Abraham Kuyper

From: The Methodist Review September 1893, pp. 762-778


As far as the scope of this article allows us we think we have shown conclusively that the pantheistic tendency of our age and the evolution doctrine, which is its legitimate daughter, have in large measure effaced the boundaries and are bent upon their entire destruction.   Facing now the question, What dangers threaten us by this destruction of boundaries?  We consider first the lesson which history teaches.  For under like influences a state of society has been developed upon a broad scale for centuries together on the banks of the Ganges, and in part, also, in the Celestial Kingdom: and afterward both gnosticism and mysticism have inspired smaller circles with the same spirit.  This is to us a beacon at sea, for a wreck is a fair image of what these states and circles show.  In India's beautiful domain lives one of the most richly endowed races, profound in spirit, mighty in numbers, in the midst of tropical wealthCa people which in everything competes with our Western nations and may even exceed us.  And yet that people is asleep, has long ceased to make history; and, almost without effort, Islam first, then the Mongols, and lastly England have conquered this royal people.  However energetically a Keshub Chunder Sen lately organized his propaganda in a most masterly way to arouse his people from their deathly slumbers, he utterly failed.  And the human ideal of the Yogi Hindoo still consists of a benighted hermit immovably staring into the sun, his loins girded with a serpent's skin, his naked breast covered by coarse hair, wild shrubs growing up about him and a songless bird building its somber nest upon his holy shoulders.

            And what has become of Lao-Tse’s beautiful fancies in China?  Mr. Balfour who learned to know Taoism by personal observation, complains in his South Place Institute lecture that Taoism has lapsed into “a low and despicable superstition, into a religion in its worst and lowest sense, a hocus-pocus and an imposition.”  And when in the province of Kiang-si he called on the Chang-Fien Shih, or high priest of this sect, his holiness showed him in his beautiful palace to a room filled with earthen jars, carefully corked and sealed, in which by his magic power he had confined hundreds of evil spirits.  The self-degradation and cruel immorality of the Valentinians and Ophites among the Gnostics needs no new demonstration.  The moral destruction which this self-same mystical pantheism wrought among the Beghards and their consorts, and in our country among the Antinomians, is well known from history.  It all ended in the “rehabilitation” of the flesh, as Hundershagen calls it.  The common system, is. “quod Deus formaliter est, omne id quod est.”  Thus the boundary between good and evil falls away.  “The will of God determines our disposition, and should a man commit even a thousand deadly sins by the force of such predisposition he need not even wish that he had not committed them.”  The lesson of history is sufficiently alarming.  Feuerbach once wrote:  “The eternal, supersensual death is God;” and, indeed, everything seems here to pass away in national and moral death.  Of course this needs delineation, in broad outline, at least, which we will do in the order or our personal, ecclesiastical, and political life.

            A thoughtful student who had suffered himself to drift with the tempting current of this stream prefaces his translation of one of Hergart’s works with these significant words;  “I allowed myself to drift with it because it promised my soul peace and rest.  And what has it brought me?  A feeling of powerlessness and of heaviness.  Then I turned to Herbart and regained that buoyancy of spirit which was fast failing me.”  We understand this well; for when the boundary between God and the world falls away, and in the Holy Trinity we can no longer worship, the fullness of the richest personal life, the mainspring of our own personal existence, is broken.  He who deals with God as his hold Friend deepens the traits of his own nature; and Herbart expresses it beautifully;  “No longer to feel the need of this Friend were devotion to such loneliness as only egoism creates in the midst of society, making the dwelling of man a wilderness.”  No strong character can be formed when the etcher, who should deeply mark the lines in the metal, has his graver taken from him by the dreamer, who dissolves every line.  Character demands strength of conviction coupled with firmness of will, a deep sense of a calling in life, bound up with faith of success in this calling; and these factors of our personality refuse to do service when the stability of lines in our conception of life vanishes away and when there is the mere faith in any known truth, nor in law, which governs the will, nor in God, who calls us to a lifework and who makes everything subserve its accomplishment.  Underneath your feet the fountains rise higher, and from above the rain pours down to soak the roadbed, which was once well graveled and firm, and turn it into mud, where walking becomes stumbling and sliding.  Hence the complaint, which was never more general than in our days, about the dearth of character, of impressive personality, and of men of iron will.  In sooth, we need be no “admires of the past” to stand aggrieved at the dullness of the faces about us, at their weakness of expression and want of manly power, in comparison with those portrayed on Rembrandt’s canvases.

