The above-mentioned view proceeds from the idea that the promise is for all that are born under the covenant. All the children of believing parents that are baptized have the promise. In the promise God bequeaths all the blessings of the covenant upon all that are baptized. He gives all the children the right to these blessings of salvation. And therefore one may say to all the baptized children: “You are really in the covenant. You have the right to accept the promise.” However, this promise must necessarily, according to this view, be presented as conditional. It is contingent upon the faith of those that are baptized. If the children of the covenant do not believe the promise, the promise cannot be fulfilled. So it depends upon man, upon the children of the covenant, whether or not they receive the promise and whether or not the promise is realized in them. All the children are obliged to receive and accept the promise. They are obliged to fulfill their covenant obligation. They must realize their part of the covenant. If they fail in this, if they do not accept the promise of the covenant, the blessings of the covenant do not actually come in their possession, and instead they fall under the terrible covenant wrath and the vengeance of God.
It stands to reason that we cannot possibly agree with He maintains that to every baptized child is given sufficient subjective grace to bring forth good fruits and to accept the promise. This means, of course, that the fruit of faith and repentance can surely be realized by all the children of the covenant. According to Heyns, all the covenant children receive sufficient grace either to accept or to reject the covenant obligation. The distinction, therefore, according to Heyns, between baptized children and others is that the former receive sufficient grace to accept the covenant, to bring forth fruits of faith and repentance, although they can still refuse to do this and therefore be lost. This, however, is pure Arminianism and Pelagianism applied to the covenant. And even with this view, the desired certainty for all the children of the covenant is not attained: for in that case the covenant is made contingent upon the will of the sinner, and that means that ultimately it has become impossible of realization. That this is indeed the view of the late Prof. Heyns is tie above-mentioned view. First of all, it certainly does not establish the assurance of which it boasts, that is, the objective certainty that according to the promise of God all that are baptized are really in the covenant and have a God-given right to the blessings of the covenant. They speak of a conditional promise. And the condition upon which this promise is contingent is faith and obedience. Now the question is: what is faith in relation to the promise? Is faith excluded from the promise? Or is faith included? Does God also promise faith? If this accepted, and if it is still maintained that the promise is for all that are born under the covenant, in the old as well as in the new dispensation, it necessarily follows that all must be saved. To all God promises the lively faith, whereby they become partakers of the blessings of the covenant. And the promise of God is sure. Hence, all the baptized children are surely saved. The sign and the seal of this all receive in baptism. And the inevitable conclusion must be that all the children that are born in the line of the covenant are surely saved.
However, you realize that those who maintain this theory that the promise of God is for all; head for head and soul for soul, realize that the position that all are saved is untenable. They all realize that because it is simply not true and is simply not a fact. They understand very well that the Scripture plainly teaches that many that are born under the covenant are irretrievably lost. Besides, also experience teaches that many of the baptized children are not saved. Hence, they must inevitably come to the conclusion that a so-called conditional promise to all is a promise the condition of which the baptized children themselves must and are able to fulfill.
Such is indeed the theory of the late Prof. W. Heyns. He maintains that to every baptized child is given sufficient subjective grace to bring forth good fruits and to accept the promise. This means, of course, that the fruit of faith and repentance can surely be realized by all the children of the covenant. According to Heyns, all the covenant children receive sufficient grace either to accept or to reject the covenant obligation. The distinction, therefore, according to Heyns, between baptized children and others is that the former receive sufficient grace to accept the covenant, to bring forth fruits of faith and repentance, although they can still refuse to do this and therefore be lost. This, however, is pure Arminianism and Pelagianism applied to the covenant. And even with this view, the desired certainty for all the children of the covenant is not attained: for in that case the covenant is made contingent upon the will of the sinner, and that means that ultimately it has become impossible of realization.
That this is indeed the view of the late Prof. Heyns is evident from his book, “Catechetiek,” particularly pages 144 and 145. It is Written, of course, in Dutch; but I will somewhat freely translate what he writes in this connection: “If one wants to do justice to such expressions of Scripture (He refers to Jeremiah 8:22 andEzekiel 33:11), if he will allow them to say what they do say, then one must certainly come to the conclusion, whether one wants it or not, that the Bible teaches us that there is a gift of subjective grace to all the children of the covenant, that is, to every child of believers, sufficient to bring forth good fruit. This is given to every covenant child, not only to the elect, because it is very evident that it is not a grace that flows forth from election and that is without possibility of being lost. For according to Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 16 what is said refers to those who became guilty of the most horrible sins, so that they even offer the children of the covenant to Molech. In Luke 13 it is said of the fig tree that it is unfruitful and remains unfruitful. In John 15 and Romans 11the same is said of branches that are broken off and cast out and are burned. It is evident, therefore, that not the elect are meant, but all, the children of the covenant.
“There is, therefore, a subjective grace which is sufficient in connection with the spiritual labor performed on them through the means of grace to the bringing forth of good fruits, of faith and obedience, so that God may indeed expect that they bring forth good fruits. On the other hand, however, the possibility is not excluded that the covenant child, in spite of the most excellent labor bestowed upon him through the means of grace, remains unfruitful, according to Luke 13, and produces stinking grapes. This therefore does not consist in saving grace.”
From this, therefore, it is perfectly evident that Prof. Heyns teaches that there is a certain grace which enables a covenant child either to reject or to accept the covenant promises and covenant obligations.
This view, however, is not only in conflict with Scripture, but also with the plain teaching of our Baptism Form. The expository part of that Form establishes the whole of Gods covenant and all its benefits as absolutely sure unto “the children of the promise.” It is not a conditional promise. It is not conditional whatsoever. God’s part of the covenant is that He realizes it completely, according to the Form—both objectively and subjectively, both as to its objective establishment and as to its subjective application. In that Form we read: “First. That we with our children are conceived and born in sin, and therefore are children of wrath, in so much that we cannot enter into the kingdom of God, except we are born again. This, the dipping in, or sprinkling with water teaches us, whereby the impurity of our souls is signified, and we admonished to loathe, and humble ourselves before God, and seek for our purification and salvation without ourselves.
“Secondly. Holy baptism witnesseth and sealeth unto us the washing away of our sins through Jesus Christ. Therefore we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For when we are baptized in the name of the Father, God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us, that he doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us, and adopts us for his children and heirs, and therefore will provide us with every good thing, and avert all evil or turn it to our profit, And when we are baptized in the name of the Son, the Son sealeth unto us, that he doth wash us in his blood from all our sins, incorporating us into the fellowship of his death and resurrection, so that we are freed from all our sins, and accounted righteous before God. In like manner, when we are baptized in the name of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost assures us, by this holy sacrament, that he will dwell in us, and sanctify us to be members of Christ, applying unto us that which 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.”
This is evidently not presented as a conditional promise, but is absolutely unconditional. Fact is that if there were a condition attached to this covenant, it could never be realized. But Gods work is never conditional, and it is in no wise contingent upon the will and work of man. The language of the Baptism Form is as positive and unconditional as it could possibly be. And therefore we cannot accept the theory of Professor Heyns, or any theory like it, that speaks of a conditional promise for all the children that are baptized and that are living under the dispensation of the covenant.