I have given this chapter the title: "Peter Datheen: Father of Reformed Liturgy." This does not mean that Peter Datheen made contributions to the Reformation in the Netherlands only in the area of liturgy; he was a leading figure in the work of God in the Lowlands, some say the most influential of all from an ecclesiastical point of view. He was surely one of the earliest preachers of the Reformed faith. He was bold and brave in the face of persecution. He was a fugitive from persecution almost more times than one would care to count. But, above all, he placed an indelible stamp on the liturgy of the Reformed Churches, a stamp which remains to this day. Hence the title.
Being a fugitive and exile was so much his life that one biographer, B. J. W. DeGraaff, has given his book on Datheen, with an obvious allusion to Psalm 42, the title: "Hunted As A Hart" (Als Een Hert Gejaeght. The old spelling of the last word in the title is due to the fact that the title is taken from the Dutch versification of Psalm 42 as composed by Datheen, H.H.)
But Datheen's work was done within the context of the early years of the Reformation in the Netherlands, and it is impossible to understand his work without understanding the suffering of the saints in the early years of the work of Reformation. We shall, therefore, first, describe that early Reformation.
The Work Of Reformation
The area in which is now the country of the Netherlands was part of a larger area known as "The Lowlands" at the time of the Reformation. The Lowlands comprised approximately what is now the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and part of northern France. It was technically a part of the Holy Roman Empire over which Charles V ruled, a kingdom including Spain, Germany, the Lowlands, and Italy. This Charles V was the same Charles before whom Luther made his stirring defense at Worms.
The Lowlands were much more independent than other parts of Charles' domain. They had been, from the time when the people were still barbarian, a freedom loving people who fought tenaciously for their personal rights and were ready to make huge sacrifices to protect themselves from outside interference. They were composed of 17 provinces, each of which was ruled by a prince, but the whole constituting a rather loose federation.
They were also extremely prosperous and poured much money into Charles' coffers. Industry, trade, commerce, shipping, agriculture all flourished. Europe's goods passed through the Lowlands on their way to the sea and to foreign ports. Ships daily docked in the harbors and unloaded their treasures from distant countries.
All these things were facts which Charles kept in mind when he pretty much allowed the Lowlanders a great deal of autonomy and self rule.
Many "Protestant" influences were present in the Lowlands long before the Reformation proper started. Fugitive Waldensians had found a home there; Lollards (followers of John Wycliffe in England) had come across the channel from time to time to escape persecution in their homeland; some of the better mystics, such as the Brethren of the Common Life, had settled at the mouth of the Rhine River which emptied into the North Sea near the province of Zeeland; the Latin Vulgate had been translated into the vernacular so that many people possessed a Bible in their own tongue.
Earliest Reformation influences were Lutheran. Lutheran teachings had been widely circulated, and Lutheran writings were openly peddled and sold in the markets of the cities. Some of the provincial rulers adopted Lutheran teachings and urged their people to become Lutheran. In 1522, five years after the Reformation began, Luther's Bible was printed and a Dutch translation of it prepared.
Some less than favorable influences were also present. Zwinglianism could be found, especially in East Friesland, and the Anabaptists, persecuted elsewhere in Europe, settled in the Lowlands and found a haven of safety. Many of these were the more radical Anabaptists, who rebelled against constituted authority, attempted to set up their own kingdom, and caused true Protestantism no end of grief, for the Roman Catholics were delighted to lump Anabaptists with other Reformers.
The Spread Of Calvinism
Calvinism actually came rather late to the Lowlands. Around 1535 it first appeared in the French-speaking Walloon provinces and gradually spread northward. Its spread was aided by converted Anabaptists who had been instructed in Strassburg by Martin Bucer, Capito, and Calvin. It was not long before Calvinism swept all other influences aside. Anabaptism, Lutheranism, and much of mysticism gave way before the rapid spread of what was to become in these Lowlands the Reformed faith.
God used many different means to promote the Reformed faith. In 1561 Guido de Brès published that magnificent creed, the Confession of Faith, in the Lowlands, a confession quickly adopted by the Churches. In 1563 the Heidelberg Catechism was written, and, within a couple of years of its publication, was translated into Dutch. The Convention of Wezel began the work which was later to become our Church Order. The first Synod met in Emden in 1571, and the second Synod in Dordrecht in 1578.
But the Reformed faith was not established without suffering.
