There are between thirty and forty men who can claim our Protestant Reformed Seminary as their Alma Mater. I sat down recently and wrote out their names on paper and made the count. It was with mingled feelings of sadness and joy that I wrote down all these names. However, the feeling of joy, hope and triumph prevailed in my soul. I also have the gladness of heart to count myself numbered amongst those who are faithful sons of our Alma Mater.
The term Alma Mater is a Latin name for a school. Now I do not believe that every school is really a goodAlma Mater. However, I sincerely believe that our Protestant Reformed Theological School is a “good”Alma Mater. And then I wish to emphasize that she is this on two counts. In the first place our school is a good mother (Mater)! She is mother because she is really the church, Sarah, the freewoman from above, giving instruction to her children, her sons. She is not some institution of men giving instruction in the Liberal Arts, but she is the church as she receives the gifts from Christ and feeds her children. Such is our school! Such is our beloved Seminary. Our school is a seed-plot where the seed of the Word is sown in a full-orbed theological curriculum. And in this seminary, the church as mother, feeds her sons and prepares them to stand in the church to feed the flock of God! And our school is therefore truly “Alma” Mater, that is, she truly is a school where nourishment is given. I believe that I am not mistaken that the term “Alma” is an adjective in Latin (almus) meaning, nourishing, fruitful, food-giving!
It would be a bit too personal and selfish to have captioned this little contribution as “my” Alma Mater!
However, I would have been proud to write: “my” Alma Mater!
Let every member in our churches write and speak of this school as our Seminary!
I cannot help but also state just a few words about our faithful professors, past and present. None know better than the sons of our Alma Mater what diligence, what zeal, what love and devotion our beloved professors, Rev. H. Hoeksema and Rev. G.M. Ophoff have shown in our school. Theirs was pioneer work; they labored in the heat of day in small beginnings. And they labored, even when we never really came beyond the day of small things. Surely their labors were in that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. They walked, in this respect, in that cloud of witnesses. And, we, the sons of our Alma Mater, know it! It would be ungratefulness not to acknowledge it. Both Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff worked in that diligence, each with the talents and strength which God gave them. They labored in ourAlma Mater; they were more than hirelings. They loved the children of Sarah, and would have the school feed the flock from the breasts of God’s Word, the pure and unadulterated milk. That is at once their reward. I believe it will be said to them, “Thou wert faithful in little, I will place thee over much!”
If our Alma Mater gave instruction to sons who defected from her teachings, this does not reflect badly upon our school, nor upon our professors. It means that these sons have rejected their Alma Mater; their nourishing mother, the Protestant Reformed Church through her school and professors! They rejected the instruction which Christ gave in this school. And that is serious. One of these apostating sons, who drank from the breast of mother at our school said: I have separated myself from the theology of that school! Be it so! Such are condemned from their own mouth!
In light of the recent whole-sale adoption of the sons of our Alma Mater by the Christian Reformed Church, I really have to hold my head a bit higher when I think of our seminary. There are some knocks which are implicit with a boost. This is one of them. Without any need of attending the Seminary of the Christian Reformed Church for a year or more, these men from our Alma Mater are received. And, evidently, they receive calls too. I flatter myself that not all they learned at our school rubbed off; I am tempted to say: in the land of the blind the man with one eye is still king! O, these Dutch, proverbial sayings! And then I shudder: if ye were blind ye would have no sin, but now . . . .
I believe that a suggestion of a positive nature is in order. I refer to the fact that our young men, godly, faithful young men should, apart from any flattery that blows toward our school, seriously consider that our school is their Alma Mater. He that desireth the office of a bishop desireth an honorable work. How beautiful upon the mountains of Zion are they who preach peace, the glad tidings of good things! Our one professor is now emeritated; may he look in faith toward the final emeritation in glory, the reward of grace. Rev. Hoeksema is being preserved a bit longer for active duty. May the Lord keep him strong, strong in our Alma Mater, wherein he has played such a prominent role.
Finally, let us not forget our young and energetic professor, H.C. Hoeksema. May the Lord make him able and willing to bear the mantle which fell upon him from the shoulders of our hoary professor Ophoff.
And now just a suggestion, an urgent plea: how about a special evening in which we have a program remembering the past mercies of God upon our Alma Mater, and bringing the needs of our Seminary before God’s throne, that God may supply our churches with ministers, faithful men, able to teach others. How beautiful upon the mountains of Zion—let that be then the theme!