The well-known poet, Longfellow, once wrote that in this world a man must either be an anvil or a hammer. Perhaps without intending to, he neatly summed up the philosophy of living for many a worldly man seeking recognition, success and even security. Either make things or break things. Beat or get beat. Life is a battle of wits. Martin Luther, however, said that Christian life consists in faith and charity. Faith is life to the child of God; it brings him to life and keeps him living. Charity is love to all men in God; patience and humility, longsuffering in the face of persecution and reproach.
It can be said the grave danger our churches recently faced – of losing by default the precious heritage of the truth of God’s sovereign unconditional plan of salvation and the wonderful gospel of a particular promise – has been met by our people and together, in God’s own way and His grace and strength, we have held to the faith. We have been led through the fire of heresy to the present. Though physically reduced in numbers we have triumphed in His cause. We are greatly increased in loyalty and devotion to the truth. Cleansed we are of the creeping, lulling effects of the opiate of a “conditional theology” and of dissension in our ranks. We stand in the fear of God’s name. Dwelling together unitedly once again as the peculiar people of God we are revitalized, convicted anew to sound doctrine and with eagerness of purpose we are ready to witness for the Name of our Lord Jesus, ready to give account to any man that asks of the hope that is in us.
Many indelible imprints have been made in the pages of church history by the recent controversy we as churches have endured. The Declaration of Principles has collated for future generations as well as for us the distinctive development that has marked our Reformed heritage these recent years.
Not of ourselves, but in the mercy of the Lord we have again, as the lineal Reformed church body, rejected all semblance of the errors of those who teach that faith, holiness, godliness and perseverance are not fruits of the unchangeable election unto glory, but are conditions (prerequisites) unto the realization of the promises of God. By word and by deed we have rearticulated the sound doctrine distinctively characteristic of Reformed people of God, that the assurance we have that we possess everlasting life in Christ comes to us through the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit without any “strings” attached. As churches of Reformed persuasion we are dedicated anew to the acknowledgement of the truth that the reality of redemption, sanctification, etc., comes to every believer through the instrumentality of faith, that wondrous, precious gift of God. Through much strife and trouble we have been brought to a richer, fuller comprehension of the beauteous, meaningful language of the Confessions. In contrast to the hollow, echoing clamor for a conditional temporizing of the walk of the believer, the children of God have abundant new hope and joy and life in the experience of “observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.”
Our faithful service to the Lord in these difficult days of our Protestant Reformed church struggle should also be reflected in the application of charity towards them that despitefully use us. This observation is calling particularly as the contents of the recent Cross Bill of complaint filed by the opposition becomes generally known (in the court case to retain our name and our properties) and as our Protestant Reformed people become aware of the vicious slander to the truth and to our persons which this document contains.
Many of us, perhaps, have still to learn of the tremendous scorn and ridicule directed towards our leaders and us in this latest umbrage. Still more of us have failed to realize in this latest development this group’s complete repudiation of the fundamental issues which carried our cause into an organized existence as Protestant Reformed Churches in 1924. It is almost incomprehensible, so far, in so short a time, have those who left us already travelled away.
What must we do about these things? How shall we testify against such wickedness? What is our calling? How speak of charity?
It is, of course, ridiculous to speak of “love for the brother” as pertaining to those who have thus openly shown their disregard for the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the principles of doctrine upheld for so long by the Reformed churches. The departure of many of our acquaintances into the path of apostasy and confused realization of the precepts of the gospel leaves no room for compromise and forbearance. Schism in the church calls rather for straightforward speech and discipline. Our primary duty towards these people is one of unequivocal denial of the distortions and false charges they make, when and as they make them. Adherence to and continual witness of our basic principles is our first line of defense. We must prayerfully attend to the worship of our God and to further study of the Scriptures and our Confessions and thus be armed with truth to face them who seek to cause our doctrine shame and hurt. Thus our continual witness round about us will be pleasing to the Lord and will be used by Him to testify against them. Our testimony for truth is love to all men in God; is charity unto those who despitefully use us.
Let us all, who have been kept in the faith, pray much for those who have deliberately left the way of truth. Let us remain firm in our attitude of no compromise with them who would corrupt our doctrine. Thus for their own sakes as well as for the sake of truth we may be used of our Covenant God to bring them to the knowledge of their error. Such a forthright position, prayerfully and studiously upheld, and motivated by true love for all men in God, is not a sounding of brass and an off-beat tinkling of cymbals. Rather, it is well-pleasing to the Lord our God who keeps His promises and who will save us, His people, to the uttermost.