Persecution in the Lowlands
The persecution of our ancestors in the Lowlands was some of the worst persecution the church had ever experienced. While it is utterly impossible to determine accurately how many people of God were killed, the conservative estimates run as high as 100,000, while others claim that as many as 200,000 were killed. From 1523 to 1573, a period of only 50 years, more Protestants were killed than in all the years when the Roman Empire engaged in persecution. From Nero's first persecutions in the middle of the first century to the reign of Constantine the Great, when persecution ceased in 312 (a period of over 250 years), fewer of God's people suffered martyrdom at the hands of a pagan world power than in the Lowlands when God's people were butchered by the Roman Catholic Church. And Rome has never expressed one single word of regret! Our fathers sealed their faith with their lives and gave to us a heritage of the truth written in blood. How much the more ought we not to treasure it.
Although Charles V issued an order in 1521 that all heresy should be extinguished in the Lowlands, the persecution did not begin until 1523, when two Augustinian monks were burned at the stake in Brussels for Lutheran tendencies. While the fire was burning, the two recited together The Apostles' Creed and sang the Te Deum Laudamus (We Praise Thee, O God). Their suffering moved Luther to write a hymn, one stanza of which is:
Quiet their ashes will not lie:
But scattered far and near,
Stream, dungeon, bolt, and grave defy,
Their foeman's shame and fear.
Those whom alive the tyrant's wrongs
To silence could subdue,
He must, when dead, let sing the songs
Which in all languages and tongues,
Resound the wide world through.
Persecution remained somewhat sporadic, however, and so Charles, expressing a deep regret that he had not burned Luther at Worms, ordered that the dreaded Inquisition be used as an instrument of persecution in the Lowlands. That awful Inquisition, which used the foulest means, trampled under foot every principle of justice, made use of the most exquisite tortures, and was answerable to no one, became the instrument for the suppression of heresy. Within Charles' lifetime, not many less than 50,000 were killed.
But the worst was yet to come.
Charles, weary of ruling, plagued by gout, and perhaps burdened in conscience, retired to a monkery, and the rule passed to his son, the cruel Philip II. Under Margaret of Parma, who was made regent in the Lowlands, Philip attempted ruthlessly to exterminate all heresy from that part of his domain by ordering that no books by Protestant authors be printed, sold, or read; that no images in Roman Catholic Churches be destroyed; that no meetings of Protestants be held; that no reading of Scripture take place anywhere; that no discussion of disputed points of doctrine be allowed. And, violators who recanted and confessed their disobedience to Rome were to be killed anyway: men were to be beheaded, women buried alive. If Protestants refused to recant, they were to be burned alive. All their property was to be confiscated and large rewards from the proceeds of the property were to be given to informers.
It was a time of terrible cruelty and suffering. Because many noble and courageous Protestants made good confessions to the assembled crowds while the fires were burning their flesh, the Inquisition ordered that their tongues be screwed with metal screws to their jaw bones and the whole cauterized with a hot iron so that the swelling would make it impossible for them to speak.
The stories of the courage and steadfastness of God's people under the tortures of apostate Rome bring tears to the eyes. One can read of them in Wylie's extremely worthwhile work, "The History of Protestantism."
The persecution became all but unbearable: towns were emptied, factories were idled, market places were without buyers or sellers, homes were dark -- almost all life came to a stop.
Under these conditions, the princes of the Lowlands and the burghers of various cities joined together in a pledge to withstand and resist all tyranny. It became known as the Compromise of 1566. It was the beginning of national and political resistance to Spanish rule.
Survival of the Reformed Church
It is difficult to imagine life during such horrible times of persecution which the church endured in the Lowlands. But the fact is that, as has been true throughout the ages, God used persecution to advance His cause. "The blood of the martyrs," Tertullian had said more than a millennium earlier, "is the seed of the church."
So powerfully did the Reformed faith spread throughout all the Lowlands that the people were on the very verge of overt rebellion. So serious was the situation that even Philip II had to take notice; and persecution eased somewhat.
One factor in the sturdy faithfulness of the people was the growing practice of field preaching. "Field preachers," with their pulpits strapped to their backs, wandered the land and preached to the people in every place possible -- in empty buildings, open fields, market places, deep forests. Most of the time the services were held in secret, with guards posted at crucial junctures to give warning in the event Spanish troops were spotted. Sometimes meetings were discovered and cruelly broken up. On occasion they were held in peace. A description of one such meeting will help us to appreciate them.
