In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul points out that by His cross and Spirit Christ has broken down the middle wall of partition between the Jews and the Gentiles.
On the one side of the wall—in the same building—were the fleshly seed of Abraham. On the other side were the rest of the human race. That means not simply that Ham and Japheth’s children were on one side of the wall, and Shem’s were on the other side. It means that from the call of Abraham—with few exceptions—all of Shem’s descendants, who were not Abraham’s fleshly seed, likewise were on the side of Ham’s and Japheth’s children. And the point that Paul makes here is that no such barrier exists anymore in that building.
Ever since the day of Pentecost also descendants of Ham and of Japheth, and of those generations of Shem which are not the fleshly seed of Abraham, are found to be members of the church of Christ. Yet we sometimes think either that God has a more difficult time in making those of Ham’s children members of that body of Christ, because they have a different temperament and nature, or that He is more reluctant to do so. Because the white race has played such a large part in the development of the church and of the truth, we seem so often to think that the black race scarcely belongs there. And without any proof we claim that the color of these is part of the curse that was pronounced not upon Ham but upon the Canaanites.
A similar way of thinking is sometimes found among us when we find it hard to believe that any but certain nations, and people from certain nations, can really be Reformed. To find those who love the Reformed faith and subscribe to it among the black race is not only a surprise but considered to be quite an exception to the rule. It just does not seem to be the expected. To some it may not even seem right or sincere.
Yet our churches have been and are witnessing such a section of the wall coming down in our mission field in Jamaica where we deal exclusively with those of Ham’s descendants, and are black as far as the color of their skin is concerned, but spiritually have been made to be whiter than snow by the grace and Spirit of Him Who, through His Son, gathers from the beginning to the end of the world, and out of the whole human race, one church to the praise of the glory of His grace. And we wish in this and the next installment to quote from the report which we gave to our Mission Committee upon the labors performed in this mission field from January 27 through April 22 of this year, to show this.
Interest among our people in this field definitely is growing, and they are entitled to know what is being done there, what fruit is to be found, and even something of the method used. The report is dated April 29, 1970 and follows with some editing and a few words of amplification and explanation.
“Esteemed Fellow Committee Members,
“Since the twelve weeks of my labour in our Jamaican mission field in Jamaica dovetailed with those of Rev. Lubbers, I can be brief in my analysis of the spiritual condition of the churches and evaluation of the field by stating that with minor differences I concur with Rev. Lubbers in his points III and IV of his report.
“As a general characterization of the preaching I was privileged to perform on the island, let it be stated that my first sermon, delivered February 1 at Belmont was on the text of Matthew 5:13, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” (Incidentally I preached the same sermon that afternoon on the lawn of the Baptist church at Friendship Hill with Rev. and Mrs. Lubbers and Mr. and Mrs. Meulenberg in the audience. Rev. Lubbers preached that morning at Cave Mt.; and in the evening he preached his “farewell” sermon at Lucea in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Meulenberg, my wife and I.) From that first sermon onward I sought to build up the brethren and sisters in the truth of what we are and have in our Saviour Jesus Christ, choosing also such texts as John 3:16 and Revelation 3:20 to point out to them the distinctive truth of the Reformed Faith. Then on April 19 I preached a ‘farewell’ sermon in the morning at Rev. Ruddock’s church at Fort William, and in the evening at Rev. Frame’s church at Lucea on II Peter 3:17, emphasizing the words of Peter, “Beware lest ye fall from your own steadfastness.” (I had preached a ‘farewell’ sermon for one of Rev. Elliott’s congregations at Cave Mt. the Thursday evening before—and he was not able to attend because he suffered a broken bone in his shoulder and some broken ribs in a fall—onPhilippians 1:6, where Paul expresses his confidence that God would perform till the day of Christ the good work which He has begun.)
