We will never know completely the ruin that sin wrought, in Heaven and on earth, and amongst the children of men. Ever since it first made its appearance, it has brought untold woe, by the separations it has brought about. Separation between heaven and earth; separation between God and man; and separation between man and his fellow-man. These are but a few of the things that are now severed by the operation of the power of sin.
But God, in His mercy, was pleased to perform an act of love, the deepest love, for sinners. Desirous of reconciling man unto Himself, by the death of His Son, God saw that the redemption He was about to perform will unite heaven and earth once again, and will bring about the restoration of the highest happiness for man. To do all this, God became flesh. What an act of condescension!
I conceive of the profit of Christ’s birth to us, to be two-fold; it is a profit that is both redemptive and revelational.
Let us consider, first, that the Lord’s birth was redemptive. We’ll follow the line of thought suggested by the thirty-sixth question and answer of Lord’s Day Fourteen. The Lord’s birth, in the human nature, was God’s proof that Jesus was truly the Mediator. Remember how the Heidelberg Catechism pointed out the necessity of Jesus being both truly God and truly man? (Q. 8) Such a Mediator was the Lord Jesus. He was truly a glorious Mediator. All the requirements, to be a Mediator, He filled. Not one was lacking. Assuming our human nature, and being made like unto us in everything, sin excepted, Jesus was man, and yet remained God. All through His suffering, too. Never would He descend into the depths of our sin, and trespass against God’s laws. Personally, He was always free from sin, and its subsequent guilt, even in our nature, and yet He remained God.
Such a Mediator and Saviour we need. As to our birth, we are conceived and born in sin. From the day of our birth we sin, and until the day of our death we sin. Our guilt is imputed and our corruption we have inherited.
On the other hand, the Saviour was conceived and born in innocence and holiness. No sinfulness did He inherit; no guilt of His own did He inherit or incur. Fully desirous of doing God’s will to be Mediator and Saviour, He came from Heaven’s glory to take upon Himself our nature, and in this way to stand between God and us, and between God and our children, to cover the sins of all His own by the one sacrifice of Himself.
So you see, the birth of Jesus was an integral part of His redemptive work. It was the beginning of the great sacrifice He came to offer.
Nor was this all. The way for the rest of the Mediatorial work of Christ was paved by His birth. The one is as vitally connected to the other as night is to day. Had there been no birth, there would have been no Calvary.
In the second place, the profit of Christ’s birth to us was revelational. His lowly birth revealed God’s faithfulness. Long years before, God had given a promise of a coming Redeemer, who would ransom His people from sin’s captivity into the glorious liberty of being free-born men. Further, this Redeemer would come as a King to sit upon David’s throne forever. Not upon the throne of an earthly Jerusalem, but upon Heaven’s throne in glory. This promise, of the sending of a Redeemer-King, God would finally make a reality.
Consequently, the Saviour’s birth was the beginning of the making of God’s promise a reality. Jesus came as the Son of David, in the highest sense, and clothed with Heaven’s royalty. In the coming of Christ, God’s great faithfulness to His promise finally came to pass. Never did He allow His promise to fail to materialize. With joy, we can sing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” to celebrate God’s remembrance.
Further, the birth of Christ was a revelation of the hidden dignity of the divine. His — Jesus’ — supreme power and Godhead was hidden to view by His humiliation.
Just think of it. Jesus was born a King in a stable in Bethlehem! From all eternity He was anointed to be Israel’s King, and the King of all nations of the earth. He was the King clothed with all the authority of Heaven and of earth. Yet He came as a helpless and innocent Babe. What a coming for such a King. Who would have thought that such would ever come to pass?
But wait. His glory lay hidden. The Redeemer-King has come. But He has come in humiliation. Not in outward splendor, and with regal pomp: but in deepest humility, and in profound obedience.
To see this, requires spiritual eyes. To believe this, requires humble hearts. Such eyes and hearts had Joseph and Mary, by grace; and the shepherds, and the wise men from the East. Old Simeon, too. Such was the case then; it is true now. To see this is the greatest profit for your soul. How can we understand? Only believe. God’s grace is sufficient.
A Review of P.R.Y.P. Convention Speech, by David Engelsma
Rev. McCollam, in basing his speech on the convention theme, Exalt the Lord, called our attention to the Possibility of Exalting the Lord.
He developed the theme from the point of view of exalting the Lord through persecution and suffering, through humility, and through divine sovereignty. From a human point of view, it is impossible to exalt the Lord. It is only a work of grace. It is only possible through suffering and persecution. David was forced to suffer at the hands of Saul and yet he could write, “Let us exalt His Name.”
The way of exalting the Lord is the way to victory, achieved through suffering. Even Christ was forced to suffer. The way to glory for Christ also was one of persecution.
Secondly, the way of exalting the Lord is the way of humiliation. Both David and Christ lived lives of humiliation. David, even though God’s anointed, was compelled to flee from Saul; Christ came from highest glory in heaven down to earth to dwell in humiliation.
It is only the Sovereign Grace of God that enables His people to exalt Him. Christ as our Head saved us according to Divine Mercy. The way of Christ’s suffering and death was the way of God’s sovereign good pleasure. We exalt the Father by our worship in humility. He is not exalted because we are humble but through our humbleness.
We find our place in exalting God by believing in Him. Let us then exalt His name in suffering through humbleness by His Divine Sovereignty – world without end.
No month is more significant in the history of our country than February, even more so than the fourth of July. In February, the two important birthdates of the two statesmen-presidents occur: Washington and Lincoln. Thus we are reminded of our national heritage, as boys and girls, young men and women, who live in the United States. Such remembrance has its benefits to us.
But such remembrance is secondary to the memory of our spiritual roots. These roots go back in history, further than any one nation’s history. Our beginning is as children of God; and that beginning is in God’s eternal good pleasure, which is before the foundation of the world. That is how long that God has loved us. Eternally!
How do we know this? Is our walk and way of life in harmony with this noble, mighty history? Young people, who are sinners by nature, answer, “No, of course not.” But, is that all? Is this a mechanical confession, a confession made disinterestedly? Wait a moment; reflect on this. Reflection is helpful.
