04 July, 2016


Rev. Herman Hoeksema

Chapter 10: Review in the Gereformeerde Kerkbode (Reformed Church Messenger)

Review in the Gereformeerde Kerkbode (Reformed Church Messenger) of Rotterdam by Dr. A. Kuyper, Jr., i.e., Review of Een Kracht Gods Tot Zaligheld, (A Power of God unto Salvation) by Rev. H. Hoeksema.

Under the heading “General Offer” in the Gereformeerde Kerkbode of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Dr. A. Kuyper gives a judgment of our brochure Een Kracht Gods tot Zaligheid, (A Power of God unto Salvation).

We are very pleased that the esteemed and learned writer lends himself to give his opinion of our work and views. We have eagerly awaited the day when men of prominence and position in the Netherlands would let themselves be heard in regard to the issues that occupy our attention. The esteemed writer of the aforementioned review of our brochure will remember that already some time ago we invited him to defend his esteemed father in connection with the doctrine of common grace. To this very day we have received no answer. This gives us the more reason to be pleased that he now writes a review in the Gereformeerde Kerbode. We are not afraid of criticism. We do not intend to introduce heresy. We love the Reformed truth and strive to maintain it with all our power. We are also willing to abandon our view, in case someone convinces us of error. Therefore we fear nothing worse than the miserable tactics of a silent treatment, which is common in this country. We express our sincere appreciation for the attempt being made by Dr. A. Kuyper in the Gereformeerde Kerkbode of Rotterdam to maintain over against us a certain view of a general offer.

We shall, according to our practice in the Standard Bearer, pass on completely the articles being written by Dr. A. Kuyper, Jr. on this subject. Then everyone can judge. We hasten to offer our readers the first article. We quote the entire article.


In the churches in America a struggle is being carried on concerning the question whether there is a “general offer” of grace in the preaching. The one says that this is the requirement of scriptural gospel preaching, the other that this is in conflict with the Reformed Confessions.

The issue concentrates in two names. Rev. Keegstra in De Wachter (The Watchman) defends the sentiment of those who plead for the general offer. Rev. Hoeksema in the Standard Bearer sets himself up as an opponent to this idea. The latter has published his articles concerning this matter in the form of a brochure entitled: A Power of God unto Salvation, or, Grace No Offer. The articles broadened out to a document of 142 pages.

The trend of thought of Rev. Hoeksema comes briefly down to this, that the preacher may never present a general offer of salvation in the preaching.

1. Because there is an eternal election, and God has determined in His counsel to grant His salvation only and exclusively to the elect, and to no others. An offer is therefore, as he sees it, not upright and honest; 2. because if the preacher offers more than he actually has or can give, he is a ‘bluffer’; 3. because the preacher must speak in the name of his Sender, and because of the decree of election and reprobation God knows no well-meant offer of grace to all mankind; and 4. because nothing may be offered to one who is absolutely in no position to accept that which is offered.

It is very evident that Rev. Hoeksema absolutely maintains the position of election and reprobation, and reasoning from that aspect, wants no part of a general offer of grace. There is no mandate from the Sender for such as offer. Such an offer is not well-meant, it is basically contrary to the truth. Therefore he does not hesitate now and then to say that any preaching in which a general offer of grace is presented is not Reformed but Pelagian, Remonstrant.

We cannot say that we find the reasoning of Rev. Hoeksema to be logical; it appears to us to be more rationalistic. He builds a rationalistic system upon a Reformed foundation. He writes on page 11,

Not only has He decided to grant salvation only to some. He has also decided to grant no salvation to others. Therefore there is in God a definite will to give no grace to some. Thereby the first essential element of a general offer is already excluded, and at once made impossible. You cannot be Reformed and speak of a general offer on the part of God.

And on page 13 Rev. Hoeksema writes:

In one word, it is Reformed to say, that there is no one among mankind, who possesses even the slightest ability in himself whereby he should be able to accept that which is offered. But by this presentation the possibility of an offer absolutely falls away. For what sense does it make to speak of an offer to those of whom we are sure that they cannot accept that which is offered?

We believe that hereby we have rendered sufficiently clearly the sentiment of Rev. Hoeksema. We add here for the sake of clarity that naturally Rev. Hoeksema most certainly desires that the preaching of the gospel will be brought to all mankind, and that they shall be placed before the command to repent and believe. But that still includes no offer of grace. We know that a twofold power proceeds from the faithful preaching, a power of life unto life, and a power of death unto death. It is for that reason that he chose as the title of his manuscript: A Power of God unto Salvation, or, Grace No Offer.

