IN WHAT MANNER CAN THE COVENANT BE BROKEN? - Prof. J. Geertsema
Taken from the Clarion ( starting pg. 489 (1978) Vol. 27, No 22, ending pg. 292 (1979) Vol. 28, No. 13 )
WHAT MANNER CAN THE COVENANT BE BROKEN?
In my previous Review we saw again that, according to Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, the covenant cannot be broken, for it is an eternal covenant with the elect. And I pointed to the fact that the Old Testament knows the term: "breaking the covenant," and that Prof. Hoeksema interprets this "breaking" the covenant as "violating" the covenant, as the verb "to break" is also used in connection with a comandment: "breaking" God's commandments means violating them, transgressing them.
I thought it would be good to go deeper into this matter. Therefore, this "Press Review" does not really have the format of a real press review. It has more the character of a word study. I hope that the reader, nevertheless, is willing to follow me. But let me first repeat briefly what Prof. Hoeksema wrote and what I quoted in Clarion of November 4,1978. Here it is again:
In the first place, the term that is translated by ... break" is the same term that is used more than once in Scripture with respect to breaking a commandment or breaking a law. Now, obviously, this cannot mean that the law as such is broken in the sense that it no more stands whole and complete and valid. The opposite is true. That law remains in force. The same is true with respect to the covenant. The term "break" refers to a violation, a transgression of the covenant, even as the same term can be used to refer to a violation or transgression of God's commandments .... In the second place you will notice, if you check up on the various Scripture passages, that they refer to the Old Testament situation. This too is an important factor to remember in connection with this entire question. We must bear in mind that the peculiar dispensation of the covenant in the Old Testament was the dispensation of the law. At Sinai, the Mosaic law ... was the form which was given to God's covenant. This is undoubtedly a large factor in Scripture's speaking so often of the breaking of the covenant on the part of Israel. It was precisely because that covenant was under the dispensation of the law that it could be and was broken in the sense of not observing and keeping that law.
Both Scripture and our Baptism Form emphasize that God's covenant is eternal and unbreakable.
It was for a better understanding of what Prof. Hoeksema means that I did some studying up on that Hebrew verb "to break." And I would like to share this study with Prof. Hoeksema and the readers of Clarion, and, I hope, also the readers of The Standard Bearer.
The Hebrew word occurs fortytwo times in the Old Testament. It is used in connection with different words: breaking a covenant, breaking the commandments, breaking plans and advices, and so on. Let us pay some detailed attention to these different matters that can be broken.
Three out of the forty-two times the verb "to break" is connected with God's commandments or law. In the first place, Numbers 15:31: Someone who has sinned with a "high hand" must be cut off from among God's people, because he has despised God's Word and "broken His commandment." Then there is Psalm 119:126, where we read that it is time for the LORD to act, because His "law has been broken." And in the third place, there is Ezra 9:14; Ezra asks "Shall we break Thy commandments again and intermarry?" In these cases the meaning is violating and transgressing, while the law itself stands whole, according to Prof. Hoeksema. I will come back to these three texts later.
Let us first take the next connection. The verb "to break" is used together with the word "vow" in Numbers 30:8, 12, 14, 16. Moses speaks here about vows to the LORD made by daughters or wives. If a father or a husband hears it or hears about it and he disapproves, he can "break" this vow. Now "breaking" a vow does not mean violating against it, transgressing against it, but it means: making it void, annulling it, destroying it, so that it is no longer in force.
The verb "to break" is also used in connection with a plan, a counsel, or an advice. In 11 Samuel 15:34 and 17:14 we read that the LORD led matters so that the advice of Hushai "broke" the counsel of Ahithophel. Hushai did not only go against the counsel of Ahithophel, he "broke" it. It was not followed up. It had no effect. It was destroyed. And in line with this we read in Isaiah 14:27 that nobody can "break" the plans or counsel of the LORD. Nobody can annul them so that they are not realized, but destroyed and have no effect.
And Isaiah 44:25 and Job 5:12 say that the LORD "breaks" the omens of liars and the devices of the crafty. He makes them come to a quick end (Job 5:13). The same we read in Ezra 4:5 and Nehemiah 4:9, 15. In the first text we hear that Israel's enemies try to "break" the plans of Israel to rebuild the house of the LORD. In the latter we read that God "broke" the plans of Israel's enemies. In all these cases there is again a destroying at stake. Plans or counsels have no effect and have to be abandoned. It is no different with Proverbs 15:22.
