Of the Gospel

by Henry Bullinger

Of the gospel of the grace of God, who has given His son to the world, and in him all things necessary to salvation,[1845] that we, believing in him, might obtain eternal life.

AFTER the exposition of the law, and those points of doctrine that depend upon the law, I think it best now to come to handling the gospel, which has been often mentioned in the exposition of the law and other places. Now therefore, dearly beloved, as I have been helped up to here with your prayers to God, so here again I request your earnest supplications with me to the Father, that by his holy Spirit, I may speak the truth to your edification [1846] in this present argument.

Evangelium is a Greek word; but it is received by the Latins and Germans, and today it is used as a word of their own. It is compounded from eu, which signifies good, and aggellw to tell tidings. For it signifies the telling of good tidings, or happy news, as tends to be blown abroad when our enemies being foiled, we lay siege to their city, or obtain some notable victory over our foes. The word is attributed to any joyful and lucky news concerning any matter luckily accomplished.


The apostles willingly used that term, not so much because the prophets had used it before them,[1847] as because it wonderfully contains, and lays before our eyes as it were, the manner and work of our salvation accomplished by Christ. To this work, they have applied the word Evangelium. The prophet Isaiah, as Luke interprets it, introduces Christ our Lord, speaking in this manner: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me euaggelisasqai (euaggelisasthai);" that is, He has sent me to preach the gospel, "to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captive, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to freely set at liberty those who are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." [1848] Look here, the Saviour of the world, in the prophet and in the evangelist, expounds to us what Evangelium is, and to what it tends: "The Father," he says, "has sent me to preach Evangelium, the gospel, to the poor." And immediately after, to show who those poor would be, he adds: "who are broken-hearted, or broken-minded;" namely, those who find no soundness or health in themselves; but utterly despairing of their own strength, they wholly depend upon the help of Christ, their skilled and willing physician.[1849] Now the gospel, or good tidings, which is shown to the afflicted, is this: that the Son of God has descended from heaven to heal the sick and diseased souls. He also adds another cause to this, to make it more evident,[1850] saying that the Son of God has come "to preach deliverance to captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind," etc. For all men are held captive in the bonds of damnation. They all serve a sorrowful slavery under their cruel enemy, Satan. They are all kept blind in the darkness of errors; and it is to them that redemption, deliverance, and the acceptable year of the Lord, is preached. Now, these joyful tidings are called Evangelium, the gospel.


Therefore, the gospel is defined in this manner by all men: The gospel is a good and a sweet word, and an assured testimony of God's grace toward us, exhibited in Christ to all believers. Or else, the gospel is the most evident sentence of the eternal God, brought down from heaven, absolving all believers from all their sins, and that is freely too, for Christ's sake, with a promise of eternal life. These definitions are gathered out of the testimonies of the evangelists and apostles. For St. Luke brings in the angel of the Lord speaking to the amazed shepherds, saying: "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord." Look here, he takes from the shepherds all manner of fear, by bringing good tidings — that is, by preaching health — which is a thing that is full of joy and always brings gladness with it. The tidings are, that there is born the Saviour of the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ. He is born to us and for us: that is, to the health and salvation of us mortal men. St. Paul says that "the gospel was promised before by God through the prophets in the holy scripture, of his Son who was made of the seed of David after the flesh. He has been declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit that sanctifies, by his resurrection from the dead." Rom 1.1-4 And again: "The gospel is the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation,[1851] which has been kept close from before the beginnings, but is now made manifest, and by the writings of the prophets, it is opened to all nations to the obedience of faith, according to the appointment of the eternal God." Rom 16.25-26 And yet again, he says more briefly: "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe;" Rom 1.16 that is to say, the gospel is the preaching of God's power, by which all those who believe are saved. And Christ is the power of God: for he is said to be the arm, the glory, the virtue, and brightness of the Father. Now, Christ brings salvation to everyone who believes, for he is the Saviour of all.


From all this we now gather this definition of the holy gospel:

The gospel is the heavenly preaching of God's grace toward us, in which it is declared to the whole world, which is set in the wrath and indignation of God, that God the Father of heaven is pleased in his only-begotten Son, our Lord Christ Jesus. He promised him to the holy fathers of old, and has now exhibited him to us in these latter times. And in him God has given us all things belonging to a blessed life and eternal salvation, as he that was made incarnate for us, dead, and raised from the dead again, was taken up into heaven, and is made our only Lord and Saviour, on the condition that, acknowledging our sins, we soundly and surely believe in him.

This definition, I confess, is somewhat long. Yet, with this I would have you think that the matter which is described in this definition is itself very large and ample. I have therefore, in this long definition or description, with as great a light as I could, endeavoured to make this manifest to all men. This is why I neither could nor should have expressed it more briefly. This definition consists of just parts. Once they are severally expounded and thoroughly opened, every man, I hope, will evidently perceive the nature, causes, effects, and whatever else is good to be known, concerning the gospel.

First of all, what most argues that the gospel is tidings come from heaven and was not begun on earth, is that God our heavenly Father first preached those tidings to our miserable parents after their fall in paradise. He promised his Son who, being incarnate, would crush the serpent's head. Then again, the apostle Paul in express words says: "God in time past, at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spoke to the fathers by the prophets, and has in these last days spoken to us by his Son." Heb 1.1-2 And John before him testified, saying: "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared him." Joh 1.18 And again: "He that comes from on high is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: he that comes from heaven is above all. And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies." Joh 3.31-32


To this belongs, that the prophets were believed to have prophesied by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now in the holy scriptures, they foreshadowed the gospel: the especial or chief points of which were declared to men by angels descending from heaven. For the incarnation of the Son of God is first told to the holy virgin by the archangel Gabriel, and after that, again to Joseph, the supposed Father of Christ, and tutor [1852] of the unspotted virgin. The same angel preached to the shepherds, the birth of the Son of God. Moreover, the angels declared to the women who came to the grave, minding their country-manner to anoint the body of the Lord; that he was risen from the dead again. The same angels testified to the apostles at the Lord's ascension, whose eyes were turned and surely fixed into the clouds, that he was taken up into heaven, and that from there he would come again to judge the quick and the dead. And to all these testimonies may be added the voice of the eternal Father himself, uttered from heaven upon our Lord and Saviour, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am pleased; hear him." [1853] This testimony of the Father is repeated by the blessed apostle Peter, in the zeal of the Spirit, in the first chapter of his second epistle. Therefore, the preaching of the gospel is a divine speech, unreprovable, and brought down from heaven. Whoever believes it, believes the word of the eternal God; and those who do not believe it, despise and reject the word of God. For it does not cease to be the word of God because it is preached by the ministry of men. For we read that the Lord said of the apostles: "It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of my Father which is within you." Mat 10.20 And therefore, we read that they did not depart from Jerusalem until they were first instructed from above, and had received the Holy Ghost. Nor is there any reason why the word of God should be tied to the apostles only, as though no man preached the word of God after the apostles. For our Lord plainly says in St. John's gospel: "Truly I say to you, He that receives whomever I send, receives me; and he that receives me receives him that sent me." Joh 13.20 Now our Lord, the high priest and chief bishop of his catholic church, sends not only apostles, but also all those who are lawfully called, and who bring the word of Christ.


Therefore, we understand it to be spoken concerning all the lawful ministers of the church, where the Lord says, "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you retain, they are retained:" Joh 20.23 and again, "Whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven; and whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven." Mat 18.18 For in another place the Lord says: "Truly I say to you, it shall be easier for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city that does not receive you, and does not hear your sayings." Mat 10.15 Now, who does not know how filthy and horrible the sin was with which the men of Sodom defiled themselves; and that the Lord rained fire, brimstone, and pitch from heaven, with which he burnt up both the city and her inhabitants? Therefore, who cannot gather from this, that rebels and blasphemers of the gospel of Christ sin more grievously than the Sodomites did; and that God, who is a sure revenger, will surely plague them for it with unspeakable miseries and endless torments, either in this life, or in the world to come, or else in both? Let us therefore believe the gospel of the Son of God, first preached to the world by God the Father, then by the patriarchs, after that by the prophets, and lastly by the only-begotten Son of God, Christ Jesus — and by his apostles, whose heavenly voice even today sounds to us in the mouths of the ministers, sincerely preaching the gospel to us.

Secondly, we have to consider what the heavenly preaching of the gospel shows to the world: namely, the grace of God our heavenly Father. For the apostle Paul, in the twentieth chapter of the Acts, says that he "received the ministry of the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." Act 20.24 Therefore, I will at present say as much about the grace of God as is sufficient for this place.

The word "grace" is diversely used in the holy scriptures, even as it is used in profane writings also. For in the Bible it signifies thanksgiving, and also a benefit, and alms, as in 2Cor 8.1-2. Moreover, it signifies praise and recompense, as where the apostle says: "If, when you do well, you are afflicted, and yet bear it — that is praiseworthy before God." [1854]


It also signifies faculty or licence; as when we say that one has gotten grace to teach and execute an office. For the apostle says that he received grace; and to expound his own meaning, he immediately adds, to execute the office of an apostle. Moreover, the gifts of God are called grace, because they are given gratis, and freely bestowed without looking for any recompense. And yet Paul, in the fifth chapter to the Romans, distinguishes a gift from grace: for grace signifies the favour and good-will of God toward us; but a gift is a thing which God gives us of that good-will, such as faith, constancy, and integrity. They are said to have found grace with God, whom God dearly loves and favours more than others. In that sense, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; Joseph found grace in the eyes of the lord of the prison; and the holy virgin is read to have found grace with the Lord, because she was beloved by God, and very dear to the Lord, as the one whom he had singularly chosen from among all other women. But in this place and present argument, "grace" is the favour and goodness of the eternal Godhead, with which, according to his incomprehensible goodness, He gratis — freely, for Christ's sake — embraces, calls, justifies, and saves us mortal men.

Now here, before we go any further, I think it is not amiss to examine and search out the cause of God's love exhibited for us. For we see that there is a certain relation between the favour of God and men, to whom his favour is so bent. It is a matter neither hard nor tedious to be found out. For there is nothing in us with which God can be in love, or with which he may be moved or stirred up to embrace us. Yes, insomuch as we are all impure sinners, and God is holy, just, and a revenger of iniquities, he has enough to find in us for which he may be angry, and plague us with just revenge. So then, the cause of God's love towards us must of necessity not be in us, nor in any other thing beside God (considering that nothing is more excellent than man); but it must be in God himself.[1855] Moreover, the most true scripture teaches us that God, of his own inclination, is naturally good, gentle, and as Paul calls him, philanthropon,Tit 3.4 a lover of men, who has sent his own Son, of his own nature, into the world for our redemption.


