or Doctrinal head, which is
concerning the perseverance of
The first Article
Whomsoever God according to his purpose, calls unto the fellowship of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the holy Spirit, those certainly, even in this life, he frees from the dominion of sin, and slavery under sin, but not altogether from the flesh, and the body of sin.
††††††††† From hence arise in holy men daily sins of infirmity, and even their best works have their blemishes, which yield unto them perpetual matter of humbling themselves before God, of making their recourse unto Christ crucified, of mortifying the flesh more and more by the Spirit of prayer, and by holy and godly exercises, and of striving and sighing after the goal of perfection, so long till, being delivered from this body of death, they may reign with the Lamb of God in the heavens.
††††††††† By reason of these relics of sins dwelling in them, and besides this, the temptations of the world, and Satan, they, which are converted, could not continue in the state of grace, if they were left to their own strength: but God is faithful, who mercifully confirms them in that grace, wherein he hath once accepted them, and mightily preserves them in the same, even unto the end.
†††††††† But although that power of God, confirming, and keeping the truly faithful in the state of grace, is greater, than can possibly be overcome by the flesh: nevertheless hey, which are converted, are not always so lead, and moved by God, that they cannot through their own fault stray, and depart from the guidance of grace in some particular actions, and be seduced by the concupiscence of the flesh, and give way unto the same. Wherefore they must continually watch, and pray, that they be not lead into temptation. Which when they do not, it is not only possible, that they should be carried away by the flesh, the world, and the Devil, into grievous, and heinous sins, but sometimes also, by Godís just permission, they are carried away: Which the lamentable falls of David, Peter, and other of the Saints, described unto us in the Scripture, evidently show.
††††††††† Now, by such enormous sin they greatly offend God, incur the guilt of death, grieve the holy Spirit, break off the exercise of faith, most grievously wound the conscience, now and then for a time loose the sense of grace, until, upon their returning into the way by a true and earnest repentance, Godís fatherly countenance shine again upon them.
††††††††† For God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of election, doth not wholly take away his holy Spirit from his, no not in their grievous slips, nor suffers them to wander so far, as to fall away from the grace of adoption, and state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death, or against the holy Ghost, or to be altogether forsaken of him, and throw themselves headlong into everlasting destruction.
††††††††† For first of all, in these slips, he preserves in them that his immortal seed, (by which they were once born again) that it die not, nor be lost by them: afterward, by his Word, and Spirit, he effectually, and certainly renews them again unto repentance, so that they do heartily, and according unto God, grieve for their sins committed, and with a contrite heart, by faith in the blood of the Mediator, craving forgiveness of them, obtain it, recover the apprehension of the favor of God reconciled unto them, adore his mercies and faithfulness, and from thence forward more carefully work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
††††††††† So, not by their own merits, or strength, but by Godís free mercy, they obtain thus much, that they neither totally fall from faith, and grace, nor continue to the end in their falls, and perish: which, in regard of themselves, not only full easily might, but doubtless would come to pass: yet in respect of God it cannot so fall out; since neither his counsel can be changed, nor his promise fail, nor the calling according to his purpose be revoked, nor Christís merit, intercession, and custody be made of none effect, nor the sealing of the holy Spirit be frustrated, or defaced.
††††††††† Of this preservation of the elect unto salvation, and perseverance of true believers in the faith, the faithful themselves may be and are ascertained, according to the measure of their faith, by which they assuredly believe, that they are, and shall forever continue true, and lively members of the Church, and that they have remission of their sins, and everlasting life.
††††††††† And therefore this certainty is not from any special revelation made beside, or without the word, but from faith in Godís promises, which he hath most plentifully revealed in his word for our comfort, from the testimony of the holy Spirit, bearing witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God, and heirs, Romans 8: 16. Lastly, from a serious and holy care of keeping a good conscience, and endeavor of good works. An if Godís chosen should want in this world this solid comfort of obtaining the victory, and this infallible pledge and earnest of eternal glory, they were surely of all men the most miserable.
††††††††† Nevertheless, the Scriptures witness, that the faithful do wrestle in this life with divers doubts of the flesh, and being plunged in deep temptations, do not always perceive in themselves this full assurance of faith, and certainty of perseverance: But God the Father of all consolation, suffers them not to be tempted above that they are able, but with the temptation makes a way to escape, I Corinthians 10: 13, and by his holy Spirit revives in them the certainty of perseverance.
††††††††† Now so far is assurance of perseverance in the truly faithful from making them proud, and carnally secure, that, on the contrary, it is the very root of humility, of filial reverence, of true godliness, of patience in all conflicts, of fervent prayer, of constancy in bearing the cross, and in confessing Godís truth, and lastly of solid joy in God: and that moreover the consideration of this benefit becomes a goad, or spur, to incite them to a serious, and continual exercise of thankfulness, and good works as appears by the testimonies of the Scriptures, and exampled of the Saints.
††††††††† Nor doth the revived confidence of perseverance beget wantonness, or reckless neglect of piety in those, who are restored upon their fall, but a far greater care to walk more circumspectly in the ways of the Lord, which are prepared to this end, that by walking therein they may hold fast the certainty of their perseverance; lest by reason of the abuse of his fatherly bounty, Godís gracious countenance (the beholding whereof is sweeter than life to the godly, the withdrawing more bitter than death) be again turned away from them, and so become more grievously wracked in conscience, than before.
††††††††† And, as it pleased God to begin this his work of grace in us by the preaching of the Gospel, so by hearing, reading, meditation, exhortations, threats, and promises of the same, as also by use of the Sacraments, he maintains, continues, and perfects his said gracious work.
