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Andreas Hyperius (1511-1564) on the Definition of Faith

June 4, 2009


Faith is a sure and steadfast trust, whereby we assure ourselves that God will perform unto us all those things that he has promised, chiefly and specially, spiritual benefits, and in them, remission of sins; and righteousness in Christ and for Christ. Which is confirmed by the author of of the Epist., to the Heb., in these words, “Faith is the ground of things which are hoped for, and the evidence of things which are not seen.” The interpretation and exposition of which description (so far as concerns the use and practice thereof) who is so desirous to know, may see set down in the 4. Chap., of the Epist., to the Rom. Wherein after the Apostle had said that Abraham was justified by faith, and that the inheritance of the world was given to him through faith; he afterward adds, that this reverend and blessed Patriarch had respect unto the goodness and power of God,

whereby he quickens the dead, and calls those things which be not, as though they were: and therefore that above hope, that he should be the father of many Nations, according to that which was spoken to him. So shall thy seed be. And he not weak in this says, considered his own body, which was dead, being almost and hundred years old, neither the deadness of Sarae’s womb: Neither did he doubt of the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in the faith, and gave glory to GOD, being fully assured, that he which had promised, was also able to do it, and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness, &c

Hereby may everyone easily perceive that faith undoubtedly believes that those things shall be performed, and through the goodness and power of God be brought to pass, which otherwise seem never possible to be performed; that faith does always look into the promises and power of God: and finally, that faith is assured, certain, undoubted, and invincible persuasion, conceived of the goodness and power of God, whereby this glory is ascribed, attribute, and entitled to God, that he both will and also can save us. All of which are signified in that usual and accustomed form of confession, which every one privately undertakes and pronounces for himself, saying: “I believe in God.” For in these few words is set forth and contained the whole sum and signification of faith.

Now here and mark in few words, how thou art justified by faith. Even as the Apostle teaches us, that Abraham was justified by his faith, without works, and that his faith and sure persuasion of God’s goodness and power was imputed to him for righteousness [Rom. 4:5.]: so must thou make thy reckoning (whosoever thou be that acknowledge thyself a grievous sinner, and that thou art guilty of the manifold breach of God’s law, and that thou have no good works of thine own hand to oppose and set against the severity of God’s judgment), that thou likewise and in the same sort, shall be justified by faith without works, as the Apostle in that Chapter evidently and plainly testifies. He says there also further, “that it is not written for him only, that it was imputed to him for righteousness, but also for us, to whom it shall be imputed for righteousness, which believe in him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead: who was delivered to death for our sins, and is risen again for our justification.” This therefore is required at thy hand (seeing in thou have no manner help in thyself, whereby by thine own works or any others), that thou can conceive a sure and undoubted faith, and a steadfast and firm persuasion of the goodness and power of God: and that thou be fully persuaded, and thoroughly assured in thy conscience: that God the Father, will receive thee again into favor, that he will pardon and forgive thee thy sins, and that he will justify and make thee righteous for his Son Jesus Christ, as he by his own express words, by his holy Prophets, and last of all, by the same his beloved Son, has graciously promised. For if from the bottom of thy heart thou unfainedly believe the promises of God touching this matter made unto the holy fathers of old, be thou assured that thou art in the king’s high way to justification and salvation.

These promises have ever from the beginning of the world hitherto been evidently continued, and shall to the world’s end be most faithfully and truly performed. Immediately after the transgression and fall of our first parents Adam and Eve, this promise of Christ was made unto them, when as the Lord spoke unto the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall break thine head,” [Gen. 3:58.]. Afterward he spoke unto Abraham, saying” “In thy seed all Nations of the earth be blessed,” [Gen. 22:1; Gal. 3:19.]. Which promise is excellently expounded by the Apostle, to signify and to be meant of Christ. This promise was likewise made unto David, that his seed and posterity, Christ the Savior of the world should be born. Many others of the Prophets besides did most clearly and made prophesy and foretell of Christ’s coming. And of righteousness by him only to be obtained [1 Sam. 7:12?; Psal. 132:11; Isai. 9:7; Jere 23:5; Mat. 17:5; Act 13:23; Isa. 53:11.] Isaiah in is 53. Chapter, and after many notable speeches of Christ’s humiliation and death, has lastly these words: “He shall see fruit of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall he justify the many: for he shall bear their iniquities.” To be short, many figures, signs, and types, ascertained, insinuated and represented unto men’s minds, those things which were to be done and finished by Christ for our justification: the brazen serpent was set upon a pole in the wilderness, and sundry sacrifices by the Israelites used, were figures of Christ, and foreshowed both his coming in the flesh, and his death which he should suffer for our justification [Num. 21:9; Joh. 3:14; Exod. 2:48; Heb. 9:9.]  Andreas Hyperius, The Trve Tryall and Examination of a Mans Owne Selfe, (Imprinted at London by Iohn Wendet, at the signe of the White Beare in Adling streate, neer Bayenards Castell, 1587), 181-185.  [Some spelling modernized; some reformatting; underlining mine.]

Note: Andreas Gerardus Hyperius (1511-1564); studied at Tournai and Paris; visited England (1537-1541) and in 1542 was appointed professor of theology at Marburg, a post he held to the end of his life. His theology mediates between Lutheran and Reformed and is important to the develop ment of both traditions. Major works: De theologo, seu de ratione studii theologici, libri IIII (1556); Elementa christianae religionis (1563); Methodi theologiae, sive praecipuorum christianae religionis locorum conmunium, libri tres (1568). Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 1:40-41. [First edition.]

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