Our Goodly Heritage Preserved, published by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2000. 136 pages, $15.00 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Russell J. Dykstra.]
For a homey and personalized presentation of the Protestant Reformed Churches, the reader is encouraged to pick up Our Goodly Heritage Preserved. It is a commemorative book drawn up in connection with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. The soft-covered book is intended to be a companion volume to the work on the doctrinal history of the PRC, For Thy Truth’s Sake.
Our Goodly Heritage Preserved was proposed as a “booklet” which would include at least a brief history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, pictures of the schools, churches, and seminary, and a schedule of the events of the celebration week. It far exceeds the early expectations. The “booklet” has evolved into a 135-page publication of no mean value.
The reader is introduced to the Protestant Reformed Churches with a concise, thumbnail sketch of the churches’ history written by Prof. David Engelsma. He reminds the reader that the only significant concern for the church of Christ is God’s evaluation of her. “Size, the praise of men, reputation among other churches, impact on society—none of these things count with Him. Confession of the truth of the gospel counts with Him. The gospel is the doctrine of inspired Scripture that the salvation of sinners is the work of God alone in Jesus Christ by sovereign grace (Rom. 9:16). And the history of the PRC is the history of churches that proclaim and defend the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone” (p. 8).
The history is followed by a briefchapter on the Protestant Reformed distinctives and church government.
Chapter Two, the longest chapter, is a presentation of the twenty-seven individual congregations which comprise the PRC today. Each congregation was asked to provide a brief history of herself. Pictures abound in this section—pictures old and new of consistories, church buildings, parsonages, children of the congregation, whole congregations, etc. The careful reader can discover much from this section, as for example, which congregation moved the most (at least eleven times!); how many congregations are the result of mission work; and how many are daughter churches. One of the churches has two beginnings—separated by thirty-eight years!
This chapter is not, however, a mere listing of statistics and interesting tidbits of information. It is a record of God’s faithfulness, establishing, preserving, and defending His church. Nary a congregation has escaped unscathed from trouble as a consequence of maintaining and defending the Reformed faith. Many of the accounts reveal that fact also.
Chapter Three, entitled “Mission Work of the Protestant Reformed Churches,” includes a variety of sections, including a concise history of their mission work, reports on the various current mission stations, the radio program (The Reformed Witness Hour), and current ecumenical relations.
The book includes an informative chapter on the Protestant Reformed Seminary, a lengthy one on the Christian schools large and small, and a description of various publications rising out of the denomination as a whole (although none of these are official publications by the Protestant Reformed Churches). A touching tribute to the early ministers begins aptly, “If the Lord’s blessing on a denomination can be measured by His supply of faithful ministers of the gospel, the Protestant Reformed Churches have been richly blessed.” Near the end, a list is provided of the known original members still living in October of 1999, although some are already with the Lord at this writing. The reviewer was privileged to know sixty-seven of these saints. The book concludes with a sober reminder of the calling of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the future, and the very real dangers she faces—to be read and reread by every member of the PRC.
The publications committee can be credited with a fine work of “snapshots” depicting various aspects of the Protestant Reformed denomination.