When I read all the attempts to explain the hereti­cal statements of De Wolf, I am reminded of the pas­sage in Eph. 4:14, 15, and of the synodical sermon I preached on that text in 1950, the year when the Declaration of Principles was first adopted.

The text reads as follows: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossing to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Jesus Christ.”

I then emphasized especially that, in order to grow up in Christ, we must, of course, grow in the truth and that, in order to grow in the truth, we must not be like small children that are easily deceived by false doctrine and false teachers. By all means, we must not think the best of them as if they are men that mean well although, perhaps, they innocently err. We should rather conceive of them as men that have the earmarks of gamblers, that play with the truth, and are characterized by cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

A man that speaks the truth does not have to ex­plain his statements or have them explained by others. And a man that speaks what is clearly a lie and then attempts to cover up the lie because he inadvertently spoke the lie too clearly naturally runs into all kinds of contradictions which simply corroborate that he speaks the lie and gambles with the truth.

The latter is the case with the statements of De Wolf and all that support him and attempt to give a good explanation to his statements.

They gamble with the truth.

I do not hesitate to say that, in their attempt to make the lie appear as the truth, they are playing hocus pocus, they are guilty of what the apostle calls “the sleight of men” and “cunning craftiness.”

The statements are so clearly heretical that they are in no need of an explanation for any Protestant Reformed man.

In fact, I am convinced that De Wolf himself knew this even before he went to the pulpit on both occa­sions. I am convinced that, when he preached those sermons, there was no love for the Protestant Reform­ed truth in his heart, and that he very deliberately meant to contradict that truth as, in fact, he did.

But the various contradictory attempts at explana­tion simply reveal that he and his supporters intend to maintain the heresy of those statements. Only, they try to present the heresy as if it were sound Protestant Reformed truth.

Here are some of the interpretations offered of the first statement:

1. If the gospel is preached and that gospel comes with the demand to repent and believe, this demand is preached to every one promiscuously.

Compare this with the statement: “God promises to every one of you that, if you believe you shall be saved.” Does the interpretation even remotely re­semble the statement made by De Wolf, either in form or content? You say: NO.

2. God promises you, elect and believers in Christ, salvation in the way of and by means of faith.

I ask, is this at all the same as saying: God prom­ises every one of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved? You answer, of course: NO.

Again I ask: is this interpretation the same as that given under 1? You answer, of course: it is entirely different.

3. The statement really means that the promise of God is for the elect. For (1) “The promise” here, evidently, does not include faith. (2) Faith is a gift of God. (3) This gift is bestowed only on the elect. (4) Hence, the statement: “God promises salvation to you if you believe” is the same as saying: God prom­ises salvation to the elect.

How conveniently the phrase “every one of you” is here eliminated and replaced by “the elect.” More­over, does this interpretation agree with that under 1 and 2? You answer: NO.

4. We must distinguish between the great oath-bound promise and other promises in Scripture. The first statement by De Wolf did not refer to the former but only to the latter.

I ask: does this interpretation agree with any of the others referred to above? You answer, of course: NO.

Again I ask: when De Wolf spoke of the promise of salvation did he not mean the same as the “oath -bound promise to Abraham?” You say: YES.

5. De Wolf addressed the whole congregation as it exists organically. He meant that congregation when

he said: God promises every one of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved.

Ingenious camouflage!

But if you address the congregation as a whole you say: saints in Christ Jesus, believers in the Lord

Jesus Christ, believers and your (spiritual) seed. The moment you say: “every one of you,” you exactly do not address the congregation as it exists organically, but every individual in the audience, elect and repro­bate, member and stranger. Moreover, in that case you do not address the congregation at all, for the congregation consists of believers and their spiritual seed, sanctified in Christ, and you certainly do not address believers by the conditional clause: If you be­lieve. Just try it and say: Believers, if you believe you shall be saved.

Ingenious, too, because the author by this inter­pretation exactly touches one of the most fundamental errors in the statements (both) of De Wolf. He has no conception of the Church. He really has no room for infant baptism. The congregation does not con­sist of those that are sanctified in Christ (young as well as old, parents and children) but as a crowd that is to be evangelized. Sermons such as he preach­ed would fit very well in any Arminian revival meet­ing, certainly not in a Reformed church.

But again I ask: does this explanation agree with any of the above mentioned attempts at interpreta­tion? I am confident that you will say: NO.

I could mention more explanations. One other I must mention, although it really is no attempt to in­terpret the first statement, nor, for that matter the second. It is:

6. We agree that the statement taken by itself is heretical, but you must interpret it in the light of its context.

Very well. But I insist that, in the light of the context, the statement certainly does not improve.

What is the context? This:

1. The sermon was preached immediately after Classis East adopted the Declaration of Principles. That Declaration maintains strongly that the promise of God is not for all but only for the elect and is un­conditional. In direct opposition to this, and, I have no doubt, deliberately, De Wolf preached a conditional promise for all.

2. In the sermon he said: “You have nothing to do with election and reprobation, your responsibility is to believe. If you will believe you shall be saved.” Or: “election and reprobation have nothing to do with the gospel.” That he said this in this sermon, which I did not hear, is for me corroborated by two facts:

(1) In the sermons I did hear of De Wolf he often either silenced or belittled election and reprobation.

(2) In the second sermon to which objections were lodged, and against which I personally protested, he deprecated the truth of election. In one of the an­swers to the protests he denies this and claims that he only warned against “abusing the precious doctrine of election.” But this is simply an untruth.

3. In the same sermon he also said: ‘‘Some of you carry Protestant Reformed on the lapel of your coat.

You are proud of being Protestant Reformed. Don’t think you go to heaven because you are Protestant Reformed.”

Hence, it is my conviction that the context cer­tainly does not improve the statement that was finally condemned as literally heretical.

The sermon was bad throughout. It was a sermon such as should never have been preached from a Pro­testant Reformed pulpit.

All these desperate attempts at interpretation, however, reveal plainly: (1) That the interpreters themselves very well understand that what Classis East expressed is true: the statement is literally her­etical. (2) That the interpreters show the earmarks of real heretics when they, nevertheless, insist on thus presenting the lie as the truth by their would be interpretations. They play hocus pocus with the truth. And they deceive the people.

It is somewhat striking that the statement from the second sermon that was condemned as literally heretical did not find so many supporters and inter­preters as the first one. This certainly cannot be due to the fact that the error in the statement is less serious. It really implies that even regeneration is an act which man can or must perform before he enters into the kingdom of God. For is it not true that un­less a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God? Does not Jesus say that unless a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God? But, perhaps, the fact that this statement does not find so many interpreters and explanation must be explained by the difficulty of try­ing to present even that error as if it were Reformed and Biblical.

The matter seems too clear.

Outside of the kingdom of God we are in darkness.

In that darkness, we are, according to the Heidel­berg Catechism, totally depraved, incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, unless we are re­generated by the Spirit of God.

How, then, is it possible, as De Wolf proclaimed in the statement that was condemned as literally heretical and, in fact, throughout the sermon from which the statement was taken, except in the last two or three sentences, that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God?

I think that the supporters of De Wolf feel the difficulty.

Hence, I really find but two attempts at interpret­ing this statement.

The one is that which likes to explain away the

PRE in prerequisite and explain it in the sense of re­quisite.

The other likes to emphasize that our daily con­version is a continual entering into the kingdom of God, and that the former is a prerequisite to the latter. To this I must call your attention next time.