Take the subject of obedience to parents, for example. Take Paul’s words in the sixth chapter of Ephesians. He writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” How is this text lived? This is not all.
Paul goes on saying: “Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
A few thoughts, in connection with these words, should be pointed out first. Note that Paul is not saying that the first commandment with a promise is the fifth, which is the basis for these words in Ephesians. Neither is he saying, in the second place, that obedience to parents results in a long life.
He is saying that obedience to parents is a foremost commandment. It is a word of God of primacy in Christian living; especially in connection with children’s habits of life. It is not amiss to notice that “children” in this text, “Children, obey your parents,” does not refer only to those in infancy and early childhood. Indeed, the “children” here refers to all children and young people living at home.
With these remarks made, it is profitable to listen to what Paul has to say about obedience to parents. He writes of three elements: it is righteousness; it is honor to parents: it is long life in the land of promise – heaven. Paul is teaching God-fearing children to be subject to parents, and to continue in subjection. It is a day by day, moment by moment, activity. Never may children cease from this holy and virtuous activity.
From early morning to bedtime, the struggle to be obedient goes on. It means obedience to parents in all the little things that make up the totality of living in the fear of the Lord. Obedience includes the wearing of the right clothes, the getting to meals on time at the table; the washing of soiled hands, the praying for blessing on the food to be eaten, and the offering up of the prayer of thanksgiving; and the paying of attention during Bible reading. While away from home, and at school, it means obedience in connection with life at school, to remember the “do’s” and “don’ts” that Mother and Dad prescribe; the little courtesies that make riding the school bus with fellow passengers and driver a pleasant one, day after day.
While in school, obedience to parents at home includes, for Christian young people, the proper disposition toward teachers and school administrators. The lessons to be learned, the work assigned, the rules during lunch and recess time; all these are areas where obedience is to be manifested in all walk.
After school is over and the return to home is complete, godly young people once again reveal their desire to continue to be in subjection in obedience. At home, besides the duties that are common to the home, are also the duties that look forward to life in the church. Then catechism, Sunday School lessons, memory verses, and young people’s society Bible outlines, are all to be diligently learned.
Nor is this area confined only to home, church and school. There are other areas. For that matter, all the spheres in which the Christian young person lives are spheres in which, providentially, God places him or her, whatever the case may be. As citizens, the laws of the land are to be observed. Ordinances of communities regarding road travel, safe driving speeds, hunting and game conservation, are but a few examples of where obedience to the God-ordained, legally-constituted authorities is proper.
Again, where and when young people work for daily employment is opportunity to live Paul’s exhortation. Therefore, no willful slacking, no dishonesty in production, no compliance with worldly labor union tactics, are the standards of conscientious Christian workers.
Situations could be multiplied. Obedience is the Christian virtue that applies to the sum total of young people’s living. Be obedient, and keep on being obedient, to parents and to all in authority, is the heart of what the apostle wrote.
We have a beautiful illustration of obedience in our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke the evangelist tells the church concerning Jesus: “And he went down with them (his parents), and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them” (Luke 2:51). In perfection, Jesus exemplified true obedience.
But are we like Jesus? No. He was the Son of God in human nature. We could never be like Him, as to His essence. We are creature. He is God in the flesh.
Further, we are not like Him spiritually. We always sin, especially in obedience. He is perfect in obedience. Young people (and adults too) are spiritually the image of the devil. His works we do, willingly. The Devil was, and is, a rebel. We are, too. Apart from Christ, we shall never love God’s commandments and precepts, especially obedience.
What is the way out? Isn’t Jesus our example? True, He is our example – and more than our example. He is our need. He is in fullness, what we are in emptiness. What we – and young people – need, is grace, the grace of obedience. We need to approach our Lord in humble prayer and supplication, for grace to walk in the way of obedience, since we cannot of ourselves. We are helpless to do this without Him.
For a godly walk in this virtue, it means that God, through the means used by the young people, of prayer and supplication, will work this grace in the heart and life of His children. When He does, then the joy of such a spiritual experience fills our hearts with thanksgiving. As boys and girls, thank God that we have not received as we deserve; thank Him that His eternal good pleasure is to deal with His own in sovereign and particular mercy, out of deepest love. In this consciousness, stir thyself unto obedience to parents and all in authority. Paul says of such obedience, that it is righteousness. So it is.
History always teaches God’s children many important lessons. For this reason, God gives us the Old Testament. Its history is interwoven with the mystery of the Gospel of redemption.
Schools require its students to study history in order to acquaint them with the background of the world in which they live, and to give the students a perspective of human society.
But history will only have meaning when the child of God sees history as the unfolding of God’s counsel concerning His church. All other history – that of nations, peoples, and institutions – serves this purpose. The world, of course, does not so view history, and is thus the poorer.
This month, in America, a day is set aside to remember an institution, Thanksgiving Day, inaugurated by what is, perhaps, the most well-known small group in America – called the Pilgrims. Out of their history, we may learn many things for which we may be thankful, as young people. Their history revolved around the church, which is as it should be. So our history does, as young people of God. Let the church – our churches – be the center of our life.
The coming of the Pilgrims to the American shore grows out of the history of the church in England, and continental Europe, after the Protestant Reformation. The culmination of that history finds the Pilgrim fleeing from England, to Holland, and then to America, for the right to worship God as they desired.
Of all the lessons that the Pilgrim history teaches us, we select this one: they lived in the consciousness of God, and of His Truth. That the people of our churches so live is indeed a cause for solemn thanksgiving. Let it always be our firm resolve, that we, too, by God’s grace, will so live. Especially when as young people we take our places in the midst of the flock to which God associates us. When the Plymouth colony, also called, variously, “New Plimouth,” “New Canaan,” or “Plimouth Plantation,” was about to be established, one of the Plymouth company of “Ye Saints,” Deacon Robert Cushman wrote: “Friend, if ever we make a plantation, God works a mirakle…”
On another occasion, after the “Mayflower” had crossed the Atlantic, sailing the high seas for almost two months, and had put in the harbor before the famed Plymouth Rock, the company on board “called on God for direction,” before going ashore. Next, they adopted this resolution: “to goe presently ashore againe,” for a look at a place where they intended to settle. In their deliberations about where to found the colony, they desired heavenly wisdom.
