But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is…
I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY A DIVINE REVELATION. A supernatural discovery or manifestation of things to us. I say supernatural because it may either be immediately by God, or by the mediation of angels; as most if not all the revelations of the Old Testament were; a supernatural discovery or manifestation, either immediately to our minds and inward faculties, or else mediately to our understandings, by the mediation of our outward senses; as by an external appearance to our bodily eyes, or by a voice and sound to the sense of hearing.
II. WHETHER A PERSUASION OF A DIVINE REVELATION MAY PROPERLY RE CALLED FAITH? To this I answer, that according to the narrow notion of faith which the schools have fixed, which is an assent to anything grounded upon the testimony and authority of God revealing it, a persuasion of a Divine revelation cannot properly be called faith, because it is irrational to expect that a man should have another Divine revelation to assure him that this is a Divine revelation; for then, for the same reason, I must expect another Divine revelation to assure me of that, and so without end. But according to the true and general notion of faith, which is a persuasion of the mind concerning anything, a persuasion of the mind concerning a Divine revelation may as properly be called faith as anything else, if men will but grant that a man may be so satisfied concerning a Divine revelation, as verily to believe and be persuaded that it is so.
III. How WE MAY COME TO BE PERSUADED OF A DIVINE REVELATION THAT IT IS SUCH; or by what arguments this persuasion is wrought in us?
1. As to those persons to whom the revelation is immediately made, the question is by what arguments or means they may come to be assured that any revelation which they have is really and truly such, and not a delusion or imposture.
(1) God can work in the mind of man a firm persuasion of a thing by giving him a clear and vigorous perception of it; and if so, then God can accompany His own revelations with such a clear and overpowering light as shall discover to us the divinity of them, and satisfy us thereof beyond all doubt and scruple.
(2) God never persuades a man of anything that contradicts the natural and essential notions of his mind and understanding. For this would be to destroy His own workmanship, and to impose that upon the understanding of a man which, whilst it retains its own nature and remains what it is, it cannot possibly admit.
(3) Supposing the thing revealed do not contradict the essential notions of our minds, no good and holy man hath reason to doubt of anything, whether it be revelation from God or not, of which he hath a clear and vigorous perception, and full satisfaction in his own mind that it is such.
(4) A good and holy man reflecting upon this assurance and persuasion that he hath may be able to give himself a reasonable account of it, and satisfy himself that it is not a stubborn belief and an obstinate conceit of things without any ground or reason.
2. What assurance can other persons, who have not the revelation immediately made to them, have of a Divine revelation? To this I shall answer by these propositions:(1) That there are some means whereby a man may be assured of another's revelation that it is Divine.
(a) Otherwise it would signify nothing, but only to the person that immediately had it; which would make void the chief end of most revelations, which are seldom made to particular persons for their own sakes only, but, for the most part, on purpose that they may be made known to others, which could not effectually be done unless there be some means whereby men may be assured of revelations made to another.
(b) None could be guilty of unbelief but those who had immediate revelation made to them. For no man is guilty of unbelief that is not obliged to believe; but no man can be under any obligation to believe anything, who hath not sufficient means whereby he may be assured that such a thing is true.
(2) The private assurance and satisfaction of another concerning a revelation made to him can signify nothing at all to me, to assure me of it. For what satisfaction is it to me that another may say he hath a revelation, unless I have some means to be assured that what he saith is true? For if I must believe every spirit, that is every man that says he is inspired, I lie open to all possible impostures and delusions, and must believe every one that either foolishly conceits or falsely pretends that he hath a revelation.
(3) That miracles wrought for the confirmation of any Divine testimony or revelation made to another are a sufficient means whereby those who have not the Divine revelation immediately made to them may be assured that it is Divine; I say these are sufficient means of assurance in this case. But here we must distinguish between doubtful and unquestionable miracles.
IV. WHETHER THIS FAITH CONCERNING A DIVINE REVELATION MADE TO OTHERS NO ADMIT OF DEGREES? That it doth is evident from these expressions which the Scripture useth, of "increasing faith," of "growing in it," of "a weak and strong faith," all which plainly supposeth degrees. And here it will be proper to inquire what is the highest degree of assurance which we can have concerning a Divine revelation made to another, that it is such; whether it be an infallible assurance, or only an undoubted certainty.
1. That infallibility is not essential to Divine faith, and necessarily included in the notion of it; which I prove thus. Divine faith admits of degrees, as I have showed before; but there can be no degree of infallibility. Infallibility is an impossibility of being deceived; but there are no degrees of impossibility, one thing is not more impossible than another; but all things that are impossible are equally so.
2. That the assurance which we have of the miracles wrought for the confirmation of the gospel is not an infallible assurance.
3. That an undoubted assurance of a Divine revelation that it is such, is as much as in reason can be expected. No man pretends to a Divine revelation that there is a God; but only to have rational satisfaction of it, such as leaves no just or reasonable cause to doubt of it. And why then should any desire greater assurance of a Divine revelation than he hath of a God?
4. An undoubted assurance is sufficient to constitute a Divine faith. Do not men venture their estates in traffic to places they never saw, because they have it from credible persons that there are such places, and they have no reason to doubt their testimony; and why should not the same assurance serve in greater matters if an undoubted assurance of a lesser benefit and advantage will make men venture as much? Why should any man desire greater assurance of anything than to have no just reason to doubt it; why more than so much as the thing is capable of? I shall only add this: that nothing hath been more pernicious to Christian religion than the vain pretences of men to greater assurance concerning things relating to it than they can make good; the mischief of which is this — that when discerning and inquisitive men find that men pretend to greater matters than they can prove, this makes them doubt of all they say, and to call in question Christianity itself. Whereas if men would be contented to speak justly of things, and pretend to no greater assurance than they can bring evidence for, considerate men would be apt to believe them.
V. WHAT IS THE PROPER AND GENUINE EFFECT OF THIS FAITH OF A DIVINE REVELATION? I answer, a compliance with the design and intention of it.
VI. IN WHAT RESPECT THIS MAY BE CALLED A DIVINE FAITH. TO this I answer, not only in respect of the object of it, and the argument whereby it is wrought, and the effect of it; but, likewise, in respect of the author and efficient of it, which is the Divine Spirit.
Parallel VersesKJV: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.