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that Portion of religious Knowledge, which is drawn from Divine Revelation j and every Degree of such Knowledge I therefore consider as a Degree of Faith. By the Faith of; a Christian, I understand that Faith which is drawn from the Christian Revelation in particular; always including the Belief of this general Proposition, that the Christian Revelation is of Divine Authority.—I use the Word Knowlege, not in a philosophical, but a popular Sense; intending only the Perception of %ruth; without regard to the Degree of Certainty, or to the Means of acquiring it. But I call one Man more knowing than another, when his Knowledge either extends, to a greater Number of Objects; takes them in with more Clearness and Precision; or rises to a stronger Assurance. Agreeably to this Explication, Men differ from each other in Degrees of Faith, in Proportion as their religious Knowlege, so far as it is derived from Divine Revelation, is more extensive, more clear, or more certain.—Lastly, that Knowlege I call religious, which relates, either mediately, or immediately, to the Intercourse between God and Man: I mean to the various ASls performed, or to be performed on both Sides; to God's general Dealings with Mankind, as well as to particular Dispensations; to the various States of Mankind with respect to God, whether natural or adventitious; and to
the the various Obligations, as well as ExpeStations resulting from such States.*
Knowlege is no Action. Nothing but Actions can deserve Praise or Blame. Knowlege therefore cannot immediately be the Object of either. This ic equally true of religious Knowlege, as of any other Kind; and consequently must be extended to that Portion of religious Knowlege, which I comprehend under the Denomination of Faith.— On the other hand, the Writers of the New Testament, and even our Lord himself, have recommended Faith in the strongest Terms; and, to all Appearance, in the very fame Sense, in which we have now defined it. We can scarce find a Page, either in the Epistles or Gospels, which does not abound in its Praises. It should seem therefore that, in this particular, the Voices of Reason and Scripture are directly opposite. And from this B 2 seeming
* The learned Bishop Pearson, after distinguishing between Unman Faith and D1t/ine, defines the latter to be em Æer.l unto Jomething as credible, upon the Tejiimon? of Gad. But I have thought it necessary to be a li'tle more determinate, with regard to the Objetl ot Faith: First, by confining it to rc'.igiout Truths; and secondly, by extending it to all revaled Truths, of that Nature In the former of these Alterations, I prelume I am justified by the common Acceptation of the Wo d: and as to the latter, I need only observe, that mv present Enquiry does not relate to the Belies of single Prepositions, but to the •whole Faith of a Christian.— I haie used the Word Knonulege, instead of Assent, because the former implies the Truth of what is believed, the latter may signify indifferently cither a right, or an. erroneous Judgment.
seeming Opposition both Reason and Scripture have suffered extremely *. Some Persons have thought it neceflary to relinquish Scripture, because determined to adhere to Reason; and many more to give up Reason, that they might not be led to oppose Scripture. In short, rational and irrational have been thought on both sides synonymous Terms with Infidel and Believer.
T o extricate ourselves from this Difficulty, it is neceflary to observe, that the very same Thing may in different Respects, and on different Accounts, both de/erVe and not deserve Commendation. That Ac!ions only are the proper and immediate Objects of Praise, is, in a moral Sense, indisputably true. But neither is this the only kind of Praise j nor is this Praise itself usually confined to its immediate Objects. Whatever Qualities either moral or natural, are in any respect truly valuable; are always esteemed praise-worthy. Not only so, bus, by an easy and common Figure of Speech, Things may frequently become the Objects of Praise, which have in themselves no Value at all; because they may derive a Value from other Things, to which they stand nearly related. Sometimes we look upwards to the Causes from which they proceed j sometimes downwards to the
• This Oppofi ion h.is been much heightened by that Confjfion of Faith and Credulity abovementioned.
Effects and Consequences which flow from them; sometimes as it were sideways, to an accidental Connection ihey may have with other Causes, so that the latter cannot produce some valuable Operation, unless the former be presupposed.
Someth Ing of this may conveniently be illustrated by a very obvious Example.— Should any Person write a Book in Praise of Learning, he would surely be thought no Enemy to Reason; especially if by Learning he meant nothing more but sound and substantial Knowlege. And yet such a Person may be said to contradict Reason, by praising that which is no Action and which therefore, Reason tells us, cannot be the Object of Praise. But the Reply is manifest—Tho' Knowlege, considered in itself, be no moral Virtue, yet is it in many respects truly -valuable: valuable, because it presupposes a right ConduB of the Understanding, and that Conduct involves in it the Exercise of many Virtues; valuable, because, in its own Nature, the Means of procuring very great Advantages, both to the Possessor and to other Men; valuable, as it may accidentally be made the Condition, without which other Means of promoting our Interest would either be less effectual, or in some Cases entirely ineffectual.— These Things may, in some Degree, be truly affirmed of Knowlege in general; but with
B 3 still still greater Truth of religious Knowlege, and especially that Part of it, which is the Subject of our present Inquiry.
Thus are we brought back to the Point, from whence this Illustration took its Rife. I mean that Faith, tho' no Aftion, may yet, in some RespeSls, and on some Accounts, be very properly the Object of Praise. From whence it follows, that the supposed Inconsistency on this Head between Scripture and Reason is much less manifest, than is frequently imagined. We can by no means conclude from this general Position, that Faith is praised by the IVriters of the New Testament, whether those Writers are consistent or inconsistent with Right Reason.
But we must not stop here.—Tho' Faith should be allowed a Title to some Kinds and Degrees of Praise j yet is it not represented, in Scripture, under false Colours? Is it not dressed up in such Characters, to which it neither has nor can have any Pretence? In short, is it possible to acquit the sacred Authors, amidst the frequent Commendations they bestow upon it, from a Misapplication in the Kind of Praise, and a Profusion in the Degree of it ?—That we may be able to judge how far such a Vindication is practicable, our Inquiry must be more particular. To collect all the scattered Passages on this Subject, and allot to each its Explication and