Our Rich Heritage (Part I)

(How The Standard Bearer Has Instructed And Guided Us For Sixty Years)

[In this section you will find quotations on various subjects from articles going back all the way to Volume I. They are random quotations from the writings of various editors and departments. They will show that our magazine has from the beginning spoken with one voice and emitted one sound. For this reason, and to arouse your curiosity, I have not included the author’s names with these quotations. HCH]

. . . Scripture teaches no dualism, but an antithesis. There are no two primal causes and eternal principles, constantly warring with each other, but God is One. He alone is eternal and the Primal Cause, and there is no other eternal principle or primal cause next to Him. Neither is He both good and evil, nor are the principles of good and evil to be traced to His Being, for He is a Light and there is no darkness in Him. But this good and glorious God according to His eternal and sovereign good pleasure wills to reveal His praises, His eternally adorable virtue antithetically, that is, in opposition to darkness. Darkness, evil, sin are not primal principles, eternally coordinate with Light, Goodness, Righteousness, but the former are subservient to the latter, darkness must serve to bring out the glory of the light, the Devil serves to enhance the unsearchable riches of God’s Being and virtues and works. 

In the light of this idea of an antithesis we can understand the placing of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in paradise. By means of it God carries the antithesis into the life and before the consciousness of Man, made after His image. 

Adam was God’s covenant-friend. He stood in covenant relation to his God. This covenant-relation is not to be conceived as a sort of contract or alliance between God and Adam, mechanically established. We do not read of a compact between them according to which each agreed to live in relation to the other. On the contrary, the covenant-relation is rooted in man’s very creation, and is established the moment Adam stands as image-bearer of God in the garden of Eden. (Vol. 1, p. 7)

. . . The Lord shall bring the flood of waters upon the earth and all that is in the earth shall die, but with Noah He will establish His covenant. It is a covenant as He does not and cannot establish with the wicked world. It is the covenant of grace and friendship always referred to in Scripture to which the Lord also here has reference. It is exclusive of all the wicked, for these shall be destroyed. Neither can there be any question that the Lord here mentions His covenant with Noah and his sons as the reason why and the purpose for which they are saved from the flood. The covenant is the reason and basis for the salvation of Noah from the destruction of the first world, in as far as God will never destroy the righteous with the wicked. The righteous shall inherit the earth. And even though all the wicked of the earth are destroyed, God will remember His covenant with His people and save them. Noah, therefore, is saved from the flood, not as mere ,man, or as a sort of progenitor of a second human race, but as the just man in his generations, as God’s covenant friend, that has found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God will confirm His covenant with him. By virtue of that covenant God is the Friend of those that are His friends, and He loveth the righteous. Hence, on the basis of the covenant of grace Noah enters into the ark and is saved from the flood. But it is also the purposefor the which Noah is saved. God intends to continue His covenant in the world even after the flood. (Vol. 2, p. 43)

It is evident that this (the separation at the tower of Babel) was not a matter of grace, neither was there any restraint upon the development of sin imposed by the confusion of tongues. Only the race was forced into new channels of development, and these same organic lines of development sin would needs follow in the future. This development is such that a premature unity and world-kingdom is prevented for the time being. The power of anti-Christendom that is in the world cannot realize its needed unity and establish its great and universal kingdom. Henceforward the sinful world shall be a kingdom divided against itself. For as each nation separately strives to attain the purpose that could not be attained in Shinar’s valley, nation rises against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there are wars and rumors of war. And as long as this separation and division and conflict continue, the kingdom of Antichrist cannot come and the man of sin cannot reveal himself in all his power. In the meantime this development of the race in different nations along organic lines, as it is today, serves God’s purpose with regard to the realization of His church and covenant. For out of every nation and tribe and tongue He gathers His church, and the elect are combined into the one great body of Christ Jesus. The diversity of nations and tongues must, of course, serve the riches of the body of Christ. For in that new organism, realized according to the eternal counsel of God, each individual and group of individuals must take their own proper place. Presently, from these nations shall the entire multitude, which no man can number, be gathered and shall constitute the glorious harmony of the new and heavenly Jerusalem. (Vol. 3, p. 342)

Scripture loves to compare man’s life to a way. From a spiritual-ethical viewpoint man is not adrift aimlessly, but he walks in a definite path. There is progress, advance in his life. There is direction in this progress. He walks in the way of righteousness or in the paths of unrighteousness, in the way of light or of darkness, in the way of God’s covenant or in the way of the world. And there is destination. He is walking in the way of sin to eternal desolation or in the way of righteousness to eternal glory. 

