Bullinger’s Sermon on the Word of God

In Doctrine of Scripture, Providential Preservation by William SandellLeave a Comment

Of The Word Of God; The Cause Of It; And How, And By Whom, It Was Revealed To The World.


ALL the decrees of Christian faith, with every way how to live rightly, well, and holily, and finally, all true and heavenly wisdom, have always been fetched out of the testimonies, or determinate judgments, of the word of God; neither[1] can they, by those which are wise men indeed, or by the faithful and those which are called by God to the ministry of the churches, be drawn, taught, or, last of all, soundly confirmed from elsewhere, than out of the word of God. Therefore, whosoever is ignorant what the word of God, and the meaning of the word of God is, he seemeth to be as one blind, deaf, and without wit, in the temple of the Lord, in the school of Christ, and lastly, in the reading of the very sacred scriptures. But whereas[2] some are nothing zealous, but very hardly drawn to the hearing of sermons in the church; that springeth out of no other fountain than this, which is, because they do neither rightly understand, nor diligently enough weigh, the virtue and true force of the word of God. That nothing therefore may cause the zealous desirers of the truth and the word of God to stay on this point;[3] but rather that that estimation of God’s word, which is due unto it, may be laid up in all men’s hearts; I will (by God’s help) lay forth unto you, dearly beloved, those things which a godly man ought to think and hold, as con cerning the word of God. And pray ye earnestly and con tinually to our bountiful God, that it may please him to give to me his holy and effectual power to speak, and to you the opening of your ears and minds, so that in all that I shall say the Lord’s name may be praised, and your souls be profited abundantly.

First, I have to declare what the word of God is. Verbum in the scriptures, and according to the very property of the Hebrew tongue, is diversely taken. For it signifieth what thing soever a man will; even as among the Germans the word ding is most largely used. In St Luke, the angel of God saith to the blessed virgin: “With God shall no word[4] be unpossible;” which is all one as if he had said, all things are possible to God, or to God is nothing unpossible. Verbum, also signifieth a word uttered by the mouth of man. Sometime it is used for a charge, sometime for a whole sentence, or speech, or prophecy: whereof in the scriptures there are many examples. But when verbum is joined with any thing else, as in this place we call it verbum Dei, then[5] is it not used in the same signification. For verbum Dei, “the word of God,” doth signify the virtue and power of God: it is also put for the Son of God, which is the second person in the most reverend Trinity. For that saying of the holy evangelist is evident to all men, “The word was made flesh”(John 1:14). But in this treatise of ours, the word of God doth properly signify the speech of God, and the revealing of God’s will; first of all uttered in a lively-expressed voice by the mouth of Christ, the prophets and apostles; and after that again registered in writings, which are rightly called “holy and divine scriptures.” The word doth shew the mind of him out of whom it cometh: therefore the word of God doth make declaration of God. But God of himself naturally speaketh truth; he is just, good, pure, immortal, eternal: therefore it followeth that the word of God also, which cometh out of the mouth of God, is true, just, without deceit and guile, without error or evil affection, holy, pure, good, im mortal, and everlasting. For in the gospel saith the Lord, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). And the apostle Paul saith, “The word of God is not tied” (2 Tim. 2:9). Again, the scripture everywhere crieth: “The word of the Lord endureth for ever” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). And Salomon saith: “Every word of God is purely cleansed. Add thou nothing to his words, lest peradventure he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5,6). David also saith: “The sayings of the Lord are pure sayings, even as it were silver cleansed in the fire, and seven times fined from the earth” (Psalm 12:6).

This you shall more fullv perceive, dearly beloved, if I speak somewhat more largely of the cause or beginning, and certainty, of the word of God. The word of God is truth: but God is the only well-spring of truth: therefore God is the beginning and cause of the word of God. And here indeed God, since he hath not members like to mortal men, wanteth also a bodily mouth: yet nevertheless, because the mouth is the instrument of the voice, to God is a mouth attributed. For he spake to men in the voice of a man, that is, in a voice easily understood of men, and fashioned according to the speech usually spoken among men. This is evidently to be seen in the things wherein he dealt with the holy fathers, with whom, as with our parents Adam and Eva, Noe, and the rest of the fathers, he is read to have talked many and oftentimes. In the mount Sina the Lord himself preached to the great congregation of Israel, rehearsing so plainly, that they might understand those ten commandments, wherein is contained every point of godliness. For in the fifth of Deuteronomy thus we read: “These words,” meaning the ten commandments, “spake the Lord with a loud voice, from out of the midst of the fire, to the whole congregation” (Deut. 5:22). And in the fourth chapter: “A voice of words you heard, but no similitude did you see beside the voice” (Deut. 4:8). God verily used oftentimes the means of angels, by whose ministry he talked with mortal men. And it is very well known to all men, that the Son of God the Father, being incarnate, walked about in the earth; and, being very God and man, taught the people of Israel almost for the space of three years.[6] But in times past, and before that the Son of God was born in the world, God, by little and little, made himself acquainted with the hearts[7] of the holy fathers, and after that with the minds of the holy prophets; and last of all, by their preaching and writings, he taught the whole world. So also Christ our Lord sent the Holy Ghost, which is of the Father and the Son, into the apostles, by whose mouths, words, and writings he was known to all the world. And all these servants of God, as it were the elect vessels of God, having with sincere hearts received the revelation of God from God himself, first of all, in a lively expressed voice delivered to the world the oracles and word of God which they before had learned; and afterward, when the world drew more to an end, some of them did put them in writing for a memorial to the posterity. And it is good to know how, and by whom, all this was done: for by this narration the true cause, certainty, and dignity of the word of God doth plainly appear.