            No, we do not look down with self-conceit upon agnosticism; and when we hear Tyndall reverently say, “Standing before this power which from the universe forces itself upon me.  I dare not do other than speak poetically of a Hin, a Spirit, or even a Cause:  its mystery overshadows me, but it remains a mystery.”  Then this agnostic reverence touches us more deeply than the Kantian refrain of God, virtue, and immortality.  But forget not that the clearness of our human consciousness is here at stake:  The clearness of our thinking becomes dimmed.  In England science is defined as the statistics of what is measured, weighed, and numbered.  “Ibene docet qui destinquit (“He teaches well who distinguishes well”).  And, as mentioned above.  Hegel had to invent a new logic for this amalgamating process of thought.  Before this cloudy manner of thinking the strength of conviction recedes.  Everything clothes itself with the garb of modesty, which in reality is naught but hesitation and uncertainty, until in the end the thirst for knowledge turns its “love glance” upon the not knowing, and Du Bois Reymond proclaims his “ignorabimus.” Which is followed by the agnostic axiom of Spencer.  In this way it is not merely philosophy that languishes and the horizon of science itself which becomes narrow, but in practical life skepticism takes possession again of the human heart and draws the clouds ever thicker across the clearness of our vision, until in the end that spark of holy enthusiasm is extinguished which can glow only in higher latitudes beneath the azure sky.

            Sport is excellent, and we felt flattered when recently our batters and bowlers returned from England laden with honors; but it would cause us greater joy if we discovered among our youth enthusiasm for the honor of our history, for patriotism, and for a holy conviction in things lovely, pure and beautiful.  But alas!  Here, too, the erasure of boundaries stands offensively in our way, especially in the spheres of morality.  The word “sin” became too pungent;; “holy” was replaced by “brave,” “brave” by “decent,” and “decent” by “neat,” a word descriptive of dres, not of personality.  And how can it be otherwise, when the noblest thinkers of our age have reduce good, ad evil to a difference of degree:  when the law for moral life is allowed to be fixed autonomously by the subject himself, by  which every moral idea is robbed of its absolute character:  when the aesthetic exalted at the cost of the ethic, and the doctrine is proclaimed from our housetops that the sensual life also must demand satisfaction for its claims.  Is it still known what honor is?  What is right if it be not the right of the stronger?  Who distinguishes between theft and property?  Where, above all, is the boundary which distinguishes guilt from fate, imputability from irresistible inclination?  Has not Buckle statistically shown how each year there must take place so many divorce suits, so many accidents, so many murders with the dagger, so many others with the pistol, and so many, again, by strangulation?  It is all the one process, which, restlessly turning the wheel of life, hurries it on from that which is real to the ideal.  Why, then, be surprised that excise duties of a less honorable sort are ever enlarge; that the dissolute woman presses her claims with ever-increasing shamelessness; and that our sturdy Dutch integrity, which was once proverbial in the market of the world, buries itself in its legends?

