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I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.—Ver. 30.
DAVID asserts his sincerity here in two things:—
1. In the Tightness of his choice, I have chosen the way of thy truth.
2. In the accurateness of his prosecution, thy judgments have I laid before me.
First, For his choice, ‘I have chosen the way of thy truth.’ God having granted him his law, he did reject all false ways of religion, and continued in the profession of the truth of God, and the strict observance thereof. There are many controversies and doubtful thoughts among the sons of men about religion, all being varnished with specious pretences, so that a man knows not which way to choose, till by the Spirit he be enabled to take the direction of the word; that resolveth all his scruples, and makes him sit down in the way which God hath pointed for him. Thus David, as an effect of God’s grace, avoucheth his own choosing the way of truth.
By the way of truth is meant true religion; as 2 Peter ii. 2, ‘By whom the way of truth is evil spoken of.’ It is elsewhere called ‘the 289good way wherein we should walk,’ 1 Kings viii. 36; and ‘the way of God,’ Ps. xxvii. 11; and ‘the way of understanding,’ Prov. ix. 6; and ‘the way of holiness,’ Isa. xxxv. 8; and ‘the way of righteousness,’ 2 Peter ii. 21, ‘Better they had not known the way of righteousness,’ that is, never to have known the gospel, which is called the way of righteousness. It is called also ‘the way of life,’ Prov. vi. 23, ‘And reproofs of instruction are the way of life;’ and ‘the way of salvation,’ as Acts xvi. 17, the Pythoness gave this testimony to the apostles, ‘These are the servants of God, which show unto us the way of salvation.’ Now all these expressions have their use and significancy; for the way of truth, or the true way to happiness, is a good way, showed us by God, who can only discover it; and therefore called ‘the way of the Lord,’ or ‘the way of God,’ in the place before quoted; and Acts xxviii. 25, 26, it is manifested by God, and leadeth us to God. The Christian doctrine was that way of truth revealed by him who is prima veritas, the first truth. The ways wherein God cometh to us are his mercy and truth; and the way wherein we come to God is the way of true religion prescribed by him; it is the way of understanding, because it maketh us wise as to the great affairs of our souls, and unto the end of our lives and beings; and the way of holiness and righteousness, as directing us in all duties to God and man; and the way of life and salvation, because it brings us to everlasting happiness. This way David chose by the direction of God’s word and Spirit.
Secondly, There follows the evidence of his sincerity, the accurate prosecution of his choice, ‘Thy judgments have I laid before me.’ The Septuagint reads it, ‘I have not forgotten thy judgments.’ By judgments is meant God’s word, according to the sentence of which every man shall receive his doom. He that walketh in a way condemned by the word shall not prosper; for God’s word is judgment, and execution shall surely follow; and by this word David got his direction how to choose this way of truth, and this he laid before him as his line. His desire was to follow what was right and true, not only as to his general course and way of profession, but in all his actions; and so it noteth his fixed purpose to live according to this blessed rule which God hath given him. To have a holy rule and an unholy life is unconsonant, inconsistent. A Christian should be a lively transcript of that religion he doth profess. If the way be a way of truth, he must always set it before him, and walk exactly.
The points are two:—
1. That there being many crooked paths in the world, it concerns us to choose the way of truth.
2. That when we have chosen the way of truth, or taken up the profession of the true religion, the rules and institutions of it should ever be before us.
There are two great faults of men—one in point of choice, the other in point of pursuit. Either they do not choose right, or they do not live up to the rules of their profession. Both are prevented by these points.
Doct. 1. That there being many crooked paths in the world, it concerns us to choose the way of truth.
I shall give you the sense of it in these eight propositions or considerations.290
Prop. 1. The Lord in his holy providence hath so permitted it that there ever have been, and are, and, for aught we can see, will be, controversies about the way of truth and right worship. There was such a disease introduced into the world by the fall, that most of the remedies which men choose do but show the strength and malignity of the disease. They choose out false ways of corning to God and returning to him: Micah iv. 5, ‘All people will walk every one in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever,’ Mark, there is his God, and our God, and then all people, noting their common agreement in error; all people will, every man, noting their diversity as to the particular false way of religion and worship which they take up to themselves. When they turn their back upon the true God, and the knowledge of him, then they are endless in seeking out false gods: Jonah i. 5, ‘They cried every man to his god.’ Among pagans, even in one ship, there were many false gods worshipped.
