Of True Faith

by Henry Bullinger

Where it comes from; that it is an assured belief of the mind, whose only stay is upon God and his word.

IN my last sermon I declared to you how the perfect exposition of God's word does not differ at all from the rule of true faith, and the love of God and our neighbour. For undoubtedly that sense of scripture is corrupted, which departs [207] from faith and the two points of charity. Therefore, next I have to treat true faith and charity towards God and our neighbour, with the intent that no man may lack anything in this. And therefore first, by God's help, and the good means of your prayers, I will speak of true faith.

This word "faith," or "belief," is diversely used in the common talk of men. For it is taken for any kind of religion or honour done to God, as when we say, the Christian faith, the Jewish faith, and the Turkish faith. Faith, or belief, is also taken for a conceived opinion of anything that is told to us, such as when we hear anything repeated to us out of Indian or Ethiopian history; then we say that we believe it; and yet notwithstanding, we put no confidence in it, nor do we hope to have any commodity by it at all. This is that faith with which St. James says the devil believes and trembles. Jas 2.19 Last of all, faith is commonly put for an assured and undoubted confidence in God and his word. Among the Hebrews, faith takes its name from truth, [208] certainty, and assured constancy. The Latins call it faith when what is said, is done. Thus one says, "I demand whether you believe or not?" You answer, "I believe." "Then do what you say, and it is faith." [209] Therefore, in this treatise of ours, Faith is an undoubted belief, most firmly grounded in the mind.


This faith, which is a settled and undoubted persuasion or belief leaning upon God and his word, is diversely defined by the more perfect divines. St. Paul says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11.1 The substance or hypostasis,[210] is the foundation or unmovable prop which upholds us, and on which we lean and lie without peril or danger. The things hoped for are celestial, eternal, and invisible. Therefore, Paul says Faith is an unmovable foundation, and a most assured confidence of God's promises — that is, of life everlasting and of all His good benefits. Moreover, Paul himself, making an exposition of what he said, immediately says, "Faith is the argument (evidence) for things not seen." An argument or proof is an evident demonstration, whereby we manifestly prove what otherwise would be doubtful, so that in the one whom we undertook to instruct, there may remain no doubt at all.

But now, touching the mysteries of God revealed in God's word, in themselves, or in their own nature, they cannot be seen with bodily eyes; and therefore they are called things not seen. But this faith, by giving light to the mind, perceives them in the heart, even as they are set forth in the word of God. Faith, therefore, according to the definition of Paul, is a most evident seeing [211] in the mind, and a most certain perceiving [212] in the heart, of invisible things, that is, of eternal things — of God, I say, and all those things he sets forth in His word, concerning spiritual things.

They had an eye to this definition of Paul's, who defined faith in this way:

"Faith is a grounded persuasion of heavenly things, in the meditation of which we ought to so occupy ourselves for the assured truth's sake of God's word, that we may believe — that we see those things in our mind, as well as we behold with our eyes things that are sensibly perceived, and easy to be seen." [213]


This description does not greatly differ from this definition of another godly and learned man who says, "Faith is a steadfast persuasion of the mind, by which we fully decree to ourselves that God's truth is so sure, that he can neither will nor choose but to perform that which, in his word, He has promised to fulfil." [214] Again, "Faith is a steadfast assuredness of conscience, which embraces Christ in the same way in which he is offered to us by the gospel." [215] There is another who, almost in the same manner, defines faith this way: "Faith is a gift inspired by God into the mind of man, whereby, without any doubting at all, he believes that whatever God has either taught or promised in the books of both testaments, is most true." [216]

The very same author of this definition, therefore, extends faith to three terms of time: to the time past, the time present, and the time to come. For he teaches us to believe that the world was made by God, and to believe whatever the holy scriptures declare to have been done in the old world; also that Christ dying for us is the only salvation of those who believe; and that today also, the world and church are governed or preserved by the same God; and that in Christ the faithful are saved; last of all, that whatever the holy scriptures either threaten or promise, shall most assuredly light upon the ungodly and the godly.


Out of all these definitions, therefore, being diligently considered, we may, according to the scriptures, make this description of faith:

Faith is a gift of God, poured into man from heaven, whereby he is taught with an undoubted persuasion, to wholly lean on God and his word; in this word, God freely promises life and all good things in Christ, and in this word, all truth necessary to be believed is plainly declared.

