(This is a translation of the document which marks the beginning of the Secession of 1834 in the Netherlands Reformed Church, to which we referred in our editorial in the previous issue. HCH)
We the undersigned, Overseers and members of the Reformed Congregation of Jesus Christ at Ulrum, having observed for a considerable time the corruption in the Netherlands Reformed Church (Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk), as well in the mutilation or denial of the doctrine of our fathers, based on God’s Word, as in the degeneration of the administration of the Holy Sacraments, according to the regulation of Christ in His Word, and in the almost complete neglect of ecclesiastical discipline; all of which matters are, according to our Reformed confession Article 29, distinguishing marks of the true Church; having received through God’s grace a Pastor and Teacher who set forth to us according to the Word of God the pure doctrine of our fathers and who applied the same both in particular and in general; the congregation was thereby more and more awakened to direct its steps in confession and walk according to the rule of faith and of God’s holy Word: Galatians 6:16, Philippians 3:16; and also to renounce the service of God according to human commandments, because God’s Word tells us that this is in vain, Matthew 15:9; and at the same time to make us watchful for the profaning of the signs and seals of God’s eternal covenant of grace; through this the congregation lived in rest and peace; but that rest and peace was disturbed by the highly unjust and ungodly suspension of our commonly loved and esteemed Pastor as a consequence of his public testimony against false doctrine and against defiled public religious services; quietly and calmly has the congregation with their Pastor and Teacher conducted itself to this point; various very fair proposals were made, both by our Pastor and Teacher and by the rest of the Overseers of the congregation; repeatedly investigation and judgment on the ground of and according to God’s Word was requested, but all in vain. Classical, Provincial, and Synodical Ecclesiastical Boards have refused this most just request, and on the contrary have demanded repentance and regret without pointing out any offense from God’s holy Word, as well as unlimited subjection to Synodical regulations and prescriptions, without demonstrating that those are in all things based on God’s Word; thereby this Netherlands Ecclesiastical Board has now made itself equivalent to the Popish Church rejected by our fathers; because not only is the previously mentioned corruption observed, but in addition God’s Word is rejected or invalidated by ecclesiastical laws and decisions, Matt. 15:4, 23:4, Mark 7:7, 8and they are persecuted who will live godly in Christ Jesus, according to His own prescriptions, recorded in His Word, and the consciences of men are bound; finally on the authority of the Provincial Ecclesiastical Board the preaching of the Word of God by a publicly acknowledged minister in our midst, the Rev. H.P. Scholte, Reformed Pastor at Doveren and Genderen, in the land of Heusden and Altena, Province of North Brabant, was forbidden, and the mutual assemblies of the believers, which were held with open doors, were punished by fines;—taking all of this together, it has now become more than plain, that the Netherlands Reformed Church is not the True, but the false Church, according to God’s Word and Article 29 of our confession; for which reason the undersigned hereby declare: that they in accordance with the office of all believers, Article 28, separate themselves from those who are not of the Church, and therefore will have no more fellowship with the Netherlands Reformed Church, until it returns to the true service of the Lord; and declare at the same time their willingness to exercise fellowship with all true Reformed members, and to unite themselves with every gathering founded on God’s infallible Word, in whatever place God has also united the same, testifying hereby that in all things we hold to God’s holy Word and to our old forms of unity, in all things founded on that Word, namely, the Confession of faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of the Synod of Dordrecht, held in the year 1618 and 1619; to order our public religious services according to the ancient ecclesiastical liturgy; and with respect to divine service and church government, for the present to hold to the church order instituted by the aforementioned Synod of Dordrecht.
Finally, we hereby declare that we continue to acknowledge our unjustly suspended Pastor. Ulrum, the 13th of October, 1834.
(signed) J.J. Beukema, Elder
K.J. Barkema, Elder
K.A. van der Laan, Deacon
D.P. Ritsema, Deacon
Geert K. Bos, Deacon
(Note. At the meeting of the congregation on October 14, 1834 at the home of the Widow Hulshoff almost the entire congregation agreed with this position of the Consistory and also signed the Act of Secession Or Return.)
We shall have more to say about this historic document and about the Secession, the Lord willing, in the future.
For the time being, however, we call attention to the fundamental character of the Secession and to its motive. We may notice that the document calls attention to: a) the corruption of doctrine in the Netherlands Reformed Church; b) the profaning of the holy sacraments; and, c) to the scandalous neglect of discipline. Plainly, the question was one of the marks of the true church. And the issue was that of the true and the false church. This small and despised group of believers at Ulrum did not hesitate to say that the Netherlands Reformed Church was not the true, but the false church. Therefore they separated themselves and returned to the old basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity.
The price of this separation and return, remember, was persecution. I mean persecution in the real sense of the word! The power of the government was turned against the Secession. There were fines. There was imprisonment. There was the forced quartering of soldiers in the homes of the members. There were attempts to prohibit and disrupt the gathering of the congregations. There was refusal on the part of the government even to recognize the congregations of the Secession as legitimate churches.