The controversy about religion mainly lay at first between the Jews and the pagans. The pagans had their gods, and the Jews had the Lord God of Israel, the only true God. Yea, among the pagans themselves there was a great diversity—‘every man will walk’—and sometimes a hot contention; and many times there were hot contests, which was the better god, the leek or the garlic. When religion, which restrains our passions, is made the fuel of them, and instead of a judge becomes a party, men give themselves up headlong to all manner of bitter zeal and strife; and persuasion of truth and right, which doth calm men in other differences, are here inflamed by that bitter zeal every one hath for his god, his service and party; and the difference is greater especially between the two dissenting parties that come nearest to one another.
We read afterward, when this difference lay more closely between the Jews and the Samaritans, and Christ decides, that salvation was of the Jews. The Jews were certainly the better party: John iv. 20, ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship’—Mount Sion, or Mount Gerizim, which was the temple of the true God, one or the other? Then we read afterward among the Jews themselves in their private sects, who were very keen against each other, Pharisees and Sadducees; and Paul, though an enemy to them both, and was looked upon as a common adversary, yet they had rather join with him than among themselves, Acts xxiii. 8, 9. Afterward you find the scene of contention lay between the Jews and Christians: Acts xiv. 4, ‘But the multitude of the city was divided; and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.’ There it grew into an open contest and quarrel.
And then between the Christians and the pagans, which was the occasion of that uproar at Ephesus, Acts xix. Ay! and after religion had gotten ground, and the way of truth had prevailed in the world, then the difference lay betwixt Christians themselves; yea, while religion was but getting up, between the followers of the apostles and the school and sect of Simon Magus, those impure libertines and Gnostics who went out of them because they were not of them, 1 John ii. 19. And afterward in the church story we read of the contentions 291between the Catholics and the Arians, the Catholics and the Pelagians, the Catholics and the Donatists, and other sects.
And now, last of all in the dregs of time, between the Protestants and the Papists, that settled party with whom the church of God is now in suit. As the rod of Aaron did devour the rods of the enchanters, so the word of God, which is the rod of his strength, doth and will in time eat up and consume all untruths whatsoever; but for a great while the contests may be very hot and sharp. Yea, among those that profess a reformed Christianity, there are the Lutherans and the Calvinists.
And nearer to us, I will not so much as mention those invidious names and flags of defiance which are set up, under which different parties do encamp at home. Thus there ever have been, and will be, contests about religion and disputes about the way of truth; yea, different opinions in the church, and among Christians themselves, about divine truths revealed in the scripture.
The Lord permits this in his holy and righteous providence, that the godly may be stirred up more to embrace truth upon evidence with more affection, that they may more encourage and strengthen themselves and resolve for God; for when all people will walk every one in the name of his god, ‘we will walk in the name of our God for ever,” Micah iv. 5. And the Lord doth it that he may manifest the sincere, that when Christ calls, Who is on my side? who are willing to stick to him whatever hazards and losses they may incur: 1 Cor. xi. 19, ‘There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.’ Ay! and that there may be a ready plague of strong delusion and lies for them that receive not the truth in the love of it, 2 Thes. ii. 11, 12; for damnable errors are the dungeons in which God holds carnal souls that play the wanton, and trifle with his truth, and never admit the love and power of it to come into their hearts.
Prop. 2. True religion is but one, and all other ways false, noxious, and pestilent: Eph. iv. 5, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ There are many ways in the world, but there is but one good and certain way that leads to salvation. So much the apostle intimates when he saith, ‘He will have all men to be saved.’ How would he have them saved? 1 Tim. ii. 4, ‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;’ which text implies that salvation is by the knowledge of the truth, or knowledge of the true way; others tend to destruction. And so God promiseth, Jer. xxxii. 39, that he will give all the elect ‘one heart and one way.’ Though there be differences even in the church of God about lesser truths, yet there is but one true religion in the essence and substance of it; I mean, as to those truths which are absolutely necessary to salvation. To make many doors to heaven is to set wide open the gates of hell. Many men think that men of all religions shall be saved, provided they be of a good life, and walk according to their light.
