NOTE:—This article is a speech which the undersigned delivered at a school meeting of our Protestant Reformed School movement in Grand Rapids on Jan. 20, 1944.
It is possible, as I address you tonight, that my subject is somewhat beside the point. I am now a stranger in Jerusalem, particularly since the untimely death of our Church News. It is possible that you are not delaying at all. If so, my subject for tonight’s talk is wholly beside the point.
However, it is my opinion that my subject tonight is timely. This child, that of our own school movement, is now some four years old. It seems to me that its growth is painfully slow, that it has not advanced very far beyond the state of infancy. I have consequently resolved to ask you this question tonight: Why our delay? And I would view this question from a three-fold point of view:
I. Is it because this school is not sufficiently important?
II. Is it because we have an abundance of time?
III. Is it because we lack the means to go ahead?
I. Because it is not Sufficiently Important?
I fear that this is the heart of the matter. We may say, on the one hand, that our Christian schools of today are good enough for our children. Or we may assert, on the other hand, that we are not interested in Protestant Reformed principles as we ought to be. Is it not a fact that, in either case, we have said the same thing? I say that I fear that this is the case. I fear this not in the sense that I am doubtful as to the present state of affairs. But I am very much afraid of this attitude. I fear because so little can be done about it. To have lost our first love, to lack the fervor and enthusiasm to go on is a serious ailment, an almost incurable disease.
Permit me, nevertheless, to ask and also answer the question in our midst tonight: Is a school of our own sufficiently important? In general we may say that to instruct our children in the lie is worse, than not to instruct them at all. With this statement as such, none, I am sure, will disagree. To be sure, the various doses of poison may differ as to their amount, and will therefore also differ as to their effectiveness. I am sure that we would rather have our children, for example, receive no Bible instruction at all in our schools than to have them receive a distorted interpretation of Holy Writ. However, the question which we must answer is this: Are conditions such that a school of our own is a necessity, sufficiently important?
At this moment I would remind you of the theory of Common Grace—what is Common Grace? I am not at this moment asking the question: What is Arminianism? Arminianism, in distinction from Common Grace, deals with salvation, with the things eternal, corrupts God’s counsel, the cross, the efficacy of grace, the assurance of eternal glory. And, to be sure, Arminianism, too, is not found lacking in our schools today—we need but attend to the Bible instruction and the songs which our children learn to sing.
But what is Common Grace? Briefly, Common Grace is that theory which would teach us that concord, agreement, fellowship between the church and the world is possible in all things earthy and civil. It speaks of a restraining operation of the grace of God upon the hearts of men, checking evil and sin. It speaks of a positive operation of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men, rendering them able to do in things civil that which is good before God. Common Grace lauds Athens and minimizes Jerusalem, speaks of the children of darkness as putting the children of God to shame, speaks of God’s common covenant with the world as represented by Noah, wipes out all lines of distinction and demarcation between the Church and the world, nullifies the antithesis, destroys our distinctiveness, defends and nurtures a worldly-mindedness which is the death of the church of God in the midst of the world. Also on this point we are, of course, all in agreement. We have surely learned to hate and flee from and eschew this pernicious teaching.
But, if this be true, how pertinent is the question: Why the delay? It is on this issue of Common Grace, is it not, that we today constitute a group of Protestant Reformed Churches. I know that the error of Arminianism was also involved, that the famous “Three Points” are a mixture of Kuyperian Common Grace and Arminianism. But we are all aware of the fact that, practically, the issue of worldly mindedness lay at the root, the heart of the conflict. Years before 1924 this spirit of broadmindedness was already present and working in the churches in which we formerly had a name and a place. The Jansen-issue simply accelerated the controversy. Fact is, the spirit of worldly-mindedness is fundamentally always the reason why the lie creeps into the church, whatever may be the garb in which it appears. And it is because we held to the view that God’s people are a distinctive people, with a distinctive calling, that we also today stand alone. It is this truth which constitutes the very heart and fiber of our churches—it alone is our only right and hope of existence.
