Last week, I mentioned the WSC Evangelium dealing with education. I concluded by noting that it is important for church, home and school to be working on the same confessional basis. This has been a sentiment held by many Reformed people for nearly two centuries.
Back in the early nineteenth century, the Reformed church in the Netherlands was in a sorry state. God’s Word was hardly taken seriously except as a “moral guide” and the gospel was nearly lost. As just one example, an article was published in the early 1830s that denied the existence of hell and defended the view that death is not the result of sin (sadly, such views are still found today in Reformed churches). However, God brought about a remarkable reformation. This is usually referred to as the Secession of 1834 or, in Dutch, Afscheiding. Most Reformed churches in North America (including the CanRC and URCNA) are heirs of this reformation.
One of the minor players in the Secession was an ancestor of mine named Dirk Hoksbergen. He was my great (4x)-grandfather. Hoksbergen was a farmer and an elder in the Reformed church in Kampen. He later became a “teaching elder” or lay-pastor.
Early on in the Secession, Dirk Hoksbergen wrote a 51 page letter to Hendrik de Cock, one of the major leaders of the movement. The letter was later published by de Cock. Hoksbergen’s focus was not so much on the church, but on the schools and the education of Reformed children. Here are some excerpts (I apologize for the bad style, but it reflects the ability of a relatively uneducated farmer of that period):
May the Lord save all of us that we do not bring forth children for Antichrist, the adversary of Christ, who even banned the doctrine of Christ from the schools; when with us our God-fearing ancestors taught our young children that according to Solomon they should be brought up in the ways of the Lord, and when old, they would not depart from it.
…since they are engrafted in Christ, they dedicate their God-given children in baptism, and according to their oath and duty consecrate them to the Triune God; as for the present, they still swear that oath, but falsely, to mock God, for the doctrine of Christ is banned from the schools, and they swallow the fables of anti-Christ which intoxicates them and confuses their head and understanding.
…The schools are as corrupted as the churches; shall we refrain from attending church, but send our children to the schools?
…Oh, may we belong to the few who bow the neck only under the yoke of Christ, and that we would not be led to and fro by all winds of doctrine; although we are compelled to sacrifice the children the Lord gave us to that MOLECH, may the Lord keep me and many of my countrymen from this…
Hoksbergen’s letter was the first volley in a battle for Christian schools that would be committed to the Reformed confessions. Eventually, this battle would be won. For him and for countless others, it made no sense to send their covenant children to receive an education where the basis would be anything other than that embraced by home and church. Reformation in the church necessarily had consequences for Christian education.