In these later times divers unsober questionists are grown weary of the Christian religion, and by an excess of charity would betray their faith; and while they plead for the salvation of Turks and heathens, scarce show themselves good Christians. The Christian religion is not only the most compendious way to true happiness, but it is the 292only way: John xvii. 3, ‘This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ There is the sum of what is necessary to life eternal; that there is one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be known, loved, obeyed, worshipped, and enjoyed; and the Lord Jesus Christ to be owned as our Redeemer and Saviour, to bring us home to God, and to procure for us the gifts of pardon and life; and this life to be begun here by the Spirit, and to be perfected in heaven. This is the sum of all that can be said that is necessary to salvation. Certainly none can be saved without Christ; ‘for there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved but by Jesus Christ,’ Acts iv. 12, and none can be saved by Christ but they that know him and believe in him.
If God hath extraordinary ways to reveal Christ to men, we know not. This is our rule; no adults, no grown persons can be saved but they that know him and believe in him. And now Christ hath been so long owned in the world, and his knowledge so far propagated, why should we dream of any other way of salvation? To us there is but one God and one faith. The good-fellow gods of the heathen could brook company and partnership, but the true God will be alone acknowledged. As the sun drowns the light of all the stars, so God will shine alone. No man can be saved without these two things—without a fixed intention of God as his last end, and a choice of Jesus Christ as the only way and means of attaining thereunto.
These things are set down in scripture as of infallible necessity to salvation; and therefore, though there be several apprehensions and contentions about ways of salvation and righteousness, yet there is but one true religion, and all other ways are false.
Prop. 3. As soon as any begin to be serious, they begin to have a conscience about the finding out this one only true way wherein they may be saved. Alas! before men take up that religion which the chance of their education offers, without examination or any serious reason of their choice, they walk, in the language of the prophet, ‘according to the trade of Israel;’ they live as they are born and bred, and take up truth and error as their faction leads them; or else pass from one religion to another, as a man changeth his room or bed, and make a slight thing of opinions, and float up and down like light chaff, in a various uncertainty, according as their company or the posture of their interest is changed. But a serious and awakened conscience will be careful to lay the groundwork of religion sure; they build for eternity, therefore the foundation needs to be well laid. The woman of Samaria, as soon as she was touched at heart and began to have a conscience, she began also to have doubtful thoughts about her estate and religion. Christ had convinced her of living in adultery, by that means to bring her to God; but now she would fain know the true way of worship: John iv. 20, ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ They that have a sense of eternity upon them will be diligent to know the right way. The same errand brought Nicodemus to Christ: John iii. 2, ‘Master, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.’ He would fain know how he might come to God. So the young nobleman in the gospel: Mat. xix. 16, ‘Good master, what 293good thing shall I do that I might have eternal life?’ Though he disliked the bargain afterwards, yet he cheapens it, and asks what way he must take. For a great while persons have only a memorative knowledge, some apprehension which doth furnish their talk about religion; and after their memory is planted with notions, then they are without judgment and conscience; but when they begin to have a judgment and a conscience, then it is their business to make religion sure, and to be upon stable terms with God.
Prop. 4. When we begin to have a conscience about the true way, we must inquire into the grounds and reasons of it, that we may resolve upon evidence, not take it up because it is commonly believed, but because it is certainly true; not take it up by chance, but by choice; not because we know no other, but because we know no better. It is not enough to stumble upon truth blindly, but we must receive it knowingly, and upon solid conviction of the excellency of it, comparing doctrine with doctrine, and thing with thing, and the weak grounds the adversaries of the truth have to build upon. The precepts of the word are direct and plain for this: 1 Thes. v. 21, ‘Prove all things, hold fast that which is good;’ and 1 John iv. 1, ‘Try the spirits whether they are of God.’ There must be trying and searching, and not taking up our religion merely by the dictates of another. The papists are against this, which argueth a distrust of their own doctrine; they will not come to the waters of jealousy, lest their belly should swell and their thigh rot. They dare not admit people to trial and choice, and give them liberty to search the scriptures; whereas truth is not afraid of contradiction: they first put out the light, then would have men shut their eyes. But what do they allege, since we are bidden to prove all things, and to try the spirits? That these places belong to the doctors of the church, and not to the people. But that exception is frivolous, because the apostolical epistles were directed to the body of the people; and they who are advised to prove all things are such as are charged to respect ‘those that are over them in the Lord,’ ver. 12, and not to ‘despise prophecies,’ ver. 20, and then ‘prove all things,’ ver. 21; and in another place, those that he calls παιδία, ‘little children,’ them he adviseth to try the spirits; all that have a care of their salvation should thus do. Eusebius doth mention it as one of the errors of Apelles, that what he had taught them they should not pry into and examine, but take it and swallow it. And Mahomet forbids his followers to inquire into their religion.
