Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Heinrich Bullinger IV

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Sermon III of the First Decade focuses on the exposition – via faithful preaching - of the Word. After noting the two extremes of “the Bible is unintelligible to the common man,” and, “make of it what you will,” and correcting the latter with a plea for exegesis and a caution against eisegesis, Bullinger sets forth four principles of bible exposition and interpretation:

1) The Analogy of Faith

2) Context, Context, Context (after HH)

3) Scripture Interprets Scripture

4) Sanctified Interpretation (ie: Spirit-led)

Then follows his triumphant summation:

Thus much hitherto have I said touching the sense and exposition of God’s word: which, as God revealed it to men, so also he would have them in any case to understand it. Wherefore there is no cause for any man, by reason of a few difficulties, to despair to attain to the true understanding of the scriptures. The scripture doth admit a godly and religious interpretation. The word of God is a rule for all men and ages to lead their lives by: therefore ought it by interpretation to be applied to all ages and men of all sorts. For even our God himself did by Moses in many words expound and apply to his people the law, which he gave and published in Mount Sinai. Furthermore, it was a solemn use among the ancient prophets first to read, and then by expositions to apply, God’s law to the people. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself expounded the scriptures. The same did the apostles also. The word of God ought therefore to be expounded. As for those which would not have it expounded, their meaning is, because they would sin freely, without controlling or punishment. But whereas the scripture doth admit an exposition, it doth not yet admit any exposition whatsoever: for that which savoureth of man’s imagination it utterly rejecteth. For as by the Spirit of God the scripture was revealed, so by the same Spirit it is requisite to expound it. There are therefore certain rules to expound the word of God religiously by the very word of God itself: that is, so to expound it, that the exposition disagree not with the articles of our faith, nor be contrary to charity towards God and our neighbour; but that it be thoroughly surveyed, and grounded upon that which went before and followeth after, by diligent weighing of all the circumstances, and laying together of the places [context]. And chiefly it is requisite, that the heart of the interpreter be godly bent, willing to plant virtue and pluck up vice by the roots, and finally, always ready evermore to pray to the Lord, that he will vouchsafe to illuminate our minds [c/w Eph.1:17,18], that God’s name may in all things be glorified. For his is the glory, honour and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen. – pp.79,80 [emphasis added]

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