First. This point of truth serveth to discover unto us, the woful condition of such as are strangers to Christ the truth; and oh, if it were believed! For,
1. They are not yet delivered from that dreadful plague of blindness, error, ignorance, mistakes under which all are by nature; a condition, that if rightly seen, would cause the soul lie low in the dust.
2. Whatever course they take, till they come to Christ, and while they remain in that condition, is a lie, and a false, erroneous, and deceitful way. For still they are turning aside to lies, Psalm xl.4; and seeking after them, Psalm iv.2.
3. Whatever hopes and confidence they may have, that their way shall carry them through, yet in end they will be found to inherit lies, Jer. xvi.19; and meet with the saddest disappointment that can be. For instead of the fellowship of God, Christ, angels, and glorified spirits, they shall take up their lodging with devils and damned souls; and that because they have made no acquaintance with the way of truth; and the way wherein they are, is but a lie and a falsehood; and so of necessity must deceive them.
4. All their literal and speculative knowledge shall not avail them, so long as they are strangers unto him who is the truth. Their knowledge is but ignorance, because it is not a knowledge of him who is the truth.
5. They have none to go to for help and light in the day of their darkness, confusion, and perplexity; for they are not reconciled unto the truth, which alone can prove steadable and comfortable in that day.
6. They can do nothing to help themselves out of that state of darkness and ignorance; and whatever they do to help themselves shall but increase their darkness and misery; because there is no truth there, and truth, even the truth alone, can dispel these clouds of error, mistakes, ignorance, &c.
Secondly. Hence, we see the happy and blessed condition of believers, who have embraced this truth, and gotten their souls opened to him who is the truth; for,
1. They are in part delivered from that mass of lies, mistakes, misapprehensions, errors, deceitfulness and ignorance under which they lay formerly, and all the unregenerate do yet lie. And though they be not fully delivered therefrom, yet the day is coming when that shall be, and the begun work of grace and truth in them is a pledge thereof; and at present they have ground to believe, that that evil shall not again have dominion over them, they being now under grace, and under the guidance of truth.
2. Howbeit they have many perplexing thoughts, doubts and fears of their state and condition, and think many a time, that they shall one day or other perish by the way; and all their hopes and confidence shall evanish; yet having given up themselves to truth, and to the truth, they shall not be disappointed in the end. The truth shall land them safe on the other side. The truth shall prove no lie.
3. They have a fast and steadable friend to go to, in a day of darkness, clouds, doubts, when falsehood and lies are like to prevail, even the Truth, who alone can help them in that day.
4. Howbeit the knowledge they have of God, and of the mysteries of the gospel, be but small; yet that small measure being taught by him, who is the truth, and flowing from truth, shall prove sanctifying and saving.
9. They have ground to hope for more freedom from errors and deceitful lies, than others; for they have chosen the way of truth, and given themselves up to the leading of truth.
Object. But do not even such drink in and receive and plead for errors, as well as others; and is it not sometime found, that they even live and die in some mistakes and errors?
Answ. I grant the Lord may suffer even some of his own to fall into, and to continue for some time in errors, yea, and it may be all their days, as to some errors, that hereby, all may learn to tremble and fear, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (2.) Some may be tried thereby, Dan. xi.35. (3.) Others may break their neck thereupon. (4.) To punish themselves, for not making that use of truth, and of the truth, that they should have done; yet we would consider these few things:
1. That there are many more unregenerate persons that fall into error.
2. If his people fall into error at any time, they do not always continue therein to the end. God for his own glory maketh, sometime or other, truth shine in upon their soul, which discovereth that mistake, and presently, the grace of God in their soul maketh them to abhor the same.
3. Or if some continue in it to their dying day, yet they repent of it, by an implicit repentance, as they do of other unknown and unseen evils that lie in their soul; so that that error doth not destroy their soul.
