As to the first. There are four general things here to be noticed.
1. This supposeth what our case by nature is, and what we are all without Christ, who is the Truth: as,
First. It supposeth that without Christ we are in darkness, mistakes, errors: yea, we are said to be darkness itself. Eph. v.8, "Ye were sometimes darkness," &c. John i.5, and of darkness; 1 Thess. v.5, yea, under the "power of darkness;" Col. i.13. John xii.35.1 John ii.11, "walking in darkness;" 1 John i.6, and "abiding in darkness." 1 Pet. ii.9.1 Thess. v.4. John xii.46, "We wander and go astray as soon as we are born, speaking lies," Psal. lviii.3. Yea, we "go astray in the greatness of our folly," Prov. v.22. We are "all gone astray," Isa. liii.6. Psal. cxix.67-176; so far are we from any knowledge of, or acquaintance with truth, or with the way of truth.
Secondly. It supposeth that we cannot turn into the right way. A spirit of error and untruth leadeth us continually wrong; like the sheep we wander still, and we weary ourselves in our wandering; and so spend all our labour and pains in vain. Being under the power of untruth and error, we cannot walk one step right.
Thirdly. Though all other ways, beside him who only is the way and the truth, be false ways and by-ways, leading us away from the true resting-place, and from that way which is the truth; yet we are prone and ready to cleave to those false and erroneous ways, and grip to shadows, and to lean to them, as if they were the ways of truth: Such as,
1. A good heart, which many may imagine they have, when they have nothing less.
2. Good intentions and purposes for time to come, which such, as were not under the power of error and untruth, would never deceive themselves withal.
3. An harmless life, without scandalous out-breakings to the reproach of Christianity, a foundation on which no wise man, led by truth, would build his salvation, or hopes of eternal happiness.
4. An outward, moral, civil and discreet carriage, which no man can blame, and wherein a heathen can outstrip many called Christians; so that it must be a poor ground to found our hopes upon; and yet many are so blinded, that they lean all their weight upon such a rotten staff.
5. Outward exercise of religious duties, wherein a Pharisee may outstrip many; and yet, O how many build all their hopes of heaven upon this sandy foundation, which none but blinded persons would do!
6. The commendation and applause of ministers and Christians, is that which many rest upon, which is a sad proof of the blindness of their hearts.
7. The way of good works and alms-deeds blindfoldeth many, and sheweth that they were never led by truth, or taught of Christ, who is the truth.
8. Some pinching grief and sorrow for sin, is another way which people, strangers to the truth, deceive themselves withal.
9. A common sort of repentance, backed with some kind of amendment and outward reformation, is a way that many rest secure in, though it lead to destruction.
10. Freedom from challenges of conscience deceiveth many.
Though these and such like ways be dangerous, yea, deadly, yet how many are there to be found among Christians, that have no better ground of their hope of salvation, and will cleave to them so fast, as no preaching will make them so much as once question the matter, or suspect that these ways will in the end deceive them; so strong is their inclination to the way of error, though not as the way of error.
Fourthly. It presupposeth also an inclinableness in us by nature to wander out of the way; for being nothing but a mass of error, made up of darkness, ignorance, and mistakes, we have a strong bias to error, which agreeth best with our natural, corrupted temper. Hence it is, that we have such a strong propension to errors and mistakes: Whether,
1. Concerning God, and his way of dealing with his church, or with ourselves. O how ready are our hearts by nature, to hatch and foment wrong, unseemly, untrue, yea, unchristian, if not blasphemous thoughts and conceptions of his nature, attributes, word, and works? And how ready and prone are we to receive and entertain wrong apprehensions of all his ways and dealings with his church and people? And as for his works in and about ourselves, O! what unsuitable, erroneous, false, ungodly, absurd, and abominable opinions do we with greediness drink in and foster; yea, feed upon with delight? Who is able to recount all the errors and mistakes which our heart by nature is ready to admit and foster with complacency? Are we not by nature ready to say, that there is not a God, -- as the fool, Psal. xiv.1. Or, that he is not such a God as his word and works declare him to be -- a holy, just, righteous, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God, &c. Or that he is a changeable God, and actually changed, not being the same now which sometime he was. That he hath forgotten to be gracious, and remembereth not his people in adversity; and so is not tender and merciful. That he hath forgotten his promises, and so is not faithful and true. That he approveth of sin, because he suffereth the way of the wicked to prosper, and so is not a holy God, &c. Yea, do not ofttimes such thoughts as these lodge within the heart of the truly godly? All which sheweth how prone we are to receive and entertain erroneous and false thoughts of God.
2. Concerning ourselves. Supposing ourselves to be born again and reconciled to God, when yet we are living in black nature: And who so bold and confident that they are right, as they that are furthest out of the way? Or, on the other hand, supposing ourselves to be in a bad state, and in nature and darkness, when the day-star from on high hath visited us, and brought our souls from death unto life. And who more ready to complain than such as have least cause? Or supposing ourselves in a good condition; lively, active, diligent, watchful, &c, when it is just otherwise with us: Or, on the contrary, complaining of deadness, formality, upsitting, fainting, heartlessness in the ways of God, when it is not so. Or, in questioned matters, taking truth to be error, and error to be truth.
