Beginning with Article 56, our Church Order devotes nine articles to the subject of the Sacraments. The first five, Articles 56 to 60 inclusive, deal with various questions relating to the sacrament of Holy Baptism and the last four, Articles 61 to 64 inclusive, treat the subject of the Lord’s Supper. In our discussion of this subject, we are not to treat the doctrinal aspect of the sacraments.
Before we proceed to discuss the various elements of Article 23 of our church order as we wrote that we would do in our last article, we wish to comment on a question received from one of our readers, which concerns Article 22 and deals with the matter of the approbation of elders mentioned in that Article. The question as we received it is:
To ward off the publication of heresies by means of civil or ecclesiastical censorship has proven ineffective and unsuccessful. The Roman Catholic Church put forth a very vigorous effort to accomplish this especially at the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. They considered the writings of the Reformers to be heretical and, therefore, forbade their publication. They threatened the authors of these works with excommunication and martyred and persecuted those who in any way helped to publish or to distribute this forbidden literature.
“With each text the truth must be proclaimed in its purity, errors must be refuted, heresies must bewarned against, and there must be an admonition to loyalty.” —Joh. Jansen
“The office of the elders, in addition to what was said in Article 16 to be their duty in common with the minister of the Word. is to take heed that the ministers, together with their fellow elders and the deacons, faithfully discharge their office, and both before and after the Lord’s Supper, as time and circumstances may demand, for the edification of the churches; to visit the families of the congregation, in order particularly to comfort and instruct the members, and also to exhort others in respect to the Christian religion.” (Article 24)
“To ward off false doctrines and errors that multiply exceedingly through heretical writings, the ministers and elders shall use the means of teaching; of refutation, of warning, and of admonition, as well in the ministry of the Word as in Christian teaching and family visiting.”—Article 55, D.K.O.
In their commentary on the Church Order, Monsma and Van Dellen sound a warning against certain serious dangers in revising or changing established forms of the churches, such as our Formula of Subscription which every office bearer is required to sign. They also give an illustration in which they show what may be the result of such changes. On page 226 of their book we find the following quotation:
In evaluating the position of the Rev. M. MacKay on the question of the proper relation of the church and state, it may be well to firstly point out that there are many things which the author writes in which we wholly concur. His emphasis upon the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God and his expressed determination to maintain that truth at all costs is very commendable.
“The ministers of the Word of God and likewise the professors of theology (which also behooves the other professors and school teachers) shall subscribe to the Three Formulas of Unity, namely, the Belgic Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordrecht, 1618-19, and the ministers of the Word who refuse to do so shall de facto be suspended from their office by the consistory or classis until they shall have given a full statement, and if they obstinately persist in refusing, they shall be deposed from their office.” —Article 53, D.K.O.