J. Calvin: Institutio christianae religionis – Instruction in the Christian Religion – Book 1.

John Calvin: The true and the false predestination.   -  Discourse 100

Institutio christianae religionis I. by John Calvin

Translated and edited after the last edition (1559) by Otto Weber and first published in 1955 by
Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 6th edition of the one-volume edition 1997.

Commissioned by the Reformed Federation in Germany / JOHANNES A LASCO LIBRARY Emden and prepared for the edition on the Internet by Matthias Freudenberg on the basis of a scan text acquisition by the Institute for Reformation Research of the University of Apeldoorn.

Teaching of the Christian religion

The Doctrine of Calvin – Book I: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator

The Doctrine of Calvin – Book II: Of the Knowledge of God as the Savior in Jesus Christ

The Doctrine of Calvin – Book III: In what way we become partakers of the grace of Christ, what fruits accrue to us from it, and what effects result from it.

The Doctrine of Calvin – Book IV: Of the Outward Means or Aids by Which God Invites and Maintains Us in Communion with Christ.

Editorial notes

The original three-volume edition of Otto Weber’s translation was published in the years 1936-1938. For the present Internet edition, the notes Weber made in the margins of the text seemed dispensable. Likewise, the few annotations, most of which do not offer factual explanations, have not been included. The old spelling has been retained. Obvious typographical errors, inaccuracies in the citation of biblical passages and other literature, and unusual forms of presentation in the typesetting have been corrected.

Edition plan

Book I July 2006
Book II August 2006
Book III December 2006
Book IV March 2007

First book

From the knowledge of God as the Creator

Table of contents


Chapter 1-5 Knowledge of God
Chapter 6-10 Holy Scripture
Chapter 11-12 Images
Chapter 13 Trinity of God
Chapter 14 Angels
Chapter 15 Creation of Man
Chapter 16-18 Providence of God.

First Chapter

The knowledge of God and self-knowledge are related to each other; the essence of this relationship will be shown here.

1. Without self-knowledge no knowledge of God
2. Without the knowledge of God there is no self-knowledge
3. Man before God’s majesty

Chapter Two

The nature and task of the knowledge of God

1. Knowledge of God is practical reverence
2. knowledge of God is not a game of thoughts

Chapter Three

The knowledge of God is inwardly implanted in man by nature.

1. The essence of this natural disposition
2. Religion is not an arbitrary invention
3. real godlessness is actually impossible

Chapter Four

The knowledge of God is suppressed and corrupted by ignorance and malice.

1. Superstition
2. The conscious turning away from God
3. We cannot think of God according to our own wills
4. Hypocrisy

Chapter Five

From the creation and continuing government of the world a message from God shines to us

1. The clarity of God’s self-testimony deprives us of any excuse
2. God’s wisdom is not hidden from anyone
3. Man as the most glorious proof of divine wisdom
4. The very man turns ingrate against God
5. The confusion of the creature with the Creator
6. The creator reveals his dominion over the creation
7. God’s government and judgement
8. God’s free, superior rule in man’s life
9. We should not ponder God, but contemplate Him in His works
10. The purpose of this knowledge of God
11. The round about God, which we gain from creation, does not reach its goal in us
12. The knowledge of God is suffocated by human superstition and error
13. We have all fallen away from God
14. We are not capable of the right knowledge of God from ourselves
15. Our inability is guilt

Chapter Sixl

Whoever wants to come to God, the Creator, must have the Scriptures as his guide and teacher.

1. God gives us real knowledge of God only in His Word.
2. The Word of God as Holy Scripture
3. Without the Scriptures we go astray
4. The Scriptures can do what the revelation in works could not do for us.

Chapter Seven

The prestige of Scripture is based on the testimony of the Spirit. This alone gives it undoubted authority, and it is a blasphemous human proposition that its credibility depends on the judgment of the church.

1. The Scripture has its authority from God, not from the Church
2. The Church is itself founded on the Scriptures
3. Even Augustine cannot be invoked as a proof to the contrary
4. The testimony of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is stronger than all "proofs"
5. The Scripture carries its authentication in itself

Chapter Eight

As far as human reason reaches, there is sufficiently certain evidence to confirm the credibility of Scripture

1. The Scriptures are superior to all human wisdom
2. It is not the language that decides, but the matter
3. The great age of Scripture
4. The truthfulness of Scripture, shown by the example of Moses
5. Miracles confirm the authority of the messenger of God
6. The miracles of Moses are undeniable
7. Prophecies fulfilled against all human foresight
8. God confirmed the word of the prophets
9. The tradition of the law is reliable
10. God has miraculously preserved the Law and the Prophets.
11. The inner power of the New Testament
12. The Scriptures have always prevailed against all opposition
13. The blood of the martyrs also confirms the authority of the Scriptures. All the evidence given cannot replace the testimony of the Spirit.

Chapter Nine

The enthusiasts who abandon the Scriptures and only want to come to immediate revelation destroy all the foundations of piety.

1. The enthusiasts wrongly refer to the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit is recognized by his conformity to the Scriptures.
3. Word and spirit belong inseparably together.

Chapter Ten

The Scriptures, in defense against all superstition, set the true God straight against all the gods of the Gentiles.

1. The teaching of the Scriptures about God, the Creator
2. The attributes of God according to the Scriptures
3. The unity of God was not unknown to the pagans; their idolatry is all the more inexcusable

Chapter Eleven

It is a sin to give God visible form; it is a complete apostasy from the true God to make graven images.

1. Every pictorial representation of God is forbidden to us
2. Every pictorial representation of God contradicts his nature
3. The various direct revelations of God do not give the right to make images
4. The scriptural unlawfulness of images. The images – "books of the laity"?
5. The scripture judges differently
6. The teachers of the church have also judged differently in part
7. The images of the papists are also completely unsuitable. There would be no "laity" at all if the church had done its duty!
8. The origin of the images
9. From the erection of the images to the image service
10. Image service in the church
11. Senseless evasions of the papists
12. No rejection of art at all
13. The church, as long as the doctrine in it was still pure and strong, rejected images
14-16. The image-friendly Council of Nicaea is itself a proof of terrible distortion of doctrine.

Chapter Twelve

God is distinguished from idols so that he alone may be honored

1. True religion binds us to God as the One and Only.
2. "Service" and "worship" are the same thing
3. Idolatry is any attempt to rob God of what is His and appropriate it to the creature.

Chapter Thirteen

The Scriptures teach us already from the creation that there is one divine being in three persons

1. God’s essence is immeasurable and spiritual.
2. The three "persons" in God
3. The expressions "Trinity" and "Person" serve the interpretation of the Scriptures and are therefore permissible
4. Expressions like "Trinity", "Person" etc. have been necessary for the church to expose the false teachers
5. Limits and necessity of dogmatic expressions
6. The meaning of the most important terms
7. The divinity of the "Word
8. The eternity of the "Word"
9.-10. The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament
11. The deity of Christ in the testimony of the apostles
12. The deity of Christ is shown in his works
13. The deity of Christ testified by his miracles
14. The deity of the spirit proves in his work
15. Express testimonies to the deity of the spirit
16. The Unity
17. TheTtrinity
18. The difference of father, son and spirit
19. The relationship between father, son and spirit
20. The Triune God
21. The reason of all heresies – a warning to all!
22. Servet’s Denial of the Trinity
23. The Son is God like the Father
24. The name "God" in the Scriptures does not refer to the Father alone.
25. The divine essence is common to all three persons
26. The subordination of the Word made flesh to the Father is not a proof to the contrary.
27. The opponents erroneously refer to Irenaeus
28. Also the appeal to Tertullian is not convincing
29. All recognized teachers of the church confirm the doctrine of the Trinity’s

Chapter Fourteen

Already at the creation of the world and of all things, according to Scripture, the true God is distinguished from idols by clear characteristics

1. We cannot and should not go back with our thoughts behind God’s act of creation
2. The six-day work shows God’s goodness towards mankind
3. God is the Lord over all!!
4. Also about the angels we should not speculate, but investigate the testimony of the Scriptures
5. The designation of the angels in the scriptures
6. The angels as protectors and helpers of the believers
7. Guardian angels?
8. About the order, number and shape of the angels
9. The angels are not thoughts, but reality
10. Divine honor is not entitled to the angels
11. God does not use the angels for his own sake, but for ours
12. The angels must not distract us from fixing our gaze on the Lord alone
13. The danger of the enemy
14. The kingdom of wickedness!
15. Irreconcilable struggle!
16. The devil is a degenerate creature of God
17. The devil is under God’s power
18. Certainty of victory!
19. The devils are not thoughts, but reality
20. Greatness and richness of creation
21. How should we consider God’s works?
22. Contemplation of God’s goodness in His creation should lead us to gratitude and trust

Chapter Fifteen

Of the Creation of Man, the Capabilities of His Soul, the Image of God, Free Will, and the Original Purity of Human Nature

1. Man came forth from God’s hand without blemish; therefore, he must not blame the Creator for his sin.
2. Body and soul in their diversity
3. The image of God in man
4. The true nature of the image of God is to be inferred from what the Scriptures say about his regeneration through Christ
5. The soul of man is created by God, but it is not an outflow of his being
6. The soul and its faculties
7. Understanding and will as the actual basic powers
8. Free will

Chapter Sixteen

God preserves and protects the world created by Him and governs it in detail with His providence.

1. Creation and providence
2. There is no coincidence
3. God’s providence follows from his omnipotence.
4. The nature of providence. "General" and "special" providence.
5. God’s providence also directs the individual.
6. God’s providence is especially for man.
7. God’s providence also governs the "natural" events.
8. The doctrine of providence is not a stoic faith in fate
9. The true causes of events are hidden from us.

Chapter Seventeen

In what direction and from what point of view this doctrine is to be applied, so that one may be certain of its blessing.

1. The meaning of God’s ways
2. God’s action is to be regarded with reverence.
3. God’s providence does not relieve us of responsibility.
4. God’s providence does not relieve us of our own prudence.
5. God’s providence does not excuse our wickedness
6.-7. God’s providence as the comfort of believers
8. The certainty of God’s providence helps us in all adversities.
9. No disregard of the "middle causes"!
10. Without the certainty of God’s providence, life would be unbearable.
11. The certainty of God’s providence gives us joyful confidence in God in our hearts.
12. The "repentance" of God
13. Scripture speaks of the "repentance of God" in adaptation to our understanding.
14. God is steadfastly carrying out His plan.

Eighteenth Chapter

God also makes use of the deeds of the wicked, and directs their thoughts to execute his judgments; but he himself remains free from any reproach in doing so

1. No mere "permission"
2. How does God’s drive happen in man?
3. God’s will is uniform
4. Even if God uses the deeds of the wicked for his plans, he is not reproached.

First chapter

The knowledge of God and self-knowledge are related to each other; the essence of this relationship will be shown here.

No Knowledge of God Without Self-Knowledge

I,1,1 All our wisdom, if it really deserves the name wisdom and is true and reliable, includes basically two things: the knowledge of God and our self-knowledge. But these two are connected in many ways, and therefore it is not so easy to say which one is in the first place and which one causes the other by itself. First of all, no man can look at himself without immediately directing his senses to look at God, in whom he "lives and breathes" (Acts 17:28). For all the gifts that make up our possessions, we obviously do not have from ourselves. Yes, even our existence as human beings consists only in the fact that we have our being in the one God (nihil aliud … quam in uno Deo subsistentia)! And secondly, these gifts come down to us like raindrops from heaven, and they lead us like streams to the source. But it is precisely in our poverty that the immeasurable riches of all goods, which dwell in God, become even more clearly recognizable. In particular, the miserable decay into which the apostasy of the first man has plunged us compels us to lift up our eyes: hungry and pining, we should implore from God what we lack, but at the same time, in fear and fright, we should learn to be humble. For man contains a world of misery in every respect, and since we have been deprived of the divine adornment, a shameful nakedness reveals infinite shame. But if it is so, then every man must necessarily be driven by the consciousness of his hopeless condition at least to some knowledge of God: We feel our ignorance, vanity, poverty, weakness, our wickedness and corruption – and thus we come to the realization that only in the Lord is to be found the true light of wisdom, real power and virtue, immeasurable riches in all good and pure righteousness. Thus, it is precisely our misery that leads us to contemplate God’s goods, and we come to reach out to Him seriously only when we have begun to dislike ourselves. For (by nature) every man takes much more pleasure in relying on himself, and he is quite successful in doing so – as long as he does not yet know himself, i.e. is satisfied with his abilities and does not know or want to know anything about his misery. Who therefore recognizes himself, he is not only stimulated by it to look for God, but is led as it were with the hand to find him.

No self-knowledge without knowledge of God

I,1,2 But on the other hand, man can by no means come to truly know himself if he has not first seen God’s face and then proceeds from this vision to look at himself. For a mighty pride is virtually innate in us, and that is why we always appear to be quite blameless, wise and holy, unless tangible proofs of our unrighteousness, stain, folly and impurity are shown to us and thus convict us. But this will not happen if we only look at ourselves and not at the Lord at the same time; for he is the only guideline according to which such a judgment can be made. We are all by nature inclined to hypocrisy, and so any empty semblance of righteousness satisfies us just as much as righteousness itself could. And because there is nothing to be seen among us and around us that is not stained with the most terrible impurity, we are thrilled, as long as we do not look beyond the limits of human impurity, by what is just a little less defiled, because we already consider it to be completely pure. It goes like with an eye which is accustomed exclusively to the sight of black color – and which then already considers as snow-white what is perhaps gray or blackened white. In general we can take an example from the bodily sense organ (the eye!), how much we succumb to illusions in the judgment of our inner efficiency. For when we look at the earth in broad daylight or at what surrounds us, we may well think that we have strong and penetrating eyesight. But as soon as we want to look straight at the sun with open eyes, that power of sight, which was completely sufficient for the things of this earth, is completely overwhelmed and blinded, so that we must confess that this power of sight, as sharp as it was in the earthly world, is virtually weak-sightedness compared to the sun! It is exactly the same with the contemplation of our spiritual possessions. If we do not direct our gaze beyond the earth, we are amply satisfied with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, and flatter ourselves mightily-it were lacking that we thought ourselves demigods! But when we begin to turn our thoughts upward to God, when we consider what kind of God he is, when we contemplate the strict perfection of his justice, wisdom and virtue, to which we should be conformed – then what before shone at us under the deceptive garment of justice becomes the most dreadful injustice; What made a wondrous impression on us as wisdom is cruelly revealed as the worst foolishness; what wore the mask of virtue is invented as the most miserable imbecility! So little can stand before God’s purity what seemed to be the most perfect among us.

Man before God’s Majesty

I,1,3 Hence it comes that, according to repeated accounts of the Scriptures, the saints were shaken by fear and horror and thrown to the ground as often as God’s presence happened to them. Men who before, without his presence, stood secure and strong – now, when he reveals his majesty, we see them hounded into terror and horror in such a way that they virtually fall down in mortal fear, even perish with terror and almost perish! From this we see that only when man has measured himself against God’s majesty does the realization of his lowliness really take hold of him. We have examples of such shock in the book of Judges as well as in the prophets. It went so far that in the people of God the saying came into use: "We must die, for we have seen the Lord" (Jud 13:22; Isa 6:5; Eze 1:28; a.o.). And when the Book of Job (e.g. ch. Job 38, ss.) wants to cast man down by the awareness of his folly, powerlessness and defilement, the descriptions of God’s wisdom, power and purity always serve as proof. This is justified: we see how Abraham, too, after he has once seen the glory of the Lord from close by, recognizes all the better that he is "earth and ashes" (Gen 18:27). Elijah cannot bear His approach with his face uncovered (1Ki 19:13). Such terror lies in the sight of Him! What shall man do, who is dust and a worm, when even the cherubim must cover their faces in holy shyness! (Isa 6,2). This is exactly what Isaiah says: "The moon will be ashamed and the sun will be ashamed when the Lord of hosts will be king" (Isa 24:23). That means: when he will reveal his glory in full nearness, then also the otherwise brightest sinks into darkness. Certainly: knowledge of God and self-knowledge are firmly linked. But the right order in teaching demands that we first treat the knowledge of God and then the knowledge of self.

Second chapter

The nature and task of the knowledge of God.

Knowledge of God is practical reverence

I,2,1 For my understanding, the knowledge of God is not only decided by the fact that we know that there is a God. We should also hold on to what we need to know about him, what serves his honor, what is beneficial to us. For there can be no question of an actual knowledge of God where reverence (religio) and piety are lacking. And here I am not even thinking of that way of knowing God by which lost and damned people in themselves take hold of God as Savior in Christ, the Mediator. Here we are only talking about that original and simple way of knowledge, to which the order of nature would already lead, if Adam had not fallen. It is true that in this corruption of mankind no man can recognize God as the Father, the author of his salvation, nor in any way as the gracious God, before Christ enters into the means to win us peace with God. Nevertheless, it is something else to recognize God as the Creator who sustains us with His power, guides us with His providence, cares for us with His goodness, accompanies us with the fullness of His blessings, and something else again to take hold of the grace of reconciliation that comes to us in Christ. Since the Lord first appears to us simply as the Creator – in His work, the world, as well as in the general teaching of Scripture – and then, in the face of Christ, as the Redeemer, there is a twofold knowledge of God. Here we speak of the first mentioned knowledge. Then follows the second one according to its order. Although one cannot grasp God inwardly without at the same time showing him some kind of reverence, it is not enough to simply hold that he is the One who must be worshipped and venerated by all. Rather, we must also be convinced that he is the fountainhead of all goods, so that we seek nothing good except in him. This I mean, because he still carries the world, as he once created it, with infinite power, orders it with his wisdom, preserves it with his goodness, because he especially governs mankind with justice and judgment, grants it with mercy, protects it with his defense, and in general because nowhere a drop of wisdom or light, or justice, or power, or holiness, or certain truth can be found that does not flow from him and whose origin is not him! In this way we learn to expect and ask for everything from him and to acknowledge everything as his gift with thanksgiving. For this perception of the power and goodness of God is for us the right teacher of piety, from which religion arises. I call piety the reverence for God connected with love, which comes from the knowledge of his benefits. But as long as man does not feel that he owes everything to God, that God embraces him by his fatherly care and pours out all his goods over him, so that nothing is to be looked for apart from him – as long as he never submits to him in voluntary readiness to serve. Indeed, where he does not base all his salvation on him, he will never truly and wholeheartedly surrender himself to him.

Knowledge of God is not a mind game

I,2,2 Therefore, it is useless thinking when some are eager to ask about God’s "being" and "essence". We are more interested in knowing what kind of God he is and what is according to his nature. For what is the use of confessing with Epicurus a God who casts off the care of the world and finds his delight only in leisure? What good is it to recognize a God with whom we have nothing to do? The purpose and goal of the knowledge of God should rather be that we learn to fear and honor God, furthermore: that we ask everything from him under his guidance and learn to attribute everything to him in gratitude. How should the thought of God gain room in your heart other than that you immediately consider: You are his image and, by virtue of the right of creation, subject to his command and in bondage; you owe your life to him, all your actions and plans are to be directed by him? If this is so, then it follows immediately that your life is shamefully corrupted, if it is not there for his service! For his will must be the law of our life. On the other hand, you will gain a clear view of God only by recognizing him as the fountain and source of all good. From this should then arise the desire to adhere to him, to put trust and confidence in him – if the human mind were not distracted from the right search by its own falseness. For first of all, a pious mind does not dream of any God, but directs its attention to the One and True. He does not ascribe to him whatever comes into his mind, but is content to accept him as he reveals and proves himself, and always takes great care that he does not go further than God’s will in reckless recklessness, and roam about unintentionally. Since he has thus recognized him as the one who orders everything, he entrusts himself to him as the guardian and protector and entrusts himself completely to his faithfulness. For he knows that God is the author of all good, and therefore he takes refuge under his protection and expects his help where something is pressing or lacking. He is convinced of his goodness and mercy, and therefore he entrusts himself firmly to him and does not doubt that God’s goodness will have a remedy for all his misfortunes. He knows him as the Lord and Father, and therefore he considers him worthy of his command in all things, to honor his majesty, to spread his glory, and to obey his commandments. He sees that God is a just judge, armed with his inexorability to punish all vices, and therefore he has his judgment seat always before his eyes, and the fear of God prevents him from provoking his anger. However, the thought of the judgment does not frighten him so much that he would like to flee, even if it were possible for him. For he knows him as the retributor for the wicked as well as the benefactor against the God-fearing – for him it belongs no less to God’s honor that punishment is reserved for the wicked and lawless than that the reward of eternal life is reserved for the righteous! Moreover, he does not refrain from sin merely out of fear of judgment, but because he loves and reveres God as Father, shows obedience and service to Him as Lord – even if there were no hell, he would be afraid to offend Him. This is pure and unadulterated religion: faith and earnest fear of God joined together! Thus fear includes voluntary worship of God and brings with it the right worship as prescribed by the law. The latter must be particularly noted; for all men together worship God, but only a few show him the right reverence. For everywhere there is a great show of ceremonies, but seldom is the sincerity of heart.

Third chapter

The knowledge of God is inwardly implanted in man by nature.

The essence of this natural plant

I,3,1 That the human spirit possesses a kind of feeling for the Godhead through natural foreboding is beyond all dispute for us. For God Himself has made a knowledge of His divinity to all men, so that no one can use the excuse of ignorance. He always refreshes this knowledge and moistens it with new droplets. And if all men know together that there is a God and that he is their creator, they should condemn themselves by their own testimony, because they do not do him service and do not offer their lives as a sacrifice to his will. If such knowledge of God should not exist anywhere, it could most likely still occur among the wildest peoples, who are furthest away from human morality. But, as a pagan thinker already says: no people is so barbaric, no tribe so savage, that the conviction is not firmly rooted: there is a God. (Cicero, De natura Deorum, I,16,43). Peoples, who seem to be hardly distinguished from the animals in their other state of life, always keep at least a kind of germ of religion (semen religionis). So much this common idea has penetrated all hearts, so firmly it takes root in all minds. Since, therefore, from the beginning of the world there was no region, no city, not even a house, which could do without religion, this fact is a tacit admission that in all hearts is inscribed a feeling for the Godhead. Even idolatry is a telling proof of the conception received with it. We know how man does not like to humble himself and to put other creatures above himself. If, however, he prefers to worship a piece of wood or a stone rather than to make it appear that he has no God, the impression of the existence of the Godhead is obviously of such force that it is easier to break the natural impulse than to tear this impression out of the soul. It actually happens that the natural instinct breaks, namely when a man voluntarily humbles himself from his innate pride under the most repulsive things, only to worship a god.

Religion is not an arbitrary invention

II,3,2 Therefore it is the most hollow talk imaginable, that a few people had invented religion in guile and sophistry in order to keep the simple-minded people in discipline, while they had brought others to the worship of God, but had not even remotely thought of believing in the existence of a God. Now I admit that devious people have invented many religious things in order to frighten the ignorant people and to make them more docile. But they would not have been able to do this at all, if the hearts of men had not first been seized by that conviction of the existence of God, from which the inclination to religion arises as from a germ. But it does not seem credible to me that these deceivers, who deceitfully led the people under the mask of religion, really had no knowledge of God at all. Certainly, there were some people in the past who denied God’s existence; and today there are again quite a few who do so. But whether they like it or not, what they so much do not want to know, they are forced to know! Probably never a man has driven the contempt of the Godhead more audaciously and more spitefully than Caius Caligula. But no one trembled more miserably when any sign of divine wrath appeared. Thus, against his will, he was afraid of the God whom he was determined to despise! So it happens to all his kind: may one still be such a daring despiser of God – the more the rustling of a falling leaf frightens him! What else is this but an act of retribution of divine majesty, which shakes the conscience of such people all the more violently the more they try to escape it? They look around for every nook and cranny, only to escape the presence of the Lord and to erase it from their hearts. But whether they want to or not, they always remain entangled as in a net. Even if the knowledge of God seems to have disappeared for a while, it soon breaks out again and attacks them with new force! If it comes once to a silence of the fear of conscience, then this state resembles nevertheless the sleep of drunkards or mentally disturbed ones, who cannot find peace even in the sleep, because they are tormented constantly by cruel and terrible dreams. Thus, the godless are also an example and testimony that something like a knowledge of God (aliqua Dei notio) is always strong in the hearts of men.

Real godlessness is actually impossible

I,3,3 Therefore, all who judge rightly will always agree: there is really in the heart of man a feeling for the Godhead, as it were, chiseled in, which is indestructible. Indeed, the obstinate opposition of the godless, who, in spite of their vehement resistance, cannot escape the fear of God, is proof that this conviction of the existence of a God is innate in all men and is firmly rooted in their innermost being. Now Diagoras and his ilk may pour out their ridicule on all that all centuries have believed, Dionysius may blaspheme the heavenly judgment – it is but the bitter laughter of despair; for in them gnaws the worm of conscience, more biting than all the brands. I do not say with Cicero (De natura deorum, II,2,5), the errors would disappear with the time, but the religion would increase more and more and become more perfect. For the world, as we shall see further on, tries to extinguish all knowledge of God to the best of its ability and to corrupt the worship of God in all kinds of ways. But this is what I maintain: even if the foolish hardening, which the godless so gladly let arise in them for the contempt of God, still leads its corrosive existence in their hearts, that feeling for the Godhead, which they would so gladly have completely extinguished, is still strong in them and breaks forth anew. From this it becomes quite clear that it is not a question of a teaching which one must first learn in school; but everyone is his own teacher in this from birth, and nature itself prevents forgetting, however much many people exert all their strength to get away from this teaching. But, further: we are all born and live to know God. If the knowledge of God (Dei notitia) does not penetrate so far, it is vain and fleeting. Therefore, apparently, all people are out of the law of their creation, who do not direct all their thoughts and all their actions to this goal. This was also well known to the philosophers. For this is exactly what Plato (Phaedo 107 C, Theaetet 176 B) wanted to say with his repeated statement that the highest good of the soul is the likeness to God; if it has become partaker of his knowledge, then it becomes completely conformed to him. Gryllus, in Plutarch, also judges quite astutely, claiming that man without all religion is not only without any advantage over the unreasonable animals, but in many respects is even lower than them, since he, subjected to so many misfortunes, must always live in restlessness and restlessness. For only the service of God gives man his priority, he alone leads him to immortality.

Fourth chapter

The message from God is suppressed and corrupted by ignorance and wickedness.

The superstition

I,4,1 Experience testifies that God has planted the seed of religion in all hearts. But there is hardly one among a hundred who cherishes what he has received, not a single one in whom it would come to maturity, let alone bear fruit in its time. Some lose themselves in superstition, others become apostates from God on purpose and with evil intent – but all of them depart from the true knowledge of God. In this way, no true piety of any kind remains in the world. When I spoke of some sinking into superstition out of error, my view is not that their folly absolves them of their offense. For their blindness is almost always accompanied by proud vanity and defiance. Such vanity and arrogance is shown by the fact that miserable people, when they seek God, do not think beyond themselves, as it should be, but measure him according to the measure of their carnal folly, refrain from all thorough investigation and get lost in vain play of thoughts. Thus they do not grasp it as it reveals itself, but imagine it as they have conceived it in their presumption. But once this abyss has been torn open, wherever they set foot, they must always fall anew into ruin. No matter how hard they try to serve God and obey Him, they cannot offer anything right to God, because they do not serve God Himself, but the image and dream of their heart instead! Paul clearly rebukes this perversity when he says: "Thinking they were wise, they became fools" (Rom 1:22). Previously he speaks of how they "became vain in their thinking"; but lest anyone should think them innocent, he adds that they were justly darkened, because they did not keep themselves within the bounds of sobriety, and in unrighteous presumption brought darkness upon themselves, and even willfully blinded themselves in mad and perverse wantonness. From this it follows that their folly is inexcusable; for it stems not only from vain curiosity, but from the evil desire to know more than man is permitted, and from false self-confidence.

The conscious turning away from God

I,4,2 When David says of the godless and fools that they "speak in their heart: There is no God" (Ps 14:1), this refers primarily to those who extinguish the light of nature and wantonly anesthetize themselves, as we shall see later. Thus we see many who are hardened by impudent sin that has become a habit, how they angrily push away from themselves every thought of God, which nevertheless imposes itself on them unwillingly by nature. In order to make their rage all the more abominable, David portrays such people as God deniers, not because they flatly deny God’s existence, but because they deny him judging power and providence and think of him as an idle being locked up in heaven. For nothing is less in harmony with God’s nature than to assert that he has laid down the government of the world and given it over to blind chance, and is therefore blind to the evil deeds of men, so that they can sin with impunity! So, whoever lives to his lusts unconcerned about the heavenly judgment, actually denies the existence of God. And this is God’s just retribution, that he makes the hearts insensitive, so that the godless, after having first closed their eyes, now do not see even with open eyes. David himself explains his saying best in another place when he says: "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Ps 36:2), or when he shows how they are quite pleased with their iniquities because they tell themselves: "God has forgotten it, he will never see it again" (Ps 10:11). Although they cannot avoid acknowledging any God, they destroy His glory by denying His power, for just as, according to the testimony of Paul, God cannot deny Himself (2Tim 2:13), because He always remains the same, so those people are rightly judged to be deniers of God when they make a dead and vain idol out of Him. But there is also this to consider: Certainly they fight against their own feelings and would like to push God out of them and abolish him also in heaven; but they cannot prevent with all their defiance that he at times drags them before his judgment. Nevertheless, they do not let any fear restrain them in their furious onslaught against God, and therefore, as long as this blind defiance carries them away, an almost beastly forgetfulness of God evidently prevails in them.

We cannot think of God according to our own arbitrariness

I,4,3 In this way also the vain euphemism disappears, which some people tend to grant to their superstition. They imagine that it is already enough if man somehow tries for religion, even if this effort is still so nonsensical. In doing so, they do not consider that true religion must be in accordance with the will and will of God as an unchanging guideline! For God always remains the same. He is not a ghost, not a figment of the imagination, which each one could shape according to his own whim: And it is obvious with what lying illusions superstition mocks God, just when it wants to serve him most eagerly. For he accepts what, according to his own testimony, God does not care for at all; but what he has decreed and what is pleasing to him, that he despises or even rejects unequivocally. For he who sets up a service of his own devising is doing the service and worship of his own fantasy. He would not even dare to fool around with God in such a way, if he had not first invented a God that would correspond to his foolishness! That is why the apostle declares such a wavering and erroneous opinion of God to be ignorance of God: "At the time when you did not know God, you served those who by nature are not gods" (Gal 4:8); or in another place he says of the Ephesians that they were "without God" at the time when they lived apart from the right knowledge of God (Eph 2:12). In such a state it is of little consequence whether one imagines only one God or several. For the distance and the apostasy from God are a fact, and if one has left him, nothing remains but an abominable idol. In conclusion, we can only state with Lactantius: no religion is the right one that is not in league with truth.

The hypocrisy

I,4,4 In addition, there is now another sin: One thinks about God only under compulsion, seeks His nearness only reluctantly, compelled. And even then it does not come to voluntary fear of God, as it comes with the respect for God’s majesty, but only to servile, forced fear of God’s judgment: one cannot escape it, but is frightened by it and wants nothing to do with it. Thus the statement of Statius, that fear first made gods in the world, fits ungodliness, and this alone. He who turns away his heart from the justice of God knows that there is a judgment to punish the transgression of the law, but he wishes all the more that this judgment would be nullified. This is the attitude from which one wages war against God, who cannot be without judgment. But since one realizes that God’s power is inevitably threatening – for one cannot push it aside nor escape from it! One trembles before it. One certainly does not want to give the impression that one despises God, whose majesty is pressing upon one, and therefore one outwardly performs all kinds of sham religious work, but in the meantime one by no means ceases to stain oneself with all vices, to roll shame upon shame, until one has violated the holy law of the Lord in every respect and has completely dissolved his justice. In any case, this feigned fear of God offers no hindrance whatsoever to one’s feeling properly comfortable in one’s sins, pleasing oneself in them, and preferring to give oneself over to the licentiousness of one’s own flesh rather than to obey the discipline of the Holy Spirit! But this is all an empty and lying pretense of religion, hardly even worthy of the name "pretense"; and so just here again one can easily perceive how much piety, which alone dwells in the heart of the believer and from which only true religion is born, differs from this confused knowledge of God. And yet such hypocrites want to achieve by stealth that they seem close to God, from whom they are nevertheless on the run. All their lives they should be obedient to him without ceasing; but instead of this they fearlessly defy him almost in all their doings, and seek to propitiate him only by a few sacrifices! In holiness of life and purity of heart they should serve him; but instead of this they invent ludicrous buffoonery and trifling services with which they would earn his favor! Yes, they sink all the more boldly into their mud, because they think they can come clean with God by ridiculous penitential exercises. Finally, they should put all their trust in him, and instead they put him aside and base their trust on themselves or on creatures! In the end, they get so entangled in all kinds of error that their dark malice extinguishes and even suffocates those sparks that would light up to the knowledge of the glory of God. And nevertheless that germ lives, which cannot be completely eradicated in any way, that suspicion that it is some divine being. But this germ is itself so corrupt that it produces only the worst fruits. Thus the correctness of my assertion that a feeling of God is carved into the human heart by nature is only the clearer. Necessity forces even the godless to recognize it! In undisturbed happiness they mock God, they are yelpers and chatterers in order to diminish his power. But when despair torments them, it urges them to seek God, and gives them prayers of impulse – from which it then becomes clear that they are not altogether without knowledge of God, but that they have suppressed in malice what should long since have risen in them!

Fifth chapter

From the creation and continuing government of the world, a message from God shines to us.

The clarity of God’s self-testimony deprives us of any excuse

I,5,1 Now the highest goal of the blessed life is the knowledge of God. The access to blessedness should not be closed to anyone; therefore God has not only given to the human heart what we called the germ of religion. He has also revealed Himself in the whole structure of the world in such a way, and is still doing so today, that people cannot open their eyes without necessarily beholding Him. His nature is incomprehensible, so that his divinity is completely inaccessible to all human understanding. But he has imprinted reliable marks of his glory on the individual works, and these are so clear and impressive that even to the most ignorant and unintelligent people any excuse with ignorance is made impossible. Thus the prophet rightly exclaims that God is clothed with light as with a garment (Ps 104:2), as if to say: Only then did he begin to appear gloriously in visible adornment, when in the creation of the world he revealed his glorious marks, in whose adornment he now appears to us wherever we turn our eyes. In the same passage the prophet very aptly compares the stretched-out heavens with God’s royal tent, and says of him, "He vaults his chamber in the waters, clouds are his vehicle, he rides on wings of the wind, winds and lightnings are his swift messengers" (Ps 104:3, 4, somewhat inaccurately). And because in the height the splendor of his power and wisdom shines most splendidly, the sky is often called his palace. In general: wherever you let your eyes look, there is not a particle of the world around, in which at least some sparks of his glory are not to be seen! One cannot even look at this immense, wonderful building, which lies all around, without collapsing under the force of this immeasurable splendor. That is why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls the world very beautifully a visualization of the invisible things (Hebr 11:3); because the beautiful order of the world serves us as a mirror, in which we can see the invisible God everywhere. That is why the prophet (Ps 19:1) ascribes to the heavenly bodies a language that is unknown to any people, because there is an all too clear testimony of God that it could escape any people, even the most crude. And the apostle expresses this even more clearly when he says that it is revealed to men what is to be known of God, because his invisible nature, even his eternal power and divinity, can be seen by everyone from the view of the creation of the world (Rom 1:19).

God’s wisdom remains hidden from no one

I,5,2 In heaven and on earth are innumerable testimonies which prove his wonderful wisdom. I do not think only of more hidden things, whose closer investigation of the astronomy, the medicine and the whole natural science serves. Rather I have such testimonies in mind, which impose themselves on the view of even the most ignorant, so that the eyes cannot open without necessarily witnessing them. Admittedly, whoever has absorbed those sciences or has become acquainted with them, even in a cursory way, can use them to penetrate even deeper into the contemplation of the mysteries of divine wisdom. But he who does not know them is by no means prevented by such ignorance from seeing in God’s works art and wisdom left enough to come then to the admiration of the Creator. Of course it needs science and exact work to determine the movements, positions, distances and characteristics of the celestial bodies; and as with such research God’s providence emerges more clearly, so it is all the more appropriate to direct the spirit temple to behold its glory. But even the uneducated and ignorant, who have only eyes to see, must behold the greatness of divine art and wisdom, which presents itself to him all by itself in the infinite variety of the host of the heavens, which is nevertheless so well ordered. So there is no one to whom the Lord did not reveal his wisdom abundantly! Likewise, it requires excellent acumen to determine the inner unity, the symmetry, the beauty and the function of the organs of the human body with the accuracy of a Galenus. But all observers agree in the confession that the human body shows such a meaningful structure that the Creator is rightly called wonderful because of it.

Man as the most glorious proof of divine wisdom

I,5,3 Not without reason a philosopher once called man a "microcosm" (a world in miniature), because he is an outstanding proof of the power, goodness and wisdom of God and should captivate our spirit with so many wonders, if we were not too lazy to pay attention. For this reason, Paul immediately adds to the statement that God can be grasped even by the blind, that he does not need to look for Him in the distance (Acts 17:27), because each individual feels the heavenly grace by which he lives inwardly without doubt. But if, in order for us to grasp God, it is not at all necessary to go out of ourselves, how then is it possible to gloss over the laziness of such people who do not even bother to look within themselves to seek God? This is the reason why David, after briefly praising God’s glorious name and His greatness shining out to us everywhere, immediately exclaims, "What is man that you remember him?" (Ps 8:5) and, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou wrought power!" (Ps 8:3). With this he says: not only is there a clear mirror of God’s works in the human race, but even the infants who cling to their mother’s breast have skillful tongues to proclaim His glory, so that there is no need for other speakers! Thus, without hesitation, he leads even the mouths of the children into battle, as being well equipped to deny their nonsense, who in their diabolical arrogance would like to extinguish God’s name! Hence also that word which Paul quotes from Aratus: "We are of his seed" (Acts 17:28); for if God adorns us with such privileges, he has thus testified to himself as our Father. From the general feeling and as it were on inspiration of the experience also heathen poets have thus called God the "Father of men". And no one will freely and willingly submit to God in obedience who has not tasted his fatherly love and been provoked thereby to love and serve him.

But man in particular turns ungrateful against God

I,5,4 But here the shameful ingratitude of men is revealed. A workshop they carry within themselves, adorned with innumerable works of God, a treasury filled with inestimable goods – but instead of breaking out in praise now, they only puff themselves up in all the greater pomposity and brace themselves in defiance! They feel how wonderfully God works on them; what abundance of gifts they possess thanks to his bounty, this experience itself teaches them. That these are signs of divinity, they have to recognize willy-nilly – but inwardly they fight against it. It is not necessary that they go out of themselves. But they should not proudly ascribe to themselves what has been given to them from heaven, and thus bury in the earth what shines before their hearts to a clear knowledge of God. Yes, today the earth bears many desolate spirits who are not afraid to use all the seed of divinity that has been scattered in human nature to destroy the name of God. What a terrible folly it is when man, who finds God a hundredfold in his body and soul, takes this very advantage as an occasion to deny God’s existence! One will not say that man differs from the unreasonable animals merely by chance, only one will cover everything under the veil of "nature": it is then creator of all things – but God is robbed of his creator-glory! One sees this excellent work of art in its individual links – from mouth and eyes up to the toes. But also here one puts the "nature" in the place of God. In particular, the swift movements of the soul, its marvelous abilities, its unique gifts show God’s traces with difficulty – if only these Epicureans, like Cyclopes, did not want to wage the war against God all the more fiercely from this very height! But if all the treasures of heavenly wisdom work together to govern a worm five feet high, shall the whole universe lack this advantage? First of all, it is claimed that there are organic faculties in the soul, which are adapted to work in the individual parts of the body – but this is so little able to darken the glory of God that it makes it shine even brighter! Epicurus should tell us how the mixture of atoms would look like, which could digest food and drink, let one part pass into the excrement, the other into the blood, or which would achieve such a powerful and appropriate effect in the individual members, as if as many souls (as members) governed the body according to a common plan!

The confusion of the creature with the creator

I,5,5 But with this pigsty I have nothing further to do here. I would rather argue now with those who, in devious sophistry, would like to twist and turn that thin statement of Aristotle until it would serve them to deny the immortality of the soul as well as to dispute the right of God. Since the powers of the soul are organic, they bind the soul to the body, so that it could not exist without it. By great praises of nature they then suppress, as much as they can, the name of God. But there can be no question of the soul’s abilities being exhausted in the modes of action that serve the body. What has the body to do with measuring the heavens, counting the stars, ascertaining their size, investigating their distances, observing the greater or lesser speed of their course, or determining the degrees of deviation from the orbit? I admit that the astronomy has a use. Here I only want to show that in such difficult research of celestial phenomena body and soul are not in simple correspondence to each other, but that the effect of the soul is separate from the body. I have brought only one example, after which others can be easily formed. The manifold mobility of the soul, with which it searches heaven and earth, connects the past and the future, remembers what it has heard before, imagines what it wants, this inventiveness with which it thinks up unbelievable things and which is the mother of so many wondrous skills – all these are certainly traces of God in man. What should we say to the fact that even in sleep she is lively and agile and even invents many useful things, thinks about many things, even anticipates the future? Can one find any other answer to this than that the traces of immortality, which are imprinted on man, cannot be destroyed? But how senseless would it be if man himself were divine (divinus) and yet did not acknowledge his Creator? We should distinguish between right and wrong with our own power of judgment – and in heaven there should be no judge? We should have a rest of thinking power even in sleep – and no god should watch and rule over the world? We should be considered as inventors of so many useful arts and things – so that God is deprived of his glory? And yet experience already teaches that we receive our possessions in a completely different way, from somewhere else! What some people talk about a secret bliss, which would keep the whole world alive, is tasteless and downright godless. To them then Vergil’s famous saying gives pleasure:

"First the sky around and the land and the wide regions, Also the shining sphere of the moon and the shining sun Nourishes from within a spirit; And completely flowing through the limbs Reget soul the universe, united to the great body. Thence human race and beasts and swift fowl, Even so many sea wonders, the surging depths tumble through: All through them weaves living power and heavenly origin." In such a way of thinking, the world, which after all is created as a mirror of God, is supposed to be its own creator. This view, which is found among Greeks and Latins, was also expressed by Virgil in another place: "That in the bees dwells a part of divine spirit and ethereal breath. For the divinity goes through all countries and spaces of the sea and depths of the sky. Sheep and cattle, the human being and the wild animals, each one at its birth gets from the breath of life. Behold, even there, having escaped decay, all things return, and nowhere is death; it swings alive among the number of the stars and shines in the sublime heavens."

But what shall now this meager play of ideas of the "general spirit" (world soul), which animates and carries the world, bear for fruit for the emergence and preservation of piety in the human heart? This can be seen best from the sacrilegious speeches of the dirty dog Lucretius, which come from this origin! It is nothing else than that one makes a shadow idol for oneself, in order to get rid of the true God, whom we should fear and serve, as thoroughly as possible. I admit: one can also say in a right spirit that "nature" is God – if it only comes from a pious heart. But it is a thoughtless and inappropriate way of speaking; for nature is rather the order set by God, and therefore it is harmful in such an important matter, to which special reverence is due, if one mixes God unclearly with the events in his works that are subordinate to him.

The Creator reveals His dominion over creation

I,5,6 Let us therefore, as often as we contemplate our nature, always remember: it is one God, who directs and guides all beings with the intention that we look to him, put our trust in him, honor him and call upon him. For there is nothing more senseless than to enjoy the glorious gifts that are present in us as traces of the Godhead – and to forget the Creator, who presents all this to us by grace! Must not His power in its glorious manifestations draw us to admiring contemplation? It cannot remain hidden from us how immeasurable his power must be, if he is able to bear the immeasurable burden of heaven and earth with his word, to shake the heavens with a mere wave of thunder, to fill the air with scorching lightning, now to let the weather rage in confusion and immediately thereafter to suddenly cheer everything up again at his will, to hold together the sea, which continually threatens to flood the land with its masses of water, as if it were suspended in mid-air, to let it sometimes surge up terribly in the storm wind and soon to smooth the waves again and create calm. This is where the many praises of God from the testimony of nature belong in the Scriptures, especially in the book of Job and in Isaiah. I pass them over here, because they will come into their own better below, when I speak of the creation of the world on the basis of the Scriptures. Here I only wanted to show how the strangers and the household members of God can seek God on this common way: It is only necessary to pay attention to the outlines, which indicate his face alive above and here. His power alone teaches us to consider his eternity. For the origin of all things must necessarily be eternal and founded in itself alone. If we further ask what caused him to create all this once and to preserve it today, the reason is to be found only in his goodness. If this were the only one, it would have to be more than sufficient to provoke us to love; after all, according to the words of the prophet, there is no creature in which his mercy has not been poured out! (Ps 145:9).

