01 July, 2016


Rev. Herman Hoeksema

Chapter 9: His Workmanship

Besides citations from Scripture and from Reformed and other confessions, Rev. Keegstra also offers us a long series of quotations from more or less Reformed writers.

We will not discuss these in detail.

In the first place, it would demand far too much space to analyze and to judge all these citations in order to discover in how far they actually speak of a general offer of grace and salvation. Rev. Keegstra quotes freely and at random without explanation or reference to any context. Naturally we would not be satisfied with that.

In the second place, we are finally not judged by a few quotations from various writers who are known to be Reformed. We are dealing with the Holy Scripture and with our Confessions. It is very well possible that there have been writers in the past who confessed the Reformed truth, yet who thought they should maintain a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God. Not only is this conceivable and possible, but we are well aware that this is true. Such writers are still among us. The articles of Rev. Keegstra are a tangible proof. In the future another writer will probably appeal to these articles of Rev. Keegstra for the same presentation. And if, as we have shown, such a presentation is actually not according to Scripture and the Confession, it will only go to show that a certain false presentation is perpetuated and branded as being Reformed, because others formerly taught this. As much then as we value the opinion of some of these men (by no means all of them) which are quoted by Rev. Keegstra, he will have to admit that they also could err and could find no solution for some problems, for which there nevertheless is a solution. At the last instance the Scriptures alone determine. Even the Confessions must be put to the test by the Scriptures. Blindly confessional we may not be. Much more should the quotations of various writers be judged in the light of the Scriptures!

In the third place, we could place over against the quotations of Rev. Keegstra, other references also of Reformed writers, who positively reject the entire idea of a general offer of grace and salvation in the sense in which Rev. Keegstra speaks of it. Books have even been written on the subject. The result of such interaction would naturally amount to nothing. We will not as much as try.

Finally, the writers cited by Rev. Keegstra often do not teach what the esteemed Editor maintains they teach.

It would take too long for me to show this in detail. But I must point to a few examples. I cannot, for example, possibly understand that for his presentation Rev. Keegstra can appeal to the following quotation from Calvin:

The saying of Christ, that “many are called, but few are chosen,” is often very erroneously understood and explained. There will be no doubt as to the meaning if we but maintain that which should be clear and obvious from the quotation cited above, namely, that there is a twofold calling, whereby God at one and the same time calls everyone without exception to Him by the external preaching of His Word, also those before whom He places the calling as a savor of death unto death, and as a means toward and cause of their greater condemnation” (Institutes, Book III, chapter XXIV, 8. Italics added.)

According to Rev. Keegstra’s presentation the latter should read: “To whom, as well as to others. He presents the calling, well-meant toward their salvation.” As it stands, the quotation of Calvin condemns the presentation of Rev. Keegstra. Calvin simply teaches that the Gospel must be preached by us without discrimination, but that it is God’s purpose to have it preached to some unto a heavier condemnation.

Where is the general offer to all?

Even more emphatically Rev. Keegstra is directly opposed by Calvin in the following quotation. (We quote only in part, giving the essence of it [De Wachter, May 7]):

If this is the character and nature of the same, let us now see if these two elements contradict each other, namely, that it is said of God that He ordained from eternity whom He would embrace with His love and against whom He would pour out His wrath and that without distinction he preaches and presents His salvation to all. I say that indeed they very well agree. For when He makes His promises in that manner He desires to show nothing else but that His mercy is open and ready for all those who but desire and request it. Which no others can do but those whom He enlightens. And He enlightens those whom he has ordained and appointed for salvation.

It is evident that this quotation has nothing in common with the presentation of Rev. Keegstra. Rev. Keegstra has an insoluble problem, as he himself assures us from time to time. How can election be harmonized with a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God? Calvin has no problem. He says of the preaching of the Word to all and of election: “I say, indeed they very well agree.”

Whence this difference?

Rev. Keegstra is of the opinion that the preaching of the Word is a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation; Calvin teaches that the preaching according to its content can never be anything different than a preaching of salvation to the elect.

Calvin condemns Keegstra, and that with a quotation which the latter himself produced! Let the reader judge.

Rev. Keegstra takes a very short quotation from Calvin’s Calvinism. And although the esteemed writer does not inform us as to where we can find this reference in this volume we had no difficulty finding it because just recently we read through the entire book. The quotation can be found on page 100. Only it is too bad that the quotation as Keegstra offers it does not accurately reproduce Calvin’s thought, partially because it is torn out of its context, and partially because Rev. Keegstra did not translate quite accurately. The esteemed editor offers the following:

Wherefore God is said to take pleasure in and to will this eternal life, even as He takes pleasure in the conversion; and He has pleasure in the latter, because He invites every one thereto in His Word.

