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CH A P. VII. .
1. W E now proceed to explain the nature of true Faith ir
W God by Christ, which is the principal act of that spiritual life implanted in the elect by regeneration, and the source of all subsequent yital operations. But it is not any one particular act, or habit, nor must it be restricted to any one particular faculty of the soul ; for it is a certain complex thing, consisting of various acts which, without confusion, pervade, and by a sweet and happy conjunction, mutually promote and assist one another; it imparts a change of the whole man, is the spring of the whole spiritual life, and in fine, the holy energy and activity of the whole soul towards God in Christ. And therefore its full extent can scarcely be distinctly comprehended under any one single idea.
II. And we need not 'wonder, that under the name of one Christian virtue, so many others, are at oncé comprehended. For as when any person speaks of life, he signifies by that term something that, diffusing itself thro' the whole soul, and all its faculties, is also communicated to the body, and extends itself to all the actions of the living person : so when we speak of faith, which is the most fruitful spring of the whole spiritual life, we understand by it that which pervades all the faculties, and is well adapted to unite them with Christ; and so to enliven, sanctify and render them blessed.
II). There are may things both in naturals and morals, which are almost by general consent aliowed to extend to the whole soul, without being restricted to any one faculty. In naturals, free-will, which as will is referred to the understanding ; as free, rather to the will: so that as Bernardo somewhere speaks, “ let man be his own freeman on account of his will; his own judge on account of his reason." In morals the image of God, and original righteousness; which are to be placed neither in the understanding alone, nor in the will alone, but may justly belong to both these faculties.
IV. Should we not then at last see every difficulty removed, and the whole of that controversy among divines about the subject of faith, settled, if, as we justly may we should
refuse, that there is any real distinction of understanding and : will, as well from the soul, as from each other? For, what is : the understanding, but the soul understanding and knowing? What else the .will, but the soul willing and desiring? We must on no account conceive of the soul as of a thing in it. self brutish and irrational, which at length becomes intelli. gent and rational when something else is given to it. What some affirm, that the understanding comes from the soul by a certain kind of emanation is what we can scarcely conceive. For if the soul, in its proper and formal conception, does not include the power of reasoning, it can never produce it; for we are in vain to expect from a cause what it contains neither formally not eminently. If the soul is of itself endowed with the faculty of reasoning, no necessity requires, that some other faculty be superadded to that wherewith the soul is of itself endowed. The like holds with respect to the will, which is not really distinct from the soul any more than the understanding. But is the very soul itself, as God has given it a natural aptitude to desire good. Since both these faculties are only modally (or in our manner of apprehension] distinct from the soul, so they are also from each other. For if the will be so distinct from the understanding, as in itself to be blind, it is not possible to explain how it can perceive, and so rationally desire the object discovered by the understand. ing as good. And for what reason, pray, should we make a real difference between these two? It is, because the object of both is really the same : namely, a true good, tho' the manner of our considering it differs. For the understanding considers the good as true: and the will desires this true thing as it is good. And do not the objects of the speculative and practical understanding differ far more among themselves? And yet philosophers generally agree, that they are but one and the same power of the soul. It is because their acts are different? But every difference of acts does not infer a difference of power. Indeed, simple apprehension differs from judgment and discourse or reasoning ; which yet are all the acts of the same faculty.
V. This ought not to be looked upon as a new asser. tion. Scotus long ago maintained, that the understanding and will differed neither among themselves nor from the soul, żn 2. dist. 15. qu. 1. Scaliger, in like manner, whose words we shall not scruple to transcribe from his Exercitat. 207. sect. 15. Althoo“ the understanding and will, says he, are one thing, yet they are distinguished by the manner in which we conceive them. For they are proper and not accidental
affections of the soul, and one thing with it As one, good, and true, are the affections of entity or being ? nay, one and the same thing with being itself. But they are distinguisha'
ed from it, and among themselves by definition, in this man.' · ner : because being itself is placed in the first nature or essence,
which nature does in some measure display itself, and is the cause of that one, true, and good. Which is a formality dif-' ferent from the first formality. Because the notion of being is one thing, as it is being, and another, as it is one. For the latter follows and arises from the former; but not without it, for it is one thing. Thus soul, understanding and will are one thing. Yet the soul denotes the essence : the understanding that very essence, as it apprehends: the will, the same with that intelligent essence tending to enjoy the thing known, or understood.” Thus far Scaliger, Curandus was of opinion, that indeed the faculties differ really from the soul, but not from each other. An opinion, which Vossius is above all pleased with, de Idololat. Lib. 3. c. xlii. Which is sufficient for our present purpose: as we are not then to separate those faculties, no wonder though we place faith in both. .
