The Revs. Bos and van Teylingen continue their repudiation of what they consider errors concerning the covenant of grace as follows:
“2. Every opinion which, in the nature of the covenant promise with respect to elect and non-elect children of the covenant, introduces a distinction which denies that the full covenant promise comes seriously to all.”
In this connection we must quote at the same time proposition 3.
“Every opinion, which does not take account of the fact, that the full covenant promise, although seriously coming to all the children of the covenant, works through efficaciously only in the elect.”
Now, here we have again the crux of the whole question concerning the covenant about which there is difference between the liberated and the synodicals. And one could wish that the Revs. Bos and van Teylingen had expressed themselves more explicitly and clearly on the matter.
In the first proposition under the head “Rejection and Errors” they stated that they reject every opinion that makes the covenant promise a conditional assurance.
And with this we could, of course, quite agree. For the promise of God can never be conditional.
But now they state that the full covenant promise comes seriously to all, that is, of course, to all children of believers that are born under the covenant.
The question is, of course, just what do they mean by this. Or do they intentionally choose this particular language to avoid the question for the sake of compromise? When they state in unison that the full promise comes to all, elect and non-elect children that are born under the covenant, do they both mean the same thing? Or does the Rev. Bos mean by “the full covenant promise to all” one thing, and the Rev. van Teylingen another?
In a way this expression may be understood in the sense that the preaching of the Word comes to all that hear and that therefore through the preaching the promise of salvation comes to all. This is expressed in Canons of Dordrecht, III, IV, 8: “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 to him. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.”
But notice, in the first place, that even in this article of the Canons the promise is not presented as universal, but particular. It is not for all, but for “as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.” And that means in last instance that the promise is for the elect only.
Besides, why speak in this connection of the covenant at all? Is not the external calling of the Word universal in the sense that it comes to all to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel and not only to those that are born under the covenant? In that sense of the word, therefore, you can preach the gospel of the promise to all even in a heathen world.
Or does the proposition after all mean to leave the impression not that in the preaching of the Word the promise is externally presented to all, that all that are under the covenant are in contact with the promise through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, but that the promise is for all, that on God’s part the full covenant promise is meant for all the children of the covenant? In that case the promise is changed into a certain well-meaning offer of salvation.
And this is the covenant view of the late Prof. Heyns lauded at least in the early numbers of De Reformatie since the liberation by the leaders of the liberated churches. According to Heyns the very essence of the covenant is the promise, “I will be your God.” This promise, according to him, is objectively for all that are born under the covenant. God gives to all that are born in the historic line of the covenant the right to the promise. With all He establishes His covenant in the real sense of the word. All He adopts as children and heirs. All He gives the right to be incorporated into Christ. And all have the right to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. All in the book of the testator are mentioned as heirs. All that is contained in the promise is an objective bequest to whosoever are born under the covenant.
But, of course, also Prof. Heyns faces the question why all are not saved and why all do not receive the benefits promised.
And to this question he has his own peculiar answer. He realizes, of course, that the Holy Ghost alone can apply unto us all that we have in Christ, namely, the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives till we shall finally be presented without spot or wrinkle among the assembly of the elect in life eternal. But whether the Holy Spirit will make the heirs of the promise actual possessors of the benefits of Christ depends upon the use they make of a certain grace which all receive and which enables them to accept or to reject the promise and their covenant obligations.
Is it this that the Revs. Bos and van Teylingen mean when they say that the covenant promise seriously comes to all?
In the light of the preceding proposition it seems that they mean something else. For they state, as we have written before, that the promise is not a conditional assurance. And also in the light of the following proposition, which we already quoted above, we receive the impression that they mean something else. For there they assert positively that the covenant promise efficaciously works through only in the elect.
May I ask them to clarify their own meaning, either in the Standard Bearer or in Eenigheid des Geloofs?
But it is clear that in this particular proposition both the Rev. Bos and van Teylingen attempt to express something favorable of all that are born under the covenant.
And I ask: Why should they make that attempt, seeing that Scripture so plainly speaks of a two-fold seed running along the line of election and reprobation and that, according to Rom. 9, election and reprobation cut right through the historical line of the covenant?
With the positive statement under proposition 3, we are, of course, in agreement. Every opinion must certainly be rejected that does not take account of the fact that the full covenant promise works through efficaciously only in the elect.
But the Revs. Bos and van Teylingen ought to have placed themselves consciously and deliberately before the question: what is the effect of the promise of God and that, too, according to His own purpose upon those in whom that promise does not work efficaciously unto salvation?
I would like to have an answer to the question: why was Esau under the covenant?