“Sermons were preached in all sixteen churches except Santa Cruz, where a blackboard instruction session was held. Both the distance and the difficulty of which Rev. Lubbers spoke in his report prevented a service there. (Incidentally this difficulty has now been removed.) I preached also (as already pointed out) on the lawn of the Baptist Church at Friendship Hill for the members of the Fort William and Mt. Lebanon congregations, together with a few of the former Friendship Hill members. The Fort William church is chiefly the remnant of the Friendship Hill church which formerly was served by Rev. Frame and later by Rev. Ruddock, until Elder Smith, on whose property the church building stands, took the greater share of the congregation away. I also preached on the street in front of a ‘shop’ (we would call it a store) at Hammersmith, where a member of Rev. Elliott’s congregation at Islington now resides. I preached two or more times in thirteen of these churches, preaching five times in Cambridge, where I had the unique experience of preaching two Good Friday sermons, one at 10 o’clock in the morning, and the other at 7 o’clock in the evening. Including the blackboard instruction sessions, I appeared before the congregations of Rev. Elliott 24 times, before those of Rev. Frame 16 times, and before those of Rev. Ruddock 15 times.
“The blackboard instruction sessions, introduced by Rev. Lubbers, I have found to be the most beneficial method of teaching these brethren and sisters the truth of the Reformed Faith that we have ever used there. And their testimony underscores this fact. The ministers often asked their congregations after the sessions, ‘Doesn’t this help you to see the truth more clearly than the preaching does?’ And the answer is always an emphatic Yes. One elder, presiding in the absence of the minister said to the congregation, “When Rev. Heys preaches, you see the truth of one text. When he teaches with the blackboard, you see the truth of the whole Bible.” This may be somewhat crudely stated, but the meaning will be clear, if I explain to you somewhat the character of these instruction sessions.
“My plans before leaving home, as far as these blackboard instruction sessions are concerned, were to treat something quite different from what I actually presented, and in fact from what I had already begun to treat. The Lord leads, and we wisely follow the directing of His Spirit. In one of the very first sessions of school for the ministers at the home, I resorted to use of the blackboard and drew a few pictures to illustrate the point. At once, and almost in unison, they pleaded with me to do this in the congregations. And so began a series of sessions of illustrating the Five Points of Calvinism on the blackboard with pictures, charts, diagrams and graphs. Before we left for home I prepared a notebook for each of the ministers, and for student Kenneth Brown, in which I traced step by step, and page after page, the illustrations I used to make these truths live before their eyes. Two of the ministers had requested this and said that they would like to study them and try their hand at it before their people, if we would let them use our blackboard.
“The method I used contained three distinct elements. I always prepared the setting by writing the word GOD in capital letters at the top of the blackboard. And after one or two sessions I had at once the answer to my initial question, ‘Where do we begin, when we want to understand the truth?’ They know in these congregations that to end in the truth of God we must begin with God. After these preliminary steps I tried to explain the meaning of the terms as simply as I could, and where I could in their own language. Having done this I began to draw a picture or chart, using both sides of the blackboard, and sometimes different colored chalk to mark off the lie from the truth. Then came the third element—which in part had been resorted to during the drawing of the picture, diagram or chart—namely the giving of a series of texts from both the Old and the New Testaments for them to look up to see that this is indeed what GOD says. This they enjoyed tremendously; and I deem it extremely important. You would have thrilled to watch them racing through their Bibles in the dim light of a kerosene lantern to find the place first, and to be the one who could stand and read the verse and pick out the word or phrase that proved the point under. discussion. You would also have enjoyed seeing the heads nod in agreement that this is what GOD says/ when the verse was read. The value of this element is that they worked themselves into the truth. They themselves found what Scripture teaches and what, they did not know before. That is what Elder Spence meant when he said that in these sessions they saw the truth of the whole Bible. They found Scripture teaching them something that they did not know before, and so often something the very opposite of what they had been taught in days gone by and before we came to labour among them. An hour was far too short for them, and we had repeatedly to tell them that it is not good to eat two meals at one sitting. We highly recommend this method of instruction in this field.
“These blackboard instruction sessions were held in eleven of the churches. I was able to treat all Five Points of Calvinism in four of these eleven churches: In Lucea and the Reading church at West Lacovia, which are Rev. Frame’s churches; Belmont, which is Rev. Elliott’s church; and Latium, which is Rev. Ruddock’s church. This included in most of these a sixth lesson which served as a summarization of the matter and showed election to be the heart of the church, showed that total depravity demanded that this election be unconditional, showed that election demanded that the atonement be limited and sends forth an irresistible grace, as well as assures us of a perseverance of the saints. One or more of these sessions were held in Mahoe, Santa Cruz, Hope Hill, Cave Mt., Fort William, Mt. Lebanon and Cambridge.”
In our next installment in this rubric we will continue the report and show some of the fruit of the labour.