(This article is a continuation of the one that appeared in Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 52, 53. Material of a different nature had the preference and till now crowded out this closing article on the above subject. Ed.)
The question remains: what may be the causes that the people of God in the world so often relapse into a jargon of Yankee-Dutch in doctrine and in walk, so that it seems so difficult for them to maintain and confess the pure truth of the Word of God in their generations?
Why do we not, why can we not remain Reformed in doctrine and walk, in confession and life, in the full and pure sense of the word?
The passages from Scripture to which we referred furnish the answer.
In II Kings 17 we find that the attempt is made to instruct those that are foreigners with respect to the covenant and the commonwealth of Israel in the precepts of Jehovah and the knowledge of God’s covenant. They did not belong to the people of God. They were not born in the covenant-line. They were introduced from without and had taken up their residence in the land of Israel. They were not God’s people. But they were afraid of the lions God sent among them. And for their own safety’s sake they sought instruction in the knowledge of God. Hence, a priest of the Lord was sent to instruct these aliens in the precepts of God’s covenant. They tried to keep certain religious forms in order to escape the wrath of the “god of the land.” But at heart they cared not for Jehovah’s service, and they continued to serve their own gods. Yankee-Dutch religion was the result.
Here we may find one of the chief causes of the fact, that the Church is always exposed to the danger of relapsing into Yankee-Dutch in doctrine and life.
Always these foreigners, that are spiritually estranged from God’s covenant, are found in the Church of Christ in the world. They are born from the generations of God’s people, and they are introduced from without. For, as to the first, all is not Israel that is of Israel. What is born in the Church does not all belong to the seed of the promise. Just, as there is always the true, spiritual seed in the generations of believers, so there is always the carnal seed. They are in the Church, but not of the church. They are not born of the promise. In their deepest heart they are ungodly. They love not the truth, but the lie. They care not for the covenant and precepts of the Lord, but they hanker after the things of the world. Often they fall away from the Church in the world, as dead branches drop off the trees, at an early age. In that case they are a cause of sorrow and grief according to the flesh, but they cannot corrupt the Church. But sometimes they remain, for whatever carnal reason they may prefer to do so. Outwardly they profess the truth, although they are never very definite in their confession. Outwardly they walk in the way of the precepts of the Lord, though they hate to bear His cross. They remain with the Church visible. And others, for various reasons, join themselves to the Church, although they are not living members of the body of Christ.
These are foreigners, aliens to the commonwealth of the people of God, and will never be anything else. Yet, they are instructed in the knowledge of the truth. They receive instruction in catechism, in the home, in the school. They are under the influence of the Word of God. But at heart they are carnal. They hanker after the world and its lust. They serve other gods. Surely, they do not desire to deny themselves, to take up their cross, to follow Christ. To suffer with Him they cannot consider a privilege of grace. They hate the antithesis. As long as their religion does not bring them into trouble with the world, all is well. But as soon as it demands that they take a stand and make a definite choice, they rebel. The result is that they will oppose the truth in its definite form. Although well aware that they belong to a Reformed Church, whose confession is definite, and whose faith demands a walk distinct from and in antithesis to the world, they gradually try to exert their influence in favor of a “broader view” and a more liberal walk in the world. And if the Church does not watch and these instructed foreigners increase in number and gain in influence, the result will be that the sharp and distinctive lines of the truth are more and more obliterated. Preaching and instruction gradually become “broader,” in order to leave room for a walk in fellowship with the world. The Church begins to speak a hopeless jargon of Yankee-Dutch!
A second cause to which we must call attention, and which is closely connected with the first, is mentioned in the passage from Nehemiah 13. There the evil of intermarriage is emphasized. The Israelites took unto themselves wives from the daughters of the Philistines, Moab, and Ammon. The result of the union was a mixed race, unholy children born of that wedlock, that spoke half Hebrew and half in the language of the heathen. A Yankee-Dutch brood spoke Yankee-Dutch! What else could you expect?
