Ghysel’s Hodge-podge

For several reasons I generally do not read Rev. J.M. Ghysel’s Meditations in the Banner. However, when the Banner came today I paged through it, and somehow his meditation caught my eye. Perhaps it was the large typed heading that made me take notice. The meditation for the February 19th issue was entitled: Our Duty to Come to Christ. The Scripture test upon which the meditation was based was taken from John 6:37b, and reads as follows: “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” A beautiful promise of Christ, indeed! 

But notice how the Reverend robs you of the beauty of this promise. He writes: “These well-known words of our Savior suggest a fearful possibility. They suggest the possibility that one may be cast out. To be cast out means to be rejected at last. And this is indeed a serious possibility. It is about as serious as anything one could contemplate. There is nothing worse than to be rejected at last and to perish forever.” 

“It is bad enough to become chronically ill, and lie helpless on a bed of illness for many years with no hope of restoration. But there is an end to that. At last death comes to give deliverance at least from this burden. But if after years of suffering one should at last be cast out of the kingdom of God and perish forever, what a fearful thing that would be!” 

“Yet this is a possibility. Our Savior, says in the first part of this 37th verse of the sixth chapter of John: ‘All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me.’ This implies that the Father has not given all men to Christ. There are some who have been excluded. Their names have not been written in the book of life. Jesus says also in this connection: ‘This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.’ Evidently it is not the will of the Father that all should thus be raised up at the last day. Of all those whom the Father has given the Son, none shall be lost; but not all have been given to the Son by the Father. Some have been passed by, and these will be cast out.” 

“So the possibility which the text suggests is real and serious.” 

“Entirely apart from what Jesus himself says about the restricted number of those who are going to be saved, our own consciousness testifies of the possibility that we might perish. Our conscience tells us that we deserve hell rather than heaven. If we are saved at all, we are saved by grace. Feeling doesn’t save us. Feeling rather points in the opposite direction. It makes us conscious of our utter unworthiness. It says that if at last we are cast out, it is exactly what we deserve. Oftentimes men base their hope for the future on the supposition that they have done the best they could; but aside from the fact that this is not so, since no one has ever done the best he could, the best is never good enough to serve as a foundation for our salvation. Even our conscience tells us that if we are ever going to be saved, we shall have to find a ground outside of ourselves.” 

“So the fearful possibility remains that we may at last be cast out. God says that some will be cast out. My conscience tells me that I deserve to be!” 

“The text, however, suggests also another truth; namely, that in spite of what men deserve, many are not going to be cast out. There is hope for a sinner. There is a possibility of being received at last into the heavenly kingdom. This prospect gives us courage and joy. It lightens and brightens our path, and takes much of our fear away.”

“In his book, A Bunch of Everlastings, F.W. Boreham says that John Bunyan’s favorite text was the one: ‘Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.'”

“Boreham says that Bunyan felt that he was a blot upon the face of the universe. The toads and the crows could never know such misery as that which bowed him .down. He thought that the sun in the heavens and the very stones in the street, and the tiles upon the houses, did band themselves against him, and that they all conspired together to banish him out of the world. They abhorred him; he was unfit to dwell among them, because he had sinned against the Savior. He says: ‘How happy now every creature over me, for they stood fast and kept their station. But I was gone and lost.” 

“It was while lamenting this hopeless condition that the light broke. ‘This Scripture,’ he says, ‘did most sweetly visit my soul: ‘Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.’ O, what did I now see in that blessed sixth of John. O, the comfort that I had from this word!” 

“One wonders whether men today feel their unworthiness and lost condition as deeply as Bunyan did. Whether they do or not, we know that men can feel extremely miserable about it. You can be in the best of health and feel spiritually miserable. You don’t have to be sick in body to feel sick in your soul. How wretched Bunyan felt, and how wretched sometimes we can feel!” 

“But when we feel thus wretched, how sweet is the promise and how comforting this assurance which we find in this text. If we come to Jesus Christ, the Savior, we shall in no wise be cast out!” 

“Boreham says that these words reveal the approachability of Jesus. He is still approachable even though he has left this world. We can come to him by faith, in prayer, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We can come right now, just as we are, without any plea but that we need him, need his mercy, his pardon, his righteousness, his sustaining grace, his protection, his help in life and death. This is a blessed fact: the approachability of Jesus!” 

“Boreham also says that there words reveal the catholicity of Jesus, and by this he means that on one is excluded from the offer. Our Savior rejects no one that comes to him sincerely. Sometimes men and women say that salvation is only for the elect, and how true that is! But some Christians have made themselves needlessly miserable on this account. Let us believe in the sincerity of the gospel offer. ‘Him that cometh’—any ‘him’—the worst sinner on earth—’I will in no wise cast out!” 

“Finally, Boreham suggests this thought: the reliability of Jesus. You can depend on these words. His promise does not fail. He never goes back on his word. When we look at ourselves, how miserable we are! How unreliable and unsteady! We are never the same. Even our spiritual life is like the weather—one day warm, the next day cold. But we have a trustworthy Savior. Satan often tempts us to doubt and unbelief. Our minds can be so perplexed. The only thing that is clear to us at such times is our own sad past. Our mistakes rise up to plague us, our feeling of inferiority oppresses us. We feel depressed and dejected; and then Satan finds that a fine time and a fine chance to terrify us with the thought of eternal damnation. Jesus says: ‘In no wise!’ With this ‘in no wise’ we must combat the tempter. We can tell him that the words of Christ are reliable and trustworthy, and not for all the devils in the world shall we doubt the Lord. We live by faith, and faith rests on the promise!” 

“But we also have here the statement of a solemn responsibility. It says: ‘Him that cometh.’ So we must come! True, Jesus says: ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.’ But we must not wait as if we have no responsibility, in the matter. We must come, and continue to come. Continued coming is necessary even for the most-advanced Christian.” 

