PRC Archives – H. Hoeksema’s Inaugural Sermons 100 Years Ago Today


Today is leap day in this leap year of 2020. And this date of February 29 marks a significant event that relates to Protestant Reformed history (though the PRCA would not be officially formed until five years later): the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the inaugural sermons of Herman Hoeksema after he was ordained as minister of the Word in Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.


These sermons (two of them, one in Dutch, one in English) were soon published under the title of one of the messages, “Ik Wil Dat, Gij Weet” (“I will that you know”) en “I’ll Cry” by J. Hoorn, a publisher on Eastern Ave. in Grand Rapids, MI (see photo above).


The Dutch sermon that was published (morning service) was based on Colossians 2:1-3, the opening words of which text form the title (“I would that ye knew” KJV). The English sermon that was published (evening service) was based on Isaiah 40:6-8, as you will see from the above first page.


Both of these sermons were featured in a fairly recent issue of the PR Theological Journal (April 2013, vol.46, #2, pp.80-109), including the first translation into English of that first sermon. The editor of the PRTJ introduced this featured article in these words:

Recently Miss Agatha Lubbers, long-time educator in the Protestant Reformed Christian schools, came into possession of a booklet containing the two sermons preached by Rev. Herman Hoeksema on the first Sunday after his installation as minister of the Word and sacraments in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One of these inaugural sermons was in Dutch and the other in English. She immediately took it upon herself to translate the Dutch sermon. Struck by its message, as well as by the accompanying English sermon, she brought them to me. We gave the Dutch sermon to Mr. Marvin Kamps. Having read Miss Lubbers’ translation, Mr. Kamps produced his own, which we include in this issue of PRTJ. The sermons are stirring! They encapsulate Hoeksema’s entire ministry. And they serve as a powerful reminder to the Reformed minister today concerning the nature of his calling. You will want to read both sermons.

And Miss Lubbers (my high school church history teacher among other things!) provided her own introduction to these “HH” sermons:

It was on Tuesday, February 24, 1920 that the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema, one of the “founders” and theological leaders of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, was installed as minister of the gospel in the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church (at that time generally called the Eastern Avenue Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk). Rev. Herman Hoeksema, a young, vigorous, and industrious 34-year-old man, who had been ordained in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church of Holland in 1915, received and accepted the call to be the pastor of Eastern Avenue.

Rev. Hoeksema reports in one of his writings that he had been very busy in Holland. In Holland he had established himself as a minister who loved the gospel and who was an exciting preacher. It is perhaps worthy of note that during those years he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Calvin College (Curatorium) and was the main speaker at the dedication in 1915 of the new Calvin College Building on Franklin Street campus. He was also a regular contributor to the Banner.

Rev. Herman Hoeksema was installed in Eastern Avenue CRC to take the place of Rev. J. Groen. The building is still standing today on the same site, though with some changes. The congregation is reported to have consisted of approximately 450 families. Rev. Hoeksema, in his first Sunday morning service, called upon the Lord and the Consistory “to help him in the work of this large congregation.” It was reported that the work of catechism instruction and the leading of Bible study societies had been largely neglected.

On this historic date, it would be worth your while to read these sermons. They will make for edifying reading on this last day of the week – and great preparation for the Lord’s Day tomorrow. Want a taste of one of these sermons? Here you go:

Everywhere Holy Scripture lays heavy emphasis on this growth in knowledge. Really, there is no better proof of the intent of God as regards His relation to His people, than the existence of sacred Scripture itself. Indeed, Scripture does not merely offer a limited, very narrow revelation of the God of our salvation. It does not inform us only of the fact that there is in the blood of Christ reconciliation with God for our souls. It does not present, that which men in our day regard as sufficient, a gospel on a postage-stamp-sized sticker. But Scripture reveals to us the full counsel of God, it gives us insight into the full redemptive plan of deliverance, and it presents to us all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. And there can be no two ways about it, that God the Lord absolutely has not bestowed in His wisdom this Bible so that we should let it lie ignored, or so that we can choose to take from it what pleases us and at the same time leave be what does not suit our taste; but God gave it to us so that we should submit to the whole of the Bible, so that we should appropriate the whole of the revelation of God, and so that in this way we should mature in the knowledge of God, who is life.

