Dedication at the Founding of the Free University in Amsterdam

Delivered on October 19th, 1880 in the New Church, Amsterdam, by Dr. P. J. Hoedemaker

And no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “The Hebrews must not be allowed to make swords or spears.” Instead, all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles. The charge was a pim for sharpening a plowshare or mattock, a third of a shekel for sharpening a pitchfork or an axe, and a third of a shekel for repointing an oxgoad. So on the day of battle not a sword or spear could be found in the hands of the troops with Saul and Jonathan; only Saul and his son Jonathan had weapons.

1 Samuel 13:19–22, Berean Study Bible

Forty years ago, David Friedrich Strauss uttered a prophecy which forms such a stark contrast with the purpose of our gathering that we cannot leave off bringing it to remembrance.

In his Christliche Glaubenslehre [Christian Doctrine of Faith], published on September 2nd, 1840, he shared his sentiment that “divine studies, which previously were to cooperate to form ministers of the gospel, are now viewed as  a select means to render someone totally useless for ministry in the church.”[1]

On this basis he declared that “the cobbler’s tripod, the office worker’s desk, and every other place where one can escape science, is to be preferred as nursery for future preachers above the university or the seminary.”

This led to his prediction that “people with weak spiritual capacities in the area of religion and those who are self-taught in the area of divinity would soon become the spokesmen of pious societies, and the spiritual leaders of our people.”

I do not need to inform you that this prediction, at least, has been belied by the result “after forty years.”[2]

It would not be becoming to speak of the scientific level of our teachers in present company. But that enough divines arose even after Strauss with at least enough science to repulse him and the school to which he belonged in more than one area that was thought to be conquered, will become clear to you upon the perusal of any introduction to the New Testament or history of the Gospel. And that those who nowadays confess “The Christ according to the Scriptures,” in part are gradually returning more and more to the confession of the church, in part to the lecture halls of the university and to the writings of proponents and opponents of that Confession who once were under the influence of the same power that Strauss considered to be so devastating for Christian faith, this too cannot be gainsaid.

But underlying Strauss’s entire viewpoint is a conception that he, in his last writing, formulated like this: “The multitude cannot be counted who in part begin to sense, in part already clearly understand, that the church has increasingly come into conflict with science, with the world- and life-view, the social and political conditions of the contemporary world.”[3]

The church, and thus its confession, and thus Holy Scripture as well, in conflict with science!

If there was a possibility that the truth of a thesis like this would ever come to light, our school of science would already in principle be condemned before it was founded. It thus derives its right of existence from the denial of this possibility.

It does this in distinction from every other.

For although – thank God! – we know of no single institution of higher education in which science is practiced in the spirit which would provide the evidence to someone like Strauss that it of necessity contradicts “Christian faith,” the Christian, the Reformed University as such, acknowledges the principle that science itself, in its broadest extent, must bear the character embodied in this name.

It is possible to deviate from the principle of Holy Scripture, upon which we wish to found our school, even if we are not prepared to follow to the end the path on which Strauss is headed.

If we acknowledge science to be an independent power declared in our day to be of age, fully released from the custody of faith; if we come to the point, led by fear, of coming to terms with this power – terms which include ceding territory – terms which, to be sure, grant us the right to call our theology “scientific,” but at the expense of its independence, then we lower, no, we betray the royal power of Jesus Christ, before whom, before whose word, science too must bow.

This is no imaginary situation that I have in mind here.

Already in 1829, Schleiermacher, rightly named the father of the scientific theology of recent times, wrote to Lücke that “it was advisable to cede to science” what he called the “outworks of Christian faith.”

“Much of what we commonly regard as the essence of Christendom has become untenable. If we cannot learn to get by as well as we can without these side issues, then we run the risk of being besieged, surrounded, and starved by science.”[4]

The institution the foundation of which will be laid tomorrow, rejects the conditions by which the alliance between science and the newer theology arose.

It is born out of the need of pastors, who have learned not to combat, or to undermine, or to dilute the confession of the church, but no less out of the conviction that Jesus Christ is also King in the area of science.

For this reason it is not a risk but a holy calling for it to set up, not a seminary, but a university.

