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[This work is a translation of a Treatise of Bullinger, of which the title is: ďAntiquissima Fides et vera Religio: Christianam fidem mox a primis mundi exordiis usque ad haec tempora durasse, eamque veram et indubitatam esse, Heinrychi Bullingeri Apodixis, sive clara et evidens demonstratio, e Germanico in Latinam linguam traducta per Diethelmum Cellarium Tigurinum. In hoc Enchiridio, candide lector, habebis brevissimam historiam, cum temporum snpputatione, sacrosanctae nostrae fidei, deque illius praecipuis et operibus et professoribus: habebis hujus item incrementa et defectus ac calamitates jam inde a prima mundi origine ad haec usque tempora. Brevissima ergo periocha est utriusque Testamenti, et probatio, qued per solam fidem in Christum veram omnes pii Deo et placuerint et salutem fuerint consecuti.Ē Copies of this work of Bullinger are contained in the Bodleian library at Oxford, and in the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth.
It does not appear certain in what year this work of Bishop Coverdale first appeared. An edition of it appears to have been published in 1541, and another in 1547. Another edition was also published in 1624, under the following title: ďLook from Adam, and behold the Protestantsí faith and religion, evidently proved out of the holy Scriptures against all Atheists, Papists, loose libertines, and carnal Gospellers: and that the faith, which they profess, hath continued from the beginning of the world, and so is the true and ancient faith. Herein hast thou a short sum of the whole bible, etc.Ē
The present edition is printed from a copy of the edition of 1547, which was formerly in the possession of Mr. Brand, and afterwards of the late Sir Francis Freeling, Bart., and which now belongs to John Matthew Gutch, Esq., of Claines, Worcestershire, who obligingly granted the use of it to the Parker Society.] THE OLD FAITH.
The old faith, an evident probation out of the holy scripture, that the christen faith (which is the right, true, old and undoubted faith) hath endured since the beginning of the world.
MYLES COVERDALE TO ALL CHRISTIAN READERS, WISHETH GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER THROUGH OUR LORD AND ONLY SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
Like as the almighty eternal God, three in persons and one in substance, of his tender mercy and love, not only created man at the beginning after his own similitude and likeness, but also, when he was lost, most graciously redeemed him and brought him out of bondage; even so, when man, neither regarding his wonderful creation nor his most dear redemption, gropeth in darkness, in vice, and blindness, lieth in the devilís prison, and goeth in the way of damnation, God always setteth up his light before him, sendeth the message of his word unto him, sheweth him what case he is in, giveth him warning, openeth the prison door, calleth him out of the devilís service, telleth him what danger it is to be his bondman or servant unto sin: this doth God always, afore he punish and plague the world. This, I say, hath been the property of God since the beginning, as the stories and prophecies of all the holy bible do testify. And though we had no writing of Godís acts in times past, yet hath he practiced this same his wonderful work of mercy upon us. So that like as we must needs confess, that we are created of God and redeemed by his only mercy in his dear Son Jesus Christ; so can we not, deny, but we have heard his holy message, had no less preachings and warnings of dangers to come, than other have had afore our days: yet even the same merciful God, that sent Noe to preach righteous unto the wicked world, and converted the Ninevites by his word in the ministration of the prophet Jonas, hath done even so with us in every condition. And some (thanks be unto him therefore!) hath he brought out of darkness into his wonderful light, and out of the devilís service into the kingdom of his dear Son.
But alas and woe to this unthankful world! For like as a great number that be in prison of Satan will not come forth, when they are called and the door set open, but go on still stumbling in darkness, when the lantern of light is offered them; even so, if any play a wise manís part, and do as he is warned by Godís word, he shall have a sort of apish people, a number of dizzards and scornful mockers, which, because the man will not dance in the devilís morrice with them, nor keep their company in the bondage of sin and vice, neither run with them unto like confusion, as St. Peter calleth it, laugh him to scorn, and blear out their tongues at him, even like fools and coxcombs of the world. And like as when a poor wretch cometh out of prison, he shall have more to stand gazing and gaping upon him, than to do him good, or to help him to his fees; even so now that God of his mercy hath called us out of Satanís prison, and from the school of false doctrine, my lordís fool with his companions standeth staring upon us, and mocketh us, because we sit not still with other prisoners. There goeth a fellow of the new learning, saith one; there is one of these new-fangled gospellers, saith another; that is one of the new brethren, saith the third; he followeth the new faith, etc.
Wherefore, in consideration hereof, I have here set forth this book: partly, because it sheweth the antiquity and ancient age of our holy Christian faith, and partly, to give occasion unto all such as have received it, not to be ashamed of it, nor to shrink from it for any opprobrious mockage or scornful derision in this world. The apostle saith, that the preaching or word of ďChristís cross is foolishness to them that perish,Ē and that ďthe thing which appertaineth to the Spirit of God is foolishness to a carnally minded man.Ē Whereby, like as we may learn, that it is no new thing to be mocked and stared upon for holding with the doctrine that maketh so much of Christís death and the true worshipping of God in the Spirit; even so may we see, to the singular comfort of our conscience, that no man mocketh us for it, but such as perish and are earnally minded; and that, for all their derision and scorning, it is yet the power of God, (1 Corinthians 1 <460101> ), and belongeth to his holy Spirit, (1 Corinthians 2 <460201> ), and is not our own doctrine, neither of any other manís making. This is now to us a comfort and consolation.