Upon this, it consequently follows that God freely, of himself and for his Son's sake, loves man, and not for any other cause. Whereby all the preparations, incitements, and merits of men, being dissolved by the fire of God's great love, fade and pass away like smoke. For the grace of God is altogether free; and unless it is so, I cannot see how it can be called grace. But it benefits us in a thing so weighty (to cite some evident testimonies of the holy scripture), to confirm our minds with against all sophistical trifles and temptations of the devil. Our Lord in the gospel said: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son for the world, that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have life everlasting." Joh 3.16 Look here, this good-will of God, which is the favour and love with which God embraces us, is the cause of our salvation. For Christ, having suffered for us, is our salvation. Now God, [1856] out of very love, has given Christ both to us, and for us. Nor may we think that God was first moved by our love toward him, in order to show a like mutual love back to us, and to give his Son for us. For he had determined before the beginning of the world, to work our redemption through Christ his Son. And John the Evangelist says in his canonical epistle: "In this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be an atonement for our sins." 1Joh 4.10

Though these testimonies are sufficiently plain and strong enough, I will yet add some proofs out of the apostle Paul, so that this argument may be more evident, and that the great agreement there is between the evangelists and apostles in this doctrine of grace, may appear. Paul therefore says, "All have sinned, and stand in need of the glory of God; but are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom 3.23-24 Again, he says to the Ephesians: "You are saved through grace by faith, and that not of your selves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Eph 2.8-9


Again, to Titus: "The grace and love of God our Saviour towards all men has appeared, not of the works of our own righteousness which we did, but according to his mercy he has saved us." [1857] Likewise, in the second Epistle to Timothy, first chapter, he says: "God has saved us, and has called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus." I think, truly, that if a man had a set purpose to imagine anything for the defence of this matter, he could not have framed any sentence so fit and evident as these words. So now it is manifest that the grace of God is altogether free, as that which excludes all our works and merits; and this free love of God is the only cause and true beginning of the gospel, for which cause Paul calls the gospel the preaching of grace.

But now, although the grace of God does not depend on us or our works, yet it does not idly abide in God, as if it were utterly outside of us and altogether far from us, as a thing that is neither felt nor at work in us. For we understood by the cited testimonies, that grace is the favour of God with which He loves us; we understood that men are saved by grace. For since God loves men, he would not have them perish; and therefore he has, through grace, sent his Son to deliver them from destruction, and that in him the justice and mercy of God might be known to the whole world. But none are delivered save those who believe. Therefore grace has something by which to work in man.[1858] For, by pouring the Holy Ghost into our hearts, the understanding and will are instructed in the faith. To be short, grace (as I already told you) [1859] calls, justifies, saves, or glorifies the faithful. Thus, we must take account that the whole work of our salvation, and all the virtues of the godly, proceed from the grace of God alone, whose working we acknowledge and confess at all times.


And that again is proved both by divine and human testimonies. Paul says to the Romans: "Those whom he knew before, he also predestined: and those whom he predestined, he also called: and those whom he called, he also justified: and those whom he justified, he also glorified. What shall we say then to these things? If God is on our side, who can be against us? Who did not spare his own Son, but gave him for us, how shall he not with him also give us all things?" Rom 8.29-32 Again, in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, he has referred the whole work of election and salvation, with all the parts of it, to the grace of God. Moreover, the holy fathers in the council Mileventanum, [1860] among whom St. Augustine was also present, made this decree touching the grace of God:

"If any man says that mercy is without the grace of God bestowed upon us from above — believing, willing, desiring, endeavouring, studying, asking, seeking, and striving as of ourselves — and does not confess that even to believe, to will, and to be able to do all these things as we should do, is wrought by the pouring in and inspiration of the Holy Ghost — if he joins the humility or obedience of man as a help to grace — and if he does not consent that it is the very gift of grace even that we are humble and obedient — then he is directly contrary to the apostle, who says, 'For what do you have that you have not received?' 1Cor 4.7 and, 'By the grace of God, I am what I am.'" 1Cor 15.10   This much they had to say.


Now these divine and human testimonies being thoroughly considered, there is none, I hope, who may not understand that the grace of God is the same as I told you: namely, the favour and good-will of the eternal Godhead, with which, according to his incomprehensible goodness, He embraces, calls, justifies, and saves men freely for Christ's sake, our Lord and Saviour.

The blessed man Aurelius Augustine had a sharp conflict with Pelagius the Briton, concerning the grace of God. For the heretic understood nothing by the term grace, except the benefit of the creation. Augustine did not deny this to be of grace, but he also vehemently urged that the apostle especially spoke of that free grace by which, without any merit of ours, we are freely saved for Christ's sake. He therefore urged this all the more earnestly, because he saw that [1861] the heretic affirmed that his own human nature was sufficient for him,[1862] not only to do, but also to do perfectly, the commandments of God by free-will. But St. Augustine very largely and religiously disputes about these matters in his ninety-fifth Epistle, Ad Innocentium.[1863]

Many of the late writers, for teaching's sake, have divided grace into grace that does acceptable things, and grace that is gratis or freely given. Again, they have divided it into working grace, and joint-working grace. Finally, they part it into grace that goes before, and grace that follows after. And the very same writers also reckon up the operations or effects of grace in this manner: grace heals the soul, and first, makes it to will well, and then to work effectually the thing that it wills. So it causes the soul to persevere in goodness, and at length to come to eternal glory.[1864]


I will not take care to reckon up the sentences of writers, to show you each one's separate opinion (which would be both an excessive labour, and also more than my ability can do). But I am willing to cite the places of scripture (which is the one and only rule for how to think, and how to judge rightly) to show you thereby, what the scripture would have you think. I hope I have both briefly and evidently enough, declared the grace of God to you in my former treatise. And also the discourse about Christ, which follows after this (through whom the Father has poured the most excellent and heavenly grace into us) will help to make up that which seems to be lacking here.

But now, before I depart from this argument, I thought it good to admonish you, that the sentences of God's word do not conflict with themselves, when we read and hear in various places: first, that we are saved freely or by the grace of God; then, that we are saved by the love of God; thirdly, that we are saved through the mercy of God; fourthly, that we are saved through Christ; fifthly, that we are saved through the blood, or death, or incarnation of Christ; and lastly, that we are saved through faith in Christ, or in the mercy or grace of God. For all these statements tend to one and the same end, and they ascribe the whole glory and cause of man's salvation to the very mercy or grace of God. The pledge of grace, yes, and our only Saviour, is the only-begotten Son of God, betrayed unto death. Sincere faith lays hold on mere grace in Christ, and nothing else.

Now therefore, having thus expounded according to my small ability, that which I had to say in general about the grace of God, I descend here to handle that singular or particular work of God's grace, which is nothing else but this: that the merciful Father has exhibited to us his Son, in that manner and order which he promised in the old prophets; and that in him he has fully given us all things requisite to eternal life and absolute felicity. This is because he is the Lord and Messiah, or the only and true Saviour, who was incarnate, dead, raised to life, and taken up into heaven for us and our salvation.


For Christ is both king and high priest, that is, our Saviour; he is the mark, the star, and the very sunlight of the preaching of the gospel. Now in expounding these things particularly, I will use the following course and order. First of all, I will recite to you out of the law and the prophets some evident promises of Christ made by God to the church; these will be especially those that the apostles themselves have already touched and expounded. Secondly, I will prove to you that God has now performed what he promised so long ago; namely, that he has already exhibited to us his only-begotten Son; and that he is that true and so long-looked-for Lord and Messiah, who would come to save the world. Lastly, I will show you how, the Father is pleased and reconciled to the world again, in this Son. In him he has also fully given us all things requisite to eternal life and absolute felicity. For us and for our salvation, he was incarnate, dead, raised to life again, and taken up into heaven, there to be a Mediator forever and advocate to his Father. And in these points lie the lively veins of the gospel, which flow with wholesome waters unto eternal life; for the sound consolation of the faithful, and the enduring tranquility of a quiet conscience, consist in them; and without them, there is no life or quiet rest.

The promises made by God concerning Christ, which are uttered in the holy scriptures, are threefold, or of three sorts. Therefore, to make them plainer to you, I will divide the promises of one and the same sort according to the times. The first promises were made to the patriarchs or ancient fathers before the giving of the law: and these again consist of two sorts; for one sort are plain, uttered evidently in simple words, without any types and figurative shadows; the other sort are figurative and couched under types.

The first and most evident promise of all was made by the very mouth of God to our first parents, Adam and Eve, being oppressed with death, calamities, and the horrible fear of God's revenging hand for their transgression.[1865] This promise is, as it were, the pillar and base of all Christian religion, upon which the preaching of the gospel is altogether founded, and out of which all the other promises in a way are derived.


That promise is contained in these words of the Lord: "I will put enmity between you" (meaning the serpent, I say, the devil in the serpent) "and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; and it shall tread down your head, and you shall tread upon his heel." Gen 3.15 In these words, God promises seed; the seed, I say, not of man, but of woman; and that too, is of the most excellent woman, namely, that most holy virgin Mary, the woman that was blessed among all other women. For she conceived, not by any man, but by the Holy Ghost; and being a virgin still, she was delivered of Christ our Lord. By dying and rising again, he not only vexed or wounded, but also crushed and tread down, the head: that is, the kingdom of Satan — namely, sin, death, and damnation. He took away and made utterly void all the power and tyranny of our enemy and deceiver. Meanwhile, Satan trod on Christ's heel; that is to say, by his members — Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, the Jews and Gentiles — with intense torments and death, he vexed and killed the flesh, which was the lowest part in Christ, even as the heel is lowest in the body. For in the Psalms, the Lord says: "I am a worm, and no man. They have brought my life into the dust." Psa 22.6, 15 But he rose again from the dead. For if he had not risen again, he would not have trodden down the serpent's head. But now, by his rising, he has become the Saviour of all who believe in him. Out of this promise is derived that singular and notorious one, which the angel of the Lord recites to our father Abraham in the following words: "In your seed all the nations of the world shall be blessed." Gen 22.18 But Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians (Gal 3.16), declares in express words that that blessed seed which was promised to Abraham, is ours.[1866] Now our Lord is called by the name of Seed because of the first promise made to Adam and Eve, and because he was made incarnate and true man for us.


Nor is this promise repugnant to the first: for although Christ our Lord is here called the seed, or son, of Abraham; yet he is in no other way referred to Abraham than by the virgin, which was the daughter of Abraham and the mother of Christ. Now what good does the son of Abraham do to us by his incarnation? In truth, he blesses us. But a blessing is the contrary to a curse. Therefore, whatever curse we drew from the sin of Adam, Christ heals that in us, and he blesses us with all spiritual blessing. Nor does he bestow this benefit on a few alone, but upon all the nations of the world that believe in him.

