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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Meditation - Rev. Cornelius Hanko
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9Scripture is clear. We are saved by grace through faith, all works excluded. Yet throughout the ages the church has always had to contend with those who held to the error of salvation by works.
Already when Cain brought of the fruit of the ground as an offering unto the Lord he was giving God part of the precious crop that he had grown, with which God should be pleased and which He should appreciate.
Carnal Israel boasted of being God's chosen people, as if that alone was sufficient to merit salvation for them. The Pharisees of Jesus' day made law upon law, precept upon precept, as requirements to enter the kingdom.
The Pelagian error of the free will and the Roman Catholic error of salvation by works dominated the church before the Reformation. Works were regarded as essential to our salvation.
Soon after, the Arminian error arose, which was so strongly condemned by the synod of Dordt, 1618-'19. Yet, ever since, this same error has made its appearance in various forms. Today even the "conservative" church-world tenaciously maintains that God loves and earnestly desires the salvation of all men, and freely offers His salvation to everyone. Faith is not regarded as a gift of God, but rather as an act dependent upon man's free choice. One must accept God's proffered salvation to be saved. Without that, no one can be saved.
Even the common conception of God's covenant of grace makes faith a condition unto salvation. The covenant of grace is regarded as a contract between God and man, consisting of a promise and a condition, or grace and works.
The Antinomian objects to good works only because he regards works as that which we must add in order to be saved.
Good works are necessary.
It would be impossible, nor is it necessary, to cite all the passages of Scripture to demonstrate this. A few will suffice.
Psalm 1 strikes the keynote for the entire Book of Psalms. There we are taught: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares that: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law (with its 'Thou shalt' and 'Thou shalt not'), till all be fulfilled." Then He goes into detail to explain the true demand of the law (Matt. 5:18-48).
In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus speaks of the man who traveled to a far country and entrusted his goods to his servants. To the one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to the third, one, each according to his ability. Upon the master's return, the one who received five talents had gained other five. The one who received two had gained other two. To each of these the master responded: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord." But the unprofitable servant, who buried his talent in the earth, is cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Thereupon Jesus speaks of the final judgment, in which the King will say to His sheep on His right hand: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Yet, to be saved by works is a human impossibility.
We are an utterly dependent people, dependent upon the providential hand of the Almighty. God gives us our life, our ability to breathe, our very existence. He determines and directs our lives from the moment we are born until the moment we pass on to eternity. We cannot take one step, utter one word, or think a single thought, except by the sustaining hand of the Almighty. All that we are and all that we have we owe to God. If it were possible for us to do all that God requires of us, even at best we would be unprofitable servants, as humiliating as that may seem. That applies also to every spiritual blessing - we have added nothing, we have merited nothing!
Besides that, we are depraved sinners, enemies of God, self-seekers, proud, carnally-minded, dead in trespasses and sins. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. There is none that doeth good of any sort, no not one. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the sight of the living God.
The fathers said that if we must add as much as a blade of straw to our salvation we are lost forever.
We are saved by grace only.
In Romans 11 Paul speaks of a remnant that is saved according to the election of grace. To which he adds: "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11:6).
By God's grace we are saved through faith. Someone will ask: Does not Scripture require, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"? Surely God does not believe for us. The answer to that is: True, but this does not mean that faith is the part that we add to God's work, nor that faith is the condition or the prerequisite to our salvation. Salvation is God's gift. Faith is also God's gift. It is all through grace, not of works, lest any man should boast. As the fathers of Dordt expressed it: God "produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also" (Canons III/IV, 14).
We are and we remain responsible creatures. God reveals Himself to us in Jesus Christ as the God of our salvation. He raises us from our spiritual death and implants in our hearts a new life. He gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. The Spirit of Christ awakens in us an awareness of our sin and guilt before the most high majesty of God. Only the Spirit can create a godly sorrow unto repentance, not to be repented of. It is the voice of Jesus that calls us: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And we come! All boasting is excluded.
The fact that is most amazing is that we remain accountable creatures. God is so great, beyond all comprehension, that as His creatures we respond to His call - either we embrace it or we reject it. By nature we reject it. It is the wonder of sovereign mercy that the Spirit gives us the ability to believe and to continue to walk in faith. We believe! We believe in God. We experience that God is our heavenly Father, who loves us with an eternal love. We confess Him as our God and Father, calling upon Him with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving. We know Christ, God's Son, as our Redeemer and Lord, placing all our trust in Him. We are justified, assured of the forgiveness of our sins and the right to eternal life by faith only. Faith reaches out in hope, expectation, and longing for our perfection in glory.
At times that faith is weak. We pass through fiery trials that sorely try us, so that doubt and fears arise within us. These trials are temptations. And we do falter and fall. But our faith never leaves us completely, for God is faithful. He who has begun a good work will surely finish it in His own time and in His own manner. God is our refuge and our strength, our ever present Help in trouble.
Our good works are the fruit of that grace wrought by the Spirit in our hearts.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22, 23).
We are united to Christ as branches of the vine. Jesus says: "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4).
We are admonished in Philippians 2:12, 13 to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, "for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Paul teaches us that we are God's workmanship. Each of us is, as it were, custom-made in Christ Jesus. He is our Head, we are the members of His body. Even as the branches of the vine draw their life and fruit from the vine, so we draw our life and works of faith from Christ. Each of us is cut out, shaped, and formed, as it were, with his own personality, talents, and gifts for his particular place, task, and purpose in God's church.
From eternity God has planned our lives, our place in our family, our own particular place in the church and in the community. God has also ordained certain duties for us to perform on our pathway through life.
Every day we are carrying out those works which God has determined from all eternity. In spite of all our human weaknesses and sins, yes, even through those weaknesses and sins, God carries out His purpose with each one of us. We do the works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. That is, God carries out His work of salvation in us and through us. His counsel stands and He does all His good pleasure, realizing His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus to the glory of His great name.
The most amazing wonder of it all is that God rewards us for the good works Christ accomplishes in and through us. He gives us the privilege, the desire, and the ability to carry out His work in this present time. It is none of self, all of Him.
He takes us unto Himself to love and serve Him in all the fullness of His glorious, infinite perfections - His holiness, righteousness, grace, truth, love, and mercy. We shall reflect and show forth His glory to the praise of His matchless name forever, world without end.
This is eternal life, to know God in intimate covenant fellowship and to grow in that knowledge endlessly. Since God is infinite, all eternity will be required to know more fully the riches of His grace and to experience with increasing intimacy the blessedness of His covenant life. The reward is the reward of grace. Amazing! Amazing grace!
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The editorial answered a question by a reader in California (where the preterism of Christian Reconstruction makes headway in Reformed and Presbyterian churches), asking for information about the "preterist view." The editorial explained that preterism (from a Latin word meaning "past") is the heresy that teaches that the second coming of Jesus Christ is a past event. The second coming of Christ occurred in AD 70. The second coming of Christ was the destruction of Jerusalem.
The editorial charged that postmillennial Christian Reconstruction is promoting this heresy in Reformed and Presbyterian churches today:
This grievous heresy (that is, preterism), postmillennial Christian Reconstruction is promoting in Reformed and Presbyterian churches today, although it claims to avoid full-blown, consistent preterism.This charge has provoked the angry responses from the two champions of Christian Reconstruction.
I have published both letters in full. This will surprise some. The letters stoop to personal abuse. Worse, they indulge in a scurrilous attack on historic, confessional, Reformed amillennialism. Were I to write a similar letter to the magazine of which Sandlin is editor, the Chalcedon Report, or to DeMar's American Vision publication, in defense of amillennialism my letter would never see the light of day.
But I am not doing them a favor by publishing their letters. It is my purpose that these defenders of Christian Reconstruction be permitted to expose themselves, as they insist, and that the preterism of Christian Reconstruction be established beyond any shadow of doubt.
One thing that becomes plain from the letters is that, although Christian Reconstruction is good at handing out criticism, it has a very thin skin when it comes to taking criticism. For 30-odd years now, R. J. Rushdoony and his disciples have been mercilessly excoriating Reformed amillennialism. Consider this condemnation of amillennialism and amillennialists by Rushdoony, patriarch of the movement:
Amillennialism … (is) in retreat from the world and blasphemously surrender(s) it to the devil. By its very premise … that the world will only get worse … it cuts the nerve of Christian action…. (With premillennialists) they (amillennial believers-DJE) are . . . the most impotent segment of American society, with the least impact on American life. To turn the world-conquering word of the sovereign, omnipotent, and triune God into a symbol of impotence is not a mark of faith. It is blasphemy ("Postmillennialism versus Impotent Religion," in the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, 3, no. 2 [Winter, 1976-77]: 126, 127).The Rev. Sandlin's letter illustrates the relentless attack on and ridicule of amillennialism by Christian Reconstruction over the years: "your own highly defeatist and implicitly Manichean amillennialism."