Not the least interesting part of the life of the Pilgrims was their public worship of God. In this, they were sincere and devoted, and, as they liked to say of themselves, “answerable.” Their custom was – as they had always worshipped, while they sojourned in Holland – to meet early on the Sabbath to enjoy the first of two extended exercises: “the publick ordinances of praying and preaching,” as they were called. Assembling early on the Sabbath, at least by eight o’clock, the men took their seats to one side, and the women sat apart, across the aisle, while the children were placed off by themselves, under the stern and restless eye of the deacons. This custom was called “dignifying the meeting,” and persisted for generations at Plymouth, in New England.
In the service, the Saints first prayed, while standing, for the long prayer, which lasted almost an hour. After the prayer, the Pastor took up his huge Geneva Bible and read aloud, a passage from the Scriptures, adding his comment and exposition. Next, a Psalm was sung, without instrumental music of any kind. As an aid to singing, the congregation had no musical notation of any kind. All tunes were sung from memory. A deacon, or member, would set the pitch, and all raised their voices together, with the men taking the lead in song, which was sung as a simple melody.
After song came the sermon, which ordinarily lasted several hours. It was preached, not from a pulpit, but from a low dais supporting a simple wooden table. Here, in black clothes and black gloves, the Pastor expounded his text.
When the sermon was completely preached, the congregation sang again, and on special occasions, the sacraments were administered. The deacons received the offerings of the worshippers, and the morning service of worship of God, and devotion, ended about noon, with the benediction.
The second service in the afternoon was less formal. It was called “prophecying.” After the opening prayer, the pastor, or the ruling elder, chose a text, spoke on it briefly, and then opened the meeting for general discussion, with only the men speaking, for the women had no voice in the church, in accord with the prohibition laid down by Paul the Apostle (I Cor. 14:34). Perhaps it was this meeting that took the place of the organic life of the church as it is expressed in our society life.
The congregation also met on Thursday evenings for a lecture, or other form of spiritual public exercise. In this way, they “grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of ye Spirit of God, and lived together, in peace, and love, and holiness.”
In their devotion to the church, they were excellent examples to us. As we detect this devotion in our churches, let us be thankful. Where it is not found, let us be alarmed.
A year after the colony had been established, the Pilgrim Company crowded into the “Common House” to hear Deacon Cushman expound “The Dangers of Self-Love.” To direct their life and thoughts to godliness and a holy walk, the good deacon pointed out: “Why wouldest thou have thy particular portion? Because thou thinkest to live better than thy neighbor and scornest to live as meanly as he? But who, I pray, brought this particularizing into the world? Did not Satan, who was not content to keep that equall state with his fellows, but would set his throne above the stars?”
From these examples of love and devotion to God’s cause, let each one take heart. This is not to say that in all things, the Pilgrim Church was exemplary. On the contrary, there was much to be desired, especially in church government. But this fact is clear: they were children of the Reformation, one of the most profound movements in human history.
Let Thanksgiving direct our hearts to the faith of the fathers, for which they lived and died. For it means to us that the truth that God has given to us to see and love deserves our continued devotion. May it be worthy of fighting a constant warfare, to maintain the Truth, all through our earthly sojourn.
Once again, summer is here. In this year, 1955, boys and girls of our young people gather together in our convention for the young people of our churches. It is, indeed, a time of happy and spiritual fellowship for the young people, and many are the pleasant memories of conventions in the past. Expectations run high, that this convention will not be an exception. May none of these expectations be dimmed. But what do we gather together for? Do we just gather in convention because we are young people?
Young people in many churches, in America, and throughout the world, assemble together for one purpose or another, during the summer months. There are four main purposes of these gatherings amongst young people.
The first is that purpose that serves the design of Amalgamation. Young people are brought together in a beautiful country spot on or near a lake.
Young people here are out of many diverse nationalities, races, and religions. In the fun together at such a camp, the young people learn to live, and to play, together. What is stressed is that they all are of one blood. The world, they are taught, is one. All differences, of peoples, is only superficial, not fundamental.
A second objective in bringing young people together is reached through a purely humanitarian purpose. Poor boys and girls of the big cities are brought together in a huge assembly ground in beautiful country surroundings. The youngsters live in the fresh air; eat wholesome food; enjoy good fun and sports programs. In this way, they learn the pleasure of the great outdoors of nature.
A third and different type of assembly of young people is the conference of boys and girls who have, or will (while in camp) “accept Christ.” Such an assembly avails itself of lakeside or oceanside facilities, with complete and busy schedules of sports and recreation programs generously mixed with Bible study activities, and convocations with prominent Bible teachers and preachers. Opportunities are always given to young people to “accept Christ” as personal Saviour. The conference becomes a missionary activity for “winning” souls to Christ.
By way of observation, note that none of these groups lay claim to being Reformed. Instead, they prefer, at least in intention, if not in practice, to be generally “Christian.” They may even rail at those who are not doing their Christian duty, as each group sees it.
Then there is a fourth assemblage of young people which has for its objective, the bringing together of boys and girls of a Reformed background. A beautiful spot is found, in a rural setting where the young people may congregate for one or more days, with supervised living, and organized play. There is Bible study, and inspirational speaking. The atmosphere is wholesome, pleasant, and conducive to making lasting impressions. The undercurrent of thought that pervades the life and activity is that God is a loving Father and Friend, who is gracious to all men, without discrimination, as respects the things of this present life. Whether men are righteous or not, godly or not; or whether they are elect or reprobate, makes no difference, as far as God’s intentions are concerned. God is a loving Father, who in tender mercy, and in the administration of a grace that is common to all, is able to improve men in regard to the life of this world, without regenerating them. On this basis, men are not really totally depraved, although such Reformed people declare they hold to all the doctrines headed by the letters T.U.L.I.P.
