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English Dictionaries
by [?]

Q.‘Did Epicurus maintain any doctrines such as are here ascribed to him?’–A.‘Perhaps not explicitly, either in words or by any other mode of direct sanction: on the contrary, I believe he denied them– and disclaimed them with vehemence: but he maintained them implicitly: for they are involved in other acknowledged doctrines of his, and may be deduced from them by the fairest and most irresistible logic.’

Q.‘Why did you complain of the man? Had he expressed any contempt for your opinion?’–A.‘Yes, he had: not explicit contempt, I admit; for he never opened his stupid mouth; but implicitly he expressed the utmost that he could: for, when I had spoken two hours against the old newspaper, and in favor of the new one, he went instantly and put his name down as a subscriber to the old one.’

Q.‘Did Mr.—- approve of that gentleman’s conduct and way of life?’– A.‘I don’t know that I ever heard him speak about it: but he seemed to give it his implicit approbation by allowing both his sons to associate with him when the complaints ran highest against him.’

These instances may serve to illustrate the original use of the word; which use has been retained from the sixteenth century down to our own days by an uninterrupted chain of writers. In the eighteenth century this use was indeed nearly effaced but still in the first half of that century it was retained by Saunderson the Cambridge professor of mathematics (see his Algebra, etc.), with three or four others, and in the latter half by a man to whom Saunderson had some resemblance in spring and elasticity of understanding, viz. by Edmund Burke. Since his day I know of no writers who have avoided the slang and unmeaning use of the word, excepting Messrs. Coleridge and Wordsworth; both of whom (but especially the last) have been remarkably attentive to the scholar-like [1] use of words, and to the history of their own language.

Thus much for the primitive use of the word implicit. Now, with regard to the history of its transition into its present use, it is briefly this; and it will appear at once, that it has arisen through ignorance. When it was objected to a papist that his church exacted an assent to a great body of traditions and doctrines to which it was impossible that the great majority could be qualified, either as respected time–or knowledge–or culture of the understanding, to give any reasonable assent,–the answer was: ‘Yes; but that sort of assent is not required of a poor uneducated man; all that he has to do–is to believe in the church: he is to have faith in her faith: by that act he adopts for his own whatsoever the church believes, though he may never have hoard of it even: his faith is implicit, i.e. involved and wrapped up in the faith of the church, which faith he firmly believes to be the true faith upon the conviction he has that the church is preserved from all possibility of erring by the spirit of God.’ [2] Now, as this sort of believing by proxy or implicit belief (in which the belief was not immediate in the thing proposed to the belief, but in the authority of another person who believed in that thing and thus mediately in the thing itself) was constantly attacked by the learned assailants of popery,–it naturally happened that many unlearned readers of these protestant polemics caught at a phrase which was so much bandied between the two parties: the spirit of the context sufficiently explained to them that it was used by protestants as a term of reproach, and indicated a faith that was an erroneous faith by being too easy–too submissive–and too passive: but the particular mode of this erroneousness they seldom came to understand, as learned writers naturally employed the term without explanation, presuming it to be known to those whom they addressed. Hence these ignorant readers caught at the last result of the phrase ‘implicit faith’ rightly, truly supposing it to imply a resigned and unquestioning faith; but they missed the whole immediate cause of meaning by which only the word ‘implicit’ could ever have been entitled to express that result.