A university, that is, an institution which not only provides the opportunity to cultivate the sciences each for itself, not only joins them or groups them together, but also unites them and places them in the proper relationship to one another and to the center, through a common bond.

With such a foundation, its goal is to save the nation from the powers of destruction which lie in ambush behind the culture, the prosperity, the science of our time, to rob Jesus Christ of His honor and our people of its character and future.

The same principle embodied in the Free University was enunciated by the poet in these words:

“Bring to the King, on your knees,
O kings! Your glory!
That your treasures, o prodigies,
Be laid before His footstool!
Your sciences, your arts!
Your powers, strength, gifts, favors,
Awakened in us by God’s breath!
Away with the ministry of sacrilege
You belong to the Goel, whose knowledge
Will soon cover the earth!”[5]

The kingship of Christ.

Let us hold fast to that idea, my listeners!

This is what the struggle in the contest between us and modern science is about.

Starting from this idea, it is not difficult to find a picture in the history of Israel that illustrates the relation between faith and science, a picture likewise of what we are set to accomplish.

If you read the chapter in the first book of Samuel from which we selected our text, you will find that the breach of the peace with the Philistines by Israel was as little desired as it was expected; nor was it the result of agreement or consultation between Saul and Jonathan; but that it was an apparently ill-advised step by the latter, the defeat of the garrison of Geba, that led to it.[6]

Was this necessary; was it timely?

It was not necessary in the interest of prosperity. We do not read that Israel was impoverished or oppressed. On the contrary, not many years earlier Samson had vainly tried to arouse the people from its slumber. With the question, “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us?” they submitted to the status quo.

Not necessary for their civil liberties. Samuel travelled from one end of the country to the other to administer justice. Saul was chosen as king. Jabesh in Gilead was relieved, it appears, without resistance from the side of the Philistines.

Here and there an occupation took place, but the ranks of the foreigner were also open to Israel.[7]

Not necessary in the interest of religion. The priesthood was not abolished. The tabernacle stood in Shiloh; sacrifices were brought both there and on the heights. When the ark returned from the land of the Philistines, Israel’s right to its own, its national divinity was recognized.

Nor was it necessary in the estimation of the people, who perhaps had come to form a view of life and of Scripture allowing it to live in peace with the enemy. It might even have been seen as highly spiritual to leave authority in affairs of war to the Philistines.

Unnecessary – and therefore untimely.

Saul, who certainly was not lacking in courage, only retained a small group of men in his entourage after gaining the victory over Nahash – a demonstration that, at least at that time, he had no intention of engaging with the enemy.

Untimely, as witness what happened when Jonathan dealt his blow. Saul may have said, “Let Israel hear” but the answer consisted in the people hiding themselves in caves and wells.

Untimely, because it was ill-advised to attack the garrison of Geba, which looked as if it would be fatal to the people and in no way would be supported by the general movement of the people.

How was it that Israel imagined itself free – and Jehovah was not free to rule as King in His country and over His people?

The remains of the memorial in which Joshua had engraved the law were still visible on Mount Ebal, the law which gave Israel to know the will of its King… and that people not only was subjected to the tutelage of the foreigner but did not even recognize in this the fulfillment of the curse with which Moses threatened disobedience when he said: “The foreigner living among you will rise higher and higher above you, while you sink down lower and lower” (Deut. 28:43, Berean Study Bible).

Might Israel forget that a relatively independent existence was not enough for it; forget that by losing rulership it also lost its right of existence; forget that a moment was coming in which Hebrew, Canaanite, and Philistine would no longer even form separate elements, in the neutral state erected in the place where lived the priestly nation in which all the families of the earth would be blessed?

The breach of peace would be untimely because the entire people, disarmed and defenseless as it was, contented itself to send the axes and the mattocks, the oxgoads and the pitchforks to the smiths active in the Philistine occupation, who made farm tools for the rightful occupant, but weapons of war for the foreigner.

Ichabod! The glory had departed from Israel. That the ark, the throne of God, was not brought back to the tabernacle, His palace, is only emblematic of the condition which the people of the Lord were in.

Israel was abjectly humiliated, and in that humiliation, Jehovah was ridiculed.

Even in our day, the important thing is not our possessions and our lives, not freedom in the ordinary sense of the word.

