Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XII
Of saving faith.
We confess: That saving faith is not a vain or hidden thing unborn in man; nor does it consist in us having a historical knowledge derived from the holy Scriptures, and that we have much to say about it, without having the real substance or signification thereof. But the real and true faith, which avails before God, is a sure knowledge of the heart in a sure confidence, which we receive from God, not through our own power, will, or ability, but through the hearing of the word of God; and which, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, is imprinted on, and written in, the heart, and works so effectually in us, that we are drawn away by it from all visible and perishable things, to the invisible and living God; acquiring thereby a new spiritual taste for that which is heavenly, and not for that which is earthly. For saving faith, accompanied with hope and love, is of such a nature that it conforms to things not seen. Hence, all true believers gladly and obediently submit themselves to all the commandments of God, contained in the holy Scriptures, and, when necessary, testify to and confess them with the mouth before kings, princes, lords, and all men, not allowing themselves to be drawn away therefrom by any means whatever, though, on account thereof, money, property, body and life be sacrificed unto spoiling, water, and fire. For the power of God, which preserves them in the faith, strengthens them, so that they esteem all the sufferings of this time brief and light, not avenging themselves, but praying for their persecutors, gladly suffering for the name of the Lord what is imposed upon them, because of the faith, hope, and love which they have to their Creator and His heavenly riches.
Where this true faith is received in the heart, there the fruits of the Holy Spirit, as witnesses of the same, must follow and flow out. On the contrary, unbelief, with its unfruitful works of darkness must flee, as darkness before the clear sunlight. By this faith, which is the beginning of the Christian doctrine, we become children of God, overcome the world, are armed against all the subtle wiles of the devil, become sanctified, justified, saved, and partakers of all the benefits of God shown in Christ Jesus; and without this faith it is impossible to please God.
In this true faith we cannot stand still, but, with humble fasting, praying and supplicating in the Spirit, we must plead for help, assistance, and new strength in all divine virtues, unto the end, in order that God may strengthen and preserve us in the same. Where this is neglected men may fall from the faith; the good Spirit may be taken away, and their names blotted out of the Book of Life, and written again in the earth. To this true faith, which is a noble gift of God, all men, who have attained to understanding and knowledge, so that they can hear and understand the word of God, without distinction of persons, are called through the divine word, and invited to come; but all infants, and those whom God permits to remain in their infancy, are herefrom excepted and excluded. They are under the grace and pleasure of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ, by which He, through His blood, cleansed and redeemed the whole human race from the fall of Adam, without requiring of them any other means than faith, hope, love, and the observance of certain commandments of God. It is therefore a great error that some ascribe faith to new born infants; or (that they say) that without this they cannot be saved. It is a sure sign that said persons do not know the true faith, and do not believe the words of Jesus Christ, who has promised the kingdom of heaven to infants without this.
For, as true faith consists in hearing, believing and accepting the good things which God offers us through His word; and, again, as unbelief consists in despising and rejecting those things; and since infants have neither knowledge, ability, inclination, nor emotion concerning any of these things, as all intelligent persons see and know; therefore it must truly follow that neither faith nor unbelief may be attributed to infants; but they are simple and ignorant, and in this state perfectly pleasing to God, He having set them as examples for us, that we should imitate them in their simplicity.
How the true faith is a gift of God, and is wrought in the hearts of men through the hearing of God's word, read: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 12:3; Colossians 2:12; Philippians 1:29; Jude 3).
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 6:2).
With regard to how we must believe in God through His word, read: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (John 17:20; Ephesians 1:9; John 7:38; 14:1; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:15).
Concerning how true faith is not vain, but manifests its effectual power and nature, read: "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations," etc. (Romans 1:5; 16:25; Acts 6:7).
"When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
"In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).
He that does not evince from his faith the seven virtues required, "is blind, and cannot see afar off," etc. (2 Peter 1:9; James 2:26).
"But the just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4; Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).
By faith we become righteous and partakers of the benefits of God (Acts 26:18; Romans 10:10; Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; Mark 16:16).
We must pray to God, to be strengthened and kept in the faith (Luke 17:5; 1 Peter 1:5).
When the grace of God is neglected through unbelief and evil works, one may fall away from the faith, and be blotted out of the Book of Life. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:10).
"Which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).
"One that returneth from righteousness to sin: the Lord prepareth such a one for the sword" (Sirach 26:28; Jeremiah 17:13; Proverbs 3:21; Hebrews 6:6).
"The Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exodus 32:33; Revelation 3:5; Psalms 69:29; Isaiah 1:2; 30:1; Jeremiah 18:7).
How infants are simple and ignorant, and that therefore neither faith nor unbelief may be imputed to them; but that they are well-pleasing to God through His grace, without any other means, read: "Moreover, your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39; Matthew 19:14).
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" 1 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 5:13).
"Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children" (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:14; Matthew 18:2; 19:13; Mark 10:13; Luke 18:15).
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