In what follows, I will unfold this description of faith into parts, by God's help. And by asserting passages out of the scriptures, I will both confirm and make it manifest to you. Just as you have done up to now, so you should still give a diligent ear, and pray earnestly to God in your hearts.

First of all, the cause or beginning of faith does not come from any man, or any strength of man, but from God himself, who by his Holy Spirit inspires faith into our hearts. For in the gospel the Lord says, "No man comes to me unless my Father draws him." Joh 6.44 And again, the Lord says to Peter, confessing Christ in true faith, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Mat 16.17 The apostle Paul alludes to this when he says, "We are not able of ourselves to think anything as from ourselves, but all our ability is from God." 2Cor 3.5 And in another place, "To you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake." Phi 1.29 Faith therefore is poured into our hearts by God, who is the well-spring and cause of all goodness.

And yet we have to consider here, that God, in giving and inspiring faith, does not use His absolute power or miracles in working, but a certain ordinary means that is agreeable to man's capacity — although God can indeed give faith to whom, when, and how it pleases him, without those means. But we read that the Lord has used this ordinary means even from the first creation of all things. To those on whom he means to bestow knowledge and faith, he sends teachers to preach true faith to them by the word of God.


It is not because it lies in man's power, will, or ministry, to give faith; nor because the outward word spoken by man's mouth is able of itself to bring faith. But the voice of man, and the preaching of God's word, do teach us what true faith is, or what God wills and commands us to believe. For God himself alone, by sending his Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of men, opens our hearts, persuades our minds, and causes us to believe with all our heart what we have learned to believe by his word and teaching. By a miracle from heaven, without any preaching at all, the Lord could have bestowed faith in Christ upon Cornelius the Centurion at Caesarea. [217] Yet, by an angel, he sends him to the preaching of Peter; and while Peter preaches, God by his Holy Spirit works in the heart of Cornelius, causing him to believe his preaching. St. Paul truly says, "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? How will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach if they are not sent? So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom 10.14-17 In another place also, "Who is Paul," he says, "or what is Apollos, but ministers, by whom you have believed, according as God has given to every one? I have planted, Apollos has watered, but God has given increase. So then, he that plants is nothing, nor he that waters, but God gives the increase." 1Cor 3.5-7

What Augustine writes in the preface of his book of Christian Doctrine, agrees with this doctrine of St. Peter and St. Paul, where he says,

"That which we have to learn at man's hand, let everyone learn at man's hand without disdain. And let us not go about tempting Him in whom we believe; nor, being deceived, let us scorn to go to church, to hear or learn out of books, still looking for when we will be rapt up into the third heaven. Let us take heed of such temptations of pride; and let us rather have this in our minds: that even the apostle Paul himself, although he was cast prostrated, and instructed by the calling of God from heaven, was nevertheless sent to a man to be taught the will of God;


and although God had heard his prayers, Cornelius was committed to Peter to be instructed, by whom he would not only receive the sacraments, but also hear what he ought to believe, what to hope for, and what to love. All these things, notwithstanding, might have been done by the angel," etc. [218]

The same Augustine, in his Epistle to the Circenses, also says, "Even He works conversion and brings it to pass, who warns us outwardly by his ministers with the signs of things — but inwardly by himself, teaching us with the very things themselves." [219] Also in his 26th treatise on John, he says, "What are men doing when they preach outwardly? What am I now doing while I speak? I drive into your ears a noise of words. But unless He who is within reveals it, what do I say, or what do I speak? He that is without, husbands the tree — but he that is within, is the creator of it," etc. [220] This is what Augustine said.


But, even as the Lord's desire is to have us believe his word, (for the prophet cries out and says, "Today if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts," Psa 95.7-8 so in like manner he requires of all who hear his word, that we not be slack in praying. For in hearing the word of God, we must pray for the gift of faith, that the Lord may open our hearts, convert our souls, break and beat down the hardness of our minds, and increase the measure of faith bestowed on us. There are many examples in the holy scriptures of this order of prayer. When the Lord in the gospel said to one, "Can you believe? To him that believes, all things are possible," the man answered saying, "I believe, Lord; help my unbelief." Mar 9.23-24

The apostles also cry to the Lord and say, "O Lord, increase our faith." Luk 17.5 Moreover, this prayer in which we desire to have faith poured into us, is of the grace and gift of God, and not of our own righteousness, which is nothing at all before God. Therefore, this is left to us as a thing most certain and undoubtedly true: that true faith is the mere gift of God, bestowed on our minds by the Holy Ghost from heaven, declared to us in the word of truth by teachers sent by God, and obtained by earnest prayers which cannot be tired. By this we learn that we ought to hear the word of God often and attentively, and never cease to pray to God for obtaining true faith.