We are free, even free to grant some degree of authority to Him we honor as King, to come to the aid of the children of our people with more than 400,000 men, as in the days of Nahash.

If only the occupation of Geba had not been defeated! If the Philistines might only retain the delivery of the tools we need to conduct our lives! If spear and sword is only supplied to them and to those of us who stand in their service!

But are we not aware that the honor of God is concerned here?

Is the question not, at the end of the day, whether He will reign in every sphere, in every area of life?

Whoever calls Christ King cannot leave off of disturbing the peace as Jonathan did, a peace that infringes the right of his master.

Christ allows Himself to be crucified, but never banished.

You ask if this is the motive force of the Christian principle?

If it were otherwise, pagan Rome would not have persecuted its best citizens already in the time of Nero.

The mistress of the world knew that the confession of the Christ according to the Scriptures entailed nothing less than the demand that she relinquish rulership of the world in favor of the Crucified, and leave to Him both the exercise of authority and the determination of law, both the disposition over the fate of philosophy and the protection of science, the application of art.

Let us not deceive ourselves, my listeners! Personal, religious freedom is insufficient for the Christian.

There lies the history of 18 centuries.

That it speak to us!

Did Christianity combat paganism only with regard to idolatry? By no means. It chased down pagan principles in every area, in the living room, at the marketplace, in the council chamber, in the school, and in the temple, and drove them from their most remote hiding places.

In the engraving that represents to us the Colosseum, wherein the multitude was last gathered to gape at the cruel game of the gladiators, a servant of Christ is pictured for us having entered into this place, one of paganism’s last stands – it having been driven from everywhere else – in order, in the name of the King, to put an end to the ingrained custom which conflicted with the spirit of the Gospel.

You see there a monk, the paragon of earnestness and tenderness, having cast himself between the swords of the gladiators.

The hand that points upward tells you by what authority he stands there.

History teaches you the consequences of this deed.

And in the legend of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, who returned from a cave in which they had hidden during a period of persecution, and after years of sleep discovered not only other buildings but another society in the city in which paganism had once ruled the roost, the impression is made upon contemporaries and posterity of the mighty turn of events brought about by Christendom.

That the early church, weary of suffering and struggling, contented itself too greatly and too soon with giving another name and a changed form to the ancient pagan way of life, cannot be charged to the account of the Christian principle.

God’s judgement has been passed on this unfaithfulness.

Or do we not see in the Reformation a reaction on the part of Biblical Christianity against everything in the life of the nation that could not be joined with the Word, regardless of how intertwined this was with the societal conditions; in other words, against that which had passed from paganism into Rome?

The preaching of justification by faith was not the only thing that distinguished the church of the Reformation from Rome. It subjected the language, the doctrine, and life to a reformation. It put an end to the dominance of Aristotle in the school of science, gave it another manner of construction, and in the mouths of Calvin, Zwingli, and à Lasco, brought the Word of God into the halls of government.

And if you ask me where this principle of Christendom, of the Reformation, is most done justice, I reply: not in the direction that withdraws from the world and considers “preparation to be the great goal of human life.”[8]

Not in the direction which, in its zeal for the souls of individuals, seems to forget that the restoration of the ordinances of God in church and state and society benefit individuals in the first place, but also, in them, the church and the nation as well.

Not in the sister church which, with its principle of “justification by faith alone,” does not as directly come into conflict with the power which has taken its position on the soil of natural life, alongside and over against God; the church, which did not hesitate in the Apology of its confession to derive the image of the relation between church and state from the art of singing.[9]

Only there where the Reformed principle is done justice, by which everyone and everything, willingly or unwillingly, must honor God.

There where there is no assurance that one can be a pagan with his head but a Christian with his heart.

There where there is no separation between faith and science, doctrine and life, the citizen and the believer.

Rather, where one speaks of “a Christian government,” of “nature as the source of the knowledge of God as well,” of “the divine vocation in which every head of household is called to labor.”

It is on this foundation that we have established our school.

But precisely because of this, we must claim science in its full extent for Jesus Christ.

