CC Callenbach, a Reveille1 Preacher

Steven de Jeu ( discovered two articles on the internet over the ministry of CC Callenbach.
They were based on a book by W van der Zwaag, "Twelve reveille witnesses, Willem Bilderdijk and his kindred spirits". (Gebr. Koster 2003). Not all our members are familiar with the life of CCC and hence I decided to delve a bit and I quote from them (in italics).

Cornelis Callenbach was born on 28th January 1803 in Amsterdam. Politically it was a time of turmoil and socially there was great poverty. The young Callenbach went to study Theology at Leiden University…..It was in the book shop of Mensal that the young student CC Callenbach met Bilderdijk, the old poet. It was the start of a long and close friendship.

Bilderdijk played an important role in the Reveille movement which called for the restoration of the old Christian traditions and to practice this religion in daily life. The emphasis was on sin and conversion. It was "the cradle of the evangelical movement but it also introduced social involvement into the church" (Theo Veldhuis in

When Callenbach had accepted a call to the church in Kortenhoef he went to say farewell to Bilderdijk. He requested a blessing to take with him "after a short but fiery prayer, the old poet put his trembling hands on the head of the young and blushing postulant while he pronounced a heart-felt blessing". A real tight bond had developed which would persist until Bilderkijk’s death. Callenbach even named a son after him.

Callenbach married Catharina Hendrika Meerburg shortly after his arrival in Kortenhoef. She was a sister of George Frans Gezelle Meerburg. This very happy marriage produced seventeen children. Two of them also joined the clergy and three died in infancy. He was consecrated with the words of 2nd Corinthians 12 verse 9a "My Grace is sufficient for Thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness". During his three years at Kortenhoef he received many calls to other parishes indicating that he quickly became a beloved preacher. The people came from far and wide to hear him. The message he preached was not heard from every pulpit in the area. He was peace-loving by character and this is evidenced by his later life.

Although Callenbach’s services are being supported by large congregations the Mayor of the town is forced to concede that it consists predominantly of the lower classes. These people are prepared to travel between two and three hours to go to his church, but the Mayor is of the opinion that there is a bit of a schism in the Dutch Reform Church and that as a result the social services for the poor could become a casualty.

Criticism comes from other directions as well. In an official prayer he was quoted as saying; "that the King would experience a conversion". For these reasons there are those who would like to see Callenbach move to an area where he would be less harmful. …..

Callenbach does not quite know how to handle the formulated prayers so he asks Bilderdijk. He replies that formulated prayers can be useful when one is unable to pray and they can console and encourage us. But "the Lord’s prayer distinguishes itself from all other formulated prayers in that it is always applicable in every circumstance."

In 1828 he is called to Nijkerk. Permission was not immediately granted because Callenbach was known as a supporter of Bilderdijk and he had publicly declared his opposition to small pox vaccinations. Bilderdijk had said in this regard; "God preserve us that we should recommend a vaccine and thereby misuse the Church’s pulpit and the position of a servant of God. Never the less anything is possible for Christians in these despicable times of restraint of conscience."

At this time there was a ‘Revival Movement’ in Nijkerk. A revival begins with a deep conviction of sin centred on the Crucifixion of Christ. That realisation brought people to conversion. Evidently this movement also had influence on church attendance. Many people came to listen to Callenbach. It was believed that more than 2000 people would be packed into the Great Church. The congregation blossomed as never before. Together more than 1000 people.* The ministers were not opposed to the Movement and sometimes even provided leadership. The catch-cry was "Nijkerk is no longer the old Nijkerk"……
The Reverend HH Donker Curtius, who was at that time the Minister in Arnhem and also Chairman of the Synod of the Dutch Reform Church, was not happy with the events in Nijkerk and he was scared that the Movement would spread further a field. The ministerial fraternity in Nijkerk did try very hard to kick the Revival Movement and the accompanying upheaval and the internal paper-war out of the newspapers. But they were unsuccessful in this regard. In an alarming letter Donker Curtius writes; "they say that there are people who drop down in the middle of the street to pray". In another letter he proclaims; "but so long as the Veluwe
2 is not cleansed of a click of miserable preachers, we will always have trouble."

