Bullinger on God’s Covenant with Mankind

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God who Covenants

[Note: for the first quotation I have retained the original spelling. For the balance, I have modernized the spelling.]


1) There is very much mention made of wedlocke and mariage in the holy Scriptures both in the olde and new Testament: The which may not be expounded afeer the letter, but by an allegory: least with the Turkes and Mahometists, we fall into shamefull and monstrous absurdities. For spiritual thyngs are figured by corporall matters. Of the spirituall this is the summe: God the father the louer of mankinde, wil saue men by his sonne. This thyng is declared by a parable of wedlocke and mariage. And in the matrimonie there is a contract or making sure, there is a coupling or handfasting of eyther partie, and finally mariage.

In the contracte not only the yong man and the mayde are affiaunced, but also the whole manner of maryage to come is appointed, and an order taken For the lawyers say, that affiancing is a promise of the maryage to come. Thys contracte was made at the beginning of the worlde, where God promised that he wyll deliuer mankind by his sonne, and receiue him into glory. Hereunto appertaine all the promises of Christ, of the remission of sinnes, and of euerlastyng lyfe. Moreouer the duties of the spouse are prescribed. Shee promised to be obedient, and other thyngs. &c. Christ the brydegroom the sonne of God the father, affiaunced to himself all the chosen through his free grace: he promises them his righteousness, all heauenly gifts and eternal lyfe. He taketh upon him moreouer all the infirmities of the bride, and pourgeth her filthines. And the bryde is affianced to hym by fayth, as it is written on Osee, & shee byndeth her selfe wholy to hym: after the whose will and law shee frameth her self wholy. For she is the bodye of a lyuely head. As S. Paule sayth in the. 5. To the Ephes. The bryde leaders be the Prophetes, Patriarkes, Aposltes. So John Baptist in the. 3. of John, calleth hymself the friend of the brydegrome. He addeth [to be the spouse of Christ.] S. Paule. 2. Cor. 11. I haue maryed you to one man a chaste vyrgin. &c. Hereunto the. 16. chapt. of Ezechiell seemeth to appertayne.

And the ioyning together of eyther partie, is made after they be affiaunced, with certaine ceremonies: to wit, by takyng ech other by the hands, and certayne wordes spoken, and there is giuen a token or a ring. &c. Immediately after the beginning, there was a couenant or bond made betwixt God and men, which is oft tymes red to haue been renued, not without ceremonies, certayne wordes and sacrifices, as by Abraham, Moses and others. God byndeth him self to men, and men to hym, and that not without the Sacramentes. And all those thyings, serue to this end: namely that God would be in league with man, and haue men bounded to him, and all his thynges communicated to us. And this mariage, was then most straightly ioyned and made, when the sonne of God had united our flesh into one and the same person with him, and commanded his Apostles to preach unto all, that he will haue a communion with the faythful. Of the which communion are read many thyngs euery where in the Scriptures. And he hath geuen a pledge of fayth & perpetuall amitie, not a ryng of gold, but rather the Sacraments: yea euen the holy ghost, as S. Paul sayth in the. 2. to the Corinth.1. and to the Ephes. the first.

And the mariage shal be solemnized in the resurrection of the dead. The soules verely passs from bodily death, into lyfe euerlastyng: but yet the full restitution and saluation of man is not made perfect, except the body come also. Therfore at the resurrection commeth the mariage of the lambe, tha tis, of Christ our redemer. Henry Bullinger, A Hundred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, dwellying ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 256-257.

2) And in this horrible destruction of the ungodly, was faithful Noah saved (he being the eighth) and preserved in the Ark through the grace and mercy of God. Here our holy true Christian faith had victory, and triumphed. For Noah was of our faith, even of the seed of God, an put his trust in the blessed seed of our Lord Jesus. Yea, the Ark or ship of Noah was a figure of Christ, as we may easily understand by the words of S. Peter, 1 Pet. 3. Seeing then that Noah was preserved through the Ark, it follows that he was saved by Jesus Christ, therefore is it manifest, that he first believed in Christ. Noah also was he, with whom God first renewed the covenant made with Adam. For it is but one covenant only even the foresaid promise and end made by God unto Adam. Howbeit the same covenant was afterward at certain times renewed by reason of certain occasions. Here might Noah have thought that all the world, and all men, should utterly have been undone, for as much as the Lord said, I am determined to destroy all flesh. Therefore immediately he adds moreover, and says, “but with thee will I set my covenant,” that is to say, whatsoever pertains to my covenant, and what I have promised Adam already, the same will surely and constantly make good: and though now I destroy the world, yet will I perform my truth through thee. For I will preserve thee alive, that the blessed seed promised afore, may hereafter be borne of thee in his generation. To this did Noah trust, and was preserved of God through Christ. Moreover, when he was come out of the Ark he did sacrifice, and thereby declared the thankfulness of his heart, and believed, how that he knew that he had all good of God, which should also give him a seed, that with sacrificing of himself should reconcile and pacify God. For thus says Scripture, “Noah builded an Altar unto the Lord, and took of all manner of clean beasts and fowles, and offered burnt sacrifice unto the Lord: and the Lord smelled the sweet savor, and said in his heart, ‘I will no more curse the earth for man’s sake,’ &c” So says Paul I the fifth to the Ephesians, “Walk ye in love, like as Christ hath loved us and gave himself for us as an offering of sweet savor unto God.” Whereby every man may learn ands see, that the sweet smell of outward sacrifice of Noah did not chiefly pacify God, and was pleasant; but rather that through the bodily sacrifice, was figured the sacrifice of Christ, and for his sake he was merciful to the world. For ever Christ he said at Jordan when Christ was baptized: “This is my dear beloved Son in whom I am pacified or reconciled.” [Henry Bullinger], Looke from Adam, And behold The Protestants Faith and Religion (London: Printed by Iohn Haviland, for Thomas Pavier, and are to be sold at his shop in Ivie Lane, 1624), 28-30. [Worldcat entry: A translation of: Bullinger, Heinrich. Antiquissima fides et vera religio. Translated by Miles Coverdale, whose name appears on leaf A2. The first leaf is blank. Previous English editions entitled: The olde fayth…]

