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fore being a word so pregnant and diffusive, so necessary and essential to every part of our confession of faith, that without it we can neither have creed nor confession, it will require a more exact consideration, and more ample explication, and that in such a notion as is properly applicable to so many and so various truths.
Now by this previous expression I believe, thus considered, every particular Christian is first taught, and then imagined, to make confession of his faith: and consequently this word, so used, admits a threefold consideration; first, as it supposeth belief or faith, which is confessed ; secondly, as it is a confession or external expression of that faith so supposed; thirdly, as both the faith and confession are of necessary and particular obligation. When therefore we shall have clearly delivered, first, what is the true nature and notion of belief; secondly, what the duty of confessing of our faith; thirdly, what obligation lies upon every particular person to believe and confess; then may we be conceived to have sufficiently explicated the first word of the Creed; then may every one understand what it is he says, and upon what ground he proceeds, when he professeth, I believe.
For the right understanding of the true nature of Christian faith, it will be no less than necessary to begin with the general notion of belief; which being first truly stated and defined, then by degrees deduced into its several kinds, will at last make the nature of Christian faith intelligible : a design, if I mistake not, not so ordinary and usual, as useful and necessary.
Belief in general I define to be an assent to that which is credible, as credible. By the word assent is expressed that act or habit of the understanding, by which it receiveth, acknowledgeth, and embraceth any thing as a truth ; it being the nature of the soul so to embrace whatsoever appeareth true unto it, and so far as it so appeareth. Now this assent, or judgment of any thing to be true, being a general act of the understanding, and so applicable to other habits thereof as well as to faith, must be specified by its proper object, and so limited and determined to its proper act, which is the other part left to complete the definition.
This object of faith is expressed by that which is credible ; for every one who believeth any thing, doth thereby without question assent unto it as to that which is credible; and therefore all belief whatsoever is such a kind of assent. But though all belief be an assent to that which is credible, yet every such assent may not be properly faith ; and therefore those words make not the definition complete. For he who sees an action done, knows it to be done, and therefore assents unto the truth of the performance of it because he sees it; but another person to whom he relates it, may assent unto the performance of the same action, not because himself sees it, but because the other relates it; in which case that which is credible is the object of faith in one, of evident knowledge in the other. To make the definition therefore full, besides the material object or thing believed, we have added the formal object, or that whereby it is properly believed, expressed in the last term, as credible ; which being taken in, it then appears, that, first, whosoever believeth any thing, assenteth to something which is to him credible, and that as it is credible; and again, whosoever assenteth to any thing which is credible, as it is credible, believeth something by so assenting; which is sufficient to show the definition complete.
But for the explication of the same, farther observations will be necessary; for if that which we believe be something which is credible, and the notion under which we believe be the credibility of it, then must we first declare what it is to be credible, and in what credibility doth consist, before we can understand what is the nature of belief.
Now that is properly credible which is not apparent of itself, nor certainly to be collected, either antecedently by its cause, or reversely by its effect; and yet, though by none of these ways, hath the attestation of a truth. For those things which are apparent of themselves, are either so in respect of our sense, as that snow is white and fire is hot; or in respect of our understanding, as that the whole of any thing is greater than any one part of the whole, that every thing imaginable either is, or is not. The first kind of which being propounded to our sense, one to the sight, the other to the touch, appear
of themselves immediately true, and therefore are not termed credible, but evident to sense; as the latter kind, propounded to the understanding, are immediately embraced and acknowledged as truths apparent in themselves, and therefore are not called credible, but evident to the understanding. And so those things which are apparent, are not said properly to be believed, but to be known.
Again; other things, though not immediately apparent in themselves, may yet appear most certain and evidently true, by an immediate and necessary connection with something formerly known ; for, as every natural cause actually applied doth necessarily produce its own natural effect, and every natural effect wholly dependeth upon and absolutely presupposeth its own proper cause; therefore there must be an immediate connection between the cause and its effect. From whence it follows, that if the connection be once clearly perceived, the effect will be known in the cause, and the cause by the effect. And by these ways, proceeding from principles evidently known by consequences certainly concluding, We come to the knowledge of propositions in mathematics, and conclusions in other sciences : which propositions and conclusions are not said to be credible, but scientifical; and the comprehension of them is not faith, but science.