Time and again Scripture lays emphasis on that fact. In the Old Testament the complaint is made that the Lord’s people perish for a lack of knowledge. In the new dispensation the apostles proclaimed the full, rich Christ, and Paul preaches the whole counsel of God. The church is admonished not to loiter in the first principles but go on to perfection. She must know what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God. She must grow up into the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. For, of course, this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Nota bene: I wish to thank current church history teacher at Covenant Christian HS, Mr. Dan Van Uffelen, for reminding me of this anniversary and encouraging me to make this post today, as well as for the pictures he provided. And yes, we do have original copies of these published sermons in the PRC archives.

“Knock out sin, and the Enemy’s whole structure caves in.”

…But if you can convince him even now that ‘sin’ is an outdated concept of pre-modern psychology, we can recoup all our lost ground, and more.

But how can you keep him from noticing the obvious? Of course he’s a sinner. They all are; don’t they read the news? Sin is the only dogma of the Enemy’s Camp that can be proved just be reading the papers.

Here’s where the psychwar mavens in the Public Information Directorate have prepared the way for you. They’ve insinuated their arguments into the very fiber of the surrounding society and even into his Church. In fact, a surprising number of the creatures’ theologians and religious education ‘experts’ believe the only ‘sin’ is to believe in sin!

That’s the lynchpin. Knock out sin and the Enemy’s whole structure caves in. If there’s no sin, there’s no need for salvation, and thus the dogmas of the Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, Ascension and Second Coming can safely be filed under ‘mythology.’

Snakebite-Letters-Kreeft-1993Peter Kreeft in The Snakebite Letters: Devilishly Devious Secrets for Subverting Society as Taught in Tempter’s Training School (Ignatius, 1993), p.12.

Reader: Humph! This book sounds suspiciously like a shameless plagiarism of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.

Author: It is! I have no shame about it, because I’m sure Lewis wanted such ‘plagiarisms.’ The Screwtape Letters invented a new genre, a new species; all I’m doing is breeding another specimen.

Published in: on February 26, 2020 at 6:26 AM  Leave a Comment  

How Do We Value the Kingdom of our Lord? February 2020 Tabletalk

These two parables are arguably Jesus’ simplest and certainly among His shortest, and yet the punch they pack far exceeds their word count. Why have they proven so memorable? Because they tap into our God-given imagination. You don’t need an advanced degree in theology to understand what’s going on here. On the contrary, if you have ever searched for Narnia in your backyard, or dusted off a forsaken corner of your attic in hopes of discovering a long-lost antique, or simply thought to yourself, “Is there a better way we could do this?” then you are well equipped to hear what Jesus has to say. Jesus wants our minds to wonder, “What would I do if I found the impossible?” Then He reminds us that we have found it: the kingdom of heaven.

…These parables thus call us to consider our love for the kingdom. With the treasure, Jesus asks us to reimagine what we value. Are we accounting rightly when it comes to the things of this world and the next? Would we sacrifice all worldly good to obtain something infinitely better? Then, with the pearl, He asks an even harder question: Is that sacrifice truly for the pure love of the kingdom? The treasure probes our vision and values: Do we see that the kingdom is more? But the pearl probes deeper still into our heart and will: Do we see that the kingdom is all?

The above paragraphs are the opening and closing ones to the article linked below, one of the featured articles on Jesus’ parables that make up the theme of the February issue of Tabletalk. Since we have not referenced this month’s issue yet, we do so tonight.

Editor Burk Parsons also reminds us of why Jesus, the Master Storyteller, spoke in parables:

Jesus was the master storyteller who, as prophesied in Psalm 78 (see Matt. 13:35), often taught using parables to illustrate His overarching message. He did this for at least two reasons: to confound those who rejected Him and to enlighten those who received Him (Mark 4:11–12). If someone finds all of Jesus’ stories confounding, it is because our sovereign God has not given him the eyes to see, the ears to hear, or the heart to perceive the saving truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, we as believers love Jesus’ parables not simply because they are good stories well told but because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes, ears, and hearts to understand their message. We identify with the characters in His parables, and we want to hear them time and time again as we forever rest in our Father’s prodigal love for us.