Seemingly this reasoning of Rev. Hoeksema is logical. But this is nothing more than sham. The Germans would call this conzequens-macherei.

A general offer of grace is naturally something entirely different from an offer of general grace. One must clearly and sharply distinguish between the two. Not one Reformed person wants any part of a general grace for every individual. He has fought too hard against Pelagius, Arminius and Episcopius to want that. The doctrine of eternal and sovereign election is the very heart of the Reformed church, the characteristic element in the Reformed religion.

The preacher who presents the offer of general grace in his sermon would immediately be deposed by his consistory and classis.

But a general offer of grace that is particular is something quite different. This is obedience to the command of the Lord: Preach the gospel to every creature, go forth, teaching all nations, baptizing them. It is self-evident that this grace is not offered unconditionally, but conditionally, namely, upon the condition of faith and repentance.

To preach the general offer of grace in that manner upon condition or demand of faith and repentance complies with the demand of Lord’s Day XXXI of the Heidelberg Catechism: “When according to the command of Christ, it is declared and testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

Undoubtedly there is an eternal election. But the preacher does not know who the elect are. That belongs to the hidden things that are for the Lord our God. Therefore the preacher must present the general offer of grace upon the condition of faith and repentance.

Thus far Dr. A. Kuyper in his first article.

Naturally we expect more and will therefore be brief with our remarks and limit ourselves strictly to that which the esteemed reviewer writes in this article.

First of all, then, we want to state that we heartily agree with much that Dr. Kuyper writes, especially in the last part of this article.

Thus, we are grateful for the statement: Not one Reformed person wants to know of a general grace for every individual.

We do not want to read too much into this statement, for we understand all too well that Dr. Kuyper does maintain the idea of a common grace in the sense of common favor. We want merely to apply this to our subject. Then the esteemed writer, who reviews our brochure, must certainly bear in mind that those in America in the Christian Reformed churches since 1924 have indeed taken the official stand that the so-called general offer of grace is indeed grace, not only for the elect, but also for humanity in general, for all who hear the Word, head for head and soul for soul.

This is already very evident from the first point of the three adopted and branded as Reformed by the Synod of 1924. Our esteemed reviewer on the other side of the ocean can find this point literally copied in my brochure, and thus can judge himself.

This is no less evident from the explanation which the Synod of 1926 has given in answer to the protests that had been brought against point 1. In the Acts of that Synod (see pp. 116, 117) you can repeatedly read that there is a certain grace of God in the preaching of the gospel which He shows to each and every individual who hears the merciful invitation of the gospel.

This is no less the teaching of Prof. Berkhof in his De Drie Punten in alle Deelen Gereformeerd (The Three Points Reformed in Every Detail). (see page 21ff.)

The professor writes this with a view to those who “lend no ear whatever to that invitation”:

That God calls the wicked to repentance is presented in the Holy Scripture as proof for his pleasure in their salvation.

After the professor, as proof for this assertion, has pointed to the well-known texts in Ezekiel, which declare that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he adds:

These passages tell us clearly as words are able, that God has no desire in the death of sinners (take note that he does not say: “of elect sinners,” but “of sinners,” entirely in general); and that tender call that we hear testifies of His great love for sinners and His pleasure in saving the wicked.

A little later the professor writes, with a view to those same persons who do not accept the invitation of the gospel, appealing again to Ezekiel 33:11:

Are those not words of tender mercy, in which a Father pleads with his wandering children to return to the paternal home and to father’s heart?

Be sure to notice that the professor desires emphatically that we understand that the wicked and reprobate, and not merely the elect, are included with these wandering children who in such great love are begged to return to Father’s heart.8

The professor teaches, as is reflected in his emphatic expressions, that he means that God is filled with a great love for all mankind as His wandering children, that He earnestly seeks the salvation, not only of the elect, but of all mankind in general. He contends that God’s Word teaches that God is prompted by a great love for sinners, not only for the elect, but also for all mankind in general.

Let him deny, if he has the courage, that this is indeed his view.

It is of no advantage to him that in the first part of his aforementioned brochure he also offers a Reformed view of the preaching of the gospel, and there gives the impression that we actually intend to preach the gospel only to the elect. We are not opposing his Reformed introduction to this subject.

That which we quoted above also flowed from his pen, and that is all that he offers in the entire brochure in defense of the First Point.