There are not extant to be seen the writings of any man, from the beginning of the world, until the time of Moses, which are come to our knowledge; although it be likely that that same ancient and first world was not altogether without all writings. For by St Jude, the apostle, and brother of St James, is cited the written prophecy of our holy father Enoch, which is read to have been the seventh from our father Adam (Jude 14, 15). Furthermore, the writing, or history, of Job seemeth to have been set forth a great while before. But howsoever it is, all the saints in the church of God give to Moses, the faithful servant of God, the first place among the holy writers.

From the beginning therefore of the world, God, by his Spirit and the ministry of angels, spake to the holy fathers; and they by word of mouth taught their children, and children’s children, and all their posterity, that which they had learned at the mouth of God; when they verily had heard it, not to the intent to keep it close to themselves, but also to make their posterity partakers of the same. For God oftentimes witnesseth, that “he will be the God of the fathers and of their seed for evermore” (Gen. 17:7). This is most plainly to be seen in the history of Adam, Noe, and Abraham, the first and great grandfathers.[8] In the eighteenth of Genesis, verily, we read, that the angel of God, yea, and that more is, that even the Lord himself, did say to Abraham: “And shall I hide from Abraham what I mind to do? since of Abraham shall come a great and mighty people, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? And this I know, that he will command his children and his posterity after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice, judgment” (Gen. 18:17-19), and the rest. Abraham therefore, a faithful and zealous worshipper of God, did not (even as also those old fathers of the first world did not) wax negligent at all herein, but did dili gently teach men the will and judgments of God: whereupon of Moses, yea, and of God himself, he is called a prophet (Gen. 20:7). That devout and lively tradition of the fathers, from hand to hand, was had in use continually, even from the beginning of the world until the time of Moses.

Moreover, God of his goodness did provide that no age at any time should be without most excellent lights, to be witnesses of the undoubted faith, and fathers of great authority. For the world before the deluge had in it nine most excellent, most holy, and wise men; Adam, Seth, Enos, Kenam, Malaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methusalem, and Lamech. The chief of these, Adam and Methusalem, do begin and make an end of all the sixteen hundred and fifty-six years[9] of the world before the deluge. For Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years (Gen. 5:5): he dieth therefore the seven hundred and twenty-sixth year before the flood. And Methusalem lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years (Gen. 5:27): he dieth in the very same year that the flood did overflow; and he lived together with Adam two hundred and forty-three years, so that of Adam he might be abundantly enough instructed as concerning the beginning of things, as concerning God, the falling and restoring again of mankind, and all things else belonging to religion, even as he was taught of God himself. These two fathers, with the rest above named, were able sufficiently enough to instruct the whole age in the true salvation and right ways of the Lord.

After the deluge God gave to the world again excellent men, and very great lights. The names of them are Noe, Sem, Arphaxad, Sale, Heber, Palec, Reu, Saruch, Nachor, Thare, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Here have we thirteen most excellent patriarchs, among whom the first two, Noe and Sera, are the chief; next to whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were more notable than the rest. Noe lived nine hundred and fifty years in all. He was six hundred years old when the flood drowned the world (Gen. 7:6). He therefore saw and heard all the holy fathers of the first world before the deluge, three only excepted, Adam, Seth, and Enos. And also he lived many years together with the other, which had both seen and heard them; so that he could be ignorant in no point of those things which Adam had taught. Noe dieth (which is marvel to be told, and yet very true) in the forty-ninth year of Abraham’s age.[10] Sem, the son of Noah, lived many years with his father; for he lived in all six hundred years. He was born to Noah about ninety-six years before the deluge. He saw and heard, therefore, not only his father Noe and his grandfather Lamech, but also his great grandsire Methusalem, with whom he lived those ninety-six years before the deluge. Of him he might be informed of all those things which Methusalem had heard and learned of Adam and the other patriarchs. Sem dieth, after the death of Abraham, in the fifty-second year of Jacob, which was thirty-seven years after the death of Abraham, in the year one hundred and twelve of Isaac’s age: so that Jacob, the patriarch, might very well learn all the true divinity of Sem himself, even as he had heard it of Methusalem, who was the third witness and teacher from Adam. Furthermore, Jacob the patriarch delivered to his children that which he, received of God[11] to teach to his posterity. In Mesopotamia there is born to Jacob his son Levi, and to him again is born Kahad,[12] which both saw and heard Jacob. For Kahad lived no small number of years with his grandfather Jacob; for he is rehearsed in the roll of them which went with Jacob down into Egypt (Gen. 46:11): but Jacob lived seventeen years with his children in Egypt. This Kahad is the grandfather of Moses, the father of Amram, from whom Moses did perfectly draw that full and certain tradition by hand, as concerning the will, commandments, and judgments of God, even as Amram his father had learned them of his father Kahad, Kahad of Jacob, Jacob of Sem, Sem of Methusalem and of Adam the first father of us all: so now that Moses is from Adam the seventh witness in the world. And from the beginning of the world to the birth of Moses are fully complete two thousand three hundred and sixty-eight years of the world. And whosoever shall diligently reckon the years, not in vain set down by Moses in Genesis and Exodus, he shall find this account to be true and right.[13]

