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their power to hinder the calling of a free synod. If a synod should be called, it ought, as they fancied, to revise the Netherland confes. sion, and the Heidelberg catechism, and we ought to discharge the members of the synod from their obligation to that catechism and confession. What artifices! their design was soon detected by the orthodox, which was only to beget a suspicion, that these formulas agreed not in every respect with the word of God. Truly with no other design but to expose the reformed church to contempt, as though she had adopted them without having carefully examined them, or without having deliberately considered them, and as if she were not sufficiently established and assured of her own faith expressed in those writings. And about what things in those books were they scrupulous ? they did not alledge aught but trifles ; if they had any thing that was weighty, they durst not mention it, lest they should expose themselves too much, and afford more reason to suspect that they colluded with the Socinians, as the event hath also sufficiently shown. See what they alledged in Tringland's history of the church, page 373, 378. See also how Henry Alting hath defended the catechism against all their cavils, and against the Socinian heresies, Explic. et vindic. catcch. Pal.
But the catechism was never more shamefully abused than by Pontian Van Hattem, with his party, for a cloak of his shame, in order to conceal his Spinosism and atheism, and introduce them covertly into the church. He thought that Spinosa had a good cause, but that he would have succeeded better, if he had disguised his intentions with the catechism. Is it matter o? wonder, that this man, and those of his party sport so with this book ? he sports in the same manner with the bible also : these men conceal all their profane phrases with the language of the word of God, and of his church : therefore they speak highly of regeneration, of the old and new man, of the flesh and Spirit, &c. See what Mr. John Van der Waaijen hath observed on this subject in his letter to Pontian Van Hattem, and how Mr. Charles Tuinman hath exposed those men in his writings against them.
The great advantages, that the churches, in which this catechism hath been used, have reaped from it, ought also to uphold its credit among us. For it hath not only afforded a great knowledge of the divine mysteries to those, who have used it diligently, and have exercised themselves well in it, but it hath also induced preachers, who might otherwise have become backward to cultivate the divine truths, to persevere in their labours, and it hath repeatedly animated them is exercise themselves more and more in these mysteries, sizce
they are obliged to pursue the thread of this catechism weekly iti their sermons. We may also ascribe it in some measure to the catechism, as a mean, that the Netherlands have cleaved so long to the pure doctrine of the truth, since it restrains such as have itching cars within a certain bond, out of which they cannot easily break loose, without being speedily detected. I will adopt here the words of Peter De Wit, in his dedication, prefixed to his explanation of the catechism, “ Blessed be that divine work, the catechism ; blessed be the hearts that first conceived it, the mouths that first contained it, the hands and pens that laboured at it, and brought it to such a desirable issue. The churches have reaped the wished for benefits from it by the blessing of God. The catechism hath been the deathwound of those who were given to change." The Lord, who hath so long preserved his church in the Netherlands in his truth, set forth in the catechism, agreeably to his written word, grant that this truth may be more and more illustrated, and confirmed, and that every one, delivered from his misapprehension, may cleave to the truth in love, may be made free by it, sanctified in it, and chang. ed according to it!
I will add only one word more, before I conclude. As it doth not befit me highly to extol this work of mine on the catechism, that “ I may not become a fool in glorying,” so it would also be unseemly in me to ask pardon of my reader for many things, and thus cry, before I am beaten. Dost thou find aught in it that dese. ¡es cen. sure, I trust that thou wilt also find something in it that will edify thee. Dost thou observe here and there a grammatical or rhetorical error, remember that there hath never been a book printed yèt, without some error of this kind.
To conclude, I exhort thee, my worthy reader, that thou endeavour to contemplate the truth in its efficacy, to obtain an assurance of it, through the word and Spirit of the Lord, and to penetrate through it to the things which it proposeth to thee, to wit, God and Christ, lhe Holy Spirit, and the grace of the Lord, that, irradiated with the light of God, thou mayest contemplate the efficacy and splendid Jastre of them, to the end that thou mayest be enlightened, warmed, and enlivened by the truth, and changed by it from glory to glory. If thou derive such advantage from this work of mine, thou wile not regret that thou hast made use of it, I will obtain mine end, and God will be glorified by it. This is the sincere desire and prayer
Thine affectionate and loving friend and servant in the work of the Lord,
JOHN VANDERKEMP. Dirksland, August 2, 1717.
ENTIRELY THE PROPERTY
I. LORD'S DAY.
THE ONLY COMFORT OF BELIEVERS. Romans xiv. 1, 8. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.
What is thy only comfort in life and death ?
A. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my bwn, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and there. fore by his holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
Q. 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily ?
A. Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are : the Becond, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries: the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.
