|« Prev||Appendix.||Next »|
A summary representation of the nature and reason of that faith wherewith we believe the Scripture be the word of God, with some attestations given unto the substance of what hath been delivered concerning it, shall give a close to this discourse. As to the first part of the design, the things that follow are proposed:—
I. Unto the inquiry, on what grounds, or for what reason, we believe the Scripture to be the word of God, many things supposed, as on all hands agreed upon, whose demonstration or proof belongs not unto our present work. Such are, —
1. The being of God and his self-subsistence, with all the essential properties of his nature.
2. Our relation unto him and dependence on him, as our creator, benefactor, preserver, judge, and rewarder, both as unto things temporal and eternal. Wherefore, —
3. The τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, “whatever may be known of God” by the light of nature, whatever is manifest in or from the works of creation and providence, and necessary actings of conscience, as to the being, rule, and authority of God, supposed as acknowledged in this inquiry.
4. That beyond the conduct and guidance of the light of nature, that men may live unto God, believe and put their trust in him, according to their duty, in that obedience which he requireth of them, so as to come unto the enjoyment of him, a supernatural revelation of his mind and will unto them, especially in that condition wherein all mankind are since the entrance of sin, is necessary.
5. That all those unto whom God hath granted divine revelations immediately from himself, for their own use, and that of all other men unto whom they were to be communicated, were infallibly assured that they came from God, and that their minds were no way imposed on in them.
6. That all these divine revelations, so far as they are any way necessary to guide and instruct men in the true knowledge of God and that obedience which is acceptable unto him, are now contained in the Scriptures, or those books of the Old and New Testament which are commonly received and owned among all sorts of Christians.
These things, I say, are supposed unto our present inquiry, and taken for granted so that the reader is not to look for any direct proof of them in the prying course. But on these suppositions it is alleged and proved, —
1. That all men unto whom it is duly proposed as such are bound to believe this Scripture, these books of the Old and New Testament, to be the word of God, — that is, to contain and exhibit an immediate, divine, supernatural revelation of his mind and will, so far as is any way needful that they may live unto him, — and that nothing is confined in them but what is of the same divine original.
2. The obligation of this duty of thus believing the Scripture to be the word of 110God ariseth partly from the nature of the thing itself, and partly from the especial command of God; for it being that revelation of the will of God without the knowledge whereof and assent whereunto we cannot live unto God as we ought, nor come unto the enjoyment of him, it is necessary that we should believe it unto these ends, and God requireth it of us that so we should do.
3. We cannot thus believe it in a way of duty, but upon a sufficient evidence and prevalent testimony that so it is.
4. There are many cogent arguments, testimonies, and motives, to persuade, convince, and satisfy unprejudiced persons, that the Scripture is the word of God or a divine revelation, and every way sufficient to stop the mouths of gainsayers, proceeding on such principles of reason as are owned and approved by the generality of mankind. And arguments of this nature may be taken from almost all considerations, of the properties of God and his government of the world, of our relation unto him, of what belongs unto our present peace and future happiness.
5. From the arguments and testimonies of this nature, a firm persuasion of mind, defensible against all objections, that the Scripture is the word of God, may be attained, and that such, as that those who live not in contradiction unto their own light and reason, through the power of their lusts, cannot but judge it their wisdom, duty, and interest to yield obedience unto his will as revealed therein.
6. But yet that persuasion of mind which may be thus attained, and which resteth wholly upon these arguments and testimonies, is not entirely that faith wherewith we are obliged to believe the Scripture to be the word of God in a way of duty; for it is not to be merely human, how firm soever the persuasion in it may be, but divine and supernatural, — of the same kind with that whereby we believe the things themselves contained in the Scripture.
7. We cannot thus believe the Scripture to be the word of God, nor any divine truth therein contained, without the effectual illumination of our minds by the Holy Ghost; and to exclude the consideration of his work herein is to cast the whole inquiry out of the limits of Christian religion.
8. Yet is not this work of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of our minds, whereby we are enabled to believe in a way of duty with faith supernatural and divine, the ground and reason why we do believe, or the evidence whereon we do so, nor is our faith resolved hereinto.