“But some have not yet come. Their responsibility is to come now. Not tomorrow, because tomorrow may be too late. They must come in faith, in self-surrender, with a plea for divine mercy. And believing, they will be saved!” 

I call this Ghysel’s hedge-podge. I mean, of course, that the entire meditation is one grand mix-up.” 

Rev. Ghysels tells you the indubitable truths of Scripture, namely, that salvation is only for the elect, and that “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” He even tells you on the basis of the text that this is a reliable promise of the Savior. But he then turns right around and takes this promise away from you by repeatedly telling you that there is a possibility you will be lost at last. He even says that this possibility is both “real and serious.” If you want to be really sure of the promise of Christ you must believe the sincerity of His offer. You must come to Him before it is too late. This is your responsibility. 

Frankly, I am left cold when I read stuff like this. The Reverend robs you of all the blessed comfort these words of the Savior were meant to convey. I’m very thankful that it was my Savior who gave me this blessed promise, and not the Rev. Ghysels. 

Natural Blessings And The Well-meant Offer

In the Torch and Trumpet, Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 16, 17, the Rev. William Masselink replies to the Rev. Adam Persenaire and writes on “The New ‘Common Grace’ Issue”. Our readers will be particularly interested in what he writes regarding the two issues mentioned above, namely, the issue regarding “Natural Blessings” and the issue regarding the “Well-meant Offer of the Gospel”. 

Concerning the former the Rev. Masselink has the following to say: “The Bible speaks of natural blessings that are shared by Christians and non-Christians. Regarding these natural blessings there exists some difference of opinion. Van Til (Dr. C. Van Til of Westminster Presbyterian Seminary—M.S.) speaks of this as a “difficult point” (Cf. Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 25). This point is indeed difficult if one accepts with Van Til “an absolute ethical antithesis” between God and natural man. The ground for the bestowal of such blessings upon the ungodly is thereby obliterated. God can bestow these natural blessings upon the non-Christian because he is still an image; bearer of God in the wider sense of the term. There are still faint traces of the divine image left in man. God loves himself, and therefore can also love his image wherever it appears. To this divine image in its less restricted sense belongs God-consciousness and moral-consciousness. Natural man has some civil righteousness. This is the ground for these Divine blessings.” 

“Van Til with his “absolute ethical antithesis” must find the reason for bestowing these blessings elsewhere. He writes: “God’s rain and sunshine come, we know, to his creatures made in his image. . . . it comes upon the unbeliever that he might crucify to himself the Son of God afresh,” (cf. idem p. 25ff.). This is basically the same as the position of the Rev. Herman Hoeksema. He writes: “God’s word wills that we shall understand that the Lord enriches the ungodly with earthly blessings in order that he might destroy them in eternity.” (Cf. Niet Doopersch maar Gereformeerd, p. 55). Van Til as well as Hoeksema look upon these blessings of common grace upon natural man too exclusively, from the point of view of the final judgment. This is a basic error in all. such reasoning. We may not fail to appreciate these present blessings.” 

Regarding the issue of the well-meant offer of the gospel, Masselink writes as follows: “In 1924 our Christian Reformed Synod confirmed the declarations found in the Canons of Dordt that God comes with a well-meant offer of salvation to all. This offer comes to the non-elect, too. According to the well-known “Three Points” this offer of salvation is a manifestation of God’s common grace. Hepp (Dr. V. Hepp of the Netherlands, now deceased—M.S.) makes the following comment: “Is there not a sort of grace in the hearing of the Gospel by the non-elect? They hear that God has no pleasure in their death, but rather that they may be converted and live. As temporary believers the word may bring them joy . . . . Let us not look at the lot of the non-elect in the congregation only from the viewpoint of judgment. Truly that judgment is a reality. But the enjoyments which they sometimes have under the preaching also have temporary reality as a non-saving work; brought about as they are by the Holy Spirit,” (Cf. Credo, July 1, 1940). Van Til makes the following comment on what Hepp says: “Hepp here speaks as though it were already known who are and who are not elect. He speaks as though a preacher may approach a certain individual whom he knows to be a reprobate, and tell him that God has no pleasure in his death. But this is to forget the difference between the earlier and the later. The general presentation comes to a generality” Cf. Evangelical Quarterly, Nov. 1946, p. 45, (italics mine, W.M.)” 

“What Van Til’s Criticism of Hepp Involves: (1) Van Til says that a preacher would not be able to say to one whom he knows to be a reprobate (an impossible case, W.M.) that God has no pleasure in his death. Therefore this passage in Ezekiel 33, according to Van Til, is exclusively limited to the elect. Of them only can God say, that he has no pleasure in their death. This interpretation coincides with that of the Rev. Herman Hoeksema. (2) The offer of salvation, according to Van Til, does not come to the individual, but to the “generality”. This, too, I regard to be in conflict with the declarations of the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924. The “Three Points” certainly mean that the offer of salvation comes not only to a generality, but to the individual as well. This is also the teaching of Calvin in his commentaries on:Ps. 81:14Ps. 147:19, 20Isa. 65:2Jer. 7:25, 36Jer. 23:33Ezekiel 3:25, 26Matt. 23:27Rom. 10:21.” 

“Van Til and Hoeksema view the offer of salvation just as they view the natural blessings to the ungodly, too much from the viewpoint of judgment. They fail to appreciate the present blessings (even though they are not saving) contained in this well-meant offer of the gospel.” 

I do not wish to offer any comment on the above quotation except to say that the Rev. Masselink leaves the impression that when one criticizes the “Three Points” he is criticizing the Canons of Dordt. There is some difference, don’t you think, Reverend?