God’s Government and Judgeship

I,5,7 Equally clear proofs of his power and goodness also appear to us in another part of his works, namely in those that occur outside the ordinary course of nature. For in the government of the human race, he proves his providence in such a way that he is gracious and kind to all people in all ways, but still makes the pious feel his mercy and the wicked and transgressors feel his severity through daily and obvious signs. Unconcealed is his retribution, with which he punishes the crime. Likewise, he clearly proves to be the protector as well as the avenger of innocence; after all, he crowns the life of the pious with his blessing, helps them in distress, soothes pain and makes it more bearable with his consolation, lightens their hearts in sorrow and does everything for their salvation! Nor should we be misled by the eternal rule of his justice that he rejoices for a time with impunity over transgressors and wrongdoers, but leaves the pious undeservedly in misfortune, or even admits that they are wickedly and unjustly tormented by the wicked. Here, rather, a quite different judgment is necessary: if God punishes a single vice with all the marks of his wrath, his hatred strikes all of them together, and if he lets some things pass unpunished, another judgment is nevertheless imminent, to which he postpones the punishment. But how much cause does he give us to consider his mercy, when he often pursues wretched sinners with untiring kindness, in spite of everything, until he has broken their wickedness by always doing them good and calling them back to him with more than fatherly long-suffering!

God’s free, superior rule in man’s life

I,5,8 Thus the prophet (Ps 107,) enumerates how often God unexpectedly, miraculously, and against all hope gives help to unhappy and almost lost people in desperate situations, how he saves desert wanderers from the wild beasts and brings them back on the right path, gives food to the starving and hungry, He leads prisoners out of darkness and iron chains into freedom, brings shipwrecked people unharmed into the harbor, redeems the half-dead from sickness, again parches countries with heat and drought, again wonderfully refreshes others with gracious rain, raises the most despised from the people and casts out the noble from their dignity. By such examples he shows that what seems to be accidental fate is all a sign of heavenly providence, but especially of fatherly kindness. And he makes us notice how the pious have every reason to rejoice here, but the wicked and transgressors are muzzled (v. 42). But because the greater part of mankind is entangled in its errors and blind to such sublime spectacle, the prophet exclaims that it is a rare and special wisdom to consider wisely such works of God (v. 43), the beholding of which is of no use even to those who otherwise seem to be the most clear-sighted. And it is also like this: God’s glory may shine so brightly – but there is hardly anyone among a hundred who recognizes it correctly! Nor does God’s power and wisdom remain hidden. His power is clearly revealed when the arrogance of the wicked, which seems insurmountable to all people, is thrown to the ground with one blow, when their arrogance is humbled, their most secure defenses are broken, their weapons and projectiles are shattered, their forces are destroyed, their plots are thwarted and fall to the ground under their own weight, when their presumption, which rose to the heavens, is now cast down into the bowels of the earth, when, on the other hand, the lowly are lifted up from the dust and the poor are lifted up from the dung (Ps 113:7), when the afflicted and oppressed are snatched out of extreme fear, when the despairing are lifted up to hope, when the defenseless are victorious over the armed, the few over the many, the weak over the strong! His wisdom is manifested in the fact that he directs everything for the best, puts an end to the subtlety of the world, and overcomes the prudent in their wisdom (1Cor 3:19), in short, he governs everything in the best way.

We are not to ponder God, but to contemplate Him in His works

I,5,9 As we have seen, there is no need for circumstantial evidence to show all the testimonies that bring God’s majesty brightly to light. From the little that we have considered, it has already been shown that they are so clear to us and fall into our eyes that we can easily see them, even point to them with our fingers. Here it must be pointed out again: we are called to such a knowledge of God, which does not merely flutter around in the brain, satisfied with vain play of thoughts, but which should be lasting and fruitful, where it is only properly received by us and takes root in the heart. For God reveals himself in his powers, and because we feel their power in us and enjoy his benefits, we are necessarily much more deeply moved by such knowledge than if we imagined a God of whom no sensation reached us! Thus we see how to seek God in the right way: We are not to make in presumptuous curiosity the intrusive attempt to investigate his "being" and "essence", which we are to worship, but not to ponder. No, we are to look at him in his works, in which he comes close to us, makes himself familiar to us and, as it were, communicates himself to us. This is what the apostle had in mind when he said that he is not to be looked for far away, since he dwells in every one of us through present power (Acts 17:27). So also David has to confess that God’s greatness is unspeakable. Shortly thereafter, however, he comes to speak of God’s works, and then he can presume to proclaim the greatness of the Lord (Ps 145:3, 5). So we too should seek to investigate God in such a way that we come to the admiration of His glory with our intellect – then our heart will also be moved mightily! Augustine teaches the same: since we cannot grasp him because he is too great for us, we should look at his works in order to be refreshed by his goodness.

The purpose of this knowledge of God

I,5,10 Such knowledge of God must stimulate us to worship God and at the same time awaken and raise the hope of eternal life in us. It cannot escape us that the signs which the Lord gives us of his grace as well as of his severity are only the beginning and the beginning. They are, without a doubt, merely a prelude to greater things, the revelation and full disclosure of which is postponed to another life. On the other hand, we see how the pious are oppressed, offended, blasphemed, and showered with shame and disgrace by the wicked, while the evildoers flourish and prosper, enjoy peace and honor, unpunished! So there must be another life in which injustice finds retribution and justice its reward. If we add to this the fact that the righteous are often beaten with the Lord’s rods, we can conclude with certainty that even less will the wicked escape his scourge. Augustin makes the fine remark: "If every sin were now punished with manifest punishment, one would think that nothing would be left to the last judgment. If, on the other hand, God now punished no sin publicly, one might think there was no divine providence" (On the State of God, I,8). We must therefore confess that in all the works of God, especially when they are taken as a whole, God’s power and goodness are depicted as in a painting. Thereby we shall all be invited and stimulated to his knowledge and from there again to true and complete happiness. But as brightly as they now stand before us – we will only understand what they are ultimately intended for, how great their power is, and what we are to contemplate them for, when we go within ourselves and observe in how many ways the Lord brings to bear in us his life, his wisdom, his power, how he demonstrates in us his justice, goodness, and mercy. Certainly David rightly complains that the unbelievers act foolishly because they do not heed the unsearchable counsels of God in the government of the human race (Ps 92:7). But it remains a fortiori true when he says elsewhere that God’s wondrous wisdom in this piece is more innumerable than the hairs of our head (cf. Ps 40:13). But according to the order, this piece must be spoken about in more detail later. I will therefore leave it here (cf. ch. 16,6-9).

The message from God that we gain from creation does not reach its destination with us

I,5,11 However brightly and clearly the Lord presents Himself and His eternal kingdom to us in the mirror of His works – we remain in our great stupor always blind against such clear testimonies, so that they remain without fruit in us! For as far as creation and the fine order of the world are concerned, who among us, when he lifts his eyes to heaven or lets them wander on earth, really thinks in his heart of the Creator? Who does not rather stop at the contemplation of the works and forgets the worker? And as for those other works which happen every day outside the orderly course of nature, who does not think that men are turned and driven by the blind chance of fortune, and not guided by God’s providence? But if we ever come to the contemplation of God by the instruction and guidance of such events – which necessarily happens to all – we nevertheless sink, if we have scarcely a fleeting sense of something like the Godhead, into the frenzy and evil thoughts of our flesh, and corrupt with our vanity the pure truth of God. Only in this do we find ourselves unequal among ourselves, that each one creates his own error for his own person. But in this we are all completely equal, that we have all fallen away from the one true God and have turned to whimsical childish things! This is not only the disease of uneducated and dull-witted men, but even the most eminent spirits, otherwise gifted with unique sagacity, have fallen into it. How abundantly the whole nation of philosophers has displayed its folly and ineptitude in this! Even Plato, the most pious and prudent of all – let us spare others who have devised even greater senselessness! -, even he gets into the thought of the spherical shape of the universe (in which the divine "idea" works out). What then shall become of the others, if even those, who are the most respectable and should shine before others, fantasize and stumble in such a way! But further: the government of human destinies shows God’s providence too clearly to be denied – but nothing more comes out of it than that one believes that everything above and below is directed by blind fate: so great is our inclination to vanity and error. I am always speaking only of the most excellent, not of those insignificant spirits, whose madness to profane the divine truth goes into the unmeasured.

The message from God suffocates in human superstition and error

I,5,12 Hence the enormous mud of errors that covers and fills the whole world. For each one’s mind is like a labyrinth, and it is therefore no wonder that the individual peoples have fallen into their particular errors, and that it does not remain so, but even individual people have made their own gods. Ignorance and darkness have been joined by boldness and wantonness, and therefore hardly anyone can be found who has not made himself an idol or a ghost instead of God! As from a great and wide spring the waters gush forth, so also the immeasurable multitude of gods flows forth from the human heart, in that each one in his debauchery sometimes imputes this, sometimes that to God. Nevertheless, it is superfluous here to enumerate all the follies of which the world is full. There would be no end to it, and with so much corruption the blindness of the human heart is clear in all its dreadfulness even without words. Here I pass over the uneducated and unlearned people. But what a shameful confusion there is even among the philosophers who dared to soar to heaven with their wisdom and reason! The more intellect one possessed, the more art and science had educated him, the more he knew how to embellish his opinion with beautiful colors. But if one looks at all these colors, they are mere make-up, without substance. The Stoics thought themselves astute with their opinion that one could read out different names of God from the individual parts of nature, and God’s unity would not be torn apart by it! As if we were not already left enough inclined to the delusion and it still needed a lot of gods to interweave us deeper into the error! Also the secret theology of the Egyptians shows how they all take the greatest pains to avoid the appearance of being nonsensical without reason! Certainly some things would seem probable to the simple-minded and thoughtless at first sight and would deceive them. But no mortal has ever devised anything by which the worship of God has not been shamefully corrupted. This confused confusion of opinions then gave the Epicureans and other gross despisers of religion welcome occasion to insolently throw away all feeling for God. They saw how all, even the cleverest, came to completely opposite opinions, and so they soon drew the conclusion from their quarrels and also from the frivolous and tasteless teaching of each of them that man only causes himself useless torment if he goes in search of God, who does not exist at all. And they believed that they could do this with impunity, because it was better to deny God’s existence without further ado than to think up uncertain gods and to get involved in endless quarrels. But these people judge quite foolishly, rather they try to cloud their godlessness with the reference to the human ignorance – when God must not be denied by such ignorance! If it is generally admitted that the learned as well as the unlearned are more divided about nothing than about these questions, then we draw the conclusion from this: the spirit of man, which gets so astray in seeking God, is more than weak-sighted and blind to the divine mysteries! Of course one praises the answer which Simonides gave to the tyrant Hiero. When the latter asked him what God was, he first asked for a day to think. When the tyrant repeated his question the next day, he asked for two days, and so with each additional day he asked for twice the number of days as time to think. Finally he gave an answer: "The longer I think about this question, the darker it seems to me. It was wisely acted that the man postponed the answer to a question dark to himself. But it becomes clear that when man follows only his natural knowledge, nothing certain, nothing definite, nothing clear comes out of it, but he is caught in confused concepts, so that he worships an unknown God.

We have all fallen away from God

I,5,13 Here we must also note that all those who falsify the pure worship of God (religio) – and this necessarily happens to all those who follow their own opinion! – fall away from God. They will interject to want something completely different. But what they intend and what they have in mind does not matter much; for the Holy Spirit declares all to be apostates who, in the darkening of their hearts, put idols (demons) in God’s place. Therefore, Paul declares that the Ephesians were without God until they learned from the gospel what it meant to worship the true God (Eph 2:12). However, this cannot be limited to only one people; for in another place the apostle expresses the judgment in general that all people have become vain in their thoughts (Rom 1:21), after the Creator’s majesty was revealed to them in the creation of the world! In order to make room for the true and only God, the Holy Scriptures accuse everything that was otherwise worshipped as a deity among the nations of falsehood and lies, and thereby no deity remains but the God alone who was worshipped on Mount Zion, where a unique knowledge of God dwelt (Hab 2:18, 20). Thus, in Christ’s time among the Gentiles, especially the Samaritans seem to have come very close to true godliness, and yet we hear from Christ’s mouth that they did not know what they worshipped (John 4:22). So they too were deceived by vain error. Although not all men fell into the most terrible vices or were devoted to manifest idolatry, there has never been a pure and established religion based solely on common sense (communis sensus). Even though some may have been uninvolved in the madness of the crowd, Paul’s teaching remains that the rulers of this world have not known the wisdom of God (1Cor 2:8). If even the most excellent have groped in darkness in such a way – what can one then say of the unlearned and unwise? Therefore, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit rejects as degenerate all religious practices conceived by human will. For in the face of the heavenly mysteries, human opinion, even if it does not always give birth to a multitude of errors, is nevertheless the mother of error. And even if there is nothing worse, it is no small mistake to worship an unknown God at random – and according to Christ’s word (John 4:22) all do that who do not know from the law which God is really to be worshipped! Even the best legislators did not want more than that religion should be founded in the overall opinion of the people. Yes, even Socrates praises the oracle of Apollo in Xenophon, that everyone should worship the gods according to the paternal way and the custom of his hometown! From where do mortal men have the right to determine with their authority what is higher than all the world? And who can be so reassured by the statutes of the ancestors or the opinion of the people that he accepts without hesitation a God handed down to him humanly? Surely everyone will prefer to proceed according to his own judgment than to submit to foreign arbitrariness! Since it is too weak and frail a bond of religion to follow the custom of the city or the old tradition in matters of the worship of God, it remains only that God himself testifies about himself from heaven.

We are not capable of the right knowledge of God on our own.

I,5,14 All the burning torches in the building of the world, ordered for the glorification of the Creator, shine in vain, from all sides they outshine us with their light – and still they cannot lead us on the right way! Certainly they awaken a few sparks. But they are already extinguished before they could give a stronger glow. That is why the apostle, in the same passage where he calls the world the visible things, adds: "By faith we know that the world is finished through the word of God" (Hebr 11:3). By this he indicates: the invisible Godhead is indeed made manifest by such visible things, but we lack the eyes to see them unless we are enlightened by God’s inner revelation. Even Paul, when he says that it is evident from the creation of the world what can be known of God (Rom 1:19), does not mean a revelation that could be grasped by human acumen. Rather, he shows that it accomplishes no more than that we are without excuse. And if he says in one place that God is not to be sought in the distance, since he dwells in us (Acts 17:27), he shows in another place what such a presence of God is all about. "He hath in times past caused all the Gentiles to walk in their own ways; yet hath he not left himself unwitnessed, hath done us much good, hath given us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, hath filled our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:16, 17). Thus, God’s testimonies are always present, kindly provoking men to His knowledge with rich and manifold goodness. But people do not therefore stop following their own ways, their corrupt errors.

Our inability is to blame

I,5,15 Although we do not have the ability by nature to reach the pure and clear knowledge of God, this inability is our own fault, and therefore all excuse is cut off from us, we cannot pretend ignorance; because our conscience itself always convicts us of our sloth and ingratitude. That would be a fine excuse, if man wanted to claim that he lacked the ear to hear the truth – which the mute creature proclaims with more than bright-sounding voices, if he wanted to object that he could not see with his eyes – which all creatures, without being able to see themselves, show so clearly, if he wanted to excuse himself with weakness of his spirit, where all creatures without reason appear as teachers! We really have not the least right to excuse ourselves, if we err and wander and miss the goal – when everything shows the right way! Of course, as much as it is man’s fault if he so soon spoils the seed of the knowledge of God, as it is sown in him by the wondrous construction of nature, that it cannot come to right and pure fruit, it is also true, on the other hand, that we are never sufficiently instructed by that mere and simple testimony which God’s majesty so abundantly receives from the creature. For no sooner have we gained some sense of the Godhead from the contemplation of the world than we abandon the true God and put in his place the dreams and figments of our own brains, and divert the praise of righteousness, wisdom, goodness and power from the real source – sometimes there, sometimes there! All days God does his work – but we obscure or pervert it by unreasonable judgment and so rob the work of its honor and the worker of the due praise.

Chapter Six

Whoever wants to reach God, the Creator, must have the Scriptures as his guide and teacher.

God gives us real knowledge of God only in his Word

I,6,1 Certainly, then, human ingratitude loses all possibility of excuse for the sake of the splendor that falls in the eyes of all in heaven and on earth – just as God, in order to make all men equally guilty, sets before all without exception the outlines of his being in the creature. But another and better means is needed, which reliably points us to the Creator of the world Himself. For this reason, God, with good reason, has added the light of his Word to make himself known to us for our salvation. He has honored those whom he wanted to draw into his closer and more intimate fellowship. He saw the minds of all people being disturbed by wandering and unstable thoughts. When he chose the Israelites as his special flock, he surrounded them with barriers so that they would not fall into vanity after the manner of others. For the same good reason he also sets barriers for us, to keep us in the pure knowledge of God; otherwise, how soon would even those who seem to stand firmer than others lose their way! For just as old people, the weak-sighted, and those with eye-sickness, when even the most beautiful volume is held before their eyes, notice that something is written there, but can hardly put two words together, but then begin to read clearly with the help of glasses – so the Scriptures bring our otherwise so confused knowledge of God into proper order, dispel the darkness, and show us clearly the true God. This is certainly a unique gift of God: he does not need only mute teachers for the instruction of his church, but opens his holy mouth himself! And in doing so, he does not merely instruct us to worship any god, but he shows himself as the one who wants to be worshipped! He does not only teach his chosen ones to look at God, no, he faces them himself as the one they should look at! He has kept this order in his church from the beginning, that besides that general testimony (praeter communia illa documenta) he has also given his word, which is a clearer and more certain means of recognizing him. By this means, without a doubt, Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other fathers arrived at intimate knowledge of God, which distinguished them from the unbelievers. I am not yet talking about the actual doctrine of faith, which made the hope of eternal life shine in them. In order to pass from death to life, not only the knowledge of God as the Creator was necessary, but also that of the Redeemer, and both were obviously granted to them through the Word. For after the order that (way of) knowledge preceded, which gave the certainty, who actually is that God, who created the world and still rules. Then follows that other, inner knowledge, which alone makes dead souls alive, namely that God is not only the creator of the world and the only author and judge of all events, but also the redeemer in the person of the mediator. Since, however, we have not yet spoken of the fall of the world and the corruption of nature, I must also refrain here from speaking of the remedy prescribed for it. Let the reader therefore bear in mind that I am not yet speaking of the covenant in which God accepted the sons of Abraham as his children, and of that part of the doctrine which always constituted the real difference between the believers and the unbelieving heathen. For this part was founded in Christ. Here we are only told how we are to learn from Scripture that God, who is the Creator of the world, is distinguished by clear marks from all the devised swarm of gods. The order of presentation then leads us over by itself to the doctrine of redemption. Must we now also cite many testimonies from the New Testament, also others from the Law and the Prophets, which nevertheless also make clear mention of Christ: they all have the purpose of showing that God as Creator of the world reveals Himself in the Scriptures, and that in them it is set forth to us what is to be thought of Him, so that we do not seek any deity in our erroneous ways.

The Word of God as Holy Scripture

I,6,2 Whether God made himself known to the fathers by oracles and visions or communicated to them through the mediation and service of men what they were to hand down to their descendants – in no case can it be doubted that the teaching was engraved in their hearts with such unshakable certainty that they were firmly convinced and saw clearly: what they had experienced came from God. For God has at all times given his word an undoubted credibility that transcends all human thought. So that the truth of the doctrine would be preserved throughout the centuries, God wanted the same words of revelation (oracula) that he had given to the fathers to be recorded, as it were, on publicly displayed tablets. Out of such counsel God gave the law, to which later the prophets were added as interpreters. Now there was indeed a manifold application of the law (multiplex legis usus), as we will see later in more detail. But Moses and all prophets had the intention to teach the kind of reconciliation between God and man – that is why Paul calls Christ the end of the law (Rom 10:4). Nevertheless, I repeat here: apart from the actual doctrine of faith and repentance (conversion), which puts Christ as mediator before our eyes, the Scriptures describe and adorn the one and true God, as he created the world and still rules it, with sure indications and signs to prevent all mixing with the false idolatrous swarm. So, as much as man should turn his eyes to the contemplation of God’s works – for in this marvelous spectacle he has his place as a spectator – he should first of all take the word of God to his ears in order to arrive at better knowledge. One should not be surprised that people born in darkness harden more and more in insensitivity. For only a very few become learned students of the Word of God and thus remain within the set boundaries; most rather walk along arrogantly in their vain imaginings. But if the ray of true religion is to strike us, we must begin with the heavenly doctrine (caelestis doctrina), and no one comes to even the slightest understanding of right and wholesome doctrine unless he first becomes a student of the Scriptures. There lies the origin of true knowledge: when we accept with reverence what God has wanted to testify of Himself here. For not only a true and perfect faith, but all true knowledge of God arises from obedience. And in this piece God has indeed graciously provided for the people of all times with special providence!

Without the Scriptures we go astray

I,6,3 If we consider the strong tendency of man to forget God, if we see his inclination to all kinds of errors and if we become aware of how greedily he always imagines new, false religions, then we can appreciate how necessary such a written record of the heavenly teaching was, so that it would not be distorted by forgetfulness, given away in the error of vanity or corrupted by human presumption. Nor can it be denied that God used the means of his word with all those whom he wished to instruct fruitfully, because he saw that his image, as it was expressed in the glorious form of the world, would not be strong enough. Therefore, it can only help us to go this straight path if we want to come to the pure contemplation of God in earnest. I say that we must keep to the Word, for there God is described to us rightly and vividly from His works, in that these works are not judged according to our wrong judgment, but according to the rule of eternal truth! If we deviate from the word, we may, as I said, strive forward with the utmost speed, but we will never reach the goal, because we are on a wrong track! We must consider: the splendor of God’s face, of which also the apostle says: "since no one can approach" (1Tim 6:16), is like a hopeless labyrinth to us, if the guide of the Word does not lead us. So it is better to limp along this path than to run along a wrong way! Therefore, when David announces that superstition will disappear from the world to make way for true religion, he sets God before us as he establishes his kingdom (Ps 93; 96; 97; 99 and others). In this, however, he does not understand by God’s kingdom his working of power, as he exercises it in the government of all nature, but the doctrine in which he enforces his sole rule. For error cannot be torn out of the human heart before true knowledge of God is planted in it!

The Scriptures are able to do what the revelation in the works could not do for us

I,6,4 The same prophet (Ps 19:1) also says that the heavens tell the glory of God, the firmament proclaims the work of his hands, the orderly course of day and night indicates his majesty; but he then immediately speaks of God’s word: "The law of the Lord is perfect and restores the soul, the testimony of the Lord is sure and makes the unwise wise, the judgments of the Lord are right and gladden the heart, the commandments of the Lord are loud and enlighten the eyes" (Ps 19:8 ss.). Now, although the prophet includes other applications of the law, he shows in general: since God invites in vain all nations to Himself by the sight of heaven and earth, this is the special school of the children of God! Similar is the intention of the 29th Psalm. There the prophet speaks of the terrible voice of God, how it makes the earth tremble in thunder and storm, downpour and tempest, shakes the mountains, bends the cedars. And then he adds at the end: "In his temple all things give him glory" – people are deaf and unbelieving against all the voices of God that resound in the air! So he also closes another psalm in which he described the terrible floods of the sea: "Your word is a right doctrine, holiness is the adornment of your house forever" (Ps 93,5). Therefore, Christ could also say to the Samaritan woman that her people and all others did not know what they worshipped, but the Jews alone worshipped the true God (John 4:22). For since the human spirit in its weakness cannot come to God in any way unless God’s word helps it and raises it up, all men except the Jews, because they sought God without the word, were necessarily in delusion and error.

Chapter Seven

The reputation of Scripture is based on the testimony of the Spirit. This alone gives it unquestionable authority, and it is a blasphemous human proposition that its credibility depends on the judgment of the church.

Scripture has its authority from God, not from the churches

I,7,1 Before we go any further, it is necessary to insert a few things about the authority of the Holy Scriptures. These statements are to serve reverence for the Scriptures and also to remove any doubt. Once it is acknowledged that it is God’s own Word, no one will be so presumptuous, indeed downright bereft of human understanding and even of all human sense, as to refuse to believe the one who speaks. But words of revelation do not come from heaven every day, and it has pleased God to preserve His truth for constant remembrance in the Scriptures alone. Therefore, the Bible can gain full authority over believers only when they know for certain that it comes down to them from heaven, as if God’s own voice were heard here alive. The matter is truly worthy of fuller treatment and more careful consideration. Nevertheless, the readers must excuse me if I pay more attention to the extent of the treatment that the task of the present work can bear than to that which would be required by the importance of the matter. In the meantime, the pernicious error has crept into the minds of many that the Scriptures have only so much weight as the discretion of the church allows them. As if God’s eternal and inviolable truth were based on human opinion! One mocks the Holy Spirit and asks: "Who assures us that these writings come from God? And who assures us that they have come down to our time whole and intact? Who shall convince us that the one book is to be accepted in reverence, the other to be excluded? Who – if not the Church prescribed a clear rule for all these things?" "So" – they go on to say – "it depends on the ecclesiastical determination what reverence is due to Scripture, and what books are to be ascribed to it at all!" Thus these men, who rob God of honor, in their attempt to introduce licentious tyranny under the pretext of the church, do not care at all what absurdity they involve themselves and others in – if only they impress upon simple-minded people the opinion that the church has authority to do everything! But what is to become of the poor consciences who seek a firm assurance of eternal life, if all the promises that exist about it are based solely on human judgment? Will they stop trembling over such an answer? On the other hand, how will faith be exposed to the ridicule of the wicked and made suspect by all if it is assumed that it must borrow its authority from man?

The church is itself founded on Scripture

I,7,2 But such quibbles are refuted by a single word of the apostle. He testifies that the church is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles (Eph 2,20). If the teaching of the prophets and apostles is the foundation of the church, it must have authority before the church exists. The foolish objection that it is still uncertain which writings are to be attributed to the prophets and apostles, even though the church has its origin in this teaching, is also null and void, if the judgment of the church does not occur here. For if the Christian church was founded in the beginning on the writings of the prophets and the message of the apostles, the recognition of this teaching, without which the church would never have come into being, certainly preceded the existence of the church. Therefore, it is an empty human proposition to say that the authority to judge the Scriptures lies with the Church, so that the certainty of the Scriptures depends on its approval. For when such approval (by the church) comes, it does not mean that the church first makes the Scripture credible, as if it were previously doubtful and disputed. It happens on the contrary, because the church recognizes here the truth of her God and therefore, as it is the duty of piety, unhesitatingly pays reverence to it! Therefore, if one asks, "Whence then shall we have the conviction that the Scripture comes to us from God, if we do not take our refuge in the judgment of the Church?" it is exactly as if someone asked, "Whence then shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter?" For the truth of Scripture proves itself all by itself, and is therefore no less distinct than the color in a white or black thing, the taste in a sweet or bitter thing!

Even Augustin cannot be cited as proof to the contrary

I,7,3 I know well that a saying of Augustine is now generally quoted here, who said that he would not believe the gospel if the authority of the church did not move him to do so. (Against the Basic Letter of the Manichaeans, ch. 5). But it is very easy to prove from the context how wrongly and deceptively one interprets this passage if one imputes to it the opinion stated above. Augustin had to deal with the Manichaeans, who demanded unquestioning faith for themselves, because they claimed to possess the truth. However, they did not provide any proof of this. In order to ensure the credibility of their Manichaeus (Mani), they invoked the Gospel. And therefore Augustin asks them, what they wanted to do, if someone met them, who did not believe in the gospel, in which way they wanted to lead him to their view! And then he continues: "For my part, I would not believe in the gospel at all if …". With this he wants to say: when I did not know anything about faith, I could only come to the recognition and acceptance of the gospel as a certain truth of God by being overcome by the authority of the church! What is also surprising about the fact that someone who does not yet know Christ pays attention to people? Therefore Augustine does not teach that the faith of the pious is based on the authority of the Church, nor does he want to say that the certainty of the Gospel depends on it. He merely asserts that unbelievers would not come to the certainty of the Gospel and thus be won to Christ unless the unanimous conviction of the Church pointed them in that direction. He confirms this shortly after when he says, "If I praise what I believe and ridicule what you believe, what is to be said about us, what shall we do? Isa there anything left for us to do but abandon those who first invite us to recognize certain things – and yet then command us to believe uncertain things? Must we not instead turn to those who first invite us to believe what we are not yet able to see, so that, having become stronger through faith itself, we may then also be worthy to recognize what we believe, since we are now no longer dealing with men, but God Himself inwardly strengthens and enlightens our spirit?" (In the same book, ch. 14). These are indeed Augustine’s words; from them everyone can now form the judgment that the holy man did not intend to make our faith in Scripture dependent on the opinion and discretion of the Church. He merely wanted to show what we also recognize as true, namely, that those who are not yet enlightened by the Spirit of God are moved by respect for the Church to pay attention in order to learn faith in Christ from the Gospel. The authority of the Church is in this respect an introduction by which we are prepared for faith in the Gospel. For the (real) certainty of the pious, as we have seen, wants to rest on a quite different foundation. I do not deny, by the way, that Augustine often assails the Manichaeans with the unanimous testimony of the Church. He does this when he wants to defend the Holy Scripture, which they rejected, against them. Therefore, he scolds Faustus for not submitting to the truth of the Gospel (veritas evangelica), which is so well founded, so firmly established, crowned with so much glory, and which has been propagated in firm succession since the time of the apostles. But nowhere does he give the sense to his words as if the authority we ascribe to the Scriptures depended on human doctrine or determination. He only cites, which meant much in this matter, the unanimous judgment of the Church, by which he was superior to his opponents. If someone is looking for further proof of this, let him read his book "On the Usefulness of Faith". There he will find that he does not ascribe to such instruction by men the possibility of facilitating faith, but sees in it merely an access prepared for us, or a welcome beginning of investigation, as he himself expresses it. However, according to him, one must not leave it at the mere assumption, but one must base oneself on certain and reliable truth.

The testimony of the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is stronger than all "proofs"

I,7,4 Let us therefore hold fast to what I stated above: the credibility of doctrine cannot be established until we are convinced without doubt that its author is God. Therefore, the highest authentication of the Scriptures is consistently seen in the fact that God speaks here in person. The prophets and apostles do not cite their perspicacity for themselves or whatever else may give credence to the speakers, nor do they insist on reasons of reason, but they mention God’s holy name, by which the whole world is compelled to obey. Now let us see how it is evident, not only with a certain probability, but with plain truth, that their invocation of God’s name was neither recklessness nor deceit. If we want to advise the conscience in the best possible way to prevent it from wavering or wavering in constant doubt or from getting stuck at the slightest impulse, such firmness of conviction must be founded in a higher place than in human reason, judgment or conjecture, namely in the secret testimony of the Holy Spirit. It is true, of course, that if one wanted to bother with proof, one could certainly cite many things that could easily convince one that the law, the prophets and the gospel came from God – if there is a God in heaven at all. Let the most learned and discerning men oppose this, and summon up and develop all their sagacity in this controversy – they must nevertheless, if they do not harden themselves to the most pernicious obstinacy, of necessity come to the admission: there are palpable signs to be seen in the Scriptures that God is speaking, and from this it is clear that their doctrine is from heaven. We will also soon see that all the books of the Holy Scriptures are by far superior to all other books. Yes, if we bring pure eyes and clear senses, God’s majesty will soon confront us, making all bold resistance impossible and demanding obedience from us. Nevertheless, it is folly to think that one can secure the credibility of Scripture by way of argument. Even if I myself do not possess any special skill and eloquence, I would certainly make an effort to silence their unruly clamor without difficulty, even in a battle with the most devious despisers of God, who use all their diligence and wit to undermine the reputation of Scripture. And if it were worth the trouble to refute their witticisms, I would without much effort nullify the bragging they do in their corners. But even if one defends the holy word of God against the insults of men, he will by no means plant the certainty in the hearts that piety requires. Because godless people think that religion is based on the thoughts of men, they want and demand, in order to avoid the appearance of foolish credulity, reasonable proofs that Moses and the prophets spoke on God’s behalf. But I reply: the testimony of the Holy Spirit is better than all proofs. For as God Himself in His Word is the only fully valid witness of Himself, so also this Word will not find faith in the heart of man until it has been sealed by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. For the same Spirit who spoke through the mouth of the prophets must penetrate our hearts to give us the assurance that they faithfully proclaimed what they were commanded by God to proclaim. This reciprocal connection is well expressed by Isaiah as follows: "My spirit that is in thee, and the words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thy mouth, nor from the mouth of thy seed…. from henceforth even for ever" (Isa 59:21; Calvin translates somewhat differently). It also grieves some pious people that there is no clear evidence at hand when the wicked murmur against God’s word with impunity. But for this very reason the Spirit is called the seal and pledge for the fortification of faith, because the heart is driven by all kinds of doubts as long as it has not been enlightened!

The Scripture carries its authentication in itself

I,7,5 This is how it should remain: whoever is inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit remains firmly with the Scriptures, and these carry their authentication in themselves; therefore it is not appropriate to subject them to proof and reason. The certainty, however, which it wins us, we attain through the testimony of the spirit. Certainly, the Scriptures arouse our respect by their own majesty, but they do not really and seriously take hold of us until they are sealed in our hearts by the Spirit. That the Scriptures come from God we believe because the power of the Spirit enlightens us, but not on the basis of our own judgment or that of other people. It is just as if we saw God’s own majesty here; and therefore our certainty is unshakably firm, stronger than human judgment could give us. Thus we hold that the Scriptures, though coming to us through the ministry of men, do indeed come to us from God’s own mouth. We do not look for reasons of proof, not for probabilities, in order to base our judgment on it, but we submit our judgment and our thinking to this fact which is completely withdrawn from all question. This, of course, does not happen as some do, who sometimes accept an unknown thing with eagerness, which they then dislike when they get to know it, but it happens because we are fully convinced that we are dealing with the indisputable truth! Nor does this have anything to do with the way wretched men give their minds captive to superstition, but we come to this certainty because we feel that here the undoubted power of divine majesty rules and works – and this power draws and inflames us to obedience, with knowledge and will, but much more vividly and powerfully than all human will and knowledge! Thus the Lord rightly proclaims through Isaiah (43,10) that the prophets together with the people are his witnesses, because they were instructed by prophecies and did not doubt that God had spoken to them without deceit and ambiguity. This is a conviction that does not need reasons, this is a knowledge that carries its reason in itself, yes, on which the heart rests more securely and steadily than on any reasons; this is a feeling that can only arise from heavenly revelation. I am talking about what each individual believer experiences in himself – admittedly, my words are by far not sufficient to describe the matter properly! I pass over many things now, because I have to come back to these things in another place. For now, let us remember that only the faith sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit is the right one. The modest reader, who likes to be told, will be satisfied with one testimony as justification: namely, the promise of Isaiah that all sons of the renewed church would be taught by God (Isa 54:13). There God dignifies his elect alone of a unique privilege and distinguishes them thereby from the whole human race. For with what should the right teaching begin in us, but with the willing joy to hear the word of God? But God demands to be heard through the mouth of Moses, as it is written: "Thou shalt not say in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven … or who shall go down into the abyss? . . Behold, the word is in your mouth …" (Deut 30:12 ss.; here only some pieces from it, somewhat inaccurately quoted!). If God wanted to prepare such a treasure of wisdom only for his children, it is not surprising or absurd if among the mass of people so much ignorance and dullness shows up. By "mass" I understand here also the most outstanding people, before they are inserted into the body of the church! Isaiah declares in one place that the prophetic teaching will be incomprehensible not only to outsiders, but also to the Jews who wanted to be considered for householders, and then he immediately adds the reason: "For the arm of the Lord is not made manifest to all" (Isa 53:1). As often as the small number of believers wants to make us waver, we should, on the contrary, keep in mind that no one can understand the mysteries of God – except those to whom it has been given.

Chapter Eight

As far as human reason goes, there is sufficiently certain evidence to confirm the credibility of Scripture.

Scripture is superior to all wisdom of man

I,8,1 Where this certainty is not there, which is higher and stronger than any human judgment, then one will try in vain to secure the authority of the Scripture with reasons of proof, to establish it in the unanimous conviction of the church or to arm it with all other protection. For if this foundation is not laid, it will always remain shaky. But on the other hand: once we have accepted the Scripture in its uniqueness compared to other books in reverence and according to its dignity, then considerations which were not sufficient to plant the certainty around the Scripture in our heart will be very useful, suitable supports (for confirmation)! How wonderfully it can serve for confirmation (of the authority of the Scriptures), if we consider in eager inquiry how orderly and artfully the divine wisdom is presented to us here, how the teaching always bears its heavenly origin and betrays nothing earthly, how much all parts agree with each other – and much more, which is suitable to secure superior glory for the Scriptures. But our hearts may be still more effectually fortified if we consider that we are still much more carried away to admiration by the dignity of the thing than by the words. For even this has not happened without the special providence of God, that the highest mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are widely delivered under contemptuous lowliness of words-for if they were adorned with greater splendor of eloquence, the ungodly would blaspheme that in this alone dwelt their power! But if that unadorned and almost coarse simplicity commands greater reverence than all the verbosity of the orators, what else follows from it but that the Scriptures possess a power of truth too mighty to need the adornment of words? Not without reason the apostle points out that the faith of the Corinthians was not founded in human wisdom but in God’s power, since his proclamation among them was not done in clever words of human wisdom but in evidence of the Spirit and power (1Cor 2:4). Truth is beyond all doubt when it does not rest on foreign supports, but is strong enough to carry itself in itself. The extent to which Scripture possesses this strength is shown by the fact that of all human writings, no matter how artistically crafted, none is able to take hold of us in this way. Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato or Aristotle or whichever of the lot you may read. They will – I confess – miraculously attract you, delight you, move you, sweep you away. But when you then come to the Holy Scripture, it seizes you - whether you like it or not – so vividly, penetrates so deeply into your heart, settles so firmly in your innermost being, that before the force of these impressions the power of those orators and philosophers almost disappears. You can just feel how a divine breath blows through the scripture, whereby it far surpasses all human art, all human gifts.

It is not the language that decides, but the matter

I,8,2 Certainly, some prophets have a very fine and artistic, even brilliant presentation, so that their eloquence is not inferior to that of secular writers. With such examples the Holy Spirit wanted to show that he also has eloquence at his disposal – even if he otherwise makes use of an artless and coarse way of speaking. Whether you read David or Isaiah or their like, whose speech is gentle and sweet, or the shepherd Amos or Jeremiah or Zechariah, whose rougher speech sounds like a beast – everywhere that majesty of the spirit is evident, of which I spoke. I know well that Satan, who in many things imitates God, in order to penetrate the hearts of the simple all the more easily in such deceptive likeness (to God), has also sometimes cunningly scattered those ungodly errors with which he deceived poor people, in artless and almost barbaric language, often also using uncommon forms of expression in order to hide his deceptions under such a mask. But how vain and abominable such striving is, every reasonably understanding person feels. May now the pretentiousness want to gnaw much at the scripture – it is certain in any case that it is full of sayings which would never have sprung from human understanding. Look at the individual prophets: there is not one to be found who did not rise far above all human wisdom, and therefore people who consider their teachings insipid must be devoid of all taste.

The great age of writing

I,8,3 This subject has now been treated in more detail by others, and therefore it is sufficient here to consider only a few things that are of special value for the main matter to be treated here. Besides what I already mentioned, of special weight is also the high age of the scripture. For although Greek writers tabulate much about Egyptian theology, not a single religious document exists that was not written long after the time of Moses. And also Moses does not speak of a new God, but only brings forward what again in long time sequence the Israelites had received as teaching about the eternal God from their fathers, as from hand to hand! What does Moses do but call them back to the covenant once made with Abraham? If he had proclaimed to them something unheard of until then, he would have found no entrance. But the deliverance from slavery, in which they were held, must have been a thing long known to all, so that its announcement immediately lifted up all hearts. Probably they were also informed about the number of the four hundred years. If Moses, who himself is so much older than all other writers, derives his teachings from such a long line of tradition, then how does the Holy Scripture tower above all others in age!

The truthfulness of Scripture, shown by the example of Moses

I,8,4 Or one would have to believe the Egyptians who want to have been there already up to six thousand years before creation of the world! But this gossip was already a mockery to secular writers and does not deserve the trouble of the refutation. On the other hand Josephus brings forward against the Appion some very memorable testimonies from the oldest writers, according to which the doctrine laid down in the law, according to the unanimous testimony of all peoples, had already been highly famous since the most ancient times, even if one had not yet read or known it properly at that time. So that now bad humans must give up each suspicion and the godless lose each handhold for their blasphemy, God steps against these two dangers with the best means. Then Moses reports how Jacob, by heavenly inspiration, prophesied about fine descendants three hundred years before; and how does he thereby help his own tribe to nobility and prestige? Not at all, but in the person of Levi he puts him to everlasting shame when he says: "Simeon and Levi are vessels of iniquity; into their counsel shall not my soul enter, nor into their secret my tongue" (Genesis 49:5, 6). Surely he could have concealed this disgrace, thereby sparing his forefather and not tainting himself with the share of that disgrace. How could a man be suspect who freely reports how the first originator of his own lineage was set aside as detestable by pronouncement of the Holy Spirit, and in so doing neither preserves his own interest nor seeks to avoid the hatred of his countrymen, to whom such a thing was undoubtedly repugnant? When he mentions the ungodly murmuring of his physical brother Aaron and his sister Miriam (Num 12:1), did he speak out of carnal mind or in obedience to the command of the Holy Spirit? Why, in fact, with the supreme authority he enjoyed, did he not leave the office of high priest to his own sons, but assigns them the least place? I only touch on a few things, but in the law itself there are constantly many proofs from which Moses is testified without contradiction as one who came forth from heaven like an angel.

Miracles affirm the authority of God’s messenger

I,8,5 Also the many marvelous miracles, which Moses reports, are only confirmations of the law announced by him and of the doctrine proclaimed by him. For when he was led up the mountain by a cloud, when he was withdrawn from human intercourse there until the fortieth day (Ex 24:18), when at the proclamation of the law his countenance shone as with the rays of the sun, when lightning flashed on every side at that time, when thunder and crash filled the air, when the trumpet sounded untouched by the mouth of man (Ex 19:16), when the entrance of the tent was taken from the sight of the people by a cloud (Ex 40:34), when his authority was so wonderfully confirmed by the terrible downfall of Korah, Dathan and Abiron and the whole godless mob (Num 16:24), when the rock, struck by the rod, immediately gushed forth water (Num 20:10), when at his prayer Man fell from heaven (Num 11:9) – with all this, did not God Himself certify this man from heaven as a true prophet? If now someone wanted to object that I accept as certain what is nevertheless disputed, such blasphemy is easy to refute. Because Moses has announced all this in public speech – and how should he have been able to invent something there, since loud eye-witnesses stood for the events before him? It would have been nonsense if he had appeared and accused the people of unfaithfulness, stubbornness and other iniquities, and then, under his own eyes, declared his teaching to be authenticated by such miracles, which they had never seen!

The miracles of Moses are undeniable

I,8,6 It is also worth mentioning that with every narration of miracles at the same time such things are reported punishingly, which should have incited the whole people to the objection (against the truth of the report), if there would have been the slightest cause for it! From it is clear that these people were brought by nothing else to the agreement than exactly by the fact that they were convinced on the basis of own experience more than enough. Since the matter was too well known for secular writers to deny that Moses performed miracles, the father of lies gave them the slander to attribute them to magical arts (Ex 7,11). But what reason do they have to accuse a man of being a sorcerer, who had such an abhorrence of all sorcery that he ordered to stone the one who merely consulted sorcerers and soothsayers? (Lev 20:6). Every magician plays his conjuring tricks in order to amaze the people and to gain honor in this way. But what does Moses do? He exclaims that he and his brother Aaron are nothing and were only carrying out God’s order! (Ex 16,7). Already with this he sufficiently destroys every false interpretation. But if we look at the events themselves: what kind of sorcery could have caused that the man raining daily from heaven was sufficient for the supply of the people and that he who kept more than the right measure had to learn from its decay already how his unbelief would be punished by God? Also, God has put his servant (during his lifetime) through so many serious trials that now the wicked cannot achieve anything in their opposition. How often has it happened that soon the whole nation has risen up arrogantly and presumptuously, and soon individuals have hatched a conspiracy to overthrow the holy servant of God? And who could have escaped their fury with jugglery? The end of such undertakings also clearly shows that by such aids his doctrine has been authenticated for all times.

Prophecies that came true against all human foresight

I,8,7 Consider also that Moses gives priority to the tribe of Judah in the person of the arch father Jacob (Gen 49,10); who will deny that this was done out of a prophetic spirit? We will admit this above all, if we consider the matter itself, as it proved afterwards. Assume even that Moses was the author of this prophecy – yet four hundred years have passed since the time when he wrote it down, without any mention of a scepter in Judah! After the installation of Saul, the royal power seemed to lie with the tribe of Benjamin! (1Sam 11:15). Then when David is anointed by Samuel (1Sam 16:13), what reason appears to transfer this dignity to him? Who would have expected that a king would come out of the lowly house of a common cattle herder? And there were seven brothers – who would have chosen the youngest for this honor? How did he come to hope for the kingship? Who would say that this anointing was guided by human art or wisdom? Who wants to see here something else than the fulfillment of a heavenly prophecy? Likewise, what Moses foretold of the admission of the Gentiles into God’s covenant, albeit darkly, did not come to pass until after two thousand years. Does this not make it clear that he spoke from divine impulse? I pass over other prophecies which so clearly betray God’s revelation that every reasonable man is convinced (ut sanis hominibus constet): here God has spoken. In short, already alone the song of Moses (Deut 32) is a clear mirror in which God appears clearly.

