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There is one thing dropt as to this matter by the ingenious Mr Locke,* that deserves some animadversion. Though he delivers nothing positively about those evidences which the prophets had, yet negatively he tells us, that the assurance of the prophets did not at least solely arise from the revelations themselves, or the operation of the Spirit impressing them upon their minds, which he calls the internal light of assurance: but that beside this, to satisfy them fully that those impressions were from God, external signs were requisite; and this he endeavours to prove from their desiring confirmatory signs, as Abraham and others did; and from God's giving such signs undesired. To this purpose his appearance to Moses in the bush, is by our author taken notice of
. As to the opinion itself, I look on it as highly injurious to the honour of divine revelation, and I take the grounds whereon it is founded to be weak and inconclusive: For, 1. Mr Locke, nor any for him, shall ever be able to prove that these divinely inspired persons always required or got such confirmatory signs extrinsical to the revelation or inspiration itself; yea it is manifest, that for most part they neither sought them nor got them. 2. When they did seek or get them,
Mr Locke cannot prove that either God or they found them necessary for the present assurance of the persons' own minds, as if that internal light of assurance, to use Mr Locke's words, had not of itself, while it abode, been sufficient to satisfy the mind fully, that it was God who was dealing with it, or revealing himself to it. It is plain, that other reasons of their desiring such signs may be assigned. When the matters revealed were things at a distance, which required some extraordinary outgoings of God's power to effectuate them, in that case they desired, and God condescended to grant to them, some such extraordinary signs, not to assure them that God was speaking unto them, but to strengthen their convictions of the sufficiency of God's power, for enabling to do what he required of them, if it was difficult, or accomplishing what he promised to them, in defiance of the greatest opposition. Sometimes divine revelations were promises of things at a distance, that were not to be actually accomplished till after a long tract of time, and over many intervening obstructions; in this case they were obliged to believe these promises, and wait in the faith of them, even when that light that first assured them was gone, and such evidences or signs might be of use to enable them to adhere unto the assent formerly given
* Of Human Understanding, book 4, chap. 19, § 15, p. 593. Edition 5th. 1706.
upon that supernatural evidence that at first accompanied the revelation. Such signs, then, might be of use to strengthen the remembrance of that first evidence, which they had when the revelations were first imparted to them. These, and other reasons of an alike nature, might sufficiently account for their desiring these signs, and God's giving them; but as has been said, we design not a determination or full decision of this question.
We shall only consider the question with respect unto the two last sorts of persons: And as to those who heard, or had divine revelations immediately from inspired persons, our rational divines seem positive that the evidence whereon they assented to what they delivered as the mind of God, consisted jil, or did result from, the miracles they wrought, and other external signs, or proofs, which they gave of their mission from God. Monsieur le Clerk, in his emendations and additions to Hammond on the New Testament, gives this gloss on 1 Cor. ii. 5:—“ Paul,” says he, “would have the Corinthians believe him, not as a philosopher proposing probabilities to them, but as the messenger of God, who had received commandment from him, to deliver to them those truths which he preached; and that he thus received them, he did show by the miracles which he wrought.” And a little after he adds, “ He whose faith leans upon miracles wrought by God's power, his faith is grounded upon the divine power, the cause of these miracles.” As to this opinion itself, I shall express myself more particularly just now; but as to Monsieur le Clerk's fetching it from this text, he had no manner of ground for it. Let us but look into the verse before, and there we find the apostle telling the Corinthians, that in his preaching he avoided the “ enticing words of man's wisdom," and delivered his message in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power. Upon the back of this, in the 5th verse, he tells them his design in doing so was, “that their faith might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God,” that is, on the powerful demonstration of the Spirit of God, mentioned in the foregoing verse. How Monsieur le Clerk came to dream of miracles, and fetch them in here, while the scope and every circumstance of the text stood in the way of this exposition, I cannot divine; for nothing is more alien and remote from the sense of this place. If the author had followed the old approved interpreter of Scripture, I mean the Scripture itself, and had looked into the foregoing verse and context, he had given us a more genuine account; but philosophy, now set up for an interpreter, I had almost said a perverter, did certainly lead him into this violent and ridiculous gloss. But to come to the matter itself.
Miracles can be no otherwise the ground of any assent, than as they afford ground for, or may be made use of, as the medium of an argument, whereby the divine mission of the worker is concluded and proved. This then must be the opinion of these gentlemen, that they, who heard the apostle or prophets, could not be satisfied in their minds that what they said was divinely revealed, until they were convinced of it by proofs drawn from miracles or signs wrought by the preacher ; and that this is not merely my conjecture, is evident from the accounts we have of their opinions and hypotheses, whereof this is reckoned as a principal one, that the mind of man being rational, cannot be moved but by a rational impression, that is, by the force of effectual reasons: and to the same purpose we shall find Mr Locke expressing himself by and by.
