* Not Anabaptist but Reformed was a pamphlet written by Danhof and Hoeksema in 1923 as a
In the first half of this chapter, Danhof and Hoeksema have established that Rev. Van Baalen cites many texts but has almost no exegesis. Their exposition of Psalm 73 demonstrated that Scripture teaches the opposite of common grace. They ask Van Baalen to reconcile this and similar passages with his “idea that God is actually good to the reprobate.” They insist that this is the proper method of interpretation, that is, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and interpreting each text in the light of the whole of Scripture.
And therefore, in connection with a few passages that are related to our subject and that appear to teach that God actually lavishes goodness upon and is favorably inclined toward the reprobate, we would like to point out the following:
1) In the first place, we note that God actually is good to unthankful and wicked men. We also are such men. God’s people are such. By nature we are all unthankful and, in principle, enemies of God. God is filled with eternal goodness toward those unthankful and wicked men, and He loved them even when they were yet enemies. He is so good that He gives Christ unto death for them, actually grants them His grace, and causes all things to work together for their good. In that goodness He grants them all good things, even though it may be that He leads them in ways of suffering and oppression, of persecution, slander, and death. Even those apparently evil things are always evidences to them of God’s goodness, because He seeks their good both in time and eternity. And therefore goodness is essentially a notion no different from grace. If anything, goodness expresses the same idea as grace in an even stronger way. But it is a goodness upon His people that works only for good to His people, and even comes upon them while they are still unthankful and wicked.
2) In the second place, we note that God’s people live together with the reprobate in this world from a natural point of view. They are not yet separated as this shall occur in the Day of Judgment. They live in the same world and also receive the same gifts in that world. Those gifts are God’s gifts, revelations of His goodness. The goodness of God, His grace and love, which is meant for His people and is actually a blessing for His people alone, is thus thoroughly revealed also to the ungodly, in the sense of reprobate. In the outward sense of the word they receive everything that God’s people receive. From an earthly point of view they receive even more, because among the people of God are not ordinarily many noble or rich men. But all of this merely works their ruin. It is not that God intended it to be otherwise but did not accomplish His purpose. Rather, it was God’s idea and His great wisdom to work their ruin through those gifts. Thus you can also understand something of the fact that the ungodly man is responsible for his own ruin. For the goodness of God that was revealed to him in the good gifts has only made him more wicked. He has polluted all of it through sin, and therefore, his guilt is all the greater.¹
3) We note that the child of God, in whose heart is the life of God, and in whom God has perfected His love, now also loves and blesses His enemies out of that living love, even as God loved him when he was yet an enemy—something that nevertheless does not at all mean that he now loves God’s enemies too. The word of the poet pertains to them: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee?. . . I hate them with perfect hatred” (Ps. 139:21, 22). This is certainly also the principle that was repeatedly expressed in Holy Scripture, but that was even taken up in the law of Israel (Deut. 13:6-11), and was later professed once again by the Savior in Luke 14:26: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” God’s people, on account of the love wherewith God loved them, can have mercy upon their enemies, but they can never love the enemies of God.
The same observation, namely that this chapter in Rev. Van Baalen’s pamphlet attests to a much too superficial interpretation of Scripture, pertains also to the texts that speak about Ahab’s repentance. If one does speak of common grace, it has to do with something entirely different than what is related to us there. But besides, the brother simply quotes without going into any explanation. We would still have to know what the character of Ahab’s conversion is and how it stands connected with the second message that Elijah has to bring to the king. That [second] message really comes down to this, that the Lord, when He sees that Ahab goes before His face in sackcloth and ashes afraid from the first message brought to him by the prophet, now announces to the king that the evil that was announced will come upon his house not in his days, but in the days of his son. All of this had to be explained, but Rev. Van Baalen merely gives the quote.
If we enter into the matter, it is completely clear. Ahab has sinned dreadfully. God thunders in his ears that He will punish him with the utter desolation of his house. Ahab’s house shall be eradicated from Israel. A final judgment is thus announced: utter desolation. Now, however, one must understand two things. Scripture teaches that such a final judgment is not executed by the Lord unless evil has become fully ripe. The measure of unrighteousness must become full. This not only pertains to the end of the world, but also to various judgments in the course of history, like the Flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and of Jerusalem, which in this way are types of the end. If the Lord causes someone to be cut off, then the measure of unrighteousness is full.
In the second place, it is also a scriptural idea that fear before an announced judgment is evidence that this evil has not yet become ripe. Ahab was afraid at the first message. He trembled before the fearful judgment of God and went around in sackcloth and ashes. Therefore, Elijah must announce that the evil on Ahab’s house shall indeed come, but not until the days of his son—something that certainly does not mean that grace is shown to Ahab at the expense of his son, but rather that the evil in Ahab’s house shall then have become fully ripe. Then this judgment shall be executed.
Also, the meaning that Rev. Van Baalen attaches to the “giving over” of Romans 1:24, 26, 28 is not the scriptural thought. The brother simply adopts the explanation that Dr. Kuyper gives to this passage. According to this explanation this being given over supposes that God first restrained sin, held the process of sin in check, but now leaves the operation of sin to itself.
