« PreviousContinue »
It was written at the instigation and under the authority of Frederic III. Elector Palatine, by Zachary Ursinus,* and Caspar Olevian, to whom some have added, but without sufficient reason, Peter Boquine and Immanuel Tremellius ; and after having been submitted to a strict examination, and approved of by the inspectors of the different churches in the Palatinate, it was then authorized to be published. It made its first appearance at Heidelberg in the year 1563, and hence obtained the name of the - Palatinate," or Heidelberg Catechism.” It recommended itself by its concise method, its perspicuity, and its excellent adaptation of the words of Scripture, and was received not only in Germany, but also in Belgium, Hungary, and Switzerland. It had, however, many opponents, who strongly attacked it in their writings, amongst 'whom may be reckoned Angelus de Monte Bello, Coppenstein, and Theodosius Cornhert, but whose animadversions were all answered and ably refuted by John Gerobulus, minister of one of the churches at Utretcht, and Arnold Cornelius and Reiner Dontecloeck, ministers of Delft. Amidst all its opponents, however, it made its way, and at last became triumphant in Hol
* For a fuller account of this Catechism, see Kocheri Bibliotheca Theologiæ Symbolicæ, p. 953, and 308. Also Jo. Franc. Buddei Isagoge ad Theologiam, tom. i. lib. ii. cap. 1. sect. xii. p. 341, 342.
land, and was approved of and sanctioned by the national synod of Dort, A. D. 1618,* and received amongst the
* There were two synods held at Dort; the first was in the year 1574, held by the ministers of Holland and Zeland, without the consent of the States ; but they asserted that the Prince of Orange had given them leave to meet. Those divines made several decrees ; among other things they ordered, “ That the Heidelberg Catechism should be taught in all churches-that the ministers should subscribe the confession of faith of the low countries—that all school-masters should sign that consession, submit to the discipline, and teach children the said Catechism that those who were to be admitted into the ministry, should be asked whether they believe that the Bible contains all doctrines necessary to salvation, which are to be found summarily in the Catechism, and are faithfully taught in the reformed churches.” After this the clergy left nothing unattempted to prevent the revision of the Confession of Faith, and of the Catechism ; which contributed also to retard the Convocation of a national synod, contemplated under the authority of the States. Some were very vehement in defending the Catechism. In the synod of South Holland, which was held at Delft, in the year 1607, some ministers cried out, “We will live and die with the Confession of Faith, and the Catechism." That assembly asked some ministers the following question : “ Do you acknowledge, that whatever is contained in the Confession and the Catechism, both as to the sense and expression, does perfectly agree with the Holy Scriptures ?” Others, however, were not so attached to it. The favourers of Gomamus said that Arminius and Uytenbogart had advised the States not to consent to the convocation of a national synod, but upon condition that the Confession of Faith and the Catechism should be first revised. The same divines maintained that it was dangerous to admit any person into the ministry, without obliging him to submit to these two formularies. The synod of North Holland, held at Horn, in the year following, also
number of the canonical books of the Belgian churches. It was finally approved of at the meeting of the States
approved the decree of the class concerning the Confession of Faith and the Catechism, and ordered their deputies to represent to the States how necessary it was that the church should continue to enjoy her rights. The Catechism, however, was not fully established till the year 1618, when the States-General convoked the national synod of Dort. In this we find it sanctioned, and authorized to be used in all churches. This assembly consisted not only of the divines of the united provinces, but of many foreign divipes : amongst whom may be enumerated Bishop Hall, Dr. Samuel Ward, and Dr. George Cerleton, Bishop of Llandaff. The first session was on the 13th of November, but it was not till the fourteenth session that the Heidelberg Catechism was introduced, when the assembly took into consideration the manner of catechizing. The last national synod had ordered the ministers to explain the Heidelberg Catechism in their afternoon sermons. That decree had not been executed in several places. Most of the members, therefore, of the present synod, declared, that the custom of explaining the Catechism every Sunday should be introduced into all churches. It was accordingly decreed, that all ministers of the cities and country should be obliged to preach upon the Catechism every Sunday, in the afternoon, upon pain of incurring the most severe censures. The remonstrants affirm, that on this occasion Ritsius Lucas, minister of Embden, did not scruple to say, “ That it was more necessary to explain the Catechism, than to preach upon a text of Scripture.” It is also related that Matthew Bargius, minister of Sevenhusen, was charged with blasphemy, for saying that the Catechism was a carnal weapon. In the 147th session of this same synod, the commissioners exhorted the assembly to examine the Catechism again. The Catechism was read; and the divines were desired to examine it till four o'clock in the afternoon. In the second session of the same day, all the members approved the
General, at the Hague, in the year 1651 ; and three years before this period was translated by their order into modern Greek.
Many commentaries have been written upon it; amongst the Latin may be reckoned those of Ursinus,
Catechism. They declared that the doctrine contained in that Catechism agreed with the word of God; and that no alteration ought to be made in it. The English divines declared, when the Catechism was approved, that they did not believe that Christ's descent into hell, mentioned in the apostle's creed, signifies that he suffered the torments of hell upon the cross. (Though the Catechism does not exactly assert this, yet the explication there given of that article is such as is not generally received, and which is certainly the only one in the whole Catechism that can be objected to.) The synod of Dort, being sensible that their decisions would be insignificant unless they were received, required the following subscription from all ministers : We, whose names are under-written, ministers of the word of God, declare sincerely, and with a good conscience, by this subscription, that we believe all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith, and Catechism of the reformed churches of the low countries, with the explications of some points of the said doctrine, made in the national synod of Dort, in the year 1619, are agreeable in every thing to the word of God. We promise to teach diligently and maintain faithfully the said doctrine, without writing or preaching any thing contrary to it, either in public or in private, directly or indirectly, &c.” The synod ordered also, that the professors of divinity, the regents of colleges, and all the schoolmasters, should subscribe for the time to come, the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, and the Explications of the Synod. Vide Brandt's History of the Reformation in Holland.