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Divine revelation itself the only foundation and reason of faith.
That which we have thus far made way for, and which is now our only remaining inquiry is, What is the work of the Holy Ghost with respect unto the objective evidence which we have concerning the Scripture, that it is the word of God, which is the formal reason of our faith, and whereinto it is resolved? — that is, we come to inquire and to give a direct answer unto that question, Why we believe the Scripture to be the word of God? what it is that our faith rests upon herein? and what it is that makes it the duty of every man 70to believe it so to be unto whom it is proposed? And the reason why I shall be the briefer herein is, because I have long since, in another discourse, cleared this argument, and I shall not here again call over any thing that was delivered therein, because what hath been unto this day gainsaid unto it or excepted against it hath been of little weight or consideration. Unto this great inquiry, therefore, I say, —
We believe the Scripture to be the word of God with divine faith for its own sake only; or, our faith is resolved into the authority and truth of God only as revealing himself unto us therein and thereby. And this authority and veracity of God do infallibly manifest or evince themselves unto our faith, or our minds in the exercise of it, by the revelation itself in the Scripture, and no otherwise; or, “Thus saith the Lord,” is the reason why we ought to believe, and why we do so, why we believe at all in general, and why we believe any thing in particular. And this we call the formal object or reason of faith.
And it is evident that this is not God himself absolutely considered; for so he is only the material object of our faith: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is,” Heb. xi. 6. Nor is it the truth of God absolutely; for that we believe as we do other essential properties of his nature. But it is the truth of God revealing himself his mind and will unto us in the Scripture. This is the sole reason why we believe any thing with divine faith.
It is or may be inquired, wherefore we do believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, or that God is one in nature, subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I answer, It is because God himself, the first truth, who cannot lie, hath revealed and declared these things so to be, and he who is our all requireth us so to believe. If it be asked how, wherein, or whereby God hath revealed or declared these things so to be, or what is that revelation which God hath made hereof; I answer, It is the Scripture and that only. And if it be asked how I know this Scripture to be a divine revelation, to be the word of God; I answer, — 1. I do not know it demonstratively, upon rational, scientifical principles, because such a divine revelation is not capable of such a demonstration, 1 Cor. ii. 9. 2. I do not assent unto it, or think it to be so, only upon arguments and motives highly probable, or morally uncontrollable, as I am assuredly persuaded of many other things whereof I can have no certain demonstration, 1 Thess. ii. 13. 3. But I believe it so to be with faith divine and supernatural, resting on and resolved into the authority and veracity of God himself, evidencing themselves unto my mind, my soul, and conscience, by this revelation itself and not otherwise.
71Here we rest, and deny that we believe the Scripture to be the word of God formally for any other reason but itself, which assureth us of its divine authority. And if we rest not here, we must run on the rock of a moral certainty only, which shakes the foundation of all divine faith, or fall into the gulf and labyrinth of an endless circle, in proving two things mutually by one another, as the church by the Scripture and the Scripture by the church, in an everlasting rotation. Unless we intend so to wander, we must come to something wherein we may rest for its own sake, and that not with a strong and firm opinion, but with divine faith. And nothing can rationally pretend unto this privilege but the truth of God manifesting itself in the Scripture; — and therefore those who will not allow it hereunto do some of them wisely deny that the Scripture’s being the word of God is the object of divine faith directly, but only of a moral persuasion from external arguments and considerations; and I do believe that they will grant, that if the Scripture be so to be believed, it must be for its own sake. For those who would have us to believe the Scripture to be the word of God upon the authority of the church, proposing it unto us and witnessing it so to be, though they make a fair appearance of a ready and easy way for the exercise of faith, yet when things come to be sifted and tried, they do so confound all sorts of things that they know not where to stand or abide. But it is not now my business to examine their pretences; I have done it elsewhere. I shall therefore prove and establish the assertion laid down, after I have made way to it by one or two previous observations:—