No man will pursue any work freely, unless he propose to himself some honourable, pleasant, or profitable end. The end renders the worker active. If this were not so, the most useful occupations would be relinquished, and a man would become more sluggish than the most stupid animal. Who would have any, inclination to exercise himself in a fatiguing employment, or to expose his life to the
inclemency of a boisterous sea, or to undergo the dangers of a haze ardous war, or to practise any art or science, or to employ himsel in any mercantile business, if the hope of honour, pleasure, or profit did not urge him on? Reward certainly sweetens and excites to labour: Cod himself, willing that man should work out his salvation with fear and trembling, encourageth him by rewards. “ Your work shall be rewarded,” said the propliet to Asa, that he might in. cite him to proceed with the reformation which he had begun, 2 Chron. xv. 7. Therefore salvation is likened to a crown, which was wont to be hung up at the end of the race, that the runners, fixing their eyes upon it, might be encouraged to press on for it with the greater eagerness. Paul hath an eye to this custom, 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25. Philip. iii. 12, 13, 14. “Moses had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” And this caused him to despise every other consideration, that he might obtain it; Heb. ix. 24, 25, 26. What is the end of the Christian religion, and of the Christian doctrine? Is it not to make the sinner everlastingly happy? « The knowledge of the truth, which is according to godliness, is also in and unto the hope of eternal life.” Titus i. 1, 2. A man must indeed propose the glory of God to himself for his chief end: but the glory of God doth not oppose the happiness of man, but is promoted by it: yea, the glory of of God is the salvation of man, and the salvation of man is God's glory. Therefore the apostle saith that “ God will recompence rest to those who are trouhled, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints," % Thess. i. 6, 10. Bu: in order to succour the weakness of man, who can not form such a perfect idea of the divine glory,'as of his own welfare, and is therefore more influenced by his own welfare, the Lord will encourage him more by salvation, than by his own glory.
It is therefore commendable in the teacher of the Christian doctrine, that he sets before his pupil, first of all, his chief good and his only comfort in the first question, that he may ineite him to a more earnest inquiry and pursuit after the means to obtain that comfort, in the second question ; which are afterwards more fully explained and enforced throughout the whole catechism.
Two particulars are therefore here inquired into and explained.
1. The instructor speaks of " comfort,” of comfort in life and in death," of an “only" comfort, and particularly of “thy" comfort. Comfort denotes sometimes that cheerful frame of mind, whereby a person is well disposed under any pressing, or apprehended evil, and when the evil is removed, is greatly rejoiced, as we see in Paul, who
mas "filled with comfort, and was exceedingly joyful in all his tribulation," 2 Cor. vii. 4. But sometimes the word comfort signifies any good word or work, whereby such an agreeable frame is produced. In this sense is the word used, Zech. i. 13. And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me, with good words, and with comfortable words.” In this last sense must the word comfort be understood here, as the instructor shows in the answer.
Although life is precious to a man, ("skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life :" this the devil himself knew, Job j. 4.) nevertheless it is better to die than to live without comfort. God hath created man so, that he can not live without refreshment. But he hath nothing in himself that can comfort him; he must seek all, even the least, out of himself; and therefore as he is empty and void in himself, he pants and longs for that which can afford him satisfaction, and cries out, “Who will show us any good ?" Psalm iv. 7.no · If we contemplate man as a sinner, we see that innumerable evils compass him about. “He is of iew days, and full of trouble," Job siv. I. He hath forfeited all that would be good for him, and he hath deserved all that is destructive to him. He is too impotent and 600 wicked to be able or willing to seek his restoration. He hath reason to fear every moment, that the anger of God will take him away by a dreadful death, and summon him before his inexorable tribunal. As a sidner, he is. “ Magormissabib, a terrour round about, a terrour to himself, and to all his friends,” Jer. XX. 3, 4. Let him strive ever so much to be cheerful, and labour to banish all fear out of his heart, he hath notwithstanding many severe twinges in his soul, and even in laughter his heart is sorrowful,” Prov. xiv. 13.
Is he a believer, and therefore beloved by the Lord, he hath still need of comfort ; for “ his afflictions are many," Psalm. xxxiv. 19. They are brought to him in full cups,” Psalm lxxiii. 10. All that is without him sets itself against him : the world is against him, even those of his own household will be his foes : the devil is enraged at him, and “ like a roaring lion, seeketh to devour him,” 1 Pet. v. 8. The power of his corruptions is a body of death to him : the Lord his God “hides his countenance," sometimes " from him, deals with him as an enemy, and writes sometimes bitter things against him,” Job xiii. 24, 26. And he is often afraid, that his expectation which lie hath of the life to come, will forsake him in his death. May not the instructor then ask, what can comfort him in his life?
Although a person could subsist without comfort, in his life, yet he can not be without it in his death. For that which still refresheth.