Calvin did this in 1541 when he requested an institution of higher learning from the council of his city, and in 1558 offered to go door to door to collect gifts for this apparently unrealizable goal; when during the course of that year he not only handed 10,024 gold pieces to the government but also cooperated to establish a foundation which provoked a cry of astonishment from the historian: “Remarkable! Calvin desires chairs for disciplines which have nothing to do with theology. He represents the interests of law and medicine. Here then, it is no longer about the church but the fatherland.”[10]

This is what Voetius was after when he proclaimed from the pulpit of the Domkerk in Utrecht: “Where there are no schools, or at least good schools, from which church and civil government can be supplied, there the foundations of the country must shake, there all sound doctrine, strength of godliness, good order in God’s church must succumb and collapse. That is what our Christian catechism is saying when it subjoins schools to the church in its explanation of the fourth commandment.”[11]

This led the colonists in Massachusetts, 27 years after their arrival in the wilderness, to make this legal provision: “It being one chief project of Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures by dissuading from the use of tongues; and to the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavours; therefore be it enacted, that every township, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall appoint one to teach all children to write and read; and where any town shall increase to the number of 100 families, they shall set up a grammar school, the masters thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the university.”[12]

It is impossible to speak of the rights that the Reformed principle asserts without discussing the duties which they contain.

The duty even with regard to science itself.

It is no science that renders impossible the explanation of the whole of the phenomena in the material and moral world because it has no place for faith, because it is necessitated to deny the facts that do not fit into its systems, because it does not take God into account as He reveals Himself, with man as he is and was and must become, with the final goal of all that is created, because it has thrown away the key of knowledge, because it does not honor Him the praise of whom the learned Kepler sang at the end of his works [Harmonia Mundi] in these words:

Praise Him, you heavens! You sun and moon! You army of planets! Proclaim God’s honor in an inexpressible language! You heavenly harmonies, and you, o man! who understands them, unite in a song of praise of the Most High. And you my soul, praise here your Creator! Everything exists in and through Him. From Him we received our only knowledge. He knows what we do not know; nothing is hidden from Him. Therefore, praise and honor be to Him in eternity.

“Save science” – these are Gunning’s words – “o Christian faith, by showing yourself to be the only safe and fruitful soil of those virtues of freedom, of lively world-view, of the brave thoroughness of research – in short, of all the spiritual requirements in the name of which contemporary science in its folly believes it must sever ties with you.”[13]

The duty, above all, to come to the aid of the church and society in and through science.

As the school, so also the people.

What is proclaimed in the lecture hall soon appears in the marketplace of life.

As Voetius said, “through the reformation of schools, studies, arts and sciences, in particular through the scholarship of languages, history, and both of these in Greek and Latin antiquities, the path is cleared to the reformation of dilapidated religion.”[14]

We add: the school has become the nursemaid of unbelief and revolution as well.

If you wish to know in what spirit and to what end natural science is pursued, ask modern theology, which has shaken your church to its foundations.

If you ask when it was that the deism, rationalism, materialism, socialism of recent times were born, I refer you to the hour in which Kant and Hegel, Fichte and Feuerbach came to express in the narrow circle of students or scholars what had been thought up and worked out in the secluded study.

The engraving on the urn containing Voltaire’s ashes – “His heart is contained here, his spirit is found everywhere” – is also true in the appropriate degree of Opzoomer, to whom you entrusted the education of your youth, of Scholten, at whose feet so many of your preachers have sat.

May God give that I am able to convince you and all of our Christian people that it is not enough to muster our numbers against Nahash just one time, but that the garrison at Geba has to be defeated.

Science for Christ!

That is, then, the demand that automatically likewise becomes a call to arms.

But weaponry must follow a call to arms, and are not the weapons largely in the hands of the enemy?

The power of the word, which has slain its ten thousands;

Of the song, to which the history of every great popular movement pays homage;

Of the paintbrush, which with the visual arts is, according to unbelievers like Strauss, destined to take the place of religion;

Of the press, the queen of the world, which not only works on and illuminates thousands, but thinks for them;

Of science, which by its verdict [votum] puts an end to all contradiction and not only participates in all questions of whatever sort they might be, but decides them as supreme judge;

Of legislation, which not only decides on our pocketbooks but also our bodies, our Sundays, our children and, to the degree that, in the service of unbelief, it acts with ever less restraint, our consciences as well;

Of public opinion which, in a certain sense, stands even higher than legislation and increasingly is turning against Christians and Christianity.