The patriarch Jacob, being inspired with the Holy Ghost, foretold what would happen to his children; and at length, when he came to Judah among the rest, he says: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, and a law-giver from between his feet, till Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the gathering of the people." Gen 49.10 Look here, in these words the Messiah is not only promised, but the very time when he would be incarnate is also prescribed, with a declaration of both what and how far forth he would be. The kingdom, he says, shall remain under Judah until the coming of the Saviour: and even though the tribe of Judah will not always have kings to govern them, yet it will not lack nobles, captains, lawgivers, learned men and sages, to rule the people. And therefore, the evangelical history faithfully witnesses that Christ came at that time when all power, authority, and rule was translated to the Romans, to whose emperor, Octavius Augustus, the Jews were forced to pay taxes and tribute. Now, Shiloh signifies felicity, or the author of felicity; it signifies plenty, store, and abundance of all excellent things. For Christ is the treasury of all good things. And the Chaldee interpreter, where he finds Shiloh, translates it Christ. Finally, all people shall be gathered to him, as to their Saviour: as the prophets afterward most plainly declared, Isaiah in the second, and Micah in the fourth chapters of their books or prophecies.


Furthermore, the types and figures of Christ are given in Noah preserved in the ark; for in Christ the faithful are saved; as St. Peter testifies.1Pet 3 Abraham offers up Isaac, his only-begotten son on top of the same mountain where many years after, the only-begotten Son of God was offered on the cross.[1867] Joseph is sold to the heathen by his brethren, and cast in prison; but being delivered, he becomes their Saviour, and is called by all the people, the preserver of the Egyptian kingdom. Christ our Lord was prefigured in all these things.

The later promises also are of two sorts; either openly uncovered, or hidden under a veil or figure as it were. They are contained in the law and the prophets even till the time of the captivity of Babylon. In the third chapter of the Acts, the blessed apostle Peter cites the prophecy of Moses touching the coming of the greatest of all prophets. The prefigured promises [1868] of Christ are the sacrifices which Paul briefly declares in a wonderful summary in his epistle to the Hebrews. In the fifth chapter of first Corinthians, he applies the paschal lamb to Jesus Christ. 1Cor 10.4 Peter does the same in his first epistle. Again, the stony rock that was struck and gushed with water,[1869] St. Paul calls Christ.1Cor 10.4 And in the gospel of St. John, Christ himself says that he was prefigured in the brazen serpent which was lifted up in the desert Joh 3.14-15  — I have more fully declared the mystery of this in another place.[1870] There are many more like these. I already touched a good part of them when I had occasion to treat the ceremonies and their signification;[1871] someone who is inclined may read of it at large there.

The unfigured and uncovered promises are almost without number in the Psalms and the prophets. Indeed, the Lord himself in the gospel of St. Luke testifies that the description of all his office and business is contained at large in the law, the prophets, and the Psalms.Luk 24.44 And when St. Peter had preached the gospel, in which he promised both Christ and the full remission of sins to all who believed, he immediately added this:


"All the prophets from Samuel and those that followed in order, as many as have spoken, have likewise told you of these days." Act 3.24 David truly, in the second, twenty-second, and hundred and tenth Psalms, has notably set down the two natures of Christ: his Godhead and his manhood. Again, he has laid before all men's eyes his wholesome preaching, his eternal priesthood, his everlasting redemption, and his most bitter death and passion.[1872] What shall I say of the prophet Isaiah? By no small doctor of the church of Christ, [1873] he was very worthily called an evangelist rather than a prophet. So truly did he foretell the state of Christ, that it was as if he had written a story of things already past and done by Christ, and not of things that would be done. Now, he proposes Christ to be very God and very man, born after the flesh of the unspotted virgin, who had to preach the word of life. Like a good shepherd, he had to feed his fearful sheep, to be the light of the Gentiles to the utmost parts of the earth, to give sight to the blind, to heal the lame and diseased; to be betrayed by his own, to be spit upon, to be struck, to be hung between thieves, to be offered up as a sacrifice for sin, and finally to make intercession for transgressors — that he himself being just, he might justify all who believe in his name. Read Isaiah, the seventh, eighth, ninth, eleventh, twenty-eighth, fortieth, forty-ninth, fiftieth, and fifty-third chapters; and also the last chapters of all his prophecy, in which he most fully describes the church or congregation of Christ Immanuel.[1874] Jonah bore the most manifest type of the Lord's sharp death and joyful resurrection.[1875] Micah also names Bethlehem as the place in which Messiah would be born, whose beginning (namely, his divine nature) he regards as before all beginnings. Mic. 5.2 He also foretells that the preaching of the gospel would be sown abroad from Jerusalem through all the compass of the world. Mic 4.2


Jeremiah says that God would raise up from David a true seed or branch, that is, the looked-for Messiah; Jer 23.5 and in that prophecy, he alluded to the law concerning the raising up of a seed for the deceased brother. For the virgin, conceiving by the Holy Ghost, brought forth a Son, whose name is Jehovah, being very God in very deed, whom Isaiah calls Immanuel, Isa 7.14 who is the true righteousness of all who believe in him; for by Christ the faithful are justified. In the thirty-first chapter, Isaiah promises in Christ full or absolute remission of sins and abundant grace of the Holy Ghost, Isa 31.33-34 which Joel also did not conceal. Joel 2.28-32 Thus, out of many testimonies I have picked out only these few in number; for the whole of the books of the prophets are occupied in the description of Christ and his offices.

The last promises concerning Christ were revealed to the prophets by God, and by them they were declared to the church of God, even in the very time of the captivity at Babylon, or else immediately upon their return to Jerusalem.[1876] Ezekiel prophesies of the shepherd David, and of the sheep receiving that shepherd. In St. John's gospel, the Lord himself expounds these prophecies. Joh 10 The same prophet treats very much about grace, and the frank and full remission of sins through the Saviour Christ, especially in the thirty-fourth, thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh chapters of his prophecy. Daniel, truly, has visions and many dreams; but in them he so sets out Christ to us, that it is impossible to have him better or more evidently and excellently described. In his second chapter, Daniel teaches us about his eternal kingdom, and tells us that Christ would come under the Roman monarchy, at which time the Roman princes, being allied by affinity, would destroy one another mutually in battle. This was fulfilled when Pompey and Julius Caesar, Antony and Octavius Augustus, maintained civil war. Moreover, Daniel's weeks [1877] are unknown to no man, in which, as it were, he points with his finger at Christ, the coming of Christ, and the reprobation of the Jews because of their disloyalty and unbelief.


Haggai the prophet foretold the manner how the temple would be built, I mean, the true temple indeed: namely, the church of Christ.[1878] Zechariah excellently paints for us many mysteries of Christ; he lays before us the kingdom and priesthood of our Lord and Saviour; he commends to us that one and only eternal sacrifice, which is effectual enough to cleanse the sins of the whole world — Zech. third, ninth, and fourteenth chapters. Yes, he prophesies of nothing else but of Christ and his kingdom. Malachi foreshows the forerunner of the Lord, and handles no small number of mysteries concerning Christ. By these we perceive that Paul wrote most truly in the first chapter to the Romans, saying that God promised the gospel before by his prophets in the holy scriptures. Rom 1.1-2

Now by these holy promises we gather this also: that there are not many or different gospels (although we do not deny that the same gospel was penned by different evangelists); but that there is one gospel alone, and that too is eternal. For the very same gospel which is preached to us today, was preached to our first parents at the beginning of the world.[1879] For it is assuredly certain that Adam, Eve, Abel, all the patriarchs, prophets, and faithful people of the old Testament, were saved by the gospel, which we have declared at large in another place.[1880]

We now come to the second part, where we have to show you that God the Father has faithfully performed for us, that which he promised to our forefathers, in giving to us his only-begotten Son, who is that true and looked-for Messiah, who is blessed world without end. The evangelists and apostles of our Lord have taken great pains to make this matter manifest, and have set it forth so well and faithfully, that it cannot be bettered.


They show that Christ comes from the stock of David, descending lineally from the seed of Abraham. They tell that his mother was the virgin, who conceived by the Holy Ghost, and still being a virgin, brought him into the world. They note the time in which Christ was revealed, corresponding in all points to the prophets' prophecies. They add that the place of his nativity corresponded to that which Micah foretold. In the East a star appears, which moves the princes, or wise men, to go and salute the newborn King. Therefore they come, and openly profess even in Jerusalem, [1881] that the Messiah is born, and that they have come out of the East to worship and honour him. According to their words, so were their deeds. For once they had found him by the leading of the star, they fall down before him, and by offering to Christ the gifts that they brought, they did not obscurely declare how joyful they were, and how much they regarded their Lord and Saviour.[1882] In the very city of Jerusalem, the most just man Simeon, with great joy of heart and godly congratulation, openly testifies in the temple that God, according to his eternal goodness [1883] and constancy, had given to the world his only-begotten Son, whom he had promised to the fathers; and with this, he attested that he was ready to die.[1884] He adds the cause; "For my eyes have seen your salvation," namely, that Shiloh, the Saviour, whom you, O God, have determined to "set before all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of your people Israel;" Luk 2.30-32 that is, that shaking off all darkness, he would bring the light of truth and life unto the Gentiles, to enlighten them with; and that he would be the glory and life of the people of Israel. To this also belongs the testimony of that notable man Zechariah, the holy priest of God, saying: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who have been since the world began;" and so forth, as seen in the first chapter of Luke's gospel.


