Classic Reformed Theology Volume One: William Ames, Sketch of the Christian's Catechism

The editorial board is pleased to announce the forthcoming publication the first volume of a new series of primary texts in Reformed theology, Classic Reformed Theology. Volume 1 is a translation of William Ames, A Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism. This volume is a collection of biblical-exegetical sermons guided by the Heidelberg Catechism. This volume is fascinating because it shows the vitality and diversity of catechetical preaching in the early seventeenth century. It provides a unique window into the theology, piety, and practice of early Reformed orthodoxy since it combines homiletics, catechesis, with the precise and vigorous theology of the period and moves the reader beyond the typical range (e.g. dogmatic theological) of texts usually studied.

With this volume we are commencing a new series, Classic Reformed Theology, about which Richard Muller writes,

This is an important project that promises to make available in good editions and translations a series of eminent works of Reformed theology from the era of orthodoxy. These volumes will offer students of the Reformed tradition an invaluable resource and will hopefully stimulate interest in the highly refined and carefully defined thought of an era that was formative of the Reformed faith and that assured its intellectual and spiritual vitality for later generations.

There are at least three reasons why classic Reformed theology ought to be studied and thus why this series of critical English translations should exist. First, Reformed orthodoxy forms the intellectual background of modern theology which can only be understood properly in light of its reaction to and rejection of Protestant orthodoxy. Second, Reformed orthodoxy obviously merits attention by those who identify with the Reformed confession; it is their heritage and thus shapes their theology, piety, and practice whether they realize it or not. Third, despite the disdain, disregard, and distortion which Reformed orthodoxy suffered during the Enlightenments in Europe, Britain, and North America, contemporary scholarship has shown that, whatever one’s view of the theology, piety, and practice of orthodoxy, on purely historical grounds it must be regarded as a vital intellectual and spiritual movement and thus a fascinating and important subject for continued study.  

 We call this series “Classic Reformed Theology” because, by definition, a period is classical when it defines an approach to a discipline. During the period of Protestant orthodoxy, Reformed theology reached its highest degree of definition and precision. It was then that the most important Reformed confessions were formed, and the Reformed churches took the form they have today. For these reasons, it is also it is more than surprising to realize that much of the most important literature from this period has been almost entirely ignored since mid-eighteenth century. As difficult as it may be for those in other fields to understand, the list of scholars who have extensive, firsthand knowledge of some of the most important primary texts in the study of Reformed orthodoxy (e.g., the major works of Olevianus, Polanus, Voetius, Cocceius, Heidegger, and van Mastricht, to name but a few) can be counted easily. Further, few of the texts from this period, even some of the most important texts, have been published in modern critical editions. Thus, until recently, even those with the ability and will to read the texts from the classical period of Reformed orthodoxy could do so only with difficulty since some of these texts are difficult to locate outside of a few libraries in Europe and Great Britain. Technological developments in recent years, however, are beginning to make these works more widely available to the academic community. Coinciding with the development of technology has been a growing interest in classic Reformed theology.

Finally, a word about the plan for this series. First, the series seeks to produce and provide critical English translations of some of the more important but generally neglected texts of the orthodox period. The series does not intend to be exhaustive, nor will it be repetitive of critical translations already available. Most of the texts appearing in this series will be translated for the first time. Presently, beyond Ames’ Skiagraphia, there several other other important volumes of Classic Reformed Theology planned for publication. Two volumes are presently being translated and prepared for future publication. It is the sincere hope of the editor and the board that at least one volume shall appear annually.

The editor thanks the members of the editorial board for their guidance, skill, and scholarship; the publisher for undertaking this series; and especially Jay T. Collier, Director of Publishing, for his tireless and outstanding work toward bringing this series from conception to reality. 

The editorial board:

General Editor

R. Scott Clark, Westminster Seminary California

Editorial Board

Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

J. Mark Beach, Mid America Reformed Seminary

W. Robert Godfrey, Westminster Seminary California

Michael S. Horton, Westminster Seminary California

Joel E. Kim, Westminster Seminary California

Herman Selderhuis, Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn

Paul R. Schaefer, Grove City College

Carl R. Trueman, Westminster Theological Seminary

The entire series introduction is available (PDF) online

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  1. Thank you so much for your dilligence.I am enjoying discovering the historical roots of protestantism.I am finding spiritual satisfaction in the reformed doctrines that I can’t find anywhere else,except in the scriptures.I am currently pastoring a charismatic church and am teaching these principles to the congregation!

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