The next group of cases where we find the Hebrew verb for "breaking" is one in which I have brought together those connections that occur only once. Here is Psalm 85:4: "Restore us again, 0 God of our salvation, and 'break' Thy indignation against us." "Breaking," here, clearly means doing away with God's wrath so that it is no longer there. Next there is Job 15:4. Eliphaz accuses Job that he is "breaking" the fear of God. He means that Job, by his way of speaking and acting, is doing away with, and is destroying, the fear of God. In the third place, we have in this group Job 40:8. The LORD Himself is now speaking to Job, who has called God to come and give account of His doings with respect to Job. Job had complained that God was wrong and did not do right to him. Now God comes to Job and asks him: "Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?" Literally, the first part of God's question is: "Will you 'break' my right?" The word that I translate by "right" can mean "the decision" or "judgment" of a judge. It can also mean: someone's (legal) right that he presents to the Judge in order that justice be done to him. And this must be the meaning of the word here. It is God's legal right to do with His creatures what is pleasing to Him. And even when God goes a hard way with His children, He does not do injustice to them; He does not wrong them. Since Job said that God had done wrong to him, God asks: Job, will you deny, will you annul and destroy, My rights? In the fourth and last place, there is Ecclesiastes 12:5. The passage of Scripture of which this verse is a part speaks about old age, when everything loses its strength: so ears and eyes; and teeth fall out. And then we read: "and desire fails." The explanation which I read is: sexual desire fails. It is broken down. It is no longer there. So also from these four cases we must conclude that the verb "to break" does not mean: "to violate" but "to destroy."
From here we continue with those cases in which the verb under investigation is connected with the word "covenant." And also here I would like to make a division into groups. The first group of texts speaks about men breaking the covenant with men. The second group speaks about God breaking a covenant. And the third group speaks about men breaking the covenant with God.
In the first group we have I Kings 15:19 and its parallel text 11 Chronicles 16:3. Asa, king of Judah, requests Behadad, the king of Syria, to "break" his covenant ("league" in the RSV and King James; "covenant" in Hebrew) with Ba'asha, the king of Israel, and to make a covenant with him, King Asa. Breaking the covenant here clearly means: annulling it, destroying it, so that it does not exist anymore. In this group Isaiah 33:8 belongs, too, speaking about the deplorable situation of people and land. It says also then that "covenants are broken," which must mean covenants among people. And further ... there is Ezekiel 17:15, 16, 18, speaking of Judah's king with whom the king of Babylon had made a covenant under oath. The accusation is that Judah's king did not keep the oath, but broke the covenant, the relation, with the king of Babel, by turning to Egypt for help. Also here "breaking" the covenant is not only transgressing and violating it (although that too), but it is also destroying the covenant relation: from his side the king of Judah severed it, did away with it; for him it did not exist any longer.
The second group of texts speaks about God's (not) breaking the covenant with His creatures. I would like to start with Jeremiah 33:20, 21. We read there: "Thus says the LORD: If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also My covenant with David, My servant, may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and My covenant with the Levitical priests, My ministers." What is at stake here is not that the LORD says that He will not break His covenant. That is clear. At stake here is the meaning of that verb "break" in connection with those covenants. What would happen if those covenants would be broken? The answer is clear from the text itself. If God's covenants with the day and with the night would be broken, those covenants would be annulled. They would no longer exist. They would be destroyed. Day and night would no longer be there in time. And the same is true with respect to the covenant with David. If that would be broken, David would not have a son to reign on his throne. That promise, that covenant, would be annulled and destroyed. It would no longer exist.
Here, I repeat, "breaking" the covenant clearly is: annulling it, destroying it; not only and simply: transgressing it or violating it. To be complete, we also mention Leviticus 26:44. We read here the promise of the LORD that He will not forsake His people in captivity. He will not utterly destroy them and "break My covenant with them." Also here "breaking" the covenant would mean making an end to the relation with Israel, destroying it. In this group is also Jeremiah 14:21, where the prophet prays: "Do not spurn us for Thy name's sake; do not dishonour Thy glorious throne; remember and do not break Thy covenant with us." What would happen if God would break His covenant with His people? Would He only transgress and violate against it? Can God violate and transgress anyway? It is clear: if God would break His covenant, He would annul it, so that it would not work any longer. God would sever the covenant relation with His people. That is the meaning of the word "break" here. And if the reader takes the trouble of looking up and studying Zechariah 11:10 and 14 he will find that also there the term "breaking the covenant" again has the same meaning: annulling it. There is only one place left. It is Judges 2:1(-3). There we read that the Angel of the LORD spoke to Israel: "I have said I will never break My covenant with you and you shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land .... But you have not obeyed My command .... So now I say I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become adversaries to you . . . ."