1. We suppose herein all the motives of credibility before mentioned, — that is, all the arguments “ab extra,” which vehemently persuade the Scripture to be the word of God, and wherewith it may be protected against objections and temptations to the contrary. They have all of them their use, and may in their proper place be insisted on. Especially ought they to be pleaded when the Scripture is attacked by an atheism arising from the love and practice of those lusts and sins which are severely condemned therein, and threatened with the utmost vengeance. With others they may be considered as previous inducements unto believing, or concomitant means of strengthening faith in them that do believe. In the first way, I confess, to the best of my observation of things past and present, their use is not great, nor ever hath been in the church of God: for assuredly the most that do sincerely believe the divine original and authority of the Scripture do it without any great consideration of them, or being much influenced by them; and there are many who, as Austin speaks, are saved “simplicitate credendi,” and not “subtilitate disputandi,” that are not able to inquire much into them, nor 72yet to apprehend much of their force and efficacy, when they are proposed unto them. Most persons, therefore, are effectually converted to God, and have saving faith, whereby they believe the Scripture, and virtually all that is contained in it, before they have ever once considered them. And God forbid we should think that none believe the Scriptures aright but those who are able to apprehend and manage the subtile arguments of learned men produced in their confirmation! yea, we affirm, on the contrary, that those who believe them on no other grounds have, indeed, no true divine faith at all. Hence they were not of old insisted on for the ingenerating of faith in them to whom the word was preached, nor ordinarily are so to this day by any who understand what is their work and duty. But in the second way, wherever there is occasion from objections, oppositions, or temptations, they may be pleaded to good use and purpose; and they may do well to be furnished with them who are unavoidably exposed unto trials of that nature. For as for that course which some take, in all places and at all times, to be disputing about the Scriptures and their authority, it is a practice giving countenance unto atheism, and is to be abhorred of all that fear God; and the consequents of it are sufficiently manifest.
2. The ministry of the church, as it is the pillar and ground of truth, holding it up and declaring it, is in an ordinary way previously necessary unto believing; for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We believe the Scripture to be the word of God for itself alone, but not by itself alone. The ministry of the word is the means which God hath appointed for the declaration and making known the testimony which the Holy Spirit gives in the Scripture unto its divine original. And this is the ordinary way whereby men are brought to believe the Scripture to be the word of God. The church in its ministry owning, witnessing, and avowing it so to be, instructing all sorts of persons out of it, there is, together with a sense and apprehension of the truth and power of the things taught and revealed in it, faith in itself as the word of God ingenerated in them.
3. We do also here suppose the internal effectual work of the Spirit begetting faith in us, as was before declared, without which we can believe neither the Scriptures nor any thing else with faith divine, not for want of evidence in them, but of faith in ourselves.
These things being supposed, we do affirm, That it is the authority and truth of God, as manifesting themselves in the supernatural revelation made in the Scripture, that our faith ariseth from and is resolved into. And herein consists that testimony which the Spirit gives unto the word of God that it is so; for it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. The Holy Ghost being 73the immediate author of the whole Scripture, doth therein and thereby give testimony unto the divine truth and original of it, by the characters of divine authority and veracity impressed on it, and evidencing themselves in its power and efficacy. And let it be observed, that what we assert respects the revelation itself, the Scripture, the writing, τὴν γραφήν, and not merely the things written or contained in it. The arguments produced by some to prove the truth of the doctrines of the Scripture reach not the cause in hand: for our inquiry is not about believing the truths revealed, but about believing the revelation itself, the Scripture itself, to be divine; and this we do only because of the authority and veracity of the revealer, that is, of God himself, manifesting themselves therein.
To manifest this fully I shall do these things:—
1. Prove that our faith is so resolved into the Scripture as a divine revelation, and not into any thing else; that is, we believe the Scripture to be the word of God for its own sake, and not for the sake of any thing else whatever, either external arguments or authoritative testimony of men.
2. Show how or by what means the Scripture doth evidence its own divine original, or that the authority of God is so evidenced in it and by it as that we need no other formal cause or reason of our faith, whatever motives or means of believing we may make use of. And as to the first of these, —
1. That is the formal reason whereon we do believe which the Scripture proposeth as the only reason why we should so do, why it is our duty to do so, and whereunto it requireth our assent. Now, this is to itself as it is the word of God, and because it is so; — or, it proposeth the authority of God in itself, and that alone, which we are to acquiesce in; and the truth of God, and that alone, which our faith is to rest on and is resolved into. It doth not require us to believe it upon the testimony of any church, or on any other arguments that it gives us to prove that it is from God, but speaks unto us immediately in his name, and thereon requires faith and obedience.
