This year the Convocation of our Theological School was at our Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, where a fair-sized audience was gathered for the occasion. For several years now our seminary convocation has been a public occasion to which the people of our Michigan area churches are invited. It always proves to be an evening of spiritual enjoyment and edification, as well as an evening of refreshment and encouragement for our seminary professors and students. I only wish sometimes that more of our people could and would join us on this occasion.

It was Prof. Hanko’s turn to deliver the convocation address this year. It was an address to which all our churches and people may well take heed. In order that you may do so, a transcript of his address will be found elsewhere in this issue.

As usual, it fell to me as Rector to introduce our students. There were no new students to introduce. Besides, there was a reduction in our student body, due to the fact that the Free Reformed students are no longer with us, having transferred to Calvin Seminary. We have three seminarians who are beginning their third year of training: Messrs. Russell Dykstra, Steven Key, and Charles Terpstra. Back for his second of three years of training is our Singaporean brother, Jaikishin Mahtani. And in the final year of his pre-seminary training is Mr. Mitchell Dick. May our God bless our professors and students in the new school term!

A surprise feature of the evening’s program—a surprise, that is, to me, because I knew nothing of it until I read the evening’s program—was the fact that the Theological School Committee prepared a commemoration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of my ordination as Minister of the Gospel and the twenty-fifth anniversary of my installation as Professor of Theology. At the request of the TSC, I have included an account of this surprise commemoration, a transcript of the presentation—remarks of the Rev. Lubbers, of the letter from the Consistory of Doon, Iowa, and of the remarks made by Mr. Menno Smits as representative of the Consistory of South Holland, Illinois.

I take this opportunity also to express publicly my hearty thanks and appreciation for this kind and encouraging gesture to the Theological School Committee and to all who had a part in it.

Thirty-Five Years of Faithful Service

On September 5 we celebrated the fact that it was thirty-five years ago that Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema was ordained into the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in our Doon, Iowa Protestant Reformed Church. This represents many years of the faithfulness of our covenant God, both to brother Hoeksema and to our churches. The Theological School Committee felt that this anniversary date should not pass by unnoticed, not for Prof. Hoeksema’s and-his dear wife’s sake, but above all for the sake of the Lord Who gave strength, courage, and faithfulness.

To God be the glory!

It was on the evening of September 5 that many brothers and sisters met for the Convocation program of a new school year of our Seminary. A good and profitable program was rendered and enjoyed by those present in the Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church. Prof. Hanko gave the convocation address, the students were introduced, and the school and the professors, students, and Theological School Committee were commended to the faithful love of God in prayer.

However, there was a special number on the program. The Theological School Committee had prepared a beautiful plaque in honor of Prof. Hoeksema’s commemorating thirty-five years of service in our churches. Ten of these years, 1949-1959, were years which were devoted to labors of love in the churches at Doon, Iowa and South Holland, Illinois. There were years of “sturm and dranq”; they were the years of trouble and stress; these were the years when the souls of men were tried. Often such days of stress bring out the best in God’s servants as well as the worst. Such was the service of Prof. Hoeksema in Doon, during the days of the actual schism in Classis West. Later in South Holland, too, the matter of faithfulness to the Reformed faith was tried. And the bottom-line was ever and anew: what hath God wrought!

Both the Consistories of Doon and South Holland were requested to be represented at this time in Hudsonville Church.

All in all, it was a fitting evening, a joyous occasion. We returned to our homes in the confidence that hitherto the LORD has helped us, and that as the faithful God He will continue to be with us.

Our prayer is that the LORD may continue to use Professor Hoeksema, as well as our other Professors, in the years to come for the teaching of young men to preach the Reformed faith, so that in future generations faithful men may stand in God’s church, holding forth the Word of life.

God Who entrusted the Word as a trust to the church of the ages is able to keep this trust unto the day of the Lord.

He is faithful Who has promised!

—Theological School Committee

per Rev. George C. Lubbers

P.S. The actual dates were October 13, 1949 at Doon and September 4, 1959 at the seminary.

—HCH

Presentation of Plaque to Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Students and Faculty Members, Members of the Theological School Committee, and Consistories of Doon, Iowa and South Holland, Illinois:

Tonight we have the happy occasion of recognizing the goodness and the tender mercies of the Lord over His church, as represented in our Protestant Reformed Churches in America, in granting us a faithful servant, Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema.

This year of 1984 numbers thirty-five years of uninterrupted service and ministry in God’s church, the church which is the pillar and ground of the truth.

I feel not a little honored to be requested to make these remarks, and presently to hand to Prof. Hoeksema the tasteful and fitting plaque which the Theological School Committee has prepared.

Tonight we remember gratefully that Prof. Hoeksema served ten years in the ministry in the respective churches of Doon, Iowa and South Holland, Illinois, and twenty-five years in our Seminary.