But this faith, inspired from heaven, and learned out of the word of truth, puts into man's mind an undoubted persuasion which is that, whatever we believe in the word of God, we may believe it most assuredly, without wavering or doubting, being altogether as sure to have that thing, as faith believes to have it. Mar 11:24 For I use this word persuasion, not as it is commonly used, but for a firm assent of mind, inspired and persuaded by the Holy Ghost. That this faith, I say, puts into man's mind this undoubted persuasion, I mean to declare by the example of Abraham's faith, which Paul describes in the fourth chapter to the Romans in these words:

"Abraham, contrary to hope, believed in hope; and he did not faint in faith, nor did he consider his own body now dead, when he was almost a hundred years old, nor the deadness of Sara's womb; he did not stagger [221] at the promise of God through unbelief, but became strong in faith, and gave the glory to God, having a sure persuasion that He who had promised, was also able to perform." Rom 4.18-21


In these words of the apostle, there are certain points to be observed, which prove to us that faith brings an assured persuasion into the mind and heart of man; and so, that faith is an undoubted confidence of things believed, to which the heart is made privy; that is, true faith does not fly to and fro from place to place in the heart of man, but being deeply rooted in Christ, it sticks in the heart which is enlightened. First, says the apostle, "Abraham, contrary to hope, believed in hope." That is to say, there he had a constant hope, where notwithstanding he had nothing to hope for, if all things had been weighed according to the manner of this world. But hope is a most firm and undoubted looking for those things which we believe. So we see that the apostle made faith manifest by hope; and by the certainty of hope, he declared the assured constancy of faith. After that, he says, "Abraham did not faint in faith, nor stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith." There are two kinds of staggering in mankind:[222] the one is that which, being overcome by evil temptations, bends to desperation, and despises God's promises. Such was the staggering of those ten spies of the holy land, of whom mention is made in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Numbers. The other staggering is rather to be called a weak infirmity of faith, which is also tempted itself. I may not repeat to you now, how in all of us, by the spot of original sin, a certain kind of unbelief is naturally grafted in; and man's mind is at no time so enlightened or confirmed, that cloudy mists of ignorance and doubt do not sometimes arise.


Yet notwithstanding, faith does not yield to temptation, nor is it drowned, nor does it stick in the mire of staggering. But laying hold upon the promised word of truth, it gets up again by struggling, and is confirmed. So we read that, at the promise of God, this came into Abraham's mind: "What, shall a son be born to you who are a hundred years old?" Gen 17.17 This was that infirmity and staggering, or weakness of faith. But here the apostle commends Abraham's faith, which overcame and did not yield, teaching us also of what sort true faith ought to be: that is, a firm and most assured persuasion. He says, "Abraham did not faint in faith, nor consider his own body dead,[223] when he was almost a hundred years old, nor the deadness of Sara's womb." Look, this thought came into Abraham's mind: "Shall a son be born to me who is a hundred years old?" But he did not faint in faith. The faith of Abraham did not begin to droop because of this temptation. For he did not consider the weakness that was in himself, nothing compared to the promise of God. What then? He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief — that is, he gave no place to unbelief, to be tempted by it. He did not fall to his own reasons and doubtful inquisitions, as unbelievers are prone to do. For God's promise, once set before the eyes of his mind, to that, I say, he stuck unmovably, casting off all doubts and reasons of his own. For faith has no regard at all for the weakness, misery, or lack, which is properly in mankind; but it sets its whole stay in the power of God. So then, I say, Abraham was strong in faith — that is, he prevailed and got the upper hand in his temptation. For this is an argument to show that he had the upper hand: "He did not faint, nor grow weak in faith." [224]

It follows in the apostle, "Abraham gave God the glory;" namely, in believing that God wishes well to mankind, and that he is a true God and almighty. For he gives God his glory, which attributes to God the properties of God, and does not question the word and promise of God.


