In 1974 Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan called the Rev. Robert C. Harbach to serve our Churches as a Home Missionary. For several years Rev. Harbach served in Houston, Texas where a Protestant Reformed Congregation was organized as a fruit of his labors. For some time now Rev. Harbach has been preaching and teaching the Gospel in Victoria, British Columbia. Of this labor he writes in the succeeding article. We are sure that the reader will appreciate Rev. Harbach’s trenchant analysis of the ecclesiastical and religious situation in Victoria.
“The Lord,” no less than the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal King of kings, “reigneth,” as Head of the church, and Head over all things for the church; “let the earth rejoice;” why? because all authority in heaven and in earth is given to Him risen from the dead; so “let the multitude of the isles be glad” (Ps. 97:1), including isles and maritime lands to which our churches have had the blessed privilege of sending the gospel—Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vancouver Island. “Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof’ (Ps. 98:7), because the glad sound of the gospel continues to go out to the islands of the seas.
Looking at a map of the North American continent back home in the Midwest, one gets no proper sense of geographical orientation with respect to the island last mentioned. For it is then represented on the map by hardly more than a mere speck. Now we are on that tiny speck (how small and insignificant we are!), and it’s all quite different., The “speck” seems huge with a stretch northward of wilderness crammed with forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, swamps, bogs, streams, farmlands, and the ubiquitous rocky prominences. It would take months and months, .if not years, to discover all that the island affords.
The Lord brought us to a fine group of saints here who requested catechetical instruction, Bible study, preaching, and worship services. For a while, there was also a Bible study class held bi-monthly on the mainland near to Lynden, Washington. The children here have been taught the second time around in Old Testament Bible history. Adult Bible study has proceeded through The Essentials of Reformed Doctrine and more than half way into the Belgic Confession. With delight the beautiful contents of the Heidelberg Catechism are regularly studied and fed on. Series preaching has seen us through three of the epistles and into a fourth. Regular worship and Bible study is supplemented with personal reading in the Beacon Lights, The Standard Bearer, the Reformed Dogmatics, The Triple Knowledge, Therefore Have I Spoken, God’s Covenant Faithfulness, and The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. One person has readDe Geloovigen En Hun Zaad. Copies of The Standard Bearer are mailed out by a faithful reader of the same, and the group works together in preparing a two-page Calvinist Contender for mailing. The truth of the gospel is further spread abroad by means of a weekly, 15minute radio broadcast aired out of KARI, Blaine, Washington, on Saturday mornings. The program is called “Bible Truth Meditations,” and reaches not only Victoria, but well up into the island. Services and the broadcast are advertised regularly in three newspapers, one here, one up-island and one over on the mainland, all, of course, in British Columbia. In this way, it is hoped, a radio audience to our program will be built up. Some three responses, so far, have been made to this radio endeavor.
The usual maze of religions is found here as elsewhere and everywhere on this continent. There are sensationalistic and hand-clapping charismatics, the usual string of prophetic preachers, the hordes of “healing” hucksters, the fast-decaying apostate churches, and the increasing number of anti-church groups. The latter are little independent knots of professing Christians who claim that as the end of the age draws nearer, believers will increasingly separate themselves from the institution of the established churches, to meet in private homes for independent Bible study. The institute of the church is viewed with suspicion and avoided, even though the Bible teaches that there will always be true church institutes in the world, like the seven churches in Asia, and that right up to the return of our Lord on the clouds of heaven. This trend does embrace many sincere people, but sincerely wrong, and so all the more dangerously wrong, as the trend, of which they are a part, is both schismatical and part and parcel of the present apostasy. Then there is the being “Calvinistic” without being Reformed. Arminianism and Semi-pelagianism are the popular opiates of the masses.
