I grow weary of these endless attempts to cast off the Active Obedience of Christ. I especially weary of the attempts to say that the Heidelberg Catechism does not teach the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ. Question 60 really ought to speak for itself (emphasis mine).
How are thou righteous before God?
Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
Listen to Rev. Mark Horne now try to get out of this clear cut statement.
If this taught the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, it would be a fine statement. And, if this were some sort of committee document, or in some other way obscured authorial intent, I wouldn’t have a problem with the words being taken in this sens(sic). . . the author of the catechism lectured on it and approved a commentary from those notes. Every time I find Ursinus explaining himself he refers to Christ’s sufferings as the merit which is imputed to believers
Rev. Horne then goes on to quote something from Ursinus’s commentary on Question 61 (not 60) for his back up. A reading which I think is highly debatable by the way.
But of course the Heidelberg Catechism was a committee document, a committee of two. Ursinus and Casper Olevianus wrote the Heidelberg so can a commentary by one of the men really be the only place to look for intent? And in that commentary is question 61 the best place to look for answers?
Before we jump to the Commentary perhaps we ought to look at the rest of the Heidelberg Catechism itself. Does the phrase “satisfaction, righteousness and holiness” appear anywhere else other than 60? Why yes it does. Question 61 in fact. This is the one where Horne claims Ursinus means by righteousness only the sufferings of Christ. But does the Catechism bear this out? No of course not. In fact Question 62 is rather important.
But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God, must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26), but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
It seems from Question 62 the righteousness being spoken off is perfect obedience to the law. Christ’s Active Obedience. Thus righteousness is defined for us by the Catechism. This is the righteousness that is imputed to us in 60 and also in 56.
What do you believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins”?
That God for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long, but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ that I may never more come into condemnation.
Here we see it again the righteousness of Christ is imputed to me “for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction.” Horne wants us to think that this is only the passion and death of Christ, his “willing suffering”. But let us remember that the Heidelberg defines the suffering of Christ as something that that was “all the time he lived on this earth” (Q&A 37). So when we read of Ursinus talking about “suffering” we ought not assume he is only speaking of the end of Christ’s life and His work on the cross.
But what about Ursinus’s Commentary? Well, we can weed through the quotes used by Rev. Horne, but let us just cut to where Ursinus defines righteousness in his commentary, at question 60 (pg.325 – emphasis mine).
What is righteousness in general? Righteousness is derived from right, which is the law, and is a conformity with the law, as sin or unrighteousness is the transgression of the law. . . . Righteousness, therefore, in general, as far as it has a respect to creatures, consists in fulfilling those laws which pertain to rational creatures; or, it is a conformity on the part of the rational creatures with those laws which have respect to them. Finally, righteousness is the fulfillment of the law, and a conformity with the law is righteousness itself. This must be observed and held fast to, because our justification can only be effected by fulfilling the law. Evangelical righteousness is the fulfilling of the law, and does not conflict with it in the least. The gospel does not abolish the law, but establishes it. . . . Evangelical righteousness is the fulfilling of the law, performed, not by us, but by another in our stead, and imputed unto us of God by faith.
Ursinus here claims that Christ fulfilling the law is vital to our justification. And the fulfilling of the law then is not just so Jesus might be the perfect sacrifice, the lamb without spot or blemish. Rather that performing of the law is imputed to us of God by faith. Since the quotation above proceeds the quotation used by Rev. Horne one can now see that Horne is not correct in his assessment.
Yes, Ursinus clearly saw a major link between Christ’s death on the cross and his life. But then who ever argued against that? Rev. Horne seems to be tilting at windmills. No one is really arguing for a separation as if somehow the cross is not imputed, but his Active Obedience to the Law is. They are linked. Ursinus saw them as linked. Everyone sees them as linked. You cannot have one without the other. The problem comes when Horne says, “But neither do I see any way that we must say that one supplements the other or that each does a different job in our salvation. The curse
But neither do I see any way that we must say that one supplements the other or that each does a different job in our salvation.” Clearly Ursinus saw a way that they did jobs and supplemented each other. He went so far as to say that without the fulfilling of the law our justification could not be effected. Christ’s righteousness had to be imputed to us. Listen now to the paragraph right above what Rev. Horne quotes (pg. 327):
To justify is to make the subject of it comformable to the law, either in himself, by a righteousness which is called his own, and which is inherent, infused, and legal; or it is to be made righteous in another which is called imputed because it is not inherent in us, but in Christ. This consists also in conformity with the law; for faith does not make void the law, but establishes it. And such we may remark is our righteousness anad justification; for we now speak of that righteousness with which we as sinners are justified before God in this life;
Now re-read Rev. Horne’s last couple of paragraphs in the second linked post. Does that sound like Ursinus? Ursinus is concerned about us being declared righteous and the law being upheld. Rev. Horne is speaking of blood wiping away the penalty and there is “ nothing left to demand of you”. Ursinus clearly saw a role for the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ that Rev. Horne has missed.
And just so we know that we are not just picking on Rev. Horne, others make similar claims about Ursinus. At least he has the sense to try and claim both Ursinus and Olevianus did not believe in Imputation of Active Obedience. But that of course leaves the puzzling question of why then did they write it into the Catechism. Some of claimed that Ursinus later rejected the Active Obedience but held to it at the time of writing the Catechism (rejection is dated around 1566), but all of this information is based on second hand stuff. Usually it is based on the fact that David Pareus (student of Ursinus) and Johannes Piscator (student of Olevianus) rejected it, but that is a logical fallacy waiting to happen. The truth is the plain reading of the Heidelberg Catechism supports Imputation of Active Obedience, as even Rev. Horne admits, and that neither Olevianus nor Ursinus ever rejected any part of the Heidelberg and they taught it to others for the rest of their lives.