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Was John Calvin a Pacifist? and William of Orange a Revolutionary? 

Prof. Hanko in the Standard Bearer of October 15, 2006, page 40, leaves a question mark where both God’s Word and history reveal that the above-mentioned men were law-abiding citizens both of God’s kingdom and of this world, and walked, by God’s grace, the narrow path of faithfulness and obedience. It is true that Calvin wanted to avoid the use of weapons. But when war was pressed upon them, Calvin ordered the churches to raise the pay for the mercenaries.

And in the footsteps of Calvin followed William of Orange. One has to understand that also kings are to abide by the law, first the law of God, and then the laws of the land. King Philip II of Spain was lord (not king) of the Netherlands. But he was treading underfoot the laws and privileges of the free citizens of the country. William of Orange had not only the right to defend his subjects but also the duty.

I spent several hours putting together a response, with quotes from books on Calvin and William of Orange by Lawrence Penning and Deborah Alcock. Since it was too long for a letter to the editor, I have listed it on the Internet. I will find it very sad if your readers are being misled about the integrity of some of the world’s greatest leaders.

Please check http://www.telus planet.net/public/inhpubl/webip/calvin.htm

In a time when Reformation and Revolution seem to become synonyms, it is important to preserve a faithful account of history. If one studies the means God used to bring William of Orange to the Reformed faith, he will meet William’s brother Lodewyk of Nassau, who also studied in Geneva, and gave his life for the freedom that we enjoy today in the western world. These godly sons of Juliana of Stolberg are among the best of role models for our children today and should not be covered by a cloud of suspicion, as if they gave their life for a revolutionary cause.

Roelof A. Janssen

Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada


REPLY:

It is true that the aspect of the Reformation in the Lowlands that involved war with Spain is somewhat complicated. The Spanish forces were not sent into the Lowlands because of rebellion on the part of the Lowlanders. They were sent to exterminate Protestantism. That fact clears the Dutch of rebellion against constituted authority. Nevertheless, the Lowlanders took up arms against the Spanish forces. Such armed resistance was not only in defense of religious freedom, it was also an effort to secure complete independence from Spain’s rule. It thus because a political war as well as a religious war. In my judgment, neither a religious war nor a political war is according to God’s will for His church.

Calvin not only “wanted to avoid the use of weapons”; he was flatly opposed to the use of weapons. Only when lesser magistrates resorted to arms and called the citizens to fight did Calvin approve of battle. The cause of Christ is never defended and advanced at the point of the sword.

It seems that the issue finally comes down to this question: Is the child of God bound in every circumstance of life to be in submission to those in authority over him? It will not do to appeal to the Old Testament, for the nation of Israel was a type of the church and the kingdom of heaven and cannot be, in her wars, a pattern for the life of the church in the new dispensation. I will abide by Paul’s clear word in Romans 13. May God’s people do the same.

To call into question one aspect of the Reformation in the Lowlands does not mean that I am ungrateful to God for the marvelous faith and courage of my ancestors who loved not their lives unto death. The heritage of the Reformed faith, given with the cost of blood, still stirs my soul to thanksgiving to our gracious God.

Prof. H. Hanko


Psalm Singing

In his article in the November 1, 2006 issue of the Standard Bearer, an article entitled “Congregational Singing,” the Rev. Daniel Kleyn advocates the use of psalms, and of psalms only, in the congregational singing in public worship. “In our public worship of God,” our brother writes, “we ought to sing only the Psalms.”

If I may, I would like to ask several questions of the brother.

Does the brother mean to say, by his defense of exclusive psalmody, that the Reformed Church Order, Article 69 (the Church Order that regulates our singing in the worship services, and the article that allows for the singing of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, and other hymns) is in error?

Is the brother meaning to say, by his defense of exclusive psalmody, and by his citing as a ground for this the so-called “regulative principle of worship,” that when we sing the hymn-doxology “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” we are doing something that is contrary to God’s revealed will, and therefore sinful?

If, as the brother contends, psalms and not hymns are to be sung in public worship, and this because psalms and not hymns are inspired, how is the use of our uninspired Psalter justified?