According to the way in which he should go, must be the training of the child. 

That is, his bringing up, his education must be such that it leads him in the way of God’s covenant; for that is, undoubtedly, the way in which he should go! 

A question, parent-reader: Can you say before God and your conscience that you heed this admonition to the utmost of your power? 

That is what you and I promised when we presented our children in baptism unto the Lord. 

How much time do we personally devote to the training of our children in the way in which they should go? Do we ever take them around us in our home to instruct them in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Do we teach them in the Word of God, in the knowledge of the truth? Do we admonish them, pray with them and for them? Do we know where they are when they are not at home? Are we acquainted with their companions, with the friendships they form? Do we know what they read? And do we teach them to read proper literature, so that they may develop a taste for what is wholesome spiritually? (Vol. 8, p. 524)

The explanation of Melchisedec as a historical phenomenon in his priesthood is not the so-called common grace but simply the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus and which operated in the generations of the true people of God. The narrative of Genesis strongly suggests that in. Melchisedec we have to do with a common historical phenomenon. He was king-priest, and there was to him a people over which he ruled and whose high-priest he was. The appearance of Melchisedec implies that even at the time of Abraham there was found in the land of Canaan a tribe or group of people who knew the Lord and worshipped the most high God and who through their priest-king brought Him sacrifices in His sanctuary. Melchisedec was king-priest of Salem, and in this place there was still found a people who truly loved and served the Lord. The land was also inhabited by the Canaanites. But in the midst of the Canaanites there also lived a people that knew the Lord and were represented by Melchisedec: If the priesthood of Melchisedec sprang from redeeming grace, it was a remnant not out of Paradise but out of the ark. In the ark was the church of God. And out of the visible church there will again come forth the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent according to the two lines of election and reprobation. The main line of the covenant runs through the generation of Shem and is limited to the seed of Abraham. But this does not mean that with the calling of Abraham all God’s people had died with the exception of Abraham. Only gradually was the fear of God limited to the seed of Abraham. In the light of these observations, it is not strange that even at the time of Abraham there was found in the land of Canaan a people who truly feared God. So much for the historical appearance of Melchisedec. (Vol. 8, p. 13)

As was said, further, the prophecy of Isaiah is characterized by remarkable farsightedness and breadth of vision. In it the time of salvation extends to the end of this world, thus to the regeneration of all things and the appearance of Christ with His church on the new earth. This period of salvation is set forth by the prophet as having three stages. The first is the deliverance out of Babylonian exile. This salvation, in turn, forms the ground in which a new salvation is typically described. The people of Israel will be delivered from its spiritual bondage to sin. The chains of idolatry will be broken. The central point of the second stage of salvation is the suffering servant of Jehovah. He becomes the redeemer of His people. He is lifted out of His humility. He becomes the judge of all the world. He destroys all the wicked, and the fruit of His redeeming work is a new humanity, serving God in Spirit and in truth, and a new heaven and a new earth. This is the third stage of salvation. (Vol. 18, p. 134)

But is it not true that the school is exactly that sphere where the error of Common Grace is most prevalent and dangerous? Common grace and the Christian School are mutually exclusive. We all know the purpose of the school. In the church we prepare our seed to assume their place in the midst of the church, to be able to partake consciously of the means of grace, such as the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, and to walk consciously as members of the body of Christ. But in the school we prepare the same children to assume their place in the midst of the world. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we teach them in such a way that they, in that world, may be a distinctive people, an wholly other people, walking in the world, but not as of the world. Feed my child the poison of Common Grace and I have utterly failed in my Christian calling, in my Protestant Reformed calling. Our beginning as a Protestant Reformed people urges us to hold fast that which we have, especially with regard to the Christian School. The principles of our churches and the antithetical instruction of our children are inseparably connected. (Vol. 20, p. 217)

He has shown a new obedience. The old obedience was shown by Adam in Paradise. And that was relatively easy for him. He was created in the image of God, good and upright. And he walked with God, knew Him at the cool of day. It was his joy to love his God and to walk in intimate communion with Him. And God smiled on him. 

