But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is…
I. WE WILL CONSIDER THE CAUSE OF FAITH, OR THE ARGUMENT WHEREBY IT IS WROUGHT.
1. Sense; hence it is commonly said that "seeing is believing," that is, one of the best arguments to persuade us of anything. That faith may be wrought by this argument appears both from the nature of the thing, nothing being more apt to persuade us of anything than our senses, and from several expressions in Scripture. I will instance in one for all (John 20:8).
2. Experience, which, though it may be sensible, and then it is the same argument with sense, yet sometimes it is not, and then it is an argument distinct from it. As for example, a man may by experience be persuaded or induced to believe this proposition — that his will is free, that he can do this, or not do it; which is a better argument than a demonstration to the contrary, if there could be one.
3. Reasons drawn from the thing; which may either be necessary and concluding, or else only probable and plausible.
4. The authority and testimony of some credible person. Now two things give authority and credit to the relation, or testimony, or assertion of a person concerning anything; ability and integrity.
II. The second thing to be considered is THE DEGREES OF FAITH, AND THE DIFFERENCE OF THEM. NOW the capacity or incapacity of persons are infinitely various, and not to be reduced to theory; but supposing a competent capacity in the person, then the degrees of faith or persuasion take their difference from the arguments, or motives, or inducements which are used to persuade. Where sense is the argument, there is the firmest degree of faith, or persuasion. Next to that is experience, which is beyond any argument or reason from the thing. The faith or persuasion which is wrought in us by reasons from the thing, the degrees of it are as the reasons are: if they be necessary and concluding, it is firm and certain in its kind; if only probable, according to the degrees of probability, it hath more or less of doubting mixed with it. Lastly, the faith which is wrought in us by testimony or authority of a person takes its degrees from the credit of a person, that is, his ability and integrity. Now because "all men are liars," that is, either may deceive, or be deceived, their testimony partakes of their infirmity, and so doth the degree of persuasion wrought by it; but God being both infallible and true His testimony begets the firmest persuasion, and the highest degree of faith in its kind. But then it is to be considered, that there not being a revelation of a revelation in infinitum, that this is a Divine testimony and revelation we can only have rational assurance; and the degree of the faith or persuasion which is wrought by a Divine testimony will be according to the strength of the arguments which we have to persuade us that such a testimony is Divine.
III. For the efficacy or operation of faith we are to consider, THAT THE THINGS WE MAY BELIEVE OR BE PERSUADED OF ARE OF TWO SORTS. Either,
1. They are such as do not concern me; and then the mind rests in a simple belief of them, and a faith or persuasion of such things has no effect upon me; but is apt to have, if ever it happen that the matter do concern me: or else,
2. The thing I believe or am persuaded of doth concern me; and then it hath several effects according to the nature of the thing I am persuaded of, or the degree of the persuasion, or the capacity of the person that believes or is persuaded. If the thing believed be of great moment the effect of the faith is proportionable, and so according to the degree of the persuasion; but if the person be indisposed to the proper effects of such a persuasion by the power of contrary habits, as it often happens, the effect will be obtained with more difficulty, and may possibly be totally defeated by casting off the persuasion; for while it remains it will operate, and endeavour and strive to work its proper effect.
IV. FOR THE KINDS OF FAITH, THEY ARE SEVERAL, ACCORDING TO THE VARIETY OF OBJECTS OF THINGS BELIEVED. I shall reduce them all under these two general heads.
1. Faith is either civil or human, under which I comprehend the persuasion of things moral, and natural, and political, and the like; or,
2. Divine and religious; that is, a persuasion of things that concern religion. I know not whether these terms be proper, nor am I very solicitous, because I know none fitter, and tell you what I mean by them.
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.