In Exodus 23 we read of God's promise that He would send His Angel and that the Angel would destroy the Amorites out of the land, for Israel, but that Israel, as God's instrument, had to slay the Amorites with God's ban; Israel was not supposed to compromise and make covenants with the Canaanites, and spare their lives. In that way of obedience, or faith, the Angel of the LORD appeared to Joshua as a warrior and said: "Now have I come." In the light of Exodus 23 this meant: to destroy the Canaanites and to establish Israel in the promised country. But in Judges 1 we read that Israel was unfaithful to the LORD. They spared the lives of the Canaanites and made covenants with them: the Canaanites had to serve the Israelites as their slaves. Then, in Judges 2, we read that the Angel of the LORD said: that covenant which He would never (literally: not in eternity) break, He now will not fulfil: He will no longer destroy the Canaanites. Those Canaanites will become a snare for Israel. The "covenant" here must be the promise of the Angel to completely destroy the Amorites. That "covenant" He now will not realize any longer because of Israel's sin of disobedience. So, that covenant, that promise, is destroyed. It is no longer in force.
And again we come to the conclusion that when the Bible uses that word "break" in connection with the word 11 covenant," now also when God is the subject of the breaking," this verb does not simply mean a violation of the covenant, but an annulling, a taking away, so that it is no longer there and no longer works.
Now we come to the group of texts that speak about men, Israelites, who, on their part, break the covenant. There is, in the first place, the text already mentioned more than once: Genesis 17:14; one who is not circumcised has to be cut off from the people of God, the descendants of Abraham, because he has "broken" the covenant. We find it also in Leviticus 26:15, "if you spurn My statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances, so that you will not do all My commandments, but break My covenant," the LORD will punish you. In Deuteronomy 31:16 and 20 it is said that Israel will serve other gods and forsake and despise the LORD and "break" the covenant with Him. The connection between transgressing the commandments and violating the statutes of the LORD, and the breaking of the covenant is also found in Isaiah 24:5, in Jeremiah 11:10, 31:32; Ezekiel 16:59, 44:8. What to say now about this group of texts?
In the first place, it would be very strange that now, all of a sudden, the meaning of the word "break" would change, so that when the people "break" the covenant that the LORD made with them, the verb can only mean: violate, transgress, while in all other cases it certainly also means: severing, annulling, destroying.
In the second place, there is no need for such a change at all, when we see and maintain that the covenant of the LORD with His people is a mutual relationship between two parties, like a marriage, where both parties promise and demand. The LORD often has used marriage, that mutual relationship between a husband and his wife, as a picture of His relationship with His people. When Israel served other gods and was not keeping God's commandments, Israel from its side broke, that is, severed, the covenant relationship with God. Israel was annulling it. The relationship with the LORD was severed and no longer functioned from the side of the people.
But what, then, must we say with respect to the three texts with which we started, and which spoke about "breaking" God's law or commandment? It is my conviction that also here we have to maintain the element of annulling or destroying, so that it no longer has any power or effect. Of course, everyone knows that the law of God as such cannot be annulled, just as His plans and counsel never can. But that law of God is more than a thing as such. It also comes into the lives of the people of the covenant; they are confronted with it. And what do they do with it, when they do not do it? As far as they are concerned they make it powerless in their lives; they destroy such a commandment for themselves. It has no power, no effect, in their lives. They, in their actions, for themselves do not leave such a commandment or law whole and complete. In transgressing it, they break it into pieces, so to speak, with respect to their lives. And so we conclude that our investigation into the word "break" in connection with the covenant means what it says: breaking the covenant is severing the covenant relation, either between men, or between God and men.
In the third place, why does Prof. Hoeksema take the verb to mean "violating ... .. transgressing," but not "severing"? That is because to him the covenant is not a mutual relationship of two parties, and because to him the covenant is an unconditional eternal promise only to the elect. If one constructs the covenant in this way, yes, then "breaking" the covenant cannot have its normal meaning any longer. Then it can only mean: violating, transgressing.
