Prof. H. C. Hoeksema
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Dear Brother in Christ: I call your attention to the statement you made in your reply to my article in the Standard Bearer, February 15, 1967: “For my part this recommendation will stand.” The fact is that it is being ignored. The Edgerton school board took a contrary stand in 1953 when the De Wolf element tried to introduce hymns into our school. Do you see how you cause confusion and discord with your recommendation?( 1) We cannot show all diligence in observing our Church Order, Article 86 and at the same time recommend hymns in our schools. It is good reasoning to sing the same songs in our schools as we sing in our churches. (2)
Our Psalter is the best song book there is and we must only recommend the best. The hymns need not be recommended. They are very common — you can listen to them around the clock if you desire. Psalter numbers are rarely heard. (3)
The Psalms are the best remedy for a sin sick soul. They give peace and comfort to the sick and dying. What a privilege for God’s elect church to sing these Psalms through the use of our precious Psalter. (4)
History teaches us that singing hymns and departure from the truth go hand in hand. Churches that introduced hymns soon forsook the Psalter. These churches now sing the same songs as the churches who are busy with mergers. Their goal is one big church all singing the same songs — but not those songs given to the church by God. (5)
It frightens me and makes me very sad that one of our professors, who says he has great love for our Psalter at the same time recommends hymns in our schools. (6)
In closing I quote Rev. H. Hoeksema from the Standard Bearer, Vol. 4, pp. 317-319, also found in Acts of Synod, 1960, pp. 115: “There is no need for hymns next to the Psalms of David, which are presented to us in Holy Scripture. There is in the Psalms a spiritual wealth wherein also the heart of the New Testament church is able to express itself perfectly, provided one learns to understand those Psalms well.” (7)
My reply, — and this will be the last word on the specific matter of my qualified recommendation of a specific song-book, unless something new is presented, — follows the order of the reference numbers which I have inserted in brother Huisken’s letter:
1) It is in the nature of a recommendation that anyone has the right either to follow it or ignore it. Edgerton’s school board could, however, hardly take a contrary stand in 1953 to a recommendation which was not made until 1966. Nor do I see how I cause confusion and discord with my recommendation; at least, I certainly know of none that I have caused.
2) Diligence in observing Article 69 of our Church Order has nothing to do with our schools. If, however, brother Huisken thinks I am in violation of Article 86 of the Church Order, he is welcome to prove this before the proper ecclesiastical instances. I agree that it is good reasoning to sing the same songs in our schools as we sing in our churches, but not exclusively. I prefer to state it this way: It is good to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” in our schools, “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
3) Brother Huisken seems to forget that I did not recommend hymns in general, nor all hymns, but that I made a qualified recommendation of a specific song-book, — a book, by the way, in which there are also several excellent psalm-versifications from the Genevan Psalter. I wish the brother would take the trouble to study the book recommended.
4) Fully agreed.
5) This is an unproved generalization. Besides: a) I believe it is more accurate to say that singing of shallow and corrupt hymns and departure from the truth go hand in hand. b) You are now writing about churches that introduce hymns; I have not pleaded for the introduction of hymns in our churches. c) I am afraid that lurking in this paragraph is the underlying idea that all hymns and hymn-singing are principally wrong.
6) Your fears are ungrounded, and your sadness is unwarranted. For: a) Love for the Psalter and love of some hymns are not mutually exclusive. b) I did not in general recommend hymns, but I made a limited recommendation of a specific book, and not for use in the churches.
7) You must not try to use the late Rev. H. Hoeksema in support of your position. For: a) Your quotation is taken entirely out of context: read the whole article, which, by the way, was originally written in Dutch. It will appear that Rev. Hoeksema had no objection to hymns as such, to say the least; and it will also appear that he was dealing with a specific proposal in the Christian Reformed Church at that time. b) It is well known that only a few years ago the Rev. Hoeksema was in favor of a change in Article 69 of the Church Order. c) It is well known that Rev. Hoeksema even composed some suggested hymns. d) It is well known that Rev. Hoeksema had some favorite hymns which he loved to sing and also to quote in sermons. One was Isaac Watts’ “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
Again, for my part, the recommendation will stand. And, anyone is free to regard or disregard it. I merely gave my opinion and advice about a book sent me for review.