Object. But is every private Christian bound to study controversy, so as to be able to answer all the adversaries of the truth?
I answer—No; it is a special gift, bestowed and required of some that have leisure and abilities, and it is a duty required of ministers and church guides to convince gainsayers and stop their mouths. Ministers must be able to hold fast the truth. The word is, Titus, i. 9, ἀντεχόμενον, ‘holding fast the faithful word;’ it signifies, holding fast a thing which another would wrest from us. We should be good at holding and drawing, to preserve the truth when others would take it out of our hands; otherwise he tells us, Rom. xiv. 1, ‘Him that is weak in faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations.’ Yet every 294true Christian is so far to be settled in the true religion, and study the grounds of it, that he may be fully persuaded in his own mind, Rom. xiv. 5, and may not be like chaff, but may be at a certainty in the way of truth. Surely the business is worthy our serious care. Eternal life and death are not trifles; therefore be not rash in this, but go upon sure evidence.
1. The providence of God doth necessitate us to such a course. Because there are different ways propounded to man, therefore he must follow all, or take up one upon evidence. Not only in point of practice, as life and death is set before us, Deut. xxx. 15, and the broad way and the narrow, Mat. vii. 13, 14; not only to counterwork the rebellions of the flesh, and the way of wisdom and folly, Prov. ix. No; but in matters of opinion and controversy about religion there will meet us several ways, Jer. vi. 16, and all pretending to God.
Therefore what should we do but search, pray, resolve to be thus with God, and take the way God will direct us? As the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, or at the head of the ways, to make divination, Ezek. xxi. 21, so you meet with partings of ways that you need deliberate to make a wise choice; therefore the providence of God doth put you upon trial. Think, there are false teachers; ay, and the most holy and upright men are but in part enlightened, and they may lead you into a crooked path and a byway; they may mislead us; therefore we ought to see with our own eyes.
2. Consider the sad consequence of erring. There are damnable errors and heresies, 2 Peter ii. 1. Vice is not only destructive and damnable to the soul, but error. Now eternal damnation and salvation are no small matters. A man cannot please God in a false belief, how laudable so ever his life be; and they cannot put the fault upon others, that they are misled by them; for ‘if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch;’ not only the blind guide, but the blind follower.
3. If we light upon a good way without search and choice, it is but a happy mistake when we have not sufficient evidence. You may have the advantage ground, by chance may light upon a better way, and it is God’s providence you are born there where it may be so. A Turk hath the same ground for his respect to Mahomet that many have for their owning of Christ; it is that religion he was born and bred in. This will not be counted faith, but simple credulity: ‘The simple believeth every word.’ It is almost as dangerous to love a truth ignorantly as to broach an error knowingly. Temere creditur, &c., saith Tertullian—that is believed in vain which is believed without the grounds whereupon it is propounded. The faith of Christians should not be conjectural or traditional. If a man should not have reasons to sway his choice, he will never be able to check temptations even in practical things. If men have not received religion upon true grounds, and, as Cyprian saith, when they do not look into the reason of these things, and when the Christian religion is represented to them without evidence and certainty, they have but a probable faith, that is always weak against temptation, either against lusts within or errors and seductions without; therefore we had need look to the grounds of these things.295
4. The profit is exceeding great, for truth will have a greater force upon the heart when we see the grounds and reasons of it. We are exposed here in this lower world to great difficulties and temptations. Now, when we do not lay up the supreme truths of religion with certainty and assurance, alas! these temptations will prevail over us and carry us away. Atheism lies at the root; therefore are there such doubtings in the heart in point of comfort, such defects in the life and conversation, because truth was never soundly laid in the soul, it was not chosen. If we were soundly settled in the belief of the unity of the divine essence, and the verity of salvation by Christ, and the divine authority of the scriptures, and the certainty of the promises therein, certainly we would be more firmly engaged to God; comfort would sooner follow us, and we would have better success in the heavenly life. If the fire were well kindled, it would of itself break out into a flame. If we did believe, indeed, that Jesus the Son of God hath done so much for us, and had this firmly settled in our hearts, this would be a real ground of comfort and constancy: 2 Peter iii. 17, ‘Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.’ It is put in opposition to one that stands by the steadfastness of another; he might be carried away by the error of the wicked. No; but he must have somewhat to say to engage his own heart, otherwise he is led thereby with every fond suggestion and simple credulity, and easily abused. But when men have chosen and are well fixed, they are not easily shaken. When men take up religion upon trust, without a satisfying argument, they are like light chaff, carried through the whole compass of the winds; as mariners dispose of several winds which blow in the corners of the world into a circle and compass (the apostle’s word alludes to that), ‘We are carried all round the points of the compass,’ Eph. iv. 14. When the chain of consent is broken, they are in continual danger to be seduced; and the greatest adversaries of truth are able to use such reasons as have in them great probability to captivate the affections of a weak understanding, by their sophistical arguments and insinuating persuasions.
