For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.…
It is observable, in the first place, that there are several places in the New Testament in which the truth is spoken of in ways not very much unlike to this; places, that is, in which it is spoken of, variously indeed, but in each of them as something real and solid, — not a mere object of apprehension by the intellectual powers of a man — not something external, merely viewed, seen, recognized, but something internal, something to be, and something to do — something full of blessing, a precious possession, a gift, an inward treasure (see John 8:31-36; John 14:5, 6; John 17:17; John 18:37; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 5:6). Now it is plain that these statements of Holy Scripture — and there are a great many more like them, particularly in the inspired writings of St. John — make the truth (the Divine truth) to be something very sacred and very deep. Whatever it be in itself — and this is too hard and difficult a question for us to enter upon — it is plain that when possessed by a man, it is full of precious blessing to him. Possessed by a man, and possessing him, he is not what he was before. The truth has made him free who was a slave. The truth has made him who had no ears able to hear the words of Christ; the truth has sanctified him; the truth has made him God's son. What relation then (it may be asked), does doctrine bear to the truth? for it is plain that it is not the same thing. If the truth be thus something mysterious and real, which, coming forth of God, and being Divine, taketh, possesseth, occupieth a man, what relation does it bear to doctrine, Divine doctrine, the true revealed declarations of God, His nature and His will, which He has been pleased to give us? for these are often called truths, or the truth, though plainly not in the high and mysterious sense of the truth which we have been considering. I suppose that it is quite beyond our power to answer exactly. It is only clear that they are very nearly and closely connected. It is certain that the truth cannot possess a man and bless him with all the great blessings which belong to it, unless doctrine be duly known, and received, and believed. Doctrine is, as it were, truth projected on some medium which the mind can see; a shadow of the invisible and blessed truth cast, as it were, upon a cloud; and this the mind must see, and know, and own, and believe, or else, such is the order of God's will, a man cannot have the freedom indeed, the sonship, the sanctification, the open ears, the various great and precious blessings of the indwelling truth. Learn then from hence the sacred value of doctrine; its sacred, deep, unfathomable preciousness. If then we undervalue doctrine, who shall insure us against losing the truth? If we tamper with it, or lose our hold of it, who shall insure us of our freedom and sanctification, which we should derive from the indwelling truth? If we should allow others to seduce us from our simple, earnest, obedient subjection to it, who shall assure us that they have not robbed us of our precious estate of being in the truth? Thus far then we have regarded the truth as it is a real and precious thing, possessing which we are in an estate or condition of high blessing — the estate of being Christians; our text rather leads us to regard it in a further view, as being something practical, something to be done. Being in the truth (that is, our estate, or condition), we must do truth (that is, our duty). "If we keep not His commandments, the truth is not in us." "If we say that we have no sin, the truth is not in us." "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we do not the truth." The truth then, in which we are, is to be done; and keeping of the commandments of God, and walking in the light, and acknowledging our own sins, are doing the truth. Truth, then, means holiness. Being in the truth, we must do the truth; and we must do it, as the truth is in Jesus. And so our law of holiness is a law of holy truth. It is a straight and direct law: "O that my ways were made so direct that I might keep Thy statutes." It admits not of deflection, or voluntary imperfection. As doctrine is the intellectual phase, if I may so speak, of essential Divine truth, so is obedience its practical one. To deviate into heresy, or to deviate into sin, are alike to depart from the influence of that sacred, central truth, in which we are sons, in which we are free, and in which we are holy. It is plain (as soon as we regard the law of God in this light, in which the Holy Scriptures so often present it to us) that the law of truth must needs be a very holy and righteous law. It is also plain that it is far higher, and holier, and more searching than it is often thought. How it cuts like a sword through all the easy living, the self-indulgence, and lazy half-service which characterize these later ages of the Church! If there be a truth of holy thoughts, surely there is much unlicensed and random thinking — much letting loose of the imagination on things trifling, and enervating, and unprofitable, which must partake in a great and serious degree of the nature of falsehood. If there be a sacred truth of holy words, there must be much idle and frivolous, and satirical, and bold talking, which must be very far below that high standard of truth, and so be really false. Above all, if there be a real sacred truth of duty and holy living, there must be a vast deal of practical and dangerous falsehood, in the waste of time, the imperfectness of service, the very easy and self-complacent way of life of very many baptized Christians. Indeed, we may readily see, that the ordinary rule of living, as we may judge of it from seeing how men live, is quite of another kind from the rule of truth. As long as they refrain from clear and notorious sins, and discharge certain clear and undoubted duties, men think themselves more or less at liberty to live in the rest of their behaviour as they like best. There are, as it were, certain buoys marking out particular shoals of sin, and these they must take care to steer clear of; but meanwhile, they have a free choice of navigating in a wide and easy channel, following their own fancy, and doing as much or as little therein as they please. And meanwhile, while practical truth is thus widely neglected among us, there is nothing which is more earnestly insisted upon as a virtue of the first necessity to the existence and well-being of society than veracity, or worded truth. Truth in words is held to be a virtue of such magnitude and necessity, that a clear breach of it ruins the character of a man amongst men more than almost any sin, however gross, which ordinary society knows. Worded truth, or veracity, precious as it is, is but as the outside, as the husk, of a more precious reality inside. Worded truth is the outside, and acted truth is the inner kernel. Oh, believe me, the essence of falsehood is deeper, deeper far than words! Believe me, it is a hollow philosophy which magnifies veracity, and lets the daily habits loose in self-indulgence and neglect: a miserable worldly code which exacts truth of words under the severest penalties, and makes it innocent and even honourable to depart, ever so far, from truth in deeds I No; the essence of truth is in duty, in heart-whole devotion of duty to the sacred law of God's truth.
Parallel VersesKJV: For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.