February 1, 1982
I am including in this letter a letter which was written by an old minister to his fellow ministers just before the Lord took him to heaven. The minister who wrote this letter was Rev. J. H. A. Ploos Van Amstel. He was a highly esteemed and dearly loved minister during the Reformation of 1886 under the leadership of Dr. A. Kuyper. Many of our forefathers knew him or knew of him. He served in the ministry from 1863 until his death in 1895. This letter is meant as a farewell to his colleagues. Thanks to Rev. C. Hanko for translating it.
The letter follows. I thought it as pertinent now as the time when Rev. Amstel wrote it, and that you too could benefit by it.
Beloved Brethren in the ministry of the Word:
When you receive this letter I will no longer be among you, but above with the Lord, Who has saved me, a very miserable sinner in myself, by His own free grace; and has washed me in Christ’s blood and clothed me with His righteousness, even as Christ was given to me as my Surety and Mediator.
In Him my soul found rest. He drew me to Himself and kept me in His care in spite of my constant wanderings and doubts with which I had to contend all my life.
By grace alone I am what I am.
My soul waits upon the Lord and, especially at times, longs to be delivered out of this present Meshech (This was a very common expression among the Dutch. The reference is to Ps. 1205, 6 and describes the life of the child of God in this world as suffering among his enemies. H.H.) of my pilgrimage to be taken up to Him, Who is the only sufficiency for my heart, the only fountain of all true joy.
Receive this word as a farewell from your beloved brother, who feels so strongly the bond that unites him to all the brothers and sisters in the Lord. Yes, the entire church in heaven and on earth is one in our precious Mediator and exalted Head Jesus Christ, Who has purchased us with His precious blood to be His private possession, in order that the entire church may soon be completely united with Him in perfection, to know, to love, to praise and to glorify Him.
I write this word from the necessity of my heart, spurred on by love; a word, the truth and power of which I have somewhat learned to understand even though I am very weak and miserable in myself.
O beloved brethren especially let us have a deep impression of the MAJESTY of the Lord and our own unworthiness. We are servants of the Lord, who must stand before His holy face, before Whom the whole world must bow even though only the church of the Lord has learned this by His grace. In the exaltation of His majesty lies the power of our ministry.
The Lord speaks to us and we are ambassadors of Christ. Let us by all means be attentive and carefully take note of that which the Lord declares to us.
Let us faithfully and accurately proclaim the Word of the Lord, without any admixture of ourselves, never falsifying the Word to appeal to people, but always presenting exactly what the Lord says.
Let us spend much time before the face of the Lord, and in the earnest searching of the Lord’s Word, and in constant fellowship with the Lord, our glorious Head in heaven, in order that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith and we may be rooted and grounded in love. May we surrender ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord, and in the midst of the passing things, which frequently are so unpleasant for us, ask always and ever what the Lord is saying to our souls, and how we must deal with every problem and situation in a manner that may be pleasing to the Lord. Our sinful self, our old man must die even as this has already died in Christ. The influence of the old man in our lives can make life so bitter and our ministry so far from attractive and glorious. May that which is reality in Christ be also reality in us. Let us walk in the light of the Lord and in the joy of the liberty of the children of God. In order that we may preach with joy and with complete conviction of heart, and we may be able to say somewhat as the apostle declared, “I have believed, therefore have I spoken.”
In the ministry of the Word we must take particular notice of one matter with which the Lord has confronted me many years ago. We find this in Philippians 2:1-11, something which the Lord also declares elsewhere when He says, “I am not come to be served, but to serve.” Read again carefully, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, etc.” What did the Lord do? He made Himself of no reputation (emptied Himself), became like unto us in the form of a servant.
Behold here the glorious mystery of the gospel.
The Lord came down to earth, descended in the deepest depths of our hearts, thereupon doing all that was and is necessary for our salvation. He is a God of our complete salvation.
Too readily we exalt man to a position he does not hold, and fail to descend down to the real needs of the human soul. We want someone to read well, while he does not even know the alphabet. The result is that we readily become disgusted when others do not understand us. That is not right. Christ became like unto us, only sin excepted, and we must present this Mediator Who humbled Himself and became like unto us as He is, keeping before us the needs of the congregation. The little lambs He will gently lead, not harshly, not as if they were full-grown sheep.
Do we have patience with the weaknesses of the little ones, and do we carry them in love, looking to the Lord, considering how much patience He has, also with our weaknesses? For had He dealt with us according to our sins and wanderings, we would no longer exist. The deeper we can enter into the circumstances of others and may proclaim to them the Christ in all the fullness of His mediatorial grace, the more hearts will be humbled under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Only grace can melt our hard hearts. May we give a glorious impression of the Lord, proclaim Him in the fullness of His love and in the glory of His righteousness.
Our ever-blessed Triune covenant God cannot be presented too emphatically in the splendor of His glory. We must be like Joshua and Caleb, who were not evil but good reporters of that which was good, and who thereby honored and glorified God. God was angry with the evil spies, or reporters. And they were the occasion that the people did not dare to enter the land of Canaan. The Lord is good and most merciful. He has no pleasure in our death, but in our life.
I would point you to one more thing, my dear brethren. It is sometimes so natural for us to make this or that complaint about the congregation. Let us not do that, but have patience with the weaknesses of others. Maybe it is the result of our foolishness or lack that those weaknesses are there. In any case, let us not complain except on account of our sins. And let us not clamor for change. If the Lord wants to transfer us to another place in His vineyard, good and well. But in that other place there are also miserable people whose faults we see more clearly as we learn to known them better. We have soon seen enough of the attraction of people and places. Nothing is actually beautiful except the Lord. And what is most blessed is to have a satisfied conscience, made satisfied by the blood and righteousness of Christ in the way of truth, uprightness, and complete self-surrender.
Nothing must stand between God and our soul.
That is often the case, yet that may not be. The Lord says, Walk before My countenance and be upright. May the Lord be our only joy. And may we expect no happiness except that which proceeds from the Lord.
And now, beloved brethren, I commit you to God and to the Word of His grace, to Him Who is mighty to keep you from stumbling and to give you an inheritance among all the saints.
The Lord bless you and may He make you a blessing.
Solely by grace, until by and by.
Farewell, dear brethren, receive the farewell greetings in remembrance of your brother in Christ who loves you.
J.H.A. Ploos Van Amstel
Fraternally in Christ,