28 May, 2016

Canons of Dordt, II: 6—“… many who are called by the gospel … perish in unbelief …”

And whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves (Canons of Dordt II, 6).


Rev. Herman Hoeksema

It seems to me that some reason from this article somewhere as follows:

1. There are those called by the Gospel who perish in their unbelief.
2. Hence not only the elect, but also the reprobate are called.
3. Consequently they also were offered, well-meant, the salvation in Christ.

However, the serious mistake that [is often made] here is that [the defender of the “well-meant offer” (hence, WMO)] makes himself guilty of begging the question. He assumes as an established fact the very thing that he must prove.

He has to prove that the calling of the Gospel, as it comes to the reprobate, (many are called few are chosen) is a well-meant offer of grace and salvation. But he tacitly assumes that which he has to prove.

[Please note:] we do not differ at all on the fact that many who are called by the Gospel perish in their unbelief. Nor is there any question among us concerning the established fact that the blame for their unbelief does not lie in any lack in Christ, but in themselves. That is the entire content of the article.

[In quoting this article for support, many proceed] from the assumption that the calling of the Gospel is an offer of grace, well-meant and general. [But that is] exactly what [they have] to prove. But [they] cannot prove that, for in the article immediately preceding this one the Canons have just described what must be understood by the calling. It is not a general “offer,” but a particular promise with a general demand to repent and believe. In the preaching of the Gospel, God condemns the unbelief and wickedness and impenitence of the world. Therefore in the calling of the Gospel He demands of everyone faith and repentance. If they fail to do this the blame is to be sought in them, in their depraved heart, not in Christ. If they do repent, the reason for that is to be sought in eternal, elective grace, not in the person, nor in any offer of the Gospel, but in efficacious, irresistible grace. To those who by eternal grace obey this call to faith and repentance, God promises eternal life. He does not “offer” it, He promises it to them and will also surely bestow it upon them.

This is the truth in regard to the calling. The calling is also a command to believe and repent. This aspect of the calling was in the minds of the fathers when they wrote this article, even more than the particular promise, as is evident from the manner in which this calling is briefly described in this same article: “That men … do not repent, nor believe in Christ.” The Gospel came with the demand to believe and repent. Many do not believe and repent. The fault lies with them.

[Hopefully, the reader] will now agree that this is the proper interpretation of this article of our Canons as also that there cannot be found a semblance of evidence of a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation in this article of our confession.



More to come! (DV)

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