Prop. 5. After this inquiry into the grounds and reasons of the way of truth, then we must resolve and choose it, ‘I have chosen the way of truth,’ as the way wherein we are to walk: Jer. vi. 16, ‘Ask where is the good way, and walk therein, and then ye shall find rest for your souls.’ You must not only so understand and form your opinions aright, not only see what is the good way, but walk therein; keep that way which you find to be the way of truth, renouncing all others. We should not lie under a floating uncertainty or sceptical irresolution, as those that keep themselves in a wary reservation, that are ‘ever learning, but never come to the knowledge of the truth,’ 2 Tim. iii. 7—ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας, the word is, they do not come to ‘the acknowledgment of the truth;’ always examining, but never resolve. You are to 1 prove all things,’ but not in order to unsettlement, but settlement, 1 Thes. v. 21. Consider, inquire, where is God’s presence most? where is the Son like to be glorified, and souls better to be satisfied, and built up in the faith of Jesus Christ? and resolve and stick there.
Prop. 6. That no religion will be found fit to be chosen upon sound 296evidence but the Christian. How shall I be persuaded of this? Why, that religion which God hath revealed, that religion which suits with the ends of a religion, that is, with the inward necessities of mankind, and most commodiously provides for man, that is true religion. Surely the necessities of mankind are to be relieved thereby. The great ends of a religion are God’s glory and our happiness. God is glorified by a return of the obedience of the creature, and man is made happy by the enjoyment of God. All these ends are advanced by this way of truth.
First, That is the only religion which is revealed by God, for certainly so must a religion be if it be true; for that which pleaseth him must be according to his will; and who can know his will but by his own revelation, by some sign whereby God hath discovered it to us? Alas! if men were to sit brooding a religion themselves, what a strange business would they hatch and bring forth! If they were to carve out the worship of God, they might please themselves, but could never please God. Vain men indeed are ready to frame God like themselves, and foolishly imagine what pleaseth them pleaseth him also; they still conceive of God according to their own fancy. And this was the reason why the wisest heathens, having no revelation, no sense of God’s will but what offered itself by the light of nature, they would employ their wits to devise a religion. But what a monstrous chimera and strange fancy did they bring forth!’ Professing themselves wise, they became fools.’ Rom. i. 22. Though they knew there was a great and eternal being by the light of nature, yet the apostle saith they became vain, ἐν τοῖς διαλογισμοῖς, in their imaginations, how this infinite being should be worshipped; therefore what they carved out was not an honour, but a disgrace; they devised gods and goddesses that were patrons of murder, theft, and all manner of filthiness, and brought out Bacchus, the god of riot and good-fellowship, or the patron of boon companions, and Venus, the patroness of love and wantonness. But now God hath showed us his will, ‘He hath showed us what is good, and what he doth require of us,’ Micah vi. 8. Now that the gospel is a revelation from God, appears by the matter, which is so suitable to the nature of God; it hath such an impress of God’s wisdom, goodness, power upon it, that plainly it hath passed God; it is like such an infinite and eternal being as God is, in the worship and duties prescribed; it is far above the wisdom of mere man, though very agreeable to those relics of wisdom which are left in us. So that this is that true religion which surely will please God, because it came from him at first, and could come from no other. And also besides the evidence it carrieth with it, and the impress and stamp of God upon it, we have the word of those that brought this doctrine to us; and if we had nothing else, if they say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ &c., we are bound to believe them, they being persons of a valuable credit, that sought not themselves, but the glory of him that sent them. When the first messengers of it were men of such an unquestionable credit, that had no ends of their own, but ran all the extreme hazards and displeasures, surely it cannot incline us to think they did seek God’s glory by a lie. Yea, they did evidence their mission from God by miracles that God sent them. Surely this doctrine is from heaven. Ay, and still God in his providence shows it from heaven, both in his 297internal government of the world; he blesseth it to the comfort of the conscience or to the terrifying of the conscience, for it works both ways. Wicked men are afraid of the light, lest their deeds should be made manifest, John iii. 20;—and also to the comforting and settling the conscience, that we may have great joy by believing in Christ. This for his internal government. And then his external government, by answering of prayers, fulfilling promises, accomplishing prophecies: Ps. xviii. 30, ‘As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all that trust in him.’ Put God to the trial by a regular confidence in a humble walking, and he will make good his promises; ay, and make good his threatenings. When people are ripe for judgment, God will fulfil the threatenings of his word, and will accomplish what is spoken by the prophets and apostles; and God will reveal his wrath from heaven ‘against all un righteousness of men.’ Rom. i. 18. So that here are plain signs that this is a doctrine revealed from God, and God can best tell us how he is to be worshipped and pleased.