But because the world is angry with us for our faith, and giveth us so evil report for teaching it, it shall be expedient for us to declare, what faith is, and what faith we mean, when we make mention thereof. First, because we may not describe it after our own judgment, we will rehearse the words of the apostle, which, writing to the Hebrews, saith after this manner: ďFaith is a substance of things to be hoped for, an evidence, or certainty, of things which do not appear.Ē By the which distinction it is manifest, that when we set forth or teach this faith, we mean no vain faith, no false opinion of faith, no fond imagination of faith, no dead faith, no idle faith; but a substantial thing, even a sure belief of things that are to be hoped for, and a proof, experience, or knowledge of things that are not seen. This faith then is the instrument, whereby we feel and are certain of heavenly things, that our corporal eye cannot see.
Now, because none other virtue can so apprehend the mercy of God, nor certify us so effectually of our salvation, as this living faith doth; therefore hath the scripture imputed our justification before God only unto faith, among all other virtues; not without other virtues following, but without any other work or deed justifying.
This is the faith of Christ, which all the scripture speaketh of. This is the faith, that St. Paul preacheth to justify in the sight of God; as St. James teacheth, that works justify in the sight of men, and that it is but a dead faith, which hath no works. This is the faith, without the which ďit is impossible to please God,Ē and of the which ďwhatsoever proceedeth not is sin.Ē This is the faith, whereby God ďpurifieth our hearts,Ē and whose end is salvation. This is the ďfaith, that worketh by charityĒ or godly love, and is of value before God. This is the faith, whereby the holy fathers, which were afore Christís incarnation, did in spirit eat and drink, and enjoy the same mercy of God in Christ that we are partakers of.
To be short: this is the same faith, whereby God saved those his elect, of whom St. Paul maketh mention in the fore-said epistle to the Hebrews, and rehearseth many godly fruits of the same in their conversation.
This then is no new-fangled faith, no strange faith, no faith invented by manís brain; but even the same that Godís holy Spirit teacheth in the infallible truth of his scripture, and that Adam, Abel, Enoch, and all the other servants of God were saved in. Why do men therefore either call it a new-fangled faith, or report evil of us for setting it forth? Why? I fear me, this is one cause: The old faith, that all those servants of God had, whom the apostle nameth in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, had a life and conversation joined unto it, which was rich and full of all good works.
Therefore seeing there be so many babblers and prattlers of faith, and so few that bring forth the worthy fruits of penance, it giveth to the world occasion to report of us, that our faith is but new-fangled. They see us not fall to labor and taking of pains, as Adam did; they see not the righteousness and thankfulness in us, that was in Abel; they see us not walk after the word and will of God, as Enoch did; they see us not take Godís warning so earnestly, as Noe did; they see us not so obedient to the voice of God, nor so well willing and content to leave our friends, to forsake our own wills, our own lands and goods, at Godís calling, and dwell in a strange country, to do Godís pleasure, as Abraham did; they see that we choose not rather to suffer adversity with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; they see us not esteem the rebuke of Christ, or trouble for his sake, to be greater riches than all the treasures of this world, as Moses did. To be short, they see not in our garden those sweet flowers and fruits of Godís holy Spirit, which were in them that had the old faith.
Ashamed may we be therefore, as many of us as either write, teach, preach, speak, or talk of the old faith, if we endeavor not ourselves to have those old heavenly virtues, that were ever plentiful in all Godís true servants; in every one, I mean, according to his calling. Not that it is evil to teach or talk of the true old faith; but this I say, because that, according to the doctrine of St. James, they are but deceivers of themselves, that are not doers of Godís word, as well as hearers thereof. And through such slender receiving of Christís holy gospel it is now come to pass, that like as we have need of such an apostle as was holy St. Paul, to rebuke this vain confidence that men put in their works, and to tell us that no work of our doing, but faith of Godís working, doth justify us in his sight; even so have we no less need of such another apostle, as was holy St. James, to rebuke this horrible unthankfulness of men, that, professing themselves to be Christian and to hold of Christís old faith, are yet dead unto all good works, receive not the word of God in meekness, cast not away all uncleanness and maliciousness, are swift to speak, to talk, to jangle, and to take displeasure, are forgetful hearers of the word, and not livers thereafter; boasting themselves to be of Godís pure and undefiled religion, and yet refrain not their tongues from evil, visit not the poor, the friendless, and the desolate in their trouble, neither keep themselves undefiled from this world. Read the first chapter of his epistle.
