Monday, July 20, 2015

Bullinger on Foreknowedge and Predestination, Part 1

The doctrine of the foreknowledge and predestination of God, which hath a certain likeness with his providence, doth no less comfort the godly worshippers of God. They call foreknowledge that knowledge in God, whereby he knoweth all things before they come to pass, and seeth even present all things that are, have been, and shall be. For to the knowledge of God all things are present; nothing is past, nothing is to come. And the predestination of God is the eternal decree of God, whereby he hath ordained either to save or destroy men; a most certain end of life and death being appointed unto them. Whereupon also it is elsewhere called a fore-appointment. Touching these points some have diversely disputed; and many verily, curiously and contentiously enough; and in such sort surely, that not only the salvation of souls, but the glory of God also, with the simple sort is endangered. The religious searchers or interpreters of the scriptures confess, that here nothing is to be permitted to man's wit; but that we must simply and wholly hang upon whatsoever the scripture hath pronounced. And therefore these words of Paul are continually before their eyes and in their minds: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable (or incomprehensible) are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who was his counsellor? or who hath given unto him first, and he shall be recompensed?" [Rom. 11.] They never forget the admonition of the most wise man, Jesus Syrach, saying: "Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee; neither search after things which are too mighty for thee: but what God hath commanded thee, think thou always thereupon, and be not too curious in many of his works; for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that be secret." [Ecclus. 3.] In the mean time truly, they do not contemn neither yet neglect those things which it hath pleased God by the open scriptures to reveal to his servants touching this matter.

Of God's foreknowledge there are many testimonies, especially in the prophecy of Isaiah, chap. 41. and in the chapters following; whereby also the Lord doth declare that he is the true God. Furthermore, God by his eternal and unchangeable counsel hath fore-appointed who are to be saved, and who are to be condemned. Now the end or the decree of life and death is short and manifest to all the godly. The end of predestination, or fore-appointment, is Christ, the Son of God the Father. For God hath ordained and decreed to save all, how many soever have communion and fellowship with Christ, his only-begotten Son; and to destroy or condemn all, how many soever have no part in the communion or fellowship of Christ, his only Son. Now the faithful verily have fellowship with Christ, and the unfaithful are strangers from Christ. For Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians saith: "God hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundations of the world were laid, that we should be holy and without blame before him through love: who hath predestinate us into his sons through Jesus Christ into himself, according to the good pleasure of his will; that the glory of his grace may be praised, wherewith he is pleased with us in his beloved." Lo, God hath chosen us; and he hath chosen us before the foundations of the world were laid; yea, he hath chosen us, that we should be without blame, that is, to be heirs of eternal life: howbeit, in Christ, by and through Christ hath he chosen us. And yet again more plainer: he hath "predestinate us," saith he, "to adopt us into his sons," but by Christ; and that too hath he done freely, to the intent that to his divine grace glory might be given. Therefore whosoever are in Christ are chosen and elected: for John the apostle saith: "Whoso hath the Son hath life; whoso hath not the Son of God, hath not life." [1 John 5.] With the doctrine of the apostles agreeth that also of the gospel. For in the gospel the Lord saith: "This is the will of him that sent me, the Father; that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth in him, should have everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day." [John 6.] Lo, this is the will or eternal decree of God, saith he, that in the Son by faith we should be saved. Again, on the contrary part, touching those that are predestinate to death, the Lord saith: "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness more than light." [John 3.] Therefore, if thou ask me whether thou art elected to life, or predestinate to death; that is, whether thou art of the number of them that are to be damned, or that are to be saved; I answer simply out of the scripture, both of the evangelists and the apostles: If thou hast communion or fellowship with Christ, thou art predestinate to life, and thou art of the number of the elect and chosen: but if thou be a stranger from Christ, howsoever otherwise thou seem to flourish in virtues, thou art predestinate to death, and foreknowledged, as they say, to damnation. Higher and deeper I will not creep into the seat of God's counsel. And here I rehearse again the former testimonies of scripture: "God hath predestinate us, to adopt us into his sons through Jesus Christ. This is the will of God, that whoso believeth in the Son should live; and whoso believeth not should die." Faith therefore is a most assured sign that thou art elected; and whiles thou art called to the communion of Christ, and art taught faith, the most loving God declareth towards thee his election and good-will... 

God's predestination is not stayed or stirred with any worthiness or unworthiness of ours; but of the mere grace and mercy of God the Father, it respecteth Christ alone. And because our salvation doth stay only upon him, it cannot but be most certain. For they are wrong, that think those that are to be saved to life are predestinate of God for the merit's sake, or good works, which God did foresee in them. For notably saith the apostle Paul: "He hath chosen us in Christ into himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, that the glory of his grace might be praised." [Eph. 1.4-6.] And again: "It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God that sheweth mercy." [Rom. 9.16.] Again: "God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given unto us through Christ Jesus before the world was, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." [2 Tim. 1.9,10.] Freely therefore, of his mere mercy, not for our deserts, but for Christ's sake, and not but in Christ, hath he chosen us, and for Christ's sake doth embrace us, because he is our Father and a lover of men. Of whom also speaketh the prophet David: "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness. And as a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear him: for he knoweth whereof we be made, and remembereth that we are but dust." [Psalm 103.] Moreover, in the prophet Isaiah we read: "Can a woman forget her child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Though she should forget, yet will I not forget thee." [Isa. 49.] Truly, in Christ, the only-begotten Son of God exhibited unto us, God the Father hath declared what great store he setteth by us. Thereupon doth the apostle gather: "Who spared not his Son, but gave him for us all, how can it be that he should not also with him give us all things?" [Rom. 8.] What thing therefore should we not reckon upon and promise ourselves from so beneficial a Father? For thou canst not complain that he will not give unto thee his Son, or that he is not thine, who, as the apostle saith, was given for us all. Moreover, the Lord himself, crying out in the gospel, saith: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." And again to his disciples: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that shall believe, and be baptized, shall be saved." Whereupon also Paul saith: "God our Saviour will that all men shall be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth." [1 Tim. 2.] In old times long ago it was said to Abraham: "In thy Seed shall all the tribes (or nations) of the earth be blessed." [Gen. 22.] And Joel saith: "And it shall be, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." [Joel 2.] The which Peter also hath repeated in the Acts, chapter 2; and Paul to the Romans, chapter 10. Isaiah also saith: "We have all gone astray like sheep; we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all." And therefore durst Paul say: "As by the offence of one the fault came on all men to condemnation; even so also by the justification of one the benefit abounded towards all men, to the justification of life." [Rom. 5.] Therefore the Lord is read in the gospel to have received sinners and publicans with outstretched arms and embracings, adding moreover these words: "I came to seek that which was lost. Neither came I to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." [Matt. 9; Luke 19.] All which sayings do hitherto belong, that, being more narrowly weighed, they might confirm and establish us of God's good-will towards us, who in Christ hath chosen us to salvation: which salvation, truly, cannot but be most certain, and by all means undoubted; especially for that the Lord himself in the gospel saith: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand," &c. [John 10.]

From Bullinger's Decades: 4th Decade, Sermon 4

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