21. What is true faith?
It is not only a knowledge, by which I do steadfastly assent to all things which God has revealed unto us in his word, but also an assured affiance kindled in my heart by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel, by which I rest upon God, making sure account, that forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and life is bestowed, not only upon others, but also upon me, and that freely by the mercy of God, for the merit and desert of Christ alone.
We have declared that there is but one means of deliverance, to save us from so miserable destruction, the Mediator and Redeemer, by whose hand the heavenly Father according to his exceeding goodness and mercy having compassion on us, would succor us, if so be we be engrafted into Christ by true faith, and do apply all his benefits unto ourselves. Now we must consider what manner of faith this is, whereby men receive the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven, who are by nature condemned in Adam, for that not every opinion or persuasion is able to bring so great a matter to pass; and so much the rather, because the devil is so hot an enemy to the saving doctrine of faith: for because he was not able to hinder the decree of God touching the redemption of mankind, therefore he employs all this skill about this, how either to take away, or to corrupt, or to weaken this instrument whereby we apply the same unto ourselves, for he knows that which is written, “Whosoever believes not, upon him, abides the wrath of God,” [John 3:16.].
The definition of
true faith is here
John, 6:69. John 17:3.
1. Therefore true faith is defined first to be a knowledge, which although it be common to it with the historical faith, yet true faith can neither be, nor continuing without it, according to the confession of Peter, “We also have believed and known, that thou art Christ that Son of the living God.” He joins knowledge with faith, even as ignorance is the greatest enemy to wit.
2. Secondly, it is such a knowledge, whereby we do firmly and without all doubting assent unto all things which God (not the Church, or Councils have decreed of their own private motion), has revealed unto us in his word: for true faith has respect unto the word of God, and whatsoever is promised, commanded, or contained therein, does there unto most steadfastly agree, and refuse all things contrary unto it, that is, whatsoever without the word of God is framed and devised.
3. Thirdly, because this evidence, and certain assent to all the articles of faith makes no true faith (for such knowledge have also the wicked and the devils, generally to believe whatsoever is contained in the Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles [Jam. 2:19.]), therefore that is also added in the definition of faith, namely that true faith is not only a knowledge, but also an assured affiance of God’s favor and goodwill towards us, whereby all faithful men resting upon God, do first apply peculiarly unto themselves forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and life; and then by the Law of charity do deem and hope the like of other faithful men also members of the Church: which witness the Scripture called plerothoria, that is, a full persuasion: which the Apostle expresses in these words, “I know whom, I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day”: and “I live, not I now, but Christ lives in me”: and to the Romans: “For I am persuaded,” &c. [Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor 13:7; 1 Thes. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:12; Gal. 2:20; Jam. 1:8; Rom. 8:38.].
Companion of truth
And that such an affiance is required to the perfection of true faith, the reasons following drawn out of the Scriptures do confirm. 1. Seeing it is certain that no man is saved by knowledge alone, and Christ pronounces that whosoever believes shall be saved, who sees not that true faith is not only the knowledge of the history, but that same special property? 2. “By the heart man believes to righteousness,” (says Paul), “and by the mouth man makes confession to salvation,” [Rom. 10:10.]: If faith be in the heart, then it is not only knowledge in the mind, but also affection of the heart, and consequently affiance or confidence: whereupon the same Apostle joins Confidence with Faith, when he speaks of Christ: “By whom we have boldness, and entrance with confidence by faith in him,” [Eph. 3:12; Heb. 1:13; Joh. 8:56; Rom. 4:18-19.]. Even as the Holy Ghost also to the Hebrews defines, “Faith to be the substance of things hoped for,” that is, an assured confidence of good things to come, such as Christ commends in Abraham and others.
And so at length by this proper difference is true faith discerned, first from historical faith, which is called, because it contains only the knowledge of the history, that is, of the Prophets and Apostles’ writings, and of those things which God has done, does, or will do, whereof James says, “The devils believe and tremble,” [Jam. 2:12.].
Secondly, from temporal faith, when a man assents to the doctrine of God, and professes the same after a sort, and acknowledge it to be true, but does not earnestly apply the same to himself, for his own salvation: but because he seeks the glory and profit by it, therefore for a time he desires to be a follower of it among others, whereof Christ speaks in the parable in Matthew; which faith in this point excels, and goes beyond historical faith [Math. 13:20.], because they who are endued with it, receive the word of God with joy: whereas the devils having historical faith, had rather it were rooted out.
Faith of working
Last of all from the faith of working miracles, whereof the Scripture in an other place makes mention: for many being without this faith to work miracles, had notwithstanding that true faith and were saved: again many having this faith, yet went without salvation, such as they who shall say in the last day, “Lord, Lord, have we not by thy name cast out devils, and by thy name done many great miracles? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you, depart from me ye workers of iniquity,” [Math. 7:20; 1 Cor. 13:2; Math. 7:22-23.].
Whereby it plainly appears, that although there be many and sundry sorts of faith to be found, which are all the excellent gifts of God, yet none of them is sufficient for man’s salvation, or can bring sound comfort to him, but only that true faith, which has this property several former from al other that are called by the name of faith, that it is not only a knowledge in the mind, but also a certain affiance of the heart in God’s goodness and good will toward us, whereto every faithful man trusting reposes himself God.