For John the apostle says, "He that does not believe in God, makes God a liar." 1Joh 5.10 Abraham therefore believed in God, and in believing, he gave God the glory. The apostle Paul goes on to say, "He was thoroughly persuaded, or certified, that He who had promised, was also able to perform." Paul used the Greek word pληροφορηθεὶς (plerophoretheis), which is the same as if you were to say, being certified. For pληροφορew (plerophoreo) signifies to fully certify — thus pληροφορia (plerophoria) is an assured faith given to us, which is made by way of argument, or by the thing itself. And they call that pληροφορhma (plerophorema), which we call a certification — as when a thing is so beaten into our minds by persuasions, that after that, we never doubt any more. Therefore faith certified Abraham; and with undoubted persuasions, it brought him to the point never to doubt, but that God was able to perform what he had promised. In faith, therefore, he stuck unmovably to the promise of God, being assuredly certified that he would obtain whatever God had promised.

It is certain therefore, and plainly declared by the words of the apostle, that true faith is an undoubted persuasion in the mind of the believer — even to so have the thing as his belief is, and as he is said to have it, in the express word of God. By this we also learn that faith is not the unstable and unadvised confidence of the one who believes every great and impossible thing. For faith is ruled and bound to the word of God — to the word of God, I say, rightly and truly understood. The godly and faithful, therefore, do not then, out of the omnipotence of God, gather what they wish — as though God therefore would do everything because He can do all things. Otherwise that faith would therefore believe everything, because it is written, "All things are possible to him that believes." Mar 9.23 For his faith is therefore a great deal more, [225] because what he believes is so set down and declared in the word of God, as he believes.

Furthermore, where the Lord in the gospel says, "All things are possible for him that believes," we must not take that saying to be absolutely spoken, but to be joined to the word, will, and glory of God, and the safety of our souls.


For all things which God has promised in his word, all things which God will have, and lastly, all things which make for the glory of God and the safeguard of our souls, "are possible to him that believes." And for that reason, the apostle both openly and plainly said, "Whatever God has promised, he is also able to perform." For whatever He has not promised, and whatever does not please His divine majesty, or is contrary to the will and express word of God, that God cannot do — not because He cannot, but because He will not. God could make bread out of stones; Mat 4.3 but we must not therefore believe that stones are bread, nor are they bread therefore, just because God can do all things. You will understand this better and more fully, where a little later I will show you that true faith does not stray or waver, wandering to and fro, but clings close and sticks fast to God and to His word.

In the meantime, because we have shown out of Paul's words, by the example of Abraham, that faith is a substance and undoubted persuasion in the heart; and because many stiffly stand in [saying] that man is not surely certain of his salvation; [226] I will add a few examples out of the gospel, by which they may plainly perceive that faith is a most sure ground and settled opinion touching God and our salvation. And first, truly, the centurion, of whom mention is made in the gospel, had conceived a steadfast hope that his servant would be healed by the Lord. For he understood what great and mighty things he promised to those who believe. He gathered also by the works of Christ, that it was an easy matter for him to restore his servant to health again. Therefore he comes to the Lord, and among other things, he says: "There is no reason for you to come under my roof — indeed, but say the word, and my servant shall be made whole." These words testify that in the heart and mind of the centurion, there was a sure persuasion of most assured health, which by a certain comparison, he makes manifest and more fully express.


"For I myself am a man under the authority of another; and under me I have soldiers; and I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it." When the Lord perceived this certification of his mind by his words that were most full of faith, he cries out that "In all Israel he has not found so great a faith." Mat 8.5-10 Again, in the gospel it speaks notably about the woman's faith, who was sorely plagued with the bloody flux. And that faith was an undoubted persuasion in her heart, once illuminated. We may understand this because, being first indeed stirred up by the works and words of the Lord, she thought this within herself: "If I can but touch his garment, I will be whole." And therefore, pressing through the thickest of the throng, she comes to the Lord. Mat 9.20-22

But why should I heap together many examples? Does not the singular faith of the Canaanite or Syrophoenician woman declare more plainly than can be denied, how faith is a most assured persuasion of things believed? For being passed over and as it were, contemned by the Lord, she does not waver in faith; but following him, and hearing also that the Lord was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, she goes on to worship him. Moreover, being pushed away and tainted with the foul reproach of a dog, as it were, she yet goes humbly forward to throw herself prostrate before the Lord, requesting to obtain the thing she desired. She would not have persevered so stiffly if faith had not been a certification in her believing mind and heart. Therefore, moved with that faith of hers, the Lord cried "Woman, great is your faith; let it be done to you as you will." [227]

It is therefore manifest by all these testimonies of the holy scripture, that faith is a steadfast and undoubted persuasion in the mind and heart of the believer.


