Yes! To God Alone The Glory! That is our response as we review the ministries of our recently retired ministers: the Revs. Cornelius Hanko, George C. Lubbers, Marinus Schipper, and Herman Veldman. That these men: have become emeritus evokes a feeling of sadness among us of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The lives of almost every one of our members have been touched either directly or indirectly by these men through their preaching, teaching, and writing. Now they are retiring from the active ministry of the Gospel. Careers of over forty years each in the ministry of the Word of God and Sacraments are ending. Four faithful ministers will no longer be active among us. We are going to miss that, and it will seem strange. There’s something very sad about all that.
Yet it is a time for rejoicing, rejoicing in the Lord; a time for praise and thanks! It is not a time for praising men. The emeriti ministers must not be praised. We must never praise men. The emeriti ministers would not want that either. And certainly God does not want us to do that. It is a time to praise and thank God. It is a time to say: Soli Deo Gloria! There are many reasons for this. God raised up these four men; God called them to the ministry; and God equipped them to serve in the ministry. God gave them to our Churches and for over forty years God used them for the preaching of the Word. God worked His own work among us through these servants. Thus we have abundant reason for rejoicing upon the occasion of the retirement of these servants of God and of His Christ. We may and indeed ought to rejoice in the work which God accomplished through them the past forty years or so.
All four of these men were young men at the time of the formation of our churches in 1924. All four received their pre-seminary and seminary instruction at the feet of Herman Hoeksema and George Ophoff. They belong to the first generation of Protestant Reformed ministers and the last generation to have had personal contact with 1924. These men were in the prime of their ministerial careers during the difficult years surrounding the. tragic split in our churches in 1953. Along with Hoeksema and Ophoff and others they stood in the vanguard of the battle for the defense of the truth of the Covenant of grace and the unconditional promise. They were the leaders of the minority which remained faithful to the Protestant Reformed truth.
Rev. Hanko was born in Grand Rapids and ordained in September of 1929. In a career spanning some forty-eight years he faithfully served six congregations: Hull, Iowa; Oaklawn, Illinois; Manhatten, Montana; First, Grand Rapids; Redlands, California; and Hudsonville, Michigan. Rev. Hanko served the longest (sixteen years) at First Grand Rapids. For the first five of those sixteen years (1948-1953) First numbered approximately five hundred families.
Rev. Lubbers was born in Beaver Dam, Michigan and ordained in September of 1934. His career numbers some forty-four years during which time he served six congregations by the grace of God. Twice during his ministry Rev. Lubbers served as a missionary. For ten years (19541964) he served as .Home Missionary. The fruit upon these labors as missionary was the organization of Loveland, Colorado and Forbes and Isabel, South Dakota into Protestant Reformed congregations. During the years 1970-1974 Rev. Lubbers served as Missionary to the Island of Jamaica. His last pastorate was at Pella, Iowa.
Rev. Schipper was born at Holland, Michigan. His first contact with Rev. Herman Hoeksema came when as a boy he was a member of the Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church of which Hoeksema was pastor. Rev. Schipper was ordained in January of 1937 and during the forty-one years of his ministry he served five congregations: Grand Haven, Michigan; Second (now Southwest), Grand Rapids; South Holland, Illinois; Southwest, Wyoming, Michigan; and Southeast, Grand Rapids. His longest pastorate, some sixteen years, was his last at Southeast.
Rev. Veldman was born on Chicago’s West side and was ordained in September of 1932. During a forty-six year career in the ministry Rev. Veldman diligently served nine congregations: Pella, Iowa; Creston, Grand Rapids; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Edgerton, Minnesota; Redlands, California; Hope, Walker, Michigan; Hudsonville, Michigan; and Southwest, Wyoming. While pastoring Hamilton, Canada Rev. Veldman was ousted from office because that congregation refused to be a Protestant Reformed Church. He taught Bible at Adams Street Protestant Reformed Christian School until the Lord called him to labor in Edgerton, Minnesota.
These four by the grace of God, sometimes at personal sacrifice, performed a good work among the Protestant Reformed Churches. Truly it may be said they were good and faithful servants of their Lord. That good work includes primarily the thousands of sermons they preached in the churches and on the mission fields. How many saints were brought to repentance by that preaching? No one can count them! How many people of God were instructed and built up in the faith and love and knowledge of God? Are you and I able to count how many were encouraged along. their earthly pilgrimages by their preaching? A significant part of that good work is the countless catechism classes they were privileged to teach. Again,. how many children of God’s covenant were nourished in God’s fear by that teaching? How many children of the covenant were led to the consciousness of their faith and confessed their faith under that instruction? These men by God’s grace performed a good work as pastors of God’s flock. They edified countless families on Family Visitation. They encouraged the saints in their afflictions and troubles and sicknesses from the Word of God. They brought the comfort of the hope of the resurrection to the dying and sorrowing among God’s children. That good work includes the labors they performed for the Churches in common. They gave good and wise guidance at many classes. They provided strong and faithful leadership at many Synods especially during the difficult years preceding and following 1953. Untiring efforts were put forth by them on Synodical Committees, especially the Mission and Theological School Committees. For many years they faithfully submitted articles for theStandard Bearer, instructing our people on a variety of subjects. That is the good work which they performed by the grace of God: the preaching and teaching, the leading of Bible-study Societies, caring for the flock of Christ.
Reviewing the ministries of these men of God we and they may well pray with the Psalmist: “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Psalm 90:16, 17) Establish that work, Lord, is our prayer. Confirm and maintain it. Let it not have been in vain! We may be sure that God hears and answers that prayer. The work of the ministry of these servants of God shall not be in vain because God shall surely establish it. And God shall establish it because it is His own work through them.
Therefore, while we are saddened because the work of these spiritual leaders has come to an end in our churches, we may look back over the years of their ministries with joy and thanksgiving. Through that work, God’s work in and through them, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ has been gathered, built up in the faith and love of God, preserved against the winds of false doctrine, and blessed with the blessings of salvation. It is a work that shall stand into eternity. It is and it shall forever be established because it is God’s work of grace. The labor of these men is not in vain in the Lord.
Beloved brethren: Revs. Hanko, Lubbers, Schipper, and Veldman; rejoice in that! May God bless you richly in your retirement years. When those years are over you may by His mercy look forward to glory when you shall hear from the Savior Himself: “Well done, Good and Faithful Servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Soli Deo Gloria!