An Essay Concerning Human Understanding By John Locke Book IV: Knowledge and Probability

13. One Case where contrary Experience lessens not the Testimony.

Though the common experience and the ordinary course of things have justly a mighty influence on the minds of men, to make them give or refuse credit to anything proposed to their belief; yet there is one case, wherein the strangeness of the fact lessens not the assent to a fair testimony given of it. For where such supernatural events are suitable to ends aimed at by Him who has the power to change the course of nature, there, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, that may be the fitter to procure belief, by how much the more they are beyond or contrary to ordinary observation. This is the proper case of MIRACLES, which, well attested, do not only find credit themselves, but give it also to other truths, which need such confirmation.

14. The bare Testimony of Divine Revelation is the highest Certainty.

Besides those we have hitherto mentioned, there is one sort of propositions that challenge the highest degree of our assent, upon bare testimony, whether the thing proposed agree or disagree with common experience, and the ordinary course of things, or no. The reason whereof is, because the testimony is of such an one as cannot deceive nor be deceived: and that is of God himself. This carries with it an assurance beyond doubt, evidence beyond exception. This is called by a peculiar name, REVELATION, and our assent to it, FAITH, which [as absolutely determines our minds, and as perfectly excludes all wavering,] as our knowledge itself; and we may as well doubt of our own being, as we can whether any revelation from God be true. So that faith is a settled and sure principle of assent and assurance, and leaves no manner of room for doubt or hesitation. ONLY WE MUST BE SURE THAT IT BE A DIVINE REVELATION, AND THAT WE UNDERSTAND IT RIGHT: else we shall expose ourselves to all the extravagancy of enthusiasm, and all the error of wrong principles, if we have faith and assurance in what is not DIVINE revelation. And therefore, in those cases, 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. If the evidence of its being a revelation, or that this is its true sense, be only on probable proofs, our assent can reach no higher than an assurance or diffidence, arising from the more or less apparent probability of the proofs. But of FAITH, and the precedency it ought to have before other arguments of persuasion, I shall speak more hereafter; where I treat of it as it is ordinarily placed, in contradistinction to reason; though in truth it be nothing else but AN ASSENT FOUNDED ON THE HIGHEST REASON.

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