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them that no torments could eradicate this faith from their minds. This undoubtedly no man can believe unless he foolishly thinks that men in ancient times were mere dolts, and that now only they have begun to be possessed of reason. Nay, we must maintain that they also were insane who so eagerly persecuted, dragged before tribunals, imprisoned and condemned to be destroyed by fire and sword, as if they had been great malefactors, weak-minded men, men deserving of pity rather than hatred, who should have been taken not to a judge but to a physician, not to prison but to an hospital. Nobody, I trust, will take offence at the trifling and absurd suppositions which we have made, for they have been brought forward with the view of showing clearly how trifling must be the objections of those who refuse to give credit to the testimony of the sacred writers,
Of the Testimony of the Holy Spirit. We come now to speak of the third witness on the ground of whose testimony alone not a few assert that they are convinced of the divinity of Scripture, namely, the Holy Spirit. In ancient times he bore witness to the truth and divinity of the gospel by those extraordinary gifts with which he filled, first the apostles, and through their instrumentality, for some time, the whole Christian church; which testimony Christ himself explicitly foretold, when he declared that his Spirit should testify of him and glorify him. The same witness still bears testimony by means of Scripture itself, which is the work of the Spirit, a work on which he has impressed very many striking marks, from which the divine origin of this book is clearly apparent. But we have already, in our preceding dissertations, spoken at sufficient length of this twofold testimony; and neither of them is referred to by theologians, when they maintain that the divinity of Scripture may be ascertained by the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
They mean by this a certain internal testimony of divinity which is borne by the Holy Spirit to this sacred book in the heart of every believer; and as they often speak of this in the same way as of testimony, properly so called, it has come to pass that by their adversaries they are accused at one time of enthusiasm, and at another of reasoning in a vitious circle, into
Johın xv. 26, and xvi. 14.
which they are supposed to fall by proving the authority of Scripture from the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and his authority again from Scripture.
But that injustice is done to them in both accusations, is evident now to every one who has the least regard to equity, from the somewhat more perspicuous explanation than at any former period which has been given by theologians, of their sentiments respecting this testimony of the Spirit. For it appears that by this they do not at all refer to testimony, properly so called, or to any prophetic revelation, respecting the divinity of the Holy Scriptures, impressed on the heart of
every believer; nor do they, in this thing, rely on the authority of private revelation; but this only is their meaning, that the Holy Spirit so enlightens the hearts of believers, that in attentively perusing the Scriptures, they discover in them so many and striking marks of a divine origin, and are so moved and affected by these, that they find it impossible to doubt it. Now, if we understand his testimony in this acceptation, the Holy Spirit shows to believers the divinity of the sacred Scriptures in no other way than Christ showed the light of the sun to the blind man, when he restored him to sight.
It is thus easily seen that the theologians who entertain these sentiments, do not reason in a circle, inasmuch as this operation of the Holy Spirit is not viewed by them as an argument by which the divinity of Scripture may be established; and also that they do not claim private revelations, since they boast that they discover nothing which any person, not altogether blind in spiritual things, may not perceive to be contained in the sacred Scriptures. The fact, however, that theologians of great name have chosen rather to speak loosely respecting this subject, than to declare their sentiments in more precise terms, is, in my opinion, to be ascribed to their desire in this way to stop the mouth of the doctors of the church of Rome, who extol, beyond all bounds, the testimony of the church and its authority, by opposing to it another testimony of much greater weight, namely, the testimony of the Holy Spirit himself. And indeed it cannot be denied that they, who, enlightened by the Spirit of God, perceive with the
of their understanding the marks of a divine origin in this book, have a much surer foundation for their faith than those who in this matter rely on merely human authority.
But whatever may be said of the mode of expression, I do not see how any debate can arise respecting the thing itself among the theologians who employ such language, as all that
they maintain may be reduced to these two propositions; first, That a certain disposition and temper of mind in man is necessary to a full and firm conviction of the divinity of scripture; and, secondly, That this disposition must be regarded as received from God and the Holy Spirit.
The first cannot be denied by any one, unless he is willing to contradict both Scripture and his own experience; in which case I would refer him to what I have already stated on this subject in my preceding dissertations;* to which may be added the writings of those, who, in their investigation of the causes of unbeliet, discover these chiefly in the depraved propensities and other similar perverse dispositions of the mind. I would ask him who is unwilling to admit the second, if they act rightly and prudently who pray to God to open their eyes that they may behold wondrous things out of the divine law, to open their heart and enlighten their mind, and so to dispose and prepare them that they may perceive whatever in this book is remarkable, excellent, divine, and be properly affected by them, and may thus become more and more persuaded of its divinity. There is no pious man, I imagine, to whatever party, indeed, he may be attached, who accuses those who pray in this manner of a vain superstition, nay, who does not himself, when about to peruse the Scriptures, present the same supplications. But in doing this (which the solemn formulas of prayer employed by them teach all Christians of every sect to do) he acknowledges that the disposition of mind, which is necessary to a full and clear knowledge and perception of the divinity of Scripture, proceeds from God and his Spirit.