God has confirmed the word of the prophets

I,8,8 This can be seen even more clearly with the other prophets. I will select only a few examples, since it would be too tedious to list them all. When at the time of Isaiah the kingdom of Judah was at peace and even thought to have a support in the Chaldeans, Isaiah spoke of the destruction of the city and the exile of the people. Let us admit that it is not yet a sufficiently clear example of divine inspiration that he predicted a long time before something that seemed to be fable at that time, but later proved to be true. But that he prophesied at the same time the return from the exile, where should this have come from, except from God? He mentions Cyrus (Isa 45:1), through whom the Chaldeans were to be thrown down and the people came back to freedom. More than a hundred years have passed since this prophecy of the prophet, before Cyrus was born; for he came into the world only about a hundred years after Isaiah’s death. At that time no man could think that one day a Cyrus would wage war with the Babylonians, who would then overpower this mighty empire and end the exile of the people of Israel. Does not this bare, unadorned narrative show that Isaiah is uttering God’s undoubted revelations, not human conjecture? Jeremiah also announced a short time before the people were led away that the time of captivity would end in seventy years, and the people would return and be free (Jer 25:11, 12). Didn’t his tongue have to be guided by the spirit of God? How impudent it would be to deny that by such proofs the authority of the prophets had been affirmed and thus fulfilled what they themselves cite to secure credibility for their speeches! "Behold, that which I have declared before is come; so I declare unto you new things: before they arise I will let you hear them" (Isa 42:9). I do not go further into how Jeremiah and Ezekiel, although they lived so far apart spatially, fully agreed in all their sayings in their simultaneous prophecies, as if they had dictated them to each other! And did not Daniel, in his prophecies, for six hundred years, see the future as clearly as if he were recording a history of past and thoroughly well known facts? If the godly hold this in some measure, they are sufficiently knowledgeable to silence the barking of the wicked; for against the clearness of such evidence no evasion can prevail.

The tradition of the law is reliable

I,8,9 Now I know well what the fools chatter in their corners to show their acumen in denying the truth. They ask who can prove to us that the writings that go under the name of Moses and the prophets really came from them. Yes, they even dare to ask the question whether Moses ever lived. If someone wanted to doubt whether Plato or Aristotle or Cicero had ever lived – who would not say that such madness deserves the chastisement with whip and rod? The law of Moses has been wonderfully preserved more by divine providence than by human effort. And even though it lay buried for some time due to the negligence of the priests, it has remained in the hands of men throughout the ages since the time when the pious king Josiah recovered it. And Josiah did not bring it forth as an unknown and new thing, but as something that had always been treasured and whose memory was adorned with glory even then. The original was laid down in the temple, and a copy was in the royal archives. Only the priests had ceased to read the law itself according to solemn custom, and the people had also neglected the customary reading. Has a single century passed without the Law being confirmed and reaffirmed? Was Moses unknown to those who read David? However, to speak of all of them at the same time, their writings have certainly been handed down, as it were, from one hand to the other in an uninterrupted series of years from the fathers and have thus reached the descendants. The fathers, however, had partly heard the speakers themselves, partly they had learned from fresh memory from those who had heard them the correctness of the tradition.

God has wonderfully preserved the law and the prophets

I,8,10 What is now cited from the history of the Maccabees to dispute the credibility of the Scriptures is such that nothing more skillful could have been devised to confirm it! But let us first paint away the paint that has been painted, and then let us turn the weapons of the adversaries against themselves. If Antiochus, it is said, had all the books burned, where did our copies come from? (cf. 1 Macc 1:59). But I ask the counter-question: In which workshop were they then restored so quickly? For it is certain that immediately after the raging had subsided, manuscripts existed again and that these were recognized without contradiction by the pious, who were instructed in their doctrine and therefore knew it very well. But although all the wicked were furiously attacking the Jews as if they had conspired with each other, no one ever dared to accuse them of having falsely imputed books. For whatever one might think of the Jewish religion, Moses was generally acknowledged as its founder. So what do those chatterers do other than to betray their more than doglike audacity when they declare these books to have been subverted, the great age of which is proved by the unanimous conviction of all history? But I will not turn more superfluous labor to the refutation of such shameless calumnies. Let us better note how much the Lord took care of the preservation of his word, when he snatched it from the gap of a furious tyrant – like a fire out of the fire, against all expectation! He filled pious priests and other people with such constancy that they were ready without hesitation to lay down their lives for this treasure, if necessary, and thus to preserve it for their descendants. In this way, he nullified the sharpest investigation of so many captains and their satellites. Who does not recognize in this God’s glorious and wonderful work that those holy documents, which the wicked thought already destroyed, returned home immediately, reasserted their native right and received even higher dignity? After all, at that time the Greek translation followed, which spread these writings throughout the whole (then) world. But the preservation of the tablets of his covenant from Antiochus’s blood dictates was not the only miracle of God. First of all, those tablets remained intact and intact in the various tribulations of the Jewish people, in which they were so often battered and bruised, and finally almost destroyed. The Hebrew language had become despised and also almost unknown, and it would certainly have perished completely if God had not wanted to take care of the religion. How far the Jews had lost the original use of their mother tongue since their return from the Babylonian captivity can be seen in the prophets of that time. This is all the more important to note, because from this comparison the great age of the Law and the Prophets is the more clearly illuminated. And whom did God use to preserve for us the doctrine of salvation decided in the Law and the Prophets, so that Christ would be revealed in his time? The bitterest enemies of Christ, the Jews, whom Augustin rightly calls the librarians of the Christian church, because they gave us books to read which they themselves did not know how to use!

Of the inner violence of the New Testament

I,8,11 How sure is now the truth of the New Testament fully established! The three (first) evangelists tell the story of Jesus in a simple and inconspicuous manner. Some arrogant people are annoyed by this simplicity, because they do not pay attention to the main parts of the teaching – because from these it would be easy to recognize that the evangelists talk about heavenly mysteries and that this talking is beyond all reason. Whoever has even a drop of noble shame in him will blush when he has read the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. And now only the speeches of Jesus, the main content of which is given by the three (first) evangelists! They easily raise these writings above all contempt! Then John speaks with a sublime voice of thunder; he must virtually bring us to the obedience of faith – or else he throws down the stubbornness of the resisting more strongly than with the force of lightning! Let all the wise judges come here, whose highest pleasure is to tear the reverence for the Scriptures from their hearts and from the hearts of others! Let them read the Gospel of John: there they will find, whether they like it or not, a thousand sayings which will tear them up out of their indolence, even brand their consciences, in order to put an end to their laughter! It is the same with Paul and Peter. Many people may be blind to their writings, but the heavenly majesty itself works in them and keeps all readers bound and captive! But this one thing sufficiently exalts their teaching above all the world, that Matthew, previously bound to his custom house, and Peter and John, previously employed in their fishing boats, were all completely unlearned people and had learned nothing in the school of men that they could have passed on to others. But Paul, converted from an avowed enemy, yea, from a furious and bloodthirsty persecutor, to a new man, is shown in sudden and unexpected change to be at once impelled by heavenly command to advocate the doctrine which he had before opposed! Let those dogs deny that the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, let them even deny the credibility of the story – the thing itself proclaims loud enough that men who before were lowly and despised among the people and now suddenly began to speak so grandly about the heavenly mysteries must have been taught by the Holy Spirit!

Scripture has always prevailed against all resistance

I,8,12 But there are also other good reasons why the consistent teaching of the church has its good weight. For it is not to be disregarded that since the writing and promulgation of the Scriptures so many peoples through so many centuries have constantly submitted to them in obedience, and that the Scriptures, although Satan and the whole world have tried to suppress, pervert, even eradicate them from the memory of men by all kinds of practices, have always risen again like a palm tree and remained victorious. There was hardly a sophist, an orator of more important intellectual ability, who did not direct his power against them; but they all achieved nothing. The power of the whole earth was mustered to destroy them – but all attacks turned to smoke! How could this book, so powerfully attacked from all sides, resist if it were merely protected by men? Yes, by this the Scripture proves its origin from God even more clearly, that it has risen against all resisting efforts of men by its own power! In addition, not only one city, one people united to accept the Scripture. No, as far as the earth goes, peoples who otherwise have nothing in common have bowed to its authority in holy union. Such a common action of such different spirits, which in all other things are completely unequal to each other, must certainly seize us to the utmost: for it is obviously brought about only by heavenly power. But this consideration gains even more weight if we pay attention to the piety of those who joined together in this way, not of all, of course, but of those through whom the Lord’s church was to shine as of lights according to his will.

The blood of the martyrs also affirms the authority of Scripture. All the evidence cited cannot replace the testimony of the Spirit

I,8,13 With what certainty may we be devoted to a doctrine which we see confirmed and testified by the blood of so many holy men! These men, after having accepted this teaching, went to their deaths without hesitation, courageously and fearlessly, even with great joy. How should we not accept with certain and unshakable conviction what has been handed down to us with such a pledge? It is no small affirmation of Scripture, then, that it is sealed in the blood of so many witnesses, especially when we consider that these went to their deaths to bear witness, not in rapturous impetuosity, as erring spirits sometimes do, but with firm and persevering but prudent zeal for God. There are other reasons, too, which are neither few in number nor in evidential force, by which the dignity and majesty of Scripture could be confirmed to God-fearing men, and a fortiori excellently defended against the arts of blasphemers. But all these reasons are not of themselves able to obtain firm faith in the Scriptures before the heavenly Father himself puts an end to all controversy by revealing his power and divinity in them. Therefore, the Scriptures will only be sufficient for a wholesome knowledge of God when the certainty arising from them is founded in the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. All the human testimonies that can serve to confirm its truth will not be ineffective if they follow that most important and highest substantiation, as it were, as auxiliary supports for our weakness. But he acts foolishly who wants to prove to the unbelievers that the Scriptures are God’s Word. For this cannot be recognized without faith! Therefore, Augustine rightly states that piety and peace must precede the soul if man is to understand anything about such things (On the Usefulness of Faith, 18).

Chapter Nine

The enthusiasts who abandon the Scriptures and only want to come to immediate revelation destroy all the foundations of piety.

The enthusiasts wrongly invoke the Holy Spirit

I,9,1 Whoever rejects the Scriptures and then dreams up some way to come to God is not actually in error but in frenzy. Thus, recently, some swindlers have appeared who haughtily pretend to be spirit-filled teachers – but they despise all reading of the Scriptures and make fun of the simplicity of those who, in their opinion, cling to dead and killing letters. I only want to ask, what kind of spirit is this, by whose blows they ride so high, that they dare to despise the teaching of the Scriptures as childish and unessential! If they answer that this is Christ’s spirit, it is a ridiculous delusion. For they will admit that the apostles of Christ and the other believers in the early church were not enlightened by any other spirit. But this spirit did not teach any of them to despise the word of God, but they only learned greater reverence, as their writings clearly testify. So it was already predicted by the prophet Isaiah. When he says: "My spirit that is in you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed forever" (Isa 59,21), he does not bind the people of the old covenant to an external doctrine, as if they were still in the beginning, no, he teaches that this would be the true and full salvation of the new church under the rule of Christ, that it would be governed no less by the word of God than by the spirit! Here it becomes clear that those windbags in shameful sacrilege tear apart what the prophet had joined into inviolable unity. It should be noted that Paul, who was raptured to the third heaven, did not cease to continue in the teaching of the law and the prophets, as he exhorted Timothy, a teacher of such unique exemplarity, to adhere to the reading of the Scriptures (1Tim 4:13). And how memorable is the praise he offers to Scripture when he says it is "profitable for doctrine, for exhortation, for correction, that a servant of God may be perfect …" (2Tim 3:16)! What a devilish delusion it is to fantasize about a merely temporal and temporary validity of Scripture – when it leads the children of God to the ultimate goal! Those enthusiasts should also state whether they have actually received another spirit than the one the Lord promised to his disciples. I do believe that they are tormented by the most fantastic delusion – but to claim that, they will not be that crazy! But what kind of spirit was this that Christ promised? One who "did not speak of Himself" (John 16:13), but who vividly impressed upon them what He Himself had communicated to them through the Word! The ministry of the Spirit, who is promised to us, is not to invent new and unheard-of revelations or to bring up a new doctrine, by which we would have to depart from the traditional teaching of the gospel – but his ministry is to seal the teaching in us, which is laid to our hearts in the gospel!

The Holy Spirit is recognized by his conformity to Scripture

I,9,2 From this follows easily the realization: we must pursue the reading and investigation of the Scriptures with zeal, if we want to receive benefit and fruit from the Spirit of God. Peter also praises the zeal of those who hold on to the prophetic word – although one could have thought that this had ceased after the advent of the gospel! (2Pet 1:19). But if – we notice further – some spirit wants to impose another doctrine on us with disregard of the wisdom of the Word of God, he is necessarily and rightly under suspicion of deception and lies! For the devil can transform himself into an angel of light; what authority, therefore, shall a spirit have with us, if he be not identified by the most certain marks? Now the word of the Lord gives us such marks perfectly clearly; only that those wretched men who run voluntarily to their doom prefer to look for the spirit in themselves rather than in God! But they now object that it is unworthy of the Spirit of God, to whom after all everything is subject, to be subject to the Scriptures. As if it were a disgrace for the Holy Spirit to be the same everywhere, to agree with himself in everything all the time, and never to change! If he were judged by the standard of men or angels or by any other rule, then one could really say that he would be mastered or, if one wishes, subjugated. But he is only compared with himself, measured by himself – who can then claim that he is offended? Admittedly, in such a way he is subjected to a test – but only in such a way as he himself wanted to confirm his majesty among us! It must be enough for us that he reveals himself to us. But lest the spirit of Satan creep in under his name, he will be recognized by the image he has stamped upon the Scriptures. He is the author of the Scriptures – so he cannot change and become unlike himself! But as he showed himself once there, so he must remain again and again! This is no disgrace for him – unless we think that it brings honor to one to depart from himself and to degenerate!

Word and Spirit belong inseparably together

I,9,3 If they then blaspheme that we are devoted to the letter that kills, the punishment for their contempt of the Scripture already appears. For in this passage (of the letter that kills: 2Cor 3,6) Paul obviously argues against false apostles who taught the law without Christ and in this way deprived the people of the blessing of the New Covenant, in which the Lord, according to His promise, wants to engrave His law in the believers and write it in their hearts. There, of course, the letter is dead, there the law of the Lord kills its readers, where one detaches it from Christ’s grace and hears it only with the ears, but leaves the heart untouched. But when it is powerfully pressed into our hearts by the Spirit, when it shows us Christ, then it is the word of life that transforms souls, gives wisdom to the lowly, and so on. Thus the apostle calls his proclamation in the same place the "ministry of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:8), and thus he shows: The Holy Spirit is connected with his truth, which he has made known in the Scriptures, in such a way that he only then expresses and demonstrates his power when one receives his word with due reverence and respect for his dignity. There is no contradiction in this when we showed above that the word itself cannot become truly certain to us without the confirmation by the testimony of the Spirit. For the Lord has firmly linked the certainty of his word and of his spirit. Thus, on the one hand, a firm commitment to the Word comes into our hearts only when the Spirit shines upon us, making us see God’s face in it. And on the other hand, we receive the Spirit without any fear of deception when we recognize Him in His image, in the Word. This is indeed how it is. God did not give us his word for fleeting glimpses, in order to then immediately abolish it again by sending the Spirit, but he sent the same Spirit by virtue of which he had previously distributed the word, in order to complete his work by effective confirmation of his word. In this way Christ opened the understanding of the Scriptures to those two (Emmaus) disciples (Lk 24,27), not so that they would become wise of themselves without the Scriptures, but so that they would know the Scriptures. When Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to dampen their spirit (1Thess 5,19.20), he does not want to raise them to empty thoughts apart from the Word, but he adds that they should not despise prophecy. With this he surely wants to imply that the light of the spirit is dimmed where one despises prophecy. Now what will the puffed-up gushers say to this, who alone think that the only sublime enlightenment is that which they have snoringly dreamed up and taken up with bold conceit, having in their self-assurance passed over God’s word and said valet to it? The children of God must have a very different sobriety. They see that without God’s spirit they remain without all light, and therefore they know very well that the word is the organ through which the Lord gives the believers the illumination of his spirit. They know no other spirit than the one who dwelt in the apostles and spoke from them, and what he says to them calls them back to the hearing of the word forever!

Tenth chapter

The Scriptures, in defense against all superstition, set the true God squarely against all the gods of the heathen.

The teaching of Scripture about God the Creator

I,10,1 So far we have taught that the message of God, which appears to us not indistinctly in the building of the world and in all creatures, is nevertheless more familiar and also more clearly revealed in words. So we must now consider whether the Lord presents Himself to us in the Scriptures in the same way as we saw Him before in His works. This would of course be a rich subject if one wanted to treat it in detail. But I will content myself with giving a hint. In this way, devout people can learn what to look for in Scripture as the most important doctrine of God, and in this way come to a clear point of direction (scopus) for their investigation. I am not yet speaking of the special covenant by which God raised Abraham’s race above the rest of the nations. For by accepting such, who were enemies before, by gracious election as his children, he appeared already then as redeemer. On the other hand, for the time being we are still dealing with the message that is limited to the creation of the world and does not yet rise to Christ the mediator. Admittedly, I have to mention some passages from the New Testament right away; for there, too, the power of God the Creator and His providence in the preservation of the first creation are testified. But I must yet remind the readers of what I wish to treat here, lest they go beyond the limit set. For now it shall be enough for us to consider how God, the creator of heaven and earth, governs the world he created. Sometimes, however, his fatherly kindness and his willingness to do good are praised, and examples of his severity are also handed down, which show him as a just retributor of wrongdoing, especially where his long-suffering against the hardened no longer helps.

God’s attributes according to Scripture

I,10,2 In certain places there are especially clear descriptions, in which his face appears to us as if in a picture. Moses describes it, and in doing so, he seems to have briefly summarized what we humans should know about God. "Lord, Lord, God," he says, "merciful, and gracious, and patient, and of great mercy and faithfulness, who keepeth grace in a thousand parts, and forgiveth iniquity, and transgression, and sin, before whom no man is innocent; who visiteth the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children…" (Ex 34:6 s.; Calvin quotes in the second person). Here His eternity and His being in Himself (autousia) is proclaimed by repeating the glorious name twice. Then his virtues are enumerated, which describe him to us – not as he is in himself, but as he is to us, so that his knowledge consists in living sensation and not in empty and lofty speculation. We hear: here are enumerated the virtues which, as we have already remarked, radiate to us from heaven and earth: Kindness, goodness, mercy, justice, judgment, truth. For power and might (which are not mentioned here) are summarized under the name of God "Elohim" (God). With the same designations also the prophets designate him, if they want to glorify his holy name right. In order not to have to mention many passages, we want to be content for the time being with the naming of only one psalm, in which his virtues are listed so perfectly that nothing seems to be left out: Ps 145. And nevertheless: nothing is mentioned here, which could not also be seen in the creature! Thus, under the guidance of experience, we come to know God as the same as he reveals himself to us in words. In one place in Jeremiah, where he reveals how he wants to be known by us, he does not give an equally complete description, but one that is completely consistent in the matter: "Let him who boasts boast that he knows me and knows that I am the Lord, who exercises mercy, judgment and justice on earth" (Jer 9:23). We need to know these three things: His mercy, on which alone our salvation rests; His judgment, which He exercises against the wicked every day and holds out the prospect of eternal destruction in the future; and His justice, in which He sustains the faithful and blesses them with goodness. Whoever has grasped these pieces has enough, according to this testimony of the Scriptures, to be able to boast of God! However, his truth, his power, his holiness, his goodness are by no means ignored. How then should the knowledge of his justice, his mercy and his judgment, as it is here required, be able to stand, if it were not based on his immovable truth? And how should one believe that the earth is governed by his judgment and justice, if one does not know his power? Whence, then, does mercy come but from goodness? Finally, if all his ways are mercy, judgment and justice, his holiness is also revealed in them. Incidentally, the knowledge of God, which is presented to us in the Scriptures, is directed to no other goal than that whose traces shine out to us from the creature. We are taught first to fear God and then to trust in Him, so that we may learn to worship Him with perfect innocence of life and not with feigned obedience, and so that we may be completely attached to His goodness!

The unity of God was not unknown to the pagans either; all the more inexcusable is their idolatry

I,10,3 But here we want to summarize the main content of the whole teaching. First, therefore, let the reader see that the Scriptures, in order to guide us to the true God, expressly reject and exclude all the gods of the heathen, because almost at all times the true religion has been falsified. It is true that the name of the one God was known and praised everywhere. For if those who worshipped a whole swarm of gods spoke out of original natural feeling, they too simply needed the name "God," as if they were satisfied with one God. This was finely noted by Justin Martyr, who wrote his book "On the Sole Rule of God" for the purpose of proving from numerous testimonies that the unity of God is engraved in the hearts of all men. Tertullian also shows this from common usage. But since all men without exception, in their vanity, let themselves be seduced into false inventions, and in this way darkened their knowledge, all that they possessed by nature of knowledge of the one God, only brought about that they were inexcusable. For even the wisest among them clearly betray how vain and foolish their thoughts are when they look for the help of some god and then call upon uncertain gods. They have also invented various forms (natures) of God, and even if they spoke less tastelessly than the common people of Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Minerva and the other gods, they were also by no means protected from the deceptions of Satan, and we have already shown elsewhere: whatever excuses the philosophers have devised in their sophistry, they still cannot wash away the reproach of apostasy from themselves, because they have all corrupted God’s truth. Therefore, Habakkuk, after condemning all idols, urges to seek God in His temple (Hab. 2:20), so that the faithful would accept no God but the one who revealed Himself in His word.

Chapter eleven

It is sin to give God visible form; it is complete apostasy from the true God to make idols.

Any pictorial representation of God is denied to us

I,11,1 The scripture certainly speaks of God in general in a simple way to meet the raw and limited understanding of men. Where it wants to distinguish him from the false gods, it therefore opposes him especially to the idols. In doing so, it does not acknowledge the more refined and clever teaching of the philosophers, but it only wants to reveal the folly of the world all the better, yes, this madness to which one succumbs when, in search of God, everyone indulges in his own speculations! When the Scripture describes God in general quite for himself alone and keeps all other "divinity" in the world sharply away from him, it thereby nullifies everything that men have manufactured for themselves in gods out of their own discretion: for God alone is a fully valid witness of himself. Now, however, the crude nonsense has taken hold of the whole world, that people want to have a visible form of God and therefore make gods out of wood, stone, gold, silver or other dead and perishable material; therefore let us hold fast as a principle: God’s honor is attacked in sacrilegious deceit, where one imputes any outer form to him. Therefore, after God in the law has granted himself the honor of the Godhead alone, he immediately adds, in order to show which kind of worship he approves and which he rejects: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness …" (Ex 20:4). With this he keeps our insolence in check and forbids us any attempt to represent him in any visible image. He enumerates all the ways in which superstition had already begun to turn his truth into a lie. We also know that the Persians worshipped the sun; as many stars as the foolish pagans saw in the sky, so many gods did they invent. There was almost no animal that the Egyptians did not use as an image of God. The Greeks seemed wiser than others because they worshiped God under human form (Maximus Tyrius, Philosophoumena II,3). But God makes no distinction among the images, as if one were more suitable than the other, but he rejects without exception all idols, all painted idols and all other signs, among which superstition thinks to possess God’s proximity.

Every pictorial representation of God contradicts his essence

I,11,2 This can easily be gathered from the reasons God gives for this prohibition. Thus he says to Moses: "Remember what the Lord said to you in the valley of Horeb; you heard his voice but did not see his form. Therefore take heed that thou be not deceived to make thee any graven image …" (Deut 4:15; not Luther). We see how God clearly opposes His Word to all images and likenesses, so that we know: whoever wants to have a visible likeness of God falls away from Him! From the prophets, Isaiah alone may be cited, who puts his finger on this with particular emphasis, to teach that God’s majesty is dragged through the mud in unseemly and shameful conceit, when He, the incorporeal, is represented in corporeal substance, the invisible in visible image, the spirit in soulless things, the immeasurable and infinite in a piece of small wood or stone or gold (Isa 40:18; 41:7, 29; 45:9; 46:5). Likewise Paul also judges: "If we are of the divine race, let us not think that the Godhead is like the images of gold, silver and stone, made by human art and thought" (Acts 17:29). So it is clear that whatever statues are erected or images are painted to represent God is displeasing to Him as a desecration of His majesty. Then it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit, who announces such things from heaven, also occasionally forces poor, blind idolaters on earth to the same confession! Well-known is the complaint of Seneca, which one reads in Augustin: "The holy, immortal, inviolable gods they worship in the meanest and most ignoble cloth, put on them the garb of men and animals, some think them bisexual or composed of two bodies, and they call gods what, if it had life and met one, would have to be considered a monster" (Augustin, On the State of God, book 6, chapter 10). From this it becomes again clear that the defenders of the images help themselves with lazy sophistry if they object that the commandment of the veneration of images was given (only) to the Jews because of their inclination to superstition. As if what God reveals from his eternal being and the indissoluble order of nature could refer to only one people! Moreover, Paul in the speech just mentioned, in which he counters the error of an image of God, does not address Jews at all, but the Athenians!

The various direct revelations of God do not give the right to produce images

I,11,3 Now God has certainly at times revealed his holy presence in such a way that it is said that he was seen "face to face". But all the signs that he ever granted were entirely intended to instruct the people, and at the same time clearly reminded them of the incomprehensibility of his being. For clouds and flames appeared and, although they are signs of His heavenly glory, at the same time put a bridle on all importunity to prevent men from any attempt to advance higher (Deut 4:11). Therefore, not even Moses, to whom God showed Himself more familiar than to all others, was granted to see His face upon his request; rather, he received the answer that no man could bear such splendor (Ex 33:20). Certainly the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove (Mt 3:16). But he disappeared again immediately, and so his appearance is obviously a fleeting sign, by which the believers should be admonished to believe in the Holy Spirit as the invisible one, so that they, satisfied with his power and grace, do not want to think of an external representation. That God sometimes appeared in human form was the prelude to the future revelation in Christ. Therefore, the Jews were not allowed to misuse this as a pretext to make a sign of the Godhead under human form. Also the "mercy seat", from which God proved to be effectively present at the time of the law, was designed in such a way that it implied that the best view of the Godhead was when the souls rose above in admiration. The cherubim covered him with spread wings, the curtain concealed him – yes, the ark already made him hidden! (Ex 25:17.18.21). It is therefore obvious delusion when one tries to defend images of God or the saints with the example of these cherubim. What did these images mean in all the world other than that images were incapable of representing the mysteries of God? They were destined to cover the "mercy seat" with their wings, thus denying the sight of God to human eyes and all senses, and thus opposing all audacity! And when the prophets depict the seraphim shown to them in their visions with veiled faces (Isa 6:2), they thereby indicate that the splendor of the divine glory is so strong that even the angels are not able to look at it directly, and that even the delicate sparks that shine in the angels must be withdrawn from our eyes. Moreover, it is acknowledged by all who judge rightly that the cherubim spoken of here belong to the education under the law at that time. Therefore it is absurd to try to adduce them as evidence of our time. For the childish age – if I may so express myself – to which such initial grounds were assigned, has passed away! It is really shameful that secular writers are better interpreters of the law of God than the papists. Thus Juvenal scornfully accuses the Jews of worshipping empty clouds and the divinity of heaven. This is certainly wrong and ungodly spoken, but since Juvenal denies the existence of an image of God among the Jews, there is at least more truth in it than in the talk of the papists that there was any visible image of God! Now, of course, the people have often enough gone over to procuring idols for themselves as fiercely and quickly as when the water bursts forth from a great spring with tremendous force. But from this we should rather learn how great our innate inclination to idolatry is, so that we do not blame the Jews for a general ruin and succumb to the vain lure of sin even in deathly sleep!

The scriptural illegitimacy of the images. The pictures – "the layman’s books"?

I,11,4 The word "The images of the Gentiles are silver and gold, made by the hands of men" (Ps 115,4; 135,15) aims at this. For from the materiality the prophet concludes that images of gold and silver cannot be gods; further, he presupposes as unchallenged that what we ourselves have devised of God is a foolish structure. But he calls gold and silver rather than clay and stone, lest splendor and value should give honor to idols. However, he generally concludes that nothing is more incredible than that gods can be made out of any dead material. But he insists no less that the man who dares to give glory to idols is driven by mad presumption, since he himself receives the fleeting breath on loan at every moment of his life. Man must confess himself to be a creature of a single day – and he wants a metal, to which he first attaches divinity, to be taken for God! For where do idols come from other than from human discretion? There the mockery of the worldly poet exists quite rightly: "A fig log, a little useful wood I was, when once the carpenter, undecided what should become of me, a stool or any other thing – preferred to make me a god". (Horace). Thus man, the earthly creature, who breathes out his life almost every moment, wants to transfer God’s name and God’s honor to a dead block with his art! However, that Horace in his mad mockery is an Epicurean, and he asks for no religion; therefore we want to let his and his kind’s jokes go. Better shall the seriousness of the prophet strike us, even pierce us, when he chastises the madness of men who warm themselves from the same wood, heat the oven, bake bread, cook and roast meat – and make themselves a god before whom they prostrate themselves in worship! (Isa 44:12 ff.) Therefore he reproaches them in another place not only for their guilt on the basis of the law, but at the same time reproaches them for not having learned the necessary lesson from the foundations of the earth (Isa 40:21) – since nothing is so absurd as to want to limit God, the immeasurable and incomprehensible, to a measure of five feet. And yet experience shows that this tremendous aberration, which is obviously against the order of nature, is natural to man! – It is to be noted further that the Scripture opposes the superstition again and again with the remark, it is the "work of human hands", which lacks the divine authentication (Isa 2:8; 31:7; 57:10, Hos 14:4, Mic 5:12). This is to state quite unshakably that all kinds of worship of God that men devise are an abomination. With fierce anger the prophet in the Ps (115) stands up against the fact that people expect help from dead and insubstantial things, to whom God has given so much understanding that they know: everything is moved and governed by God’s power! But the nations as well as each individual alone are driven to such madness by the corruption of nature, and therefore the Holy Spirit thunders at the end with a terrible curse: "Whoever does so and puts his trust in such things, let him become like them (idols, which are dead after all)"! (Ps 115:8; Luther somewhat differently). It must also be noted that the "likeness" is no less forbidden than the "image". Thus, the foolish pretext of the Greeks (= Eastern Church) proves to be false: these think that they have done everything required, if they do not represent God in works of sculpture – while they have their reins shot in painted images worse than any other nations. But the Lord does not only forbid that he be portrayed by a sculptor, but he does not want to be portrayed by any artist at all; for such portrayal is done wrongly and in contempt of his majesty.

Scripture judges differently

I,11,5 Now I know very well the generally more than common saying, the pictures are "the laymen’s books". This is what Gregory (Pope Gregory I) said. The Holy Spirit, however, teaches us something quite different, and if Gregory had allowed himself to be instructed in this piece in his school, he would never have made this statement. For when Jeremiah declares that a wood teaches only useless things (Jer 10:3), when Habakkuk calls the (idol) image a teacher of lies (Hab. 2:18), then it is to be inferred from this quite generally that everything is void, even lying, what man could learn from the images. If now someone wants to object that the prophets stand up against such people who misuse the images for godless superstition, then I admit this, but I add what is obvious to everyone, namely that they (the prophets) condemn exactly what is considered a certain principle by the papists, namely that the images could take the place of books. For the prophets oppose the images to the true God, as things which are in sharp opposition to Him and can never agree with Him! This contrast (between God and the images) is found in the above-mentioned passages: since it was the one and true God whom the Jews worshipped, it was wrong and false to form visible figures to represent God – and all those who expected knowledge of God from there allowed themselves to be miserably deceived. If the knowledge of God gained from images were not deceptive and wrong, then the prophets would not condemn them so universally. Therefore, when we teach that it is vanity and falsehood when man tries to represent God in images, we are merely reproducing verbatim what the prophets have said!

The teachers of the church have also partly judged differently

I,11,6 Read also what Lactantius and Eusebius have written about this. They declare basically that beings, which can be seen in pictures, must be necessarily mortal. Augustine also does not judge differently. He declares not only the worship of images to be sacrilegious, but also the undertaking to consecrate them to God. With this he does not say anything else than what the Council of Elvira (in 306) had decided many years before. For its 36th canon reads, "There shall be no paintings in the temples (churches), lest there be painted on the walls what is to be worshipped or adored." But in a special way it is memorable what Augustine quotes from Varro and himself fully subscribes: "Those who first introduced images of the gods, they took away the fear (of God) from men and gave them error for it." (Of the State of God 4:9; 31:2). If this had merely been said by Varro, it might have little authority. But even then we should be fairly ashamed that a heathen, though groping in the dark, should have seen light enough to realize that corporeal images are unworthy of the majesty of God, because they diminish reverence for him among men and increase error. The matter itself testifies that this is as true as it is wisely spoken, and Augustine, borrowing the saying from Varro, puts it forward as his own opinion. He first recalls that the first errors about God, in which men became entangled, did not have their beginning at the idols, but that then, having found further nourishment (precisely at the images), they increased vigorously. Then he shows how that diminution or even abolition of the fear of God (claimed by Varro) occurs precisely because his divinity is easily despised by the foolishness of the images and by unseemly and perverse representation. Experience confirms the latter only too much! Therefore, whoever wants to be taught rightly must learn what one must know about God elsewhere than from the images!

The images of the papists are also totally inappropriate. There would be no "laity" at all if the church had done its duty

I,11,7 So, if the papists still have some shame in them, they may henceforth no longer use the excuse that the images are "books of the laity" - for this is all too clearly refuted in many testimonies of Scripture. But if I admit it to them in spite of everything, they would not gain much in the defense of their idols. For it is well known what monsters they put in the place of God! And the paintings and statues they erect for the saints – what are they but models of the most depraved opulence and shamelessness? If one would really follow such an example, he would be worthy of a beating! The harlots in their whores’ corners are dressed more shamefully and more chastely than what the papists want to be taken for images of virgins in their churches! Even to the martyrs they do not give more decent garments. Therefore they should first of all present their idols a little more decently, so that they can lie a little more demurely that these are books of some holiness! But even then we will answer that this is not the right way to instruct the believing people in the holy place: for God wants the people to be instructed with a completely different doctrine than with such foolish antics! He sets before all men the one common doctrine and instructs them in the preaching of his Word and the holy sacraments. But such people, who let their eyes wander to look at the images, cannot pay due attention to this teaching! But what kind of people are they, whom the papists call "laymen", whose ignorance can be remedied only by images? They are those whom the Lord recognizes as his disciples, whom he dignifies with the revelation of his heavenly doctrine (philosophia), whom he wants to educate in the salutary mysteries of his kingdom! Now, of course, as things are, there may be few today who can do without such books! But I ask: where does this ignorance come from other than from the fact that these people have been deprived of the teaching which alone was able to educate them? If the rulers of the church gave the teaching authority to the images, it was for no other reason than because they themselves were dumb: Paul testifies that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is painted off, indeed, crucified, as it were, before our eyes! (Gal 3:1). So why so many crosses everywhere in the churches, made of wood and stone, silver and gold? There would certainly have been no need to erect them if it had been faithfully preached that Christ suffered death to bear the curse for us on the cross, to atone for our sin with the sacrifice of his body, to wash it away with his blood, and to reconcile us to the Father! More could have been learned from this one than from a thousand crosses of wood or stone – for it is on the gold and silver ones that the miserly turn their eyes, perhaps more stiffly, than on any word of God!

The origin of the images

1,11,8 As far as the origin of the idols is concerned, the description in the book of Wisdom is generally considered to be correct (Wisdom 14,15), namely: The originators of the idols were such people who paid such honor to the deceased that they finally worshipped their memory superstitiously. Now I certainly also believe that this perverse custom is very old, nor will I deny that it has acted like a torch to further inflame the wild inclination of men to idolatry. But I do not admit that this is the source of such evil. For that there were idols already earlier, before the addiction to consecrate images to the deceased in their memory, which is often mentioned in the secular writers, is clear from Moses. He reports (Gen 31:19) that Rachel stole her father’s idols – and thereby speaks as if of a common vice. From this it is clear that the human mind has been, so to speak, a workshop of idols at all times. Since the Flood there has been, as it were, a new birth of the world – but few years passed before men made idols for themselves according to their desire! It is probably believable that still in the lifetime of the holy arch-father (Noah) his grandsons fell into idolatry, so that he had to see with his own eyes under bitterest pain how the earth was polluted with idols – although God had swept out their corruption shortly before in such terrible judgment! For Tharah and Nahor were worshippers of false gods even before the birth of Abraham, as Joshua testifies (Jos 24:2). If already the family of Shem fell away so fast, what shall we say only of the descendants of Ham, who were already cursed before in their father? It is really like this: the spirit of man, full of arrogance and presumption, dares to think up a God according to his capacity, and because he is afflicted by weak-sightedness, even wrapped in the most dreadful ignorance, he in reality grasps a futile thing, even a vain ghost, instead of God! To such evils is added a new sacrilege, inasmuch as man now also tries to represent God with the work as he inwardly conceived it. The spirit produces the idol, the hand gives birth to it! The origin of idolatry consists, as the example of the Israelites shows (Ex 32:1 ss.), in the fact that man does not believe that God will stand by him, if he does not represent himself bodily as present. "We do not know," said the Israelites, "what happened to this Moses. Make us gods to go before us." They knew well that God was, and they had experienced his power in so many miracles themselves. But they did not believe that he was near to them unless they saw with their own eyes a physical sign of his presence, which guaranteed them the guidance of God. So they wanted to recognize that God was their guide on the way by an image that preceded them! Everyday experience also testifies that the flesh is always restless until it has caught sight of an image of its own, of which it can foolishly console itself as an image of God. In order to indulge this blind desire, men at all times, almost since the creation of the world, have erected signs in which they thought to see God before their carnal eyes!

From the erection of images to image service

I,11,9 Such production of images is immediately followed by worship. Since the people thought to look at God in their images, they also showed him worship there. Since they were now completely bound to the images with soul and eye, they finally began to fall more and more into animal nature and marveled at them admiringly, as if something divine were in them. It is certain that people proceed to the adoration of the pictures only when a greater delusion has already taken possession of them. Then, of course, they do not think that the images are gods, but imagine that some divine power dwells in them. Whether one represents the creature or God in the picture: as soon as one prostrates oneself for worship, one is bewitched by some delusion! For this reason God has forbidden not only to erect statues to represent him, but also to consecrate inscriptions or stones to him, which would be put up for worship! Therefore also the commandment of the law speaks in its second part of the worship. For as soon as one has attributed a visible form to God, one also attaches his power to it. The people are so infatuated that they bind God to that what they have created for his image – and then the worship is the inevitable consequence! Now it does not matter at all whether one simply worships the idol, or God in the idol. For it is always idolatry if one pays divine honor to the image, no matter under what pretext. And because God does not want to be worshipped superstitiously, what is given to idols is stolen from him. This should be remembered by all those who, in defense of the accursed idolatry, by which the true religion has been drowned and suffocated for centuries, seek miserable pretexts! Thus they say: the images are not taken for gods at all! The Jews were not so completely ignorant that they forgot, before they made the calf, that it was God by whose hand they had been led out of the land of Egypt! When Aaron said: "These are your gods, who brought you out of the land of Egypt", then they said "yes" to it undauntedly and testified thereby without any doubt, they wanted to keep the God, who was their deliverer – only they wanted to see him going ahead in the calf! One should not consider the pagans so stupid that they did not know that a god is something else than wood or stone. For they changed the images as they pleased, but always kept the gods the same in their souls. Also one god had many images, but one did not invent therefore a corresponding quantity of gods. Moreover, the pagans consecrated new images every situation, but they did not think of making new gods with them. One should read the excuses that, according to Augustine’s report, were made by the idolaters of his time. When they were accused, the unwise ones always answered that they were not worshipping the visible, but the deity who lived there invisibly! And those who, according to Augustine, had a purer religious practice, said that they did not worship the image or the idol, but sought in the bodily image signs of that which must be worshipped (Augustine, On Ps 113). What results from this? All idolaters, whether Jews or pagans, were not differently minded than I have described: not satisfied with the spiritual knowledge, they thought to receive a closer and more certain one from the images. But once this superstitious representation of God had pleased them, there was no end to it, until, deceived by repeated juggleries, they came to the opinion that God exercised his power in the images. Nevertheless, the Jews were convinced that they were worshipping the eternal God, the one, true Lord of heaven and earth, in such images, and the pagans, too, thought they were paying homage to their gods, who were false gods, but whom they believed to dwell in heaven.

Image service in the church

Who now thinks that this happened in former times, but no longer happens in our days, lies impudently. Why does one prostrate oneself before the images? Why do we turn to them with petitions as to God’s ear? For it is true what Augustin says: no one looks at an image in prayer and adoration who is not inwardly filled with the faith that he will be heard by it, or with the hope that what he asks will be given to him! (Augustin, On Ps 113). Why does one make such a distinction among the images of the same God that one passes over the one or merely respects it in an ordinary way, but pursues the other with all kinds of grandiose honor? Why does one tire oneself in solemnly vowed pilgrimages to look at images that everyone has similarly at home? Why does one still fight for them today as for house and hearth, up to murder and manslaughter? It would be easier to snatch away the one God than his idols! And here I do not even list the gross errors of the people, which are almost without end and keep almost all hearts possessed. I am only enumerating what is confessed by the very ones who most want to purify themselves from the accusation of idolatry! We do not call them our gods at all, they say. Jews and pagans did not call them that either, and yet the prophets did not cease to accuse them of fornication with wood and stones – and that only for the sake of the same outrage that happens every day by people who want to be considered Christians. This sacrilege consisted in fleshly worshipping God in wood and stone!

Meaningless evasions of the papists

I,11,11 However, I know very well, and it should not be concealed, that they try to help themselves with a very subtle distinction, which I will discuss in more detail later (cf. ch. 12,2). Namely, they claim that the veneration they pay to their images is image service (idodulia), but deny that it is image worship (idolatry). This "service," they say, can be given without offense to God’s statues and paintings. Thus they think to be innocent, since they are only servants, but not worshippers of the images! As if worshipping is not basically something less than serving! And while they look for a hiding place behind the Greek word, they contradict themselves in a quite childish way. For since the Greek "latreuein" (from which "idolatry" comes) means nothing else than "to show veneration", what they say means as much as if they wanted to claim that they venerate their images, but without veneration! But they must also not say, I tried to catch them in words; they themselves, while they try to throw sand in the eyes of simple people, bring their ignorance to light. However eloquent they may be, they will never be able to prove to us, with all their eloquence, that one and the same thing is two different things! Let them prove the difference in the thing, that they may be distinguished from the old idolaters! For as an adulterer or a murderer does not escape the charge by giving his crime another name, so it would be absurd for them to escape the charge of idolatry by imputing an ingeniously devised name, when in fact they are no different from the idolaters whom they must of necessity condemn themselves! But they cannot at all separate themselves from the cause of the idolaters, indeed, the perverse competition with them is just the origin of the whole evil; for they invent out of their own spirit the signs (symbola) under which they want to imagine God, and make them with their own hand.

No rejection of art at all

I,11,12 Certainly I do not want to claim in superstitious timidity that one should not have any pictures at all. But because sculpture and painting are gifts of God, I demand pure and lawful use of these arts, so that what God has given us for His glory and our benefit is not stained by wrong use or even leads to our ruin. We consider it wrong to depict God in visible form, because he himself has forbidden it and because it cannot be done without distorting fine glory. But one should not think that we are alone in this conviction. For it will be found that all prudent teachers of the Church have disapproved of such things – if one knows their works. If it is forbidden to represent God in visible form, it is still less permitted to worship the image in place of God or God in the image. So only what our eyes can grasp should be painted or formed. But God’s majesty, which is far beyond all perception of the eyes, must not be profaned by unworthy images. To that (permitted) kind of pictures belong stories and events and also physical pictures and figures without reference to anything historical. The former are useful for instruction and encouragement. What use the second group is supposed to have, apart from the entertainment, I do not see. And yet, almost all the pictures that have been in the churches up to now were of this kind. From this it is clear that they were not placed there out of well-considered judgment, but in foolish and rash greed. Here I pass over how wrong and shameless the representations often are, how uninhibitedly the painters or sculptors have often let themselves go; for I have already spoken of this above. I only mean that these representations would be unsuitable also then for the teaching if they were free from these mistakes.

