Monday, October 10, 2005

Heinrich Bullinger III

(Previous Posts in this series are Bullinger I, Bullinger II.)

For lack of a better (read easier) method for tackling Bullinger’s Decades, I have willingly adopted (with slight modifications) the suggestion of John Whitgift.

Every minister having cure, and being under the degrees of master of arts, and batchelors of law, and not licensed to be a public preacher, shall before the second day of February next provide a Bible, and Bullinger’s Decads in Latin or English, and a paper book, and shall every day read over one chapter of the holy scriptures, and note the principal contentes thereof briefly in his paper booke, and shall every week read over one sermon in the said Decads, and note likewise the chief matters therein contained in the said paper;… [pp. xcix-c, The Decades of Henry Bullinger, Vol.1]

Thus far, I have read the first two sermons, while maintaining (uninterrupted) my regular Bible readings (ie: swinging back and forth between the OT and NT this time through).

Sermon I of the First Decade - an apology for the canon of scripture (and the canonicity of scripture) – begins my adventure with The Decades of Heinrich Bullinger.

While sometimes quirky, and often at less than my level of coherence, Bullinger provides a nice epistemological starting place for theological studies (scripture = divine revelation). He covers all the common scriptural witnesses for our surety that it is God-breathed. He also makes a point of the shortness of transmission – seven people – from the Creation and Patriarchal histories whilst extolling the roles of both the Prophets (esp.) and Apostles as conduits of God’s special revelation.

Dearly beloved…you learned what the word of God is; from whence it came; by whom it was chiefly revealed; what proceedings it had; and of what dignity and certainty it is. [p.57]

Sermon II of the First Decade begins with Bullinger setting forth his goal to:

Declare unto you, beloved, to whom, and to what end, the word of God is revealed; in what manner it is to be heard; and what the force thereof is, or the effect. [p.57]

He then goes on to a rousing defense of the efficacy of the Word of God. In enlisting a (to me) novel exegesis of the Parable of the Sower (Matt.13:1-23) as an exhortation for Christians to avoid ‘plagues’, he concludes:

For they do not only hinder the seed, that it cannot bring forth fruit in their hearts; but also they do stir up and egg men forward to gainsay the word of God, and to afflict the earnest desirers of God’s word. Here therefore we must take heed diligently, lest, being infected with these diseases, we become vain and unthankful hearers of the word of God. [p.66]

Other stirring words include the joyous acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit’s work:

We must pray continually, that the bountiful and liberal Lord will vouchsafe to bestow on us his Spirit, that by it the seed of God’s word may be quickened in our hearts, and that we, as holy and right hearers of his word, may bear fruit abundantly to the glory of God, and the everlasting salvation of our own souls. For what will it avail to hear the word of God without faith, and without the Holy Spirit of God to work or stir inwardly in our hearts? [p.66]

And also the sufficiency of the Word:

For the Lord in the word of truth hath delivered to his church all that is requisite to true godliness and salvation…Neither needeth the church to crave any other… [p.69]

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