For this issue we would make a few observations about matters here and there. These matters we do not wish to treat at length. And we do not want to devote an entire issue to each item. Therefore we list them under the title of observations, of course, in His fear. These matters are not related to each other in any other way than that they all are viewed in His fear; and the order in which they are treated also is not to be ascribed to any other inner relationship between the matter.
Worship of God or of man? . . .
When these lines appear in print and reach our readers and subscribers, we will be about half way between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We did not have a Mother’s Day sermon in our church, and we do not intend to have a Father’s Day sermon either. We have had those who looked askance at such a remark try to defend such a practice as quite the Christian thing to do. But we cannot help but remember every year when these days are again with us the theme of a Father’s Day sermon we saw listed on a bulletin board outside of a church in Hamilton, Ontario, some ten years ago: Fathers are Funny. Well, I suppose we have to try to defend a thing like that also.
But that is not the observation which we wish to make at this time. And we do not make this as a blanket condemnation of every church wherein a Mother’s Day sermon was delivered and wherein Father’s Day sermons are contemplated. We simply want to give a word of warning lest we become worshippers of man rather than of God. A Mother’s Day sermon, that is, a sermon delivered on Mother’s Day, that taught the Scriptural truth that we must honor father and mother we certainly would not condemn. A Mother’s Day sermon, wherein it is pointed out that the believing mothers in Israel prayed and looked for a man child with a view to the promise of a Redeemer, would be spiritual food for God’s people, if this all is explained as the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s covenant people. But then the sermon is not in keeping with man’s idea of the day and not only could be preached any other Sunday just as well, but it also ceases to be a celebration of Mother’s Day and is, as all other Sabbaths, a celebration of the Rest Day.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are not Church Holidays. They find no basis in holy writ. Simply to extol motherhood and fatherhood—and pretty soon on Children’s Day, childhood—has no particular spiritual value, and does not belong on the pulpit and in the worship service where God’s people come to be fed with the bread of life. When Jesus Himself was busy in the temple with spiritual things, He said to His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” He was not being disrespectful, but He did speak the truth.
And some of the sentiment we have read and heard expressed in connection with Mother’s Day clearly indicates that many—on that day at least—deny or question very strongly that mothers are conceived and born in sin, have the flesh and its motions of sin and as though mothers in general are ready to go to heaven without Christ and are really too good to stay here in this sphere of sin. Paul makes a point in I Timothy 2:14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Indeed, there are god-fearing mothers, women strong in faith. There is a Sarah whose faith was at times stronger than Abraham’s, and he was a giant of faith. There was a Hannah, a Ruth, a Deborah to mention only a few. And throughout history there were countless numbers of women who sacrificed, prayed, taught their children God’s ways and manifested the virtues of God’s kingdom. Those of us who believe do owe our mothers much for the early training in His fear that we have. But let us not forget the God who gave them these virtues in Christ. And let our worship services be worship of God and not of man.
And now we come to the point. Sad to say, in many of these churches that will devote a whole sermon to honor motherhood, fatherhood, childhood, and think it ill of you if you do not do the same, think nothing at all of NOT having a worship service on Ascension Day. Some will even fail to have special sermons on Pentecost. The Church holidays that are commercialized as Christmas and Easter they will set aside for special sermons and messages. But for the rest Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have the preference. Worship of man, we say, instead of God. This is not in His fear. And there is something radically wrong not only with this situation, but my dear reader also with YOU when you can stay home from a special Ascension Day service and welcome the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons that put a little feather in your cap and fail to tell you that without Christ, yea without this ascended Christ, all motherhood and fatherhood ends in hell! Maybe that theme of “Fathers are Funny” is not so far off. Make it, “Fathers are Foolish,” and then have in mind and point out that it is the height of folly for church fathers to advocate and extol natural man and to ignore the Ascended Christ, who gives the gifts whereby mothers and fathers are able to be faithful to God and to His covenant children, to love them spiritually and to care for their spiritual needs, and then you have seen things in His fear.
Do We Understand?
The Agendum for our Synod has been distributed to the various consistory members in our denomination. Others will either have to borrow a copy or wait until all this material with synod’s decisions is printed in the Acts of Synod. It is not our purpose to try to make propaganda for any of the matters coming to the attention of our synod. We simply want to make a few observations about a matter mentioned in the “Hymn Question.”