But the saints endured and persevered, in spite of all the forces of opposition and all the persecution.
Two questions: 1) To how many descendants of the Secession is the matter of the true and the false church an important question today? 2) How many descendants of the Secession today would endure the persecution which their ancestors endured for the sake of their confession?
From the Session of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore I received a copy for the Standard Bearer of a letter sent to our Doon Protestant Reformed Church and the Foreign Mission Committee. The letter is under date of November 29, 1983. I waited with publishing it until I heard from the Foreign Mission Committee concerning any action they would take. Since all our Protestant Reformed Consistories will have by this time received word from the Foreign Mission Committee, and since this is a matter of concern for our people and. churches, I now publish the letter:
Doon Protestant Reformed Church
Dear Brethren in the Lord,
Greetings in the precious Name of our Victorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Further to our letter Rev. No. AA/001/0007, we wish to inform you that the proposal to buy the property at 35 E, Joo Chiat Place, Singapore, as described in our letter was abortive because the owner had decided not to sell the property. [This refers to an earlier proposal and request for help. HCH] However, we are now finalizing a plan to buy a property at 43 Blair Road, Singapore (very near China Town). Our budget, fund, and needs are shown below:
Sale of Property—S $190,000.00
Legal/Stamp fee—S $ 15,000.00
Present Fund—S $102,000.00
Possible Raised Fund—S $59,000.00
We are short of about S $89,000.00 and are trusting the Lord to provide our needs according to His riches by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). [Note. It should be kept in mind that the figures above are in Singapore currency. I do not know the exact current ex change rate, but it has been running about 50%, i.e., two Singapore dollars to one U.S. dollar. In other words, cut all the figures in half to get the picture of the funds involved. HCH]
The Session at its 18th Session Meeting held on 25 November, 1983 had decided to make use of the property for the following:
i. as parsonage to house the family of Rev. Arie den Hartog,
ii. to hold church activities that will eventually lead to the institution of ERCS’s 2nd Congregation in Singapore.
We would appreciate if you could share our needs to your brethren in the States, and support us with your prayer and means.
Once again, we would like to express our appreciation for your love, concern and help rendered to us in the proclamation of the Reformed Faith in this part of the world. May the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised.
(w.s.) Johnson See,
Elder, for the Session
I also received from our Foreign Mission Committee a copy of the letter about this matter which was sent to all our Protestant Reformed Consistories. Here is the letter, under date of January 17, 1984:
The Foreign Mission Committee has received a request from the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore for financial assistance. This is the Church that has been organized through the missionary labors of our Churches in Singapore. This Church owns no church property, but meets in rented buildings. Now it has purchased an old house in the China Town section of Singapore, which will be renovated for Church use. Property in Singapore is unusually high-priced due to the fact that there is a very large demand for this extremely limited natural resource in this small island republic of three million inhabitants.
The Foreign Mission Committee, with the approval of the Doon Consistory, has enclosed a copy of the letter from the ERCS Session in which the request is made. Further it should be noted that this material is forwarded for your information and prayerful deliberation and is not an instruction from our Synod for collections for this cause.
The following decision was adopted by the Foreign Mission Committee at its December 20, 1983 meeting: “Motion is made to forward the letter of the ERC of Singapore to our various consistories with a cover letter explaining: 1) That the F.M.C. believes this to be a worthy cause, but that we do not have the power to speak for Synod on this matter. 2) That we inform the consistories that we leave compliance to this request solely to their discretion. 3) Should consistories decide to take collections for this cause the F.M.C. will serve as agent for receipt of these monies. Carried.”
We thank you for your past support and cooperation in our endeavor to do the work of missions upon the island of Singapore. May the Lord give you wisdom to discern His will and the grace to perform it in the matter that we prayerfully place before you.
In the Service of Christ,
(w.s.) Rev. Marvin Kamps
Sec’y of the F.M.C.
These two letters speak for themselves and make plain what I meant by the title, “An Opportunity To Help.” A few remarks in this connection will not be amiss:
1. This is a highly necessary move on the part of the young congregation in Singapore to get a place of their own. They have no such place now, only rented quarters. Besides, the kampong where they now meet is far too small and overcrowded; and in addition, it is slated for eventual demolition.
2. There appears to be every evidence that the church in Singapore is growing rather rapidly, and that it is by no means a dream that in the not too distant future there may be two, and even three, congregations.
3. A look at the figures presented in their letter shows plainly that this is not at all an attempt at free-loading on the part of the Singapore church. They are supporting and proposing to support this projectthemselves—in my opinion, to an amazing and even sacrificial extent. They are only asking for our help.
It is my hope that our people and churches will heed this request and help them generously. I, am well aware that there are many causes and projects in our own midst which we are privileged to support. But as surely as we have become involved in mission work on this foreign field, so surely we ought also to support the church in Singapore in this project with our prayer and means, even as they request.