H. Westerink, A Sign of Faithfulness. Translated by J. Mark Beach. Neerlandia, Alberta/Pella, Iowa: Inheritance Publications, 1997. 128 pp. $9.95 (Can.). Reviewed by C. Bosch.
“This book on baptism is a jewel. One seldom comes across a book that simultaneously matches such simplicity to profundity.” Those are the words of J. Mark Beach, the translator of Westerink’s work. I heartily concure! In his earlier work, Call Upon Me, the author dealt with personal prayer in a lucid and thoroughly Scriptural manner. In his new book, he follows the same pattern and simply lets Scripture speak in thirteen concise and interesting chapters.
Westerink is a retired teacher of a Christian school in the Netherlands. His teaching skills did not retire with him however. He receives high marks in explaining the continuity as well as discontinuity between the old and new covenant. He never loses sight of his primary purpose (expressed in the Author’s Preface), "that we understand our baptism well, especially since many oppose the necessity of infant baptism." The author realizes that it is not uncommon for reformed people to question the validity of their own baptism. They are tempted to look for certainty of comfort in their hearts and lives rather than in the concrete promises of God’s rich grace.
Westerink draws our attention to the trustworthiness of our covenant God, “from age to age the same.” He excels in explaining the “language” of the sign and seal of God’s covenant. He shows how God set the children of believers apart for Himself in both the new as well as the old covenant dispensations. Says Westerink: “It is striking how again and again the Lord thinks specifically about the children of his people” (p. 45). God’s people are a blessed people. And the children of that people are blessed people.”
Westerink gives considerable attention not only to God’s covenant promise but also to our obligations. In explaining the importance of faith within the covenant, he draws on his pedagogical skills and asks some pointed questions, “Does the seal on a letter make the reception of that letter unnecessary so that the recipient need not pay attention to the content of the letter?” (p. 106). On the one hand, no one may withhold the water of baptism from such children as Christ took in His arms that He might bless them. On the other hand, “the unbeliever will be condemned even if he has been baptized in rivers of water, whether as a child or as an adult” (p. 107). Westerink shows that fulfilling our covenant obligations must not be a burden however. It is to be a joyful, thankful response to the wonder of God’s covenant love for us in Jesus Christ. Our faith is nothing else but that we acknowledge the faithfulness of our God, “...nothing other than that we drink in the blessing of His grace, nothing other than that we are illuminated by the light of His countenance” (Num. 6:25) (p.114).
This book should be found in every one of our homes. It would also serve as a wonderful study guide for use in study societies as well as catechism classes. It will be a welcome addition to a minister's library; yet it may easilybe read by a thirteen-year-old student. J. Mark Beach, who is from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, did excellent translation work. The Scripture quotations, with few exceptions, are from The New King James Version. The reader is served with a handy “Scripture Index” which will be appreciated by all students of God’s Word. The book has already made its way to Australia. I hope it will be gratefully received and eagerly read in many places. Don’t leave your local Christian bookstore without it!
Rev. C. Bosch is minister of the Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.