Dear Beacon Lights Editor,
I was sent a set of tapes from a series of lectures given by Rev. David Silversides in 1999. The tapes I received in mid 2000. They were sent to me by a young Christian friend whom I know through the mutual friendship of Mr. Paul Hayden, first Secretary of the original British Reformed Fellowship.
The whole set of speeches, as I mention in my letter to Kathy were apparently so soundly doctrinally scriptural, that I was delighted by them—that is, until I came to speech number eight. The very title made me unwilling to listen any further, and I laid the set aside for a long time. But then realized that if I refused to listen to it, I would be unable to talk with Kathy about it, and so took the plunge and listened. For a time he said things with which I agreed. But then he brought in so many dreadful lies, all mingled with the truth, that I was disgusted.
I now am sending a redraft of the letter to Kathy, in hopes that maybe you will find it of use in the Beacon Lights magazine, which we as family have read and enjoyed for many years.
It may be used of the Lord, through you, to show our Protestant Reformed Young People just how such folks make the truth an admixture of truth and lie to produce deadly spiritual poison which, as Paul says in Galatians 1, is accursed of God.
And it is my prayer that the Lord will use you in your ongoing work for our Young People, to provide them with sound, Biblical encouragement in our lifelong battle for the faith once delivered to the saints.
Yours in Christ’s service, by His amazing grace,
Mrs. Dilys Watson
By the grace of God a founder member of the PRC in New Zealand, and now one of the Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Wellington.
Many thanks for the set of tapes you sent for me from the lectures of Rev. Silversides when he visited Australia in 1999 and spoke at the Bible Presbyterian Church in Adelaide.
I have listened to seven of the tapes with great appreciation and interest, and had begun to wonder if he knew Rev. Ron Hanko, since he also labors and resides in Northern Ireland. However, when I came to speech number eight and read the title, “Christ’s Kingly Overtures of Mercy” (A Defense of the Free Offer of the Gospel), I felt some immediate misgivings, and postponed listening for a week or so. Then I realized that if I didn’t listen, I wouldn’t know what he had said!
So, the other morning, while I did the ironing, I put it on. For a while all seemed well. What he said the “offer is not” I could agree with. However, when he came to telling his audience what the “offer is,” I am afraid that he went right away from his previous well-presented and carefully Scriptural exegesis. What he said became shocking to me, and especially when he declared that we must love our enemies, (Correct! for we do not know who are the reprobate and elect) but he finishes with the blasphemous statement “God doesn’t know either.” I exclaimed aloud on hearing that and hurried to rewind the tape to ascertain whether I had heard aright.
Rev. Silversides was actually telling his hearers that there is something that God doesn’t know! This is a horrendous and preposterous thing. If there is one small thing which the Almighty does not know, then He is not God. The whole Bible is full of evidence of His omniscience. E.g. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 18:15). And this, simply because He has ordained as well as created all things, and upholds and governs all things by His own omnipotence, omniscience and wisdom. For, “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it?, or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).
Consider also John 17:9: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.” (Notice this is Jesus the Sinless One, Loving, Obedient Servant of Jehovah. Neither He nor the Father had even any “lifetime” love for the reprobate, and Jesus certainly never prayed for the reprobate).
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (I John 2:15).
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).
Rev. Silversides quotes Matthew 5:43-48, in a manner which many others have done, who misunderstand and confuse God’s grace with His providence. Thus, he makes rain and sunshine blessings, whereas this is a false notion. If rain and sunshine are blessings upon all who receive them, then is a crop and home destroying flood “too much blessing”? Are we to believe that when people die in floods that this is “too much blessing”? What then, of the global flood of Noah’s day ( Gen. 6)?
Again and again, Rev. Silversides destroys his earlier clear and Biblical exegesis in this speech and I am filled with dismay and alarm—more so since I heard on the tape not one suspicion of an inward drawn breath from his audience, but simply silence.
Further, he thus reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the covenant of God, and goes on to make false charges against the Protestant Reformed Churches, Rev. Hoeksema, and the British Reformed Fellowship in sweeping statements which remain quite arbitrary, concerning another false declaration that the Protestant Reformed Churches “have no compatibility with the Westminster Catechism of Faith, whatsoever.” From here he continues merely to uphold a sort of stand for the Westminster Catechism of Faith while condemning the teachings and faith of the above brethren, completely without grounds, and while omitting to give any Scripture proof whatsoever.