But let a Reformed amillennialist venture a criticism of Christian Reconstruction, and the Christian Reconstructionists react with vitriolic, personal abuse: "twisted depiction"; "guilty of slander"; "your own highly defeatist and implicitly Manichean amillennialism"; "lie about what people actually believe"; "very poor scholarship"; "embarrassing"; "why don't you do substantive exegesis?"
The question about preterism to which I responded in the February 15, 1999 issue of the SB was occasioned by a series of editorials defending (Reformed) amillennialism against the postmillennialism of Christian Reconstruction. These editorials ran from January 15, 1995 through December 15, 1996. Soon after I began the series, one of that bellicose crowd-a lawyer-threatened legal action if I did not cease criticizing Christian Reconstruction.
All of this bluster has the tendency, if it is not designed, to frighten off all would-be opponents of Christian Reconstruction. Who is eager to be taken to court by a sharp young lawyer? Who relishes being lampooned by the mighty exegetes, logicians, and theologians of Christian Reconstruction? The result is that opponents timidly retreat from the field, leaving eschatology in the hands of Christian Reconstruction.
This must not happen. The postmillennial eschatology of Christian Reconstruction is false doctrine. It must be exposed. Amillennialism, as God's own truth-vitally important truth-about the last days, must be defended against Christian Reconstruction's wicked attack on it as "blasphemy." This is our calling.
Much of the contents of the two letters can be answered quickly. Neither Sandlin nor DeMar addresses my grounds for charging that, although (as I recognized) Christian Reconstruction protests that it wants to retain a future coming of Christ, in fact Christian Reconstruction is committed to a consistent preterism (see the Feb. 15, 1999 SB, p. 223). These grounds have to do with the Christian Reconstruction explanation of Matthew 24; the Christian Reconstruction understanding of the New Testament's teaching that the return of Christ is "near"; and Christian Reconstruction's having its heart set, not on Jesus' return but on the carnal kingdom of its dreams. Until Sandlin and DeMar demonstrate, or make some effort at demonstrating, that these grounds are false, the charge stands.
DeMar should not appeal to Charles H. Spurgeon's endorsement of James Stuart Russell's preterist book, The Parousia. For one thing, the bad example of another is no justification of one's committing the same evil. For another thing, placing Spurgeon's recommendation in the earlier editions of Russell's book was misleading, if not deceptive. Spurgeon's full review of Russell's The Parousia was critical, not commendatory. Only the last line was qualified recommendation of the reading of the book. To lift that line out of the critical review and make it an endorsement was dubious at best.
There is more to DeMar's appeal to R. C. Sproul. Sproul has recommended Russell's The Parousia. This is the book, remember, that puts all of the eschatology revealed in the Scriptures, with the exception of the millennium of Revelation 20, in the past. This is the book that denies any revelation of a future coming of Jesus Christ. Sproul's recommendation is glowing: "Russell's work is one of the most important treatments on Biblical eschatology that is available to the church today." Sproul has since written a book of his own on eschatology in which he expresses strong attraction to preterism as taught by Russell. It is all too evident that he has been powerfully influenced by Russell. The Christian Reconstructionists have not been slow to hail the popular Sproul as their ally.
And with right.
This makes exposure of preterism as false doctrine all the more necessary. Exposure of preterism becomes necessary for the sake of Reformed and Presbyterian Christians among whom R. C. Sproul is influential.
DeMar urges me to do "substantive exegesis" of Scripture on the issues. Alas, he is ignorant of the exegesis that I have done on the pages of the SB of several of the passages of Scripture that are crucial in the debate: Matthew 24; Isaiah 65; and Revelation 20. The reason for his ignorance is that he does not read the SB.
Both Sandlin and DeMar are at pains at the very beginning of their letters to inform me that they themselves did not know of my editorial on preterism to which they respond. A "friend," in one case, and a "member of our editorial committee," in the other case, had to bring the magazine to their attention. They do not read our magazine.
This is perfectly understandable.
The readers of the SB should know that these are important and busy men.
They cannot be expected to read such a humble magazine as the SB.
But then neither should DeMar allege my failure to do substantive exegesis of the Scriptural passages in the debate between Reformed amillennialism and Christian Reconstruction postmillennialism. The fact is that a good part of my series, "A Defense of (Reformed) Amillennialism," a series occasioned by a long letter by Gary DeMar, dutifully printed in the SB, consisted of exegesis that claimed to refute the postmillennial position and to ground the position of amillennialism.
That these important and busy men do not take the time to read the SB is understandable. But it is not wise. Humble though the SB may be in comparison with the learned tomes over which these mighty exegetes, logicians, and theologians pore, it is the one magazine today that boldly defends historic amillennialism. Their own cohort, Gary North, made this observation in the preface to his recent commentary on Numbers. Explaining why he devotes so many pages to a consideration of Protestant Reformed writing on eschatology, North says that Protestant Reformed men "are among the very few remaining Dutch-American Calvinist defenders of traditional amillennialism who are willing to go into print on the topic." He adds:
But so few theologians today are ready to defend with real conviction and enthusiasm the original amillennial pessimism (sic!), that (the Protestant Reformed men) have staked out a kind of operational monopoly: the last really enthusiastic defenders of the older Dutch amillennial tradition (Sanctions and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Numbers, ICE, 1997, pp. xxviii, xxix).Sandlin and DeMar might find it worth their while to read the one vigorous, unabashed defense of amillennialism being published today.
All of these matters may have their importance, but the central issue is my charge that Christian Reconstruction's doctrine of the last things is preterist. This must be the charge that DeMar castigates as a "lie." He never tells us what the "lie" is. Much less does he prove that anything in the editorial is a "lie." Apparently, busy and important scholars need not condescend to such details. For them, it is sufficient to declare on their own authority that an entire article in general is a "lie." This verdict must then be accepted as decisive.
At the humble SB, we operate differently. We require that the "lie" be precisely identified and then that the charge of falsehood be proved.
No doubt, DeMar refers to the charge of preterism.
DeMar recommended James Stuart Russell's book, The Parousia. This book is devoted to the proposition that every single eschatological prophecy in the Bible, save only the millennium of Revelation 20, has been fulfilled in A. D. 70. That is, all of the last things is past. Christ came then, and there is no future coming of Jesus Christ to look forward to. Russell's book is preterism. It is preterism with a vengeance. It is full-blown, consistent preterism. It is preterism that destroys the Christian hope. It is as much a denial of the second coming of Jesus Christ as is the liberal doctrine that the corpse of Jesus (if ever He lived) lies moldering in the dirt of Palestine. About this book, on the back cover of the 1996 reprint edition, Gary DeMar says:
How many times have you struggled with the interpretation of certain Biblical texts related to the time of Jesus' return because they did not fit with a preconceived system of eschatology? Russell's Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ's return. Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally often trip over the obvious meaning of these time texts by making Scripture mean the opposite of what it unequivocally declares. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics.One who has recommended Russell's book cannot cry "lie" when an amillennialist charges "preterism!" Nor can he cry "lie" when the amillennialist alleges that Christian Reconstruction postmillennialism is promoting the grievous heresy of the consistent preterism of James Stuart Russell. This is exactly what DeMar did, intended to do, and is doing by his recommendation on the back cover of the book.
What DeMar ought to have written about Russell's The Parousia is that it is a damnable denial of the whole of the Christian hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ, including the bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and eternal life in the new world. He should have added that it is a wicked, foolish dissolving of the glorious promise of the Day of Christ into the day of the destruction of a second-rate city in the distant past.
DeMar will object that, although he is a preterist, he is no hyper-preterist.
This is also Sandlin's defense: Christian Reconstruction rejects "consistent preterism." It may be noted in passing that consistency is a jewel. It also has a certain inevitability about it. In theology, positions that began as inconsistent embrace of an error invariably become consistent embrace of the error.
But let this be. In the editorial on preterism, I acknowledged that Christian Reconstruction "claims to avoid full-blown, consistent preterism." I acknowledged that Christian Reconstruction protests "that it wants to retain the hope of a future coming of Christ and a future resurrection of the dead on the basis of a few New Testament prophecies that still apply to the church today, that is, that it wants to hold an 'inconsistent preterism.'"
But I added that there are three reasons why this is impossible, three reasons why Christian Reconstruction is committed, willy-nilly, to full-blown, consistent preterism. These three reasons, Sandlin and DeMar have not touched. They must do so.
In a following article, I will demonstrate, mainly from the writings of Gary DeMar, that Christian Reconstruction is preterist. That is, first, Christian Reconstruction erroneously explains important events of biblical eschatology that are future as past events. Second, Christian Reconstruction is guilty of making most of biblical eschatology a thing of the past. Third, Christian Reconstruction is bound by its own theology to regard all of eschatology as past event.
But I would like the Rev. Sandlin and Mr. DeMar to read my response to their letters in this and the following issue of the SB.
