It will be plain to everyone that at all understands the truth that the difference between us and those that left the fellowship of the Protestant Reformed Churches at bottom concerns the truth of election and reprobation.
It is the age old question whether grace is always particular and for the elect alone, or whether it is common and, in some sense, is for all men.
It is the question that arises again and again in the world whether, in the matter of salvation, God is absolutely sovereign, so that He is merciful unto whom He will be merciful and whom He wills He hardens; or whether man can and must contribute at least something to his salvation.
Those that condemn the statements made by the Rev. De Wolf maintain, as the Protestant Reformed Churches always did ever since 1924, that grace is never common but always particular. Those that support those statements simply believe that the grace of God is common.
I know that they, with a show of indignation, deny this. They say that they are Protestant Reformed! They claim that they hold to the truth of election and reprobation, and of particular grace just as well as we do. But, in the light of all their agitation in the churches, and in the light of what the Rev. De Wolf himself called his “unhappy statements,” I maintain that all their actions belie their words and their claims.
Often I begin to think that many that went along with us in 1924 and many that joined our churches in later years never were Protestant Reformed. They should never have gone along, they should never have joined us. How otherwise is it to be explained that one of my own elders, A. Dykstra, could say in one of our consistory meetings that he knew of nine former elders, and himself was, of course, the tenth, that were convinced that the synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, was right when they declared that I was onesided. That the Rev. Petter for a time perhaps, embraced the Protestant Reformed faith, superficially at least, but that he never was Protestant Reformed at heart is evident from all that, in the last few years, he produced, and more especially from his opposition against the Declaration of Principles. The same is true of all that were against that declaration.
The two statements made by the Rev. De Wolf are only a concise expression of what lives, not only in his own heart, but also in the hearts of all that so strongly support him.
How the Rev. Gritters has changed since he, ten years ago, instructed his people in Sioux Center by his exposition of the Canons. Confer the excellent articles of the Rev. J. Heys in the Standard Bearer.
And the Rev. A. Cammenga? The man that was supposed to proclaim the Protestant Reformed truth to those that are outside? In the light of his enthusiastic support of that first sermon of the Rev. De Wolf, in which he stated that the promise of God is for all on condition of the act of believing, I am convinced that he never preached, as our missionary, either in Lynden or in Chattam, the distinctive Protestant Reformed truth. (He was in church when De Wolf preached that sermon, and although he never paid me a visit, the morning after he came to my house just to tell me what a wonderful sermon that was!). I would like to know how, in the light of his wholehearted agreement with that sermon, he could ever have opposed the First Point of Kalamazoo 1924.
At any rate, the two statements that, by Classis East and the Consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, are declared to be literally heretical, attack the very heart of our Protestant Reformed truth.
It is Protestant Reformed to teach that the promise is for the elect alone. De Wolf and his supporters believe that the promise is for all that hear the gospel.
It is Protestant Reformed to maintain that, in the preaching of the gospel, there is no common grace, but that, through the preaching, God is merciful to whom He will be merciful and whom He will He hardens. De Wolf and those that support him believe and maintain that the preaching is grace for all that hear.
It is Protestant Reformed to teach that faith is not a condition but a means unto salvation. But De Wolf and those that follow him (or did he follow them?) insist that man’s act of believing limits the promise of God.
It is Protestant Reformed to teach that man is by nature darkness, wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, and he can never convert himself to enter into the kingdom of God unless he is born again by the Spirit of God. But De Wolf and those that support him teach and insist that our act of conversion is before (PRE-requisite) we enter into the kingdom of God.
I am aware that the Rev. De Wolf now explains that he was not referring to initial and principle but to continual conversion and entering into the kingdom of God.
But, in the first place, let me remark that this is an after thought of De Wolf and that, throughout the sermon, except in the last few sentences, he spoke of principle and initial conversion and entering into the kingdom. I know, for I heard the sermon myself.
Besides, he virtually stated in that sermon that, if we did not convert ourselves, we would all go to hell. He referred toff, which speaks of the workers of iniquity that shall never enter into the final kingdom of glory but to whom the Lord says: “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” This certainly could never be said to those that were already regenerated.
Again, at one of the consistory meetings soon after that sermon was preached, I suggested to him that the Lord, incertainly spoke to his regenerated disciples that certainly, as far as their subjective condition was concerned, were already in the kingdom of God. I asked him whether Peter, had he died on the spot when Jesus addressed His disciples, would not have gone to heaven. His answer clearly revealed how far, at that time, the explanation which he now offers, was from his mind. He simply said: “that has nothing to do with it.”
