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are conformable to my heart, and express the honest sense of my soul; Do I speak nothing but what I believe to be true, and set a continual guard upon the door of my lips, lest they utter deceit and falsehood? Do I neither flatter my neighbour, nor spread a false report of him? Am I watchful to make no promises, þut what I mean sincerely to fulfil? And am I as careful to perform my vows and all my engagements? Am I sincere in the profession of godliness, and constant in my practice of it at all times and circumstances, in all places and companies whatsoever?”
Let us ask our hearts again, "While we have heard this discourse, how many of us have sat here judging our neighbours, and not ourselves: Have we been distributing abroad the shameful characters of insincerity, falsehood, unfaithfulness, and inconstancy, among our acquaintance? Or have we applied the words as a test to our own souls, as a trial of our christianity? Have we taken a secret and malicious pleasure in fixing these scandals upon others? Or have we begged of God to fix the conviction upon ourselves if we are guilty? And which of us can stand up and say in the face of heaven, We are innocent, entirely innocent of all these charges?" O may the blessed Spirit, the Convincer and the Sanctifier, shew each of us our own concern in this sermon, awaken each of us to a sense of our own iniquities, and by his almighty grace work in us repentance, and restore us to truth and holiness!
Christian Morality, viz. Truth, Sincerity, &c.
PHILIP. iv. 8.—Whatsoever things are true,-think on these things.
TRUTH is a name of wide extent. It includes in it the blessings of the head and the heart. Happy the man whose head is furnished with a large knowledge of divine and human truth, and so far delivered from mistakes and errors, as to lay a foundation for wisdom and holiness! But all the furniture of the head is not sufficient to make us truly wise and holy, without the honesty and integrity of the heart. Truth demands a room and place there also: And this is the truth which my text recommends.
The first thing I proposed, was to shew the latitude and extent of this duty-and I have described it as consisting in these three things; 1. Veracity, which is, when our words are conformable to the sentiments of our mind. 2. Faithfulness, when our actions agree with our words. 3. Constancy, and that is when our practices are consistent with our pious principles, and the whole course of our life is of a piece, governed by the same rules and dictates of morality and religion. Where these are wanting, that person is false, faithless, fickle, and inconstant, and acts neither agreeable to his nature as a man, nor to his character as a christian.
The second thing I designed to shew, was that the light of nature dictates and requires the practice of this virtue: And it will appear, if we consider our relation either to God
I. If we consider our natural relation to God, both as our Creator or Father, and as our Lord or Governor.
Consider him as our Father, the Author of our being. Truth and faithfulness are the attributes of his nature, and the necessary characters of his conduct toward his creatures; and many of the heathens could tell us, that a likeness to God the Father of our spirits, in such moral perfections of his nature, is the duty and glory of mankind. We are his offspring, saith Aratus, a heathen poet; Acts xvii. 28. and children should be like their divine Parent.
The light of nature tells us, that he is not only our Creator, and our Father in this sense, but he is our Lord and Governor also. And he has knowledge, and he has power to answer and fulfil this high character and station, The great God who looks into our hearts, who sees our souls through and through, he knows what our inward sentiments are while the falsehood is on our lips; he remembers what our engagements and contracts are while we renounce and break them; he hates deceit, lying, and falsehood; and all the civilized nations have ever supposed that he will avenge it with peculiar judgments.
It is upon this supposition of an all-knowing and avenging power, that paths are administered in all. countries which are reformed from utter barbarity. An oath is appointed to be the confirmation of truth in what we say or do. Therein God himself, with all his knowledge, his power and his terrors, is called upon to bear witness to what we speak, and to be an avenger of perjury and falsehood. Surely we might venture to say, that a day will come when the great and holy God will shew himself terrible to liars and deceivers, if we had nothing but the light of nature to tell us so.
. II. If we consider our relation to mankind, truth will ap pear to be a necessary duty. Man is a sociable creature, he is made to love society; but no society can be maintained without truth: All falsehood therefore is inconsistent with the social nature of mankind, and consequently it becomes contrary to the law and light of nature. Without truth we should all become deceivers to one another, every man a liar to his neighbour. No contracts would be of any force; no commerce could be maintained; none of us would be able to trust another, nor could we live safe by those that dwell nearest to us.
He that indulges himself in lying, takes away his own credit, and gives sufficient occasion for his neighbour not to believe him, even when he happens to speak the truth; for a man that will lie and deceive soinetimes, how can we tell that he is not dealing, deceitfully with us, even when he professes to be moşt faithful and true? And children should take notice of this, that if once they indulge the sin of lying, there is nobody will ever believe what they say.