This now being brought to an end, let us see what man's faith leans upon; and also, how we may clearly perceive that faith is not a vain and unstable opinion of anything whatsoever (as we were about to say a little earlier), conceived in the mind of man; but it is tied up and contained within bounds and certain conditions as it were. In the definition of faith, we therefore said that faith bends toward God, and leans on his word. God therefore (and the word of God), is the object or foundation of true faith. The thing on which a man may lean safely, surely, and without any manner of doubting, must be steadfast and altogether unmovable — that which gives health; which preserves; and which fills up or ministers all fulness to us. It is for this that faith seeks and requests. But this is nowhere else than in God. On God alone, therefore, true faith bends and leans. God is everlasting, chiefly good, wise, just, mighty, and true of word. And He testifies of that by His works and word. This is why in the prophets, He is called a strong and unmovable rock, a castle, a wall, a tower, an invincible fortress, a treasure, and a well that will never be drawn dry. [228]

This everlasting God can do all things, know all things, is present in all places, loves mankind exceedingly, provides for all men, and also governs or disposes all things. Faith, therefore, which is confident of God's good-will and of His aid in all necessities, and of the true salvation of mankind, bends on God alone, and cannot lean on any other creature, in whom the things that faith requires, are not found.

And even as God is true of word, and cannot lie, so His word is true and deceives no man. In the word of God is expressed the will and mind of God. Therefore faith has an eye to the word of God, and lays her ground upon God's word. Touching this word, the Lord in the gospel said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away." Mar 13.31 The word of God here is compared with the most excellent elements. Air and water are feeble and unstable elements. But heaven,[229] even though it turns and moves, it keeps a wonderful and most steadfast course in moving, and all things in it are steadfast. The earth is most stable and unmovable. Therefore, if it is easier for these things to be loosed (which cannot be undone), than for the word of God to pass away, it follows that God's word in all points is most stable, unmovable, and impossible to loose.


"If", says the Lord in Jeremiah, "You can undo the league that I have taken with the day, or the covenant that I have made with the night, so that it is neither day nor night at the appointed time, then may my covenant which I have made with David be of no effect." Jer 33.20-21 But the whole world, putting together all its strength, is not able to make it day once it is night, nor cause the day to break one hour sooner than the course of heaven commands. Therefore, all this world, with all its power and pomp, will not once be able to weaken or break, to change or abolish, so much as one tittle in the word of God, and the truth of God's word. Faith therefore, which rests upon a thing that is most firm or sure, cannot help but choose to be an undoubted certification. And since God's word is the foundation of faith, faith cannot wander to and fro, and lean on every word whatsoever. For every opinion conceived outside the word of God, or against God's word, cannot be called true faith. And for that cause, St. Paul, the apostle of Christ, would not ground the true or Christian faith upon any carnal props or opinions of men, but only upon the truth and power of God. I will conclude here with his words: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom 10.17 "By the word of God," he says, and not by the word of man. Again, to the Corinthians: "My preaching was not in enticing words of man's wisdom, but in a display of the Spirit, and of power — that your faith should not be in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God." 1Cor 2.4-5 By this we also learn that there are some who, against all reason, require faith at our hands; that is, they would have us believe what they are not able to show out of God's word, or what is clean contrary to the word of God.

To better declare what I have said, that short abridgement of God's word and of faith is useful, which we closely knit together in the definition of faith. There are two chief points of faith and of the word repeated there: first of all, that God in Christ freely promises life and every good thing.


For God, who is the object or mark and foundation of faith — being of His own proper nature ever-living, ever-lasting, and good — of Himself, from before all beginning, begat the Son, who is like himself in all points. Because the Son is of the same substance with the Father, he is himself also by nature, life and all goodness. And he became man to the end that he might communicate to us, his sons and brethren, both life and all goodness; and being familiar — truly God and man, among men — he testified that God the Father, through the Son, pours himself wholly with all good things into the faithful, whom he quickens [230] and fills with all goodness; and last of all, he takes them up to himself, into the blessed place of everlasting life; and he frankly and freely bestows this benefit, to the end that the glory of his grace may be praised in all things.