Upon this hypothesis it is evident, 1. That if a heathen came into a Christian assembly, and heard Paul preaching, or even Jesus Christ himself, if he had never seen them work any sign or miracle, he would not be obliged to believe their doctrine. 2. If the apostles preach to those among whom they wrought no miracles-gave no such outward signs, such persons could not be obliged to believe them, the evidence whereon such a belief is founded being denied. 3. They who heard them, and saw the miracles, could not be obliged to assent unto their doctrine, until by reasoning they would have time to satisfy themselves how far natural causes might go towards the production of such effects, and how far these things, admitting them to be supernatural, could go toward the proof of this, that what they delivered was from God. 4. If there was any among them so dull, as not to be capable to judge of these nice points, I do not see how, upon these principles, they could be obliged to believe. These and the like are no strained consequences; for it is undeniable, that our obligation to believe arises from the proposal of due objective evidence; if this is wanting, no man can be obliged to believe.
As to us, who neither conversed with the inspired persons to whom such revelations were originally given, nor saw the miracles they wrought, we are told by those rationalists that we have historical proofs that there were such persons, that they wrote these revelations which we now have, and that they wrought such miracles in confirmation of their mission and doctrine; and upon the evidence of these proofs we must
Spanheim, Elench. controversiarum, page 320. Edit. 1694.
rest; they will allow us no other bottom for our faith. Hence Monsieur le Clerk tells us, “ That whatever faith is this day in the world among Christians, depends upon the testimony of men.”
Among many who have embraced this opinion, Mr Locke, in his Essay on Human Understanding, has delivered himself to this purpose,
several accounts he deserves to be taken special notice of. I shall therefore represent faithfully and shortly his opinion, and the grounds whereon it is founded, and make such animadversions upon them as may be necessary for clearing our way. His opinion you may take in the ensuing propositions :
1. When he is speaking of the different grounds of assent and degrees thereof, he says, “Besides those we have hitherto mentioned, there is one sort of propositions that challenge the highest degrees of our assent upon bare testimony, whether the thing proposed agree or disagree with common experience and the ordinary course of things, or not. The reason whereof is, because the testimony is of such a one as cannot deceive or be deceived, and that is of God himself. This carries with it assurance beyond doubt-evidence beyond exception. This is called by a peculiar name-revelation, and our assent to itfaith; which as absolutely determines our minds, and as perfectly excludes all wavering as our knowledge itself.”
II. This notwithstanding, he tells us in the very same paragraph, that our assurance of truths upon this testimony; or to give his own words, “our assent can be rationally no higher than the evidence of its being a revelation, and that this is the meaning of the expressions it is delivered in.” That is, as he himself explains it, “ If the reasons proving it to be a revelation are but probable, our assurance amounts but unto a probable conjecture.”+
III. He distinguishes betwixt traditional and original revelation.“ By the last of these,” says he," I mean that first impression which is made immediately by God on the mind of man, to which we cannot set any bounds; and by the other, those impressions delivered over to others in words, and the ordinary ways of conveying our conceptions one to another.” † And afterwards, speaking of immediate or original revelation, he tells us, “that no evidence of our faculties by which we receive such revelations, can exceed, if equal, the
• Hum. Underst. book 4, chap. 18, $ 14, p. 564. 565.
goes on to tell
certainty of our intuitive knowledge.”
And in the preceding paragraph, speaking of traditional revelation, he tells us, " that whatsoever truth we come to the clear discovery of, from the knowledge and contemplation of our own ideas, will always be certainer to us than those which are conveyed by traditional revelation." +
IV. He tell us, " that true light in the mind can be no other but the evidence of the truth of any proposition;" and hereon he
us, " that there can be no other evidence or light in the mind about propositions that are not self-evident, save what arises from the clearness and validity of those proofs upon which it is received :" And he adds, that to talk of any other light is to put ourselves in the dark, or in the power of the prince of darkness.”
V. In the next paragraph he tells us plainly, “that there is no way of knowing any revelation to be from God, but by rational proofs, or some marks in which reason cannot be mistaken."
VI. In his next paragraph he tell us, what before we have taken notice of, “that the internal light of assurance which the prophets had, was not sufficient to testify, that the truths impressed on their mind, were from God, without other signs.”l
Thus far, Mr Locke's opinion; which in sum amounts to this, that even the original revelations had not in them intrinsic evidence sufficient to assure them on whom such impressions were made, that they were from God; that other signs were necessary to satisfy them; and that others who received such revelations at second hand, not from God immediately, but from inspired persons, have no other evidence to ground their assent on, besides that which results from arguments drawn from those signs, whereby they did confirm their mission; and that we have no evidence who saw not these signs, besides that of the historical proofs, whereby it is made out, that the persons who wrote the traditional revelation we have, wrought such signs in confirmation of their mission from God. It is worth our while to dwell a little here, and more narrowly consider Mr Locke's thoughts, and the grounds of his opinion. I shall therefore offer a few observations on this doctrine.
I. Mr Locke, in his first proposition, speaks very honourably of divine faith. As to the assent or act of faith, he says, " that it is an assent of the highest degree—assurance without doubt.” As to the ground of it, he says, “ that it is such as * Hum. Underst. ibid. § 5, p. 583. f Ibid. book 4, chap. 18, $ 4, p. 582.
# Book 4, chap. 19, § 13. $ Ibid, § 14. | Ibid. § 15.