Hercules Collins

Article Published in New Book on Heidelberg Catechism

This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume has recently been released to commemorate this important event in church history—Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma and Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from the German academic publisher, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, here.

In this 454 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 700 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work includes the following contribution co-authored by Michael A. G. Haykin and me: “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”

Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can order the English edition from Amazon.com (German edition) now.

John Smyth: Not the Founder of Baptists

John Smyth (c. 1570-1612) is an important figure in Baptist history, mainly because of his commitment to religious liberty, a believer’s church, and “baptism” of believers. He was not, however, the founder of Baptists (Wikipedia is wrong.). His baptism was not technically baptism as it was done by affusion (pouring) and he did this to himself (se-baptism). The seventeenth-century English Baptists  did not acknowledge Smyth as their founder or initiator of the practice of baptism. In his work on baptism published in 1691, Hercules Collins directly refuted the claim that the English Baptists had received their baptism from John Smyth. This refutation was made in response to the paedo-baptist Thomas Wall who had claimed in his book Baptism Anatomized that the current “English Anabaptists” had “successively received” their baptism from Smyth who had baptized himself.[1] In Believers-Baptism from Heaven, Collins asserted that the Baptist community of which he was a part had not, in fact, had their baptism passed down to them from Smyth. In refuting this charge, he referenced then living sources who knew better. In so doing, he charged Wall with falsehood in his derogatory accusation regarding the origin of Baptists.

How many Leaves hast thou spent in thy Book, in asserting and maintaining a Lie, and to cast Filth upon the holy Ways of the Lord? Could not the Ordinance of Christ, which was lost in the Apostacy, be revived, (as the Feast of Tabernacles was, tho lost a great while) unless in such a filthy way as you falsly assert, viz. that the English Baptists received their Baptism from Mr. John Smith? It is absolutely untrue, it being well known, by some yet alive, how false this Assertion is; and if J.W.[2] will but give a meeting to any of us, and bring whom he pleaseth with him, we shall sufficiently shew the Falsity of what is affirmed by him in this Matter, and in many other things he hath unchristianly asserted.[3]

Those “yet alive” would certainly have included William Kiffin (1616-1701) and possibly Hanserd Knollys (b. 1599), who did not die until September of 1691, the same year in which these words were published.[4]


[1]Thomas Wall, Baptism Anatomized (London: G. Croom, 1691), 106-8.

[2]For some reason, Collins calls Thomas Wall “John Wall” in his response. Cf. Collins, Believers-Baptism from Heaven (London, 1691), 108 and 114. Thus, the initials “J. W.” in this quote. This is all the more curious since the cover page and table of contents both use Thomas Walls. Perhaps it was an intentional slight to liken Walls with the infamous John Child with whom he compares him on p. 114.

[3]Collins, Believers-Baptism from Heaven, 114-15. Italics in the original.

[4]Knollys had attended the 1691 General Assembly held 2-8 June 1691. He died on September 17, 1691, in his ninety-third year. For more on Knollys, see Barry H. Howson, Erroneous and Schismatical Opinions: the Question of Orthodoxy Regarding the Theology of Hanserd Knollys (c. 15991691) (Leiden: Brill, 2001).

New Book on Heidelberg Catechism Celebrates 450th Anniversary

Next year (2013) marks the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism. This Protestant document was written in Heidelberg in 1563 on behalf of Frederick III, Elector Palatine and spread over the world when it was approved by the Synod of Dort in 1619. A new volume is being released next March to commemorate this important event in church history. Power of Faith: 450 Years of the Heidelberg Catechism, edited by Karla Apperloo-Boersma, Herman J. Selderhuis. See flyer from publisher here.

In this 440 page hardcover book, respected specialists in their fields present how the Heidelberg Catechism spread and influenced culture, education and ecclesiastical life. In addition to the text, over 250 pictures illustrate the contributions making an attractive volume for display. This work will include the following contribution from Michael A. G. Haykin and Steve Weaver “To ‘concenter with the most orthodox divines’: Hercules Collins and his An Orthodox Catechism—a slice of the reception history of the Heidelberg Catechism.”

Power of Faith is slated to be released in Dutch, English and German editions. You can preorder the English edition from Amazon.com (German edition).

This was also posted at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center.

Historians and Anniversaries

Historians love dates and anniversaries. If you look hard enough, you can always find a historical event to celebrate, or at least remember, every day of the year. In the newest issue (Summer 2012, 89) of the Founder’s Journal, Dr. Nettles writes in his editorial introduction about this propensity among historians and explains why anniversaries matter. He points to the fact that 2012 marks the anniversaries of such important events as the publication of Thomas Helwys’ The Mistery of Iniquity (1612), the passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662), and the departure of Adoniram and Ann Judson’s (along with Luther Rice) departure for India.

