John Calvin (1509-1564): Christians should not tremble at the fear of death

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In my spare time over the past while I have been reading several early modern commentaries on the twelfth article of the Apostles’ Creed concerning the life eternal, as well as other sources touching on this theme, particularly on the immense consolation it provides to believers in the face of death. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.ix.5-6, John Calvin (1509-1564) writes about the benefits of meditating on the future life, and counsels Christians on why they have no reason to fear death:

[M]any who boast of being Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and dreadful. We cannot wonder, indeed, that our natural feelings should be somewhat shocked at the mention of our dissolution. But it is altogether intolerable that the light of piety should not be so powerful in a Christian breast as with greater consolation to overcome and suppress that fear. For if we reflect that this our tabernacle, unstable, defective, corruptible, fading, pining, and putrid, is dissolved, in order that it may forthwith be renewed in sure, perfect, incorruptible, in fine, in heavenly glory, will not faith compel us eagerly to desire what nature dreads? If we reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our native country, a heavenly country, shall this give us no comfort? But everything longs for permanent existence. I admit this, and therefore contend that we ought to look to future immortality, where we may obtain that fixed condition which nowhere appears on the earth. For Paul admirably enjoins believers to hasten cheerfully to death, not because they “would be unclothed, but clothed upon,” (2 Cor. 5:2). Shall the lower animals, and inanimate creatures themselves even wood and stone, as conscious of their present vanity, long for the final resurrection, that they may with the sons of God be delivered from vanity (Rom. 8:19); and shall we, endued with the light of intellect, and more than intellect, enlightened by the Spirit of God, when our essence is in question, rise no higher than the corruption of this earth? […] This, however let us hold as fixed, that no man has made much progress in the school of Christ who does not look forward with joy to the day of death and final resurrection (2 Tim. 4:18; Tit. 2:13) for Paul distinguishes all believers by this mark; and the usual course of Scripture is to direct us thither whenever it would furnish us with an argument for substantial joy. “Look up,” says our Lord, “and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh,” (Luke 21:28). Is it reasonable, I ask, that what he intended to have a powerful effect in stirring us up to alacrity and exultation should produce nothing but sadness and consternation? If it is so, why do we still glory in him as our Master? Therefore, let us come to a sounder mind, and how repugnant so ever the blind and stupid longing of the flesh may be, let us doubt not to desire the advent of the Lord not in wish only, but with earnest sighs, as the most propitious of all events. He will come as a Redeemer to deliver us from an immense abyss of evil and misery, and lead us to the blessed inheritance of his life and glory.

6. Thus, indeed, it is; the whole body of the faithful, so long as they live on the earth, must be like sheep for the slaughter, in order that they may be conformed to Christ their head (Rom. 8:36). Most deplorable, therefore, would their situation be did they not, by raising their mind to heaven, become superior to all that is in the world, and rise above the present aspect of affairs (1 Cor. 15:19). On the other hand, when once they have raised their head above all earthly objects, though they see the wicked flourishing in wealth and honour, and enjoying profound peace, indulging in luxury and splendour, and revelling in all kinds of delights, though they should moreover be wickedly assailed by them, suffer insult from their pride, be robbed by their avarice, or assailed by any other passion, they will have no difficulty in bearing up under these evils. They will turn their eye to that day (Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 7:17), on which the Lord will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his happiness. But the wicked who may have flourished on the earth, he will cast forth in extreme ignominy, will change their delights into torments, their laughter and joy into wailing and gnashing of teeth, their peace into the gnawing of conscience, and punish their luxury with unquenchable fire. He will also place their necks under the feet of the godly, whose patience they abused. For, as Paul declares, “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven,” (2 Thess. 1:6, 7). This, indeed, is our only consolation; deprived of it, we must either give way to despondency, or resort to our destruction to the vain solace of the world. The Psalmist confesses, “My feet were almost gone: my steps had well nigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” (Psalm 73:3, 4); and he found no resting-place until he entered the sanctuary, and considered the latter end of the righteous and the wicked. To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of his resurrection.