Full well we know that the final, complete, and adequate reward for God’s faithful ministers will not be here on earth; neither is it in the domain of any man or woman adequately to judge of the value of the service performed by any faithful steward. However, we do know that it is sought in a steward of the Lord, a mere under-rower of Christ, that he be found faithful. It is only in the grace of God that any man may serve in an office in God’s church. Truly, these offices are very beautiful in the sight of God; they are full of prophetic and priestly beauty. They are God’s offices, and it is His work which a servant of the Lord is called to perform.

We commend Professor Hoeksema lovingly unto the day when each steward shall receive a reward according to his work. It will be a reward of grace for labors performed by grace, and that, too, unto which Christ alone can and does enable His servants to perform faithfully unto the very end. Paul does not say for naught that he has constant thanksgiving to Christ, Who enabled him, accounting him faithful, placing him in the ministry.

May Prof. Hoeksema, together with the other Professors, continue to be strengthened, in order that they may be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

We believe it fitting and proper that we extend to Prof. Hoeksema a special token of our gratitude to God and as an expression of our appreciation for his many labors a plaque which reads as follows:

Faithful Service Award

Presented to

Homer C. Hoeksema

for Devoted Service

in the Gospel Ministry

And in the Training

of Students for the ministry

1949-1984

Theological School Committee

Protestant Reformed Churches in America

And now I have the honor in the name of the Theological School Committee of the Protestant Reformed Churches to present this plaque made specially for this occasion. The artwork is from the hand of sister Terri Gleason, the beautiful oak background is from the hand of one of the brethren in our churches. Heartfelt thanks to both.

I ask Prof. Hoeksema to step forward and receive this plaque.

Transcript of Letter from the Consistory of Doon

Dear Prof. H.C. Hoeksema,

It was with great joy that we accepted the invitation to send a word of congratulations upon your thirty-fifth anniversary in the ministry of the Word of God. We give thanks to God for His grace to us through your faithful labors on behalf of the gospel of our risen Lord. The Scriptures instruct us that the living Lord Jesus gives to His church, which is found in a world of sin and unbelief, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints. Therefore we have and do now receive you as a gift of God to us and to all our churches.

We fondly recall your labors among us as our Pastor in Doon, Iowa. God used you to give us a clearer understanding of and greater appreciation for the truths of God’s covenant with believers and their seed and the glorious truths of sovereign grace. Your pointed, incisive instruction in the principles of the gospel, both in the preaching and the catechism room, gave our small, struggling congregation the spiritual strength necessary to persevere in a most difficult time. We remember well the troubles and tensions of 1953. We thank God that our then-youthful pastor was a tower of strength for us and for Classis West, which body experienced that unfaithfulness permeated its ministerial ranks.

The consistory of the Doon congregation expresses our indebtedness to you for the training of most of our recent Pastors received from you in seminary. We believe that our churches have received pastors able rightly to divide the word of truth. In no small way we are indebted to you, though not to you only, for exegetically biblical and confessionally sound sermons proclaimed from our pulpits throughout our denomination. The Lord has used you for the cause of truth and righteousness in our midst. May Jehovah, our God, be praised.

Finally, we conclude this word of congratulations by considering our need in the future. We all know and thankfully acknowledge that no mere man is indispensable. But we know too that God uses the means of earthen vessels to accomplish His purpose in Christ Jesus. May the Lord, therefore, continue to give you health and strength of body, stamina and vigor to perform your many responsibilities, and, above all, the graces of faithfulness to His word, humility before God, and love of Him in Christ Jesus.

We need to hear your voice of leadership in the churches. May our God bless us by giving you several more years of service in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, which churches we love.

In the love of Christ Jesus,

The Doon Consistory

(w.s.) Rev. M. Kamps, President

Jim Hoogendoorn, Clerk

Transcript of Remarks by Menno Smits

The Council of the Prot. Ref. Church of South Holland extends its greetings and wishes to congratulate, Prof. Hoeksema on his 35 years of service in our denomination.

He served 10 years as pastor, six of those years in Doon, Iowa and four years in South Holland; and now tonight we commemorate his 25th year as professor in our seminary.

It is with gratitude in our hearts that we give thanks to the Lord for using Prof. Hoeksema these many years in the training and instruction of young men for the ministry.

We pray that God may continue to use Prof. Hoeksema for this important task, and through his teaching, along with the other professors, prepare men faithfully to proclaim, defend, and preserve God’s Word as has been revealed to us, until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us continue to pray for the professors and students in our seminary. Thank-you.

Speech—Our Seminary and the End of the Age

Introduction

Although my speech tonight, in a general way, is based upon Romans 13:11, 12, it is not my purpose to give a detailed exegesis of this text, nor to preach a sermon on it.