Moreover, John the son of this Zechariah, surnamed the Baptist, of whom we read that none more holy was ever born of women, Luk 7.28 pointed at Christ Jesus with his finger, and openly declared that he is that looked-for Messiah whom all the prophets promised; and that by giving him to the world, God has done what he promised, and wholly poured himself with all his benefits into and upon all faithful believers. "And as the people waited" (says Luke), "and thought in their hearts of John, whether he was the Christ; John answered, saying to them all, Indeed I baptize you with water; but one stronger than I comes after me, whose shoelace I am not worthy to untie; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Luk 3.15-16 And in the Gospel of St. John we read: "The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one of whom I said, 'After me comes a man which is preferred before me, because he was before me;' and I did not know him — only that he would be declared to Israel. Therefore I have come baptizing with water. And immediately after he says: "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abided on him. And I did not know him. But the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bore record that this is the Son of God." Joh 1.29-34 Again, when the disciples of John envied the happy success of Christ, and it grieved them to see their master John neglected as it were, in comparison to Christ, John said to his disciples: "You yourselves are witnesses that I said, I am not Christ, but I was sent before him. He that has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices because of the bridegroom: therefore my joy is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. He that believes in the Son has life everlasting: he that does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." [1885]


These testimonies are firm, clear, and evident enough, and might suffice for the confirmation of this cause. But let us yet pick out and add a few more from many which may declare that Christ is already exhibited to us. Therefore, our Lord himself, whom we believe to be Messiah, when he had a long while been greatly commended by the testimony of John, at length goes abroad and preaches the word of life. But it is not read that in any age, before or since, there was ever any who taught with so great a grace. And with this he showed almost incredible and wonderful miracles, which easily argue for who he was; and these were sufficient to win a man with whom no words might possibly prevail. He was loving and gentle to sinners, continually repeating and beating into their heads that he had come to save them, and call them to repentance. Therefore, when the disciples of John came to Christ once, and asked, "Are you the one that would come, or shall we look for another?" he answered, "Go and tell those things to John, which you see and hear: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the glad tidings of the gospel are preached to the poor." Mat 11.3-5 Now by these, — I mean by his doctrine, and his works or miracles — his mind was to show that he was exhibited to the world as the true Messiah, and no other is to be looked for. Moreover, in the synagogue at Nazareth, where he read and expounded Isaiah's prophecy of the coming of Messiah, he declared that this scripture was fulfilled in himself. And to this history is immediately annexed: "And all bore witness to him, and wondered at the gracious sayings that proceeded from his mouth." Luk 4.16-22 Again, in the tenth chapter of St. John's gospel: "The Jews came around the Lord and said, How long will you make us doubt? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, bear witness of me. But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep." Joh 10.24-26 And shortly after he adds:


"You say that I blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God. If I do not do the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do, and you do not believe me, believe my works — that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him." Joh 10.36-38

In the seventh chapter of John we read: "Those who believed in him said, Will Christ, when he comes, show more signs than this man has shown?" Joh 7.31 That is to say, Even if we were to grant that there is another Christ to be looked for, this is most sure: that the other Messiah cannot do more and greater miracles than this man does. Let us therefore believe that this is the true Messiah. Before Caiaphas, the high priest, and the whole council of the peers of Israel, and also before Pontius Pilate in the judgment-hall of the Roman empire, our Lord Christ openly, and in express words, confessed that he is that true and looked-for Messiah.

As the prophets foretold of him, he truly and of his own accord died for sinners; the third day after that, he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father. And the evangelists, reciting faithfully the words and deeds of Christ, always add to the most notable ones: "All this was done or said, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." Thus it would not be worth the labour here to gather together the prophecies of the prophets, to examine the words and deeds of Christ by them, and by the manifest agreement between them, to conclude this: That God has performed for us that which he promised to our fathers, in giving to us his only-begotten Son Christ Jesus, who is the true and looked-for Messiah. For the evangelists have already done this, and with such great faith and diligence, that it cannot be bettered for its plainness. To this you may now refer all that I have said in my former sermons touching the signification, or mysteries, in the fulfilling and abrogating of the law.

And to content ourselves with a smaller number of testimonies, might not this one, in the fourth chapter of St. John, be used instead of several thousand confirmations? The woman of Samaria says to the Lord: "I know that the Messiah shall come, who is called Christ. Therefore, when he comes, he will tell us all things. Jesus answered her, I am he that speaks to you." Joh 4.25-26 Look, what could be said more plainly?


"I am the Messiah," he says, even I, who even now speaks to you, and at first said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you the water of life. For whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never more thirst: but the water that I give him shall become a well of water in him, springing up into eternal life." Joh 4.10, 14

Those, therefore, are the most thirsty and unfortunate of all men, who long and look for another Messiah besides our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. The apostle St. Peter in an appropriately long oration, well-grounded and confirmed with scripture and strong reasons, in the second chapter of the Acts, shows that our Lord Jesus is that true Messiah. For he closes his sermon with this sentence: "Therefore let all the house of Israel surely know, that God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ, whom you have crucified." To the same mark tends that large and learned oration of the first martyr St. Stephen, which may be seen in the seventh chapter of the Acts.[1886] Out of Isaiah's prophecy, Philip declares to the eunuch of Ethiopia that Jesus is Christ. St. Paul, in all the Jewish synagogues, puts forth no other proposition to preach on but this: Jesus is Christ, that is, Jesus is the king, the bishop, and the Saviour of the faithful. And in the thirteenth chapter he at large declares and proves that proposition true.

So now, these most evident and clear testimonies of holy scripture cannot help but suffice for those heads who are not set to purposely cavil and wrangle. At present, I will not too busily and curiously dispute against the contrary Jews, who look for another Messiah, and deny that our Lord Jesus, the Son of God and the virgin Mary, is the true Messiah. The wretches feel it to be true, which the Lord foretold them in his gospel, saying: "When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, let him who reads this understand. Then let those who are in Jerusalem flee to the mountains. But woe to those who are with suckling child in those days; for the affliction shall be great." [1887]


And again, speaking of the city of Jerusalem, he says: "The days shall come upon you, that your enemies shall compass you with a trench, and hem you in, and lay siege to you on every side, and make you even with the ground, and your sons that are within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone standing upon another; because you do know not the time of your visitation." Luk 19.43-44 And again; "There shall be wrath upon this people; and they shall fall with the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." Luk 21.23-24 Now, since they feel these things are finished, [1888] as they were foretold in the gospel by Christ, why do the wretches not give God the glory, and believe the gospel in other things, acknowledging that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the virgin Mary, our Lord and Saviour, is the true and looked-for Messiah? What do they have they to cloak their stubborn incredulity? Now for the span of more than a thousand and five hundred years, they have been without their country — I mean, the land of promise that flowed with milk and honey; they have lacked their prophets, and lacked their solemn service and ceremonial rites. For where is their temple? Where is the high priest? Where is the altar? Where are the holy instruments? Where are the sacrifices that ought to be offered according to the law?

All the glory of God's people is now translated to the Christians. They are the ones who now enjoy being called the sons of faithful Abraham; they enjoy the promises made to the fathers; they talk about and mention the fathers; they judge rightly about the law and covenant of the Lord; they have the holy scriptures, and have great dexterity in expounding them; they have the true temple, the true high priest, the true altar of incense and burnt-offerings, even Christ Jesus, the Lord and Saviour; they have the true worship which was only prefigured in those external ceremonies of old — as I have already declared to you in that place where I handled the Jewish ceremonies. The Gentiles are called out of every quarter of the world to Christ Jesus. All the promises touching the calling of the Gentiles have been most abundantly fulfilled up to now, even today.


Now we are the chosen flock,[1889] according to the doctrine of St. Peter: "We are the royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; being called to it so that we should preach the power of Him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light." 1Pet 2.9 Therefore, let the unhappy Jews turn to Christ by faith, and together with us begin to worship him in whom their fathers hoped, and in whom alone is life and salvation — unless, perhaps, they would rather be entangled in greater errors, to be vexed daily with endless calamities, and so at last perish eternally.[1890] For, to conclude this place with the apostle's words, "God was made manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by the angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed in the world, and received in glory. 1Tim 3.16 And everyone who believes in him shall live eternally, and never be confounded." Rom 9.33

Now remaining, we have the last part to expound — the contents of which, are that God the Father, who before was angry with the world, is now pleased in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

First of all, therefore, I have to show you that God was angry with the world, which is no hard matter to prove. For God is angry at sins. But the whole world is subject to sin; therefore, of necessity, it must be that the most just God is mightily angry with the whole world. Paul says: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Rom 1.18 Again, the apostle says that "all men are subject to sin." Rom 3.9 To confirm this, he cites these sentences from the holy scriptures, saying:

"There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understands, or seeks after God; they have all gone out of the way; they have all become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; they have used their tongues to deceive; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood. Heart's grief and misery are in their ways; and they have not known the way of peace. There is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom 3.10-18


Now, lest the Israelites answer that these things do not pertain to the people of God, but to the heathen and ungodly alone, he adds: "We know that whatever the law says, it says it to those who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and that the whole world may be endangered [1891] to God." Rom 3.19 No man is excepted here. For the apostle says to the Galatians: "He has shut up all under sin, that he may have mercy on all." Gal 3.22 It follows, therefore, that the whole world was subject to the wrath or indignation of the most just and righteous God, as proved at large in the second, fourth, and fifth chapters to the Ephesians.

But the heavenly Father is appeased, or reconciled to this wicked world, through the only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ. And I hope I will abundantly prove this only by the testimony of God himself. For the Father sent down a voice from heaven to earth upon Christ — first, after his baptism, as he newly ascended out of the water; and then again, at his transfiguration in the sight of his disciples. He significantly says: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am delighted, pleased, or reconciled; hear him." Mat 17.5 This testimony was foreshown in the forty-second chapter of Isaiah's prophecy. And Peter the apostle repeats it in the first chapter of his second epistle. Paul also expounded this as it were, and said, "It pleased the Father that in the Son should dwell all fulness; and by him to reconcile all things to himself, since by him He has set at peace, through the blood of the cross, both the things on earth and the things in heaven." Col 1.19-20 In heaven is God, and we men are here upon earth. Now Christ is the Mediator, who goes between us, and reconciles us to his Father, so that now we are the beloved of the Father in his beloved Son. For in the epistle to the Ephesians the same apostle says: "He has made us accepted in the beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Eph 1.6-7 All this shall be more fully understood by what follows.

For now I must prove that God the Father has given us in his Son, all things that are necessary to a happy life and eternal salvation. I name here two things: a happy life, and everlasting salvation.


By a happy life, I mean a holy and godly life, which we live and lead quietly and honestly in this present world. Eternal salvation is that felicity of the life to come, which with assured hope we truly look for.

Now, we have in Christ a most absolute doctrine of a happy life, taught to us by the gospel, in which we also comprehend the example of Christ, his own trade of life. Truly, our heavenly Father has made him our teacher in saying, "Hear him." And in the gospel of St. Matthew, he himself says: "Do not be called masters; for you have one master, even Christ;" Mat 23.8 In the gospel of St. John, he is called "The light of the world." Joh 8.12 In another place also, he testifies that his doctrine is contained in the holy scriptures, from which it comes that he refers his disciples to the diligent reading of the holy scriptures. Touching these scriptures, Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles and so the universal church of Christ, says: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction which is in righteousness — that the man of God may be perfect, instructed in all good works." 2Tim 3.16-17 This is why, even if the whole world were mad, and they were obstinate defenders of traditions rather than the scriptures, and they sharpen their teeth out of anger — yet, despite their heads, the word of the apostle abides most firm,[1892] in which he testifies that the doctrine of the scriptures, otherwise called Christian doctrine, is in all points most absolute and thoroughly perfect. Touching this matter, because I have already spoken of it in the first sermons of the first Decade, I may therefore be a great deal briefer here.