The assertion of some, “ that the Holy Spirit is given to those who already believe and are persuaded of the divinity of Scripture," I does not overturn the opinion we have been explaining. For, in the first place, we do not deny that a certain unsettled, and, so to speak, superficial acquaintance with this subject, can be acquired without the special operation of the Holy Spirit; but we affirm that this disposition which proceeds from God and his Spirit, and is to be obtained from him by fervent prayer, is necessary to a fuller and more deeply-rooted
[The author refers here to his dissertation on the Right of the People to judge of Matters of Faith; and to the two dissertations formerly translated, on the Excellence of Revealed Religion, and on Miracles. See vol. i. pp. 467, 468, and 489.-T.]
† See Le Cleve Traité de l'Incredulité.
persuasion: nor do we doubt that, in proportion as this disposition is increased in man by the grace of the Spirit, his persuasion of the divinity of Scripture will become firmer and more efficacious. And, in the second place, although certain gifts of the Spirit, which by way of eminence are called the Holy Spirit, may be given only to those who are already convinced of the divinity of the gospel, it does not thence follow that the same Spirit contributes nothing at all to beget this persuasion. He who perfects the good work in his own people is the same that has begun it:* he who gives to those who already believe the special gifts which are peculiarly denominated the Holy Spirit, is the same that also opened their hearts that they might believe.† We obtain the Spirit from God by prayer. No one, however, can from this conclude that this Spirit is not also the Spirit of prayer; that is, he who excites God's people to pray, and assists them in these very prayers.
But to conceal nothing on this subject: There are found among those theologians who affirm that their persuasion of the divinity of Scripture rests on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, some who do not seem altogether well pleased that this expression has in the present day been so clearly explained; they would prefer to have set before them opinions somewhat more obscure, and savouring more of mystery; nay, some of them seem to believe that the Holy Spirit produces in men, I know not what persuasion, altogether distinct from that which the marks and evidences of a divine origin, both external and internal, or the other arguments, whatever they may be, that can be adduced in proof of this, beget in us; they think that God produces immediately, and by his almighty energy, a belief of a different kind, which, though it does not rest upon argument, is yet much stronger than that which is built on argument.
But I know not if the theologians who hold these sentiments have paid sufficient attention to the nature of faith, which, where there are no arguments to produce conviction, cannot be a true faith. I know not in what way they can discriminate this faith from the many vain opinions to which obstinate men, without any reason, continue attached. I know not by what means they can distinguish this faith, produced in the mind by God in so extraordinary a manner, from enthusiasm. Nor do I perceive by what criteria they know that it originates with God rather than with some deceiving spirit. And, in a word, I do not see what they would say in reply to the Phil. i. 6.
† Acts xvi. 14.
doctors of the Romish church, if, indeed, they should plead that the want of any reason for their belief in the infallibility of their church does not prove that this persuasion is not divine, and produced immediately in all the genuine members of the Catholic church by the Spirit of God himself.
If I inquire into the cause which has betrayed some theologians into this opinion, I find that it has arisen from this circumstance—that they have frequently observed that there are men truly and sincerely pious, and therefore thoroughly persuaded of the divinity of their religion, who, when asked to tell by what arguments they are led to believe it, hesitate and are unable to give a reply. It is not, however, to be inferred from this, as we have already remarked in our first dissertation,* that these pious men have no grounds for their belief, but only that, for the reasons there specified, they are but little qualified distinctly to explain them; or we may suppose that they are unable to reply to the query, because it is not level to their capacity, for, in a matter of this kind, there would often be needed a Socrates, who, by his mode of interrogation, could elicit from men many things of which another less skilled in interrogating would have concluded they were altogether ignorant, on which account he received the appellation of the Mental Accoucheur. In a word, it may cluded from this, that among the chief arguments by which the divinity of our religion is established, there are some of such a nature that he who is convinced by them, while he sees and feels what is sufficient to produce this conviction, is unable to express it in words, which is often the case in regard to other things. One example I shall adduce, which at present occurs to my mind. Scaliger, in his Essay on Poetry, if I am not mistaken in my recollection, quoting a few verses from Virgil, was so struck with his elegant composition, that he could not contain himself, but in an ecstacy exclaimed, “ Virgil is a di
Had any one demanded of Scaliger on what grounds he was led to pronounce the verses he had quoted from Virgil to be so divine, he would perhaps have obtained no answer from the philosopher, but would have found him as silent under this interrogation as a common man when suddenly asked why he regards the Christian religion contained in Scripture rather than any other as divine. Now, as it by no means follows that Scaliger, without any reason, so greatly admired the verses which he quotes from Virgil, so neither can it be
* [This is the Dissertatiɔn, formerly referred to, on the Right of the People to judge respecting matters of faith.— T.]