May I ask the friend of Mr. DeMar and the member of the editorial committee of Chalcedon Report who brought the editorial of February 15 to the attention of these men to do the same with these issues.
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To raise a standard one must have a standard. It's one thing to disagree with a position and those who hold it, it's another thing to lie about what people actually believe. The ninth commandment is still in force. Your editorial is an example of very poor scholarship. It's embarrassing to think that it was written by a seminary professor who is supposed to be preparing students for ministry and truth telling. I will be using it as an example for my students how not to argue. You do your cause no favor by printing such half truths.
Let's have a debate at your seminary. Have your students decide who's telling the truth. Assign them Last Days Madness.Let's see if they come to your conclusions. They should also read Ken Gentry's Before Jerusalem Fell.
I did not use Russell for my research. I was most influenced by the Hebraist scholar John Lightfoot, one of the participants at the Westminster Assembly. He, along with many other commentators, showed that Matthew 24 and II Thessalonians 2, to name just two passages, have a preterist fulfillment. If you read my Last Days Madness and follow its arguments, you might not be so quick to misrepresent a brother in Christ. Will you also attack C.H. Spurgeon for his endorsement of Russell? (See the first reprint edition by Baker.) What about Baker Book House for twice reprinting it? And then there's R.C. Sproul and his endorsement. In fact, he wrote the foreword to Baker's latest reprint edition. Why didn't you mention Sproul and his preterist conference with nearly 4,000 in attendance? Are you afraid that your entire case would be considered suspect if people learned that Sproul holds a similar position and stood with a number of reconstructionists on this issue?
Why don't you do substantive exegesis instead of name-calling.
You state that Jesus' coming is "near." What do you mean by "near"? You never tell your readers.
Hope to read better arguments in the future.
President, American Vision
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This is flatly wrong. Christian Reconstruction and "consistent preterism" are antithetical positions, and we made this point categorically in the July, 1997 issue of the Chalcedon Report. Christian Reconstruction embraces the orthodox Christian Faith, crucial aspects of which the "consistent preterists" deny. Some Christian Reconstructionists hold that certain parts of Matthew 24 and the Apocalypse were fulfilled in AD 70, but all of them affirm the future physical Second Advent of Christ, resurrection of the just and unjust, and final judgment. That is, all are orthodox eschatologists. If they were to adopt "consistent preterism," they would thereby abandon Christian Reconstruction - and, for that matter, orthodox Christianity.
Nobody at Chalcedon is a preterist - certainly not as this is today defined. Rushdoony and I hold that most of Matthew 24 and the Apocalypse describe events of much of the interadvental era, including, to be sure, the destruction of Jerusalem. (I myself think Matthew Henry's view is quite on target.) You assert that Russell's view in locating the Second Advent at AD 70 is heretical. We agree, and do not in any way endorse his pernicious work, The Parousia. While some Christian Reconstructionists have more recently accepted a mild, orthodox form of preterism, this interpretation is in no way endemic to our position.
Perhaps to you the Hymenaen heresy ("consistent preterism") offers a convenient issue by which to dismiss our consistently Reformed approach to the Faith, and to advertise your own highly defeatist and implicitly Manichean amillennialism. In any case, if you are committed to attacking our position, please have the courtesy to attack our distinctives: orthodox, catholic, Reformed Christianity; VanTilian presuppositionalism; biblionomy; postmillennialism; and dominionism.
Preterism has never been a distinctive of Christian Reconstruction.
Your readers deserve to hear the facts of this letter.
(Rev.) Andrew Sandlin
Editor, Chalcedon Report
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With such writing in the Standard Bearer in favor of exclusive psalmody, one might infer that the Protestant Reformed Churches are churches singing the psalms only. Rev. Cammenga even writes that, "This is still today the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches." The truth is that the Protestant Reformed Churches do not hold the position of exclusive psalmody. They do not do so theoretically, nor as a rule do they do so practically.
They do not do so in theory precisely because of their Church Order. The churches, through Article 69, mandate the singing of other songs besides the "150 Psalms of David." This article does not promote exclusive psalmody at all. At best it insures inclusion of the psalms with the exclusion of man-made hymns (and we should appreciate the article for this). But it cannot be said that the article is mandating exclusive psalmody.
Perhaps there are Protestant Reformed Churches that practice exclusive psalmody in the face of the Church Order. Such would be the exception. The rule as yet is that a doxology of some sort is sung as the service begins, and this doxology is not a psalm. Another doxology is sung at the close as well. Sometimes it, too, is not a psalm. A church that sings songs other than the psalms cannot claim to be practicing exclusive psalmody. Perhaps it would be better if we re-wrote the Church Order rather than the dictionary. We readers of the Standard Bearer have seen other articles in recent years written by PR pastors promoting the principle of exclusive psalmody on one hand, while re-explaining Article 69 on the other. It seems that to re-word the Church Order to read, "In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David shall be sung," would be far easier (and more conscionable) than spilling a lot of ink interpreting church orders to say something that they clearly don't.
D. Scott Connerley
South Holland, IL
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Neither is it accurate to say that the Protestant Reformed Churches do not practice exclusive psalmody. We do. Just as much as adherence to the principle of exclusive psalmody does not necessarily demand that the Psalms themselves literally be sung, but a versification of them, so adherence to the principle of exclusive psalmody does not mean that no allowance may be made for the singing of the doxology and the few special songs referred to in Article 69.
-Rev. Ron Cammenga
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(This is the transcript of a speech given by Herman Hoeksema at a Ladies' League Meeting in Hudsonville, MI on April 29, 1943.)
At the end of the previous installment, Herman Hoeksema had just observed that "there is, from without especially, the danger of falling into wrong hands. Especially under the influences of worldly and corrupt companions, adolescents, who are in the nature of the case easily moved and inclined to seek that very life, will find all kinds of opportunity to express themselves in evil ways." That set the stage for the third question which he had promised to address.What to do about it - that is my last question. What is the duty of a Christian teacher or Christian parent, specifically of a Christian mother in the training of those adolescent children?
Of course, the general calling is very plain. Parents, mothers, bring up your children - also your adolescent children - in the fear and admonition of the Lord. That means that you must instruct them in the fear of the Lord. You must pray for them, etc. Those are simply general things which you must never forget and that do not pertain particularly to the training of our adolescent children, but to the training of our children at any age. I am not, however, calling specific attention to that.
In the second place, I want to make this plain, that you must not imagine that if you have neglected the training of your children before that age, you can begin it now. It is too late. When I talk about the duty of the mother in regard to the training of her adolescent children, I do not mean to abstract and separate the education of that age from the preceding one. The training of your adolescent children should be based upon the training which you have given them in their childhood. You cannot start when they get to be thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen years old. It is too late. Let me sound a note of warning that you must start the training of your adolescent children when they are children, not when they are adolescents.
In the third place, though I have been asked to speak specifically on the duty of the Christian mother, let me emphasize that, especially at this age, there must by all means be the greatest confidence and cooperation between the mother and the father. Do not try - especially at that age - to keep the training of your children in your own hands. Do not try to keep from your husbands any secrets in regard to what the children reveal. Usually, you are with your children more than their father is. You are with them in the daytime, when the father is gone. You may find a tendency in your heart not to tell father, and simply conceal things from him and make it impossible for him to know. Don't! There should be the greatest cooperation between the Christian mother and the Christian father. And remember, the stronger hand of the Christian father may often be needed in the training of the adolescent children. Do not forget it.
As to the specific calling of the Christian mother, who is with the adolescent children more than the father is, I would just make a few remarks, for by right my time is up already. Let me be brief. First of all, by all means try to gain their confidence. Rather, let me say, keep their confidence. Their attitude is such, naturally, that they are inclined to close up their hearts. That is true especially of boys, but to a certain extent also of girls. They are going to have secrets. They should not. In order to be intimate with them, you must have their confidence. You must make them feel that they can get rid of their problems and that they can have a sympathetic reception for any problem that may be in their heart when they come to mother - and they do that with mother more easily than with father. So then, be sympathetic in order to keep their confidence. By all means do not be rude with them. You had the same problems when you were their age. Maybe you look now upon everything they do as a tendency to evil. It is not so. Consider their natural characteristics before you condemn everything that they do and ask and are inclined to do. Be sympathetic. That in the first place - that they may express their hearts to you and not be distant from you. No doubt their minds are filled with a lot of secrets. Give them the impression that you expect them to confide in you.