To finish reading this featured article or to read more on other of our Lord’s parables, visit the Tabletalk page.

Source: The Parables of the Treasure in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price | Tabletalk

God and Galileo – Tensions between Scripture and Science

God-Galileo-2019Our latest book club read is the new book by David L. Block and Kenneth C. Freeman, God and Galileo: What a 400-Year-Old Letter Teaches us about Faith and Science (Crossway, 2019). I am almost finished with it and the book has been a fascinating and fruitful read, but also frustrating. The last-mentioned characteristic is due to the authors’ open adherence to theistic evolution (Big Bang theory, etc.)  – a huge disappointment to me and a major disappointment with Crossway, an otherwise solid evangelical publisher.

And while I don’t overlook this or minimize this major weakness of the book, there are many valuable things to learn from this book and the authors’ perspective. The starting point of the book is the well known 1615 letter of Galileo to Christina, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. This is the Italian scientist’s plea for recognition and understanding in the face of the church’s (Roman Catholic) condemnation of his view of a sun-centered universe. In the letter he wrestles with his findings through the telescope, the teaching of Scripture, and the authority of the church to interpret the Bible. The book contains many excerpts from Galileo’s letter, as well as the full letter in an appendix.

There are many sections worth quoting in this book, but tonight we limit ourselves to the opening chapter where the authors’ set the stage for Galileo’s – and modern Christians’ battle.

Galileo began his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany as follows:

A few years ago, as your Highness well knows, I discovered many things in the heavens which had been invisible until this present age. Because of their novelty and because some consequences which follow from them contradict commonly held scientific views, these have provoked not a few professors in the schools against me, as if I had deliberately placed these objects in the sky to cause confusion in the natural sciences.

A recurring theme in this letter, and a source of great concern to Galileo, was this tension between what he observed through his telescope and the opinions of the theologians. Cherished by the theologians of the day was Aristotle’s geocentric model of the universe, wherein all bodies, including the sun, orbited the earth. The earth was perceived to be the center of the universe. At the time of Galileo, the book of Scripture was used by many as the only source of truth, and the concept of a non-earth-centered world, as revealed by Nicolaus Copernicus’s and Galileo’s new observations, was seen as a huge threat.

The shoe is now on the other foot; to many today, the living truths are found only in the book of science, and the book of Scripture is regarded as mythological and irrelevant. Our personal horizons since the time of Galileo have completely changed. Authority has moved from the church (which so dominated everyday life in Galileo’s time to the individual. Many now choose to follow the book of science exclusively, with GOd beyond the fringe of their horizon. Does science explain everything? No, there are two realms of knowledge. Everything is not science.

…We refer to these two realms of truth as the two books. For us, as astronomers and Christians, the book of Scripture is the revelation of God to humanity over thousands of years. …In contrast, the book of nature encompasses our transient knowledge of science, both observational and theoretical, and its goalposts are ever moving.

…Galileo himself saw the two books as if in balance. He saw the nearby universe with his telescope, and he understood that the Scriptures are about God’s relationship with man. In our time, the balance is skewed: the book of nature carries the weight, and the book of Scripture is seen as peripheral or even totally irrelevant (pp.27-28).

Indeed, this is the question and the tension we face with God’s two books. How do we interpret these books when they appear in conflict? Does one take priority (have authority) over the other? Which one – and why?

Galileo – and these authors’ help us in some way, but also confuse things in other ways. We hope to examine that too in subsequent posts. In the meantime, you think about how you would answer this question and solve this tension. And maybe look ahead to John Calvin and his idea of the Scriptures as the lens (eyeglasses) through which we see the whole of God’s world.

