Confessio Catholica:

Concerning Providence

Providence is of two sorts. The general, by which God preserves, cares for, governs, sustains, and feeds His creatures. This is spoken of in Acts, “In him we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “The Father and I are at work” ( John 5:17). “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His wish” (Matt. 10:29). “So has He clothed them” (Matt. 6:29-30). “He brings up His sun upon both good and wicked” (Matt. 5:45). “Thou gives food to all creatures” (Ps. 136:25; 146:7).

The particular is that by which He cares especially for the needs of the creatures; as He rules and governs His elect by His Spirit, grace, and Word (Isa. 46, 49, 54; Jer. 30, 31, 32; Ezek. 11, 16).”With my hands have I formed thee, in my bosom will I carry thee:’ He cares for and feeds His church especially (Luke 10; Matt. 18). “I will be with you” (Matt. 28:20; Eph. 5). Frequently, He works singularly in the vessels of wrath as in His other creatures, turning the evil will of men whichever way He wishes. Frequently, He ordains men to punishments, as it is said, “I have created the destroyer for destruction:’ (Isa. 54:16), “the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. 16:4), i.e., I have established and ordered that they are servants of my wrath in the punishment of Satan and men, by not causing in them grief for sin. But the wicked per se, He raises up and ordains to the evil of punishment by His just judgment (Isa. 45, 54; 1 Kings 22).

Do All Things Happen by Chance,
Randomly, or According to Fate?

With regard to foreknowledge and providence, nothing happens by chance, whether good or evil (Isa. 45; Lam. 3; Amos 3; 1 Cor. 12). By His power, all things take place. Even those that in our eyes seem to happen randomly take place by the ordination of the providence of God, such as death, sudden destruction, chance missions, as you have in Exodus 21 and Proverbs 16, 20. “The hearts of kings are in His hand and He turns them which way He will” (Prov. 21:1). For nothing is hidden from God; all things are open before His eyes (so say Augustine, Book 1, Retractions; to Simplicianus; concerning predestination; Jerome; Jer. 9; Ambrose, Fulgentius, Prosper). With respect to us, to whom distant things are unknown, and who do not know the causes of all things that occur, all unfamiliar things may [seem] to happen by chance, of which causes, order, and results we understand do not happen by chance.

Not everything takes place in the course of fate (fatum) of which the Stoics speak. We repudiate the fatalistic necessity established by the Stoics. However, insofar as all things take place by the foreknowledge of God and the ordinance of His providence, then the  foreknowledge of God in those things that occur is infallible. To that extent, all things happen not by chance but by the ordinance of God’s foreknowledge; even those bad things that have happened hitherto. The evil of offense, however, He only permits to happen; He does not accomplish them directly and causally Himself.

“The Hungarian Confessio Catholica (1562),” in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 2:482-483. [Some spelling modernized and underlining mine.]

[Brief Biographical information from Dennison:

This confession with three names–Debrecen, Catholica, Agrovalliensis –is a lengthy Reformed confession written at the request of the church in Debrecen in 1561 by Peter Mélius Juhász (1536-1572) and Gregory Szegedi (1511-1569). György Ceglédi/Czeglédi, Protestant pastor at Varad/Nagyvarad, is also regarded as a joint author. The Confessio catholica de praecipuis fidei articulis exhibita was then printed with the title Confessio Agrovalliensis (“Confession of the Eger Valley”) in 1562 because the Reformed church in the Eger Valley (Egervölgyi) had asked the Debrecen church to send them a copy of the Mélius-Szegedi document. Agrivalliensis or the Eger Valley is a region in northeastern Hungary where a small fort manned by about 2,000 citizens had courageously turned back a long siege by the Ottoman Turks a decade earlier (1552). The Protestant faith took hold of these folk with so much power that the Habsburg emperor, Ferdinand I (1503-1564), accused the city of treason, i.e., rejection of the Roman Catholic faith as promulgated by the Counter-Reformation Jesuit Council of Nagyszombat (Trnava, Tyrnau) on April 23, 1560. Having learned of Mélius and Szegedi’s confession, the believers in Eger asked that they be permitted to send a copy of the Debrecen Confession to the king. However, they asked that the cover or title page be altered from its original wording, Confessio catholica or Confessio Debreceniensis, to that listed above. The valiant soldiers, nobles, and common citizens gathered to swear their allegiance via this statement of “true and Catholic faith and doctrine:’ King Ferdinand had threatened to remove their pastor, but based on this confession, the citizens of Eger refused and declared that they would abandon the fort as a defense against the Turks if they were not permitted to retain their pastor and their confession. This action is the first substantive example of a congregation in Hungary swearing the Reformed faith in concert.

A consequence of the adoption of the confession was a formal separation between the Saxon Hungarians who favored the Lutheran Augustan Confession, and the Reformed Hungarians who favored the Reformed theology of Geneva, Zurich, and Strasbourg. Matthias Hebler (11571) was the leader of the Lutheran faction which officially separated in 1564 following the Council of Enyed (modern Aiud in Romania).]

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