The Belgic Confession’s Sources

The Belgic Confession follows, with minor alteration, the French Confession.  In 1559, the chairman of the Synod of Paris asked for John Calvin’s help in writing a confession for the French churches.  Calvin hesitated, at first, but then sent representatives to the Synod with a confession of thirty-five articles, which was based on the 1557 Paris Creed.  The Synod of Paris then adopted this French Confession, with a few alterations…

The Belgic Confession’s other main source is Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”  The similarities can be seen structurally, as both are preceded by a letter to a king (Philip, in the case of the Belgic, and Francis, in the case of the “Institutes”) as well as the fact that the Confession follows the structure of the “Institutes”: God the Father (articles 1-5; Book 1), God the Son (articles 16-21; Book 2), God the Holy Spirit (articles 22-26, Book 3), and the church (articles 27-36 [article 37 is on eschatology]; Book 4).  There are some differences, though: for example, the Belgic does not deal with the three-fold office of Christ formally, as does the “Institutes” (2.15), and the terminology of covenant is scantily discussed only in article 34 (cf. “Institutes,” 2.10-11).  In [an] essay, S. A. Strauss also mentions the placement of predestination, which follows justification and prayer but is before the last judgment in the “Institutes,” while the Belgic places it between sin and redemption.  Strauss concludes, however, that this is exactly where the French Confession places it.

From: With Heart and Mouth: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession by Daniel R. Hyde (Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 2008), pp. 20-21.

Of Suffering Borne for Others

A remarkable characteristic of this entire prophecy is the frequent repetition of expressions conveying the idea of sufferings borne for others.  In one form or another, that thought occurs, as we reckon, eleven times, and it is especially frequent in the last verses of the chapter.  Why this perpetual harking back to that one aspect?  It is to be further noticed that, throughout, there is no hint of any other kind of work which this Servant had to do.  He fulfills His service to God and man by being bruised for men’s iniquities.  He came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and the chief form of His ministry was that He gave His life a ransom for the many.  He came not to preach the gospel, but to die that there might be a gospel to preach.  The cross is the center of His work and, by it, He becomes the center of the world.Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910).  Comment on Isaiah 53.12.

The Morality of the Regenerate Man

The goodness attained by the regenerate man is never independent of the grace of God at work in him.  Only the new self can see the radical need for self-denial.  It is then, for the first time, fully apparent.  “The regenerate man has the center of his life no more in himself nor in the world but in the crucified and risen Christ” (H. Martensen).  Only where supernatural regeneration is experienced is a decisive blow dealt to the old nature.  “For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3.3; cf. Galatians 2.20; 6.14-15).  Only as the new man is put on is the old man put off (Ephesians 4.22-23).  And only one who loves God and his fellow men, in this context, can govern his life by the evangelical moderation of the self, since it now becomes obvious – as, formerly, it was not – that the love of God and of neighbor as one’s self is the exact equivalent of biblical self-denial.  The Scriptures do not merely hint at this position, but they state it plainly in the strongest possible way.  To “find” one’s life on the basis of the old nature is, ultimately, to “lose” life.  To lose the old life is really to gain life by the new.  To exalt the old self means ultimate self-humiliation.  To humble the old self leads to a self-exaltation fitting one for a felicitous destiny (Matthew 20.16; 23.12; Mark 10.31; Luke 14.11; 18.14; 22.27).  One of the great lessons that Jesus taught His disciples was personal humility, a virtue nowhere so impressed on human experience as by the new birth.  The disciples were greatly concerned, on one occasion, about their rank in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18.1-6).  Jesus set a child in their midst and spoke of conversion.

From: Christian Personal Ethics by Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), p. 394.

Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) was a conservative Baptist theologian and writer.  He was, among other things, a member of the founding faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary (1947) and founding editor of “Christianity Today” magazine (1956).

The Beauty of Christ with God

The eternal beauty of the One true God is most wonderfully concentrated in the Son of His love, in whose face we see the heart of the Father revealed (John 14.5-13).  Christ comes as God made man in order to show us who God is and, in so doing, to save us and to renew the entire cosmos, which was His creation to begin with (John 1.3).  God the eternal Son, who was made flesh by miraculous divine action in the womb of the chosen Jewish maiden, the virgin, Mary, finds His essential identity precisely as eternal God.  He is God the Son.  He has a Father, the Lord God Almighty, with whom and in whom, in the ineffable bond of charity of the Holy Spirit, He mutually indwells and coinheres, one of three coequal, undivided, and yet distinct divine persons within the one being of God.

From: Systematic Theology: Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in the Light of the Church: Volume 2: The Beauty of Christ: A Trinitarian Vision by Douglas F. Kelly (Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2014), p. 13.  The above quotation is the very first paragraph of the main text.

Augustine Writes

In the summer of 387, living with Monica at Rome during what was to be the last year of her life, Augustine began a substantial and complex treatise “on the origin of evil and on free choice” (“De libero arbitrio”), a work which he finally completed six or seven years later.  The critique of Manichee dualism and determinism led him to lay strong emphasis on the will.  That it had a central position in every ethical action, he demonstrated by appealing to the cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, self-control, and courage.  Virtue depends on right and rational choices and, therefore, happiness lies in loving goodness of will.  By contrast, misery is the product of an evil will.  And evil originated in a misused free choice which neglected eternal goodness, beauty, and truth.

From: Augustine: A Very Short Introduction by Henry Chadwick; “Very Short Introductions” series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 40.  Previously published in 1986.