4. There are some gross errors, which a regenerate soul cannot readily embrace, or if, through a mistake, or the power of a temptation, they do embrace them, yet they cannot heartily close with them, whatever for a time, through corruption and pride, they may seem outwardly to do; and that because the very daily exercise of grace will discover them; and so they will be found to be against their daily experience; as some opinions of the Papists, Arminians, and Socinians, together with the abominable Quakers, which a gracious soul, when not carried away with the torrent of corruption, and with the tempest of a temptation, cannot but observe to contradict the daily workings of grace in their soul, and the motions of their sanctified soul, in prayer and other holy duties; and so such as they cannot but find to be false by their own experience.
Thirdly. Here is ground of a sharp reproof of the wicked, who continue in unbelief; and,
1. Will not believe, nor give any credit to his promises; wherewith he seeketh to allure poor souls to come to him for life.
2. Nor will they believe his threatenings, wherewith he useth to alarm souls, and to urge them forward to their duty.
3. Nor will they believe and receive his offers, as true.
5. Nor will they believe, that he is the true prophet, priest, and king, that must save souls from hell and death, and therefore they will not give him employment in his offices.
All which cannot but be a high provocation, for in effect it is to say that he is not the truth, nor worthy to be believed. Let them consider this, and see how they think he shall take this off their hands. No man will take it well that another should either call or account him a liar; and can they think that Christ shall take it well at their hands, to be accounted by them a liar? What will they think to be challenged for this in the great day? Now, the truth is, all unbelievers, as they make God a liar, (O horrid and abominable crime! Whose hair would not stand on end to hear this?) 1 John v.10, 11. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son." So do they make the Son of God a liar, in all his sayings, in all his offices, and in all his works; and they make the Holy Ghost a liar, in not believing that truth that he hath sealed as firm truth. They make the covenant of suretiship betwixt the Father and the Son, a mere lie and a forgery. O dreadful! They make the word of truth a lie, and they make all the saints liars, and all the officers of Jesus Christ, who declare this truth, and the saints who believe it, and rest upon it, liars.
Fourthly. Hence is there ground of reproof to the godly, in that,
1. They do not firmly enough believe his sayings, neither his promises, nor his threatenings, as appeareth too oft upon the one hand, by their faintings and fears, and upon the other hand, by their carelessness and loose walk.
2. They make not use of him, in all cases as they ought. His offices lie by and are not improved; nor is he gone to as the truth, in cases requiring his help, as the truth; that is, in cases of darkness, doubtings, confusion, ignorance of their case and condition, and the like.
3. They do not approach to him, nor to God through him, heartily and cordially, as the very truth, and true way.
4. Nor do they rest with confidence upon him in all difficulties, as being the truth that will not fail them, nor disappoint them.
5. Nor do they rejoice in him, as satisfied with him, who is the truth, in the want of all other things.
Fifthly. The right consideration of this truth should keep us in mind of several great duties; such as those,
1. Of pitying those places where this truth is not heard of, as among Turks and heathens; or where it is darkened with superstition and men's inventions, as among papists; or where it hath been clearly shining, but now is darkened, as in some churches now under the prevailing power of corruption; or, lastly, where it is not received in its power and lustre, as, alas! it is too little received in the best and purest churches.
2. Of being thankful to him for making this truth known in the world, and particularly in the place where we were born, or had our abode; and yet more for that he hath determined our hearts to a believing of this truth, in some weak measure; to an embracing of it, and to a giving of ourselves up to be led, ruled, and guided thereby.
3. Of esteeming highly of every piece of truth for his sake who is the truth; studying it for his sake -- loving it for his sake -- holding it fast for his sake -- witnessing to it, as we are called, for his sake. We should buy the truth, and not sell it, Prov. xxiii.23; and we should plead for it, and be valiant for it, Isa. lix.4, 14. Jer. vii.28; ix.3.
4. Of taking part with him and his cause, in all hazards, for truth is always on his side; and truth shall prevail at length.