However, God made His covenant with His people. He spoke to the whole people at Sinai: I am the LORD your God. I have redeemed you. And He promised to all of them entry into the promised land. And why did they not enter? Because of their unbelief. And must we now not say that the covenant with the people included all the individual members? and, although God maintains His covenant with His people, that individual members in(!), and not outside, that covenant can break that covenant, that relation with God, from their side. They can sever it. And we do not have to assume a historic sphere of the covenant beside the covenant proper. When an individual member, or a number of members break the covenant, that covenant as such is not destroyed. Certainly not. Nevertheless, the transgressors break the covenant relation that existed between God and them! So far for now.
COVENANT AND ELECTION.
We continue our discussion with Prof. Hoeksema where we broke it off in our previous article. It was shown that Prof. Hoeksema's interpretation of Genesis 17:7 (that we have to read there "seed within the generations") can not be maintained, because it is linguistically unwarranted. Now he continued his article as follows:
And we have Scripture itself to teach us this [that fact of "seed within the generations," J.G.]. For in Galatians 3:7-9 we read: "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." Or combine the thoughts of Galatians 3:16 and 29. In verse 16 we read: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He sayeth not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." And in verse 29 we read: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." It is plain, therefore, that the "seed" is the believers, those who are Christ's, that is, the elect. And the line in which that seed is continuously found is the line of the generations of believers-generations which contain, indeed, more than that elect seed, contain also reprobate children, but in which indeed that elect seed, the heirs of the promise, are found.
Let me, first of all, say that I wholeheartedly agree with our Reformed Confession which confesses that only those who are chosen by God in Christ, and who, therefore, receive the free gift of a true faith, and who through faith are ingrafted into Christ, and who show themselves believers, will be saved. But that is not the issue. At stake is the question: Are only those elect in the covenant? Now Prof. Hoeksema reads this also in Galatians 3: the elect are the believers, and the believers are the seed of Abraham, so only the elect are in the covenant; the others are only in the historical sphere of the covenant.
But is that really what Paul says in Galatians 3? I doubt that very much.
Prof. Hoeksema presses this chapter into his view. What is the issue in Paul's letter to the Galatians? That is not election. That is not the connection of election and covenant either. The issue was: How is a person saved? In the way of doing the commandments of the Law of God as given 'in the Old Testament, in the way of faith in Christ? We can also formulate the question in this way: Is the address of the Church still in the old Jerusalem, in the old temple? Or is the address the New Jerusalem in heaven, or the New Testament Church of Christ Jesus (see chapter 4)? The apostle says that salvation is not in keeping the law, but in faith in Christ Jesus. And in line with this he teaches that the promise of salvation, the promise of the covenant, existed already before the law came, and that therefore not the law, but the promise, not the law, but faith in Christ, is the way to salvation. And the conclusion of Paul is: not those who expect salvation from doing the law, whether a Jew or a Judaist (a Jewish Christian who maintained the law as the way to salvation), but those who believe in Christ and so follow in the way of faith of father Abraham, are the true children of Abraham, and are the people of Christ.
And, thus, we cannot draw the conclusion that Paul says here that only the elect are in the covenant, and that the others are only in a certain historical sphere of the covenant. We cannot conclude from what Paul writes in Galatians 3 that the covenant promises were not at all for all the members of the covenant. In Romans the apostle says that the covenants were with Israel, as a nation. And the apostle Peter, addressing the Jews and proselytes on Pentecost day, says to the crowd as they had gathered together: For to you is the promise of the Holy Spirit. Believe in Christ, and you will receive the Spirit. So the promise of the covenant, the promise of salvation, is realized in the way of faith.
This view that the covenant and its promises cannot be confined to the elect, because the Scriptures do not do that, we find also with John Calvin. In his Institutes, III, 21, 6 (translation of Henry Beveridge, published by Eerdmans) he writes: " . . . At first Ishmael had obtained the same rank with his brother Isaac, because the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision .... I admit that it was by their own fault that Ishmael, Esau, and others fell from their adoption, for the condition annexed was, that they should faithfully keep the covenant of God, whereas they perfidiously violated it" [The italics are added by me, J.G.].
