« ForrigeFortsæt »
By two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie," that is, his oath and his promise, he hath established his covenant of grace," that the heirs of salvation, might have strong consolation;" Heb. vi. 18. Hereby it comes to pass that we have a sure hope of eternal life; for "God that cannot lie hath promised it to us in Christ Jesus before the world began;" Tit. i. 2. and 2 Tim. i. 9. And though it was so long ago since the first promise was made, the first promise made to Christ before the foundations of the world, and the first promise made to fallen Adam a little after the foundations of the world were laid; yet our God hath not forgotten his promises and his covenant; he remains still faithful to fulfil every word of grace "that is gone is out of his lips;" Ps. lxxxix. 33, 34. And should not this oblige us to like faithfulness to our fellow-creatures, since God, who is so infinitely our superior, is pleased thas to bind himself by promises, and thus to fulfil them.
The constancy and immutability of God in his designs of mercy to sinners, should influence us to the practice of the same constancy of spirit in our professions of his gospel. God acts always like himself, conformable to the glory, and holiness, and dignity of his nature, so should we, who are the sons and daughters of the most high and holy God. He his uniform in his counsels and methods of grace and peace, he is unchangeable in his love, and always the same: "And Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;" constant to himself, and consistent with himself in all the purposes of his mercy, and in all the prosecutions of those divine and eternal purposes in heaven and on earth. No alteration of circumstances, no change of place, from a cross on earth to a throne in heaven, can change his compassion and love to his saints. And shall we suffer our petty changes here on earth, from a higher to a lower part of a little mole-hill, to make such a shameful alteration in our conduct to our friends, as too often endangers our truth, and discovers our inconstancy?
Let us consider that by our profession of christianity we renounce deceit and falsehood, and all the hidden things of darkness: We are children of the light, then let us walk in the light and do the truth, and let our deeds be made manifest, that they are wrought in God; that is, in the faith and fear of God; John iii. 21. Why should a christian be a deceiver, when he bears the name of Christ the faithful and true? How inconsistent a character is it for a christian to be a liar? For a christian to be false, and violate and break his word? How dishonourable is it to the holy name we bear?
Let the children of Satan, who is a liar from the beginning, delight themselves in falsehood, and sport themselves in their
own deceivings: Let those who renounce all hope in the promi ses of God, imitate the devil, who is the father of lies: But let us who trust in the God of truth, who believe in Jesus the Saviour, and make his truth our hope, let us imitate our heavenly Father and our blessed Lord. Let us speak the truth and practise it. It was by a lie of the devil that our first parents were deceived and ruined: All our sin and misery sprang from that falsehood, Ye shall not surely die. And it is by our faith in the truth and promise of God that we hope for salvation. While we therefore remember either the spring of our ruin, or the means of our recovery, we should love the truth, and hate lying.
But there are motives of terror, as well as arguments of grace and love, that should ever influence us to sincerity and truth. We should remember that Christ our Lord has eyes like a flame of fire, that he searches the hearts and the reins, and will render to every one according to their works; Rev. ii, 23. We should remember the dreadful threatenings that Christ the faithful and true Witness, Christ the Lord and Judge of all men, hath denounced against hypocrites, You scarce find him preaching a sermon of any length, but he has one or more woes in it ready for those that practise hypocrisy.
There is no sort of sinners that he treats with such infamous names, and such killing reproaches as he does the hypocrite. They resemble the old serpent, the devil, in subtlety and falsehood, and therefore the language of Christ to them runs in this manner; Ye Jews, who are false to the inward conviction of your own consciences, ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.— When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar and the father of it; John viii. 44. It is as if our Lord had said, "The first lie that ever was made, was made by the devil; and by his telling a lie, and our mother Eve's believing it, he murdered mankind in Adam their head. And yet you false Jews would imitate him, and make him your father." And again, Wo unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites,-ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, sons of the old serpent, how can ye escape the damnation of hell; Mat, xxiii. 29, 33. Your eternal punishment is most just and unavoidable.
In another of his discourses he makes the punishment of hypocrites to be, as it were, the pattern of the punishment of the worst of wickedness. The servant who is intrusted with the household of his Lord, that shall beat his fellows, and shall eat and drink with the drunken, his Lord shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrite; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; Mat. xxiv. 51. And when you read the
black catalogue of sinners, who are doomed to everlasting des truction; Rev. xxi. 8. the name of liars is put in with a peculiar remark, the unbelievers, the murderers, the whoremongers, the sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death, As if he had said, whosoever escapes hell, no liar shall escape it, and it is repeated again in the next chapter, Without the gates of heaven are dogs, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie; Rev, xxii. 15.
Whensoever therefore we find a temptation to falsehood, let us set ourselves under the immediate eye of God our Judge, God who shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall judge the secrets of every heart one day by Jesus Christ our Lord 3 1 Cor, iv, 5, Rom. ii. 16. If we did but always place ourselves as in the sight of the great and dreadful God, whose eye beholds every falsehood we practise, and all the hidden hypocrisy, the lurking deceit of the soul, whose ear attends to every word of falsehood we speak, and records it all in his book against that great and terrible day of account; surely we should find a more effectual influence of it upon our spirits, to guard us from such words and actions as are inconsistent with the sincerity of a christian.