Therefore Dr. Kuyper must thoroughly understand that the issue is not the general preaching of a particular gospel. We have no objection to Lord’s Day XXXI. We do not object to proclaiming to an entire audience that whosoever believes in the crucified Christ will be saved.

In our controversy the issue is not whether the preacher must offer something. The issue is whether he may preach, that God in His great love and passion for sinners seeks their salvation, not only of the elect, but of all mankind in general.

The latter is the teaching of the First Point.

That is the obvious teaching of Prof. Berkhof, as anyone who can read the Dutch will have to agree.

And that is what is understood by the general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God. By this is understood that the preacher must proclaim that God causes the gospel to be preached well-meaningly, that is, with a passion for sinners, with the purpose to save them, not only the elect, but all who hear the Word.

That is also the intention of Rev. Keegstra. That is evident enough from the brochure.

I call that Arminian.

Anyone who preaches that departs from the Scriptures, from the Reformed confession; he bungles the truth.

This Arminian fire burns everywhere here in the so-called Reformed churches.

You see that it is for that reason that I am pleased with the statement of Dr. Kuyper that no Reformed person will speak of a common grace for everyone. I understand that he applies this to the preaching of the Word.

I am also pleased that the esteemed reviewer clearly presents the view that Reformed preaching consists of the general proclamation of a particular gospel.

I also desire that.

In this connection Kuyper and I may disagree on the meaning of the word offer. I may consider it a bit dangerous to speak of an offer on condition of faith. I maintain that grace is absolutely no offer and knows no conditions, but is given by God, including faith and repentance. But I now trust that Dr. Kuyper does not mean this in the Pelagian sense, I do not want to quarrel about words.

He wants a general proclamation of the particular grace of God in Christ Jesus.

But he does not want a proclamation in which the preacher declares that God is filled with passion for sinners, not only for the elect but for mankind in general.

Thereby Berkhof, Keegstra, Kuiper, and many others are condemned by Dr. A. Kuyper of the Netherlands.

It will also have become evident to the esteemed Reviewer that mistakenly he did not do justice to my presentation.

The question is not, whether a preacher may offer a particular gospel to an entire audience.

But the question is: whether God on His part offers salvation to all mankind, and not only to the elect, well-meaningly, that is, with the intent to save them and because of His great passion for sinners.

And whether a Reformed preacher may proclaim this.

One more remark.

The esteemed writer expresses as his opinion that my reasoning appears to be logical, but in reality is illogical.

This accusation as such does not disturb me very much, although naturally I readily agree that reasoning must remain logical.

But it does interest me that, if somewhere I have made myself guilty of an error in logic, I be straightened out in that regard, so that I can correct it. In other words, Dr. Kuyper should have brought the error in my logic out into the open. That he did not do. And therefore, let him take no offense: I do not accept it. I accept absolutely nothing from any persons purely upon their authority. Therefore Dr. Kuyper will be compelled to point out my error. Otherwise I maintain that my entire reasoning is completely logical and no conzequenze-macherei.

The accusation of rationalism is more serious. Rationalism wants to exalt reason above the Scriptures. May the Lord protect me from that!

But again Dr. Kuyper offers no proof. He in no way shows how I in my brochure attack the Holy Scriptures or would want to exalt my human reasoning above its authority. It is probably not asking too much that I expect that Dr. Kuyper will still prove this, or at least withdraw this last accusation.

Under the following title, Dr. A. Kuyper continues to write as follows:


Proceeding from the truth that there is election and reprobation, Rev. Hoeksema wants no general offer. He considers such preaching unbiblical and in conflict with the Reformed Confessions.

In this article we wish to put those two thoughts to a closer test. A Reformed man does not doubt for a moment the truth of election and reprobation which truth is for him an established fact. There is therefore no common grace; on the contrary, grace is particular. But this does not deny the fact that there is a general offer of grace.

In the Canons of Dordt, II, Article 5 we read:

Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

Clear language is spoken here. A twofold fact is expressed: first that the promise of the gospel must be preached, and second, that this promise must be declared and published to all nations and to all persons without distinction. Here you have the general offer, which is conditional, for there is not only an offer of the promise of the gospel but also a command to repent and to believe.

Rev. Hoeksema thinks that he is reasoning very logically by maintaining that Christ has made satisfaction, not for all mankind, but only for the elect, and that he therefore may not be offered to all mankind, that such an offer is not sincere, cannot be done honestly.