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Anthony Horneck (1641-1697): A prayer for humility

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Anthony Horneck (1641-1697) was a German-born Reformed divine of the Church of England. He studied under Friedrich Spanheim Jr in Heidelberg before furthering his studies at The Queen’s College, Oxford, under the Reformed professor Thomas Barlow, and served at Queen’s for a time as chaplain. Horneck would go on to become a popular preacher in London and a major role player in the early development of the Society for the Reformation of Manners.

Horneck published a number of works, among which is his The Exercise of Prayer (1685), in which the following prayer for humility is found (p. 16-20):

O thou lofty and holy One, who inhabitest eternity, and dwellest in the high and holy place, with him also that is of an humble spirit! Whither shall I go, but to thee who hast the words of eternal life! How shall I get this humble spirit, but by thy power and influence! Ah! How proud is my heart! How loth am I to submit to thy will! How loth to think ill of myself! How loth to bear injuries! How loth to converse with thy poor members! How loth to be sensible of my errors! How loth to acknowledge a fault! And yet all this while, I believe that thou beholdest the proud afar off, and that nothing is more abominable in thy sight! How apt am I to admire myself! How apt to harbour high conceits of my endowments! How apt to hunt after the praise of men! And what is all this but wind? What is it but smoke, and air, and vanity? How suddenly do these things grow, and how suddenly do they die again! How sensual, how carnal must that soul be, that minds such things! How void of a sense of greater beauties! How little affected, how little touched with the honour that comes from God! How weak in grace! How feeble in religion, that hath not learned yet to leap over such straws!

This is my case, O Lord; I am that weak, that empty soul, and yet unwilling to confess that I am proud, and vain, and lifted up: Pity me, O my God; make me sensible how far I am from the kingdom of God, till humility brings me nearer. Crush whatever proud thoughts and desires thou spyest in me. O put me in mind of my duty, whenever any vain thoughts rise in my soul. Pull down in me all imaginations that exalt themselves against Christ Jesus. O let not my heart be haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither let me exercise myself in things too high for me. Give me a sight of mine own vileness. Let me not be cheated with false colours. Let thy greatness overawe my soul. Let the example of my Saviour work upon me. How shall I be his disciple, and think of myself above what I ought to think? Let god arise, and let all my vain conceits of mine own worth be scattered. What am I but a handful of dust! What am I but a beggar, and thy pensioner, and who lives upon thy charity! O let these thoughts subdue my soul. Make me as ambitious of an humble spirit, and lowly mind, as others are of the greatness and admiration of the world.

Humility will make me great and honourable in thy sight. Let that honour content me, let that privilege satisfy my soul. O let a deep sense of my guilt humble me; then shall I with the penitent prodigal be welcome in my Father’s house, and my soul shall live, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Marius d’Assigny (1643-1717): A meditation and prayer for hearing the preached Word in public worship

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Marius d’Assigny (1643-1717) was a Reformed divine of the Church of England. Of French Huguenot heritage, his career included spells as vicar of Cutcombe in Somerset, vicar of Tidmarsh in Berkshire, and rector of St Lawrence Newland in Essex. D’Assigny wrote several works, including The Divine Art of Prayer (1691), of which a sample is given below (p. 237-240):

O eternal Wisdom, what a mercy is this! To instruct and teach us at our doors, to enable, enlighten, inspire and send messengers so near our dwellings, to direct us in the right way of eternal happiness. What a condescension is this, to speak to us in our own language, according to our capacities; by men, whose presence express nothing but meekness and love! Was it not sufficient, O blessed God, that thou shouldest open to us the large book of nature, to inform us of thy will and sacred laws, by so many characters imprinted in every thing that is made? Was it not sufficient for our learning, to shew us thy pleasure in the several leaves of another book of providence, opened to us wide every day of our life! But must thy tender compassion of our natural ignorance, unmindfulness, and wilful corruption, teach us by such plain easie and excellent methods, so full of kindness and love! Must the repetition be so frequent? Must thou so often visit and call upon us to study and meditate upon the divine matters! Certainly our minds are too much wedded to the world, and too much enclined to irregular actions, seeing thou hast judged needful to repeat so often to us our duties, and we want every weeks instruction to withdraw our contemplation from evil and vanity. Should not our diligence answer in some respect thy continual care, O merciful Wisdom, and as frequently meet thee, as we are called upon by these publick summons!