Besides, some things there are, which, though not evident of themselves nor seen by any necessary connection to their causes or effects, appear notwithstanding to most as true by some external relations to other truths; but yet so, as the appearing truth still leaves a possibility of falsehood with it, and therefore doth but incline to an assent. In which case, whatsoever is thus apprehended, if it depend upon real arguments, is not yet called credible, but probable; and an assent to such a truth is not properly faith, but opinion.
But when any thing propounded to us is neither apparent to our sense, nor evident to our understanding, in and of itself; neither certainly to be collected from any clear and necessary connection with the cause from
which it proceedeth, or the effects which it naturally produceth ; nor is taken up upon any real arguments, or reference to other acknowledged truths; and yet notwithstanding appeareth to us true, not by a manifestation but attestation of the truth, and so moveth us to assent not of itself, but by virtue of the testimony given to it; this is said properly to be credible; and an assent unto this, upon such credibility, is in the proper notion faith or belief.
Having thus defined and illustrated the nature of faith in general, so far as it agreeth to all kinds of belief whatsoever, our method will lead us on to descend, by way of division, to the several kinds thereof, till at last we come to the
proper notion of faith in the Christian's confession, the design of our present disquisition; and since we have placed the formality of the object of all belief in credibility, it will clearly follow, that diversity of credibility in the object will proportionably cause a distinction of assent in the understanding, and consequently a several kind of faith, which we have supposed to be nothing else but such an assent.
Now the credibility of objects, by which they appear fit to be believed, is distinguishable according to the diversities of its foundation, that is, according to the different authority of the testimony on which it depends; for we having no other certain means of assuring ourselves of the truth, and consequently no other motives of our assent in matters of mere belief, than the testimony upon which we believe; if there be any fundamental distinction in the authority of the testimony, it will cause the liké difference in the assent, which must needs bear a proportion to the authority of the testimony, as being originally and essentially founded upon it. It is therefore necessary next to consider, in what the authority of a testimony consisteth, and so to descend to the several kinds of testimonies founded upon several authorities.
The strength and validity of every testimony must bear proportion with the authority of the testifier; and the authority of the testifier is founded upon his ability and integrity, his ability in the knowledge of that which he delivereth and asserteth, his integrity in delivering and asserting according to his knowledge; for two several ways he which relateth or testifieth any thing may deceive us; one, by being ignorant of the truth, and so upon that ignorance mistaking, he may think that to be true which is not so, and consequently deliver that for truth, which in itself is false, and so deceive himself and us; or if he be not ignorant, yet if he be dishonest or unfaithful, that which he knows to be false he may propound and assert to be a truth, and so, though himself be not deceived, he may deceive us. And by each of these ways, for want either of ability or integrity in the testifier, whoso grounds his assent unto any thing as a truth upon the testimony of another, may equally be deceived.
But whosoever is so able as certainly to know the truth of that which he delivereth, and so faithful as to deliver nothing but what and as he knoweth, he, as he is not deceived, so deceiveth no man. So far therefore as any person testifying appeareth to be knowing of the thing he testifies, and to be faithful in the relation of what he knows, so far his testimony is acceptable, so far that which he testifieth is properly credible. And thus the authority of every testifier or relater is grounded upon these two foundations, his ability and integrity.
Now there is in this case, so far as it concerns our present design, a double testimony; the testimony of man to man, relying upon human authority, and the testimony of God to man, founded upon divine authority: which two kinds of testimony are respective grounds of two kinds of credibility, human and divine; and consequently there is a twofold faith distinguished by this double object, a human and a divine faith.
Human faith is an assent unto any thing as credible merely upon the testimony of man. Such is the belief we have of the words and affections one of another. And upon this kind of faith we proceed in the ordinary affairs of our life; according to the opinion we have of the ability and fidelity of him who relates or asserts