The following is what you find:

Wherefore God is said to take as much pleasure in and to will this eternal life, as to take pleasure in conversion: and He takes pleasure in the latter, because he invites every one thereto in His Word. Now all this is in complete harmony with His hidden and eternal counsel, in which He determined to convert no one but His own elect. Thus no one but an elect ever turns himself from his evil way.

Calvin gives this as an explanation of Ezekiel 18:23.

But this does change matters, does it not? You have here once again the same phenomenon: Rev. Keegstra has an insoluble problem: Calvin finds complete harmony between preaching and election. Keegstra has a general offer (and lets Calvin say: God has as much pleasure in the eternal life of all men as He has pleasure in their repentance). Calvin has no such general, well-meant offer, but reasons: a) God has as much pleasure in eternal life as He has in repentance; b) However He converts only the elect. c) Therefore; He has pleasure in the eternal life of only His elect!

Let the readers themselves look it up and check the entire context. They will agree that the quotation as Rev. Keegstra gives it is deceptive. The entire context opposes the presentation of Rev. Keegstra.

And thus we could point to much more in the citations of Rev. Keegstra from the various Reformed writers.

But enough.

Rather than to busy ourselves with that, we wish to conclude this last chapter by emphasizing once more the Reformed line of faith and confession in his regard.

We have briefly expressed this line in the very title: Grace is no offer, but a power of God unto salvation.

Salvation may be called an offer in the former sense of offere, presenting. For in the Gospel Christ is offered, presented, pictured before our eyes. But it may not be called an offer in the sense that through the preaching of the Word God earnestly intends and seeks the salvation of all who hear it, that He seriously promises salvation to all, to each and every one head for head. Such preaching is Arminian, not according to the Scriptures, not Reformed. No, there is still more. Salvation may not be called an offer in the accepted sense of the word, as if God should merely offer salvation in the expectation that the individual will accept it. He who preaches in that manner does not proclaim the truth, but the lie. In the accepted sense of the word, grace is no way an offer. It is a power of God unto salvation.

The line of Scripture, the only Reformed line runs as follows:

God has eternally chosen His own and reprobated the others. With electing love, sovereign and eternally independent, with a love that is not occasioned by the objects, nor by anything that He foresaw in these objects. With a love that has its cause in God Himself He has fore-ordained His own unto the eternal and the most glorious blessedness of His everlasting covenant. It is the love of His good pleasure. In the same manner with a sovereign hatred, with a hatred that is not caused by its objects, nor by anything in those objects, but a hatred that is divinely caused. He ordained the reprobate to eternal destruction. It is the hatred of God’s good pleasure.7 I know, much more can be said about this. Election and reprobation are not arbitrarily independent form each other. Reprobation also serves election. But that does not change the fact that both election and reprobation are equally sovereign and eternal, unchangeable and irresistible. You may be inclined toward the supra presentation or to the infra, but you must maintain this if you wish to remain scripturally Reformed.

“(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger, as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:11-13).

In the second place, it must remain established, that atonement is absolutely particular. Christ died only for His own, not for the others. This is not only taught abundantly in the Holy Scripture and confessed in our Confessions, but this is so essential that you cannot make the atonement general without denying its very essence. Indeed, the atonement is based on satisfaction. If Christ has made satisfaction for everyone, then they are all justified. Justification does not depend upon our faith, but upon the satisfaction of Christ. If that were the case, everyone would certainly be saved. But everyone is not saved. That is the simple fact. Thus one of two things is true, either Christ has not brought atonement for everyone, but only for the elect; or He did intend to atone for all, but then that atonement was no satisfaction, that is, the very essence of the atonement is denied. Therefore it must be established that atonement is particular, only for the elect. That includes, as our Canons of Dordt plainly teach, that Christ has merited all the saving gifts of the Spirit, also faith, only for the elect, for no one else. Therefore there are no saving gifts for the reprobate. If there are none, how can God the Lord offer them?

In the third place, it must remain established that our becoming partakers of these saving gifts, does not depend upon us, nor upon any of our deeds, but only upon the almighty grace applied by the Holy Spirit. Grace is not an offer, but a power of God. For no one can come to Him except the Father draw him. We are by nature children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins. We lie in the midst of death, are enemies of God, devise nothing but enmity against God and His Christ, and are totally incapable of any good, and inclined to all evil. So that if then nothing more happens but that the grace is preached to us, with the demand to repent and to believe, that through the Gospel Christ is offered (presented) to us, then the only possible result can be that we oppose that Christ and all the riches of His salvation, rise up against Him with our whole being, and that thereby it becomes fully evident how completely lost and guilty we are, so that our just condemnation becomes the heavier. This exposure of their just condemnation is God’s purpose in the preaching to the reprobate. But for the elect Christ has merited the saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, and to them He gives them. He does this through the Spirit, which He has poured into the church. He does this, not by offering or advising, but by the power of almighty grace. And He does this by way of regeneration (or almighty calling), calling, faith and conversion, justification and sanctification, preservation, and finally glorification. In all this there is nothing of us. From regeneration to the final glorification the whole application of this salvation is a work of God. The elect sinner does believe and repent, but never in any other way than as fruit of the almighty operation of God’s grace. The elect sinner does come to Christ, but always only as the result of the drawing of the Father.