            Israel once sang, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.”  Our age raves with altruism, because its heart is too faint for real egoism.  And when the noumena withdraw themselves in the far distance and, at a still greater distance, disappear behind the ever-changing phenomena, and a pontifex is no longer near to bridge this distance, nor a Curtius to fill this abyss with himself, then a poetry is still spoken of which with its thousands forms will brood upon this infinite void.  But they forget that all poetry, to find its symbols, must start from the antithesis which exists between the spiritual and the natural.  And therefore look at those who now occupy the seats upon Parnassus, where Vondel once shone, and Bilderdijk won his laurels, and were Da Costa lost himself in worship.  Against this mystic poetry Herbart wrote:  “The concept of God as the Father of men should be retained in its strength.  A purely theoretical concept is worthless: an idea is bare of comfort.”  However, we do not satirize our age; God has infinitely enriched it, and in many respects it far exceeds the age that went before it.  There are many worthy people now, many lovable people, do not wear the purple, but who constantly remind us of it; but we miss the powerful figures, the great men, the stars of first magnitude.  How have the stars, like those in Leyden, been extinguished one after another!  Who is Caprivi compared with Von Bisarch?  When Gladstone dies who will succeed him?  Alas!  The dynamic weakening can no longer be denied.  Epigomoi have taken the places of heroes, and at their feet crowd the multitudes weary of life, whose satiety betrays itself in the dullness of their eyes.  See how listlessness stares us in the face; how suicide attracts; how the number of our insane is ever on the increase.  And when we think how this century began with placing man on a pedestal, higher than ever before, and how in closing it leaves him behind so weary of life, then does not the century seem like the soap bubble which glittered in the light as boy blew it out on the air, but which, as he blew too hard, condensed into one unsightly drop?

            Europe has twice known such periods of spiritual atrophy, once under Roman rule, and again at the close of the Middle Ages; and both time the Church of Christ caught the paralytic  by the hand and lifted him up so that he walked and life once more coursed freely through his veins.  Hence the question arises, Will the Church of Christ be able to do this again?  And is there no cause for increasing anxiety when, by this blurring and eventual destruction of boundaries, we see the Church of Christ inwardly ebbing away her life and outwardly reduced to an ever-narrower ecclesiasticism?  If there is one who protect against the idea of evolution it is He who came down from the Father of lights in order to reveal himself as God in the flesh.  Christ is the miracle.  It is Bethlehem that opens a branch in the line of human genealogy.  “Immanuel’s resurrection” breaks through the order of nature.  And when the Church of Christ starts out upon her mission in the world her deeply marked characteristic is not to be of the world.  Hence the Church of Christ stands ipso facto opposed to the unity dream of the pantheistic process, and denies that salvation can ever come by evolution to a world lost in sin.  This is her character and her nature.  Abandonment of this antithesis is the sacrifice of her character.  She must hold up this dualism in the face of the unregenerated world.  And as soon as the boundary is blurred which separates her from the natural life she ceases to be the Church of Christ.  This, of course, is the very thing opposed by the pantheistic tendency of our age, and no less sharply by the principle of evolution.  Pantheism cannot triumph unless the stumbling-block of the cross be taken out of the way; the evolution theory cannot exist if that notion of Golgotha be not removed.  Hence the assertion by a German philosopher, that “where culture breaks through there can be no more Church.”  Hence Hegel’s statement that the State, as “the divine will in the present,” must make the Church subservient to its end, until finally she be dissolved in the State.  Hence Rothe, who was himself a theologian, threw away his honor and committed treason to the Church, by prophesying her rapid declension and disappearance in the State; and form this, no less, comes the cool determination of the leading jurists in Germany to forge the shackles by which to chain the Church.  By a circle of almost thirty professors of law, among whom Ihering was one, the doctrine has been published that the Protestant Church “is a purely worldly organization,” and, stronger still, “that, rightly considered in the sense of modern ecclesiastical law, the Church is only a part of the world.”  This shows whither this erasure of boundaries leads us; and we are no longer surprised at the boldness of Professor Lorn in writing that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a Religious-Verein, and that the present relation between State and Church “rests on the principle of the sovereignty of the State, to which even the Church is subjected.”  This would not signify anything if the watchers at the boundaries were found at their post, or at least, in the camp of the Church.  But it is well known that the opposite is true.  They who rise up for its defense are put outside the boundary line.  Every boundary of confession is wiped out bye the public proclamation of liberty of doctrine.  The Church must be as like a worldly society as one drop of water is like another.  Even though Christ be denied by all the people it must still be named the people’s Church.  He who believes in no Father in heaven may proclaim unto the people his philosophy as Gospel.  And, when hope is fostered that “believing” theologians will rebel against such repulsive contradictions, the Vermittilungs-theologian of every predilection may be seen willfully wiping out the confessional boundary and adding ever more freely their philosophic wine to the pure juice of life, as if bent upon the entire destruction of that deeply marked boundary line of our Christian mysteries which separates God’s holy revelation from our darkened reason.

