Just a few more passages from Holy Writ I will quote, in order to show that promises and predictions are always the same in Scripture, and that there are neither promises nor predictions for anyone but believers, that is, therefore, the elect.
The first passage I refer to is: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In this verse we have the promise of rest. And rest is, of course, both a present blessing as well as a future boon. It includes rest for the soul in the future. Now to whom is this promise given? Is it given to N.N., that is, to Peter, William, and Charles, etc.? Certainly not. For in the first place, those to whom the promise is given are here designated as those that labor and are heavy laden; and this certainly cannot be said of all men, at least not in the spiritual sense of the word. To be spiritually laboring and heavy laden undoubtedly means to be burdened under sin and laboring with the impossible task of acquiring righteousness by one’s own effort and works, and a realizing that the task is impossible. But what is more important is that the Lord promises rest to those that come unto Him. And to come unto Christ is a spiritual act of faith. It implies that one realizes that he is empty of all righteousness, that Christ is the fullness of righteousness for the sinner, that therefore one longs for Christ as the fullness of his own emptiness, and finally that one appropriates Christ and all His benefits. And who are they that thus come to Him? They are the elect. They are those whom the Father draws before they can possibly come to Him. For thus we read in : “All that the Father giveth unto me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” And again, in vs. 39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” And once more in vs. 44: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” And the same truth is expressed in vs. 65: “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father.” The promise and the prediction or rest is therefore not given unto N.N., but only unto those that come to Christ and, therefore, unto the elect, whom the Father gives unto Christ.
In this connection, although I will refer to the Confessions later on, I must nevertheless quote Art. 8 of Canons III, IV: “As many as are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what will be acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called should come unto him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.” Also in this article the promise, therefore, is not to N.N., but to those that come to Christ, that therefore are drawn by the Father, and that are chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world.
Finally, I refer to the promises and predictions that are found at the close of every one of the seven letters that are sent to the seven churches of Asia Minor, recorded in the Book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3.
Inwe read: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” That here you have a promise in the form of a prediction,—or you can also say: a prediction in the form of a promise,—and that therefore promise and prediction are exactly identical is clear to all. But again, neither the promise in the form of a prediction, nor the prediction in the form of a promise is addressed to N.N., but only to him that overcometh, to the believer that perseveres. And since perseverance is the fruit of ‘God’s preservation, that promise and the prediction both are addressed to the elect. Moreover, the entire address is to him “that hath an ear” to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. It is therefore addressed to him that has a spiritual ear. And the spiritual ear is a gift of grace, and again, is given only to the elect.
Again, in vs. 11 we have the promise: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Also here there is a promise which is positively expressed in the preceding verse: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Also this promise is in the form of a prediction. And again, the prediction is in the form of a promise. But also here the promise is not to N.N., but to him that hath an ear to hear, to him that overcometh, and to him that is faithful unto death. And all these terms, according to the whole Word of God, refer only to the believers, and therefore, only to the elect.
In vs. 17 we read: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Here again you have both a promise and a prediction. And again, the promise is only to the believers and to the elect, that have ears to hear and that overcome in the battle of faith.
In vs. 26-29 of the same chapter we read: “And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Again the promise and the prediction are not to N.N., but only to the faithful believers, and therefore to the elect. It is addressed to him that hath an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. All this is true only of the believers, and therefore, only of the elect.
Again, inwe read: “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” This in fact is principally addressed to the few names that are at Sardis that have not defiled their garments and that have the promise that they shall walk with Christ in white, vs. 4. They are the ones that overcome. And they are the same that have ears to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Also here it is evident that we have a promise and a prediction, and that neither of them is addressed to N.N.
In vss. 12 and 13 of the same chapter we read : “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Here also you have a glorious promise in the form of a prediction, that is addressed to him that overcometh and to him that hath an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. It is certainly not addressed to N.N.
And the same note is heard in the promise and the prediction to the church of Laodicea, which is found in: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Here is a present promise, as well as a future prediction. The present promise is that Christ will come in and sup with him that hears His voice and opens the door of the church. The prediction is that Christ will grant to him to sit with Him in His throne. But both the promise and the prediction are not to N.N., but only to the believers. It is to those that hear the voice of Jesus as He stands at the church door of Laodicea and knocks, and that open the door to Him. And it is to those that overcome and that have ears to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
I can, of course, adduce many more passages from Holy Writ. But this is quite sufficient. The distinction which Dr. Schilder makes between promises and predictions is absolutely untenable. And his statement that there are promises for N.N., but no predictions, cannot possibly be maintained in the light of Scripture.
