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DEVERAL years have elapsed since the various symbolical books of our Reformed Dutch church were first translated and published in the English language. The principal design of publishing them in English was to instruct persons of this country, who adhered to our church, and were ignorant of the Dutch language. The greatest part of those who belong to our communion in Amerida are such, It hath appeared by the event that this was a useful and laudable undertaking, and indeed absolutely necessary. It occurred to me some years since, that it would be serviceable to translate also some valuable exposition of one or other of our symbolical books into Cnglish; and as no book of this kind is of greater authority, or more general utility than the Heidelbergh caiechism, I conceived that it would be proper, and particularly useful to translate some approved exposition of the catechism. I knew of none that was either better, or more generally approved, than that of the Rev. JOHN VANDERKIMP; and I entertained a desire to attempt a translation of that. I mentioned my inclination to several friends, who forthwith approved of the motion, and encouraged me to begin. Several ministers especially urged me to it. Indeed it appeared both to them and to me, that a work of such a nature was necessary, and that not only for the laity, but also for the clergy of our church, because they are obliged to expound the catechism in order every sabbath, when they preach iwice, which is done in cities during the whole year, and in the country at least during half the year. Many of our younger ministers understand not the Dutch language, and they bave no other as.. sistance in preparing discourses on the catechism, than what they can derive from Latin expositions, which are exceedingly scarce in this country, so that but few can obtain them.
I have endeavoured to make it my first object in translating this book, to be faithful, studying to give what I judged to be the true sense of the author, and not adding or omitting a single sentence wiltally or wittingly. I have also endeavoured to preserve the proper
English idiom, which is much more difficult in translating than in composing. I have purposely avoided hard and unusual words. In several quotations from scripture I have followed the Dutch translation instead of the English, but only where the foregoing and follow. ing context of the author required it. I have also added a few notes to explain certain particulars.
The work which we now offer to the public hath been highly esteemed in the original, having been often reprinted since its first publication, although there were many other books of the same kind in Dutch. It is the sincere and earnest prayer of the translator, Ibat as it hath been acceptable and useful to the fathers in the original, it may be so likewise to the children in a translation, and to all who may favour it with a perusal.
TO THE CANDID READER.
DEFORE I inform thee of the purport of this my book, I must, briefly discourse with thee on two momentous matters, which are of the greatest concern to thee and every other person. And in the first place, that it behooves thee to inquire whether thou art in the true church, in which God, with whom we have to do, is sought, worshipped and glorified in a pure and acceptable manner, to salvation. It is a dictate of human nature, that man ought not only to worship and glorify God, but that he ought also to do this in connection with others. But man having sinned, and come short of the glory of God, knows not in what manner he ought to worship and glorify him; and nevertheless, as the idea, that he ought to worship God, abides with him, he will, according to his confused and singular conceptions, endeavour to worship him in an erroneous manner. And since being puffed up by his fleshly understanding, he delights in himself, and in his peculiar opinions, he therefore seeks to render them agreeable to others also, and thus to create a party, even in re. ligion. But the Lord God, having appointed for himself an everlasting people. a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, & peculiar people, that they might shew forth his praise, hath made his will known to them, and thus also the proper method of glorifying him. This hath produced two kinds of churches and religions, a falsc, and a true or pure one. The false is that of the beathens, the modern Jews, the Mahometans, and the erroneous Christians. · The heathens have ordered their religion according to the twilight of nature, which they have exceedingly darkened by numerous fables, tricked up from certain obscure traditions of the fathers. For as the apostle of the heathens saith, Rom. i. 21, 22, 23. “ When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools : and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
The modern Jews, who have apostatised from the faith of their fathers, make use of the scriptures of the Old Testament, but dis. guise and obscure them exceedingly by the traditions of the elders, wbich they dress up with a number of profane and old wives fables : whereby, “ their minds are blinded; for until this day there remaineth a vail on their hearts in the reading of the Old Testament, 2. Cor. ii. 14, 15.
The Mahometans regulate themselves by their Alcoran, as they call it, a book patched up of heathenish, Jewish, and Nestorian er. tours.
The Christians are either Romanists or Pelagians, (to whom the Socinians, the Jesuits, Arminians, and certain Mennonites join themselves more or less) or Enthusiasts, or Protestants, to wit, the Reformed and those who embrace the Augsburg confession.
All these cannot be each the true church, nor have the true form of religious worship. For there is but “one body, and one spirit; one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all, “ Eph. iv. 5, 6. The doctrines of so many societies must clash with one another, must undermine and overthrow each other : such a Babel and confusion of articles of faith and ceremonies must loosen the bond of union, the essential qualification of the church, must scatter the members and displease God; “ For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace,” I Cor. xiv, 33. “ This surely is not the wisdom that is from above, but it is earthly, sensual and devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work," James ïïi. 15, 16, 17.
Therefore it concerns thee greatly, worthy reader, to know with what people the true church of God and the pure religion is. The true church alone is the household of God, his city, the holy Jerusa