This doctrinal standard of the Reformed Churches in the U.S. is named for its origin in the Southern Lowlands (Netherlands), now known as Belgium. Its chief author was Guido de Bres. Born at Mons in 1523, de Bres was converted to the evangelical faith through the diligent reading of the Bible. Under Philip II of Spain, an ally of the Romish Church, the believers in the Lowlands were sorely persecuted as revolutionaries. This Confession was written primarily as a testimony to the king to prove that the Reformed believers were law-abiding citizens who professed only those doctrines which were in harmony with Holy Scripture. First composed in 1559, a copy was sent to Philip II in which it was declared that these believers were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, although they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to fire, rather than deny the truth of God’s Word.”
The document was published in French in 1561. Its content is dependent to a great extent on the confession of the Reformed Churches in France, written chiefly by John Calvin and published two years earlier. The work of de Bres, however, was not a mere revision of that work, for it gives a more expanded treatment of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, and the Sacraments. Though the confession failed to stem the tide of persecution, it was instrumental in helping thousands understand the Reformed faith. Guido de Bres was eventually captured, and sealed his confession with martyr’s blood in 1567. His work has endured as an expression of the faith of a people suffering for Christ’s sake and will continue to serve as a means of instruction in the Reformed faith.
The Belgic Confession was adopted by the Reformed Church in the Netherlands at the Synod of Antwerp in 1566. After careful revision of the text, the great Synod of Dort in 1618–19 adopted this confession as one of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed churches, to which all office-bearers (ministers, elders, deacons, professors of theology, and schoolmasters) of the churches were required to subscribe. Its excellence as one of the best statements of Reformed doctrine has been generally recognized by all Reformed churches.