Now also it behoveth us to know those chief principles of that lively tradition, delivered by the holy fathers at the appointment of God, as it were from hand to hand, to ail the posterity. The fathers taught their children that God, of his natural goodness, wishing well to mankind, would have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth, and to be like in nature to God himself, holy, happy, and absolutely blessed: and therefore that God, in the beginning, did create man to his own similitude and likeness, to the intent that he should be good, holy, immortal, blessed, and partaker of all the good gifts of God; but that man continued not in that dignity and happy state; but by the means of the devil, and his own proper fault, fell into sin, misery, and death, changing his likeness to God into the similitude of the devil. Moreover, that God here again, as it were, of fresh began the work of salvation, whereby mankind, being restored and set free from all evil, might once again be made like unto God; and that he meant to bring this mighty and divine work to pass by a certain middle mean, that is, by the Word incarnate. For as, by this taking of flesh, he joined man to God; so, by dying in the flesh, with sacrifice he cleansed, sanctified, and delivered mankind; and, by giving him his Holy Spirit, he made him like again in nature to God, that is, immortal, and absolutely blessed. And last of all, he worketh in us a willing endeavour aptly to resemble the property and conditions of him to whose likeness we are created, so that we may be holy both body and soul. They added moreover, that the Word should be incarnate in his due time and appointed age; and also, that there did remain a great day for judgment, wherein, though all men were gathered together, yet the righteous only should receive that reward of heavenly immortality.

So then, this is the brief sum of the holy fathers’ tradition, which it is best to untwist more largely, and to speak of it more diligently, as it were by parts. First, therefore, the fathers taught, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one God in the most reverend Trinity, the maker and governor of heaven and earth and all things which are therein; by whom man was made, and who for man did make all things, and put all things under mankind, to minister unto him things necessary, as a loving Father and most bountiful Lord. Then they taught, that man consisted of soul and body, and that he indeed was made good according to the image and likeness of God; but that by his own fault, and egging forward of the devil, falling into sin, he brought into the world death and damnation, together with a web of miseries, out of which it cannot rid itself: so that now all the children of Adam, even from Adam, are born the sons of wrath and wretchedness; but that God, whose mercy aboundeth, according to his in comprehensible goodness, taking pity on the misery of mankind, did, even of his mere grace, grant[14] pardon for the offence, and did lay the weight of the punishment upon his only Son, to the intent that he, when his heel was crushed by the serpent, might himself break the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15): that is to say, God doth make a promise of seed, that is, of a Son, who, taking flesh of a peerless woman, (I mean, that virgin most worthy of commendations,) should by his death vanquish death and Satan, the author of death; and should bring the faithful sons of Adam out of bondage; yea, and that more is, should by adoption make them the sons of God, and heirs of life everlasting. The holy fathers, therefore, taught to believe in God, and in his Son, the redeemer of the whole world; when in their very sacrifices they did present his death, as it were an unspotted sacrifice, wherewith he meant to wipe away and cleanse the sins of all the world.

And therefore had they a most diligent eye to the stock lineal descent of the Messias. For it is brought down, as it were by a line, from Adam to Noe, and from Noe by Sera even to Abraham himself: and to him again it was said, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:18): in which words the promise once made to Adam, as touching Christ the redeemer and changer of God’s curse into blessing, is renewed and repeated again. The same line is brought down from Abraham by Isaac unto Jacob;[15] and Jacob, being full of the Spirit of God, pointed out his son Juda to be the root[16] of the blessed Seed, as it is to be seen in the forty-ninth of Genesis. Lastly, in the tribe of Juda the house of David was noted, out of which that seed and branch of life should come.

Moreover, the holy fathers taught, that God by a certain league hath joined himself to mankind, and that he hath most straitly bound himself to the faithful, and the faithful likewise to himself again. Whereupon they did teach to be faithful to God-ward, to honour God, to hate false gods, to call upon the only God, and to worship him devoutly. Furthermore, they taught, that the worship of God did consist in things spiritual, as faith, hope, charity, obedience, up right dealing, holiness, innocency, patience, truth, judgment, and godliness. And therefore did they reprehend naughtiness and sin, falsehood, lack of belief, desperation, disobedience, unpatientness, lying, hypocrisy, hatred, despiteful taunts, violence, wrong, unrighteous dealing, uncleanness, riotousness, surfeiting, whoredom, unrighteousness, and ungodliness. They taught, that God was a rewarder of good, but a punisher and revenger of evil. They taught, that the souls of men were immortal, and that the bodies should rise again in the day of judgment: therefore they exhorted us all so to live in this temporal life, that we do not leese[17] the life eternal.