But even if he referred to continual conversion and entering in, the statement does not principally change, but is still heretical. In no sense of the word can it ever be said that our act of conversion is before we enter into the kingdom. Always we must be in the light, always we must be in the kingdom before we convert ourselves. Outside of the kingdom we are ever in darkness, and never convert ourselves, whether principally or continually. Our act of conversion, therefore, even in the sense of continual conversion is always an act in the light, and can never be a PRE-requisite to enter into the light.
In one of his answers to the questions put to him in the examination to which the consistory subjected him, he virtually admits that our act of conversion is not a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God, although in all the other answers he emphatically maintains this heresy.
The question was: “Do you maintain that our act of conversion is before we enter into the kingdom of God, that is, a prerequisite?”
And he answered as follows: “In the sense of our consciousness of entering in, and being in the kingdom. I would say it belongs to our act of entering into the kingdom.”
In the last sentence, he, evidently, denies that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom. The two are simultaneous. The act of conversion takes place or is performed at the same time that we enter into the kingdom. Conversion is the act of entering in. But then the former can never be before the latter, can never be a PRE-requisite.
An earmark of being a heretic I find in the way Rev. De Wolf attempts to distort the plain meaning of the Confessions so as to favor and support his statement that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God. An illustration of this you may find in one of his answers to the questions of the above examination.
The question asked for his explanation of Canons III, IV, 1-4 and 10. And the answer was rather lengthy, but I will quote all the essential parts of it.
“That question is not an easy question, the question concerning our entering into the kingdom, the manner of our entering into the kingdom, that which takes place in the sinner who enters into the kingdom of God, and the chronological order of events with a view to enter into the kingdom. I have been trying to make a little study of that, Mr. Chairman, as you find these various references in Scripture, and I am not prepared to give you a full explanation of these things, because it is rather an involved problem, and it is not to be over simplified by making a line, and saying that man is first on one side and then on the other, I assure you, and the Canons also do not do that. It is rather difficult to immediately establish these things here that are in question.”
(Let us remember that, in his sermon, the Rev. De Wolf was quite sure of the solution of this problem and especially of the “chronological order of events” when one enters into the kingdom of God. Did he not definitely state that our act of conversion was first and that the entering into the kingdom followed? PRE means before, and refers, therefore, to the chronological order “of events.” Why then camouflage the matter now and state that the matter is not so simple? I consider this an earmark of heretics. Vagueness is their strength.
But let me continue the question:
“‘Are we not in the power of darkness before we enter into the kingdom of God?’ Well, Mr. Chairman, you can say a lot of things about that. Certainly it is true that the natural man is in the power of darkness and it is also true that when one is in the kingdom he is in the light. I think we may say that.”
May say that? Is it possible, in the light of Scripture and the Confessions ever to say anything else? De Wolf says: “You can say a lot of things about that.” I would like to hear those “lot of things.”
But I continue:
“Now I would like to call your attention to Art. 10 (of Canons III, IV, H.H.), particularly, to show you that this problem is not so simple. And, Mr. Chairman, the reason that I call special attention to Art. 10 is because it mentions the kingdom. The other articles do not, if my memory serves me correctly. ‘It is to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace and conversion, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as he has chosen his own from eternity in Christ’—and now Mr. Chairman, may I call your particular attention to the order in which we have these things here in this article—’as he has chosen his own from eternity in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son.'”
Remember that DeWolf wants to call special attention to the order of these things: faith, conversion, and being translated into the kingdom of God’s Son. And note, in the following, how he twists and distorts the Confession to support the heresy that the act of conversion is even before our being translated into the kingdom. Said he:
“Now, Mr. Chairman, there must be some reason why our fathers used this order. They speak of “translation into the kingdom of his own Son” as following upon being rescued out of the power of darkness, as following upon the conferring of faith and repentance upon them, which faith and repentance are certainly active and conscious realities. Repentance cannot be anything else but conscious, must be; and faith I believe, according to our confessions, usually has the idea of the conscious act of faith. I think that if you look up the idea of faith in our confessions, you will find, Mr. Chairman, that that is the aspect of faith as it stands upon the foreground, not the potential, not the potential of faith, but the act of faith, and I find it very significant, Mr. Chairman, that our fathers put it in this order.”
I must continue this in the next number of the Standard Bearer. This answer is very important, and I do not wish to do De Wolf an injustice by quoting him only in part as is always so characteristic of the so-called Reformed Guardian, thus distorting the truth.
Only I want to call your attention to the smooth way in which De Wolf prepares us for the error that the Confessions teach that our act of conversion is before we are translated into the kingdom of God. We first believe: faith is presented here as the act of faith. We first convert ourselves: conversion, too, is presented here as our act. Thereupon God rescues us from the power of darkness, and translates us into the the kingdom of His own Son.
All this must serve the purpose of bolstering up his heresy that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God!
What a Pelagian interpretation of our Reformed Confessions!