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1834: Hendrik de Cock's Return to the True Church

1834: Hendrik de Cock's Return to the True Church

From 1834: Hendrik de Cock's Return to the True Churchby Marvin Kamps, pages 11-21.
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Formula of Subscription

The national Synod of 1816, although leaving the impression that it honored the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, took a decision that removed the binding character of these creeds by substituting a new Formula of Subscription for the form adopted by the Synod of Dordt in 1618–19, which always had been honored until this time in the state church. Historically, the creeds had binding authority over the preaching, teaching, public writing, and speaking of the ministers of the word. The creeds have binding authority in faithful Reformed churches because they fully agree with the word of God. This is the belief and conviction of a Reformed man. The Bible has sole authority in the church, yet matters once decided after much prayerful study, deliberation, and adoption of biblical principles and doctrines are settled and binding.[21]

This does not mean that these doctrinal statements cannot be reconsidered, disproved, and rejected. But the process for this is not public agitation and personal rejection of standing decisions. One is required to state his private opinions to the consistory, classis, and synod. Otherwise he works unrest and disharmony in the churches and becomes guilty of schism. One who opposes the creeds according to his understanding of the Bible has every right to do so, even the duty to do so, but his appeal may not be to the ordinary members of the church but to the chosen officebearers, who have the responsibility to hear him out in the light of the sole authority of scripture.

The purpose of the national Synod of 1816 was to be rid of that binding character of the creeds. The cry of the day was “doctrinal freedom” (leervrijheid) and “prophetic freedom.” The synod wanted to give Reformed pastors permission to preach whatever they wished with the restriction that they at least had to believe it was based on the Bible. Objectively, what one preached might be contrary to God’s word, but the preacher at least believed he preached the truth. If this notion is joined with the establishment of the new collegial system of church government, the administrators could arbitrarily approve almost any pulpit pronouncements.

But the Reformed church throughout the previous two centuries had a regulatory form that every new pastor, professor, elder, and deacon was required to sign, stating thereby his personal conviction that the creeds fully agree with God’s word and that he promised to teach and defend these doctrines against all heresy. This document is the Formula of Subscription adopted in 1618. This form was not a mere ecclesiastical formality. It was a tool to prevent, if possible, unnecessary unrest and dissension in the churches. As such, it was a most significant instrument of true peace. The Reformed church places a very high premium on the confession of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. If the truth is in Christ Jesus, according to the scriptures, and this truth alone is the word unto eternal salvation, it must be highly valued and preserved. The creeds declare the corporate response of the Reformed church to past attempts to introduce into the churches manmade doctrines and theories presented as the truth of scripture, but which in fact contradict divine revelation as recorded infallibly in the Bible.

[21] Church Order 31, in The Confessions and the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches (Grandville, MI: Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2005), 390.

 

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1834: Hendrik de Cock's Return to the True Church

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