On Justifying Faith

Joshua Schendel
Franciscus Junius
Sunday, January 1st 2023
Jan/Feb 2023
by Franciscus Junius; translated by Joshua Schendel

The following is a translation of Franciscus Junius’s (1545–1602) De Fide Iustificante, a set of twelve theses over which Junius presided while they were publicly defended at Leiden University sometime in the 1590s. The text of this disputation is taken from Francisci Iunii Opuscula theologica selecta, ed. Abraham Kuyper (Amsterdam: Fred. Muller, 1882), 1:207–8. Kuyper’s text is a reprint of Franciscus Junius, Opera theologica, duobus tomis, ordine commodissimo, nempe Exegetico primo, Elenctica altero, comprehensa . . . 2 vols. (Geneva: Societas Caldoriana, 1607).

Because we have up to this point discussed the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, the merit of Christ, and the benefits thereof toward us, an account of the order of our salvation is also required, so that we ought to treat of that faith by which we lay hold of Christ and all his benefits.[1]

1. Because in Sacred Writ the notion of faith is taken homonymously,[2] before we speak of it, we must remove the ambiguity. For Sacred Scripture places faith before us in a twofold manner: the first, which [the Scriptures] call justifying faith, is steady and constant; the second, which they do not call justifying faith, is unsteady and temporary. Concerning the former, we maintain that it alone is properly and truly called faith (for that faith which is temporary and fades away is, in fact, no faith). Further, true faith is either of adults or it is of infants.

2. The faith of adults is not only knowledge [notitia] and assent [assensus] to the teaching of the prophets and apostles handed down to us, but also an assured and firm trust [fiducia] and apprehension, which has been truly founded on the gracious promise of Christ, revealed to our minds by the Holy Spirit, and sealed in our hearts.

3. That faith is not merely a bare knowledge but also an assured trust is shown by the etymology[3] of the term itself. For it is derived from this . . . fiat quod dictum est [“let it be done what was promised”].[4] This is not dissimilar from the meaning of the Hebrew term Aemunah from Aman,[5] which signifies that which is dependable. In the Greek, πίστις and πεποίθησις refer to that of which we are persuaded, that which we believe.

4. The subject, or the matter in which [materia in qua], of this faith is mind, will, and the human heart, in which it sits not only as resting, but also—and chiefly—as delighting, flowing from an assured and full persuasion. For the Holy Spirit also enlightens the mind so that the word is understood, and he moves the will so that it both agrees with the understood word and is conformed to it, as well so that the heart firmly rests in it.

5. The form of this faith is the discerning apprehension of Christ with all the benefits necessary to salvation, and the particular application of the grace of the remission of sins in him.

6. The efficient cause of this faith is, first and principally, the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:9; 2 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 2:8). The Holy Spirit, by a special movement beyond the natural order, begets faith in all and only the elect and continually nourishes and warms it (Matt. 13:11–12; John 10:26; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:30; 2 Thess. 3:2). Further, the proper and ordinary instrument used by the Holy Spirit by which this faith is begotten and nourished in us is the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 10:12; 1 Cor. 4:15; 15:2) and the use of the sacraments: For the Holy Spirit works through these, and without them he will not ordinarily generate justifying faith in adults.

7. The object, or the matter concerning which [materia circa quam], is—with respect to its genus—the entire word of God declared through the prophets and the apostles: nor is faith able to be separated from the word any more than a ray is able to be separated from the sun whence it originates. Thus the word is not without reason said to be the fount and foundation of faith, so that if faith diverts from it, faith is wrecked. Furthermore—as regards its species—the object of faith is the goodness, mercy, and promise of God founded upon our Mediator and Lord, the Christ and declared to us in the gospel (Rom. 4:16). This object of our faith—with respect either to its genus or to its species—is placed before us, indeed, as that which is not seen, for faith observes those things which are not seen (Heb. 11:1).

8. The end of this faith is twofold: the ultimate end is the glory of God, which consists in this: that we take in the full value of the worth of God. The proximate end is, indeed, our salvation, which is not able to be secured without faith. It is necessary, then, that whosoever will be saved must first obtain to this testimony: that they are pleasing to God. And because it is not possible for anyone to please him without faith (as the apostle says, Heb. 11:6), we properly reason that it is no less true that everyone hoping for eternal life has need of faith than it is true that fruit has need of the living root of the tree.

9. Finally, the effects of faith, which are secured by it, are: Regeneration and Sanctification (Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:28; 10:10—as following peace with God— Isa. 32:17; Rom. 5:1). We know that we have this faith: 1. from the testimony of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:15; 16:26; Gal. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:12; 1 John 5:10); 2. from the light of faith, though with doubt—for it is the nature of our faith that it always struggles with a certain degree of doubt. Take, for example, David, who was not always in an assured state of mind, as innumerable of his prophetic outcries reveal (Ps. 27:14; 31:23; 42:6; 43:5; 77:10; 116:7); 3. from the effects and fruits of faith (Gal. 5:24), which effects, it must be noted, do not inform this faith, as the most inept sophists dream, but rather they are the evidences of faith.[6]

10. Joined as a companion to this undivided faith is hope (Heb.11:1), which is nothing other than a constant expectation of the full fruition of the promises given by God, which faith has believed. The joining of these saving graces is fitting because each is born by God unto the eternal reality promised to us. There is a distinction between them, however, as faith apprehends what is present, whereas hope what is future. Faith, therefore, is fundamental, on which hope leans. Hope is the support by which faith is fed and sustained.