Some, it may be, will ask whether this prove the Scripture to be the word of God, because it says so of itself, when any other writing may say the same; but we are not now giving arguments to prove unto others the Scripture to be the word of God, but only proving and showing what our own faith resteth on and is resolved into, or, at least, ought so to be. How it evidenceth itself unto our faith to be the word of God we shall afterwards declare. It is sufficient unto our present purpose that God requires us to believe the Scripture for no other reason but because it is his word, or a divine revelation from him; and if so, his authority and truth are the formal reason why we believe the Scripture or any thing contained in it. To this purpose 74do testimonies abound in particular, besides that general attestation which is given unto it in that sole preface of divine revelations, “Thus saith the Lord;” and therefore they are to be believed. Some of them we must mention:—
Deut. xxxi. 11–13, “When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God.” It is plain that God here requireth faith and obedience of the whole people, men, women, and children. The inquiry is, what he requireth it unto. It is to this law, to this law written in the books of Moses, which was to be read unto them out of the book; at the hearing of which they were obliged to believe and obey. To evidence that law to be his, he proposeth nothing but itself. But it will be said, “That generation was sufficiently convinced that the law was from God by the miracles which they beheld in the giving of it;” but, moreover, it is ordered to be proposed unto children of future generations, who knew nothing, that they may hear, and learn to fear the Lord.
That which, by the appointment of God, is to be proposed unto them that know nothing, that they may believe, that is unto them the formal reason of their believing. But this is the written word: “Thou shalt read this law unto them which have not known any thing, that they may hear and learn,” etc. Whatever use, therefore, there may be of other motives or testimonies to commend the law unto us, of the ministry of the church especially, which is here required unto the proposal of the word unto men, it is the law itself, or the written word, which is the object of our faith, and which we believe for its own sake. See also chap. xxix. 29, where “revealed things” are said to “belong unto us and our children, that we might do them,” — that receive them on the account of their divine revelation.
Isa. viii. 19, 20, “When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The inquiry is, by what means men may come to satisfaction in their minds and consciences, or what their faith or trust is in. Two things are proposed unto this end:— (1.) Immediate diabolical revelations, real or pretended; (2.) The written word of God, “the law and the testimony.” Hereunto are we sent, and that upon the account of its own 75authority alone, in opposition unto all other pretences of assurance or security. And the sole reason why any one doth not acquiesce by faith in the written word is, because he hath no mornings or light of truth shining on him. But how shall we know the law and testimony, this written word, to be the word of God, and believe it so to be, and distinguish it from every other pretended divine revelation that is not so? This is declared, —
Jer. xxiii. 28, 29, “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” It is supposed that there are two persons in reputation for divine revelations, esteemed “prophets;” — one of them only pretends so to be, and declares the dreams of his own fancy, or the divinations of his own mind, as the word of God; the other hath the word of God, and declares it faithfully from him. Yea, but how shall we know the one from the other? Even as men know wheat from chaff, by their different natures and effects; for as false, pretended revelations are but as chaff, which every wind will scatter, so the true word of God is like a fire and like a hammer, is accompanied with such light, efficacy, and power, that it manifests itself unto the consciences of men so to be. Hereon doth God call us to rest our faith on it, in opposition unto all other pretences whatever.