            No resistancy, therefore, can be looked for from this quarter against what Hermann calls “the spiritual disturbance” of our age.  As long as a spiritual tohn ca bohn remains the lauded ideal among these leaders no invincible principles of morality, no deeply inculeated convictions of soul, nor any fixed, general ideas can come to our people from their ecclesiastical guides.  But the restoration of a fixed point of departure, of a religious and moral “place where to stand,” in view also of the social storms foretold by our political meteorologists, is the only saving means by which a footing may be regained by our generation.  Recover the faith in a last judgment, and as long as we hold this faith we may calmly witness the constant violation of right in the earth, which is practiced not merely by public offenders, but by legislative bodies and by judges.  For our sense of right is secure in that of God, which he himself shall none day avenge.  Proceed, however, upon the half-truth of the pantheist, that “the world’s history is the world’s judgment,” and we must secularize our sense of right; that is, we may recognize no longer any law except that which amid constant changes the authorities create and maintain.  Andy by this fluctuating notion of right (since the jus constitutum is never at rest) we destroy the majesty of law in the minds of those who live under it.  This has been accomplished.  Von Stahl continues absolute right within the boundaries of our human economy, and does not see how it has its primordial rise in religion, and how all ethical right is rooted in this religious right of God over his creature.  All this is the result of Kant’s partially correct endeavor to interpret right as the shield of liberty, or of Fichte’s effort to assign its rise to the struggle between the double ego.  With Hegel, therefore, it is put down as a morality of a lower order.  According to Ihering it is born from an “end-impulse of society.”  In Darwin fashion it is reconstructed by others as the mechanical product of historic and external factors; while the later Herbartians perceive it as the cruse of oil which the seaman pours upon the seething waves for the salvation of ship and crew.  But, endless as these representations of the origin or right may be, the idea is common to them all that it is only by the State, as the instrument of society, that absolute right receives its sanction.  It is too bad that, with the exception of Von Stahl, none of these men hold to the immutability of State authority.  The scepter of authority is swayed now by one party and again by another – Napoleon is superseded by Bourbon, Bourbon overcome by Orleans; and in this wise is formed the series of those who make themselves master in turn of authority in the State, because for a while they are the stronger.  He therefore rules the State who actually gets the power in hand; and in this stronger one who establishes right and law, the right of the stronger triumphs, not merely de facto, but likewise in theory.  And by this the boundary falls away which separates the authorities, as the powers ordained of God, from the people, who, by the same God, are appointed to be subject unto them.  Both are dissolved in the one all-sufficient State.  The State takes the place of God.  The State becomes the highest power, and the fountain head also of right.  The higher powers exist no longer for the sake of sin; but a State is the highest ideal of human society – a State, before whose apotheosis every knee must bow, by whose grace alone we live, and to whose word all must be subject.  And when in this wise the boundaries are destroyed between the authorities and the people, between the authorities and Him whose servant they are, and consequently between right as a divine ordinance and right as a magisterial command, nothing remains but the one single State, making provision for everything, in which all human energy seeks its ideal development.

            A great danger lurks in this: for, however eloquently the boundary has been reasoned away between the authorities who rule and the people who must obey, that duality does exist, a duality from which of necessity is born a twofold strife, the strife of the State evermore to increase its power over the people, and the strife on the part of the people to make themselves masters over the State.  Absolutism from one side and anarchy from the other stare us in the face; and the question has already been raised whether constitutional public law has not served its time, and whether the parliamentary system has not outlived its usefulness.  The next step is to found upon the ruins of our civil liberty the government of Schleiermacher’s virtuosos, that is, of those who are learned and genial – a repetition of our old regent’s misery, clothed this time in the scientific garb.