The church, as long as the doctrine in it was still pure and strong, rejected the images

I,11,13 But let us also abandon this distinction and think a little about whether it is good to have any images at all in the churches – whether historical representations or human images. First, let us remember – if the authority of the early church means anything to us at all! – Let us first remember that for about five hundred years the Christian churches were generally without any images. And this was a time in which religion flourished excellently and a purer doctrine prevailed! So the images were brought in to decorate the churches only at a time when the purity of the ecclesiastical (doctrinal) office had already considerably fallen into decay. I do not want to argue about the reasons of the first originators of this custom, but if one compares ages with ages, one will see that they had deviated substantially from the purity (existing in the doctrine) of the older time, which had got along without images. Can we really believe that the holy fathers left the Church so long without a thing which they considered useful and wholesome? No, because they saw in it nothing or only little useful, but very much dangerous, therefore they did not let it go in ignorance and carelessness, but rejected it with intention and good reasons. Augustine is a clear witness to this. "When the images receive their place in honorable height, that they may be seen by the praying and sacrificing, they, though themselves without sensation and without soul, yet by their resemblance to animated limbs and senses so seize the simple-minded souls that they seem to live and breathe… (Letter 102). And in another place he writes: "The outer form of the limbs has the consequence, yes, forces it, that the soul, which nevertheless lives itself in the body, comes to the thought that the body, which it sees before itself, is also animate, because it looks so similar to its own …" (On Ps 113). Shortly after: "The images rather serve to depress the poor soul – since they have a mouth, eyes, ears and legs – than to improve it – since they neither speak, nor see, nor hear, nor walk" (On Ps.  113). This must have been the reason why John warns us not only against the worship of images, but also against the images themselves (1Jn 5:21). And we have had more than enough experience, in the midst of the terrible delusion which has hitherto dominated the world to the ruin of almost all true religion, that as soon as images are set up in churches, they become the sign of idolatry - for the folly of men can keep no measure, and immediately falls into purely superstitious worship! But even if there were not so much danger, when I consider the purpose for which the churches are intended, I do not know how it could be other than dishonorable to their sanctity to receive other images than those living and clear ones which the Lord has instituted in his word. I mean by this the baptism and the Lord’s supper with the other ceremonies, by which our eyes should be more attracted and more vividly seized, than that they should have need of any other which human art has created! This, then, is the incomparable good of the images, which supposedly cannot be replaced by anything - if one wanted to believe the papists!

The image-friendly Council of Nicaea is itself a proof of terrible distortion of doctrine

I,11,14 In my opinion, enough would be said about these things, if now the Council of Nicaea (787) was not there and, so to speak, laid hands on me! Not the famous one assembled by Constantine the Great, but the one held eight hundred years ago at the command and suggestion of the Empress Irene. This council decided that the images were not only to be tolerated in the churches, but also to be worshipped! Whatever I may have said, the authority of the Synod could be a great counterweight to my words! To tell the truth, I care only so much about the matter, that the reader may see clearly for once where the furious zeal of such people leads, whose addiction to images is greater than befits a Christian. But let us first speak of the following. Those who want to defend the use of images today refer to this Council of Nicaea. But there is a counter-scripture under the name of Charlemagne, whose style of writing reveals that it was written at the same time. There the sayings of the bishops who were present at the council and also their reasons for proof are given. Thus John, the delegate of the Oriental churches, said: "God has created man in his image" - and from this the man then concludes, one must therefore have images! Also he thought that the saying: "Show me your face, because it is beautiful" (Song of Songs 2,14; not Luther text) recommends us the pictures. Another wanted to justify the placement of the images on the altars, citing as testimony: "No one lights a light and puts it under a bushel" (Mt 5:15). Another wanted to show that the sight of the images is useful to us – and brought up the Ps verse: "Lord, lift up over us the light of your countenance!" (Ps 4:7). Another recited the following parable: Just as the arch-fathers used the sacrifices of the pagans, so Christians must have images of saints instead of the idols of the pagans! In the same direction they dragged the word: "Lord, I love the honor of your house" (Ps 26,8; not Luther text). Especially witty is the interpretation of the saying: "As we have heard, so have we seen" (1Jn 1:1; inaccurate) in this sense. God is known – so this passage was "explained" – not only by hearing his word, but also by looking at the images! Of similar acumen is the saying of Bishop Theodore: "God is marvelous in his saints (Ps 68:36; Greek text); but elsewhere it is said: . . to the saints who are on earth (Ps 16:3). So this saying necessarily refers to images!" But these stupidities are so pathetic that it grieves me to reproduce them.

I,11,15 In the question about the worship, the (alleged) worship before Pharaoh (Gen 47,10), the worship of the staff of Joseph (Gen 47,31 according to the Greek text) and the memorial stone erected by Jacob (Gen 28,18) were brought forward as examples. And thereby one twisted not only the sense of the Scripture in the last point, but rapped up still, what is nowhere to be read. Further they said: "Worship the footstool of His feet" (Ps 99,5) or "Worship His holy mountain" (Ps 99,9) or "All the rich of the people will worship Your face" (Ps 45,13). These seemed to be reliable and fitting proofs to these men! If someone wanted to mock the image defenders in a ridiculous role - could he then think up greater and more terrific stupidities?! And to leave no doubt at all, the bishop Theodosius of Mira defends the worship of the images as seriously by dreams of his archdeacon, as if he were presenting a heavenly oracle! Now may the protectors of the images come quietly and fight us with the decision of the Synod! As if those venerable Fathers had not lost all claim to credibility by their childish treatment and impious, base tearing up of the Scriptures!

I,11,16 Now I come to such outrageous expressions of impiety that one has to wonder at the audacity with which they uttered such things – although it is doubly astonishing that they were not contradicted with general and sharpest disgust. But it is useful to reproduce these sacrilegious follies, so that the service of images may at least be deprived of the appearance of old age which the papists would like to attach to it. There the bishop Theodosius of Amorium hurls his anathema against all those who do not want to worship the images. Another one attributes all the troubles of Greece and the Orient at that time to the crime of not worshipping the images! What punishment must the prophets, apostles and martyrs deserve, at whose times there were not even images? Then one adds: if one is already close to the image of the emperor with incense and scent offerings – how much more is this honor due to the statues of the saints! The bishop Constantius of Constantia in Cyprus promises to treat the images with the highest reverence, and assures to give them the same veneration that is due to the animating Trinity! If anyone refuses to do the same, he curses him and rejects him like Manichaeans and Marcionites! Lest it be thought that this was the mere private opinion of one man, the rest agreed with this speech. Yes, John, the emissary of the Eastern Church, whom the heat of enthusiasm drove beyond all bounds, asserted that it was better to admit all the whorehouses into the city than to reject the service of images! Finally, it was generally decided that among the heretics the Samaritans were the worst – but worse than the Samaritans were those who rejected the worship of images! In order that the solemn end ("clap") of the farce should not be lost, the formula was added: "Let those rejoice who possess Christ’s image and offer sacrifices to Him! Where was then the distinction between "service" and "veneration" with which one always wants to deceive God and men so gladly? The Council gives to the images without exception the same as to the living God.

Chapter Twelve

God is distinguished from idols so that He alone may be honored.

True religion binds us to God as the One and Only

I,12,1 We have stated at the beginning that the knowledge of God does not consist in cold thought, but brings God worship with it. We have also noted in passing how God is to be rightly worshipped – which will have to be elaborated elsewhere. Now I only repeat in brief: As often as Scripture emphasizes that there is only one God, it does not dispute about the mere name, but also prescribes that what belongs to the Godhead is not to be transferred to anything else. This is the difference between pure religion and superstition. The Greek word "Eusebeia" (piety) surely means the same as "right worship of God." For the Greeks, although they were always groping blindly in the dark, nevertheless felt that a certain rule had to be kept, so that God would not be worshipped in a wrong way. The Latin word "religio" (religion) derives Cicero true and witty from relegere (repeatedly read something). But the reason given by him for it is nevertheless forced and far-fetched. He cites for his derivation that true worshippers of the deity read again and again and ponder with diligence what is true. I rather believe that this word is meant to denote the opposite of unbridled freedom, because the greater part of the world takes everything that presents itself without deliberation, even fluttering from one to the other, while piety gathers itself within its limits in order to stand firm on its path. Similarly, superstition seems to me to take its name from the fact that, not satisfied with measure and established order, it piles up useless and vain things in great quantities. Let us, however, leave the words alone. As far as the matter itself is concerned, it has been generally accepted at all times that religion is corrupted and perverted by error. From this we conclude: everything that we allow ourselves in thoughtless zeal is without value, and every pretext that superstitious people raise is ridiculous. Although this confession is on everyone’s lips, it shows a shameful ignorance that one neither adheres to the one God nor takes pleasure in worshipping him, as I explained above. But God wants to create his right and therefore calls himself a zealous God, also threatens to be a strict avenger if one wants to mix him with any imaginary God. Then he describes the form of worship demanded by him to keep the human race in obedience. He summarizes both of these in his law: there he first lays claim to the faithful to be their only lawgiver; and then he prescribes the rule by which he is to be worshipped righteously and according to his will. Now, to be sure, I shall have to speak of the law in its place, because its application and purpose are very various. Now I will touch only on that part of the doctrine of the law which shows us that a rein is put on man here, so that he does not surrender to false worship. But what I have already said above must also be stated here: if one does not let the one God have everything that is divine, then he will be deprived of his honor, then his worship will be corrupted! Now here one must pay attention with special attention to what kind of cunning the superstition deals with. For he does not fall away to other gods in such a way that he lets himself be noticed that he leaves the highest god or puts him in a row with others. No, he leaves him the highest God or puts him in a row with others. No, he leaves him the highest place – and surrounds him merely with a swarm of smaller gods to whom he then distributes those activities which nevertheless belong to God himself. Thus then, cunningly and slyly of course, God’s honor is split up, so that it does not remain completely with him alone. In this way already the ancients, Jews as well as pagans, have subordinated to the father and ruler of the gods that immense crowd of gods which then should rule heaven and earth together with him, according to their kind and position. In the same way, some centuries ago, the saints who had departed from this life were made God’s fellows, that they were now worshipped, invoked and praised in his stead! We consider that by such abominations God’s majesty is not only eclipsed, but rather largely suppressed and even extinguished. At the most, we then retain a cold thought of his supremacy; but meanwhile, being deceived by the appearance of holding fast to God’s unity, we fall into polytheism.

"Service" and "worship" are the same thing

I,12,2 For this purpose, the distinction between "worship" and (mere) "service" was brought up: one wanted to be able to ascribe divine honors to the angels and the dead with impunity. For the veneration which the papists bestow on the saints is in fact obviously no different from the veneration of God; for one worships God and the saints in confusion – only that they meet all attacks with the assertion that they give God his own, because they reserve "veneration" for him! But we are speaking here of the matter and not of the vocabulary: and who allows them to play around with such self-assurance in such an important matter? But – to pass over this also – what comes out for them actually in their distinction differently, than that they show "reverence" only to God, but "service" to the others? For "latreia" (worship) among the Greeks means exactly the same as cultus (reverence) among the Latins, but douleia means service, servitude; nevertheless, in Scripture this distinction is often blurred. But if we ourselves admit that the difference remains, we must ask what the two expressions mean. douleia is therefore service, latreia means worship. Now no one will doubt that service is something greater than worship! For it would often be very hard to serve one whom one would not deny worship. For this very reason it is a totally inappropriate distribution to give the greater to the saints, but to reserve for God the lesser, the inferior. Nevertheless, many of the ancients make use of this distinction. But what will happen when everyone realizes that it is inappropriate and frivolous?

Idolatry is any attempt to rob God of what is His and appropriate it to the creature

I,12,3 But let us now leave these quibbles and turn to the matter itself. When Paul reminds the Galatians what kind of people they would have been before they were enlightened to the knowledge of God, he says that they would have done douleia (service) to those who are not gods by nature (Gal 4,8). So he does not use the word "latreia" – but should their superstition be excused by that? In any case, he condemns this superstition, which he calls "service", just as if he had used the term "latreia" (worship)! And when Christ holds up as a shield to Satan the word: "You shall worship God your Lord …" (Mt 4,10), the name of the latreia was not mentioned at all. For Satan had "merely" demanded the proskynesis, the worship. When John receives a rebuke from the angel because he fell on his knees before him (Apok. 19,10), we must not assume that John was so foolish that he would have wanted to transfer to the angel the honor due to God alone. But every religious honor necessarily has something in it that belongs to God alone, and therefore John could not have fallen down before the angel without taking something away from God’s honor. Of course, we often read that people were worshipped. But that was, so to speak, a civil honor. With religion it is something else: as soon as it is connected with worship (of a creature), it inevitably carries the profanation of God’s honor. This can also be seen in Cornelius (Acts 10:25). He was certainly not so little advanced in piety that he would not have accorded God the highest reverence. And when he prostrated himself before Peter, he certainly did not do so in the opinion that he was worshipping him instead of God. But Peter strictly forbids him to do so! But surely this is because man can never distinguish so precisely between the worship of God and the worship of the creature as not to transfer to the creature what belongs to God alone! If we really want to have only one God, we must be careful not to rob him of the least of his honor. For he must keep what is his. Thus Zechariah, where he speaks of the renewal of the church, clearly states that there will not only be one God, but that he will also have only one name (Zech 14:9). For God does not want to have anything in common with idols. What kind of worship God now demands, we will see in another place, when this question comes up. For in his law, he wanted to command men what is right and proper before him, and instructed them to a fixed rule, so that no one would be allowed to think up a worship according to his own liking! But I do not want to burden the readers with the fact that I treat all kinds of things with each other, and therefore I will not come to this subject yet. Only let us note this: Every religious veneration, which is granted to another being than the one God, is to be regarded as sacrilege. Thus, superstition first gave divine honors to the sun and the other celestial bodies and then to idols. Then followed pride, which adorned mortal men with that which it robbed from God, and in this way profaned all that was sacred. And although there was also the principle that one must worship a supreme being, there arose the habit of offering sacrifices to the genii or to the demigods or even to the secluded heroes. Thus the degeneration to this sacrilege is such that a whole crowd of "gods" gets what God has reserved so strictly for himself alone!

Thirteenth chapter

The scripture teaches us already from the creation that there is one divine being in three persons.

God’s essence is immeasurable and spiritual

I,13,1 What is taught in the Scriptures about the immeasurable and spiritual nature of God serves not only to overcome popular superstition, but also to refute the sophistry of impious philosophy. One of the ancients thought he had said something particularly profound when he said that God is everything we see and everything we do not see. He imagined then a Godhead poured out into all parts of the world. Now it is true that God, in order to keep us prudent, speaks of his being in a very reserved way. But with the two statements, which I have put side by side above (in the first sentence) (immeasurable, spiritual), he puts an end to such mad imaginations and sets a barrier to human presumption. For his immensity must deter us from wanting to measure him according to our measure, and his spiritual nature forbids us to attribute something earthly and carnal to him. It also belongs to this that he often calls heaven his dwelling place. For although he also fills the earth by virtue of his incomprehensibility, he rightly lets us look upward beyond the world for the sake of our laziness and incapacity, because he sees how our senses cling to the earth in their sluggishness. But here now also the error of the Manichaeans falls to the ground, who assume two "principles" and thus put the devil almost on the same level with God. For this was nothing else than the endeavor to deny God’s unity and to limit his immensity. They certainly dared to misuse scriptural testimonies for this purpose. But this was only a sign of their shameful ignorance, just as their false doctrine itself had sprung from a curse-worthy delusion! But the anthropomorphites, who imagined that God was corporeal, because the Scriptures often ascribe to him mouth, ears, eyes, hands and feet, are easily refuted. For one must be very foolish if he does not see that in such passages God speaks to us in a childlike manner, as nurses do to little children! Such expressions, therefore, do not want to show clearly what God is like, but rather to adapt his knowledge to our weakness. But for this to be possible, God must descend deep below His sublimity.

The three "persons" in God

I,13,2 But God still determines his nature by a special characteristic, which enables us to distinguish him more exactly from all idols. For he makes known that he is the One, but in such a way that he wants to be regarded differently in three persons. If we do not hold on to these (three persons), only an empty concept (inane nomen) of God flutters around in our brain without any relation to the true God. Now no one should dream that God is threefold, or think that God’s being is torn into three persons, and therefore we must look for a short and comprehensible definition, which secures us against any error. But now some people go against the term "person" with furious barking and claim that this is a human sin. We must first examine whether they are right, because when the apostle calls the Son of God the reflection (character) of the person (essence) of the Father (Hebr 1:3), he undoubtedly attributes to the Father an essence (subsistentia) in which He differs from the Son. Now, some commentators have thought that instead of subsistentia they could simply use essentia, as if Christ represented in himself the essence (substantia) of the Father, just as the sealed wax represents the seal. But this is a crude and even absurd conception. For God’s essence is uniform and indivisible, and so he, who would carry it completely and without division or subtraction in himself, would be called only inauthentic, even downright incorrectly his reflection (character)! But since the father, although he differs from the son by his peculiarity, has completely imprinted himself in the son, one can say with the best reason that he has visibly represented his mode of being (person, hypostasis) in him. To this fits then also very well the immediately added designation, the son is the splendor of his glory. With certainty it can be inferred from the words of the apostle that the Father has his own way of being (hypostasis), which is reflected in the Son. But from this it follows again that also the Son must have his own mode of being (hypostasis), which distinguishes him from the Father. It is exactly the same with the Holy Spirit, who on the one hand is God, as we will prove later, but on the other hand must be thought as necessarily distinct from the Father. However, this distinction does not refer at all to the essence, which must not be imagined as multiple under any circumstances. If we therefore follow the testimony of the apostle, it follows that in God there are three modes of being (hypostases). The same thing the Latins wanted to say with the expression "person", and it would be vain arrogance and stubbornness if one still wanted to argue about such a clear matter. If one wanted to translate the Greek word (hypostasis) exactly into Latin, then subsistentia (manner of being, nature) would result. Some have even used the word substantia in the same sense. (substance, basic being). However, the word "persona" was not only used by the Latin, but also the Greeks, in order to testify the equality of their conviction with that of the Latin, used the doctrinal form, that in God there were "three prosopa" (prosopon = face, mask, person). However the Greeks and the Latins may differ in the words among themselves: in the main they represent a completely same doctrine.

The expressions "Trinity" and "Person" serve the interpretation of Scripture and are therefore permissible

I,13,3 Now however much the heretics yelp against the word "person", and though others in their great folly refuse to accept this expression, since it is a little sin of man – they cannot refute us that there are three named, each of whom is wholly God, and who are not several gods; therefore it is an evil wickedness to reject words which merely interpret what is testified and sealed in Scripture! They say it would be better if we kept not only our thoughts but also our words within the bounds of the Scriptures, instead of bringing up strange words which would only give rise to dissension and quarrels. This is how we get tired in word fights, this is how truth is lost in quarrels, this is how love is suffocated by angry fencing! If they now call that a strange word, which cannot be proved exactly to the syllable in the Scriptures, then they truly put an unjust yoke on us and condemn all interpretation of the Scriptures, if they are not simply patched together from Bible texts. But if that is to be considered strange which is rashly conceived and superstitiously defended, which serves more to fight than to edify, which is taken up brusquely and purposelessly, which in its crudeness offends pious ears, which distracts from the simplicity of the Word of God – then of course I wholeheartedly endorse such prudent judgment. For I am of the opinion that we should show no less reverence in speaking about God than in thinking. For what we think from ourselves is foolish, and what we then utter is improper. Rather, we must keep a certain measure, and from Scripture there is a sure rule for thinking and speaking, according to which all the sensing of our minds and all the speaking of our mouths must be guided. But what is there to forbid us to unfold in clear words what in Scripture is difficult and intricate for our comprehension, whereby, of course, such interpretation must be serviceable only in reverence and faith for the truth of Scripture itself, and must be exercised in restraint and modesty, and may also be used only on the right occasion. There are sufficiently many examples of this. If, on the other hand, someone finds fault with the novelty of the expressions even where the Church has evidently been pressed into the greatest necessity to use the words "Trinity" and "Person," must we not suspect in such a person an aversion to the light of truth, since he merely objects to the truth being made clearer and more explicit?

Expressions like "Trinity", "Person" etc. have been necessary for the church to expose the false teachers

I,13,4 But such new expressions – if one wants to call them so – come into use especially when the truth has to be asserted against its enemies who want to escape from it by all kinds of dodges. We experience this more than enough nowadays, where the fight against the enemies of pure and sound doctrine is our main work, and where these slippery snakes slip away through all kinds of twists and turns if they are not bravely seized and squeezed. Thus also the ancients, trained by many a battle against false doctrines, were compelled to express their conviction with extreme precision, so as not to leave any nooks and crannies for the ungodly, who used the cover of words as a hiding place for their errors. Arius also confessed Christ as God and Son of God, since he could not do anything against the irrefutably clear scriptural testimonies, and feigned, as if everything were in order, a certain agreement with the others. But meanwhile he did not cease to assert that Christ was created and had a beginning like the rest of the creatures. Now, in order to pull the sinuous cunning of this man out of its hiding place, the ancients went further and confessed that Christ was the eternal Son of the Father and of the same essence with the Father. Then, all at once, unbelief roared, and the Arians began to hate and curse the expression "homousios" (of the same essence) to the utmost. If they had really confessed with sincerity and heart that Christ was God, they could not have denied that he was of the same nature as the Father! Who would dare to accuse these excellent men of quarrelsomeness, because they had fought so fiercely over a single word and disturbed the peace of the church? Just this one word distinguished between Christians of pure faith and blasphemous Arians! Later, Sabellius appeared and considered the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit almost nothing, disputing that they were not there for the sake of distinction, but were all different names for God, as there are many. When it came to the dispute, he confessed to believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is also God. But soon he found the way out, he had said nothing else than calling God strong, just and wise! And so he sang again another song: the Father be the Son, and the Holy Spirit be the Father – without order, without distinction! Righteous teachers, who were concerned with piety, now objected and demanded, in order to put an end to the mischief of this man, that he should acknowledge three truly existing peculiarities (proprietates) in the one God. And in order to protect themselves against the man’s sinuous cunning with open and plain truth, they established the proposition that in the one God or – which is the same thing – in God’s unity there is a trinity of persons.

Limits and necessity of the dogmatic expressions

I,13,5 The expressions have therefore truly not been applied carelessly – and therefore one must be careful that one does not fall prey to the reproach of arrogant carelessness if one rebukes them! For the rest, let them be buried, if only all hold fast to the belief that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are one God, and yet the Son is not the Father or the Spirit the Son, but all are distinguished from each other by a certain peculiarity (proprietas). I am not at all of such strict obstinacy that I should presume to quarrel about mere words. For I see that even the ancients, who otherwise speak of these things with so much reverence, do not agree among themselves, nor individually with themselves. For what formulas does Hilarius excuse as being used by the councils! What liberties Augustine occasionally took! How great is the difference between Greeks and Latins! But for this dissimilarity one example shall suffice. When the Latins wanted to render the expression "homousios", they substituted "consubstantialis": thus they claimed that the Father and the Son were of the same "substance" (basic being) – and thus used the term "substance", where actually "essence" (essentia) would have been appropriate! Thus it comes that Jerome says in his letter to Damasus that it is a sacrilege to say that there are three "substances" in God. But one can find on the other hand in Hilarius more than hundred times, there are in God three "substances"! And how unclear is the use of the expression "hypostasis" (= "person", way of being) in Jerome! He thinks that there is poison behind it, if someone talked about three "hypostases" in God! And even if someone in a pious attitude uses this expression, he says straight out that this is an inauthentic way of speaking. All this, provided he made such speeches out of sincerity. But he did it perhaps only, in order to cover the bishops of the Orient, whom he did not like, with knowledge and will with unrighteous vituperation! In any case, he did not very decently defend the assertion that in the secular schools "usia" (essence) means nothing else than also "hypostasis" (way of being) – which can be refuted consistently from the ordinary and everyday language use! More moderately and with nobler custom Augustine proceeds; although also he says, the word "hypostasis" is new in this sense for a Latin ear, he nevertheless leaves the Greeks their habit to speak, as he also endured the Latins, who had imitated the Greek formula, without sharpness (Of the Trinity, book 5,8f.). Also, what (the ecclesiastical historian) Socrates wrote of it in the sixth book of the Historia tripartita, gives the impression that this expression was brought into the matter in a wrong way by ignorant people. Hilarius reproaches the heretics for being forced by their mischief to expose to the danger of human speech something that should better be kept in a reverent soul; and he does not conceal that this means nothing else than to undertake improper things, to speak unspeakable things, to presume illicit things! Shortly after, he apologizes for being compelled to introduce new expressions: for, after listing those required by the nature of the thing, namely, Father, Son, and Spirit, he declares that anything sought beyond these would exceed the expressive power of speech, the grasping power of thought, the comprehension of understanding (Of the Trinity, Book 2). And in another place he praises the bishops of Gaul happily, because they had never established, nor accepted, nor even known any other confession than the old and very simple one, which had been in force in all churches since the time of the apostles! (From the Councils). Augustin also speaks in a similar way: that expression was forced by the need of human speech in such a great question and should not represent what is, but only not conceal why Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three! This modesty of such holy men should warn us to exercise a kind of theological censorship and immediately judge severely all those who do not want to swear by the terms we use! Only let them not do so out of wantonness, insolence, or mischievous mischievousness! Let them consider for themselves how great is the necessity that compels us to speak in this way, and let them then gradually become comfortable with a proper form of theological statement. One must confront the Arians on one side and the Sabellians on the other. If they (those unclear teachers) are angry that both are cut off, they should be careful not to arouse suspicion as if they themselves were disciples of Arius or Sabellius! Arius says that Christ is God – but then he whispers very softly that he was created and had a beginning! He says that Christ is one with the Father – but then he secretly says in the ear of his own: he is just as united with the Father as the other believers, even if with a unique privilege! But if one says "of the same essence" (consubstantialis), then one pulls away the larva of the devious man – and yet has added nothing to the Scripture! There Sabellius says, father, son and spirit mean nothing different in God. If one says to it that there are three, then he will make a great cry, one spoke of three gods. But if one says that in the one being of God there is a trinity of persons, then one says in one sentence what the Scriptures teach – and one puts an end to the empty talk! Now some may be so possessed by superstitious fear that they cannot bear these expressions – yet no one, however much he twists and turns, will be able to deny the fact: when we hear that God is One, the unity of the substance (of the fundamental being) is to be thought of; when we hear that there are three in one being, the persons in this Trinity are spoken of! If this is affirmed without ulterior motives, let us not dwell on words. But I have already long and often enough made the experience: Who because of the expressions too vehemently argues, that nourishes hidden poison. Therefore it is better to challenge such people freely than to speak unclearly because of them!

The meaning of the most important terms

I,13,6 But now we want to leave the argument about the expressions and go to the matter itself. So I understand by person a mode of being (subsistentia) in God’s essence, which has an untransferable peculiarity in its relations to the others. By mode of being (subsistentia), then, we want to understand something other than "essence" (essentia). If the word would be simply God, without having something for itself alone, then John would have said something wrong with his sentence: "The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1)! When he adds afterwards: "And God was the Word" – he calls us back to the one being! But because the Word could not be with God without dwelling in the Father, what we called "mode of being" is shown here: for this is indeed connected with the "being" by an unbreakable bond and cannot be divorced from it, but it nevertheless has its special characteristic by which it differs from the being. For each of the three modes of being is distinguished in relation to the others by its peculiarity. This "relation" (relatio) is here clearly expressed; for where one speaks simply and without further definition of "God," this name refers to the Son and the Spirit as well as to the Father. But as soon as one compares the Father with the Son, the "peculiarity" (proprietas) denotes the difference between them. Furthermore, I maintain that the proprietas of the person is not transferable, because it is not appropriate, for example, to apply or transfer to the Son what belongs to the Father as a characteristic for distinction. Nor do I dislike the definition of Tertullian, which is to be understood correctly! – Tertullian’s definition that the Trinity is a certain order and arrangement in God, which does not change the unity of the essence (In the book against Praxeas 2,9).

The Deity of the "Word

I,13,7 Before we go further, however, first the deity of the Son and the Spirit must be proved and secondly the difference between them must be shown. When the Scriptures speak of the "word" of God, this would certainly be quite absurd, if this "word" were only a fleeting, empty sound, which was sent out into the air and now took its course apart from God Himself. Of this kind were the words of revelation, which were given to the fathers, and all prophecies. Nay, the "word" signifies the wisdom which dwells with God, and from which all the sayings of revelation and prophecies are derived. For according to the testimony of Peter (1Pet 1:11), the ancient prophets spoke no less from the spirit of Christ than the apostles and those who administered heavenly teaching after them. But since at that time Christ had not yet come to light, it necessarily follows that the "Word" was born from the Father from eternity. And if the spirit, whose instruments the prophets were, was the spirit of the word, then it is to be concluded from it undoubtedly that this word was true God. This teaches also Moses in the creation history completely clearly: because there he states that the word was means of the creation. Why should he have reported otherwise again and again that God spoke at the creation of the individual works: "Let there be …", if he did not want to show that God’s inscrutable glory shone in his image? Cheeky chatterers claim here of course immediately that "word" means as much as command or order. But the apostles are better interpreters, and they proclaim that through the Son the world was created and that He carries all things with His mighty Word (Hebr 1:2). Here, then, we see that "Word" means the beckoning and command of the Son, who is Himself the eternal and essential Word of the Father. Wise and humble people also do not find dark the saying of Solomon, in which he shows how wisdom is born of God in eternity and rules in the creation of all things as well as in all the works of God (Jesus Sirach 24:14). It would be foolish and blasphemous to assume only a passing hint of God; for God willed at that time to reveal His fixed and eternal counsel, even more hidden things. The word of Christ also refers to this: "My Father and I work until this day" (John 5:17; not Luther text). For there he shows that he himself has been working powerfully together with the Father since the beginning of the world, and thus makes clearer what Moses had indicated more briefly. So God – we must conclude – spoke in such a way that the Word had its share in the work and in this way the work was common to both. John establishes this by far most clearly when he presents the Word, which was in the beginning as God with God, at the same time with the Father as the origin of all things (John 1:3). For in this way he attributes to the Word a fixed and lasting essence, but also attributes to it something peculiar to itself and then also shows with the greatest transparency why God in his speech was the creator of the world. As all revelations coming from God rightly bear the honorary title "God’s word", so also this word coming from God’s being must receive the highest place, namely that of the source of all revelation, because it, not being subject to any change, always remains as one and the same with God and is God himself!

The eternity of the "word

I,13,8 Now here some dogs start to yelp: they cannot deny the word its divinity before all public, but therefore they try to rob it secretly of its eternity. They say that the word had its beginning only when God opened his holy mouth at the creation of the world! But, when they say this, they impute in their carelessness to God a change of his nature. For the names which belong to God with respect to his external work are indeed attached to him only since the existence of this work of his, such as the name "Creator of heaven and earth". But piety does not recognize any name which could mean that something was added to God in himself. If one wanted to speak of something newly added, the word of James would put an end to it: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom is no change, nor change of light and darkness" (Jam 1:17). Therefore, nothing is more unbearable than to impute a beginning to the Word, which after all was God Himself from eternity and later became the Creator of the world! But then they come to the sophistical idea: if Moses says in the story of creation that God spoke at that time, then he implies with it himself that there was no word in God before. This is a particularly silly gossip! For if something is revealed at a certain time, then it is not to be concluded from it that it had not been there before! I conclude quite differently: if at that moment when God said: "Let there be light", the power of the word broke out and expressed itself, then it must have been there long before! If one asks: "How long then?", he will find no beginning. For he himself does not determine any fixed period of time when he says: "And now you glorify me, Father, with your own glory, which I had with you before the world was" (John 17:5). John also mentioned this: for he says: before he goes on to the creation of the world, the Word was "in the beginning" with God (John 1:1). So again we find that the Word was begotten of the Father before the beginning of time and then ever and ever dwelt with Him. This then proves his eternity, his real being and his divinity.

The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament

I,13,9 Now I do not speak of the person of the mediator yet, but postpone this until I deal with the redemption. But since it should be generally accepted without contradiction that Christ is the Word made flesh, all the testimonies which assert the divinity of Christ belong here. When it is said in the 45th Psalm: "God, your throne remains forever and ever" (Ps 45,7), the Jews make the excuse that the name "Elohim" (God) also refers to the angels and highest powers. But there is not a single passage in Scripture that establishes an eternal throne for the creature! And the one of whom the psalm speaks is not called "God" badly, but is also called eternal ruler. Moreover, this title (God) is not given to anyone without an addition, as for example Moses is told that he will be a god to "Pharaoh" (Ex 7:1). Others want to read the passage in such a way that "God" is genitive ("your throne of God"). But this is completely nonsensical. I confess, indeed, that particularly excellent things are often called divine; but the context of the passage shows that this would be harsh and forced here and would not fit in any way. If, however, they persist in their obstinacy, let us hold up to them a passage from Isaiah; there the same Christ is quite clearly called God, and endowed with the supreme power – which, after all, is proper to God alone! "This is the name by which they will call him: God of power, Father forever and ever …" (Isa 9,5 s.; not Luther text). Now also here the Jews yelp again and want to twist the passage in such a way: "And this will be the name by which the strong God, the Father forever, will call him …", so that therefore only the designation "Prince of Peace" would be left to the Son. But why should so many epithets be heaped upon God the Father, when the prophet intends to adorn Christ with glorious attributes in order to build up our faith in Him? Therefore, there can be no doubt that he is called "God of power" here for the same reason that he was called "Immanuel" just before. Jeremiah speaks just as clearly when he says that this will be the name by which the offspring of David will be called: the Lord our righteousness (Jer 23:6). Now the Jews themselves teach of their own free will that all other names of God are mere epithets, but this one, which they call ineffable, is the living expression of his being. From this it follows that the son is the only and eternal God – who nevertheless announces in another place that he will give his honor to no other! (Isa 42,8). But also here they look for excuses and refer to the fact that Moses gave the same name to the altar built by him and Ezekiel to the new city Jerusalem. But who can overlook the fact that this altar was built as a memorial sign that God exalted Moses, and that Jerusalem is only given the name of God as a sign of God’s presence? For thus says the prophet, "And then the city shall be called, ’Here is the Lord!’" (Eze 48:35) And Moses speaks similarly, "And he built an altar and called its name: ’The Lord is my ’exaltation’ (my panier)" (Ex 17:15). But an even greater controversy revolves around another Jeremiah passage in which the same honorific name is applied to Jerusalem: "This is the name by which she will be called: The Lord our righteousness" (Jer 33:16). But this testimony in no way denies the truth we defend, but rather confirms it. After he had testified before (Jer 23,6) that Christ is the true "Lord" from whom righteousness proceeds, he now shows that the church of God will experience this so vividly that it can boast of His name. So in the first place the source and origin of righteousness is shown, in the second its effect!

I,13,10 If the Jews are not yet satisfied with all this, I do not know what excuse they want to put forward against the fact that the "Lord" ("Jehovah") appears so often in the form of an angel. Thus, according to the Scriptures, an angel appeared to the holy fathers, and this one attaches to himself the name of the eternal God! (Judges 6 and 7). If someone wants to object against it that this happens for the sake of the person of him whom he represents, then the knot is not loosened yet at all. For no servant would have robbed God of honor and admitted that sacrifices would be offered to him! The angel, on the other hand, refuses to eat bread and commands that sacrifices be offered to "the Lord" (Judges 13:16). But thereupon he proves that he himself is the "Lord". Therefore, Manoah and his wife recognize by this sign that they have seen God. Hence the word, "We must die, for we have seen God." But when the woman answers, "If the Lord had desired to kill us, he would not have accepted the burnt offering and the grain offering from our hands"-thereby she confesses as God the one who was previously called "Angel"! (Judges 13:22f.). Now the answer of the angel removes all doubt: "Why do you ask me about my name, which is wonderful?" (V. 18). All the more abominable is the godlessness of Servet, who claims that God never revealed himself to Abraham and the other archfathers, but that instead of him they worshipped an angel. However, the orthodox teachers of the church have rightly and wisely recognized in that angelic prince the word of God, which already then began its mediatorial office as in a kind of prelude. For although the Word had not yet become flesh, he came down, as it were, as a mediator, in order to approach the faithful all the more intimately. Such friendly fellowship with men gave him the name "angel": but nevertheless the Word meanwhile kept what was his, namely that he was God, of unspeakable glory! This is also what Hosea wants to express: after mentioning Jacob’s fight with the angel, he says: "Lord (Jehovah), God of hosts, Lord is his name" (Hos 12,6). Servet now blathers against it that God has taken the form of an angel. As if the prophet did not simply confirm what Moses already reported, "Why do you ask me my name?" And the confession of the holy archfather (Jacob) makes it quite clear that it was not a matter of a created angel, but of the one who carried the fullness of the Godhead in himself; after all, he says, "I have seen God face to face" (Gen 32:30, 31). Paul also says that Christ was the leader of the people in the wilderness (1Cor 10:4). For although the time of humiliation had not yet arrived, the eternal Word nevertheless set an example of the ministry it was to fulfill. Also, if one considers, admittedly without contentiousness, the second chapter in Zechariah, one notices that the angel who sends a second angel is immediately thereafter referred to as God of hosts and all power is ascribed to him. I omit innumerable other testimonies on which our faith may safely rest, though the Jews pay little heed to them. If it is said in Isaiah, "Behold, this is our God …, this is the Lord, in whom we wait, that we may rejoice and be glad in his salvation" (Isa 25:9), it is clear to all who have eyes to see that God is here set before us, who again sets out to help his people. And the strong indications, which are doubly set there, do not allow any other interpretation than that to Christ. Even clearer and more reliable is the passage in Malachi, which promises that the ruler, who was still expected at that time, would come to his temple (Mal 3,1). Now the temple, which the prophet concedes to Christ, was consecrated only to the highest God! Therefore it follows that he is the same God who had always been worshipped by the Jews!

The Deity of Christ in the Testimony of the Apostles

I,13,11 The New Testament gushes forth innumerable testimonies. Therefore, we have to make an effort to bring a few selected ones in short rather than piling up everything. The apostles did not speak of him until after he had already appeared as a mediator in the flesh. But still, what I will mention will be able to prove his eternal divinity very well. Especially the teaching of the apostles is worthy of attention, that in Christ what had been said before about him as eternal God had already been revealed or would be revealed one day. Isaiah prophesies that the Lord of hosts will be a rock of trouble and a stumbling block for Jews and Israelites (Isa 8,14) – and Paul says that this is fulfilled in Christ (Rom 9,32f.). He thus declares that this Lord of hosts is Christ. Similarly, in another place he says: "We shall all be presented before the judgment seat of Christ; for it is written, … every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess God" (Rom 14:10 s.). Since this is what Isaiah says about God (Isa 45,23) and since Christ proves it in Himself, it follows that He Himself is God, whose honor should not be given to anyone else. Also what Paul quotes from Ps 68 (v. 19) in Ephesians fits God alone: "He ascended on high and led captivity captive" (Eph 4,8). Paul recognizes that such ascension was already prefigured by God’s showing his power in victory over foreign nations, and then shows that it was only fully revealed in Christ. John testifies that it was the glory of the Son that was once revealed to Isaiah (John 12:41; Isa 6:1), when the prophet himself wrote that he had seen God’s majesty. What the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews attaches to the Son are undoubtedly the most glorious praises of God: "You, Lord, founded the earth from the beginning …" (Hebr 1:10) and "Let all the angels of God worship Him" (Hebr 1:6). But when he refers these praises to Christ, it does not mean abuse; for what is sung in those Ps words, He alone fulfilled. It was He who set out to have mercy on Zion (Ps 102:14). He took dominion over all nations and islands (Ps 97:1). And why should John have hesitated to attribute God’s majesty to Christ, since he had previously said that the Word had been God from eternity? (John 1:1.14). Why should Paul be afraid to put Christ on God’s judgment seat (2Cor 5:10), after he had previously made his deity known with such a clear herald message when he said that he was "God, highly praised forever" (Rom 9:5)? And so that it would be clear how well he agrees with himself here, he writes in another place: "God is revealed in the flesh …" (1Tim 3:16). But if He is God, highly praised for eternity, then it is He to whom alone all glory and honor is due, as he says in another place (1Tim 1:17). He is also not afraid to confess before all the world: "Being in the form of God, he did not consider it robbery to be like God, emptying himself …" (Phil 2:6 ss.). But so that the wicked would not blaspheme that He was an arbitrary God, John goes so far as to say: "He is the true God and the eternal life" (1Jn 5:20). However, it must be quite enough for us that he is called God, especially by the very witness who emphasizes with particular sharpness that there are not many gods, but only one. This is Paul, who says: "Even though many gods are called in heaven and on earth, we have only one God, from whom are all things …" (1Cor 8:5). When we hear from the same mouth that God was revealed in the flesh (1Tim 3:16), that God purchased the church with His own blood … (Acts 20:28) – how could we think that this refers to a second God, whom Paul would never have acknowledged? And without any doubt, all believers thought the same way as he did. When Thomas so openly calls Christ his "Lord and God" (John 20:28), he confesses Him as the one God whom he had always worshipped.

The deity of Christ is shown in his works

I,13,12 If we now also get to know his divinity from Christ’s works, as they are attributed to him in the Scriptures, then it will shine even more clearly to us. When He said that He has been working with the Father since the beginning and until now (John 5:17), the Jews, who were completely dull against all His other words, understood that He attributed divine power to Himself. And therefore, as John reports, they sought to kill Him only the more because He had not only broken the Sabbath, but declared God to be His Father and thus made Himself equal with God (John 5:18). How great our blindness would have to be if we did not want to notice the assertion of his deity here! It is truly the work of the Creator alone to rule the world with providence and power and to guide everything with His will – and the apostle attributes this to Him! (Hebr 1:3). But he not only shares the work of world government with the Father, but also other individual efficacies in which no creature can have a share. The Lord proclaims through the prophet: "I, I blot out your iniquities for my own sake (Isa 43:25). When the Jews thought that Jesus was blaspheming by forgiving sins, He not only claimed this authority for Himself, but also confirmed it with a miracle (Mt 9:6). Thus we see that not only the office, but the (free) authority to forgive sins was with Him – while yet the Lord refuses to delegate it to anyone else! Isa it not God’s power alone to search out and see through the secret thoughts of the heart? But Christ also possessed this power (Mt 9:4), from which again His deity emerges.

The deity of Christ is testified by his miracles

I,13,13 But how brightly it shines also from his miracles! Now, as I readily admit, the prophets and the apostles also performed similar or even the same miracles. But the irreconcilable contrast is that they distributed God’s gifts in their office and ministry, while he let his own power work! To be sure, he sometimes made use of prayer to give glory to the Father, but in most cases we see him uttering his own power. How could he not be the true author of miracles, since by his authority he gives authority to others? For the evangelist records that he gave power to the disciples to raise the dead, to make lepers clean, to cast out devils, etc. (Mt 10:8; Mar 3:15; 6:7). But these fulfilled their office in such a way that it became quite clear: the power came from no one else but Christ. "In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk," says Peter (Acts 3:6). It is therefore not surprising that Christ referred to His miracles to defeat the unbelief of the Jews; for what was done out of His power had to be at the same time a full proof of His deity (John 5:36; 10:37; 14:11). If, furthermore, apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness, no life, and if, on the other hand, Christ has all these things in Himself, then He is certainly proven to be God. But let no one now object to me that life and salvation have passed into him from God. For it is not said that he received salvation, but that he is salvation! And if no one is good but God alone (Mt 19,17), how should a mere man be – not good and just, but – goodness and justice itself? According to the testimony of the evangelist, was not life in him since the beginning of the world, and was he not himself, who was life even then, the light of men? (John 1:4). Therefore, based on such testimonies, we dare to put our faith and hope in him, although we know perfectly well that it is sacrilege and impiety for one to put his trust in the creature! "If you believe in God, believe also in me" he says (John 14,1; not Luther text). Paul also interprets two passages of Isaiah: "He who hopes in Him will not be put to shame" and "From the root of Jesse one will arise to rule the nations; in Him the nations will hope" (Isa 28:16; 11:10; Rom 10:11; 15:12). But why should we continue to cite scriptural testimonies on this, since it is said again and again: "He who believes in me has eternal life"? Thus, the believing invocation, which after all is peculiar to the divine majesty, is also due to him, if anything at all. For it says the prophet, "He that shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 3:6). And again another exclaims, "The name of the Lord is a strong lock; the righteous runneth thither, and is protected" (Prov 18:10). But now the name of Christ is invoked for salvation; and from this it is clear that he is "the Lord." We have an example of such invocation, that of Stephen: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (Acts 7:58). We also have other examples throughout the Church, such as Ananias in the same book when he says: "Lord, you know how much evil this man has done to all the saints, to all who call on your name (Acts 9:13-14). And so that it may be clearly recognized that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily, the apostle confesses that he did not represent any doctrine among the Corinthians but only the knowledge of Christ, that he preached nothing else than this! (1Cor 2:2). Isa it not strange and peculiar that God allows us, who are commanded to boast only of His knowledge (Jer 9:23), to proclaim only the name of the Son? Who would dare to declare Him a mere creature, whose knowledge alone is our glory? In addition, Paul, in the greetings at the beginning of his letters, asks the same blessings from the Son as from the Father. From this follows for us the doctrine that we do not receive what the heavenly Father bestows upon us merely through His intercession for us, but that the Son, by virtue of His participation in power, is Himself the author. This practical knowledge is undoubtedly more certain and reliable than all idle thought. For there the believing soul sees God in complete nearness, grasps him almost with his hands, and experiences that he makes it alive, enlightens it, saves it, justifies it, and sanctifies it!