During this time (1834) there was schism in which congregations of the Dutch Reform Church separate themselves from the Church. They perceived that the Church had departed from its origins. The Rev. DeCock was one of them. During a voyage….the Rev. Hendrik DeCock paid…Callenbach a visit. He spent the night there. After a few days Callenbach accompanied him on a trip to Utrecht where they paid a visit to Kohlbrugge. It was then that De Cock said; "Callenbach, we are of one spirit, why don’t you join us." Callenbach replied;"Yes, DeCock we are of one spirit. But if your mother prostitutes herself she remains your mother. That is why I can’t join you and leave her."
This schism, while not affecting the Veluwe did serious affect the areas of Heusden and Altena. This latter area was where Callenbach’s brother-in-law was the preacher. Why did Callenbach not join the schism? JC Rullmann thinks that he was too timid by nature to make a choice for the schism. But one can question whether this is true. To be faithful to the Church of the fore-fathers sometimes required as much courage as participating in a schism.

Callenbach maintained very cordial relations with the irenish3 minded Gezelle Meerburg, the Melanchton4 of the schism, till the end of his life. (He was his brother-in-law). A child was named after him. He was quite open in his sympathy for the brothers in the schism. He would do that, for instance, in a sermon entitled; "Blessed are those who are prosecuted". The sermon was published in print and that resulted in requests to lead services of the congregations in the schism.

…Although Callenbach did not join the schism, the serious concerns remain. Together with other representatives of the Reveille he continued to struggle for a return to the basic principles of the Church."….

Callenbach also maintained a correspondence with Groen van Prinsterer5. Callenbach was also a contributor to the periodical The Society Christian Voices6, the magazine which was published weekly by "Christian Friends".
It is nice to read the correspondence between Isaac da Costa
7 and Abraham Capadose8 where we read that "the esteemed brother Kallenbach and his most charming wife" had stayed with Capadose. "We have spent those days in the company of the Kallenbach friends with much harmonising of our hearts and intense pleasure. He is childlike, full of love, full of trust, and even though one could say that he lacks deep insights and especially an understanding of the current state of affairs, certainly his real evangelical attitude, childlike faith, solidly founded, and trust in his share of Christ’s expiatory sacrifice, has been very useful and a source of great happiness. "
Capadose, the judge of men, refers more than once in his correspondence to the "dear" or "sweet" Callenbach. "Callenbach is a person one has to love for his childlike faith and his spontaneous affection. He is not a great intellectual, however he is well versed in the matters of salvation and his ministry may be blessed. We heard him deliver two excellent sermons but he has no skill to talk to the novices."
There were three Sunday services in Nijkerk, in the morning 2000 people, in the afternoon 1200, and at 5 in the evening, again 2000. Callenbach has lived in Nijkerk for a total of 23 years. One of the first Christian schools was founded in Nijkerkerveen, which both civilly and church wise was under the jurisdiction of the town Nijkerk, it was often referred to as the "Reveille School". This village was particularly poor; the majority were illiterate and lived in huts. Callenbach took this situation to heart and did not pass these poor dwellings by because the spiritual and moral situation left much to be desired. With the help of some well situated friends Callenbach managed to found a little school there. It was opened on the 6th April 1847. From 1850 Johannes van Noort was the master of this school. A rich noble lady, Mrs. Van der Burch van Spieringshoek, founded a sewing and knitting school for girls.
In 1856 Callenbach’s wife died after he had just recovered from a serious illness himself. That was on the eve of their thirtieth wedding anniversary. In 1861 Callenbach accepted a call from the church in Elburg. (A small town about 10 miles north-east of Nijkerk). Not all in Nijkerk were upset that he was leaving. There were members of the congregation who relied on revelations outside the Scriptures and followed their own experiences and emotions.
Callenbach served the congregation in Elburg for six years. Health reasons to seek retirement in 1867. He moved to Valburg near Elst and that is where he died on 25th October 1873. He was accompanied by seven of his daughters five of whom never married. His name lives on in the name of the publishing firm (founded by his son) which is based in Nijkerk.

Gégé Callenbach (

1. The Reveille (the wake-up call) was a movement of fundamentalist protestant Christians, led by the famous Dutch poet Willem Bilderdijk. CC Callenbach was a member of this group.
2. The Veluwe is the district around Nijkerk.
3. Irenish – those in the Church who have an aversion to theological battles and try to affect reconciliation with their opponents.
4. Melanchton – the Professor and theologian at the Wittenberg University, who became Luther’s most trusted colleague.
5. Groen van Prinsterer – was a theologian and a Parliamentarian and the founder of the Christian Democrats in the Netherlands.
6. The word for Voices and Votes are one and the same in Dutch, ie stemmen.
7. da Costa was a protestant Christian Poet, whose work had a profound religious content.
8. Capadose was a medical doctor. Both da Costa and Capadose were Jewish coverts to Christianity and members of the Reveille movement.

(This article was first published in the family-magazine "The Prophet of the Velue", nr. 74, autumn 2006)