Now concerning the eternal salvation fully purchased for us by Christ, you must think thus: eternal salvation is seeing and enjoying the eternal God. Consequently, it is an inseparable joining or knitting to him. For David says, "There is fulness of joys in your sight; and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psa 16.11


And St. John says, "Now we are the sons of God, and yet it does not appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he appears, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." 1Joh 3.2 Moreover, the Lord says in the gospel, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Mat 5.8 But all men are endued with impure hearts: therefore no man shall see God; because no uncleanness abides in consuming fire (and God is a consuming fire [1893]). Therefore we cannot be partakers of salvation unless we are purely cleansed. But without the shedding of blood there is no cleansing or remission of sins: I do not mean the blood of rams or goats, but of the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Christ Jesus. He [1894] therefore took on our flesh and blood; he came into the world, died willingly for us, and shed his blood for the remission of our sins; and by that means purged the faithful — so that now, being clean, they may be able to stand before the most holy God, who is a consuming fire. To this may be annexed the consideration of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, which I mentioned above in the definition of the gospel. For the whole mystery of our reconciliation consists in those points. Touching this, I will speak that much more briefly in this place, because in the exposition about the Apostles' Creed,[1895] I handled so much as concerns these points of doctrine. Whoever would know this, may look and find them there.

Now, that Christ alone is our most absolute life and salvation, it may be gathered from what has already been said. And yet, notwithstanding, I will here allege some further testimonies, to the end that the verity and sincerity of the evangelical truth may be firmer and more evident to all men. In Christ alone our life and salvation consists; so that without Christ, there is no life and salvation in any other creature. The Lord himself testifies of this [1896] saying: "Truly, truly, I say to you, He that does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but goes in some other way, is a thief and a robber. Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep: as many as came before me are thieves and robbers." Joh 10.1, 7-8


Look here, there is only one door through which the way to eternal life lies: and Christ is that door. Therefore, those who strive to come to life and salvation by other means than through Christ, are thieves and robbers; for they steal from Christ's honour and glory, considering that he both is and he abides as the only Saviour: and in so doing, they kill their own souls. The same Saviour in the gospel says: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." Joh 14.6 In these few words, has he not rejected and utterly excluded all other means of salvation, making himself alone our life and salvation? This certain phrase of speech, "No man comes to the Father but by me," is the same as this: "Through Christ alone we come to the Father." Moreover, the Lord's apostles have laid Christ alone before our eyes in such a way that no man can help but understand that without Christ Jesus, there is no life to be found in any other creature. The holy apostle St. Peter says in the Acts: "There is in no other any salvation: for there is no other name under heaven given among men in which we must be saved." Act 14.12 And St. Paul, in the fifth chapter to the Romans, repeats that "by the righteousness of one man, Jesus Christ, all the faithful are justified." Rom 5.17 Again, Paul says: "Through him is preached to you the remission of sins; and through him, everyone who believes is justified from all the things, from which you could not be justified by Moses' law." Act 13.38-39 He also has other testimonies like this in the second chapter of his epistle to the Galatians. Gal 2.16 It is manifest, therefore, that through Christ alone the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting are freely bestowed upon all the faithful. These gifts, just as they are not without Christ at all, so are they not bestowed by any other means than through Christ alone. Concerning the remission of sins, which is the chief tidings of the gospel, I have already discoursed at large in the ninth sermon of the first Decade, and in other places.

Now for the proof that our Lord fully absolves from sins, fully remits sins, and fully saves repentant sinners,[1897] so that nothing more can be desired or wished for; and consequently, the Lord himself is the most absolute fulness of all the faithful, without whom those who believe, neither do nor can wish for anything else unto life, salvation, and absolute felicity. In the gospel, He himself says again:


"Everyone that drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water which I shall give him, he shall live eternally." Joh 4.13-14 And again: "I am the bread of life; he that comes to me shall not hunger, and he that believes in me shall never thirst." Joh 6.35 The apostles therefore, after they had eaten this celestial bread — that is, once they had believed in Christ, when many departed and forsook Christ — being questioned whether they also would leave him, answered this: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and know that you are Christ, the Son of the living God." Joh 6.68-69 Look here, they neither will nor can forsake Christ, because there is no other to whom they may join themselves. For he alone is the life and salvation of those who believe; and that too, is so absolute and perfect, that in him alone they may content and stay themselves. The doctrine of the apostles fully agrees with the writings of the evangelists. For Paul says to the Colossians: "It pleased the Father that in the Son all fulness should dwell." Col 1.19 And again: "In the Son dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and you are fulfilled in him." Col 2.9-10 And in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he affirms that the faithful have full remission of sins, because sacrifices for sin cease to be offered; Heb 10.2 and God promises by the prophet Jeremiah, so absolute a remission of sins, that he will not so much as once remember or think on them afterward.[1898] To this place belongs the whole epistle written to the Hebrews, and the conclusion of the eighth sermon in the first Decade, in which I recounted to you the treasures that God the Father gives to us in Christ his Son, our Lord and Saviour.

Upon this it now consequently follows that those who attribute to Christ Jesus our Lord, the true Messiah, either not exclusively, or else not fully, all things requisite to life and salvation, have not yet rightly understood the gospel of Christ, nor sincerely preached it.


It is a wicked and blasphemous thing to ascribe either to men, or to things inferior and worse than men, the glory and honour due to Christ. The principal exercises of Christian religion cannot, by derogating from the glory of Christ,[1899] claim anything for themselves. For sincere doctrine directly leads us to Christ. Prayer invocates, praises, and gives thanks in the name of Christ. The sacraments serve to seal and represent to us the mysteries of Christ. And the works of faith are done out of duty, although also of free accord; because we are created for good works. Yes, through Christ alone they please and are acceptable to God the Father; for Christ is the vine, we are the branches. So all glory is reserved untouched to Christ alone: which is the surest note to know the true gospel by.

Thus, up to here we have heard that God, the Father of mercies, according to his free mercy, taking pity upon mankind when it stuck fast and was drowned in the mire of hell, sent his only-begotten Son into the world, as he promised by the prophets, that he might draw us out of the mud, and fully give us all things requisite to life and salvation. For God the Father was reconciled to us in Christ, who for us and our salvation was incarnate, dead, raised from death to life, and taken up into heaven again.

By all this, it may be indifferently well gathered to whom that salvation belongs, and to whom that grace is rightly preached. And yet, the matter itself seems to require us to expressly show, in flat words, that Christ and the preaching of Christ's grace, declared in the gospel, belongs to all. For we must not imagine that two books are laid in heaven. In one of them, the names are written of those who are to be saved; and they will be saved of necessity, so that whatever they do against the word of Christ, and however committed to so heinous offences, they cannot possibly help but be saved. In the other book are contained the names of those who, whatever they can do, and however holily they live, they cannot avoid everlasting damnation.


Let us rather hold, that the holy gospel of Christ preaches generally to the whole world, the grace of God, the remission of sins, and life everlasting. And in this belief, we must confirm our minds with the word of God, by gathering together some evident places of the holy scriptures, which manifestly prove that it is so. Of this sort are the following sayings: "In your Seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed," Gen 22.18 "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved," Joel 2.32 "We have all gone astray like sheep; and God has laid upon him the iniquity of us all," Isa 53.6 "Come to the waters, all you who thirst," Isa 55.1 There are countless places of this sort in the old Testament. Now, in the gospel the Lord says: "Everyone who asks receives; and he that seeks finds," etc. Mat 7.8 "Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will ease you of your burden," Mat 11.28 "Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father," etc. Mat 28.19 "Go into the whole world, and preach the gospel to all creatures: whoever believes and is baptized, shall be saved," Mark 16.16 "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life," Joh 3.15 In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter says: "Of a truth, I perceive that there is no respect of persons with God; but in every nation, he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is acceptable to him," Act 10.35 Paul says in the third chapter to the Romans: "The righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ comes to all, and upon all those who believe." Rom 3.22 And in the tenth chapter he says: "The same Lord over all, is rich to all those who call upon him." Rom 10.12 In his Epistle to Titus he says: "There has appeared the grace of God, that is healthful to all men." Tit 2.11 And in first Timothy, the second chapter, he says: "God would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2.4 These and similar are the manifest testimonies, upon which all the faithful firmly stay themselves.

But now. if you demand how it happens that all men are not saved, since the Lord would that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, the Lord himself answers you in the gospel, saying: "Many indeed are called, but few are chosen." Mat 20.16


In the fourteenth chapter of St. Luke's gospel, he more plainly expounds this sentence, where he shows in a parable the reasons why most mortal men do not obtain eternal salvation, preferring earthly and transitory things, before celestial or heavenly matters. For everyone had a separate excuse to cloak his disobedience with: one had bought a farm; another had five yoke of oxen to test; the third had newly married a wife. Luk 14.18-20 And in the gospel of St. John, the Lord says: "This is condemnation, because the light came into the world, and men loved darkness more than the light." Joh 3.19 That saying of the apostle in 2Cor 4, agrees with this doctrine of the evangelists. And in first Timothy, the fourth chapter, he says: "God is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe." 1Tim 4.10 From this we gather that God, in the preaching of the gospel, requires faith in every one of us: and by faith it is manifest that we are made partakers of all the goodness and gifts of Christ. And truly there is a correlation between faith and the gospel; for in the gospel of St. Mark, the Lord annexed faith to the preaching of the gospel. Mark 16.15-16 And Paul says, that "to him was committed the preaching of the gospel, unto the obedience of faith." Rom 1.5-16 Again he says: "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all those who believe." Rom 1.16 And in the tenth chapter to the Romans, he shows by gradation that the gospel is received by faith. Rom 10.9 But, that faith may be rightly planted in the hearts of men, it is needful that the preaching of repentance first goes before. For this reason, in the latter end of the definition of the gospel, I added, "So that we, acknowledging our sins, may believe in Christ." That is to say, the Lord will be our Saviour and give us life everlasting, if we acknowledge our sins, and believe in him. And therefore, here may now be annexed the treatises about faith and repentance. Touching faith, I have already spoken largely in the fourth, fifth, and sixth sermons of the first Decade. I will later speak concerning repentance, in a separate sermon by itself. In this place, I will only summarily touch on those points of repentance [1900] which seem to demonstrate the gospel.