Doubtless the business that we are to mind is of importance, seeing my Creator thinks necessary to interpose his divine authority, and to speak to us himself, though by the tongue of a mortal man. With what reverence and dread ought I to approach the gracious presence of my God, who vouchsafes to speak and instruct me in such a loving manner. His Word and laws should not in reason have the less power and impression upon me, because of his condescension to my weakness and capacity: Should I despise the mercies of my God, that are so great and wonderful, delivered to me in earthen vessels?

O blessed and heavenly Wisdom, I am called away from my temporal affairs to wait upon thee, and hearken to the divine matters that shall be proposed, which relate to my eternal interest. Their excellency requires my attention and diligent enquiry for this supernatural knowledge, which is able to save my soul. Here thou dost reveal unto me what I am, and what I should be, and what I shall be: Here are discovered the admirable mysteries of the holy Trinity and unity of the incarnation and redemption. Here thou dost unbosome thy self to mortal creatures, and shewest the tenderness of thine affection to us: Here I may have a prospect of the unspeakable riches of heaven, and see the glories that are laid up for me in thine eternal sanctuary. These are matters worthy of the angels prying into; these are meditations fit for the heavenly spirits; and shall I neglect or despise them, shall I idle away this precious moment designed for the benefit of mine immortal soul?

My gracious God, cause me to increase in grace, and in the divine knowledge of my redemption, enlighten mine understanding with a clear apprehension of the heavenly truths, sanctifie the outward preaching of thy word, that it may be effectual, and able to work upon my will. Give me an attentive ear, and an obedient heart, willing to submit to, and practise whatsoever thou shalt command. Deliver me from the ill consequences of errors, partiality and prejudice, and make me truly thankful to thee for this great blessing. Remove not thy Gospel from us, but save us from the pernicious plots of the Antichristian heresie. Unite all of us in our worship and Church, that we may study to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And being all together united now in the church militant, we may be all the more ready and prepared to enter in due time into the church triumphant, into that glorious kingdom of love and peace, where our sanctification shall be compleated, our knowledge perfected, and our employment for ever shall be to celebrate and sing forth thy praises with the chorus of heavenly spirits. Amen.

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300–368) on the Incarnation

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For the past few years during Advent or on Christmas day, I have been in the habit of reading and reflecting on Augustine’s famous sermon on the Feast of the Nativity, in which this immensely profound passage on Christ’s Incarnation can be found. For Christmastide this year, we reflect on a similar passage from Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300–368) in his De Trinitate, II.24-25, on how the Incarnation and Christ’s life on earth – from Virgin birth to descensus ad inferos – was for our benefit and salvation:

The Virgin, the birth, the Body, then the Cross, the death, [the descent into] hell; these things are our salvation. For the sake of mankind the Son of God was born of the Virgin and of the Holy Ghost. In this process He ministered to Himself; by His own power—the power of God—which overshadowed her, He sowed the beginning of His Body, and entered on the first stage of His life in the flesh. He did it that by His Incarnation He might take to Himself from the Virgin the fleshly nature, and that through this commingling there might come into being a hallowed Body of all humanity; that so through that Body which He was pleased to assume all mankind might be hid in Him, and He in return, through His unseen existence, be reproduced in all. Thus the invisible Image of God scorned not the shame which marks the beginnings of human life, and, by his conception, birth, wailing, and cradle, he passed through all the successive humiliations of our nature.

What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the holy Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He Who contains everything, within Whom and through Whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth; He at Whose voice Archangels and Angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The Invisible and Incomprehensible, Whom sight and feeling and touch cannot gauge, was wrapped in a cradle. If any man deem all this unworthy of God, then the less such condescension befits the majesty of God, the greater must he own his debt for the benefit conferred. He by Whom man was made had nothing to gain by becoming Man; it was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. His humiliation is our exaltation; his shame is our honour. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.