Citizens and strangers now poured out in one vast stream, and took the road to Overeen (the place where services were to be held, HH). Last of all arrived Peter Gabriel the minister. Two stakes were driven perpendicularly into the ground, and a bar was laid across, on which the minister might place his Bible, and rest his arms in speaking. Around this rude pulpit were gathered first the women, then the men, next those who had arms, forming an outer ring of defence, which however was scarcely needed, for there was then no force in Holland that would have dared to attack this multitude. The worship was commenced with the singing of a psalm. First were heard the clear soft notes of the females at the centre; next the men struck in with their deeper voices; last of all the martial forms in the outer circle joined the symphony, and gave completeness and strength to the music. When the psalm was ended, prayer was offered, and the thrilling peals that a moment before had filled the vault overhead were now exchanged for a silence yet more thrilling. The minister, opening the Bible, next read out as his text the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses of the second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Here in a few verses, said the minister, was the essence of the whole Bible -- the "marrow" of all true theology: -- "the gift of God," salvation; its source, "the grace of God;" the way in which it is received, "through faith;" and the fruits ordained to follow, "good works."
It was a hot midsummer day; the audience was not
fewer than 5,000; the preacher was weak and infirm in
body, but his spirit was strong, and the lightning-power of his words held his audience captive. The
sermon, which was commenced soon after noon, did not
terminate till past four o'clock. Then again came
prayer. The preacher made supplication "for all
degrees of men, especially for the Government, in such
a manner that there was hardly a dry eye to be seen."
The worship was closed as it had been commenced, with
the melodious thunder of 5,000 voices raised in praise.
The slight surcease of persecution did not last long. Philip's lying promises betrayed the people, for, while promising delegates from the Lowlands some surcease from persecution, he secretly plotted to increase its intensity; and the iconoclastic riots brought persecution with renewed force. The riots took place throughout most of the Lowlands as the Reformed people, goaded by persecution, took their frustration out on every evidence of Roman Catholicism which they could find: churches, stained-glass windows, images, altars, decorations. Smashing, wrecking, destroying, they laid the interiors of many churches in ruins.
Philip had his excuse. The cruel Duke of Alva was appointed to carry out Philip's vengeance. Alva asked for troops. The pope sent 10,000 troops from Italy with instructions to destroy Geneva on the way as a "nest of devils and apostates." Alva did not obey, but marched in speed towards the Lowlands and began to carry out Philip's determination to root Protestantism from the land.
The executioners were busy from dawn till dark. Within three months 1800 men were hanged. That is 600 a month, 20 a day. They were slaughtered for every conceivable reason, one for saying: "We must obey God rather than man." On February 16, 1568 a decree was issued which declared all the inhabitants, with only a few listed exceptions, condemned to death as heretics. Trials were then no longer necessary. The burning, hanging, torturing went on unabated -- until Alva himself, sated with blood, frustrated in every effort to wipe out heresy, crept back to Spain, a defeated man.
Freedom At Last
Gradually the opposition became more organized. It really began with the "Beggars of the Sea," a rough group of sea captains with their crews and boats, who used their maritime skills and reckless courage to raid Spanish shipping and harass Spanish land forces. Every Reformed school boy who has any love for his heritage should read the exploits of these men.
Briel fell to the "Beggars," and it was with their help that the dreadful siege of Leyden was lifted. The inhabitants of this walled city, surrounded by Spanish troops, were in total despair. The food was gone, thousands had already died of starvation, hardly anyone was left with sufficient strength to resist any concentrated attack on the walls. But the people were determined to resist until every man, woman, and child within the city was dead.
The Sea Beggars were the men who broke the dikes, and prayed for a change in weather. God sent fierce and raging storms from the northwest and southwest which drove the ocean waters over the land until the ships were able to sail to the very walls of Leyden. The Spanish forces were defeated and routed; the gates of Leyden were opened, and the city rescued. For its courage and steadfastness, the city was later rewarded with a university, which school gained international renown and became a bulwark of the Reformed faith.
Armed insurrection now also began to take place under the leadership of William of Orange. Religious and political freedom were so inseparably connected that to strive for the former was to commit oneself to fight for the latter. It was the beginning of the Eighty Years' War. The war was undeniably an effort to promote the cause of the truth with the sword, something forbidden by Scripture. It resulted in freedom for the Lowlands, but also the establishment of a State Church -- something which proved to be the Achilles heel of the Church in years to come. Yet, as wrong as the use of the sword may seem to us, we must at least have the sympathy to understand that our fellow saints were driven to distraction as their families were tortured and burned, their homes confiscated, the brethren murdered, their friends, male and female, subjected to the cruelest tortures devised by the sadistic and cunning mind of men -- men of the church!