Secondly, let me advise that, when your children are that age, you exercise a wise, gentle, yet firm authority. By wise authority I mean authority with discretion, especially in view of the fact that they do not like the authority of childhood anymore. Do not treat them as small children, because they do not like it. Nevertheless, use your authority. By wise authority I mean that you must make a distinction between what is really good for them and what is just merely a notion on your part. When they come and ask, "May I do this, or may I go here?" or when they come and say, "May I stay out a little longer tonight?" do not decide that question merely by a stable law of the Medes and Persians, but ask yourself the question, not how long are they out, but where are they. It is already a great gain if at that age your children let you know where they are and you can be assured that they are where they tell you they are. If there is a rule that they must be in by ten o'clock, but you know that they are at a program and cannot possibly be home until 11:30, by all means give your consent. You understand that the matter of time is relatively unimportant, but where they are is the essential thing. It is much better to be at a good place until twelve o'clock than at a bad place until ten. Use your authority, but by all means use it with discretion. Do not always deny. Do not always say "no." Try to exercise your authority in such a way that your adolescent children do not know you are doing it. Exercise your authority in such a way that the child will do what you tell him to do, but doesn't feel the yoke of authority. Be firm. By all means be firm. When you have made up your mind that a certain thing is correct, do not let it go. To do so, especially when the children are at that age, will lead to the discard of all authority. Be firm; but be discreet.
In the third place, by all means get into the life of your children and guide them. Give them advice - advice as to their complaints, advice as to their literature, advice as to their amusements. Do not merely condemn something, but explain.
In the fourth place, do three things. Inculcate in your children a love to be at home, so that they like to come home with their friends, with their companions, and do not like to be on the street. Make home pleasant for them, so that they like home and make it their center of interest.
Inculcate in their hearts also a love for the church and for the activities of the church. It is good for young people that they find a Christian social center in the church. Instead of going all over, they should enjoy being in young people's society, or in whatever activity may be going on. Church life, also for our adolescents, should be more than Sunday services. Be careful what you say about the church and about the pastor. By all means, do not blame the children when they criticize, if your comments about the church are always negative.
And inculcate in them, in a very wise way, and above all, the fear of the Lord. Of course. According to their age, meet their problems. Answer their questions. If it is possible.
I realize all these things are difficult. It is not easy to educate children. They require wise, patient study. And they require, perhaps, more time and leisure than you have. They require, above all, prayer, and the example of a godly mother who herself lives a godly life.
I thank you.
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The Preamble of the Constitution of the Committee for Contact with Other Churches expresses the conviction of the Protestant Reformed Churches that it is their "sacred duty to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the church on earth in as far as that is possible, not only in our denominational fellowship but also in conjunction with all churches which have obtained like precious faith with us, both domestic and foreign." On behalf of the churches, the Contact Committee carries out this sacred duty.
This past year has been a very busy one for the Contact Committee. Much work has been done developing the contacts that we already have. Effort has also been put forth to develop new contacts.
The Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore
Our minister-on-loan, Rev. Jason Kortering, continues his energetic labors in our sister churches in Singapore. His monthly reports have kept us informed of the many labors in which he is involved. There are all of the labors in the churches themselves in Singapore. There are his labors on behalf of missions, both for the ERCS and the PRC, in Myanmar, India, Nepal, and the Philippines. Rev. Kortering is also extensively involved in the Bible School that the ERCS is in the process of establishing. We must continue to remember Rev. Kortering and his faithful wife in our prayers.
Rev. Kortering's term as minister-on-loan expires in 2002. Already the Contact Committees of the PRC and the ERCS are beginning to work on securing Rev. Kortering's replacement. In all likelihood the attempt will be made to call a man in 2001 so that there will be a year of overlap, providing for a smooth transition.
One of the significant proposals the Contact Committee will be presenting to synod 1999 is that Prof. Herman Hanko be sent to labor for at least six months in Singapore. The ERCS has requested this so that Prof. Hanko can assist them in the development of their Bible School.
All of the PR Churches have been made aware of the fact that Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church was notified by the Singapore government that the use permit for their church building would not be renewed. They are still in the process of finding a new meeting place. Collections are being taken in our churches. Their need is great and we must continue to bring the need of our sister church before the throne of grace in prayer.
Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland
Rev. Ron Hanko continues his faithful labors as missionary pastor in the congregation in Northern Ireland. The focus of our labors with the CPRC NI this past year has been on the matter of establishing sister-church relationships. One of the members of our Contact Committee, Rev. Kenneth Koole, was included in the delegation sent this year to Northern Ireland in order to discuss the matter of sister-church relationships with the consistory of the CPRC NI.
The Contact Committee will be proposing to synod 1999 that sister-church relationships be established provisionally with the CPRC NI this year and finalized by synod 2000. This will provide our sister churches in Singapore the opportunity to indicate whether they have any legitimate objections to our establishing sister-church relationships with the CPRC NI. Two elders from the consistory of the CPRC NI, Mr. Brian Crossett and Mr. Jonathan McAuley, plan to be present at synod in June. We very much look forward to the visit of these two brothers.
The Evangelical Reformed Church of Australia
The Contact Committee continues to develop our contact with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Australia. Over the years our churches and people have had a great deal of contact with the saints down under. This small denomination needs the prayers and support of the PRC. At present the EPCA has one student, Mr. Mark Shand, attending our Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.
Sadly, the Contact Committee of the EPCA informed us that because of circumstances within their denomination they would be unable to attend a conference that we had planned with them the first part of June, just before the convening of our synod. Plans are being made now to hold the conference in the year 2001. In addition, the Contact Committee is working to bring a delegation from the EPCA to the United States in June of 2000 in order to attend our synod, participate in the graduation of their student, and attend our denomination's 75th anniversary celebration.
In line with the decisions taken by synod 1998, the Contact Committee has pursued contact with the United Reformed Churches in North America. An all-day conference is planned for Tuesday, April 27 at our seminary between our Contact Committee and the Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity of the URCNA. The subject for the conference is Common Grace.
A conference is also planned for June 2 with the Committee for Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This will be a preliminary meeting at which we will discuss the reasons why synod 1998 felt constrained to cease sending observers to NAPARC. We will also pursue the possibility of discussion of the significant issues that divide us, including especially but not exclusively the free offer of the gospel.
This year the Contact Committee has made an effort to develop our contacts with the Hungarian Reformed Churches. On March 26 the Contact Committee met with Rev. Laszlo Kontos. Rev. Kontos is a minister in the Hungarian Reformed Churches who also serves as the librarian and archivist of the Hungarian Reformed Seminary in Papa, Hungary. Rev. Kontos is in the United States for several months assisting the American Hungarian Reformed Church in Allen Park, Michigan. The meeting was informative and the Contact Committee will continue to explore ways in which our Protestant Reformed Churches can be of help to the Reformed Churches in Hungary.
The work this past year has been exciting. The Lord gives our churches many opportunities to be of service to churches and denominations around the world who are struggling to maintain the Reformed faith. May He continue to give us the wisdom needed as we endeavor to carry out our sacred duty on behalf of the unity and catholicity of His church in the world.
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The Foreign Mission Committee continues to work in behalf of our Churches for the cause of the spread of the Reformed faith in foreign lands. Synod 1993 assigned to the jurisdiction of the FMC the foreign lands including Africa, Asia, India, the Middle East, South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Indeed this is an enormous jurisdiction. However, in the first place, we must remember that our sister churches of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore are doing mission work in Myanmar, Nepal, and India. The FMC does not intend to duplicate efforts in the regions where our sister churches have work. In the second place, in the Lord's providence the FMC has been given work only in Ghana, in the Philippines, and with a handful of scattered individuals throughout Africa, Asia, and Central America. About that work in the past year, here follows a brief summary.
The FMC was busy investigating the requirements of "sponsorship" for sending a missionary to Ghana. In January 1999, the FMC decided no longer to pursue sponsorship but rather to send a missionary independently. The main reason for deciding against sponsorship was that this would involve us in compromise of our beliefs and practices. The FMC determined that it is possible and, we believe, preferable for us to enter Ghana independently.
As a result of this decision, the FMC advised Hull PRC to resume calling a missionary to Ghana. Hull adopted the advice of the FMC and immediately formed a trio. Hull extended the call to Rev. Richard Moore. Rev. Moore accepted the call and preached his farewell on March 7, 1999. He was subsequently installed as our foreign missionary to Ghana on March 19, 1999, in Hull PRC.
This is something new for our churches. For the first time in our history we have a missionary who will labor on the continent of Africa in Ghana. Though we begin a journey as churches in this new work, we strongly desire that we walk down the old path of obedience to Christ in preaching purely and without compromise the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We believe that such gathers His eternally chosen church into the fellowship of the gospel. In distinction from many today, we narrowly define mission work as only the official preaching of the church by an ordained and sent minister of the Word. We believe such is scriptural. We realize that because we do not make humanitarian projects and economic advancement part of our denominational mission work, our mission work will not be popular and will not attract droves of people. Nevertheless, we believe that when the Word is preached purely, in faithfulness to Christ (II Tim. 4:1,2), the Lord uses such to gather the church out of every nation, tribe, and tongue. Thus, in Accra, Ghana, we desire to preach the Word, and then wait patiently upon the Lord to grant the increase according to His eternal good pleasure.
