« AnteriorContinuar »
It has pleas'd Almighty God to endue Mankind. with a certain faculty or power call'd Understanding. By this we are enabled to diftinguish Truth from Falihood; to believe the one, and reject the other.
Now that we may believe any thing for Truth, 'tis neceffary that we perceive, not only the Thing it felf, but also the Evidence of it; which Evidence to be perceiv'd by us, may be either immediate, or mediate.
That Evidence is immediate, which we our felves do perceive without the Mediation of another Man's perceiving it. But that Evidence which is first perceiv'd by another Man, and then communicated to us, is mediate Evidence. Thus for inftance; if I my felf. do fee the Sun fhining, I have an immediate Evidence of this Truth, that the Sun fbines, But at the very fame time, a Blind man has only a mediate Evidence of the fame Truth; that is, fome perfon on whofe Judgment and Veracity the Blind man thinks he may fafely rely, faies that the Sun fhines; and the Evidence perceived by that perfon being communicated by Speech to the Blind man, the Blind man has a mediate Evidence of this Truth, that the Sun fhines. And the mediate Evidence of any Truth, is what we call the Evidence of Authority.
But then there are diverfe kinds of this Evi dence of Authority. For as the perfon differs upon whofe Authority the Evidence is built, fo the Evidence of Authority differs alfo. And confequently, fince I may believe a Truth upon the Authority, either of a Man, or of fome other Being; therefore the Evidence of Authority is twofold, viz. either that of human Authority, or that of
fome other Authority which is not human; and the Evidence of that Authority which is not human, is the Evidence of Revelation. For when any other Being, befides Man, difcovers any thing to Man, this discovery or information is what we call Revelation.
Now if the Revelation proceed from God, 'tis call'd Divine Revelation; and this Divine Revelation is either immediate, or mediate.
If the Revelation be made to any perfon by God's fpeaking or declaring the Matter to that particular perfon; then the Revelation is immediate. But if that perfon who receiv'd the Revelation from God himself, do declare the Matter to a third perfon; then that third perfon does indeed know the Matter by Revelation; but this Revelation is mediate. Becaufe, tho' his Knowledge of the Matter is indeed deriv'd Originally from God; yet 'tis deriv'd by the Mediation of the fecond perfon, who receiv'd it immediately from God himself. Thus for inftance, when Nebuchadnezzar's Dream was interpreted by Daniel, Dan. 2. the Prophet knew the Interpretation by immediate Revelation; but the King knew it by mediate Revelation only; because the Prophet, to whom it was immediately reveal'd, acquainted him with it.
But whatsoever kind of Truth a Man believes, or be the Evidence of it either immediate or mediate; 'tis the very fame Understanding with which he believes it. Wherefore, be the Truth fuch as relates to spiritual or corporeal Objects; be it Phyfical, Mathematical, Moral, or the like: and be the Evidence of that Truth either mediate, or immediate; be it built upon the Authority of God, or Man; yet I fay, 'tis the very fame UnderstandB 2
ing with which a Man believes it. And therefore, tho' we do fometimes ufe thefe Phrafes, the Natural Understanding, the Spiritual Understanding, &c. and thereby feem to grant a plurality and difference of Understandings; yet we do in reality mean nothing more, than our Understanding (that is, perceiving or believing) Natural or Spiritual Truth, or our believing a Truth upon Natural or Spiritual Evidence, &c.
For as 'tis abfurd to fuppofe, that we have feveral Senfes of Seeing, either becaufe we look fometimes upon bright, and at other times upon dark; fometimes upon white, and at other times upon green, red, or yellow Objects; fometimes on thofe that are near, and at other times upon those afar off; or elfe becaufe we fee fometimes with the Naked Eye, and at other times thro' a Glafs, by which things very remote are brought near to us, and we can difcover that which is infinitely beyond the Sphere of our unaffifted Sight: And as 'tis abfurd to fuppofe that we have feveral Wills, becaufe we chufe fometimes good, and at other times evil; fometimes material, and at other times immaterial Objects; fometimes fen fual, and at other times intellectual Pleasures: I fay, as 'tis abfurd to fuppofe, that we have feveral Senfes of Seeing, or feveral Wills, for thefe or the like Reafons; fo 'tis alfo abfurd to fuppofe, that we have feveral Understandings, becaufe we believe natural, spiritual, and other kinds of Truth, upon either immediate Evidence, or that which is mediate, viz. Authority, either human, or of any other kind. For, as I have already faid, 'tis the very fame Understanding, wherewith we believe any kind of Truth upon any kind of Evidence whatfoever.
These things being premis'd, I fhall now endeavor to state and determine this important Question, viz. Whether immediate Revelation be necessary in or der to a faving Chriftian Faith.
Faith and Belief are one and the fame thing. And confequently a Chriftian Faith is a Chriftian Belief, or a belief of thofe things which Jefus Chrift has reveal'd. And a faving Chriftian Faith, is such a belief of those things which Jefus Chrift has reveal'd, as is neceffary in order to Salvation, or éternal happiness in the World to come.
Now 'tis confefs'd on both fides, that fome Revelation or other (viz. either immediate or mediate Revelation) is abfolutely neceffary in order to a Saving Chriftian Faith. Because thofe Truths which Jefus Chrift has reveal'd, are fuch as we cou'd not have known, and confequently cou'd not have believ'd, had they not been reveal'd.
'Tis confefs'd also on both fides, that 'tis poffible for God immediately to reveal to any person now living, thofe Truths which Jefus Chrift has reveal'd. For Jefus Chrift, who is God himself, did immediately reveal thofe Truths to the Apostles; and what was poffible then, is alfo poffible now. So that there is no doubt, but that immediate Revelation may be even now made ufe of by Almighty God, if he pleases, in order to a faving Chriftian Faith.
But the Question is, not what may be now, or what formerly was; but what must be now, or what actually is. Some Revelation or other is even now abfolutely neceffary; and we confefs, that either immediate or mediate Revelation may be even now us'd, if God pleases: but we contend, that God is not now pleas'd to make use of immediate Reve
lation; and therefore we do now enjoy a mediate Revelation only. Whereas our Adverfaries fay, that immediate Revelation is, and must be us'd now; and that a faving Chriftian Faith cannot, even in thefe daies, be had without it. For Mr. Barclay (a) affures us, that they make it abfolutely necessary for the building up of true Faith, which in their Opinion can be obtain'd (b) by no other way, than the inward immediate Manifestation and Revelation, of God's Spirit, fhining in and upon the Heart, inlightning and opening the Understanding. So that according to our Adverfaries (c) inward and immediate Revelation is the only fure and certain way to attain the true and faving knowledge of God.
(a) Apology, prop. 2. p. 269. Printed amongst his Works at London 1692. (b) Ibid. p. 270. (c) Ibid. p. 273, The fame Author has alfo written a Difcourfe (p. 892. of his Works) to prove not only the Poffibility, but alfo the Neceffity of the inward and immediate Revelation of the Spirit of God towards the foundation of a true Faith.