In addition to Dr. Nettles’ illuminating introduction, the journal also includes his address from the Founder’s Breakfast at this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The essay “‘Traditional’ Baptists Under the Microscope of History” offers Dr. Nettles’ perspective on the past, present and future of Southern Baptist theology.

Last and least, the journal also includes my essay on “Baptists and 1662” which was recently presented at a mini-conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. For an audio version of me reading my paper, click here. (Dr. Nettles also talks about the importance of Helwys here.)

The Founder’s Journal is now completely digital and the newest issue can be purchased as an ePub (for Apple iBooks, the Nook and other ePUB readers) or as mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). The price is $1.99. Past Issues of the journal are available free online in PDF format.

God’s Sovereignty, Foreknowledge, and Human Responsibility in the Death of Christ

God’s determination that Christ should die to save man, laid none under a necessity of sinning, but God foreknew what the malice of the Devil, Jews and Gentiles would be against this person to put him to death.  And God did determine not to prevent it, but suffer[1] it, because he knew how to bring glory to himself out of it.  It was necessary Christ should suffer.  God could not be mistaken in his foreknowledge, or come short of his determinate decree.  But this neither took away the liberty of Christ’s suffering, neither did it take away the liberty of the Jews, and their voluntariness in putting Christ to death.  God’s decree, Christ should suffer, did infallibly secure the event, but did not annihilate and destroy the liberty of the act, neither in Christ as aforesaid, who freely suffered himself, nor the Jews, who as freely and voluntary put him to death, as if there had been no decree of God at all about his death.[2]  The gardener’s foreknowledge that such seeds and roots will in the Spring produce such leaves and flowers, is no cause of their rise and appearance in Spring; but knowing the virtue of such roots, so concludes.  So God’s foreknowledge what wicked words would proceed from the root of a wicked heart concerning Christ’s death, is no more cause of those evil acts, than the gardener is the cause of the rise of such flowers in Spring from such roots, because he foreknew the nature of them.  God’s foreknowledge that Adam would fall, put him under no necessity of it, but ‘twas done voluntarily and freely.  Yet God foresaw infallibly he would fall, and God determined not to prevent it, knowing how to glorify himself by it.  So God’s foreknowledge of the Jews putting Christ to death, did not necessitate them to it, but done as freely as if it had not been foreknown, nor any determination of God about it.  Thus we have proved those acts of divine providence in time in the world, are the product of God’s eternal purposes.

From: Hercules Collins, Mountains of Brass: Or, A Discourse Upon the Decrees of God (London:  1689), 6-8.


[1] i.e., allow, let

[2] Mr. Charnock, on the Attributes.  This is a reference to Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) whose lectures at Crosby Hall in London on the attributes of God were transcribed after his death and are presently in print as The Existence and Attributes of God. Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 1996.  Collins is most likely referring to Charnock’s discussion of the relationship between God’s foreknowledge of man’s voluntary actions and man’s liberty of the will on pages 446-451 of the above volume.

Hercules Collins on the Jubilee of Heaven

In 1684 Hercules Collins penned a discourse from his prison cell in London’s notorious Newgate Prison. The occasion of this discourse upon Job 3:17-18 was the death of two of his fellow prisoners, Francis Bampfield and Zachary Ralphson. The purpose was to provide comfort to those like him who had been imprisoned for their religious convictions. Near the end of the discourse, Collins reflects upon the rest that all God’s people will experience in heaven. He writes:

after the Resurrection comes the day of Jubile; in the Jubile of old, upon the sound of the Trumpet, they were every man to return to their Possessions; so when the great Trumpet shall sound, and the Dead in Christ Rise first, we shall take Possession of our Eternal Inheritance, which Christ is gone to prepare and secure for us: this Jubile was to return of old, but once in fifty years, but in Heaven in glory, it’s all Jubile; in this year of Jubile, the Jews were not to Sow nor Reap, but it was to be a year of Rest unto them: O! when we enter upon our spiritual one, all our labouring under Sin, Suffering, Satanical Temptations, will have end, and we shall Rest from our Labours. This temporary Jubile continued but a year, and then to their Toyl and labour again; Oh but the Spiritual Jubile will be an Everlasting Eternal one, that Rest which remains for the people of God will know no end: (Counsel for the Living, Occasioned from the Dead, 32-33).

A 17th Century Missing Church Member

Somethings never change: I just came across the Latin phrase “non est inuentus” beside a name of a Brother Williams in the Wapping church roll from the 17th century. It is common to see the words “withdrawn from” or “deceased” in the margin, but this Latin phrase got my attention. It means “He has not been found.” We still have a lot of those today! Who says history can’t be fun?