Now, as I remarked, I am not at present interested in Yankee-Dutch in the literal sense of the word. I wanted to call your attention to the very real and always present peril of Yankee-Dutch in doctrine and in our practical walk of life.
The first is plainly suggested by the passage which I quoted from Nehemiah. The children spoke half in the Hebrew language and half in the language of the heathen. Their language was a mixture. They knew the pure Hebrew no longer. Their speech was adulterated. Now, when our children of the second and third generation in this country wean away entirely from the language their fathers spoke in the old country, the result is not so serious that we need worry about the preservation and maintenance of the truth of the Word of God. Time was when a desperate effort was made to preserve the Holland language. Fear was expressed frequently that with the loss of the Holland language the knowledge of Reformed truth would necessarily decrease and ultimately disappear. And, perhaps, it may be granted that this fear was not wholly without reason, that it was not quite so foolish as by others it was sometimes presented to be. Naturally, with the loss of the Dutch language the last tie that still connected the immigrants from the Netherlands to the Reformed Churches of the land of our fathers would be severed, a veritable treasure of Reformed literature would forever be closed to them. But the fact remains, nevertheless, that the knowledge of Reformed truth is not inseparably bound up with the Holland language. It is, indeed, very well possible to maintain and propagate and preserve in generations the truth of our Confessions in the language of the country of our choice. With Hebrew, however, this was quite different. For, it was the language of revelation, the language of Moses and the prophets, the sole language in which the truth of God’s covenant had been revealed and preserved. To lose the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue was to have no longer access to God’s revelation. To speak half in the Hebrew language and half in the language of the heathen nations, as was done by the children of those Jews that had married heathen wives, inevitably involved a mixture of the truth of God and the lie of idolatry. They confused the two. Spiritually these children spoke Yankee-Dutch.
And in our own day one may hear a good deal of religious Yankee-Dutch.
This is true of the modern religious world in general. It is curious to notice how long certain religious traditions can be preserved. In our country the influence of the old puritan traditions may still be witnessed in many customs. Public assemblies are frequently opened by calling on the name of God. Thanksgiving days are proclaimed officially for the whole nation. Special prayer-days may be convoked occasionally in the same way. Public oaths are sworn, sometimes with one’s hand on the Bible. Even in political speeches one may hear a religious note occasionally, and divines will pronounce the benediction per radio over the entire nation. But at the same time the contents of these proclamations, speeches and prayers plainly reveal that the true knowledge of the truth of the Scriptures is not known or deliberately denied. They represent a mixture of the truth and the lie, modern philosophy in a religious garb. Old religious terms, such as conversion, regeneration, the kingdom of God, righteousness and the like, are preserved and employed, but they received a new content and significance. The result is rather confusing and misleading.
If on a Sunday you happen to be away from home and enter one of the many churches from whose pulpits long ago the gospel was preached, you will notice the same thing. Outwardly nothing seems changed since the days of the Puritans. The Bible is still on the pulpit, the old forms of worship are still preserved, religious hymnbooks may be found in the pews, the minister still wears his toga. The congregation still gathers to worship, to sing and to pray and to offer their gifts to the Lord. The minister still reads the Scripture-lesson and chooses a text as a basis of the sermon he delivers. But the language of prayer and sermon is Yankee-Dutch. The text chosen by the preacher is only a pretext. In vain one expects to hear the truth of the Word of God expounded or the gospel preached. The preacher speaks half in the “Hebrew” language and half in the language of the modern heathen. But the truth is lost. It is so hopelessly distorted and corrupted that one who entered to hear the “joyful sound” can only leave with disappointment and bitterness in his soul, because of the hypocrisy and sham of one who pretends to be a “minister of the Word of God,” yet so wantonly offers to his flock the Yankee-Dutch of human philosophy instead!
But we need not depart so far from home as the modern world and the false church to meet with this evil phenomenon of doctrinal Yankee-Dutch.
We may narrow the scope of our observation.
What a hopeless jargon is often presented as Reformed truth! What gibberish is frequently heard from pulpits that are supposed to be Reformed! How often the congregation may listen to a tolerably sound exposition of the truth of God’s sovereign grace, in order to find that the Reformed sermon is climaxed by an Arminian “application”! What else is it than Yankee-Dutch when a so-called Reformed Synod declares that God is gracious to all that hear the preaching of the gospel, while at the same time they attempt to maintain the truth that He is gracious only to the elect? What else is it than wholly unintelligible gibberish when it is synodically established that God offers His salvation well-meaningly, i.e. with the purpose, to save, to those of whom it is confessed that He eternally determined not to save them? Is it not jargon to declare that the man who is dead in sin and misery can do good in this world without the regenerating grace of God? Is it not Yankee-Dutch to teach that the tree is corrupt but bears good fruit? Is it not half Hebrew and half the language of the nations, when in De Wachter it is boldly maintained that both must be regarded as the truth: that God is exclusively gracious to the elect and that He is also favorably inclined to the reprobate ungodly; that the blessing of God dwells side by side with His curse in the house of the wicked; that He bestows things upon them in His great lovingkindness which He uses for their destruction?
But also the testimony that proceeds from the life and walk of many a Christian today is, as might be expected, nothing but the application in practical life of this doctrinal jargon, this Yankee-Dutch that is employed as the vehicle of instruction. I say, that this might be expected. For, to be sure, doctrine and life are closely interrelated. They are inseparably connected. You cannot divorce doctrine from life, nor can you separate life from doctrine. There is an influence of doctrine upon life, just as there is a reaction of life upon doctrine. The truth, where it is known and embraced, must become manifest in life. And the attempt to maintain the truth while life is allowed to become corrupt must end in utter failure. Yankee-Dutch in doctrine must needs manifest in Yankee-Dutch in life. And is not the language which Scripture employs to describe the actual life of the heathen that were transplanted into the land of Canaan and instructed by the Hebrew priest, exactly suitable to characterize the life of the people of God today? They served Jehovah and they served their own gods; they served not Jehovah, neither did they after their own ordinances. Double-hearted people! Always halting between two opinions! Unsteady in all their ways. They serve God in Christ and they serve the world; they serve not the Lord, neither do they serve the world! On Sunday they meet with the people of God, during the week they are of the world. When they worship with the people of God, they are pious; when they move about in the world, they do business like the world, associate themselves with the world, banquet and feast with the world, imitate the world, as far as they dare, in seeking the pleasures and amusements of the world! On Sunday they shake hands with their brethren in Christ, during the week they make a common cause with the children of the devil!
They serve God and they serve Mammon!
Yet, they serve not God, neither do they serve Mammon!
The lines of demarcation between the Church and the world, light and darkness, righteousness and unrighteousness, Christ and Belial, are being wiped out fast!
All things are leveled down!
To the level of the world!
(to be continued)