Jeremias Bastingius (1551-1595): Exposition of Heidelberg Catechism Q/A.1

jeremiasbastingius

 

Jeremias Bastingius (1551-1595) was a Dutch Reformed theologian best known for his exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism. Bastingius was trained by several prominent second-generation Reformers. He studied at Heidelberg under Zacharius Ursinus in 1573, where Petrus Dathenus was his roommate, and in Geneva under Theodore Beza in 1574, where he boarded with Lambert Daneau. He also received instruction from Caspar Olevianus and was graduated under Girolamo Zanchi as doctor in theology at Heidelberg (1575-1576). Below is his exposition of Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1:

First Question.

What is thy onely comfort in life and in death.

Answere.

That in soule and bodie, whether I live or die, I am not mine owne, but I belong unto my most faithfull Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who by his pretious blood most fully satisfying for all my sinnes, hath delivered me from the whole power of the evill, and doth so preserve me, that without the will of my heavenly Father not so much as a heare can fall from my head: yea and all things are made to serve for my salvation: wherefore be doeth also assure me by his Spirite of everlasting life, and maketh me forward and readie from hencefoorth to live to him.

 

The Exposition.

It hath bene long enquired and disputed, what is the ende, what is the last and utmost thing, wherunto man may referre al his thoughtes & consultations of living & doing well. Howbeit that is not sufficient unto true felicitie, unlesse that also be diligently enquired after, what marke a Christian man ought to have before his eyes, whereat he may ayme, and not misse of true blessednesse. And that is it which the Catechist doeth in the very entrance propound and aske the question of, and intende by those wordes (Thy onely comfort) that as the philosophers and wisemen of the Gentiles in times past were occupied and did spend them selves about inquiring after the former, and at this day wretched men doe seeke comfort for themselves, some in riches, some in the honour of this worlde, some in pleasure, and other allurements and delightes: so in searching after, and finding out this, whosoever professeth the name of a Christian, might shew him selfe so much the more desirous and more intentive, howe much the more easie the way unto that soveraigne good will be unto him, if he will give care unto him that doeth advise him what is good, and if he will constantly follow him that guideth him by doctrine and instruction.

The necessitie and reason of this question is cleare of it selfe: for since it was said to man, Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt returne, he hath bene all his life long condemned to trouble, labour, sickenesse, adversitie, and other discommodities, and last of all to death it selfe, which being considered in it selfe is able alone to throwe him downe, and as it were to cast him off from his standing. I speake not of the worme of conscience, of the feeling of sinne, and of the wrath of God, which whensoever like unto the furies of hell it doeth haunt him, doeth he not thinke him selfe to be as it were in the middest of hell? Wherefore not without cause is the place of the onely comfort of man handled first in order in this booke. 1. Because in it is shortly offered to the reader, as it were in a table or picture the verie marrowe of Christian doctrine and religion, as the same in the worde of God is delivered more at large, and is in this Catechisme laid foorth by certaine questions and answeres for the benefite of the learner, the drift whereof is that man may be instructed in this his only comfort for his owne salvation and the glorie of God. 2. Because by the injoying of this benefit or comfort, it is properly discerned, not onely whether condition is the better, the condition of men, or unreasonable creatures, but also even among men them selves, who are more blessed than the rest: in so much that, if their life be once without this comfort, they are not onely no better than bruite beasts, but also for many respectes farre more miserable, as who being subject to so sundrie calamities, doe continually leade a troublesome and unquiet life. Therefore this is the onely knowledge, whereby they get the upper hande, and by which onely they attaine to immortalitie.

Nowe that onely comfort of man in life and in death is shewed therein to consist, That both in soule and bodie, whether I live or die, I am not mine owne, but belong unto my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, &c. Under which head is at once comprised the whole misterie of redemption, and whatsoever is required to the perfect consolation of us in life and in death. Where first must be declared, what it is for a man not to be his owne: for seeing in civill and politike states, libertie is accounted an invaluable treasure, and one the other side bondage, a thing of all other most miserable, it might seeme to be without reason to take it for a comfort, that a man is not his own: wherefore these wordes, I am not mine owne, must so be understood, as that they be not contrarie to libertie, and so a kinde of bondage, but rather the most excellent libertie of all, when a man ceaseth to be his owne, and doeth properly belong to Jesus Christ.

And this happinesse of man under the kingdome of Christ, can not be otherwise better understoode, than if we consider his miserable estate, when shaking of the yoke of his Creator, he would needes be at his owne libertie: namely, that he so came to be at his owne libertie, that with all, as great as he was, he became the bondslave of Satan, both in soule and bodie, which wantonnesse of man, Christ doth excellently shadow in the parable of the prodigall childe.