Further, such a conference of young people will hear it said – if not directly, at least indirectly – it is indeed wonderful for all things and men, that God’s grace is common. The youngsters who hear God extolled from this viewpoint will be told, also, that God so restrains sin, that men are really not as bad as it may seem, because of the influences of the Holy Spirit common to all men. Natural man is able to do good, in regard to the things of this life. It will be pointed out that here are beneficial results for young people. They have a calling and place in the midst of the world. On the basis of this presentation, the world may be won for Christ, and may be brought to acknowledge His scepter and reign. With these objectives, young people are urged to greater usefulness, in the kingdom of God.
To all these purposes and objectives, in various forms, the truly Protestant Reformed boy or girl is a stranger. His or her place is out of harmony with the above. With the camp grounds and surroundings; the recreation programs and facilities; and with over-all physical management, he is not in serious conflict. Some of this he would arrange differently. His conflict arises out of the conception of God presented above. The conception of God that he entertains, which he confesses, is the true Scriptural presentation of God, is the God of His young people. Not that the view is a self-righteous one; hardly that at all. His view of God determines for him the purpose of all his assembling with boys and girls of his age group, at any time. His view of God gives him the objective of his young life, to be carried in his heart all his life long. What is that viewpoint?
This viewpoint has as its central tenet, the truth that God’s goodness is always particular. Never is His grace common for all men; but is, rather, only for His elect people, in Christ. The central thrust of this truth is not only distinctive in its objects, but it is distinctive in its presentation. Nowhere, as far as it is known, is this truth so forcefully, consistently, and institutionally proclaimed. Only in the Protestant Reformed Church does this truth come to full flower. Only on the basis of this truth does God remain God. On all other bases, God is not the Almighty God. But the truth of particular and elective grace reveals that God, indeed, is the Lord.
Closely akin to the truth of particular grace is its companion; that of unconditional election, and therefore, unconditional salvation. If the grace of God is always particular – and it is – then the grace of God is always unconditionally realized in the hearts of His children. Again, on this basis, God remains God. To amplify this truth, further, it means that God’s Covenant is a one-sided covenant. He alone establishes it. We, as man, have nothing to do with its establishment whatsoever. Always, when God’s truth is presented this way, it means that God must receive all the glory. No flesh may glory, except in the Lord. This way, is as it should be.
It will be this viewpoint of the truth of God that will run through the whole of the convention like a vein of gold. It will permeate all the speeches, discussions, and activities of the three days. This central truth will be that which will bind delegates and visitors in true Christian fellowship and communion.
But the beauty of it all, is that God calls the convention into being. With so exalted an Artificer, then the convention must have an exalted purpose; the glory of His Name, through the praises of those who, even in youth, are called out of utter darkness into His bespangled light.
Words have power! Think of the association brought to mind by such words as “liberty” and “victory.” Some words, in combination with other words, will have a telling effect on the hearers; as, for example, expressions like “iron curtain” and “cold war.” Words are powerful because ideas are conveyed by them.
Along with the fact that words have power, is the corresponding reality that men who know and understand words and their use, and who know how to use them with powerful appeal, have often become leaders of others. This art is not limited to men. Remarkable women, who knew the art of making words their servants, have become leaders in public life, too.
In the use of words, in Bible times, it is evident that Moses, the great leader of the Exodus, was a man of great talent, ability, and industry. He pleaded on an occasion, that he was not eloquent enough nor a man with ready tongue (Exodus 4:10). Yet he was used of God in a most remarkable way to convey to God’s people a mass of legislation that is as singular for its spirituality and profundity as it is for its transmittance and revelation. That Moses could use words, and use them effectively, is borne out by the fact that he gave to the Church, as the instrument of the Holy Spirit, the five books of Moses. It must not be supposed that Moses was pleading a mere excuse for a lack of eloquence. Mindful of his arduous undertaking, to persuade the monarch of Egypt to compliance or compulsion, Moses was aware of his own deficiencies in the light of his needs, for the great task to which God had called him.
Being a man who was well schooled, as befitting a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Stephen said of Moses that he was a man learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. (Acts 7:22). All the knowledge and training that Moses received was beneficial to him because he put it in the service of the faith. Speaking and writing, out of many years of experience in the walk of faith, he penned these words to the church of the ages: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). These are words of deep meaning; words that convey a thought with searching effect. Well may youth give ear to these words of wisdom.
While the words form part of a prayer by Moses for divine blessing on God’s people, the words are a pointer to a walk of godliness in the school of life. These words are worth proper consideration.
When Moses said that our days should be numbered, he did not mean that our days were to be counted as a simple arithmetic device. Numbering our days refers to the apportioning of our days in view of the shortness of life, in order that we, by grace, may attain unto true wisdom. A wisdom that God gives to His people through His Spirit and Word, is true wisdom. This wisdom is, first of all, a knowledge of Christ; and secondly, a knowledge of ourselves. This true knowledge has as its foundation, that it is of God’s own good pleasure and mercy that His people are saved. And He, God, gives to us the knowledge that we belong to that people whose God is the Lord.
Now to young people who know that their years spent in school were profitable to them, these words of Moses speak volumes. These words mean to boys and girls of God’s covenant, that their youth should be spent in wise pursuit of activities that will be beneficial to their spiritual life. The particular value of Moses’ words to spiritual life lies in the application of the principle behind the words.
Let us apply this principle to school. Five days a week; seven hours a day; school is on. By school we do not mean any school, but Christian school. Some of us have the privilege to attend our own school, by the way. That is fine. Now being a student in a Christian school means, first of all, that we are students in a school that God gives us through devoted Christian parents. To have such a school often means self-denial.
How do we treat our school? Do we just take it for granted? What do we think of our teachers? Do we consider our teachers the same way? We should not, of course. We know we should not.
Our teachers are men and women who love God’s cause in the world. They love Christian education, first of all. To that end they trained themselves. The training took several years beyond high school. Teachers are required to return to college every few years to take additional courses that bring them up to date on the latest teaching methods. It is well known that our teachers could earn more money teaching in public schools, were in not for the fact that Covenant education is their first concern. Christian school teachers are teachers of principles. Let us never underestimate the place our teachers hold in our schooling in life.
