Learning Christ Through the Catechism of the Bohemian Brethren (1522)

The Catechism of the Bohemian Brethren was published in 1522. Whilst reading it again today I came to these sections and I thought to myself- given the adoration of Mary among so many Methodists and Papists- that it would be worth sharing them with the hope that our Mariolaters might be more perfectly instructed:

47. Dost thou honor any other being‚ as thou honorest God the Lord?

I do not.

48. Why not?

Because God has forbidden it, when He said: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve Him alone.”

49. In what do men generally err in the world?

In three things: in idolatry, in false “will-worship”‡ and vain hope, in deadly lusts. These three things comprise all their ways of error.

50. What is idolatry?

It is to transfer, internally or externally, that honor and worship, which alone belong to God the Lord, to a visible or invisible creature, rational or irrational, spiritual or carnal: internally, with things self-depending and fundamental, that is, with faith, love, hope, and spiritual affections, such as fear, zeal, and with the conscience, &c.: externally, with the mouth, or with works, in the hope of gaining some spiritual or carnal good.

51. Dost thou believe in the Virgin Mary‚ or any other saints?

I do not.

52. Why not?

Because they are neither God, nor Creator, nor Redeemer, nor Saviour, but creatures bought and blessed. But I have a belief concerning them.

53. What dost thou believe concerning the Virgin Mary?

That she was highly favored, blessed of God among women—full of grace and blessed was the fruit of her womb; that she was pure before she bare, when she bore, and after bearing, a humble handmaid of the Lord, and a blessed one, on account of her humble faith well-pleasing to God, a careful and faithful mother of the Lord Jesus; that she assuredly possesses an inheritance in eternal happiness; and that she enjoyed all these things, by the grace of God, and through an interest in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, in and through whom God did great things for her, and received her soul into its eternal rest.

54. What dost thou hold concerning the other saints?

That they are chosen, by the grace of God, to be partakers of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, and that, by the sending of the Holy Ghost, they came to be saints beloved in Christ, cleansed by His blood; that living here by faith, and loving God above all things, and their neighbors, honoring God and serving Him, some died a common death, some left the earth oppressed by men, enduring martyrdom for the Word’s sake, yea suffering death at the hands of idolators, false prophets, and lovers of the world, because of the true honor they gave God, and the living hope they had in Christ.

55. Is it proper to honor the Virgin Mary‚ or the other saints?

It is proper to honor them with that honor which is their due.

56. What is the honor which is their due?

That we love them with a proper love, and that, by obeying and following them in the good which they accomplished, we praise God for them.

57. In how far are we to obey them?

In so far as their admonitions are concerned, in so far as is written in the law, and in so far, especially, as the Virgin Mary says; “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”*

58. In how far are we to follow them?

In their virtuous lives, by which they followed Christ, with a living faith and real love, striving for the hope of eternal life, and, while striving, faithful unto death, forsaking the world and its errors, together with all vanity.

59. With what honors is it not proper to honor them?

With those mentioned above, which belong alone to God and the Lamb. Hence it is not proper to worship them, to desire of them grace, help and intercessions, to seek other good gifts of them, or to pray to them to be preserved from evil: in none of these things must we trust in them. Nor is it proper to call the Virgin Mary our only hope, or a mediatrix, or a most gracious mother, or to pray to her with sighs. Consequently, it is not proper to show them outward honors, such as celebrating saints’ days, bringing offerings, supplicating or giving alms in their name, fasting, swearing, or vowing by them, going on pilgrimages to their shrines, or building churches to their memory.

60. But is it proper to bow down before and worship the image of the Lord Christ, or of the saints?

It is not proper, since God the Lord says: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.”† “I am the Lord.”

Amen and amen.

*Edmund de Schweinitz, trans., The Catechism of the Bohemian Brethren: Translated from the Old German, with an Introduction (Bethlehem: Henry T. Clauder, 1869), 11–12.

One thought on “Learning Christ Through the Catechism of the Bohemian Brethren (1522)

  1. GeoffSmith 17 Dec 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I love that catechism. It’s interesting on several levels:
    1. Believe is not mere assent, but more like Brunner’s concept of obedience trust.
    2. The saints are worthy of honor, but of an honor that leads us to pursue their works as a way to honor God and be happy (assuming happiness as goal of virtue since they use that word).

    I wonder, outside of the context of praying to saints and the merit system if it it possible to have churches named after saints like “The Lutheran Church” or some such name, if it is a way of saying, “We honor the God that this or that saint honored.”


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