2. But is it of this authority and efficacy in itself? See Luke xvi. 27–31, “Then he said” (the rich man in hell), “I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him” (Lazarus, who was dead) “to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” The question here between Abraham and the rich man in this parable, — indeed between the wisdom of God and the superstitious contrivances of men, — is about the way and means of bringing those who are unbelievers and impenitent unto faith and repentance. He who was in hell apprehended that nothing would make them believe but a miracle, one rising from the dead and speaking unto them; which, or the like marvellous operations, many at this day think would have mighty power and influence upon them to settle their minds and change their lives. Should they see one “rise from the dead,” and come and converse with them, this would convince them of the immortality of 76the soul, of future rewards and punishments, as giving them sufficient evidence thereof, so that they would assuredly repent and change their lives; but as things are stated, they have no sufficient evidence of these things, so that they doubt so far about them as that they are not really influenced by them. Give them but one real miracle, and you shall have them forever. This, I say, was the opinion and judgment of him who was represented as in hell, as it is of many who are posting thither apace. He who was in heaven thought otherwise; wherein we have the immediate judgment of Jesus Christ given in this matter, determining this controversy. The question is about sufficient evidence and efficacy to cause us to believe things divine and supernatural; and this he determines to be in the written word, “Moses and the prophets.” If he that will not, on the single evidence of the written word, believe [it] to be from God, or a divine revelation of his will, will never believe upon the evidence of miracles nor any other motives, then that written word contains in itself the entire formal reason of faith, or all that evidence of the authority and truth of God in it which faith divine and supernatural rests upon; that is, it is to be believed for its own sake. But saith our Lord Jesus Christ himself, “If men will not hear,” that is, believe, “Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead,” and come and preach unto them, — a greater miracle than which they could not desire. Now, this could not be spoken if the Scripture did not contain in itself the whole entire formal reason of believing; for if it have not this, something necessary unto believing would be wanting, though that were enjoyed. And this is directly affirmed, —
John xx. 30, 31, “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” The signs which Christ wrought did evidence him to be the Son of God. But how come we to know and believe these signs? what is the way and means thereof? Saith the blessed apostle, “These things are written, that ye might believe;” — “This writing of them by divine inspiration is so far sufficient to beget and assure faith in you, as that thereby you may have eternal life through Jesus Christ:” for if the writing of divine things and revelations be the means appointed of God to cause men to believe unto eternal life, then it must, as such, carry along with it sufficient reason why we should believe, and grounds whereon we should do so. And in like manner is this matter determined by the apostle Peter, —
2 Pet. i. 16–21, “We have not followed cunningly-devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our 77Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” The question is about the gospel, or the declaration of the powerful coming of Jesus Christ, whether it were to be believed or no; and if it were, upon what grounds. Some said it was a “cunningly-devised fable;” others, that it was a fanatical story of madmen, as Festus thought of it when preached by Paul, Acts xxvi. 24; and very many are of the same mind still. The apostles, on the contrary, averred that what was spoken concerning him were “words of truth and soberness,” yea, “faithful sayings, and worthy of all acceptation,” 1 Tim. i. 15; that is, to be believed for its worth and truth. The grounds and reasons hereof are two:— (1.) The testimony of the apostles, who not only conversed with Jesus Christ and were “eyewitnesses of his majesty,” beholding his glory, “the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John i. 14, which they gave in evidence of the truth of the gospel,1 John i. 1, but also heard a miraculous testimony given unto him immediately from God in heaven, 2 Pet. i. 17, 18. This gave them, indeed, sufficient assurance; but whereinto shall they resolve their faith who heard not this testimony? Why, they have “a more sure” (that is, a most sure) “word of prophecy,” — that is, the written word of God, that is sufficient of itself to secure their faith in this matter, especially as confirmed by the testimony of the apostles; whereby the church comes to be “built” in its faith “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” Eph. ii. 20. But why should we believe this word of prophecy? may not that also be a “cunningly-devised fable,” and the whole Scripture be but the suggestions of men’s private spirits, as is objected, 2 Pet. i. 20? All is finally resolved into this, that the writers of it were immediately “moved” or acted “by the Holy Ghost;” from which divine original it carrieth along its own evidence with it, Plainly, that which the apostle teacheth us is, that we believe all other divine truths for the Scripture’s sake, or because they are declared therein; but the Scripture we believe for its own sake, or because “holy men of God” wrote it “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
78So is the whole object of faith proposed by the same apostle, 2 Pet. iii. 2, “The words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” And because our faith is resolved into them, we are said to be “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” as was said, Eph. ii. 20; that is, our faith rests solely, as on its proper foundation, which bears the weight of it, on the authority and truth of God in their writings. Hereunto we may add that of Paul, —
Rom. xvi. 25, 26, “According to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” The matter to be believed is the mystery of the gospel, which was kept secret since the world began, or from the giving of the first promise; not absolutely, but with respect unto that full manifestation which it hath now received. This God commands to be believed; the everlasting God, he who hath sovereign authority over all, requires faith in a way of obedience hereunto. But what ground or reason have we to believe it? This alone is proposed, namely, the divine revelation made in the preaching of the apostles and writings of the prophets; for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Rom. x. 17. This course, and no other, did our Saviour, even after his resurrection, take to beget and confirm faith in the disciples, Luke xxiv. 25–27. That great testimony to this purpose, 2 Tim. iii. 15–17, I do not plead in particular, because I have so fully insisted on it in another discourse.