But any Christian also knows that all of the confessions, although penned and wrought by Godly men in the past, are but human writings and not on the level of inspired Scripture. Where these confessions deviate from the Bible then we may and should declare it.
But the gravest concern I had was that he so overtly changed his position from an apparently firm biblical one to one of a blustering and faultily confused speech. And all of his hearers at the end of that must surely have been as confused as I was by what he had said.
He contradicted himself, (from sentence to sentence), and the Bible, and who and what our God is. In the same breath, he told us that (a) God knows all things, that (b) God never commands us to do what He cannot do, that (c) God never frustrates His own purpose and will (all of which we agree with, because they are biblical pronouncements). But then he goes on to state that (d) God wills to damn the reprobate in hell, but He loves them in time, so blesses them. (But wait, what about “I am the LORD: I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6)?
One other point I would add here. The LORD never commands us to love HIS enemies. OUR enemies, yes, but not HIS. This is explicitly commanded in Matthew 5 which Rev. Silversides has so skillfully used (?) to “prove” that God loves His own enemies! But a further look at the verse shows that in this passage, God is only referring to our enemies.
Romans 12:20 is another proof of this meaning. “Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” (NOT because God loves him in this life.) We do not and cannot know the heart of men, but it may be that we will be used of the Lord to draw an enemy of ours to Christ by our God-honoring actions. And if not, then the enemy is hardened in his ongoing sins. But he is responsible before God for his lifestyle and persistent sins.
If, in due time, an enemy of ours becomes a spiritual brother or sister, then of course the enmity is removed. But if they continue in unrepentant sin, we can only say that at least at present, they manifest themselves as enemies of God. But we may not and cannot make a final judgment on the state of their soul. Only the LORD can do and has done this in eternity. And since God knows all His own from before the foundation of the worlds, how could it possibly be that there is anyone in history whom the Lord did not know would come to Him or not? How could it have been that Christ died for His own, if He didn’t know who they were? John 10:1-18 shows so clearly that Jesus knew His own sheep. In verse 14 He says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” And “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (John 6:37 a). Also “No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). This is exactly why Silversides makes another sad mistake. For in seeking to “show” that God loves all, he also makes the salvation of Ishmael null and void. (Here I digress to defend Ishmael’s salvation.) The Lord blessed him, and nowhere in Scripture do we read of the Lord blessing a reprobate. And here, most strangely, Rev. Silversides gives a reference to Romans 9, where, he declares that Ishmael was a reprobate. In fact, that passage from Romans 9 speaks of Jacob and Esau, the one chosen of God and the other rejected. No mention of Ishmael at all! Nevertheless when God told Abraham that He had blessed Ishmael, although he was not of the covenant line, this reveals that God blessed the person Ishmael, though not his descendents. Then again, the rich young ruler who came to Jesus. That Jesus “beholding him, loved him…” is enough for us to see that that young man, although he went away sorrowing, did indeed come to Christ. Even though the Bible does not explicitly state this. It certainly does not “prove” that he was a reprobate.
Rev. Silversides makes yet another huge blunder where he tries to “prove” the idea of conditional promises. The Lord does indeed say in many places and ways. (“For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation…” [ Psalm 95:7, 8 ]. This referring to the unbelieving Israelites who all perished in the wilderness for their unbelief.) This is a wholly and wholeheartedly accepted fact. But what Rev. Silversides is forgetting is that the Lord also tells us that we cannot come to Him unless the Father draws us. No contradiction here, but simply a basic fact being stated by the God of truth. Those who do hear and obey show that they are the ones called of God and from eternity saved. Think of Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14). Those who hear and do not repent show themselves reprobate. Why? Because God does not will that they do repent! This is clearly shown in Matthew13:11-15, where Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 6:10, and proving that those who all their lives refuse to obey and believe are not His elect. “And He said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and convert, and be healed” (Isa. 6:9, 10). So, if Rev. Silversides makes so bold as to declare that God does not know who will believe, what is he doing with the Scripture of God, but wresting it? And this amounts to nothing less than the sin of preaching “another gospel” which Paul declares in Galatians 1:6-9 is accursed of God.
