Review . . . .
We continue our translation and review of the Holland article with this title which was written by Prof. C. Veenhof. The first portion of this translation appeared in the previous issue of the Standard Bearer. In it we found that Prof. Veenhof emphasized especially three things. In the first place, he pointed out that the ecclesiastical controversy in the Netherlands concerns holy baptism. In the second place, he maintained that baptism is the very personal seal of God upon His promise. And finally, the author claimed that the position of the Synodical Churches, that baptism seals internal grace, is untenable.
“Baptism seals the full promise of God to all children of believers”. . . .
This is the title of the next heading under which the professor continues. He argues this point as follows: “The Bible teaches us very clearly, that God presents His one, unchangeable, always equally rich promise, to all believers and to all their children.
“There the Lord Jesus says, by the Holy Spirit, and through the mouth of Peter: “For unto you is the promise and to your children. That promise I give to you all, without any exception and I give it also to your children, also to all without any exception.
“Can anyone think of a stronger proof for the glorious truth, that God’s promise comes identically to all our children, than this word from the pentecos.al proclamation, which the glorified Christ addresses to the New Testament congregation as His first message?
“Calvin declares by way of exposition as follows: it becomes clear that God also allows all children of believing parents to participate in the right to adoption-as-His-child. In the kingdom of heaven this rule is in force, that God includes with the fathers, also their children as His children, and that in that way the grace of salvation is extended to the as yet unborn children, and that without any distinction.”
It is this “simple and glorious truth”, as the author calls it, that they desire to believe and maintain while refusing to participate in any tampering with God’s promise. Again he emphasizes this point as follows: “We maintain fully and firmly, that the LORD says exactly the same thing to all children of believing parents; grants them exactly the same promise. All hear precisely and clearly the trust-worthy word of His mouth: I am the LORD your God! You can depend upon that! And this which is always the same, absolutely trust-worthy promise, is for us, the foundation, the substance, the content and the power of our faith.”
The writer continues with his criticism of the Synodical teaching concerning baptism, maintaining that it is a teaching of a two-fold baptism. “Those who speak as the Synodicals speak, assume and teach a distinctive baptism for the elect: this is the real, full, true baptism, which seals the internal grace,” the “promise for the elect”—and there is another, a lesser baptism, which is nothing more than a sealing of an offer of grace, an external calling or something of that nature.
“This teaching attacks the veracity of God!
“If you faithfully watch and listen whenever the LORD baptizes the small children of the congregation, you see that immediately.” In such a case the professor points out, the Lord speaks and acts exactly alike to all. “He says to all the children, head for head and very personally: I baptize you and you and you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. And He does exactly the same thing with each child. He sprinkles the baptismal water upon each of these children, head for head, and very personally. God, the Lord, says and does exactly the same thing at each baptism and to each one being baptized.
“And now because God is upright and true, because whenever God does and says the same thing, whether it be 2 or 10 or 1000 times, He also always means and gives and declares and seals exactly the same thing—therefore each baptism which the LORD performs with the same words and the same sprinkling, has exactly the same content and power.
“If when God says exactly the same thing to a number of persons and His words would at one time promise something different and much more than at another time, then God would be equivocal and untruthful.
“You see, we will never assume that!
“And therefore we reject the Synodical teaching that only the elect, only the regenerated, receive the complete and true baptism.
“And we confess whole-heartedly and with profound joy that every baptism administered by God possesses exactly the same content and power and that every baptism performed by Him is always a true baptism.”
Continuing this argument the professor adds another objection. He states that if one maintains that only the elect are truly baptized, then we cannot know if we have that true baptism until we are certain of our election. The result is that our baptism means nothing except when our faith is strong. When, on the other hand, our faith is weak and the shadows come, we can never look to our baptism for comfort. This, he claims, is contrary to the purpose of baptism, since God means it to be the firm ground of our faith. God purposes to lead us from the certainty of true baptism to full and strong faith and not vice-versa. Hence, the professor, concludes, the Synodical caching is a carricature which must be rejected.
uWe teach nothing new”. . . .
