Special note from the RFPA board: the badly copyedited books
Reformed Free Publishing Association
As communicated on July 2, 2021 the following books were improperly edited:
- The Triple Knowledge: Vols. 1-10
- The Amazing Cross
- The Royal Sufferer
- The Wonder of Grace, all by Herman Hoeksema
- Voice of Our Fathers by Homer Hoeksema.
We have been working as quickly as possible to correct these errors. We have completed Wonder of Grace and are currently working on The Triple Knowledge, books 1-3. To continue with our current book projects while also correcting these original works adds workload to our staff and increases our need for copy editors. The work is significant, and we appreciate your patience as we continue to work on this important project.
Please contact the office to get your updated, and faithful, version of Wonder of Grace today.
Some have asked if these changes warranted the investment in time and energy to fix the issue. A recent letter by Prof. David J. Engelsma distributed to his family concerning repentance in relation to forgiveness shows the importance of this work. In the letter, Prof. Engelsma demonstrated that the confession, "repentance precedes forgiveness, so that without repentance the sinner does not receive forgiveness" is "faithful to the Protestant Reformed Churches’ (PRC) tradition" by quoting from three portions of Voice of Our Fathers. Each quote reflects improper editing. The quote from page 685 of the original version of The Voice of Our Fathers has been entirely omitted in the new version. The quote from page 665 from the original version, in the new version has the main thought intact, but the phrases “the soul does” and “burden of sin through” are unnecessarily changed along with surrounding context. The final quote from page 669 of the original version has a significant phrase removed in the new version (namely: “in case we have completely departed from the way of sanctification, until we return into the way of life through earnest repentance”). Thankfully, the quote Prof. Engelsma provides from Herman Hoeksema’s The Triple Knowledge, remains intact in the improperly edited version, although there are other instances in this version that warrant serious concern.
While the reformed phrase “only in the way of repentance” is being challenged by some as conditional theology let us remember another point as well. The 1980 version of Voice of Our Fathers is a collection of 274 Standard Bearer articles that first appeared in 1953 and stretched out over many years with the series finally concluding in 1965. The three specific quotes Prof. Englesma provided are from March 1, 1959, January 15, 1959, and December 15, 1958. The Triple Knowledge also appeared as a series in the Standard Bearer and the specific quote Prof. Engelsma pointed to is from the Feb 15, 1956 issue. These were years where the denomination was still reeling from the Schism of 1953. It was a time when all the forefathers labored hard for the small denomination that they loved and where the battle against conditional theology was still fresh.
We would like to encourage our readers once again to promptly discard the improperly edited books. These quotes provide increasing evidence that our work to reprint is necessary. We seek to ensure that deletions, changing of thoughts, the scale of the changes, and the substantial change in ‘voice’ to the books are addressed. These authors speak to us in the theological battles we face today, and it is important that we hear those voices clearly as their writings are Biblical and Reformed explanations.
We reiterate that we are deeply sorry that this happened and that we have implemented new policies to safeguard against this regrettable error in publication. Please know also, that all of our current copy editors are faithful in their work. The policy changes address the work of copy editing, the staff, and the approvals that the board needs to make when publishing a book.
Here are extended quotes from the original versions, and links to the original Standard Bearer articles so that you can read the quotes in context. The items in bold are what Prof. Engelsma quoted in his letter.