A liar is such an abandoned character amongst mankind, that though there are too many who deserve the name, yet every one is ashamed of it. It is esteemed a reproach of so heinous and hateful a nature for a man to be called a liar, that sometimes the life and the blood of the slanderer has paid for it. The very nature of man resents it highly, for it implies in it, that a man
guilty of this vice deserves to be cut off from all society with mankind, and to be thrust out of cities and families like a beast of the earth.
The same thing may be said of an unfaithful man, a man who makes promises, contracts, and agreements, and takes no care to perform them. All commerce and traffic is confounded, and the laws of it dissolved, by a person of this shameful conduct. He that loses his credit and honour by this sort of falsehood, cuts himself off from many of the blessings of civil society, and stands as it were excommunicated from the friendship, the company, and commerce of his neighbours among whom he dwells. His character becomes hateful among men, and his name is a word of scandal and infamy. But where a man is true to his word, and punctual in all his correspondencies, how fair is his reputation! How honourable is his name! And he stands entitled to all the blessings of the society where he resides.
I might borrow arguments also from the light of nature, to shew what an excellent virtue is that of constancy; how useful in the whole course of life; how honourable a name does it gain a man in the world! With what a happy regularity his affairs proceed, both in his household and in his shop, or business of life! He maintains a sacred and steady peace of mind, and all men bless him: but the character of a fickle, wavering, inconstant man, is always mean and contemptible: he is compared to a weathercock, that is blown about by every wind: and his name is thus exalted, or stuck on high, there to become a more public mark of jest and ridicule,
The third thing I proposed, is to consider what are those additional arguments that might be drawn from the gospel for the practice of this truth and sincerity, this faithfulness and constancy: For the gospel doth not only confirm all the duties of morality that the light of nature dictates, and establish all the reasons of them that the light of nature more feebly proposes, but it adds also many arguments and motives to enforce the same virtuous practices, which the mere light of nature knows nothing of; and I shall represent all these advantages of the gospel here. But I will not overload your memory with particulars, and therefore I shall speak them more generally, and heap them together; and may your souls and mine feel the united force of them!
It is a gospel of truth we profess, even the eternal truth of God revealed to men concerning our salvation and his glory. There are a multitude of scriptures where the gospel itself is called the truth, and the word of truth; and it is a most inconsistent thing for the professors of this gospel to be guilty of falsehood.
God the Father is the God of truth: and never did he give so glorious a demonstration of the sincerity of his love, of the faith
fulness of his promises, and of the constancy of his compassionate design to man, as in sending his own Son into the world, according to his ancient prophecies of a thousand years, and bestowing upon us Jesus the Saviour.
Jesus Christ, by whose name we are called, he is the true and faithful witness; Rev. iii, 14. Truth, and grace, and peace, came by him; John i. 17. He is called the truth; John xiv. 6. He came down to bring life and immortality to light by his gospel; he came to tell us, and he well knew, that in his Father's house were many mansions; and if it were not so, says he, I would have told you: But it is not my business to be a deceiver to men: Therefore all the life, light, and immortality that I have discovered to you in my preaching, it is all sincere, it is all real. When you enter into the other world, trusting my promises, you will find all my words fulfilled. I would not have raised your expectations, if it had been otherwise.
Again, the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth; it is he that guides us into all truth; John xvi. 13. And the name of this Father, and this Son, and this Holy Spirit, is called upon us in our first admission to christianity. So that we wear the name of the God of truth upon us, and shall we indulge temptations to falschood? Shall we practise deceit, who profess a gospel of such truth, and upon whom the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the name of the God of truth is pronounced in baptism?
God is sincere in his revelations of grace, and discoveries of his pardoning mercy; for he sent his own Son to die for us, and this is a proof of his sincerity in his designs of love. Let us then be sincere in love to our God, to our fellow-creatures, and fellow-christians. Jesus Christ is sincere in the profession of his love, and he hath given us an infallible pledge of it, for he hath given his life for us. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends; John xv. 13. But he hath laid down his life for enemies, and therefore he hath magnified his love, and divinely demonstrated it to be sincere and true, beyond all possibility of jealousies and exceptions.
God is faithful to all the promises of his gospel; all his ways are mercy and truth to his people: He is a God keeping covenant through all generations. This is the illustrious title that he assumes to himself, and glories in: And this is the name by which the ancient saints have delighted to make their addresses to him. These heavens shall be dissolved and perish in the flame, and this earth become a smoking cinder; "heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of the Lord and his truth abide for ever; not one jot or tittle of them shall perish, but all shall be fulfilled."