Secondly, Besides God’s revelation, it notably performs all that which a man would expect in a religion, and so suits the necessities of man as well as the honour of God. Why?
1. That is the true religion, which doth most draw off the minds of men from things temporal and earthly to things celestial and eternal, that we may think of them and prosecute them. The sense of another world, an estate to come, is the great foundation upon which all religion is grounded. All its precepts and promises, which are like to gain upon the heart of man, they receive their force from the promise of an unseen glory, and eternal punishments which are provided for the wicked and contemners of the gospel. The whole design of this religion is to take us off from the pleasures of the flesh and the baits of this world, that we may see things to come. It is the excellency of the Christian faith that it reveals the doctrines of eternal life clearly, which all other religions in the world only could guess at. There were some guesses, but still great uncertainty, but obscure thoughts and apprehensions of such an estate. But here ‘life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel,’ 2 Tim. i. 10. Alas! there is a mist upon it in all other representations; they seem to see it, yet see it not. But this is brought to light in the gospel; it makes a free offer of it, upon condition of faith in Christ, John iii. 16. It quickens us to look after it; all its design is to breed in man this noble spirit, by ‘looking upon things that are above, and not upon things on earth,’ Col. iii. 1, 2; and it endeavours, with great power and persuasiveness, that we may make it our scope, that we may neglect all present advantages rather than miss this; and make it our great design that we may ‘look not to the things which are seen, but to the things unseen,’ 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18. This is the way of truth, because we believe it will make the worshippers of it everlastingly happy, which all men by nature have inquired about. Now it is but reason that a man’s work be ended before he receive his wages, and if God will reward the virtuous, that it should be in the other world; for our work is not ended until we die; and we have a presagency of another world: there is another world which the soul of man thinks of. Now this is that 298which Christianity drives at, that we may look after our reward with God, and escape that tribulation, wrath, and anguish, which shall come upon every soul that doeth evil.
2. That doctrine which established purity of heart and life, as the only means to attain this blessedness, certainly that is the way of truth: Ps. xxiv. 3, 4, ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lift up his soul unto vanity.’ There is no true holiness, no subjection of heart to God, but by the Christian doctrine: John xvii. 17, ‘Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.’ Hereby we know the word of God is truth, because it is so powerful to sanctification: Ps. cxix. 140, ‘Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.’ All religious endeavour some kind of excellency; but now the holiness that is recommended in other religions is a mere outside holiness in comparison of what Christianity calls for. We have a strict rule, high, patterns, blessed encouragement; it promiseth a powerful Spirit, even the Spirit of the holy God, to work our heart to this holiness that is required. The aim of that religion is to remedy the disease introduced by the fall. All other religions do but make up a part of the disease, and the gospel is the only remedy and cure; therefore this is the way of truth you should choose.