And let our hearts be melted into repentance for our past iniquities of this kind, and moulded into the love of truth by a delightful meditation of the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ to us, in performing his kind and dreadful undertaking to suffer for our sins. Let us dwell upon the thoughts of his faithfulness to all his promises, and think thus with ourselves, that he has engaged us to truth of every kind by the strong est bonds of duty and love: And if we are false and unfaithful to him in this world, how justly may he cut us off from all our glorious hopes and expectations in the world which is to come.
But this leads me to the fourth general head that I proposed; which was to lay down some directions how christians may be preserved in the ways of truth, how they may secure and maintain this blessed character of integrity and uprightness which I have described. And I think this may be better performed. by distinguishing truth, or integrity, into those three distinct parts, under which I treated of it before, namely, veracity, faithfulness, and constancy, and by giving some rules for the preservation of each.
The rules to preserve veracity, or to keep our words conformable to our hearts, are such as these:
I. Be persuaded in your own minds, that no circumstances whatsoever can make a lie lawful. Though when a question is
asked, there are many cases whesein it may be lawful to turn the discourse aside, to wave a direct answer, to be entirely silent; or in some circumstances it may be both lawful, prudent, and proper, to conceal a part of the truth, as I hinted in the former sermon ; yet in my opinion it is neither prudent, proper nor lawful, to speak a falsehood to deceive my neighbour. The whole truth may not always be necessary to be spoken to men; but such falsehood is always a sin in the sight of God. All lying is utterly forbidden; and the true meaning of a lie is, when we speak that which we believe to be false, with a design to deceive the person to whom we speak.
Here may arise two questions:-I. If I have a good and valuable end in speaking, and my design is to serve the glory of God, or the good of my neighbour, may I not then use the art of lying, or speak a known falsehood without sin?-2. Surely there are some sort of persons who have no right to truth, such as children, common liars, knaves or cheats; may we not therefore deceive them by direct falsehoods, either for their good, or for
These are enquiries of very great importance to the honour of truth, to the satisfaction of conscience, and to the welfare of mankind: And it is my present opinion (and I think there is good reason for it) that none of these cases can make an express and deceitful falsehood to be lawful, or change the nature of a lie, and make it innocent; but to debate these two cases as largely as they deserve, would too much incumber the present discourse; I leave them therefore to be read with an honest and serious mind, as an Appendix to these sermons of truth, and so proceed to the next direction, how to preserve our veracity.
II. The second rule to preserve veracity is this; accustom yourselves to a sober, modest way of speaking, avoid all those methods of speech that border upon falsehood. I shall mention a few of them, to give sufficient notice of what I mean.
Some persons affect to be certain of every thing they speak, and pronounce all that they say with the highest assurance. If they are relating matters of fact, which they only learn by report, they tell you every circumstance without the least hesitation, and endeavour even in a dubious matter to make the hearer believe it with the highest confidence: They are never in the wrong, never doubtful, whether they are in the right no. If they are declaring their own sentiments of the most difficult subject, it is always as clear to them as the light, they are always as positive as if it were divinely revealed, and written in the most express words o scripture.
Now such sort of speakers will often find they have been mistaken; and if they have modesty enough to retract their
words, it is well: but for the most part they refuse conviction, and often persist to maintain their own error, even almost against their own consciences. In short, it appears to me, that a man who dares frequently to assert doubtful matters with the most positive air of assurance, has not so much tenderness about his heart, and such a religious fear of lying, as a good christian ought to have..
There are others again that affect to tell you nothing that is common, but would always surprize the company with strange things and prodigies, and all this out of the pride of their hearts, and an ambition to have their own stories applauded and admired by all that hear them. This sort of affectation oftentimes betrays a person into falsehood, and secretly and insensibly allures him to say things that are neither credible nor true. Sailors and travellers should set a special guard upon themselves in this respect.
There are a third sort of talkers, that when they discourse of common things, are ever expressing them in exalted and superlative language. If they speak of any thing small, it is prodigiously small; if they speak of any thing great, it is incomparably great. If they name a man of wisdom, he is the wisest man in the world; or a woman of piety, she is the only saint in the nation. An imprudent man with them is the greatest fool in nature; and a little disappointing accident in life, is an intolerable vexation. If they happen to hear a good sermon, the preacher was inspired, not an angel could exceed him: If it was a mean discourse, the wretch had not a grain of sense and learning. Every opinion they hold is divine and fundamental: All their own sentiments, even in lesser matters, are the very sense of Christ and his apostles, and all that oppose them are guilty of heresy or nonsense. Now persons who have accustomed their tongues to this language in common discourse, seem to want that due caution which the strict rules of godliness may seem to require, and make a little too free with truth. Either their thoughts are very injudicious, if they can believe what they say; or if they do not believe it, they should make their words agree better with their thoughts.
But besides the approaches to falsehood in this manner of conversation, there is something in it that is very vain, and almost ridiculous. Methinks such an extravagant talker is something like a man that walks upon stilts through the open street, or like one who wears a coat much longer than his neighbours; and how tall soever they may think themselves, the world will be ready to call one of them a child, and the other an idiot.
Objection. But are there not a multitude of such expressions in scripture in the books of Job, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, wherein even the more plain or common occurrences of