The Rev. J. Howerzyl is busying himself with the consideration of the question of “Our Right of Separate Existence.” It is time for a little searching of the heart. That Rev. Howerzyl had to come to this as a spokesman for the many brethren and sisters, who took ecclesiastical position with him, I had long ago foreseen to happen. And that the term the “right of separate existence” would become a “certain justification” of their existence I could too have prognosticated. And that he would have to face the “doctrinal” side of the “controversy” is also not strange; for that is exactly the point. It is a “doctrinal matter” and not at all a matter of “personalities” as has so often been falsely alleged.
Now I rejoice in this that Rev. Howerzyl is willing to state (not merely concede!) that we must look for the difference in the doctrinal position and “that a mere church political difference can never, in the final instance, justify separate existence.” (I italicize) I take it that with “final instance” Rev. Howerzyl has in mind, that God has spoken His verdict about the right of existence, and we have read this verdict accurately and must put our hand upon our mouth, because He has spoken and we have heard it; as Paul says: Let God be true and every man a liar! Howbeit, I rejoice that I can reply to Rev. Howerzyl on a matter that isdoctrinal and that can and must be judged by objective standards!
Rev. Howerzyl “finds” the right of existence, separate existence in this that certain “decisions taken” have made the warnings, exhortations and admonitions of the gospel” impossible. A serious charge, if true. So serious in my mind that I shall, as long as God gives me breath, say, that those who deny these are, according to III, IV, 17 of the Canons, preachers who tempt God, just as well as those preachers are tempters of God, who lose sight of the difference between admonitions of the gospel and the command of law, and place the latter on the back of the saints for whom Christ shed His blood! But no Church gathering can make decisions with impunity which deny exhortations, admonitions and warnings of the gospel! However, I most positively deny that such decisions were ever taken; neither did the Synod of 1951 perpetrate this evil under the sun, nor did Classis East become guilty of this perversion of the preaching of the gospel.
None need to take my word for it. A mere allegation, with a lot of exclamation marks, is no proof. If such decisions have been taken then they should be quoted. The very words employed should be quoted, Rev. Howerzyl! It is below the dignity of the office of a Minister of Jesus Christ in which I stand to concede to Rev. Howerzyl that it is ethically correct in God’s Church to write “and while we appreciate . . . we would point out the hopelessness of his task when the stand taken by those with him, not according to the words perhaps but in their intention and purpose, was exactly to rule out such preaching as he advocates.” I say again: none need take my word without proof! But God does not permit anyone to believe so much evil insinuation either of the Rev. Howerzyl. With such reasoning the wicked operate, brother Howerzyl, of whom I sing in Psalm 1! I “warn” you, I “admonish” you, I “exhort” you to walk in the freedom in Christ and not mistake liberty for license. I fear for you with a great fear! You are not thus beautifully useful to the Lord! If you would indeed fight Jehovah’s battles, furnish proof and do not slander ecclesiastical gatherings!
Show the “right” of your existence!
That is quite different than a mere attempt at “justification” of one’s separate existence.
If Rev. Howerzyl will, before the throne of God in the midst of God’s church, show that either Synod or Classis is guilty of the making preaching of sound, Reformed exhortations impossible, I will grant him not only that I am “fighting a losing battle,” but that it is far worse; than I am not fighting the battle, if I do not bring it to the attention of these bodies in the way of overture and protest!
Let Rev. Howerzyl prove the following with literal and complete quotations and proper inferences:
1. Where, in the Declaration of Principles, the Synod of 1951 has curtailed the freedom of preaching “admonitions of the gospel.” In this day of “challenging,” which gives the impression of “pistols at dawn” I will simply be content to quietly affirm that as yet Rev. Howerzyl has not quoted such a decision. He speaks of “decisions taken.” May I point out the following in the Declaration of Principles, which I have not seen quoted yet by anyone who opposed this Declaration. It is the following:
“B. And we maintain:
1. That God surely and infallibly fulfills His promise to the elect.
2. The sure promise of God which he realizes in us as rational moral creatures not only makes it impossible that we should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness but also confronts us with the obligation to love, to walk in a new and holy life, and constantly to watch unto prayer. All those who are not thus disposed, who do not repent but walk in sin, are the objects of His just wrath and excluded from the kingdom of heaven.
(3) That the preaching comes to all; and that Godseriously commands to faith and repentance, and that to all those who come and believe He promises life and peace.” Page 23. This is literally II, IV 8 of theCanons. (I italicize).
If the above curtails anyone in preaching exhortations, admonitions, etc., it must be that it does not give free play to the Pelagian-Arminian in him. Such preachers cannot breathe freely in a Reformed oxygen tent. I will not leave this “oxygen-tent” of Reformed expression for the suffocating “air” of pretended liberty of preaching “exhortations” of the promise to all upon the condition of faith!”
But let Rev. Howerzyl furnish proof to the contrary from Synod’s decisions. It seems to me that this part of the Declaration of Principles is the very preaching he applauds in me. If so, I am really in good company. Fact is, that this part of the Declaration of Principles came from the Creston Consistory. Rev. H. Hoeksema moved to adopt it, and Synod adopted it too. That was fighting a winning battle for the truth; it was constructive criticism where it was needed. It was building the walls of Jerusalem. What have you to write on the Arch of Triumph for your battle of words and endless “points of order,” which looked more like a “chess game” than a real battlefield, Rev. Howerzyl?