Published in: on February 19, 2020 at 10:49 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Prayer Said at the Lord’s Supper – John Knox

…O, Lord, we acknowledge that no creature is able to comprehend the length and breadth – the depth and height – of that Thy most excellent love, which moved Thee to show mercy where none was deserved, to promise and give life where death had gotten victory, and to receive us into Thy grace when we could do nothing but rebel against Thy justice. O Lord, the blind dullness of our corrupt nature will not suffer us sufficiently to weigh these most ample benefits; nevertheless, at the commandment of Jesus Christ our Lord, we present ourselves to this His table (which He hath left to be used in remembrance of His death until His coming again) to declare and witness before the world that by Him alone Thou dost acknowledge us Thy children and heirs, that by Him alone we have entrance to the throne of Thy grace, that by Him alone we are possessed in our spiritual kingdom, to eat and drink at His table, with whom we have our conversation presently in heaven and by whom our bodies shall be raised up again from the dust and shall be placed with Him in that endless joy, which Thou, O Father of mercy, hast prepared for Thy elect before the foundation of the world was laid. And these most inestimable benefits we acknowledge and confess to have received of Thy free mercy and grace by Thy only beloved Son Jesus Christ, for the which therefore, we Thy congregation, moved by Thy Holy Spirit, render Thee all thanks, praise, and glory, forever and ever.

collected-prayers-jknox-2019Taken from The Collected Prayers of John Knox, edited and introduced by Brian G. Najapfour (Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), pp.123-24 (found in the section “Prayers for Sacramental Occasions” and titled “A Prayer Said at the Lord’s Supper”).

This post was prompted by the fact that tomorrow in my home congregation (Faith PRC) we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I have been wanting to reference this new collection of Knox’s prayers, and when I saw this prayer, I knew it was a good time to point you to this wonderful little book and this beautiful prayer. It breathes the spirit of the true partaker: humble confession of personal sinfulness and thankful acknowledgement of God’s amazing mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. What a feast our Savior prepares for His own!

Why the Church Bell Tolled on Saturday Nights in Roseland, IL

“Heden, the church bell is ringing. What is that now?” Marie and Katie Kuyper ran to the front door of their father Jakob’s boarding house to see what was the trouble. All up and down the avenue people rushed outdoors and heads looked out of windows. Niesje Van der Bilt at 112th Place came out to see if the Van der Warf boys, playing ball out in the street, knew what was wrong. Dr. L. G. Bass walked out of his office and stepped over to Conrad Bickhaus’ drug store, but no one knew why the church bell was ringing.  Dirk Van Vuuren, way up at 101st Street, was just about to drive his horse into the barn, but instead, he drove her galloping down to 107th Street to find out why the church bell was ringing at 6 o’clock on a Saturday evening.

Bong – bong – bong; Arie Van der Mijde was the new sexton hired at $225.00 a year, with a free house, coal, and light. He succeeded Johannes Ambuul, honorably retired, as sexton of the church. Arie was still pulling the bell rope when Dirk Van Vuuren got there.

“Hey jonge, what are you doing? Has some one died? Is there trouble?”

“No, Dirk, you missed the last Consistory meeting. Dominee Van Ess suggested that I ring the bell each Saturday night at 6 o’clock to remind the people that the Sabbath is approaching, and the Consistory voted it done.”

Dirk Van Vuuren was late to supper that night for he had ridden up and down the Avenue to tell his neighbors why the church bell rang. For many years thereafter, at 6 o’clock on Saturday evening the church bell called from the steeple of the 107th Street church [First Reformed Church] to announce to Roseland that the Sabbath was near and that they should prepare to attend a service of worship in the morning. What a splendid memorial to Dominee Van Ess’s 15 years of service to this community!

down-indian-trail-rosleand-1849Part of Marie K. Rowlands’ “Story of Roseland” in the fascinating book Down an Indian Trail in 1849 (pp.121-22), originally published in 1949 in the Calumet Index for the 100th anniversary of the Dutch settlement of the Calumet area (far south side of Chicago) later named Roseland. This work was later reprinted for the Dutch Heritage Center of Trinity Christian College (Darwill Press, 1987).

I have now finished this great story and will return the book tomorrow to the PRC Seminary library, part of our growing collection of Dutch-American history.

Published in: on February 12, 2020 at 9:10 PM  Leave a Comment