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Wolfgang Musculus on the Revealed Will

May 16, 2008

The Apostle knowing that the mind of men be stark blind without the assured knowledge of God’s will, and that it is not possible as long as they be in a doubt thereof, to be in any certainty of salvation, and true godliness., does advise us to understand it. And it is not without cause that he does use this saying: That you may prove and try what is the will of God. To prove and try what is the will of God, is not to have a light opinion thereof: but to find it, and to know it without doubt, by certain experience and proof. For whereas Satan also transform into an Angel of light, as he began to do immediately a the first beginning of mankind, and his ministers transformed into Apostles of Christ, and our very flesh also do seem to godly and devout, does counterfeit many things thereof, serving unto our destruction. We had need specially to be ware, that we do not unadvisedly, believe every thing in color and presence thereof, but that we do surely try the spirits, whether that they be of God, or no. Wherefore we must search whereby it may be tried, what is the will of God towards us, that we give no place in us, to such opinions, as do reign in the Popery.

And indeed there be divers ways in this trial, if they were particularly viewed. But there may be noted three more general. For God does commonly declare his Will unto us, either by word, sign, or doing. Wherefore we may try it in his Word, Signs, and Doings.

In the Word, there be his precepts and prohibitions, his promises, and his threatenings, his comforts, and his judgements. When he does command what he will have us to do, & forbidding that which he would not have us to do, he does surely instruct us of his will. So that the Prophet sings aright: The Lord’s precepts is bright, giving light to the eyes. When he promises his grace, salvation, and everlasting life to the godly & faithful, which do fear him & depend upon him with an upright heart: and threatens wrath & condemnation to the ungodly, & unbelievers, does he not two ways declare his will? First in using us lovingly, & Secondly requiring us again to behave ourselves uprightly in all things. And this is the scope and prick of the whole Gospel, wherein the only begotten of God does certify & assure us of the will of God towards mankind. There be comforts in the world whereby he hearts of sinners, of the weak, of the afflicted, & wailing be plucked up. They do testify of the goodwill of God, when he offers his aid ready and at hand unto all the afflicted. There by in the word also set forth the judgements of God, where he does punish the wicked, the examples of which passed before in the flood, in the fire of Sodom, in the Red Sea, and the other like. By them a man perceive also, what the will of God is towards the wicked and reprobate.

The signs which do witness of God’s will, be the Sacraments instituted and delivered to us by our Saviour Christ: as Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. By Baptism we be assured that he will take us for his people, consecrate, and consigned up unto his name, and that he will wash away the filth of our sins, and justify and sanctify us by the blood of Christ. By the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper we be assured that we be of them, that be redeemed, when that he will have us to be mindful of the death of his only begotten, by which we be redeemed, and for so incomparable grace and favour of his, he wills us to offer unto him a Sacrifice of praise. In that we do call these two Sacraments, signs of grace, we do not esteem, and judge upon them to be void and bare Signs, but assured testimonies of God’s grace towards us, witnessing of the good liking of his will towards us. What further is to be observed as these Sacraments, we have noted in a several place where we speak of them before.

There be other signs also besides these, by which we be informed of God’s will, as the rainbow which appears in the clouds, by the showing of which we be admonished, that God will no more overwhelm all the countenance of the earth with the flood of waters. And also there be those terrible sights of which the Lord did tell us before, that there should be signs in the Sun, Moon, and Stars. For what do they else but warn us of the will of God’s wrath, and call us to amendment of life, by the threatenings of his horrible plagues. It is a clear case also that the doing of God declare what is will is towards us, either angry, or well liking and pleased, and it is not possible to recount them, for as much as of them , there is neither number, measure, nor end. For who is able to reckon up particularly the benefits of his creation, multiplication, propagation, governance, ordering, delivering, preservation and other comforts, by which all the has declared, and will declare his loving kindness towards man until the very end of the world? yea whereas he does chasten them that do offend, with the rod of discipline, what does he else but take care of us that for the impertinence, or lack of repentance, we be not damned with this world. In all these matters, the good pleasure of his will is declared. But that is the most excellent, and the chief lesson, of his will towards us, that he spared not his son, but gave him up for us all. Whereby we may be most assured and out of all doubt, that God is on our side.

Does he not declare in the giving of laws, of judgement, and justice unto his people, whereby they be taught, how to behaves themselves towards him, and towards their neighbours, what care he has of them, whose God he does vouchsafe to be, and also he would have them to live.

In sending his Prophets, his only begotten, his Apostles, Evangelists, Pastors, & Doctors, throughout all the world, to call all sorts of men unto repentance, faith and godly life, surely he shows his good will unto mankind. Indeed these points be general, but yet of that kind, that they may be lessons not only unto all men generally, but also unto every one man particularly, what will God has towards everyone, whatsoever he be, and that much be the more assuredly because the words, Signs and Doings, be most far from all colour, counterfeit and lying.

For he is not a dissembler like men. But in all points, of all most true. A man may well doubt the words, signs, and doings of men. For there is no certainty in them for the most part, whereby by men may be assured of their will: for as much as the heart of man is wicked, as the Prophet does testify, and unsearchable, so that it can not be known. But the words, Signs, and Doings, of him be after another sort, who only deserves the commendation of uncorrupted truth.

Yet for all that you must take this withal, that albeit the words, Signs, and Doings of God be so manifest, and true, that it may be certainly tried and understood, what his will is towards us: Yet for all that we be of that corrupt, and blinded disposition, that we cannot understand it thereby unless our mind, and heart be renewed by the virtue of his Spirit. Wherefore the Apostle when he should say, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God, be set before: And apply not yourselves unto the fashion of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind: and then he added, that you prove &c. Wherefore it is not so great a wonder that the will of God, albeit is set forth by most manifest proofs, yet for all that it is not known unto the children of this world, whose minds be blinded, as it is no wonder that the most bright shining Sun, is not seen of blind eyes. The secret of the Lord, says the Prophet, is shown unto them which doe fear him: And Augustine, he that deserves to know the will of God, let him become God’s friend.

Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 923-925.

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