But, is it not true that the school is exactly that sphere where the error of Common Grace is most prevalent and dangerous? Common grace and the Christian School are mutually exclusive. We all know the purpose of the school. In the church we prepare our seed to assume their place in the midst of the church, to be able to partake consciously of the means of grace, such as the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, and to walk consciously as members of the body of Christ. But in the school we prepare the same children to assume their place in the midst of the world. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we teach them in such a way that they, in that world, may be a distinctive people, an wholly other people, walking in the world but not as of the world. Feed my child the poison of Common Grace and I have utterly failed in my Christian calling, in my Protestant Reformed calling. Our beginning as a Protestant Reformed people urges us to hold fast that which we have, especially with regard to the Christian School. The principles of our churches and the antithetical instruction of our children are inseparably connected.
II. Because we have an Abundance of Time?
First of all, time waits for no man. Time always marches on, never pauses or stops, never retraces its steps, moves irresistibly forward. Time is that steady, irresistible stream which, as soon as we are born, takes us up into its arms, carries us ever forward until we have reached our life’s end. That time waits for no man, does not retrace its steps, leaves things undone which have not been done. Upon that stream of time you come into contact with things only once—for a moment they stand before you and then are forever past. Upon that stream of time children receive their parents and these parents receive their children—also only once. Quickly these children glide through their years. Each successive year is extremely important And each successive year is also irrevocable, cannot be recalled.
Apply this, if you will, to the question whether, in the instruction of our children, we have an abundance
of time and can therefore afford to wait. So often we adopt the attitude: What is not done today can be done tomorrow. This is not true for the simple reason that today does not come tomorrow but tomorrow today will be gone forever. What we do not teach our children today cannot be taught tomorrow, is a duty sadly neglected, a task undone. Time is not at our service, does not accommodate us, does not adapt itself to our plans, but moves irresistibly forward. Already 4 years we have waited; during those years our children have received instruction, instruction in the very things we have learned to hate and flee; these years constitute half of a child’s instruction preparatory for high school—these years are gone, and, as far as these children are concerned, can never be recalled or replaced. Therefore, I ask: Why do we delay? Why do we wait? Time does not wait for us.
Secondly, may I in this connection call your attention to the fact that the days are evil. They are evil now. Not only is this true from the viewpoint of natural, physical hardships. To be sure, this war leaves much pain and sorrow and heartache in its wake. But the days are evil especially from a spiritual point of view. Also in these days it is becoming increasingly difficult for the church of God to assume her proper place and position in the midst of the world.
We must bear in mind, however, that the days shall become ever more evil. We must not, of course, listen to the siren songs of peace and good-will and thereby foolishly deceive ourselves. Let us rather hold fast to the Word of God which proclaims unto us that the end of all things is at hand, that, in the measure that that final moment approaches the driving force of that end of all things causes things to move forward ever more rapidly and irresistibly. Storms and breakers lie ahead, for us and for our children. How urgent therefore, how extremely timely comes to us the exhortation that we lose no time, that we delay not, but that we work while it is day and instruct our children in the fear of God, in the doctrine of the antithesis, so dear to us and our only comfort in the midst of a world which lieth in darkness. Let us therefore not wait, but go forward—there is no time to lose.
III. Because we Lack the Means to go Ahead?
Do we delay because we lack the means to go ahead? Understand us correctly. We do not mean to suggest that perhaps we can or may wait because we lack the means to go on. The question is not whether we can go on. But the question is emphatically whether we must go on. And permit me to say in this connection that God does not demand of us the impossible—He does not command us to do something which, by His grace, cannot be done. And God surely commands us to proceed with this, does He not? He surely commands us to instruct our children in the truth of His Word and testimony, does He not? He surely commands us, does He not, to have such schools which are Christian, wholly distinctive. He surely commands us, does He not, to come out from among them and be separate, to hate and flee all synthesis, worldly-mindedness, all common grace obliteration of the boundary lines and of all marks of distinction. He surely commands us, does He not, to feed our children that nourishment which can be conducive to their healthy growth so that they will be able to conduct themselves as a distinctive people in the midst of this evil world which is rapidly developing in iniquity and darkness. And I repeat: The Lord does not demand of us the impossible—it can be done, by His grace and Spirit, through prayer, and by putting our shoulder to the wheel.
Let us then proceed and go on. Do we lack the means here? I am sure that we in Grand Rapids are certainly in the position to make this project a reality and instruct our children in the way they should be instructed.