Article 6 of the same Canons declares:

And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this is not owing to any defect or deficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.

We are of the opinion that this expression is very clear. It is not proper to say that Christ did not make satisfaction for all mankind, and therefore He may not and cannot be offered to all. Those who perish cannot complain about the insufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice; it is their own fault.

It appears to us that the main error of Rev. Hoeksema is that he reasons too much out of the hidden counsel of God, and that it would be better if he would consider that the revealed things are for us. Certainly and beyond a doubt, there is an eternal election, but we do not know who the elect are; therefore we cast upon all waters, we preach the gospel to all creatures, offer to all grace unto salvation upon condition of faith and repentance.

In his hyper-logical reasoning Rev. Hoeksema says over and over that such an offer of grace is not honest, cannot be made in earnest, for grace applies only and exclusively to the elect. You may not offer it if according to the decree it is impossible to be given or received. Rev. Hoeksema may not say that it is in conflict with the Reformed teaching to make such an offer seriously. The Reformed churches have plainly declared that such a general offer is indeed sincere.

Again we refer to the Canons of Dordt III/IV, Article 8, where we read:

As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what is acceptable to him, namely, that all who are called, should comply with the invitation. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.

Salvation is therefore not offered merely to the elect; it is offered to all without distinction, with the command to come to faith and repentance. If any one does not comply, he rejects the offered salvation, and it is his own fault that he is lost. But God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather, that he repents and lives. The offer of God is earnestly meant. The fault of unbelief lies with the person. The reasoning of Rev. Hoeksema leads to taking away the guilt of him who rejects the offer of the gospel. Here the danger of Antinomianism threatens.

Finally, Rev. Hoeksema calls that general offer of grace not only unreformed but also unscriptural. We would counsel him to read with close attention “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” We ask, is that not a general offer?

And when our Savior says: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest,” then we repeat the question, Is this not a general offer? Yes, the offer is general, but the fulfillment is only to the advantage of those who come to buy wine and milk, those who come to the Savior with their weariness and burden.

Thus far Dr. Kuyper.

When I read this article I was deeply disappointed. In the meantime I already have the third article in my possession, that third article is the concluding article. Now that the conclusion of Kuyper’s discussion of my brochure has reached me and I have read all of it, I am even more disappointed.

Honestly, I am sorry that I began to place these articles in the Standard Bearer and to answer them. In one word, they are not worth it.

When I began I was pleased that finally we would actually discuss the issue. Therefore I immediately began to publish the articles of the learned writer from the other side of the ocean and to answer them.

I had a fairly high expectation of them. And I also had some good reasons for that. The writer is a doctor in theology, and it may therefore be expected of him that he has the ability to judge what is truth and to define it, and in case of error, to oppose it and to invalidate wrong reasoning.

That is also exactly what I had expected from Dr. Kuyper, maybe more so because I have respect, as far as power and ability is concerned, for the name of Kuyper.

I had desired nothing more than that Dr. Kuyper had actually worked himself into the contents of my brochure, had analyzed it, and wherever the reasoning was faulty would have pointed out the error, had placed proof over against proof, and if my reasoning is actually a departure from the truth, would clearly have pointed this out. Then Kuyper would have risen tremendously in my estimation.

But now we receive nothing of all that.

The argumentation of Dr. Kuyper is so poor that I honestly do not know what to do with it; I am undecided, not knowing whether I should answer him or not.

I asked myself, how is it possible that Dr. Kuyper writes in that manner?

At first I thought: he had not read my brochure, but had only hastily paged through it. But I soon put aside that thought. That would be dishonest. I do not want to be suspicious or accuse Dr. Kuyper of that.

Then the thought occurred to me that Dr. Kuyper surely thinks that America is a land full of overgrown children. Especially the last part of his second article leaves us with that impression when he advises us to read attentively a few texts! But also this though I brushed aside, for if I might assume, as I certainly may and also do, that Dr. Kuyper has read my brochure, then he can no longer actually think that the matter is settled with a few texts.

I have tried to think that Dr. Kuyper has seriously considered the matter, that he has not made light of it. But neither can I accept that, not from the aspect of Dr. Kuyper’s knowledge and position, nor when I consider the seriousness of the subject matter.

There remains but one possibility: the articles of Dr. Kuyper offer to us the very best that can be offered in defense of a so-called general offer of grace. At least they offer to us the best that Dr. Kuyper can give us.

