Four Kinds of Faith: Part 2 (Dr. Ursinus)

ursinus-portraitThe faith of miracles is a special gift of effecting some extraordinary work, or of foretelling some particular event by divine revelation. or, it is a firm persuasion, produced by some divine revelation, or peculiar promise in regard to some future miraculous working, which the person desires to accomplish, and which he foretells. This faith cannot be drawn, simply, out of the general word of God, unless some special promise or revelation be connected with it. The Apostle speaks of this kind of faith, when he says, “If I had all faith so that I could remove mountains.” This declaration may, however, be understood of all the different kinds of faith, except justifying, yet it is spoken with special reference to the faith of miracles.

That this is a distinct kind of faith, is proven:

  1. From the declaration of Christ. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove.” (Matthew 17:20) Many holy men also have had strong faith, as Abraham, David, etc. and yet they did not remove mountains. Therefore, this species of faith is distinct from justifying faith, which all true Christians possess.
  2. Exorcists, as the sons of Sceva, (Acts 19:14) have endeavored to cast out devils, when they had not the gift or power of accomplishing it, who were afterwards severely punished, when the evil spirit fell upon them, overcame and wounded them.
  3. Simon Magus is said to have believed, and yet he was not able to work miracles; he therefore desired to purchase this gift.
  4. The devil has a knowledge of what is historical, and yet he cannot work miracles; because no one except the Creator, is able to change the nature of things.
  5. Judas taught, and wrought miracles, as did the other Apostles; therefore, he had a historical faith, (perhaps also temporary,) and the faith of miracles; and yet he had not that faith which justifies; for Christ said of him, “he is a devil.” (John 6:70)
  6. Many shall say unto Christ, “Lord, Lord, have we not in your name cast out devils?” to whom He will nevertheless reply, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22)
  7. Lastly, the other kinds of faith extend to all things which the Word of God reveals, and requires us to believe. The faith of miracles, however, refers merely to certain works and extraordinary events. It is, therefore, a distinct kind of faith.

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 everyone 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 the sight of God.

Justifying faith differs from historical, because it always includes that which is historical. Historical faith is not sufficient for our justification. The same thing may also be said of the other two kinds of faith.  Justifying faith, again, differs from all other kinds of faith, in this, that it is by it alone that we obtain righteousness, and a title to the inheritance of the saints.

Hence it is by justifying faith alone that we obtain righteousness, and an inheritance among the saints; which the Scriptures properly and simply call faith, and which is also peculiar to the elect.

No man, however, truly knows what justifying faith is, except he who believes, or possesses it; as he, who never saw or tasted honey, knows nothing of its quality or taste, although you may tell him many things of the sweetness of honey. But the man who truly believes, experiences these things in himself, and is able, also, to explain them to others.

  1. He believes that every thing which the Scriptures contain is true, and from God.
  2. He feels himself constrained firmly to believe and embrace these things; for if we confess that they are true and from God, it is proper that we should assent to them.
  3. He sees, embraces and applies particularly to himself, the promise of grace, or the free remission of sins, righteousness and eternal life, by and for the sake of Christ, as it is said: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life.” (John 3:36)
  4. Having this confidence, he trusts and rejoices in the present grace of God, and from this he thus concludes in reference to future good: since God now loves me, and grants unto me such great blessings, He will also preserve me unto eternal life; because He is unchangeable, and His gifts are without repentance.
  5. Joy arises in the heart, in view of such benefits, which joy is accompanied with a peace of conscience that passes all understanding.
  6. Then he has a will and an earnest desire to obey all the commands of God, without a single exception, and is willing to endure patiently whatever God may send upon him. The man, therefore, who possesses a justifying faith, does that which is required of him, regardless of the opposition of the world, and the devil. He who truly believes, experiences all these things in himself; and he who experiences these things in himself, truly believes.

Dr. Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 108-111

Congratulations

You have completed your first Zacharias Ursinus article on the Catechism. Can you see and feel the balance between the theologian’s mind and the pastor’s heart?

Notice his passion in some of his summary points on justifying faith:

  • Having this confidence, he trusts and rejoices in the present grace of God, and from this he thus concludes in reference to future good: since God now loves me, and grants unto me such great blessings, He will also preserve me unto eternal life; because He is unchangeable, and His gifts are without repentance.
  • Joy arises in the heart, in view of such benefits, which joy is accompanied with a peace of conscience that passes all understanding.
  • Then he has a will and an earnest desire to obey all the commands of God, without a single exception, and is willing to endure patiently whatever God may send upon him.

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