5. Of giving him employment in our doubts and difficulties, whether,
(1.) They be about some controverted points of truth, which come to be debated, or to trouble the church. Or,
(2.) About our own estate and condition, quarrelled at by Satan, or questioned by the false heart. Or,
(3.) About our carriage in our daily walk. In all these, and the like, we should be employing truth, that we may be led in truth, and taught by truth, to walk in sure paths.
6. Of carrying in all things before him as true; for he is truth, and the truth, and so cannot be deceived; and therefore we should walk before him in sincerity and singleness of heart, without guile, hypocrisy, or falsehood, that we may look like children of the truth; and of the day, and of light, and children that will not lie or dissemble, Isaiah lxiii.8; not like these that lied unto him, Psalm lxxviii.38. Isaiah lix.13.
7. Of taking him only for our guide to heaven, by denying our own wit, skill, and understanding, and looking to and resting upon him, who alone is the truth, and so acknowledging him in all our ways, depending on him for light and counsel, for singleness of heart, humility, diligence, and truth, in the inward parts.
8. Of giving up ourselves daily unto him and his guidance, and denying our own wills, humours, parties, or opinions; for he alone is truth, and can only guide us aright. And for this cause, we would acquaint ourselves well with the word, which is our rule, and seek after the Spirit, whom Christ hath promised to lead us into all truth.
Sixthly. Should not this be a strong inducement to all of us, to lay hold on and grip to him, who is the truth, and only the truth? seeing,
1. All other ways which we can take, will prove a lie to us in the end.
2. He is substance, and no shadow, and all that love him shall inherit substance; for he will fill all their treasures, Prov. viii.21.
3. Such as embrace him shall not wander, nor be misled; for his "mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to his lips," Prov. viii.7. "All the words of his mouth are in righteousness, and there is nothing froward or perverse in them," verse 8. "He is wisdom, and dwelleth with prudence, and findeth out knowledge of witty inventions," verse 12. "Counsel is his, and sound wisdom; he hath understanding and strength," ver.14.
4. He will make good all his promises in due time, and give a subsistence and a being to them all; for he is the Truth, and the Truth must stand to his promises, and fulfil them all.
5. He will never, nay, "never leave his people, nor forsake them," Heb. xiii.5. He is truth, and cannot deceive; he cannot forsake nor disappoint. He is a spring of water, whose waters fail not, Isaiah lviii.11. Therefore they cannot be disappointed in the end, and perish, who trust to him.
6. The truth will make them free, John viii.32, 36, and so deliver them from their state of sin and misery, wherein they lay as captives; and from that spiritual bondage and slavery under which they were held.
Seventhly. This, to believers, may be a spring of consolation in many cases, as,
1. When error and wickedness seem to prosper and prevail; for though it prevail for a time, yet truth will be victorious at length, and the truth will overcome all. He is truth, and will plead for truth.
2. When friends, acquaintances, relations, fail them, and father and mother forsake them, truth will take them up. He who is the truth will answer his name, and never deceive, never forsake.
3. When riches, honours, pleasures, or what else their heart hath being going out after, prove like summer brooks; for the truth will be the same to them in all generations; there is no shadow of turning with him. The Truth is always truth, and true.
4. When we fear that either ourselves or others shall fall away, in a day of trial, and turn from the truth. Though all men prove liars and deceivers, truth will abide the same, and stand out all the blasts of opposition.
5. When unbelief would make us question the truth of the promises, the faith of his being truth itself, and the truth, even truth in the abstract, would shame unbelief out of countenance. Shall truth fail? Shall not the Truth be true? What a contradiction were that?
6. When we know not how to answer the objections of Satan, and of a false treacherous heart; for truth can easily answer all cavils; and he who is the truth can repel all objections against truth. Truth is impregnable, and can stand against all.
7. When we cannot know, nor discover the wiles and subtilty of Satan. Truth can discover the depths of Satan, and make the poor soul more acquaint with them; so that they shall not any more be ignorant of his devices, who look to him.
