Heinrich Bullinger on God’s Love to Mankind

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1) In the first part and first article of the creed, we confess our faith, of God and of the creation: “We believe that GOD is one in essence (for we say, ‘I believe in GOD,’ and not, I believe in gods) and three in persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

The singular from or manner of speaking wherein we confess, I believe in God the Father, and not, we believe in God the Father, is to be marked. For faith is required of every one of us, wherewith we must believe in God, not only that he is God, but also that he is our God. And therefore we say not, “I believe GOD, but I believe in God, as in him on whom my mind and soul, my heart and all my hope stays.” For God is not only the Father of Christ from everlasting, but the Father of us all, not only because he created us, but also because he bears every one of us goodwill, is loving and merciful unto all men, and gives us all things necessary, both for the soul and body, and defends us from all evil: all which things he can very well perform. For as much as he is almighty, and therefore his will and power are coupled together. Henry Bullinger, Common Places of Christian Religion, (Imprinted at London by Tho. East, and H. Middleton, for George Byshop, 1572), 123.

2) This title is plentiful, and utters all profitable circumstances, that are to be declared in the beginnings of books: for here be seven things set down for us to consider.

First is set the title, or inscription of the whole work, that is, the Apocalypse, or revelation of Jesus Christ, which dearly was opened or revealed by Christ Jesus himself. This title straightway proves, that this work is no man’s invention, but a doctrine of God: As the which was by our Lord, king, and priest Jesus Christ, out of heaven, from the right hand of the Father, executing there the office of high bishop and yet still teaching us profitable things. And albeit it be called also the revelation of John, yet is it challenged to him to for none other cause, than for that he received it, and wrote it as a register.

Again it is yet more plainly declared, from whence this revelation is: Even of God himself. For he says, which God, namely the Father, gave unto him, to were, to Christ. For in the holy and blessed Trinity, there is a distinction of persons. And albeit that all things, which the Father has, be the Son’s also: And all things which the Son’s has, the Father’s likewise: yet the Scripture avouches the Father to give unto the Son, and the Son to receive of the Father, which thing all the ancient writers, have full godly expounded, to be done by the mystery of Christ’s dispensation. For the Son received somewhat of the Father, as man: who otherwise as the very Son of God, says: “Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee, before the world was.”

Moreover the Son is the wisdom, word, and mouth of the Father, by whom God spake in times past to the Fathers, Prophets, and Apostles, and now speaks to the universal Church. The Father by dispensation gave to his Son this office, that he should be Bishop. “For no man has seen God at any time: The only begotten which is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him unto us.” Let us assure ourselves therefore, that this is a heavenly Revelation, which God the Father for the love to mankind has revealed to his Church by our only high Bishop Christ. And it so joins together the Father and the Son, that nevertheless the holy distinction of persons remains safe.

Now also is added, to what end God the Father has revealed, or given the charge of revealing (I mean the office of Priesthood) to his Son our Lord Jesus Christ: namely that he should point out the things that were revealed, and as it were lay them forth before the eyes of his servants, that is to say of his worshipers the Christians, which are called the servants of God for their willing obedience.  Henry Bullinger, A Hundred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, dwellying ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 7[A-B].

3) 2. He is the first begotten of the dead, for he died for our sins in very deed and rose again from the dead, & because the first begotten of the dead, & the Lord and conqueror of death: In whom we see that we also shall rise again, and in what sort. Concerning whom, look the first of Corinthians, 15. And like as in the first property he shadows the manhood of Christ, wherein he taught also his Godhead, wherein he was our faithful, true & universal Bishop, & yet at this day: So in the second, the articles of our belief concerning the death of Christ, and his resurrection are confirmed. To these also may be added the article of the resurrection of the dead.

3. Christ is prince over kings of the earth, a Monarch verily, an Lord of all Lords: which has received a name above all names, the Lord of angels, and of all creatures, to whom all things be subject: As the Apostle declares. Col. 1. Phil. 2. And he does not abolish laws and Magistrates, in that he will be king of kings, and Lord of Lords. For if there were no kings, how should Christ be king of kings? The most sacred Emperors, Constance, Constantine, Theodosius, Justinian, knew themselves to be Christ’s vassals, and that the kingdom was Christ’s, & they his subjects. These Christ acknowledged for his, by whom he governs those he has redeemed with his blood. They that proudly reign over the people, boasting themselves to be the Lord’s of all things, and acknowledge not Christ to be monarch over all, be stark mad. And herein comprehends such things as we confess in the articles of our faith, that Christ’s ascension into heaven, & sits on the right hand of the Father: that is, that he has received high power of all things in heaven and heard. Eph.1. Acts.2.