The divinity of the spirit proves itself in his work

I,13,14 The proof of the deity of the spirit must now be led from the same sources. Without all darkness is the testimony of Moses in the creation story: the spirit had hovered over the abyss or the unformed substance (Gen 1:2). Thereby he shows that not only the beauty of the world, as it is seen now, has its existence through the power of the spirit, but that the spirit already, before all this adornment arose, had preserved the disordered mass. The statement of Isaiah: "And now the Lord sends me, Lord and his Spirit" (Isa 48:16) does not allow any excuses; because he assigns the highest authority in the sending of the prophets also to the spirit, from which his divine majesty shines out. But the best proof comes, as I already said, from familiar experience. For high above all creatures is exalted what the Scriptures ascribe to him and what we ourselves learn in sure experience of piety. For he is present everywhere, sustaining, nourishing, and animating all things in heaven and on earth. He is already taken from the number of creatures by the fact that no boundaries enclose him. But that he pours his power into everything and thereby gives being, life and movement to all things, that is obviously divine. And if, furthermore, the rebirth to imperishable life is higher and much more sublime than all present growing and becoming, how must one judge the spirit from whose power such life comes forth? For that he himself is the author of regeneration, not by transmission, but by his own power, is taught by Scripture in many places. But he is not only the author of rebirth, but also the founder of future immortality. Thus, all the efficacies of the Godhead are attributed to the Spirit, just as they are to the Son, and especially the very peculiar ones. If the Spirit searches the depths of God, who has no advisor among the creatures (1Cor 2:10, 16), if he offers wisdom and the ability to speak (1Cor 12:10), when the Lord told Moses that this was exclusively his work (Ex 4:11), then we reach communion with God through him in such a way that we experience his power as life-giving in us. Our justification is his work, from him comes power, sanctification, truth, grace and whatever good can be conceived. For it is one Spirit from whom all gifts come. Especially the sentence of Paul is worth mentioning here: However manifold the gifts are, however variously and differently they are distributed, "it is one Spirit" (1Cor 12:4). With this he states that the Spirit is not merely the beginning and the source, but really the originator. He expresses this even more clearly shortly after: "But all these things the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every man his own according to his will." (1Cor 12:11). If the Spirit were not a mode of being in God, certainly choice and will would not be attributed to it in any way. Therefore Paul attributes divine power to the spirit with full clarity and shows that it dwells in God as its own entity (hypostatic).

Express testimonies for the deity of the spirit

I,13,15 Also the scripture uses the name "God" when it speaks of the spirit. For Paul concludes that the Spirit dwells in us, that we are a temple of God (1Cor 3:17; 6:19; 2Cor 6:16). We must not be quick to pass over this. For God so often promises that he will choose us as his temple – and fulfills this promise in that the Spirit dwells in us! Augustin is certainly right in his excellent remark: If we were commanded to build a temple for the Spirit out of wood and stone, when such worship is due only to God, that would already be a clear proof of his divinity; but how much clearer it is now that we are not to build a temple for him, but to be a temple ourselves! (Letter 170). The apostle writes once that we are God’s temple, the other time in completely the same sense that we are temples of the Holy Spirit! And when Peter rebuked Ananias for "lying to the Holy Spirit", he said that Ananias "lied not to men but to God" (Acts 5:3f.). And where Isaiah introduces the Lord of hosts speaking (Isa 6:9), Paul teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who speaks. (Acts 28:25 s.). In general, where the prophets repeatedly say that the words they spoke were those of the Lord of hosts, Jesus and the apostles refer to the Holy Spirit. Also from this it is clear that he is truly "the Lord" (Jehovah), who is the supreme author of all prophecy. On the other hand, when God complains that He is challenged by the people’s stubbornness, Isaiah says that His Holy Spirit has been grieved (Isa 63:10). And if finally the blasphemy of the spirit is not to be forgiven neither in this world nor in the future, while he who blasphemes the Son can receive forgiveness (Mt 12:31; Mar 3:29; Lk. 12:10), then this is also a clear expression of the divine majesty of the spirit, which to violate or touch is an unforgivable sacrilege. With full intention I pass over many testimonies that the ancients mentioned here. To them it seemed appropriate to cite here, for example, the Ps passage: "the heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all their host by the spirit of his mouth" (Ps 33:6), in order to prove that the world is as much the work of the Holy Spirit as that of the Son. But since it is common in the Psalms to say the same thing twice, and since further in Isaiah "spirit of his mouth" means as much as "word" (Isa 11:4), this seems to me a weak point of proof. I wanted to touch therefore only briefly that on which the pious sense can support itself with certainty.

The unit

I,13,16 Just as God revealed Himself more clearly in the coming of Christ, He also made Himself known there more intimately in the three persons. From the many testimonies of this, one may suffice for us: Paul connects these three: God, faith and baptism (Eph 4:5) in such a way that he concludes from one to the other: because there is faith, it proves that there is a God, and because there is baptism, it shows that there is also faith. If, therefore, we are introduced by baptism into the faith in the one God and his worship, we must necessarily recognize as the true God the one in whose name we are baptized. And when Christ said, "Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," he meant by such a solemn formula to testify without doubt that the light of faith was already fully revealed. For this formula means as much as the demand of baptism in the name of the one God, who appeared in full clarity in the Father, in the Son, and in the Spirit; and from this it clearly follows that in God’s being there are three persons, in whom the one God is recognized! And since faith should not look around in all directions, but should look to the one God, cling to him and remain in him, if there were several faiths, there would have to be several gods. But because the sacrament of faith is baptism, it assures us of the unity of God, because it is one baptism! It also follows that one may only be baptized into one God, for we are to believe in the one in whose name we are baptized. So when Christ commanded that baptism should be in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, what else could he have in mind than that we should believe with one faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? But if this was so, what else did he want than to testify clearly that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are the one God? If it remains that God is one and not many, then word and spirit can be nothing else than God’s being itself! And therefore it was especially foolish and unseemly when the Arians confessed the deity of Christ, but wanted to deny him God’s essence (basic being)! A quite similar delusion drove the Macedonians, if they meant, by the spirit only the gifts of grace flowing to the people are to be understood. For as wisdom, understanding, power and fear of the Lord come from him, so he himself is the one Spirit of wisdom, prudence, power and godliness. Neither is he himself divided according to the distribution of his gifts; but as variously as the gifts are divided, he always remains one and the same, as the apostle says (1Cor 12:11).

The trinity

I,13,17 But on the other hand, the Scriptures also establish a certain difference of the Father from the Word and of the Word from the Spirit. The depth of the mystery itself, however, admonishes us to proceed with the greatest reverence and prudence in considering this difference. I particularly like the words of Gregory of Nazianzus: "I am not able to think one without being immediately surrounded by the three; and I cannot separate the three without returning to the one." (Gregory of Nazianzus, Of Holy Baptism). We too must not understand the Trinity of Persons in such a way that our thoughts are thereby divided and separated, and are not rather immediately led back to unity. Certainly the names "Father", "Son" and "Spirit" already mean a real distinction, and one should not think that they are to be understood as mere epithets, which designate God according to his different effects. But it is a matter of distinction and not of divorce. That he, the Son, possesses a distinct peculiarity (proprietas) from the Father is shown to us by the passages already cited. For the Word would not be "with" God if it did not differ from the Father, nor would it then have its glory "with" the Father. Likewise, the Son makes a distinction between Himself and the Father when He says, "There is another who testifies for me" (John 5:32; 8:16 and others). The sentence that occurs elsewhere also belongs to this series: the Father created everything through the word (Hebr 11:3); because also here a distinction is presupposed. Also, it was not the Father who came to earth, but the one who came forth from the Father. It was not the Father who died and rose again, but the one whom he sent. But this distinction does not begin with the incarnation, but it is testified that the only begotten was already before in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). For who would dare to claim that the Son only entered the bosom of the Father when He came down from heaven and became man? He was already before in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18) and had His glory with the Father (John 17:5). The distinction of the Holy Spirit from the Father is indicated by Christ when He says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 14:26; 15:26); often He also distinguishes Him from Himself, for example when He says: "I will send you another Comforter" (John 14,16), but also in other places.

The difference of Father, Son and Spirit

I,13,18 In order to mark this distinction more closely, one has sometimes borrowed similarities from human relations. But I do not know if anything comes out of it. The ancients also do this sometimes; but they admit at the same time that there is a great difference between thing and image. That is why I shy away from any boldness here; it might be too easy for something thoughtlessly put forward to cause the wicked to revile and the weak to err! However, it does not behoove us to conceal the kind of distinction which we find indicated in Scripture. But this consists in the following: to the Father is ascribed the beginning of activity, he is the source and fountain of all things, to the Son belongs wisdom, counsel and orderly distribution, to the Spirit the power and effectiveness in action. Furthermore, the eternity of the Father is also that of the Son and the Spirit – for God could never be without wisdom and power, and in eternity, on the other hand, no before and after can be found. But nevertheless it is by no means an empty or superfluous order sequence, if the Father is considered as the first, then the Son follows from him, and then from both the spirit. For every man’s heart naturally tends to consider the Father first, then the wisdom springing from him, and then finally the power by which he carries out his counsels. For this reason it is said that the Son has his being only through the Father, the Spirit through the Father and the Son together. So we find it in many scriptural passages; but nowhere clearer than in Romans 8, where the same Spirit is once called the Spirit of Christ and then again the Spirit of Him "who raised Christ from the dead" (Rom 8:9). And rightly so. Peter also testifies that it was Christ’s spirit in which the prophets prophesied (1Pet 1:11), when the Scriptures so often teach that it was the spirit of the Father.

The relationship between Father, Son and Spirit

I,13,19 But this distinction does not detract from the full unity of God. On the contrary, it can be proven that the Son is one God with the Father, because he also has the one Spirit at the same time, but that the Spirit is not something else, separated from the Father and the Son, because he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son! For by each individual person (hypostasis) the whole (divine) nature is understood, together with that which belongs to each as peculiarity. The Father is wholly in the Son, the Son wholly in the Father, as He Himself says: "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me" (John 14:10), and the ecclesiastical writers do not admit that the one is separated from the other by any difference in essence. "By the names which pertain to a distinction," says Augustine, "their mutual relation is signified, but not the fundamental being (substantia), in which they are yet one." (Augustine, Letter 238). In this sense the statements of the ancients must be seen together – otherwise they would have to give the impression of being appreciably opposed to each other. For sometimes they say that the Father is the origin of the Son, sometimes they insist that the Son has his divinity and his being from himself, that he is therefore a beginning with the Father (Augustin, Letter 238 and on Ps 109,13). The reason for this difference is clearly explained by Augustin in another place: "Christ is called God in and for himself, but in his relation to the Father he is called Son. And on the other hand: the Father is called God in and for himself, but Father in his relation to the Son. Therefore, if He is called Father to the Son, He is not the Son, and if the Son is called Son to the Father, He is not the Father; but He who is called Father in and of Himself, and He who is called Son in and of Himself, He is the same God!" (Augustine on Ps 68). If, then, we speak of the Son as such, without regard to the Father, we can rightly and truly say that he is of himself, and so we can call him the only origin; but if we consider his relation to the Father, we rightly say that the Father is the origin of the Son. The unfolding of these thoughts forms the content of the fifth book in Augustine’s work "Of the Trinity". In any case, it is much safer to remain with the determination of the relationship that he gives than to penetrate more deeply into this sublime mystery and then lose oneself in all kinds of empty thought play.

The Triune God

I,13,20 So then, those who wish to be sober of heart and satisfied with the measure of faith, may briefly note what is useful to know. Namely, when we profess to believe in one God, "God" is understood to be the one and simple being in whom we conceive three persons or hypostases. If God’s name is used without further definition, the Son and the Spirit are meant no less than the Father. If next to the Father the Son steps, then the relation (relatio) is to be considered, and thus we distinguish between the persons. But now the peculiarities (proprietates) of the persons stand among themselves in a certain order, so that the Father is beginning and origin. Therefore, where the Father and the Son or also the Spirit are called together, the name "God" is attached in a special way to the Father. Thus the unity of the essence is maintained and the order is preserved; but this does not take anything away from the divinity of the Son and the Spirit. And since, as we have seen above, the apostles maintain that the Son of God was the one to whom the prophets testified as "the Lord," it is certainly necessary always to return to the unity of essence. Therefore it is a detestable sacrilege for us to say that the Son is a God different from the Father. For the simple name "God" does not allow any determination of relationship, one can also not say that God is this or that in relation to himself. That the name "the Lord" (Jehovah), if it is not designated in more detail, also belongs to Christ, is also evident from Paul’s words: Therefore I have asked the Lord three times" – because after he has reported Christ’s answer: "Be content with my grace", he immediately adds: "… that the power of Christ may dwell with me …" (2Cor 12:9). There the name "Lord" is clearly put for "Jehovah", and so it would be careless and childish to limit it to the person of the mediator; for it is a speech without any thought of an (inner-divine) relation (absolute); a comparison between the Father and the Son therefore does not take place. And from the custom of the Greeks we know also that the apostles sometimes put the name "Kyrios" (Lord) for "Jehovah". Not to bring an example from far away: When Paul prayed to "the Lord," it was in the same sense as Peter cites the Joel passage: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:16; Joel 3:5). Where this name ("Lord") is attached in a special way to the Son alone, there is a different meaning to it, as will be shown elsewhere. Now we only want to note: Paul, after he has prayed to God without further specification, immediately adds Christ’s name. Thus Christ also calls God completely "spirit" (John 4:24). For there is nothing to prevent the whole being of God from being spiritual – since Father, Son and Spirit are comprehended in Him. This is also confirmed by the Scriptures; for as we hear God called "spirit" here, so we also hear how the spirit, since and insofar as it is a "person" (hypostasis) of the whole being, is said to be God’s spirit and to come from God.

 The reason of all false teachings – a warning to all!

I,13,21 Now the devil, in order to root out our faith, has at all times stirred up tremendous disputes about the divine nature of the Son and the Spirit on the one hand, and about the distinction of the persons on the other. And just as in almost all centuries he has stirred up ungodly men to plague through them the orthodox teachers on this point, so also today he tries to kindle a new fire from old sparks. Therefore, however, it is worth the effort here to counter the twisted delusion of some of these people. In the previous presentation, the main intention was to guide docile people by hand, but not to argue with stiff-necked and quarrelsome ones. Now, however, the truth, which has been presented calmly, must be defended against all the vituperation of the ungodly. Of course, it is most important to me that those who gladly open their ears to the word of God have a foundation on which to stand. If, in view of the hidden mysteries of Scripture, prudence and moderation are needed in contemplation anywhere, this is especially true here. It also requires a great deal of caution that thought or language does not go further than God’s Word allows us to go. How should the spirit of man want to measure God’s immeasurable being according to his measure, when he cannot even determine with certainty what kind of body the sun is – which he sees with his eyes every day! Or how should he independently come to investigate God’s basic nature, when he does not know his own in the least? Therefore we want to leave the knowledge of God to him. For, according to the words of Hilarius, he alone is a fully valid witness for himself, and he can be known only through himself. But we proceed according to this insight, if we regard him as he has revealed himself to us, and do not look for information about him in any other place than in his word. Thus there are five sermons of Chrysostom on this subject against the Anhomoians; but even these were not able to restrain the presumptuousness of the sophists and to put a bridle on their garrulity. For they did not behave more modestly here than they usually do. But we should learn from the hopeless consequences of such presumption to develop more eagerness to learn than perspicacity in this matter and, above all, not to let it occur to us to seek God anywhere else than only in his holy word, or to think anything about him than only under the guidance of his word, or to speak anything than only what comes from his word. The distinction between Father, Son, and Spirit within the one Godhead, which is very difficult to discern, has caused some spirits more trouble and complaint than has been useful; therefore, let us remember that the human spirit runs into a maze when it abandons itself to its own curiosity, and let us be guided by the heavenly words of revelation, since we cannot comprehend the depth of the mystery.

Servet’s Denial of the Trinity

I,13,22 It would go too far and only cause useless weariness to enumerate all the errors with which the integrity of faith has ever been challenged in this main part of doctrine. Many of the originators of heresy, with their gross delusion, have attempted to nullify God’s glory altogether, so that they contented themselves with shaking or confusing the uninitiated. Soon, however, entire sects sprang up from individual people, some of whom wanted to tear apart God’s essence and others to blur the distinction between the persons. But if we now hold fast what has been sufficiently proved above from the Scriptures, namely, that the essence of the one God is simple and indivisible, and that it belongs (equally) to the Father, the Son and the Spirit, that in turn the Father differs from the Son and the Son from the Spirit by a certain peculiarity – then the entrance is barred to Arius and Sabellius and all earlier false teachers. But in our time some deceivers like Servet and his kind have appeared and have tried to confuse everything with new deceptions, and therefore it is worth the trouble to examine their deceptions briefly. Servet hated the term "Trinity" so much, even abhorred it, that he called us all "Trinitarians" and as such declared us to be atheists. I will pass over the invectives he came up with. The main content of his speculations was this: Where one spoke of the existence of three persons in God’s being, one would have brought up a three-part God, and this trinity would be pure imagination, since it would violate the unity of God. According to his view, the persons were certain external ideas, which did not really exist in God’s being, but should only represent God in this or that relation. In the beginning there had been no distinction in God, because in former times word and spirit had been the same; but since Christ as God had gone out from God, another spirit, also as God, had come out from God. Sometimes he dresses up his silliness with allegories. Thus he says that the eternal word of God was the eternal spirit of Christ with God and a reflection of the idea. Or also: the spirit had been the shadow of the Godhead. Shortly thereafter, however, he then nullifies both Godhead and claims that according to the measure of the (divine) distribution in the Son as well as in the Spirit there was a part of God, just as the same Spirit according to its basic nature is present in us and also in wood and stone as a part of God. What he prattles on about the person of the mediator, we will see on occasion. His mad invention that person means nothing else than a visible figure of the glory of God does not need a long refutation. For when John says that the Logos (the Word) was already God before the creation of the world, he means something completely different than an idea or a visible form (John 1:1). But if the Logos, who was God after all, was already then and since all eternity with the Father and had his own glory with the Father (John 17:5), then he could not be an external and depicting appearance, but must rather be a hypostasis, a way of being, which dwelt in God. And although the spirit is only mentioned at the creation of the world, it does not appear there as a shadow, but as the essential power of God, as Moses also reports that it hovered around and carried this unformed mass (Gen 1:2). That the eternal spirit has always been in God, that appears in the fact that he cared for the tangled material of heaven and earth until beauty and order came into it. At that time there could certainly not yet be an image, not even a representation of God, as Servet dreams. In another place his godlessness comes to light even more openly when he claims that God revealed himself visibly by choosing a visible son according to his eternal counsel. For if this were true, then Christ’s divinity would only consist in the fact that he had been determined to be a son by God’s eternal counsel. In addition, he transforms the ghosts, which he substitutes for the persons, in such a way that he is not afraid to impute new attributes to God. But most abominable of all is that he mixes up the Son and the Spirit of God with all creatures. For he claims that these are parts or divisions in the essence of God, each of which is a part of God; above all, the spirits of the faithful are of the same eternity and the same basic essence as God, just as he elsewhere ascribes essential divinity to the soul of man and also to other created things.

The Son is God like the Father

I,13,23 From this swamp then another, similar monster has risen. For some evil-doers, who wanted to escape the contempt and disgrace of Servet’s madness, have indeed confessed that there are three persons, but then added as reason: because the Father, who alone is really and actually God, created the Son and the Spirit and thereby let his divinity overflow onto them! They did not even avoid the dreadful expression that the Father is distinguished from the Son and the Spirit by the fact that he is the essentiator. They try to give prestige to their cause by saying that Christ is consistently called the Son of God, and from this they conclude that in the true sense only the Father is God! Thereby they completely miss the facts. For the name of God, which is common to the Father and the Son, is occasionally given to the Father in a special way only because he is the source and beginning of the Godhead, in order that the indivisible unity of the essence may be emphasized. They also say that if Christ is really the Son of God, it is absurd to consider Him as the Son of a "person" (namely: of the Father!). I answer: it is both true. For he is the Son of God, because he is begotten of the Father as the Word from eternity – for I am not yet speaking of him as the mediator. But for the sake of understanding, attention must also be paid to the person: the name "God" (in the statement "Son of God") is therefore not used here generally, but instead of "Father." For if we were to acknowledge none other than God as the Father, the Son would be manifestly deprived of this dignity! Where, therefore, the Godhead is mentioned, a comparison between Son and Father is not appropriate in the least, for instance in the sense as if the name "true God" would belong to the Father alone. For certainly the God who appeared to Isaiah was the true and only God (Isa 6:1), and yet John claims that it was Christ (John 12:41). And the one who proclaimed through the mouth of Isaiah that he would be a stumbling block to the Jews (Isa 8,14) was the one God – and yet Paul proclaims that it was Christ! (Rom 9:33). When he exclaims through Isaiah: "I live! And to me all knees shall bow …" (Isaiah 45:23), He is the one God, and yet Paul applies the passage to Christ (Rom 14:11). Add to this the testimonies cited by another apostle (Hebr 1:10), "You, God, have founded heaven and earth" (Ps 102:26) and "Let all the angels of God worship Him" (Ps 97:7). These both refer to the one God alone, and yet the apostle claims that they are actual praises of Christ. The excuse that what is proper to God is transferred to Christ, because he is the reflection of his glory, can do nothing against this. For since the name "the Lord" is written everywhere, it follows that he is of himself with respect to his divinity. If he is "the Lord", then it cannot be denied that he is the same God, who proclaims through Isaiah in another place: "It is I, I, and there is no God besides me! (Isa 44:6). The saying of Jeremiah is also to be noted: "The gods who did not make heaven and earth, let them disappear from the earth that is under heaven" (Jer 10:11). On the other hand, one will have to admit that the one whose deity is proved several times in Isaiah from the creation of the world is God’s son. How should also the Creator, who gives being to everything, not be of himself, but have to borrow his being from elsewhere? For he who claims that the Son received the essence from the Father denies that he is of himself. But this is precisely what the Holy Spirit claims for Him by calling Him "the Lord." For if we were to assume that all divine essence is in the Father alone, we would either have to consider this divisible or deny it to the Son, who, deprived of his essence, would then be God only in name. The essence of God, according to the opinion of those chatterers, belongs only to the father, as far as he alone has essence and gives the essence to the son. Thus the Godhead of the son would be something derived from God or the separation of a part from the whole. But now they must admit from their principle that the Spirit is only the Spirit of the Father; for if it is a derivation from the actual essence, which is only proper to the Father, it cannot rightly be held to be the Spirit of the Son. But Paul rejects this in the passage where he calls it the spirit of the Father and at the same time the spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9). If one takes the person of the Father out of the Trinity in this way, then he must be sharply distinguished from the Son and the Spirit; and in what should the difference then finally occur other than in the fact that he alone would be true God? One admits that Christ is God, and yet claims that he differs (as to his divinity) from the Father. On the other hand, there must also be a characteristic for the distinction, so that the Father is not the Son. Whoever seeks this in the essence itself obviously nullifies Christ’s true deity. For without the essence, and indeed the whole essence, it cannot exist. The Father would not be distinguished from the Son at all, if he did not have something of his own, in which the Son has no part. How then is one to distinguish? If the distinction lies in the essence, then one should answer whether he has not communicated the essence to the son. But this could not be done partially, because it would be sacrilege to imagine a halved God. In such a way one would have torn God’s being meanly. Therefore it remains only that the being was whole and indestructible common to the father and the son. But then, as far as the essence is concerned, there is no difference between father and son. If, on the other hand, one objects that the Father, by giving the essence to the Son, still remains the one God who has the essence, then one makes Christ a mere apparent God, who is so in name, but not in reality: for nothing is so peculiar to God as the essence, as it is written: "The Being sent me to you" (Ex 3:14).

The name "God" in Scripture does not refer to the Father alone

I,13,24 The assertion of the opponents, that as often as the Scripture mentions "God" in a bad way, the Father is meant exclusively, can easily be refuted from many passages; but they show their thoughtlessness also in the passages which they cite for themselves. For there the name of the Son is expressly added, and this very fact shows that the name "God" in this case occurs (not par excellence, but) in a relation, and is therefore confined to the person of the Father (see also section 20 of this chapter). But their contradiction is to be silenced by a single word. "If the Father alone were not true God, he would indeed be his own Father," they say. Now there is nothing inconsistent in the fact that, according to the order and sequence, the Father is called "God" in a special way, since he not only begat his wisdom from himself, but is also the God of the Mediator, as will be shown in more detail. For since Christ was revealed in the flesh, He is called "Son of God" not only because He was begotten of the Father from eternity as the eternal Word, but precisely because He had assumed the person and office of Mediator in order to unite us with God. And if these people in their presumption exclude Christ from God’s glory, I would like to know if Christ does not then also deny himself the quality of being good, when he says that no one is good except the one God (Mt 19,17). I am not talking here about his human nature – they could otherwise say that it flowed to him as a free gift of God, which was good in this. No, I am asking whether the eternal Word of God is good or not. If they deny it, their ungodliness is indisputable; if they admit it, they destroy themselves. But that Christ at first sight seems to reject the designation "good" from himself confirms our conviction. For if he was saluted in the ordinary way as "good," which is, after all, a praise due to God alone, and if he then rejects such false honor – he himself points out that the goodness which he possesses is divine! I ask further, does Paul’s declaring God to be the only immortal, wise and true (1Tim 1:17) place Christ in the ranks of the mortal, unwise and untruthful? He should not be immortal who was life from the beginning and gave immortality to the angels? He should not be wise, who is God’s eternal wisdom? He should not be truthful, who is truth itself? I further ask the question whether those people are of the opinion that Christ is to be worshipped. For if he himself claims this right, that "every knee should bow to him" (Phil 2:10), it follows that he is the God who has forbidden in the law to worship anyone else but him alone. If they only want to apply to the Father what is written in Isaiah: "I am he, and there is none besides me" (Isa 44:6), then I apply this testimony against themselves, since we see how the apostle attributes to Christ what belongs to God! Their objection that Christ was exalted in the flesh, in which he had emptied himself, and that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to him after the flesh, is also senseless. For it is true that the majesty of the King and of the Judge takes hold of the whole person of the Mediator; but if God had not revealed Himself in Him in the flesh, He could not be exalted to such a height without God contradicting Himself! Paul puts an end to this dispute when he teaches that he was equal with God before he humbled himself in the likeness of a servant (Phil 2:6 s.). But how could this equality exist if he had not been the God who is called "Jah" and "Jehovah", who rides above the cherubim, who is king over all the earth and king forever? However much they may resist, one cannot deny to Christ what Isaiah says elsewhere, "Behold, this is our God, in whom we wait" (Isa 25:9); for in these words the prophet describes the coming of the Redeemer, who was not only to deliver the people from Babylonian captivity, but to restore his Church in every way. Nor do the opponents accomplish anything by the other subterfuge: that Christ was God merely in His Father. We admit, to be sure, that according to order and sequence the beginning of the Godhead is in the Father. But we declare it an abominable fiction to say that the divine essence is only in the Father, as if he had made the Son God. (filii deificator esset). For in this way the divine essence would be manifold, or else Christ would be God only in name and imagination! If they admit that Christ is God, but only second to the Father and through him, then in him the being, which is uncreated and unformed in the Father, would be created and formed. I know that many have their mockery about the fact that we take a distinction of the persons from Moses’ words, when God speaks thus: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …" (Gen 1:26). But every pious reader will understand how tasteless and inappropriate this (divine) soliloquy in Moses would be, if not in God several persons would have their existence. For those, whom the father addresses, must necessarily have been uncreated; but apart from God, and that is the one, there is nothing uncreated. But if they did not admit that the power of creation and the authority of command were shared by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, then it would follow that God did not speak in this way in Himself, but addressed the word to other masters of works apart from Him. Finally, one passage will easily invalidate two of their objections at the same time. For the word of Christ Himself: "God is spirit" (John 4:24) is impossible to limit to the Father alone, as if the word was not of spiritual essence! If therefore the name "spirit" is given to the Son as well as to the Father, then consequently the Son is also meant in the term "God", which is not further defined. Immediately afterwards Christ says that only those are recognized as true worshipers of God who "worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). From this follows as a further consequence: If the Son exercises the office of the teacher under the head (the Father!), then he attributes the name "God" to the Father, not in order to dismiss his own divinity, but in order to raise us step by step to it.

The divine essence is common to all three persons

I,13,25 The error of our opponents consists in the fact that one dreams of three single beings in God, each of which would have a part of the (divine) essence. But from the Scriptures we teach that God is one according to His essence and that therefore the essence of the Son and the Spirit is unbegotten. Admittedly, as far as the Father is the first according to the order and begets his wisdom out of himself, he is called, as we already said above, rightly the beginning and source of the Godhead. Thus God – without closer determination – is unbegotten, and the father also with regard to his person unbegotten. In their folly they think they can conclude from our sentence the assumption of a fourfoldness, because they falsely and blasphemously impute to us the image of their brain, as if we thought that the three persons emerged in the way of a derivation from the one being (which would then be a fourth!). And it is clear from our writings that we do not derive the persons from the essence, but set a distinction, since they are based in the essence. If the persons were separated from the essence, the opposing opinion would be understandable; but then it would be a matter of a trinity of gods, but not of persons, which the one God embraces in himself. In this way, their question, in bad taste, whether the divine essence contributes to the formation of the Trinity, disappears, as if we imagined that three Gods come from the essence. When they say that this is a Trinity without God, it is from the same nonsense; for although the divine essence does not come to the distinction as a part or member, yet the persons are neither without this essence, nor outside of it: the Father could not be the Father if he were not God, and the Son is the Son only by being God. The Godhead par excellence is of itself, and thus we confess that the Son as God, apart from the person, is of himself, but that as Son he is from the Father. Thus his being has no beginning, but his person has its beginning in God himself. Thus also the orthodox writers, who formerly spoke about the Trinity, refer this concept exclusively to the persons; for it would be absurd, gross, and ungodly to make the essence itself the object of a distinction. Therefore, whoever thinks that the three act together: the (divine) Being, the Son and the Spirit, obviously nullifies the divine Being of the Son and the Spirit themselves! Otherwise the "parts" would have to be mixed with each other and would have to coincide (so to say all merge in the "essence"!) – but with that all distinction would be null and void! If finally "Father" and "God" would be synonymous terms, the Father therefore would be the God-creator (deificator), then nothing would remain in the Son but a shadow, and the whole Trinity would be nothing else than the union of God with – two created things!

The subordination of the Word made flesh to the Father is not a proof to the contrary

I,13,26 The objection that Christ, if he is God in the true sense, is wrongly called t he Son of God, has already been answered: Where one person is compared with another, the name "God" is not used generally, par excellence, but limited to the Father, because he is the beginning of the Godhead, not – as the enthusiasts prate – according to his essence, but according to the order. In this sense Christ’s address to the Father is to be understood: "This is eternal life, that they may know you, who alone are true God, and whom you have sent…". (John 17:3). For when he speaks as the mediator, he stands in the middle between God and men – but his majesty is not diminished by this. For although he has emptied himself, he has not lost his glory, which was hidden from the world, with the Father. So also the author of the letter to the Hebrews, although he confesses that Christ was humbled under the angels for a time (Hebr 2:7.9), is not afraid to claim at the same time that he is the eternal God who founded the earth (Hebr 1:10). So we have to keep in mind: as often as Christ addresses the Father as our mediator, he understands by the name "God" the deity that also belongs to him. When he says to the apostles: "It is good that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I" (John 16:7; 14:28), he does not ascribe to himself a kind of "secondary deity", as if he were also inferior to the Father with regard to the eternal deity, but he says it because he, in possession of his heavenly glory, also leads the faithful to participate in this glory. He gives the Father the higher place insofar as the visible perfection of splendor that appears in heaven differs from the measure of glory that was seen in Him in His fleshly form. In this sense, Paul also says that Christ will restore the kingdom to God and the Father, so that God may be all in all (1Cor 15:24). There is nothing more absurd than to deny the everlasting existence of the divinity of Christ. For he will never cease to be the Son of God, and he will always remain who he was from the beginning; from this it follows that here by the "Father" is to be understood the one being of God, which is common to the Father and the Son. And Christ certainly came to earth so that he might not only draw us to the Father, but at the same time to himself, for he is one with the Father. But to limit the name "God" to the Father and to take it away from the Son is neither allowed nor right. For when John says that He is true God (John 1:1), he also wanted to avoid that someone thought that He was on a second level of deity under the Father. I also cannot imagine what these creators of new gods actually think when they on the one hand confess that Christ is true God – and then exclude him from the deity of the Father, as if one would be true God who is not the one, and as if a transferred deity would not be a new mirage!

The opponents erroneously refer to Irenaeus

I,13,27 Now the opponents of the trinity doctrine heap a lot of passages from Irenaeus, where he claims that the father of Jesus Christ is the one, eternal God of Israel. But this happens out of shameful ignorance or highest godlessness. For they should have noticed that this righteous man had to deal and argue with swindlers who claimed that not the Father of Christ was the God who had once spoken through Moses and the prophets, but I don’t know what kind of ghost sprung from the decay of the world. Therefore, his whole effort consists in showing that no other God is proclaimed in the Scriptures than the Father of Christ, and that it is nonsense to imagine another. For this reason it is not surprising that he so often states that the God of Israel is none other than the one whom Christ and the apostles glorified! Thus, even now, when we have to confront the opposite error, we will say in truth that the God who once appeared to the fathers was none other than Christ. And if someone then wants to object that it was the Father, we will answer him immediately: if we fight for Christ’s divinity, we do not exclude that of the Father in the least. If the reader pays attention to the stated intention of Irenaeus, all dispute will cease. But also from the sixth chapter of the third book the dispute is easily settled: for there the pious man emphatically states one thing: The true, one God is the one who is called God in Scripture par excellence and without further definition – but Christ is called God par excellence. But let us remember that this was the main point of the discussion – as is clear from the whole train of thought and especially from the 46th chapter of the second book: namely, that the Scriptures do not call the Father figuratively or by simile as if He were not God in reality. He also asserts that the Son and the Father are called "God" together by the prophets and apostles (Book III, ch. 9). Then he explains how Christ, who is Lord, King, God and Judge over all, received his power from him who is God over all – of course with regard to his humiliation, because he was humbled to death on the cross (book III, chapter 12). Shortly thereafter, however, he claims that the Son is the Creator of heaven and earth, who gave the law by Moses’ hand and appeared to the fathers (Book III, chap. 15). If even now someone is still chattering that for Irenaeus the God of Israel is the Father alone, then I will counter him with what the same writer openly teaches, namely that the same also applies to Jesus Christ – as Irenaeus also refers to him the prophecy of Habakkuk: "God will come from the south." (Hab. 3:3; Irenaeus Book III, chs. 16 and 20). To this also belongs what one can read in the ninth chapter of the fourth book: He, Christ is with the Father the one God of the living. And in the twelfth chapter of the same book he states that Abraham believed God, because Christ is the creator of heaven and earth and the one God!

The appeal to Tertullian does not work either

I,13,28 Nor do they truthfully make Tertullian their patron. For although he is at times rough and confused in his manner of speaking, he puts forward the main content of the doctrine we are defending here quite clearly: namely, that there is one God, and yet according to a certain order his word is there, that he is one God through the unity of the fundamental being (substantia), and yet that unity in the mystery of its operation orders itself to the Trinity. Three, he says, are not according to status but according to degree, not according to substance but according to form, not according to power but according to the number of persons. Although he claims to defend that the Son is inferior to the Father, he does not therefore regard him as another, but only makes a distinction. Occasionally he calls the Son visible; but after speaking for and against, he nevertheless concludes that he is invisible, inasmuch as he is the Word. Finally, he states that the Father is determined by his own person, thus proving how far he is from the idea we are fighting here. Certainly: he recognizes no other God than the Father. But immediately afterwards he sets forth his own opinion and shows that he does not exclude the Son; for he denies that he is a God distinct from the Father, and thus shows that the monarchy of God is preserved by the distinction of the Persons. But one can see the meaning of his words from the permanent intention he pursues. For he fights against Praxeas and asserts to him: even if God is distinguished into three persons, this does not give rise to several gods, and the unity of God is not torn asunder. And because according to the phantasm of Praxeas Christ could be God only if he would be the Father at the same time, Tertullian takes such trouble with the distinction. That he calls the Word and the Spirit parts of the whole is a harsh way of speaking, but at least excusable. For, according to his own testimony, he does not refer this expression to the basic being (ad substantiam), but only wants to designate an arrangement and form of action (dispensatio), which belongs to the individual persons. Hence comes also the word: "You twisted Praxeas, how many ’persons’ are there actually according to your opinion? Are there not as many as there are names?" Or similarly shortly after: "One should believe in the Father and the Son, in each in his name and person." With these explanations one can, in my opinion, sufficiently counter such people who in their impudence try to deceive simple-minded people with the authority of Tertullian.

All recognized church teachers confirm the doctrine of the Trinity

I,13,29 Whoever carefully compares the writings of the ancients among themselves will certainly find nothing different in Irenaeus than in the others who came after him. Justinus is one of the oldest teachers of the Church; he agrees with us in all points. The objection is made that in him, as in the others, the Father of Christ is called the one God. But Hilarius also says the same thing; indeed, he uses the harsh expression that eternity is in the Father. But does he want to deny the nature of God to the Son? He stands completely in defense of the faith we profess! But nevertheless there are people who are not ashamed to pick up who knows what torn apart sayings in order to prove that Hilarius is a patron saint of their error! One wants to claim Ignatius for oneself. But if one wants that any value is put on it, then one must first prove that the apostles had given a law about the forty-day fasting or similar errors. Nothing is more shameful than the gibberish that has come out under the name of Ignatius. But the more unbearable is the shamelessness of such people, who use such larvae for trudge! The agreement of the ancients is already clear from the fact that at the Council of Nicaea Arius did not dare to hide behind the authority of any recognized writer, and that none of the Greeks or Latins excuses himself for deviating from the ancients. It needs no elaboration how carefully Augustin, whom these windbags hate above all things, searched the writings of all the Fathers, how reverently he treated them! He is in the habit of stating with the slightest hesitation why he is compelled to deviate from them. Nor does he conceal it at all if he has found something ambiguous or dark in others in this question. But as far as the doctrine is concerned, which these people want to dispute, he assumes as generally known that it has existed without dispute since the oldest times. And that it was not hidden from him what others had taught before him is already evident from a single word: he says in one place that in the Father there is unity (Of Christian Instruction, Book I). Does one want to yelp that he has forgotten himself (with this formula)? But in another place he clears himself of this reproach, when he calls the Father the beginning of the whole Godhead, because he owes his existence to no one; at the same time he wisely considers that the name "God" is attached to the Father in a special way, since the simple unity of God cannot be understood, if one does not make the beginning with him. From all this, I hope the pious reader will now see how all the vituperations with which the devil has hitherto sought to pervert and obscure the purity of our faith are nullified. In short, I hope to have faithfully presented the main content of this doctrine – only readers must keep their curiosity in check, lest they become unduly involved in tedious and convoluted disputes. For he who delights in intemperate speculation – to satisfy him is not my office. In any case, I have not passed over anything with cunning that I thought might stand against me. However, since I am striving to build up the church, it seemed advisable to me not to touch on many things that would have been of little use and would only have burdened the readers with superfluous trouble. For example, what is the use of arguing about whether the Father still begets the Son? For it is foolish to invent a perpetual generation, now that it is clear that in God from eternity there have been three persons!

Chapter Fourteen

Already at the creation of the world and all things, according to the Scriptures, the true God is distinguished from the idols by clear characteristics.

We cannot and should not go behind God’s act of creation with our thoughts

I,14,1 Isaiah rightly accuses the idolaters of thoughtlessness, that they had not (already) learned from the foundations of the earth and the periphery of heaven, who the true God is (Isa 40:21). But because our mind is so sluggish and dull, God had to be presented even more clearly to the believers, so that they would not fall for the inventions of the pagans. Because the description of the nature of God, which is still considered the most tolerable by the philosophers, namely: God is the soul of the world, is a hollow speech, and therefore a more familiar knowledge is all the more necessary, so that we do not always waver uncertainly to and fro. That is why God has given us the story of creation: based on it, the faith of the church should seek no other God than the one Moses proclaims as creator and founder of the world. There, first of all, time is designated, so that believers can go back through the uninterrupted series of years to the origin of all things. Such knowledge is useful: it can be used to counter those adventurous fables that are widespread in Egypt and other parts of the world – and even more so God’s eternity shines out brighter and draws us even more to admiration when we realize that the world had a beginning. Not worthy of consideration is the common scorn that it is astonishing that it would not have occurred to God sooner to create heaven and earth, but that he would have let an immeasurable period of time pass idly, when he could have brought forth everything many millennia before – and yet the world, which is already approaching its end, has hardly reached six thousand years! For the question, why God waited so long with it, is neither permitted, nor of any importance. If our intellect wanted to advance there, it would have to stumble a hundred times on the way. It is also of no use to recognize what God intentionally let be hidden in order to put the modesty of our faith to the test. It was already insightful, if once an old man to the mocking question, what then God had done before creation of the world, gave the answer, there he had made hell for rash people! This just as serious as strict admonition may tame the carelessness which tickles some people and drives to wrong and harmful thought-games (speculations)! Finally, we should also consider that God, who is invisible and whose wisdom, power and justice are incomprehensible, holds up to us the (creation) story in Moses as a mirror in which his living image appears. For just as the eyes, when they are weakened by age or dulled by illness, can no longer see anything without glasses, so we in our weakness inevitably go astray unless the Scriptures guide us when we seek God. But whoever does not want to be warned now and gives himself over to his desires, will realize too late in terrible ruin how much better it would have been to look at God’s secret counsels with reverence than to put invectives into the world and thus darken heaven. Augustin rightly complains that God is wronged when one seeks a higher reason for things than his will (Book of Genesis against the Manichaeans). In another place he points out very correctly that it is wrong to make many questions about the immensity of time as well as about the infinity of space (On the State of God, book 11). Certainly: as far as the circumference of the sky stretches, so it has nevertheless a certain size. But if someone wanted to argue with God that the empty space is a hundred times larger (than the filled space) - would this not be an impertinence repugnant to all pious people? However, just as mad are those who idly reproach God because he has not already created the world according to their conceit innumerable centuries ago. In order to be able to pursue one’s desire, one tries to get outside of the world – as if in the immense circumference of heaven and earth enough things did not meet us, which fill all senses with their glorious splendor, as if God had not given us enough proofs within the six millennia, the constant consideration of which could completely occupy our soul! So we want to remain gladly within the borders which God has wanted to set us, and to hold back our soul, so to speak, so that it does not run around freely and get lost!

We cannot and should not go behind God’s act of creation with our thoughts

I,14,2 From similar consideration also Moses reports that God’s work was not completed in a moment, but in six days. For also thereby we are pointed away from all invented gods to the one God, who accomplished his work in six days, so that it does not become burdensome for us to contemplate this work all our life long. Certainly, wherever our eye turns, it is always compelled to pause at the sight of the works of God. But we see how fleeting such attention is and how quickly pious considerations that touch us pass away! Here, too, human reason resists, as if such succession (of the six-day work) were contrary to divine power – until, under the obedience of faith, it learns to cultivate that rest to which the sanctification of the seventh day invites us. It is precisely in the order of things that God’s fatherly love toward mankind is to be diligently contemplated: after all, he did not create Adam until he had endowed the world with the fullness of all goods! For if he had placed him on the still barren and empty earth, if he had given him life before the creation of light, the impression would have to arise that he had not been concerned about his welfare. But now he has ordered the movement of the sun and the heavenly bodies for the benefit of man, filled earth, water and air with all kinds of living creatures, given an abundance of all kinds of fruits for nourishment; thus he shows himself to be a provident and faithful householder, who in his care reveals his wondrous kindness toward us. If someone considers what I have only briefly touched upon more closely, it will become clear to him that Moses was a reliable witness and herald of the one God, the Creator. I pass over here what I have already explained: namely, that here we do not speak of God’s mere being, but also God’s eternal wisdom and his holy spirit comes to meet us here, so that we do not dream of any other God than the one who wants to be recognized in that clear image.

God is the Lord of all!

I,14,3 But before I begin to speak more in detail about the nature of man, something about the angels must be inserted. Of course Moses, since he adapts himself to the simple understanding of the great crowd, mentions in the creation story only the works of God, which we can perceive with eyes. But when he afterwards mentions the angels as servants of God, it easily follows that the God to whom they nevertheless dedicate their powers and services is also their Creator. Thus, although Moses, in his popular way of speaking, does not mention the angels right at the beginning among God’s creatures, there is nothing to prevent us from treating here in detail and clearly what the Scriptures otherwise teach throughout. For if we are interested in knowing God from His works, such a glorious and noble proof of His activity cannot be ignored. Also, this section of doctrine is very important in warding off many errors. The outstanding position of the being of the angels (Angelicae naturae) has made such an impression on many people that they thought it would happen to these entries if they were subjected to the rule of the one God, kept in order, as it were; and so the Godhead has been imputed to them. Manichaeus (Mani) also appeared with his sect and invented two primordial beings (principia), God and the devil, whereby he attributed the origin of all good things to God, but attributed all bad beings to the devil as the originator. If this madness held our hearts captive, God’s glory in the creation of the world would not endure. For nothing is more peculiar to God than eternity and the "autusia", the being from itself, if I may express myself so. Who therefore attributes this to the devil (by making him also a primordial being), graces him with the dignity of deity! And where is God’s omnipotence, if one grants to the devil such a power of domination that he can do what he wants also against the will and resistance of God? The only reason that the Manichaeans have, namely, that it would be wrong to attribute to God, the Good, the creation of any bad being, does not meet the right doctrine in any way. For this denies that anywhere in the whole world there exists a being evil by nature (an evil nature; aliqua mala natura). For the corruption and wickedness of man as well as of the devil, and all sin that stems from it, did not originate from nature, but from the corruption of nature. From the beginning there was nothing in which God had not laid down a testimony of his wisdom and justice! To counter such twisted delusions, one must raise one’s thoughts higher than the eyes are able to see. The Nicene symbol also reminds us of this when it explicitly mentions the invisible things in the article about God, the Creator of all things. Of course, one must be very careful to keep the measure that the rule of piety prescribes for us, lest we go deeper in our speculations than is right, and thereby depart from the simplicity of faith. Truly, the Holy Spirit always teaches us what is wholesome for us, and he only conceals or touches briefly what is of little edification. Therefore, it is also our duty to gladly renounce the knowledge of such things that are useless.

