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Choice Gleanings

October 2012

  from the Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in Heidelberg (Germany) on the initiative of Frederick III, ruler of an influential German province called the Palatinate. He was a ‘pious Christian prince’, and he desired this catechism to be composed for the Reformed churches in the Palatinate. It was adopted by a Synod in Heidelberg and published in January 1563.It was soon divided into 52 sections, so that a section could be explained to the churches on each Lord’s Day of the year. There follows here a small selection from the catechism’s 129 questions and answers.

What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.

From where do you know your sins and misery?
From the law of God.

What is true faith?
True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.

What do you understand by the providence of God?
God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.

What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.

What comfort does the resurrection of the body offer you?
Not only shall my soul after this life immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head, but also this my flesh, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and  made like Christ’s glorious body.

(These questions and answers are numbers 1-3, 21, 27-8 and 57 of the catechism).