3) Now a testament is an appointment and ordinance of a man lying a dying, made after his will and mind, in the which is appointed what shall be done with the goods that he learns after his death, to what men, and on what condition they ought to come. Furthermore this word Testament signifies a covenant, a condition, a bargain, & a league. So God by Testament willed unto his people or those whom he made his heirs, heavenly goods, which through the death of his Son, the faithful receive by inheritance. With them also he made a covenant and agreement and league: and because they are two sorts of men, there are also two manner of Testaments & leagues, the Old and the New. The Old Covenant men and people of God by inheritance are the holy fathers, and their posterity even until the time of Christ. Bit the New Covenant men and heirs of God, are all Christians, from the time of Christ unto the very end of the world. Wherefore by the name of the Old Testament, we understand all those books, which before the time of Christ, were written at the commandment of God, and are contained in God’s book, and show how God kept his league and covenant in the old people, from Adam unto Christ, and after what sort (I say) God behaved himself towards them, & they towards God.    Henry Bullinger, Common places of Christian Religion, Compendiously written, by Master Henry Bullinger, and translated into English by Iohn Stockwood, minister, (Imprinted at London by Tho, East, and H. Middleton: for George Bishop. 1572. January. 31.), 3.


That God has bound men unto him, unto salvation and continual worship.

Chapter. viii.

That man is reconciled
unto God and bound
to serve him

Therefore forasmuch as man through God’s help is now freed and delivered from everlasting damnation, from sin, and bondage to the devil, God challenges him unto himself and straightly binds him, that all his life afterward he serve & worship God alone, look unto him, trust in him, obey his will, and have nothing to do with the devil, and all his kingdom, and that if it so come to pass, that he do err and fail, that therefore he be not without hope of pardon, but that trusting unto God his bountifulness, he repent, and stand unto his mercy, and follow God.

The Covenant of
God with men.

And this is that covenant which in Holy Scriptures God is said to have made with mankind, which first was begun with Adam, and afterward renewed with Noah, and more plainly with Abraham [Gen. 17.], put in writing by Moses, and lastly established & confirmed by Christ. And this covenant with men God has made on these conditions, that God should be our God, give all things unto us, & by Christ communicate or part with us fully all heavenly gifts: and in like manner that men acknowledge God alone, and besides him none other, trust in him alone, call upon him, honor him, worship him, continue faithful unto him, and in all their life observe his laws. And these conditions of God’s covenant, God would have declared unto the world in his own words by his servants, and caused the same to be written in the books of the Holy Scriptures, whereunto we ought to give credit. And in the writings of this covenant he has as it were with certain seals, sealed with holy mysteries, which we call sacraments, which ought both to be received, and used of us as he has willed.

Religion &

Whosoever therefore observe these things, they are the faithful servants & allies of God, and use the true religion. For Religion seems not so much to have her name of reading as of binding. And we are bound unto God, and joined in league through his free mercy (as has been said) by faith. Therefore the covenant of God and true Religion are all one. And all they are Religious, which being federates joined in league with God, do cleave unto his word and honor and serve him despising al other things. Henry Bullinger, Common places of Christian Religion, Compendiously written, by Master Henry Bullinger, and translated into English by Iohn Stockwood, minister, (Imprinted at London by Tho, East, and H. Middleton: for George Bishop. 1572. January. 31.), 43-44.

5) And therefore, when God’s mind was to declare the favour and good-will that he bare to mankind, and to make us men partakers wholly of himself and his goodness, by pouring himself out upon us, to our great good and profit, it pleased him to make a league or covenant with mankind. Now he did not first begin the league with Abraham, but did renew to him the covenant that he had made a great while before. Now he did first of all make it with Adam, the first father of us all, immediately upon his transgression, when he him, silly wretch, into his favour again, and promised his only-begotten Son, in whom he would be reconciled to the world, and through whom he would wholly bestow himself upon us, by making us partakers of all his good and heavenly blessings, and by binding himself in faith and due obedience. This ancient league, made first with Adam, he did afterward renew to Noah, and after that again with the blessed patriarch Abraham. And again, after the space of four hundred years, it was renewed under Moses at the mount Sinai, where the conditions of the league were at large written in the two tables, and many ceremonies added thereunto. But most excellently of all, most clearly and evidently, did our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself shew forth that league; who wiping away all the ceremonies, types, figures and shadows, brought in instead of them the very truth, and did most absolutely fulfil and finish the old league, bringing all the principles of our salvation and true godliness into a brief summary, which, for the renewing and fulfilling of all things, and for the abrogation of the old ceremonies, he called the new league or testament. Decades, 3rd Decade, Sermon 6, pp., 169-170.

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