Our approach to working the field in Ghana is first to establish a gathering under our preaching and teaching in the capital city of Ghana, Accra. Much of this work will be among those who have heard the gospel. Accra is full of churches of varying faiths. Our mission work will concentrate initially in working with those who have heard the gospel, but now desire the Reformed faith. When the mission work is established in Accra, the Lord willing, then there may be opportunities to labor in other regions, even possibly among tribes in the northern regions.
The FMC and Hull council are very thankful to God for providing us with a man to be our missionary to Ghana. We are thankful to God that Rev. Moore and his wife have expressed such willingness and eagerness to do this work. The change will not be not easy. The challenges are immense. The work will be exhausting. However, our sincere desire is that the Lord will strengthen our missionary, bless his work, gather His saints under his preaching, and cause the gathering to grow spiritually and in numbers.
Rev. and Mrs. Moore are currently busy making preparations to move to Accra, Ghana. They have sold most of their belongings, put some into storage, squeezed the rest into a number of boxes which they will take with them on the flight to Accra. The Moores have received the necessary immunizations. They have begun work in securing suitable housing in Ghana with the assistance of one of our contacts in Accra, Rev. Gabriel Anyigba. They have begun the application process for visas. Rev. Moore has said that with all the moving and preparations, he has been kept very busy to keep plans on track for their departure date.
In addition to all the preparations, Rev. Moore also plans to develop some awareness of his work by visits to our Canadian churches in Alberta, Canada, and our churches in the Northwest and Midwest of the United States. After all the preparation and promotion of the field in our churches, the Moores plan to depart from North America on June 16 and arrive in Ghana on June 17. We pray the Lord will grant them safe travel to the field.
Perhaps you wonder about the volunteer assistants. Perhaps you have already even given in the collections for the "Ghanaian Missionary Assistants Fund," but you wonder what is happening. Who was chosen? Will they be leaving in June, too? We can answer those questions you may have.
You will recall that the FMC sent out a request for volunteers. The FMC asked Rev. Moore to interview the candidates and recommend to the Hull council and FMC whom to select as volunteer assistants. There was a pleasant problem of having a large list of candidates from which to choose. Hull council, upon recommendation of Rev. Moore, selected Mr. and Mrs. John Bouma. The FMC concurred with that decision. The Boumas plan to join our missionary and his wife on the field in about October. The costs of the volunteer assistants (immunizations, housing, utilities, food, transportation) will be entirely supported by donations and by collections from our congregations. At this time, the FMC estimates that the cost of the volunteers will be about $20,000 per year. The FMC plans to keep the congregations informed about the financial position of the "Ghanaian Missionary Assistants Fund" in order that our volunteers have sufficient support in Ghana. The FMC is thankful to the congregations for the financial support of our volunteers thus far. The FMC is also thankful for the desire and willingness of the Boumas to face the challenges of living in a new environment and assisting the missionary in practical work which is not directly the official work of the missionary. We also thank the others who responded to the request for volunteer assistants.
Because our missionary is not on the field, we have nothing more to report at this time. We desire to keep the churches informed of developments on the field with regular reports either in the Standard Bearer or in newsletters directly from our missionary via the FMC. We covet your prayers on behalf of Rev. Moore and his wife, Hull Protestant Reformed Church and her council, and your FMC in its denominational work in Ghana.
The FMC has also devoted much time and effort towards our contacts in the Philippines. We have maintained regular correspondence and contact with the people there. In October 1998, Rev. Arie denHartog and Rev. Richard Smit worked for a couple of weeks among our contacts in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, and Manila. They taught and preached, visited families there, met with the leaders of the respective groups, and also found time to investigate immigration requirements and living costs for a possible missionary. The FMC believed that this work was very profitable to understand better the physical, spiritual, and ecclesiastical conditions of our contacts in their respective locations. Much correspondence and further good interaction with the contacts have resulted from this work. We pass along to you the deep appreciation from the contacts for the willingness of our churches to do even this type of work. The contacts expressed that they would be grateful for additional contact and instruction in the future, if it is possible for us to provide that.
There is one area which the FMC has yet to investigate, and that is the area near Daet (on the main northern island of Luzon). In this area, the FMC has contact with the main leader, Percival Tanierla, who with his people has a desire to learn more about our faith and practice. The FMC at this point does not know much about the conditions there and what our future with the group is. To that end, the FMC plans to send a second delegation on behalf of our churches later this month. This also was mandated by synod 1998.
Currently, Rev. D. Kleyn and Rev. J. Kortering are preparing to leave for the Philippines. They have planned to meet in the Philippines on May 20 and continue there until May 31. The brethren also plan to have their wives accompany them. Their work will include instruction and preaching on the Lord's Day of May 23 in Daet among the groups who are associated with Pastor Tanierla. Then during that week the brethren will move to Bacolod and work among the Convenors of Historic Christianity in Bacolod. By the end of the week, the men plan to work among the Bible Study Fellowship in Cagayan de Oro. On the Lord's Day of May 30 they will both preach among the BSF in Cagayan de Oro. In addition to work with the BSF, the men also plan to meet with recent and very interested contacts from Davao, who will travel to Cagayan de Oro for that purpose. Finally, before their departure home, our delegation plans to include visits in Manila with several new and old contacts there.
We pray the Lord will bless these efforts to evaluate further the direction of our future involvement among our contacts in the Philippines. The FMC believes that for now we must continue in the mode of evaluation and development of our contacts in the Philippines. That does not mean there is no positive development among our contacts. We have witnessed positive progress among our contacts, for which we are thankful, but in light of that encouraging progress, we must not be hasty in committing ourselves as a small denomination with limited resources to another foreign field. Indeed, we must move forward in faith and obedience to fulfill our duty to spread the Reformed faith of the gospel in foreign lands. However, we must move forward in wisdom, too.
Another practical aspect to our future involvement is the immigration requirements. The FMC has documented evidence that a missionary will need a sponsoring group in the Philippines. A missionary could not immigrate to the Philippines without a sponsoring group. Such a sponsoring group is one which is registered with several agencies of the government. At this time our contacts would not meet the immigration requirements to sponsor a missionary from our churches.
In light of these considerations, the FMC is proposing to synod 1999 that another delegation be sent to the Philippines to nurture our relationship with our contacts by further instruction and preaching. We desire that our proposals to synod may meet the approval of our churches, and above all the approval of the Lord of the harvest.
Although the bulk of our time has been spent with Ghana and the Philippines, yet the FMC has received and responded to correspondence from other countries in Africa and other countries as, for example, India. We continue to distribute literature, cassette tapes of sermons and lectures, and RFPA books in an effort to spread the witness of the Reformed faith. We have also found that the technology of electronic mail has greatly enhanced our communication with foreign contacts who have that same communication capability. We trust that the Lord will bless our efforts in this way, too.
In conclusion, the FMC covets your prayers. We desire that the Lord will grant us much wisdom and strength to serve the churches well in our work of foreign missions. We desire that you will continue to make our need for wisdom and strength known before the Lord in your prayers in our behalf.
May we be accounted faithful by the Lord in our work for the cause of the Lord's kingdom and covenant.
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Ladarba l-bnedmin kollha dinbu f'Adam….
That's the beginning of Artiklu 1, in a booklet entitled IL-QWIENEN TA' DORT (traduzzjoni ta' Paul Mizzi).
The only English words in the publication come at the very end of the INTRODUZZJONI: "… Homer Hoeksema, The Voice of Our Fathers, (Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980)."
The language is Maltese. Perhaps you have already guessed the name of the publication. In the introduction the translator, Paul Mizzi, gives credit to Homer Hoeksema's commentary on the Canons of Dordt published by the RFPA. The Maltese of the first sentence, therefore, is the well-known beginning of the first article of the First Head of Doctrine: "As all men have sinned in Adam…."
Interesting. But what does all that have to do with an article in the SB on missions? And, if we grant the connection of the Reformed creeds with Reformed evangelism, how does Malta figure in the work of a domestic mission committee, which is the burden of this article?
If you read the SB from front to back, you've just finished Rev. Smit's informative article on the work of the PRC's Foreign Mission Committee. In it you learned what parts of the world are in the domain of the FMC. All the rest belongs to the DMC. And that includes Malta.
Obviously, the distinction between foreign and domestic missions is not geographical. With respect to the continent of North America, which is the home of the PRCA, Malta and the Philippines are, geographically, equally foreign. "Foreign," in the history of PRC missions, came to apply to those peoples who in their generations were not Christian; and "domestic," to those who were. The distinction, thus, has to do less with the place of the work than with the nature of the work. The latter is a useful distinction. One of the difficulties, however, is that it stretches the usus loquendi of the words to the point where one feels obliged to explain why the courageous stand of a Paul Mizzi over against the Roman Catholicism of a little island off the coast of Italy should be the concern of the DMC, and why the DMC decided to underwrite the printing cost of IL-QWIENEN TA' DORT. It's because of Malta's history. Interestingly, Pastor Mizzi identifies Malta, on the heading of his quarterly newsletter, as "the Island of Acts 28." Whether or not the shipwreck of the great apostle to the Gentiles did indeed mark the beginning of a Christian church on Malta (Melita), the fact is that the Christian tradition is long on the island. Applying the above distinction, then, it's plain to see that Malta belongs in the domain of the DMC.
