Imatges de pàgina
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within their reach; but when we see the visible creation, which is the work of God, we do, by reflecting, discover its maker; and so this truth, that there is a God, is convey'd to our understandings by our internal senses, namely, our reflecting powers, or, in other words, by our reafon. Thirdly, Truth is convey'd to our understandings by such report or testimony of others; for example, that there was such a man as Julius Cæfar, is a truth which is convey'd to our underftandings by such report ; for Julius Cæfar died long before any person now living was born, and consequently no person now living can be in= formed of this truth by an external perception of his person ; and our reflecting powers alone cannot discover to us that there was such a man; consequently, it is impoffible that our understandings should be 'informed of this truth, if it were not some way or other convey'd to us by the report or testimony of others. Now as truth is convey'd to our understandings different ways, fo the act of the understanding, in the apprehending of truth, is called by different names, from those different ways of conveyance. When truth is convey'd to our understandings by our external, or by our internal senses, then, in propriety of speech, this is called knowledge. And when truth is convey'd by the report or testimony of others, then, in propriety of fpeech, it is called jaith. Not but that these terms are commonly used promiscuously, being put one for the other; for we often call that knowledge, which, properly {peaking, is an act of believing; and we like. wise call that believing, which, to speak properly, is an act of knowledge. And in all these, the act of the mind is the same, viz. the apprehending of, and assenting to any thing as truth, from the information that it hath received, either from

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our external or internal senses, or from the

roport and testimony of others. And it is so far, and only so far an act, either of knowledge or belief, as our understandings do apprehend and affent to it; for, what our understandings do not apprehend and affent to is neither an act of knowledge nor belief, because that cannot properly be called an act of the understanding, as knowledge and faith are, which our understandings do not perceive. So then faith, in propriety of speech, and when distinguished from knowledge, is that act of the understanding, which assents to any thing as truth, barely upon the credit of him that reports it : I say, barely upon the credit of the reporter, because if

any truth is reported to us by another, which upon reflection appears to be self-evident, or which is made fo our external senses, then the act of the understanding, in affenting in fuch a case, cannot properly be called faith, because that act does not wholly arise from such report. And here it may not be amiss to observe the common distinction between human and divine faith. Human faith is an assent to a credible proposition, merely upon the testimony of man, the just ground of that affent being the ability of the teftifier to know the truth of what he testifies, and his honesty in teftifying what he knows; which, þecause we can have no absolute assurance of, we fan have no absolute reliance on the truth of any purely human testimony. I fay, it is an affenting to a thing credible, upon the forementioned ground; because if we afsent to a thing incredi: ble, or to a credible thing, when we have not juft ground for that assent, this, I think, is not properly called faith or believing, but credulity or presuming. Divine faich is an assent to a proposition revealed by God, who, being omniscient, fannot be ignorane of the thing revealed, and be

ing the God of truth, cannot deceive us with a lie,

Secondly, What the object of faith is? In anfwer to this enquiry, I observe, that the object of faith may be considered in a three-fold respect ; first, what a man ought to believe ; fecondly, what he does believe; and, thirdly, what he can, or is capable of believing. Note, I here refer only to divine faith. * First, A man ought to believe all those divine propositions, whose sense and meaning hath been revealed or made known to his understanding, or that might have been, were it not some way or other his own fault ; which propofitions have such evidence accompanying them, as, in reason and justice, proves them to be divine or from God, and therefore all such propositions, in this respect, are the object of faith. Secondly, A man does believe all those divine,

pro-, pofitions, whose sense and meaning he actually afsents to the truth of; and therefore, in this refpect, all such propositions are the object of faith. Thirdly, What a man can, or is capable of ben, lieving. This likewise may be considered in two respects ; first, what he can believe, if all impediments were removed ; secondly, what he can or is capable of believing in the prefent circumstances of things, that is, while those impediments are still remaining. First, A man can, or is capable of believing, Tupposing all impediments remov'd, all divine propositions ; and so, in this respect, all such propositions are the object of faith. Secondly, What a man can, or is capable of believing in the present circumstances of things, which supposes the impediments to faith; such as Noth, carelessness, prejudice, the proposition being delivered in an unknown tongue, and the like, still remaining; the object of faith, in this respect, being what we are at presenç epquiring

after,

after. To this I answer, that a man can, or is capable of believing all those divine propositions, and only those, the sense and meaning of which are revealed to his understanding, fo far, and to that degree, as they are thus revealed. Thus, for example, God hath declared that he will judge the world. Now all those men, whose understandings are informed of the sense and meaning of this proposition, can believe, that is, they are capable of giving their affent to this truth (that God will judge the world] but all those men, whose understandings are not informed of the sense and meaning of the aforesaid propofition, such men cannot affent to, or believe it, whilst they continue in that uninformed state ; because faith follows, but never goes before the underfanding: ; we first understand the sense and meaning of the proposition, and then believe it, or allent to the truth of it, and we cannot believe the least tittle, 'till it be first apprehended by the understanding. This is evident from the nature of faith; for as faith is an assent of the mind, to the truth of a propofition, convey'd to the un. derstanding by the report or testimony of others; so this affent necessarily pre-supposes, that the understanding is informed of, or apprehends the thing which it afsents to, there being no such thing in nature as the believing an unintelligible propofition. Toaffent to we understand not what is, in reality, no affent ; and therefore if the forementioned truth, viz. that God will judge the world, had been declared in such a language, of in such a manner, that mankind could not, or did not discern what God Almighty' did fignify and intend by it; as this, properly fpeaking, would not have been a revelation, because there is nothing discovered or made known by it'; fo no man could possibly have given his affent to

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the truth of it, whilft he remained chus ignorant, because there was no truth discovered or revealed for him to give his assent to. And fupposing that the perion, employ'd to make the forementioned declaration, had given fight the blind, feet to the lame, health to the sick, and life to the dead, and had done all that was neceflary, or that could be done, to prove his message to be from God; yet so long as men remained ignorant of that message, or so long as their underftandings remained uninformed of the sense and meaning of it, so long they were utterly incapable of giving their assent to the truth of it, İndeed, they may believe this message to be divine, from the evidence which attended it, and they may be assured, from natural reason, that all divine propofitions are true, and consequently that the forementioned proposition is true in the sense of the proposer ; but then this is no more than a general faith in divine propositions at large, and not a particular act of faith in the fenfe and meaning of the forementioned proposition. The sense and meaning of this proposition is, that God will judge the world; but they being wholly ignorant of this meaning, it makes them wholly incapable of giving their assent to this truth, viz. that God will judge the world. They believe at large, that all God reveals is true, and, as a consequence of this general faith, they believe every particular divine proposition to be true in the Jense of the revealer, tho' they do not understand what the sense and meaning of that proposition is ; but this is not a particular act of faith in the truth contained in that proposition, but only a general faith in God, that all he faith is true. Thus the Disciples of our Lord belicved what the Prophets had spoken was from God, and they doubtless were persuaded that all divine proposi

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