These lines can be and are written because in our land we have a certain freedom of speech.
There is a wholesome benefit for us that we have this freedom.
Because of it we are free to publish our Standard Bearer and let others know what we believe. Because of it we can share with others the heritage of truth which is ours. Because of it we may hold our public lectures, have our divine worship services, teach our children, maintain our own Christian schools and beam the truth by radio across the miles of our own land and into foreign lands as well.
And we are not to thank our government and our lawmakers for this great privilege. It is a gift of ourcovenant God. To Him be the thanks, and in His fear let us make use of that freedom. He has seen fit, for the present at least, to grant us this liberty; and He demands of us that we make proper use of it. And in our use of that freedom we are to remember the words of James, “For in many things we offend all, If any man offend not in word, the same is perfect, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2) Extreme caution must be used when we begin to open our mouths and to move our tongues. The ninth commandment in all its implications and requirements should be before our consciousness when we put our speechmaking motor in gear. Nevertheless, we must be thankful to our God that in His counsel we may have this liberty to speak and write and preach the Word.
We do not by these lines mean to leave the impression that this freedom of speech which our government at the moment guarantees us is in itself such a wonderful gift. Nor do we have this freedom of speech in mind when we write of a “Sanctified Freedom of Speech.” The same freedom that gives us all that liberty mentioned above also grants the unbeliever the right to propagate his heresies and the worldly philosopher the opportunity and liberty to try to corrupt the minds of your and my children. It grants the communist the right to preach his overthrow of our government and the adoption of his Marxist revolution and socialism. And as we again approach another presidential campaign we are already subjected to so much slander and evil speaking of men in authority, whom Scripture teaches us to fear and to respect. Men may be ridiculed and dishonored left and right with impunity. Each must be given his right to speak. And the last phrase in the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the meaning of the ninth commandment is thoroughly rejected. We refer to the phrase, “Also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honour and good character of my neighbor.”
Instead, with covetousness for the office of another, men will with all their power and by a rapidly wagging tongue do all in their power to dishonor and destroy the good name of the neighbor. Let us make the remark at this juncture that killing, adultery and theft go hand in hand, so that men murder to cover up their adultery—remember David—and their theft, or to make their theft possible. Theft, deceit and covetousness form another infamous trio. Deceit, the lie, false testimony, corrupt advertising are resorted to in order to steal the neighbor’s goods when we are too squeamish or hesitant to use violence and murder. And covetousness is what motivates us to steal, to take away a man’s goods or office, or business.
And thus, although we may be thankful to our God for freedom to speak and teach and train our covenant seed in the truth, the freedom of speech which He gives us through men is not completely a wonderful thing, surely not as commendable as many freely speak their piece of defense concerning it. What we wish to consider with you is a freedom of speech which God gives us through Christ and His sanctifying Spirit. We speak of a freedom of speech that the Sanctifier gives us, and that enables us to speak freely in a sanctified way.
Now speech in itself is a wonderful gift of God. It is a faculty that enables us to communicate with each other and because of this power we can have fellowship and friendship. And this reaches its highest point of development in man. All the beasts of the field and animals of the forest can communicate with each other. Wishes and intentions can be conveyed by sounds. And by this kind of sounds they can also communicate to us in a limited way. The dog may growl and bark his warning to us not to come nearer, or to make tracks as fast as we can, if we do not want to get hurt. He need not speak all these words. He need only give a sound. Your own dog may communicate to you by a different sound his hunger, his discomfort of cold, and by a whimper in connection with actions make known to you the thorn or sliver stuck in the tender part of his paw or the like. The canary or parakeet may speak his word of greeting when you step in the door. He cannot express sympathy to you, cannot wish you a “Happy Birthday,” tell you that the phone has been ringing all afternoon or tell you as you leave the house that you left the car keys on the table, or the house key on the inside, so that you will be locked out of your home. But he can communicate with you on a limited scale and give you a very limited fellowship.
