This treatise is a translation from the German of Otho Wermullerus, an eminent scholar and divine of Zurich, contemporary of Bishop Miles Coverdale. We include here parts of two sections from the treatise.
Source: Writings and Translation of Myles Coverdale, Bishop of Exeter, containing The Old Faith, A Spiritual and Most Precious Pearl [etc.], Parker Society edition, George Pearson, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1844). Also available in the public domain on the Internet.
It will be well for the Reader to keep in mind, that the little work before him was written in very troublesome times, when the piety of the Reformers was exposed to the test of persecution under every form, and when such a publication must have been every way seasonable, and of the highest value to the suffering followers of Christ; and thus by its useful pages, he will learn to sympathise with the sufferers of past ages, and to give thanks to God, for his own Christian rest and peace.
—From the preface to the first English publication, 1550
All manner of afflictions are sent and come from God of a loving and fatherly mind toward us
…We ought to receive with high thankfulness whatsoever God of a fatherly and loving mind, and not of any indignation towards us, sendeth unto us, whether it be to the flesh pleasant or grievous. The Lord God visiteth us with temporal and transitory misery, even for the very careful and fatherly heart that He beareth toward us, and not of any hatred or indignation against us (Job 5; Hosea 6; 1 Pet. 4; Heb. 12; Rev. 3). For God is reconciled and at one with all Christian men through His Son, and loveth them even from the very ground of His heart.
For the which cause, howsoever or by what manner of means it be that God punisheth and correcteth us, He doth it not because He hateth us, as though He would utterly refuse and cast us away; but of very pity and compassion, only to receive us as His children; to keep and preserve us, to exercise and practice us, to humble and to bring us down, and to stir and prick us forward; that prayer, faith, the fear of God, obedience, and other virtues, may wax and increase in us, to His honor and our salvation.
Testimonies for this have we, first: “As truly as I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live” (Ezek. 18). Here now doth God swear, that He doth punish, not to destroy, but to allure, reduce, and bring us unto penance. [And] “Whom the Lord loveth, him doth he chasten, and yet notwithstanding he hath pleasure in him, as a father in his child” (Prov. 3). This is an evident testimony, that affliction, trouble, and vexation, are no tokens of the wrath and displeasure of God, but rather sure tokens of His grace, mercy, and favor, whereby God assureth us of His merciful will and fatherly heart toward us.
But forasmuch as God loveth this His spouse of His Son, namely, the congregation of the faithful, and mindeth to comfort her, and to be most beneficial unto her; therefore, like as He hath raised up Christ her bridegroom, head, and king, from death, even so will He also deliver her from all affliction, and give her a joyful victory of all such things as do oppress her. But it is the infirmity and fault of our weak eyes, that we cannot espy the merciful and loving goodness of God in and under the rod and scourge.
Whensoever we are visited with affliction and misery, it is our duty indeed, first to acknowledge and remember our sins, and again to consider the yoke and bands of the devil for sin; but we ought not to judge and imagine of such affliction according to the purpose and will of the devil, as he, of a malicious and a mischievous mind that he beareth us, mindeth toward us, which seeketh continually nothing else but the utter destruction and confusion of all mankind; but rather we ought to esteem and consider of all such troubles and afflictions, according as God meaneth, and so receive them, which of His mere goodness turneth them to our wealth and profit, working and finishing thereby our perfect salvation.
And wheresoever the heart cannot conceive this comfort, that God correcteth and punisheth for very merciful favor and love towards us, there of necessity must the temptation and grief be much the greater, and the party at length fall to utter desperation.
That only God for Christ’s sake, and that of very mercy, love, and favor, doth correct and punish us
The very right and only cause of the merciful and fatherly will of God towards us have we in the only merits of Jesus Christ, unto whom we ought to lift up our hearts toward heaven, and to behold and consider Him with our minds continually, after this manner.
Our sins and misdeeds deserve hunger, death, war, pestilence, and all manner of plagues. Now hath Christ ransomed and made full satisfaction for all the sins that we have committed (Isa. 53; John 1, 3; Rom. 5–6, 8; Eph. 2; Col. 1–2; 1 Pet. 3; 1 John 4; Heb. 9; etc.). He hath redeemed, paid, discharged, and made harmless unto us all our misdeeds with His bitter death, victories, and resurrection, and hath satisfied His Father’s righteousness, as St. Paul doth testify very comfortably, saying: “Jesus is become and made unto us our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption” (1 Cor. 1). So then now, if afflictions hurt us only by reason of our sins, and our sins be satisfied and discharged through the death and passion of Jesus, then must it needs follow, that all our afflictions also are likewise harmless unto us, and cannot hurt us.
Yea, Christ, with and through His passion and affliction, hath blessed and sanctified all manner of afflictions, that they all should serve and redound unto all faithful Christians for their greatest wealth, by the ordinance and provision of God, their heavenly Father. He is the true physician, which after He perceived that affliction did fear us, took upon Himself to suffer all manner of trouble, yea, the most grievous sorrows and extremities, because He would set and appoint a certain measure and end unto our sorrows, and also bless and sanctify, yea, and also make pleasant and delectable very death itself unto us.
Oh! if we could feel, behold, and consider the heart and mind of Christ, when He did willingly hang upon the cross, and suffered Himself so cruelly and painfully to be tormented and punished, for no other cause, but that He might utterly take away the whole strength of all our sins, sorrow, and death, and destroy hell, that none of them should hurt us; and again, that He tasted and drank of the cup before us, that we being sick and weak might the rather drink and taste of it after Him, forasmuch as no evil mishappened unto Him thereof, but immediately rose up again from death.
Oh! if the knowledge and remembrance of this might remain in our hearts upright, and shine continually before us: then should we never sink or faint, nor yet despair of the mercy and goodness of God, although we should labor in never so dangerous and grievous battle, and though we ourselves should taste and feel the due punishment that our sins have deserved: then should we be able to stand stiffly against the gates of hell; and all manner of sorrow, heaviness, temptation, fear, and misfortune, should thereby be utterly consumed and swallowed up.
And even this is the highest and most special comfort that ever was heard or read of from the beginning of the world. He is only alone sufficient, if we consider Him and take hold of Him as we should do, to plant and graft such a mind in us, that we shall not only not sorrow nor be heavy, but also triumph and rejoice in and of our misery and affliction; as Paul triumpheth excellently and highly, where he saith, “If God hath not spared his only Son, but hath given him up for us all, how should he not give us all things with him?” (Rom. 8). What make we then with our vain fearfulness, care, sorrow, and heaviness? Wherefore, if we will be right Christians, we must with all thankfulness set forth, extol, and magnify this excellent, infinite, and heavenly grace and benefit of God, and the high and singular comfort which we have by Christ.
For all they that lack the knowledge of the benefit that we have by Christ, and refuse this excellent and high treasure, whether they be Jews or heathens, Mahometans or Popish, they cannot be able to give any true, perfect, or wholesome comfort, either to themselves or to any other, in any manner of fear or doubt of the conscience, or in any other affliction and necessity.
…Yea, what comfort soever they have sought, beside Christ, it is all nothing else but an augmentation of their sorrowful fear, and a training of them towards desperation. So that, without and besides the Lord Jesus, there is no manner of comfort, aid, nor succor at all to be looked for (Acts 4; Phil. 3).