This is the sum of the word of God revealed to the fathers, and by them delivered to their posterity. This is the tradition of the holy fathers, which comprehendeth all religion. Finally, this is the true, ancient, undoubted, authentical, and catholic[18] faith of the fathers.

Besides this, the holy fathers taught their children, and children’s children, the account of the years from the beginning of the world, and also the true historical course, as well profitable as necessary, of things from the creation of the world even unto their own times; lest peradventure their children should be ignorant of the beginning and succession of worldly things, and also of the judgments of God, and examples of them which lived as well godly as ungodly.

I could declare unto you all this evidently, and in very good order, out of the first book of Moses, called Genesis, if it were not that thereby the sermon should be drawn out somewhat longer than the use is. But I suppose that there are few, or rather none at all, here present, which do not perceive that I have rehearsed this that I have said, touching the tradition of the ancient fathers, as it were word for word, out of the book of Genesis; so that now I may very well go forward in the narration which I have begun.

So then, whatsoever hitherto was of the fathers delivered to the world by word of mouth, and as it were from hand to hand, that was first of all put into writing by the holy man the fathers -Moses, together with those things which were done in all the time of Moses’ life, by the space of one hundred and twenty years. And that his estimation might be the greater throughout all the world, among all men, and in all ages; and that none should but know, that the writings of Moses were the very word of God itself; Moses was furnished, and as it were consecrated by God, with signs and wonders to be marvelled at indeed, which the almighty by the hand, that is, by the ministry of Moses, did bring to pass: and verily, he wrought them not in any corner of the world, or place unknown, but in Egypt, the most flourishing and renowned kingdom of that age.

Those miracles were greater and far more by many, than that they can be here rehearsed in few words: neither is it needful to repeat them, because you, dearly beloved, are not unskilful or ignorant of them at all. After that also, God by other means procured authority to Moses. For many and oftentimes God had communication with Moses; and amongst the rest of his talk said he: “Behold, I will come to thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear me talking with thee, and may believe thee for evermore” (Exod. 19:9).

Neither was the Lord therewith content, but commanded Moses to call together all the people, six hundred thousand men, I say, with their wives and children. They are called out to the mount Sina, where God appeareth in a wonderful and terrible fashion; and he himself, preaching to the congregation, doth rehearse unto them the ten commandments. But the people, being terrified with the majesty of God, doth pray and beseech, that God himself would no more afterward preach to the congregation with his own mouth, saying, that it were enough, if he would use Moses as an interpreter to them, and by him speak to the church (Exod. 20:19). The most high God did like the offer; and, after that, he spake to the people by Moses whatsoever he would have done. And for because that the people was a stiff-necked people, and by keeping company with idolaters in Egypt was not a little corrupted, Moses now began to set down in writing those things which the holy fathers by tradition had taught, and the things also which the Lord had revealed unto him. The cause why he wrote them was, lest peradventure by oblivion, by continuance of time, and obstinacy of a people so slow to believe, they might either perish, or else be corrupted. The Lord also set Moses an example to follow. For whatsoever God had spoken to the church in mount Sina, the same did he straightway after write with his own finger in two tables of stone, as he had with his finger from the beginning of the world written the same in the hearts of the fathers.[19] Afterward also, in plain words, he commanded Moses to write whatsoever the Lord had revealed. Moses obeyed the Lord’s commandment, and wrote them. The Holy Ghost, which was wholly in the mind of Moses, directed his hand as he writ. There was no ability wanting in Moses, that was necessary for a most absolute writer. He was abundantly instructed by his ancestors: for he was born of the holiest progeny of those fathers, whom God appointed to be witnesses of his will, commandments, and judgments; suppose[20] Amram, Kahad, Jacob, Sem, Methusalem and Adam. He was able, therefore, to write a true and certain history, from the beginning of the world even until his own time. Whereunto he added those things which were done among the people of God in his own life-time, whereof he was a very true witness, as one that saw and heard them. Yea, and that more is, whatsoever he did set forth in his books, that did he read to his people, and amongst so many thousands was there not one found which gainsayed that which he rehearsed: so that the whole consent and witness-bearing of the great congregation did bring no small authority to the writings of Moses.