But it matters not that we may have to stand alone in all this bleak, arid religious wilderness: It is our calling to let our light shine before men, and to “set up the standard toward Zion” (Jer. 4:6). For a while in our meetings we were able to count some half dozen nationalities represented in attendance. Ordinarily, it has been our firm, faithful few who continue with us, growing spiritually in the truth. Some of our ministers have visited us, most of whom have preached here. We enjoyed having them, although there were not multitudes flocking out to hear them. These are days when preaching is largely ignored, especially Reformed preaching. It is pushed aside for dashes of religious entertainment. Men who occupy the pulpit (I hate calling them ministers) do not preach the Word, do not produce sermons. The people do not hear the Word. Many of them do not ask for bread, being satisfied with stones, which is what they get. Then will their children ask for bread, or for an egg? It’s unlikely. Any way, they only get a stone or a scorpion. The church service is cluttered with pageants, dramas, films, discussion panels, and an overload of music (religious jazz) and people-participating programming. When young men enter the seminary, seldom is it to learn to become a preacher. Rather, it’s to become a counselor, a chaplain, a minister of music, a minister of youth, a minister of visitation, or a minister of education (a sort of Sunday School superintendent). Recently, a president of a Bible institute was introduced as an internationally known author and Christian film maker. In the days when we were students in a Bible institute, all the teachers were also preachers and pastors of churches; and, where there was a female teacher, she was the wife of a preacher. Preaching can be eclipsed by film-making. Preaching is allowed to slip from being the chief means of grace. Many turn from preaching to private Bible study. The two should go together. To turn from the divinely appointed instrument of the church institute to independent Bible study is a deception. There ought to be a turning away from the apostate churches. Some in these churches are true Christians. They grieve over the deadly falling away from the truth. They themselves know the great truth of sovereign grace. They know that the preaching of the Cross, foolishness to those who are perishing, is the power of God to those who are being saved. But no one is saved in the purveyance of error. These things they see, know and deplore. But do their generations know these things? Do their children hear the truth? Do they get bread, or only stones and gravel? Are their parents a witness to them? Can they point their children in the right direction? Was Lot in Sodom a witness to his children? Lot knew God’s pure truth. He was painfully aware of the corruptions all around. He knew the true church was not there where he was, but with the 316 souls in the household of Abraham. Could he, where he was, be a witness to his children? Isn’t it a fact that the only way he could be an effectual, consistent witness to them would be for him to leave the cities of the plain that then he might point them to the house of Abraham as the then true Bethlehem or House of Bread? And what about his children? Were they not without the benefit of a strong parental witness? Did they know and love the truth as did their father? Were they, as their father, children of God? Were they, too, vexed with the filthy manner of life of the wicked? Could they be said to possess “righteous souls”? Did they have the slightest interest as to where the True Bread could be found? Were they not wholly concerned, rather, with a secure economic and advantageous social life? (“Remember Lot’s wife.”) When did they ever give a thought to the Word of God for the good of their souls? The church in Abraham continues to this day (Gal. 3:26, 29). The church in Lot was in that day lost in its generations. In Lot’s family there was a “famine, not a famine of bread, nor of thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). It must also be said of Lot’s children, and of those like them in our day: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me; seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 3:6).
Without the pure preaching of the Word, we become like God-forgotten children, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. The younger generation, then, slips father away from God than have their parents. But the preaching of the Word is still to be heard. By it we learn to know the truth, embrace it, love it, live in it, and gain heaven by it. Under the preaching of the gospel is that promise ours, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Preaching is a very serious stewardship, a weighty trust committed to Christ’s ministers. We are all answerable to Him as to how we use and respond to the divine appointment of “the foolishness of preaching.” For by such means the sovereign God purposes to save those who believe, and to gather together in one the children of God scattered abroad. “Let the multitudes of the isles be glad” because they hear the joyful sound of the gospel. Then let us be glad and sing:
From Greenland’s icy mountains,
From India’s coral strand,
Where Afric’s sunny fountains
Roll down their golden sand,
From many an ancient river,
From many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver
Their land from error’s chain!
—Rev. Robert C. Harbach