8. When the thoughts of the deceitfulness of our hearts trouble us, the depth whereof we cannot search. This then may comfort us, that truth may search the heart and the reins, Jer. xvii.9, 10.
9. When we cannot tell what our disease and distemper is, and so cannot seek suitable remedies, or help from God, O what a comfort is it, to know and believe, that he is the truth, with whom we have to do, and so knoweth our distemper perfectly, and all its causes and symptoms, -- truth cannot be at a stand in discerning our disease; so nor can he be ignorant of the fittest and only safest cures.
10. When we know not what to ask in prayer, as not knowing what is best for us, it is a comfort to remember that we have to do with the Truth, who is perfectly acquainted with all that, and knoweth what is best.
11. When we know not how to answer the calumnies of adversaries, it is comfortable to know that he is the truth, that will hear truth, when men will not, and will own and stand for the truth, when enemies do what they can to darken an honest man's good cause. It is comfortable to know, we have the Truth to appeal to, as David had, Psalm vii.17.
12. When we think on our own covenant-breaking, and dealing deceitfully with God, it is comfortable to remember, that though we and all men be liars, and deal deceitfully with him, yet he is the truth, and will keep covenant for ever; he will not, he cannot deny himself, 2 Tim. ii.13.
Eighthly, Hence we may certainly conclude, that truth, which is Christ's cause, shall at length prevail; for he is truth, yea, the truth, and so abideth truth; therefore must he prevail, and all the mouths of liars must be stopped. So then let us remain persuaded, that truth at length shall be victorious, and that the cause of Christ shall have the victory. Though,
1. The enemies of truth, and the cause of Christ, be multiplied, and many there be that rise up against it.
2. These enemies should prosper, and that for along time, and carry on their course of error and wickedness with a high hand.
3. There should be few found to befriend truth, and to own it in an evil day.
4. Yea, many of those that did sometime own it, and plead for it, should at length turn their backs upon it, as did Demas.
5. And such as continue constant and faithful, be loaded with reproaches, and pressed under with sore persecution, for adhering to truth, and owning constantly the good cause.
6. Yea, though all things in providence should seem to say, that truth shall not rise again, but seem, on the contrary, to conspire against the same.
Ninthly, May we not hence read, what should be our way and course, in a time when a spirit of error is gone abroad, and many are carried off their feet therewith, or when we are doubtful what to do, and what side of the dispute to take. O then is the fit time for us to employ truth, to live near to him who is the truth, to wait on him, and hang upon him, with singleness of heart.
Objection. But many even of his own people do err and step aside. Ans. That is true: But yet, (1.) That will be no excuse to thee. Nay,(2.) That should make thee fear and tremble more. (3.) And it should press thee to lie near to Christ, and to wrestle more earnestly with him, for the Spirit of light and of truth, and to depend more constantly and faithfully upon him, with singleness of heart, and to give up all thy soul and way to him, as the God of truth, and as the truth, that thou mayest be led into all truth.
Tenthly, This should stir us up to go to him, and make use of him as the truth in all cases, wherein we may stand in need of truth's hand to help us; and for this cause we should mind those particulars:
1. We should live in the constant conviction of our ignorance, blindness, hypocrisy, readiness to mistake and err. This is clear and manifest, and proved to be truth by daily experience; yet how little is it believed, that it is so with us? Do we see and believe the atheism of our hearts? Do we see and believe the hypocrisy of our hearts? Are we jealous of them, as we ought to be? O that it were so! Let this then be more minded by us.
2. Let us live in the persuasion of this, that he only, and nothing below him, will be able to clear our doubts, dispel our clouds, clear up our mistakes, send us light, and manifest truth unto us; not our own study, pains, prayers, duties, learning, understanding; nor ministers, nor professors, and experienced Christians, and the like.
3. We should be daily giving up ourselves to him, as the truth, in all the forementioned respects, and receiving him into our souls as such, that we may dwell and abide there: then shall the truth make us free; and if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed, John viii.36.