Therefore they have strengthened me in the conviction that, not on the basis of the Reformed confessions, nor on the basis of Scripture, can any proof be found for a general offer of grace and salvation, well-meant on the part of God for all those who hear the gospel.

We still add the following observations.

First, in his articles Dr. Kuyper does not render correctly my presentation. Time and time again he leaves the impression that I oppose the idea of a general proclamation of a particular gospel. That is not honest of Dr. Kuyper. He has abundant reason to know better. In fact, we wrote in our brochure:

In other words, he (the preacher), knows that it is the will of the Lord that the gospel is not brought only to the elect, but also to the reprobate. All anxious questions whether all are elect is at once completely expelled. A minister who would want to preach only to the elect does not understand the will of his Sender, cannot possibly carry out his mission.

Again, we wrote:

By no means does our difference deal with the question whether, according to the will of God, the gospel must be preached to everyone in our audience, reprobate as well as elect. On this we both agree. But our difference deals with the question as to what the actual character of the preaching is, what must be its content, and what does God intend with this preaching both in regard to the elect and the reprobate. Our difference with Dr. Keegstra comes down to this: he maintains and we deny that the preaching of the gospel is a well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God to all mankind.  And our difference with the official declaration of the Christian Reformed Church is that they teach and we deny that this preaching of the gospel is grace for all mankind.

In another place we wrote:

Take note, the question is not whether the gospel must be preached by the minister to all who are in his audience without distinction. Every Reformed person believes that. No, but the question is whether the minister may say to his audience: “God well-meaningly offers His salvation to each one of you, even head for head and soul for soul.” That is the question. Also Rev. Keegstra will not be able to interpret well-meant otherwise than with the purpose to save.

I could cite much more to show that Dr. Kuyper, after having read my brochure, had no reason any more to misunderstand me. Yet throughout he leaves the impression that I oppose the presentation of a general preaching of a particular gospel. He does that when he quotes the Canons of Dordt II, 5, to oppose me. He writes: “Clear language is spoken here. A twofold fact is expressed: first, that the promise of the gospel must be preached and second, that this promise must be declared and published to all nations and to all persons without distinction.” We would like very much to ask Dr. Kuyper where he ever read anything from my hand in which I deny this. He can also find my explanation of this same article. He also read it. We ask him: What is your objection?

Where has Dr. Kuyper read from my hand the following:

Rev, Hoeksema imagines that he is arguing entirely logically when he maintains that Christ did not make satisfaction for all mankind, but only for the elect, and that for that reason Christ may not be offered (preached, presented, offere, HH), to all mankind, that such an offer is not sincere, cannot be honestly made.

I would never write that Dr. Kuyper.

And I never did write that.

What I continually have written is, that God on His part does not offer salvation well-meant to all mankind without distinction, that is, with the purpose to save them all.

We do not believe that this wrong presentation, which is not an honest evaluation of me, was given by Dr. Kuyper intentionally. Therefore I have enough confidence in him to believe that he will correct this error.

Second, Yet Dr. Kuyper does not maintain his own presentation. He wrote that he wanted a general offer of a particular gospel. His first article left the impression that he was averse to a general preaching of a general gospel. As to its content, so he said, the gospel must remain particular, that is, it must never be proclaimed that God desires to save all mankind. That is soundly Reformed. In that respect we fully agreed with him, as we wrote in our first answer.

But yet he does not maintain that.

Some of the expressions in his first writing already caused us to fear that he would wander from the line of his own presentation and finally end up with a general gospel. We already received a less favorable impression from the words: “It is indeed self-evident that this grace is not offered unconditionally but conditionally, namely, upon condition of faith and repentance.” Indeed if a Reformed individual desires to speak accurately, he does not suggest conditions for the reception of grace. There are no conditions for the grace of God. Also faith is no condition. That also belongs to the grace that God (does not offer but) gives to us. Our impression was supported when in citing Lord’s Day XXXI Dr. Kuyper underscored the word all and every one. But the article states; “When according to the command of Christ, it is declared and testified to every believer” etc. It is not discussing all and every one in general, but only the believers, and all of them.

But Kuyper is even more emphatic in this article.

We have already pointed to the fact that Dr. Kuyper leaves somewhat the impression that he writes to overgrown children when he gives the advice to read carefully a few texts. But from the manner in which Dr. Kuyper underscores the texts that he quotes it is evident that he still makes the contents of the gospel general. Indeed he would read these texts in this manner. “O, all, ye that thirst, come to the water.” And: “Come unto Me, all, who labor and are heavy laden.”