Connected with the school is the official school board. Without their labor, the Christian school could not function. Maintaining the plant, building, and equipment of the school, permitting us, day by day, to meet in well-lighted, comfortable classrooms, is the responsibility of the board on behalf of the parents.
Last but not least in the school picture is the friendly bus driver, who, morning after morning, takes us from home to school. He too has a place to fill in our schooling in life.
Turning from school to church, it will be seen that the principle “So teach us to number our days,” applies to the church, too. Coming to mind first is the faithful pastor, who, from Sabbath to Sabbath, preaches the Word of God. Friendly, kind, conscientious, and solicitous for our spiritual welfare, he labors in the midst of the Church. Bearing the flock of God on his heart, he has a word in season for the sheep and for the lamb. Little do we know of the hours of prayer and supplication he has given that God may bless the flock in the knowledge of heavenly things.
Especially in catechism it becomes evident that the learning process continues. The pastor labors week after week, using the arts of instruction in the training of the seed of the church. But what of the catechumens? Applying their hearts unto wisdom? Not so. How often precious moments were wasted in foolishness and youthful mirth. Hearts are easily applied unto the ridiculous; not unto wisdom. And yet, any appreciable time given in serious study of the questions, reaped a rich reward. The lesson was remembered for a long time.
With the church is the society – the young people’s society. In society the bond of fellowship with the membership as brothers and sisters in the Lord is experienced. The informality; opportunity for learning leadership; meeting with the boys and girls of one age group; these contribute their share in your schooling in life.
Then there is the young people’s convention. Society life reaches a high point for youth in the convention. This is a time of joy in the Lord in summer. The feature article in this issue will tell you some things about the convention.
This August the Convention will be held in Hudsonville. Rest assured that this year will be no exception to the standard of excellence that is set by the host society, the federation, and the speakers. The theme for the 1955 convention is “The Gospel of the Promise.” Speakers will be, D.V., Rev. H. Hoeksema, Rev. G.M. Ophoff, and Rev. G. Vanden Berg. Make plans to attend now.
The convention continues the school of life.
Schooling in the correct numbering of our days, so that hearts may be applied unto wisdom, is not complete until the home is considered. The formative contribution of the home is a very large one and a very important one. That God places His children in Christian homes is great cause for rejoicing. Day in and day out, month after month, and year after year, loving parents have left no stone unturned to bring us up in the fear of the Lord. Clothed, fed, sheltered, and all needs supplied; thus physical requirements were met. Rebuked, chastised, and disciplined; thus moral needs were filled. No obligation was too arduous for Ma and Pa. What is more, with all this care, went hours of prayer, that God would be pleased to bless all these means to your hearts.
How have you responded? Is there fruit for this pruning and care? Have you learned to apply your heart to the true wisdom? Have you learned to love with your heart the true wisdom? Have you learned to number your days wisely? Since the Lord blesses His Word to His people, may He so grant it, in order that your joy may be full, that you harvest life in its fulness.
Even as the adults – the members and their families – have experienced the breakdown of the denominational and institutional life of our churches by the recent so-called “split” in the Protestant Reformed Churches, so our young people have experienced the disruption of our church life, as it has affected them in their young lives, in their contact with our church. In young people’s societies, catechism classes, Sunday schools, and young people’s boards, as well as in the churches, the young people see with their own eyes the results of separation and division.
“Beacon Lights,” the literary voice of our young people, their societies, and the Federation Board, found it necessary to re-organize its editorial and publishing arrangements, in order to meet the needs of the young people who desired to remain faithful to the historic Biblical and theological position of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Therefore, in the midst of the present situation that has developed and now prevails in our family of churches, faithful Protestant Reformed young people are called upon to give no vent to feelings of despair, but to continue fervent in hope. “Hope maketh not ashamed,” said Paul the Apostle.
“Hope,” someone will ask, “what is hope?” The answer to this question is: Hope is that Christian virtue that expresses itself in a certain, definite expectation, coupled with a longing of the heart after the desired end. The content of hope, as a Christian virtue, is the final and ultimate glory of God. Christian young people are God’s people, to whom God has given, by sovereign and free grace, hope, as a living thing – living in the hearts of His people. Armed with hope, Christian young people will have victory in the midst of any battle, any fray, for their hope is in the Lord. No matter, then, what given situation develops in their young lives, they have the calm assurance that all is well. Their God will bring victory out of the seeming defeat. In this way, hope is the bulwark of the child of God.
The beautiful plant of hope, it is thought, thrives best in the soil of prosperity. But such a view does not accord with reality. The truth of the matter is – if we retain the metaphor – that this same plant of hope will bloom when watered by the tears of tribulation, trial or adversity. Out of tribulation, or any other form of suffering, hope takes heart and courage. Hope will reveal itself as a true, living hope – a beautiful gift – when it is a hope that is sanctified by the grace of God. Tribulation will not form a shadow on hope; but, instead, tribulation will be a ray of sunshine.
Because tribulation does not hinder the growth of hope, but fosters it, the present difficulty that has arisen in our churches must be considered as a form of suffering for the cause of Christ in this present evil world. The suffering that young people experience now – as they find themselves deeply affected by the developments that have already transpired, and have now become history, plus the present existing scene – these experiences for them will give substance to their hope. Tribulation, on this basis, as it takes the form of suffering for the cause of Christ in our churches, will never be cause for despair, but will be cause for rejoicing. Christian young people who correctly evaluate tribulations do not merely accept them as simply accidents; but they rejoice in the tribulations and trials that come, for they count it indeed a privilege that they can suffer for the cause of Christ in whatever circumstances God places them. The “split” itself is not cause for rejoicing. It could not be so, never. Rather, the split is cause for sorrow and grief of soul. But the sorrow does not give way to despair, and end there. True sorrow is godly sorrow. It is sorrow that is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. True sorrow is sorrow over sin, and brings forth the fruit of repentance. Sorrow over the disrupted denominational and institutional life of the Protestant Reformed Churches is sorrow that arises in the hearts of the children of God in our churches because sin is manifest in the history that revolves around the two heretical statements of the Rev. H. De Wolf which were condemned by the classis of our churches. This history is well known in the circle of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Our young people, who love the cause of God and His truth, look at the “split” as the work of God’s hand whereby He is pleased to develop, further, the truth of His covenant and His promise, as being a promise that is unconditionally given to His elect in the line of the generations of the believers and their seed. This truth of the Word of God is crystallized in the hearts of God’s people through the means of the present controversy. The cause for rejoicing lies in God, and in His truth. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” I Cor. 1:31.