Do not these powers stand entirely or nearly entirely at the disposal of those whom we consider our opponents for Christ’s sake?

It is all too true. And yet, we may not neglect to state the demand and let it be heard even as our watchword.

Even if we were entirely disarmed like Samson when the young lion roared at him in the vineyard of Timnah; even if we had to confront the consummate warrior in full armor with only five smooth stones from the stream of Socoh, we would have no right and no reason to withdraw from the battle, the battle of self-defense, the battle for the honor of God, whose name has been ridiculed.

When necessity urges action, and duty commands, then all reasoning, all risk-reward calculation, all deliberation ends, even with regard to one’s own strength.

And yet we do not wish to forget that those weapons that the world knows to wield with such effect must not be spurned or neglected by us. Even if it pleases God in His wisdom to use “the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,” if the Spirit of the Lord, in a unique situation, “came mightily upon Samson” because he is a sign of the Most High for the members of his generation, still we cannot turn this into a guideline for our actions. David did not enter the battle unarmed, but with a weapon that he was capable of wielding, and Goliath’s sword later became the possession of the conqueror. Lamech’s sword is necessary to conduct the wars of the Lord. The craft of Bezalel and Oholiab is indispensable when it is ordained by the Spirit in the service of God. Paul’s scholarship served him outstandingly in Greece. What the first Christian church conquered, as we have seen, from paganism, it used to subject everything in an even broader sense to its head. The arts and sciences are all weapons in which we can rejoice or which we have to fear, in accordance with the way in which and the goal to which they are put to use.

This one thing remains the same. We cannot put off the struggle until we, to our minds, are sufficiently outfitted.

If there is a single sword, a single spear found among us, it will benefit us… and onward we march, if need be with blunt axes and rusty mattocks and oxgoads, which had so much need of being straightened, sharpened, and pointed by the smiths.

This holds true for the initial attack.

But things cannot keep going like that.

It cannot be that there is no gunsmith in Israel.

The goal of the institution that will open its doors tomorrow is however – is precisely – to help produce the weapons the absence of which we feel so keenly. May we not then proclaim with Voetius, “it is however no small hope of relief that the Lord’s mercy, which has no end, now lately instills in us” – now that there is “a holy courage” to “begin such a praiseworthy work, to the upbuilding of the tabernacle, the shoring up of the republic, the protection of the country.”

We dare to give ourselves and all of you the encouragement that, with the Lord’s blessing, should we continue on this path, all states and conditions of men will hereby improve, and thus the commonality will be helped, if wise and religious jurists, prudent and conscientious doctors, learned and godly philosophers, many holy Nazirites, powerful in word and zealous, discrete theologians appear from time to time. Then the Lord will maintain His fire and hearth with us, He will not give us over to the malevolence of our enemies or to our own confusions.[15]

And may we not for the same reason add this: “We may reckon this to be a door of hope, that whatever good there may be in God’s heart for us, for our progeny, for our fatherland and church: that we might be able to say in some degree that which Samson’s mother said: ‘If the Lord wanted to kill us, He would not have shown us these things.’”[16]

A door of hope?

No more, and no less. Of hope! For theology as well, which is so inseparably bound to the church that both have the same history, that they live and die together; that where the life of theology is threatened, the church is no longer safe, and where the church is sick and languishing, theology cannot flourish.

Why a door of hope? Because it will no longer be necessary to send your youth where they will be forced to breathe an atmosphere which in some degree is impregnated with antichristian elements, whereby one must have very little predisposition for the spiritual ailments which, alas, have taken on epidemic proportions in the Netherlands, in order not to be affected by a fit which, even if by God’s grace we survive it, breaks our health, often undermines that health for good?

Today we may still bring to memory that which the Reformed church in the Netherlands was called to in 1848 by the seven “Gentlemen of the Hague”, nearly all of whom have now been laid to rest, and one of whom, the grizzled and honorable Elout, is ready tomorrow in the name of the founders of our institution to speak a word of appreciation for our effort, a word that so deeply pleases us precisely because it is he who expresses it, be it only for history’s sake, be it only to highlight the indispensable connection that exists between the deed of today and the protest of forty years ago.