9. Whereas, also, there are sundry other acts of the Holy Spirit in and upon our minds, establishing this faith against temptations unto the contrary, and farther ascertaining us of the divine original of the Scripture, or testifying, it unto us, yet are they none of them severally, nor all of them jointly, the formal reason of our faith, nor the ground which we believe upon. Yet are they such as that without the first work of divine illumination, we cannot believe at all in a due manner; so without his other consequent operations, we cannot believe steadfastly against temptations and oppositions. Wherefore, —
10. Those only can believe the Scripture aright to be the word of God, in a way of duty, whose minds are enlightened, and who are enabled to believe by the Holy Ghost.
11. Those who believe not are of two sorts; for they are either such as oppose and gainsay the word as a cunningly-devised fable, or such as are willing without prejudice to attend unto the consideration of it. The former sort may be resisted, opposed, and rebuked by external arguments, and such moral considerations as vehemently persuade the divine original of the Scripture; and from the same principles may their mouths be stopped as to their cavils and exceptions against it; — the other sort are to be led on unto believing by the ministry of the church in the dispensation of the word itself; which is the ordinance of God unto that purpose. But, —
11112. Neither sort doth ever come truly to believe, either merely induced thereunto by force of moral arguments only, or upon the authority of that church by whose ministry the Scripture is proposed unto them to be believed. Wherefore —
13. The formal reason of faith divine and supernatural, whereby we believe the Scripture to be the word of God in the way of duty, and as it is required of us, is the authority and veracity of God alone, evidencing themselves unto our minds and consciences in and by the Scripture itself. And herein consisteth that divine testimony of the Holy Ghost, which, as it is a testimony, gives our assent unto the Scriptures the general nature of faith, and as it is a divine testimony gives it the especial nature of faith divine and supernatural.
14. This divine testimony given unto the divine original of the Scripture in and by itself, whereinto our faith is ultimately resolved, is evidenced and made known, as by the characters of the infinite perfections of the divine nature that are in it and upon it, so by the authority, power, and efficacy, over and upon the souls and consciences of men, and the satisfactory excellency of the truths contained therein, wherewith it is accompanied.
15. Wherefore, although there be many cogent external arguments whereby a moral, steadfast persuasion of the divine authority of the Scriptures may be attained; and although it be the principal duty of the true church in all ages to give testimony thereunto, which it hath done successively at all times since first it was intrusted with it; and although there be many other means whereby we are induced, persuaded, and enabled to believe it; yet is it for its own sake only, efficaciously manifesting itself to be the word of God, or upon the divine testimony that is given in it and by it thereunto, that we believe it to be so with faith divine and supernatural.
Corol. Those who either deny the necessity of an internal subjective work of the Holy Ghost enabling us to believe, or the objective testimony of the Holy Spirit given unto the Scripture in and by itself, or do deny their joint concurrence in and unto our believing, do deny all faith properly divine and supernatural.