Moses therefore contained in the five books, called the five books of Moses, an history from the beginning of the great world, even unto his own death, by the space of two thousand four hundred and eighty-eight years: in which he declared most largely the revelation of the word of God made unto men, and whatsoever the word of God doth contain and teach: in which, as we have the manifold oracles of God himself, so we have most lightsome[21] testimonies, sentences, examples, and decrees of the most excellent, ancient, holy, wise, and greatest men of the world, touching all things which seem to appertain to true godliness, and the way how to live well and holily. These books therefore found a ready prepared entrance of belief among all the posterity, as books which are authentical, and which of themselves have authority sufficient, and which, without gainsaying, ought to be believed of all the world. Yea, and that more is, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, doth refer the faithful to the reading of Moses; yea, and that indeed in the chiefest points of our salvation: the places are to be seen, John 5. Luke 16. In the fifth of Matthew he saith: “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; for I am not come to destroy them, but to fulfil them. For, verily, I say unto you, though[22] heaven and earth do pass, one jot or tittle of the law shall not pass, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall undo one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-19).[23]

There have verily some been found, that have spoken against Moses, the servant of God. But God hath imputed that gainsaying as done against his divine majesty, and punished it most sharply. The proofs hereof are to be seen in Exod. 16 and Numeri the 12th. And first, of the people murmuring against Moses; then of Mary, Moses’s sister, speaking against her brother. But to the people it was said: “Not against the ministers, but against the Lord, are your complaints” (Exod. 16:8). As for Mary, she was horribly stricken with a leprosy (Num. 12:10).[24] Theotectus was stricken blind, and Theopompus fell to be mad, because he had unreverently touched the word of God.[25] For, although the word of God be revealed, spoken, and written by men, yet doth it not therefore cease to be that which indeed it is; neither doth it therefore begin to be the word of men, because it is preached and heard of men: no more than the king’s commandment, which is pro claimed by the crier, is said to be the commandment of the crier. He despiseth God, and with God all the holy patriarchs, whosoever doth contemn Moses, by whom God speaketh unto us, and at whose hand we have received those things which the patriarchs from the beginning of the world by tradition delivered to the posterity. There is no difference between the word of God, which is taught by the lively expressed voice of man, and that which is written by the pen of man, but so far forth as the lively voice and writing do differ between themselves: the matter undoubtedly, the sense, and meaning, in the one and the other is all one. By this, dearly beloved, you have perceived the certain history of the beginning of the word of God.

Now let us go forward to the rest; that is, to add the history of the proceeding of the word of God, and by what means it shined ever and anon very clear and brightly unto the world. By and by, after the departure of the holy man Moses out of this world into heaven, the Lord of his bountifulness gave most excellent prophets unto his church, which he had chosen to the intent that by it he might reveal his word unto the whole world. And the prophets were to them of the old time, as at this day amongst us are prophets, priests, wise men, preachers, pastors, bishops, doctors or divines, most skilful in heavenly things, and given by God to guide the people in the faith. And he, whosoever shall read the holy history, will confess that there flourished[26] of this sort no small number, and those not obscure, even till the captivity of Babylon. Amongst whom are reckoned these singular and excellent men, Phinees, Samuel, Helias, Heliseus, Esaias, and Jeremias. David and Salomon were both kings and prophets. In time of the captivity at Babylon, Daniel and Ezechiel were notably known. After the captivity flourished, among the rest, Zacharias the son of Barachias. Here have I reckoned up a few among many: who, although they flourished at sundry times, and that the one a great while after the other, yet did they all, with one consent, acknowledge that God spake to the world by Moses, who (God so appointed it) left to the church in the world a breviary[27] of true divinity, and a most absolute sum of the word of God contained in writing. All these priests, divines, and prophets, in all that they did, had an especial eye to the doctrine of Moses. They did also refer all men, in cases of faith and religion, to the book[28] of Moses. The law of Moses, which is indeed the law of God, and is most properly called Thora,[29] as it were the guide and rule of faith and life, they did diligently beat into the minds of all men. This did they, according to the time, persons, and place, expound to all men. For all the priests and prophets, before the incarnation of Christ, did by word of mouth teach the men of their time godliness and true religion. Neither did they teach any other thing than that which the fathers had received of God, and which Moses had received of God and the fathers; and straightways after committing it to writing, did set it out to all us which follow, even unto the end of the world: so that now in the prophets we have the doctrine of Moses and tradition of the fathers, and them in all and every point more fully and plainly expounded and polished, being moreover to the places, times, and persons very fitly applied.