            But against this, of course, the people rebel.  The boundaries have been destroyed; why then longer render homage to him who is high and declare those who are low politically under age?  Are not rich and poor an antithesis, which, since all boundaries have been effaced, offensively disturbs your much-lauded harmony?  Why render obedience, when authority finds no more support in the conscience and right is no longer founded upon eternal principles?  Power has its rise in the State, and we are the people; we, the millions, constitute the State; hence ours is the power, the power also to recreate the right, and we will enact the at right in such a form as shall satisfy all our senses.  And what can you do, ye mighty ones of earth, ye that extol in song the State-apotheosis, how oppose this wild cry of nihilism?  By the conscience?  But that you have disjointed.  By the moral senses?  But these you have set afloat.  By the fear of the final judgment?  At this you scoff yourselves.  By the influence of the Church:  This you have destroyed.  No, nothing, nothing remains to you but your power.  Upon actual, positive power your entire building has been raised.  And with your power you may still offer resistance for a long time, for your forces are stronger than ever (and fearful havoc they may create); but woe unto you when in the end this poison begins to work among your armies and as a cancer feeds upon their vitals.  For then you are undone.  Then these people, armed by you, before the sun has set upon that day of vengeance shall with a single stroke dispel your enchanting power, and, while crushing you to the earth, proclaim it loud and far that boundaries are no more, that all has become evolution, and that they but inaugurate a movement which could not fail in your pantheistic process!

            Max Mhller once sketched the nirvana of the yoga in the picture of a lamp which was being extinguished.  Toward such a social nirvana we shall see the nations of Europe move, unless something be done to stop the weakening of boundaries.  When, in the human body, the boundary is disturbed between the tissue of the veins and the flesh of the muscles, then, with an avaykn (necessity) which is irresistible, there follows the decomposition of the corpse.

            France was not saved twenty years ago by the injudicious supply of arms to the mob, nor by Gambetta’s wild hue and cry that not an inch of ground nor a stone of the stronghold should be surrendered.  No escape was possible through the iron network with which Von Moltke had invested France, and in the old imperial town of Frankfort the Gaul capitulated.  But this did not finish France; for when, at length, it wisely took copy from Prussia’s example after the battle at Jena, and forcibly restrained its chauvinism and exerted its utmost efforts in home discipline and recovery of strength, it soon appeared possessed of so much energy of national life that Germany’s emperor already feels uneasy and has called out ninety thousand more men per annum for the better protection of his frontiers.  Is there no lesson in this for us, when, having shown the erasure of boundaries and the dangers which it threatens, we face the final question, What resistance may be offer?

            In sooth, the present condition of believing Christianity is very like that of France after Sedan and Gravelotte.  The assault made upon us has not bee successfully beaten off in any single point.  Stronghold after stronghold has been abandoned.  Treason has been committed, time after time, within our own ranks.  Intoxicated with transports of joy, the enemy prophesies the near dawn of the day of our entire defeat.  And he is quite correct.  With shame we must acknowledge the cowardliness and lamentable want of tact which have characterized our Christian conduct during these last hundred years in this strike against unbelief.  And if any one thing is able to strengthen our faith that One greater than we has battled for our people it is the surprising fact that, in spite of such ill-directed resistance, our strength has not waned, but has grown intensely stronger.

            We have nothing to say of the doctrinaire.  God be praised! The last echoes have died away of the hollow phrases whereby stupid self-sufficiency deemed itself able to vanquish a Strauss, to disarm a Darwin, and to drive a Kuenen out of the fight.  These were the scoffing bulletins of the princeling who gathered bullets at Wissembourg, the boastful call of men utterly ignorant of the enemy, both in his earnestness and in the strength of his weapons.  And , as it always happens with the boastful pride of cowards, of the ten who protested then so loudly perhaps eight now appear among the leaders in infidelity.  No, when we consider what resistance has been offered we refer not to that ineffectual skirmishing, but rather to the earnest three-fold effort put forth to save the threatened position, whereby men gathered under the banner of the apologist, the compromiser, or the amphibian.