4. There should be much single dependence on him for light, instruction, direction, and guidance in all our exigencies.
5. Withal, there should be a waiting on him with patience, giving him liberty to take his own way and time, and a leaving of him thereunto.
6. We should by all means guard against such things as are hinderances, and will prove obstacles to us in this matter; such as,
(1.) Prejudices against the truth; for then we will undervalue light, and reject all the directions and instructions of the Spirit, as not agreeing with our prejudicate opinion.
(2.) A wilful turning away from truth, as these, 2 Tim. iv.4. Titus i.14.
(3.) Addictedness to our own judgments and opinions, which causeth pertinaciousness, pride, and conceit, as thinking ourselves so wise, as that we need no information; and this occasioneth a self-confidence.
(4.) Looking too much unto, and hanging too much upon men, who are but instruments, crying them up as infallible, and receiving, without further examination, all that they say, not like the Bereans, Acts xvii. This is a great hinderance to the receiving of truth, and very prejudicial.
(5.) A neglecting of the use of the means which God hath appointed for this end.
(6.) Or an hanging too much on them, and so misplacing them, giving them his room.
(7.) Leaning too much to our own understanding, wit and knowledge, &c.
(8.) A resisting of the truth, 2 Tim. iii.8. These and the like hinderances should be guarded against, lest they mar our attaining to the knowledge of truth.
7. There should be much of the exercise of prayer, for this is the main conduit and mean, through which light is conveyed into the soul. There should also be a serious and Christian reading and hearing of the word, which is truth, and the word of truth, and the Scripture of truth; and those duties should be gone about with, (1.) much self-denial; (2.) with much singleness of heart; (3.) with much humility; (4.) with much willingness and readiness to be instructed; (5.) with much seriousness and earnestness; and, (6.) with faith and dependence on God for his blessing and breathing.
8. We should beware of trusting to our own understandings, or to the judgments of other men; nor should we look to what suiteth most our own humours, nor to what appeareth most specious and plausible, for that may deceive us.
9. We should lie open to the influences and rays of light, by exercising faith in earnest desires; as also patient waiting for and single looking to him, minding his name and his relations, promises, and engagements, and the strengthening of our faith and confidence.
10. We should labour to keep fast whatever he teacheth us by his word and Spirit, and not prove leaking vessels. This the apostle exhorteth to, Heb. ii.1, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip;" yea, and we should be established "in the truth," 2 Pet. i.12.
11. We should beware of resting on a form of the truth, as those did, of whom we read, Rom. ii.20; and of holding the truth in unrighteousness, as those, Rom. i.18; and of disobeying it, as those mentioned in Rom. ii.8. See also Gal. iii.1; v.7.
12. But on the contrary, we should so receive truth, as that it might rule and be master in us, captivate judgment, will, and affections, and break out into the practice. And this recommendeth several duties, such as,
(1.) To have the truth in us; while as, if we practise otherwise, "the truth is not in us," 1 John i.8; ii.4.
(2.) To be of the truth, as belonging to its jurisdiction, power, and command, 1 John iii.19. John xviii.37.
(3.) To do the truth, by having true fellowship with him, 1 John i.6; and "to walk in the truth," 2 John iv.3. John iv. Psalm lxxxvi.11.
(4.) To have the loins girt with truth, Eph. i.14.
(5.) To receive the love of the truth, 2 Thess. ii.10.
(6.) To be instructed of him, "as the truth is in Jesus," Eph. iv.21.
(7.) To purify the soul in obeying the truth, 1 Pet. ii.22.
This shall suffice for clearing up, and applying in the general this excellent truth, that Christ is the truth. We shall now come and make some more particular use of this precious point, by speaking to some particular cases (which we shall instance in, by which the understanding Christian may be helped to understand how to carry and how to make use of Christ in other the like cases), wherein Christ is to be made use of as the truth, and show how believers are to make use of him in these cases as the truth.