3. Concerning others. How ready are we to run either to the one extremity or the other in judging their persons and actions?
Oh! where is the faith of this natural condition? where is the real conviction of it? Sure there is but little real believing of this when,
(1.) There are so many that never so much as suspect themselves or question either their state or condition, at one time or other; never once imagine that their blinded hearts may deceive them; never once dream of a possibility of mistaking, and of dying with a lie in their right hand.
(2.) And so many that are not lamenting and bewailing this their condition, nor crying out and complaining of a false, deceitful, and desperately wicked heart.
(3.) And so few that are indeed humbled under the sense of this, and made therefore to walk more watchfully and soberly with an eye always upon their treacherous and deceiving hearts.
(4.) And so few, crying for help from God against this deceitful adversary, through daily experience of the atheism, hypocrisy, ignorance, misconceptions of God and of his ways, and deceitfulness of our hearts, might sufficiently put it out of doubt with us.
Next, How miserable must their condition be, who are yet strangers to Christ; for they are living in darkness, lying in darkness, walking in darkness, yea, very darkness itself, a mass of error, mistakes, ignorance, and misconceptions of all things that are good; and still wandering out of the way.
Finally, Should not this preach out to, and convince us all of a necessity of having more acquaintance with truth, with Jesus Christ, who is the truth, that we may be delivered from this woful and wretched condition; for truth only can set us free therefrom.
II. The second general thing to be noticed here is, that all other ways and courses, which we can take or follow, that we may obtain life, beside Christ, are but lies, false and deceitful ways, -- there is no truth in them: For he only is the truth; no other whatsoever can bear this epithet: For,
1. He only can satisfy the soul in all points otherways; whatever we can imagine and dream can yield no true satisfaction in this matter.
2. He only can secure the soul from destructive ruinous courses, which will undo the soul. All other ways will fail here; none of them can give the least security to the soul, that they shall not bring him, in end, to destruction and everlasting perdition.
3. He only can bring the soul safe through all opposition and difficulties in the way. No other way can do this; but will leave us in the mire, ere ever we come to the end of our journey.
4. He will not deceive nor disappoint the soul. All other ways in end will prove treacherous, and give the traveller a doleful and sad disappointment.
O what a warning should this be to us all, to take heed that we embrace not a lie, instead of him who is the truth; and sit not down with a shadow instead of the substance. How ready are we to put other things in his place? But whatever it be that gets his room in the soul, though good and worthy in itself, will prove a lie. Even, (1.) All our outward holiness and duties. Yea, (2.) All our experiences and great attainments. Yea, (3.) All our gifts and endowments. Aye, (4.) Our very graces. None of these are Christ's; and if we place that hope and confidence in them, which we should place on him, they will not prove the truth to us, -- he alone is the truth.
How sure then should we labour to be, that we do not die with a lie in our right hand. And how carefully should we guard against the trusting in, or leaning to any thing that is not Christ, and whole Christ, and only Christ, and Christ as offered in the gospel; seeing this way is only the truth, and no other way will be found so in end, though at present we may find in it,
(1.) Some inward peace and quietness of heart, as if all were right.
(2.) Some satisfaction of mind, things being right, as we apprehend, but falsely, through the deceitfulness of the heart.
(3.) Something like assurance and confidence, that all will be right with us.
(4.) And hope founded thereupon, which may help to ride through some storms, and yet fail us at length.
III. The third general is this, Christ Jesus is not only the truth in himself, but also in reference to us. The scope of the place cleareth this, as he is the way and the life for our use, so he is the truth. Not only as God equal with the Father, but also as Mediator, and our Immanuel.
As God, he is, 1. Essentially truth, being God equal with the Father in power and glory.
2. In respect of veracity, he is the God of truth, Deut. xxxii.4; faithful in all his sayings, Ps. xxxi.5; keeping truth for ever, Ps. cxlvi.6.
3. He is the fountain and spring-head of all created truth, for he is the first truth.
As Mediator, and in reference to us, "he is full of grace and truth," John i.14; "he received not the Spirit in measure," John iii.34; and this Spirit is a Spirit of truth. But of this more, when we come to shew more particularly, how and in what respects he is called the truth, as Mediator.
IV. The fourth general, which is here observable, is, that he is not only called "Truth," but "the Truth," as he is the way and the life; and not only true, but truth in the abstract. Which saith,
1. That he is every way Truth, however we consider him, as God, or as Mediator.
2. That all truth is in him; all truth of salvation for us is to be found in him.
3. That all that is in him is truth, his natures, offices, performances, words, works, &c, all are true.
4. That he is pure and unmixed truth; no lie in him, no error or mistake there.
5. That truth in him is in its perfection and excellency. In the truest of men it is very imperfect.
O what an excellent one must he be! How completely fitted and furnished for us! Oh! if our souls could love him, and close with him, and rest upon him as all-sufficient!