*Translated from the Holland brochure: Appel!
This is the title of a brochure which we received from the Netherlands and which has been sent to many others in the U. S. The form letter which accompanied the booklet explains what it is and its purpose. This letter reads, in part, as follows: “In the name of the Board of Netherlands Federation of Young People’s Societies and the Federation of Young Women’s Societies, we have sent these few copies of the brochure ‘Appeal’.
“It sets forth simply, clearly and concisely the issues of the Church strife, how the schism in the life of the Church occurred, and at the same time it clearly points out how apostasy reveals itself and continues in the bound Churches.”
The brochure contains two articles dealing with each of the above subjects. The first concerning the issues is by Professor C. Veenhof and is entitled: “De Zaak waar het om gaat”—The Issue. It is true that this is one of the clearest and simplest statements of the Church struggles in the Netherlands. For this reason and also because the differences between the conceptions of the covenant and baptism as they are held in the Liberated Churches and those which are current in our Churches becomes very evident, we have decided to review the contents of the first article, adding a few comments here and there. The first article is rather neatly divided in various sub-heads which we will follow.
“A Good Idea. . . ”
This is the title of the introduction in which the author relates how he was approached by the President of the Federation of Young Ladies’ Societies and requested to write this article for Holland youth. He points out that although the schism has grieved him greatly and as such cannot be a cause of rejoicing, yet because the issues concern the riches of God’s covenant, the glory of baptism and the Kingship of Christ over His Church, he feels its importance of the Church of the future and is happy to have opportunity to state the issues.
“Concerning Holy Baptism”. . . .
Here Prof. Veenhof states: “This strife is concerned with something that is very personal to all of us, that touches us all in our heart and in our whole life. . . . Our daily life of faith is completely at stake in it. If we have understood the heart of the ecclesiastical conflict and have made a good choice in the matter we have acquired riches for which we shall be thankful to God our whole life.
“For the ecclesiastical conflict concerns, as we have already said, holy baptism.”
Further under this heading the writer emphasizes that essentially God Himself baptizes us. For example: “For when true baptism takes place, that is, when a child is baptized according to God’s ordinance and in the manner which He has decreed, then the Baptizer is essentially the great, eternal God Himself.”
As stated this point is made very emphatic. We quote a bit more: “Yea, above all we must know and maintain this; through faith we must also see that: God, our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, baptizes the little children of the Church! . . . .When a child is baptized the LORD Himself comes to that child, He Himself sprinkles the water on its head and says very really and personally: John, Mary, Anna, I, the LORD Himself, baptize you, in My Holy Name. You are now of Me!”
Then the Professor continues: “That baptism, which has been performed by the LORD, always remains of power, every day, every hour, until our death, yea, to all eternity. It is essentially so, that the Lord continuously baptizes us. After He sprinkled us with water when we were but a few days old, He always keeps, so to speak, that water fresh and living and powerful, upon our foreheads. And the words which He first spoke, He continues to speak through our whole life! Every second Jehovah repeats: Carl, William, Mary, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Or, better said Jehovah does not repeat that Word: He continues to say it continuously comes to us, earnestly and graciously out of His heart, in unbroken power. . . .”
It should ring in our hearts: The LORD baptizes us and continues to baptize us from day to day and hour to hour. He said once and continues to say now from day to day and hour to hour: ‘I am the LORD your God and you are completely mine.’ That baptism which the LORD once performed continues ever real, ever living, ever powerful, as it was the moment the Lord began to baptize; when God’s baptism first came into our life through the service of the minister at the foot of the pulpit in the midst of the gathering of God’s people.”
“Baptism is a Seal”. . . .
Under this heading the author answers the questions of what baptism is and what it seals. He writes:
“In answer to this question, true Reformed people have said with great unanimity: Baptism is a seal of God’s promise!
