When I first read this passage in 2000, I realized that I had for years been something close to a hypercalvinist, and I was committing some of the same fallacies as Hoeksema’s Protestant Reformed Church. Klaas Schilder knocked some sense into me and make me start to think covenantally. Steve Schlissel was the man who recommended him to me. This quotation was what did the trick:
“When I declare — and with the pretention of the greatest accuracy in a new binding — that election is the cause and fountain of our total salvation, then I run the danger of making someone, and later the whole church, think that if election is present then the fountain is bubbling, the cause is working, and the process is on its way. “No,” says Twissus [first prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly, and a delegate at Dort], “nothing is going on yet.” He admonished the Arminians, especially Corvinus, three times not to confuse election with the execution of election. Decree and the realization of the decree are two different matters. Election is not the cause. With election, the decree is from eternity. When I merely decide to travel to Amsterdam, then nothing as yet has happened.
The cause of my coming to Amsterdam is that I finally did put on my coat, went to the railway station, and said goodbye to the silhouette of my residence.
When I decide to do something then this decision can still change for at first I did not make a decision at all, or perhaps I would have decided something different, for instance to travel to London. But in God all decisions are unchangeable, a decision or decree therefore does not change anything in Him. Nor in us. That which causes anything in us and which is thus cause and fountain of all salvation, is something which comes in time. The causes all work with and in time…
“Man, stop,” Twissus now says, “you are forgetting that the decree, strictly speaking, is not the fountain or the cause. We do not tell our children and our people, ‘you are elect, for that is what your baptism indicates and you may now conclude that the stream of God’s clear healing water has started to flow.’ No,” says Twissus, “you Arminians forget one thing. The doctrine of election is not a doctrine of causes or fountains. Causes and fountains only occur in history, in what God started in this world. For instance, and that certainly in the first place, the preaching of the Word is a cause and a fountain. That is where the fountain starts to spout water. There the cause is working…
Consequently we do not make people rely upon election, as ground and fountain, but upon the Word.
I would only add, “and the sacraments” to the end of the last paragraph.