From these and many other testimonies to the same purpose which might be produced, it is evident, —
1. That it is the Scripture itself, the word or will of God as revealed or written, which is proposed unto us as the object of our faith and obedience, which we are to receive and believe with faith divine and supernatural.
2. That no other reason is proposed unto us either as a motive to encourage us, or as an argument to assure us that we shall not be mistaken, but only its own divine original and authority, making our duty necessary and securing our faith infallibly. And those testimonies are with me of more weight a thousand times than the plausible reasonings of any to the contrary. With some, indeed, it is grown a matter of contempt to quote or cite the Scripture in our writings, such reverence have they for the ancient fathers, some of whose writings are nothing else but a perpetual contexture of Scripture. But for such who pretend to despise those testimonies in this case, it is because either they do not understand what they are produced to confirm or cannot answer the proof that is in them; for it 79is not unlikely but that some persons, well-conceited of their own understanding in things wherein they are most ignorant, will pride and please themselves in the ridiculousness of proving the Scripture to be the word of God by testimonies taken out of it. But, as was said, we must not forego the truth because either they will not or cannot understand what we discourse about.
Our assertion is confirmed by the uniform practice of the prophets and apostles, and all the penmen of the Scripture, in proposing those divine revelations which they received by immediate inspiration from God; for that which was the reason of their faith unto whom they first declared those divine revelations is the reason of our faith now they are recorded in the Scripture, for the writing of it being by God’s appointment, it comes into the room and supplies the place of their oral ministry. On what ground soever men were obliged to receive and believe divine revelations when made unto them by the prophets and apostles, on the same are we obliged to receive and believe them now they are made unto us in the Scripture, the writing being by divine inspiration, and appointed as the means and cause of our faith. It is true, God was pleased sometimes to bear witness unto their personal ministry by miracles or signs and wonders, as Heb. ii. 4, “God bearing them witness;” but this was only at some seasons, and with some of them. That which they universally insisted on, whether they wrought any miracles or no, was, that the word which they preached, declared, wrote, was “not the word of man,” came not by any private suggestion, or from any invention of their own, but was “indeed the word of God,” 1 Thess. ii. 13, and declared by them as they were “acted by the Holy Ghost,” 2 Pet. i. 21.
Under the Old Testament, although the prophets sometimes referred persons unto the word already written, as that which their faith was to acquiesce in, Isa. viii. 20, Mal. iv. 4, setting out its power and excellency for all the ends of faith and obedience, Ps. xix. 7–9, cxix., and not to any thing else, nor to any other motives or arguments to beget and require faith, but its own authority only; yet as to their own especial messages and revelations, they laid the foundation of all the faith and obedience which they required in this alone, “Thus saith the Lord, the God of truth.” And under the New Testament, the infallible preachers and writers thereof do in the first place propose the writings of the Old Testament to be received for their own sake, or on the account of their divine original: see John i. 45; Luke xvi. 29, 31; Matt. xxi. 42; Acts xviii. 24, 25, 28, xxiv. 14, xxvi. 22; 2 Pet. i. 21. Hence are they called “The oracles of God,” Rom. iii. 2; and oracles always required an assent for their own sake, and other evidence they pleaded none. 80And for the revelations which they superadded, they pleaded that they had them immediately from God “by Jesus Christ,” Gal. i. 1. And this was accompanied with such an infallible assurance in them that received them as to be preferred above a supposition of the highest miracle to confirm any thing to the contrary, chap. i. 8; for if an angel from heaven should have preached any other doctrine than what they revealed and proposed in the name and authority of God, they were to esteem him accursed. For this cause they still insisted on their apostolical authority and mission, which included infallible inspiration and direction, as the reason of the faith of them unto whom they preached and wrote. And as for those who were not themselves divinely inspired, or wherein those that were so did not act by immediate inspiration, they proved the truth of what they delivered by its consonancy unto the Scriptures already written, referring the minds and consciences of men unto them for their ultimate satisfaction, Acts xviii. 28, xxviii. 23.