Not always is that the case. That is, not always is it so plain. The history of some nations and regions of the world makes classification difficult. Hence synod 1993's drawing of geographical lines - as much as possible along the lines of the practical distinction which had governed the division of labors since 1962. In keeping both with 1962 and with 1993, Malta is "domestic." It's the DMC, therefore, that has had the privilege of contributing, in a small way, to a humble stand for the truth of the Word of God in that faraway land in which there is an overwhelming consensus against it. One cannot, in fact, help but be impressed by how closely the effort of the Trinity Evangelical Church of Malta mirrors our own. Their "outreach" includes, presently, evangelism in a neighboring island. They have, according to a recent newsletter of Pastor Mizzi, visited all thirteen of its towns. No large rallies producing mass conversions. "Two men showed an interest in searching the Scriptures, but so far they have not come to our services." And by that they are encouraged. Encouraged to press ahead, with a weekly radio broadcast, dissemination of literature, and letters to the editor in a Catholic paper which is the most widely read newspaper in Malta. Samples of the latter demonstrate that these are well reasoned, biblically grounded exposures of the lies of Roman Catholicism. This, for instance: "How can she (Mary), being a finite creature, listen to the prayers of millions? Popular Marian devotion implicitly attributes omniscience to a creature, even though the Bible declares that God alone knows the hearts of all people (see I Kings 8:39)."
Tracts, the little Reformed church in Malta distributes door to door. Not so, the Canons. Il-Qwienen ta' Dort they put "in the hands of those who are ready to read and consider sound doctrine." And they'd like to do the same with the Heidelberg Catechism. Pastor Mizzi has on his shelves Ursinus' commentary on the Catechism, as well as Hoeksema's Triple Knowledge. He has, he says, become a "firm believer in the utility of the Heidelberger and other literature that has withstood the test of time and has proved a blessing in the edification of God's elect children." Pastor Mizzi therefore already translated the Catechism into Maltese; and the DMC in its last meeting decided to inform him of its willingness to assist financially in the printing of it too.
There is no doubt that literature is a large part of the PRC's witness to the truth. That a pastor-missionary in Malta benefits from The Triple Knowledge, or that the SB has a subscriber in the country of Slobodan Milosevic, no longer surprises us. The Lord has seen fit to use our literature in most remarkable ways and unexpected places. More often than not it's the literature of the PRC that sparks the interest which leads eventually to work for the DMC. And our missionaries make extensive use of literature in carrying out their work. The San Luis Valley (CO) Courier and the Ballymena Guardian have carried many articles written by Missionaries Miersma and Hanko respectively. Rev. Hanko and the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland sold $5,000 worth of books last year and distributed nearly $2,500 worth of pamphlets. Radio, too, has been used by the DMC for many years. The Reformed Witness Hour was broadcast in the San Luis Valley for a year or so prior to our leaving that field, and is currently being broadcast in Pittsburgh. Rev. Mahtani and the Pittsburgh Mission have arranged for professionally-produced spot ads, to be broadcast three times a day for three weeks, promoting the RWH on WORD radio and the PRC mission work in Pittsburgh. It's too early to tell what the fruit of that effort will be, but during the past few months no fewer than seven promising contacts have been made due entirely to the radio messages of Rev. Carl Haak on the RWH in that area.
Reasons to be encouraged. The Lord gives us those, we think, so that we will not be discouraged when the results of our efforts are not always in harmony with our desires and intentions. Sometimes a Northwest Chicago Mission becomes a Bethel PRC (cf. p. 380 of this issue), and a Covenant Reformed Fellowship becomes the CPRC NI seeking sister-church relations with the PRCA (cf. p. 371 in this issue). But there are also the Modestos, Birminghams, Jamaicas … and now the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Not easy for the few who are left behind … or for the missionary. Yes, it tears at the heart of a missionary. Nor is it easy for the calling church and the Mission Committee. But, like Pastor Mizzi, we learn to be content when we cover thirteen towns and there are but two people who want to hear more. Content … for it is the Lord who opens hearts (cf. Acts 16:14).
Rev. Miersma is our western home missionary. He therefore cultivated contacts elsewhere in the west at the same time that he was concentrating his efforts in the San Luis Valley. A work in Spokane, WA became the main focus of his labor outside the Valley. For over a year, in fact, he traveled to Spokane on a monthly basis. His work was with the Sovereign Grace Reformed Church of Spokane. Once Arminian Baptist, the congregation had, over the years, become Reformed, and in the process lost a good deal of her membership - to the point where there are now but four families and a couple of individuals. Finding themselves to be in agreement with all the basic teachings of the PRC, they not only desired to have contact with us but were convinced that they had to do so as a matter of principle. They therefore asked us for help, with the understanding that such would be a mission effort on the part of the PRC.
Rev. Miersma had already become persuaded of the potential for work in the Spokane area, and having come also to know and appreciate the members of the SGRC as a solid foundation on which to begin such a work, our missionary was ready to advise that "we have a calling and work to do in Spokane as churches." The calling church (Loveland PRC) and the Mission Committee agreed, and at the beginning of April the Miersmas made the move from Colorado to Washington.
Moving a missionary family can be an expensive proposition - especially if, instead of renting a house, it becomes necessary to buy. The required down payment can tax a small denomination's resources. We would be remiss were we not to take note of the fact that the move to Washington was made easy for us, in that respect, by the members of the group we were leaving in Alamosa. So generously had they supported the work during the past few years that there was in the end a considerable sum of money in their fund. And they chose to give it all to the Domestic Mission Committee. There was, therefore, more than enough money on hand to make a sizable down payment on a house for the Miersmas in Spokane. The gift from the SLV Mission thus became part of an investment which will become available to us every time we relocate our home missionary to another base in the western U.S. And we're happy to report that the same thing holds true for eastern home missions. Southeast PRC recently received a substantial gift from the estate of a late member of their congregation. Part of it was designated for mission work. And Southeast decided to give it to the DMC specifically for use in obtaining missionary housing. Again, a gift which met an immediate need with regard to a missionary house in Pittsburgh, but at the same time one that will continue to be of benefit to the PRC in their work of home missions for a long time to come.
That there was a need for missionary housing in Pittsburgh so soon after synod 1998 approved calling a missionary to the eastern U.S. was really quite remarkable. Southwest's very first call was accepted, and by the middle of August Rev. Jaikishin Mahtani was already hard at work in the field. Very soon thereafter, however, the Lord, for His own good purpose, touched our missionary so that he could not carry out his work. First it was physical sickness, and then a severe case of depression. At Southwest's request, Kalamazoo PRC agreed to let their pastor, Rev. Bruinsma, spend alternate weekends (Wednesday to Monday) in Pittsburgh for the past several months to preach, teach all classes, and help Rev. Mahtani in any way he could. With thankfulness to our God we can report that our missionary has been granted a good deal of recovery. He has been able gradually to take up more and more of the labors of the field. Rev. Mahtani's testimony: "God is good."
One other field belongs to the work of the DMC. That's the British Isles. The work of Hudsonville and the DMC and of Missionary Hanko and the CRF came to fruition, under the blessing of God, in the organization of the CPRC NI in 1996. In the States, the organizing of a church from a mission field would bring an end to the work of the Mission Committee in that place. Not so, in this instance, in Northern Ireland. When the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church organized it did not become a member of the Protestant Reformed denomination. It is an indigenous church, the CPRC NI, and the beginning, the Lord willing, of an indigenous denomination in the UK. The latter is their fervent desire and a strong motivator in their work of evangelism. This accords with what has always been our own purpose for being there. Our focus, surely, was the work in Larne/Ballymena, but the scope was broader. And it remains so today. It gives the DMC great pleasure, now, to be able to work with (that is, along side of) the CPRC toward a common goal in the British Isles. What, after all, could be more gratifying for a mission committee than to have for a partner in the great work of missions one of the fruits of it. The establishment of sister-church relationships will of course bring another change in status and involve another synodical committee in the workings of the relationship. But as long as the Lord gives to the PRC an "open door" for work in other parts of the UK, the DMC hopes to remain a part of that relationship.
