Under the above title, the Rev. L. Doekes continues our discussion as follows:
The translation here follows:
Let us see now, how the Rev. H. Hoeksema conceives of the covenant. Needless to say how tense our interest ought to be in this matter. More than ever, in our heavy ecclesiastical struggle, we have come to realize the significance of God’s covenant for us and our children. The slanderous indictments of our opponents confirm us in this from week to week.
We will let the Rev. Hoeksema speak, as he expressed himself in his booklet: “Believers and their Seed.” After a sharp repudiation of the covenant view of prof. Heyns, we hear him say: the covenant of God is not a certain “way or mode of salvation, in which God would make us partakers of glory, as several others define the covenant, thereby really denying the eternal nature of the covenant; nor does it consist in a certain agreement between two parties, according to which certain mutual conditions must be fulfilled, as is frequently alleged (for the covenant is of God, and He grants unto His friends whatever is necessary for the life and the battle of the covenant): but in this living friendship relation, according to which God the Lord is the sovereign friend of His people, and they are the friend servants of the Lord, enjoying His fellowship, by grace possessing and manifesting His life, and fighting His battle in the midst of the world.” Clearer still his meaning becomes from the following statement: “Hence, the covenant of God is the life of God’s friendship in Christ. In this covenant there are no offers and no conditions. The covenant is purely of God. He establishes His covenant, He elects and saves.” (p. 51).
Already we hear sundry expressions here that will afford joy to our opponents. Especially the statement: “in the covenant there are no offers and no conditions” is familiar to us as a much employed allegation in synodical controversial writings. And the accusation that the eternal nature of the covenant is really being denied is also not strange to us!
Further, the Rev. Hoeksema also speaks about “the difference between the historical-external covenant and its spiritual essence (kernel)” (59). And after he argued that the members of the Church with their children must be addressed and treated as the people of God, saints and beloved in the Lord, he distinguishes between “an elect kernel and a reprobate shell,” and then continues: “In a sense, we have not the least objection to speak of an external and internal covenant of grace. If only we maintain the organic idea. And if only it is maintained that the whole of God’s church on earth may not be called and treated agreeably to the nature of the reprobate shell, but must be called by the name of Israel” (68). “Always according to the Scriptural rule that the whole of God’s Church, as she exists organically in the world, must be called and treated in harmony with the character of the elect kernel. And whoever deviates from this, does an injustice to the congregation and does not act in conformity with the Word of God” (69).
But what, then, about the promise of the covenant? About this the Rev. Hoeksema has the following to say: “When God promises anything it stands firm as a rock that He will give what was promised. There is no difference in degree of certainty between the promise and its fulfillment, between the objective grant and the subjective application. All that God promises, He also surely accomplishes, and to whomsoever He promises anything He will certainly give it” (12). The Rev. Hoeksema attacks prof. Heyns because he called the promise “relative and conditional,” and because he alleged that the essence of the covenant must be found in the promise, but with this notion “definitely moved in the Arminian direction” (12). Over against this we hear the Rev. Hoeksema posit the following: “God does not promise every individual, head for head, that belongs to the covenant in the historical, external, visible sense of the word, that He will be his God, and that He will save him. He does not grant in the objective sense of the word, to speak in terms of prof. Heyns, to all, head for head, His salvation, and the benefits of the covenant” (12-13). And concerning baptism, the Rev. Hoeksema says: “Neither can the ground for infant baptism be found in the promise as the essence of the covenant. For in that case, the surety of the covenant would be removed from God Who establishes His covenant, to man, who presently agrees to the covenant, to his free will” (57).
Hence, we are not surprised to read: “The word of God’s promise did not have reference to all, head for head. And not one of those that was meant by that word, fell out” (64). Of the reprobate in the covenant it is said: “But now God, according to His own good pleasure, receives in the covenant according to its external form, all the carnal children” (75).
Strongly, for us, speaks the passage about the covenant-seals, the sacraments: “It is simply not true that in Holy Baptism God promises and seals somethings to all that are baptized. No more than this is the case with His Word, the Gospel of salvation, no more is this true with respect to the seals of the covenant. In last analysis, God, in Holy Baptism, does not promise anything except to those that believe. For it is the righteousness which is by faith which is sealed and confirmed, in Baptism, and also in the Lord’s Supper” (86, 87).
These quotations are sufficient for our purpose: reconnaissance of the field. A few other questions I pass by for the time being. But the intelligent reader has already understood that the Rev. Hoeksema expresses himself frequently in a way that completely accords with the argumentations of our persecutors from the synodical camp.
Of course, this is not the reason why we differ with him. The reason is found in the fact .that we do not find the above named theory in Scripture. Next time we hope to give account of this to the Rev. Hoeksema.
Just one remark I wish to make.
Deplorable I consider it that the Rev. Doekes, in reading and discussing my booklet, cannot forget his synodical opponents and “persecutors”. This may be unavoidable under the present circumstances in the old country, it is regrettable nevertheless. For such a state of mind is not conducive to an objective and unprepossessed discussion of the subject itself.
It might be well, if the Rev. Doekes, in reading and discussing my pamphlet, would constantly bear in mind that it was written some eighteen years ago. It was not written with a view to, in agreement or disagreement with the present “synodicals”.
We look forward to the brother’s next article.