Our observations have to do with the conclusions of the committee and the article of the Rev. H. Hoeksema, translated from the April 15, 1928 Standard Bearer. As to the conclusions of the committee, we are one hundred percent in agreement. We are and always were strongly opposed to the introduction of hymns into our Psalter and worship. Some may have misunderstood because we did make known our belief, as the committee has it in point 7, “Faithful versifications of Scripture, other than the Psalms, may be sung in the churches.” But our stand has always been against what men usually mean today when they speak of hymns.
But the matter that we write about is in point 5 of the committee’s conclusions and point a/1/ of the Rev. Hoeksema’s proposed grounds in 1928 for the rejection of hymns. As we said, we are not trying to make propaganda for this matter before Synod even reads and discusses the matter. Therefore we do not intend to quote either the committee’s complete advice or conclusions or the other grounds proposed by the Rev. H. Hoeksema. Here, then, is what the Rev. Hoeksema wrote, “There is no need of hymns alongside of the psalms which are presented to us in the Holy Scriptures: 1) There is in those psalms a spiritual riches wherein also the heart of the New Testament congregation is able to express itself perfectly, provided one learns to understand those psalms well.” And the committee writes under point 5, “In the Psalms of David resounds the ever abiding and eternal keynote of the godly mind, while hymns usually bear a temporal character, marking the one-sided conception of the moment in the Church of God (Kuyper).”
Two things we would observe. First of all, if the argument is raised that for us on this side of the birth and cross of Christ the Psalms are not adequate to express our faith in Christ and our praise to God, then we surely must say that they were not adequate either for the Old Testament Church that had not seen Him and known Him in the cross. Then the Old Testament saints sang very unintelligently and weakly concerning this Christ. Then the Old Testament Church needed these hymns more than we do today with our richer revelation. How poor they must have been!!?? Not so, a thousand times not so. The faith of some of these saints towers far above the faith we see in many in the church of God today. And do not rule out the Spirit Who worked in them and taught them through type and shadow. We today should see much more in these psalms than the Old Testament saint did in his day.
We say, Shame on us and on our children if with all the added light on this side of Calvary and Pentecost we do not know that truth and are not able to sing it as God spoke it in the hearts of His Old Testament saints. Our question is, Do we understand or are we also caught up by that superficial and sentimental idea of God that all you can say of Him as to His Godhead is that He is love? And then of a love that is in conflict with His justice, His holiness and righteousness. That is why in the second place we would observe that these hymns do not—as the committee points out earlier—speak of God’s retribution; the damnation of the wicked; election and reprobation—except in the evil sense of election in time, thus: “There’s a new name written down in glory,” denying that names were written in the Lamb’s book of life from all eternity; total depravity; all have died in Adam and so many more truths taught in the Psalms. (And let us say in parentheses this trend today to set the hymns of the church in the modern swing style and accentuated beat is likewise not in His fear but simply musical entertainment that grieves the Spirit in the Church.) It simply is not in His fear to ignore so much of what He says concerning Himself. Let us in His fear teach our children—and study a little ourselves also—the truths of the Word of God. We, mind you, in this great day of enlightenment, of literacy, of books, of schools of higher and lower education. Let our Christian Schools teach these truths in every sphere of life, and our children will enjoy the Psalms as God’s people did in the past. God is love. But He is love only in that way in which He remains God, sovereign in all His works. Do we understand that? Then we will want to sing it.
The Prince Who was not There
At the summit they found an abyss. Man had climbed and looked forward to this climb. Four men were to meet to work for peace. Instead they found themselves on the brink of war. An awful abyss appeared. Hopes were shattered. Fears and terrors increased.
An American plane flying at the summit of man’s ability to wing through the thin stratosphere became the occasion for the “summit” of man’s attempt to achieve worldwide peace and lasting peace to fail and to bring man at the edge of the abyss of war. Only God knows whether it will come today or tomorrow.
But be not deceived. It was not that American plane that spoiled this “promising” summit meeting from achieving peace. And it was not the childishness and hypocrisy of the head of a spy country — where a man will spy on his own father and mother—and is known for trickery, deception and intrigue that burst the bubble of man’s dreams. It was the Prince who was not there and was not invited.
Shame on us to expect peace where the Prince of Peace is unwelcome. He alone can give us peace and has given us peace with God. He must come again, and therefore men’s plans and works in defiance of Him can only lead to the Antichrist, that great battle of Armageddon and wars and rumors of wars, that the way may be prepared for Him to give His Church peace on the new earth in which righteousness shall dwell.
Look for the summit. Look to the summit. He is at God’s right hand at the summit of all things. Look for Him to come again and lift His Church to the summit of all the glory and beauty of His Kingdom of Heaven which God has prepared in His blood. Then you live in His fear and have no fear of what man can or may do unto you.