The same is true of your new born child when you bring him home from the hospital. By an assortment of sounds he not only manages to make known to you his likes and dislikes, desires and needs; but he soon begins to lord it over you and make you his servant. You can be friendly towards that infant, but you can hardly say then yet that he is friendly to you. You can talk to him, but he cannot reveal his soul to you. Your communication with him is very limited; and speaking is very much a one way street. But the potential is there; and in due process of time he is your equal to receive from you all you are able to express, and to express fully to you what he wants to from his heart.
And friendship and fellowship are the exercise of communication. Let us go to the other end of that fragile line of life. Your parents become feeble with age, have a stroke or two, lie on their beds with little more ability than to smile back at you. Hear you, they may yet be able, although you may have to shout. But contribute anything in the way of speech they cannot anymore, Their life hangs by a very slender thread. And although you visit them regularly and faithfully, and lovingly, you have to admit each time when you leave that you have nothing or little of their life and fellowship anymore. And death puts an end to it all. Communication is ended and fellowship is terminated.
What a power, then, did God create in us making it possible for us to have fellowship with each other, to teach our children, to share our secrets, to live together in the joy of each other’s fellowship and friendship.
But how much more wonderful that He made us so that we could communicate with Him and He with us! How marvelous that He made us so that we could receive the revelation of Himself in Christ that He intended to give to us! His covenant is His relationship of friendship with us in Christ. But what friendship would we have with Him without that revelation? Even Adam in his state of righteousness would have had no friendship with God without the power of communication whereby and wherein God spoke to him. The revelation of God in all the creatures was not enough. God came Himself and met Adam at the tree of life and communed with him, speaking to him and receiving Adam’s praise.
All men are not free, however, to have that covenant fellowship with God, because all men are not able to receive His speech nor to speak the truth with Him. Many a tongue, and every man’s tongue at one time or another is wagging in backbiting, slander, gossip, deceit and evil speaking of every sort. We may, as James suggests, be so very careful in regard to murder and adultery. We may abhor theft of every kind and advocate loudly submission to all in authority. But that little member in the mouth, that small muscle that is yet so powerful, that it will kindle a world of iniquity and cause a world-wide fire of hatred and iniquity, is so very hard to control. And it gets us into trouble more often and deeper than the hand, the foot, the eye or the ear.
We wish to say more of this next time and to show that we are not free to speak God’s praises, are not free to use that little member in sanctified speech. For the sake of continuity of thought we will leave it then for the next edition of theStandard Bearer. We have a certain freedom of speech which men grant us—at least in our land; and there are lands where speech is bound. But the only freedom of speech that counts is that of a tongue that is freed from speaking anything but the truth. It is the freedom we shall have in perfection in the new Jerusalem.
The response to our lines last time re the Jamaican young men who desired to prepare for the office of Minister of the Word of God in their churches was encouraging. Several expressed their deep interest in and even willingness to help support financially the project of their instruction. Others who may be interested can contact the undersigned either at 111 East 22nd Street, Holland, Michigan, 49423 or in care of theStandard Bearer, whose address may be found elsewhere on these pages.
Sunday School superintendents and presidents of societies can approach their societies about this matter. They can, perhaps, help in the support of the project. We have prayed for years for a mission field and for years investigated a foreign field, that is, one beyond the borders of our country. And our young people and children should be trained to have an interest in the field which our covenant God has given us. Supporting or helping to support young men for the office of the ministry in their churches will keep their interest alive and give them something tangible for fruit of their collections and efforts.
Knowing the need and the desire of these young men, and having been given a rich heritage of truth not only to believe and to enjoy but also to share with us as much as we can, we ought to consider this matter before the face of our God.
It may be possible, and the Mission Board has the matter under advisement, and the Synod may likewise be confronted with this matter in June, that one or two of these young men could be enrolled in our new high school which is scheduled to open in September.
Shall we further this cause and prepare such young men?
Dare we, in His fear, do anything else when the opportunity is given us?