“Thirdly. Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?”
This question is one which is known to all our readers. And it must be interpreted in the light of the one which precedes it. For when this question speaks of the “aforesaid doctrine” it means “the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testaments, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian Church,” as the perfect and true doctrine of salvation.
Thus those parents who present their children for baptism promise before God that they will do all in their power to have their children instructed and brought up in the doctrine of the Christian Church where they have their children baptized. What is more all those who belong to that particular Christian Church demand of the parents who present their children for baptism that they bring up and instruct their children in that doctrine to the utmost of their power.
There are two things therefore that we would emphasize at the moment. First of all, this promise is made unto God. It is not the man who asks the question in God’s name that counts. It is not the consistory before which one must appear for a baptismal blank and request. It is to God that the promise is given. For baptism is an holy ordinance of God. It is His sign and His seal of incorporation into His covenant. And “it must be used for that end, and not out of custom or superstition.” Let the parents remember then the seriousness of the matter when they present their children for this sign and seal of God’s covenant upon the foreheads of their children. You promise before God and you give promise unto God that by His grace you will and are at the moment of the intent to bring them up and instruct them in this doctrine to the utmost of your power.
How important it is then that one be convinced that he is in the church that has a doctrine which is the true and perfect doctrine of salvation. With these things one cannot meddle. Church membership is a matter before God and a matter that calls for the most serious consideration on our part. We may be ever so cautious about the selection of other things. We may be so careful about the food we eat, the doctor to whom we go with our physical disabilities and ailments, the dentist and oculist. We may search for the specialist in his field to take care of us when things are not well in our physical frames. We may attach great value to our eyesight and spend large sums of money to get the best of care for our failing eyesight. It may be that only after great deliberation and thorough investigation that we invest our money, select are insurance company, buy an automobile with all the claims and counterclaims in regard to it. But let us be sure that the church roof which we seek is one under which the doctrine taught is indeed the true and perfect doctrine of salvation. Let us be sure of that, for ourselves. Let us be sure of that for our children.
If then, we are in a church whose doctrine we know is corrupted by philosophies of men and whose discipline is therefore wanting on many glaring points, let us ask ourselves how before God we can promise to have our children instructed and brought up in that doctrine to the utmost of our power. We simply do not mean it when we say that we will. We do not “answer sincerely to these questions.”
What is more, having given that promise, we must keep it. We repeat what we said last time: Let us be honest. If we are seeking a door through which to enter into a sphere where we know ahead of time that the doctrine taught there is not the true and perfect doctrine of salvation, let us remember that we will indeed be placed before that serious situation that we will have to give promise of that which we do not intend to do.
That is not honest before men; and it is not honest before God. That it is not honest before men is indeed sin. It may be, that men are not too much concerned about that. If one is simply interested in numerical growth and rejoices in numbers, it may be that one would receive you even knowing that you do not intend to be honest about this baptismal vow. He may even reasonâ€•and correctly soâ€•that time will heal this also and sooner or later you will lose your sensitivity and answer more honestly. One who willfully goes to a field where he knows that he does not belong and cuts himself off from the very truth whereby God strengthens his people must not be surprised to find this dulling of the senses to be his lot. Scripture shows that time and again. Lot, though he was an elect, believing child of God who vexed his righteous soul had to be pulled out of the cities by the angel of the Lord. Elimelech and Naomi went only to sojourn in Moab; but once there they were very reluctant to go back and got themselves deeper and deeper into separation from God and His promises. He had to come with terrible blows before Naomi returns.