True faith believes this; and to this belongs no small part of the scriptures, which testify that God in Christ communicates life and godliness to the faithful.2Pet 1.3 John the apostle cries out and says,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. And we saw the glory of God, as the glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of his fulness we have all received," etc. Joh 1.1,14,16

For the Lord himself said in the Gospel of St. John,

"Truly I say to you, whatever things the Father does, the Son also does the same. For even as the Father raises the dead to life and quickens them, so also the Son quickens whom he will. For the Father does not judge any man, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all men may honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father who has sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has life everlasting, and shall not come into judgment, but has escaped from death unto life." Joh 5.19, 21-24

With these words of the gospel, agrees that saying of St. Paul: "In Christ are laid up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Because in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him you are fulfilled." Col 2.3,9-10


But Paul, that vessel of election, declares in these words that these great benefits of God are freely bestowed upon the faithful:

"Blessed be God, who has chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world were laid, and has predestined us into the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he has made us accepted in the beloved through whom we have redemption in his blood," etc. [231]

And again: "All have sinned, and have need of God's glory, but are justified freely through his grace, by the redemption which is in Christ," Rom 3.23-24 and so on. True faith therefore believes that life and every good thing freely comes to it from God through Christ. This is the chief article of our faith, as more largely laid out in the articles of belief.

The second principal point of God's word and faith is that there is set down in the word of God, all truth necessary to be believed; and that true faith believes all that is declared in the scriptures. For it tells us that God exists; what manner of God he is; what God's works are; what his judgments, will, commandments, promises, and threatenings are. Finally, whatever is profitable or necessary to be believed, God's word wholly sets these down for us, and true faith receives them, believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets, and in the gospel and writings of the apostles. But whatever cannot be fetched or proved out of those writings, or whatever is contrary to them, the faithful do not believe that at all — for the very nature of true faith is not to believe that which departs[232] from the word of God. Whoever therefore does not believe the fables and opinions of men, he alone believes as he should: for he depends only upon the word of God, and so upon God himself, the only fountain of all truth.

The matter, the argument, and the whole sum of faith is briefly set out for us in the articles of the Christian faith, of which I will speak at another time. I have this hour declared to you, dearly beloved and reverend [233] brethren in the Lord, the definition of faith.


To the end that I may surely fasten in everyone's mind, and that all may understand what faith is, I repeat it here again; and with this, I conclude this sermon.

Faith is a gift of God, poured into man from heaven, by which he is taught with an undoubted persuasion, to wholly lean on God and his word. In this word, God in Christ freely promises life and every good thing, and all truth necessary to be believed is plainly declared in it.

Let us all pray to God our Father through his only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, that he will grant from heaven to bestow true faith upon us all, that by knowing him aright, we may at the last obtain life everlasting. Amen.



That there is only one true faith, and what the virtue of it is.

BEING cut off with the shortness of time, and detained by the excellence of the matter, I could not in my last sermon make an end of all that I had determined to speak touching faith. Now therefore, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I will add the rest of the argument which seems yet left behind. Pray to the Lord that what is brought to your ears by man's voice, may be written in your hearts by the finger of God.

True faith is ignorant of all division; for "there is," says the apostle, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." Eph 4.5-6 For there remains, from the beginning of the world even to the end of it, one and the same faith in all the elect of God. God is one and the same forever, the only Well of all goodness, that can never be drawn dry. The truth of God, from the beginning of the world, is one and the same, set forth to men in the word of God. Therefore, the object and foundation of faith — that is, God and the word of God — remain forever one and the self-same.


In one and the self-same faith with us, all the elect ever since the first creation of the world have believed that all good things are freely given to us through Christ, and that all truth necessary to be believed, is declared in the word of the Lord. Therefore, the faithful of the old world have always settled their faith on God and his word; so that now, without any doubt, there cannot be any more than one true faith.

I know very well that many sundry faiths are sown in the world, that is to say, religions. For there is the Indian faith, the Jewish faith, the faith of the Mahomedans, and the faith of the Georgians. [234] And yet, notwithstanding, there is but one true Christian faith, the abridgement of which is contained in the articles of our belief, and taught in full in the sacred scriptures of both testaments. I also know that there are sundry beliefs of men, resting upon sundry things, and believing what is contrary to true faith. Yet nevertheless, there remains but one true belief in God and his word, which is an undoubted persuasion and confidence about things most true and assuredly certain.

