Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bullinger on Foreknowledge and Predestination, Part 2

I know what here again doth sting and grieve the minds of many. "The chosen sheep," say they, "of Christ, do know Christ's voice; and, being endued with a steadfast faith, stick in Christ inseparably, since they have felt that drawing, whereof the Lord speaketh in the gospel: 'No man cometh to me, unless my Father draw him:' as for me, as I feel no such manner of drawing, so do I not with a full and perfect faith stick in the Son of God." First of all, verily, true faith is required of the elect: for the elect are called; and being called, they receive their calling by faith, and frame themselves like him that called them. "He that believeth not is already condemned." Whereupon also Paul saith: "God is the Saviour of all men, specially of the faithful." [1 Tim. 4.] Furthermore, unless we be drawn of the heavenly Father, we cannot believe. And we must be very careful, lest we, conceiving vain opinions of that divine drawing, neglect the drawing itself. God verily drew Paul violently, but he doth not draw all unto him by the hair. [Acts 9.] There are also other ways of drawing, by which God draweth man unto him; but he doth not draw him like a stock or a block. The apostle Paul saith: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." [Rom. 10.] God therefore doth then draw thee, when he preacheth unto thee the gospel by his servants; when he toucheth thy heart; when he stirreth thee to prayer, whereby thou mayest call and cry for his grace and assistance, his enlightening and drawing. When thou feelest these things in thy mind, I would not wish thee to look for another drawing: despise not thou grace offered, but use it whiles time present serveth, and pray for the increase of grace. For to greater and perfecter things thou aspirest godlily afterwards; in the mean space, there is no cause why thou shouldest despise the lesser. In the gospel after Matthew they receive larger riches, who, having received but a few talents, occupied the same faithfully: but he that despised the talent wherewith he was put in credit, and cloaked his slothfulness with I wot not what care, is greatly accused; yea, he is spoiled of the money which was once given him, and is thrown into everlasting torments, being bound with bonds of condemnation. [Matt. 25.] For the Lord pronounceth generally: "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." He hath, who acknowledgeth, magnifieth, and reverenceth the grace of God: to his heap of graces more is added, so that it is made more abundant. He hath not, which doth not acknowledge the gifts of God, and imagineth other, I cannot tell of what kind; in the mean time he doth not put in use the grace received, and which is present. And these are wont to use excuses, that that drawing came not to them as yet; and that it is a matter very dangerous to use occupying, or to make merchandise, of the gifts of God. But Paul, judging far otherwise, saith: "So we as workers together beseech you, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." [2 Cor. 6.] And to Timothy: "I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee." [2 Tim. 1.] Not that without God we are able to do any thing of ourselves, but that the Lord requireth our endeavour, which notwithstanding is not without his assistance and grace. For truly saith the selfsame apostle: "God worketh in us both to will and to do even of his good pleasure." [Phil. 2.] Again: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves: but all our sufficiency is of God." [2 Cor. 3.]

Furthermore, I wish not any man to despair, if by and by he feel and try not in his mind a most ripe and perfect faith. The gospel saith: "Of her own accord doth the earth bring forth fruit; first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards full corn in the ear." [Mark 4.] For so likewise hath faith her increasings; and therefore did the very apostles of the Lord pray: "Lord, increase our faith." Furthermore, in Mark truly a woeful man crieth unto our Saviour: "If thou canst do anything, Lord, have compassion upon us, and help us." [Mark 9.22. &c.] But he heard the Lord straightways saying unto him: "If thou canst believe it, all things are possible to him that believeth." And this silly soul cried out: "I believe, Lord; help mine unbelief." Lo, this woeful wretch believed, feeling in his mind faith given him of God, which notwithstanding he perceived to be so weak, that he stood in need of God's help and aid. He prayeth therefore, "help mine unbelief," that is, my faith, which, if it be compared with an absolute and perfect faith, may seem but unbelief. But hear, I beseech you, what this faith, how little soever it was, wrought and brought to pass; what an humble mind and hanging upon the only mercy of God was able to do. For straightways he healed the child of the woeful father; and, being restored unto health, and as it were raised up from the dead, giveth him again to his faithful father. If any therefore doth feel faith in his mind, let him not despair, although he know that it is weak enough, God wot, and feeble: let him cast himself wholly upon God's mercy; let him presume very little, or nothing at all, of his own merits and strength; let him pray incessantly for the increase of faith. In which purpose verily the words of our Saviour, very full of comfort, out of the gospel, may confirm and strengthen any man most wholesomely: "Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For whosoever asketh, receiveth: and whosoever seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Is there any man among you, who, if his son ask him bread, will give him a stone? or, if he ask fish, will give him a serpent? If you therefore, which are evil, can give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things, even the Holy Ghost itself, if you shall ask of him?" [Matt. 7; Luke 11.] These and such like sayings, set forth unto us in the holy gospel for our consolation, ought more to move and establish our minds of the good, yea, the right good-will of God towards us than the eggings of the devil, wherewith he goeth about not only to overwhelm the hope of our election, but to make us suspect and doubt of God, as though he had his creature in hatred, whom he had rather have destroyed than saved. But he is well enough known to the saints by his subtilties and trains; for so he deceived our first parents. [Gen. 3.] Let us keep it deeply printed in our breasts, that God hath chosen us in Christ, and for Christ his sake predestinate us to life; and that therefore he giveth and increaseth faith to Christ-ward in them that ask it; and that it is he that puts it in our hearts. For all things that tend to our salvation come from the grace of God; nothing is ours but reproach and shame.

These things, brethren, thus far have I laid before you concerning the marvelous and wonderful work of the creation wrought by the eternal, true, and living God, without any trouble (doubtless) or pains-taking. "For he spake the word, and they were made. He commanded, and they were created." A little we have added touching the most wise and excellent governing of all things by God's divine providence, which is always just and most righteous: likewise of God's good-will towards us; of predestination; and certain other points unto these belonging. All these things truly have we rehearsed, to beautify the glory and knowledge of God our creator; to whom both the perpetual and universal course of nature, as well of things invisible as also visible, beareth witness; whom the angels worship, the stars wonder at, the seas bless, the earth reverenceth, and all infernal things behold; whom the mind of every man feeleth, albeit it doth not express him; at whose beck all things are moved, the springs cast forth their streams, rivers decrease, the waves arise aloft, all things bring forth their increase, the winds are forced to blow, showers to fall, seas to rage, all things in all places to deliver abroad their fruitfulness; who planted a peculiar garden of felicity for our first parents, gave them a commandment, and pronounced sentence against their sin; delivered righteous Noah from the dangers of the deluge; translated Enoch into the fellowship of his friendship; did choose Abraham to himself; defended Isaac; increased Jacob; appointed Moses the captain over his people; set free from the yoke of bondage the groaning children of Israel; wrote a law; brought the offspring of the fathers into the land of promise; instructed his prophets with his Spirit, and by all these promised his only-begotten Son again; and at the same instant that he had promised to give him hath sent him; through whom also he would be acquainted and come in knowledge with us; and hath poured forth upon us all his heavenly graces.

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

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