“I cannot refrain in this article from pointing for a moment to Calvin. There surely is no one who confessed and taught the doctrine of election and reprobation—that deeretum horribile—so powerfully and consistently as he.
“Yet in spite of this—but no, I don’t express myself correctly again, I must say: exactly because of that— Calvin also wrote down words as these:
“the gracious adoption unto sonship extends unto all the children of Abraham; all Israelites were of the household of the church; children of God and heirs of eternal life (Commentary on);
“hence God has chosen the entire seed of Jacob without exception, as the Scripture witnesses in many passages, because He vouchsafed unto them equally (par-iter) the same proofs of his grace, namely, the word and the sacraments (Commentary on);
“that the promise to Abraham and his seed was not given in such a manner that the inheritance is destined for every arbitrary seed, whence it follows, that the apostasy of some cannot in the least prevent that the covenant remains established and continuous (Commentary on);
“that at first Israel (that must be Ishmael, H.H.) had obtained the same rank with his brother Isaac, because the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision (Institutes, III, 21, 6);
“that this is the integrity of the sacrament, an integrity which the whole world cannot violate, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them (Institutes, IV, 17, 33);
“And all this Calvin says not in spite of the fact that he confesses so strictly and so consistently God’s election and reprobation, the sovereignty and the unconquerableness of the grace of God and the absolute impotency of man, but op the contrary, he says this because he confesses this, and because he confesses that God’s sovereignty and the absoluteness of the grace of God must also be acknowledged in the way in which God saves His own!
“And speaking thus, Calvin practices what he once upon a time formulated himself in the following words: ‘Let us be mindful of the fact that in the entire doctrine of religion, one rule of modesty and moderation must be observed, namely this, that about dark things we must say nothing or feel nothing, or desire to know nothing, than that which is revealed to us in the Word of God. In the second place, that by the reading of Scripture we occupy ourselves constantly with the search and contemplation of those things that serve for edification and do not yield to curiosity or to the striving after unprofitable things. And because the Lord wanted to instruct us not in insignificant questions, but in true piety, in the fear of His name, in true confidence, and in the obligations of holiness, let us rest in that knowledge.’ (Inst. I, 14, 4).
* * * *
“And now I must quit. Already I have been much too elaborate. It is not my purpose to invite a controversy about what I have said. I would even urgently request not to start a discussion about this article.
“My purpose is a different one. Through the providence of God the life of your and our churches has been so guided that the result was various contact and a growing understanding and appreciation for one another’s life and struggle. Even now we already stand in a certain communion with one another, even though it is not officially. And now threatens the very grave danger that we become alienated from one another. And that is a very serious thing, now God placed you and us upon one another’s way. In this I see very clearly the work of Satan. He always does his best to provoke the sheep of Christ’s flock against one another and to alienate them from one another. Now let us be on our guard. Let us pray that we may and will be able to try the Spirits. And let us maintain that all those who really and actually live out of the whole word, who expect all things for this and for the life to come exclusively and only from the grace of God in Christ, and who daily wage war against Satan, the world, and their own sin, belong together because they are one.
“I now hope that you and yours will consider what I wrote in a brotherly spirit, with the purpose to learn to understand our life and struggle. If anyone among us would allege that the theological conceptions concerning the covenant, as Prof. Schilder developed them, are binding in our circle, then this would be repudiated radically by all and every one, first of all by Prof. Schilder himself. Just as radically as we repudiate the doctrinal decisions of 1942-1946 and the three points’ that are so notorious among you. But we live out of the entire Word of God, according to the confession. That we all seek, for that we pray, and after that we strive.
“With hearty and fraternal greetings I remain yours in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In my comment on this last part of Prof. Veenhof’s letters I will try to be brief. First of all, I want to make a remark or two on the very last paragraphs.
You do not have to be afraid, esteemed brother, that I will not consider your writing in a brotherly spirit. You know that in our personal correspondence with each other I have learned to know you as a brother in Christ. And I hope and believe that this feeling is mutual. But, of course, true brotherly love is always based on the truth in Christ. And to reach an understanding of that truth there is nothing more beneficial than a brotherly discussion, a controversy, if you wish. Of this I have never been afraid. And therefore I could not accede to your request not to start a controversy about what you write in your article. And it is my sincere hope that you will continue this discussion, and, answer my questions.