Under this heading Professor Veenhof appeals to Calvin and Luther, and asserts that their conceptions are those of the Liberated Churches. This is a ratner long section and we will quole only those parts of it in which the writer summarizes what he maintains to be the teaching of these Reformers. He begins by presenting what Calvin teaches. According to Professor Veenhof, Calvin also maintaied that: “The Lord gives His promise to all children. In that promise He proclaims to them the whole of salvation. That salvation is, so to speak, ‘wrapped-up’ in the promise. And baptism is the seal upon that promise, in which the entirety of salvation is ‘bound’. When, therefore, God baptizes a child that child receives, in that baptism, in that sealed promise, the entire salvation, which God gives to sinners! ….Calvin here says nothing less than this, that to all those who are baptized there is presented the forgiveness of sins and the renewal of life in that baptism.”
And here the professor comes with the question for which you have undoubtedly been waiting: “If it is actually so, that to all those who are baptized according to the directive of the Lord and in conformity with the ordinances He gave, there is presented the forgiveness of sins and renewal of life with their baptism, how does it occur that many of those who are baptized are nevertheless not saved?”
Calvin, so writes the professor, also faced this question and puts it in this form: “Does this grace have its fulfillment in all those who are baptized, without distinction?” To which the writer adds: “Or in other words, does this grace which is presented in baptism always lead to the full salvation of all those who are baptized?
“And to this question Calvin answers. . . . No, that is not the case!
“And if we ask: Why not?—we receive this answer: Because a great many of those who are baptized, through the depravity of their nature, block the way of this grace, making it to themselves but an empty form. Therefore only the believers receive the fruit of this baptism.
“Mark you, if baptism does not come to its glorious salvatory effect, then—so says Calvin—that is alone the fault of the godlessness of the baptized! It never lies with God! It never lies in His holy baptism! The unrighteousness of men makes of God’s baptism an empty form. Therefore only they who embrace and use that baptism with chnd-like faith, receive the glorious fruit of it.
“When we read this we must nou misinterpret it. When Calvin says, that the ungodly make of baptism an empty form, or, as he also says, make it powerless, he does not mean to assert thereby that that ungodly individual can actually change anything of the real, irue baptism as God brings it into our life; thus being able to destroy or debase it! O, no, just as we can never reach out to deface the sun so also we can never destroy the reality of baptism!
“God’s baptism always remains ‘unimpaired’. It is simply inviolable by men. Through their unbelief they make it so that baptism does not have its gloriou effect; does not bear its rich fruit unto eternal salvation. And they also actually do this very often! But they cannot impair the essentialness, the reality of baptism. God’s baptism always remains a real, true baptism, no matter what men may do with it!”
Following this the professor adds a few paragraphs to show that Luther was of the same opinion in respect to the reality of each baptism. He -then closes this section by declaring that in 1942 this truth was attacked and denied. “For”, he writes, “many began to speak of a baptism which said more to the elect and which had more content and sealed and presented more to them than to the non-elect! . . . . We have explained that we might not and could not accept this teaching of baptism!
“And we have also declared, that therefore, the Synodical theory, that baptized children must be considered as already regenerated children—or as participating in the regenerating grace of the Spirit—must be rejected.” This stand became necessary, the writer concludes, because this theory, which according to him was a direct result of the Synodical teaching of baptism, was made binding upon the Churches by decision of Synod.
Conclusion . . .
This is not yet the end of the article but it will not be necessary to quote further since no new development of the concepts are included in the remainder. In the closing sections of his article, Prof. Veenhof reviews the history that led up to the split and briefly touches upon the church-political aspects. He then closes with an appeal to those of like mind to liberate themselves and join in the reformation of the Church of Christ.
Once again space does not permit us to add comment this time. We close with the observation made last time. Also in what we have quoted above there are many amazing things which sound strange to us. But it certainly is true that the presentation has been clear and unambiguous. Next time we hope to express our opinion and criticism of this appeal W, Hofman.
*Translated from the Holland brochure: Appel.