...

The undersigned does not know whether or not he will be enabled to finish a contemplated series of editorials on the above theme. And the reason is plain. He is appointed to substitute for the regular Editor-in-Chief, the Rev. H. Hoeksema, who is convalescing from a recent illness. And the stipulation reads that as soon as our Editor is able to resume his rubric or rubrics, he simply acquaints his substitute or substitutes, and that will be the end of their work. And if I take into account the latest news from the Pacific coast, he may soon reappear on the pages of our Standard Bearer. May God grant it to him and to us in His grace.

However, even if we have to halt our series before its completion, no harm will be done, since our Editor will no doubt at once enter upon the same theme and bring it to its conclusion.

But something must be written about the controversy of the covenant and related matters. Our people have a right to know how we stand over against the Liberated Churches anent this doctrine, as well as our stand with respect to the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

It will not be easy to write about this controversy, and that for more than one reason. First, because of the fundamental nature of this subject. It touches upon all the fundamental truths of Scripture: predestination, counsel of peace (so-called), the eternal counsel of God, the covenant in all its phases, the sacraments, especially holy baptism, the question as to who is in the covenant, and their part in that covenant, the promise, and the question of the heir of the promise, etc. Second, because of the danger involved in criticizing the Liberated Churches. It has happened more than once that the brethren of the Reformed Churches would use such criticism in order to attack the Liberated brethren in a way that is not seemly. Third, because the battlefield is far away. It has taken us many weary weeks, and even months, to wade through the voluminous material that came to our bands. And I am aware of the fact that I have not read all that was written on both sides of this controversy. So I am afraid that I will make mistakes in the proposed series. Still, I did not think it right to hold back because of all these reasons. Again, our people have a right to know how matters stand.

Now then, especially because of one of the reasons mentioned above I feel constrained in this introduction to outline in how far we are agreed with the Liberated Churches, maintaining Art. 31 of the Church Order of Dordt, the reason, namely, that the opposition might use us to hurt our liberated brethren.

When news of the split in Holland came to us, even before the Netherlands was entirely liberated from the Nazi hordes, we were saddened to hear that Dr. Schilder had split the church of our fathers. The first dispatches sounded gloomy indeed. However, there was one thing in those early dispatches which put us on our guard, namely, the reiterated statement that Dr. Schilder’s “behavior, tone, and actions” anent the controversy were so uncouth, out of order, and unseemly. As one correspondent put it very naively: “You could do nothing with him!”

That put us on our guard, for we know the tactics of those who militate against the truth. If they cannot overcome the man who stands for the truth, they will attack him on his behavior, his crudeness, his barbarous tactics, and so forth. Make a study of it in the ages that are past, and you will note that all the reformers were so accused. In 1924 we were also accused of the same thing. We have not forgotten the repeated accusation: you can do nothing with Rev. Hoeksema. He hangs on like a bulldog! We thank God that he did!

Yes, that put us on our guard, and I am glad it did.

Later, we received word from both sides, officially, and otherwise. An ever growing flood of papers, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, and personal testimonies appeared in our mail. Also De Reformatie appeared again; and still later, we received the various acts of synod, from both sides.

One thing became clear from the start: the churches of our fathers had corrupted themselves with respect to Reformed Church Polity. Rev. Toornvliet may say that the dogmatic side of the question or debate weighs heavier than the church-political side of that same question or debate, but I assure you that it is difficult to take a definite stand on that question. It would be interesting to make a profound study of the corruption of the church of the past which resulted in the rise of the papacy, and determine to what extent the ludicrous travesty of the Body of Christ was caused by dogmatic error or by church-political heresy.

Be that as it may: we saw clearly that the Reformed Churches were no longer Reformed with respect to the church-right of our fathers. Even as in America, those churches had arrived at Roman Catholicism with respect to the office of the king. Not the instituted instances of Christ, that is, the elders, but the Classis and the Synod shall rule the body of Christ. This error is so glaring, that we marvel how sincere people can be taken in by it.