He wanted to lay the emphasis on the all, and not on the limitation that is added: those who thirst, labor, and are heavy laden. And from this all he seeks to draw a basis for the doctrine of a general offer.

This all certainly affects the content of the gospel that must be brought.

It makes a big difference whether I say: Preach the gospel to all mankind, or that I say: Preach the gospel to all mankind, that Christ will give rest to you all, that He well-meaningly calls all to the rest.

According to his emphasis in these texts the latter is what Kuyper desires.

Now this is certainly not the meaning of these texts. It makes a big difference whether I say: Come all ye, or that I say, Come all ye that thirst, that labor, and are heavy laden.

But in any case, in his attempt to defend a general offer, Dr. Kuyper departs from the line that he himself first drew.

He wanted a general preaching of a particular gospel. He ends up with the preaching of a general gospel.

Third, Dr. Kuyper is not honest in his presentation of my reasoning. Time and again he leaves the impression that all my reasoning is an attempt to make a logical conclusion from the doctrine of election and reprobation. I would never believe in a general offer because I wanted to maintain the truth of election and reprobation. He says that I busy myself too much with hidden things and he advises me to occupy myself more with the revealed things.

Nor do I agree with this.

I do not in any way occupy myself with hidden things. Dr. Kuyper cannot mention one such hidden thing wherewith I would want to busy myself. I do not even see how this would be possible.

Certainly, I do busy myself very much with sovereign election. But I do that according to the example of the Scriptures, which speak throughout of this election and reprobation. Surely Dr. Kuyper would not want to call the truth of election and reprobation a hidden thing? Well then, neither must he say that I occupy myself with hidden things. To a certain degree it is for us a hidden matter as to who are elect and who are reprobate. But that is exactly a matter with which I never busy myself. From my standpoint that is not at all necessary. I preach the gospel to my entire audience, according to the Word of God, and as long as I do that, (preaching it according to the Word of God), I do not come in conflict with the doctrine of election and reprobation.

That a Reformed person can preach a particular gospel in general is perfectly clear to me. There is no mystery or contradiction involved in that. The mystery arises when someone wants to bring a general gospel (according to its content) in harmony with the truth of election. That is impossible. But I never occupy myself with hidden things. I do not visit fortune tellers, and I certainly do not take note of the barking of dogs or the cry of birds.

But let that be as it may, it is still not true that I merely reason about election and reprobation entirely in the abstract, and that therefore my presentation should be nothing more than a wrong conclusion, seemingly logical, even hyper-logical, but basically rationalistic.

The following line of reasoning appears in my brochure:

First of all, I show that a general offer of grace, if one does not play with words but means exactly what he says, in no way can be harmonized with the Reformed truth, not only not with the doctrine of election, but also not with that of particular redemption and the total depravity of the natural man.

Thereupon I showed that Rev. Keegstra, whom I mainly oppose in my brochure, runs completely amock with his reasoning.

In the third place, I prove that Calvin, who is quoted by Keegstra, wants no part of such a general offer. I give various citations to show this.

In the fourth place, the presentation of a general offer of grace is not only not in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, but the Scripture literally condemns it. To prove this I refer to six scriptural passages, which very clearly prove the point.

In the fifth place, I proved, with a rather broad argument, that the presentation of a general offer of grace on the part of God, well-meant for all mankind, is not in harmony with the Reformed Confessions.

And I conclude with a chapter dealing with the scripturally Reformed presentation of the subject of grace.

If Dr. Kuyper has indeed read my brochure, how can he possibly dare to give his readers the impression that I reason purely form the aspect of election and reprobation?

Why does he not do justice to my reasoning and then in a manly manner answer argument with argument, instead of assuming that he can brush us aside with a few texts?

No, Dr. Kuyper has done his work poorly.

He does not enter into any of my arguments. He acts as if they do not exist and as if I as a rationalist had put my own reason on the foreground.

Is that the way the leaders in the Netherlands deal with their opponents?

Finally, Kuyper still must prove that my reasoning is not logical, merely has the appearance of being logical, and maybe should be called hyper-logical, when I maintain that the presentation of a general offer in the sense of Berkhof and Keegstra is anti-Reformed.

You can find my reasoning in my brochure.