 We are not to speculate about the angels either, but to investigate the testimony of Scripture

I,14,4 That the angels as servants of God, who are destined to execute his commands, are also his creatures, must be beyond doubt. To start a dispute about the time and the order in which they were created would testify to presumption, but not exactly to right thinking. Moses tells (Genesis 2,1) that the earth was completed, also the sky and all its armies; what should one look up exactly, on how fourth day then apart from the stars and planets also those other, more hidden armies of the sky took their beginning? In short, we want to keep in mind here, as in the whole Christian doctrine, that there is one rule of modesty and sobriety to be observed: we should speak nothing about hidden things, think nothing, want to know nothing except what is made known to us in God’s Word. And secondly, when reading the Scriptures, we should always seek out and consider what serves to edify us, and not indulge in vainglory and the investigation of useless questions. And because the Lord did not want to instruct us in frivolous questions, but in true piety, in the fear of His name, in right trust, in the sanctification of life, let us be content with this knowledge. If we want to proceed correctly, we must abandon those empty speeches (mataiomata) that idle people have made about nature, the order of ranks and the number of angels, apart from God’s word. I know well that some take up such things with great eagerness and find much more pleasure in them than in what is set for our everyday use. But if we are not afraid to be Christ’s disciples, we must not be afraid to follow the method of knowledge (methodus) that he has given us. If we do this, then we are satisfied with him as our master, and face such superfluous thought-play as he forbids us with rejection, even with disgust. No one will deny that that Dionysius, whoever he may have been, has presented many things about the celestial hierarchy in a fine and perceptive way. But if one looks more closely, one finds that most of it is pure gibberish. A theologian, however, should not tickle the ears with gossip, but should teach true, certain and beneficial things and thereby raise the conscience! If one reads that book (of Dionysius Areopagita), then one thinks that a man who fell from heaven reports not what he heard, but what he saw with his eyes! Paul, on the other hand, who was caught up into the third heaven (2Cor 12:2), not only did not report anything of the kind, but even testified that no man could express those mysteries that he saw (2Cor 12:4). Let us therefore bid farewell to this garrulous wisdom and observe from the plain teaching of the Scriptures what the Lord wanted us to know about His angels.

The designation of the angels in the Scriptures

I,14,5 Now it can be read throughout the scriptures that the angels are heavenly spirits whose service and obedience God uses to carry out all his commands. Therefore this designation ("angels" = messengers) has been given to them, because God uses them as mediators, as "messengers", so to speak, to reveal Himself to men. Also other designations, with which they are distinguished, are based on the same reason. Thus they are called "army" because they surround their Lord like shield-bearers, adorning and making visible his glory, like soldiers always waiting for the beckoning of their leader and thus ready and equipped to receive his orders, in order to prepare themselves for work at his beckoning or rather to be already at work. The prophets give us such a picture of the throne of God to make God’s glory known; Daniel does this in a special way when he says that a thousand times a thousand, even ten thousand times ten thousand stood before God when he sat down to judge (Dan 7:10). Now since the Lord wonderfully demonstrates and reveals the power and strength of his hand through them, they are also called "powers." And because He exercises and administers His command through them in the world, they are sometimes called "principalities," sometimes "powers," sometimes "dominions" (Col 1:16; Eph 1:21). And finally: because in them God’s glory, God’s honor has its seat, they are also called "thrones" (Col 1:16). However, I do not want to say anything about the last point, because another interpretation fits just as well, perhaps even better. But even if we leave out this last name: the rest are often used by the Holy Spirit to raise the dignity of the ministry of the angels. For itwould not be right to leave unpraised those instruments through which God especially manifests His presence. Yes, they are more than once called "gods" for this reason, because in their ministry they set before us, as it were, as in a mirror, God’s power and glory itself. Of course, I do not dislike the view of some ancient writers: where the Scriptures speak of the angel of God appearing to Abraham, Jacob, Moses and others, Christ was that angel (Gen 18:1; 32:1, 28; Jos 5:14; Judges 6:14; 13:22). But several times, where the angels are mentioned in their entirety, they receive that name ("gods"). Nor can this be surprising: for if princes and other authorities are accorded this honor (Ps 82:6), because in their office they act in the place of God, who is the supreme king and judge, it can be transferred with even greater right to the angels, in whom the clarity of God’s honor shines forth even more powerfully.

The angels as protectors and helpers of the faithful

I,14,6 But the Scripture brings to the fore what can serve us most for comfort and the building up of faith: namely, that the angels administer and dispense God’s goodness toward us. Therefore, it mentions that they stand on guard over our salvation, guiding our defense, directing our paths, and protecting us so that nothing adverse may befall us. Comprehensive are the passages of Scripture that refer first to Christ as the Head of the Church and then also to all believers. "He hath commanded his angels concerning thee, that they should keep thee in all thy ways, that they should bear thee up in their hands, and that thou shouldest not strike thy foot against a stone" (Ps 91:11 s.). Or: "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and helps them out" (Ps 34:8). With this, God shows that he has entrusted the protection of those he wants to preserve to his angels. Accordingly, the angel of the Lord comforts Hagar in her flight and commands her to reconcile with her mistress (Gen 16:9). So Abraham promises his servant that an angel will be his guide on the way (Gen 24:7). Thus Jacob, in the blessing over Ephraim and Manasseh, asks that the angel of the Lord, through whom he had been delivered from all evil, may also bless them (Gen 48:16). Thus an angel was appointed to school the camp of the Israelites (Ex 14:19; 23:20), and when God wished to deliver Israel from the hand of her enemies, He raised up saviors for her through the ministry of angels (Judges 2:1; 6:11; 13:3 ss.). So finally – not to enumerate more – the angels served Christ (Mt 4:1) and stood by him in all fears (Lk 22:43). They proclaimed His resurrection to the women and His glorious return to the disciples (Mt 28,5.7; Lk 24,5; Acts 1:10). In order to fulfill their duty to protect us, they fight against the devil and all our enemies and execute God’s punishment on those who hate us. Thus we also read that the angel of God, in order to free Jerusalem from the siege, struck a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the camp of the king of Assyria in one night (2Kings 19:35; Isa 37:36).

Guardian angel?

I,14,7 Whether individual angels are assigned to the individual believers for their protection, I would not dare to assert with certainty. Certainly, when Daniel mentions an angel of the Persians and an angel of the Greeks (Dan 10:13.20; 12:1), he indicates that for kingdoms and regions certain angels are appointed as overseers. Also when Christ says that the angels of the children always saw the face of the Father (Mt 18:10), he indicates that their welfare is entrusted to certain angels. But I do not know whether one may conclude from this that everyone has his own angel. In any case, it is certain that not only one angel takes care of each of us, but that they all watch over our salvation with one accord! For it is said of all the angels together that they rejoice more over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who have no need of repentance (Lk 15:7). It is also said of several angels that they carried the soul of Lazarus into Abraham’s womb (Lk 16:22). And it is not without reason that Elisha shows his servant so many fiery chariots that were especially destined for him (2Kings 6:17). Now there is one passage that seems to prove this (namely that there are "guardian angels") more clearly than others. Namely, when Peter, after his release from prison, knocked on the door of the house where the brothers were gathered, they said, because they could not suspect that it was him, that it was "his angel" (Acts 12:15). This seems to have occurred to them according to the general view that individual believers have their angels assigned to them for protection. Of course, one can reply that this can also be understood as any angel to whom the Lord had assigned the protection of Peter at that time, without having to be his constant guardian, as one usually imagines, as if two angels, one good and one bad, were assigned to every man, like genii! But it is not worthwhile to investigate exactly, what to know can be of little use to us. For to whom it is not enough that all the orders of the heavenly hosts are on guard for his salvation, – what shall the insight help him that an angel has been given to him in a special way to guard him? But he who limits to one angel all the care which God gives to each one of us, does injustice to himself and to all the members of the Church: he acts as if those auxiliaries were promised to us without cause, who surround and protect us on all sides, that we may fight all the more valiantly!

About the order, number and shape of the angels

I,14,8 Who now wants to make more exact statements about the number and the orders of the angels, let him see on what he bases them. I admit: Michael is called a great prince in Daniel (Dan 12,1), and in Jude he is called "archangel" (Jude 9). According to Paul it will be an archangel who invites people to judgment with the sound of the trumpet (1Thess 4,16). But from there, who could determine the degrees of honor among the angels, distinguish the marks and dignities, and assign to each its place and position? For even the two names that appear in the Scriptures – namely Michael and Gabriel, to which the third (Raphael) from the Book of Tobiah would also be added – can be figuratively attached to the angels also for the sake of the weakness of our understanding – although I would rather leave this question in abeyance. As for the number, we hear from Christ’s mouth many legions (Mt 26,53), from Daniel many ten thousands (Dan 7,10); the servant of Elisha saw many chariots (2. Kin. 6,17), and it suggests an immense number when we hear that they encamp around those who fear God (Ps 34,8). It is certain that the spirits have no form; but nevertheless, according to the measure of our comprehension, the Scripture does not without reason represent the cherubim and seraphim with wings, so that we may not doubt that, as soon as it is needed, they will be there to help us with incredible swiftness, as when lightning descends to us in its speed! By the way, we should believe that the closer questions belong to that kind of secrets, the full disclosure of which is reserved for the Last Day. Therefore, let us be careful not to be too curious about our questions and too bold about our speeches!

The angels are not thoughts but reality

I,14,9 However – against the doubt of some restless people! – this must be certain: the angels are "ministering spirits" (Hebr 1:14), whose obedience God uses to protect His own, and through whom He distributes His benefits among men and also carries out His other works. Now, there was once the opinion of the Sadducees that by the angels were to be understood mere impulses, which God gives to men, or also demonstrations of his power. But this madness is contradicted by so many testimonies of the Scriptures that one must be surprised that such a gross ignorance was tolerated in that people at all. I will briefly pass over the passages already mentioned above, where thousands and legions of angels are mentioned, where joy is attributed to them, where it is said that they carry the faithful on their hands, bring their souls to rest, see the face of the Father – and the like. On the contrary, there are other passages from which it is absolutely clear that the angels are spirits of their own nature (spiritus naturae subsistentis). Stephen and Paul say that the law was given by the hand of angels (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19). Christ promises that the elect will be like the angels after the resurrection, or that the day of judgment is not even known to the angels (Mt 22:30; 24:36), or that Christ will come with His holy angels (Mt 25:31; Lk 9:26). No matter how one twists and turns these passages, they must be understood in this sense. When Paul "testifies" to Timothy "before the Lord Jesus Christ and the chosen angels" that he should observe His ordinances (1Tim 5:21), he does not understand angels as attributes or inspirations without their own being, but real spirits! And when we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews that Christ was made higher than the angels (Hebr 1:4), that the world was not subject to the angels (Hebr 2,5), that Christ did not take on their nature but the nature of man (Hebr 1:4; 2:16) – this only makes sense if we understand blessed spirits to whom such comparisons apply. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets his own statement when he places the souls of the faithful and the holy angels in the kingdom of God side by side (Hebr 12:22). To this must be added what we have already mentioned: that the angels of the children always behold the face of God, that we are defended by their protection, that they rejoice in our salvation, admire the manifold grace of God in His Church, and that they are subject to Christ as the Head. This also includes the fact that they often appeared to the holy fathers in human form, talked with them and were even hosted by them! Christ Himself is also called "angel" because of His position as mediator (Mal 3:1). This may suffice to protect the simple-minded against those foolish and perverse thoughts which were raised by Satan many centuries ago and which arise again from time to time.

Divine honor is not due to angels

I,14,10 Now we have to counter the superstition, which mostly arises from the fact that it is said about the angels that all good things happen to us through their service. The reason of man is easily carried away to confer any honor on them. Thus they are given what belongs only to God and Christ. In this way, as we see, Christ’s honor has been obscured in many ways for many centuries, by covering the angels with all kinds of immoderate glory without justification in God’s Word. And among all the corruptions against which we have to fight today, hardly any is older than this. It seems that already Paul had to argue with some people who exalted the angels so high that Christ was almost degraded to their equals! That is why he insists in his letter to the Colossians with such sharpness that Christ not only has priority over all angels, but that he is also the source of all good for them (Col 1:16.20). Therefore, we must not leave the Lord and turn to the angels, who cannot exist by themselves, but draw from the same source as we do! Of course, because a reflection of divine glory shines from them, it happens quite easily that we prostrate ourselves before them out of a certain inner consternation and then attribute everything to them, which is to be owed to God alone. John himself writes in the Apocalypse that this happened to him, but then he immediately adds that he was answered: "Look, do not do it, I am your fellow servant …, worship God! (Apok. 19,10).

God does not use angels for His own sake, but for ours.

I,14,11 We will avoid the danger of such superstition if we consider why God prefers to reveal his power through the angels than without their intervention, purely from himself, to create salvation for his own and to communicate the goods of his kindness to them. He certainly does not do this out of any necessity, as if he could not do without them. For as often as it pleases him, he accomplishes his work without them, solely by his will. So there is no question at all that they have to help him, because without them his work would be too difficult for him. So he does it for the comfort of our weakness, so that we lack nothing that serves to raise our soul to joyful hope and to firm certainty. In itself, one thing should be more than enough for us, that the Lord promises to be our guardian. But when we see ourselves surrounded by so many dangers, so many hardships, so many enemies, how easily could we tremble or even despair in our weakness and frailty, if the Lord did not give us his present grace to experience according to our understanding! Therefore he promises not only that he will take care of us, but also that he has innumerable shield-bearers to whom he has entrusted the care of our salvation, and that – whatever danger may threaten us – no evil can touch us as long as we are under their protection, their guard! Admittedly, it is wrong for us, in view of the simple promise that God alone is our guardian, still to look around for help. But the Lord, in His immeasurable gentleness and kindness, wants to come to our aid in our folly, and therefore we must not think less of such a great gift. We have an example of this in the servant of Elisha: when he saw that the mountain was completely surrounded by the army of the Syrians and that there was no way out, he was seized with terror, as if it had happened to him and his master. Then Elisha asked God to open his eyes, and immediately he saw the mountain full of fiery chariots, namely a multitude of angels who were supposed to protect him with the prophet! (2Kings 6:17) When he saw this, he was strengthened and composed so that he could fearlessly despise the enemies whose sight had almost killed him before!

The angels must not dissuade us from fixing our gaze on the Lord alone

I,14,12 Everything that can be said about the service of the angels must therefore serve the purpose of putting an end to all lack of confidence and strengthening our hope in God. This protection is therefore prepared for us by God, so that we do not let ourselves be frightened by the number of enemies, as if they were too strong for him, – but rather take refuge in that saying of Elisha: There are more for us than against us (2Ki 6:16; not literally). How absurd it would be if we let ourselves be led away from God by the angels, who are ordained to testify to us how close his help is! Then, of course, they will lead us away from God if they do not guide us on a straight path so that we look upon him as our only helper, call upon him and praise him, if we do not regard them as his hands that do not move to any work without his command, if they do not keep us with the one mediator Christ, so that we depend entirely on him, remain in him, turn to him and have our full satisfaction in him! For what is described to us in the vision of Jacob (Gen 28:12), we must take to heart: that the angels descend to men on earth and from men again up to heaven – on the "ladder" on which the Lord of Hosts sits on top! There it becomes clear: only by Christ’s intercession for us the service of the angels to us comes about, as he himself says: "From now on you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man" (John 1:51). So also the servant of Abraham, who was commanded to the guard of the angel, does not call on the angel for help, but he brings his prayer before the Lord, trusting in that promise, and asks Him to show His mercy to Abraham (Gen 24:7). For God does not make the angels servants of his power and goodness in order to share his glory with them, and likewise he does not promise us his help through their service, so that we might share our trust between him and the angels! Therefore, we do not want to have anything to do with that Platonic wisdom which instructs us to seek access to God through the mediation of the angels and to pay reverence to them so that they make us more inclined to God! (Plato, Epinomis; Kratylos). This philosophy superstitious and cheeky people have tried to bring into our religion from the beginning and do it still today with persistence!

The danger of the enemy

I,14,13 What the Scripture teaches about the devils has all the purpose that we should be on guard against their leaks and reenactments and arm ourselves with such weapons that are strong and firm enough to resist them as the most dangerous enemies. For when the devil is described as the god and prince of this world, when he is said to be a strong-armed man (Mt 12:29), the "prince who rules in the air" (Eph 2:2), a "roaring lion" (1 Pet. 5:8) – such descriptions have no other purpose than to make us more cautious, more vigilant and more ready to fight. This is sometimes explicitly stated. Peter says that the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1Pet 5:8). But then he immediately adds the admonition to bravely resist in faith! And Paul, who reminds us that we do not have to contend with flesh and blood, but with the princes of the air, the rulers of darkness and the evil spirits (Eph 6,12), immediately commands us to take up the weapons with which we can stand such a dangerous fight (Eph 6,13 ss.). Therefore, we are to do our utmost to ensure that the enemy – this most combative in his boldness, this most formidable in his strength, this most cunning in his scheming, indefatigable in his prudence and swiftness, full of guile of all kinds, battle-hardened to the utmost, who, we are warned, threatens us without ceasing! -that this enemy may not overtake us in carelessness and indolence, but that we may take firm hold of a valiant and upright spirit to resist him! And because this military service (militia) ends only with death, we are exhorted to perseverance. But above all, in the awareness of our weakness and inexperience, we should call upon God’s help and do nothing without trusting in him; – for he alone can give counsel and strength, courage and armor!

 The realm of wickedness!

I,14,14 But in order to encourage and spur us on all the more strongly to such a conflict, the Scriptures show us that we are not dealing with one or two enemies, or at least with a mere small number, but that a great army is confronting us in this war! For it is said that Mary Magdalene was delivered from seven demons that had possessed her (Mark 16:9), and Jesus declares it to be the regular thing that if the evil spirit is granted entrance again after it has been cast out, it will take with it seven even more evil spirits and return to empty possession (Matt 12:43). Yes, we hear that a whole legion possessed a single person! (Lk 8,30). From this we learn that we have to fight with an infinite number of enemies – so that we do not contemptuously think that there are only a few of them and then become careless in the fight or even give ourselves over to laziness in the opinion that we are granted a break in the fight. That Satan or the devil, on the other hand, often confronts us as an individual, should show us that there is a reign of wickedness that opposes the kingdom of righteousness. For as the church and the company (societas) of the saints has Christ as its head, so also the company of the wicked and wickedness itself is presented to us with its prince, who has the supreme rule there. Hence the saying: "Go, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt 25:41).

Unforgiving fight!

I,14,15 This too must spur us on to unceasing struggle against the devil, that he is everywhere called God’s and our enemy. If, as is right, God’s honor is dear to us, we must fight with all our strength against the one who wants to extinguish this honor! If we are really intent on asserting the kingdom of Christ, as it must be, we must necessarily have an irreconcilable war with him who has conspired to overthrow it. If, on the other hand, we are concerned about our salvation, there can be neither peace nor truce with him who is always greedy to destroy it insidiously. This is how he is described to us in the third chapter of Genesis: there he draws man away from his obedience to God in order to deprive God of his due honor and at the same time to plunge man himself into disaster. This is how he appears to us in the evangelists: there he is called the "enemy" (Mt 13,28), and there he scatters lolch to destroy the seed of eternal life (Mt 13,25). In general: what Christ says about him, namely that he was a murderer of men and a liar from the beginning, – we experience this in all his deeds! (John 8,44). For with lies he fights against God’s truth, with darkness he covers the light, with error he holds men’s hearts captive, he stirs up hatred, he causes discord and strife, – and all this to destroy God’s kingdom and to drag men with him into eternal ruin! He is therefore – that is certain – by nature corrupt, bad and wicked. For in a mind that is only concerned with the destruction of God’s honor and the salvation of men, there must necessarily be the deepest corruption! John expresses this in his first letter: "He sins from the beginning" (1. John 3,8). This means: he is the author, ringleader and master of all wickedness and injustice!

The devil is a degenerate creature of God

I,14,16 But since the devil is created by God, we must consider: all this wickedness, which we attach to his nature, does not come from creation, but from corruption! What he has in him that is damnable, he has brought it on himself in apostasy and indignation! The Scripture reminds us of this, so that we do not think that he came out of God’s hand and then attribute it to God, which is the most alien thing to him. That is why Christ declares that Satan speaks out of his own mouth when he speaks a lie (John 8,44), and adds as a reason: because he did not exist in the truth. If he now says that he has not existed in the truth, he implies that he was once in it, and if he calls him the father of lies, he thereby takes away the possibility of attributing to God the corruption that he has caused himself! Now, although this is said only briefly and not very clearly, it is fully sufficient to clear God’s majesty from any reproach. And what should we also care to know more of the devils, or to learn anything to any other purpose? There are some who murmur that the Scriptures do not describe in more detail that case, its reason, its nature, its time and the closer process. But since such things are of no concern to us, it was better that they should be, if not concealed, then only touched upon briefly. For it is not worthy of the Holy Spirit to satisfy our curiosity with useless stories without fruit. And we also see that the Lord intended to teach us nothing in his holy words that could not lead to our edification. Therefore, we do not want to dwell on superfluities ourselves. It must be enough for us to know about the nature of the devils, that in the beginning, in creation, they were angels of God, but, corrupted by degeneracy, then became the instruments of ruin to others, because this is useful to know, so it is also clearly taught in Peter and Jude. "The angels," it says there, "who have sinned and not kept their principality, God has not spared them" (2Pet 2:4; Jude 6). And when Paul speaks of "chosen angels", he undoubtedly implies that there are also rejected ones (1Tim 5:21).

The devil is under God’s power

I,14,17 But as far as the contradiction and dispute that the devil wages against God is concerned, we must base all considerations on the firm certainty that the devil cannot do anything without God’s will and permission (nisi volente et annuente Deo). For we read in the story of Job that he goes before God to receive orders, and that without permission he does not dare to proceed to the accomplishment of a work (Job 1:6; 2:1). And when Ahab is to be led astray, he takes it upon himself to be a spirit of falsehood in the mouth of all prophets: the Lord sends him, and he carries out His command (1 Kings 22:22 ss.). For this reason he is also called the evil spirit by the Lord, who tormented Saul, because through him, as with a scourge, the sins of the godless king were punished (1Sam 16:14; 18:10). And in another place it is written that the plagues were inflicted on the Egyptians by God through evil angels (Ps 78:49). According to such individual examples Paul testifies in general that the blindness of the unbelievers is a work of God – even though he called it an effect of Satan just before: (2Thess 2,9.11). It is therefore certain: Satan is under God’s power and is so directed by His beckoning that he is forced to obey Him. Yes, when we say that Satan resists God and that his works are at odds with God’s works, we claim at the same time that this resisting and this argument also depends on God’s permission (permissio)! Now I do not speak of the devil’s will or even his intention, but only of what he actually accomplishes. For the devil is godless by nature and therefore not at all inclined to obedience against God’s will, but he has an incessant inclination to resistance and indignation. So it is from himself and from his wickedness that he resists God with will and purpose. This wickedness tempts him to undertake such things that he thinks would be completely repugnant to God. But God holds him tightly with the reins of his omnipotence, and therefore he can only accomplish what God allows him to do; so he obeys his Creator, whether he wants to or not, because he is forced to serve him, whatever he may use him for!

Certainty of victory!

I,14,18 But since God rules the unclean spirits according to His will, He does it in such a way that they afflict the faithful in battle, attack them deceitfully, disturb them by all kinds of attempts, harass them in battle, and also often tire them out, They often tire them out, confuse and frighten them, and sometimes even wound them, but they never defeat or suppress them. On the other hand, they lead the wicked captive, exercise their dominion in their souls and bodies, and abuse them like slaves to all kinds of evil. The believers, troubled by such enemies, therefore hear the admonition: "Pray not to the devil" (Eph 4:27; Luther: "to the blasphemer") or: "The devil, your adversary, walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; resist him steadfastly in the faith …" (1Pet 5:8) and similar. Even Paul confesses that he was not untouched by this kind of conflict when he writes that "Satan’s angel" was given to him to humble him (2Cor 12:7). This battle exercise, then, is common to all God’s children. But the promise that Satan’s head shall be crushed refers to Christ and with him to all his members, and therefore I say that believers can neither be defeated nor oppressed by the devil. They are often frightened, but they do not despair and gather for a new fight, they fall under the force of the attacks, but afterwards they straighten up again, they are wounded, but not to death, in short, they are in a hard fight all their lives, but in such a way that in the end, they retain the victory. Of course, I do not want to refer to each stage of the battle separately. For we know that by God’s just retribution David was left to Satan for a time, so that he counted his people on his impulse (2Sam 24:1), and Paul gives hope of forgiveness even to those who have been caught in the devil’s snares (2Tim 2:26), not without reason. The same Paul shows elsewhere that the above mentioned promise (Gen 3:15) will only be fulfilled in the beginning in this life where there is a fight, but then completely after the fight, when he says: "But the God of peace tread Satan under your feet in a little while" (Rom 16:20). In our head (Christ) this victory is always completely there, because the prince of this world is not able to do anything against him, but in us, the members, it now only partially appears, but it will be completed one day, when we take off our flesh, which always leaves us subject to weakness, and when we are full of the power of the Holy Spirit. For where the kingdom of Christ arises and is established, Satan crumbles with all his power, as the Lord himself says: "I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (Lk 10:18). With this answer he confirms the report of the apostles about the power of their proclamation, again he also says: "If a strong man keeps his palace, his own remains with peace, but if a stronger one comes over him …, he is driven out …" (Lk 11:21 s.; ending inaccurate). And for this Christ in his death overcame Satan, who had the power of death, and led the triumph over his whole army, so that no harm would come to the church, which otherwise would be trampled a hundred times by the devil at any moment! For how should we – with our weakness and with the devil’s furious violence! – stand in the least against his manifold and cunning attempts, without confidence in the victory of our Duke? For God does not let Satan’s kingdom be in the hearts of the faithful, but only hands over to him for government the ungodly and unbelieving, whom he does not dignify to be numbered among his flock. For it is said of him that he has possession of this world without opposition until he is cast out by Christ (Lk 11:21). We also hear that he blinds all who do not believe the gospel (2Cor 4:4). Or also that he does his work in the unruly children (Eph 2,2). And rightly so; for the ungodly are all vessels of wrath – and to whom then should they be subject other than to the minister of divine vengeance? Yes, after all, they are said to be of their father, the devil (John 8,44). For just as believers are recognized as children of God by the fact that they bear his image, so those prove to be sons of Satan by his image, to which they have degenerated! (1Jn 3:8).

The devils are not thoughts but reality

I,14,19 Now we have above rejected that gossipy worldly wisdom (nugatoria philosophia), which teaches of the holy angels that they are merely good inspirations and impulses, which God lets arise in the hearts of men. In the same way, we must oppose those who say that the devils are only bad feelings or confused thoughts that our flesh gives us. But this can be done very briefly, since there are numerous and completely clear scriptural testimonies on this subject. First of all, the unclean spirits are also called apostate angels, "degenerate from their origin" (Jude 6). These names already express quite clearly that we are not dealing here with emotions and sensations, but actually, as it is evident from the wording, with spirits and beings with sensation and understanding! Similarly, Christ and John compare the children of God with the children of the devil (John 8,44; 1. John 3,10). This would be obviously inappropriate if the term "devil" only meant evil inspirations! John adds even more clearly that the devil sins from the beginning (1Jn 3,8). And when Jude mentions a fight of the archangel Michael with the devil (Jude 9), he surely opposes the good angel with an evil and apostate one. This corresponds again to what we read in the book of Job: namely, that Satan appeared before God with the holy angels (Job 1:6; 2:1). The clearest passages, however, are those that mention the punishment that the devils will experience through God’s judgment, initially already now, but only then in the resurrection! "Son of David, why do you come before the time and torment us?" (Mt 8:29). "Go, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil with his angels" (Mt 25:41). "For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them out into hell with chains of darkness, and delivered them to be kept for judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4). What nonsensical sayings these would be, the devils would be handed over to eternal judgment, eternal fire would be prepared for them, they would already now be tormented and martyred by Christ’s glory – if there were no devils at all! Admittedly, these things need no discussion with those who believe the word of God, and on the other hand, with the vain speculators, who like only the new, little is achieved with the testimony of Scripture. Therefore, I believe I have achieved my purpose and have sufficiently secured pious souls against such nonsense, with which unscrupulous people confuse themselves and others, more simple-minded ones. Nevertheless, these things had to be touched upon, lest man be misled into thinking that he had no enemy at all, and therefore become more indolent and careless in resisting!

Greatness and richness of creation

I,14,20 In the meantime, however, let us not fail to draw pious refreshment from God’s revealed works that confront us in this glorious show house (theatrum)! For it is, as we have already said, not the highest, but nevertheless, according to the order of nature, the first proof of faith, if we, wherever we direct our eyes, regard everything we encounter as God’s work and at the same time consider with pious thought for what purpose God has created it. So, in order to grasp with right faith what we are to know about God, we must first of all hold on to the story of the creation of the world, as it is briefly told to us by Moses and as it was then illuminated in more detail by pious men such as Basil and Ambrose in particular. From this we then learn that God, by the power of his Word and Spirit, created heaven and earth from nothing, then brought forth all manner of animals and also inanimate beings, distinguished the infinite multiplicity of things in wondrous order, imbued each race with its nature, assigned its service, and gave it its place and habitation, and that, since all things are subject to corruption (corruptio), he has nevertheless made provision so that all species may remain unharmed until the Last Day! Thus he preserves – we hear further – the one species in a mysterious way and lets at times new life force overflow into it, so to speak, and to others he has given again the power of reproduction, so that with the end of the individual the species does not die out! Therefore he has endowed heaven and earth with the greatest conceivable abundance, diversity and beauty of all things, and like a vast and glorious house, provided and equipped with the most exquisite and wondrous utensils, gloriously adorned. After all, we learn, he formed man, distinguished him with such delicious adornment, so many and such glorious gifts, and made of him in such a manner the masterpiece among his works! But I do not intend here to relate the creation of the world, and so it may suffice to have mentioned this little in passing. It is better, as I already pointed out, if the readers seek to get a more exact knowledge from Moses and the others, who have handed down the creation of the world faithfully and in detail.

How should we look at God’s works?

I,14,21 Also the purpose and the essential point of view for a consideration of the works of God does not need a detailed discussion. For it was already spoken of elsewhere in more detail, and in the context of the present consideration only a few words are necessary. Truly, if one wanted to present worthily how God’s ineffable wisdom, power, justice and goodness are visible in the building of the world, no splendor of speech, no adornment of exposition would correspond to the greatness of the matter. Undoubtedly, the Lord has willed that we should always persevere in such holy contemplation. And therefore we are not to pass through the immeasurable riches of his wisdom, justice, goodness and power, as we behold them in all creatures as in a mirror, merely with a fleeting glance and, as it were, with empty contemplation, but we are to dwell on such knowledge for a long time, to move it earnestly and faithfully in our hearts, and to remember it ever and anon. But we are now engaged in doctrinal work, and there we must pass over what would actually require a lengthy speech. I will be brief: the reader will then certainly recognize in right faith what it actually means that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, if he first follows the generally valid rule not to pass by with ungrateful thoughtlessness and forgetfulness the power and goodness that God makes manifest in his creature, and if he secondly knows how to apply this knowledge to himself in such a way that it grips him in the innermost part of his being! If we follow the first rule, we shall consider, for example. consider what an artist it must be who has so well ordered and arranged the myriad of stars in the heavens that no more sublime spectacle can be conceived, who has allowed some to remain fixed and immovable in their places, and others to run more freely, who has so directed the movements of all the heavenly bodies that days and nights, months, years and seasons are measured by them, and who has so regulated the inequality of the days that no confusion arises from it. Another example of this first rule is also this, that we direct our attention to his power, with which he carries such a load and directs this swift movement of the celestial building – and similar examples more. These very few hints clearly show what it means to recognize God’s power in the creation of the world. If, by the way, we wanted to depict the whole, as I said, there would be no stopping. For there are so many wonders of divine power, so many signs of his goodness, so many proofs of his wisdom, as there are genera among creatures in the world, even individual things, great and small.

Contemplation of God’s goodness in His creation should lead us to gratitude and trust

I,14,22 Now the second requirement remains, which is even closer to the essence of faith. When we see how God has arranged everything for our good, for our salvation, and when we feel his power and grace, which he shows in us and in so many gifts he has given us, then we should let ourselves be led to trust him, to call upon him, to praise him and to love him! For that he has created everything for the sake of man, the Lord himself has shown in the order of his creation, as I noted above. For it was not without reason that he divided the creation of the world into six days; for it would have been just as easy for him to present the whole work in all its perfection in a moment as to reach perfection in such gradual progress. But he wanted to show us his providence and fatherly care by the fact that he prepared everything before he created man, which could be useful and salutary according to his foresight. What ingratitude would it be if we were to doubt the care of this infinitely kind Father, who had already taken care of us before we were born! What an ungodliness it would be if we ever wanted to tremble suspiciously that his goodness could leave us once in our need, which, as we notice, already proved effective in the abundance of all goods before our existence! In addition, we hear from Moses that in his generosity he also made everything subject to us that is in the world (Gen 1:28; 9:2). And he certainly did not do this to deceive us with the mere appearance of a gift. Therefore, we will never be deprived of anything that we need for our salvation. Finally, as often as we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, we should also remember that the administration of all that He has made is in His hand and power – but that we are His children, whom He has taken into His faithfulness and care to preserve and raise! Therefore we should expect the fullness of all goods from him alone and trust him that he will never let us lack what we need for our salvation – and so our hope should hang on nothing else but on him! Therefore, when we desire anything, we should fix our eyes on him alone, recognize all the good that comes to us as his good deed, and give thanks to him for it. And for all these reasons, drawn by so much sweet goodness and kindness, we should endeavor to love and honor him with all our heart.

Fifteenth chapter

Of the creation of man, the faculties of his soul, the image of God, free will and the original purity of human nature.

Man emerged immaculately from God’s hand; therefore, he must not blame the Creator for his sin

I,15,1 Now we have to talk about the creation of man. For he is among all works of God the noblest and most visible proof of his justice, wisdom and goodness. And especially, as we explained at the beginning, God cannot be known by us in a pure and certain way unless self-knowledge is added. This self-knowledge is of course of a double kind: we must first know how we were created in the origin, and then also how we are since Adam’s fall: – it would not avail us much to know of our creation, if we did not recognize all this terrible decay in which we now live, the corruption and distortion of our nature! Nevertheless, we want to make here first the description of our originally pure (integrae) nature. And indeed, before we turn to the miserable condition of man to which he is subjected today, it is well worth our while to consider how he was actually created in the beginning. For we must be very careful not to appear to be attributing man’s natural wickedness to the author of nature merely by describing it in detail. For ungodliness would like to defend itself all too readily with this pretext, when it undertakes to assert that everything that it carries evil in itself has, as it were, proceeded from God – and indeed, when it is punished, it by no means hesitates to want to make right with God himself and to ascribe to him the guilt of which it is justly accused. And people who attach importance to the appearance of more pious talk about the Godhead, like to excuse their wrongdoing with nature and do not even consider that they are also insulting God – even if a little more secretly! For it would be a disgrace for him if one could prove that there is something wrong with nature. So we see how the flesh is looking for all kinds of excuses in order to be able to shift the blame from itself to another. And this wickedness we must oppose with diligence. Therefore, human evil must be dealt with in such a way that all evasions are cut off from the outset and the justice of God remains free from any accusation. Later, when we are ready, we will see how far we humans are from the purity that was given to Adam. For the time being, however, we must bear in mind that man is made of earth and clay, and that his pride is thus restrained; for it would be utterly absurd for one to boast of his excellent position who not only has his dwelling in a clay hut, but is himself partly made of earth and ashes! Of course, God has condescended to make this earthen vessel alive and has even made it the dwelling place of an immortal spirit. Adam could rightly boast of such magnanimity of his Creator!

Body and soul in their diversity

I,15,2 Furthermore it must be beyond all dispute that man consists of soul and body. By "soul" I understand an immortal, though created being, which is the nobler part of man. Often it is also called "spirit," and although these two names, when they stand side by side, are of different significance, yet "spirit," when the word occurs alone, means the same as "soul." For example, Solomon speaks of death and says that then "the spirit" returns to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). Christ also commands his "spirit" to the Father (Lk 23:46), as does Stephen to Christ (Acts 7:58), and by this they understand nothing else than that when the soul is redeemed from the slave house of the flesh, God is its guardian forever. Some think that the soul is called "spirit" because it is a breath or power from God, which he instilled into the bodies and which itself has no being of its own. But the matter itself as well as the whole scripture shows that this is gross nonsense. Certainly, because men are too attached to the earth, they become dim-sighted, even blinded in their alienation from the Father of Light in darkness, so that they are hardly able to accept a survival after death. But in the meantime the light is not yet so much extinguished in darkness that a presentiment of immortality does not touch them! For the conscience, which in its distinction between good and evil corresponds to the judgment of God, is an indubitable sign of the immortality of the human spirit (immortalitatis spiritus). How should also a mere impulse without any being of its own penetrate before God’s judgment seat and be terrified out of the certainty of guilt? Nor can the body be seized by the fear of spiritual punishment, but only the soul, and from this it follows that it has its own being. Yes, already the knowledge of God proves sufficiently that a spirit, which rises above the world, is immortal, because no unsubstantial power could penetrate to the source of life. After all, man’s mind is also so full of glorious gifts, which testify loudly that something divine is engraved in him – and these gifts are all testimonies for immortality. For the feeling which dwells in the senseless animals does not go beyond the body and at least does not extend further than to the objects immediately presented to it. The spirit of man, however, in its mobility, searches heaven and earth and the secrets of nature, and when it has grasped all the centuries with intellect and memory (intellectu et memoria), it arranges everything individually, concludes from the past what is to come – and proves just thereby that in man there is something hidden which is different from the body. We can think the invisible God and the angels with our intellect; this is also not at all entitled to the body! We are able to grasp the right, the good, the decent, which is hidden from the physical senses. Therefore, the seat of such comprehension must be the spirit. Even sleep, which stupefies man and almost seems to deprive him of life, is a clear witness to immortality. For it forces upon us thoughts of things that have never happened, even presentiments of the future. I touch on these things only briefly: even heathen writers raise them mightily in glittering speech; with the pious, of course, the simple mention will suffice. If the soul were not an independent being, distinct from the body, the Scriptures could not say that we dwell in mud huts, wander out of the tent of the flesh in death, take out what is corruptible, and then on the last day carry away the reward, according to what each one has done in the life of the body. For these scriptural passages and similar ones, which occur often enough, certainly distinguish the soul quite clearly from the body; indeed, they also give the soul the name "man" and thereby clearly show that it is the most outstanding part. Then, when Paul exhorts believers to purify themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit (2Cor 7:1), he states that there are two areas in which the filth of sin dwells. Also this: Peter calls Christ the "shepherd and guardian of souls" (1Pet 2:25), – and that would be quite wrong if there were not souls on which He could exercise such office! Also, if the soul had no being of its own, it would make no sense that He speaks of the eternal salvation of the soul (1Pet 1:9), or that He gives the command to purify the souls and says that the evil desires fight against the soul (1Pet 2:11). It would also be inconsistent that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes that the shepherds stand on guard to give an account of our souls (Hebr 13:17). In the same direction, Paul calls God to witness "upon" his "soul" (2Cor 1:23); for it would not be able to be accused before God at all if it were not capable of punishment. This is expressed even more clearly in the words of Christ that one should fear Him who, having killed the body, could also cast the soul into the hellish fire (Mt 10:28; Lk 12:5). And when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews distinguishes our fleshly fathers from God, who is "the Father of spirits" (Hebr 12:9), he could not assert the soul’s own beingness more clearly. If the soul would not remain after its liberation from the slave house of the body, it would be absurd that Christ says that the soul of Lazarus enjoys joy in Abraham’s bosom, and on the other hand that the soul of the rich man suffers pain in its torment (Lk 16:22 ss.). Paul agrees with this when he says that we are far from the Lord as long as we dwell in the flesh, but that we enjoy His presence apart from the flesh (2Cor 5:6, 8). I do not want to go into too much detail on this clear matter. Only this: in Luke we hear that it was one of the errors of the Sadducees to deny the existence of spirits and angels (Acts 23:8).

Of the image of God in man

I,15,3 A reliable proof for this truth lies in the fact that it is said about man that he was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). Now, God’s glory certainly shines forth in the outward man as well; but the actual seat of that image is undoubtedly in the soul. I certainly do not deny that the outer form, which distinguishes and separates us from the animals, at the same time also connects us with God. Also I do not want to get excited if someone counts to the image of God also this that, while the other living beings look with lowered head to the earth, "high face was lent to the human being to look at the sky and to send up to the stars lifted looks" (Ovid). Only this must remain firm: the image of God, which shimmers out visibly in such external features, is spiritual. Osiander – who, according to his writings, was clever in a perverse way – refers the image of God as well to the body as to the soul and thus confuses heaven and earth. He says that Father, Son and Holy Spirit represent their image in man; for Christ would also have become man if Adam had not sinned. So the body, which Christ should take once, would have been the preimage and archetype for the bodily form, which was formed at that time (in the creation of man)! But where does Osiander want to find that Christ (who became man!) is also the image of the spirit? Certainly in the person of the Mediator the glory of the whole Godhead shines – but how should the eternal Word be called at the same time the image of the Spirit, to whom it precedes in the (Trinitarian) order? Moreover, the distinction between Son and Spirit is abolished when Osiander calls the Son the image of the Spirit! I would also like to know from Osiander, why Christ in the flesh, which he assumed, is similar to the spirit, and with which characteristics or hints he proves the similarity with him. But also the: "Let us make man" (Gen 1:26) is also such of the son – and according to Osiander he would have to be his own image, which would be contrary to all reason! In addition to that – if one wanted to take over the fantasies of Osiander! – man would have been created only in the image and likeness of Christ; and so Christ, if he should take on the flesh, would be the image from which Adam was taken. But the Scripture teaches quite differently: it says that he was created in the image of God! Others understand the matter in this way: Adam was created in the image of God because he was conformed to Christ, who is the only image of God. This sophistical way of speaking has more color; but there is nothing neat in it either. Further, there is considerable disagreement over the terms "image" (imago) and "likeness, similitude" (similitudo). The interpreters look for a difference between both expressions, which is not there at all. Only "likeness" is put for the closer explanation of "likeness". First of all, we know that repetitions are common among the Hebrews, who only say the same thing twice. And secondly, there is no ambiguity in the thing itself: man is called God’s "image" because he is "like" God! Therefore the people make themselves ridiculous, who develop a pointed philosophy concerning these names. Some think that the word "Zelem" (i.e. likeness, imago) refers to the basic nature of the soul, while "Demuth" (i.e. likeness, similitudo) refers to the characteristics. Others try to describe the difference differently again. The thing is this: God has decided to create man "in his image"; this expression is perhaps a little difficult to understand; so he repeats: "in likeness, in similitude", as if he wanted to say: I will make a man who represents me as in an image, and that by virtue of the characteristics of similitude imprinted on him! Therefore also Moses, since he mentions the same thing again (Gen 1:27), puts "image of God" twice, without needing "likeness" again! But it is quite bad taste when Osiander claims that not only a part of man, for example the soul with its abilities, is called image of God, but the whole Adam, who received his name from the earth, from which he was taken! Every sensible reader will judge with me that this is in bad taste! For even if the whole man is called mortal, the soul is not subject to death, and if, on the other hand, the whole man is called a rational being, reason and understanding do not also apply to his body. So, although man is not the soul, it is not absurd if he is called the image of God for the sake of his soul – although I hold to the principle developed above, that God’s image extends to the whole privileged position which the nature of man enjoys in comparison to all other kinds of living beings. Therefore, this expression (image) refers to the original purity which Adam possessed, when his mind was perfectly right, his inclinations were in accordance with reason, all his sensations were in the best order, and he actually brought out in his excellent gifts the glory of his Creator! But as certainly as the seat of the divine image was primarily in the mind and heart, in the soul and its dispositions, there was nothing in him, including the body, in which certain sparks of it did not shine. Certainly in all parts of the world there are certain hints of the glory of God: but if God’s image is represented in man, then there is obviously a tacit difference which raises man above all other creatures and separates him, so to speak, from their great mass. Now it certainly cannot be denied that the angels are created in God’s image; for according to Christ’s testimony, our highest perfection consists in becoming like them (Mt 22:30). But Moses is right when he praises God’s grace towards us in this special distinction, especially since he only compares the visible creatures with man.

