Elsewhere in this issue our readers will discover the name of one who has not written for our Standard Bearer heretofore. And this requires an introduction and an explanation. I am referring to the Featurearticle from the pen of Dr. John Richard de Witt.
My personal acquaintance with Dr. de Witt goes back several years, to the time when I visited with him at my father’s home not long before the latter’s death. Prior to that time, I knew of him from his writings in connection with an ecclesiastical battle in the Reformed Church in America, when he was pastor of the Sixth Reformed Church of Passaic, New Jersey, about the historicity of the first chapters of Genesis. Over the years we have become better acquainted with one another through correspondence and through following one another’s writings. A few years ago Dr. de Witt sojourned in the Netherlands and in England while studying and doing research for his doctor’s degree. His doctoral thesis was a study of “The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government,” which we reviewed at the time of its publication. An interesting historical footnote is the fact that while he was in England, Dr. de Witt served as assistant pastor of Grove Chapel, where the late Rev. Henry Atherton (of the Sovereign Grace Union) had been pastor, and where the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema once preached.
At present Dr. de Witt is pastor of the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, Kingstree, South Carolina. This accounts for my reference to an insider’s viewpoint. Because the crisis in the Southern Presbyterian denomination is very much in the news and has received much journalistic attention since the announcement of an organized movement for a “continuing” Presbyterian Church (Prof. Hanko has repeatedly called attention to Southern Presbyterian developments in “All Around Us”), it was thought that an informative and critical analysis from a reliable “insider” would be instructive and helpful to our readers. Knowing Dr. de Witt as a man who is devoted to the Reformed faith and also as one who is sympathetic toward our Protestant Reformed position, I requested him to write on this subject for our Standard Bearer. When I sent him this request, I emphasized that our magazine is free, i.e., free from any ecclesiastical binding and open to the expression of Reformed opinion, and that he should therefore feel free to express himself frankly. Dr. de Witt has graciously consented to write for us, and, I believe, has acquitted himself well in so doing. His interesting contribution will appear in two consecutive installments. I would suggest that if any of our readers have comments or questions, these should be withheld until the second article has appeared.
I do not think I am breaking any confidences if I quote a few lines from a personal letter from friend de Witt. He wrote me in a letter accompanying his articles: “I have gone a good deal further than a mere reporting of the situation, and on that account I have hope that this material may be of interest to your readers. Certainly we should value your prayers, and the prayers of your people, for us in our present struggle.” And again: “The first article gives the broad lines of the battle; the second attempts an analysis. You will see that I have been quite frank. Some of my brethren might possibly find what I have to say too open and too frank. But nothing is to be gained by hiding the facts. And our great interest must be the furtherance of the gospel.
We wish to assure Dr. de Witt that our prayers certainly arise to the throne of grace in behalf of all God’s people as they “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” We also take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks for his contribution on the “Crisis in the Southern Presbyterian Church.”