Sometimes called the Father of the Afscheiding, Hendrik de Cock was born in Veendam, Groningen, the Netherlands on April 12, 1801. de Cock graduated from the University of Groningen in 1823 and was soon called to serve the Hervormde Kerk in Eppenhuizen, Groningen.
de Cock, a modernist, served this church until 1827, when he became pastor of the church in Noordlaren, Groningen. In 1829, de Cock began to serve the congregation in Ulrum, Groningen.
It was here that de Cock's life would be transformed. The modernist minister was unsure how to deal with the uneducated, pietist congregation, but he longed to faithfully pastor the flock. A minister in a neighboring village introduced de Cock to Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, and de Cock was so impressed that he borrowed the Institutes for his own study.
Soon de Cock was exposed to the Canons of Dort and writings of early Dutch Reformed theologians. It was through reading De Eenige Redding (The Only Salvation) by Cornelis Baron van Zuylen van Nijveldt that his eyes were opened to the gospel.
Needless to say, de Cock's preaching was impacted by his discoveries, which put him at odds with the majority in the Hervormde Kerk. However, his preaching also attracted growing crowds to the small church in Ulrum.
What really caused problem was that a lot of pietists didn't want to profess their faith or have their children baptized by anyone but an evangelical pastor. These people asked that de Cock baptize their children, and after consulting with the Ulrum consistory, de Cock agreed to do so.
It was this, not his pietistic preaching or revival of the traditional Reformed faith, the brought him before Classis. de Cock asked for the right to defend himself from Scripture, but Classis refused. In an illegal meeting held on Dec. 13, 1833, de Cock was suspended from office.
de Cock submitted to the authority of Classis and suspended his preaching while his case was appealed. During this time another charge was levied against de Cock, who had written a preface for a pamphlet attacking the evangelical hymns used in the Hervormde Kerk as lightweight. de Cock believed that the church should sing only hymns in worship.
Less than a year after his suspension, on Oct. 13, 1834, the congregation at Ulrum seceded from the Hervormde Kerk and reinstated de Cock to the pastorate. The next day they signed an Act of Secession or Return, and other churches soon followed their example. Within two years, the movement had over 120 congregations.
In 1816, the Reformed churches has been reorganized under the authority of William I and become the Hervormde Kerk or Reorganized Church (before this, they had been known as the Gereformeered Kerken or Reformed Churches). Because of this official affiliation with the state, the Dutch government could persecute the seceders.
Some pastors were arested and jailed. The king resurrected an old Napoleanic law to forbid meetings of over 20 people. And in areas where the Afscheiding was strong, the Dutch army bileted soldiers with seceder families - often poor ones that could ill afford to feed them.
Religious persecution continued until 1841.
In 1837, Hendrik de Cock was called to serve the Gereformeerde Kerk in Groningen, which he served humbly until his death on November 14, 1842.