“We do not bring up that which would exceed the capacities of the untutored. No deep insight or extensive knowledge, but rather the amount of common sense, honesty, and good faith that everyone needs for daily life, is needed to know that in order to become a teacher in the church, one should not be educated by the enemies of the church. Parents or relations! You may not submit or allow to be submitted young persons to a theological forming which is delivered over to an influence which you consider to be contrary to the doctrine of the church and of salvation” – thus spake Capadose, Elout, Gevers, Groen, Singendonck, Van Hogendorp, and Van der Kemp.[17]

It is now a fact that those parents and relations will have to choose between the advantages associated with the existing universities and the spiritual interest that has weighed so heavily with the portion of the church which supports our efforts, that it has come to count all those other things as loss [cf. Phil. 3:7].

This, then, but not only this has led us to call our new establishment a “door of hope.”

For all of us share the conviction of Bilderdijk:

No, it is not wisdom what the world calls wisdom;
It is not wisdom if a self-blinded age boasts
As it continues to grab at mist in the earthly rolling waves
And drops the essential to take hold of the appearance in the mirror
No, wisdom is from God, descends from His fullness
And rises heavenward back to its origin.

On this basis we may repeat the prayer both in isolation and in the lecture hall that this poet unbosomed in another song:

No wisdom of men! No; rather, truth from on high
Which glorifies You; does not feed our own pride
This we beseech thee, o my God.

We can embrace our pupils with the arms of our love, and bring them into contact with faith, life, the experience of the church. We can move them as far as possible to where the fresh mountain air of God’s eternal truth can be breathed in to the fullest. But we cannot and will not exclude the freedom, the science, the influence of all the teachers of earlier and later times; we cannot reverse the error and the sin.

No, if we make mention of a door of hope, we have this in mind above all: that the Confession by which our fathers lived and died, that the truth in which yet consists the strength and the comfort of all the people of the Lord, will consciously be laid at the foundation of this establishment.

Before I proceed, I need to express a word of love and appreciation for the men to whom as many as there are among us who proclaim “the entire counsel of God unto preservation of sinners” owe much, very much; what am I saying? To whom the church of God in the Netherlands owes thanks for the fact that, in accordance with the Lord’s mercy and faithfulness, a “Christian theology” may still be spoken of among us.

They were born out of that awakening life that likewise awakened our own church’s life, even though it long seemed to be dead; by the power of the truth they were ever more freed from that which forty and twice forty years ago could pass as orthodoxy, and brought into agreement with that which was the scientific expression of the Christian confession beyond our borders; they maintained, if you please, “the essence and essentials of doctrine.” We are entirely reconciled with this expression if by it is meant that they yielded nothing in the heat of battle which must be considered essential.

Should we misapprehend the grace, the gift of God in these witnesses of the truth, and to that degree be led to separate from them by any truth found in God’s Word, in our Confession, in the thought process of our fathers, such that we could see a chasm between the present and the immediate past of the church?

Not so. The dispensation of God varies in various times, and the wisdom of God is visible even in the transitions from one age to another.

But we do not compare their teachings, persons, talents, with ours. Not only humility but awareness of weakness and inferiority would immediately compel our silence with regard to them.

It is the place that they hold – now that the betrayal of theology and the church has been committed, by which the one has been separated from the other, by which the principle of modern science: freedom, i.e., arbitrariness, permission, capricious opinion bound by nothing in the world, not even God’s Word, has been made into a principle of life, by which it has been separated from the last filament by which it could be considered to spring from the root from which it arose in previous centuries; I say, it is the place that they hold in a university which has not broken the Word of God to such a degree, against which the protest of the church is set to be embodied in this new establishment.

Godliness and talent, freedom and science cannot hinder – I express this word with full awareness for contemporary and progeny – theology from dying the death already manifested in its principle.

A door of hope is opening to us by the fact that a Reformed theology can dwell in the institution in which only a slight beginning is seen, as if on its own grounds, and thereby live together with science on the basis of this agreement, that both are to subject themselves to one and the same power, the highest, the only.

The study of letters preceded us when it reluctantly turned away from the unnatural, often thoughtless prattling on which a previous generation feasted. It attempted to liberate from oblivion, from out of the treasure of our classics, that which was solid, muscular, massive in idea and thought-form, in language and style, for its own teaching and example. In imitation of the present practice by which the writing on the parchment of the medieval monk is removed in order to bring to light what had been written there of Holy Scripture and erased, it has handed to us the codex rescriptus of the intellectual life of our people.