William Burkitt (1650-1703) on glorifying God in our everyday employments

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William Burkitt (1650-1703) was a Reformed divine of the Church of England. After studying at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, Burkitt ministered successively at Milden, Suffolk, and Dedham, Essex. His name is primarily associated with his biblical expositions and his devotional book titled The Poor Man’s Help, and Young Man’s Guide. To add to a previous post from Wilhelmus a’ Brakel (1635–1711) on this same topic, Burkitt writes in this latter book about glorifying God in our everyday employments, labour, and callings. The excerpt is taken from the 2nd edition (1694), ch. 5:

Almighty God has sent no man into the world to be idle, but to serve him in the way of an honest and industrious diligence: He that says, Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy, says also, Six days shalt thou labour, either with the labour of the mind, or of the body, or with both. Riches and a great estate will excuse none from labouring in some kind or other, in the service of our Maker; for he that receives most wages, surely ought to do some work.

  1. Labour to understand and be thoroughly sensible how much you are beholden to God for the benefit of a calling: Thousands are now blessing God in heaven for the blessing of a calling here on earth, by which multitudes of temptations were prevented; how many sins doth a life of idleness expose unto?

  2. Be diligent and Industrious in the way of thy calling, and that from a principle of obedience to the divine command: He that says, Be fervent in prayer, says also, Be not slothful in business. An idle man has no pattern or precedent either in hell or heaven: Not in hell, for the devils are diligent about their deeds of darkness: Not in heaven, for the angels are continually employed, either in beholding God’s beauty, or in executing God’s commands.

  3. If thou art called to the meanest and most laborious calling, that of an husband-man, murmur not at it, because it is wearisome to the flesh; but eye the command of God, and in obedience thereunto be diligent in thy place, and then thou glorifiest God as truly when digging in thy field, as the minister in his pulpit, or the prince upon his throne.

  4. Be strictly just and exactly righteous in the way of thy calling, and with a generous disdain and resolute contempt abhor the getting of riches by unrighteousness: Cursed gain is no gain. How sad is it to be rich on earth, and to roar in hell for unrighteous riches. He that cheats and over-reaches, he that tricks and defrauds his neighbours, is as sure to go to hell without repentance and restitution, as the profanest swearer or drunkard in a town. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9).

  5. Be very careful that thy particular calling as a private person, do not encroach upon thy general calling as a Christian: The world is a great devourer of precious time, it robs the soul of many an hour which should be spent in communion with God, and in communing with our own hearts. How many are so taken up with their trade on earth, that they forget to converse with heaven: Verily there is a holy part in every man’s time, which the daily exercises of religion call for, and which it is our daily duty to keep inviolable from the sacrilegious hands of an encroaching world.

  6. Labour after an heavenly frame of spirit in the management of thy earthly business; and take heed that thy worldly employments do not blunt the edge of thy spiritual affections, but endeavour to keep thy heart close with God when thy hand is employed in the labours of thy calling. A faithful and loving husband, when he has been abroad all day in varieties of company, yet when he comes home at night he brings his affections with him as entire to his wife, as when he went forth in the morning from her; yea he is inwardly pleased, that he is got from all other company, to enjoy hers: Thus doth a heavenly-minded Christian, after he has spent some time amidst his worldly business in the labours of his calling; he desires and endeavours to bring his whole heart to God with him, when at night he returns into his presence to wait upon him; yea he strives to keep his heart with God all the day long, by often lifting it up to God, in holy thoughts and pious ejaculations [i.e. utterances], which are an help rather than an hindrance to worldly business.

  7. Eye God in every providence thou meetest with in thy calling. Dost thou meet with any disappointment, see and be sensible of God’s hand in it. All that are diligent are not thriving in this world: There are mysteries of providence as well as mysteries of faith, which we can never fathom. Dost thou meet with a blessing? Own God in all that good success thou findest in thy employment; with holy Jacob, The Lord hath dealt graciously with me, and I have enough (Gen. 33:11). When God at any time sends thee in profit, let it be thy care to send him back praise: For nothing is so acceptable to God as a grateful mind.

