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Wolfgang Musculus on the Goodness of God

May 14, 2008

Yet for all that we must consider with what difference the providence of God does give all things unto all. The goodness of God is of two sorts, as the care of his providence is also: of God’s goodness, some be earthly, bodily, and transitory, & some be heavenly, spiritual and eternal. And some care of God is general, and some special. The general care is that, which is peculiar unto the Creator and conserver of all, the special is that, when as a father he has a care of his elect and faithful, in the general care he foresees indifferently unto the necessities of all. Therefore Christ, said, which brings forth his sun upon the good and the evil, and unthankful. So he bestows his bodily and transitory good things, to the uses not only of men, but also of beasts, not only of the just, but of the unjust also: but of his special providence, by which he bears a fatherly goodwill towards them whom he chose into his kingdom, and unto everlasting felicity before the making of the world, he gives indeed temporary, earthly and bodily goods, according unto his general care, but he gives specially heavenly, spiritual and everlasting goods to the saving of the faithful by his Spirit, the spirit of his children, according unto his special benevolence and good will.

He does both these as creator and saviour: but feely of himself, as owing nothing to any man, bestowing them unequally, but not universally. For if we do consider the quality of man’s estate, he gives to no man less than the necessity of our nature requires. And to say the truth, the wealth of the rich men which consists in gold, silver, an other like gay gear, is not so much to be esteemed of itself, that it ought to be preserved before the necessity of provision and substance, which the providence of God commonly gives unto all and which they which be despised for their poverty, do use more happily, than they which for their notable wealth and riches are taken to be most happy.

“Of him” (the Apostle) “be all things, and he adds, and by him,” Ergo all things not only be of God as the fountain of all good things, but also by himself bestows all his good things unto all, how, as much, and when he will. Indeed he uses the ministry of creatures, but the very work itself of the dispensation and distribution, is not of the creature but his. Therefore David says: “Thou opens thy hand, and fills every living thing with blessing.” He means the very same, that the Apostle does, that is to wit, that not only all things be of God, but by God also.

Then if all things be of him, and by him, it follows that there is nothing of any other, but all of, and by God only. So that he may be as well called monarkes, as panarkes, and truly so it is. Unless we do receive our things of God, neither Heaven nor Earth, nor any other thing that seems to be of any power, can do any good, no nor the world can so fill one man’s heart, that he shall desire nothing more. This pertains unto God only, sufficiently to fulfill those things which he has made. He which has God himself has not only much, but sufficient in all things.

Furthermore the Apostle says also, “And all things be in him.” Wherefore all things be so of God, that nevertheless all which we have of him, is in him: we be both of him, an do also live, move, and be in him. Those things which be of God, can not stand but in God, the essence and life of all things as it is of God, so it is also in God. He loses nothing that he gives. But the condition of us is far other, than of God is. Those things which we do beget of us, can both live and continue without us: and those things which we do give unto others, we do give them, that they be no longer ours but theirs, unto whom we have given them. But God so gives all things, that for all that he loses none of those things, which he gives. It is never a wit the farther from him, there is no alienation made, for there is nothing taken from him, although that all be received from him. The weighing of all this, may be a great comfort unto us, and avails much to the confirmation of the faith of God’s providence. In vain should all things be of God, unless withal all things were in him, and consisted in him: for without hum there is neither life, nor ability to stand up, and to continue. Let our very life and motions that we move by, declare unto us not only of whom, we be. What a madness is it therefore, not to acknowledge him of whom we be, and of whom we do receive all things: and not to have him before our eyes, nor to depend upon his providence, in whom we be and do live and in whom all things be what we have, and without whom neither we of ourselves nor any thing we have, can stand and continue? Wherefore it is not possible, that we should without great injury of God ’s majesty seek aid and help of any other, but of him when we need anything, of whom, by whom, and in whom, we be, we live, and we be moved? How is it possible that he which of his own motion and goodness made us to be when we were not. He which does stay us in him after we be made by him, does feed us, maintain us and save us, can forsake us if with sincere faith and trust w do wholly depend upon his providence? This much we have spoken as briefly passing over this treatise of the sufficiency of God.

Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 903-05.

 

[To be continued.]

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