Promising contacts, especially in Wales, prompted synod 1998 to approve our sending someone periodically to the British Isles to help Rev. Hanko develop the work there - "with a view to determining whether or not to recommend to synod in 1999 that a second missionary be called to the British Isles." Twice we have been able to do that. Prof. Hanko was the first to go on our behalf. As one of the two professor-lecturers at every one of the biennial family conferences sponsored by the British Reformed Fellowship, Prof. Hanko had come personally to know many of the CPRC's contacts throughout the British Isles. For that reason, and others, we were delighted that he was able to spend much of July, August, and September in Wales last year. In reflecting on that work, he observed that, in this land where spiritual lethargy prevails, there are still those who yearn for biblical and confessional preaching and who are determined to "maintain the faith once delivered to the saints." They are, however, widely scattered. The absence of a geographic base led Prof. Hanko to conclude, and Missionary Hanko to concur, that it's "too early to call a missionary full time." They advised that we continue to try to arrange for men to work in Wales for two or three months if at all possible, and that Rev. Hanko go there as often as he can.
Releasing a congregation's minister for an extended period of time is not something that any consistory does lightly, no matter what the cause. We were glad that Grandville PRC considered this cause of sufficient importance to warrant depriving themselves of the service of their pastor for six weeks. That was during March and April. At the time of this writing we are eagerly awaiting his return and report.
Such has been the work of the DMC this past year. For what purpose do we recall it? Allow me to borrow a line from Pastor Mizzi, who declares concerning his own reporting of new developments in mission work, "… I mention them in order that glory, honor, and thanksgiving may redound to our Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are nothing but earthen vessels; the building of His church and the success of His counsel belong to Him."
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But Cal Thomas has become very disillusioned.
In two recent articles he concedes that "the religious right is going wrong by focusing on politics instead of prayer." He writes in Newsweek, March 29, 1999,
The day after the 1980 election, those of us associated with what came to be called the "religious right" - I was working for Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority - thought we saw a revelation from God. Not only had Ronald Reagan won the White House, but five liberal Democrats had been swept from the Senate. The message? The marriage of church and state was looking better all the time. If God was slow bringing about the reforms we sought, perhaps we could help him out a little. The hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" took on an entirely new meaning.
That was 20 years ago. Now the movement appears dispirited, even despondent. Politics has failed to deliver what we thought it promised. Conservative Christians are increasingly frustrated that the cultural viruses of abortion and drugs have proved largely immune to political inoculation. Too many conservatives became obsessed with Bill Clinton's impeachment, and the establishment GOP is now trying to distance itself from its believing base. Meanwhile, true believers - including me - are beginning to sense that the kingdom of this world, which regularly demands compromise, cannot be reconciled to a kingdom not of this world that allows for no compromise. Jesus understood this. Consider John 15:36, when Jesus tells Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world...my kingdom is from another place." His is not a realm that needs soldiers to establish or defend it.
He continues in the article, after pointing out other instances where Christians took on a wrong mission:
The lesson: by and large, the Christian mission should be to change hearts, not laws.
Does this mean conservative Christians should completely withdraw from politics? Absolutely not: faith has been the driving force behind huge leaps forward in American life.... But preachers, whether they be Jesse Jackson or Falwell, should step out of partisan politics. Reserving their right to speak on issues, they should refrain from endorsing or opposing politicians.
For Christians, the vision of worldly power is not a calling, but a distraction. It is a temptation Jesus rejected, not because it was dangerous, but because it was trivial compared with his mission....
Our eyes should be lifted skyward - toward the company of heaven. The time has come for believers to focus on the next world, not just the next election cycle.
The same journalist wrote in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, March 24, 1999, a column titled: "Facing the immoral majority." In it he again concedes that the Moral Majority had it all wrong. Their attempt to change society through their political muscle just didn't work. They thought that their efforts would awaken the "sleeping giant," the "moral majority" of people. They discovered that there was no moral majority at all. So Thomas calls for a different plan of action:
We are calling for a different strategy articulated by a different King who presides over a different Kingdom which He said is "not of this world."
While we believe that all Christians - liberal or conservative - along with people of other faiths have a right, even an obligation, to participate in the political life of their nation, we think "Christian" political lobbying groups are counterproductive, not only to the primary cause of spreading the Gospel, but because they also muffle the church's prophetic voice in an increasingly pagan and materialistic world....
The authentic Christian message becomes contaminated when it is joined to political positions of any stripe. The unvarnished message of Jesus - not the Republican or Democrat Jesus - is contaminated when it is married to a series of "correct" political positions.
Conservative Christians should not withdraw from politics and culture and emulate the prohibitionists and the Anti-Cigarette League at the beginning of this century. They should instead awaken to the power they already possess - the power to transform lives from the inside. This is different from political power that changes no minds and transforms no hearts. The beauty of a "bubble-up" instead of a "trickle-down" morality is that it is the only process that actually works....
...Conservative Christians should continue to vote intelligently for candidates who reflect their views. They should pray for all those in authority, regardless of party, which is a biblical mandate. But they should be under no illusion that either party will usher in a moral revival....One would hardly expect such writings from one who formerly was a leader in Falwell's "moral majority." Still-facts are facts. Large numbers of "Christians" will not provide the "power" to change society. There is no "moral majority." It remains true, even as in past ages, that there is but a remnant that is saved. It remains true today, even as in past ages, that change is not something that can be imposed by force, but begins in the regenerated heart. It remains true today, even as in past ages, that the Kingdom is heavenly. We are not to set our hearts on the things of this earth. It does one's heart good to hear one publicly acknowledge that his former approach was ineffective, even wrong. Let us also, then, hold to the truth that our King is in heaven and His Kingdom is finally realized when He returns on the clouds of glory.
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You have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. On the issue of casino gambling - its promotion of a false something-for-nothing philosophy, its corruption of both parties' politics with millions in Big Gambling cash-I am folding my hand.
That's because we moralizing saps have been rolled over by the chiseling champions of chance. Ten years ago gambling was legal in two states; today only three prohibit it. The business has mushroomed fivefold in that time to well over $50 billion a year. Candidates for governor who try to restrict gambling, lose to the gamblers' candidates.
An extensive national study conducted at the University of Chicago for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that 2.5 million Americans are "pathological" gamblers. Ho hum: That's only 1 percent of the population (not including mere "problem gamblers"). Who cares if these compulsives go down the drain, and take their families with them? A piddling $5 billion a year goes to legal fees for divorce, court and jail costs for arrests, lost wages and bankruptcy; though many of these costs are borne by the general taxpayer, nobody's suing.
Safire continues by pointing out that the argument for state-supported gambling is that the proceeds are given for education and other public projects. Presumably, this reduces the need to tax the general populace for these projects. Safire, however, argues that when the government uses gambling moneys to support education, it simply deflects the "saved" taxes for other unnecessary works. He calls gambling "state-sponsored plundering of the poor."
He concludes his arguments:
Having lost the pot on private gambling, how can we win the pot on state-advocated gambling? Answer: For this political argument on public policy, we need the liberals. Conservatives cannot effectively make the argument that the lottery is a regressive tax, a rip-off of the poor.
Does Jesse Jackson know that blacks spend four times more than whites per capita on lotteries, thereby using the dollars of poor blacks to subsidize wealthier whites? Does Ted Kennedy, from the gambling-crazed state of Massachusetts, know that 5 percent of lottery players account for 51 percent of total lottery sales in the nation, and that these frequent losers are not the rich? Is no progressive policy maker in the Clinton Interior Department troubled by the massive payoffs on both sides of the Indian casino grab?
Lefties: Now that the poor are being victimized, what's become of you?How true!! But the remarks of Thomas apply here as well. It will not be the power of the voting booth, it will not be by persuasion, however logical the argument may be, but only by that change of the heart that will make one turn from this ungodly sin.
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Bethel! House of God
From the earliest memories we see the providence of God in the "beginnings" of Bethel Protestant Reformed Church.
In 1974 a young navy man visited relatives in South Holland, IL. He accompanied them to church and there first heard Rev. David Engelsma preach. He never forgot that Sunday morning and the good preaching.
In 1981-82 members of an extended family who were all members of the Christian Reformed Church in Des Plaines, IL were becoming uncomfortable and alarmed with the changes taking place in their church. At that time, Rich Reyenga remembered the PRC in South Holland. He and his family started attending regularly. It was not in God's plan at this time to have any others follow them, and they returned to attending DP CRC. In 1983 three of the families started attending services at South Holland PRC, and on May 1, 1983 a fourth family came. The father and mother of the family (who were in their late 70s) were to remain at DP CRC for some time yet. Eventually they too received the strength to take leave of the CRC and become members of the PRC. It was not easy leaving their former church. They had never anticipated such a thing happening; but "for the love of the truth" (which was the title of the first lecture given by Rev. Engelsma) it was made easier.
In 1982, Rev. Engelsma conducted a Bible study twice a month at the home of one of the members. (Later on, the home next to this, out of all the houses in Elk Grove, was to become our parsonage! God would have us remember the way He led us!) We studied the Canons of Dordt. How good and profitable this experience was!