The places of Scripture confirming this doctrine of our onely comfort, are evident. Paul to the Philipp. saith: Christ is to me both in life, and in death advantage. And in another place, Whether we live, we live to the Lorde, or whether we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lordes. Therefore in verie good order it is afterward declared, howe I came To belong unto Christ: namely, because he by his pretious blood fully satisfying for all my sinnes, hath delivered me from the power of the devill.

For when as man was fallen from God by sinne, the inheritor of wrath and of everlasting death, under the curse, shut out from all hope of salvation, estranged from all the blessings of God, the bondslave of Satan, a prisoner under the yoke of bondage, finally designed unto, and alreadie intangled in horrible destruction, it was necessarie that Christ should come betweene to make intercession, that he should take upon him selfe and abide the punishment, which by the just judgement of God did hang over the head of all sinners, and shoulde by his blood satisfie for those evils which made us hated of God, to conclude, should appease the endlesse wrath of God against sinne, all which things the Scriptures doe witnes to have bene perfourmed by Christ.

Of the which benefite Peter speaketh honourably: Knowing that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and golde, from the vaine conversation received by the traditions of the fathers, but with the pretious blood of Christ, as of a Lambe undefiled, and without spot. So doe the rest of the Apostles speake also: Ye are bought with a price, saith Paul. 1. In respect of the soule which is the better part of man, in that Christ did to that ende take upon him the true soule of a man, that he might redeeme our soules, whereby it commeth to passe that so soone as they depart out of the bodie, they passe unto the Lord, according to the promise, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise. 2. In respect of the bodie which Christ hath also redeemed, and at the last day shall raise it up incorruptible, and like unto his glorious bodie, whereupon it followeth that we both in life and in death are wholly the Lordes. And to the Coloss. In whome we have redemption through his blood, that is, remission of sinnes. So saith John: The blood of Jesus Christ his Sonne clenseth us from all sinne. And here of it is called pretious blood, because Christ is not only true man but God also, who hath purchased his Church with his owne blood: as for the same cause also he is called a most faithfull Saviour, by the witnesse of the same Apostle, Rom. 5, 7, 8. Philip. 2, 6, 7, 8.

Besides that I am delivered by Christ from all the power of the Devill, it is thus prooved out of Paul: The devill had the power of death: the sting of death is sinne: the strength of sinne was the Lawe but thankes be unto God, who hath given us victorie through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Out of the Epistle also to the Hebrues: Christ was made partaker of flesh and blood, that by death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devill.

Out of John: For this cause did the Sonne of God appeare, that he might destroy the workes of the devill: among which the chiefe are sinne and death: therefore Christ hath set me free from these, so that they can not hereafter condemne me, and both from sinne and from death the last enemie I shall in the ende be fully delivered. Therefore he is truely my Lord and Saviour, and that such a Saviour, as hath fully and perfectly redeemed me, and chalenged me unto him selfe, and made me his owne, with whome to joyne any other partner, it were a hainous sinne, and no lesse than robbing of God. But forasmuch as it is not sufficient to make me perfectly blessed, that Christ hath once chalenged me unto him selfe, unlesse he also doe continually maintaine and preserve me, therefore this other comfort is added: that he also doeth afterwarde preserve me against the Devill our adversarie (whome Peter calleth a roaring lyon, &c.) and the worlde, that not so much as a heare can fall from my head without the will of my heavenly Father.

Which wordes taken out of the Gospell doe present us with a marveilous consolation: for they teach us, that albeit it often falleth out in this life, that the godly are vexed by the wicked, yet notwithstanding God careth for them, and with a fatherlie and speciall providence beholdeth his children even in the middest of their distresses, as he did the posteritie of Abraham: also Job, Joseph, David, and the Apostles. For so God speaketh of olde in Zacharie: He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye. And in the Psalmes: Touch not mine annointed, and doe my Prophets no harme. And the Sonne of God him selfe manifested in the flesh foretelleth the lying in wait of our enemie, and witnesseth his owne care over us. Satan hath desired to winowe you even as wheate is winowed, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not faile. Also, My sheepe can no man take out of mine handes, my father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no man can take them out of my fathers handes. My father and I are one. And Peter saith, He hath care for you. And Paul to Timothie: I know whome I have beleeved, and I am perswaded that he is able to keepe that which I have committed to him against that day.

