Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Volume 1 The Heidelberg Catechism in 52 Sermons Rev. G. H. Kersten, Late Minister of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Rotterdam, Holland Volume I (Lord's Day 1-26) 1968 Translated from the Holland and printed by the Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America Introduction The committee in charge of translating and publishing this exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism requested me to write an introduction to this important work. Actually, as far as I am concerned, I feel this to be superfluous, since the late minister who wrote this book was widely known to be, through the grace of God, a scribe well instructed in the Kingdom of God. As another Paul he determined, both in his preaching and in his writings (many sermons, a dogma, and an explanation of the Compendium) "not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2). Already during my youth the Rev. G. H. Kersten wrote meditations on the Heidelberg Catechism in "De Saambinder" which were widely read, with much profit and edification. Toward the end of his life his exposition of the Catechism in sermon form was published in the Netherlands, and this book was also gladly received and read by our Dutch-speaking congregations in America and Canada. After our Synod had obtained the necessary permission, it decided to undertake the translation of this extensive work into the language of these countries. The Rev. Kersten was a dogmatist par excellence. His greatest ambition was, by the grace of God bestowed on him, to clarify, explain, and defend the doctrine which is according to godliness. He did so from the pulpit. This was more than evident wherever he preached; especially the congregations which he served as a pastor during his lifetime can testify to this. At meetings he was a champion of the Reformed doctrine. The same was true in his Catechism classes. He always strove to present and teach the fundamentals of the truth simply and clearly, in order that his pupils might retain them and never depart from them. For years he gave his best talents as an instructor at the Theological School which was founded in 1927 at Rotterdam. When I was accepted as a student in 1924, the late Rev. W. den Hengst from Leyden was in charge of the training of theological students. He was a humble but very wise teacher, who himself had received his education at the Free University of Amsterdam and could speak many languages fluently. When this minister could no longer perform this task on account of physical weaknesses, Synod unanimously voted to entrust the training of future ministers to the Rev. Kersten. In spite of the many labors already burdening him, he accepted this new task. How solemnly, yet how faithfully and lovingly he tried to train us in the solid and immovable foundations of the truth! How he urged us to search the writings of the Reformed fathers! And constantly, with tears, he admonished us to stand fast in the truth and never to depart from it either to the right or to the left. This beloved servant of God knew the truth, because God by His Spirit had declared and revealed the truth in his heart. The truth had made him free; he was squarely founded on the truth and he loved the truth. Both in his life and teaching, the honour of God was his highest goal. In this work, too, the reader will discover that the Word of God always occupies the place of preeminence. The author constantly and earnestly endeavors to search for the true meaning and intent of the Holy Spirit in the exposition of the truth. On the other hand, he also constantly insists on an experimental and practical, personal knowledge in one's own heart and life. He places the foundation of our salvation in eternity; or, to say it differently, he begins with eternity and ends with eternity. With all the power and talent God gave him, he preached man's state of death in Adam and man's life in Christ, thereby always emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit, Who must apply the truth to man's heart. Only then can follow a believing acceptance on man's part. When I was a boy of sixteen, the Lord led me to go and hear the Rev. Kersten preach. This was on a Thanksgiving Day. No sooner had he opened his mouth and spoken the solemn words. "Our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth," then they sank into my soul so deeply that I could feel the unction of the Holy Spirit that attended these words. I sat stricken under his preaching the rest of the day. I shall never forget that day, although at that time I could not have dreamed that one day I would be sitting at his feet as one of his students, and far less that there would come a time when we would be laboring together in the Lord's vineyard for about eleven years in one and the same city, Rotterdam. By the grace of God this servant was given to build on the solid foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. The reader will observe this throughout this exposition of the Catechism, which we wholeheartedly recommend for use both in the reading services in the congregations and for personal study in your homes. May the fruit thereof shake like Lebanon (Ps. 72:16)! In 1955 our congregations received with joy the translation of another exposition of the Catechism by the late Rev. G. van Reenen, and these sermons, as well as many of his others, are being read and retread in the congregations because they so beautifully expound the blessed work of the triune God. Also concerning this servant, with whom I was so intimately acquainted for seven years during my first pastorals at Leyden, can be said, "The memory of the just is blessed" (Prov. 10:7). Eternity will reveal to which extent the simple exposition of the Catechism has been blessed to the hearts of many, also on this side of the ocean. Nonetheless, everything here below is imperfect; sermons are too, whether they be orally delivered or read in translation. In many of the