There I demonstrated the following:

1) That if one does not wish to play with words, the following elements are included in the presentation of an offer according to Keegstra:

a) That there is in God the earnest desire to grant His grace to all mankind.
b) That the one who offers has in his possession that which is offered; that there is therefore grace in Christ for all mankind. Otherwise God cannot offer it to all mankind.
c) That the offered object is highly commended to someone, i.e., that God has revealed in His Word that He earnestly desires to give grace to all mankind.
d) That they to whom something is offered can accept that which is offered.

2) That not one of these elements of a general offer is in harmony with the Reformed truth:

a) God does not will to give grace to all mankind, even though He wills that the gospel shall be preached to all mankind.
b) There is in Christ no grace for all mankind, for the atonement is particular, even though the grace in Christ must be proclaimed through the preaching to all mankind.
c) God states nowhere in His Word that He wills to save all mankind.
d) No man can accept a grace that is merely offered to him.

Now let the reader be reminded once more that this reasoning is the basis and proof for all my argumentation.

But will Dr. Kuyper be so kind as, not merely to say, but to prove that my reasoning is not according to the rules of logic?

By merely stating something Dr. Kuyper surely proves nothing.

Dr. Kuyper, Jr. writes in his third article as follows:


We have seen that Rev. Hoeksema, reasoning one-sidedly from the aspect of the truth of eternal election and reprobation, teaches that therefore there may be no general offer of grace in the preaching, since grace is only and exclusively for the elect, and not for the reprobate. According to Rev. Hoeksema that which cannot be given and received cannot be offered, such an offer is not seriously meant and therefore is not true.

When Rev. Hoeksema says that such preaching is unbiblical and unscriptural, then we refer to Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 11:28,29; and also to John 6:37: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” We maintain the command, cast upon all waters, preach the gospel to all creatures, instruct all nations. The offer is general, but with the condition of faith and repentance.

When Rev. Hoeksema says that such preaching is in conflict with the Reformed Confessions, the characteristic element of which is the doctrine of eternal election, we grant this wholeheartedly, but we dispute his conclusion, for the Canons of Dordt teach emphatically that the promise of the gospel must be declared and published to all nations and all persons without distinction with the command to repent; and they declare plainly that God calls all earnestly and truly, even though only the elect come to faith and repentance. The general offer of grace is therefore true and sincere because if a person does not come to faith and repentance it is his own fault.

Thus we have seen that Scripture and the Reformed Confessions teach us something different from what Rev. Hoeksema teaches, whose chief error is that he reasons too much out of the hidden council of God. In this concluding article we still wish to say what Reformed Dogmatics of Bavinck teaches us in this regard. Prof. Bavinck has written about it in Volume II, page 528 of his Dogmatics:

It (de volentas signi, i.e., the revealed will of command) gives us the right and lays upon us the obligation to bring the gospel to all mankind without exception. We do not have need of another basis for a general offer of grace than this plainly revealed will of God (emphasis, AK). We need not definitely know in advance for whom Christ died any more than we need to know who are chosen of God unto eternal life. The calling does rest upon a particular basis, for that belongs to and proceeds from God’s covenant, but it directs itself in harmony with God’s revealed will (emphasis, AK) and with the sacrifice of Christ, which has fully sufficient value in itself also for them who are outside of the covenant, in order that they also may be taken up into the covenant, and receive the proof of their election in the very faith itself.

In volume IV, page 4, Prof. Bavinck returns more directly to this matter, and tells us that the advocates of common grace accuse the Reformed people of not being able so much as to mention a call to all because, according to them, Christ died only and exclusively for the elect. If they do maintain the general offer of grace this is not earnestly meant on God’s part. Only the demand of the law can be brought to the person without grace, not the offer of grace, even if it conditional.

Prof. Bavinck says that even though the doctrine of election and of particular atonement seems to demand something else, yet Reformed persons have maintained a general offer of grace, and he adds to that: “and correctly so” (p. 5). And for this reason: First, because the gospel must be preached to all creatures, according to the demand of the Holy Scriptures. The command of Christ is the end of all argument. In that regard the counsel of election and reprobation does not enter into consideration. The gospel is preached to people, not as elect and reprobate, but as sinners who all need deliverance. When ministered by men, who do not know the hidden counsel of God, the gospel cannot be anything else but general in its offer. Second, the Reformed person offers the gospel to all mankind. He can and must do that, even though he knows that salvation can become our portion only in the way of faith. Third, that general offer is seriously meant, for God does not say thereby what He will do, but what He demands of us, namely, that the sinner comes to faith and repentance, because then He will give him eternal salvation. Fourth, the general offer is not vain and unnecessary even when the purpose of bringing the sinner to salvation is not thereby attained. Indeed that purpose is not attained in all; but in that case God has another purpose. Fifth, the preaching of the gospel also has fruit only for this present life (Heb. 6:4-6). Sixth, God never relinquishes His claim on the creature and unceasingly asserts that right: therefore, He calls through the law and the gospel, which calling is never in vain or unnecessary, since God always attains His purpose with it.