It is rather my purpose to discuss with you, in the light of this passage from God’s Word, our need for students in the Seminary. This need is critical, not for the Seminary so much, but for the churches in which God has given us our particular calling to labor on behalf of His kingdom. It is not our wellbeing, the welfare of the Seminary that is at issue; it is the welfare of the churches of which you all are a part. This need does not seem to me to be recognized sufficiently among us, and it is for this reason that I wish to speak a bit about it.

Although there are different interpretations of this text given among commentators, it seems clear on the very surface of it that the Scriptures are speaking here of the end of the world in relation to its present history.

However, this idea is presented in somewhat figurative language, in terms of a contrast between day and night. The present history of the world is compared with the night, while the age that shall come when our Lord appears is compared with the day.

This figure is not strange by any means to Scripture. When Scripture makes use of it, Scripture refers to the day and night as moral-ethical ideas rather than merely chronological concepts. In fact, it is not to say too much to insist that God originally created the day and the night as figures of the spiritual day and the spiritual night, the latter of which came when sin entered the world.

Thus, in Scripture, the darkness which characterizes the night is synonymous with sin and guilt, moral corruption, and perversion, evil in all its forms, and death. Light, on the other hand, is a figure of holiness and righteousness, moral purity and sanctity, goodness in all its forms, and true life.

The night came into this world with the fall of Adam and Eve, for then the world came under the direction and control of Satan who comes from the darkest regions of hell to lead men away from God and to make this world his empire. He represents all that is of darkness, for he comes with the lie and with every manner of sin. Man dwells in this darkness because he has forsaken God and given himself over to Satan’s rule. All his works are characterized by darkness, i.e., by the lie and by the works of evil. As this sin develops in the human race through the conquering of the powers of the creation and the subjection of them all to sin, the night of this world’s history grows ever darker. The darkness of hell pervades history, for the prince of darkness rules.

But God does not surrender the rule of the universe to Satan. He rules supreme in all that He does. God causes the light to shine in this world of darkness, though sometimes it seems to us as if it shines very feebly and is all but extinguished.

That light is principally Jesus Christ, of Whom John says, “He was the true light.” Christ is the true light because He is the very Truth of God in this world of the lie. He is the Holy One, the perfectly righteous One, Who was Himself holy and Who accomplished all holiness and righteousness by His death and resurrection. It is through Christ that we are also the light of the world. Through Christ, God has given His truth to us, which truth has given us Christ’s holiness and perfect righteousness. In this all-pervasive darkness, the church shines as light. It may be a flickering light sometimes; it may even appear to go out completely; but it is there, shining by the power of Him Who is the true light.

Nevertheless, the church continues to live in the midst of this darkness. And, just as day follows night in creation, so also it is in the history of the world. The night of sin and death goes on, and the day will not dawn until our Lord comes back again to bring in the everlasting day, where there shall never be night. It is to that day that the people of God look forward in longing and expectation.

But the history of this world serves the coming of the day of Christ, just as the night serves the coming and glory of the day. And it is for this reason that God’s people, representatives of the light, give testimony and witness to that light in their life here in the night.

It is of that testimony to the light that the apostle speaks primarily in this text. And he gives urgency to that by calling attention to the fact that the dawning of the new day is not far off. He reminds us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. There are no rays of light penetrating the eastern horizon as yet; indeed the night grows ever darker. But everyone knows that it is darkest just before dawn; and the very darkness of the night expresses exactly the fact that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.

To give urgency to this, the apostle even reminds the people of God that the day of their salvation is nearer than when we believed. The passing of the night must not be measured in long and incomprehensible periods of time, but in matters of days, or weeks. Though we believed a short time ago, the dawning of the day is nearer than then. Each day of our life of faith brings us nearer that day.

That this is true in our times cannot be denied. The signs of Christ’s coming are very clear and unmistakable. We cannot mention them all tonight, nor need we. There are only two or three, related to what I have to say tonight, to which I call attention.

A sign of the coming of the day is the preaching of the gospel in every land. This has happened in our day, and God has given to our churches a part in that work. Through the work of missions we labor in Singapore, Jamaica, and Africa, places where the gospel is relatively new.

Another sign of the return of Christ is the apostasy which characterizes the “church” world of our day. It becomes increasingly severe as more churches depart from the faith, and the movement to false doctrine gains speed and momentum. It is in this respect too that we have a calling: a calling to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel through our Domestic Mission program, and a calling to maintain and defend the truth, something which is particularly important within the established church.

It is through these labors that we are called to witness to the light. And the nearness of the end of the night and the coming of the day gives urgency to this. It never really ceases to amaze me that we, in this country, live in a time when we can be busy with these things without interference and harassment. We still have freedom to worship our God according to the Scriptures; we still are able to educate our children in Protestant Reformed schools; we still are able to send out missionaries in this land and abroad to be a means through whom God gathers His elect; we still are able to defend and develop the truth as it is taught in God’s Word.