And the same is true of the threats in Scripture, and of everlasting destruction. Dr. Schilder says that there are no predictions in Scripture for N.N. that he will go to hell. And that is, of course, true, no less than there are predictions in Scripture that Tom, Dick, or Harry will go to heaven. But no more than there are promises in Scripture to N.N., no more are there threats of destruction and everlasting damnation in Scripture for Tom, Dick, or Harry. Just as in Scripture those for whom are the promises are mentioned by their spiritual name, so also those for whom are the threats of wrath and destruction are not designated by their natural name, but are denoted as fools, wicked, unrighteous, ungodly, and workers of iniquity.
Also this is very evident from Holy Writ. It is really not necessary for me to quote specific passages from Scripture to prove this. But for completeness’ sake I will quote a few texts at random, in Psalm 5:4-6 we read: “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” This is the very opposite of the promise. And just as the promise is not for N.N., so the threats of destruction are not for them either. They are called by their spiritual ethical name. They are the foolish, the workers of iniquity, those that speak leasing, bloody and deceitful men. They are, therefore, the reprobate, the very antithesis to the elect.
In, ff. we read: “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.”
In, ff. we read: “For evil doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming,” etc.
Inwe read of the foolish and of the wicked, who prosper in the world, in whose death there are no bands, and whose strength is firm, who are not in trouble as other men, nor plagued like other men. Pride compasseth them about as a chain, and violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness. They are corrupt and speak wickedly concerning oppression. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. And the psalmist is grieved at all this, until he enters into the sanctuary. Then he beholds that God did set them in slippery places, and casteth them down into destruction. They are brought into desolation in a moment, and they are utterly consumed with terrors. When the Lord awakeneth, He shall despise their image. All this is not said concerning the ungodly as N.N., as Tom, Dick, and Harry, but concerning them in their character as ungodly and foolish and wicked. And so it is said in that the wicked spring as the grass, and all the workers of iniquity do flourish, but that it is the intention of the Lord even in their prosperity that they shall be destroyed forever.
But I will not quote more. Dr. Schilder knows just as well as I do that this is the fundamental note in ail Holy Writ, both in the Old Testament and in the New. Never does Scripture have any promises for N.N., but the promises are always for the elect. Nor does the Bible speak of any threats of wrath and punishment and destruction for N.N., but always these are designated as the wicked and the ungodly.
But perhaps Dr. Schilder was thinking particularly of the sacrament of holy baptism when he wrote these words. In baptism the individual child receives the sign and seal of the righteousness which is by faith on his forehead. And the individual child is certainly called by his natural name. Does this then not imply that God gives His promise to N.N. in baptism?
This is indeed what Prof. Veenhof writes and strongly emphasizes in his well-known Appel. Writes he (I translate):
“For whenever a genuine baptism takes place, when therefore a little child is baptized according to God’s command and in the manner which He ordained, then the real baptizer is the great eternal God Himself!
“This indeed we must especially know and maintain ; this must so fill our hearts, that we see it by faith: God, our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself baptizes the little infants in the church! A minister is only a man, through whom God Himself administers baptism. The minister is of no account. Is it of interest to you perhaps, who is the mail-man that, delivered a letter to you? Of course not. When you take a letter out of the mailbox, you don’t even think about the mailman! If the epistle is only a genuine letter, written by him or by her! Then we say: ‘a letter from him, from her’! And that is sufficient for us, more than sufficient.
“And therefore, because that is the, case with regard to baptism, we say with all our power and in all seriousness: We received our baptism from God Himself and from Him alone. God Himself baptized us!
“If this were not the case, the act of the minister would simply be mockery. He would have done nothing else than to speak a few powerless little words and splash with a little water!
“But it is not thus!
“When a child is baptized, the Lord Himself approaches that little child. He Himself sprinkles the water on its little head, and says very really and very personally: John, Mary, Anna, I, the Lord Himself, baptize thee, immerse thee in My holy Name. Thou art now of Me!
“Added to this is something else. Or rather, added to this is very much!
“Baptism, which is given by the Lord Himself, always remains of power, every day, every hour, until our death, yea, in all eternity. The case is really thus that the Lord baptizes us continually. After He sprinkled us with water when we were but a few days old, He keeps that water, so to speak, always fresh and living and powerful on our forehead. And the words, which He at that time spoke, He continues to speak throughout all our life! Every second Jehovah repeats: Carl, William, Mary, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Or rather: Jehovah does not repeat that word: He continues to say it, it remains of unbroken power, it continues to come unto us in all seriousness and grace out of His heart.”
And a little further:
“What now is this baptism?
“What does God say, what does He do when He baptizes us?
“This can be expressed very simply: baptism is a seal!