To my mind there is no reason why we should become alienated from one another, at least not in the way of truth. If anything causes separation between your and our churches, it certainly cannot be that we all, as you express it, “live really and actually out of the entire Word of God and expect all things for this life and for the life to come exclusively and only from the grace of God in Christ, and daily wage war against Satan, the world, and our own sin.” Rather do I attribute the dissension that has arisen between us to other causes, such as: 1) The hasty and somewhat unwise decisions of your Synod of Amersfoort that provoked a protest of several of the delegates at your Synod. It was not wise to advise to open your pulpits to our ministers without further discussion and deliberation and investigation. Correspondence between our churches (and I see no reason why that could not be established) should be carefully prepared. And I propose that we should start from the beginning. 2) The meetings your committee of correspondence and others had with the Revs. De Jong and Kok while they were in the Netherlands, and the transactions of which were kept secret. It would have been far better and much more beneficial if your committee of correspondence had contacted our committee. Such contact can very easily be established and still should be established. 3) The letter of Prof, Holwerda which he wrote as an advice to the immigrants in Canada, and the contents of which were published by them, not by us. I now have reason to believe that Prof. Holwerda misrepresented in that letter what the Revs. De Jong and Kok actually said. In other words, he did not write the exact truth in that letter. I will not write down my reasons for this opinion, but if you should desire them, I am prepared to give you them in the Standard Bearer. Nevertheless, that letter dumbfounded us and was the cause of much trouble. 4) And aggravating it all is the unethical publication of the slanderous letter of the “Familie Klaver”, referred to even by the Rev. Van Raalte in the Kerkblad voor Overijssel en Gelderland.
We must make a clean slate, and go back to the beginning as soon as possible, and get into personal contact. Your committee of correspondence and ours should personally and thoroughly discuss the question of correspondence between our churches.
As to the question of what covenant conception is binding in your churches, I confess that I do not understand you. You believe, of course, that Scripture and the confessions are binding. But do you not believe that the conception of the Liberated that the promise of God is for all is Scriptural and confessional? If so, then that conception must be binding. On the other hand, we believe that the First Point of 1924 and the Heynsian conception of the covenant are neither Scriptural nor confessional. Hence, the denial of these is certainly binding for our churches.
In conclusion, let me make a remark or two about the quotations from Calvin to which you refer in your article.
Let me say, first of all, that I am at present not in a position to check up on all of them. I am at the present time 750 miles from home and cannot lay hold on all the sources.
I did checkup, however, on the quotations from Rom. 9:6 and from the Institutes, Let me say in general that I have indeed a great respect for Calvin and his work. To me it is nothing short of amazing that as a young man he could write his Institutes, and that, too, as a young man that just recently came out of the Roman Catholic Church. Amazing, too, I find that he could write almost a complete commentary on the whole of Scripture. But that does not mean that we can blindly quote from him as an authority. Often I simply cannot agree with much that he wrote. This is true, for instance, with Calvin’s conception of the Lord’s Supper. Thus, for instance, when he writes, “That the power of the sacrament remains entire however the wicked may labor with all their might to annihilate it. Still, it is one thing to be offered, another to be received. Christ gives this spiritual food and holds forth this spiritual drink to all. Some eat eagerly, others superciliously reject it. Will their rejection cause the meat and drink to lose their nature? . . . . Thus nothing is detracted from the sacrament, nay, its reality and efficacy remain unimpaired, although the wicked, after externally partaking of it, go away empty. If, again, they object, that it derogates from the expression, This is my body’, if the wicked receive corruptible bread and nothing besides, it is easy to answer, that God wills not that His truth should be recognized in the mere reception, but in the constancy of his goodness, while he is prepared to perform, nay, liberally offers to the unworthy what they reject. The integrity of the sacrament, an integrity which the whole world cannot violate, lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.” To me the sacraments, as well as the preaching of the Word of God, have effect upon all that come under their influence. Neither the Word nor the sacraments can be explained as an offer of grace to all, but they have a two-fold effect. To the one they are a savor of life unto life. To the other they are a savor of death unto death. This is the plain truth of Scripture and also of the Reformed confessions. And, as to Calvin’s exegetical work, it is true that his commentaries are still valuable. But it must also be said that his exegesis is often characterized by haste, as might indeed be expected of a man who was as busy as Calvin and who wrote a commentary on practically the whole of Scripture.
But now I must close for the present. And I do so with hearty and brotherly greetings.