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Ursinus on Faith as Assurance

May 29, 2008

Question 21. What is true faith? 

 Answer. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the  Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart ; that not only to others, but to me  also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, are freely given by  God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.  HC, Lord’s Day 7, Q21.

Ursinus’ Expostion of this question:

Justifying faith is properly that which is defined in the catechism; according to which definition, the general nature of saving faith consists in knowledge and an assured confidence; for there can be no faith in a doctrine that is wholly unknown. It is proper for us, therefore, to obtain a knowledge of that in which we are to believe, before we exercise faith; from which we may see the absurdity of the implicit faith of the Papists. The difference, or formal character of saving faith, is the confidence and application which every one makes to himself, of the free remission of sins by and for the sake of Christ. The property, or peculiar character of this faith, is trust and delight in God, on account of this great benefit. The efficient cause of justifying faith is the Holy Ghost. The instrumental cause is the gospel, in which the use of the sacraments is also comprehended. The subject of this faith is the will and heart of man. Justifying or saving faith differs, therefore, from the other kinds of faith, because it alone is that assured confidence by which we apply unto ourselves the merit of Christ, which is done when we firmly believe that the righteousness of Christ is granted and imputed unto us, so that we are accounted just in his sight of God. Confidence is an exercise or motion of the will and heart, following something good resting and rejoicing in it. The German has it, vertauen, sich ganz gar darauf verlassen. Pistis and pisteuein the former of which means belief, and the latter to believe, are from pepeismai, which means strongly persuaded ; whence pisteuein even among profane writers, signifies to wax confident, or to rest upon any thing ; as we read in Phocilides, “Believe not the people, for the multitude is deceitful.” And in Demosthenes, “Thou art confident in thyself,” Zacharius Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharius Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1994), 110-1.

On the Divine side, Ursinus states that the Gospel is:

Or, we may, in accordance with the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth questions of the Catechism, define the gospel to be the doctrine which God revealed first in Paradise, and afterwards published by the Patriarchs and Prophets, which he was pleased to represent by the shadows of sacrifices, and the other ceremonies of the law, and which he has accomplished by his only begotten Son; teaching that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; which is to say that he is a perfect Mediator, satisfying for the sins of the human race, restoring righteousness and eternal life to all those who by a true faith are ingrafted into him, and embrace his benefits. Zacharius Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharius Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1994), 102.

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