In addition to what the Sacred Writings teach about the relation of tribulation and suffering to hope, the Bible teaches the truth that tribulation makes a definite contribution to the spiritual life of the Christian young person. Tribulation works a positive advantage to hope, and that advantage is this: tribulation strengthens hope. Tribulation strengthens the hope of the Christian in three ways.
First, tribulation and suffering work in such a way that the cause of God prospers in the midst of the world. Not because of the world does it prosper, but the cause of God prospers because it is the cause of God. No trial, no trouble, nor sorrow, nor need, nor any other adversity is used of the Lord to the detriment of His cause, which is the cause of His kingdom and covenant. All things work together for the good of His kingdom.
Secondly, tribulation strengthens hope in such a way that the longing of hope is intensified. With every form of suffering, the cry of God’s people, whether in youth or in advancing years, is the cry of the heart, and the desire of heart for the realization of the final glory of God. The longing of the Christian’s hope is raised in the prayer that God’s determinate counsel and will concerning all things, and in connection with all things, may soon come to pass, even when God’s plan includes tribulation.
Thirdly, tribulation strengthens hope, to the end that the consciousness of the certainty of the Lord’s victory grips the heart and mind and soul of God’s child. The Lord is always victorious in battle, even before the battle starts. His name is Jehovah, the Lord God of Hosts. Because He is the Victor and the One who conquers all His foes, His people share in His conquests; for they are identified with Him by a living faith and the bond of love, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, Who dwells in the hearts of His people, and by the power of the Lord’s Word. Tribulation serves hope best by giving to hope the consciousness that the victory of the Lord’s cause is certain even in the face of a seeming defeat. Even death must serve the cause of God, His church, and His people, His elect, which are, historically, the believers.
The knowledge of the way in which God works, so that all forms of suffering serve His cause, is not a matter of simple addition or subtraction. If this were so, the most faithful Christian would be one who made high grades in his arithmetic class. The hearty confidence of the believing young person – that God works adversity as a benefit to hope – is knowledge that is an act of faith. By faith which God gives to His people – never a condition – through His Spirit and Word, the Lord works the knowledge that all forms of suffering and trial serve the interests of His kingdom and His covenant.
Therefore, the conclusion must be reached that all the present difficulties that beset the activities of Protestant Reformed young people as a result of the present difficulty and disruption in our churches must never give rise in the hearts of our young people to a comfortless despair. But the present tribulation, in whatever form it takes, must be a God-given means to be used of the Lord to bring forth a strong hope, and a holy courage and daring for the future. May the Lord so will it.
While we await the court decision of the Superior Court in Grand Rapids concerning the disposition of the name, archives, fund, plant, building and equipment of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, it is well that we draw back the reins of our rushing life, to make several observations in retrospect. This we do, not only as we await the court’s decision, but also as we read some of the material that has been recently printed concerning this case, pro and con. Further, it will be evident that it is beneficial to us to review the facts of the history that has been made in the past several years concerning this controversy and disruption in our churches. It will help us to keep our eyes on the main issue. Without further ado, let us turn to the following observations.
First and foremost, the main issue centers in the two heretical statements of the Reverend De Wolf preached in two of his sermons in the First Protestant Reformed Church. One statement was made in a sermon preached April 15, 1951, and the second statement was made in a sermon preached September 14, 1952. These two statements, made in the course of preaching his sermons on those dates, have now become well-known. The first statement, of the first of the two controversial sermons, is this: “God promises every one of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved.” The second preached in the second sermon, is: “Our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God.” These two statements are not isolated thoughts, taken at random from the sermons, but are expressions of the preacher that form the thread of his discourses, and are vitally connected with the whole sermon. From these two statements the preacher’s theology, and the frame of reference of his thinking, is evident. On the basis of these two statements, plus others taken from the controversial sermons, it is clear that the statements do not harmonize with the Reformed doctrine of the absolute, divine predestination of God whereby God sovereignly elects the elect unto eternal life, and sovereignly reprobates the wicked and the ungodly unto eternal desolation in hell, in the way of their sins.
That the second sermon stands condemned is evident from the minutes of the consistory. Even after the Rev. De Wolf was examined by his consistory, the minutes of September 24, 1952 read: “The Consistory maintains the sermon of Rev. De Wolf delivered September 14, 1952 is partly heretical and not Reformed as expressed in the grounds presented in the protest of the Reverend H. Hoeksema, and this Consistory condemns the sermon as such.” (Article 8) This motion was not rescinded. Therefore, the sermon of September 14, 1952 stands condemned. Now, the point of our observation is this: It is the theology wrapped up in the statements of the Rev. De Wolf that stands condemned. These statements have content, and are not harmless and empty. In this way, we arrive at the main issue of the controversy and disruption: the Promise of God on condition of faith, and conversion as a prerequisite to entering the Kingdom of God. This is the heart of the issue. Let no one of our readers lose sight of this fact.
Not only have our spiritual leaders and pastors and elders emphasized this point, but so has Classis East, assembled in May 1953. The Classis condemned the statements regardless of what Rev. De Wolf meant by them and the Classis advised his consistory to demand a public apology of him, and a public apology from his supporting elders. This demand, which the consistory subsequently made at a legal consistory meeting after Classis met, and in the presence of a delegation of three ministers and two elders appointed by the Classis for this purpose, was never met, neither by the Rev. De Wolf nor by his supporting elders, to this day. Not only was the controversy over false doctrine a constant grief to the faithful pastors and elders and people, but the stubborn refusal to apologize and retract, has been cause for deep sorrow of heart in all who have been witnesses of this sad history.
