We had in mind to begin this column in an entirely different manner, perhaps by introducing the writers and making a statement or two of our plans for this rubric. Since the evening of September 20, however, these have appeared irrelevant and this article must take precedence. The reason for this should become evident as we proceed.
On the evening referred to above, the Reformed Free Publishing Association held its Annual Membership meeting in the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. The Board of the association had expended a special effort in an attempt to arouse interest in this gathering. Announcements had been placed in our papers well in advance of the date; urging all members, readers and friends of the cause to attend. Besides this, several hundred personal letters had been sent out to the members of our Churches living in Grand Rapids and vicinity, who, it was expected, would at least show enough interest to attend the meeting. It was certainly disheartening, therefore, to find only fifty members and one or two visitors present; which was not greatly above the average for this meeting.
We rather pitied these “feeble few” and would not have been surprised if they too would have decided to abandon the ship in hopelessness. Of course, we were wrong on both scores! As we listened to the beautiful and instructive “remarks” of the speaker for the evening our whole viewpoint changed. They, rather, were to be pitied who had missed this inspiring speech and who failed in executing a glorious privilege which was theirs, The remarks made proved to be an incentive to renewed courage and enthusiasm. The reason for this change of attitude should also become evident as we briefly review the remarks made by the speaker.
After the preliminary business had been disposed of the Rev. H. Hoeksema arose to “make a few remarks”. As usual these “remarks” turned out to be an ordered and finished development of the theme: “The Standard Bearer as a Witness”. By way of introduction the speaker recalled the occasion and purpose of the organization of the R.F.P.A. It found its occasion in the fact that in 1923 the existing Church papers were closed to the contributions of the Revs. H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema. Thus the R.F.P.A. was born with the express purpose of creating an organ through which the Reformed truth, as maintained by these two brethren, might be defended, developed and maintained. The name of the organization emphasizes that purpose and aim. Reformed—indicates what was wanted as the contents of the publication. Free—points out that it is under no institutional supervision or control. That it is a Publishing Association reveals that its purpose is to make propaganda, within and without, as a free body of Reformed Christians, and that more particularly, as a witness.
In the development of the theme: “The Standard Bearer as a Witness”, the speaker briefly asked and answered three questions: What was to be witnessed? What is it to witness? and, What have been the results of this witness?
It was pointed out that the content of that witness is the unadulterated Reformed truth. Though this means the truth as it is embodied in our standards it does not mean that these be simply repeated, but that they are to be developed and defended against all attack, and applied to doctrine, church polity and every sphere of life. This is the general content of that witness. There is, however, a more specific content to Reformed truth and the specific aspect of it must be developed specifically. There is no longer a great love for, or development of, specific Reformed doctrine and principle, the speaker said. “Our calling is not to be general but specific.” He continued by stating that there are especially two truths which are specifically and uniquely Reformed. The basic principle of all Reformed doctrine is the fact of God’s absolute sovereignty in respect to all things. This is the truth that must dominate all Reformed doctrine. The second principle is the covenant concept. Here the speaker expressed that as he continued study and grew older he was becoming more and more convinced that this latter truth is even more peculiarly and exclusively Reformed than even that of God’s sovereignty. There is no other group outside the Reformed Churches, that gives to the Covenant theology the integral part and place it must have. The reason for this is the existing relationship between these two fundamental principles. The Sovereignty of God necessarily includes that all things, also our salvation are motivated by the fact of God’s glory as the only end of all things.
It is of that specific Reformed truth that the Standard Bearer wants to be a witness. And that in distinction from the official preaching or missionary task of the Church. Witness is testimony; and this witness of the Standard Bearer is not institutional but free. Therefore, the speaker emphasized, the Standard Bearer is YOURS! It does not belong to the institute but to all of the men (and the speaker saw no reason why the women should be excluded from this statement) to every believer as he is a part of the organism of the Church. Through their interest in, and publication of, the Standard Bearer, individual Christians have one of the most beautiful opportunities to exercise their office of believer—for the Standard Bearer is YOURS—OURS!
That the Standard Bearer is a “free witness” means that it can never come under the power, or be used in the influence of, a corrupted institution. “This organization is one of the most powerful means to maintain ourselves”, the speaker said. It is every believer’s witness over against all corruption—it is free—without entanglements.
Once again the point was emphasized that the Standard Bearer belongs to all of our men; all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Those present were urged to tell the brethren these things and! urge them to function in their office of believers in this respect. Because of its very nature, the Standard Bearer, is one of the nicest forms and offers a most beautiful opportunity for every one of us to so function.
In conclusion it was pointed out that in the course of its history the Standard Bearer has enjoyed both criticism and honor. Because of limited means it has been easy to cast aspersion on its efforts and this adverse reflection was to be expected. Nevertheless, by God’s grace a tremendous thing has been done and there are many reasons to be grateful. There is clear and direct evidence of the influence of the Standard Bearer’s witness in our own Churches. Less evident, perhaps, but fully as potent, has been its influence outside our own denomination. Its witness has been heard and regarded among various Reformed groups in our own country as well as in the Netherlands. Hence, the closing directive: “It behooves us to be thankful to God and then go ahead; work for the Standard Bearer with all our might exercising the office of believer!”