This confidence grows with increase in the minds of the faithful, and contrarily, it decreases again and utterly fails. For that reason, the apostles entreated the Lord, saying "Lord, increase our faith." Luk 17.5 Everywhere in his writings, Paul the apostle wishes to the faithful the increase of the spirit and of faith.[235] Before him, David also prayed, saying "God, create a clean heart within me, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me." Psa 51.10-11 For he had seen how the good Spirit of God had departed from Saul, whom David succeeded in the kingdom. And instead, the wicked spirit had entered into his mind, which tormented him very pitifully. To this belongs that saying in the gospel, "To everyone that has, shall be given, and from him that does not have, shall be taken away that which he does not have," or that he takes no account of, "and shall be given to him that has." [236]


Nor was it in vain that the Lord said to Peter, "I have prayed for you Peter, that your faith does not fail." Luk 22.32 For Paul speaks of some in his time, who "made shipwreck of their own faith, and overthrew the faith of others." [237] And to what end, I pray you, do we daily hear the word of God, and make our humble petitions to the Lord, if not because we look for an increase of godliness, and His aid to keep us, so that we do not fall from true faith? Paul says truly to the Thessalonians: "We pray earnestly day and night to see you personally, and to supply what is lacking in your faith." 1Thes 3.10 And a little before he said, "For this reason I sent Timothy, that I might be certified of your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and so our labour had been of no effect." 1Thes 3.5 The same apostle, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, also says "Christ gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the restoring of the saints, for the building of the body of Christ, until we all meet together in the unity of faith, and the acknowledging of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of age of the fulness of Christ, so that now we are no longer children." Eph 4.11-14

Therefore, so long as we live, we learn, so that our faith may be perfect; [238] and if at any time it is weakened by temptations, then it may be repaired and again confirmed. And in this diversity, I mean in this increase and weakness of faith, there is no partition or division; for the self-same root and substance of faith always remains, although it is sometimes more, and sometimes less. In like manner, faith is not therefore changed or cut asunder, because one is called general faith, and another is called particular faith.


For general faith is none other than that faith which believes that all the words of God are true, and that God has good-will toward mankind. Particular faith believes nothing contrary to this; it is only that what is common to all, the faithful applies particularly to himself, believing that God is not well-minded toward others alone, but even to him also. So then, it brings the whole into parts, and that which is general, into particularities. For though by general faith he believes that all the words of God are true, in the same way, he believes by particular faith that the soul is immortal, that our bodies rise again, that the faithful shall be saved, the unbelievers destroyed, and whatever else of this sort is taught to be believed in the word of God.

Moreover, the disputation touching faith that is poured into us, and faith that we ourselves get — touching formal faith, and faith without fashion [239] — I leave to be beaten out by those who, on their own, bring these new disputations into the church. True faith is obtained by no strength or merit of man, but is poured into him by God, as I declared in my last sermon. And though man obtains it by hearkening to the word of God, it is nevertheless wholly imputed to the grace of God. For unless this grace works inwardly in the heart of the hearer, the preacher who labours outwardly brings no profit at all. We read in the third chapter of St. Augustin's book De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, that he was once in error, because he thought that the faith with which we believe in God, is not the gift of God, but that it was in us as of ourselves, and by it we obtain the gifts of God, by which we may live rightly and holily in this world. [240] But he confutes this at large in that book, and does it substantially. So then, true faith, which bends on God alone and is directed by the word of God, is formal enough, or sufficiently in fashion.


Truly, the form of faith is engraved in the heart of the faithful by the Holy Ghost. And although it is small, and does not grow up to the highest degree, yet notwithstanding, it is true faith, having in it the force of a grain of mustard-seed as it were. The thief who was crucified with our Lord, believed in the Lord Jesus, and was saved, even though the force of faith was strong in him only a very short season, and it did not produce any great store of fruit of good works. Finally, that faith of the thief was not one whit different or contrary to the faith of St. Peter and St. Paul, but was altogether the very same as theirs, even though their faith brought forth somewhat more abundantly the fruit of good works. Peter and Paul were frankly and freely justified, even though they had many good works; the thief was freely justified, even though his good works were very few or none at all. Let us hold, therefore, that true faith is solitary, [241] which notwithstanding, it increases and is augmented, and again, it may decrease and be extinguished.[242]

There now remains for me to declare the virtue and effect of true faith. The holy apostle Paul has done this very well and excellently, yes, and most absolutely too. But although in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews he said very much,[243] he is compelled, notwithstanding, to confess that he cannot reckon it all up. Therefore, at this time I mean to repeat a few virtues of faith, leaving the rest, dearly beloved, to be sought out and considered by yourselves.