The very nature of the image of God is to be gathered from what the Scriptures say of its renewal through Christ

I,15,4 However, the description of the image seems to me to be still incomplete, if it does not emerge even more clearly, what these are for the qualities, by which man is distinguished and in which one must recognize a mirror of the glory of God. But this can best be seen from the restoration of the corrupt nature. For Adam was undoubtedly alienated with his apostasy from God. So even if we admit that the image of God was not completely extinguished or destroyed in him, it was nevertheless so corrupted that everything that remained was only a gruesome distortion! If we therefore regain salvation, it begins with the renewal that we receive through Christ, who is also called the second Adam for the reason that he brings us back to true and lasting innocence. Of course, Paul contrasts the life-giving spirit that Christ gives to believers with the "living soul" that Adam was created to be (1Cor 15:45). He thus shows that in regeneration there is a richer measure of grace; but he does not abolish the second main point, namely, that the purpose of regeneration is that Christ may renew us into the image of God. That is why he says elsewhere that the new man is renewed according to the image of Him who created him (Col 3:10). This also corresponds to the demand: "Put on the new man, who is created in the image of God" (Eph 4:24). Now let us see what Paul primarily understands by this renewal. In the first place he mentions knowledge, in the second place righteousness and holiness. From this it follows that in the beginning the image of God was to be seen in the enlightenment of the spirit, in the sincerity of the heart and in the perfection of the whole man. I admit that Paul is speaking suggestively here; but the principle cannot be overturned: what is in the first place in the renewal of the image of God must also have been the most essential thing in creation itself. The sentence also belongs to this: "But now in all of us the clarity of the Lord is reflected with unveiled face, and we are transfigured into the same image …" (2Cor 3:18). From this we can see: Christ is the most perfect image of God, we are to be conformed to Him and thereby renewed in such a way that we bear the image of God in true godliness, righteousness, purity and knowledge. If this is established, then the phantasm of Osiander about the original image of the body is over by itself. The passage of Paul, in which only the man is called image and likeness of God and the woman is excluded from this dignity and honor (1Cor 11:7), obviously refers to the civil order (ad ordinem politicum). I believe I have sufficiently shown that the likeness we mentioned refers to everything that relates to spiritual, eternal life. John also testifies to it in other words when he says that the life that was in the beginning in the eternal word was the light of men (John 1:4). For he intends to praise the unique grace of God, which distinguishes man from all other living creatures, and thus to set him apart from all common things, because he has not only attained the ordinary life, but also the light of knowledge; and thus he shows at the same time why man was created in the image of God. The image of God is therefore the originally outstanding position of human nature, which shone brightly in Adam before the fall, but afterwards was so corrupted, even almost destroyed, that from the downfall only the confused, mutilated and stained remained. This very image will now be partially visible again in the elect, if they are born again of the spirit, but it will receive its full splendor in heaven! In order to know correctly in which parts this image of God consists, we must speak of the faculties of the soul. For Augustine’s playful opinion, that the soul is a mirror of the Trinity, because in it dwells intellect, will and memory, is without continuance (Of the Trinity, book 10; Of the State of God, book 11). Nor can the opinion find approval that the image of God consists in the sovereignty conferred on man, as if only this characteristic contained a resemblance to God, that man is appointed heir and owner of all things. For God’s image must be sought in and with man, but not apart from him; indeed, it is an inward treasure of the soul.

The human soul is created by God, but it is not an outflow of his being.

I,15,5 Before I go on, however, I have to address the madness of the Manichaeans, which today Servet has tried to renew again. When it is said that God breathed a living breath into the nostrils of man (Gen 2:7), they meant that the soul was an outflow of the basic being of God, as if a part of the immeasurable Godhead had passed over to man! But it is easy to show what gross and shameful absurdities this diabolical error entails. For if the soul of man is an outflow of God’s nature, it follows that God’s nature is subject to change and even to passion, even to ignorance, base desires, weakness and all vices! For nothing is more inconstant than man, because the conflicting impulses move his soul to and fro and pull it apart in the most diverse ways. He is often deceived by ignorance, he is subject to even the slightest temptations, and we know that the soul itself is a swamp and a harborage of all filth. And all this would have to be attributed to the nature of God, if one wanted to assume that the soul originates from God’s being or is a hidden outflow of the Godhead! Who should not be horrified at such a monstrosity! It is true that Paul rightly tells us, according to Aratus, that we are "of his seed" (Acts 17:28). But not in the essence, but according to the nature – just as far as God has adorned us with divine gifts! Also, it is a complete nonsense to divide the Creator’s essence into parts, so that each one has a part! So it must be stated: although God’s image is imprinted on the soul, it is still created, just like the angels. Creation, however, is not an outflow (of divine being), but the beginning of a being out of nothing. Even if the spirit is given by God and, having emigrated from the flesh, returns to him, one can by no means immediately say that it is taken from God’s basic being (substantia). In this piece, too, Osiander, above all his reveries, has fallen into the godless error of not recognizing God’s image in man without essential justice (sine essentiali justitia), – as if God, in the immeasurable power of his Spirit, could only conform us to himself if Christ were to pass into us essentially! Even if some people may color this dazzling work, they will never blind the eyes of understanding readers in such a way that they do not notice the Manichaean error. Also, where Paul speaks of the renewal of the image, his words clearly show that man is not formed like God by the overflowing of the basic being (the "substance"), but by the grace and power of the Spirit. For he says that as we behold Christ’s glory, so we are changed into the same image by the Spirit of the Lord (2Cor 3:18). And this spirit certainly works in us in such a way that it does not make us like God!

The soul and its abilities

I,15,6 It would be foolish to borrow a determination of the essence of the soul from the philosophers. For except Plato, almost none of them really recognized it as an immortal being (substantia immortalis). It is true that other Socratics also talk about it; but none teaches it clearly, because none was quite convinced of it! Plato’s opinion is therefore the more correct, because he recognizes God’s image in the soul. Others attach their powers and faculties (potentiae et facultates) to the present life in such a way that they leave nothing except the body. For our part, we have already taught that the soul is incorporeal. Now it is to be noted that although it is not enclosed in a certain space, it is nevertheless connected with the body and dwells in it as in an inn. Not only in such a way as to animate all its parts and render its organs skillful and serviceable for their efficiency, but it exercises supremacy in the conduct of man’s life, and not only in regard to the duties of earthly life, but at the same time to excite man to the worship of God. Although the latter is not clearly noticeable in corruption, the traces themselves remain imprinted on the vices. Where, then, do men get the great concern for their good name but from shame? But where does the shame come from other than from the reverence for what is right? And this again comes from the knowledge that they are born to uphold justice – wherein the germ of religion is enclosed! For as man was undoubtedly created to strive for the heavenly life (ad caelestis vitae meditationem), so surely a knowledge of it was also implanted in him. Also, man would truly be deprived of the most glorious use of the intellect (intelligentia) if he were unaware of the blessedness, the perfection of which consists in union with God. Therefore, the most important activity of the soul is to strive for this blessedness, and the more one strives to come closer to God, the more he proves that he is endowed with reason. Some think that man has several souls, one sentient and one thinking. But although they seem to put forward something close to the truth, we must reject their opinion, because their reasons have no probative force, unless we want to trouble ourselves with frivolous and useless things. Thus they say that there is a great conflict between the impulses of the bodily organs and the rational part of the soul. As if reason itself were not at odds with itself, and its deliberations and decisions fought battles with each other like hostile armies! But this confusion stems from the corruption of nature, and therefore it is wrong to conclude from the fact that the faculties do not keep the required balance among themselves that there are two souls (in man). However, I leave it to the philosophers to make subtle investigations about these dispositions themselves; for us, a simple description can suffice for the edification of piety. What they teach, I admit, is true and not merely pleasant to experience, but necessary to know and very skillfully put together by them. Therefore, I do not wish to hinder anyone who is eager to study them. I admit, then, first of all, that there are five senses, which Plato, by the way, prefers to call organs. They lead all objects to the general sensation (sensus communis) like a container (Plato, Theaetet). Then follows the imagination (phantasia): it judges what is grasped by the general sensation. Then comes reason (ratio), to which the general judgment belongs. And finally the mind (mens): it observes with a steady and calm gaze what reason tends to fly through. Likewise, the mind, reason, and imagination, as the three cognitive faculties of the soul, also correspond to three desiring faculties: the will, which desires what mind and reason offer it; the power of anger, which seizes what reason and imagination offer, and the power of desire, which accepts what imagination and senses throw at it. In my opinion, one should not worry too much about these things – however true or at least probable they may be. I am afraid that they could cause more confusion than benefit by their darkness anyway. Some would like to divide the dispositions of the soul differently: into a desiring disposition, which, though itself without reason, is nevertheless obedient to reason and its guidance, and an understanding disposition, which would itself be partaker of reason (so Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, I,13). I do not raise any substantial objection to this. Nor would I reject the assumption of three basic powers, namely senses, reason, and desire (Aristotle, Nic. Ethics, VI,2). But we rather want to choose a division which everybody can understand – of course, one can certainly not borrow it from the philosophers! For if these want to speak quite simply, they divide the soul into desire and thinking and then divide each again into two pieces. On the one hand they call the mind "contemplative" (contemplativus), as far as it, satisfied with the knowledge alone, does not feel any drive to act (Themistius, De anima …) – what again Cicero thinks to be able to express with the term "self-mind" (ingenium). On the other hand, it is also called "practical" (practicus), insofar as it stimulates the will in various ways through the knowledge of good and evil. This also includes the knowledge of the good and right conduct of life. Desire, however, is divided into will and desire (voluntas et concupiscentia). They speak of the will (bulesis), if the drive (which they call "horme") obeys reason, and of the passionate desire (pathos), if the drive shakes off the yoke of reason and breaks out unrestrained. In all cases, therefore, one assumes reason in man as that by which he could govern himself rightly!

Mind and will as the actual basic forces

I,15,7 But precisely because the philosophers do not know anything about the corruption of nature, as it arose from the punishment for apostasy, and because in this way they confuse two very different states of man in the most wrong way, therefore we must deviate a little from this way of teaching. Thus we find that in the human soul there are two capacities (partes) which fit very well to our present teaching task, namely intellect and will (intellectus et voluntas). As the task of the intellect we want to regard: to distinguish among the objects, depending on whether they seem to be approved or disapproved of, as the task of the will: to choose and follow what the intellect has recognized as good, to despise and avoid what it has rejected (so Plato in the Phaidros). In doing so, we should not be stopped by the trivialities of Aristotle, who thinks that the mind (Verstand, mens) in itself has no movement at all, but that what moves it is the faculty of choice (electio), which he also calls "desiring mind". In order not to dwell on superfluous questions, it shall suffice us to state that the mind is, so to speak, the guide and steer of the soul, while the will is always attentive to its beckoning and awaits its judgment in its desires. In this sense, the same Aristotle teaches that in desire the fleeing and chasing is something similar to the denying and affirming in the mind (in mente, Nic. Ethics, VI,2). But how reliable this guidance of the mind over the will is, we will see later. Here we only want to state that in the soul no ability is to be found which could not be rightly assigned to one of the two basic faculties (understanding and will). Thus we also subordinate the inclinations of the senses (sensus) to the intellect; others make a distinction and say that the senses tend to pleasure, while the intellect, on the other hand, follows the good, so that desire and pleasure arise from the impulse of the senses, but will from that of the intellect. On the other hand, instead of the term appetitus, which they prefer, I prefer to use the term will, because it is more common.

From free will

I,15,8 Thus God has equipped the soul of man with the intellect, by which man shall distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, and see in the pre-light of reason what he must chase and what he must flee from. That is why the philosophers have called this faculty "leading" (to hegemonikόn). To this he added the will, to which the decision is incumbent. With these glorious gifts the original state (prima conditio) of man was adorned, so that reason, understanding, prudence and judgment (iudicium) were not only sufficient for him to lead the earthly life, but also lifted him up to God and eternal bliss. To this was added the power of choice (electio), which directed the desires and controlled all sensual impulses, so that the will was in full accord with the guidance of the intellect. In this original purity man was in possession of free will, so that he could attain eternal life if he wished. To raise the question of God’s hidden predestination at this point would be premature; for the question here is not what could or could not happen, but what the nature of man actually was. Adam, therefore, could persist in his original innocence if he wished; for he fell only by his own will. However, since his will could incline in any direction and the constancy to persevere was not given to him, that is why he fell so easily. Nevertheless, his decision about good and evil was free, and not only this: in mind and will perfect righteousness prevailed, and all sensual faculties were finely arranged for service – until he corrupted himself and lost his advantages over it. But this is where this great darkness comes from, which surrounds the philosophers: they look for the building under ruins and for the fitting joints under the disruption! As a principle they held that man would not be a rational being if he did not have the free decision between good and evil, also it occurred to them that the difference between virtue and vice would become invalid if man did not order his life according to his own determination. Until then everything was right – if only no change had occurred in man! But they did not know this – and so it is no wonder that they threw heaven and earth into confusion! But he who has professed to be a disciple of Christ, and yet still seeks free will in the lost and spiritually miserable man, and thus divides himself between the opinion of the philosophers and the heavenly doctrine, goes completely astray and misses heaven and earth! But there is more to be said about this in a more suitable place. Now only this must be stated: Man in his creation, in the beginning, was something completely different from all his descendants; for they have their origin in fallen man and have received from him the corruption for their inheritance. For all the dispositions of the soul were created right, the health of the soul existed, in addition a will that was free to choose the good! (Augustin, On Genesis, II,7). Someone could of course object that the will was put on the slippery slope, so to speak, because of its weakness. But its position (in the original purity) is already sufficient to remove all excuse; also God could not be forced the law to create a man who could not sin at all nor wanted to. Certainly, such a being would have been even more excellent; but it would be more than unjust to judge about such things with God, as if he would have had to grant it to man; for it was in his free discretion to give him as much as he wanted. But why he did not support him with the power of perseverance (perseverantiae virtute), that is hidden in his counsel – our task is to be wise in sobriety! Man had the ability if he wanted, but not the will to be able – for such will would have been followed by perseverance (Augustin, Of Chastisement and Grace, 11:32). Nevertheless, he is not excusable; for he had received so much that he freely contracted ruin. But for God there was no law to give him another will than such in the middle, changeable; he wanted to take even from his fall an occasion to show his glory.

Chapter Sixteen

God preserves and protects the world He created and governs it down to the last detail with His providence.

Creation and Providence

I,16,1 To make God a creator for the moment, who would have finished his work once and for all, would be a cold and unfruitful thing; and we are to distinguish ourselves from worldly men precisely in this, that the presence of God’s power shines just as brightly to us in the continuing existence of the world as in its origin. Certainly the sight of heaven and earth compels even the godless to lift up their souls to the Creator. But faith has its own way of offering undivided praise to God for creation. This includes the apostle’s word, which we mentioned above, that only in faith we recognize that the world was finished by God’s word (Hebr 11:3). For we only understand what it means that God is the Creator when we also grasp His providence, even if we otherwise appear to understand it in the mind and confess it with the tongue. The mind of the flesh, once it has imagined God’s power in creation, stops at that; if it goes very far, it at most considers and contemplates the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Master who created such glorious work – for all this shows itself and imposes itself even on the resisting! But in the preservation and direction of this work he sees only a general power effective, from which the movement proceeds. Finally, he (the sense of the flesh) thinks that the power God gave to the world in the beginning is sufficient for the preservation of all things. Faith, on the other hand, must penetrate higher; for it must know that he whom it has come to know as the Creator of all things is also their constant guide and sustainer, and this sustainment does not take place in that he keeps the whole world building as well as its individual parts merely generally in motion; no, in special providence he bears, nourishes and cares for each individual thing that he has created, down to the smallest sparrow. Thus we hear it in David: just as he has briefly pronounced that the world was created by God, he immediately comes to speak of the continual course of his providence. "The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all his host by the spirit of his mouth" (Ps 33:6), he says at first, and then he soon adds: "The Lord looks … on all the children of men …" (Ps 33,13); also the further verses have the same sense. It would be completely inconceivable that God would direct all human destinies if he were not the creator of the world. And on the other hand, no one can seriously believe that the world is made by God without being convinced at the same time that God takes care of his creatures. For this very reason it is in the best order when David shows us both one after the other. In general, philosophers also teach and the human mind understands that all parts of the world exist, as it were, by a secret inspiration of God. However, they are not able to reach the height to which David reaches and to which he leads all the pious: "All things wait upon thee, O Lord, that thou shouldest give them meat in its season: thou givest, and they gather; when thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good; thou hidest thy face, they are afraid; thou takest away their breath, and they perish, and return to dust; thou lettest forth thy breath, and they are created, and thou renewest the form of the earth" (Ps 104:27 ss.). Even if the philosophers agree with Paul’s sentence: "in him we live, weave and are" (Acts 17:28), they are far away from the living feeling of grace, which he praises, because they do not taste God’s special care, from which his fatherly grace can be recognized.

There is no coincidence

I,16,2 In order for this contrast to become even clearer, we must know that God’s providence, as it is taught in the Scriptures, stands in contrast to every thought of "luck" and "coincidence". It is true that at all times it has been generally believed, and even today the opinion prevails among almost all mortals, that everything happens "by chance". But by such an erroneous opinion, what must be known about Providence is certainly obscured and almost buried. There is one who falls among robbers or into the power of wild beasts, there is one who is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden storm, there is one who is slain under the ruins of a house or under a falling tree, – there is another who, wandering through the desert, still finds something to satisfy his hunger, or a shipwrecked man reaches the harbor, or one who miraculously escapes death by the breadth of a finger: all these happy or unhappy events are attributed by the reason of the flesh to chance! But he who is taught by the mouth of Christ that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, sees the reason more deeply and holds fast to the fact that all events are governed by God’s hidden counsel! In the case of inanimate things, we must think of it thus: each certainly has its own nature in itself; but none can make its power work unless it is directed by God’s present hand. They are therefore nothing else than instruments, to which God wisely appoints as much power as he wills, and which he directs and guides according to his discretion to this or that efficacy. Thus no creature has a more wondrous and glorious power than the sun. Apart from the fact that it illuminates the whole world with its radiance: how great it is that it sustains and enlivens all living things with its heat, makes the earth fertile with its rays, warms the seed in the bosom of the earth, then draws forth the green from it, refreshes it with new food, nourishes and strengthens it until it grows into a stalk, continues to feed it with dew until it becomes a blossom and then a fruit, then ripens this again under its heat – that the trees and vines bud and bear foliage, blossom and bear fruit under its heat! But the Lord, that right praise might be due to Him alone for all this, saw to it that first there was light and the earth was filled with all kinds of herbs and fruits – before He created the sun! (Gen 1:3.11). Therefore the pious should not make the sun the main cause or the necessary reason of things, which were already there before its creation, but he should regard it merely as an instrument, which God needs, because he wants it so! For he can just as easily act without them, purely from himself! And when we read that the sun stood still for two days at Joshua’s prayer (Jos 10:13), or that its shadow moved ten degrees backward for King Hezekiah (2. Ki. 20:11), God testified by these few miracles: the sun does not rise and set every day in blind natural instinct; no, he directs its course to renew the memory of his fatherly grace towards us again and again! There is nothing more natural than that winter is followed by spring, spring by summer, summer by autumn. But in this succession there is such a diversity and inequality that it is easy to see that the individual years, months and days are ordered and governed in a new, special providence of God.

God’s providence follows from His omnipotence

I,16,3 Thus God truly wants to appropriate omnipotence to himself and to have it recognized by us. Of course, this is not that empty, idle and almost slumbering "omnipotence" that the sophists have thought of, but it is alert, active and effective and always in action. Nor is it merely the general beginning of a confused movement, as if it were letting a river flow along within the once-established banks; but it acts on the individual and particular movements all together. He is called omnipotent, not because he is able to do everything, but nevertheless rests or stops from time to time or lets the once fixed course of nature (naturae ordo) now continue to work on the basis of the general drive which he gave it. No, he is called omnipotent because he directs heaven and earth with his providence and arranges everything so that nothing happens without his will. For when it is said in the Psalm: "He can do what he wills" (Ps 115:3), his will is thereby described as firm and well-considered. It would be foolish if one wanted to interpret this prophet’s word according to the way of the philosophers to the effect that God is the initial impulse (primum agens), since he is the beginning and cause of all movement. Rather, the faithful rejoice in misfortune in the comforting certainty that nothing will happen to them without God’s order and command, because they are in his hand. If, then, God’s direction extends to all his works, it is childish prattle to include them in the course of nature. For he who wants to force God’s providence into such narrow limits, as if he left everything to the steady law of nature (naturae lex) according to its free course, deprives God of his honor, and equally deprives himself of a very useful insight; for nothing would be more miserable than man if he were simply exposed to all the movements of heaven, air, earth, and water! Besides, in this way the special goodness of God towards each individual would be most unworthily diminished! David exclaims that even the young children, who still cling to their mother’s breast, are capable of glorifying God (Ps 8:3); for when they have hardly left their mother’s womb, they already find the nourishment that heavenly care has prepared for them! It is quite true in general, but we do not have to pass by with our eyes and senses what experience clearly shows: one mother can nourish her child abundantly, the other less, depending on God’s will to provide the one child vigorously and the other more modestly with food. Whoever praises God’s omnipotence has a double blessing: First, he recognizes that God is able to do inexhaustible good, since he has heaven and earth in his possession and since all creatures look to him for guidance to obey him. Secondly, he learns that one can rest securely in his protection, for everything is subject to his will that would otherwise be feared as harmful; his command holds Satan with all his army and all his cunning in check as if by a rein, and what is contrary to our salvation also depends on his beckoning! Only by this can the intemperate and superstitious fear which we sometimes feel towards dangers be tempered and quieted. I said that it is superstitious when we are afraid, when, as often as creatures threaten us or instill fear in us, we are immediately frightened, as if they had strength or power of their own to harm us, or could hurt us by themselves or by chance, or as if there were not enough help from God against their hostilities! For example, the prophet commands the children of God not to fear the stars and the signs in the sky, as the unbelievers do (Jer 10:2). He certainly does not condemn all fear. But if the unbelievers take the leadership of the world from God and attach it to the stars and imagine that their luck and misfortune depends on the destiny or significance of the stars and not on God’s will, then their fear is diverted from the One they should look at to the stars and comets, Who wants to beware of such unbelief, he should always keep in mind that the creatures do not carry any disordered power, effectiveness or movement in themselves, but that they are so governed from God’s secret council that nothing happens what would not be decided according to his knowledge and will.

The nature of providence. "General" and "Special" Providence

I,16,4 Providence – the reader must note – therefore does not mean that God idly contemplates in heaven what is going on on earth, but on the contrary that he holds the rudder, so to speak, and thus directs all events. It refers, therefore, to the hand of God no less than to his eye; when Abraham said to his son, "God will provide" (Gen 22:8), he did not mean merely to assert that God foresaw future events, but rather to cast the care of the uncertain future upon the will of him who always knows how to give an outcome to intricate and confused things. From this it follows that the providence of God consists in his working, and therefore it is unwise for some to prate of a mere foreknowledge of God. Not so gross is the error of those who ascribe to God government, but a government confused and confused (with the "other" powers), as I have already mentioned. According to this, he would indeed direct and drive the world-building with all its parts in general motion, but not, for instance, govern the effectiveness of each creature in particular. Nevertheless, even this error is intolerable; for one declares that this providence, which one calls "general," in no way hinders the creatures in their random movement, nor man to turn this way or that in free decision of will. In this way one divides between God and man. God shall give man the movement by his power, by virtue of which he then could be active according to the nature inherent in him – but man could determine his actions according to his free decision! So one thinks in short, the world, the destiny of man and man himself would be governed by God’s power, but not by his destiny! There I pass over the Epicureans – of this plague the world was ever and ever filled! -who dream of an idle and lazy God, also others who were by no means more reasonable, who once thought that God ruled only the middle region of the air and left what was going on below it to fate – for against such an obvious madness the dumb creatures already raise enough objection! For I want to refute here the quite generally spread opinion which ascribes to God some so to speak confused motive power and thereby robs him of the most essential thing, namely that he directs and guides everything in his inscrutable wisdom to his purpose. This opinion makes God the governor of the world merely in words, but not in fact; for it takes away from him the very direction! What is governing supposed to mean but that one presides over a thing in such a way that one also directs in a certain order what one controls? Nevertheless, I do not want to reject completely the expression of the "general" providence; only then, on the other hand, one must admit to me that the world is governed by God, in so far as he not only maintains the order which he has set for nature, but also exercises the special care for every single one of his works! For it is already true that the individual species move from hidden nature instinct (arcano naturae instinctu), as if they obeyed an eternal command of God and as if now of itself ran off, what God once ordered. It can also be interpreted that Christ testifies that he and the Father are always at work from the beginning (John 5:17), that Paul teaches: "In him we live, weave and are" (Acts 17:28), or that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in order to prove Christ’s deity, says that through his mighty word everything is preserved (Hebr 1:3). But it is completely wrong to use this pretext to obscure the "special" providence that is asserted by such certain and clear scriptural testimonies that one must wonder that anyone could have doubted it at all. In fact, even those who cover themselves with that blanket must themselves add, in order to correct their error, that many things happen out of God’s special providence; but they wrongly limit this to individual acts. Let us therefore hold fast: God’s action happens in such a way that he directs all individual events, and thus everything comes out of his certain counsel; therefore nothing happens out of "coincidence"!

God’s providence also guides the individual

I,16,5 If we admit that the beginning of the movement lies with God, but after that everything is directed by chance, where the natural inclination drives it, then the change of day and night, winter and summer is God’s work, as far as he has instructed them course and task and given them a certain law. This would be true at any rate if everything always kept the same order in the same sequence: the days in their succession with the nights, the months with the months, and the years with the years. But if soon excessive heat and drought burn all fruit, soon untimely downpours spoil the seeds, if hail and storm cause sudden catastrophes, then this would not be God’s work – or only insofar as clouds and clear skies, cold and heat derive their origin from the position and the course of the stars or from other natural causes. But in such a way there is neither room for God’s paternal mercy nor for his judgments. If one says that God proves his goodness to the human race sufficiently by giving the heavens and the earth the ordered power to produce food, this is a futile and ungodly delusion – as if the fruitfulness of a year were not God’s special blessing, the lack and hunger not his curse and his retribution! But it would lead too far to enumerate all reasons; therefore God’s own authority shall suffice us. In the law and in the prophets he often proclaims that when he nets the earth with dew and rain, he thereby testifies to his grace; when, on the other hand, the sky freezes like iron at his command, when rust and other damage consume the crops, when hail and storm devastate the fields, this is a sign of his certain, special retribution. If we accept this, it is clear to us that not a drop of rain falls without God’s certain command. Thus David praises God’s "general" providence in giving food to the young ravens that call upon him (Ps 147:9). But if, on the other hand, God himself threatens the animals with hunger, does he not sufficiently explain that he provides and nourishes all living things soon in a lesser, soon in a more abundant measure, according to his pleasure; it is, as I said before, childish if one wants to limit this to individual acts; Christ himself says without exception that not even a worthless sparrow falls to earth without the will of the Father (Mt 10:29). Truly, if God directs the flight of birds with definite counsel, we must confess with the prophet: "Who is like the Lord our God, who has set himself so high, and looks on the lowly in heaven and on earth?" (Ps 113,5 s.).

God’s providence is especially for man

I,16,6 But we know that the world was created primarily for the sake of the human race: we must also keep this purpose in mind when we think about the world government. The prophet Jeremiah exclaims, "I know, O Lord, that man’s doing is not in his power, and is not in anyone’s power, how he … his course." (Jer 10:23). And Solomon says: "Every man’s walk comes from the Lord; what man understands his way?" (Prov 20:24). Now one should go and say that man is indeed moved by God according to the inclination of his nature, but he directs this movement wherever he himself wants! If this would be rightly spoken, then the decision about his ways would be up to the human being! This will perhaps be denied, because man can do nothing without God’s power. But the prophet and Solomon attribute to God not only the power, but also the decision and destiny, and therefore this objection does not help. In another place, Solomon also subtly punishes this presumptuousness of man, who sets his sights on a goal without regard to God, as if he were not guided by His hand: "Man sets his heart on it, but from the Lord comes what the tongue should speak" (Prov 16:1). It is certainly a ridiculous folly for wretched men to want to act without God, who cannot even speak without His will! Furthermore, to express even more clearly that nothing happens in the world without his purpose, the Scriptures show that precisely what seems to be completely random is subject to him. What will be attributed more to chance than when a branch breaks from a tree, striking a passing wanderer? But the Lord says, on the contrary, that he let it fall into the hand of the one who kills it (Ex 21:13). Who will not attribute the casting of lots to blind luck? But even this does not suffer the Lord, who has also reserved the decision about it. For he does not merely teach that it is by his power that the lottery stones are thrown into the lap and pulled out again, no, precisely that which one would like to attribute almost solely to luck is, according to his testimony, from him! (Prov 16,33). The words of Solomon also belong to this: "The poor and the rich meet together, and the Lord enlightens both their eyes" (Prov 29:13). For in the world the rich are mixed with the poor, because God assigns to each his position; and therefore Solomon reminds that God, who gives them all light, does not himself close his eye, and in this way he exhorts the poor to patience, because those who are dissatisfied with their lot seek to shake off the burden imposed on them by God. In the same way, another prophet reproaches worldly-minded people because they attribute it to the work of men or to luck that some lie in the dust and others come to glory: "Not from rising, nor from falling, nor from the wilderness comes exaltation, for God is the Judge, humbled and exalted" (Ps 75:7 s.; not Luther text). For God cannot remove the office of judgement from Himself, and from this the conclusion is drawn here that it happens from His hidden counsel that some become great people, the others must remain in a despised position.

God’s providence also governs "natural" events

I,16,7 Also the individual events are quite general testimonies of the "special" providence of God. God raised an east wind in the desert that brought a lot of birds to the people (Ex 16:13). When he wanted to throw Jonah into the sea, he sent a mighty storm wind (Jon. 1:4). Those who do not believe that God has the government of the world in his hand will say that this happened outside of the usual course. I, on the other hand, draw the conclusion that no wind ever arises or breaks loose without God’s special command. If he did not direct clouds and winds according to his pleasure and prove the special presence of his power in them, then the word would not be true that he makes the winds his messengers and flames of fire his servants, clouds his vehicle and rides on the wings of the wind (Ps 104:4). Thus we also receive the teaching elsewhere: whenever the sea is stirred up by the roar of the storm wind (Ps 107:25, 29), such boisterousness testifies to God’s special presence. He commands the wind, he stirs up the storm and raises the waves of the sea, then he makes the storm wind stand still so that the waves subside. We also hear elsewhere that he scourged the people with burning winds (Am 4:9). People certainly have the natural ability to beget children, but God still wants it to be a sign of His special grace that He leaves some childless and blesses others with offspring; for the fruit of the womb is a gift of God (Ps 127:3). Thus Jacob also says to his wife, "Am I God, that I should give thee children?" (Gen 30:2). And to conclude: Nothing is considered more natural in the world than that we be fed with bread. And yet the Spirit says that not only the produce of the earth is a special gift of God, but also: "Man does not live by bread alone" (Deut 8:3); for it is not satiety itself that nourishes us, but the hidden blessing of God. He also threatens that he will break the bread’s nourishing power (Isa 3,1). And the request for daily bread could not be taken seriously if God did not give us food with a fatherly hand! That is why the prophet, in order to convince the faithful that God proves to be the best householder in their nourishment, says that he gives all flesh its food (Ps 136:25). Finally: we hear on one side: "The eyes of the Lord take note of the righteous, and His ears of their crying" (Ps 34:16), and then on the other: "But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, that He may cut off their remembrance from the earth" (Ps 34:17). From this we are to recognize that all creatures in heaven and on earth are ready to serve him, that he needs them for whatever he wants! And from this it follows that not only his "general" providence is effective on the creature, so that he maintains the order of nature (ordo naturae), but that the creature is made serviceable to a certain and special purpose according to God’s wonderful counsel.

The doctrine of Providence is not a Stoic faith in fate

I,16,8 Who now wants to make this doctrine hateful, blasphemes that it is a doctrine of the Stoics (dogma Stoicorum), it is nothing else than the doctrine of fate (fatum). This was once already reproached to Augustin (Book against two letters of the Pelagians, to Bonifacius, II,6). Although I do not like to argue about words, I do not want to adopt the expression "fate" (fatum); because on the one hand it belongs to what Paul teaches us to avoid as "unspiritual, loose talk" (1Tim 6:20), and on the other hand one tries to put God’s truth in a bad light with its help. But the doctrine (of the fatum) is reproached to us quite falsely and in malice! For we do not speak with the Stoics of the "necessity" which comes from the constant interweaving of causes (ex perpetuo causarum nexu) and consists in a fixed connection as it is contained in nature. We speak, on the contrary, of God: who is the Ruler and Walter over all things, who in his wisdom has determined from all eternity what he wills to do, and now carries it out in his power. Therefore we also maintain that his providence governs not only heaven and earth and the inanimate things, but also man’s designs and wills, so that everything must be directed according to the purpose determined by it. Why then, one will ask, does really nothing happen by chance, really nothing out of coincidence? I answer this: Basil the Great rightly said that "luck" and "chance" are pagan expressions, with the content of which God-fearing people should have nothing to do. For if every success is God’s blessing, every hardship and adversity His curse, then there is no room for "luck" or "chance", at least with regard to human destinies. Also, Augustine’s statement must be taken to heart: "It vexes me that in the books against the academics I have so often used the expression ’luck’, although I have meant by it not a goddess, but the accidental outcome of things in external events, be it good or evil. Hence come also those expressions: ’perhaps, about, possibly, probably, accidentally’, which no religion forbids to use. And yet everything must be referred entirely to divine providence. I have not concealed this, for I said that perhaps what is commonly called ’luck’ is also directed according to a hidden order; and in events we generally call that ’chance’ whose reason and cause is unknown. This I have said, but I am still sorry to have used the expression ’luck’ in this; for men, as I see, have the bad habit of saying, where one ought to say, ’God willed it so,’ of actually saying, ’Luck willed it so’!" (Retract. I,1). Augustin also teaches throughout that if one allowed "luck" to have an influence, then the world would be subject to blind chance. Now, of course, he teaches at one point that everything happens partly through the free will of man, partly through God’s providence. But immediately afterwards he shows that men are subject to providence and are governed by it, and thereby establishes the principle that the greatest absurdity is the assertion that anything happens without God’s order, for then it would happen without any cause. For this reason, he also excludes the contingency that depends on the free will of man, and then says quite clearly that one should not seek a reason for God’s will. Often he mentions the "permission" (permissio); but what is to be understood by it is quite clear from a passage, where he says that God’s will is the supreme and first reason for everything, only on his order or permission something happens (Various Questions, 83; Of the Trinity, III,4). He does not think of a God who, when he wants to allow something, idly and hesitatingly looked on; no, his active will (actualis voluntas) is also effective, so to speak! Otherwise this could not be called reason at all!

The true causes of what is happening are hidden from us

I,16,9 But our mind in its sluggishness does not reach the height of God’s providence from afar; and therefore a distinction must be applied to its support. So I will express myself as follows: Although everything is ordered by God’s counsel in firmly determined regulation, it is nevertheless "accidental" for us. This does not mean that we think that the world and people are under the rule of luck and that everything in heaven and on earth happens by chance – for such a folly must stay away from the heart of a Christian man! But because the order, the cause, the purpose and the necessity of the events are not comprehended by the human knowledge, since they are hidden for the most part in God’s counsel, so that what actually comes quite certainly from God’s will is for us, as it were, coincidental! There is no different picture, whether we look at it all with regard to its own nature or also consider it according to our understanding and judgment. Let us imagine, for example, a merchant who, accompanied by reliable people, goes into a forest, carelessly strays from his companions, falls into the power of a band of robbers on his way astray, and is murdered. His death was seen before by God’s eye and also determined by his counsel. For it is not (only) said that he saw beforehand the length of every man’s life, but that he had set and determined limits beyond which one cannot go (Job 14:5). But as far as our mind reaches, it all seems accidental. What is the Christian man to think? He will certainly recognize that which caused such a death, according to its nature, as indeed it is, as accidental, but he will nevertheless not doubt that God’s providence had the guidance in this, to direct the "accident" to its purpose! Exactly so the coincidences of the future are to be regarded. For all things future are uncertain to us, and therefore we leave them undetermined, as if they might lean to either side. But nevertheless we have the firm certainty in our hearts that nothing can come to pass that the Lord has not already provided for! In this sense, the preacher also needs the word "exit" (end?) several times; for people cannot penetrate to the final cause at first sight, because it is distant and hidden. And yet, what the Scriptures teach about God’s hidden providence has never been eradicated from the hearts of men in such a way that there would not still have remained some sparks in the midst of the darkness. Thus the Philistine soothsayers, though wavering in doubt, attribute misfortune partly to God and partly to fortune: "If the ark goes one way, we know that it is God who has done us evil; if it goes another, it has happened to us by chance" (1Sam 6:9). It is certainly foolish for them, lacking prophecy, to resort to chance; yet we note how they are compelled not to dare to think that the misfortune that befalls them is entirely accidental. By the way, we can see in a very clear example how God, with the reins of His providence, directs all events in the way He wants: At the very moment when David was attacked in the wilderness of Maon, the Philistines broke into the land, and Saul had to give way! (1 Sam 23:26f.). Then God, in order to save His servant, wanted to put this obstacle in Saul’s way – and as certainly as the Philistines quickly took up arms beyond all expectation, we cannot say that this happened by chance, but faith will acknowledge that what appears to us to be by chance was actually God’s secret impulse! This principle does not always appear so clearly; but we must nevertheless hold that all changes in the world are to be regarded as hidden effects of his hand. Now what God has decided must necessarily happen, even if it is not necessary in itself, from its own nature. We have a well-known example in the bones of Christ. Since he took on a body similar to ours, no reasonable person will doubt that his bones were fragile – and yet it was impossible to break them! (John 19,33-36) From this we can see that it was not groundless, if in the school theology a difference was made between conditional (necessitas secundum quid) and absolute necessity (necessitas absoluta) or accordingly between such events, which result conditionally necessary (i.e. co-determined by "means causes") (necessitas consequentis), and such, which occur with an unconditional necessity (necessitas consequentiae) (based on God’s order and will). For God did not want that the bones of his Son were really broken, but nevertheless subjected them (by virtue of the incarnation) to fragility; thus he limited something that could happen by nature under the necessity of his counsel!

Chapter Seventeen

In which direction and from which point of view this teaching should be applied, so that one can be sure of its blessing.

The Meaning of God’s Ways

I,17,1 But the human mind is inclined to empty quibbles, and therefore all who do not grasp the good, right use of this teaching must necessarily get entangled in confused knots. Therefore it is good to touch briefly on the purpose for which the Scriptures teach that everything is ordered by God. First of all, we must note that the providence of God must be related to the future as well as to the past. Furthermore, we must note that it directs all things in such a way that it acts sometimes with the intervention of means causes, sometimes without such causes, sometimes against all means causes. And finally, the main point of view is that God wants to show how he cares for the whole human race, but how he especially watches over the government of the church, which he dignifies with his closer inspection. To this must be added: Certainly, in the whole course of Providence, either His fatherly grace and beneficence or the seriousness of His judgment often shines forth clearly; but the reasons of what happens are often unknown, so that the opinion arises that human destiny is turned and twisted by the blind impulse of nature, or that the flesh tempts us to object as if God threw men about like balls and played His game with them. But it is also true that if we were willing to learn with a calm and serene heart, it would already become clear to us from the outcome how God, with his counsel, always takes the best way to educate his own to patience, or to mend their evil inclinations and tame their lust, or to bring them to self-denial, or to rouse them from sleep; but, on the other hand, to cast down the wanton, to nullify the breach of the wicked, and to dissipate their intrigues. And even though his reasons may be hidden and distant from us, we may safely believe that they are hidden with him, and therefore exclaim with David: "Lord, my God, great are thy wonders, and thy thoughts, which thou hast proved in us, are not to be comprehended; if I try to reason them out, they exceed all telling (Ps 40:6; not Luther text). For although in tribulations we must always remember our sins, and although the punishment itself provokes us to repentance, yet we see how Christ ascribes to the secret counsel of the Father a still greater right than merely that he punish each according to his merit. For he says of the man born blind, "Neither this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the glory of God might be revealed in him!" (John 9:3). There the misfortune was already there before the day of birth, and the feeling resists, as if God treats innocent people so hard without mercy. But Christ testifies that in this event the glory of His Father shines forth, if only we had clear eyes to see it! We must hold fast to the humility that does not call God to account; we should rather honor His hidden counsels, so that His will may be to us the most just ground of all things! When thick clouds cover the sky and violent storms break out, our eyes see only sad darkness, our ears are deafened by thunder, and all our senses are frozen with terror; therefore everything seems to us to collapse and become confused – but meanwhile the same calm and serenity always remains in heaven! So we should also hold: if in the world the confusion wants to make all judging impossible for us, nevertheless God with the pure light of his justice and wisdom himself guides all these movements in certain order and leads them to the right goal. It is truly a strange addiction when some people with such great self-assurance demand God’s works before their court, recalculate His secret counsels, and pass judgment on unknown things at once, more than they would do on deeds of mortal men! For what is more wrong than to be modest in our judgment toward our equals, rather than to incur the reproach of being hasty, and on the other hand to judge insolently God’s hidden judgments, which we should regard with reverence?

God’s actions are to be regarded with reverence

I,17,2 Therefore, no one will consider God’s providence rightly and with benefit, who does not consider that he is dealing with his creator and the worker of the world, and accordingly submits to him in fear and reverence with due humility. That nowadays so many dogs attack this doctrine with poisonous bites or at least with their barking, that comes from the fact that they do not want to concede to God more than their own reason commands them. They also fight us with all the insolence at their command, because we would not be satisfied with the regulations of the law, in which God’s will is laid down, but also claim that the world is governed by his hidden counsels. As if this doctrine were a figment of our brains, as if the Holy Spirit did not make all this clear everywhere, repeating it over and over again with innumerable paraphrases! But they have a certain timidity in pouring out their vices against heaven, and therefore, in order to be able to race the more freely, they pretend that it is a dispute with us! But if they do not admit that everything that happens in the world is directed by God’s incomprehensible counsel, then let them tell us why the Scriptures say that God’s judgments are a deep abyss! (Ps 36:7). For when Moses exclaims that the will of God is not far away in the clouds, nor is it to be sought in the abyss, because it is clearly set forth in the law (Deut 30:11 ss.), it follows that another, hidden will is compared to the abyss! Paul also speaks of this when he says: "O, what depth of riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and how incomprehensible his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Rom 11:33 s.). It is true that the Law and the Gospel contain mysteries far beyond our understanding. But God enlightens the heart of His own with the spirit of knowledge to grasp these mysteries which He has seen fit to reveal in His word; and therefore here is no longer an abyss, but a way to walk safely, and a lamp to our foot, the light of life, the school of certain and plain truth! The wondrous nature of the world government, on the other hand, is rightly called abyss; for we are to worship it reverently in its hiddenness. Moses expresses both very beautifully in a few words: "The secret is with our God; but what is written here concerns you and your children" (Deut 29:29; not Luther text). There, as we see, he commands not only to diligently observe the law, but also to regard God’s secret providence with reverence. A praise of this sublimity is also written in the Book of Job – and it is humbling for us what we hear there! After the author has contemplated the building of the world above and here below, speaking grandly of the works of God, he adds at the end, "Verily, this is the compass of his ways, and how little have we heard of them!" (Job 26:14; not Luther text). In this sense, he also makes a distinction elsewhere between the wisdom that dwells with God and the kind of wisdom that he has commanded men to have. For after speaking of the mysteries of nature, he says that wisdom is known to God alone, and it escapes the eyes of all the living (Job 28:21, 23). But then he immediately adds that it is made known so that man may know it, for "Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom" (Job 28:28). In this direction goes also the saying of Augustine: "Because we do not know all that God does to us in the best order, we merely act according to the law in good will, and in all the rest we are driven according to the law – for his providence is an unchangeable law!" (Miscellaneous Questions 83:27) Since God has reserved to Himself the right of world government, unknown to us, this must be the law of our humility and modesty, to hang upon His supreme command, that His will may be for us the only guide of righteousness and the most just cause of all things! But this is not that "absolute will" of which the sophists prate, who in impious and unholy division separate his justice from his power; but it is the providence which governs all things, from which all good comes, however hidden its reasons may be to us!

