Reformation 500 WEEK 46 De Bres and the Belgic Confession
In 1521, Emperor Charles V, who regretted that he had not burned Luther at Worms, issued from Worms an edict to suppress heresy in the Lowlands, now known as Belgium. In 1522, Guido de Bres (pronounced GEE-doe de Bray) was born in a Belgium city called Mons. That year in Antwerp a “monastery was burned to the ground because some of its monks had listened to the Protestant heresy” (Van Halsema, Glorious Heretic, 102). “To Belgium belongs the honor of having furnished the first martyrs of evangelical Protestantism in Henry Voes and John Esch, two Augustinian monks, who were burned at the stake in Brussels, July 1, 1523, … and who were celebrated by Luther in a stirring hymn” (Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 1:503).
Guido “was fourteen when the great Bible translator, William Tyndale of England, was strangled and burned to death near Antwerp.” Guido “was converted sometime before he became twenty-five,” and in 1548 he fled “to England where the boy king Edward VI had come to the throne” (Van Halsema, 104). There he benefited greatly from his contacts with other Protestant refugees (like Martin Bucer). But as soon as bloody Mary came to the throne, Guido decided to return to Belgium.
In October, 1555, Charles V (emperor of Germany, Spain, and the Lowlands, master of all the then known parts of Asia, Africa, and the New World) decided to become a monk. He was succeeded by his son Philip of Spain (whose third wife was bloody Mary). “It was his consuming passion to kill every person not faithful to the Church of Rome” (Van Halsema, 95). Guido fled to Geneva, Switzerland, where for the next several years “he learned from the preaching of John Calvin and the teaching of Theodore Beza…Guido became an expert in Hebrew and Greek,” and “learned to show mercy to people who were hurting” (William Boekestein, Faithfulness under Fire).
After three years of study, Guido boarded a river boat on the Rhine and arrived in a Belgian town called Doornik, where he became the pastor of the secret Protestant Church called The Church of the Palm. “He was thirty-seven years old, and in many ways his life of hiding and fleeing had been a lonely one.” He spoke of his love to a young woman named “Catherine Ramon and told her he could offer her only a life of uncertainty. It was enough, she answered, to love each other and to know their lives were in God’s good hands.” Sometime in 1559 they were married; the next year they had a son and “named him Israel” (Van Halsema, 107-108).
While Guido was hiding, he wrote his Confession of Faith (patterned after the French Gallican Confession of 1559 written by Calvin). In the copies of the Confession printed in 1561 the first pages contained an open letter to King Philip, asking him to stop fighting against the church (Guido secretly tossed his Confession with its introductory letter over the walls of the king’s castle). Guido said that he and his friends “were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, although they would ‘offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire, rather than deny the truth of God’s Word.’ … Though the confession failed to stem the tide of persecution, it was instrumental in helping thousands understand the Reformed faith. Guido de Bres was eventually captured and he sealed his confession with martyr’s blood in 1567” (RCUS Three Forms of Unity, 52).
NOTE: These Posts were written and designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .
Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert: Reformation 500 DeBres and the Belgic Confession
For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 45
|Official Seal of the RCUS|
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS). As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began. We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.