For twenty-five years we as churches have labored among those who cast us out. And for twenty-five years we have felt somewhat as the prophet when he said, “All day long have I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people”. And for twenty-five years we have labored among those who differ from us and have done so without so-called indispensable declarations of principles.
Not only have we bestowed labor upon them but we have, as it were, plucked out from among them that small kernel which confessed that God is sovereign, gracious only to His own and is angry with the wicked every day. And, mind you, we have done so, and let us not forget that it has been a great and wondrous work, using as our instrument only the Word of God and the confessions.
I ask in all earnestness and sobriety surely it we need a declaration we have needed one for years which would according to form and content refute the error of common grace and related deviations. Are we going to say that those whose direct task it was to proclaim the truth to those who erred have stumbled and crippled along unaided by a crutch of declarations? Such a declaration would surely be the truth, would it not? And being the truth no one should have questions or doubts as to its propriety or necessity.
And now we find ourselves placed before the beautiful and to us an almost unusually delightful privilege of bringing our truth, not to those by whom we are constantly rejected, but rather to those who are ready and who have been prepared and placed exactly at that place and in those circumstances to listen to us with an attentive ear. It is almost unbelievable! We do well to marvel and be astonished. For that too has been the work of the Lord and we do well to regard it reverently rather than to spew out our disgust when we find that the Lord’s field is in need of a bit of cultivation in order to remove what appear to be weeds growing between the rows of sturdy corn. It is not for nothing that the figure of the husbandman is used in Scripture. Does the tenant-farmer turn to the landlord and say, “I cannot work your field for I find weeds there yea, even thorns and thistles. My back is sore, my hands are blistered from the years of hoeing and weeding in that other field to which you assigned me!”?
That briefly, is the past and the present. And, since some are of the opinion that now we need declarations, what of the future? May we expect to have declaration upon declaration, here a little, there a little? Suppose, to use a plain illustration that some years hence the Lord would be pleased to call us to labor among cannibals in the dark and uncivilized portions of the world. And if our missionaries escaped the stew-pot, are we to suppose that soon they would come running home shouting, “We need a declaration! We need a declaration! Those people eat strangers and our confession doesn’t take care of a situation like that!” Now you may call the above sarcastic or ironical but, can’t we see that the multiplicity of situations and circumstances can never be covered by a mass production declaration factory?
Has it not rather been a sign of weakness in the church when she finds it necessary to add to the confessions? Has it not been exactly so before? Are not the three points of ‘24 called an interpretation of the confessions? Has not all the legislation concerning worldly amusements, union membership, censored books, etc. etc. been a miserable failure? For, the adherence to sound doctrine and the observance of proper deportment must spring forth from a sanctified heart which humbly bows before the Word and is subservient to it. It cannot be accomplished by a superimposition of declarations or regulations unless one is satisfied with only a formal or external adherence to such regulations.
And, in closing, for the classic example of declarations look at the church of Rome. Count, if you can, her papal bulls and edicts and behold also a vast multitude who now bow before their declarations rather than before the Word!