But the fact remains that the night of sin, the darkness of sin, becomes increasingly black, and the time is near when we will be able to do these things no longer. Thus there is an urgency about our calling, which nothing can minimize, to use the time God has given us for this purpose before the night apparently swallows up the light altogether.

It is clear from all I have said that at the heart of our calling to walk as children of the light is the calling to be busy in the preaching of the Word. It is in this way that the gospel is brought to the church and on the mission field. It is in this way that the truth is preserved and maintained while the darkness of the lie becomes more intense and impenetrable. It is obvious, therefore, that if we are to be faithful to our calling in this respect, we are to do all in our power to preserve the ministry of the Word among us. And this means students in our Seminary.

The fact is, however, that we are not receiving very many. I would like to have you consider for a moment just a few brief facts. At present we have three vacant churches who are calling and five students, four of whom are in the Seminary and will graduate, the Lord willing, in another two years. Of these four, one is committed to the work in Singapore. If there would be students starting college this fall with a view to coming to Seminary (and I do not know of any) it would be 1992 before they would graduate. By that time several of our older ministers will be nearing retirement or will already be retired. And, during this eight years, under God’s blessing, we can look forward to the establishment of new congregations. This all points to a severe and critical shortage of ministers to carry on the work.

Why is it that we have such a shortage of students? I have talked with others about this, some who are teachers, some who are my colleagues in the ministry, and some who are people occupying the pews. The reasons that are given are these, which I want briefly to mention and discuss with you.

In the first place, it has been pointed out that, up until a short time ago, all our churches were filled and there were no vacancies. This has a way of discouraging students because they tend to wonder if there will be a place for them when they graduate from school.

Now, this is, of course, a matter of faith. Although there have been times in the history of our churches when all the churches had pastors, there has never been a time when graduates from our Seminary had no place. I was in Seminary in such a time, and was told more than once that it was foolish for me to continue my studies since there was no place for me in the churches. But before I started my second year, the split in 1953 came and there were so many vacant churches asking for help that I could not even go to school very much during my second year.

This is all, I said, a matter of faith. Jesus’ words are always true: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” When God calls to the ministry, God calls knowing the work the one He calls will have.

In the second place, I have been told that the high academic standards of the Seminary are a barrier to students. Because the demands of the Seminary are so great, students are hesitant to enter, fearing they might not succeed.

This is, of course, a difficult matter for me to discuss, for I am on the inside. But a couple of remarks can be made in this connection. The first is that I doubt whether any of our people who are seriously concerned about the heavy responsibilities of the ministry are interested in a mediocre minister, who has been only shabbily trained. The tendency in our day in Seminaries is to make studies easier and easier. Neither you nor I want this to happen in our school. In the second place, however, I do not really think this is true. I do not think that the standards of the Seminary are any higher than when I went to school and studied under Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff. The fact is that any average student, provided he is willing to study and work hard (as he will have to do all his life if he is a conscientious minister) is able to “make the grade” in school. But, in the third place, this brings me to another point which has been made especially by our teachers.

Concerned teachers have told me that they find within our schools an increasing lack of interest in and concern for studying. While there are still students who are conscientious in their work and who apply themselves to their studies, the number of them is markedly decreasing. The desire for learning, studying, mastering material is on the wane. The ones who apply themselves are considered odd. The chief concern of a growing number of students is in having a good time, playing sports, earning money, and not in hard-nose study. This, of course, has a lot to say about our homes, for the students in school reflect the homes from which they come. And this leads me to yet another point. There is, I am told, and the evidence seems clear, a gradual decline in interest in the things of God’s kingdom. In a recent sermon on the text: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . ,” Prof. Decker made some important points on this subject. A general spiritual malaise characterizes many of us because we become increasingly engulfed in the materialism and carnality of our times. The ministry requires sacrifice and will require more such in the future as the night grows darker. As respect for and interest in God’s Word declines, there is also a decline in the respect in which ministers were once held. They are often subjected to scathing criticism and constant reproach. To give one’s life to the ministry under these circumstances is considered too great a sacrifice to make. And the spiritual strength to make it is too great when worldliness has sapped our spiritual interests and resolves.

The answer to this lies, of course, in the admonition of the apostle: “It is high time to awake out of sleep. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

We stand, I am convinced, at a crucial stage in our history. In many respects the future strength and well-being of our churches is to be decided in the next few years. And, while there are many considerations which enter into this whole matter, none can deny that a strong ministry lies at the heart of the strength of our churches. But we will have no strong ministry if we have no ministry at all.

The responsibility for all this rests upon us all. It rests upon our pastors, our consistories, our homes. It rests upon you and me. Let us be earnest in prayer that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers into His vineyard. And may our gracious God be pleased to hear and answer our prayers.