1580 Handwritten Belgic Confession

15 December 2015 by Wes Bredenhof

Handwritten BC title page
Handwritten BC title page

In his book The Belgic Confession: Its History and Sources, N. H. Gootjes notes the existence of a handwritten copy of the Belgic Confession dating to 1580 (see pages 117-118).  This edition is based on the 1566 revision made at the Synod of Antwerp.  This manuscript has now been digitized and is available online from the University of Leiden.  Unfortunately, I don’t know if I can provide a direct link.  To find it, you’ll have to go here and then search for “geloofsbelijdenis.”  That will take you to the search results.  Click on the picture for the third item.  That should take you to the viewer where you can examine the document.  My thanks to Albert Gootjes for drawing my attention to this fascinating item.

One of the most interesting things about this copy of the Belgic Confession is that it was used for subscription in the Walloon churches in the Netherlands.  Starting right after article 37, there are a number of pages filled with signatures of Reformed ministers, including some notable figures from our Reformed church history.  Here’s the first page:


Jean Taffin signed his name here — he was a notable early Reformed minister, author of a book that has been translated into English, The Marks of God’s Children.  Following this, there are several pages of signatures up until 1667.  Then there’s a gap and then another group of signatures under what appears to be a type of Subscription Form.  One of the first names there is Johannes Polyander, one of the delegates to the Synod of Dort 1618-19 and also one of the authors of the Leiden Synopsis.  Here’s the image of that page:

Polyander signature

Another interesting feature about these signatures is that some of them are on behalf of churches or synods.  Last of all, if you survey the names you might come across a David Stuart.  That doesn’t sound Dutch or Walloon, does it?  Who was David Stuart and how did he come to serve as a pastor in the Netherlands?  Perhaps someone reading this knows, but I don’t, at least not yet.

This is a remarkable document, not only for being an early exemplar of the Belgic Confession, but also for what it might tell us about the history of subscription to the Belgic Confession.  The signatures begin in 1580 and run till 1667, a period of 87 years.  It definitely bears a closer look!