††††††††† This doctrine concerning the perseverance of true believers, and saints, and the certainty thereof (which God to the glory of his name, and comfort of godly souls hath most abundantly revealed in his word, and imprints in the hearts of the faithful) howsoever flesh and blood apprehends it not, Satan hates it, the world laughs at it, ignorant men and hypocrites abuse it, and erroneous spirits oppugn it, yet the spouse of Christ hath always most tenderly loved, and constantly defended it, as a treasure of invaluable price. Which that she may still do, God will provide, and bring to pass: against whom neither can any counsel avail, nor strength prevail.
††††††††† To which only God the Father, Son, and holy Ghost, be honor, and glory forever and ever. Amen.
of the Errors touching the
Doctrine of the Perseverance
of the Saints
The Synod having declared the Orthodox
doctrine, no proceed to
disavow the errors of those;
†††††††† That teach, that the perseverance of the faithful is not an effect of election, or any gift of God, purchased by the death of Christ, but that it is a condition of the new covenant; which is to be performed on manís part, by his own free will, before his (as they themselves speak) peremptory election and justification. For the holy Scripture witnesses, that it follows upon election, and is given to the elect by virtue of Christís death, resurrection, and intercession, Romans 8: 32, &c. He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of Godís elect? It is God, that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ, that died, yea or rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
††††††††† That teach, that God indeed furnishes the faithful man with sufficient strength to persevere, and is ready to maintain that strength in him, if he himself not be wanting to his duty: yet notwithstanding, when as all habilities necessary unto perseverance, and all things, which God is pleased to use for the preservation of faith, are granted, and set in readiness, that it still remains in the choice, and pleasure of manís will to persevere, or not. For this opinion is easily discovered to be an imp of Pelagianism: which, while it strives to make man free, makes him sacrilegious, contrary to the uniform, and perpetual consent of evangelical doctrine, which quite strips man of all matter of boasting, and ascribes the glory of this benefit to Godís grace only: and contrary to the Apostle, witnessing, that it is God, who shall confirm us even unto the end, that we may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
††††††††† That each, that the regenerate, and true believers, not only may totally, and finally fall from justifying faith, as also from grace, and salvation, but that frequently also they indeed do fall from all these, and perish everlastingly. For this opinion makes the very grace of justification, and regeneration, and Christís continual custody void, and of no effect, contrary to the express words of St. Paul, Romans 5: 8, &c. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more then being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. And contrary to the Apostle Saint John, I John 3: 9, Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin: for his seed remaineth in him, neither can he sin, because he is born of God. And also contrary to the words of our Savior, John 10: 28, 29, I give eternal life unto my sheep and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand: my Father which gave them me is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Fatherís hand.
††††††††† That teach, that the regenerate, and truly faithful, may sin the sin unto death or against the holy Ghost. Whereas the same Apostle John, in the fifth chapter of his first epistle, having (verse 16) made mention of such, as sinned unto death, and forbidden to pray for them, presently (verse 18) adds; we know, that, whosoever is born of God, sinneth not (to wit that kind of sin) but he, that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
††††††††† That teach, that no certainty of future perseverance can be had in this life, without special revelation. For by this doctrine the solid comfort of true believers in this life is quite taken away, and the doctrine of doubtfulness (avouched by the Papists) is brought again into the Church. Whereas the holy Scripture everywhere draws this assurance, not from special, and extraordinary revelation, but from the proper marks and signs of Godís children, and from the infallible promises made by God himself: especially the Apostle, Romans 8: 39, No creature is able to separate us from he love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. And Saint John, I John 3: 24, He that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know, that he abideth in us, even by the Spirit, which he hath given us.
††††††††† That teach, that the Doctrine maintaining assurance of perseverance, and of salvation, is of its own nature, and guise, a soft pillow for the flesh, and hurtful to good manners, godliness, praying, and other holy courses: and contrariwise, that it is a very commendable thing to be doubtful of such perseverance. For the opposers of this assurance do evidently show, that they know not the powerfulness of Godís grace, nor the operation of the holy Ghost dwelling in the heart, and spare not to outface the Apostle Saint John, affirming the contrary in express terms, I John 3: 2, 3, †Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is. And every man, that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure. They are also refuted, by the examples of holy men, both in the old and new Testament, though well assured of their own perseverance and salvation, yet gave not over prayers, and other exercises of godliness.
††††††††† That teach, that the faith of those, that believe but for a season, differs not from justifying and saving faith, but only in respect of continuance. For Christ himself, Matthew 13: 20 and Luke 18: 13, manifestly puts a threefold disparison between temporizers, and true believers; saying that those receive the seed in a stony ground, these in good ground; that is, in an honest and good heart: those want root, these have a fast root: those are fruitless, these bring forth fruit with diversity of yield, and that with patience, that is, with constancy, and perseverance.
††††††††† That teach, that it is not absurd, that a man should loose his first regeneration, and be again and again new-born spiritually. For they, that teach this, do thereby deny the incorruptibleness of that divine seed, whereof we are born anew: contrary to the testimony of the Apostle, St. Peter I Peter 1: 23, Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.
††††††††† That teach, that Christ never prayed for the faithfulsí infallible perseverance in faith. For they contradict Christ himself, saying to Peter, Luke 22: 32, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: And also witnessing, (I John 17: 20) that himself prayed, not only for his Apostles, but also for all, that should believe by their word, when he said, (verse 11,) Holy Father, keep through thine own name those, whom thou hast given me. And verse 15, I pray not, thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.