On the benefits and promises of God, and principally of election to grace, or calling to faith.
“1. But that man may not just perform the commandments of God thus far explained, but also willingly want to perform them from the mind, God willed for his part to do everything necessary for effecting both in man(a), that is, he determined to confer such grace to sinful man by which he might be suitable and apt to render everything which is required of him in the gospel, and even more, to promise such good things to him, whose excellence and beauty might far exceed the capacity of human understanding, and that the desire and certain hope of this might kindle and inflame the will of man to render obedience in acts to him.
“Indeed, God habitually both makes known and bestows all these benefits to us by his Holy Spirit(b) (about which we have declared more fully above).
(a) Jer. 31:32-34, Heb. 8:8ff, Ez. 11:19 & 36:22, 2Cor. 7:1, 2Pet. 1:3-4, 1John 3, Col. 1:4-5, 1Pet. 1:3-4. (b) 1Cor. 2:10, 12:3ff, 1John 2:20, 27, Rom. 5:5, 8-9.
“2. Therefore, in the first place, when God calls sinners to himself through the gospel and seriously commands faith and obedience either under the promise of eternal life, or to the contrary, under the threat of eternal death, he not only bestows necessary but also sufficient grace for sinners to render faith and obedience(a).
“This calling is sometimes called election in Scriptures, namely, to grace as the means of salvation, very different from election to glory or to salvation itself(b); more on this below.
“This calling, however, is effected and executed by the preaching of the gospel(c), together with the power of the Spirit, and that certainly with a gracious and serious intention to save and so to bring to faith all those who are called(d), whether they really believe and are saved or not, and so obstinately refuse to believe and be saved.
(a) Matt. 11:20, John 5:34, 40 & 6:44-45, 2Pet. 1:2-3. (b) 1Cor. 1:26, 2Tim. 1:9, 1Pet. 2:9. (c) Matt. 28:18, John 5:34, Rom. 10:14-15, 2Cor. 3:5-6. (d) 1Tim. 2:4ff., Tit. 2:11, 1Pet. 1:23, 25.
“3. For there is one calling that is effective(a), so called because it attains its saving effect from the event rather than from the sole intention of God. Indeed, it [is] not administered by some special and hidden wisdom of God from an absolute intention of saving, so as to fruitfully unite with the will of the one who is called, nor so that by it the will of the one who is called is so efficaciously determined to believe through an irresistible power or some omnipotent force(b) (which is nothing less than creation, or raising from the dead) that he could not but believe and obey, but because it is not resisted by the one who is now called and sufficiently prepared by God, nor is a barrier placed against divine grace which otherwise was able to be placed by him.
“Indeed there is another which is sufficient, but nevertheless ineffective(c), namely, which on man’s part is without saving effect and through the will and avoidable fault of man alone it is unfruitful, or does not attain its desired and due effect.
(a) Rom. 8:28-29, 1Cor. 1:24, 26. (b) Acts 2:4, 13, 48, Rom. 6:17, 1Thess. 2:13. (c) Prov. 1:24-25, Ez. 12:1, Is. 5:1ff., Matt. 23:37, Luke 7:30, John 5:40, Acts 7:5 & 13:46, 2Thess. 3:1-2, contrary to the Canons of the Synod of Dort, chs. 3 & 4.
“4. The former, when either joined with its saving effect or already constituted by its exercised act, is sometimes called in Scripture conversion(a), regeneration(b), a spiritual rising from the dead(c) and a new creation(d), clearly because by it we are efficaciously turned from a corrupt style of living(e) to live justly, soberly and godly(f), and are raised on a heavenly account from a death of sin or a deadly custom of sinning to a spiritual life or holy way of living.
“And finally, being reformed by the spiritual effectiveness of the Word according to the image first of the teaching and then of the life of Christ, it is as if we were born again(g) and made new creatures through repentance and true faith(h).
(a) Acts 3:19, 26, 1Thess. 1:9. (b) John 3:5ff., Ja. 1:18. (c) Eph. 2:6. (d) Gal. 4:19, 2Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10. (e) Tit. 2:11-12. (f) Rom. 6:2ff. (g) Rom. 6:17. (h) Eph. 2:24, Col. 3:10.
“5. Man therefore does not have saving faith from himself(a), nor is he regenerated or converted by the powers of his own free will, seeing that in the state of sin he cannot of himself or by himself either think or will or do anything that is good enough to be saved(b) (of which first of all is conversion and saving faith), but it is necessary that he be regenerated and totally renewed by God, in Christ, through the word of the gospel joined with the power of the Holy Spirit(c), namely, in his understanding, affections, will and all his strengths, that he may be able to understand, meditate on, will and finish correctly these things that are savingly good.
(a) Matt. 11:17, 13:11, & 16:17ff. (b) Matt. 7:17 & 12:34, John 6:44-45, 65 & 3:5. (c) Phil. 1:5-6 & 2:13, Eph. 2:1ff., Ja. 1:17-18, 1Pet. 1:23.