The Triple Knowledge, volume 3, page 604 , original version:
This, then, is a beautiful illustration of the limiting clause in the fifth petition, “as we forgive our debtors.” Let us not fail to note the comparison: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This means that we fashion our forgiveness of one another after the model of God’s forgiving our trespasses, and that we are so conscious that we have actually done this that we are now able to pray that God may forgive us in the same manner as we have forgiven one, another. This implies several ideas. It means that our debtors desire forgiveness, are sorry for their sins committed against us, and confess their wrong doings. Only in the way of repentance and confession can we obtain forgiveness from God. And only in that same way can we forgive one another. It means more. Perhaps you are strongly inclined to agree with our last remark, and, being rather of an unforgiving spirit, you decide to wait until the brother that sinned against you will come to humble himself before you. But you must remember that God did not wait until you came to Him; but He came to you while you were enemies of God, dead in trespasses and sins, and by His grace quickened you and led you to repentance. Hence, you cannot afford to wait, but must seek the offending brother, and seek to bring him to repentance. It also means that we forgive one another abundantly. There is never an end to God’s forgiveness. Never does God say to us: “So often have I forgiven you, and always you commit the same sins. I will forgive you no more.” There is never a last time with God. He forgiveth abundantly. His mercy is without limit. And so there can be no last time with us. Always again we must forgive the brother that repents, and that too, for Christ’s sake. And the reason for all this is not that our forgiving of one another is a ground or condition for our prayer for forgiveness, for that is Christ and His atoning blood absolutely alone. But in order to receive forgiveness of God, I must have receptivity for that blessed gift of grace. I must be truly sorry for my sins. I must behold and long for the unspeakable mercy of God in Christ. All this is not present as long as I am assuming an unforgiving attitude toward the brethren. There is no more unmistakable sign that I have no true need of forgiveness, and that therefore I am in no condition to receive it from the Lord, than that I shut up my heart against the brethren and assume an attitude of unforgiving pride over against him. If we love not the brother whom we have seen, how can we love God Whom we have not seen? With what measure ye mete, it surely shall be measured to you again. Hence, it is quite impossible to beseech the Lord for forgiveness, unless we can truly add: “As we forgive our debtors.”
Voice of Our Fathers, page 685, original version:
"The result of that effectual renewal unto repentance is that the child of God actively repents and walks in sanctification. This result is stated in the article, and is five-fold. We need not go into detail in this connection, for the language of the article speaks for itself. Besides, these elements are mentioned in another connection later in the chapter. For the present: we want to emphasize two things:
1) The order of this five-fold result as stated in the article must be maintained, and that too, strictly. Thus, for example, there is no desiring and obtaining of forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator until there is first a sincere sorrow after God over the sins committed.
2) This result is one, with a five-fold aspect. Wherever through His Spirit and Word God effectually renews unto repentance, all five of these aspects will result: a) sorrow over the sins committed; b) the desire for and obtaining of forgiveness in the blood of Christ; c) the renewed experience of God’s favor when we are reconciled to Him; d) the adoring of His mercies; e) a renewed diligence to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling."
Voice of Our Fathers, page 685, original version:
“In the second place, the article asserts that by such enormous sins the saints incur a deadly guilt. We immediately wonder, of course how this assertion can stand in the light of the fact that in the cross the saints are forever and perfectly justified from all sin, and that by the blood of Christ they are purged from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing.’ We probably wonder how this statement can stand in the light of the fact that the saints are justified from all eternity in the counsel of God. In reply, we state, in the first place, that whether we can explain this statement or not, we all know by experience that it is true. On account of our sins we are guilty and feel that we are guilty. Otherwise we would never pray, “Forgive us our debts.” In the second place, we hasten to add that the statement does not refer to, our objective position before the bar of God’s justice: from this point of view we are forever justified. But, in the third place, we must remember: 1) That all these sins are in themselves worthy of death. 2) That the saints feel the guilt of their sins before God. 3) That as long as the soul does not get rid of its burden of sin through confession and the seeking of forgiveness through the blood of Calvary, that soul must carry the burden of guilt. 4) That therefore, in the case of gross sins for which the saints do not immediately come to repentance, sins in which they walk, sins which go unconfessed for a time, the result can only be that the saints feel themselves to be in a state of damnation. And when finally they come to the spiritual consciousness of these sins, the saints can give expression to this very hopeless feeling. In fact, we must remember that this is fundamentally true of any one of our sins. As long as it goes unconfessed, as long as we do not get rid of it in the prayer for forgiveness, we can only feel a deadly guilt.”
Voice of Our Fathers, page 669, original version:
But the point is that until we repent, or, in case we have completely departed from the way of sanctification, until we return into the way of life through earnest repentance, the fatherly countenance of God does not shine upon us again. The way of life is the way of repentance, not the way of sin and impenitence. And only in the way of repentance can we have the sense of God’s favor.
The sum of the matter, therefore, is this. The believer in the sure preservation of the saints does not lightly consider the matter of sin. He does not deny, but affirms, the dread consequences of the sins of the saints. He does not deny, but affirms, the need of a very real repentance.