, that are his, so in process of time† effectually calls them, enduing them with the gift of faith, and repentance, and delivering them out of the power of darkness, translates them into the kingdom of his Son, to the end, that they should magnify him, who hath so mightily called them out of darkness, into this wondrous light, and that they should not boast in themselves, but in the Lord, as is often avouched by the Apostle, in many passages of his epistles.
††††††††† Furthermore, whereas God brings to pass this his own good pleasure in the elect, namely, when he works true conversion in them, he not only provides that the Gospel may be outwardly preached unto them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the holy Ghost, that they may understand aright, and judge of the things of the Spirit of God; but also, by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, he pierces into the most inward parts of man, whose heart being closed shut, he opens it, being hard he softens it, being uncircumcised he circumcises it, and, as for the will, he infuses new qualities into it, and make it of a dead heart lively, of an evil good, of a nilling willing, of a stubborn buxom; and stirs it up also, and strengthens it, whereby it is enabled, like a good tre, to bring forth the fruits of good works.
††††††††† And this is that regeneration, second creation, raising from the dead, and quickening, (so often inculcated in the holy Scriptures) which God works in us, but not with us; and is not brought to pass by bare instruction, sounding to the outward ear, nor by moral inducements, no, nor by any kind of operation so carried, that, when God hath done his part, it should remain in manís choice to be, or not to be, regenerate; to be, or not to be, converted: but is a very supernatural, a most powerful, and withal most sweet, a wonderful, hidden, and unspeakable working, being, for the mightiness thereof (according to the Scriptures, which are the doubtless word of the very Author of this mighty work) not inferior to the creation of the world, or raising up the dead. So that all those, in whose hearts God works after this admirable manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and actually believe.
††††††††† And then the will, being now renewed, is not only drawn, and moved by God, but, God having now set it on going, itself also works: Whereupon a man is rightly said, by this grace received, himself to repent, and believe.
††††††††† The faithful cannot in this life attain to the full knowledge of the manner of this working: yet in the mean time, they content themselves, and rest in this, namely, that by the same grace of God, they know and feel, that in their hearts they believe, and love their Savior.
††††††††† So then faith is the gift of God; not in that it is proffered by God unto manís free-will, but because it is really bestowed, inspired, and infused into man: likewise, not as though God did give only a power of believing, and then should wait at the leisure of manís will for consenting, or for the very act of believing; but because both the willingness to believe, and the act itself of belief is wrought in man by him that works the will, the deed, and works even all in all.
††††††††† This grace God owes no man. For how can God become debtor to him, who hath nothing to give first, that it might be recompensed to him again? Nay what can God owe him, who hath naught of his own, but sin and untruth? Whosoever therefore is made partaker of this kind of grace, ever owes, and ever pays thanks to God only: and whoever hath it not, he either being content in what he finds in himself, regards not all these special things, or in carnal security vainly boasts of having that, which indeed he hath not.
†††††††† Furthermore, as for those that make outward profession of faith, and amend their lives, we are, by the example of the Apostles, to judge, and speak the best of them; the closet of the heart being to us unsearchable. But as for those, who are not as yet called, we must pray for them to God, who calls those things that are not, as if they were: but in no wise may we wax proud against them, as if we ourselves had caused that distinction, whereby we are made unlike them.
††††††††† On the other side, as by the fall, man ceased not to be man, endued with understanding and will, nor did sin, spreading itself through all mankind, abolish nature with us, but corrupted and spiritually slew it; in like manner this regenerating grace of God works not upon men, as if they were stocks and stones, nor doth it abolish the will, and properties thereof, or constrain it unwillingly by force, but doth spiritually revive it, heal, and rectify it, powerfully, and yet gently ply and bend it; so that where formerly the rebellion of the flesh, and stubbornness did domineer without control, now a willing, and sincere obedience to the Spirit begins to reign: in which change the true and spiritual rescue, and freedom of our will doth consist. And surely, unless the wonderful worker of all goodness should deal with us in this sort, there were no hope left for man to arise from his lapse by his free-will, through which, when he stood sound, he threw himself headlong into destruction.
††††††††† Moreover, as that powerful operation of God, by which he gives being to this our natural life, and sustains the same, does not exclude, but require the use of those means, by which it pleased God, according to his wisdom and goodness, to employ this his own power: even so the aforesaid supernatural working of God, by which he regenerates us, does in no wise exclude, or overthrow the employment of the Gospel, which God, in his great wisdom, hath ordained to be the seed of regeneration, and food of the soul. Wherefore, as the Apostles, and their successors did piously deliver unto the people the doctrine of this grace of God, for the advancing of his glory, and beating down of all manner of pride; and yet withal neglected not by holy admonitions, taken out of the Gospel, to keep their Christian flocks within the compass of the Word, Sacraments, and exercise of discipline: so in these days also far be it from either teachers, or learners in the Church, to presume to tempt God by disjoining those things, which God, according to his good pleasure, hath appointed to go together inseparable. For by such admonitions grace itself is derived to us: and the more readily we perform our duty, thereby is the good gift of God working in us made more sensible unto us, and his work itself best comes to perfection. To which God alone is due forevermore all the glory of these means, and of the saving fruit, and efficacy of them. Amen.
of the Errors.
The Synod, having laid down the
true doctrine, now rejects the
Errors of those
††††††††† That teach, that it cannot well be avouched, that original sin of itself is sufficient for the condemning of all mankind, or for the deserving of temporal and eternal punishment. For they go against the Apostle, who says, Roman 5: 12, By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. And verse 16, The judgment was by one to condemnation. Also Romans 6: 23, The wages of sin is death.