            Apologetics have first been tried.  As often as the outworks were attacked the defenders of Christian truth hastened to the breach to answer each shot from the enemy with a ball from their own cannon.  Wherever the enemy showed himself they crept after him in trenches.  Though often repulsed with bleeding heads they still held firm, and, with a sturdy patience which compels respect, lance crossed lance, dagger sharpened dagger, and blow followed blow.  But, in spite of this defense, they gained nothing; for on the heels of one host of objections, which were upheld for a moment at the most, another army of still heavier critical grievances loomed up at once.  Meanwhile they permitted the enemy to prescribe the plan of campaign, fell in consequence into hopeless confusion, and in the end were cut off from their own basis of operation.  The lamentable course of that apologetic resistance is well known.  A rustic militia measured itself against a Prussian guard.  And hence the endless series of concessions, till at length the bravest hero lost the fire of his eye and all courage from his weary heart in the grief of disappointment.

            No wonder, therefore, that, in view of this sad spectacle, our Vermittelungs-theologen felt themselves more attracted by the role of the Mittelsmann, as our German neighbors say.  All too trustfully our apologists had entered the unequal strife; these with deeper vision, gentler feeling, and riper philosophy correctly saw how unproductive such clumsy striving must be, and, therefore, peace-loving as they were by nature, they rather employed a spiritual polity.  So they entered the field preceded by the white flag of truce, and, as the enemy drew near, ordered the trumpeter to blow a pax robiseumi, and readily assured the men of modern views of their warm sympathy with their modernity and of their deep dislike for the old school; yes, that they would like nothing better than the honor of marching with these moderns, if only the name of Christ could be embroidered on the banner and the cross ornament the top of their standard.  And the success of their polity was naturally brilliant.  “modern-orthodox,” a genuine pantheistic compound, was the adopted name of the new auxiliary.  And we behold the heroes who were to rescue our faith do service as sappers, charged with the clearing away of “orthodox obstacles.”

            However (whether under the influence of De Genestet who shall say?), the compromise method soon ceased to enchant; and then, at length, we beheld how men gathered under the shield of the amphibian.  Jacobi had been a heretic in his intellect, but a believer at heart.  If, then, this dualism in feeling of Jacobi were supported by the philosophic monism of Herbart and by the Erkenntnisztheorie of Lotze, how safe the position would be, how easy would be their movements, and how freely would they hunt with criticism to their very hearts’ content, and still engage in prayer with the pious wife!  That was it.  Head and heart, the intellect and the will, must be divorced; Werth-urtheil was the magic motto which would save from every dilemma.  And thus arose that generation of spiritual amphibians who plunged so playfully into the depths of the modern waters, and again would nimbly scale the river-bank to graze in the sweet clover of the hallowed Christian pasture.  But there was no defense in this.  A dualism of principles gives no system.  And, moreover, our Christianity is a revealed, historic religion, which at every point of the way inexorably faces us with ideas which demand analysis and with facts which must find room in our cosmos.

            However highly, therefore, we appreciate the intention of these three classes of defenders, and however much we owe to their study of detail, we cannot be incorporate with them – not with the apologetes, because no plea can avail when reason is both defendant and judge; not with the Mittelsm@nner, because they exhaust their strength in a monstrous marriage, and “hybrids do not propagate;” and not with our spiritual dualists, because logic and ethics have but one consciousness at their command, and all such spiritual divorces must end in hypertrophy of the head coupled with atrophy of the heart.

            An altogether different and much safer method was employed wherever resistance proved effectual.  God calls Abraham out of Ur, separates Israel from the nations, and thus, in real life, casts up a dam against the flood of paganism.  Christ comes and forms in Israel a following of his own, which, by separation from the world, is being trained to vanquish the spirit of the world.  In the sixteenth century similar resistance was offered by men who withdrew their forces within self-created bounds to regain strength, in order, by life’s reality and deeds, and not by theories and phrases, to strengthen themselves for the strife which awaited them.  In the self-same manner Von Stein rallied Prussia after Jena and France has restored her strength.  And, as regards our struggle, they who adhere to the Christian faith and appreciate the danger of the destruction of boundaries must begin by drawing a circle about themselves within which to develop a life of their own, of which life, thus constituted, they must give account, and so to increase strength for the strife which is upon us.