  8. Watch daily against the sin of thy calling, as also against the sin of thy constitution; and whatever temptations thou meetest with from either, cry mightily to heaven for power to resist them; knowing that thou never yieldest to a temptation, but the Spirit withdraws in tears, and the devil goes away in triumph.

  9. Having used faithful diligence in thy lawful calling, perplex not thy thoughts about the issue and success of thy endeavours; but labour to compose thy mind in all conditions of life to a quiet and steady dependence on God’s providence, being anxiously careful for nothing. There is a threefold care which the Scripture takes notice of: Namely, a care of the head, a care of the hand, and a care of the heart. A care of the head, and that is a care of providence and prudential forecast, this is commendable. A care of the hand, that is a care of diligence and industry, this is profitable. But then there is the care of the heart, which is a care of diffidence and distrust, a care of anxiety and perturbation of mind, this is culpable, and exceeding sinful (See Matt. 6:31-34).

  10. Resolve it in thy mind to be cheerful and contented with thy portion (little or much) which God as a blessing upon thy endeavours, allots unto thee: Not content because thou canst not have it otherwise, but from an approbation of divine appointment. Necessity was the heathen school-master to teach contentment, but faith must be the Christian’s. I have learnt, says the holy Apostle, (not at the feet of Gamaliel, but in the School of Christ,) both how to be abased and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty; yea I know in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Phil. 4:11). How are some Christians minds like musical instruments, quite out of tune, with every change of weather. But it is an even composedness of mind in all conditions of life, that glorifies God, and is advantageous to ourselves. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:16). Not godliness with an estate, but godliness with contentment.

Jacobus Koelman (1632-1696): A curriculum for training children aged 6 to 12 in the Reformed faith

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In his The Responsibility of Parents to Raise their Children for God (De Pligten der Ouderen om Kinderen voor God op te Voeden, 1684), the Dutch Nadere Reformatie minister Jacobus Koelman (1632-1696) lays out guidelines for Christian parents on how to raise their covenant children in the Reformed faith. Offering different guidelines according to the age of the children, he spends one chapter (ch. 3) specifically focusing on what and how to teach children between the age of 6 and 12.

This training is broad and thorough, considering the target age range, and is intended to be taught throughout the week, although, of course, especially every Lord’s Day. The curriculum starts with Koelman’s own catechism within this book, focusing particularly on the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. This teaching also includes a reading and exposition of the Scripture proof texts given for each answer in the catechism, requiring the parent to demonstrate to the child how the doctrine in question is founded on Scripture. Although there is an emphasis on ensuring the child memorizes what is taught, yet Koelman insists that parents must ensure that, beyond mere regurgitation, their children actually understand what is taught, and recognize the doctrine’s foundation in Scripture. Furthermore, parents ought always to pray to God to bless their teaching, and that God may grant their children the ability to understand what is taught.

Next, Koelman prescribes the teaching of elementary systematic theology on eight main loci: (1) doctrine of Scripture, (2) doctrine of God, (3) anthropology, (4) doctrine of the Mediator, (5) doctrine of effectual calling, (6) doctrine of the privileges of effectual calling in this life, of grace, (7) doctrine of the privileges of effectual calling in and after death, in glory, (8) doctrine of the Sacraments or seals of the covenant of grace. The child is thus given an elementary but firm grounding in all the main loci of Reformed systematic theology.

Naturally enough, the Heidelberg Catechism is also important in Koelman’s curriculum, and despite it being taught in the schools and at church every Lord’s day, he suggests that it also be studied above and beyond the context of school and church on a Sunday. Ideally, if possible, the Heidelberg Catechism should be studied alongside the children’s catechism of Jacobus Borstius, minister in Rotterdam.

Next up, the children are to be taught biblical history, narratives, and chronology, with the assistance of Koelman’s “historical catechism” within this book. And Koelman, true to Nadere Reformatie form, insists that the learning of these biblical narratives and histories should always be accompanied by a practical application to the child. In other words, the question should always be asked: what does this particular passage or book teach me about God, and how is this knowledge of God which I gained from this text relevant to my life as a believer? The child is thus taught the practical, applicatory nature of theological doctrine from a young age. And this practical application of the doctrine to the child’s life, says Koelman, “may not be neglected.”