Ask Beets, Hasebroek, Alberdingh Thijm, van Vloten, whether literature has suffered damage from this, or whether this return might be called decline.[18]

If we consider the significance which the Netherlands used to have for the entire church, even in other countries; the condition of dependence in which for years it has come to stand vis-à-vis Germany and Denmark, France and Switzerland, and all the orientations which struggle for supremacy in, say, the Lutheran and Unified church; the fact that our theology in general – apart from a few writings of ours – and in particular Keunen and the “Bible for Youth,” is active destroying the churches of Scotland and America, so that in those countries that power is manifesting itself which here has nearly expired; the poverty which betrays our academies as regards powers of thought, resilience, and influence – I do not mean on the part of the teachers, who in part were born of the awakening life of the revival, but the vast majority of students – who would dare to deny this fact? – then we may well cry “Ichabod!” because with the disappearance of glory, the reflection thereof in the science of divinity has likewise disappeared.

And if we know that life again becomes fruitful when it can derive its motive power from the germ, that unity of principle and method can be considered indispensable for the clarity, the strength, and therefore also for the scientific character of our thinkers and divines, if we call to mind what Ullmann said about “the regularity in the appearance of geniuses and talents,” then we will boast with Voetius that “a door of hope” has been opened to us, despite all our weakness.

A door of hope even for science in its entirety!

We may not keep silent about this, even though the place at which we stand does not allow us to get ahead of ourselves in our thoughts as far as this goes.

Fear and concern can grip us with regard to the question that imposes itself on us: “Where are the men and the means to introduce literature and natural science, medicine and law in our schools in a manner that is not entirely in contradiction with the character of these sciences?”[19]

But as far as the principle is concerned, no fear and no concern.

Unless we misrepresented the connection between faith and science, between theology and all the other skills – but then we would have to lose our faith in God, in His Word, in the origin, goal and coherence of all things – the blossoming of the sciences, called to investigate and explain the life of nature, will be the necessary consequence of their restoration into the true relation to God and His Word, to the second creation and future glory. This is typologically set before us in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and the temple, where the images of natural life are viewed in the gold of the walls as in the presence of God.

An indication that this conviction is more than mere imagination was demonstrated brilliantly by the history of our academies in the time that they were called, and were, “seminaries of true godliness.”[20]

A door of hope is also opened to our church in this establishment.

For just as theology is affected by the disease in our ecclesiastical and religious life, just as well does it have a beneficial influence on both, as soon as it incorporates new elements of life and strength from the Confession, which actually is inseparable from the essence of that church.

That which holds true for a people, that it must demonstrate its right of existence through the possession of its own nationality, is also applicable to us who are placed in the church as an orientation alongside or in opposition to other orientations.

The right of the Confession will only be able to be maintained when the question “legal or ethical” is displaced in life by the power that shows itself to have its own unique character in theology and in the people, and the capacity not simply to imitate and dress up, but to inspire, to grow, to produce.

What renders us powerless – I need not tell you – is the gap between the present and the past, between teachers and congregation, brother and brother, between the expression and the application of our principles to the doctrine and the organization of the church.

And could I forget to mention the chasm that has existed among the Reformed people itself for forty years, the chasm among that people, spread across two churches, which so often finds itself set opposite to itself, so often set against itself?

No, it may not be called a misunderstanding of God’s leading when one does not immediately close himself off from someone on the other side. On this side, one can see the revelation in that church of the same life of which we also were born, one of the means God used and still uses to maintain the people in the midst of the apostasy, to return it to the truth.

On that side one can recognize, or hope, or wish that in this establishment a door of hope will be opened for the union of all who have noted the courses of grace in their own life, be it along unknown paths and at a time that cannot yet be determined, but certainly without violence to any truth that we both confess, each from his own standpoint, in accordance with Scripture with full conviction.

And finally, shall we not be able to say “a door of hope for our people as well”?

Our people.

What good is it if in the Netherlands, as in Israel during the time of Ahab, there are yet more than 7000 who have not bent the knee to Baal, if the temple of Baal has not been disturbed, if the golden calves have not been removed from Bethel and Dan, if Jerusalem has not been restored as the center of the nation, the covenant as the basis for popular life, the ordinance of God as the bond and law of society as a whole?