Our Lord Christ Jesus, in the preaching of the gospel, requires faith and repentance. Nor when he preached the gospel, did he himself proceed any other way. For Mark has: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel." Mark 1.14-15 Nor did he otherwise instruct his disciples when he sent them to preach the gospel to all nations. For St. Luke says: "Christ said to his disciples, So it is written, and so it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day from the dead; and that in his name should be preached repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations." Luk 24.46-47 St. Paul, like a good scholar following his master, says in the Acts of the Apostles: "You know that I have held back nothing that was profitable to you, but I have shown you, and taught you openly and throughout every house, witnessing both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, the repentance that is toward God, and the faith that is toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Act 20.20-21 In his Epistle to the Romans, where he compendiously [1901] handles the gospel, he takes occasion to begin preaching it at sin, convincing both Jews and Gentiles to be subject to it. Now he begins at sin to this end and purpose: that every one, looking into himself, may see and acknowledge that he has no righteousness in himself, but that by nature [1902] he is the son of wrath, death, and damnation. It is not that such acknowledging of sins, of itself, makes us acceptable to God, or make us deserving of remission of sins and life everlasting; but in a way, it prepares a way in the minds of men to receive faith in Christ Jesus, and by that means, to embrace Christ Jesus himself, who is our only and absolute righteousness; for "the whole do not need the physician, but those who are sick and diseased." Mat 9.12 Therefore, those who think they are clear without sins, and are righteous of themselves, utterly reject Christ, and make his death of no effect.[1903]


But on the other side, are those who feel the diseases of the mind, and from the bottom of their hearts confess that they are sinners and unrighteous, not putting any trust in their own strength and merits, who even pant from the haste that they make to Christ. And when they do, then Christ offers himself in the gospel, promising them remission of sins and life everlasting, as he that came to heal the sick and to save repentant sinners. But the promise is received by faith, and not by works: therefore the gospel, and Christ in the gospel, are received by faith. For we must diligently distinguish between the precepts and the promises. The promises are received by faith: the precepts are accomplished by works.

Upon which Paul said: "If the inheritance is of the law, then is it not now of promise: but God gave Abraham the inheritance by promise." Gal 3.18 The same apostle, comparing the law and the gospel, says to the Romans: "The righteousness which is of the law says, Whoever does these things shall live by them; but the righteousness of faith says, If you believe, you shall be saved." Rom 10.5,6 The law therefore is grounded upon works, to which it seems to attribute righteousness: but because no man fulfils the law in works, no man is justified by works, or by the law. The gospel is not grounded upon works: for sinners acknowledge nothing in themselves but sin and wickedness; for they feel in themselves that they are wholly corrupted. And therefore, they flee to the mercy of God, in whose promises they put their trust, hoping truly that they will freely obtain remission of their sins, and that for Christ's sake, they are received into the number of the sons of God.

I would speak more in this place concerning faith in Jesus Christ, the remission of sins, and the inheritance of life everlasting, if I had not already declared them at large in the first Decade. Here you have to remember, by the way, that the gospel is not sincerely preached when you are taught that we are made partakers of the life of Christ for our own deserts and meritorious works. For we are freely saved[1904] without respect to any works of ours, either first or last.


Although I have more than once handled this argument in these sermons of mine. Yet, because it is the hook on which the hinge of evangelical doctrine hangs (which is the door to Christ), [1905]  and this doctrine (namely, that Christ is received by faith, and not by works) is greatly resisted by many men — I will, for the declaration and confirmation of it, produce only two places here; but they are apparent and evident enough to prove and confirm it by. The one is out of the gospel of Christ our Lord, the other out of Paul's Epistles.

In the gospel of St. John, our Lord Jesus Christ was about to briefly teach Nicodemus the way to true salvation; that is, to preach the glad tidings of life. He first of all begins at repentance, and wholly takes Nicodemus away from himself, leaving him no merits of his own in which to put his trust. For utterly condemning the first birth of man, in which nothing is available to obtain eternal life, what does he leave Nicodemus, I beseech you, in which he may brag or make his boast? For he expressly says: "Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born from above,[1906] he cannot see the kingdom of God." If the first birth and its gifts [1907] were able to promote a man to the kingdom of God, then what need would he have to be born the second time? The second birth is wrought by the means of the Holy Ghost, which, being poured into our hearts from heaven, brings us to the knowledge of ourselves, so that we may easily perceive, assuredly know, and sensibly feel, that in our flesh there is no life, no integrity, nor righteousness at all; and consequently, no man is saved by his own strength or merits. What then? The Spirit in truth inwardly teaches us that which the sound of the gospel outwardly tells us: that we are saved by the merit of the Son of God.[1908] For the Lord says in the gospel: "No man ascends into heaven, except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of man that is in heaven." Joh 3.13 For in another place he more plainly says: "No man comes to the Father but by me." Joh 14.6 And again, he says to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Joh 3.14-15


Now Moses hung up the brazen serpent for the health and recovery of those who were poisoned [1909] by the serpents' bites. For those who were stung by the serpents quickly died, unless they immediately looked up to the brazen serpent; for at the very sight of it, the poisoned sting lost all force, and the envenomed person was restored and cured again out of hand. Nor was there any other medicine in the host of Israel except that alone; and whoever despised it, died without remedy. For the force of the poison was not expelled, and the life of the infected was not preserved, either by the power of prayers, or the multitude of sacrifices, or medicinal herbs, or any kind of medicine, or other means of man's invention.[1910] If anyone would escape the peril of death, it behoved him to behold the brazen serpent aloft. Now, that brazen serpent was a type or figure of Christ our Lord, who being lifted up upon the cross, is ordained by God to be the only salvation. But now, to whom does that saving health befall? To those, in truth, who behold him being so lifted up. The Lord himself tells us what "to behold" signifies; and in its place he puts "to believe." Therefore, no works, no other means or merits of ours, save us from eternal death and from the force of sin — that is, from the poison with which we are all infected by the old serpent, our adversary Satan. Faith alone — by which we believe in Christ, who was lifted up for the remission of our sins, and in whom alone our life and sure salvation assuredly consists — is the only thing that quickens us, who are already dying by the envenomed sting of Satan, which is sin.[1911], Moreover, hear what the Lord adds, instructing Nicodemus yet more fully in the true faith, and making the only cause of our salvation to be the mere grace of God alone, which is received by faith in Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son [1912] to condemn the world; but that the world might be saved by him. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that does not believe in him is already condemned, because he does not believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." Joh 3.16-18


Look, what could be spoken more plainly? By faith we are made partakers of Christ. By repeating faith so often, his meaning was to beat it into our heads, that no man should hereafter even once doubt so manifest and evident a piece of doctrine. But if here, you now set little by the authority of Christ, then whose authority will you esteem? But you will not, I know, reject his testimony. Yet even if his warrant is sufficient, give ear to that disciple whom the Lord loved, who in his epistle expounding the words of the Lord, and by way of exposition, repeating and beating them into all men's minds, strongly cries out:

"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he testified of his Son. He that believes in the Son has the testimony in himself. He that does not believe God, makes Him a liar, because he did not believe the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that does not have the Son of God, does not have life." 1Joh 5.11-12

But what else does it mean to have the Son of God, than to believe in him? For this sense is gathered from what went before. It is so evident of itself, that for me to add anything to it, is to do nothing but, as it were, go about with a tallow-candle to help lighten the sun at its rising.

Now we have come to the place of St. Paul, which is seen in the third and fourth chapters of his epistle to the Romans. "The righteousness of God without the law," he says, "is made manifest, being witnessed by the testimony of the law and the prophets." Rom 3.21 Paul in this place preaches the gospel most evidently; for I do not know any other place in which he does it more plainly. He teaches here how we are justified before God, what is true righteousness and the salvation of mankind, and by what means it comes to us. He says, that the righteousness of God, that is to say, the righteousness which God bestows, or which prevails before God, is revealed without the law.


That is to say, it comes to us without the help of the law, namely, without the aid and merits of the works of the law. For touching the testimony of the law and the prophets, they witness together that those who believe are justified by the righteousness of God. Now what that righteousness is, he immediately declares, saying: "The righteousness of God comes by the faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all those who believe." Rom 3.22 He says the righteousness of which we speak,[1913] is not human or of mortal man, but altogether divine, or of God himself. For as God alone is just, so the righteousness of God is the true and only righteousness that saves us. God makes us partakers of this righteousness by that faith of Jesus Christ; namely, if we believe in Christ, and hope in him to be saved.[1914] Neither is there any man excluded here from righteousness and salvation; for Paul plainly says, "to all and upon all who believe." This is why God reputes and esteems all those to be righteous, who believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord and Saviour. Now he presently annexes the reason why he attributes salvation to the righteousness of God, and not of man, or why the gospel commends the righteousness of God to us, saying: "For there is no difference; all have sinned and have need of the glory of God;" Rom 3.22-23 This is because all men, of their own nature, are destitute of the glory of God; that is, they are without the true image of God, in whose likeness they were created in the beginning. Therefore, all men, truly, are unrighteous and sinners. From this it follows that there is no righteousness in them, and that they have nothing in which to boast before the righteous God. For what else, I beseech you, do sinners carry from the judgment-seat of God, but confusion and ignominy? And because all men are in that state, the apostle therefore wisely adds: "But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, or reconciliation, through faith in his blood." Rom 3.24-25


This is the same as if he had said: Men are justified for Christ's sake by the mere grace or mercy of God, without any help or merit of their own, if they only believe that God has given his Son to the world, to shed his blood, and to reconcile the purified sinners to his Father in heaven. In these words, there are most fully and plainly declared the whole manner and order of sanctifying, purifying, and justifying sinners.

But it is good here to repeat the apostle's words, and to more closely examine and deeply consider them. "They are," he says, "freely justified." But why freely? Because, in truth, they are justified by the mere grace of God, without the help of their own works or merits. For all men are sinners; therefore, they have nothing of themselves to allege for their justification. It follows from this, that since some are justified, they are justified freely by the grace of God. For in the eleventh chapter to the Romans, the apostle says: "If we are saved by grace, then it is not now of works, for then grace is no longer grace: but if by works, then is it is not now grace." Rom 11.6

But there immediately follows in Paul, what makes that argument still more manifest, which is manifest already: "through the redemption," he says, "that is in Christ." Our righteousness and salvation is the work of mere grace, because we are redeemed. For in respect to ourselves, our works, and merits, we were the servants of death and the devil, insofar as we were sinners and subject to sin. But by sending his Son, God redeemed us when, still being his enemies, we were bound to the devil, his open adversary.[1915] Therefore, he freely redeemed us — as Isaiah the prophet, in his fifty-second chapter, plainly foretold that it would come to pass. And true salvation is not in any other, whatever he may be, save in Christ alone, our true Lord and Saviour. For the heavenly Father, by his eternal counsel, set forth his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be our propitiation; namely, that he might be our reconciliation, for whose sake alone the Father, being pacified, adopts us into the number of the sons of God. This is accomplished by no other way than through faith in his blood; that is, if we believe that the Son, being sent by the Father, shed his blood, to thereby set us before his heavenly Father, cleansed, justified, and sanctified. We see in this, again, that our salvation freely consists in faith in Jesus Christ.