II. This being the substance of what is declared and pleaded for in the preceding treatise, to prevent the obloquy of some and confirm the judgment of others, I shall add the suffrage of ancient and modern writers given unto the principal parts of it, and whereon all other things asserted in it do depend:— Clemens Alexandrinus discourseth at large unto this purpose, Strom. cap. 16, Ἔχομεν γὰρ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς διδασκαλίας τὸν Κύριον, διά τε τῶν προφητῶν, διά τε τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, καὶ διὰ τῶν μακαρίων ἀποστόλων, πολυτρόπως καὶ πολυμερῶς ἐξ ἀρχῆς εἰς τέλος ἡγούμενον τῆς γνώσεως· — “We have the Lord himself for the principle or beginning of doctrine; who, by the prophets, the gospel, and blessed apostles, in various manners and by divers degrees, goeth before us, or leads us unto knowledge.” [This is that which we lay down as the reason and ground of faith — namely, the authority of the Lord himself instructing us by the Scriptures.] So he adds: Τὴν ἀρχὴν δ’ εἴτις ἐτέρου δεῖσθαι ὑπολάβοι, οὐκέτ’ ἄν ὄντως ἀρχὴ φυλαχθείη. Ὁ μὲν οὖν ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ πιστὸς, τῇ κυριακῇ γραφῇ τε καὶ φωνῇ ἀξιόπιστος εἰκότως ἄν διὰ τοῦ Κυρίου πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων εὐεργεσίαν ἐνεργουμένη· ἀμέλει πρὸς τὴν τῶν πραγμάτων εὕρεσιν, αὐτῇ χρώμεθα κριτηρίῳ· τὸ κρινόμενον δὲ πᾶν, ἔτι ἄπιστον πρὶν κριθῆναι· ὥστ’ ὀυδ’ ἀρχὴ τὸ κρίσεως δεμενον· — “And if any one suppose that he needeth any other principle, the principle will not be kept;” [that is, if we need any other principle whereinto to resolve our faith, the word of God is no more a principle unto us.] “But he who is faithful from himself is worthy to be believed in his sovereign writing and voice; which, as it appeareth, is administered by the Lord for the benefit of men. And certainly we use it as a rule of judging for the invention of things. But whatever is judged is not credible, or to be believed, until it is judged; and that is no principle which stands in need to be judged.” The intention of his words is, that God, who 112alone is to be believed for himself, hath given us his word as the rule whereby we are to judge of all things. And this word is so to be believed as not to be subject unto any other judgment; because if it be so, it cannot be either a principle or a rule. And so he proceeds: Εἰκότως τοίνυν πίστει περιλαβόντες ἀναπόδεικτον τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐκ περιουσίας, καὶ τὰς ἀποδείξεις παρ’ αὐτῆς τῆς ἀρχῆς περὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς λαβόντες, φωνῇ Κυρίου παιδευόμεθα πρὸς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τῆς ἀληθείας· — “Wherefore, it is meet that, embracing by faith the most sufficient, indemonstrable principle, and taking the demonstrations of the principle from the principle itself, we are instructed by the voice of the Lord himself unto the acknowledgment of the truth.” In few words he declares the substance of what we have pleaded for. No more do we maintain in this cause but what Clemens doth here assert, — namely, that we believe the Scripture for itself, as that which needeth no antecedent or external demonstration, but all the evidence and demonstration of its divine original is to be taken from itself alone; which yet he farther confirms: Οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς ἀποφαινομένοις ἀνθρώποις προσέχοιμεν, οἷς καὶ ἀνταποφαίνεσθαι ἐπ’ ἴσης ἔξεστιν. Εἰ δ’ οὐκ ἀρκεῖ μόνον ἁπλῶς εἰπεῖν τὸ δόξαν, ἀλλὰ πιστώσασθαι δεῖ τὸ λεχθὲν, οὐ τὴν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀναμένομεν μαρτυρίαν, ἀλλὰ τῇ τοῦ Κυρίου φωνῇ πιστούμεθα τὸ ζητούμενον. Ἣ πασῶν ἀποδείξεων ἐχεγγυωτέρα, μᾶλλον δ’, ἥ μόνη ἀπόδειξις οὖσα τυγχάνει. Οὕτως οῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀπ’ αὐτῶν περὶ αὐτῶν τῶν γραφῶν τελείως ἀποδεικνύντες, ἐκ πίστεως τειθόμεθα ἀποδεικτικῶ· — “For we would not attend or give credit simply to the definitions of men, seeing we have right also to define in contradiction unto them. And seeing it is not sufficient merely to say or assert what appears to be truth, but to beget a belief also of what is spoken, we expect not the testimony of men, but confirm that which is inquired about with the voice of the Lord; which is more full and firm than any demonstration, yea, which rather is the only demonstration. Thus we, taking our demonstrations of the Scripture out of the Scripture, are assured by faith as by demonstration.” And in other places, as Strom. 4, he plainly affirms that the way of Christians was to prove the Scripture by itself, and all other things by the Scripture.
