31 January 2011

Unspeakable Comfort

What do you get when you combine a need for precise theological formulation, vicious persecution of believers, and a robust view of the sole right of God to run the universe?

Article 13 of the Belgic Confession, sent to King Philip II in 1562 with an introductory letter in which the petitioners declare that they will 'offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire' before denying what they have confessed.
We believe that the good God,
after he created all things,
did not abandon them to chance or fortune
but leads and governs them
according to his holy will
in such a way that nothing happens in this world
without his orderly arrangement. . . .

We do not wish to inquire
with undue curiosity
into what he does that surpasses human understanding
and is beyond our ability to comprehend.
But in all humility and reverence
we adore the just judgments of God,
which are hidden from us,
being content to be Christ's disciples,
so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word,
without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort
since it teaches us
that nothing can happen to us by chance
but only by the arrangement of our gracious
heavenly Father.
He watches over us with fatherly care,
keeping all creatures under his control,
so that not one of the hairs on our heads
(for they are all numbered)
nor even a little bird
can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest,
knowing that he holds in check
the devils and all our enemies,
who cannot hurt us
without his permission and will.
I believe this.

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