And let no man reason within himself that since his children are all baptized and since he can no longer expect to stand and answer these questions with an infant in his arms that this does not apply to him. The second thing we wish to point out in regard to this baptismal vow is that it is asked by the whole congregation. One man utters the words with his lips. One man in the office is the spokesman. Indeed, but he speaks it for the whole congregation. And he speaks it in the hearing of the whole church. Let that man who does not agree with the questions asked then protest against it. Let him join the congregation honestly and inform the consistory that he will protest and does object to that question being asked of the parents because he does not believe that the doctrine taught in that church is the true and perfect doctrine of salvation. And in connection with the matter which is the occasion for these thoughts under the title “And What About The Children” let us repeat: The three points of “common grace” are not simply a door that bars the way to a city where there can be union upon the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity. Those three points will be found on every street, in every house and in all the regions of that city. And you as a citizen in that city will have to ask and demand of all the parents that they instruct their children and bring them up in the doctrine of that city. If before God’s face you can do that, by all means do it and sin not against your own conscience. But if you still love the Protestant Reformed truth and are still convinced that it is the true and perfect doctrine of salvation, do not sin against your conscience and against God by demanding of parents that they instruct and bring up their children in a doctrine to which you cannot agree.
Do not be deceived any longer. Wild rumors are still being spread as to what is demanded of you in order to return to us. It would be amusing were it not so serious a matter that those who formerly were one with us and leaders in our churches, who pleaded that the denominational walls would not be made so high, now themselves try to build such a high wall around our denomination because they do not want you to go back.
If you were deceived by them in the past, confess it and rejoice with us in the true and perfect doctrine of salvation which God gave both you and us in times past. If you were not deceived, by all means, do not confess that you were. If you actually embraced those heretical statements and believe that they are part of the true and perfect doctrine of salvation and defended them as such a part of that doctrine, do not return to us under the guise of having been deceived. You may still return to us. The gate is open for that. And we would also rejoice in that. But the gate for such an entrance is confession of having embraced the lie and not of being deceived. We cannot escape the conviction, however, that there are many of you who have been deceived. To some of you we even expressed repeatedly that we had only pity for you because of this deception and would rejoice in the day when your eyes would be opened. Yea, even some of you who sought to “rebuke” us and to show us our “error” ‘that spiritual pity is still there and partially the reason for these three articles on this matter. As we wrote at the beginning, we would be helpful. And in all sincerity we mean that.
It is in that spirit then that we would remind you that the only denomination that you can join on the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity is our denomination. If it is your desire to find such a church roof and to be affiliated with such like-minded believers, it is plain that your calling is to return to us. Be not deceived. Protestant Reformed is not extra-confessional. All else is extra-confessional because all else is contra-confessional. The “Three Points” are hot only extra-confessional, something added to the confessions of the church, but they are positively something that contradicts the very Word of God and the Confessions. We do not need to take the time to prove that. You know that, and it is because of that fact that you are disturbed about a going back. And disturbed you must be. Those who can be blind leaders of the blind and actually believe that there will be and can be a union on the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity in a church whose preaching is constantly colored by the theory of “common grace” are in for a rude awakening. Unless, indeed, they already love that lie, and, their defense of the heretical statements condemned by our Classis and Synod and upheld by their Classis and Synod is due to that fact. Have these blind leaders ever seen the truth? In the past they did all in their power to lead you away from the .Christian Reformed Church. Now they do their utmost to lead you back. When were they blind and when did they see the light? Are they themselves sure they see the light this time?
And all the slander and personalities that they dragged into the issue in order to cover up their attempt and intent to do exactly what today they openly do and advocate, are you sure that all these lies and slander and distortion are true? Have they been honest with you about the doctrine? Are they now honest with you about what you ought to do today? Is it not your calling in His fear to do some renewed investigation, to contact us, to seek to find the light and the truth of all this tragic past?
If you still love the God-glorifying Protestant Reformed truth, the true and perfect doctrine unto salvation, it should not be hard to declare unto us that you have been misled and deceived but always loved this truth. You should not find it hard to inform us that you are sorry that in the way of this deception you supported financially and morally those who are schismatic. You should find joy in informing us â€•and we can assure that the joy would be mutualâ€•that you hate the heresy of conditional promises which place man and his work before God and His covenant faithfulness. May God grant you the courage of your convictions, and may He heal this breach and unite us again on the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity.
And what about the children?
Then you can commit them to His care and pray for a blessing upon the instruction given to them.