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§ 14. The Truth of God.

Truth, is a word of frequent occurrence and of wide signification in the Bible. The primary meaning of the Greek word ἀλήθεια (from and λήθω) is openness; what is not concealed. But in the Hebrew, and therefore in the Bible, the primary idea of truth is, that which sustains, which does not fail, or disappoint our expectations. The true, therefore, is, (1.) That which is real as opposed to that which is fictitious or imaginary. Jehovah is 437the true God, because He is really God, while the gods of the heathen are vanity and nothing, mere imaginary beings, having neither existence nor attributes. (2.) The true is that which completely comes up to its idea, or to what it purports to be. A true man is a man in whom the idea of manhood is fully realized. The true God is He in whom is found all that Godhead imports. (3.) The true is that in which the reality exactly corresponds to the manifestation. God is true, because He really is what He declares himself to be; because He is what He commands us to believe Him to be; and because all his declarations correspond to what really is. (4.) The true is that which can be depended upon, which does not fail, or change, or disappoint. In this sense also God is true as He is immutable and faithful. His promise cannot fail; his word never disappoints. His word abideth forever. When our Lord says, “Thy word is truth,” He says that all that God has revealed may be confided in as exactly corresponding to what really is, or is to be. His word can never fail, though heaven and earth pass away.

The truth of God, therefore, is the foundation of all religion. It is the ground of our assurance, that what He has revealed of Himself and of his will, in his works and in the Scriptures, may be relied upon. He certainly is, and wills, and will do, whatever He has thus made known. It is no less the foundation of all knowledge. That our senses do not deceive us; that consciousness is trustworthy in what it teaches; that anything is what it appears to us to be; that our existence is not a delusive dream, has no other foundation than the truth of God. In this sense, all knowledge is founded on faith, i.e., the belief that God is true.

The theologians are accustomed to say: (1.) “Veritas Dei in essentia, est convenientia omnium eorum, quæ ad naturam perfectissimi pertinent eamque totam constituunt; qua ratione Deus verus opponitur fictis et commentitiis.” (Jer. x. 8, 10, 11; John v. 20, 21.) (2.) “Veritas Dei in intellectu, est convenientia cogitationum cum objecto.” . . . . (Job xi. 7; Acts xv. 18.) (3.) “Veritas Dei in voluntate est convenientia decreti ac propositi efficacis cujusque cum rationibus in intellectu probe cognitis et judicatis.” (Rom. xi. 33.) (4.) “Veritas Dei in factis, est convenientia actionum cum proposito.” (Ps. xxv. 10) (5.) “Veritas Dei in dictis, quæ singulatim vocari solet veracitas, est convenientia verborum omnium cum recta cogitatione animique sententia, et efficaci voluntatis proposito.” (Num. xxiii. 19; 1 Sam. xv. 29; Tit. i. 2; Heb. vi. 18.) “Hæc cernitur (a). in doctrinis (Is. xvii. 17); 438(b), in prædictionibus, promissionibus, ut et comminationibus. (Num. xxiii. 19.)467467Hollaz, Examen Theologicum, edit. Leipzig, 1763, pp. 243, 244.

To the same effect the Reformed theologian Endemann, says, “Veracitas Deo duplici sensu recte adscribitur, (1.) Quatenus nunquam errat, quia est omniscius, nunquam errorem aliis significat, quia id repugnat bonitati ejus. . . . . (2.) Quatenus Deus ea actu sentit, quæ verbis vel factis entibus intelligentibus significat. Deus actionibus et sermonibus suis eum intendit finem, ut sibi homines credant, confidant, etc., quem finem everteret si semel a veritate discederet. Scriptura docet idem scil. quod Deus . . . . [est] verax, immunis ab omni errore et mendacio. . . . . Fidelis est Deus, quatenus ingenue aliquid promittit; atque promissum certissimo complet. . . . . Severitatem Deo tribuimus quatenus comminationes suas implet.468468Compendium Theologicum, I. § 33; edit. Hanoviæ, 1777, pp. 97, 99.

The philosophical theologians virtually deny that there is any such attribute in God as truth. They say that what is intended by that term is only the uniformity of law. The efficiency of God is always exercised in such a way that we may confide in the regular sequence of events. In this respect it may be said that God is true. Bruch469469Eigenschaften, p. 250. admits “That this idea arises necessarily out of our religious consciousness, inasmuch as we embrace with full confidence what we regard as a divine revelation, and are persuaded that God in due time will fulfil whatever He has purposed, promised, or threatened. This confidence is in the strongest terms often expressed in the sacred writings, and is the source of the firm faith by which the Christian receives the revelation made in Christ; and of the unshaken confidence with which he anticipates the fulfillment of the divine promises.” Nevertheless, although this idea of the truth of God has its foundation in our own nature, and is so clearly recognized in Scripture, and although it enters so deeply into the religious experience and hopes of the believer, it is a delusion. There is no such attribute in God. It is unphilosophical, and therefore impossible that there should be the distinction, which must then be assumed, between purpose and act in the divine mind. The ascription of truth or veracity to God rests, says Bruch, “on the assumption of a distinction in Him between thought and its manifestation, between his promises and threatenings, and their accomplishment, which not only destroys the unity of the divine essence, but reduces Him to the limitations and changes of time. 439. . . . As the ascription of veracity to God arises out of what we observe in ourselves, it bears the impress of anthropomorphism, and has no claim to scientific recognition.”470470Eigenschaften, p. 250. He further objects to the ascription of truth to God, in the ordinary sense of that term, because God works uniformly according to law, and therefore. “properly speaking, there can be no such thing as promises or threatenings with him.”471471Ibid. p. 252. The idea is, that as God has established certain physical laws, and if men comply with them they are well, if they violate them, they suffer for it; so there are laws which determine the well-being of rational creatures: if we observe those laws, we are happy; if we disregard them, we are miserable. God has nothing to do with it, except as He established those laws and carries them out. The philosophical idea, therefore, of the truth of God, is the immutability of law, physical and moral. This view is still more definitely presented by Schweizer.472472Glaubenslehre, vol. i. p. 443. God from the beginning to the end of the world is one and the same causality; this, in reference to the moral world, is his truth, veracitas, fidelitas, in so far as the later revelations, or manifestations of this causality, correspond to what the earlier manifestations would lead us to expect. God, according to this view, is not so much a person, as a name for the moral order of the universe. There is, of course, some truth in this mode of representation. The laws of God, by which He governs his creatures, rational and irrational, are uniform. It is true that a man reaps what he sows; that he receives here and hereafter the natural consequences of his conduct. If he sows to the flesh, he reaps corruption; if he sows to the spirit, he reaps life everlasting. But these laws are administered by a personal God, who, as He controls physical laws so as to produce plenty or famine, health or pestilence, as to Him seems fit, so also He controls all the laws which determine the well-being of the souls of men, so as to accomplish his designs and to secure the fulfilment of his promises and threatenings. The laws of a well-ordered human government are uniform and impartial, but that is not inconsistent with their human administration.

It is a great mercy that, at least in some cases, those whose philosophy forbids their believing in the personality of God, believe in the personality of Christ, whom they regard as a man invested with all the attributes of the Godhead, and whom they love and worship accordingly.

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