Once the child has gained a good grounding in biblical history, and has a solid grasp of the historical contours of the biblical narrative, the next part of the curriculum is a history of the church, which Koelman says should include teaching about the various persecutions and trials which God’s children have endured through the ages, whether by heathens or Papists, with special emphasis on martyrs and martyrologies, with the goal of setting forth the martyrs as examples of faithfulness and endurance in their faith under extremely testing circumstances. Once again, therefore, a practical dimension is in view, with inspirational figures in the church’s history acting as a “cloud of witnesses” spurring the young believer on in his or her faith. Next up, a history of the Netherlands should be taught, which should include a focus on the “Spanish yoke” and the “Antichristian Inquisition” under which the Dutch people long suffered, and from which (Koelman believes) God saved the Dutch. Moreover, children should be taught how God providentially safeguarded the Reformed faith in the Netherlands not only against the Papists, but also in the face of the Arminian threat.

After this overview of ecclesiastical and Dutch history, children should be taught what one might call Heresiology 101. They need to be taught about the “most despicable” errors of the Papacy, as well as the errors of the Jews, Socinians, Arminians, Mennonites, and (sic) the Lutherans. Yet Koelman says that the focus should always be primarily on  positively building up children in true doctrines, and that these errors should only be brought up and refuted by the by, when occasion demands it. In other words, a focus on theological errors should always be aimed at elucidating the truth.

For Koelman, ordinary everyday Bible reading should undergird all of the above teaching endeavours, and, ideally, parents should have a schedule of Bible verses or passages for their children to memorize. Concerning the sermons which the children hear in church on Sundays, he holds that parents should help their children to make notes and understand the contours of sermons, so that they may more easily follow the arguments and reasoning of the preacher, and be able to discern when he is offering doctrine, admonishment, comfort, or exhortation. Children should furthermore be taught from a young age to sing Psalms and (ideally) learn to read musical notes so that they may sing without the aid of instruments, and in this way gain a familiarity with the Psalms.

Once the child is well trained in all of the above, Koelman says that he or she should advance to weightier commentaries on the Heidelberg Catechism, such as those of Petrus de Witte, Zacharias Ursinus, or Franciscus Ridderus, in order to get a firmer, more mature grounding in the faith.

In all of these different parts of the curriculum, Koelman calls upon the parent to set an example for the child on how to handle holy subjects with the requisite seriousness and piety, and to impress on the child a realization of the weightiness of the divine subject matter that he or she is learning, and to treat it with due reverence.

Finally, Koelman encourages parents to reward their children when they are diligent and make progress in their learning, in order to manifest parental love to the child and to further encourage them in their learning. Although he says that parents should employ their parental authority and exercise the necessary strictness when the child is stubborn or unwilling to learn, yet he stresses that the parent should always strive to draw the child to his or her studies with benevolence and kindness, and seek to make the learning as “sweet and enjoyable” to the child as possible.

This curriculum, which was designed for 17th-century Dutch Reformed parents to train children aged 6-12 at home, may seem, to modern eyes, an unrealistic ideal. It is loaded and very comprehensive for that age range. For most in Reformed churches today, the idea of having 12-year-olds polishing theological books as weighty as Ursinus’ commentary on the catechism is utterly unthinkable. As far as Koelman was concerned, however, this level of theological training in children was eminently attainable. In one place, while warning parents to be careful not to overload their children and expect them to memorize too much at one time, he nevertheless does comment that “ordinarily their memory can take and retain more than we typically think.” And this is most certainly true – adults often underestimate the memory capacity of young children.

In the end, much can be learned from Koelman’s curriculum as to the scope of biblical and theological teaching which Reformed Christians might want to offer their children at home in these important formative years. There is a firm grounding in the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer; there is a familiarity with the contours of redemptive history in Scripture and the memorization of Scripture; there is familiarity with the Heidelberg Catechism and elementary systematic theology focused on the traditional loci; and there is an overview of the history of the church and the child’s own place in this greater narrative of redemptive history. And all of this is aimed at teaching the child to practically know and love the Triune God ,and to live unto, pray unto, and worship him from a tender age, and from within the covenant community of believers, starting at home.