3. That doctrine which provideth for peace of conscience, and freedom from perplexing fears, which are wont to haunt us by reason of God’s justice and wrath for our former misdeeds, that doctrine hath the true effect of a religion. Man easily apprehends himself as God’s creature; and being God’s creature, he is his subject, bound to obey him; and having exceedingly failed in his obedience (as experience shows), he is much haunted with fears and doubts. Now that is the religion that, in a kindly manner, doth dispossess us of these dreads and fears, and comes in upon the soul to deliver us from our bondage, and those guilty fears which are so natural to us by reason of sin. And therefore in a consultation about religion, if I were to choose, and had not by the grace of God been baptized into the Christian faith, and had the advantage to look abroad and consider, then I would bethink myself, Where shall I find rest for my soul, and from those fears which lie at the bottom of conscience, and are easily stirred in us, and sometimes are very raging? There is a fire smothering within, and many times it is blown up into a flame; where shall I get remedy for these fears? I rather pitch upon this, because the Holy Ghost doth, Jer. vi. 16, &c., as if he had said, If you will know what is the good way, take that way where you may find rest for your souls; not a false rest that is easily disturbed, not a carnal security, but where you may find true solid peace; that when you are most serious, and mind your great errand and business, you may comfort yourselves, and rejoice in the God that made you. In a false way of religion there is no establishment of heart and sound peace: Heb. ix. 9, ‘They could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience.’ That certainly is the true religion which makes the worshipper perfect as to the conscience, which gives him a well-tempered peace in his soul; not a sinful security, but a holy solid peace, that when he hath a great sense of his duty upon him, yet he can comfortably wait upon God. And you 299know our Lord himself useth this very motive to invite men: Mat. xi. 29, ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;’ that is, take the Christian religion, that easy yoke upon you, and you shall find rest for your souls. The Lord Jesus is our peace, and the ground of our peace; but we never find rest until we come under his yoke. Christians, search where you will, there is no serious answer to that grand question, which is the great scruple of the fallen creature, Micah vi. 7, how to appease angry justice. And we are told of those locusts who are seducing spirits, which come out of the bottomless pit, Rev. ix.; they had stings in their tails; their doctrine is not soundly comfortable to the conscience. Among others, this is designed by those locusts, that half Christianity which is taken up by the light-skirted people, which reflect upon privileges only; therefore there are such scruples and intricate debates. But some advantage there is, and some progress they may make in the spiritual life, that cry up them without duties; but they never have found peace upon their souls unless the Lord pardon their mistakes, and doth sanctify their reflections upon those spiritual and unseen privileges, so as to check their opposite desires and inclinations. It is best to be settled in God’s way, by justification and sanctification. There is a wound wherein no plaster will serve for the cure, but the way the gospel doth take. Consider altogether Christ’s renewing and reconciling grace, the whole evangelical truth, this gospel which was founded in the blood of Christ, his new covenant, and sealed with God’s authority, and doth so fitly state duties and privileges, and lead a man by the one to the other. This is that which will appease the Lord. There is no settling of the conscience without it; and therefore, whatever you would expect in a religion, here you find it in that blessed religion which is recommended to us in the gospel or new covenant; there is such holiness and true sense of the other world, which breeds an excellency and choiceness of spirit in men.
Prop. 7. Of all sects and sorts among Christians, the Protestant reformed religion will be found to be the way of truth. Why? Be cause there is the greatest suitableness to the great ends, the greatest agreement and harmony with God’s revelation, which they profess to be their only rule. I say, as to God’s worship, there is most simplicity, without that theatrical pomp which makes the worship of God a dead thing, and so most suitable to a spiritual being, and conducible to spiritual ends, to God who is a Spirit, and who will be worshipped in spirit and truth; for there God is our reward, and to be served by faith, love, obedience, trust, prayers, praises, and a holy administration of the word and seals; more suitable to the genius of the scripture, without the pageantry of numerous idle ceremonies, like flourishes about a great letter, which do rather hide religion than any way discover it; yea, betray it to contempt and scorn to a considering man. Besides, the great design of this religion is to draw men from earth to heaven, by calling them to a serious profession of saving truth. Popery is nothing but Christianity abused, and is a doctrine suited to policy and temporal ends; and it is supported by worldly greatness. Arid then as to holiness, which is the genuine product of a religion, the true genuine holiness is to be found, or should be found according to their 300principles, among Protestants and reformed; not external mortification, but in purging the heart. And here is the true peace of conscience, while men are directed to look to Christ’s reconciling and renewing grace, and not to seek their acceptance in the merit of their own works, and voluntary penance and satisfactions, and many other doctrines which put the conscience upon the rack. And then all this is submitted to be tried by the scriptures, which apparently are acknowledged by them to be the word, without running to unwritten traditions and the authority of men. Again, all this is recommended with the special presence of God as to gifts and graces, blessing these churches continually more and more. Therefore, if