11. As for what remains, a few related points need still to be observed: 1. This faith, which we have said is required to be in all the elect, is one (Eph. 4:5), not multiple, being in its species neither numbered (Hab. 2:4; Matt. 9:22) nor degreed (Matt. 6:30; 8:10; 13:23: 14:31; 15:28; Rom. 4:20; 14:1; 2 Cor. 10:13), which is the reason the Apostle calls it precious (2 Pet. 1:1).[7] 2.This faith, even at its height in this life, is always imperfect yet nevertheless true. For, so long as we are here, we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12). Even so, insofar as the electing God has begun a work in his own, so far they have that work unto its victorious completion. By the term “imperfection” we do not intend that figment of the Schoolmen,[8] which is, as they called it, “implicit faith.” For it cannot be said of the one who believes implicitly what he does not understand that he has faith; for faith is not an ignorance but an explicit knowledge—not a full knowledge like that of God’s,[9] but centered upon the divine goodness and mercy. 3.It ought to be observed that this faith, although not completely stable, is nevertheless always joined with the gift of final perseverance, which is faith’s abiding possession because the gifts of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).

12. These things said concern adult faith. But we would say the same of elect infants according to a seed (as John calls it, 1 John 3:9) or a principle habit.[10] For surely the covenant applies to elect infants of the faithful (Acts 2:39; 3:25), and the kingdom of heaven is promised to them (Matt. 19:14). Hence, they are born anew, for it is clear that the way into the celestial life is by this rebirth alone (John 3:3) and by having faith, without which no one is able to please God (Heb. 11:6). Anyone who wishes to may look again at the teaching of Christ (Matt. 18:6): “Whoever offends anyone of the least of these who believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone be fastened around his neck, and he be plunged into the depths of the sea.”[11] This faith, however, is (as we have said) a seminal habit that is aroused immediately by the Holy Spirit by means of the gracious promises in the word. The Holy Spirit, taking hold of his own, moves in them afresh, little by little, and moves their inclinations bit by bit, exciting faith in them and advancing it to maturity, so that they live in God and serve by the Spirit.

Joshua Schendel is professor of theology at Yellowstone Theological Institute.

1. This introduction points the reader to the several sets of theses immediately prior to this one in the published manuscript.
2. Ὁμωνύμως, meaning “of the same name” but with the implication that the same name may point to, or signify, different things, creating the possibility of ambiguities.
3. Eτυμον, meaning “according to its origin” or “according to its true sense.”
4. Here Junius cites Cicero, De Oficiis, bk. 1, and De Rupublica, bk. 4. In 1.23 of De Officiis, Cicero says that the Stoics claimed that the etymology of the term fides comes from fio, “to happen, come about,” insofar as fiat is the fulfillment of “what was promised” (quod dictum est). In 4.7 of De Republica, Cicero remarks that fides seems to indicate that trust comes about “because what was said has been done.” Cicero, though, acknowledged that such an etymology was thought by many even in his own day to be far-fetched. Etymological arguments in antiquity were not always drawn from the study of the evolution of a language, but they were used for the rhetorical and pedagogical purposes of persuading an audience of a particu-lar position and helping them to remember it.
5. Junius here provides the Latin transliteration of the Hebrew terms, which I have kept as original.
6. τεκμήρια fidei.
7. Ἰσότιμον. In 2 Peter 1:1, the apostle Peter addresses his letter “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (NIV).
8. The “Schoolmen” refers to the medieval Scholastic theologians. Most often, when used as a term of derision by Reformed and Lutheran theologians of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it referred to particular schools of thought within the medieval Scholastic tradition and was not a blanket condemnation of medieval Scholasticism as such. It was up to the reader to be familiar enough with the various schools of thought to be able to discern which in particular was being criticized.
9. The Latin reads “non Dei modo,” that is, “not in the mode of God.” Junius’s point here is to qualify what he means by “explicit knowledge.” He does not mean that faith attains to the extent or manner of God’s utter knowledge, but that our faith does have a content, given to us by God in his goodness and mercy and explicitly known by us—that is, we are consciously aware of that content.
10. Returning to the division between the true faith of adults and the true faith of infants that he observed in Thesis 1, Junius here notes that all that has been said of the true faith of adults applies to the true faith of infants as well, but that infants have this true faith in a different way. He illustrates with the biblical language of a “seed” (semen) and with the technical Scholastic notion of a “principle habit” (principium habitus). Basically, the notion is this: a seed planted in the soil is not yet the plant, but—conditions admitting—it will certainly develop into the plant. And so it is not improper to say that the plant is there, just in seed form. So also, Junius is arguing, true faith is there in the elect infant even if only in seed form.
11. Junius here cites Theodore Beza’s Latin translation of Matthew 18:6. Beza published a Latin translation of the New Testament in 1556 and then in 1565 a critical edition of the Greek New Testament with parallel Latin translations, one from the Vulgate and the other his own.
Sunday, January 1st 2023

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