We have all kinds of objections to this explanation. In the first place, we object that it is a completely un-scriptural and un-Reformed idea that God simply leaves something to itself, even if it pertains to sin. God never simply stands around and looks on, to put it crudely, in order to watch something develop.
In the second place, we object that there is no mention of such restraining at all in the context. Paul develops the idea that there has been a revelation of God’s eternal power and Godhead in nature since the beginning of the Creation, and that, furthermore, man also could be acquainted with this revelation because of natural light. But man has become foolish in the depravity of his heart, has refused to recognize God as God, and going from bad to worse, has portrayed God as a beast and creeping thing. The waters had coursed quickly in the heathen world. There was no restraining. Thus, the context does not make mention of any restraining.
In the third place, we object that this explanation is also in contradiction to the text that Rev. Van Baalen himself quotes from Acts 17, where it is clearly expressed that God let the heathen walk in their own ways.
And in the fourth place, we object that the expression “given over” never means that God leaves something to itself, but rather it denotes a positive act of God whereby God seizes something and delivers it over. This same word is in fact used for the giving over of the Son unto death (Rom. 4:25), the Son’s giving up of Himself (Gal. 2:20), the self-sacrifice of Christ to God for a sweet-smelling savor (Eph. 5:25), and the men who have given up their lives for the name of the Savior (Acts 15:26).
And thus we could go on. Nowhere does the word presuppose a restraining, but everywhere it denotes a positive act of giving over. So also is it in Romans 1. According to the righteous judgment of God, as punishment for their sin of not wanting to recognize Him, but having portrayed Him as a man and beast and creeping thing, the heathen are taken by God and plunged even deeper into uncleanness. Giving over does not mean to say that God now stands by and does nothing more about it, but rather it looks to a very positive and righteous act of God’s rejection.
It is not our concern here to go into the book of Jonah at length. With regard to the history, let it be pointed out that we have the same thing here as was pointed out above regarding Ahab’s conversion. Nineveh was also frightened at the thundering voice of God that announced utter destruction. Therefore Nineveh is spared for a while. It is well-known how the city was yet destroyed some years later. But apart from all this, it simply will not do to deal with the book of Jonah as Rev. Van Baalen does. Jonah is prophecy, is it not? You will never understand the right meaning of the book as long as you treat it merely as a piece of history.
Why is Jonah prophecy? Why is Jonah a type of Christ in His burial and resurrection? Why must Jonah go to Nineveh? Why not to Babylon? How is Nineveh, in distinction from Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jerusalem, an image and type in the Holy Scriptures? You see, we must have all of this if we want to give proof for a scriptural idea from the book of Jonah. And the brother does not do that. But you certainly cannot speak of universalgrace in connection with something that occurs within a single city, can you?²
But that is enough. We can take our leave of this chapter as well. The brother has imagined the matter that concerns us here to be much too easy. He evidently started from the idea that it was a foregone conclusion that Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema were erring spirits who understood neither the Confessions nor Scripture, or used both in a rationalistic manner. The opposite is true, brother. We want to understand the Scriptures and build along purely Reformed lines. And if you think that by quoting twelve texts, some of which have nothing at all to do with the matter, most of which you do not even explain, and others of which you pass by with a single word, you can just set us aside and present the doctrine of common grace as crystal clear, you are indeed quite mistaken. Your chapter “Against Holy Scripture” is unworthy of a Reformed exegete of Scripture. Your cry, “Once again, acknowledge that you have erred,” is well-intentioned and much appreciated, but also very misplaced.
¹ You have the same idea with respect to the Word. That Word is also a revelation of God’s grace and comes not only to the elect, but also to the reprobate. Thus, these also have the revelation of God’s grace, which was indeed intended to give life only to the elect. It is not, therefore, Reformed to say that God also now intends that the reprobate receive grace. Our fathers very clearly taught the opposite (see Canons, Rejection of Errors, IV, 5). The offer of grace does come to all in this world wherever elect and reprobate live organically together, but grace always remains particular from God’s side. The one good Word is a savor of death unto death and a savor of life unto life, though it is according as God gives grace with the preaching of that Word or does not. And so it truly is with all things. According as God gives grace with His gifts or does not, all things work unto blessing or unto curse. See the reference to Psalm 73 and 92 above. And so it is also with suffering. Suffering in and of itself is an evil, but with grace suffering becomes a blessing for God’s people. Therefore, we do speak of a general revelation of God’s grace, goodness, kindness, mercy, etc, and of good gifts, which all men receive, but not of general grace. Righteous and ungodly men have everything in common in this world, except for grace.
² Nineveh stands at the peak of the heathen world and is a picture of the heathen world as God’s people must soon be gathered out of it. This is the difference between the meaning of Nineveh and Babylon. Babel is the whore, a picture of the reprobate, antichristian world, from which God’s people have to separate themselves. Nineveh is a picture of the world as it is temporarily spared by God in His longsuffering, as the gospel is preached to that world, and God’s people must first be gathered out of that world before the end can come. However, all of this will first come to pass after Christ shall have been in the heart of the earth for three days and been raised up. That is why in regard to this, Jonah is the picture of Christ who dies, enters into the heart of the earth, arises, and then is preached to the world of which Nineveh is a picture.