These points being thus unfolded, the apostle proceeds to show how far the benefit of redemption and justification stretches. He immediately adds: "To declare his righteousness by the forgiveness of the sins that are past, which God suffered, to show his righteousness at this time." Rom 3.25 God, he says, has set forth Christ to be the only propitiation, that he might show that there is but one and the same righteousness in all ages: Christ himself, I say, who is the righteousness of all who believe. Now here he mentions two separate times: that ancient age of the fathers, and this present time in which we now live. The ancient age is that which went before the coming of Christ; this latter age of ours, is what begins at Christ, is now at this present time, and shall be extended to the end of the world. And God truly, by his long sufferance, bore with and suffered the sins of that old age for Christ's sake, by whom, and for whom, he has forgiven them. Nor does he set before us today any other righteousness, save Christ alone, to be received and embraced by faith.

For the apostle does not obscurely add afterward: "That he might be just, and the justifier of those who believe on Jesus." As if he had said, Now the meaning of all this, is that we should understand that all men are unrighteous and altogether sinners; God alone is righteous, without whom there is no righteousness at all: and he communicates his righteousness to all those who believe in Christ: namely, those who believe that for Christ's sake, the Father is pleased and reconciled to us, and we are reputed both just and holy, for him.

Two very wicked and blasphemous errors of certain fellows are notably refuted by these words of the apostle. The one is by those who say that our fathers were justified, not by faith in Christ, but by the law and their own merits; they assert that Christ suffered not for the fathers, but only for those who lived when he was on earth, and those who followed after his death.


The other error is by those who say that Christ offered up his body for the fathers, for original sin only, and not for us and all our sins; therefore, we must make satisfaction for our own sins. But the apostle Paul in this place condemns both these opinions. And the holy evangelist John, agreeing with Paul, says: "The blood of the Son of God cleanses us from all sin. For he is the propitiation for our sins; not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world." 1Joh 1.7; 2.2 Therefore, the merit of Christ's redemption extends to all the faithful of both the testaments.

The apostle Paul proceeds, and infers from what he said: "Where is the boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith." He gathers by the evangelical doctrine [1916] taught previously, that all the boasting of every man's own righteousness, and all the bragging of every one's merits, is utterly taken away, altogether exempted, and vanished. And this is not by the law of works — that is, not by the doctrine concerning works, which is prone for the most part to puff men up and make them swell — but by the law of faith, that is, by the doctrine concerning faith, which empties and leaves in us nothing but a humble confession and acknowledging of our own lack of merits, attributing all our help to grace in Christ Jesus. And at the last, gathering the chief proposition, he says: "We therefore hold that a man is justified [1917] without the works of the law."

This is the sum and breviary of the whole gospel: that we are justified — that is to say, we are absolved from sins, from the definitive sentence of death and damnation; and we are sanctified and adopted into the number of the sons of God — by faith, that is, by an assured confidence in the name of Christ, which is given by the Father to be our only Saviour. And here works are excluded, to the end that there should be given to us no occasion to entangle faith with works, or to attribute to works the glory and title due to faith alone — or rather to Christ, upon whom our faith is grounded and upheld.


Once this proposition is put forth, he quickly confirms with arguments, showing that this salvation is common to both the Jews and Gentiles, saying: "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, even also of the Gentiles: for it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith." Rom 3.29-30 He fetches the confirmation of what he said, from the nature of God. There is but one God who, of his own nature, is both life and righteousness; and he is the God both of the Jews and the Gentiles; therefore he is the life and righteousness of both the people. He bestows this righteousness on them by faith: therefore faith justifies, or makes them both righteous.

This is declared by the example of Cornelius the centurion. For he is justified, or I should rather say, once being justified, he is declared acceptable to God, by sending down the Holy Ghost upon him in a visible form — when being neither circumcised, nor having kept the law, but having only heard the preaching of the gospel, he had believed in Jesus Christ. Now, God did not justify Cornelius alone this way, but He will also justify all other nations by faith; even as he will not justify the Jews by any other means than by faith alone.

It follows in Paul: "Do we then destroy the law through faith? God forbid! Rather, we maintain the law." Rom 3.31 For the defenders or the disputers in the defence of works, or rather justification by works, are prone to object: If faith alone in Christ justifies, then the law, or the doctrine of the law, is altogether unprofitable. For to what end are we commanded to do good works, if good works do not justify? The apostle answers that, The law is not abolished by faith, but rather it is maintained. For since faith directly tends to Christ, in whom alone it seeks and finds all fulness; and the law itself is the school-mistress for Christ, and shuts up all under sin, so that justification by faith is given to the faithful — it is most evident that the law is not destroyed or darkened, but confirmed and made light, by the doctrine of faith.

The apostle goes on in his confirmation, and says: "What then shall we say that Abraham our father found, as pertaining to the flesh? For if Abraham were justified by works, then he has something to boast in; but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Rom 4.1-3


There are truly many examples of the holy fathers: but among all the rest, the apostle chose [1918] to handle this one at large, out of Abraham. For in the scriptures he is called the father of those who believe. Rom 4.16 From which it is assuredly certain that the children shall be justified in the same way that their father was; as the apostle taught in express words at the latter part of the fourth chapter. Moreover, Abraham was famous for good works above all the rest of the holy fathers. Therefore, if any other could have been justified by his good works or merits, then Abraham even more so, above all the rest. But because he was justified by faith and not by works, it is therefore manifest that all the saints also have been, and are, justified by faith and not by works. Furthermore, Abraham lived 430 years before the law was revealed by Moses.[1919] From this it follows that his works cannot be called the works of the law by those who deny justification by faith without the law. Therefore, the works that he did, he did by faith, and his works were the works of faith; and yet he was not justified by them, but by faith. Therefore, the glory of justification by faith remains sound, unspotted, and unmingled with anything else. "What shall we say that our father Abraham found concerning the flesh?" Namely, so far as he is a man, and we are also men from him? What, I say, shall we say that he deserved? [1920] To this demand, this answer must be added: He found nothing, and by his works he deserved nothing. For the proof follows: If he deserved anything by his works, or was justified by his merits, then he has something in which to boast. But he has nothing in which to boast; therefore, he is not justified by his works. For God alone is righteous, and keeps this his glory to himself alone, without any partner or joint-possessor with him, freely justifying those who are of the faith of Jesus Christ, to the end that his grace may always be praised.

But Paul himself, by bringing in a passage of scripture, shows that Abraham had nothing ion which to make his boast. "For what," he says, "does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Rom 4.3


Look here, the scripture most plainly says that Abraham was justified by faith; or rather, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness; and therefore, for his faith, Abraham was counted righteous before the most just and righteous God.

But let us hear Paul, how he applies this passage of scripture to his purpose. It follows then: "To him that works, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of duty. But to him that does not work, but believes in him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." These words, truly, may be briefly reduced into this kind of argument: whoever deserves anything with his works, the reward is given to him as a thing that is due out of duty, and not imputed freely as though it were not a debt. But faith is imputed to Abraham unto righteousness; therefore he received righteousness, not as a reward out of a duty owed to him, but as a gift that is not due, but is freely given to him. And again: "To him that does not work, but believes in him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness." But for Abraham, faith was imputed unto righteousness; therefore he obtained righteousness by faith, and not by works.

Now, there is an emphasis in what he says, "But believes in him that justifies the ungodly." For thereby is signified that the one who is to be justified, brings nothing with him except the acknowledgement of his own misery and ungodliness, to seek mercy at the hand of the Lord. For he understands that he is destitute of good [1921] works, and one who may abide the trial of God's just judgment. He therefore flees to the mercy of God, presuming certainly that the righteousness of faith is the aid or help of the sinner, who must be freely saved by the grace of God.

Here, by the way, you must note, that Christians' righteousness both is, and is said to be, imputative righteousness: this alone is able to break the neck of all our boasting; for imputation is the contrary to debt. God is not bound to us out of duty, either for our own sakes, or for our works' sakes; but only so far as he has bound himself to us by his free grace and goodness. And there are many things in us that hinder the perfection of righteousness in us.


Whereupon David cried: "Do not enter into judgment with your servant: for in your sight no man living shall be justified." Psa 143.2 Therefore God freely imputes to us the righteousness of faith; that is, he reputes us as righteous because we believe Him through his Son. So the Lord said, as we read in the evangelical parable, "But when the debtors were not able to pay, he forgave them both the debt." Luk 7.42 For God also forgives us our debts or sins, not reputing them to us, but counting us as righteous for Christ's sake. For the same apostle, most evidently testifying the same thing in the second epistle to the Corinthians, says: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, by not imputing sins to men." 2Cor 5.19, 21 And after that, again: "Him who knew no sin, he made sin for us, that we might be the righteousness of God in him." What can you require that is more evident than this: we are counted righteous before God, because our sins are so purged by Christ's sacrifice, that afterward we should no longer be held with the guilt of them?

We now proceed to reckon up the other arguments of St. Paul, as firm and manifest as these were that have already been recited.

In the same chapter, therefore, it follows: "Even as David describes the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose unrighteousnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is that man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin." In the beginning, with clear and evident words, he expresses the thing that he intends to prove or confirm; namely, that God imputes righteousness to the saints without works. What could be said more plainly? And, to prove it is so, here he infers the testimony of David, which in a manner contains three different members or clauses: first, "Blessed," he says, "are those whose unrighteousnesses [1922] are forgiven;" then, "Blessed are those whose sins are covered;" and lastly, "Blessed is that man to whom the Lord will impute no sin." Rom 4.7-8

Now the force of the argument or demonstration consists in the words, Forgive, Cover, and Not impute. The creditor forgives the debtor what he has not paid him, whether he is able to pay it to him or not.


In respect to our sins, which are our debts, we are able to pay nothing to God. Forgiveness of those debts or sins of ours is therefore the gift of God's mere grace and liberality. For the creditor cannot forgive the thing that is already paid to him; for when he gives back the thing that he has received, in so doing he does not forgive, but gives; and that deed in the scriptures is called Donum, a gift, not Remissio, a forgiving. Whereupon St. Paul says, "God gave the inheritance to Abraham:" therefore Abraham did not merit it with his works. Secondly, some filthy thing that offends the eyes of men is usually covered; and yet notwithstanding, the filthy thing abides filthy still,[1923] even though it does not appear outwardly to the eyes of men. And our merciful God has covered our sins, not that they should cease to be, but that they should not appear or come to judgment; which is the gift of grace, and not of merits. For the covering is nothing else than the blood of the Son of God — because for his blood's sake, we sinners are not damned. Lastly, God might by right and justice impute sin to us; but of his grace he does not impute it. And all these laid together, confirm and prove that righteousness is freely imputed to us by faith, without works.