Jesus makes abundantly clear that those who do not believe are reprobated of God, that they cannot believe (John 8:21-47, 10: 22-30, 17:9-17, etc.). And the whole of the Bible is full of this. “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but He blesseth the habitation of the just” (Proverbs 3:33). No hint of love there, for the wicked reprobate, either in eternity or in history.
In Psalm 73 the psalmist finds that the wicked seem to have every earthly possession in abundance, whereas he and the godly are not so “rich” and have much to suffer. Why? He finds (v.17 ff), “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places: Thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.” I could write a whole lot more, Kathy, to show that the Lord does not, never has, and never will love the wicked reprobate. Why does God give good gifts to wicked unbelievers? Not in a sort of “love,” but to cast them into eternal damnation, for their unrepentance and hatred against Him Who gave them all that they have, in order to show that He is just, and they vilely unjust and unworthy of everything they had in this life.
The word “offer” as Calvin and all of his contemporaries knew it, means “a presentation, or setting forth” of something. Sadly the same word today has come to mean something quite different—as in a “special offer” of some product or other. Nothing wrong in refusing to “take advantage” of such an offer, say, on a packet of soap powder, when it isn’t the one you like to use anyway! But salvation through Christ is never an offer as such. Yes, it is a presentation of the truth that all who hear and come will be received by the Lord, but not in the sense of “give it a try and see if you like it.”
Here, I am sad to see that instead of quoting Calvin on this word, he prefers to use more modern men, who obviously had not much better understanding of the word “offer” than he has himself. Quite interestingly, however, he chooses to quote Calvin when it suits him, in an effort to “prove” that he is in “good company” when it comes to doubting the salvation of the Rich Young Ruler, previously mentioned. However, he should be consistent and not use men of old merely to serve his own purpose in seeking to prove a mistaken point. And come to think of it, why did he make no mention whatsoever of Arthur W. Pink, who was a man used mightily of God in the 20th century to study and bring to clarification many of the truths of Scripture to a degree not possible in Calvin’s day? The truth is there in the Bible for us to study and we “grow up” in the faith, over a period of time. So in history, as one truth after another, of the Scriptures was attacked by Satan and his cohorts, the true church and her believing members were forced to make careful and earnest study of each truth attacked. Not every truth came to complete understanding at once.
All who hear the gospel are told the same amazing truth. (If those proclaiming it are faithful, true servants of God.) Of course, there is only one gospel! And there are many false gospels, as was already true in Paul’s day. See Galatians 1:6-9, where even then there were many false prophets and teachers, upon whom Paul calls God’s curse, for teaching the lie (as mentioned above). But truth is that all who hear THE Gospel do not come. Those who do, evidence the fact of their regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit in response to the gospel. Those who go away and despise the gospel show their reprobate minds and are driven away by the same Spirit, Who knows who are His. (See I Cor. 1:18-31. and II Cor. 2:14-16. How in the world, then, can we say both that the Lord knows who are His, and that He doesn’t know?)
For this reason the ministers of the gospel, who faithfully fulfill their calling to proclaim (that is, set forth, present!) the gospel, must preach to all who are in the audience. Not, (as the hyper-Calvinist notion) refuse to preach to those outside of the church. After all, we don’t know who are the lost sheep, do we? But the Lord does. So He commands we preach the gospel in every place. Then, how could the consistent hyper-Calvinist preach to anyone, since we don’t know either who are the hypocrites within the fold of God. I am so glad I am not a hyper-Calvinist. What a miserable dilemma to be in!
One thing I do know, from delightful, amazing and gracious experience, is that the Lord loves all those whom He has chosen, from all eternity, and therefore draws us unto Himself in love. (Jer. 31:3). And because of this, I long to share with you the truth of His glorious grace to all His beloved ones. As you are a dear young sister in Christ, I long to impart to you something of the wonder of what He has done for me, (one of the nobodies of the world), and Who has brought us into contact with one another in such a unique way—which was, if you remember, all due to Paul Hayden’s having sent us a blank tape once, by mistake! Wonderful are the ways of God Who brings all things to pass!
One more comment, dear Kathy, before I must close. Never think of “things” as blessings. The blessing is only in the heart of the Giver. God gives good gifts to all men. Yes. But He only gives His blessings to His own. Therefore we can and do say with Paul, that “all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). Yes, even our illnesses, our disappointments, our sorrows and griefs of heart, are sent with His blessing, for our good. This can never be said of the wicked, as I hope I have shown you.
In His great love I greet you,