Basilius speaks to the same purpose on Ps. cv.: Πίστις, ἡ ὑπὲρ τὰς λογικὰς μεθόδους τὴν ψυχὴν εἰς συγκατάθεσιν ἕλκουσα. Πίστις, οὐκ ἡ γεωμετρικαῖς ἀνάγκαις, ἀλλ’ ἡ ταῖς τοῦ πνεύματος ἐνεργείαις ἐγγινομένη· — “Faith, which draws the soul to assent above all methods of reasonings; faith, which is not the effect of geometrical demonstrations, but of the efficacy of the Spirit.” The nature, cause, and efficacy of that faith whereby we believe the Scripture to be the word of God, are asserted by him.
Nemesius, De Homin., cap. ii.: Ἡ τῶν θείων λογίων διδασκαλία, τὸ πιστὸν ἀφ’ ἑαυτῆς ἔχουσα διὰ τὸ θεόπνευστον εἶναι· — “The doctrine of the divine oracles hath its credibility from itself, because of its divine inspiration.”
The words of Austin, though taken notice of by all, yet may here be again reported. Confess., lib. xi. cap. 3: “Audiam et intelligam quomodo fecisti cœlum et terram. Scripsit hoc Moses; scripsit et abiit, transivit hinc ad te. Neque nunc ante me est; nam si esset, tenerem eum, et rogarem eum, et per te obsecrarem, ut mihi ista panderet; et præberem aures corporis mei sonis erumpentibus ex ore ejus. At si Hebræa voce loqueretur, frustra pulsaret sensum meum, nec inde mentem meam quidquam tangeret; si autem Latine, scirem quid diceret. Sed unde scirem an verum diceret? quod si et hoc scirem, num et ab illo scirem? Intus utique mihi, intus in domicilio cogitationis, nec Hebræa, nec Græca, nec Latina, nec barbara, veritas, sine oris et linguæ organis, sine strepitu syllabarum diceret, ‘Verum dicit;’ at ego statim certus confidenter illi homini tuo dicerem, ‘Verum dicis.’ Cum ergo illum interrogare non possim, te, quo plenus vera dixit, veritas, te Deus meus rogo, parce peccatis meis; et qui illi servo tuo dedisti hæc dicere, da et mihi hæc intelligere;” — “I would hear, I would understand how thou madest the heaven and the earth. Moses wrote this; he wrote it, and is gone 113hence to thee, for he is not now before me; for if he were, I would hold him, and ask him, and beseech him, for thy sake, that he would open these things unto me; and I would apply the ears of my body to the sounds breaking forth from his mouth. But if he should use the Hebrew language, in vain should he affect my sense, for he would not at all touch my mind. If he should speak Latin, I should know what he said. But whence should I know that he spake the truth? and if I should know this also, should I know it of him? Within me, in the habitation of my own thoughts, truth, neither in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, nor any barbarous language, without the organs of mouth or tongue, without the noise of syllables, would say, ‘He speaks the truth;’ and I, being immediately assured or certain of it, would say unto that servant of thine, ‘Thou speakest truth.’ Whereas, therefore, I cannot ask him, I ask thee, O Truth, with which he being filled spake the things that are true, O my God, I ask of thee, pardon my sins; and thou who gavest unto this thy servant to speak these things, give unto me to understand them.”
That which is most remarkable in these words is, that he plainly affirms that faith would not ensue on the declaration of the prophets themselves if they were present with us, unless there be an internal work of the Holy Spirit upon our minds to enable us, and persuade them thereunto. And, indeed, he seems to place all assurance of the truth of divine revelations in the inward assurance which God gives us of them by his Spirit; which we have before considered.
The second Arausican council gives full testimony unto the necessity of the internal grace of the Spirit that we may believe: Can. vii.,” Siquis evangelicæ prædicationi consentire posse confirmat absque illuminatione et inspiratione Spiritus Sancti, hæretico fallitur spiritu.”