ever a man will find rest for his soul, and be soundly quiet within himself, here he must fix and choose, and take up the way of truth. Popery is but heathen ism disguised with a Christian name: their penal satisfactions are like the gashing and lancing of Baal’s priests; their mediators of intercession are like the doctrines of demons among the Gentiles, for they had their middle powers, glorified heroes; their holy water suits with the heathen lustrations; their costly offerings to their images answer to the sacrifices and oblations to appease their gods, which the idolaters would give for the sin of their souls; adoring their relics is like the respects the heathens had to their departed heroes; and as they had their tutelar gods for every city, so these their saints for every city and nation; their St Sebastian for the pestilence, their Apollonia for the toothache, and the like. It is easy to rake in this dirt. It was not for the devil’s interest, when the ensign of the gospel was lifted up, to draw men to downright heathenism; therefore he did more secretly mingle the customs and superstitions of the Gentiles with the food of life, like poison conveyed in perfume, that the souls of men might be more infected, alienated, and drawn from God. Popery doth not only add to the true religion, but destroys it, and is contrary to it. Let any considering man, that is not prejudiced, compare the face of the Roman synagogue with the beauty of the reformed churches, and they will see where Christianity lies. There you will find another sacrifice for expiation of sin than the death of Christ; the communion of the cup, so expressly commanded in the word of God, taken away from the people; reading the scriptures forbidden to laics, as if the word of God were a dangerous book; prayers in an un known language; images set up, and so they are guilty, if not of primitive idolatry (which all the water in the sea cannot wash them clear of), yet certainly of secondary idolatry, which is the setting up an idol in God’s worship contrary to the second commandment, the image of the invisible God represented by stones and pictures; invocation of saints and angels allowed; the doctrine of transubstantiation, contrary to the end of the sacrament; works of supererogation; popes’ pardons; purgatory for faults already committed, as if Christ had not already satisfied; papal infallibility, not only contrary to faith, but sense and reason; their ridiculous mass and ceremonies; and many such human inventions, besides the word and against it. But the Protestants are contented with the simplicity of the scriptures, the word of God, and the true sacraments of Christ. Therefore you see what is the way of truth we should stick to.301
Prop. 8. That in the private differences among the professors of the reformed Protestant religion, a man is to choose the best way, but to hold charity towards dissenters. In the true church, in matters of lesser moment, there may be sundry differences; for until men have the same degree of light, it cannot be expected they should be all of a mind. Babes will think one thing, grown persons will have other apprehensions; sick persons will have their frenzies and doubtings, which the sound cannot like. The apostle’s rule is, Phil. iii. 15, 16, ‘Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you,’ &c. There are two parts of that rule. The perfect must be thus minded; they that are fully instructed in the mind of God, they must practise as they believe. Strings in tune must not be brought down to those that are out of tune. But if others tainted with error do not give a thorough assent to all divine truth, yet let us walk together, saith the apostle, so far as we are agreed. God, that hath begun to enlighten them in other things, will in time discover their mistakes. Thus far the true Christian charity takes place. This should be our rule. Here we are agreed in the Christian reformed religion, and in all the points of it; let us walk together so far, and in lesser differences let us bear with and forbear one another in love. I speak now of Christian toleration; for the magistrate’s toleration and forbearance, how far he is to interpose, that is another case: Eph. iv. 2, ‘With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering forbearing one another in love.’ What is bearing with one another? Not conniving at their sin, or neglecting ways to reclaim them; or forbear our profession when God calls us to it—they are great cases how far profession may be suspended, and how far it may be carried on—but to restore them with meekness; to own them in those things wherein they are owned by God; not to practise that antichristian humour which is now gotten into Protestantism, of unchurching, unministering, unchristianising one another, but to own one another in all those things wherein we are agreed, without imposing or censuring; not rending into factions, not endeavouring to destroy all, that we may promote the particular interest of one party to the prejudice of the whole; but walking under one common rule. And if others shall prove peevish, and if angry brethren shall call us bastards, and disclaim us as not belonging to the same father, we ought not to reject them, but still call them brethren; if they will not join with us we cannot help it, yet they are brethren notwithstanding that disclaim; and how pettishly and frowardly soever they carry themselves in their differences, a good Christian should take up this resolution (their tongue is not Christ’s fan to purge his floor), though they may condemn things which Christ will own, to bear their reproofs, and love them still; for the iniquity of their carriage doth not take away our obligation to them. As in the relation of inferiors, we are bound to be obedient to the froward as well as to the gentle parents and masters; so in the duties that are to pass between equals, we are to bear with the froward and to overcome their inclinations. For though we have corruptions that are apt to alienate us, and will put us upon furious passions, uncomely heats and divisions, yet God forbid we should omit any part of our duty to them, for uncharitable brethren are brethren still.302
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