Studies in the Canons of Dort – Lessons 22, 23, 24



Like begets like. Fallen man begets fallen children. Adam’s sin caused all his descendent’s to be conceived and born in sin, Jesus excepted. The innocent looking babe you saw the other day is not innocent, but came into the world laden with the guilt and pollution of original sin and soon gives evidence of its own sinful nature. The child is not innocent until it learns to imitate the sin of others. This was Rousseau’s mistaken idea; therefore he wanted to separate Emile from sinful society. Rousseau’s darkened mind did not grasp the truth that Emile herself was corrupt for having received a corrupt nature “by propagation of a vicious nature, in consequence of the just judgment of God.” Original sin condemns every unregenerate soul.

“…as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). “So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:18a). In Adam we all die (I Cor. 15:22). Adam was not merely the first man; he was our representative head. Because he was our representative, we share with him that original guilt and pollution.

Christ Was Sinless

Only Christ did not derive any sin from Adam. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and came into the world sinless. It required a sinless Saviour to redeem sinful man. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21). Thus Cod himself made it possible to redeem unto himself a people for his own possession. It was God himself who re-opened the communication and fellowship between God and man that Adam broke off. It was God who said to Adam, “Where art thou?” It was God who said to the serpent, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).


Why cannot man of himself return to God? This article gives the reason drawn from the Scripture. “All men are conceived in sin and are by nature children of wrath.” David knew that he was brought forth in iniquity and that in sin his mother conceived him (Ps. 51:5). All are by nature, that is, by fallen nature, children of wrath. What does this mean? Doesn’t the modern church resent the very term, “children of wrath”? Don’t even the evangelicals shy away from this biblical term? Do even conservative ministers and missionaries sufficiently emphasize that men are by nature “children of wrath”? Dr. S. Greydanus says that the term “children of wrath” means that by nature man lies completely under the wrath of God against sin and that there is nothing in man or on him whereby he can of himself make himself acceptable to God (Korte Verklaring). Lenski says, “children of wrath are those subject to God’s wrath.” He defines God’s wrath as the “unvarying reaction of his holiness and righteousness against all that is sinful” (p. 412 of his commentary on Gal., Eph., and Phil.) God’s wrath is not an arbitrary reaction. God’s holiness and righteousness spontaneously, automatically, irresistibly go out in wrath against sin. How afraid we should be, then, to sin! How we sinners, although redeemed, should fear God!

Incapability of Man

All men are incapable of saving good. Nothing man can do has saving power (Rom. 3:12). All our righteousness arc as filthy rags. All our efforts come short of the glory of God. All men are prone to evil. All men are dead in sin and are in bondage to it (Eph. 2:1, 5). If dead in sin, man is incapable of choosing the good, incapable of exercising a faith that saves. Deadness in sins spells incapability of any choice which presupposes spiritual life. The Arminian is very wrong on assuming that faith comes before regeneration.

What kind of aid does man need to return to God? Do unregenerate man’s ability and will conflict? .Is it ever so that man wills to return to God but he cannot and therefore his will and his ability conflict? Is it so that man might want to come to God but he cannot because he is not elect? We must give an emphatic “no” to these questions because “the natural man recciveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him” (I Cor. 2:14a). To be sure he cannot know the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14b), but remember, he does not ever will to know them in his natural state because they are foolishness to him.

Man’s ability and will do not conflict, but his ability and his responsibility do. Man is ever duty bound to serve God and to love him, even though he robbed himself willfully of being able to assume that responsibility. Would my owing you $10,000 which I am unable to pay, free me of that responsibility? You know very well, and so do I, that my inability does not relieve me of responsibility. So it is with the sinner in his relation to his Maker. Although men lost none of their responsibility to love and serve God, they are “neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, or to dispose themselves to reformation” (See Matt. 7:18; Rom. 3:11; Rom. 8:7–8). The only way out is the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.


1. Prove that Karl Barth is wrong in believing that “there is no wrath of God that could issue in man’s eternal death” and that therefore the cross of Christ does not save us from the wrath of God (Dr. C. Van Til, Christianity and Barthianism, p. 117 ).

2. What is the difference between sinning by imitation and sinning by propagation? If it were the former what means could we use to avoid sinning? Can you cite examples from history or fiction?

3. How is it that Jesus could come into the human race without taking on the original sin that curses everyone else?

4. Does the Bible anywhere say that men are by nature children of love? Does the Bible anywhere teach that God loves everybody? If so, how does that harmonize with the “children of wrath” concept? Is there any difference between an unbeliever being an object of common grace or being an object of love?

5. Does the fact that men are by nature children of wrath have any bearing on the principles of missions or on methods of doing mission work?

6. How does the truth of this lesson conflict with the Modernist’s idea of how to gain heaven?



Is the difference between natural light and saving grace a mere difference of degree as the Remonstrants believe? See their error as stated in Paragraph 5 under “Rejection of Errors,” at the end of Parts III-IV.

Saving grace “is a special gift of God which one receives but to which one does not attain” (Ps. 147: 19, 20). In his Theory of Knowledge, Dr. C. Van Til puts it so deftly when he says, “Men do not see the need of grace until by grace they see it.” What is the reaction of natural man to the Gospel, however cultured he may be?

The “glimmerings of natural light” man still has, account for his having “some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil” and account for his showing “some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior.” Because of these retentions man is not as bad as he can possibly be, but he is depraved in every possible part of his being. The heathen show that they have some knowledge of God’s law. “They are faithful, honest, don’t steal, don’t lie, but they do it for other motives” (Ds. J. C. Feenstra). They aren’t honest for God’s sake. They don’t refrain from stealing for God’s sake. Perhaps they refrain because honesty is the best· policy. His success in business, his honor may depend on his being honest; therefore he is honest.

The criminals who own large motels in which to invest their stolen riches, don’t treat their patrons honestly for God’s sake but to promote their business. While dealing honestly with their patrons, they may be laying plans for robbing another bank.

Right Use of Natural Light?

Not only is the natural light inadequate to salvation, but the natural man cannot use the natural light “aright even in things natural and civil.” He fails to use the only means that enables him to interpret natural things and civil matters rightly, namely, the Word of God. Even if he should try to use the Word of God, his darkened mind could not receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. He may know very much about natural and civil matters but he will not know them truly because he fails to see them in their proper relation to God. In these matters too they serve the creature rather than the Creator. At best they will evaluate things natural and civil humanistically. Such evaluations come short of the glory of God. “Nay, further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and hinders in unrighteousness.” Note, they “hinder in unrighteousness.” In Romans 1:19 we read that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness.” Paul goes on to say that God manifested unto them his power and divinity which are clearly perceived through the visible things which he made. From the creation of the world they have been clearly perceived because God manifested it unto man. Natural man, however, hinders the truth in unrighteousness. “…they hinder the truth because there is a manifestation of truth to them, and the truth manifested to them is described as ‘that which is known of God’” (Romans, Vol. I, p. 37. Prof. J. Murray, Eerdmans). All this leaves man without excuse.

Today many a scientist, many a theologian, many a philosopher, many an educator hinders the truth in unrighteousness. Can’t it be said that the person who will hinder the truth in unrighteousness to the most superlative degree, will be the anti-Christ? He will be so clever that he will make most people believe that he is promoting righteousness. Of him Ds. J. C. Feenstra says, “the anti-Christ shall be a respectable learned man.” Aren’t there some leaders in the theological world, political world, academic world, sociological world, scientific world, economic world, that make us think of the coming of just that kind of anti-Christ?


The moral law with its just do’s and don’ts condemns us at every point. Every commandment justifies our condemnation because we sin against everyone, and, besides, to transgress one is to transgress all. Through his law God points an accusing finger at us and accuses us of being the guilty one. “Thou art the man.”

What does the law do? “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” It reveals what great sinners we are. “It more and more convinces man of sin, and leaves the transgressor under the curse.” It leaves us without a remedy and leaves us incapable of getting out of the misery which it induces. It tells us what we may do and what we may not do, but it docs not tell us the way out. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all the things of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). Since we fall short of obeying any commandment, we stand condemned. “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24-25).


The Holy Spirit applies to his people the work of salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ. Jesus is as much the Saviour of the O.T. saints as he is of the N.T. saints. There never was another name under heaven given among men wherein we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus fulfilled all the demands of the law for his own. The Holy Spirit applies that perfect work to their hearts so that they stand before Cod as if they had never sinned. They stand in the righteousness of Christ. J. G. Feenstra quotes Bavinck to have said that the Holy Spirit follows Christ in his movement through history, that he attaches himself to the Word of Christ, and that he works only in the name of and upon the command of Christ.

Tn the vicarious work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit lies our only comfort in life and death. As the law in no wise saves us, so the Lord Jesus Christ in every wise saves us. Yes, so completely does he save, that nothing, just nothing, can separate us from the love of Cod, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


1. Why are both the natural light and the moral law inadequate to salvation?

2. Why is Christ’s work adequate to salvation?

3. The nomist believes that keeping of the law will merit heaven. The anti-nomist believes we have nothing to do with the law in the N.T. day. What is the Reformed position?

4. Can the liberal be saved who rejects the shedding of Jesus blood for the remission of sins?

5. Why is it important to have the law read every Sunday? Do you ever hear voices in your church against this custom?





If God is sovereign he is in complete control. If he isn’t in complete control, he isn’t sovereign. If he isn’t sovereign, he is limited by that over which he isn’t sovereign. If he is limited, he can’t be a trustworthy God. If God is limited either by the power of Satan or of man, he is not sovereign. If there is a limiting power over which God has no control then God is not on the throne. A God dethroned in any way is no longer God.

“The sovereignty of God in Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is sovereign, we affirm His right to govern the universe, which he has made for his own glory and just as he pleases. We affirm that his right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i.e., that he may mold that clay into whatsoever form he chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. We affirm that he is under no rule or law outside of his own will and nature, that God is a law unto himself, and that he is under no obligation to give account of his matter to any” (The Sovereignty of God, p. 25, A. Pink).

Distribution of the Mystery of Salvation

During the O.T. God limited this distribution almost entirely to his people Israel. The rest of the world God left in darkness, with Satan deceiving the nations of earth. With the first coming of Christ, which initiated the N.T. dispensation, God bound Satan so that he could deceive the nations no more. If the thousand years of Revelation 20 represent the N.T. dispensation, the period of time from the first coming of Christ to just before the second coming of Christ, as those accepting the parallelistic view of the book of Revelation believe it to be. then Satan has been bound since Christ’s first coming and will be until he be loosed again for a little while (Rev. 20:2–3; also see W. Hendriksen’s More Than Conquerors). Ever since Christ’s ascension to heaven, the distribution of the mystery of salvation has taken on ever increasing proportions. The Gospel has been reaching out from Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth. The Saviour has burst all national boundaries and is taking lodging in the hearts of people of all races and nationalities. The Gospel is being read in over a thousand tongues today, linguists are busy reducing unwritten languages or dialects into writing so that the Gospel can be translated into those tongues. All this the Holy Spirit controls in such a way that God’s sovereign plan of salvation will be realized according to his sovereign will.

The reason why some nations have the Gospel whereas others do not yet have it, is not due to the “superior worth of one nation above another, nor to their better use of the light of nature.” To believe that would be to assume that the cause lies in man. The way some missionaries and evangelists talk, would give one precisely the impression that the reason for response to the Gospel lies precisely in man. This is a grievous error. We must find the reason wholly in “the sovereign good pleasure and unmerited love of God.”

“Tis not that I choose thee,

For, Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse Thee

Hadst Thou not chosen me.”

Humility and Gratitude

Since salvation is of sovereign grace and therefore may not in anywise be attributed to man, the saved person behooves to be most humble and most grateful. Because our demerits and our transgressions rise up against us, we should overflow with gratitude for so great a salvation as Jesus wrought. We are also to adore “the severity and justice of God’s judgment displayed in” those to whom God does not come with salvation.

Instead of adoring “the severity and justice of God’s judgment” Christians incline to pry into these judgments and have a hard time suppressing the thought that God is really unjust and unfair. Such reactions bring dishonor on God’s sovereignty and reveal a tendency to sit in judgment over the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.


“As many as are called are unfeignedly called.” This means that God’s call is not counterfeit, but genuine. It is not hypocritical but sincere. The sinner that comes within the pale of the Gospel hears the external call of Cod. How can that external call be sincere if Cod has chosen only some to salvation? Ds. J. G. Feenstra answers this well when he says, “We do not come to the conclusion about God’s Sincerity in the external call by way of reason but by way of faith.” We must approach this mystery too by faith. not by understanding. What God himself tells us about the mystery of salvation, we must believe; we may not modify God’s plan to suit our finite and withal sinful understanding. As we ponder such passages as Provo 1:24-26; Isa. 5:51; Isa. 45:22; Ezek. 18:23, 32; Matt. 23, 37; Matt. 11:28; John 3:36, we cannot but believe in the sincerity of God’s call. Bavinck’s statement, quoted by Feenstra, may prove helpful. Bavinck says, “God does not tell us in the sincere offer of salvation what he will do, but he tells us what we should do humble ourselves and seek salvation in Jesus Christ.”

Remonstrants Object

To the Remonstrants who doubt the sincerity of God when God calls to faith and repentance without working regeneration through the Holy Spirit, we must say what God says in Rom. 9:19–23, “Thou wilt say unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,…”

God “promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.” He bids those who labor and are heavy laden come and God will give them rest. He bids the ends of the earth come and be saved. He bids the thirsty come and drink and he bids those who have no money come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Note, God commands men to come, to repent, to believe. He does not say if you will come, or if you will believe, or if you will repent. Man by nature does not will to come although God bids him come. He does not will to believe although God bids him believe. He does not—win to repent although God bids him repent. It is man’s duty to come, to repent, to believe, irrespective of his disability. His responsibility is not limited by his inability. Man is forever responsible for rejecting the offer of salvation. This is just as true as it is true that God calls unfeignedly, and that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and hardeneth whom he will harden. Do I understand this. Oh no! I believe it!


1. Show from the Scripture that God is sovereign in evangelism? May we ignore methods or techniques?

2. Has an evangelist the right to determine how many should be saved at a meeting, or in an evangelistic campaign?

3. Does the N.T. ever hint at working toward the salvation of a certain number in a given place or time?

4. Is the certainty of the coming in of all God’s elect dependent on certain methods or techniques of evangelism? May we ignore methods or techniques?

5. Show from the Bible that God’s offer of salvation is sincere.

6. Prove from Scripture that the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever.

7. In what way do the Arminians rob God of his sovereignty in salvation?