To descend unto later times, wherein these things have been much disputed, yet the truth hath beamed such light into the eyes of many as to enforce an acknowledgment from them when they have examined themselves about it. The words of Baptista Mantuanus are remarkable, De Patient., lib. iii. cap. 2. “Sæpe mecum cogitavi unde tam suadibilis sit ipsa Scriptura, unde tam potenter influat in animos auditorum, unde tantum habeat energiæ, ut non ad opinandum tantum, sed ad solide credendum omnes inflectat? Non est hoc imputandum rationum evidentiæ, quas non adducit; non artis industriæ aut verbis suavibus ad persuadendum accommodatis, quibus non utitur. Sed vide an id in causa sit, quod persuasi sumus eam a prima veritate fluxisse? Sed unde sumus ita persuasi nisi ab ipsa? quasi ad ei credendum nos sui ipsius contrahat authoritas. Sed unde oro hanc anthoritatem sibi vendicavit? Neque enim vidimus nos Deum concionantem, scribentem, docentem; tamen, ac si vidissemus, credimus et tenemus a Spiritu Sancto fluxisse quæ legimus. Forsan fuerit hæc ratio firmiter adhærendi, quod in ea veritas sit solidior, quamvis non clarior; habet enim omnis veritas vim inclinativam, et major majorem, et maxima maximam. Sed cur ergo non omnes credunt evangelio? Respond. Quod non omnes trahuntur a Deo. Sed longa opus est disputatione? Firmiter sacris Scripturis ideo credimus quod divinam inspirationem intus accepimus;” — “I have often thought with myself whence the Scripture itself is so persuasive, from whence it doth so powerfully influence the minds of its hearers, that it inclines or leads them not only to receive an opinion, but surely to believe. This is not to be imputed to the evidence of reasons, which it doth not produce; nor unto the industry of art, with words smooth and fit to persuade, which it useth not. See, then, if this be not the cause of it, that we are persuaded that it comes from the first Truth or Verity. But whence are we so persuaded, but from itself alone? as if its own authority should effectually draw us to believe it. But whence, I pray, hath it this authority? We saw not God preaching, writing, or teaching of it; but yet, as if we had seen him, we believe and firmly hold that the things which we read proceeded from the Holy Ghost. It 114may be this is the reason why we so firmly adhere unto it, that truth is more solid in it, though not more clear, than in other writings; for all truth hath a persuasive power, the greater truth the greater power, and that which is greatest the greatest efficacy of all. But why, then, do not all believe the gospel? Ans. Because all are not drawn of God. But what need is there of a0y long disputation? We therefore firmly believe the Scriptures, because we have received a divine inspiration assuring us.” And in what sense this is allowed hath been declared in the preceding discourse.
I shall close the whole with the testimony of them by whom the truth which we assert is most vehemently opposed, when it riseth in opposition unto an especial interest of their own.
Two things there are which are principally excepted against in the doctrine of Protestants concerning our belief of the Scripture. The first is with respect unto the Holy Spirit as the efficient cause of faith; for whereas they teach that no man can believe the Scripture to be the word of God in a due manner, and according unto his duty, without the real internal aid and operation of the Holy Ghost, however it be proposed unto him, and with what arguments soever the truth of its divine original be confirmed, this is charged on them as an error and a crime. And, secondly, whereas they also affirm that there is an inward testimony or witness of the Holy Spirit, whereby he assures and confirms the minds of men in the faith of the Scriptures with an efficacy exceeding all the persuasive evidence of outward arguments and motives, this also by some they are traduced for. And yet those of the Roman church who are looked on as most averse from that resolution of faith which most Protestants acquiesce in, do expressly maintain both these assertions.
The design of Stapleton, De Principiis Fidei, controver. 4, lib. viii. cap. 1, is to prove, “impossibile esse sine speciali gratia, ac done fidei divinitùs infuso, actum veræ fidei producere, aut ex veri nominis fide credere,” — which he there proves with sundry arguments, — namely, “that it is impossible to produce any act of faith, or to believe with faith rightly so called, without special grace, and the divine infusion of the gift of faith.” And Bellarmine speaks to the same purpose: “Argumenta quæ articulos fidei nostræ credibiles faciunt non talia sunt ut fidem omnino indubitatam reddant, nisi mens divinitùs adjuvetur,” De Grat. et Lib. Arbit., lib. 6 cap. 3; — “The arguments which render the articles of our faith credible are not such as produce an undoubted faith, unless the mind be divinely assisted.”
