One hundred eighty-five years ago...

One hundred eighty-five years ago, on October 13, 1834, two elders and three deacons in the small Reformed church in Ulrum, the Netherlands, signed their names to the Act of Secession, or Return. Their actions sparked an uproar in the national Dutch Reformed Church. And as a result, the men and their families faced intense persecution, not only from the church they left, but also from the political authorities in the Netherlands. They, and others who joined them, were forced to house soldiers in their homes. They were forbidden to meet in groups larger than twenty people. When they met, they were fined large amounts, and imprisoned when they couldn’t pay.

But this movement, known as the Afscheiding (Separation), continued to grow, and its members continued to meet. Why would they put themselves at such risks? They gathered to hear the preaching of their faithful pastor, Hendrik de Cock, the man the state church had driven out. They gathered out of love for the truth. They couldn’t stay in a church that had departed from the authority of scripture and the creeds—so they separated.

Learn more about this history and about Hendrik de Cock’s faithful stand in 1834: Hendrik de Cock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps.


The year 1834

God is ever faithful throughout history to preserve his church in the truth of his word. October 31, 1517, marks the great Reformation of the church by Martin Luther. This is significant for all Protestants and Roman Catholics. The sixteenth-century Reformation restored to the church of Christ the truths of the sole authority of God’s word and of justification by faith alone. The first was the formal principle of the Reformation; the second was the material principle. If one denies either of these principles, he stands with Rome in opposition to the Christian church.

The year 1834 marks the reformation of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. In that year those who separated from the apostate Hervormde (Reformed) Church in the Netherlands returned to these Reformation principles and to the truth of sacred scripture as set forth in the Reformed creeds: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dordrecht.

Although this volume is a recounting of that struggle for the truth, it would be a serious error to present this material in the abstract and as of no consequence to us who live in a different age and era and who speak another language. We who live in the early twenty-first century are called to live in a different time and culture indeed; yet we are to live by faith in the truth of scripture and therefore by the same principles, applying the same truths to our circumstances. If not, the church of Christ is not one in all ages, does not have one Lord, and does not serve one God and Father.

It would be easy to reject the importance of the events of 1834 if one has no awareness of and no commitment to the Reformed church. In a large measure the discussion of the history of 1834 is a family discussion. Yet not all in North America who call themselves Reformed Christians have Hendrik de Cock as their spiritual forefather, even though he preached to and taught many, if not most, of the founding fathers of the Reformed churches in North America, although not personally. He truly is the spiritual father of Reformed churches in North America. We have our spiritual roots in the village of Ulrum, in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands, because located there was the first congregation that seceded from the state Reformed church in 1834. We all are spiritual children of those Reformed believers.

Of whom am I speaking? Who are those people in North America who have their roots in Ulrum and have De Cock as their spiritual father? I am not interested in asserting that he is exclusively the spiritual father of the Protestant Reformed Churches and that he is not the spiritual father of other Reformed churches. Each reader will have to assess for himself whether or not the confession of the Secession Reformed Church of Ulrum and that of its pastor is his confession. Each will have to determine for himself whether the Secession of 1834 was faithful to scripture and therefore was a God-glorifying endeavor. The question will arise, am I truly a spiritual son of this reformer of the Reformed church?


This excerpt was taken from the Preface of 1834: Hendrik de Cock's Return to the True Church


The Sesquicentennial of the Afscheiding

Pastor de Cock briefly addresses the gathering, pointing them to the seriousness of the moment and of the step they were contemplating. Then they all kneel in prayer to commit their cause to the Lord and to beseech him for grace that they may make their decision in the consciousness of his favor. For their help is in the name of the God of Jacob. 

It was only a little band! 

They did not belong to the noble and the wise and the rich of this world. They did not belong to those who counted for something in this world. But "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are" [1 Cor. 1:27]. 

It was by this little flock of small and despised folk that a step was taken and a decision reached which would prove to be of tremendous historical significance for the Reformed Churches—in fact, for Zion of all ages, for eternity. 


Recent Blog PostsRSS

It's here!

Last chance...

Post Tags

On Twitter

Follow @reformedfreepub