“To rightly understand what this means we must surely know and always hold fast that the LORD in His wondrous love has thought it good to give all the children of believers His promise. Or, in other words: it has pleased Him to express to those children a glorious pledge. That is, He says to all those children, head for head, day in and day out, meaningfully and sincerely: I am the LORD your God. I establish my covenant with you. I wash you from all sin in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; My Holy Spirit lives in you. In short: I declare to you the complete forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation: all the treasures and riches which I can and will give to mankind.
“And God gives this promise day in and day out. It comes out of His own mouth to us, without interruption. With this His pledge God embraces and penetrates us all the years and days of our whole pitiful earthly existence.
“The continuous expression of this promise by God and the new reception of it every day, is an amazing great thing for us in our life! There is simply nothing thinkable which is more glorious than the permanent expression by our Heavenly Father Himself of this rich word of promise.
“Of course, we must not forget even for one second, that God never declares this word of promise alone or apart from aught else.
“He always declares with and in this promise something else.
“For when He gives His promise, He calls us at the same time to love Him with all our heart, to humbly believe His word and to walk in His ways. When the LORD said to Abraham: I am the LORD your God,—then He says, in the same breath, as it were, walk now always before my face and be ye upright.
“But this charge, this demand, does not make the promise any poorer or weaker! Not at all!
“This demand, which is always included in His promise by the LORD and which comes with that promise, is exactly a summons to believe His promise; hence, to trust and live out of that promise.
“And now, in order to impress us as deeply as possible, that the LORD has really and truly given this promise and continues to give it each day; in order to engrave it upon our souls that the Lord continues to say every second: I am your God and you are my child,—therefore the LORD gives His Baptism, as a seal upon that promise.
“O, He well knows, how difficult it is for us, how our heart always turns against actually and securely believing that God is truly our Father and that the Lord Jesus genuinely washes us from our sin by His blood and that the Holy Spirit will indeed gladly live in us.
“And therefore the Lord helps us!
“Therefore the Lord gives His baptism to us!
“He gives us in that baptism a sealed promise!
“Just as the princes of old, whenever they conferred great privileges on a certain city or subject, drew up a sealed declaration of the same and then solemnly delivered it to the city council or subject concerned.
“Yea, that is the great joy of our life: God gives us baptism as a sealed declaration that He is indeed our God. In that baptism He gives us a sealed pledge that He grants unto us complete salvation. He did that already in the first days of our life. And He continues that giving all our life long.”
“Baptism does not seal ‘internal grace’” . . . .
Here Professor Veenhof discusses the opposite view of baptism which, he claims, is presented by the Synodicals. He states that the difference appears when it is asked: WHAT does God seal in baptism and TO WHOM does He seal that which is sealed?
In answer, the author maintains that all agree that baptism seals God’s promises but that the difference becomes apparent in answer to the second question. He states: “It is true that the Synodicals have said that baptism seals God’s promise. But—at the same time they declare that the promise which is sealed by baptism is a promise which is presented to the elect only.” Of this the writer wants nothing; claiming that it depreciates baptism and makes it often of none effect—a fake or only apparent baptism—for the nonelect.
He further states that this position demands holding to pre-supposed regeneration. The argument is as follows: since the sacraments are for the strengthening of faith, that faith must be presupposed in baptism. Hence, the Synodicals declare that all children of believer’s must be assumed to be regenerated and that they shall be considered and treated as children who participate in the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit.
He concludes this section as follows: “You see how this all fits together. If we do not consider the children as partakers of regenerating grace the entire Synodical teaching concerning baptism falls apart as a house of cards!
“But the reverse is also true: if we actually hold to the teaching that that is only a true baptism which guarantees complete salvation alone to the elect, then we must also consider and treat the small children of the congregation, with our whole heart, as children who partake of the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit!
“Hence, the teaching that the children must indeed be so considered and treated is the key-stone of the entire structure of the Synodical doctrine.”
Thus far the Professor has said many things which sound amazing and strange to us. And he has said them emphatically. Before we add any coment we will continue to review the balance of his article next time.