That this evil of intermarriage is by no means confined to the time of Nehemiah, but is rather frequently practiced in our own day, I need not say. Sometimes children of the covenant have no scruples to choose their companions-for-life from the world and to enter into matrimony with downright unbelievers. The pious excuse is sometimes offered that one never knows whether he or she may not be instrumental to bring her or him, with whom the matrimonial relation is established, to Christ! Lifelong misery is frequently the result. Very few instances excepted, the Lord usually reveals that He is not pleased with our assuming another yoke with the unbeliever. He, who before marriage, perhaps, gave superficial reasons for the hope that he might be “brought to Christ,” after marriage usually soon reveals that he is an enemy of the Church. When children are born, their baptism and instruction in the truth of the covenant devolves upon the believing party. There is no unity in the most important thing in life. Cooperation is lacking. When the unbelieving party is the father, he usually refuses to support the instruction of the children in a Christian School. Unless the mother in that case is very strong and is willing to bear the cross she took upon herself by her marriage with an unbeliever, the children will not learn to speak the language of the people of God. They learn the jargon of Yankee-Dutch.
Frequently, however, the marriage-relation is entered into with members of other churches than our own. These are ignorant of the specific doctrine of our churches, are not acquainted with their confession. In such cases two very essential matters ought to be settled before the matrimonial union is accomplished. There is, first of all, the church question. It is, of course, very important that man and wife belong to the same church. And it ought to be a matter of extreme importance to our young people, when they become acquainted and keep company with young men or women from other churches, with a view to marriage, that the latter are ready and willing to become member with them of the church in which God gave them a place. And this ought to be definitely settled before the marriage is solemnized. A mere promise is not sufficient. The change should be effected before marriage is entered into, nor is there any reason why this should not be insisted upon. But from this follows the necessity of instruction. The question as to our church membership is a question of conviction, a question of the truth pure and simple. Everyone is in duty bound before God and his conscience to join himself to that church in the world, which is the purest manifestation of the Body of Christ. And this is a question of the truth. One who leaves the church in which God gave him a place from infancy, merely because he desires to take to himself a wife who is a member of a different church, sins before God and his own conscience. And one who joins our churches for the same reason, without regarding the question of the truth, is equally guilty of a grave sin. For by leaving our own church and joining another, except from the heartfelt conviction that in the Church we join there is a purer manifestation of the Body of Christ on earth, we help the cause of the false church. These two matters, therefore, which are intimately related, should be settled before marriage.
Often, however, these are the very things that are neglected. The result is that through marriage parties join themselves to our churches that are not thoroughly instructed in and acquainted with our doctrine, and in their deepest heart are not in sympathy with it. The church is weakened. The element that has no knowledge or a very superficial knowledge of our Reformed truth increases. And also through this cause the church gradually loses hold of the truth and begins to speak Yankee-Dutch.
And in proportion as these evils make their inroads into the Church, the very means we possess to instruct young and old will be corrupted, and Yankee-Dutch will be spoken in the home, in the school, and in the Church. How can it be different? A stream rises no higher than its source. If by the people at large, that constitute the Church in the world, the pure truth is no longer known, maintained, and confessed; if the carnal element increases and gains in influence and succeeds in introducing its Yankee-Dutch into the Church, it will not be long before the same jargon is heard in the Christian School, in the Catechism room, from the pulpit. For, these Yankee-Dutch supply our colleges and seminaries with students, and they presently become teachers and preachers. And from the same Yankee-Dutch source school-boards and consistories are filled. Under the cloak of a Reformed confession Arminianism is being taught and preached. And under a pretense of Christianity the children of the covenant are led into the world.
Do not say that these things are rather abstract and not real dangers among us. They are so real that, unless one rather willfully closes his eyes to the truth, one cannot help to ask the question whether the Christian School is not a lost cause. When one pays attention to the instruction that is actually given in our schools; considers the large place given to various sports, so that in some cases the Christian School actually and very seriously interferes with Catechetical instruction; watches the silly programs, plays, pageants, movies, that are offered in the name of Christianity; listens to graduation speeches, (and I have heard some that are Pelagian and others that are modern) that are delivered, how can one help to be filled with dismay and gloomy apprehensions for the future of the Christian School and even for its present state? If one loves the pure Hebrew and detests Yankee-Dutch, he will love and work for the Christian School, indeed; but he cannot be enthusiastic about an institution that bears the name of a Christian School, while it teaches our children and youths the hopeless jargon of Yankee-Dutch.
Eternal vigilance, therefore, is plainly our calling. We must watch and pray. Watch as individual Christians, and watch as officebearers in God’s Church on earth. Watch over ourselves, lest we forget the pure language of the Word of God and lapse into the corrupt idioms of false doctrines; watch over our pulpits and catechism rooms, our homes and our schools. And we should put on the whole armor of God, and fight the good fight, never compromising with the enemy, giving no quarter. For we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor shall not be vain in the Lord!