These are the hard, cold, brutal facts of the history of the De Wolf case in our churches, which any thinking young person may examine, and on the basis of these facts, plus others, he may easily decide which is the cause of Right.
The heart of the whole issue is doctrinal. It is a question of what is Protestant, and Reformed, and Scriptural concerning the Promise of God. On the basis of the theology of De Wolf’s two statements, the Promise is both general and conditional, and the sinner’s act of conversion is a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of God. The Protestant Reformed view of the Promise of God is that it is particular and unconditional, and for the elect alone; and that God translates His people – thus the elect – unconditionally, into His Kingdom. This view of the Promise is historically the Protestant Reformed view as it has been preserved, developed, and maintained in our literature. One piece of writing will suffice to serve as proof: “The Believers and Their Seed,” written by the Rev. H. Hoeksema in the early 1930’s. It may be added, by way of observation, that if God’s counsel depended on a condition or a prerequisite which could not be performed, then God could never say (as He does): “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10)
Secondly, to maintain this righteous cause concerning the heart of the Protestant Reformed truth, and to protest what is rightfully the property of the faithful Protestant Reformed people, the consistory was compelled to take legal action in a court of law against the Rev. De Wolf and his elders. The decision to take the action sorely grieved the consistory who remained faithful to the doctrine, discipline, worship, and life of the Protestant Reformed churches; but the consistory could do nothing else, in the light of the facts of the case, as it had developed. So, into court went the consistory, in performance of their duty, as faithful stewards, even as they are directed to do according to the Church Order, Article 28. In court, under oath, they promised to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This promise, when testifying on the witness stand, they have kept. For that matter, other witnesses who have been called to the stand in order to testify that the legal First Protestant Reformed Church was the one whose pastors were the Revs. Hoeksema and Hanko, and whose clerk was Mr. G. H. Stadt, have spoken and testified to the truth. The articles which have been written in the “Standard Bearer,” testify to this fact. These articles, bearing on the court case, which are quoted from the court records to prove their points, indicate their reliability and trustworthiness.
Therefore, our readers may place their full confidence in the integrity of our faithful leaders, pastors and elders of the true and legal entity called the First Protestant Reformed Church, who have vowed to speak the truth at any cost, expose the lie, and maintain the cause of the Right, because it is God’s cause and His Right. This is their Christian duty; nothing less may they ever do.
Have you ever met an average young person, outside the pale of our churches, who has heard of the Antithesis, let alone meet one who may talk about it? That is, the Antithesis considered from a spiritual-ethical viewpoint. The likelihood is that such a young person is not encountered.
A young person who has had his religious training in a non-Reformed denomination of churches has not been taught the Antithesis because of one or more reasons: (1) his church does not teach it as a conscious element of Christian life; (2) his church has little or no continuous, systematic catechetical instruction.
If he or she is a young person who has received his religious instruction in a denomination that is corporately, or historically, Reformed, then he should know the Antithesis. But such is not the case. Usually he will not know much about the Antithesis with that of the Covenant of Friendship – that of God with His elect people, in Christ. (Really, the Antithesis, like every Reformed doctrine, comes to its own in our churches, because our teaching is basically Scriptural and exegetical.)
One may meet a young person who is familiar with the word “Antithesis” and its meaning, because he or she learned the word in school, used in connection with a course in English composition, or in a survey course of philosophy, or in some other field. But this young person is not acquainted with the antithesis from a spiritual-ethical, biblical point of view. The situation may prevail with respect to a word like “predestination.” A student may learn this word in a modern school, a college or university, and yet be ignorant of the spiritual content of this word.
Generally speaking, boys and girls are ignorant of the Antithesis unless the boy or girl is one who is taught in our churches, or has come under the influence of our teaching, if he has not been a catechumen. It is in this respect that our churches are distinctive – and thus distinctively Reformed. In our churches, our faithful pastors, in the course of their catechetical instruction given to their catechumens, teach the Antithesis, along with many other Christian subjects. Therefore, it is customary to find that our young people learn and understand the fundamentals of the Antithesis, from its spiritual-ethical viewpoint. From the teaching of this truth, our young people are impressed by the importance of the Antithesis to the whole of the revelation of God’s salvation of His Church.
That this conclusion may be drawn from our experience, and our knowledge of our young people, is indeed a healthy sign of spiritual growth. It makes us rejoice and return thanks to our Covenant God, that He is pleased to give unto our spiritual leaders and pastors a love of the truth, to such an extent that they confess this truth themselves and teach it as the pure gospel of the Word of God. It is this devotion, coupled with their deep spiritual insight into the truth, that God blesses to the hearts of our young people. All this is lost to young people of the wider American church world. On our part, we cannot boast in ourselves, and be filled with pride; we must be profoundly thankful to the Lord. It means, too, that we do not rest on our laurels, but that our pastors press on, continuing diligently in their pastoral labors, teaching and explaining clearly the basic Christian truths, and that we the young people continue to be diligent scholars in catechism.
Now the question arises: Why is it? That is to say: “Why do many of our young people grasp this truth?” Because many do, the convention theme chosen is: “The Antithesis.” Outside of our circle, where would you ever hear of a young people’s convention choosing as a theme, “The Antithesis”? Convention themes are often general and lifeless, in the wider American church world, as for example: “Victorious Living,” “ Forward with Christ,” or “Atom Age Gospel.” Given a thoroughly Reformed content, these themes are acceptable. But that content will have to come from thoroughly consistent Reformed theology.
There are three reasons to give as an answer to the question above. First, that many grasp this truth is a mark of the blessing of God. The Lord blesses His truth that is faithfully taught or proclaimed to the hearts of His young people. God does this, too, in the official ministry of His Word, in His Church. He blesses His truth that is taught in catechism for this instruction is official ministry of His Word, because it proceeds from the consistory, who have the spiritual oversight of the flock – the congregation. Thus, the young people, who have been taught the Antithesis in the catechism class, gather together around this portion of the truth being emphasized in the convention, and God continues to bless this, His truth, to His people. The truth that they have received officially, becomes the center of their convention addresses, and mutually instructs and edifies.