            This is the only method which, as often as correctly applied, has stood the test of fire, which Rome never abandoned, and which is the only rational one again to pursue.  How have pantheism and evolution risen to be so powerful?  Certainly not because of Kant or Hegel, Darwin or Haeckel, for no single man can transform the spirit of his time if he be not himself a child of his time.  No, the general mood of mind, the temper of soul, the inclination of heart, all of life down to its deepest impulses, had risen up in rebellion at the close of the last century against the boundaries appointed by God; pantheism was in the air; and Hegel and Darwin, as children of their age, only hastened the birth of the monstrosity, which our age had long carried under its heart.  There is no need, therefore, to exhaust our strength in a conflict of words.  So powerful a movement of life can be faced with hope of success only by the movement of an antithetic life.  In opposition to those who efface the boundaries both in life and consciousness a life must be developed with deeply marked character lines; the floating fogs of pantheism must be confronted with the clear and positive utterances of a truly embraced confession; and in like manner the exaltation of the world’s dictum must be opposed by the absolute authority of the Scriptures.  Thus an independent basis of operation will be regained and a reality will originate which already as such exercises an influence upon our inspiration.  Thus only will a fortified line present itself at the front which will render it possible to postpone a giving of battle until quietly and definitely the forces are developed, the weapons sharpened, and the ranks well exercised.  Thus also is revived that holy comradeship, that confidence in one’s own cause, and that enthusiasm for the colors of the banner which double the strength of every army.

            That this system demands great sacrifice is not denied.  It compels an entire break with much that is attractive.  It cuts off all intercourse with the nobler heathen, however fascinating that may be.  A great price must be paid for it; and, worse yet, it will cause the resolute man all manner of family inconvenience, and will render it difficult to find a position in life for the support of oneself and family.  But with the Scriptures in hand we declare that this sacrifice must be laid on the altar.  “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”  Christ came not to bring peace in a pantheistic sense, but to make discord among men, that is, to establish a boundary which non can remove between those who touch the hem of his garment and those who reject him.  And therefore this system must not be accused of exclusivism.  Of this they are guilty who on their own responsibility establish a false boundary that separates things which belong together.  But this reproach will never touch the system we commend, for at the very point where the boundary is drawn by our deepest conviction of life the pigeon hole system condemned, and broken down is every false wall of separation.  This system has as little in common with the recluse who shuns the light of the outside world.  Living in a house of one’s own by no means forbids a going abroad in every pathway of life.  And, as we said above, behind our line we desire to arm ourselves more completely that we may be the better ready for the strife.

            Of one claim, we grant, we can make no surrender; it must be born within us – that we believe.  Even as we are stabbed by those who announce themselves as the enlightened and the civilized and label us as the “nonthinking part of the nation,” so they must suffer us to wound them as often as we distinguish ourselves as “believers” from the “nonbelieving part of the nation.”  But this is the very thing in question.  It is the protection of that boundary for which we stake our very life.  They deny the fall by sin; for us it stands firm and fixed.  And therefore they cannot recognize a boundary which is established by the entrance of grace, while for us this transition is one from death unto life.

            We are taught by the word of God that sin not merely spoiled the will and corrupted our nature, but that it also darkened the understanding.  On the contrary, the palingenesis not merely renews the will and transforms our nature, but also sheds a light of its own into our inner consciousness.  He who believes receives not merely another impression of life, but is also differently affected in the world of thought, which difference cannot be better interpreted than by Augustine’s celebrated interrogatorium.  Augustine had himself been a pantheist at first, and had not been able to conceive God otherwise than as hiding in the uzn.  But when , led by the Spirit of God, he turned away from the Jesus patibilis of the Manicheans and fixed his gaze upon the Man of sorrows, then, with the self-same ears with which he had heard the sound of the particles of light in leaf and stem, he now heard this entirely different speech of the creation.  Then, as he writes in his Confessions:


I asked the earth, and it answered, “I am not He;” and whatsoever are therein made the same confession.  I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, “We are not thy God; seek higher than we.”  I asked the breezy air, and the universal air with its inhabitants answered, “Anaximenes was deceived; we are not thy God.”  I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; “Neither,” said they, “are we the God whom thou seekest.”  And I answered unto all things which stand about the door of my flesh, “Ye have told me concerning my God that ye are not he; tell me something about him.”  And with a loud voice they exclaimed, “It is He who hath made us!”


