Dr. Schilder published his first installment of his criticism on our Declaration of Principles in the Reformatie, Vol. XXYI, p. 44.

Once more, I am very glad that he writes. If the Declaration of Principles even has no other fruit than that it provokes an open and above-board discussion of the truth and of the points of difference between the Reformed Churches (Art. 31) and our Protestant Reformed Churches, I think it is well worthwhile that the proposed declaration was decided upon by our last synod. This does not mean that I am of the opinion that the declaration, after it has been thoroughly discussed and criticized, should not be adopted by synod. On the contrary, I think it should be. But in the meantime the discussion concerning those important points of doctrine is itself very important.

Of course, I am still sorry that, this discussion was not from the start led in the proper channels, that is, as a fraternal discussion between the deputies for correspondence of the Liberated Churches and ours. But the blame for this must be laid at the door of the deputies of the Netherlands churches. First they waited for more than a year before our deputies ever heard from them. Then they consulted the Revs, de Jong and Kok and met with them about the official business of the church, disregarding the official deputies that were appointed by our churches, and behind their backs. Besides, they met without keeping minutes and without publishing a report of what was discussed and agreed upon. The sad result was the now notorious letter of Prof. Holwerda addressed to the Canadian immigrants, a letter which, as far as its contents are concerned, was almost entirely untrue, irrespective of the question who is to blame for that thorough misrepresentation, Prof Holwerda, or the Revs, de Jong and Kok, or both. The truth of this, I say once more, I have never been able to discover, although for my own peace of mind I am very much in need of it.

Nevertheless, I am glad that now, at least, the Declaration of Principles provokes a belated discussion. And once more, I wish to state that I hope that the discussion remains brotherly and above all, clear and succinct and to the point.

Dr. Schilder in his first installment discusses the following [quotation from our Declaration of Principles: “Seeing then that this is the clear teaching of our confession, we repudiate the teaching that the promise of the covenant is conditional and for all that are baptized.”

The main thrust of the article by Dr. Schilder is that he tries to show that this statement is completely lacking in clarity and in succinct formulation, and for that reason cannot serve as a binding formula of doctrine.

Proof for this statement is, as I expect, still forthcoming. It is at least not in the article itself.

But in the end of his article Prof. Schilder appeals to the preface of the statenvertaling of the Dutch Bible, which was rendered by Dutch theologians appointed by the Synod of Dordrecht. In that preface they speak repeatedly of conditions. And Dr. Schilder asks whether it is at all conceivable that these Dutch theologians were so naive that they, right after they condemned the Remonstrants, would write the following sentences:

“By this (that is, by the word ‘berith’ or ‘covenant’) is properly understood the covenant itself, which God made with men, to give unto them under certain conditions eternal life. . . . The old covenant is that which God made with the first man before the fall, in which eternal life is promised under condition of a completely perfect obedience and keeping of the law …. and is therefore called the covenant of the law, which God again proposed to the Israelites, in order that they might learn therefrom that they must seek their salvation in another covenant, which is called the new covenant and consists in this, that God ordained His Son to be Mediator and promises eternal life under condition that we believe in him; and is called the covenant of grace. . . . These two covenants are indeed one and the same as far as their essence is concerned, seeing that in both the remission of sins, salvation and eternal life is promised under condition of believing in the Mediator, but are being distinguished in respect to the administration of both, which is much clearer in the New.”

I am rather surprised that Dr. Schilder appeals to this preface of the Statenvertaling in support of the contention that faith is a condition unto eternal life in the covenant of grace. For after all, this preface is nothing but the expression of the private opinion of a few theologians,—I think there were six—appointed by the Synod of Dordrecht. It therefore has no authority whatsoever. To many of the statements in the preface, as quoted by Dr. Schilder, I strenuously object as unReformed and contrary to the confessions. But if Dr. Schilder wants to criticize the Declaration of Principles, he must certainly appeal to the confessions, and to them alone. For on the Three Forms of Unity it is based, and on it only. We are not dealing with the opinion of private theologians, but with the confession. It uniformly speaks of faith not as a condition, but as a means and instrument. It speaks as follows:

“We reject the errors of those who teach that God chose the act of faith as a condition of salvation.” Canons, I, B, 3.

And again: “We reject the errors of those who teach that faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are conditions and causes without which the unchangeable election to glory does not occur.” Canons I B, 5.

And again: “We reject the errors of those who teach that there is in this life no fruit and no consciousness of the unchangeable election to glory, nor any certainty, except that which depends on a changeable and uncertain condition.” Canons I, B, 7.

And again: “The synod rejects the errors of those who teach that the perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election, or a gift of God, gained by the death of Christ, but a condition of the new covenant, which (as they declare) man before his decisive election and justification must fulfill through his own free will.” Canons, V, B, 1.

Dr. Schilder seems to be surprised or thinks it is inconceivable that so soon after the adoption of the Canons and the rejection of the Remonstrants these deviating expressions (deviating in my opinion) are found in the preface of the Staten Bijbel. But there is nothing surprising in this at all.

History, on the contrary, teaches very clearly that repeatedly men corrupt the Reformed faith exactly right after a mountain peak of faith and truth is attained. Besides, do not forget that all the delegates to the Synod of Dordrecht were by no means equally Reformed. There were even downright Arminians at the Synod. Think of a man like Martinius. However this may be, one certainly cannot appeal to the opinions of private theologians over against such a document as the Canons of Dordrecht. If, therefore, Dr. Schilder wants to argue, he must place himself foursquare on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity.

To it alone the Declaration of Principles appeals.

And nothing else can possibly be mixed into our discussion.