Freedom came gradually. Not many major battles were fought; and the ones which were fought usually ended in the defeat of the Protestants. Not much of the time was spent in actual military maneuvers and attempts to defeat opposing forces. The chief problem was that William was unable to hold together an army of sufficient strength to have any hope of defeating Spanish forces.
Although the Eighty Years' War did not officially end until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a combination of forces gradually brought peace. Spain gradually lost heart when all her efforts to destroy the Reformed faith proved futile. And this loss of heart was hastened by the gradual weakening of Spain as a military power in Europe. Her navy was gradually destroyed by the might of Holland and Britain. Her mighty armada was wrecked by fierce storms off the coasts of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. Her armies were no longer feared throughout Europe.
In addition to these factors was also the growing movement of toleration in Europe. Religious wars had destroyed Germany as well as the Lowlands, and men began to see that if they did not learn to tolerate opposing viewpoints, they would follow a path which could lead only to continental suicide.
And, finally, the Lowlands settled the problems by some sort of division. Gradually Roman Catholics drifted into the south, where Spain was strongest; and Protestants drifted north, where the Reformed faith was strongest. Two countries emerged: Belgium, which to this day remains strongly Roman Catholic; and the Netherlands, the cradle of the Reformed faith.
But hardly had the Reformed faith been established in peace in the Netherlands, than the country was once again in danger of being torn to pieces by the Arminian controversy.
But that is another story, for another time.
It was into the turmoil of the struggle of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands that Peter Datheen entered.
It is a popular pastime nowadays to attempt to find one's roots. No one can deny that this is indeed interesting -- to learn of one's ancestors, their struggles and sorrows, their lives and callings.
It is a more profitable pastime for people of God, who recognize the truth that God saves His church in the line of generations, to trace their spiritual roots. To know one's family roots can sometimes be embarrassing, for often skeletons are found in unexpected closets. To know one's spiritual roots in of great profit, for these roots are the stories of saints and martyrs who have now joined the company of just men made perfect.
The Reformed Churches of the Netherlands were born in fierce persecution. Out of that fierce persecution arose a marvelous creed (our Belgic Confession), a strong Biblical church government which has served the Reformed Churches well for over 400 years, and a beautiful liturgy, most of which is still in use today.
The liturgy also was born out of persecution: it is well that when we use it, we appreciate this fact.
Peter Datheen played a role in our confessional heritage, a significant part in our church government heritage, and was no less than the father of our liturgical heritage. He was Holland's greatest reformer.
Peter Datheen's early life is so hidden in obscurity that the date of his birth is not known and nothing has come down to us of his parents. He was born sometime during 1531 or 1532 in the town of Cassel, in Flanders, now a part of Belgium. Somehow someone forgot to include in the church records both the date of his birth and the date of his baptism. The records of that time are extant; Datheen's name is not to be found in them.
At an early age, for an unknown reason, he was placed in a Carmelite monastery in Ypres. This, though a seeming tragedy, was part of a remarkable plan of God to prepare Datheen for his work.
Three things happened in this cold monastery.
The Carmelites were a monastic order which specialized in hospitals and healing. Perhaps the most advanced knowledge of illness and medicine could be found among these monks. Datheen received an education in medicine and healing, something which was going to serve him well in the distant future.
Persecution was raging in the Netherlands and three converted monks were burned near the cloister where Datheen lived. The story of their martyrdom and their heroic confession moved him deeply. He wondered how his church could possibly be the agent of such terrible persecution, and doubts about his church filled his soul.
Within his own cloister many were sympathetic to Reformation teaching and Datheen learned much Reformation doctrine from those who shared with him the monastic life.
But the cloister at Ypres was not the only hotbed of heresy -- according to Roman persecutors; many such monasteries hid those who were persuaded of the Biblical truth of Lutheranism and Calvinism. As the reports grew, a systematic search of such cloisters was undertaken, and one by one the monasteries which harbored heresy were dismantled and their inhabitants put to the flames.
At about 18 or 19 years old, Datheen fled, the beginning of a long life of being a fugitive for the faith. He went to London where many refugees from the Lowlands had gone to escape the fire and sword of the Romish Church.