Henry Valentine (d. 1643): A Litany of Thanksgiving

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Henry Valentine (d. 1643) studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge, before becoming a lecturer at St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street (pictured), London, under its vicar John Donne, the famous poet and dean of St Paul’s. Valentine published a devotional book titled Private Devotions, which consists of six litanies, one of which is a beautiful litany of thanksgiving. The first part of the litany is structured according to a Reformed ordo salutis, and later on there is thanksgiving for deliverance from the Spanish Armada and the “Popish (gun)powder treason”:

THE LITANY OF THANKSGIVING

For the grace of Election, by which I was chosen according to the good pleasure of thy will

My soule doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Creation, by which I was made after thine image in righteousnesse and holiness,

My soule doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Redemption, by which I was recovered from the guilt & dominion of sin, from the power of Satan, and the second death,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Vocation, wrought in me by the inward working of thy Spirit, & the outward ministry of thy holy Word and Sacraments,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the grace of Justification, whereby I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my measure of Sanctification, by which I am made a new Creature

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my formation in the womb, my birth, my baptisme, the illumination of my understanding, the correction of my will, and all the spiritual graces received from thee

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the liberty of thy Word and Sacraments, for thy sanctuary and solemne assemblies, and for thy gracious presence with us in them

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy constant providence in supplying my necessities, and defending me from dangers

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my good parents, my education, my health liberty, and peace, for the comfort of my friends, for my daily bread, and for all thy temporall blessings

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy prevention of evils, subvention in evils, & deliverance from evil

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy patience in forbearing, for thy mercy in forgiving, for thy bounty in giving, even when I sinned against thee with a high hand

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For my life, and the season given me for repentance & good works, and for thy holy means of grace and salvation

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the checks of mine own conscience, for the instruction of thy word, for the motions of thy good Spirit which have either restrained me from sin, or caused me to repent of it

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy fatherly corrections by some spirituall conflicts with Satan, by diseases, or hurts in my body, by griefs of mind, losse of goods, molestation of injuries, discomforts for, or from those to whom naturall, civil, or Christian acquaintance had indeared me

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, for the ever blessed Mother of our Lord, for all the holy Apostles and Evangelists, for all the godly Bishops and Pastors of the Church, for all the noble Army of Martyrs, and Confessors, and for all the faithfull that have lived and died in the Lord

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For the happy translation of all Saints departed in peace, from this vale of tears to the inheritance of the just

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thine holy Angels; and the charge which thou hast given them to minister unto us, to pitch their tents about us, to keep us in all our ways, and to convey our souls into Abrahams bosome,

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For Jesus Christ the author and finisher of our faith, and the fountain and foundation of all these favours; For his conception & birth; For his circumcision and baptism; For his fasting and temptation; For his doctrine and miracles;  For his agony and bloody sweat; For his cross & passion; For his death & burial; For his victorious descension into hell;  For his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven;  For his sitting at the right hand of God to make intercession always for us; For his sending the holy Ghost to abide with his Church for ever, and for his being with us to the end of the world

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For thy blessed Spirit the enlightner of my understanding, the sanctifier of my will, the helper of my infirmities, the comforter of my conscience, the pledge and witness of my adoption, and the seal of my salvation

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all my personall & particular deliverances; for the religion, peace, plenty, strength, and honour of the State wherein I live; for saving it all times, especially from the Spanish invasion, and the Popish powder treason

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

For all the secret favours which thou hast done for us, for all the mercies which we have received from thee, and are slipt out of our remembrance, and for all the goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, and love thy coming

My soul doth magnifie thee O Lord.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?

I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the Name of the Lord (Ps. 116:12).

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulnesse to all generations (Ps. 89:1).

Let them that fear the Lord, say alwayes, The Lord be praised.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen. Amen.

And that for Jesus Christ his sake, in whose most blessed name and words we conclude these our imperfect prayers, saying as he himself hath taught us:

Our Father which art in heaven, &c.

– Henry Valentine (d. 1643), Private Devotions, Digested into Six Letanies (sic), (13th edition, 1654), p. 56-70.