About the Rev. Kleyn’s interpretation of Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19:

Where is the proof that the passages refer only to the singing of congregations in (official) public worship? And, if proof cannot be found (and a good case might be made that it cannot), what prevents those who advocate exclusive psalmody in public worship from seeking to ban any and all other songs besides the 150 Psalms from private worship, singspirations, and the like?

What in these passages proves that the apostle is commanding that only the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of the Old Testament Book of Psalms be sung in the New Testament worship?

As does brother Kleyn, so do I love to sing the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs of the covenant salvation! In addition to songs that prophesy, promise, and picture that salvation (as do the songs of the Old Testament), may we not also sing, now in the Great Light of the New Testament, of that covenant salvation now established in the blood of Jesus, and as the church lavished with and guided by the Spirit of our risen Savior, and with songs that are new covenant celebrations and the foretaste of that blessed heaven?

Would not this singing truly be an expression of our being filled with the Spirit (of the risen Lord, Eph. 5:18), of our letting the Word of Christ dwell in usrichly (Col. 3:16), and of our doing all (including singing!) in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him (Col. 3:17)?

This singing, why not ours, like heavens:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.

…Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever Rev. 5:12, 13?

Rev. M. Dick

Grace PRC


RESPONSE:

In spite of the many questions raised above, I maintain that we ought to sing only the Psalms in the public worship of God. The Psalms are the inspired songs of the Word of God. They are God’s gift to His church for singing. They contain all that the child of God needs to express to God in worship. And by singing them we heed the regulative principle of worship, for then we are singing the words that God Himself gave the church to sing in her public worship.

With regard to Article 69 of the Church Order, what must be taken into account is the historical circumstances under which it was written by the Synod of Dordt. At that time, the hymns mentioned in Article 69 were part of the songbook in the Dutch churches. With that in mind, Dordt made allowances for these few hymns. But even so, the principle set forth by Article 69 is that “in the churches only the 150 Psalms of David … shall be sung.”

Following these guidelines, we are, by God’s grace, Psalm-singing churches. We are such when we sing from the Psalter, for although it is not itself inspired, the Psalter is nevertheless a faithful versification of the inspired Psalms of Scripture. We are also Psalm-singing churches when we sing the doxology “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow …,” for we are singing the Word of God as found in many of the Psalms of praise, such as Psalms 103, 113, and 150.

With regard to Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, there are good reasons, I believe, to view these texts as referring to singing in the public worship of the church. One is that the letters are written to churches, thus the church as a whole is being commanded to sing. Another is that the word “you” in these passages is not singular but plural, thus the reference is to the whole congregation. In keeping with this, all the members together are to admonish “one another” by means of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

The proof that these texts refer to the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” of the Old Testament is as follows. It lies first of all in the meaning of the words: “hymns” are Psalms of praise; and “spiritual songs” are Psalms that deal with the believer’s life and experience. Secondly, the word “spiritual” signifies that these are songs “of the Spirit,” thus songs that are inspired by the Spirit and found in the Scriptures. Thirdly, it is understood that the churches of Paul’s day had no other songs than the Psalms of the Old Testament Scriptures. Fourthly, the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by the apostles, specifically referred to the Psalms as “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” And finally, in Colossians 3 the admonition to sing these “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” is introduced by the command to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” This is done by singing the 150 Psalms, which are very definitely Christ’s words.

In my judgment, we do not need any manmade hymns in our worship services, for we have all that we need in the Psalms. They are sufficient, and have been for the New Testament church for over 2,000 years. The reason for their sufficiency is that they are God’s Word and were given by Him specifically for the church to sing in worship. The Psalms express all the truths of the Christian faith as set forth in the Scriptures. The Psalms describe all the unique experiences of the child of God in this life. The Psalms adequately set forth all that the believer needs to express in worship concerning his sins, his deliverance in Christ, and his gratitude to God for that deliverance—that is, concerning his only comfort in life and death of belonging to his faithful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I trust that we appreciate the Psalms as God’s gift, are content with them in our public worship of God, and will never replace these inspired and theocentric songs of God’s Word with the uninspired and often shallow and man-centered words of men. What better way to sing in worship than through the 150 Psalms of the Word of God!

Rev. Daniel Kleyn