notes of approbation that are printed in the books of our Reformed fathers, we read in the recommendation: "... leaving the burden of proof for some of the explanations and opinions on the author. As far as the contents and the basis are concerned, these are according to the Word of God and the Doctrinal Standards of the Reformed Church." My first instructor, the Rev. W. den Hengst, used to say concerning minor matters: "These are subject to differences of opinion." It is my heartfelt wish and prayer that the King of His dearly bought Church, Christ Jesus, may richly bless the publication of this translated exposition of the Catechism to the honour of God's thrice-holy Name, to the true and eternal salvation and well-being of many souls, and to the instruction and edification of the congregations. May it also lead to a closer examination of, further instruction in, and confirmation of the old and proven truth, also on the part of the rising generation and the generations to come! Whereas on every side the truth is being denied and undermined, may the unadulterated truth remain in our midst, namely, the doctrine that glorifies God to the uttermost and debases the sinner to the uttermost; the doctrine that insists on the sovereign and one-sided work of God in Christ through the operation of the Holy Spirit; the doctrine that glorifies Christ as the Son of the living God, as the Surety and Mediator and Head of the covenant of grace, and as the only Name given under heaven unto salvation whereby man must be saved! May the Lord be pleased to use this book as a means in His hand, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, to snatch many souls out of the power of Satan and to bring them into the Kingdom of the Son of God's eternal love! The Lord will and shall use His Word through the application of the Spirit unto the perfection of the saints and the completion of the body of Christ. May He bless the reading of this work unto the hearts of His elect people! May He use it for the discovering of hidden depths and the uncovering of false grounds, but also for their instruction, encouragement, and comfort, indeed for the strengthening of their common, undoubted Christian faith! For then not man, but God only will receive all the glory unto all eternity. May God's exalted approbation rest on this publication! In 1936 and 1939 the late author, who passed away in 1948, was privileged to visit the congregations in America and to preach for them for some time. His labors at that time, too, have not been vain in the Lord. Finally, in the name of our Synod I wish to express our sincere thanks to all who have contributed of their time and talents to undertake the translation of this work. Many days and months have been spent on this task. The Lord has given understanding, insight, and strength, without which it would have been impossible to accomplish it. Once again, our heartfelt thanks, and may God be given all the honour! For Synod, Rev. W. L. Lamain Grand Rapids, Michigan September 1967 Foreword To The Reader - Greetings: They who have repeatedly urged me to publish an explanation of the Heidelberg Catechism have been very patient and after I announced my decision to comply with that request, have sent in their order to the publisher of "The Banner" to have the proof made up. If they will consider that the cause of the delay was an illness which forced me to limit my work as much as possible, I may trust that the long delay will not be taken amiss. I have hurried to issue the first Lord's Day to the consistories before the New Year, in the hope that the Lord will give strength and courage so that I can send out one sermon each week. The finished work shall be published in two bound volumes, the first of which shall appear at the middle of the year (D.V.). Many congregations follow the good custom of reading the entire Catechism each year. There is a reason why this book of comfort is divided into fifty-two parts. The continual repetition makes it easier to follow the explanation of the doctrines, and (I may speak from experience in this matter) does not decrease the interest in the treatment of the Catechism. The continual repetition of the material which this precious textbook offers concerning the doctrine of misery, deliverance and gratitude, demands continual new preparation, especially as some hearers have the commendable habit of making notations of the sermons. That preparation deepens, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit and the insight of the minister, causing new light to fall each time on different parts. Therefore I could never agree to change the habit of speaking from one Lord's Day each week. Knowing that many vacant churches follow this order, I have tried to send the first sermon out before the first Sunday of the year, so if they desire to read these sermons in church, they can start with the first sermon. It is with much fear that I begin this task. The extensive duties laid upon me do hardly give enough time and I fear that the finished work will show too many traces of the hasty preparation of the manuscript, for which I ask the kind reader's pardon. Especially am I troubled with the thought that the churches are very familiar with the honorable explanations of the Catechism by the many old, orthodox writers. Far be it from me to think that I can do better than they. On the contrary, I am burdened with the realization that I cannot stand in their shadow. Nevertheless, many churches desired this publication so there would not be a necessity to read these sermons by the same author so often, and to receive what our fathers have left us in today's language and style. I do not blush to say that I have always used and still read their works. and I am strongly persuaded that we must not deviate from the doctrine of the Reformers and their faithful followers. Therefore do I encourage the reader to consult various well known writings as offered by Ursinus, Bastingius, Smijtegelt, Vander Kemp, Justus