Secondly, God prepares the hearts of His people to receive the truth. Various means are used of the Lord: catechism, preaching, reading sound literature, discussion, fellowship, and private study. But God opens the heart first, even as He opened Lydia’s hard, sinful heart so that she heeded the message of the Word, spoken by Paul the apostle (Acts 16:14). Those who respond to the wonder of God’s regeneration of the heart say: “This is indeed the truth; I love it.”
Third, the deepest cause is certainly God’s sovereign, eternal election, whereby He pleases to love His people eternally, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to forgive them their sins, to show them His covenant, and to reveal to them His truth, that includes the Antithesis. In the counsel of God, God’s election of the elect in Christ is first. God’s love of His people is everlasting. Thus it is seen that our young people’s comfort is this: All they have is of God, in Christ, through His Word and Holy Spirit. Without Him, they have nothing. The Lord Himself said: “Without Me, ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
May God bless the convention and enrich His truth to the young people’s hearts.
Young people – as well as adults – like to read newspapers and magazines in order to keep up with the news of the day. Some schools distribute to its students small leaflets that contain articles about current events, in order to encourage students to read news items of the day; other schools make it possible for its students to purchase major, well-known news magazines at greatly reduced subscription prices, in order to stimulate, amongst its youthful readers, a habit of continuing news interest. In this way, and in many other ways, young people grow up with an interest in the news of the day.
So that this interest does not lag, the news magazines cater to their readers’ appetites, by providing many and varied articles, editorials, and picture stories about the news of the day, and the major news personalities of the current scene. Hence, a partial list of topics covered would include news about: war and peace, government, industry, agriculture, and education. The entertainment world receives widespread coverage, with emphasis on news that revolves around the two names (with all that these names imply): Broadway and Hollywood. Even the contemporary religious scene receives its share of attention. Not news concerning the history that the Protestant Reformed Churches is making, obviously, makes the columns of the major news magazines of the American press, for news about our churches has an appeal only to a limited number of readers. It is limited to people who are interested in news about the Reformed church world. Hence, news about our churches receives attention only in a small trickle of the printed word that flows like a torrential stream from the press.
To the young people who read articles about current events in the newspapers and news magazines of the day, we suggest: Notice what is the basic attitude, or philosophy, of this press. It may be summed up as follows: All is of Men; of Man, through Man, and unto Man are all things. Another way of saying the same idea is this: the world is not passing away; it will continue forever. These are the basic attitudes, the foundation stones of the world – and – life building that news editors would have us construct. Even if the alarming cries of the reports of the “scientists-who-have-turned-“evangelists” of the atom, who bring a message of doom by destruction – even if these reports are discounted, the basic belief and attitude of the world, is that Man, to be saved, must save himself. Indirectly, if not directly, news of this Atomic Age speaks of unprecedented progress and enlightenment, in which the civilization of our day – even with the constant threat of war – will reach new heights of achievement. Thus may be summed up the world and life view of the present world in which we live as it is reflected in the news periodicals of the day.
Now the question arises: What does the Christian young man or woman of our Protestant Reformed Churches say to this view, as he or she meets it, wherever it is found? The answer to this question has two parts: a negative and a positive part.
Negatively, the Christian says that the view of the world that all is of, through, and unto Man is a denial of the truth that man is totally depraved, and cannot save himself one bit. He is ethically and spiritually dead – a corpse. Secondly, this same view under consideration denies the truth of God’s absolute and divine predestination. Further, it rejects the truth that God is the Lord – the only Lord of heaven and earth.
Positively, the Christian young person avers and affirms the truth of God’s predestination: that God has sovereignly determined whatsoever comes to pass, in all the things, in all the world around us – concerning all men, angels, and events. This work is the divine and absolute predestination of God. Therefore, we say that in the world of economics, government, agriculture, industry, business – in fact, in every sphere of life, God is the Sovereign Disposer of moral beings and events. Thus it is, that in the religious scene, God is the Sovereign over all that takes place, even in the present disruption of our denominational church life. In this truth is our only comfort, in life or in death, in prosperity or adversity, for time and eternity. As Protestant Reformed young people, we maintain and confess, as the truth of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, the absolute, divine predestination of God.
Nor is this all we may say. If it were, we would not be Protestant Reformed. In distinction from some other Christians who agree to a divine predestination of God, we say: “Yes, that is so. God does determine all things, whatsoever comes to pass.” But, in addition, we add this thought: all things that come to pass – even God’s reprobation of the wicked and the ungodly in the way of their sins – must and does serve the election of God’s Church, the body of believers of which Christ is the Head. Therefore, Protestant Reformed young people confess that the wicked deeds of the wicked men do not hinder the counsel of God, but are according to His counsel, and thereby serve the salvation of God’s Church. This truth is the strength and the hope of God’s young people, and all God’s people. God’s people know this truth, too. And they confess it in the midst of the world, the world that lieth in darkness, that is fast hurling itself to its own destruction.
Now we ask: How is this? How is it that God’s young people are able, and do confess this truth? Especially when the world mocks and derides the truth of God’s predestination, calling it, falsely, “fatalism.” Obviously, to make such a confession takes spiritual courage, which could never arise in the heart of a man, as a prerequisite. What is the answer to the question of this paragraph?
There is only one answer to the question, and that is this: Christ, in His people, through His Spirit and Word, does it. It is all of Christ; nothing of sinful man. We belong to sinful Man; therefore we do not do it; we never could – apart from Christ. Christ does it in His people. By nature, all we do is sin. Such a confession, of the sovereign and absolute predestination of God, is a spiritual work; it is a work of Christ, unconditionally realized in the hearts of His people. Because God’s people confess the predestination of God concerning all things, it is God’s work in them. In this truth God’s young people stand out, by His grace. Therefore they say: “Not of, through, or unto Man,” but they say, in praise: “Of God, in Christ; through God, in Christ; unto God, in Christ, are all things.”
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