“6. We think therefore that the grace of God is the beginning(a), progress(b) and completion of all good(c), so that not even a regenerate man himself can, without this preceding or preventing [prevenient], exciting, following and cooperating grace, think, will, or finish any good thing to be saved(d), much less resist any attractions and temptations to evil.
“Thus faith, conversion, and all good works, and all godly and saving actions which are able to be thought, are to be ascribed solidly to the grace of God in Christ as their principal and primary cause.
(a) Eph. 2:5, 18, Titus 2:11-13 & 3:4-5, Phil. 1:6. (b) John 15:5, 1Cor. 1:4ff. (c) 1Thess. 5:23-24, Eph. 6:13. (d) Matt. 26:41, 1Cor. 10:13, 2:4ff.
“7. Yet a man may despise and reject the grace of God(a) and resist its operation, so that when he is divinely called to faith and obedience, he is able to render himself unfit to believe and obey the divine will, and that by his own true and conquerable fault, either by secure carelessness(b), or blind prejudice(c), or thoughtless zeal(d), or an inordinate love of the world(e) or of himself(f), or other inciting causes of that kind.
“For such an irresistible grace or force, which, as to its effectiveness, is no less than creation, nor generation properly called, nor raising from the dead (and causes the very act of faith and obedience in such a way that, being granted, a man cannot not believe or obey) certainly cannot be but ineptly and foolishly applied where free obedience is seriously commanded, and that under the promise of vast reward if performed and the threat of the gravest punishment if neglected.
“For in vain he commands this obedience and requires it of another, and without cause promises to reward the obedience, who himself alone both ought and wills to cause the very act of obedience by such a force as cannot be resisted. And it is silly and irrational to reward someone as truly obedient in whom this very obedience was caused through such an alien power.
“And finally, punishment, especially eternal, is unjustly and cruelly inflicted on him as disobedient by whom this obedience was not performed solely through the absence of that irresistible and truly necessary grace, who really is not disobedient.
“We cannot here state how everywhere in the Scriptures it is affirmed of some, that they resisted the Holy Spirit(g), that they judged, or rather made themselves unworthy of eternal life(h), that they made void the counsel of God concerning themselves(i); that they would not hear(k), come(l), obey(m), that they closed their ears(n) and hardened their hearts(o), etc.
“And of others, that they promptly and freely believed(p), that they obeyed the truth and the faith, that they showed themselves attentive and teachable, that were attentive to the evangelical doctrine(q), that received the Word of God with cheerfulness, and that they were more generous in this than those who rejected the same, and finally, lastly, that obeyed the truth, or the Gospel, from the heart, etc.
“To attribute all this to those who in no way can either believe or obey, or cannot believe and obey when they are called, is very certainly foolish, and plainly ridiculous.
(a) Ez. 12:2, Prov. 1:24-25, Matt. 13:19 & 23:27, Acts 7:51 & 13:46. (b) Matt. 13:19. (c) John 7:3-5, 51. (d) 2Cor. 3:13, Rom. 10:2-3. (e) Luke 14:18. (f) John 5:44. (g) 2Cor. 4:4, 2Thess. 3:2, 2Tim. 3:2ff, 1John 5:4ff. (h) Acts 7:51 (i) Acts 13:46. (k) Luke 7:30. (l) Prov. 1:24-25. (m) John 5:40. (n) Acts 7:39. (o) Zech. 7:11-13, Jer. 5:3. (p) Acts 28:24, Heb. 3:12-13 & 4:2, Ps. 95:7-8. (q) Acts 2:41, 13:47, 6:7 & 17:11, Rom. 6:17, 1Pet. 1:22.
“8. And even if there truly is the greatest disparity of grace(a), clearly according to the most free dispensation of the divine will, still the Holy Spirit confers such grace to all(b), both in general and in particular, to whom the Word of faith is ordinarily preached, as is sufficient for begetting faith in them, and for gradually carrying on their saving conversion.
“And therefore sufficient grace for faith and conversion not only comes to those who actually believe and are converted, but also to those who do not believe and are not really converted(c). For whoever God calls to faith and salvation, he calls them seriously(d), that is, not only by an external show, or in words alone (that is, when his serious commandments and promises are declared to those that are called in general) but also with a sincere and unfeigned intention of saving them and the will of converting them.
“Thus he never willed any prior decree of absolute reprobation or undeserved blinding or hardening concerning them.
(a) Rom. 12:6ff, 1Pet. 4:10. (b) Matt. 11:21, Tit. 3:4ff., 1Pet. 1:23 & 2:9, Ja. 1:18, 2Cor. 3:6, Heb. 4:12. (c) Is. 62:2, Ez. 18:11, Prov. 1:24ff., Matt. 23:37, Luke 8:12. (d) Tit. 2:11-12, 2Tim. 1:9, 2Cor. 5:20 & 6:1ff., Is. 5:2ff., Ps. 85:13-14, John 5:34 & 10:10.”
The Arminian Confession of 1621, trans. and ed. Mark Ellis (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2005), 105-110.