Furthermore, the doctrine and writings of the prophets have always been of great authority among all wise men throughout the whole world. For it is well perceived by many arguments, that they took not their beginning of the prophets themselves, as chief authors; but were inspired from God out of heaven by the Holy Spirit of God: for it is God, which, dwelling by his Spirit in the minds of the prophets, speaketh to us by their mouths. And for that cause have they a most large testimony at the hands of Christ,[30] and his elect apostles. What say ye to this moreover, that God by their ministry hath wrought miracles and wonders to be marvelled at, and those not a few; that at the least by mighty signs we might learn that it is God, by whose inspiration the prophets do teach and write whatsoever they left for us to remember? Furthermore, so many commonweals and congregations gathered together, and governed by the prophets according to the word of God, do shew most evident testimonies of God’s truth in the prophets. Plato, Zeno, Aristotle, and other philosophers of the gentiles, are praised as excellent men. But which of them could ever yet gather a church to live according to their ordinances? And yet our prophets have had the most excellent and renowned commonweals or congregations, yea, and that more is, the most flourishing kingdoms in all the world under their authority. All the wise men in the whole world (I mean those which lived in his time) did reverence[31] Salomon, a king and so great a prophet, and came unto him from the very outmost ends of the world. Daniel also had the preeminence among the wise men at Babylon, being then the most renowned monarchy in all the world. He was moreover in great estimation with Darius Medus, the son of Astyages[32] or Assuerus, and also with Cyrus that most excellent king. And here it liketh me well to speak somewhat of that divine foreknowledge in our prophets, and most assured foreshewing of things which were to come after many years passed. And now, to say nothing of others, did not Esaias most truly foretell those things, which were afterward fulfilled by the Jews in our Lord Christ? Not in vain did he seem to them of old time to be rather an evangelist than a prophet[33] foretelling things to come. He did openly tell the name of king Cyrus one hundred and threescore years, at the least, before that Cyrus was born (Isa. 44:28; 45:1). Daniel also was called[34] of them in the old time by the name of one which knew much.[35] For he did foretell those things which are and have been done in all the kingdoms of the world almost, and among the people of God, from his own time until the time of Christ, and further until the last day of judgment, so plainly, that he may seem to have compiled a history of those things which then were already gone and past. All these things, I say, do very evidently prove, that the doctrine and writings of the prophets are the very word of God: with which name and title they are set forth in sundry places of the scriptures. Verily, Peter the apostle saith, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

And although God did largely, clearly, plainly, and simply reveal his word to the world by the patriarchs, by Moses, by the priests and prophets; yet did he, in the last times of all, by his Son set it forth most clearly, simply, and abundantly to all the world. For the very and only-begotten Son of God the Father, as the prophets had foretold, descending from heaven, doth fulfil all whatsoever they foretold, and by the space almost of three years doth teach all points of godliness. For saith John: “No man at any time hath seen God; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). The Lord himself, moreover, saith to his disciples: “All things which I have heard of my Father have I made known to you” (John 15:15). And again he saith: “I am the light of the world: whosoever doth follow me doth not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Our Lord also did teach, that to him, which would enter into heaven and be saved, the heavenly regeneration was needful (John 3:5), because in the first birth man is born to death, in the second to life; but that that regeneration is made perfect in us by the Spirit of God, which instructeth our hearts in faith, I say, in faith in Christ, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). He taught that by that faith they which believe are justified; and that out of the same faith do grow sundry fruits of charity and innocency, to the bringing forth whereof he did most earnestly exhort them. He taught furthermore, that he was the fulfilling, or fulness, of the law and the prophets; and did also approve and expound the doctrine of Moses and the prophets. To doctrine he joined divers miracles and benefits, whereby he declared, that he himself was that light of the world, and the mighty and bountiful Redeemer of the world. And, to the intent that his doctrine and benefits might be known to all the world, he chose to himself witnesses, whom he called apostles, because he purposed to send them to preach throughout the world. Those witnesses were simple men, innocents, just, tellers of truth, without deceit or subtilties, and in all points holy and good; whose names it is very profitable often to repeat in the congregation. The names of the apostles are these: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alphe, and Judas his brother, whose surname was Thaddæus, Simon and Judas Iscariot, into whose room (because he had betrayed the Lord) came St Matthias (Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:26). These had he, by the space almost of three years, hearers of his heavenly doctrine, and beholders of his divine works. These, after his ascension into the heavens, did he, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, instruct with all kind of faculties. For, as they were in the scriptures passing skilful, so Avere they not unskilful, or wanting eloquence, in any tongue. And, being once after this manner instructed, they depart out of the city of Jerusalem, and pass through the compass of the earth, preaching to all people and nations that which they had received to preach of the Saviour of the world and the Lord Jesus Christ. And when for certain years they had preached by word of mouth, then did they also set down in writing that which they had preached. For some, verily, writ an history of the words and deeds of Christ, and some of the words and deeds of the apostles. Other some sent sundry epistles to divers nations. In all which, to confirm the truth, they use the scripture of the law and the prophets, even as we read that the Lord often times did. Moreover, to the twelve apostles are joined two great lights of the world; John Baptist, than whom there was never any more holy born of women (Matt. 11:11); and the chosen vessel (Acts 9:15) Paul, the great teacher of the Gentiles (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).

Neither is it to be marvelled at, that the forerunner and apostles of Christ had always very great dignity and authority in the church. For, even as they were the embassadors of the eternal King of all ages and of the whole world; so, being endued with the Spirit of God, they did nothing according to the judgment of their own minds. And the Lord by their ministry wrought great miracles, thereby to garnish the ministry of them, and to commend their doctrine unto us. And what may be thought of that, moreover, that by that word of God they did convert the whole world; gathering together, and laying the foundations of, notable churches throughout the compass of the world? Which verily by man’s counsel and words they had never been able to have brought to pass. To this is further added, that they which once leaned to this doctrine, as a doctrine giving life, did not refuse to die: besides that, how many soever had their belief in the doctrine of the gospel, they were not afraid, through water, fire, and swords, to cut off this life, and to lay hand on the life to come. The faithful saints could in no wise have done these things, unless the doctrine which they believed had been of God.