Vermeer, Voetius, d'Outrein and many others. Do not allow the longing for something new that seems universal, to tempt you to leave the pure doctrine. We would especially warn you against Barthianism in our country, presented by Dr. Niftrik and strongly recommended as a textbook for high schools and colleges. There is scarcely any of the old heresies that have not reappeared in Barthianism in a new form. The concept of God: the revelation of God, whereby He is known unto life eternal, according to Barth, "He remains the Unknown One." The fall in Adam; redemption in Christ; the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the doctrine of the sacraments and whatever article of our Reformed religion I would mention, Barth represents it contrary to the Reformed doctrine. We must also seriously admonish against a spreading, erroneous concept of the Covenant of Grace, which strips it of its strength. Although they mean to oppose the doctrine of presupposed regeneration with this new theory of the covenant, they are replacing it with that which makes men rest upon deceptive grounds in a different way, neglecting the application of the Holy Spirit and thereby the experience of the saints. In one word, it deviates from the doctrine of the Reformed fathers. After the dispute I waged against this new teaching, I was very happy that Dr. C. Steenblok had this printed in our church paper by appealing to God's Word and our very best, old theologians. Listen to these explanations before you are carried along in the wake of the shallow theology of our times, by which the foundations of God's church are undermined. To me it is superfluous and incomplete to read a text along with each Lord's Day as some have made it a custom: superfluous, because the congregation accepts the Catechism as being entirely in accord with God's Word; and incomplete because with each Lord's Day, four or five texts would have to be read to confirm the various matters mentioned therein, as there are many texts noted with each sermon. Standing in the midst of a congregation that embraces the doctrine of the Heidelberg Catechism, the minister need only strengthen it in its persuasion, point out the heresies and explain the way of life for the comfort of God's elect church. Is this not the great value of the Catechism, that it is a book of comfort? The doctrine of Scripture is maintained objectively, but also treated subjectively. Our Catechism does not speak of a pleading on the promises of the gospel without the discovering work of the Holy Spirit, which precedes the opening of the gospel. Thus the doctrine of man's misery is discussed first, in its state, in its origin and in its inevitableness, by which all hope of salvation is cut off. After this the way of salvation is opened only in Christ Jesus. Herein the instructor is so earnest and faithful that when the distressed sinner asks whether there is a way by which he can be reconciled with God, instead of instructing him to "Simply believe" of "Just accept the promises of God", he points to the implacable righteousness of God, that must be and is satisfied only by the Mediator, Who is very God and also very Man, and perfectly righteous. This is the language of the heart of God's people. It is the experience of their souls that with all the benefits received they are lost, and under the justice of God they faint unless they may be found in the only Mediator. The Lord grant that we may remain with this doctrine and be established in it, so that the sirenian song heard these days on the Reformed arena will not seduce us and cause us to land on Scylla or Charybdis. Especially do I urge our young people to search the old, tried doctrines. I would make Comrie's words my own as I urge you not to believe because I say so; but to search the writings of the fathers and you will find the subjects as I hope to present them. The church must be built of our youth; the officers must be chosen from our young men. Do not waste the precious time of your youth; do not be caught by the trivial literature of our days; seek a firm foundation upon which you can build for the future. Do not fear the conflict that awaits you. Above all, may the Lord sanctify the truth to your hearts for your salvation and awaken in you a steadily increasing interest in the doctrine presented in the Catechism. May it please the Lord to use the publication of these sermons to the comfort of His people, to their growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they may be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith. May I commend myself, along with this work, in the prayers of God's people, so that this publication may carry His appropriation and may be crowned with His blessing. Rev. G. H. Kersten Rotterdam, Holland December 1947 Contents Lord's Day 1 - The Christian's Only Comfort in Life and Death 2 - Of the Knowledge of Our Misery 3 - The Dreadful Cause of Man's Misery 4 - God's Righteousness Vindicated Against Fallen Man 5 - The Anguished Cry of a Convicted Sinner for Deliverance 6 - The Person of the Mediator Revealed 7 - True Faith, the Line of Separation 8 - Faith in the Holy Trinity 9 - God's Fatherhood 10 - The Providence of God 11 - The Name of Jesus 12 - The Significance of the Name Christ for the Mediator and for His elect 13 - The Glory of Christ 14 - The Incarnation of the Word 15 - Christ's Mediatorial Suffering 16 - The Death of Christ and His Descent Into Hell 17 - The Profit of the Resurrection of Christ 18 - Of the Ascension of Christ 19 - The Heavenly Glory of Christ 20 - Of the Holy Ghost 21 - The Church of God 22 - The Eternal Bliss of the Church of God 23 - The Justification of the Sinner Before God as the Benefit of Faith 24 - The Relationship of God Works to the Justification of the Sinner Before God 25 - Of the Author of Faith and the Means of Grace Appointed by Him 26 - The Relation of Holy Baptism to the Sacrifice of Christ (continued in part 2...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-01.txt .