This very same passage from St. Paul, taken out of David, discusses and makes plain to us other points of doctrine also, about which there is some controversy. For we learn that justification is nothing else but sanctification,[1924] forgiveness of sins, and adoption into the number of the children of God. We learn that St. Paul speaks not only of the ceremonial works of the law, but also of the saints' good works of every sort. Furthermore, we learn that both sins and iniquities, that is, all manner sins of the faithful, are freely pardoned and utterly forgiven. Moreover, we learn that sins are fully remitted — not only the fault, but also the punishment. This punishment, some say, is retained; but God does not impute sins. In another place He says that, " he will not have any remembrance of our sin at all." [1925] Lastly, we learn that man's invention of satisfactions for sin, is a most vain lie, and flatly opposite to the apostle's doctrine.


Up to here I have alleged two most evident places: the one out of the gospel of Christ, the other out of St. Paul's epistle written to the Romans. By these I meant to prove that Christ, being preached to us by the gospel, is received not by works but by faith; and I hope that by divine testimonies, I have so declared this matter of importance, that no man will afterward need either to doubt, or to waver in it. To all this I now add this note, which is still most necessary to observe: that all good and holy men in the church of Christ, must endeavour with all their power [to ensure] that this doctrine of the gospel may abide sincere and utterly uncorrupted. For they must in no case admit that justification is partly attributed to faith and the mercy of God, and partly to the works of faith and our own merits: for if that is admitted, then the gospel loses all force and virtue. I therefore think that all men must solely and incessantly urge this: That the faithful are justified, saved, or sanctified [1926] by faith, without works, by the grace and mercy of God through Christ alone. And I suppose, truly, that this doctrine of the gospel must be kept sincere and uncorrupted in the church for very many reasons, but among all others, for these especially which follow.

First of all, the oft-repeated doctrine of the grace of God, which works justification in his only Son through faith alone, is manifest by so many divine testimonies, even from the beginning of the world, by so many demonstrations, and by so many determinations of unreproveable councils, and it is so plainly declared and thoroughly inculcated — that the very consent of all ages in the truth revealed from heaven, and the authority of the most holy men in the whole world, sufficiently invite us to retain, maintain, and keep that doctrine uncorrupted. We have the justification of our blessed father Abraham briefly [1927] expounded above by no obscure author, but by Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles and the elected vessel of God himself. We have the doctrine of justification that was taught by the most glorious king and prophet, [1928] David, a man after God's heart's desire — the great grandsire of Christ our Lord — declared and expounded by the same apostle Paul.


Now Abraham and David were always men of chief account in the church of God. The whole company of the prophets wholly agree with these two. For the apostle Peter says, "All the prophets bore witness to Christ, that by his name everyone who believes in him should receive remission of his sins." Act 10.43 And even now, by the mouth of Paul, we heard it said that by the testimonies of the law and the prophets, it is proved that the righteousness of God is freely bestowed by faith, without the law.

We also have the very Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord, whose authority, far excelling the whole world's beside, may confirm us well enough in this piece of doctrine.[1929] For, as if it were in certain assembled councils, he determined and decreed what we in this place counsel all men to retain. For having gathered together his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, he demanded of them, what men thought of him. Now when they answered diversely, according to the diversity of the opinions that the common people had of him, he inquired what they themselves thought of him.[1930] Then Peter, in the name of all the rest, said this: "You are that Christ, the Son of the living God." To whom the Lord replied: "Happy are you, Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father which is in heaven." Mat 16.16-17 In these words, he concludes two separate things: first, that true faith makes us happy. Nor is it to be doubted that "to make happy" is used here in that signification which you just heard from Paul, and in which David used it. Lastly, sanctifying [1931] faith is not the work of our own nature, but the heavenly gift of God. Then, upon that notable confession of true faith, Christ also takes occasion to give a new name to Simon Peter, to eternally commemorate it,[1932] and to imprint the signification of that mystery in all men's minds. Peter confessed that Christ was a stone, or rock; 1Pet 2.8 therefore Christ surnames Peter a Petra, that is, a stone. It is as if one were to call him a living stone laid upon a living stone, or of Christ a Christian.


Yes, and lest any man tie the thing universally belonging to the whole church, to Peter alone, the Lord himself applies it to the whole church, and says: "And upon this stone will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It is as if he had said, That which now is done in you, Peter, shall afterward be done in all the faithful. By faith you are laid upon me, the stone, and are made a member of the church. I therefore ordain that whoever confesses me to be the stone, shall be a member of the church, sanctified,[1933] justified, and delivered from the devil and the power of death. Your confession (that I am Christ, the Son of God) shall be the foundation of the church; whoever is laid [1934] upon this foundation, shall be justified [1935] and freely saved. For Paul also said: "Another foundation cannot be laid than what is already laid, which is Christ Jesus." 1Cor 3.11 And the apostle John says: "This is the victory that has overcome the world, even your faith." 1Joh 5.4 Now, lest Peter and his fellow-disciples not know the way by which other men should be admitted into the fellowship of the church and received into the communion of Christ, he adds immediately: "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven," etc., Mat 16.19 He gave the keys when he sent the apostles to preach the gospel. Therefore, by the preaching of the gospel (which is the key of the kingdom of heaven), heaven is opened, and the way is pointed out how we, being grafted into Christ and the church, may be made the heirs of eternal life; namely, through faith in Christ, which we are taught by the gospel of Christ. This much touching the council of which Christ himself was president, held at Caesarea Philippi.[1936]

There is found in John another council, held at Capernaum, Joh 6.59 both famous and full of people. For in a great multitude of his disciples and other men, Christ establishes that eternal life is gotten by faith in him; and that there is no other way for us to come to life than this: "to eat My flesh, and drink My blood;" Joh 6.54 that is, to believe in him. And when there was a schism among the audience because many revolted from Christ, he demanded of those who were his nearest disciples, whether they too would forsake him?


Then Peter in the name of all the rest answered: Since in you, Christ, there is life and salvation, if we depart from you we cannot be partakers of life; and therefore by faith we will firmly stick and cling close to you forever. Joh 6.67-69

Moreover, here are to be reckoned two other councils that were held by the apostles: the one which no man can deny was general or universal; for in it there were devout men of every nation under heaven. In that council Peter the apostle teaches in express words, that Christ is the Saviour of the world; whoever believes in him, shall have life everlasting. The place is known in the Acts of the Apostles, second chapter. Before the chief of the Jews, that same apostle declares that there is salvation in no other than Christ alone. The place is found in the Acts of the Apostles, the third chapter. He says the same to the first-fruits of the Gentiles, Cornelius and his household, in the tenth chapter. The second council, which was also famous and surpassingly adorned with all good gifts, is described in the fifteenth chapter of Acts. In this council, this proposition was allowed: that faith without works justifies freely. Touching this matter, I have spoken at large in another place.[1937]

Now, by all this I would have it proved that the doctrine of Faith that justifies without works, ought to be retained unmingled and uncorrupted in the church because, if I may say so, it is most catholic and altogether unreproveable. The apostle adds this curse or anathematism for its breach, saying: "If we, or an angel from heaven, preaches to you any other gospel than that which we have preached, let him be accursed." Gal 1.8

The second cause why it is expedient that this doctrine be kept sincere in the church, is because once it is put out of joint, the glory of Christ will be in danger of wrack,[1938] and put in jeopardy. For the glory of Christ is darkened and corrupted in the minds of men (even though, of itself, it remains always sound and clear) if we begin to divide the righteousness by which we stand and appear before God, attributing it to our own merits and our own good works. For this is the glory of the Son of God, that "under heaven there is no other name given to men in which they must be saved." Act 4.12


Upon this Paul says: "Christ is made of no effect to you, whoever are justified by the law; you have fallen from grace." Gal 5.4 Again: "I do not despise the grace of God; for if righteousness were of the law, then Christ died in vain." Gal 2.21 If he died in vain, then the glory of Christ's cross has perished.

The third cause is the certain and assured reason of our salvation. Our salvation would be utterly uncertain if it depended on our works and merits. Because of our natural corruption, unless we are beside ourselves, we say or ought to say with Job: "If I have any righteousness, I will not answer, but humbly beseech my judge." Job 9.15 Therefore Paul very rightly said: "If the inheritance is of the law, then faith is void, and the promise is made of no effect. Therefore, it is of faith, according to grace 3; that the promise may be firm to all the seed." Rom 4.14, 16

The fourth cause is because, by this doctrine especially, there is repaired in us the image of God, the likeness of which we were created in at the first. For by faith, Christ dwells and lives in us; he is also delighted in our humility. But then the image of the devil is stirred up in us, once we begin to be proud in ourselves, and to usurp the glory of God. Undoubtedly, this is done as often as we attribute our righteousness and salvation to ourselves, as though we had deserved the kingdom of God by our own works or merits. The devil swells with pride, and endeavours to rob [1939] God of his glory. The saints know and acknowledge that they are saved by the true grace and mercy of God; and therefore they attribute to him all honour and glory, and to themselves confusion and ignominy. To this undoubtedly belongs the parable in the gospel, of the Pharisee boasting in his good works, and of the publican praying and saying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." Luk 18.9-14 Of these two, the publican is said to have gone down to his house [1940]  justified, rather than the other.


The fifth cause is the value or estimation of the sin. For that seems to be no great fault, if it may be blotted out before God by men's works. But the holy scripture teaches that sins could be cleansed by no other means, than by the death and innocent blood of the Son of God. Now, every man that has any understanding, may easily gather by this, that sin in the sight of God is a most abominable and detestable thing. From this there arises in the faithful saints a careful and diligent watching against sin, and a continual bewailing of our miserable condition, with a surpassing humility and intense modesty.

I could yet add to these some more causes why all men ought to strive and endeavour to keep this doctrine sincere and uncorrupted in the church of Christ (e.g., that the catholic church is justified by the grace of God in his only-begotten Son, through faith, and not through works). But these I hope are sufficient for those who are not purposely set to quarrel against us. And yet, notwithstanding, there is no peril that good works would be neglected by this doctrine. I have spoken of this in a convenient place.[1941] But if there are any who do not cease to cavil on purpose against the manifest truth of the gospel, I use against them this saying of Paul: that neither we, nor the churches of God, stand to wrangle in so manifest a light. 1Cor 11.16

To conclude, the sum of all that I have said up to here touching the gospel is this: That all men in the world who, of their own nature, are the servants of sin, the devil, and eternal death, cannot be loosed or set at liberty by any other means than the free grace of God, and the redemption which is in the only-begotten Son of God our Lord Christ Jesus. Only those who believe and trust in him, are made partakers of this redemption. For whoever receives Christ Jesus by true faith, through the preaching of the gospel, are thereby justified; that is, they are acquitted from their sins, sanctified, and made heirs of eternal life. But those who do not receive Christ, by their unbelief and hardness of heart, are given over to the eternal pains and bonds of hell; for "the wrath of God abides on them." Joh 3.36

Let us therefore give hearty thanks to God our Redeemer, and humbly beseech him to keep and increase us in the true faith, and at the last, to bring us to life everlasting. Amen.


SourceThe Decades by Henry Bullinger

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