Our thoughts travel back through the pages of history; back to the sixteenth century as we hum the familiar words, Faith of our fathers, living still. . . .
We think of the harlot, bedecked with jewels, in her scarlet and purple robes (Revelation 17), the Roman Catholic Church firmly holding her grip on the princes and rulers of her night life. We see her carmine sword still dripping with the blood of martyrs. Our minds revert to Luther nailing his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg on the eve of All-Saints’ Day, November 31, 1517. We take a look at Calvin diligently writing his Institutes in defense of the truth of the Scriptures over against the errors of the Roman Church. We shudder at the thought of the fifty thousand who in The Netherlands alone were burned, hanged, or drowned for the faith once delivered to them from the fathers. We pause a moment to reflect on a man like Guido de Bres, the “heretic preacher” who had to hide under the pseudonym “Jerome.” We watch him as he throws his “Confession Of Faith” (Our Netherlands or Belgic Confession) over the wall of the king’s castle at Doornik on the night of November 1, 1561, to prove that he was not a heretical antinomian, but stood for the Word of God over against the departures of the mother church. And we turn our faces away as he climbs the ladder in the market place at Valenciennes, makes his last defense of his faith, and then hangs lifeless from the noose—only one of the many who counted their faith more precious to them than their lives.
Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword.
Pensively we pick up our Psalters and turn to our heritage that is stowed away there, The Three Forms Of Unity, the faith once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3). Professor Zacharias Ursinus and Reverend Casper Olevianus had toiled many an hour over what is now our treasured Heidelberg Catechism. We marvel at their deep insight into the truth of the Scriptures and the concise expression of it both in their questions and in their answers. It thrills our souls just to think how accurately they express our own personal experiences in the faith, even as we wrestle, struggle, toil in our pilgrimage from day to day. “What is thy comfort, thy only comfort, thy physical comfort, thy spiritual comfort, now, at death’s door, and evermore?” “That I am not my own, but belong as purchased possession and slave to that One and Only Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ!” “What three things are necessary for thee to know that thou mayest rejoice in the experience of that comfort whether brimming over with life or bowed beneath the dark shades of death?”
First that I know my sins and my miseries—how very great they are!
God says: Love me with thy whole being always.
I was created good, in God’s image, in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness to love and serve my God as His friend-servant.
Look what I am now through my original fall, guilt and depravity, which I only increase with my own sins day by day. For the whole inclination of my being is to hate God and to pour out the venom of that hatred toward any one that comes in contact with me.
The law is good, just and holy. But I am sold under sin. There is for me, in myself, no escape from the justice of God’s demand and the pouring out of His wrath upon me now and everlastingly. O wretched man that I am!
Second, that I know that I am delivered from my sins and my miseries. No, more, that I know how I am delivered from death and hell.
You ask me how I know? I believe. God tells me that through His Word and by His Spirit in my heart. With the church of all ages I confess: I believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker. . . . What a comfort that confession is as we make it together in our public worship and at the table of communion!
Thirdly, that I know and experience gratitude to God in my heart for that deliverance. I even know how to give expression to that gratitude to my God. No, I wouldn’t know. But God gives me His law in my heart. “It is joy to do Thy will.” And He has established a constant inter-communication between Himself and me through that wonderful gift of prayer! Faith of our fathers living still. . . .
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
I find myself at page 25 of the Psalter, and there before me unfolds the “Confession Of Faith”, the witness of Guido de Bres, written in consultation with other believers, “revised in the National Synod held at Dordrecht, in the years 1618 and 1619,” and thus delivered to the churches. Merely scanning these pages I see:
The Doctrine of God. Articles 1-11.
The Doctrine of Man. Articles 12-17.
The Doctrine of Christ. Articles 18-21.
The Doctrine of Salvation. Articles 22-26.
The Doctrine of the Church. Articles 27-36.
The Doctrine of The Last Things. Article 37.
Lest I tarry too long over these valuable pages, I hasten on to the Canons, composed through much study and toil at that famous Synod of Dordrecht. How thoroughly they perused the writings of the Arminians to detect the errors that already were undermining the foundations of truth. Plainly they saw the dearth of the doctrine of man’s free will, depriving the hungry and thirsty of that one and only comfort in life and in death. What comfort do I have if salvation depends in any way on me, or if I could lose it at any time, even at death’s door? What a bulwark of strength of faith lies in that conviction: I believe:
In the Absolutely Sovereign Predestination of God
In the Total Depravity and Inability of Man to do any good.
In the Particular Atonement of Christ whereby my debt is paid.
In the Efficient Power of the Holy Spirit whereby I am delivered from sin and guilt and enriched with the grace of Christ Jesus.
In the confidence that absolutely nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, my Lord.
The five points of Calvinism, pure and simple!
Faith of our fathers. Living still?
How deceptively wrong are they who would put a date and a postmark on our Confessions. Blind are they who talk about the Catechism as being all right for Heidelberg in the sixteenth century, but as having lost its relevance today. Cunning deceivers are they who refer to the Canons as proper for Dordrecht in the early seventeenth century, but as having no practical value for the twentieth century church in a modern world. Blind leaders of the blind are they who clamor for freedom to compose new confessions that will suit a given church in a given place. Derelicts on the stormy sea of life are they who have lost the Anchor of faith in Christ. Foolish builders they who do not build on the one sure foundation of the infallible, authoritative Word of God in the Scriptures.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith,
We will be true to thee till death!
Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. (Rev. 3:11)