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Belgic Confession

BELGIC CONFESSION: A statement of belief written in French in 1561 by Guy de Brès aided by H. Saravia (professor of theology in Leyden, afterward in Cambridge, where he died 1613), H. Modetus (for some time chaplain of William of Orange), and G. Wingen. It was revised by Francis Junius of Bourges (1545–1602), a student of Calvin, pastor of a Walloon congregation at Antwerp, and afterward professor of theology at Leyden, who abridged the sixteenth article and sent a copy to Geneva and other churches for approval. It was probably printed in 1562, or at all events in 1566, and afterward translated into Dutch, German, and Latin. It was presented to Philip II in 1562, with the vain hope of securing toleration. It was formally adopted by synods at Antwerp (1566), Wesel (1568), Emden (1571), Dort (1574), Middleburg (1581), and again by the great Synod of Dort, April 29, 1619. Inasmuch as the Arminians had demanded partial changes, and the text had become corrupt, the Synod of Dort submitted the French, Latin, and Dutch texts to a careful revision. Since that time the Belgic Confession, together with the Heidelberg Catechism, has been the recognized symbol of the Reformed Churches in Holland and Belgium, and of the Reformed (Dutch) Church in America.

The Confession contains thirty-seven articles, and follows the order of the Gallican Confession, but is less polemical, full, and elaborate, especially on the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, and the Sacraments. It is, upon the whole, the best symbolical statement of the Calvinistic system of doctrine, with the exception of the Westminster Confession.

The French text must be considered as the original. Of the first edition of 1561 or 1562 no copies are known. The Synod of Antwerp, in September, 1580, ordered a precise parchment copy of the revised text of Junius to be made for its archives, which copy had to be signed by every new minister. This manuscript has always been regarded in the Belgic churches as the authentic document. The first Latin translation was made from Junius's text by Beza, or under his direction, for the Harmonia Confessionum (Geneva, 1581). The same passed into the first edition of the Corpus et Syntagma Confessionum (Geneva, 1612). A second Latin translation was prepared by Festus Hommius for the Synod of Dort, 1618, revised and approved 1619; and from it was made the English translation in use in the Reformed (Dutch) Church in America. It appeared in Greek 1623, 1653, and 1660, at Utrecht.

Bibliography: An excellent description and short history is given by Schaff in Creeds, i, 502–508, with the text in iii, 383–438, where the literature is given.

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