Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Again on Bullinger and the English Church

Bullinger’s sermons from The Decades on the sacraments were published in English by the Parker Society as Sermons on the Sacraments by Henry Bullinger. The following is taken from the preface:

“Henry Bullinger was regarded as one of the most learned men of his time; and was distinguished also, for his piety, christian wisdom, and moderation. All the Fathers of the English Reformation held him in great esteem; and to many of them he afforded a hospitable refuge from the Marian persecution. He afterwards did good service to the Church of England by the letters which he addressed to different individuals in this country, during the disputes which grew up in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, respecting Ecclesiastical affairs. For although Bullinger himself, in common with many of the continental Protestants, preferred the disuse of the sacerdotal Habits, and had acquiesced in the Presbyterian Discipline, yet he constantly exhorted those of the Puritan faction in England to abstain from dividing Christ’s Church merely for the sake of their scruples respecting a particular kind of dress: and he, moreover, counseled the English Bishops that ‘it ought especially to be provided that there should not be any high authority given’ to those of the ‘Presbytery’. By this decided expression of his opinion, Bullinger greatly served the cause of Order; insomuch that in a joint Letter written to him by Bishops Grindal and Horn, those eminent persons attribute chiefly to his instrumentality the favourable change which, they inform him, had taken place in the feelings of the people toward the Church. Bullinger, in fact, was one of those who offered to make Edward VI the temporal Defender of the reformed continental Churches, and had expressed a willingness to have Bishops after the model of the Anglican Church. He, therefore, regarded those restless persons who were for abolishing Episcopacy in England, as no better than selfish innovators who, like the ‘seditious Tribunes of Rome,’ were, ‘by virtue of the Agrarian Law,’ for so bestowing ‘the public goods that they might enrich themselves.’

We need not, therefore, be surprised to find that among the writings of the continental Reformers, those of Bullinger were held in marked estimation by the Anglican Divines. An example of this occurs in the circumstance, that the University of Oxford selected Bullinger’s Catechism as one of those books which the Tutors were required to use, for the purpose of imparting sound religious principles to their Pupils…… The reason given in the Preface (ie of the English translation of The Decades) for selecting the Sermons of Bullinger for translation, in preference to the ‘worthie works’ of other ‘famous Divines’ of that time, is, that some of the ‘sort’ of Ministers for whom the labour was undertaken complained ‘that Calvin’s manner of writing in his Institutions is over deep and profound for them… Therefore questionless no writer yet in the hands of men can fit them better than Master Bullinger in these his Decades, who in them amendeth much Calvin’s obscurity with singular perspicuity; and Musculus’ scholastical subtility with great plainness and even popular facilitie.’”

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