Dr. J. Faber Guido's Portrait - Dr. J. Faber


Taken from Clarion Vol. 47, No. 21, (1998)

On the occasion of the Graduation Exercises of Guido de fires High School on Friday October 24, 1997.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Principal, Esteemed audience and especially you, graduating class of 1997.

The topic of my commencement address is the portrait of Guido de Brès or in short "Guido's portrait." When Dr. Helder approached me with the honourable request to address you tonight, he did so for historical reasons. He reminded me of the fact that I was involved in the establishment of Guido de Brès High School two decades ago and that I functioned as the first chairman of its Education Committee.

At first we rented the dilapidated and nevertheless glorious Central High School downtown and then - o wonder - we received as a gift of God's mercy a brand new building here on Stone Church Road. Tonight we celebrate your graduation with the first festive reception in the spacious new addition to our facilities. It is again a historic moment for our Guido community and especially for you, graduating class of 1997.

Allow me at this occasion to tell you a story about the entrance of our school building.

The late brother Adri van Egmond was a member of the building committee and at a certain moment he approached me and said: "At the opening of the new facilities we as building committee want to present a portrait of Guido de Brès and we want to have it hung in the hall at the entrance. Could you please provide us with a portrait of Guido?"

Alas, I had to disappoint our enthusiastic brother. A portrait of Guido does not exist. We do not have a picture of the author of our Confession. Or rather let me qualify this statement. We do not have an original painting or drawing. We do not have a sixteenth century etching that portrays the author of our Belgic Confession. We do have what I call two "wanted posters" that give us a visual impression. You know, Guido de Brès the "glorious heretic," worked "underground" in a manner similar to what we did in Europe during the second world war. He was a fiery preacher of the gospel in a dangerous period in the sixteenth century, when true believers were being persecuted by the Spanish inquisition. He took another name and called himself not Guido but Jerome. He changed his appearance time and again. One night in the year 1561 he threw his printed confession and a handwritten letter in a package over the walls of the castle at Doornik. On 15 November of this same year someone gave a description of Guido to the commissioners in Doornik. Then on December 24 the government in Brussels wrote a letter to several towns and commanded that Guido be arrested. Again a description of the wanted preacher was attached. The broader written portrait begins with the words: "Description of a certain heretic preacher, formerly called Guy and now named Jerome." Let me give you, graduands, the authentic French words: "Description de certain heretique predicant, par ci-devant appele Guy, et presentement nomme Jerome." [1] Then the description follows: Said person is between 36 and 40 years of age. He is tall. He has a long, meagre and pale face. He has a beard, more reddish than black. He wears it sometimes long, sometimes short. He has high shoulders and wears a black coat with a worn collar. He often changes his address, his name and his clothes.

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All things serve man to the end that man may serve his God.


Today police would distribute a wanted poster with the sketch of the suspect drawn up by an artist. I could have given a description of Guido to the building committee and they could have ordered a fancy portrait. But it would still have been the product of fantasy.

Therefore, I proposed that the building committee would not present a virtual impression but a spiritual one, for instance, a quotation. A quotation can give you a sudden insight into a person. Sometimes certain words make an impression in your mind; they immediately click, so that you say: "Indeed, this is the way he or she was." The spoken or written word gives you a sharp spiritual portrait of the person himself. Therefore we chose a quotation from Article 12: ". . . that man may serve his God." In those words you hear Guido de Brès the student of Calvin, and what is even more, here you see Guido, the Reformed confessor. How many times, graduands, did you not see these words on that wooden plaque at the entrance, now even more splendidly displayed in the new addition?

Let us think for a moment about those words in the context of our confession of God's creation and providence: "We believe that the Father through the Word, that is, through His Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures, when it seemed good to Him, and that He has given to every creature its being, shape, and form, and to each its specific task and function to serve its Creator. We believe that He also continues to sustain and govern them according to His eternal providence and by His infinite power in order to serve man, to the end that man may serve his God."

Here you see the pyramid of creation: God created all things and sustains them in order to serve man. Man is the climax of God's creation. Think of Genesis 1 and Psalm 8: man created to be God's image, His vice-regent to have dominion over all things. But the top of the pyramid of creation points to the Creator Himself. All things exist in order to serve man. But this is not the ultimate goal, that all things serve man but this order is created to the end that man may serve his God.

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In the process of transmitting and receiving knowledge we may never forget that it should be serviceable knowledge.


You know, the word "man" here is generic; it means male and female, boy and girl, man and woman. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:28). Male and female, boys and girls, are called to serve God. "To serve" indicates that God is our Lord and Master. He has the say over us. We shall obey Him even into death, as Guido did when he died the death of a martyr in 1567. And "to serve" means to serve Him with all our heart. This service implies love. We may love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind.

". . . that man may serve his God." Let us underline also the word "his." God is not a tyrant; He is no stranger, He is our God, the God of the covenant that is now the covenant of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

". . . that man may serve his God." It is the first word of the covenant: that man may know the only true God, trust in Him alone, submit to Him with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honour Him with all his heart. In short, that he forsake all creatures rather than to do the least thing against His will.

". . . that man may serve his God." It is Guido's spiritual portrait. They were his words, but it is also our confession.

Graduands, we put those words at the entrance of our building as a mission statement. Teachers and students should know the purpose of Reformed education. When you entered the building, you and your teachers were daily reminded of the goal of teaching and learning. In the process of transmitting and receiving knowledge we may never forget that it should be serviceable knowledge. We seek knowledge that serves ourselves and helps us to serve our neighbour but in and above this, we strive for knowledge that makes us serve God, our God, the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ.

Graduands of 1997, an entrance is also an exit. If you leave tonight your festive commencement reception, it means you leave Guido de Brès High School. Look once again at the wooden plaque at the exit: ". . . that man may serve his God." Man - that was the first Adam. But thanks be to God, man - that is also the last Adam. Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve. He became the Servant of the Lord who suffered for our sake. Man - that was Guido who followed his Master. Man that is I and that is you, graduand of 1997. We let you go tonight with heartfelt congratulations. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. God has blessed your endeavours. But we do not let you go without a prayer for your entire life. It is this prayer: ". . . that you may serve your God." Thank you.

[1] See for the two descriptions E.M. Braekman, Guy de Brès I. Sa vie (Bruxelles: La librairie des eclateurs unionistes, 1860), 135f. The first description is quoted from L.A. van Langeraad, Guido de Bray, Zijn leven en werken (Zierikzee: S. Ochtman en zoon, 1884), 38; the second from W. Brulez, 'Nadere bijzonderheden over Guy de Bray' in Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis 66/2 (1953), 295.