Imagine: the Lord Jesus Christ appoints elders to rule the flock, to admonish those that are gone out of the way, to punish the impenitent, to banish the wolves out of the fold of Christ. That truth is abundantly taught in God’s Word. No one disputes it. But wait! Here is a body of men who are commissioned to a classis or a synod with definite and limited instructions from the first instances of the rule, namely, the consistory of the elders of the church. That they go at all, that they are delegated at all, has its reason and cause in a practical matter, this namely, that there are things to do in Cod’s churches that no one church can very well do alone, such as the caring for a Theological School, Home and Foreign Missions, Examination of those that are called to the holy ministry, etc. But, lo and behold, what they are doing today: They suspend and depose office bearers of consistories and congregations without any regard for the fact that Christ gave His Church elders for that very purpose! There have been cases where the minister of a certain church was suspended from office, while the church where he belonged and where he was subject to the rule and oversight by the elders, knew nothing of this fact. Later it was told them by letter.

I ask: is not such action principally the same as Roman Catholicism? The only difference is that in the latter there is one man who rules: the Pope. In the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (and also here in America) it is a body of a few men who call themselves a Reformed synod. And, still more evil, it is sometimes one or two men who give leadership (?) who dare do the things that belong to the body of elders of each instituted church. (Remember in this connection the voices of men like Hepp and H. H. Kuyper at the Synod of 1939.) Looking at that synod of 1939 we can now see that coming events cast their shadows before!

Oh yes, it became very clear to us at the very first after the liberation of Holland that the brethren who were cast out suffered the same misery we endured in 1924 and 1925.

And the result was that we at once felt drawn to them.

But later we read De Reformatie. And at first we were shocked. We noted that the break had come on the covenant of grace issue, with related matters such as the promise, baptism, etc. And the stand of the liberated churches reminded us of the stand of the late Prof. Heyns, who had applied pelagianism to the doctrine of the Covenant of grace. In fact, the name of Prof. Heyns and his works were mentioned in one of the first issues of De Reformatie after the liberation of Holland. Long quotations appeared in the writings of Rev. Bremmer to show that all the children of God’s people, elect and reprobate alike, have a right to “the offering or giving of Christ in the promise”. (De Reformatie, July 13, 1945. The second issue after the liberation of Holland. Here follows the whole quotation. I translated: “No, unto all comes the same calling of the Gospel, and that calling is earnestly meant by God. They are seriously called, say the Canons of Dordt, and Christ is offered unto all in the Gospel, this Gospel is confirmed by God with precious oaths, and it is a great boon, this calling by the Gospel, and this offer or this giving of Christ in the promise. It comes to all, elect and those that are not-covenant-children with the testimony of God, that they all have a right to it.”

I could quote stronger statements than this one, to show that they teach how every child of God’s people have a right to this giving of Christ and all His blessings in the promise.

Another matter which made us pause and question was the matter of the so-called conditional promise. If we are to enter heaven we have to fulfil certain conditions. Also on this point there is abundant proof from the writings of the liberated brethren.

Suffice it to say at this juncture that we were suspicious, to say the least.

However, personal contact was sought with Prof. Dr. K. Schilder, and we were very desirous to have him come to our shores in order that he might be able to shed light on the above and many other questions. Without going into details, I can say in all sincerity that this contact of recent months has been a great blessing for both Dr. Schilder and for us. We understand one another much better than heretofore. Not that we are agreed on the covenant questions. But this: much misunderstanding has been removed. From both sides. Allow me to mention just one thing from each side: One, we know now that all pelagianism is wholly foreign to the conception of the covenant and baptism on the part of Dr. Schilder. We arrive at the same destination and conclusions, but along a different way. More about all this later. Two, Dr. Schilder now knows why we detest and wholly reject the late Prof. Heyns’ conception of the covenant and baptism; you may have the proof in one of his recent articles in De Reformatie.

But I must close here. My space is filled. More about these matters later, D.V.