Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575): Faith is a most assured sign that thou art elected



The doctrine of predestination often raises pastoral concerns among congregants. When a congregant wrestles with the question, “How do I know I am elect?”, how may a pastor or elder answer him or her? Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) answers this question in his Decades, 4:187-188:

“[I]f thou ask me whether thou art elected to life, or predestinate to death; that is, whether thou art of the number of them that are to be damned, or that are to be saved; I answer simply out of the scripture, both of the evangelists and the apostles: If thou hast communion or fellowship with Christ, thou art predestinate to life, and thou art of the number of the elect and chosen: but if thou be a stranger from Christ, howsoever otherwise thou seem to flourish in virtues, thou art predestinate to death, and foreknowledged, as they say, to damnation. Higher and deeper I will not creep into the seat of God’s counsel. And here I rehearse again the former testimonies of scripture: ‘God hath predestinate us, to adopt us into his sons through Jesus Christ. This is the will of God, that whoso believeth in the Son should live; and whoso believeth not should die.’ Faith therefore is a most assured sign that thou art elected; and whiles thou art called to the communion of Christ, and art taught faith, the most loving God declareth towards thee his election and good-will.

The simpler sort, verily, are greatly tempted and exceedingly troubled with the question of election. For the devil goeth about to throw into their minds the hate of God, as though he envied us our salvation, and had appointed and ordained us to death. That he may the more easily persuade this unto us, he laboureth tooth and nail wickedly to enfeeble and overthrow our faith; as though our salvation were doubtful, which leaneth and is stayed upon the uncertain election of God. Against these fiery weapons the servants of God do arm their hearts with cogitations and comforts of this sort fetched out of the scripture:

God’s predestination is not stayed or stirred with any worthiness or unworthiness of ours; but of the mere grace and mercy of God the Father, it respecteth Christ alone. And because our salvation doth stay only upon him, it cannot but be most certain.”

Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) on the covenant of grace


The early Zurich theology preached a postlapsarian covenant of grace (i.e. established after the fall of man) which is bilateral, contemplating a mutual pact between God and humanity, with conditions that God makes certain promises and humanity undertakes certain duties of obedience. It is a single covenant, binding together all of God’s covenantal transactions (or “leagues”) with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses in the Old Testament, which are seen as anticipations of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The unity of the covenant flows from the unity of God’s ways with humanity. In the passage below, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) explains the covenant idea in a sermon on the law:

“When God’s mind was to declare the favour and good-will that he bare to mankind, and to make us men partakers wholly of himself and his goodness, by pouring himself out upon us, to our great good and profit, it pleased him to make a league or covenant with mankind. Now he did not first begin the league with Abraham, but did renew to him the covenant that he had made a great while before. Now he did first of all make it with Adam, the first father of us all, immediately upon his transgression, when he him, silly wretch [iam profugum, ‘now become an outcast’], into his favour again, and promised his only-begotten Son, in whom he would be reconciled to the world, and through whom he would wholly bestow himself upon us, by making us partakers of all his good and heavenly blessings, and by binding himself in faith and due obedience. This ancient league, made first with Adam, he did afterward renew to Noah, and after that again with the blessed patriarch Abraham. And again, after the space of four hundred years, it was renewed under Moses at the mount Sinai, where the conditions of the league were at large written in the two tables, and many ceremonies added thereunto. But most excellently of all, most clearly and evidently, did our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself shew forth that league; who wiping away all the ceremonies, types, figures and shadows, brought in instead of them the very truth, and did most absolutely fulfil and finish the old league, bringing all the principles of our salvation and true godliness into a brief summary, which, for the renewing and fulfilling of all things, and for the abrogation of the old ceremonies, he called the new league or testament…

But now I return to the league which was renewed with Abraham. We are expressly taught in Genesis, who they were that made the league; that is, the living, eternal, and omnipotent God, who is the chief maker, preserver, and governor of all things; and Abraham with all his seed, that is, with all the faithful, of what nation or country soever they be. For so doth the Apostle expound the seed of Abraham, especially in his epistle to the Galatians, where he saith, ‘If ye be Christ’s, then are ye the seed of Abraham, and heirs by promise’ [Gal. iii. 29].

The time, how long this league should endure, is eternal, and without end or term of time. For although, in the renewings or declarations of the league, many things were added which afterward did vanish away, especially when Christ was come in the flesh; yet notwithstanding, in the substantial and chiefest points, ye can find nothing altered or changed. For God is always the God of his people: he doth always demand and require of them faithful obedience; as may most evidently be perceived in the New Testament.

For there are two points, or especial conditions, contained in this league: the first whereof declareth what God doth promise, and what he will do for his confederates; I mean, what we may look for at his hands: the second comprehendeth the duty of man, which he doth owe to God, his confederate and sovereign prince.”

– Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), “Of the Ceremonial Laws of God”Decades, 2:169-175

Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575): Christ our Lord is the full propitiation, satisfaction, oblation, and sacrifice for our sins


“Yet because there be some, and those not a few, which deny that Christ by his death hath taken from us sinners both fault and punishment, and that he became the only satisfaction of the whole world; I will therefore now allege certain other testimonies, and repeat somewhat of that that I have before recited, thereby to make it manifest, that Christ, the only satisfaction of the world, hath made satisfaction both for our fault and punishment… But how could he choose but remember our iniquities, if he ceased not to punish them? So then, this remains not to be doubted of, that Christ our Lord is the full propitiation, satisfaction, oblation, and sacrifice for the sins, I say, for the punishment and the fault, of all the world: yea, and that by himself alone; for in none other is any salvation: “neither is there any other name given unto men whereby they must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

– Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), Decades, 1st Decade, Sermon 6, vol 1, p. 108, 110

Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) on “general” and “justifying” grace


“Again, what is he which knoweth not, that the grace of God, which is otherwise undivided, is divided and distinguished according to the diverse operations which it worketh? For there is in God a certain (as it were) general grace, whereby he created all mortal men, and by which he sendeth rain upon the just and unjust: but this grace doth not justify; for if it did, then should the wicked and unjust be justified. Again, there is that singular grace, whereby he doth, for his only-begotten Christ his sake, adopt us to be his sons: he doth not, I mean, adopt all, but the believers only, whose sins he reckoneth not, but doth impute to them the righteousness of his only-begotten Son our Saviour. This is that grace which doth alone justify us in very deed. Moreover there is a grace, which, being poured into our minds, doth bring forth good works in them that are justified. This grace doth not justify, but doth engender the fruits of righteousness in them that are justified. Therefore we confess and grant, that good works belong to grace, but after a certain manner, order, and fashion.”

– Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), Decades, 3rd Decade, Sermon 9