One more thing we wish to say. Rev. Hoeksema prefers to refer to II Corinthians 2:15, 16 where we read the well-known statement that from the preaching proceeds a savor of death unto death and a savor of life unto life. As he sees it, the savor of death unto death is inconsistent with a general offer of grace. The preacher must preach Christ, without an offer of grace, leaving it to God to determine for whom that preaching of Christ proceeds as a savor of death and a savor of life.

Rev. Hoeksema calls himself a Calvinist; he says that he thinks highly of Calvin. Calvin remarks on this text:

The gospel is preached unto salvation; this is its attribute, but only the believers are partakers of this salvation. In the meantime it is unto the condemnation of the unbeliever, which occurs by their own sin. Thus Christ did not come into the world to condemn, for why would that be necessary, since apart from Him we are all condemned!... Thus one must always distinguish between the peculiar function of the gospel and the (so to speak) incidental or secondary, which must be ascribed to the evil of mankind whereby the outcome is that their life is changed into death.

Thus the peculiar function of the gospel is to spread a savor of life unto life, but that also a savor of death unto death proceeds from the preaching, is not the fault of the gospel, but finds its cause in the sin of mankind. Sapienti sat!

We will not add much to this.

It would merely be a matter of repetition.

Anyone who re-reads the articles of Rev. Rietberg of Maassluis and those of Dr. A. Kuyper of Rotterdam will soon discover that, the Kerkbode of Rotterdam is certainly read in Maassluis. The similarity between the articles of Kuyper and of Rietberg is too obvious not to lead to this conclusion.

Instead of writing about the general offer of grace as well-meant on the part of God, both write about the preaching of the gospel to all mankind without distinction.

Both writers follow the same line of argumentation. Both appeal to the same texts, to the same quotations from the Confession and in the same manner, to the same citations from Bavinck’s Dogmatics, and to the same quotation from Calvin!

Neither of the two has shown that he was able to understand the question that is involved. Neither one gives my presentation accurately. Neither one enters into my arguments. And both finally continue in the vain delusion that their miserable writings are weighty enough to settle the question or to clarify it.

This is what Rietberg wrote as a pious wish at the end of his articles.

And Kuyper ends in the same high-handed manner which characterized all he wrote: sapienti sat!

Yes, yes, sapienti sat! but poor wise men (I should have written: fools), who deem themselves satisfied with that which the leaders write in De Rotterdamse Kerkbode and in De Wachter.

In the meantime let one read, in answer to this conclusion of Kuyper, that which I wrote in answer to the last articles of Rietberg.9

The same answer serves for that which both have written.

And: Sapienti sat!



8. Prof. Berkhof, judging according to the content of his brochure, would want to preach about Ezekiel 33:11, somewhat as follows:

There are preachers who contend that God is filled with love only for sinners who are elect, that He causes the gospel to be preached only to bring thereby the elect back to his Father-heart. They only, as these preachers say, are God’s beloved children. Them alone He seeks to save. Yes, these preachers dare boldly to teach that God allows the gospel to be preached to the others as a judgment, thereby to increase their condemnation in His wrath and sore displeasure. This however is a horrible doctrine. These preachers make God a tyrant, who loves only a few people and has destined the others unto destruction. However my text speaks a different language. Take note that this Scripture passage mentions God’s great love for sinners, His desire to bring the wicked as His wandering children back to His Father-heart. He seeks their salvation. And do not allow it to escape your attention that the text does not speak of elect, but of sinners in general. That includes all mankind. Not only the elect are meant, but also the others. God loves all mankind. He seeks to save all the wicked. Also in His love for sinners He seeks all of you, none excluded. He pleads with you to accept this grace, etc.

This example of preaching, which is, of course, entirely my own, is in every detail based on that which the professor writes in his brochure. That is our earnest conviction. If we present the content of his brochure in an improper light, he has the opportunity to criticize it in our paper, and we gladly retract every bit.

9. These articles and Hoeksema’s answer can be found in Chapter 12. 

No comments:

Post a Comment