God’s providence does not take away our responsibility

I,17,3 He who has been granted such modesty will neither grumble against God for the sake of the adversities of past times, nor blame him for the misdeeds, as Agamemnon does in Homer: "I am not to blame for this, but Zeus and fate are! Nor will he, like that youth in Plautus, as if swept away by fate, throw himself desperately to his doom: "Fickle is the lot of things, arbitrary is the fate of man; I will go to the rock to make an end of the matter with my life!" Nor will he, following the example of another, gloss over his misdeeds with the name of God. Thus Lyconides pronounces it in another comedy (of Plautus), "God was the instigator, I believe the gods willed it so; for I know that if they had not willed it, it would not have happened!" No, he will search out of the Scriptures and learn what pleases God, in order to reach out after it under the guidance of the Spirit; he will at the same time be ready to follow God wherever he calls him, thus showing that nothing is more salutary than to know this teaching. Godless people make a commotion with their silliness, so that they almost throw heaven and earth, as it were, into confusion: "If, after all, the Lord has appointed the time of our death, there is no escaping it, and all precautions are vain toil!" So when one avoids a road he knows to be dangerous, lest he be killed by robbers, – when another goes for the physician and seeks medicines to preserve his life, – or when yet another abstains from heavier foods to preserve his feeble health, – or when one has misgivings about moving into a dilapidated house, – or when we all devise ways together and consider with great effort in order to get what we desire – then (according to their opinion) these are all useless means by which one desires to change God’s will; or else life and death, health and sickness, peace and war, and all other things which men strive for or hate, and therefore strive with great diligence to obtain or to keep away, are not at all determined by his certain decision! Yes, one considers then also the prayers of the faithful as wrong, even as superfluous – since one asks in them for God’s guidance in such things, which God has nevertheless determined since all eternity! In short, all precautions for the future are annulled as being in contradiction to God’s providence – since this has already decided what is to happen even without consideration of them. And what really happens, one attributes to the providence of God in such a way that one excuses thereby the human being who has caused it nevertheless certainly with consideration. An assassin kills a righteous citizen – he has, they say, carried out God’s advice! Someone has stolen or committed adultery – he is a servant of God’s providence, for he has done what was intended and ordained by the Lord! A careless son lets his father die without seeking a remedy – he could not resist God, who had decreed it from eternity! In this way then all misdeeds are called lying, because they supposedly serve the order of God!

God’s providence does not relieve us of our own prudence

I,17,4 As for what is to come, Solomon easily brings together the reasoning of men with God’s providence. True, he mocks the folly of such people who rashly attack all manner of things without the Lord, as if they were not governed by His hand. But likewise he says elsewhere, "Man’s heart deviseth his way; and the Lord alone giveth to go his way" (Prov 16:9). In this way he shows that God’s eternal purpose in no way prevents us from taking care of ourselves under His will and providing for all our needs. There is also an easily recognizable reason for this. For he who has set its limits to our life has at the same time entrusted to us the care of it, has given us understanding and means to preserve it, has made us acquainted with the dangers that threaten it, and has given us prudence and means of protection in hand, so that those dangers may not attack us unawares. Now it is clear what our obligation is: if the Lord has charged us to guard our life, we are to guard it; if he presents us with remedies, we are to use them; if he shows us the dangers beforehand, we are not to run into them unadvisedly; if he comes to our aid with remedies, we are not to esteem them lightly! "But" – you interject – "all the danger I encounter is fateful (fatal) after all, and no remedies will help!" But how if the dangers are not inevitable because the Lord has given you means to face them and overcome them? Just see, how will you unite such a conclusion with the order of divine guidance? You think that we should not be cautious of danger, because if it is not destined (to an evil outcome), then we would escape it even without caution. The Lord, however, makes caution a duty for you precisely because he does not want misfortune to befall you fatefully! Such fools do not take into account what is before their eyes, namely that the Lord has given man the ability to foresee and to be careful, with which he should serve His providence in the preservation of his life! In the same way, man, through carelessness and sloth, brings upon himself the evils that God has associated with it. A provident man, who seeks help, thereby also escapes threatening dangers; the fool, on the other hand, perishes in his carelessness. Where does this come from other than that folly and prudence are also instruments of divine guidance, each in its own way? God has let everything that is to come be hidden from us, but in such a way that we approach it precisely as a doubtful thing and do not cease to oppose it with the prepared means until it is either overcome or has proved stronger than all care! I have already noticed that God’s providence does not always meet us "merely", but God clothes it, so to speak, with the means used for it.

God’s providence does not excuse our wickedness

I,17,5 The same people refer in a wrong, thoughtless way also the events of the past to the "mere" providence of God. Because everything that happens depends on this, they conclude: "Therefore neither theft, nor adultery, nor murder are accomplished without God’s will working in it. "Wherefore then," they ask, "shall a thief be punished, who yet plundered a man whom the Lord would smite with poverty? Why should the assassin be punished; he, after all, only killed a man whose life the Lord had put an end to? If such criminals all serve the will of God – why punish them?" But I deny that they serve the will of God. For we will not admit that a man who follows his evil instincts gives his service to the command of God; after all, he only serves his wicked desire. Rather, the one who has come to know God’s will and then strives to go where he is called by it, obeys God! But from where do we receive such instruction other than from his word? Therefore, in our actions, we must focus on the will of God as he shows it to us in his word! God demands only one thing from us: namely, what he has commanded! If we decide to do something against His commandment, it is not obedience, but contempt and transgression! "But we wouldn’t act at all if he didn’t want us to!" I admit it. But shall we do evil to obey him in this way? He by no means commands us to do such things; rather, we get carried away, not considering what he wants, but are so furiously given over to the intemperance of our desires that we brace ourselves in firm resolve against his will! "For this very reason we serve his righteous order with our evil deeds; for in his great wisdom he knows how to use bad instruments well and wisely for good!" Now see how insipid is their conclusion: they want the iniquity to pass unpunished to its author, because it would come about only by God’s direction! I admit even more: thieves and murderers and other evildoers are indeed instruments of divine providence, used by the Lord to execute the judgments which he has decreed in himself. But I deny that therefore the misdeeds of these people deserve any excuse. For how should they actually involve God with themselves in their wickedness, or cover their wickedness with his righteousness? Surely they cannot do either! So that they cannot wash themselves clean, their own consciences punish them; so that they do not blame God, they find that the evil is all in them, while with God lies only the right use of their wickedness! "Yea, but yet he worketh through them!" But now I ask: where does the stench of an ox come from, which has been putrefied and dissolved by the heat of the sun? Everyone sees: this is caused by the rays of the sun; but no man will therefore say that the rays of the sun are stinking! If, then, a bad man is the cause and the guilt of evil in himself, how can God bring any defilement upon himself by using such an instrument according to his good pleasure? Away, then, with the dog’s folly, which barks at God’s justice, but cannot harm it!

God’s Providence as the Comfort of Believers

I,17,6 But such blasphemies, even insane fantasies, will nullify a pious and holy contemplation of Providence, as the guideline of piety commands us: so the best and most lovely fruit will grow out of it! Since the Christian has in his heart the irrevocable conviction that everything happens by God’s guidance, and nothing by chance, he will always fix his eyes on Him as the supreme cause of things, but will not disregard the inferior causes in their proper place. Moreover, he will not doubt that God’s special providence is on the alert to preserve him; it will not let anything happen that is not for his good and salvation! But since he has to do first with men, then also with the other creatures, he will be sure: both are governed by God’s providence! As far as men are concerned, be they good or bad, he will acknowledge: their deciding and willing, trying and ability is in God’s hand, and it is up to his good pleasure to turn all this wherever he wants, and also to hinder it whenever he wants! That God’s special providence watches over the salvation of the faithful is testified to by very many very clear promises: "Cast thy concern upon the Lord, and he shall provide for thee; and he shall not leave the righteous in trouble for ever" (Ps 55:23). "For he careth for us!" (1 Pet. 5:7). "He who sits under the shield of the Most High abides under the protection of God who is in heaven" (Ps 91:1; not Luther text), "He who touches you touches the apple of his (God’s) eye!" (Zech 2:12). "I will be your shield (Gen 15:1), your wall of brass" (Isa 26:1; Jer 1:18). "I will be hostile to those who are hostile to you" (Isa 49:25). "Though a mother forget her child, yet will I not forget thee" (Isa 49:15). Isa it not the most important point of view in the stories of the Bible to teach: the Lord guards the ways of the saints with such diligence "that they do not strike their foot against a stone" (cf. Ps 91:12). Now we have rightly rejected above (XVI:4) the opinion of those who think only of a "general" providence of God which does not condescend in a special way to care for each individual creature. Therefore, it is all the more worth the effort to recognize this "special" care for us. Christ claims that not even the smallest sparrow falls to the ground without the will of the Father (Mt 10:29), and he immediately turns this around. Since we are more than sparrows, we should consider ourselves all the more assured of God’s special care; he extends this care so far that we should confidently believe that even the hairs on our head are all numbered (Mt 10:30). What else can we wish for, if not even a hair of our head can fall without His will? I am not speaking here only (in general) of the human race, but because God has chosen the church as his dwelling place, he undoubtedly shows his fatherly care in its leadership through special testimonies.

II,17,7 Strengthened by such promises and examples, the servant of God will also remember the testimonies which teach that all men are under God’s power, whether their heart is to be favorably disposed toward us or their wickedness must be put in check so that it does no harm. For it is the Lord who gives us grace, not only with those who are favorable to us, but also "in the eyes of the Egyptians" (Ex 3:21); but the insolence of our enemies he knows how to break in many ways. Sometimes he takes away their reason, so that they cannot do anything wise and prudent. Thus he sends Satan to fill the mouth of all the prophets with lies to deceive Ahab (1Ki 22:22). Or he leads Rehoboam astray through the counsel of the young, that he might lose his dominion through his folly (1 Ki 12:10, 15). Sometimes he lets them have their wits, but puts them into such terror and stupefaction that they no longer will or accomplish what they have set out to do. Sometimes he also allows them to try what lust and rage have given them, and then inhibits their impetuosity at the right time, does not let them lead to the goal what they have planned! Thus he destroyed the advice of Ahitophel, which could have been ruinous for David, before the time (2Sam 17:7.14). Thus it is His care to guide all creatures to His own good and salvation, and we see how even the devil did not dare to tempt Job without His permission (permissio) or order (Job 1:12). Whoever recognizes this will necessarily have heartfelt gratitude in happy success, patience in suffering, and an incredible certainty for the future. He will attribute everything that happily succeeds according to his heart’s desire to God alone, whether he has experienced his beneficence through the service of men or whether he has been helped by inanimate creatures. He will say to himself in his heart: It is certainly the Lord who has inclined their souls to me and brought them to me, that they might become instruments of his kindness to me! He will think in the case of rich harvest: it is the Lord who "heard" heaven, so that heaven "heard" the earth and the latter again its offspring (cf. Hos 2:23 ss.). Thus, also in other things, he will not doubt that everything flourishes only through the Lord’s blessing – and, encouraged by so many causes, he will not be able to be ungrateful!

The certainty of God’s providence helps us in all adversities.

I,17,8 If such a man is affected by something unpleasant, he will immediately lift up his heart to God, because his hand is best able to give us patience and gentleness of heart. If Joseph had stopped to consider the faithlessness of his brothers, he could never have gained a brotherly disposition toward them. But he looked to the Lord, and there he forgot the wrong and was inclined to meekness and mercy, so that he even of his own free will comforted the brothers, saying, "It was not you who sold me into Egypt, but God’s will that sent me before you, that I might preserve your lives!" (Gen 45:7 ss.; summarily). "You intended to do evil to me, but God intended to do good!" (Gen 50:20). If Job had looked at the Chaldeans who were tormenting him, he would have been immediately inflamed to revenge. But he still recognizes (in the event) the Lord’s work, and there he can comfort himself with the glorious sentence: "The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, the name of the Lord be praised!" (Job 1:21). If David, when Shimei attacked him with insults and stone-throwing, had fixed his eyes on the man, he would have urged his own to take vengeance for the wrong (done to him); but because he saw that the latter did not act without the Lord’s moving power, he rather appeased them, saying, "Let him alone, for the Lord has told him: curse David!" (2Sam 16:10). With the same rein he restrains his intemperate pain in another place: "I will be silent and not open my mouth, for you have done it" (Ps 39:10). There is no more powerful remedy for anger and impatience than this; so he who has learned to contemplate God’s providence in this piece has certainly already achieved much, so that he can say to himself again and again: The Lord has willed it, therefore I must bear it, not only because I should not resist, but also because he wants nothing but what is right and wholesome! In short, if we have been unjustly injured by men, we should not pay any further attention to their wickedness – it would only aggravate our pain and incite our hearts to revenge! - But lift ourselves up to God and learn to hold fast in the most certain way: what the enemy has inflicted on us in his wickedness, God has allowed, even sent, in righteous providence! Paul rightly reminds us, in order to deter us from the retaliation of evil, that we have to fight "not with flesh and blood", but with the spiritual enemy, the devil; against him we are to arm ourselves for battle! (Eph 6:12). This is the best exhortation to curb all the desire for revenge: that God Himself arms the devil as well as all the ungodly for battle and sits enthroned like a judge to exercise us in patience! If misfortune and misery befall us through no fault of our own, we should remember the teaching of the Law: everything that is wholesome flows from the source of God’s blessing, everything that is unpleasant is His curse (Deut 28:20 ss.), and we should be frightened by the terrible announcement: "If by chance you will ’walk contrary to me,’ then by chance I will also ’walk contrary to you’" (Lev 26:15 ss.). (Lev 26:15 ss., especially v. 24). With these words our sluggishness is punished, if we, according to the common fleshly way, consider everything as coincidental, what we encounter good or bad, and neither let ourselves be encouraged by God’s good deeds to worship Him, nor let ourselves be led to repentance by His blows. This is the reason why Jeremiah and Amos were so bitter with the Jews, because they thought that both good and evil happened without God’s command (Cf. 3:38; Amos 3:6). The words of Isaiah also refer to this: "I am the God who makes light and creates darkness, I give peace and create evil, I am the Lord who does all these things" (Isa 45:7).

No disrespect for the "middle causes"!

I,17,9 In the meantime, the pious will not disregard the inferior causes (causas inferiores). He will not draw the conclusion from the insight that those who do him good are servants of God’s goodness that he can pass them over (with ingratitude), as if they did not deserve thanks for their kindness (humanitas), but he will feel obliged to them from the heart, gladly confess himself as the recipient of the gift and, according to his ability, also strive to give them thanks by deed. In short, he will certainly praise and glorify God as the most noble author in receiving good gifts, but he will honor men as his servants and will realize, as is indeed the case, that he is obliged by God’s will to thank those through whose hand God has wanted to show Himself charitable! If he has suffered damage through carelessness or imprudence, he will indeed state that this has happened to him by God’s will, but he will also attribute it to himself! If a man has died of an illness which he was obliged to care for, but treated negligently, he will certainly know that the person concerned has come to the end which he could not escape, but he will not disregard his sin; on the contrary, he has not faithfully fulfilled his duty to that person and will therefore regard the matter as if he had died through the fault of his negligence. Much less will he, in the case of murder or theft, excuse the wickedness and wickedness of his heart which is active in this with the pretext of divine providence; he will rather consider God’s justice and man’s wickedness, as they both reveal themselves, in their difference in the same deed. And in particular he will pay attention to such subordinate causes with regard to the future. For he shall reckon it among the blessings of the Lord, if he lacks not human help, which he can avail himself of for his welfare. For this reason he will not desist from seeking counsel, nor will he become indolent in calling upon the help of such men as may well be able to assist him; nay, he will consider that all creatures who can be helpful to him are given to his hand by the Lord, and therefore he will use them as right instruments of divine providence for his good. And although he is uncertain what success his undertakings will have – apart from the fact that he knows: the Lord will have his best in mind in everything! -, he will nevertheless strive with zeal for what seems useful to him, as far as he can accomplish it by reason and thought. And yet he will not be a slave to his own sense in his resolutions, but will entrust himself to the wisdom of God and let himself be guided by his guidance to the right goal. Nor will he hang his trust on external help to such an extent that he rests securely in it when it is available, but immediately trembles like a lost man when it is lacking. He will always set his heart on God’s providence alone and will not let himself be distracted from a firm view of it by the consideration of the respective situation. So Joab also knew very well that the outcome of the battle was in God’s hands and will; but he did not surrender to inactivity about it, but carried out with diligence what was his duty, leaving the outcome to the Lord: "Let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God; but let the Lord do what is good in His sight" (2Sam 10:12). If we think in this way, we will refrain from all forwardness, all false confidence in ourselves and every other creature, and will find ourselves continually driven to the invocation of God. In this way of thinking, however, our hearts will also be strengthened in good confidence, so that we will look down courageously and bravely on all dangers that may surround us without hesitation.

Without the certainty of God’s providence, life would be unbearable.

I,17,10 But here the indescribable happiness of a pious heart proves itself. Innumerable are the evils that besiege our human life, death always lurks in them. We need not look beyond ourselves: our body is a nest of a thousand diseases, and how many causes of disease it bears and nourishes within itself! Man cannot stir without carrying in himself his ruin in many forms, and he leads his life, as it were, always interwoven with death! How else to express it – when he can bear neither frost nor sweat without danger? And wherever we turn, everything that surrounds us is not only of doubtful reliability, but almost faces us with open threat and seems to announce the nearness of death. Get into a ship – and you are only one step from death! Put yourself on horseback – your life hangs on the stumble of a foot! Walk through the streets of the city – as many tiles are on the roofs, as many dangers you are exposed to! Isa a weapon in your or your friend’s hand – the harm is lurking for you! How much wild beasts thou seest – they are prepared to spoil thee! And if thou wilt shut thyself up in a walled garden, where nothing but loveliness appears to thee - there, too, a serpent sometimes lurks! All the time your house is exposed to conflagration, all the days it can make you poor, all the nights it can slay you! The field is in danger before hail, frost, drought and other bad weather – and that means for you misgrowth and hunger! I pass over poisonings, insidiousness, robbery, open violence, which pursue us in the own house or also outside! Under such fears should not the man be completely miserable, who is half-dead his whole life and keeps his frightened and dull spirit poor and sickly, as if a sword were always hanging over his neck? You may say that all this happens rarely or at least not always and not to all people, moreover never all together. I admit that; but the example of others teaches us that it can happen to us, too, and our life is no more an exception than theirs; therefore we, too, must necessarily feel fear and terror that it could happen to us, too! But what is more unfortunate than such fear? Besides, it would not be without contempt for God to say that he has abandoned man, the noblest of his creatures, to the blind and accidental blows of fate! But I wanted to speak here only of the misery of man, as he would have to feel it, if he were subjected to the rule of chance.

The certainty of God’s providence gives us joyful confidence in God in our hearts.

I,17,11 But as soon as the light of divine providence dawns on a pious man, he is not only freed and delivered from that most dreadful distress and fear which oppressed him before, but from all anxiety. For just as he rightly feels a shudder before "chance," so he now dares to entrust himself to God in certainty. This, I say, is the consolation that he recognizes: the heavenly Father holds everything together with His power, governs everything with His command and hint, orders everything with His wisdom, so that nothing happens without His purpose. This is the consolation that the believer, entrusted to his protection, to the care of the angels, now knows: no harm from water, fire or sword can touch him, except as far as it has pleased God, who sits in the regiment, to give them room. Thus the psalm sings: "He delivers you from the snare of the hunter and from the harmful pestilence. He shall cover thee with his wings, and thy confidence shall be under his wings; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler, that thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrows that fly by day, nor of the pestilence that creepeth in darkness, nor of the pestilence that destroyeth at noonday" (Ps 91:3 ss.). Therefore, the saints have such exultant confidence: "The Lord is with me, therefore I will not fear; what can men do to me? The Lord is my helper, why should I tremble? Even if an army comes against me, even if I walk in the shadow of death, I will not cease to hope" (Ps 118:6; 27:3; 56:5, etc.). Where, I ask, do they get this unshakable certainty? From the fact that, while the world seems to be moved by chance, they know that the Lord is at work everywhere, and confidently believe that his work will be beneficial to them! If their salvation is threatened by the devil or by wicked men, they would immediately collapse, if the memory and thought of Providence did not keep them upright. But they receive great consolation when they remember that the devil, with the whole horde of the wicked, is held on all sides by God’s hand, as if by the reins; he cannot, therefore, decide on any evil against us, nor put into execution what he has planned, nor even lift a finger with the utmost effort to carry it out, unless God permits it, indeed, unless he has instructed him to do so; for he lies bound in his bands, forced by the bridle to render obedience to him! For as it is with the Lord to give weapons to the fury of enemies, to turn and direct it whithersoever he will, so also he sets measure and purpose, lest they break loose unrestrained at their pleasure! It is based on this certainty when Paul says of a journey in one place that it was prevented by Satan and in another that it was dependent on God’s permission (1Thess 2:18; 1Cor 16:7). If he had merely written that the hindrance was from Satan, he would have seemed to attribute too much power to Satan, as if it were even in his hands to destroy God’s plans; but now he states that God is the ruler on whose permission all ways depend, and thus shows: Satan can only achieve something at his beck and call, whatever he may set in motion! In the same way, David thinks when, in the face of the many vicissitudes by which human life is constantly turned and spun like a wheel, he retreats to this refuge: "My times are in your hands" (Ps 31:16). He could certainly also say "course of life" or put "time" in the singular; but with the expression "times" he wanted to show that, however inconstant the situation of man may be, all change that may occur is nevertheless directed by God. That is why Rezin and the king of Israel, who appeared like burning torches with their forces joined for the destruction of Judah, to destroy and consume the land, are also called by the prophet smoking fires that can only emit a little smoke (Isa 7:4). Even Pharaoh, who was fearsome to all because of his power, strength and army size, is compared to a sea monster and his army to fish (Eze 29:4). And God announces that he will catch the leader and the army with a fishing rod and drag them wherever he wants. In short, I do not want to dwell on it any longer; you can easily see through it if you look at it: the worst misery is not to know the providence, but the highest happiness is to have knowledge of it.

From the "repentance" of God

I,17,12 Enough is said about the providence of God. Of course, only as much as is useful for the safe instruction and comfort of the faithful; for, to satisfy the curiosity of vain men, nothing can suffice, nor is it even to be wished that it should happen! – But there are a few passages which seem to give the impression that the counsel of God – contrary to what we have stated above – is not after all constantly fixed and unchangeable, but variable according to the circumstances of subordinate things. First of all, God’s repentance is sometimes mentioned. He was "sorry that he had made man" (Gen 6:6), that he had raised Saul to kingship (1Sam 15:11). Or he repented of the evil he decided to inflict on his people as soon as he saw any repentance in them (Jer 18:8). Furthermore, we occasionally hear how he changes his decisions. Thus, through Jonah, he had threatened the Ninevites that Nineveh would perish at the end of forty days, but was soon moved by their repentance to a more lenient sentence (Jonah 3:4, 10). He had Hezekiah’s death announced through the mouth of Isaiah, but the king’s tears and prayers persuaded him to postpone death (Isa 38:1, 5; 2Ki 20:1, 5). From here some conclude that God has not determined the human destiny in an eternal decision, but he decides according to each merit, or according to how he considers it fair and just, about the individual years, days and hours sometimes so, sometimes differently! As far as repentance is concerned, this can be attributed to God just as little as, for example, ignorance, error or powerlessness. For no one with knowledge and will enters into the necessity of repenting of a thing; we could not therefore impute repentance to God without at the same time saying that he does not know the future, or that he cannot escape it, or that he rushes at random and rashly into a decision which immediately repents him. This is so far from the meaning of the Holy Spirit that He denies in a context where such "repentance" of God is mentioned (1 Sam 15:11!) that God can be guided by repentance because He is not a man who repents (1 Sam 15:29). It is to be noted how in the same chapter both statements are connected in such a way that we notice how here a comparison is present that excellently removes the appearance of contradiction. It is a figurative representation of the change that has occurred when we hear that God "repented" of having made Saul king. Immediately after this it is also said, "The strong man of Israel doth not lie, neither doth repentance bring him out of his way; for he is not a man, that anything should repent him." In these words, God’s immutability is openly asserted, without image. Thus, then, God’s arrangement in the direction of man’s destinies is certainly permanent and above all repentance. And that His permanence might be beyond doubt, even His enemies were compelled to testify to it. For Balaam, though against his will, had to break out into the words: "For God is not a man, that he should lie; nor the child of man, that he should change. Should he say something and not do it? Should he speak a thing, and not keep it?" (Num 23:19; not quite Luther text).

The Scriptures speak of the "repentance of God" in adaptation to our understanding

I,17,13 So what does the expression "repentance" mean? Certainly nothing else than all the other forms of speech that describe God to us in a human way. Because our weakness does not reach his height, the description of his nature, which is given to us, must be adapted to our power of comprehension in order to be understood by us. But this happens in such a way that he presents himself to us, not as he is in himself, but as he is experienced by us. In this way he is free from all inner agitation by passion – and yet testifies that he is angry with sinners! So when we hear that God is angry, we do not have to imagine an agitation in Himself; rather, we have to consider that this way of speaking is taken from our experience, because God appears to us to be indignant and angry as often as He executes His judgment. So, too, by the word "repentance" we may understand nothing but a modification of his works and deeds; for men, by modifying their deeds, testify that they displease them. Every change among men is the improvement of a thing that displeases; but this improvement comes from repentance; and so the expression "repentance" wants to say: God changes something in his works! In the meantime, however, neither his counsel nor his will is changed, nor his inclination (affectus) transformed; but what he has foreseen from eternity, found to be right and decided, he carries out in a constant measure, however abrupt change man may have before his eyes!

God is steadfastly carrying out His plan

I,17,14 If now the sacred narration (sacra historia) reports how the already announced doom was remitted to the Ninivites (Jonah 3:10) and how Hezekiah’s life was prolonged once more in spite of the announcement of death (Isa 38:5), it does not claim that God’s decisions were cancelled. Those who think so are deluded by these threats; they seem simply to contain an assertion, but the outcome shows that they nevertheless carry a tacit condition. For why did the Lord send Jonah to the inhabitants of Nineveh, that he might announce to them the destruction of the city? Why did he have Isaiah announce his death to Hezekiah? Surely he could judge those and also this one without announcing the disaster! So he had something else in mind than that these people knew about their death beforehand and then saw him coming from afar. He just wanted that they did not perish, but improved themselves to escape the downfall! So when Jonah prophesies that the city of Nineveh will be destroyed after forty days, it is so that it will not perish! When Hezekiah’s hope of another life is cut off, it is so that he may gain another life! Who does not see that by such threats the Lord wanted to awaken the people, whom he frightened, to repentance, so that they escaped the judgment, which they had deserved with their sins! If it is so, then the thing itself leads us to hear out of the simple announcement a tacit condition. This is then confirmed by similar examples. Thus the Lord reproaches king Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife, using the words: "You are dead because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife" (Gen 20:3). But after he has apologized, God says to him: "Give the man back his wife, for he is a prophet, and let him pray for you, and you will live; but if you do not give her back, know that you must die, and all that is yours" (Gen 20:7). There one sees how he shakes his heart violently in the first word to make him ready for satisfaction, but then clearly expresses his will in the second! It is the same with other passages, and therefore one must not think now that something was taken away from the former counsel of the Lord, because he did not carry out what he had announced. No, the Lord rather paves the way for his eternal decree, when he drives people to repentance by threat of punishment, whom he wants to spare, and that without changing anything in his will or even in his words, only that he does not express literally what is to be understood quite clearly. So then the word of Isaiah must remain true: "The Lord of hosts has decreed it, and who will resist it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it away?" (Isa 14:27).

Eighteenth chapter

God also makes use of the deeds of the wicked and directs their thoughts in order to execute his judgments; but he himself remains free from any reproach.

No mere "approval

I,18,1 According to other passages, God himself directs and pulls Satan and all the ungodly wherever he pleases. Here, however, an even more difficult question arises. How can God, if he acts through them, not be tainted by their transgressions, how can he be free from all guilt when he works together and yet rightly condemn those whom he uses as servants? This the mind of the flesh does not understand. This is how the distinction between "doing" and "permitting" (of God) came about: it seems to be an unsolvable knot to many people when it is said that Satan and all the wicked are in God’s hand in such a way that he directs their wickedness to the goal that pleases him, and that he uses their crimes to execute his judgments! Such people could be forgiven for being alarmed by the appearance of the absurd, but they must not wrongly try to justify God’s justice by a falsehood. It seems absurd to them that a man should be blinded by God’s will and command and then bear the punishment for his blindness. So they try to help themselves by the excuse that this happens only by God’s permission, but not also by His will! But God himself destroys this excuse when he clearly says that he acts! That man cannot do anything without God’s secret command, nor can he accomplish anything by deliberation without God having already decided it in himself and brought it about in his hidden guidance, is proven by innumerable clear scriptural testimonies, what we mentioned above from the Psalm: "God can do what he wills" (Ps 115,3), that certainly refers to all deeds of man. If God is really, as it is said, the infallible controller of war and peace (Isa 45:7), and that without any exception, how then can someone dare to claim that man is senselessly guided by a blind impulse, without God’s knowledge and intervention? But special examples will illuminate this even better, we know how in the first chapter of the Book of Job Satan presents himself before God to take orders, just like the angels, who obey of their own accord. He does this in a completely different way and for a completely different purpose, but still in such a way that he cannot do anything without God’s will. Now a mere admission seems to follow, namely that he attacks the holy man (Job). But nevertheless his saying is true: "The Lord gave, the Lord took away, as it pleased the Lord, so it was done" (Job 1:21). And therefore we must conclude that this temptation, as whose servants Satan and wicked robbers were effective, actually had God as its author. There Satan tries to enrage the holy man by despair, there the Sabaeans come to rob cruelly and ungodly foreign property. But Job acknowledges that he has been robbed of all his possessions by God, that he has become a poor man because it pleased God so! So whatever men or even Satan himself undertake – God has the rudder in his hand to direct their undertakings to the execution of his judgments. God wants the faithless king Ahab to be led astray – the devil offers his service for this purpose, and he is sent out with the clear order to be a spirit of lies in the mouth of all prophets! (1Ki 22:20, 22). The blindness of Ahab is God’s judgment – and so every attempt to dream of "mere permission" falls apart. For it would be ridiculous if the judge would merely "allow" and not actually order what he wants to happen and give his servants the order to carry it out! The Jews had the intention to kill Christ, and Pilate and his soldiers wanted to follow their furious lust for murder – and yet the disciples confess in solemn prayer that all the ungodly had done nothing but what God’s hand and counsel had decreed! (Acts 4:28). Peter had already said in a sermon that Jesus was put to death by the deliberate counsel and providence of God (Acts 2:23), as if he wanted to say: God, to whom nothing was hidden from the beginning, has determined with knowledge and will what the Jews have done. So he repeats it in another place: "God, what he had declared beforehand by the mouth of all his prophets, how Christ was to suffer, has thus fulfilled" (Acts 3:18). Absalom defiled his father’s bed in adulterous behavior, thus committing a heinous crime (2Sam 16:22). But God proclaimed that this was his doing: "You did it secretly, I will do it publicly, before the sun!" (2Sam 12:12). And Jeremiah says that all the cruelties committed by the Chaldeans in Judea are God’s work (Jer 50:25; 1:15 and many times). For this reason Nebuchadnezzar is called God’s servant! (Jer 25:9; 27:6). Several times God proclaims that his beckoning (Isa 7:18), the sound of his trumpet (Hos 8:1), his command and order (Zeph. 2:1) call the wicked to war! The Assyrian he calls the rod of his wrath (Isa 10:5) and an axe he wields with his hand! The destruction of the holy city and the desolation of the temple he calls his work (Isa 28:21). David does not want to grumble against God when he says that the curses of Shimei come from his command: "The Lord has commanded him to curse" (2Sam 16:10). No, he acknowledges God as the righteous judge! It is often repeated in sacred history that whatever happens comes from the Lord, e.g. the apostasy of the ten tribes (1Ki 11:31), the downfall of the sons of Eli (1 Sam 2:34) and much more of this kind. Whoever is somewhat at home in the Scriptures will see that I only mention a few testimonies out of many in order to be brief. But from these it is already more than enough clear: whoever puts the mere admission in the place of the providence of God, is babbling and talking useless stuff! As if God would sit in quiet contemplation and wait for the accidental events! As if his judgments depended on the pleasure of man!

How does God’s drive happen in human beings?

I,18,2 Now, as far as the secret impulses that God produces in man are concerned, what Solomon says of the king’s heart certainly applies to every man: God inclines it wherever He wills (Prov 21:1). And this means as much as if he had said: whatever we undertake inwardly, all will be guided by God’s secret direction to the goal he has set. Truly, if he were not active in the hearts of men, it would be wrong for him to shut the mouths of the truthful, to take away the wisdom of the aged (Ezk 7:26), to take away the understanding of the rulers of the earth, so that they would go astray! (Ps 107:40). It also belongs to this when we so often read that the people became fearful when his terror seized their hearts (Lev 26:36). Thus David was able to escape unnoticed from Saul’s camp because a sleep had fallen from the Lord on all enemies (1 Sam 26:12). We cannot ask for anything clearer than that he so often proclaims that he blinds the spirit of man (Isa 29:14), he strikes him with delusion, he makes him drunk with a spirit of sleep (Isa 29:10), he gives him away in folly (Rom 1:28) and hardens the hearts (Ex 4:21 and more). Many also relate this to the "admission": God gives up on the rejected and allows them to be blinded by Satan. But the spirit clearly expresses it this way, according to God’s righteous judgment they fell into blindness and folly (Rom 1:20 ss.); that explanation is therefore quite wrong. It is also said that he hardened or hardened Pharaoh’s heart or stiffened it (in his wickedness) (Ex 8:15). Some try to give these forms of speech another meaning by distorting them; they refer to another passage where Pharaoh himself is said to have hardened his heart, and thus his own will is seen as the cause of the hardening (Ex 8:11). And these two assertions are in perfect harmony, because, admittedly in different ways, man, when he is driven by God, acts himself at the same time! I direct what they object to against themselves: for if "obdurate" means (in general) a mere "admission," then the impulse to contumacy is not actually to be sought in Pharaoh either! But how foolish and nonsensical it would be to construe the matter as if Pharaoh had merely permitted it to become hardened! Moreover, the Scriptures take away any handicap from such sophistries: "I will harden his heart," says God! (Ex 4:21). So also Moses says of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan that they went to battle because God had hardened their hearts! (Jos 11:20). Another prophet also repeats it: "He turned their hearts, so that they became grudging toward His people" (Ps 105:25). Likewise, in Isaiah, God threatens to send the Assyrians upon the faithless people and to order them to carry off the plunder and to distribute the spoils (Isa 10:6). This does not mean that he wanted to teach godless and stiff-necked people to obey of their own free will; but it means that he wants to force them to execute his judgments, as if his commands were engraved on their hearts! From this it is clear: they were driven by clear determination of God! Admittedly, God often acts in the ungodly in such a way that Satan has to cooperate as a tool; but still in such a way that the latter does his own on God’s impulse and only comes as far as it is given to him! An evil spirit confounds Saul; but it is said that he was "of God" (1Sam 16:14), so that we know that Saul’s frenzy comes from God’s righteous retribution. It is also said that Satan blinds the minds of the unbelievers (2Cor 4:4). But where should this come from other than that the power of error flows from God Himself, so that those who refuse to obey the truth now believe lies? In the first sense (cf. line 29) it says: "If a prophet speaks something falsely, I, God, have deceived him" (Eze 14:9; not Luther text). And in the second sense (cf. line 30) we hear that he himself gives men away to their wrong mind and lets them go in their evil desires (Rom 1:28); for he is the actual author of his just retribution, Satan is only a servant! But we must come back to these things when we speak of the free or unfree will of man in the second book, and I believe I have briefly explained as much here as the present lesson (locus) required. The main thing must be: if God’s will is the cause of all things, then his providence must also necessarily hold the lead in all the plans and deeds of men, so that it not only shows its power in the faithful, who are governed by the Holy Spirit, but also compels the ungodly into their obedience.

God’s Will is Unified

I,18,3 So far I have only explained what the scripture teaches us clearly and unambiguously. Who is not afraid, therefore, to put evil stigmas on the heavenly words, let him see what kind of judgment he presumes! Certainly, one pretends to be ignorant and would even like to be praised for his modesty – but what can be thought more arrogant than to oppose the authority of God with a little word? "It seems different to me" – "This should not be touched"! But if one wants to blaspheme (the truth) blatantly, what does one gain by whipping up heaven? This boldness is not new; for there have been godless and god-away people at all times who have yelped like mad against this piece of teaching. But in view of the facts, they must admit the truth of what the Spirit once proclaimed through the mouth of David, namely that God is right when He is judged (Ps 51:6). Unspoken, David here punishes the folly of men, which expresses itself in the unbridled impudence of not only wanting to be right with God out of their filth, but even arrogating to themselves the power to condemn him! Meanwhile, he briefly hints that all the blasphemies that are spewed against heaven do not reach God and do not prevent him from breaking through all the clouds of blasphemy and letting his justice shine brightly. But our faith, being grounded in God’s holy word, overcomes the world (1Jn 5:4) and therefore looks down from its height on such fogs! The first reproach is: if everything would happen only with the will of God, then there would be two different wills in him, because he decides in his hidden council what he has forbidden in his law! This is easy to refute. But before I answer, I would like to remind the readers that this sophistry is not really directed against me, but against the Holy Spirit. Surely the Holy Spirit inspired the holy man Job to confess: "As it pleased God, so it was done!" (Job 1:21; not Luther text). And he said this when he was plundered by the robbers and yet acknowledged God’s righteous smiting in their injustice and evil deed! And what else does the Scripture say? The sons of Eli disobeyed their father because God wanted to kill them! (1 Sam 2:25). Also another prophet exclaims: "Our God is in heaven, he can create what he wants" (Ps 115:3). And I have already shown clearly enough that God, according to the Scriptures, is the author of all that which, according to the opinion of these critics, merely happens under his idle permission! He testifies that he creates light and darkness, makes good and evil (Isa 45:7), that no evil happens that he does not do (Amos 3:6). Now one should only tell me whether he executes his judgments with or without will! Moses teaches that whoever is killed by a falling axe is given by God into the hand of the slayer (Deut 19:5). And likewise the whole church says in Luke that Herod and Pilate became one in order to do what God’s hand and counsel had decided! (Acts 4:28). And truly, if Christ had not been crucified with the will of God – where would our salvation come from? But therefore God’s will does not quarrel with itself, does not change, does not pose itself as if it did not want what it does want; no, although it is one and the same in itself, it appears to us manifold, because in our short-sightedness we cannot comprehend how it wants something to happen in different ways in the same matter on the one hand, and yet does not want it on the other hand! In the place where Paul speaks about the calling of the Gentiles being a hidden mystery (Eph 3:9), he immediately adds that in it the "manifold" (polypoikilos) wisdom of God comes to light! (Eph 3:10). But because, due to the weakness of our sight, God’s wisdom appears to us manifold – or also, as an old commentator translates: "multiform" – shall we dream that there is a diversity in God Himself, as if He would change His plan or disagree with Himself? And if we cannot understand how God can want something to happen that he has forbidden to do, let us remember our weakness and consider that the light in which he dwells is not called unapproachable without reason, for it is enveloped in darkness! (1Tim 6:16). Therefore, all pious and humble people will gladly agree with Augustine’s saying: "Sometimes a man in right wills what God does not will; as, for example, a good son wills that his father live, but God wills that he die. Likewise it can happen that a man in bad will wants what God wants in good will, for example if a bad son wants his father to die, but God wants the same. So the latter wants what God does not want, but the former wants what God wants! And nevertheless the pious attitude of the one is more in accordance with the will of God, although it wants something else – than the unpiety of the other, although it wants the same as God! So important it is to pay attention to what man should want according to charge, and what on the other hand is God’s righteous will, also what purpose stands above the will of every man, according to which he is acknowledged or rejected. For God, who wills rightly, accomplishes his will through the evil will of evil men" (Manual to Laurentius, 101). Shortly before, he says: "The apostate angels and all the rejected ones have, as far as they are concerned, done in their apostasy what God did not want them to do; but they have not been able to do it in the face of God’s omnipotence, because by acting against God’s will, God’s will is accomplished in them! And therefore he exclaims: "Great are the works of God, exquisite in all His will (Ps 111:2; Luther text different)! For it happens in a miraculous and inexpressible way not without his will, what nevertheless happens against his will! It would not happen at all, if he would not allow it, also he does not allow it without his will, but with him, and on the other hand he, the good, would not let anything bad happen, if he, the almighty, could not make it good again with the bad!" (Manual, 100).

Even though God uses the deeds of the wicked for His plans, He is not reproached

I,18,4 In this way the second objection is solved and disappears. It is said: If God not only uses the works of the wicked, but even directs their plans and their mind, then he is the author of all wickedness! And so it would be wrong to condemn people, when they only carry out what God has decreed, since they obey His will! – In such a way of looking at things, the will of God is wrongly confused with his commandment; but it results from innumerable examples that here an enormous difference is to be made. Although God, when Absalom committed adultery with his father’s wives (2Sam 16:22), wanted to punish David’s adultery by this deed, he only "allowed" the nefarious son to commit this incest in the sense that it affected his father, just as he also understands Simei’s insults. For when he confesses that this (Simei) curses at God’s "command" (2Sam 16:10), he does not want to praise his obedience at all, as if this impudent dog (consciously) obeyed God’s command, but he recognizes his speech as God’s scourge and lets himself be patiently beaten! Thus we must hold: if God executes through the ungodly what he has determined in his hidden judgment, these are not excusable, as if they obeyed his command – for this they violate with all their might, according to their own lust! The choice of Jeroboam as king (1Ki 12:20) is a particularly clear example of how what people do in their perversity comes from God and is governed by His hidden counsel. There, on the one hand, the rashness and folly of the people is condemned because they overturned the order set by God and faithlessly apostatized from the house of David. And yet, on the other hand, we know that God willed this anointing. This is also the reason for the seeming contradiction in Hosea, because on the one hand God complains that this kingship was established without his knowledge and will (Hos 8:4), and on the other hand he says that he gave the king to Jeroboam "in his anger" (Hos 13:11). How can this be reconciled – Jeroboam is said to have become king without God and yet he is said to have been appointed by him? In the following way: The people certainly could not fall away from the house of David without throwing off the yoke imposed on them by God – but surely this did not deprive God Himself of the liberty to punish Solomon’s ingratitude in this way! So we see how God, who does not want disloyalty, nevertheless wants the apostasy in a just purpose for another purpose; so also Jeroboam is led against all expectation by holy anointing to the rulership! In such a way, says the sacred history, an enemy was awakened by God, who deprived Solomon’s son of a part of the dominion (1Ki 11:23). There the reader must consider with attention both: It pleased God that the people should be ruled under the hand of a king; that it now breaks into two parts, that happens against his will – and nevertheless the discord took its origin in his will! For the fact that the prophet instilled the hope of kingship in Jeroboam, who did not suspect anything of the sort, by his word and by the expectation inherent in the anointing, certainly did not happen without knowledge, nor without the will of God, who had just commanded that it should happen that way. And yet the apostasy of the people is rightly condemned, because they turned away from the house of David against the will of God, so to speak! In this sense it is said later: that Rehoboam so haughtily threw the pleas of the people to the wind, this was done by God so that the word would be fulfilled, which he had spoken through his servant Ahia! (1Ki 12:15). Note: there against the will of God the holy unity is torn apart – and nevertheless ten tribes separate from the son of Solomon out of the same will! There may be another similar example: There, with the consent, even the cooperation of the people, the sons of King Ahab are murdered, and the whole lineage is cut off (2Ki 10:7). Jehu rightly says that none of God’s words fell to earth, but that God did what he said through his servant Elijah. And yet he does not without cause punish the citizens of Samaria for having helped to do it: "Are you righteous? If I have conspired against my lord – who then has killed all these?" (2Ki 10:9; not Luther text). I have already above, – if I am not mistaken: clearly – set apart how in the same work is shown as well the crime of man as God’s justice. And modest readers will always be satisfied with Augustine’s answer: "If the Father gave up the Son, and Christ gave up His body, and Judas gave up the Lord, how can God be just and man guilty in this manifold "giving up", unless in the very same thing they did, the reason for which they acted was not one!" (Letter 93). So now we have to say: there is no common ground between God and man when the latter does what he is not allowed to do on God’s righteous impulse! For those who cannot find themselves in this, let a saying of the same Augustine come to their aid: "Who will not tremble at those judgments, since God works in the hearts of the wicked what he wills – and then yet repays them according to their merit!" (On Grace and Free Will 21:42). And yet, in view of Judas’ faithlessness, it would be just as wrong to blame God for his nefarious deed, because he himself wanted his Son to be given up, and yet gave him up to death himself – just as it would be wrong, on the other hand, to give Judas the credit for salvation! Therefore it is very right when the same Augustin reminds in another place that in this investigation God does not ask what man would have been able to do, also not what he would have done, but what he would have wanted, so that plan and will would come to account! Now let him who thinks this "hard" consider a little whether such murmuring is pardonable, when he despises a doctrine supported by clear scriptural testimony merely because it goes beyond his understanding, and is angry at the fact that things are brought to trial which God would never have had taught by his prophets and apostles if he did not know that they are useful to know! For our wisdom can consist in nothing else than that we accept with humble eagerness to learn everything – and that without exception – what is made known to us in the Holy Scriptures. But he who boasts of insolence obviously yelps against God and is not worthy of a longer refutation.

Johannes Calvin: True and False Predestination.   -  Discourse 100