From this quotation it is clear that according to Calvin the covenant was not only with Isaac and Jacob, but also with Ishmael and Esau. It is also clear from this quotation that according to Calvin we can speak of a condition in the covenant that has to be kept, and which Ishmael and Esau did not keep.
With this we have come to the matter of the condition. Prof. Hoeksema objects to speaking about a condition in the covenant which has to be met. According to him the covenant is eternal, with the elect, and is one-sided not only in its origin, but also in its continued existence. Therefore we cannot speak of a condition in the covenant. According to Prof. Hoeksema speaking of a condition in connection with the covenant is Arminianism. The Arminians spoke of conditions.
Besides the fact - 'hat John Calvin speaks of a condition that is not met in connection with the fact that Ishmael and Esau and many others in Israel were rejected and cut off by God, there is also our old Dutch Staten Vertaling (Translation of the Bible endorsed by the States General in The Netherlands, in the 17th Century). Having rejected the Arminian errors at the Synod of Dort in 1618/1619, our fathers spoke about the condition in the covenant. Prof. K. Schilder pointed to this fact in his comments on the
Protestant Reformed "Declaration of Principles." We can read this in his booklet Bovenschriftuurlijke binding- een nieuw gevaar (Binding above the Scriptures - a new danger), page 12ff. He quotes there from the preface to the New Testament of this old Dutch translation. I give this quotation in translation (The capital letters are
added by Prof. Schilder):
With this (i.e., the word berith or "covenant") in fact is meant the covenant itself, which God made with men, in order to give them eternal life on certain CONDITIONS .... The Old one is that covenant which God made with the first man before the fall (into sin), in which eternal life is promised on the CONDITION of a totally perfect obedience and keeping of the law . . . and is therefore called the covenant of the law, which God again gave to the Israelites, in order that they might understand from it that they have to seek their salvation in a different Covenant, which is called the New, and consists in this that God ordained His Son as a Mediator, and promised eternal life on the condition that we believe in Him; and is called the COVENANT OF GRACE .... These two Covenants are one as to their essence, because in both the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life are promised on CONDITION of faith in the Mediator, but they are distinct as to the administration of both, which in the New is much clearer . . . ."
After he has given the above quotation Prof. K. Schilder says that it is not the use of the word "condition" in connection with the covenant that is as such the real issue, but that the point is: What do you mean by that word? For it can be used in a wrong way, but also in a correct way. Prof. Schilder then makes clear what he means, as follows (page 14 of the booklet):
A. Do you mean by "condition" something which would bind God? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device!"
B. Do you mean by "condition": something for which God has to wait, before He can go on? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device!"
C. Do you mean by "condition": something that we have to fulfill, in order to earn by it? Then we say unconditionally: "UNconditional be the device!"
D. Do you mean by "condition": something which God has connected with something else, in order to make clear to us that the one thing cannot come without the other, and that we cannot be sure of the one thing unless, at the same time, we have been assured of the other? Then we say unconditionally: "conditional be the device!'
It is sometimes said that assuming the possibility that man can break the covenant that God has made means assuming that man can be stronger than God. This is not true in case "D." If God makes things so that He leaves the possibility open that man, in his own responsibility, can disconnect what God has and wants to be connected, then man is not stronger than God when he does the disconnecting.
Prof. Schilder has worked this point "D" out on the pages 16 and 17.
From it I quote:
D. But now the fine point: God did give us PROMISES, but not PREDICTIONS. Thus, He does not say to N.N.: you shall get into heaven, and to another N.N.: you will remain eternally outside of it.
Therefore He gives a promise with a command, like the Canons of Dort say: the promise comes with the command of faith and conversion ....
And he who wants to call that Arminian, in my opinion does not read the Bible in the good way, with which [Bible, J.G.] the Arminians were defeated.
I can only say that I fully agree with Prof. K. Schilder: the use of the word " condition" in connection with the covenant does not make a person Arminian, because the Arminians used the word in the same connection: The question is: Do you use the word in an Arminian way or in a Reformed way?
Here I also want to make a remark about what Prof. Hoeksema has written about my statement in connection with what we read in the epistle to the Hebrews, e.g., 10:25ff. I said: "it is evident that people of the new covenant can fall away." Pointing to the promise from Jeremiah that God will write the law in the hearts of the people of the new covenant, as quoted in Hebrews 8, Prof. Hoeksema calls my statement about a possible failing away of members of the new covenant "Pure Arminianism." See the Standard Bearer of February 1, 1979, page 201.