††††††††† That teach, that spiritual gifts, or good qualities and virtues (such as are goodness, holiness, and righteousness,) could not be seated in the will of man, in his first creation, and therefore in his fall the will could not be bereft of them. For this is contrary to the description of the image of God, laid down by the Apostle, Ephesians 4: 24, where he describes it by righteousness, and holiness, which doubtless are place in the will.
††††††††† That teach, that in spiritual death no spiritual gifts were separated from the will of man, for that the will of itself was never corrupted, but only encumbered by the darkness of the understanding, and unruliness of the affections: which impediments being removed, the will may exert her own inbred faculty of freedom, that is, of her self will, or nill, choose, or refuse any kind of good set before her. Verily, this is a new fangled, and erroneous piece of doctrine, bent on purpose for enhancing the forces of free-will, contrary to that of the Prophet Jeremiah chapter 17 verse 9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: and that of the Apostle, Ephesians 2: 3, Among whom (namely, children of disobedience) all we also had our conversation in times past, in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the wills of the flesh, and of the mind.
††††††††† That teach that an unregenerate man is not properly, nor totally dead in sins, nor destitute of all strength tending to spiritual good, but that he is able to hunger and thirst after righteousness, or everlasting life, and to offer the sacrifice of a humble and contrite heart, even such, as is acceptable to God. For these assertions march against the direct testimonies of Scripture, Ephesians 2: 1, 5 Ye were dead in trespasses and sins. And Genesis 6: 5 and 8: 21 Every imagination of the thoughts of manís heart is only evil continually. Moreover the hungering, and thirsting for deliverance out of misery, and for life eternal, as also the offering to God the sacrifice of a broken heart, is proper to the regenerate, and such, as are called blessed, Psalm 51: 19, Mathew 5: 6.
††††††††† That teach, that a corrupt and natural man can so rightly use common grace (by which they mean the light of nature) or those gifts, which are left in him after the fall, that, by the good use thereof, he may attain to a greater, namely evangelical, or saving grace, and by degrees at length salvation itself. And that God, for his part, shows himself ready in this manner to reveal Christ to all men: seeing he doth sufficiently, and efficaciously afford to every man necessary means for making Christ known, and for faith and repentance, for this is convinced to be false, as by the experience of all ages in the world, so also by the Scriptures, Psalm 147: 19, 20. He shows his word unto Jacob, his statutes, and his judgments unto Israel; he hath not dealt so with any nation, and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Acts 16: 67 Paul, and his companions were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, and after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
††††††††† That teach, that in the true conversion of a man there cannot be infused by God any new qualities, habits, or gifts into his will: and so that faith, by which we are first converted, and from which we are styled faithful, is not any quality, or gift. infused by God, but only an act of man: and that this faith cannot be called a gift otherwise than in regard of the power or means given us, of attaining it. For these strange positions are contradictory to the holy Scriptures, which testify unto us, that God doth infuse or shed down into our hearts new qualities of faith, obedience, and sense of his love toward us. Jeremiah 31: 33, I will put my law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. Isaiah 44: 3 I will pour water upon him, that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed. Romans 5: 5, The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy Ghost, which is given unto us. They contradict also the continual practice of the Church which used to pray after the manner described by the Prophet, Convert me, O Lord, and I shall be converted, Jeremiah 31: 18.
††††††††† That teach, that the grace, whereby we are converted unto God, is nothing else but a gentle inducement; or (as others explain it) that the most noble kind of working in manís conversation, and most suitable to our nature is that, which is performed by persuasion or advise: and that no cause can be alleged, why even such moral grace alone, should not of natural men make spiritual: nay moreover that God doth not produce the consent of our will otherwise, than by way of moral counseling: and that the efficacy of Godís working, wherein he exceeds the working of the Devil, consists in this, that the Devil promises temporary things, but God things eternal. For this is down right Pelagianism, and wars against the whole course of the Scriptures: which besides this moving via persuasion, acknowledges in the conversion of a man, another manner of Godís Spirit working, and that more divine, and of far greater efficacy, Ezekiel 36: 26. I will give you a new heart, 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 an heart of flesh, &c.
††††††††† That teach, that God, in regenerating a man, doth not employ that omnipotent strength, whereby he may powerfully and infallibly bow, and bend his will unto faith and conversion: but that all the gracious operations (which God uses for our conversion) being accomplished, nevertheless man can withstand God, and his holy Spirit, intending that manís conversion, yea and often times doth make actual resistance, to the utter defeating of his own regeneration: so that it lies in manís power to be, or not to be, regenerate. For this amounts to no less, than the denying of all efficacy to Godís grace in our conversion, and to subjecting the work of the Almighty unto the will of man: which is flat contrary to the Apostles, Ephesians 1: 19. That we believe according to the working of his mighty power. And Thessalonians 1: 11, that God fulfilleth all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power. And II Peter 1: 3, that Gods power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life, and godliness.
††††††††† That teach, that grace and free-will are both partial causes, jointly concurring to the beginning of conversion; and that grace doth not in order of causality go before the action of the will: that is, that God doth not effectually help manís will unto conversion, before the will of man moves, and determines or settles itself thereunto. For this doctrine was long ago condemned by the ancient Church among the Pelagian errors, out of the Apostleís authority, Romans 9: 16, It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, that shows mercy. And I Corinthians 4: 7, Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Item Philippians 2: 13, It is God, which worketh in you, both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure.