Donald Grohman on Dort and the 1649 Genevan Articles

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in Diversity at Dort

[comments below]


The following extracts are taken from Grohman’s dissertation.1 Some of the material is irrelevant, but included for the sake of context.

The historical context of the following “theses” relates to Alexandre Morus (1616-1670) who was a candidate for ministry in 1641. However, his application and acceptance into the Genevan church ministry was not readily accepted by the “venerable company” of Genevan pastors. He was suspected of being: 1) in agreement with Amyraut on universal grace; 2), that he agreed with Joshua de la Place on original sin; and 3), that he agreed with Piscator on the question of Christ’s active and passive obedience. The company of pastors drew up a list of theses which they demanded Morus sign and thereby assent to. After the theses, I have included Grohman’s comments regarding the theses’ statements relative to Dort and the death of Christ.


1) At the Council’s insistence the Company met on Monday, May 28, and agreed to draw up for Morus a list of theses containing the pure doctrine and rejecting the false doctrine. Theodore Tronchin and Antoine Léger, professors of theology, were appointed to write the theses.

These theses were read and approved at the Company meeting on June 1, and they were signed on behalf of the Company by the moderator Sartoria and the acting secretary Girard. The theses are organized under five headings original sin, predestination, redemption, the disposition of man to grace, and promises made to the faithful and their prerogatives. The theses are as follows:

Original Sin

I. The first sin of Adam (maraptoma) is imputed to his posterity by a just disposition and judgment of God, and corruption is poured-out on each and everyone who proceeds naturally from that source. Thus, there are three things which render man accused before God: (1.) The guilt flowing from the fact that we have all sinned in Adam; (2) the corruption which is the punishment of this guilt, imposed both on Adam and on his posterity; (3) the sins which men commit as adults.

2. The imputation of Adam’s sin and the imputation of the justice of Jesus Christ answer each other mutually. Just as Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity, so the justice of Christ is imputed to the elect. The imputation in of Adam’s precedes corruption; the imputation of Christ ‘s justice precedes sanctification.

3. The imputation of Adam is sin and impure generation, which are certainly two ways of transmitting original sin, are interrelated and completely inseparable. Nevertheless, when they are considered as antecedent and consequent or cause and effect, to be sure, the corruption of nature in us is derived from Adam, because in him we have sinned and we have been made guilty.

Rejection of error of those:

Who deny that Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity; and who pretending to establish imputation, really destroy it or overthrow it, lot recognizing that, first, it is diffused naturally to each one.


l. Fallen men are the object of predestination, not however as unbelieving and rebellious to the call.

2. Holy Scripture sometimes presents election to salvation and the means of salvation separately, and for this reason they can be considered separately. Christ was sent and he died according to the counsel of God the Father, which proceeds from his eternal love for the elect.

3. God decreed to give to the Son only those whom he elected in Christ by his good pleasure alone, and to give them faith so that they would be led to eternal life.

4. The unique love and mercy of God is the only cause of the sending of the Son and of the satisfaction provided by him, as well as the gift of faith and the application of merit through him. These benefits ought not to be separated or divided or torn away in their turn from their source.

Rejection of the error of those:

1. Who teach that in God there is some good will for saving under the condition of faith and repentance those who perish.

2. Who, giving economy (oikonomias) as a pretext, falsely attribute to God an inclination, or will, or want, or disposition, or less strong love, or virtue, or intention, or desire, or will, or counsel, or decree, or covenant, or necessary or universal conditional mercy, by which he wishes to save each and every man if he believes in Christ.

3. Who attribute to God a plan previous to election by which he resolved to be merciful to the entire human race indeterminately.

4. Who ascribe to Go a double mercy: the one, clear or first and universal, by which he wants each and everyone to be saved: the other, clearer, second, and particular for the elect.


l. Since the end is destined only to those to whom the means are destined, the coming of Christ into the world, his death, and his satisfaction, and salvation are destined only to those to whom God decreed from all eternity by his pure good pleasure to give faith and repentance, and to whom he confers them effectively in time; the universality of saving grace is contrary to Scripture and the experience of all the centuries.

2. Christ, from the pure good pleasure (eudokia) of the Father, was destined and given as Mediator to a certain number of men who constitute his mystical boy according to God’s election.

3. It was precisely for them that Christ, perfectly conscious of his calling, wanted and decided to die and to add to the infinite worth of his death the most efficacious and particular intention of his will.

4. The universal propositions which are found in Scripture do not indicate that Christ died, made satisfaction, etc., for each and every man according to the counsel of the Father and his will; but, either they are to be restricted to the universality of the body of Christ, or they must be referred to the economy (oikonomian) of the new covenant, by which the external distinction of all people having been taken away, the Son took all nations to himself as an inheritance. That is, he opens and accords the grace of proclamation to nations and peoples together by his will, and he gathers the Church from there, which is the foundation of the general proclamation of the Gospel.

Rejection of the errors of those:

Who teach that Christ died for each and everyone sufficiently not only with regard to the worth, but even by reason of the intention, or for all conditionally if they believe; or who assert that Scripture teaches that Christ died for all men in general, and particularly that the Scripture passages Ezek. l8:2l, etc., and 33:11; John 3:16; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9 ought to extend to each and every man, and that the universality of love and grace is proved by them.

The Disposition of Man to Grace

l. Since the necessary conditions for salvation are impossible for the reprobates, God does not intend to give them salvation, conditionally if they believe and repent, unless one supposes that there is in God some vain, frustrated, and useless intention and will.

2. A good use of natural light, either subjective or objective, cannot lead man to salvation, nor obtain from God any other degree of light destined to salvation.

Rejection of the error of those:

1. Who teach a universal and common call to all men to salvation and to the author of salvation, and that each and ever man can believe and be saved if he wants.

2. Who teach that God, by his revealed will, wants the salvation of each and everyone.

Promises made to the Faithful and their Prerogatives

l. The life, of which the promise is added to the observation of the law, is not only earthly and temporal, but also heavenly and eternal.

2. The faithful even before the birth of Christ had the same Mediator and Savior as we have, and the same spirit of adoption.

Rejection of the error of those:

l. Who teach that the recompense of the legal covenant was such that its function was only natural and temporal.

2. Who teach that the Fathers of the Old Testament lacked the pledge of the Holy Spirit.

Donald Davis Grohman, “The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635-1685″ (Th.D. diss, Knox College in cooperation with Toronto School of Theology. 1971), 231-235. [Some reformatting; original footnotes not included; footnotes mine; and underlining mine.]

2) The culmination of the Company’s reaction to Morus and to the doctrine of hypothetical universalism came in the writing and the approval of the 1649 theses. Four of the five sections of these theses deal specifically with hypothetical universalism and contain a detailed and precise rejection of this doctrine. It is interesting to see how each of these four sections relates back to earlier questions and changes. First, the section on predestination correlates with two of the questions of July, 1641, one charge of 1646 and two of the charges taken from Morus’s lectures in 1648. Second the statements on redemption relate to one of the 1641 questions, three of the charges of 1648, and one charge from the lectures. Third, the section on the disposition of man to grace is related to three questions of 1641 and one charge from Morus’s lectures.

Fourth, the statements about the promises made to the faithful relate to two questions of 1641, two charges of 1646, and two charges from Morus’s sermons in 1648.

It is significant that Theodore Tronchin was one of the two people responsible for writing the theses, since he had been one of the two Genevan representatives to the Synod of Dort. Part of the presentation of the Genevan representatives at Dort is included word for word in the 1649 theses, especially in points two, three, and four in the section on redemption.2 It is interesting to notice that the Company attached more importance to what their representatives said at Dort than to what the Synod itself said. This is true undoubtedly because the Synod actually adopted a position which was a compromise between the conservative Genevan delegates and the liberal3 delegates from Bremen and England on the subject of the extent of grace. As Rex4 points out, “the Calvinism at Dordecht allowed for both conservatism and for a certain liberalism: the Canons decidedly did not rule out the liberal theology of the delegates from England and Bremen.” Thus, the Canons of the Synod of Dort were not as precise on the subject of grace as the Genevan representatives had wished. It is also interesting that the 1649 theses clearly reject Beza’s supralapsarian position, accepting instead the infralapsarian position held by both Tronchin and Morus. Donald Davis Grohman, “The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635-1685″ (Th.D. diss, Knox College in cooperation with Toronto School of Theology. 1971), 254-256. [Some reformatting; original footnotes not included; footnotes mine; and underlining mine.]

3) It is not at all surprising that those who refused to sign the 1649 theses nevertheless accepted the Canons of the Synod of Dort. As has been pointed out before (see supra, p. 255) the Canons represented a compromise view which could be interpreted to include hypothetical universalism. According to Rex, “the Canons struck a compromise on the issue: though rigorously particularist, at the same time they placed great stress upon the infinite sufficient value of Christ’s death and avoided any formula which could not be interpreted in the liberal sense if one so chose. That is undoubtedly why the forthright delegates from Bremen were willing to sign them.” (Rex, Essays…, p. 87).  Donald Davis Grohman, “The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635-1685″ (Th.D. diss, Knox College in cooperation with Toronto School of Theology. 1971), 280 [fnt.1.]. [Underlining mine.]

[Notes: What is of interest here are these theses, and the telling remarks from Grohman, by way of Walter Rex.

1) These theses clearly reveal an emerging hypercalvinism in the theology and thinking of the Genevan church. Once one denies that God by revealed will, wills and desires (even as an active principle or disposition) the salvation of all men, one cannot sustain a truly well-meant offer of the Gospel.

2) The presentation of the theses as they relate to statements from Dort on the death of Christ demonstrate a discontinuity between the theses and Dort. Although it is readily granted that today many would like to read Dort as if it was identical to these theses respecting the death of Christ, or as if the theses somehow reflected the true meaning and intent of Dort, the fact is, they do no reflect Dort. Further, it is clear that Dort was written to be an inclusive confession, as opposed to being a sectarian one.

3) These theses actually stand in direct contradiction to the exegesis and teaching of many of the original Reformers,5 and Reformed in other countries. On the supposition that these theses be allowed to stand, then without doubt, many men such as Calvin, Bullinger, Marlorate, and others should have been deposed from ministry or denied ordination to ministry.

4) Ironically, mainstream High and Moderate Calvinism has essentially rejected many of these propositions, along with many of the ones contained in the Second Helvetic Consensus.6 In the final analysis, Genevan orthodoxy did not actually represent mainstream Calvinist orthodoxy, but actually represented an extremist position moving or leaning into hypercalvinism.]

[Credit to Tony for bringing my attention to the 1649 articles.]


1Donald Davis Grohman, “The Genevan Reactions to the Saumur Doctrines of Hypothetical Universalism: 1635-1685? (Th.D. diss, Knox College in cooperation with Toronto School of Theology. 1971).

2At Dort, the delegates were divided by regions or countries. Each delegation then presented statements regarding the respective points under consideration. Thus, the English delegation presented their own theses and propositions, as did the Genevans, and so on. After the presentations of the various lists of theses and propositions, a compromise set of propositions were developed and finally approved.

3The word liberal, with its counterpoint conservative, here are not the best terms one should use, as liberal it may connote something like lax, or loose, or less than orthodox, and conservative may suggest the idea of truer, more faithful, or more orthodox.

4Walter Rex, Essays on “Pierre Bayle and Religious Controversy” (The Hague: Martinus, Nijhoff, 1965).

5Grohman notes this by way Louis Tronchin and a tract making the same point (cf., pp., 326 and 367). The point is, that as they stand, they repudiate, for example, Calvin’s own interpretation of John 3:16, Eze 18:26, and 2 Peter 3:9. And not only is Calvin repudiated and hereby denied ministerial authority by these theses, but also others such as Luther, Musculus, Bullinger and countless other Reformed theologians.

6For example, sound Calvinism accepts that God does by will revealed, desire and will the salvation of all men. Many Calvinists accept mediate imputation of sin, as opposed to immediate, eg Shedd. Many Calvinists now readily grant the moral ability vs natural ability distinction; and all Calvinists reject the wild assertion that the Masoretic vowel points were inspired and part of the original autographs.

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