It was before granted that there is required, as subservient unto believing, as a means of it, or for the resolution of our faith into the authority of God in the Scriptures, the ministerial proposal of the Scriptures and the truths contained in them, with the command of God for obedience unto them, Rom. xvi. 25, 26. This ministry of the church, either extraordinary or ordinary, God hath appointed unto this end, and ordinarily it is indispensable thereunto: chap. x. 14, 15, “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Without this ordinarily we cannot believe the Scripture to be the word of God, nor the things contained in it to be from him, though we do not believe either the one or the other for it. I do grant that in extraordinary cases outward providences may supply the room of this ministerial proposal; for it is all one, as unto our duty, by what means the Scripture is brought unto us. But upon a supposition of this ministerial proposal of the word, which ordinarily includes the whole duty of the church in its testimony and declaration of the truth, I desire to know whether those unto whom it is proposed are obliged, without farther external evidence, to receive it as the word of God, to rest their faith on it, and submit their consciences unto it? The rule seems plain, that they are obliged so to do, Mark xvi. 16. We may consider this under the distinct ways of its proposal, extraordinary and ordinary.
Upon the preaching of any of the prophets by immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or on their declaration of any new revelation they had from God, by preaching or writing, suppose Isaiah or Jeremiah, I desire to know whether or no all persons were bound to receive their doctrine as from God, to believe and submit unto the 81authority of God in the revelation made by him, without any external motives or arguments, or the testimony or authority of the church witnessing thereunto? If they were not, then were they all excused as guiltless who refused to believe the message they declared in the name of God, and in despising the warnings and instructions which they gave them; for external motives they used not, and the present church mostly condemned them and their ministry, as is plain in the case of Jeremiah. Now, it is impious to imagine that those to whom they spake in the name of God were not obliged to believe them, and it tends to the overthrow of all religion. If we shall say that they were obliged to believe them, and that under the penalty of divine displeasure, and so to receive the revelation made by them, on their declaration of it, as the word of God, then it must contain in it the formal reason of believing, or the full and entire cause, reason, and ground why they ought to believe with faith divine and supernatural. Or let another ground of faith in this case be assigned.
Suppose the proposal be made in the ordinary ministry of the church. Hereby the Scripture is declared unto men to be the word of God; they are acquainted with it, and with what God requires of them therein; and they are charged in the name of God to receive and believe it. Doth any obligation unto believing hence arise? It may be some will say that immediately there is not; only they will grant that men are bound hereon to inquire into such reasons and motives as are proposed unto them for its reception and admission. I say there is no doubt but that men are obliged to consider all things of that nature which are proposed unto them, and not to receive it with brutish, implicit belief; for the receiving of it is to be an act of men’s own minds or understandings, on the best grounds and evidences which the nature of the thing proposed is capable of. But supposing men to do their duty in their diligent inquiries into the whole matter, I desire to know whether, by the proposal mentioned, there come upon men an obligation to believe? If there do not, then are all men perfectly innocent who refuse to receive the gospel in the preaching of it, as to any respect unto that preaching; which to say is to overthrow the whole dispensation of the ministry. If they are obliged to believe upon the preaching of it, then hath the word in itself those evidences of its divine original and authority which are a sufficient ground of faith or reason of believing; for what God requires us to believe upon hath so always.
As the issue of this whole discourse, it is affirmed that our faith is built on and resolved into the Scripture itself, which carries with it its own evidence of being a divine revelation; and therefore doth that faith ultimately rest on the truth and authority of God alone, 82and not on any human testimony, such as is that of the church, nor on any rational arguments or motives that are absolutely fallible.
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