“To understand clearly what this sentence means, we must thoroughly understand and always maintain, that the Lord was pleased in His marvelous love to give to all the children of believers His promise. Or to express it differently: it pleased Him to give to all the children a glorious pledge. He says namely to all those children, head for head, day in day out, seriously and uprightly: I am the Lord your God. I establish my covenant with you. I wash you of all your sins in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. My Holy Spirit will dwell in you. Briefly: I promise you the complete forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation: all the treasures and riches, which I will and am able to give to men.”
Is this, perhaps, what Dr. Schilder means when he writes that there are no predictions, but promises for N.N.? This, of course, is the Heynsian view of the promise. And it appears that Dr. Schilder agrees with him.
But let us see whether this be true.
In the first place, I want to call your attention to the fact that certainly the sacrament of baptism cannot mean more or express more than the promise of the gospel. Now, as we have seen, the promise of the gospel is never to N.N., but always to believers, which is saying the same thing as to the elect. The gospel certainly never addresses Carl, Anna, Marie, Tom, Dick, and Harry by their natural name as being heirs of the promise. God certainly never says to them:
I promise you that I will be your God forever, that I establish with you my everlasting covenant, that I incorporate you into Jesus Christ, that I wash away your sins and give you everlasting righteousness and life, that I give you my Holy Spirit to apply all the blessings of salvation unto you, until ye shall arrive in the assembly of the elect in life eternal. On the contrary, the gospel always addresses the elect by their spiritual name, as those that are poor in spirit, that mourn, that hunger and thirst after righteousness, that are meek, that are pure in heart, that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that therefore may be assured that they are elect. In fact, when any minister would say to any individual, say that his name is Carl: “Carl, in the name of God I promise you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life,” without knowing anything about Carl as to his spiritual condition, such a minister would simply speak an untruth in the name of God. Is it possible, then, that through baptism God speaks thus to every individual child, head for head and soul for soul? I insist that this is impossible, and contrary to the Word of God.
But Dr. Schilder and also Prof. Veenhof would say undoubtedly that they do not mean this. According to them the promise which God gives through baptism to any individual child is not unconditional, but conditional. The fulfillment of the promise, although sincere on the part of God and even, according to Veenhof, spoken to that individual child in His everlasting love and grace depends on the question whether that child will believe, and assume his covenant obligations and so fulfill his part of the covenant. This too Prof. Veenhof writes in his Appel, as follows!
“It stands to reason that we may not forget for one second that God speaks His Word of promise never alone and never in separation from something else.
“He says with and in the promise always also something else.
“When He gives His promise, He calls us at the same time to love Him with all our heart, to believe His Word in childlike faith, and to walk in His ways. When the Lord says to Abraham: I am the Lord your God, then He adds, as it were in one breath: Now walk always before my face and be upright.
“But this command, this demand, does not make the promise poorer or weaker!
“No question about it!
“The demand which by the Lord is always being entwined in His promise and which comes with the promise is exactly a calling to believe His promise, and therefore to trust in the promise and to live out of the promise.”
The promise, according to Prof. Veenhof and also according to Dr. Schilder, is therefore conditional.
Let us see where this lands us.
In the first place, it must be very evident that if this is true and the promise of God is conditional, it certainly can mean absolutely nothing for that little child, for the simple reason that an infant of, say, eight days old cannot possibly fulfill any conditions. He knows nothing of conditions. And therefore if it be true that God says to that little infant, say his name is Carl, “Carl, I am your God forever. I establish my everlasting covenant with you. I wash you from all your sins and iniquities. I give you eternal life and righteousness. I will give you my Holy Spirit, to dwell in you and to apply all the blessings of salvation to you, on condition that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and that you love me with all your heart and walk before me and be upright.” Then I say: that little infant has no promise of God at all. Then it means nothing to him before he has come to years of discretion and can fulfill the conditions required. In that case we must really repudiate infant baptism and refrain from administering that sacrament until one is capable of fulfilling the conditions.
But there is more.
Prof. Veenhof emphasizes that it is not the minister that baptizes, but God Himself. It is not the minister that speaks, but God Himself, when He says to Carl: “I will establish my everlasting c.ovenant with thee. I will be thy God forever. I love thee with an everlasting love. I give thee my Word of promise in my eternal grace. I incorporate thee in Jesus Christ. And I give thee the living faith. I cleanse thee from all thy sins and forgive all thy transgressions. I give thee my Holy Spirit. And I apply unto thee all the blessings of salvation, sanctifying thee in Christ Jesus, until thou shalt appear in the assembly of the elect in life eternal.” Now, mark you well, it is not the minister that speaks these words, but God. And the Word of God is surely always efficacious, in distinction from any word of man. If this were true, therefore, it follows that Carl is surely saved. But according to Prof. Veenhof, Carl is not necessarily saved, but only conditionally. In other words, grace is not necessarily efficacious; and the Word which God speaks may be made of none effect by Carl, that is, by mere man.