What occasion might such an apostle, as holy Saint James was, have to write another, yea, a sharper epistle, seeing so many pretending to be of Jesu Christís old faith are yet so partial, have such a carnal respect of persons, are not rich in faith, despise the poor, practice not the law of godly love, talk and jangle of faith, not having the works thereof, clothe not the naked, help not the poor to their living, regard not their necessity, have but a dead faith, declare not by good and godly works the true and old faith of Christ, are but vain believers, have not the effectuous, the working and living faith, that Abraham and Rahab had. Read the second chapter of his epistle.
How would holy Saint James reprove these bringers up of strange doctrines, blasphemers, backbiters, beliers of good men, false teachers against Godís truth, dissemblers with the same; carry fire, as they say, with the one hand, and water in the other; pretend to be learned, and yet bring not forth the works of good conversation in meekness out of Godís wisdom, but in frowardness, and out of carnal doctrine! How would he take up these, that delight in malice and strife, belie Godís truth, are given to earthly, fleshly, and devilish wisdom, are unstable, full of all evil works, are not; in the school of Godís wisdom and learning, are not given to unfeignedness of heart, are not peaceable, are churlish, uneasy to be entreated, etc.! Read the third chapter of his epistle.
What would such an holy apostle say to this wicked world, wherein a great number, pretending to be christian men, are given so to quarrelling and fighting, to voluptuousness and inordinate lusts, to envy and indignation, to unlawful spending and consuming of that they may get, to adultery, to the despising of holy wedlock, to shameful uncleanness, either not willing to marry, or else putting away their wives for light occasions and for satisfying of their own trifling lusts, falling in love with the vain friendship of this world, taking part against God; yea, whereas by their profession, oath, and allegiance which they owe to their most high sovereign, the king of heaven, they should in a virtuous conversation maintain all godliness, are become even enemies, suppressors, and overthrowers thereof, as well through their obstinate and cruel resisting of Godís word, as by other wicked examples of their vicious and filthy living.
What would holy St. James say to such unthankful bellies, that, knowing the truth, live of such a sort? Would he spare them, though they were never so rich and wealthy? Read the fourth chapter of his epistle, and the first part of his fifth chapter, and ye will judge the contrary.
Wherefore, most dear readers, whosoever of you hath been slack to follow the good life and godly conversation, that St. James and all the other scripture beside requireth to be in them which profess the old faith, let him take better hold, turn again to the truth, and follow that loving exhortation, which holy St. James maketh in the latter end of his epistle.
And if he have at the first not inclined to Godís word, nor received it unfeignedly in meekness, nor submitted himself to be ordered thereby, and to cast away all uncleanness, etc.; but hath haply suffered it, promoted it, set it forth, or taken a pretense of favor and love to it, for some other purpose, as to obtain any carnal profit, gains, or liberty by it, let him not put holy St. James, or any other true messenger of God, to the pains of rebuking him for so doing; let him rather enter into himself, reprove his own fault and abuse in that behalf; abhor it in any wise, be angry, displeased, and discontent with himself; sorry and repentant for it; shame not to ask God mercy, and by good works from henceforward to labor, that the glory of God and worship of his truth may be preferred and set up; which he, by such his unchristian living, hath in times past caused to be hindered.
In conclusion, though there be never so many that recant and deny Godís holy word, either in their living and conversation, or in their words, writing, or preaching; yet, as many of us as are entered into the school of that wisdom which is from above, let us be true scholars of the same; and deed, let us even enter into the nature and kind thereof; which, as St.
James saith, (Jaco. 3) ďis pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging and simulation.Ē Which thing if we do, then shall we follow no filthy doctrine nor counterfeited wisdom; then shall we be no breakers of peace; then shall we be as glad to forgive, as we would be forgiven; glad to be reformed; rich and plentiful in the works of mercy and good fruits of the old faith; then shall we be no quarrel-pickers or dissemblers with any man; then shall we not only be found the maintainers of peace and all good order, but peaceably also and in all gentle manner shall we, both in word and deed, sow, spread abroad, and shew the fruit of that righteousness, which cometh only of God through Jesus Christ.
If any of them that are gone, of high or low estate, pretending to be maintainers, favorers, setters forth, or scholars of Christís doctrine, hath in any condition dissembled therewith, fallen from God, misbehaved himself in the affairs of his prince, misgoverned his household, maintained riot, vice, and sin, or brought the good word of God into any evil report by his ungodly conversation, as I fear me it to be too true; let us beware by such menís fall: let us not receive the grace of God in vain: for like as they that harden their hearts at Godís word, and spurn wilfully against it, are sure of their damnation, except they repent; even so they that dissemble withal, shall find their judgment. Wherefore let us, that have received the old true faith of Christ, not only be content to abide any storm or trouble for it; yea, to be mocked, scorned, persecuted, and put to death therefore, if it so please God; but also unfeignedly, every man to his power, in his heart by fervent prayer, in his mouth by good words, and in all his body by virtuous conversation and good christian works, help and labor, that the blessed word of God may have the due honor belonging thereunto; and that the same, which it hath lost through the ungodly behavior of some, may, through the grace and goodness of God, be won again in our good living; that God may have of us better servants, our prince truer subjects, and our neighbors more unfeigned lovers, than many have been before us. Amen. Here endeth the Prologue.