4. Christ has loved us with incomparable love. For he himself says: “greater love has no man, than that a man should leave his life for his friends.” This love the Apostle amplifies in the v. to the Romans. And it was an exceeding great love that moved Christ to come down from heaven and to be incarnate, and to redeem us by his death. With a free love has he loved us, unprovoked thereto by any desert of ours. For as this same John in his Epistle Canonical speaks likewise of the Father: In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins: So it is to be understood of the Son, that he has and does bear us great good-will, not moved thereto through our love, wherewith we have embraced him. And of that free love toward mankind, did he give himself unto death, and washed us from our sins. Henry Bullinger, A Hundred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, dwellying ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 11[A-B].

4) And the rainbow environs the throne round about. A rainbow for the most part is of divers colors: but here it is of one color and that of an Emerald, to wit green. The rainbow is a token of the perpetual grace, and covenant made after the flood, as is declared in the 9. Chap. Of Gene. And verily the throne of the high judge might put us wretched men in fear. Therefore the rainbow puts us in remembrance of the God’s grace, and that God which by his providence governs all things, has bound himself in league to mankind, to whom he wishes well. That league is still green, and always of force. The goodness of God towards men is perpetual. For though he should fall, & although that out of this throne should proceed most grievous thunderbolts, and calamities fall upon us like a storm: yet is God in league with us, and loves us dearly

First here is recited a Throne, yea and a celestial throne, least in the works, the providence and judgements of God, we should imagine anything carnal or corrupt. Secondly he that sits on the Throne is represented unto us by two colors, green and red. For God is an eternal essence giving to all things their greenness or bring. Also he burns in love towards mankind, & wills well unto them, but to the disobedient and rebels, he is a consuming fire. Henry Bullinger, A Hundred Sermons Vpon the Apocalipse of Iesu Christ (London: Printed by Iohn Daye, dwellying ouer Aldersgate, 1573), 65[B], 66[B]-67[A]. [Notes: I have not included the marginal comments. Spelling and some formatting has been modernized.]

5) He [Paul] does here after his manner, unto his admonition join an happy and lucky wish. And he does here very cunningly bring in together the whole sum of the Gospel, that is to say, that God has loved mankind, & given him everlasting consolation, that is Jesus Christ, which is our hope, and has given it us through his grace, and not for our merits: that is to say, that we might live evermore. Henry Bullinger, A Commentary on the Second Epistle of S Paul to the Thessalonians (Prynted in Southwarke in S Thomas Hospytall by James Nicolson, 1538), Fol. 56.

6) Furthermore in the Saints all things are purged and perfected after they be departed out of this life and flesh, unto eternal felicity, and therefore Charity, which in this life rejoices not in the misery of the ungodly, is not in the life to come troubled, nor sorrows not for their damnation And because that God in heaven is all in all, and that the saints have given themselves all wholly over unto the will of God, so as his will is their chief felicity or joy (and therefore we pray, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven) therefore no kind of charity moves them to make intercession. For why, they perfectly know, that in Christ is the fulness of all, and that in him wants nothing belonging to intercession, but that he is most perfectly does all things with his Father, and that therefore his only intercession is sufficient for the faithful: yea they see that the Father loves mankind, and would that all men which obtain grace be made partakers thereof by Christ.  H. Bullinger, Questions of Religion cast abroad in Helvetia by the Aduersaries of the same: and aunswered by M. H. Bullinger of Zvrick: reduced into. 17. Common places, trans., by Iohn Coxe (Imprinted at London, by Henrie Bynnerman, for George Byshop, 1572), 63.

[Points of interest: 1) Bullinger on the rainbow mirrors Musculus on the same, and indicates that God still extends a general grace to all mankind; and 2) It is clear that Calvin was not the one who “invented” the concept of the threefold office of Christ as prophet, priest and king, as some have claimed.]

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