But there is still more. Prof. Veenhof does not hesitate to include the Holy Spirit and His work in the promise of salvation which is addressed by God to Carl. And this promise, according to Veenhof, is conditional. From this it follows that also the promise of the Holy Spirit is conditional. And we ask: conditional upon what? Can man before He has been regenerated and before the saving faith has been implanted in his heart, do anything at all to make himself worthy of the promise? This would lead us right into the error of Arminianism and Pelagianism. We know what Heyn’s solution is to this question. He distinguishes between the work of the Father and the Son on the one hand, and the work of the Holy Spirit on the other, and separates them. The promise, according to him, then means: the objective bequest that God establishes His covenant of grace with us, makes us His children and heirs, provides us with every good thing, and averts all evil or turns it to our profit; that God the Son incorporates us into His death and washes us from all our sins. But when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit, he emphasizes that the Spirit WILL dwell in us and apply all blessings of salvation to us. But whether this will be realized depends upon the covenant child himself when he comes to years of discretion. And he invents the theory of a certain preparatory grace, as we well know, that enables the covenant child either to accept or to reject the promise. I do not know how Veenhof, and for that matter also Dr. Schilder, solves this problem. And I have never seen a solution of it. It is again the same problem: is the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith included in the promise that is given to every child, head for head and soul for soul? And is this promise of the Holy Spirit conditional upon anything that man must do or can do? This, of course, is the Pelagian solution. But if this is not the case, and if Prof. Veenhof and also Dr. Schilder admit that the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith are first and absolutely unconditional, so that man can do absolutely nothing in order to obtain that Holy Spirit; and if they still insist that God nevertheless promises His Holy Spirit and His grace and the gift of faith to every individual child that is baptized, the inevitable question is: does God lie? For it is absolutely certain that there is carnal seed among the spiritual seed of the covenant, that there are reprobate under the dispensation of the covenant. And it is also absolutely certain that God will not fulfill His promise, will not give His Holy Spirit, and will not give His grace and the gift of faith to the reprobate, but only to the elect.
I wish that Dr. Schilder would answer this question, and explain to us how the promise of God can be to N.N., to Tom, Dick, and Harry, even though it be a conditional promise.
On our part, we would offer the following solution.
In the first place, I would insist that the promise of God, which includes the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of God’s grace, and the promise of the gift of faith, is absolutely unconditional and only for the elect. Then, and then only, can we maintain that little infants have the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the gift of faith.
In the second place, I would insist that God never lies, but surely fulfills His every Word of promise, so that He actually gives the Holy Spirit and implants the gift of faith in the hearts of all the children that belong to the spiritual seed of the covenant, that is, the elect.
In the third place, I would emphasize that it is God’s own command and revelation that He establishes His covenant in the line of the continued generations of believers; that therefore, as in the Old Testament the generations of Abraham were circumcised, so in the new dispensation the generations of believers must be baptized.
In the fourth place, however, we must maintain that not all that belong to the carnal seed of Abraham and that belong to the carnal seed of believers are also to be counted as the spiritual seed. For this is very evident from: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
Finally, it is the will of God, therefore, that not only the children of the promise, but also the carnal seed, not only the elect, but also the reprobate shall come under the dispensation of the covenant and under the dispensation of the promise. God certainly does not lie when He brings the carnal children under the seal of baptism. For after all, baptism, like circumcision, is a seal of the righteousness which is by faith. In baptism therefore God does not give the promise to every child, head for head and soul for soul, but only seals the inseparable connection between faith and righteousness. In baptism, therefore, He declares that the believer in Christ shall certainly be justified and receive all the blessings of salvation. And that believer in Christ is the spiritual seed only, that is, the elect. And if you ask the question: why then does God continue His covenant in the line of generations so that even the carnal seed comes under the dispensation of the covenant and of the promise, so that even the reprobate come into closest contact with the promise? my answer is: God wills that they shall become manifest as profane, as violators of His covenant.
It is in the sphere of the dispensation of the covenant that sin becomes manifest as sin in the highest sense of the word. And it is from those that live under the dispensation of the covenant that Antichrist, the Man of Sin, must come, and that the measure of iniquity must be filled.
This is also my answer to the question: why must Esau be firstborn? Why must he whom God hated have the birthright and be placed by God in the position of the elect, of him whom God loved?
But, and it seems to me this is the chief difference between us and Dr. Schilder and the Liberated, if we do not see and do not want to see that God cuts the sharp line of election and reprobation right through the dispensation of the covenant, we certainly will never agree on the question concerning the promise.