The causes of faith
And fruits of the same.
Furthermore this true faith has two causes, the one efficient or principal, the other instrumental; the Principal efficient cause is the Holy Ghost, the instrumental cause is the preaching of the Gospel. That the Holy Ghost is the author of faith, S. Paul declares, when he calls him, the Spirit of faith, and again when he teaches that no man calls Jesus the Lord, but by Holy Ghost: so in the Acts he is said to have opened the heart “of Lidia, that she might believe the words of Paul.” For so Isaiah foretold, as Christ expounds him: “And they shall be all taught of God,” that is, inwardly taught and instructed by the Spirit [2 Cor. 4:13; Matth. 16:17; John 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:3; Acts 16:34; John 6:45; Eph. 2:7-9; Phil. 1:19.].
Of the preaching of the Gospel to be the instrumental cause of salvation, that of the Prophet is to be understood: “who has believed our report”? bit more plainly speaks the Apostle: “Faith comes by hearing”: and “the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes,” [Isa. 53;1’ Rom. 10:7; Rom. 1:16.]: but so it has pleased God to use this instrument partly to apply to himself to our infirmity, partly to prove our obedience.
Why faith is called
3. The effect effect and true fruit of faith is very excellent and full of comfort, namely forgiveness of sins, according to that saying, “Son be of good comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee”: wherein consists true and only blessedness, which because that true faith brings unto the Elect by laying hold of Christ, the author of righteousness and of life, hereupon for the most part it uses to be called justifying faith, in which sense that is to be understood, “The just shall live by faith,” and “being justified by faith, we have peace towards God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” [Rom. 1:17; & 5:2; Heb. 2:4; Heb. 10:38; Acts 16:31.].
And although the faithful are not yet in possession of everlasting life, yet they are no less sure of it, then if they had it already, because as they have already by faith laid hold upon it, looking unto God that has promised, and be now in part feel it in their hearts, so they hope for the full accomplishment of it in the last day. Whereupon the Apostle says, “By hope we are saved.”
Jeremias Bastingius, An Exposition or Commentary Vpon the Catechisme of Christian Religion, which is taught in the Schooles and Churches both of the Low Countries, and of the Dominions of the Countie Palatine (Printed at London by Iohn Legatt, Printer to the University of Cambridge, 1614), 72-77. [Marginal references cited inline; some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]
22 What are those things which a Christian man must of necessity believe?
All those things that are promised unto us in the Gospel: the sum whereof is briefly comprised in the Apostles’ Creed, or in the chief heads of the Catholic and undoubted faith of all Christians.
After the definition of faith, follows the sum of those things that we are to believe, which is contained under two heads. 1. That we must chiefly believe those things that are promised unto us in the Gospel. 2. That the sum of those things, that we may not mistake them, is set down in the Apostles’ Creed.
1. The first Christ himself confirms, who being to send his disciples and Apostles into the whole world, did have give them this rule: “Go and teach all Nations”: and he expounds what, “to do whatsoever I have commanded you” [Math. 28:19.]: that those things are, John sets down, bearing witness of the Gospel written by himself and other Apostles, “These things are written that ye may believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing ye may have life through his name,” [John 20:28.].
Which notwithstanding must not be understood as if faith ought not to reach itself to the whole world, for as those things that are promised must necessarily be believed, so those things that are commanded, must upon pain of damnation not be left undone.
How far faith
Therefore faith is a knowledge and assent, so ought it to lay hold upon the whole world of God: but as it is an affiance reposing itself upon God, it looks to the promises of the Gospel: for they only can comfort and uphold those that are ready to fall: therefore it is to be noted, that here he speaks of the Gospel, not of the law, what we ought to believe, not what we ought to do.
2. But, for that the promises of God are here and there scattered in the writings of the Prophets, lest any man as it were in a thick wood of testimonies should any where lose his way in seeking what to believe, but might be directed as it were by a straight thread to the things he ought to believe, we must in the second place consider where we shall find the sum of the promises of the Gospel: where a man may always set before his eyes, looking upon it, and referring unto it, whatsoever promises he finds in reading of the Scriptures.
The titles of faith.
The most short and brief sum of the Apostles’ creed, wherein the chief heads or Articles of the Catholic and undoubted faith of all Christians, are briefly and plainly laid down: which two titles are not without cause given unto our faith: for first it is therefore called Catholic, that is universal, because there is but one faith of all Christians in the world: secondly, undoubted, for the certainty thereof, that is, both because it is a great wickedness to call it into doubt as we use to do of the opinion of men, and also because whosoever shall follow this sum of doctrine, shall never miss the way of salvation.
Jeremias Bastingius, An Exposition or Commentary Vpon the Catechisme of Christian Religion, which is taught in the Schooles and Churches both of the Low Countries, and of the Dominions of the Countie Palatine (Printed at London by Iohn Legatt, Printer to the University of Cambridge, 1614), 78-80. [Marginal references cited inline; some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]