Who also doeth expressely affirme that all things must serve for my salvation: we knowe that unto them that love God, all thinges worke together for the best. And, I am perswaded that neither life nor death, nor Angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heigth, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.: which is not onely to be understood of the crosse, of affliction, and other adversities, whereby we are outwardly annoyed: but even of sinne also, as in David, and in Peter, who by their fall were admonished, both of their owne infirmitie, and of the goodnesse and mercie of God, whereby it came to passe, that he did not cast them away as they were worthie, that by that meanes they being humbled of God, might in time to come be more warie, and more slowe to sinne.

Which things being so, and seeing I attaine these benefits, by reason that I am not mine owne, but doe properly belong unto Jesus Christ: I doe most stedfastly conclude, that I am most blessed both in life and in death.

But lest the devill should wrest this comfort from the faithfull, or call it into doubt, i am very well and necessarilie taught by the Scriptures, that the certaintie thereof is confirmed unto me by two testimonies: the one inward, the other outward.

The inwarde testimonie is the witnes of the holy Ghost, whereby Christ doeth assure me of everlasting life, which is the highest point of all comfort, whereupon the Apostle saith: The Spirite also beareth witnesse with our spirites, that we are the sonnes of God. And: Ye are sealed with the holy Spirite of promise, which is the earnest of your inheritance untill the redemption purchased unto the praise of his glorie.

The other testimonie is outward, namely the witnesse of my life, and all mine actions, and proceedeth from the same spirite, shewing his effects and power in me, and making me that was before the servaunt of sinne and of the devill, forwarde and readie, cheerefully and willingly to serve and call upon so mercifull a Lord. Hereto serveth that of Paul: So many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sonnes of God. For by this sentence doeth the Apostle shake off the vaine boasting of hipocrites, who take upon them a name without the true matter of the name, and doeth incourage the faithful to an undoubted confidence of their salvation, taking an argument from the effectes of the holy Ghost in them. From these two testimonies, may and ought the assurance to be fetched of our onely comfort both in life and in death and they may be in steade of prickes unto us to goe forwarde couragiously in the race of our calling, untill we come to the verie goale of that happines which is prepared for us.

 

The use, and the false doctrine.

The use of this doctrine is manifolde and diverse, partly serving for the confirmation of our faith, partly for the instruction of euery godly and faithfull man. For first, if Christ have most fully satisfied for all my sinnes, as he hath, hereof I am perswaded that all my sinnes are forgiven, and that I being justified by faith, have peace with God through Christ, and that I am truly blessed both in life and in death, and hereof also I conceive certaine hope and assurance, that God for Christes sake will hereafter be gratious unto me.

Secondly, if he have delivered us from the power of the devill, we are hereby put in minde everie one of us to detest sinne, and diligently to beware that it reigne not in our mortall bodyes, but rather to followe after righteousnesse, innocencie, and uprightnesse of life all the dayes of our life. Then whereas Satan before reigned through death to our destruction, and Christ also hath subdued death for us, we may boldly despise death, considering that the first death cannot otherwise light upon us but for our salvation, and the second death is overcome by the power of Christ, that it is not able to hurt the godlie.

Thirdly, if we properly belong unto the Lord, let us not serve any other but him who hath redeemed us, according to the counsell of the Apostle:

Ye are bought with a price, be not the servants of men: next, Let us not judge our brethren, (as the same Paul saith) who art thou that judgest another mans servant, he standeth, or falleth to his owne Lord.

Fourthly, seeing the same Christ doeth maintaine that salvation which he hath purchased for us, & hath sealed the same by his spirit in our hearts, whatsoever Satan that enemie of ours doe enterprise, so long as we have on our side so strong & so valiant an armed man, we are commanded not to quaile, or be discouraged, for that we are alwayes sure to be conquerours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Neither neede we to passe for that brutish thunderbolt of the fathers of the Councill of Trent, no lesse wickedly than confidently pronouncing a curse against those, who are perswaded of the undoubted knowledge of Gods good will towardes them, and of the certaintie of their owne salvation, and doe rejoyce in that behalfe, which to disallowe is to keepe man in continuall doubting while he is here, so that neither in life nor in death he can promise any certaintie to him selfe of the favour of God, and therefore is compelled to depart out of this life without any certaine comfort, but rather altogether doubtfull of his owne salvation.

Last of all, if the true and onely comfort of man consist in this, that he doeth properly belong unto Jesus Christ, it doeth plainely appeare (as we began to say in the beginning) that the philosophers did misse the marke of the soveraigne good, of whome some accounted it to be the pleasure of the bodie, which is to make a beast of a man: others wealth, or riches, with a good name and commendation among men for an opinion of vertue, which is to appoint unto man who is immortall, a soveraigne good which is mortall: to conclude, others thinke it to be onely vertue and the honest practise thereof, which is to make the judgement of mans reason, and the delight thereof to be the God of man him selfe.

 

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