We became known as the Northwest Mission. At the morning worship service we would hear the minister pray for the mission, that God would cause it to grow. The evening service was held in each other's homes and we would listen to taped sermons. The South Holland consistory granted that Rev. Engelsma begin preaching services for us twice a month. These were held at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Bensenville. We were thankful that all this was done for us, so few people. We appreciated that Rev. Engelsma would give of himself to preach three sermons each Sunday. Mileage was quickly increasing on that car! What could we say but to thank God for it all.
Rev. Engelsma suggested that we ask the Domestic Mission Committee for a missionary. After all the procedures and meetings it was decided that Rev. Ronald VanOverloop would come to be our missionary. In 1984 he and his family came here from Alabama. In October we started having two services each Sunday at St. Bede's Episcopal. We met right after their morning service, then had refreshments, and returned to the sanctuary for the second service. We were favored always with the love and support of the South Holland people in their faithful visits.
In 1994, God called Rev. VanOverloop to be the pastor of a sister-church in Michigan. He served faithfully at Bethel for ten years, five as our missionary and five as our pastor. Under Rev. VanOverloop's ministry we expanded from the core group of five families and organized with thirteen families in 1989. We grew not only in numbers but also spiritually during his time here, and we are very thankful for his guidance during that time.
Rev. Haak accepted the call to become our pastor and came in the fall of 1994. May God continue to use him as our "spiritual builder," that we may be built up in that "most holy faith." Currently, Bethel has twenty-one families, as well as many steady visitors to its worship services.
We have met in various places, including a high school gymnasium, a Lutheran church that was in a trailer, a day-care center, and for four years in a hotel conference room. In August of last year we began construction of our church building. There were many delays and frustrations in obtaining the necessary permits, but finally we were on our way. There were doubts that a church and an area for parking would actually fit on the lot, but everything fits perfectly. It all seems much bigger than we thought….
It has been seventeen years since many of the families have worshiped in their own church building. We eagerly awaited worshiping our God in it. What an exciting and joyful day it was when on March 21, 1999 we held our first services in our own sanctuary.
It is our prayer that God will give a reward of His grace to all the Protestant Reformed Churches for their prayers, care, and labors over us, in that this church - Bethel - may ever be a joy and blessing to the whole denomination.
May God bless the PRC denomination in that it will ever bear the marks of the true church. God is building His church! His name be glorified!
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (I Sam. 7:12).
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* This piece, read at Bethel's dedication, was written by the late Rev. Robert C. Harbach for the March 13, 1969 dedication of the first church building of Lynden, WA PRC.
Purpose of Dedication
Beloved in the Lord: devout and holy men of God under the Old Covenant as well as the New Covenant have been moved by the Holy Spirit and motivated by His command to erect houses for the public worship of God. They separated them from all common and worldly use to the holy use of Christ's church. They did this that men's minds might be filled with greater reverence for His glorious sovereign majesty, and to impel their hearts to more devotion and humility in His service. Such dedication projects our heavenly Father has accepted. Let us not doubt but that He will also favorably approve our consecrated purpose in setting apart this place in a solemn manner, for the continual worship of the triune God and the pure preaching of the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We dedicate this building to the name and praise of Almighty God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one eternal God in three divine persons.
We dedicate this place to the reading and study of the Word of God, the preaching of the whole counsel of God, and to the end that the Holy Spirit may graft His truth in the hearts of the hearers, so that they may perceive and know what they ought to believe and how they ought to live, and that they may have grace and strength to do all the will of God.
We dedicate this house to the end that holy baptism, which is a sign of God's covenant, may be administrated to the children of believers and to adult converts, and that all who are thus consecrated to God in baptism may grow in grace and in the hearty confidence that they are and forever shall remain living members of Christ.
We dedicate this place to the end that God's covenant youth may make glad confession of faith, so confirming their baptismal covenant, taking their God-given place in the church, and by divine grace avoiding all those things that are contrary to their good confession, and living in all good works which God has before ordained that they should walk in them.
We dedicate this edifice to the end that the Holy Supper of the Lord may here be properly administered, that all who commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, may come to the Lord's table feeding on Christ by faith, in love and repentance, and have fellowship with the only true God and with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
We dedicate this earthly tabernacle to the end that it may be a place where Christian men and women may be joined together in holy matrimony, may faithfully perform the marriage covenant made between them, and may remain together in love, the bond of perfectness, unto their lives' end. We dedicate this house to the end that whoever shall here draw near to God to give thanks for the benefits which they have received at His hands, to set forth His most worthy praise, to confess their sins unto the Lord, to ask such things as are necessary for body and soul, may do so with steadfast faith, with seriousness, affection, and devotion of mind, that they may be accepted of God, and receive from Him according to His wisdom what shall be for their glory and good. May they be enlightened more and more with the light of the everlasting gospel, increase in the love of the truth, and by divine mercy be kept in the same.
We dedicate this place to be a lighthouse of the Reformed truth, a place where the gospel shall always be preached, where the great Reformed confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt, together with that brief exposition of these confessions which we call the Declaration of Principles, shall be faithfully taught, explained, and upheld. So may the plain truth of Scripture be preserved in the hearts of God's people, God's holy name worshiped in truth and purity, and the gospel of God preached from generation to generation.
"The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:9).
"Ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).
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Friday evening, April 9, the con-gregation of the Bethel PRC in Roselle, IL gathered together with many friends and well-wishers to dedicate their new church building. They dedicated it to the worship of Jehovah God, to the pure preaching of the gospel, to the administration of the sacraments, and to fellowship in the risen Lord. Rev. R. VanOverloop, Bethel's only former missionary and pastor, led their dedication service by speaking appropriate words from the Holy Scriptures found in I Peter 2:4, 5. Their choir, the young people, and the Sunday School also participated in that evening.
Bethel first became known to many of us when it was the Northwest Mission and Rev. Van Overloop and his family came to labor there in l984. Rev. Van Overloop served for five years as their missionary and then, after organization in 1989, for five more years as their pastor. Under his ministry Bethel grew from five families to thirteen at organization.
Rev. C. Haak accepted the call to become their pastor and began his ministry there in 1994, after Rev. VanOverloop left for the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. Currently Bethel has twenty-one families as well as many steady visitors attending its worship services.
Over the past years they have met in various places; including a high school gymnasium, a Lutheran church that was in a trailer, a day care center, and, for the past four years, in a hotel conference room. It has been seventeen years since many of the families of Bethel have worshiped in their own church building. They testify to their joy and excitement on being able again, beginning March 21, 1999, to hold services in their own sanctuary. We add our prayer to theirs when we humbly ask our heavenly Father to bless Bethel that she may continue to be a joy and blessing to our whole denomination.
The consistory of the Immanuel PRC in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada has given their approval to the town of Lacombe to annex their property, along with other property in the land to the west of Immanuel. Development is scheduled this year.
Building progress continues at the Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI. On April 17 the last of the scaffolding was removed from the auditorium. The center portion of the ceiling is now completely painted, and the high walls and arches in the center ceiling have their first coat. Work also continues on the dry wall and exterior brick.
The Byron Center, MI PRC concluded their season of Monday evening catechism classes with what has become their annual kickball game. Parents were reminded to have their children dressed appropriately, indicating that perhaps, after 25 weeks of catechism lessons, this last Monday would be a little more physically active than the first 24.
Sister Church Activities
Over the past few months the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore has been busy trying to secure a place for their temporary occupation since, come July, they will have to move out of their present place of worship. Thankfully, it now appears that a suitable place has been found. It is the Bible Society of Singapore (Bible House). Covenant's Relocation Committee believes this will serve their purposes for at least the time being, while they continue to look for a more permanent place. Covenant's Session has decided to use the place for one year, until July 2000. Meanwhile, their committee is still keeping an eye open for a place that they can purchase.
The San Luis Valley Mission in Alamosa, CO officially closed on Sunday, April 4, with our western home missionary, Rev. T. Miersma, preaching there for the last time. Since then, he and his family have moved to Spokane, WA, where he intends to begin labors with the Sovereign Grace Reformed Church of Spokane.
Rev. R. Moore and his wife plan to arrive in Ghana on June 17, D.V. Until then they are planning to visit their children and some of our churches.
Rev. and Mrs. J. Kortering left Singapore on April 17 for three and a half weeks of teaching a seminar in Myanmar. There will be 53 participants in the seminar, including pastors from six different churches.
Rev. C. Hanko, our oldest emeritus pastor, was recently hospitalized for diverticulosis and pneumonia. He was transferred to Brookcrest Nursing Home in Grandville, MI in mid April, to stay there until he is strong enough to return home.
Our Hull, IA PRC formed a trio consisting of Revs. Gritters, denHartog, and Key. At a congregational meeting on April 19, they extended a call to Rev. Key.
Food For Thought
"It is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving."
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Last modified, 12-May, 1999