Professor H. C. Hoeksema
Editor, The Standard Bearer
Dear Brother in Christ: As a new subscriber to your excellent magazine, I find it not only interesting but most informative. Am particularly pleased with the way you uphold the standards of our Reformed faith, pointing out the dangerous defections which are manifesting themselves among erstwhile conservative churches ostensibly committed to our Calvinistic creeds. May the Lord bless you in your valiant fight for truth!
On page 223 of your February 15 issue under Question Box, attention is called to a quotation from Dr. Thomas Smyth to the effect that immersion is not a Scriptural mode for the administration of baptism. I am disappointed that this truth was not high lighted more effectively. It has long been a matter of deep concern to me that for the sake of placating certain baptist oriented individuals the inserted in the “Form for the Administration of Baptism”. This type of concession tends to cut away the ground for infant baptism inasmuch as immersion is obviously not suitable for application to infants. This in turn undercuts the doctrine of the covenant and paves the way for the entire false philosophy of baptist theology.
How much better to agree with Dr. Smyth that Scripture is and must be the sole basis for the doctrine and theology of baptism! Here the facts are clear and unmistakable. From Genesis to Revelation there is no immersion in the Bible and not onesingle Scripture text can be adduced to prove it. The score is 41 to 0 in favor of sprinkling and pouring! This is because immersion runs counter to the symbolism of Scripture. All through the Bible the elements of water, oil, blood and Spirit are always applied to the person, never the person to the element! God applies His blessings to us. As helpless sinners we cannot apply these supreme blessings to ourselves. To deem otherwise is to cut out the heart of Calvinism. It is precisely the false doctrine of man contributing to his own salvation which must be guarded against, even symbolically in the sacraments. In essentials like these we must above all maintain Scriptural consistency. To me baptism signifies not only the washing away of sin, our induction into the body of Christ, the sign and seal of the blessings of the everlasting covenant but also the holy anointing of the Holy Spirit whereby we are made prophets, priests and kings in Christ’s kingdom. How else can we be Christians, which means “anointed ones”, if we are not anointed? Only thus can we be like Christ and fulfill all righteousness by His almighty power and grace.
Sincerely in our Saviour’s Name,
William A. De Jonge
Montclair, New Jersey
*As a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian church am happy to report that “dipping” is not mentioned in our baptismal formulae.
First of all, a word of welcome to you as a new subscriber to our magazine, and also a word of thanks for your expression of esteem and, encouragement.
Secondly, a word of explanation. I eliminated the quotation from Dr. Smyth partly to abbreviate, but mostly because my questioner was inquiring as to the official stand of our Protestant Reformed Churches on immersion. This I answered by informing him that immersion is an allowable form of baptism according to our liturgical Form.
Thirdly, the following by way of a brief reply to your suggestions: 1) Much as I appreciate the desire to maintain infant baptism, I do not believe that allowing immersion undercuts the doctrine of the covenant. Nor do I believe that it is historically correct that immersion is a concession to baptist theology; or that the words “the dipping in” were inserted in our Form for the purpose of placating baptist oriented individuals.
2) I hesitate to criticize Dr. Smyth’s argumentation because I have only one page of his writings on the subject. However, I would hold to the allow ability of immersion (not the necessity of it, as baptists do): a) on linguistic grounds; b) in view of the two great types of baptism, which certainly were no sprinklings; c) in view of the meaning of baptism itself (not the sacrament, but the spiritual reality for which it stands), namely, being buried with Christ and arising in newness of life. d) in view of the fact that Scripture, both in the Old and in the New Testament, speaks of washings as well as of sprinklings. e) because it cannot be proved that New Testament baptisms were in every case by sprinkling, no more than it can be proved that they were by immersion.
3) I do not know of any Scriptural ground for the idea that our baptism constitutes an anointing in the literal and physical sense of the word, even though I fully agree that “when we are baptized in the name of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost assures us, by this holy sacrament, that he will dwell in us and sanctify us to be members of Christ,” etc.
4) Of course, I emphatically agree with your thought that “As helpless sinners we cannot apply these supreme blessings to ourselves. To deem otherwise is to cut out the heart of Calvinism.” However, I do not see that the symbolism of immersion as such is a denial of this truth.
Once again, thanks for your interest. Any more detailed treatment of the immersion question will have to wait until I have more time and space. Besides, I would like to study Dr. Smyth’s position in detail.