2. Where did Classis East in its decisions in regard to the “Statements” of Rev. De Wolf make it impossible to preach exhortations, warnings and admonitions through which God confers grace?
Let Rev. Howerzyl point this out with words in which the intention is expressed. Let Him not simply be content with mere allegations. That is not fighting Jehovah’s battle but the battle of Satan’s attempt at confusion. In the same Article from which Rev. Howerzyl quoted (October, 1, 1954 issue) I also wrote the following: “At the same time let not those admonitions be confused with ‘prerequisite acts’ but rather as enjoining us, requiring of us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling . . . Satan thrives on misunderstandings, and heretics work with them. But teachers in sound doctrine speak the truth in clarity and in all sincerity as before God!” Let the brother show with the actual words where Classis East made this exhortation of the gospel impossible. I assure him here and now that there is a very strong communis opinion on this score in our ranks concerning the needs of preaching admonitions. I merely wrote that “some people” are confused on this point. Why blow this up beyond recognition?
In conclusion I beg Rev. Howerzyl to trace down for me a ten page document I sent to Rev. Hofman which document the latter sent to the “midwest,” and that he for the sake of righteousness in God’s church publish it. In good part this is also a reply to some earlier untrue allegations on the part of Rev. Howerzyl. It is true they are allegations couched in such language as “as I see it,” “it seems” etc. They are untrue allegations nonetheless. Let him print this document lest he stifle the voice of one who would rejoice in “free speech.”
I feel constrained to add just a few observations to the foregoing; the matter of the invitation, which Rev. Howerzyl extends to me calls for a reply from my heart. I must give an answer to all who request an answer of the hope that is in me. Since I serve God in a good conscience I am ready to give this reply.
Writes the Rev. Howerzyl: “We who rejoice in the freedom to preach as he (Lubbers—G.L.) instructs uscall out to him to join us in that freedom to preach the whole gospel of our God, whereby God reveals that salvation is of Him from beginning to end, but . . .” (I underscore.)
This is my reply: I shall continue to do all I can in the strength of God to help you, but I cannot “join” you!
The question is: does God call me though Rev. Howerzyl that I cease walking where He does not place His candlestick, and that I come and confess “that I have loved you”? Confer Rev. 3:9. Does the Son of man, who has the “seven stars in His right hand” say through Rev. Howerzyl to Rev. Lubbers that he beobedient to Him, he must “join” Rev. Howerzyl and those with him!?
That is the sole question! All the rest is small, sinful, disobedient endeavor of mere man whose breath is in his nostrils. Let us put the shoes from off our feet as we stand at the burning bush, lest He, who is a consuming fire, destroy us even in our seeming success! Psalm 50:16-23.
The question of whether God tails me to labor with Rev. Howerzyl is whether in so doing I should be a “co-laborer under God” with him, or whether I should be an accomplice in evil, working Satan’s confusion! Let us not pretend that we can play with God’s holy fire and not be burned!
Hence, the sole question is: what saith the Lord?
If Rev. Howerzyl speaks truthfully, factually, then the Lord speaks through him. Deut. 18:20-22. Can Rev. Howerzyl be judged to belong to the caliber of preachers, who say with Paul, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by the manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” II Cor. 3:1, 2.
The facts are against him; the actual decisions which he refers to under “decisions taken” do not corroborate his contention.
Does a prophet in Israel need to fear to speak thewhole truth? Can those who do not speak the wholetruth save themselves and those who hear (read) them? I Tim. 4:16. Rev. B. Kok may write, “I can’t quote the whole Standard Bearer,” but he need not do this to speak the “whole” truth. I would despair of working as a “co-laborer” with such workmen as Rev. Kok! I only ask Rev. Howerzyl to quote the next three sentences of my article and then ask him whether he can still use it as a stone in his building and architecture! He must not do what Rev. Kok contended to be his right once to me in a recess of the Court Trial before Judge Taylor. When I chided him for his partial and slanted quotations he retorted, “I have a right to prove my point, haven’t I?” I told him then and there, “you have only a right to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.” If a writer, breaking out into print, puts himself in that position where the two-edged sword of justice and equity demands that to speak thewhole truth he must quote the whole Standard Beareror any other document, may (I say this with great trembling!) God help him by His Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth! I tremble when I think what will happen to those who offend the little ones for whom Christ died with confusion and wind. I shudder about the mill-stone” and the “deep sea”!
I also noticed, just a few minutes ago; that Rev. Howerzyl’s pen slipped when quoting me he wrote, “It is a pity that people are confused on this point”! I do like to believe that the change was unintentional. What I actually wrote was, “It is a pity that some (notice: “some”) people are confused on this point.” The confusion is not as general as Concordia‘s “editing” might seem to indicate. But suppose it were? What then? It would merely mean that with more patience we instruct the erring?
When I read the decisions of “Classis West” on the statements of Rev. De Wolf I cannot help but ask: what child’s play is this? I ask: does God call me to join such “babes in the wood”? Oh, I like to believe the very best of Rev. Howerzyl. Love believes no evil; neither does it close its eyes to the naked reality! My spirit groaned within me in travail when I read the decisions of Classis West, which were sent to my address by Rev. M. Gritter of Pella, Iowa. The words of Dr. A. Kuyper Sr., came to my mind, who spoke of “Snelle Afloop der Wateren”!
Here I stand in obedience to God and Christ who has the “seven stars in His right hand.” Without looking to the left or to the right I shall keep my eye on God’s precepts, knowing that no matter what happens, the just do not live by speculation but by faith!