However, this does not apply to me. And it is not true. If I should see the covenant as he does: only made with the elect; and if I should then say that there is a falling away of members of the covenant, then, in that case, my statement would be "Pure Arminianism." But since I see, with Calvin and Schilder, that also not-chosen people have a place in the covenant, and that those not-elected members of the covenant can and will fall away, my statement is not "Pure Arminianism" at all. Prof. Hoeksema should have seen and considered this. And because he did not, he has misrepresented me before the readers of the Standard Bearer.
I would like to make another remark. Prof. Hoeksema also wrote (Standard Bearer of February 1, 1979, page 199):
At the conclusion of his article he [Geertsema, J.G.] desperately tries to bring in election and reprobation; and in doing so, he vainly tries to find support for his views in the Canons of Dordrecht. But he corrupts the Canons . . . ." [italics added].
Prof. Hoeksema does not prove anything. He flatly states. Even without quoting anything of what I had written. Speaking about misrepresenting a person!! But again: his accusations about desperately and vainly trying and corrupting do not apply to me. They would only if I should have the same views as he has. But since I look at the covenant in a different way, I can simply say: there is nothing vain and desperate, and there is no corruption. There is no need for it. Calvin and Schilder were scriptural in their speaking. And fully Reformed. And so were our Reformed fathers both at the Synod of Dort, 1618-19, and when writing their Preface to the Bible translation. I have to come to an end. My reply is more than long enough. But one point is still left. Prof. Hoeksema challenged us (me) to
explain the Thanksgiving in our Baptism Form in such a way that it includes the reprobate children. I very boldly say in advance: he cannot do so! And yet he wants to have God say in baptism to every baptized child, "I make My covenant with you in Christ,"
After all I have written it can be clear that my difficulties with the Form of Infant Baptism are not as great as Prof. Hoeksema thinks they are. In fact, I have no difficulties at all. When in baptism the promise of the gospel, the promise of the covenant, is sealed (In Christ Jesus am I the LORD your God), then that promise is sealed. And this promise is the summary which includes all the promises of the covenant. And God realizes or fulfils what He has promised in the way of faith. That is how God has connected the promise and its fulfilment in the covenant.
I may point again to Hebrews. In 3:12 we read: "Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God .... For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end" (verse 14). And verse 19 says: "So we see that they were unable to enter because of their unbelief." This can only mean that the promise of the covenant - to enter the promised land - had been for all, but that their unbelief hindered them in receiving what was promised. This unbelief was disobedience at the same time. And this example of Israel's unbelief, preventing the unbelievers from partaking and sharing in the realization of the promise, is a strong warning for the people of the new covenant. Which means that the possibility is there, that unbelief still prevents a sharing in the realization of the promise of entering into a better rest (see Hebrews 4).
And when I baptize a child of believing parents, I can say to that child - and that is every child, not only the elect - that it has salvation in Christ. In Christ Jesus it has the forgiveness of sins. In Christ it has the adoption as a child of the covenant. See what Calvin wrote: he used that word "adoption" regarding Ishmael, Esau, and all the later Israelites. And that child that I baptize keeps what it has in Christ, except when, later, it rejects God's mercy in unbelief. And so I can also wholeheartedly stand behind the Canons of Dort, Chapter 1, Article 17, speaking about the salvation of the children of the believers whom God takes away in their infancy. They have salvation in Christ. They have it in the promise. And they did not (could not) throw it away in unbelief. Therefore such parents who lose a child in infancy do not have to have any doubt with respect to the election and salvation of such children.
I want to conclude my reply. I do not say that ( have solved all problems and answered all questions in connection with covenant and election. On the contrary. But I deplore the fact, even more after I dived more into this matter, that on the Protestant Reformed side the identification of election and covenant has been forced so much that church unity has been broken and sacrificed, 'both in 1951 with the Liberated Reformed people, and in 1953 with their own Protestant Reformed people that were with the Rev. De Wolf. We could and should have been one. It is sad that we are not. But the continuation of forcing the issue of that identification of covenant and election will continue to be an impediment on the way to a coming closer toward each other. However, I hope that this impediment will be taken away. Those whom the LORD has chosen and given to Christ, and whom Christ bought, and therefore are or will be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, will not fall away, but persevere in faith. Faith is the fruit of election, not the ground, to the praise and glory of our gracious God and Saviour.