But Christ has shown the new obedience, such as no man ever did. This obedience is new in the sense that it was never seen before on earth. A new obedience, for He loved God while God struck Him down in hell. That is something different from Adam’s life in Paradise. And Christ never ceased loving God, even though it pleased God to bruise Him with an eternal bruising. He loved God even for the righteous wrath’s sake that burned Him in unspeakable anguish. 

That, my dear reader, is fulfilling covenant obligations. Let us not talk so glibly of fulfilling our covenant obligations in the face of such Gethsemane and Golgotha. 

Oh yes, we must trust God and love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with all our strength! I would ask: who of you ever came anywhere near such a description of actual human endeavor to please your covenant God? Don’t you feel ashamed of your lack? 

Well, Christ, the covenant Head of the covenant of grace, with Whom God established His eternal covenant, representing you and me, and all God’s elect people, this Christ has loved God exactly like that. He is the party of the second part par ex excellence. (Vol. 24, p. 293)

Why did the Lord give us such a large part of His revelation in the form of history, if it was not His purpose to instruct our children, the children of the covenant, thoroughly in the works which He has accomplished for our salvation in the past? Moreover, and in close connection with this, all the main doctrines of the church, as revealed in the Bible, are historical and should be thoroughly taught in their historical form, in order, before we teach our own system of doctrine. What else are we taught in so-called Biblical History but the truths of creation and the fall, the truth of the covenant, the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Israel; the giving of the law, the apostasy of the old covenant people, and their rejection in the end? What else are we taught than the great doctrine of predestination as manifest in the line of Seth and Cain, the line of Shem and Ham, the line of Abraham and the nations, in the line of Jacob and Esau, in the line of the children of the promise and the children of the flesh? Besides, are not all the great truths concerning our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taught in the historical form in Scripture? I mean such truths as the incarnation and the cross and the atonement, the resurrection and the exaltation, the truths of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost and the establishment of the church of the new dispensation: all these truths are revealed in Scripture, not in the form of a, dogmatics system, but in the form of historical facts, revealing to us how God established His covenant and kingdom on the ages of the past. Besides, are we to omit and to ignore such important parts of Scripture as the miracles and parables of Jesus and the discourses of our Lord and of the apostles? On the contrary; especially the older children should be taught all these things and become acquainted with the riches of Scripture as the living Word of God, rather than with the dead intellectualism of cold dogmatic system. (Vol. 25, p. 29)

The question is, of course, whether faith may be presented as a condition of salvation, and whether the establishment and continuation of God’s covenant with us is in any sense of the word contingent upon our fulfilling the conditions of faith and obedience. This, unless we juggle words, is the plain and simple meaning of the question; and in this simple form it certainly will stand before the minds of the people. 

But I dare say that, in this sense, the term condition not only has no room in the Reformed system of doctrine, but is, as far as our Confessions are concerned, thoroughly unreformed. 

For our Confessions uniformly present faith not as a condition which we must fulfill, but as a God-given means or instrument empowering the soul to cling to Christ and to receive all His benefits, and that is a radically different conception from that of condition. And as far as obedience or walking in the way of the covenant is concerned, also this is never presented as a condition but rather as the fruit, in fact, as the inevitable fruit, of our being ingrafted into Christ. 

Let us consult our confessions on these points. 

In the Heidelberg Catechism, Lords Day VII, question and answer 20, we read: “Are all men, then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ? No; only those who are ingrafted into him, and receive all his benefits, by a true faith.” (Vol. 26, p. 29)