In London a church had already been formed by merchants from the Lowlands who were in London for business purposes. To this church many joined themselves, among whom was a Polish Reformer, one who himself was to leave an unmistakable stamp on the Dutch Reformation: John à Lasco. He had become superintendent of the church.
Peter Datheen secured work as a printer in London and attended the church of refugees. Edward VI, only son of Henry VIII, was on the throne, a staunch, though young, Protestant, who did all he could to promote the Reformation in England. The church of refugees flourished and grew as the number of exiles swelled. At one time the church had no less than 4000 members, the French-speaking people in one group and the Dutch-speaking refugees in another.
But it was a church without creed or liturgy, and some of the early work in developing a Reformed liturgy was done here in London by à Lasco and Utenhove. Particularly, the Scriptures were translated into the native tongue of the refugees, and a rhymed version of the Psalms was prepared. The government required a specific liturgy, and John à Lasco prepared one along with an order of worship. The beginnings of a church order were also prepared by Martinus Micronius who wrote his "Christian Ordinances."
The congregation soon recognized that Datheen was a man of unusual ability and of deep conviction with gifts for the ministry. And so the leaders of the church prevailed upon Datheen to quit his job as printer and give himself over full time to study for the ministry of the gospel. This also he did, and in these few years of peace and quiet Datheen was prepared for his life's work.
During this time he also married a former nun by the name of Benedicta, with whom he had one daughter, Christiana.
But the peace and quiet of life in London was soon over. Edward died after only a few years on the throne of England, and Henry's cruel and thoroughly Roman Catholic daughter came to the throne. She has gone down in history as Bloody Mary, for at her hands persecution against Protestants in England broke out.
The church in London was scattered and many refugees were now forced to flee England. But the work of liturgy and church government went along with the refugees and was transplanted to Frankfurt in Germany.
It is hard for us, who know no such persecution, to appreciate the suffering of these saints. Literally hounded from one country to another, they were hunted like wild dogs. Forced to flee from one place to another with wives and children, leaving behind all they possessed, they were truly pilgrims and strangers in the earth. And it was the false church which sought their lives! So it will be a few years hence when once again the same will be true for us.
Ministry in Germany
Many refugees from England, France, and the Lowlands were now settling in Germany in various Protestant provinces in the hopes of finding there some surcease from suffering. Frankfurt in Germany was such a place. It had been a strongly Lutheran city, but Calvinistic refugees had made it also Reformed. John à Lasco had gone to Frankfurt earlier than Datheen and had begun to organize a Reformed Church in that city. Under the leadership of à Lasco, the congregation called Datheen as it pastor. In September of 1555, when Datheen was 23 or 24 years old he, with his wife and daughter, settled into the ministry in Frankfurt. He was installed into office by the reformer Micronius and became pastor of this Flemish congregation.
Here his one and only daughter, Christiana, was born.
But this period too did not last long.
The Lutherans in the city became alarmed at the growing influence of Reformed thought. The radical and fiery Joachim Westphal, with whom Calvin carried on a bitter controversy over the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, incited the Lutheran clergy and people against the Reformed congregation. On April 23, 1561 the magistrates of the city forbad the congregation of refugees to worship according to their convictions. Frederick III (The Pious) made a special plea to the magistrates for toleration, but none was given. The congregation was forced to break up if it refused to become Lutheran. So it did. Again the people were forced to flee.
Many returned to England where Elizabeth now sat on England's throne and under whose rule peace came to the refugees. Many went back to the Netherlands and perished in the flames of the inquisition. Some went to Frankenthal in the Palatinate where Frederick III ruled. With these latter Datheen travelled.
Years In The Palatinate
God gave Datheen good years in The Palatinate, years which Datheen did not waste. They were his most productive years as far as his work in liturgy was concerned. What we owe to Datheen today is what he accomplished under the benign hand of the father of the Heidelberg Catechism, Frederick III.
Soon after his arrival in the Palatinate, because of his reputation, he was summoned to the court of the prince in which court he served as court pastor. During this time, he was entrusted with various diplomatic responsibilities and missions. He continued to minister to the needs of the exiles. He, with four other pastors, engaged in a debate with five Lutheran ministers under the supervision of the Elector.
These were busy years, but happy ones. He was full of zeal for the cause of the church; he labored hard for the organization of the church; he spent himself in the cause of the gospel.