Melchior Canus, Loc. Theol., lib. ii. cap. 8, disputes expressly to this purpose: “Id statuendum est, authoritatem humanam et incitamenta omnia illa prædicta, sive alia quæcunque adhibita ab eo qui proponit fidem, non esse sufficientes causas ad credendum ut credere tenemur; sed præterea opus esse interiori causa efficiente, id est, Dei speciali auxilio moventis ad credendum;” — “This is firmly to be held, that human authority and all the motives before mentioned, or any other which may be used by him who proposeth the object of faith to be believed, are not sufficient causes of believing as we are obliged to believe; but there is, moreover, necessary an internal efficient cause moving us to believe, which is the especial help or aid of God.” And a little after he speaks yet more plainly, “Externæ igitur omnes et humanæ persuasiones non sunt satis ad credendum, quantumcunque ab hominibus competenter ea quæ sunt fidei proponantur; sed necessaria est insuper causa interior, hoc est, divinum quoddam lumen, incitans ad credendum, et oculi quidam interiores Dei beneficio ad videndum dati;” — “Wherefore, all external human persuasions or arguments are not sufficient causes of faith, however the things of faith may be sufficiently proposed by men; there is, moreover, necessary an internal cause, that is, a certain divine light, inciting to believe, or certain internal 115eyes to see, given us by the grace of God.” Yea, all other learned men of the same profession do speak to the same purpose.
The other assertion, also, they do no less comply withal: “Arcanum divini Spiritus testimonium prorsus necessarium est, ut quis ecclesiæ testimonio ac judicio circa Scripturarum approbationem credat,” saith Stapleton; — “The secret testimony of the Spirit is altogether necessary, that a man may believe the testimony and judgment of the church about the Scriptures.” And the words of Gregory de Valentia are remarkable: “Cum hactenus ejusmodi argumenta pro authoritate Christianæ doctrinæ fecerimus, quæ per seipsa satis prudentibns esse debeant, ut animum inducant velle credere; tamen nescio an non sit argumentum iis omnibus majus, quod qui vere Christiani sunt, ita se animo affectos esse, quod ad fidem attinet, sentiunt, ut præcipue quidem propter nullum argumentum, quod vel hactenus fecimus vel ratione similiter excogitari possit, sed propter aliud nescio quid, quod alio quodam modo et longe fortius quam ulla argumenta persuadet, ut ad firmiter credendum [trahi] se intelligant,” tom. iii. in Thom., disp. 7, qu. 1, punc. 4, sect. 2. Let any man compare these words with those of Calvin, Institut. lib. i, cap. 7, sect. 5; which, as I remember, I have cited before, and he will know whence the sense of them was taken. “Whereas,” saith he, “we have hitherto pleaded arguments for the authority of Christian doctrine, which even by themselves ought to suffice prudent persons to induce their minds to belief, yet I know not whether there be not an argument greater than they all, — namely, that those who are truly Christians do find or feel by experience their minds so affected in this matter of faith, that they are moved (and obliged) firmly to believe, neither for any argument that we have used, nor for any of the like sort that can be found out by reason, but for somewhat else which persuades our minds in another manner, and far more effectually than any arguments whatever.” And to show what he means by this internal argument and persuasion, he affirms elsewhere that “Deus ipse imprimis est, qui, Christianam doctrinam atque adeo Scripturam sacram veram esse, voce revelationis suæ et interno quodam instinctu et impulsu, humanis mentibus contestatur;” — “It is God himself who, by the voice of his revelation, and by a certain internal instinct and impulse, witnesseth unto the minds of men the truth of Christian doctrine or of the holy Scripture.”
These few testimonies have I produced amongst the many that might be urged to the same purpose, not to confirm the truth which we have pleaded for, which stands on far surer foundations, but only to obviate prejudices in the minds of some, who, being not much conversant in things of this nature, are ready to charge what hath been delivered unto this purpose with singularity.
|« Prev||Appendix.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version