This does take place through the means of the Word, which is brought through the preaching to the entire audience. But also that Word, as we have often seen more, is not a general offer of grace and salvation on the part of God to everyone, but the preaching of salvation to all those who believe and repent; once more, that is, to the elect. No, we heartily agree that no one has the right to preach only to the elect. Moreover this would naturally also be impossible. But that does not alter the fact that the Lord in the preaching of the Gospel promises absolutely nothing except to those who believe and repent. And since He Himself grants this faith and this conversion only to the elect, God the Lord is not made a liar when He seriously causes to be proclaimed for all to hear: “Whosoever believes in the Son shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Just because the promises of God direct themselves to those who believe and repent, and not in the abstract to the elect, in other words, because the way of salvation is a spiritual-ethical way, the same preaching can also justly increase the judgment of the reprobate, since exactly in that way the reprobate are revealed as being ungodly, who devise only enmity against God and refuse to walk in the way of faith and repentance. God the Lord seals the preaching of the Word with an almighty operation of grace according to the love of His good pleasure, an operation whereby He gives that which He demands, and fulfills His promises to the elect. But the preaching is accompanied no less by a blinding and hardening operation of God’s wrath, according to the hatred of His good pleasure over the reprobate, whereby it becomes evident that they cannot and will not do what God demands, and their condemnation becomes the heavier.

That is the line.

And that is, we confess before God and before all the world according to our innermost conviction, the doctrine of the Holy Scripture which deprives everyone of all boasting and lets God be God. That is the line of the Reformed truth.

Does Rev. Keegstra have the heart to deny this?

I know that he does not have the heart. As a Reformed minister he will be compelled to agree wholeheartedly with me.

But if this is an established truth among us, why cannot we embrace that truth wholeheartedly? Why must there always be a meddling with the pure Reformed truth? Why must another line be drawn alongside this scripturally Reformed line of truth that runs in exactly the opposite direction? Why must white again become black or black white?

Because Scripture does that? We have plainly shown that Scripture does nothing of the kind. Scripture has an aversion to all “double tracks.”

Then why is that?

Surely neither does Rev. Keegstra believe that one more sinner is brought to God by his antics or by spreading out his hands with ever such a well-meant plea, or even by making the Gospel such an appealing general offer. God saves His elect, not one more and not one less. By our preaching the number is not increased nor decreased. Why then should there be such a meddling with the Gospel?

By this human meddling the Reformed truth is indeed always and again undermined. First one tells himself and others that the preaching is a general and well-meant offer of grace and salvation on the part of God to everyone. When that is well drilled into people, these errorists go a step farther and declare that this preaching of the Gospel is grace for all who hear it. That is what the Synod did in 1924. And so they finally are back in the channel of the Remonstrants.

Then they have the audacity to cast out Reformed preachers who refuse to sail along in their Arminian ship.

That is the history.

Rev. Keegstra knows that this is the history. I hardly dare doubt but that Rev. Keegstra also realizes that Point I of 1924 is not Reformed. Otherwise he would for some time already have answered the question: What kind of grace do the reprobate receive from God in the preaching of the Gospel? He also knows that it is exactly for that reason that we were cast out of the church, because we refused to subscribe to the unreformed Three Points, nor would we promise to remain silent about them.  Oh, I know very well that these men are beginning to be ashamed of this history. In an ever-increasing measure they begin to tell themselves that we left the church! Let it never be forgotten that this was not the case. We fought with might and main to prevent them from casting us out.

So be it.

But our protest against the treatment we received and against the violation of the truth will be heard as along as the Lord gives us strength.

Therefore these articles against the writings of Rev. Keegstra.

You may want to hear or may not want to hear, you may want to read these articles or with contempt throw them in the waste basket, but you are responsible, all of you who have the opportunity to read and to think into them.

The matter is serious.

It concerns the pure truth of the Lord our God, His cause and His honor.

Grace is no offer, but is the power of God unto salvation.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.



7. In his Reformed Dogmatics, page 161. Rev. H. Hoeksema gives the following definition for reprobation: “Reprobation is the eternal and sovereign decree of God to determine some men to be vessels of wrath fitted for destruction in the way of sin as manifestation of His justice, and to serve the purpose of the realization of His elect church.”

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