True faith, before all things, brings with it true knowledge and it makes us wise indeed. For by faith we know God, and judge rightly about the judgments and works of God, of virtues and vices. The wisdom that it brings with it is without doubt the true wisdom. Many men hope that they can attain to true wisdom by the study of philosophy; but they are deceived, as far as heaven is broad. For philosophy falsely judges and faultily teaches many things touching God, the works of God, the chief goodness, the end of good and evil, and touching things that are to be desired and eschewed. But those same things are rightly and truly taught in the word of God, and understood and perceived by faith. Faith is therefore the true wisdom, and it makes us wise indeed.


For Jeremiah also says, "Behold, they have thrown away the word of the Lord; what wisdom therefore can be left in them?" Jer 8.9 The wisdom of Solomon is worshipfully thought of throughout the whole compass of the world; and yet we read that the Lord, in the gospel of St. Matthew, uttered this sentence against the Jews: "The queen of the south shall rise in judgment with this generation and condemn it; because she came from the ends of the world to hear the wisdom of Solomon: and behold, there is one here greater than Solomon." Mat 12.42 Christ is preferred before Solomon, and the wisdom of Christ before the wisdom of Solomon. But it is well known that the wisdom of Christ, the Son of God, cannot be attained without faith. Faith therefore brings with it the most excellent wisdom. But this wisdom of ours deserves a singular praise here, because those who desire it are not sent to foreign nations to learn it at great cost and labour, as if sent to the priests of Egypt, the gymnosophists of India, [244] the philosophers of Greece, or to the rabbins of the Jews. God has dispersed His word throughout the world, so that now the word of faith is in the hearts of all the faithful. For Paul the apostle says,

"Thus says the justice that is of faith, Do not say in your heart, Who will ascend into heaven? that is, to fetch Christ down from above. Or, Who will descend into the deep? that is, to bring Christ back from the dead. But what does he say? The word is near you, even in your heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach. For if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe with your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." Rom 10.6-9

Faith therefore not only makes us wise, but happy also; the Lord himself bearing witness to it, and saying to his disciples, "Happy are the eyes that see the things that you see. For I say to you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and to hear the things that you hear, and did not hear them." Luk 10.23-24


We shall therefore find in faith a most certain determination of the most notable question stirred since the beginning of the world, by learned and most excellent wits. It is this: by what means may a man live, be happy, attain to the chief goodness, be joined to the chief goodness, and so be justified? There have been, indeed there still are, diverse opinions touching this matter, contrary to one another. But we briefly and truly affirm that by true faith, a man lives, is happy, attains to the chief goodness, is conjoined to the chief goodness, and is also justified: so that God dwells in us, and we in him; and by faith we are both happy and blessed. What, I ask you, could have been spoken more excellently, worthily, or divinely, touching true faith? For see that faith quickens us, makes us happy, and joins us to the chief goodness, so that He [245] in us, and we in him, may live; and faith also fully justifies us.

But now it is best to hear the testimonies out of the scriptures. Faith makes us happy. For it is said to St. Peter, upon confessing the Lord Jesus by true faith, "Happy are you, Simon, the son of Jonah. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Mat 16.17 St. Paul, for the proof of faith, brings in that statement of David: "Happy are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no sin." [246] Faith quickens or makes alive. For "the just lives by faith." [247] Paul very often in his writings alleges [248] this out of the prophets. The same Paul also says, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Gal 2.20 Faith joins us to the eternal and chief goodness, and so it makes us enjoy the chief goodness, so that God may dwell in us and we in God. For the Lord Jesus himself says in the gospel, "He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, so also I live by the Father, and he that eats me shall live by me." Joh 6.56-57


But to eat and drink the Lord is to believe in the Lord: that he has given himself to death for us. Upon which John the apostle says, "We have seen and witness, that the Father has sent the Son, the Saviour of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God." 1Joh 4.14-15 This is also why Paul said, "I live now — not I, but Christ lives in me." Gal 2.20 Moreover, faith justifies. But because a treatise about it cannot fitly and fully be made an end of in this hour, I mean to defer it till the next sermon.

At present, dearly beloved, you must remember that there is but one true faith — that is, the Christian faith. For although there are said to be many faiths (that is, religions), notwithstanding, there is only one true and undoubted faith. And that faith increases, and again decreases, in some men. As for those in whom faith is rightly and godly observed, in them it shows many varied virtues. For it brings with it true wisdom. Finally, it quickens, and makes us blessed and happy indeed. To God, the Father, the author of all goodness and of our felicity, be all praise and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, forever and ever. Amen.


SourceThe Decades by Henry Bullinger

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