Although therefore that the apostles were men, yet their doctrine, first of all taught by a lively expressed voice, and after that set down in writing with pen and ink, is the doctrine of God and the very true word of God. For therefore the apostle left this saying in writing: “When ye did receive the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is indeed, the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).[36]

But now the matter itself and place require, that I gather also and plainly reckon up those books, wherein is contained the very word of God, first of all declared of the fathers, of Christ himself, and the apostles by word of mouth; and after that also written into books by the prophets and apostles. And in the first place verily are set the five books of Moses. Then follow the books of Josue, of Judges, of Ruth, two books of Samuel, two of Kings, two of Chronicles; of Esdras, Nehemias, and Hester one a-piece. After these come Job, David or the book of Psalms,[37] Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Cantica. With them are numbered the four greater prophets, Esaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel: then the twelve lesser prophets, whose names are very well known: with these books the old Testament ended. The new Testament hath in the beginning the evangelical history of Christ the Lord, written by four authors, that is, by two apostles, Matthew and John; and by two disciples, Mark and Luke, who compiled a wonderful goodly and profitable book of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul to sundry churches and persons published fourteen epistles. The other apostles wrote seven which are called both canonical and catholic. And the books of the new Testament are ended with the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which he opened to the disciple whom he loved, John the evangelist and apostle; shewing unto him, and so to the whole church, the ordinance of God touching the church,[38] even until the day of judgment. Therefore in these few and mean,[39] not unmeasurable, in these plain and simple, not dark and unkemmed[40] books, is comprehended the full doctrine of godliness, which is the very word of the true, living, and eternal God.[41]

Also the books of Moses and the prophets through so many ages, perils, and captivities, came sound and uncorrupted even until the time of Christ and his apostles. For the Lord Jesus and the apostles used those books as true copies and authentical; which undoubtedly they neither would, nor could, have done, if so be that either they had been corrupted, or altogether perished. The books also, which the apostles of Christ have added,[42] were throughout all persecutions kept in the church safe and uncorrupted, and are come sound and uncorrupted into our hands, upon whom the ends of the world are fallen. For by the vigilant care and unspeakable goodness of God, our Father, it is brought to pass, that no age at any time either hath or shall want so great a treasure.

Thus much hitherto have I declared unto you, dearly beloved, what the word of God is, what the beginning of it in the church was, and what proceeding, dignity, and certainty it had. The word of God is the speech of God, that is to say, the revealing of his good will to mankind, which from the beginning, one while by his own mouth, and another while by the speech of angels, he did open to those first, ancient, and most holy fathers; who again by tradition did faithfully deliver it to their posterity. Here are to be remembered those great lights of the world, Adam, Seth, Methusalem, Noe, Sem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Amram, and his son Moses, who, at God’s commandment, did in writing comprehend the history and traditions of the holy fathers, whereunto he joined the written law, and exposition of the law, together with a large and lightsome[43] history of his own lifetime. After Moses, God gave to his church most excellent men, prophets and priests; who also, by word of mouth and writings, did deliver to their posterity that which they had learned of the Lord. After them came the only-begotten Son of God himself down from heaven into the world, and fulfilled all, what soever was found to be written of himself in the law and the prophets. The same also taught a most absolute mean how to live well and holily: he made the apostles his witnesses: which witnesses did afterwards first of all with a lively expressed voice preach all things which the Lord had taught them; and then, to the intent that they should not be corrupted, or clean taken out of man’s remembrance, they did commit it to writing: so that now we have from the fathers, the prophets, and apostles, the word of God as it was preached and written.

These things had their beginning of one and the same Spirit of God, and do tend to one end, that is, to teach us men how to live well and holily. He that believeth not these men, and namely[44] the only-begotten Son of God, whom, I pray you, will he believe? We have here the most holy, innocent, upright-living, most praiseworthy, most just, most ancient, most wise, and most divine men of the whole world and compass of the earth, and briefly, such men as are by all means without comparison. All the world cannot shew us the like again, although it should wholly a thousand times be assembled in councils. The holy emperor Constantine gathered a general council out of all the compass of the earth; thither came there together, out of all the world, three hundred and eighteen most excellent fathers:[45] but they that are of the wisest sort will say, that these are not so much as shadows, to be compared to them, of whom we have received the word of God. Let us therefore in all things believe the word of God delivered to us by the scriptures. Let us think that the Lord himself, which is the very living and eternal God, doth speak to us by the scriptures. Let us for evermore praise the name and goodness of him, who hath vouchedsafe so faithfully, fully, and plainly to open to us, miserable mortal men, all the means how to live well and holily.

To him be praise, honour, and glory for evermore. Amen.

[1] hodie, Lat.; at this time of day.

[2] imo quod, Lat.; Yea, and that.

[3] Ne quid remoretur, Lat.

[4] Πᾶν ῥῆμα.—Luke 1:37- omne verbum, Lat. and Vulg.

[5] Etiam sic, Lat.

