Ursinus on True Thankfulness

ursinusNote: Zacharias Ursinus was the primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism. The comments below come from his lectures on the catechism that were authorized by the Elector Palatinate, Frederick III.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Having now considered the misery of man, and his deliverance through Christ, the doctrine of gratitude or thankfulness is necessary,

1. On account of the glory of God, inasmuch as the chief end of our redemption is thankfulness, which comprehends acknowledgement and praise for the benefits of Christ.

2. On account of our consolation, which consists in our deliverance by the free grace of God. None now obtain this deliverance, but those who desire to show their gratitude to God.

3. That we may render unto God such worship as is lawful, and acceptable. God disapproves of all worship which grounds itself in self-will. We must, therefore, show from the word of God, what is the nature of true thankfulness, which is the worship due to God.

4. That we may know that all our good works are expressions of thankfulness, and have no merit in the sight of God.

Thankfulness in general is a virtue acknowledging and professing the person from whom we have received benefits, as well as the greatness of the benefits themselves, with a desire to perform towards our benefactor such reciprocal duties as are becoming and possible. It includes truth and justice. Truth, because it acknowledges and makes mention of the benefits received : and justice, because it desires to return thanks equal to that which has been received.

True Christian thankfulness, therefore, which is here taught, is an acknowledgment and profession of our gracious deliverance, through Christ v from sin and death, and a sincere desire to avoid sin, and every thing that might offend God, and to conform the life according to his will ; to desire,, expect, and receive all good things from God alone, by a true faith, and to render thanks for the benefits received.

This thankfulness likewise consists of two parts truth and justice. Truth acknowledges and professes the benefit of our free redemption, and renders thanks unto God for it. Justice offers unto God such a return as he requires from us, which is nothing else than a true worship of him, con sisting of obedience and good works. The doctrine of prayer belongs to truth ; whilst that of good works to justice. That in which both these things root and ground themselves, is the conversion of man to God: for the works of none but those who are regenerated, are good and pleasing to God. Hence we must, under this division of the Catechism, treat of man’s conversion to God, and of the law of God. There are, therefore, four principal Common Places which belong to this general division of thankfulness: Man s conversion, good works, the Law of God, and prayer.

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