Studies in the Canons of Dort



The doctrine of reprobation is not meant to alarm weak Christians whose faith falters, whose feeling of confidence is shaky, who realize that they do not glory “in God through Jesus Christ” as they should. It should not alarm them, provided they make use of the means of grace! Such should regularly make use of the means of grace, not spasmodically. They should confess their weak faith to God. Realizing that only “mercy drops round them are falling,” they should plead with God for showers of blessing. Such should pray (and should not we all?):

“I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasy, No sudden rending of the veil of clay, No angel visitant, no opening skies, But, take the dimness of my soul away!”

With the psalmist such should plead (and should not we all?):

“God, be merciful to me, On Thy grace I rest my plea; Plenteous in compassion Thou, Blot out my transgression now; Wash me, make me pure within, Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.”

Such should earnestly beseech the Lord in the words of Psalm 119:

“Direct my footsteps in Thy Word, From sin’s dominion save my soul, From man’s oppression set me free, That I may yield to Thy control.

“O make Thy face to shine on me, And teach me all Thy laws to keep; Because Thy statutes are despised, With overwhelming grief I weep.”

Such sincere praying is not done by a reprobate. No matter how weak a child of God may be, he has the promise that God will not break the bruised reed, nor will he quench the smoking flax (Isa. 42:3).

Do you feel so weak as a Christian that you doubt your own salvation? Dear reader, lean on God’s strength, lean on God’s promises, lean on God’s faithfulness, not on your weaknesses. Claim this promise: “Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me! Thy lovingkindness, O Jehovah, endureth for ever; Forsake not the work of Thine own hands” (Psalm 138:8). Also claim the promises in Psalm 94:14 and 18. Yes, claim all the promises of God because they are for his children, even for those of them who are weak. “If we arc faithless, He abideth faithful; for He cannot deny Himself” (II Tim. 2:13).

All we Christians arc indeed polluted; but, praise God, our guilt is removed by Jesus Christ!

Although this doctrine of reprobation should not unduly alarm one who has true faith, however weak, it should indeed alarm those who have no regard for God nor for the Saviour, Jesus Christ, but “who wholly give themselves up to the cares of the world and the pleasures of the flesh.” What is the case with such? They are chained by Satan whose “tactic is to keep those very calm whom he has in his power” (Feenstra, Ibid. p. (7). Satan docs not want his followers to feel alarmed about the possibility of being reprobate. His followers will criticize the doctrine of reprobation, if they have heard of it. Some of them will mock it; some of them even excuse their rejection of God by exonerating themselves of all responsibility for their ungodliness. Whatever their excuses or accusations, the fact remains that “they judge themselves unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46).

For Discussion

1. What are some of the causes of a faltering faith?

2. What means does God give us for strengthening our faith and for bolstering our assurance of faith?

3. Comment on this: When a Christian gets to heaven he will say, “It’s God’s grace that brought me here.” When the reprobate gets to hell, he will have to say, “It’s my fault that I am here.”





Let us face a series of questions:

1. Have all parents the right to believe that their child who died in infancy went to heaven?

2. Have any parents the right to believe this about their infant who died?

3. What is the Reformed view on this for covenant children, that is, for children of believers? for children of unbelievers? for children of heathen? What is the Arminian view?

4. With whom did God make his covenant?

Children of Believers are Holy

The Bible teaches that children of believers are holy. So much so that even if only one parent is a believer. the children are holy. If an unbelieving husband were not sanctified in his believing wife, or vice versa, the children would be unclean; but because the unbelieving parent is sanctified in the believing parent, the children are holy (I Cor. 7:14). This is because God made his covenant of grace with the believer and his children. “To you is the promise and to your children…” ( Acts 2:39). “The children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace” (Art. 17).

Are all Infants Saved?

There are Christians who believe that all infants who die, whether infants of believers or unbelievers, of Christians or of heathen, will go to heaven. God wouldn’t be just or loving, they hold, if he should reject an infant because all infants are too young to repent and believe. If this be so, wherein does God’s promise for his children’s children consist? There is nothing in the Bible, is there?, to give one ground to believe that all infants will go to heaven any more than the Bible teaches that all infants will go to hell. Only true believers have Biblical grounds for believing that if their child dies before it comes “to years of discretion” it will be saved. This is solely on the basis of God’s covenant promise to be the God of their children. Because a believer takes God at his Word, he has every right to be comforted when his infant dies. His ground for comfort is God’s promise, not man’s sentimental conclusion. The basis for comfort lies in God, not in man.


We may murmur at times at the procedures of men, but we may never murmur at the procedures of God. We may, therefore, never “murmur at free grace of election,” nor may we murmur at “the just severity of reprobation.” To do so is for foolish man to sit in judgment on the deep wisdom of God and for ignorant man to sit in judgment on the infinite knowledge of God. It is to try to search out what is unsearchable and to criticize Cod’s ways which are actually past finding out. God forbid that you and I should judge God unjust. If ever prone to do so, read carefully Isaiah 40:13–14 and 27–28; also Romans 9:14–23.

God Is Just

We must believe that God’s ways are always fair and just. To judge God unfair is to manifest a spirit of rebellion against God. Feenstra writes, “Election is grace and reprobation is perfect right….On Romans 9:11 Calvin comments, “…in the salvation of the godly nothing higher must be sought than the goodness of God, and nothing higher in the perdition of the reprobate than his just severity.”

For the Leader

You may find helpful such sources as: Calvin’s Institutes, Vol. II, Book IV, sect. 16; R. B. Kuiper’s The Glorious Body of Christ, chapter 33; W. Hendriksen’s The Covenant of Grace, chapter 6.

For Discussion

1. Show how belief in the universal salvation of infants who die, is groundless.

2. Show how believers who draw their comfort from God’s covenant of grace have a sure hope for their children who die before they come “to years of discretion.”

3. Show how our belief in God’s covenant of grace should take away undue alarm about the doctrine of reprobation.


Note. This lesson is a brief outline of the “Rejection of Errors” found at the end of Part I. If time permits, a period should be devoted to a study of the errors rejected by the Synod of Dordt and the reasons stated for rejecting them. This will greatly clarify some of the issues involved. (Complete sentences are used in the outline only when clarity demands this.)

Errors rejected by the Synod of Dort touching Part I

1. Error stated – Election only as foreknowledge of the faith and perseverance of man.

Error refuted – Faith and perseverance are both gifts of God. John 17:6, Acts 13:48, Ephesians 1:4.

2. Error stated – Existence of several kinds of election. 1. General – indefinite. 2. Particular – definite; a. Incomplete, revocable, non-decisive, conditional. b. Complete, irrevocable, decisive, absolute.

3. Election unto faith, not necessarily unto salvation.

4. Election unto salvation.

Error refuted – Distortion of Scripture. Romans 8:30.

3. Error stated – God did not choose persons, but chose faith as condition of salvation.

Error refuted – This is a nullification of the good pleasure of God and the merits of Christ. Not works but grace, II Timothy 1:19.

4. Error stated – Fitness as prerequisite of election unto faith.