It is also Reformed to view individuals not as loners but as parts of the great cohering living whole of our people.

It is also Reformed to seek the conversion not only of the individual but also of the nation, the conversion to the living God which manifests itself in the home, the school, trade, the council chamber.

It is also Reformed not only to recognize the destructive power that emanates from the Zeitgeist and to which our children in the first place and all those who have not arrived at a self-conscious faith are continually subjected, but at the same time not to look for perfect health among parts of a diseased whole.

Oh yes. Believing pastors can be formed in our academies, pastors who – praise God! – in the church partly forget what they learned at school. Souls can still be converted by preaching; children are still being raised under Christian influence at home and school.

God is gracious. His Kingdom shall come. His Word will stand!

But have we forgotten what is written: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”?

And are we then blind enough to wish to divert or reverse the flow of the waters of unbelief, without making any attempt to stop up the source from which those waters flow? Shall we give our thousands for the children, mainly from the dregs of our people, and leave the trendsetters of society, the leaders of the nation, the men who rule our lives from the throne of science, the powers who dispose over money and influence, to the mercy of the prince of this age? No, my listeners! Not that! Never that!

Our poor people is being lost, and shall there be no bowels of mercy among us?

Here we stand. We can do no other. The Lord God help us!

God will help!

The honor of His name is at stake!

There is something in the history of our people, in the prehistory of this foundation, that gives us the courage to trust that there are considerations of peace in His unfathomable counsel regarding us.

And with an eye not only to the principle that we have unfolded, but no less to those leadings, we dare to conclude with the proclamation issued by the Christian government of the city of Geneva on June 5th, 1559, upon the occasion of the solemn opening of the university which was destined to set its seal on many churches in Europe, not least on ours, read aloud in the midst of a compressed multitude in the Church of St. Peter.

“This enterprise will be judged by many to be too risky. But he who sets his eye upon God’s leading and is accustomed to be led not by human wisdom but by faith in the immeasurable grace of God, will judge otherwise and, gripped by the thought of the greatness and blessing of this work, instead expect the best of this beginning.”

God has opened to us a door of hope!

May that hope, unto the honor and praise of Him who alone is powerful to establish and build up, never be put to shame!

[1] Vol. II, p. 625.

[2] Apparently also a reference to J. J. van Oosterzee’s lecture of Sept. 1880 entitled “Na Veertig Jaren” [after forty years]. This lecture was given at the beginning of Van Oosterzee’s 40th year as professor of theology at the University of Utrecht. Hoedemaker studied under Van Oosterzee there.

[3] Der alte und der neue Glaube (1872).

[4] Studiën und Kritiken (1829), p. 489.

[5] Isaac da Costa, “Vijf en twintig jaren. Een lied in 1840” [25 Years: A Song in 1840].

[6] 1 Samuel 13:3ff.

[7] 1 Samuel 14:21.

[8] Strauss, Der alte und neue Glaube.

[9] Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII: “Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government.”

[10] Cellerier “L’Academie de Genève,” Bulletin pour l’histoire du Protestantisme Français, p. 120.

[11] Sermoen van de nutticheydt der Academien en de scholen [Sermon on the utility of academies and schools]


[12] Cited in Robert Baird, Religion in America (1845), p. 148.

[13] J. H. Gunning Jr., Gelooflooze wetenschap is blind bijgeloof: een woord vóór de vrijheid der wetenschap [Faithless science is blind superstition: a word for the freedom of science], Volume 1 (1868), p. 28.

[14] Sermoen van de nutticheydt.

[15] Sermoen van de nutticheydt.

[16] The full passage starts like this: “When God wishes to destroy a country or overthrow a state, He commonly takes from the rulers their wisdom. If He on the other hand instills in the rulers some sound counsel, we may reckon this to be a door of hope….”

[17] Adres aan de Hervormde Gemeente in Nederland [Address to the Reformed Church in the Netherlands], p. 46.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Prof. H. E. Moltzer, De invloed der Renaissance op onze letterkunde [The influence of the Renaissance on our literature].

[20] Moltzer, De invloed, p. 22.