But above all he did marvelous work to develop a distinctively Reformed liturgy for the churches in the Lowlands. Aware that persecution was still so severe that a normal life for the church was impossible, he believed that God would send a better day. His faith was expressed in his introduction to a Church Order which was "for the Netherlands Churches, if they should, by the grace of God, arrive at a public and free exercise of their religion."
His heart was really in the Lowlands and with his suffering fellow saints.
Work In Liturgy
The liturgy in use in the denomination of which I am a member, and until a few years ago in many Reformed churches, is an ancient liturgy. It goes all the way back to the Reformation in the Netherlands.
In many Reformed churches this ancient liturgy has been abandoned. In its place has come a tidal wave of innovations which have so restructured the liturgy that it is no longer recognizable as Reformed. This is a great loss to the church. In the interests of making liturgy appealing and attractive to modern 20th century man, the soul of the liturgy has been cut out, and what is left is meaningless (and in some instances, downright wicked) exercises in futility.
All this is not to say that we should never change anything, that tradition is sacred, that what was once done is perfect for all time. No, a Reformed church is indeed a reforming church.
But before a Reformed church makes changes, it ought to be very sure that the changes are improvements -- i.e., that the changes bring our worship more closely in conformity with the Word of God, and that they are not merely changes for change's sake.
And our liturgy is hard to improve. Before we begin to tamper with it, we ought to spend a bit of time pondering the fact that our liturgy was born out of the fire of persecution; that it was woven into the very warp and woof of the Dutch Reformation in the Netherlands; that for it our forebears bled and died; that it has stood the test of over four centuries; and that it is doubtful, to say the least, that a spiritually wishy-washy age and doctrinally illiterate church are capable of improving it.
At any rate, we owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Datheen, the great Reformer of the Netherlands, for this part of our heritage.
It must be understood that none of Datheen's work was wholly original. Already in London, Utenhove and à Lasco had done significant work in liturgy for the refugee congregation there. That work he had taken with him wherever he went.
It must also be remembered that the Palatinate, where Datheen did his work, was strongly under the influence of the Calvin Reformation, and that Calvin and his fellow Reformers had done significant and important work in liturgy and church government.
To all this (as well as other work) Datheen was heir.
But it is his stamp which marks our liturgy in so many ways.
Not the least of what he did was prepare a translation in Dutch of the Heidelberg Catechism, which Confession had been completed in the Palatinate in 1563. From the beginning Datheen intended it to be used for a confession in the churches of the Lowlands. And it was, indeed, soon adopted there.
Thus, Datheen was responsible for incorporating that beautiful creed into our creedal heritage.
In the area of church government Datheen's influence was also felt. Datheen not only used the work of Micronius in London, but also modified it in some respects to fit more the situation in Netherlands. Datheen was present at several of the early Dutch Synods which began the work of preparing a church order, which was put into its present form by the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-'19. Datheen presided at the Convention of Wezel (1568); he was also present as a delegate from Ghent and presided at the Synod of Dort in 1578 which did so much work in the development of our present Church Order.
But this is not all. Our Reformed Churches have two of the most beautiful liturgical forms in existence in their "Form for the Administration of Holy Baptism," and in their "Form for the Administration of the Lord's Supper." Especially the former is a crown jewel among all liturgical forms in any tradition. Its beauty lies in its pure teachings concerning God's covenant of grace. In its precision, in the rolling cadence of its language, in the soaring beauty of its prose, in the concise statement of its doctrine, it is unexcelled. Both are forms written in large measure by Datheen. The Form we use in the Lord's Supper is very much similar to the Form prepared by Datheen. The Form we use in baptism came also from his hand, although the Synod of Dort in 1618-'19 added the section for the baptism of adults and made some minor changes in it as well as in all the others. One's memories cannot he restrained from floating back to the horrors of the persecution of our fathers, out of which our liturgy was born, whenever these forms are read.
In singing, it is somewhat different. Our heritage, for the most part, does not go back to Datheen. That is not because Datheen did not do work in this area too. He did sterling work. His gifts were many and great. Although he used tunes from the Genevan Psalter of Louis Bourgeois, and although he relied on the Book of Psalms from the French versions of Beza and Marot, still he prepared a Psalter for the Dutch churches which was so popular that it was used in the churches until 1773 when only relatively minor changes were made in it. That book is still in use in some Dutch churches today. I myself well remember the church during Dutch worship services ringing with those words so loved by our fathers and grand fathers: "Geloofd Zij God met diepst ontzag ..." (Psalm 68), or "'t Heigend hert, der jaagt ontkomen..." (Psalm 42).
