As we continue with our celebration of Reformation Month, it is perhaps a good time to comment on the subtitle: Semper Reformanda. Semper Reformanda is a truncated version of a much longer Latin phrase ecclesia semper reformanda est or the church is to always be reforming. Jodocus Van Lodenstein championed that effort in the 17th century in the Netherlands and is sometimes implicated as a father of the phrase. Shortly after the fires and flames of the Reformation in Europe died down, a dead orthodoxy gripped both the Netherlands and England. Correct attitudes on doctrine with no reference to how such doctrine ought to change or morph the human heart reigned. People attended services half-awake or half-asleep and did not share the same fervor as the reformers who had at one time paid with their lives had done.
Enter Jodocus van Lodenstein. Lodenstein was born February 6, 1620 and grew up in Delft in the Netherlands. His father Joost Corneliß van Lodenstein served as Bürgermeister or Mayor of Delft and he grew up exposed to the daily life of the town. His mother Maria van Voorburg and his father sent him to pursue a theological education for the ministry for which he had an aptitude. (Slee) He went to Utrecht and studied under Gisbertus Voetius, (of the Canons of Dort fame) Schotanus and De Maets who were prominent thinkers in the Dutch Reformed Church. (Schaff) After his studies in Utrecht, he “went to Franeker in order to devote himself to the study of Oriental languages under the direction of Coccejus [a Dutch theologian who strongly supported Covenant Theology].” (Ibid.) After completing his studies he served as a minister in a church in Zoetermeer in 1644, Sluis in 1650, and Utrecht in 1653. (Ibid.)
As Lodenstein worked in his post as minister he noticed a certain spiritual deadness among his congregations. The drama of the atoning work of Jesus Christ serving as a full and complete propitiation for the sins of many no longer stirred in the hearts of those whose grandparents would have witnessed the death of those who held such beliefs. The theology remained strong, but people were far away from the Gospel. McKenize relates “In his fourth sermon, ‘Dead Hearts,’ van Lodenstein sums up the sickness of his day: ‘Contemporary Christianity has a head without a heart’—a disease no doubt advanced by stale orthodoxy and a lulling, outward prosperity.” (156) The Netherlands was experiencing unmitigated wealth as its ships traveled around the world in search of trade. People became complacent. As a result, Lodenstein set out to work a renewal in the hearts and minds of the Dutch and helped spearhead what is now known as the Dutch Second Reformation. As a result, Lodenstein gave stirring sermons that have been copied and reprinted and composed rich hymns that are still sung to this day.
Lodenstein’s sermons had a pietistic bent. Pietism, or a movement toward an emphasis or recovery of piety in the worship of God and everyday life manifested itself in many strains. The early German pietist Anabaptist groups for instance stand as one strain, while the great Reformed preacher and friend of Benjamin Franklin George Whitfield, stands as another. Lodenstein’s pietism tended to remain Reformed rather than Radically Reformed (Anabaptist). Old comments that:
“Van Lodenstein’s Protestantism is completely orthodox. This comes out particularly in the sermon on Song of Solomon 5:3, ‘I had taken off my garment; how could I put it on again?’ These words in van Lodenstein’s interpretation, speak of the Bride of Christ having lost her first love. This is often the case with Christians: they lose their first love and become worldly, as had the church of Ephesus…in Revelation. The sermon develops this theme at length, speaking of the spiritual condition of worldly Christians who have lost their initial devotion. Apparently this was the way our preacher regarded many in his congregation; they were Christians who had lost their first love. Even at that, van Lodenstein insists on the irresistible nature of grace and the perseverance of the saints. He does not change his goodness nor revoke his covenant of peace. He still remains the sworn comforter of his bride.” (466)
We see from this a certain pastoral care Lodenstein felt for his congregation. He wanted to bring the Gospel’s message into the heart of the believer and strike a flame that would shock them out of their deadness. McKenzie illustrates how Lodenstein convicted his congregants saying, “Van Lodenstein did not shy away from mentioning specific sins…Calloused and unrepentant, the people were living as practical atheists. ‘A Reformed person who has the name but lacks the Spirit differs very little in practice from an atheist.” After diagnosing the causes of this, he told his hearers that all this was not intended to cause despair, but to thank God for what graces were present and humbly wait for Him ‘to blow His Spirit into the dead bodies so that they might live.” Seeing the spiritual deadness in our own time, one wonders on whether or not a Lodenstein is needed in the Reformed congregations this day. A Spiritual Appeal to Christ’s Bride a recent compilation of Lodenstein’s work translated into English stands as a testament to Lodenstein’s work today.
Another significant contribution of Jodocus van Lodenstein is in the area of hymnody and musical composition as well as devotional readings. Among the most well-read is his Uytspanningen en andere Gedigten of 1676. Lodensteins songs stand rich in content and communicate not only about the truths of the faith but the joys as well. Of the most famous of his songs stands “De Vrolijckheyd van ‘t Christen Leven,” which is loosely translated “the Mirth of the Life of a Christian” can be listened to below.
Not all of Lodenstein’s accomplishments have gained the same amount of praise. At one time he denied baptism because he believed that the church was too corrupt at at another time he advocated the celebration of the Sabbath on Saturday. (Slee) Regardless, Lodenstein still stands as a figure of the Reformation even when he sometimes takes in elements of the Radical Reformation.
Lodenstein passed away in Utrecht after years of faithful service in 1677. Today a school in the Netherlands bears his name.
McKenzie, Stanley K. “Reviving Dead Bones: Contours of Pietism in the Writings of Jodocus van Lodenstein and Philipp Spener.” 5.2 Puritan Reformed Journal. July 2013. 153-166. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.
Old, Hughes Oliphant. The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. Vol. 4: The Age of Reformation. (Eerdmans: Cambridge, 2002). Hosted on Google Books.
Schaff, Philip. “Lodenstein, Jodocus van.” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VII: Liutprand – Moralities. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 03 Oct 2013. Web. Accessed 18 Oct 2015.
Slee, Jacob Cornelis van. “Lodenstein, Jodocus” in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 19 (1884), S. 73-75 Web (text in German). 18 Oct 2015.