[6] The duration of our Lord’s ministry is now usually admitted to have been three years and a half.—See Greswell’s Harmon. Evang., and Dr Robinson’s Harmony of the Gospels.

[7] insinuavit se Deus animis, Lat.

[8] genearcharum, Lat.

[9] Cf. Bullinger’s Treatise, The Old Faith, translated in Coverdale’s writings, &c. Parker Soc. ed. pp. 32, 36.

[10] There is some great miscalculation here; for Abraham, if born at all before Noah’s death, could only have been in his infancy. Yet Calvin also says, that “Abraham was nearly fifty years old, when his ancestor Noe died.”—Comment, in Gen. cap. ix. 28. But see note, p. 42.]

[11] a Deo per patres accepit.—Lat.

[12] Kohath.—Vulg. Caath.

[13] It is scarcely necessary to observe that the system of chronology here used differs considerably from the received system according to Usher. Bullinger followed the vulgar Jewish chronology, upon which the arrangements of Scaliger, Petavius, and Usher were afterwards founded. See Hales’s Chronology, Vol. I. The difference does not materially affect the argument. P.—The line of the patriarchal tradition may be seen traced in Gray’s Key to the Old Testament, pp. 80, 81. ed. 1797. Lond.

[14] promisisse, Lat.

[15] per Isaacum et Jacobum, Lat. P.

[16] genearcham, Lat.

[17] leese: lose.

[18] authentica, orthodoxa, et catholica, Lat. P.

[19] See Bullinger’s treatise, The Old Faith, in Works of Bp. Coverdale, Parker Soc. Ed. pp. 27, 40.

[20] puto autem, Lat.

[21] clarissimorum, Lat.

[22] donec prætereat.—Lat. as in Eng. Ver.

[23] Quisquis autem fecerit et docuerit, hic magnus vocabitur in regno cœlorum, Lat.; omitted by the translator.

[24] Miriam: Vulg. Maria.

[25] Theotectus tragœdiarum scriptor, Lat. Theodectes, according to Suidas and Gellius X. 18, was a tragedian, and contemporary with Theopompus, who was an orator and historian, a pupil of Isocrates. Josephus, Lib. XII. cap. 2. Antiq. Jud., and Aristeas de LXX. Interp. relate the story referred to;—namely, that each of these writers was preparing to put forth a part of the scriptures, as their own composition, when they were visited, the former with blindness, the latter with madness, which lasted thirty days.—Ger. Vossius. Lib. I. c. 7. P.

[26] in populo sive ecclesia Dei, Lat.; in the people, or church, of God, omitted by the translator.

[27] compendium, Lat.

[28] libros, Lat.

[29] תּוֹרָה, a verbo ירה, i instituere, docere.—Foster,Lex. Heb. P.—תורה, quam Legem vulgo vertimus, Hebrseis ab indicando docendoque dicitur.—Bucer. in Psalm, ii. ed. Steph. 1554. p. 16. See also Hooper’s Early Writings, p. 88, Parker Soc. Ed.

[30] Dei Filio, Lat.; omitted.

[31] tantum non adorarunt, Lat.; almost worshipped.

[32] That Astyages, son of Cyaxares the first, is the Ahasuerus, and Cyaxares the second, Astyages’ son, the Darius the Mede, of scripture, see Prideaux’s Connect. Vol. I. pp. 72, 104, 120, ed. McCaul, Lond. 1845.

[33] Ita ut a quibusdam evangelista quam propheta potius diceretur (Esaias).—Augustin. de Civ. Dei. Lib. XVIII. cap. 29. Par. 1531. Tom. V. Deinde etiam hoc adjiciendum, quod non tam propheta, quam evangelista, dicendus sit (Isaias).—Hieron. Præf. in lib. Isai. Ed. Par. 1693-1706. Tom. I. col. 473. See also Bullinger’s treatise, The Old Faith, ap. Works of Bp. Coverdale, Parker Soc. ed. p. 66.

[34] recte appellatus est, Lat.

[35] Quartus vero (Daniel), qui et extremus inter quatuor prophetas, temporum conscius, et totius mundi philoïstoros, &c.—Hieron. Ep. L. Secund. ad Paulinum. Ed. Par. 1706. Tom. IV. par. 2. col. 573.

[36] Sermonem,—quo Deum discebatis, Lat.; and Erasmus’ rendering.

[37] Solomonis libelli tres, Lat.; omitted by the translator.

[38] fata ecclesiæ, Lat.

[39] sobriis, Lat.

[40] unkemmed or unkempt: uncombed; impexis.—Lat. P.

[41] The canon of Scripture received by the church of Rome, containing most of those books which we call apocryphal, was first set forth by the council of Trent; and afterwards confirmed by the bull of pope Pius IV. A.D. 1564. On this subject see Burnet on the 6th Article, with the notes in Page’s Ed. 1839; and Bishop Cosin’s “Scholastical History of the Canon of Scripture.” P.

[42] una cum lege et prophetis, Lat.; omitted.

[43] luculenta, Lat.

[44] namely: especially; præsertim. P.

[45] See before, page 12, where the number is inaccurately stated.

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