The Pearl of Christian Comfort, Petrus Dathenus. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2005. Paperback, 87 pages, $10.00.
Whether we realize it or not, we Reformed folk owe a huge debt to Petrus Dathenus (1531-1588). Whenever we gather for worship in our churches, we sing the Psalms on tunes that Dathenus was instrumental in spreading around Europe. Most of our liturgical forms were put together by Dathenus. Through his Dutch translation, Dathenus was responsible for introducing the Heidelberg Catechism to the Reformed churches of the Netherlands. Our church order, too, is largely based on work by Dathenus and others.
Before becoming Reformed, Dathenus was a Carmelite monk in what is today Belgium. Some of the Carmelites became sympathetic to the Reformation — and were burned at the stake for it. This made an impression on Dathenus and was part of the means by which God converted him. He went on to become a Reformed pastor.
This is an important little (87 pages) book by Dathenus. It was originally written to instruct and comfort “all troubled hearts who are not properly able to distinguish between the law and the gospel.” It takes the form of a dialogue between Dathenus and a young woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth has just come back from church and is depressed because of what she heard. The minister preached the curse of the law and this left Elizabeth in despair. Through the course of the book, Dathenus shows how the law is necessary (it points to Christ and guides our thankfulness), but also how the gospel really is good news for sinners.
The beauty of this book is in its simplicity. It’s not a complicated theological book, but a simple, warm pastoral conversation. More than that, this little book is packed with Scripture and points to the hope of the gospel. That makes it truly a “pearl” of Christian comfort. Highly recommended!