VI. Mean while we observe that among those things which weare about to describe, there is one principal act in which we apprehend the very essence and formal nature of faith consists, as it unites us with Christ and justifies us. This is to be carefully taken notice of in the matter of justification, least any one should look upon some acts of love, which in different ways are implied in the exercise of faith as the causes of justification. . VII. Moreover, we are likewise to maintain, that those things which we shall for the greater accuracy explain distinctly in particular, stand various ways mutually connected in the very exercise of faith. While the whole soul is engaged in this work of God, very many actions may all at once tend towards God and Christ, without observing any certain method ; and which the believer engaged in this work itself, has neither lcisure nor inclination to range in their proper order; nay, sometimes it is impossible to do it. Yet it is expedient, that we attend to the natural process of faith, whereby its entire nature and manner may be the more tioroughly perceived.
VIII. The first thing which faith either comprehends or presupposes, is the knowledge of the thing to be believed. This appears in opposition to Popish triflers. I. From express passages of Scripture, which so speak concerning faith.
as manifestly to intimate, that knowledge is included in its very notion and exercise, Is. liii. 11. John xvii. 3: compared with Heb. ii. 4. John vi. 69. 2 Tim. i. 3. II. From the nas ture of faith itself, which, as it doubtless means an assent given to a truth revealed by God, necessarily presupposes the knowledge of these two things. (I). That God has revealed something. (2). What that is to which assent is given, as a thing divinely revealed. For it is absurd to say, that a person assents to any truth which he is entirely ignorant of, and concerning which he knows of no testimony extant worthy of credit. lll. From the manner in which faith is produced in the elect; which is done externally by preaching and hearing of the Gospel, Rom. X. 27. revealing that which ought to be believed, with the demonstration of the truth to every man's conscience, 2 Cor. iv. 2. and internally by the teaching of God the Father, John vi. 45. If therefore faith be generated in the heart by a teaching both external and internal, it must of necessity consist in knowledge : for knowledge is the proper and immediate effect of such instruction. IV. From the consequence annexed, which is confession and arodenic, or giving an answer, Rom. x. 9, 10. i Pet. iii. 15. But it is impossible, that this should be without knowledge. Hilary, saith well, “ For none can speak what he knows not; nor believe what he cannot speak.”
IX. But indeed it must be confessed, that in the present dark state of our minds, even the most illuminated are ignorant of a great many things ; and that many things are believed with an implicit faith, especially by young beginners and babes in Christ, so far as they admit. in general, the whole Scriptures to be the infallible standard of what is to be believed; in which are contained many things which they do not understand, and in as far as they embrace the leading doctrines of Christianity, in which many other truths concenter, which are thence deduced by evident consequence, and which they believe in their foundation or principal, as John writes concerning believers, that they knew all things, 1 John fi. 20. because they had learned by the teaching of the spirit, that foundation of foundations, to which all saving truths are reduced, and from which they are inferred. But I go a step farther : it is possible that one to whom God distributes his blessings as he pleases, has measured out a small degree of knowledge, may yet be most firmly rooted in the faith, even to martyrdom. But then it no ways follows, that faith is better described by ignorance than by knowledge : or that they do well who cherish ignorance among the people as the
mother of faith and devotion, contrary to Col. iii. 16. for we can by no means believe what we are quite ignorant of, Rom. X. 14. And all should strive to have their faith as little implicit, and as much distinct as possible ; as becometh those who are filled with all knowledge, Rom. xv. 14. For the more distinctly a person sees by the light of the Spirit a truth revealed by God, and the rays of divinity shining therein, the more firm will be his belief of that truth. Those very martyrs, who, in other respects, were rude and ignorant, most clearly and distinctly saw those truths for which they made no scruple to lay down their lives, to be most certain and divine ; though perhaps they were not able
to dispute much for them. · X. Moreover those things which are necessary to be known by the person who would believe, are in general, the divinity of the Scriptures, into which faith must be ultimately resolved; more especially, those things which regard the obtaining of salvation in Christ; which may summarily be reduced to these three heads : Ist, To know, that by sin thou art estranged from the life of God, and art come short of the glory of God, Rom. iii. 23. That it is not possible, that either thou thyself, or an angel from leaven, or any creature in the world, nay, or all the creatures in the universe, can extricate thee from the abyss of misery, and restore thee to a state of happiness. 2dly, That thou shouldst know Christ this Lord to be full of grace and truth, John i. 14. who is that only name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, Acts iv, I. ånd in the knowledge of whom consist eternal life, John xvii. 3. 3dly, That thou shouldst know, that, in order to thy obtaining salvation in Christ, it is necessary that thou be united to Christ, by the spirit and by faith, and give up thyself to him, not only to be justified, but also sanctified, and governeral by his will and pleasure, proving what is that good and avo ceptable, and perfect will of God, Rom. xii. 2.
XI To this knowledge must be joined assent, which is the second act of faith, whereby a person receives and acknowledges as truths those things which he knows, receiving the testimony of God, and thus setting to his seal, that God is true, John iii. 33. This assent is principally founded on the infallible veracity of God, who testifies of himself and of his Son, i John v. 9, 10. On which testimony revealed in Scripture, and shedding forth all around the rays of its divinity, the believer relies with no less safety than if he had been actually present at the revelation of these things. For when the soul, enlightened by the spirit, discerns those divine truths, Vol. I.