            In the grandeur of the faith Augustine was now another man, and therefore he heard differently and thought differently.  Then also he heard the voice of God addressing him in the Scriptures; and our circle holds this in common with Monica’s great son.  We also bow ourselves before that Word; and therefore that Word also draws the boundary line between us who camp behind our line and those who live beyond it.  We are often told that we cannot hold this opinion in sincerity; the pious housewife may, but not the man of science.  And he who throws away his respect exclaims, “Ye are deceivers!”  Of course, they who are not stupid must agree with such wisdom or else have their integrity suspected.  We are familiar with such ways.  But this much must be granted: faith in the Scriptures can never be the result of criticism, for then no one could ever have believed, as criticism is not yet a finished science.  Moreover, how could the Scriptures ever excite faith among the humble laity who understand nothing of criticism?  If then it is very true that in the Scriptures there arise many difficulties and objections which have by no means been straightened out, this does not delay us, this does not trouble us, since we stand on other ground.  In 1794 it was Kant himself who denounced “die Keckheit der Kraftgenies,” which deemed itself to have outgrown this norm of faith, and added these weighty words:

If ever the Scriptures which we now have should lose their authority, a similar authority could never more arise, for a miracle like that of the Scripture authority cannot repeat itself, simply because the loss of the faith in the Scriptures which was maintained for so many centuries would render faith impossible in any new authority.

And the deep significance of these words was felt by us years ago when first we read them.  In the Scriptures we have a cedar of spiritual authority which for eighteen centuries has been putting forth its roots in the life-soil of our human consciousness; and beneath its shadow the religions and moral life of humanity have increased inconceivably in worth and merit.  Now hew this cedar down, and for a little while green leaves will still appear upon its downcast trunk; but who will give another cedar for the children of our people?  who guarantee a shade like unto this?  This is why we have bowed before these Scriptures with the unaffected simplicity of the little child, in simple faith, and not as a result of learning; for this we have zealously defended these Scriptures, and now rejoice in our soul as we tender thanks unto God for seeing a new increase of faith in these Holy Scriptures.  You know we are not conservative, but this is our conservatism: we seek to save the foliage of this cedar for our people, lest shortly they should be without a covering in a barren, scorching desert.  As our Saviour believed in Moses and the prophets, so we desire to believe in the Scriptures.  For he who in this matter of the Scriptures accuses Christ of error attacks thereby the mystery itself upon which is founded the whole Church of Christ, denying that he should be our Lord and also our God.

            “Isolation is your strength.”  This is the golden motto Groen van Prinsteren bequeathed to the Issus de Calvin.  What we have said is plea for this significant device.  And is anyone afraid lest, under this motto and by this system, poetry be sacrificed to pantheism and the unity of the cosmos to evolution?  Then listen how from the tents of the saints throughout the earth there arises one voice, which gathers everything that lives, and breathes, and thinks, and does not think into an entirely different unity, namely, the unity of praise; as the ancient player on the harp sings of a God who “has established an order for his creatures which they cannot transgress,” so that, with the sound of cymbals, all, all may sing in unison:


Praise Him, ye heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens;

Praise the Lord, ye earth, ye dragons and all deeps,

Praise him, ye mountains and all hills, ye beasts and all cattle,

Ye fruitful trees and all cedars, ye kings of the earth and all people,

Both young men and maidens, ye old men and children;

Let all praise the name of the Lord.

For he hath exalted the horn of his people,

The praise of all his saints, a people near unto him.


Abraham Kuyper