We have a few of those tunes left in the back of our Psalter, but it is something of a shame that we have not included in our liturgy, in so far as possible, also this part of our heritage.
Finally, but also importantly, much of our present Order of Worship, though patterned after Calvin's liturgy, was given its present form by Datheen. This is why we have almost the same Order of Worship as is used in the Dutch churches which have not fallen prey to liturgical innovation.
One wonders sometimes what the church would have been like without Datheen. God used him in a marvelous way to give us that which has become so precious to us.
Datheen's Last Years
In a way, Datheen's years in Frankenthal, brief though they were, were the climax of his work. Although he did some important work in the following years, tragedy and great sadness also touched his life. These years are not so easy to write about.
In 1566 Datheen returned to the Netherlands. A sort of compromise between the rulers of the Lowlands held forth something of a promise of relief from persecution, and Datheen could not possibly be restrained from returning to his beloved fatherland.
Datheen became a field preacher. Carrying his pulpit on his back, preaching wherever possible, he ministered to throngs of people wherever he went. Sometimes the crowds that flocked to hear him numbered as many as 15,000, for the "Word of God was scarce in those days" (II Samuel 3:1), and the people had a great thirst for the gospel.
His lack of extensive training made him somewhat crude in his preaching, but his intensity and captivating eloquence revealed his deep love for the Reformed faith. It was a love of the Reformed faith which also got him in trouble.
Datheen hated compromise. He hated compromise with Rome and with Spain. He distrusted the princes' compromise and firmly believed that concessions had been made to Spain which would, in time, destroy the Reformed faith.
And so he preached, vehemently and eloquently, against such compromises, and he earned the enmity of William of Orange, the leader in the fight against Spain. William of Orange, in fact, was convinced that Datheen was in large measure responsible for the iconoclastic riots in the Lowlands, when frenzied crowds, intolerably oppressed by Rome, vented their fury on the Romish Churches. Smashing, destroying, burning wherever they went, they tried to purge the Lowlands once and for all of anything Romish. But their fury only brought against them the princes who sought to suppress the riots, which succeeded in giving Rome the excuse it needed to renew persecution (see above).
In how far Datheen was responsible is hard to judge. Surely his refusal to compromise in any way with Rome was contrary to the policy of the princes at this time. Surely his fiery preaching moved the people deeply. But he himself always pleaded innocent to the charges that he had incited the crowds.
The breach between him and William was to remain to the end of his life.
Once again he was forced to flee to the Palatinate. He became minister of a congregation composed of Dutch, French, and Walloon exiles, and later, court preacher for John Casimir.
The rest of the story is quickly told.
In 1578 he served as minister of the congregation in Ghent in his beloved homeland and was a delegate to the Synod of Dort in that year. While in Ghent he traveled throughout Holland and preached in many places while the shortage of pastors was acute. But here he was also imprisoned for eight months and finally sent into exile.
Returning to Frankenthal he resumed a ministry there, but nearly died of the pestilence and was relieved of his pulpit because he was no longer able to do the work.
Datheen was embittered by his treatment at the hands of William of Orange and by his dismissal in Frankenthal. He became a wanderer, and, to support himself and his wife, took up the work of a physician, putting into practice skills he had learned as a youth in the cloister. Wandering through Husum, Slade, Danzig, and Elbing of Germany, his bitterness led him to join, for a short time, a heretical and revolutionary sect. The report of this foolish act came back to the Netherlands, and he was barred from the Dutch churches.
To the credit of these churches, however, they sent a delegation to Datheen. To these brethren who had come to express the love of the churches and their concern for his soul, Datheen confessed his sin of joining a heretical sect -- from which he had parted before the delegation came; and he was reconciled and restored to the fellowship of the church. However, because of wars in Germany and in his own land, and because of the great infirmities of age and a life of fleeing persecution, he could not return to the church and land he loved. He died an exile on March 17, 1588 far from home, from friends, from church, and from his fatherland.
It is better to suffer death in the fellowship of the church than to lose that fellowship which is so important to keep us faithful to our God.
But he died in peace; and, although he could not possibly have known what his work would mean to the church, God knew and knows, and we are blessed by God through this servant who suffered so much.