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THE TRUTH OF GOD.
A God of truth.—Deut. xxxii. 4.
IN speaking to this attribute, I shall,
I. Shew you what we are to understand by the truth of God.
II. Endeavour to prove that this perfection belongs to God, that he is “a God of truth.”
III. Answer some objections that may be made against it; and then make some use of it.
I. What we are to understand by the truth of God. I shall take it as the Scripture useth it in a large sense, so as to include not only the veracity Of God, but his faithfulness. Hence it is that, in Scripture, truth and faithfulness are so often put together, and frequently put one for another: (Isa. xxv. 1.) “Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” (Rev. xxi. 5.) “These words are true and faithful.” And the faithfulness of God in performing his promises, is frequently called his truth. And because the Scripture useth them promiscuously, we need not be very solicitous to find out distinct notions of them: but if you will, they may be distinguished thus: the truth or veracity of God hath place in every declaration of his mind; the faithfulness of God only in his promises.
For the first, The veracity or truth of God; this hath place in every declaration of his mind; and signifies an exact correspondence and conformity 500between his word and his mind, and consequently between his word and the truth and reality of things. The correspondence of his word with his mind, depends upon the rectitude of his will; the conformity of his word with the reality of things, not only upon the rectitude of his will, but the perfection of his knowledge, and the infallibility of his understanding: so that when we say God is true, or speaks truth, we mean thus, that his words are a plain declaration of his mind, and the true representation of things, in opposition to falsehood, which is speaking otherwise than the thing is, and hypocrisy, that is, speaking otherwise than we think. For instance, when God declares any thing to be so, or not to be so, to have been thus, or not to have been thus, the thing really is so, and he thinks so; when he expresseth his desire of any thing, he does really desire it; when he commands any thing, or forbids us any thing, it is really his mind and will that we should do what he commands, and avoid what he forbids; when he declares and foretels any thing future, it really shall come to pass, and he really intended it should; if the declaration be to be understood absolutely, it shall absolutely come to pass; if the declaration be to be understood conditionally, it shall come to pass, and he intends it shall, if the condition be performed.
Secondly, The faithfulness of God. This only hath place in his promises, in which there is an obligation of justice superadded to his word; for God, by his promise, doth not only declare what he intends, and what shall be, but confers a right upon them to whom the promise is made, so as that the breach of his promise would not only cast an imputation upon his truth, but upon his justice.501
II. That this perfection belongs to God. And this I shall endeavour to prove,
First, From the dictates of natural light.
Secondly, From Scripture.
First, From the dictates of natural light. Natural light tells us, that truth and faithfulness are perfections, and consequently belong to the Divine nature; and that falsehood and a lie are imperfections, and to be removed from God. There is nothing that is esteemed amongst men a greater contumely and reproach than to give a man the lie, to call him a liar, because it is an argument of so much baseness, and of a low, and mean, and servile spirit; the usual temptation to it being fear of losing some advantage, or incurring some danger. Hence was that saying, that “it is the property of a slave to lie, but of a free man to speak truth:” now, whatever argues baseness or imperfection, our reason tells us is infinitely to be separated from the most perfect Being. “God cannot be tempted with evil;” the Divine nature, being all-sufficient, can have no temptation to be otherwise than good, and just, and true, and faithful. Men are tempted to lie by advantage, and out of fear: but the Divine nature hath the security of its fulness and all-sufficiency, that it cannot hope for any in crease, nor fear any impairment of its estate. Men are unfaithful, and break their words^ either because they are rash and inconsiderate in passing of them, or forgetful in minding them, or inconstant in keeping of them, or impotent and unable to perform them: but none of these are incident to God; his infinite wisdom, and perfect knowledge, and clear foresight of all events, secure him both from inconsiderateness, and inconstancy, and forgetfulness; and his infinite power renders him able to 502perform what he hath spoken, and to make good his word. And that these are the natural dictates and suggestions of our minds, appears clearly from the reasoning of the heathens in this matter, who were destitute of Divine revelation. Plato (de Repub, lib. 2.) lays down this as a certain truth, “That lying and falsehood are imperfections, and odious to God and men;” Τὸ μὲν ψεῦδος οὐ μόνον ἀπὸ Θεῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπ᾽ ἀνθρώπων μισεῖται. And afterwards he tells us, “That the Divine nature is free from all temptations hereto, either from advantage or fear;” Οὔκ ἄρ᾽ ἐστὶν οὗ ἕνεκα ἄν Θεὸς ψεύδοιτο; πάντη ἄρα ἀψευδὲς τὸ θεῖον· and concludes, “Therefore, God is true, and deals plainly with us, both in his words and actions, and is neither changed himself, nor deceives us.” Porphyry, in the life of Pythagoras, tells us, “That this was one of his precepts, Μάλιστα δ᾽ ἀληθεύειν; Τοῦτο γὰρ μόνον δύνασθαι τους ἀνθρώπους ποιεῖν Θεῷ παραπλησιούς·” and afterwards he adds, “That truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible to men, he would choose light for his body, and truth for his soul.”
Secondly, From Scripture. The Scripture doth very frequently attribute this to God: (2 Sam. vii. 28.) “And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true.” (Psal. xxv. 10.) “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.” (Psal. xxxi. 5.) “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” (Rev. iii. 7.) “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true.” (Rev. vi. 10.) “How long, O Lord, holy and true?” (Psal. xv. 3.) “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” (Ps. xvi. 7.) “True and righteous are thy judgments.” Hither we may refer those texts which speak of the plenty and abundance of 503God’s truth: (Exod. xxxiv. 6.) “Abundant in goodness and truth.” (Psal. lxxxvi. 15.) “Plenteous in mercy and truth;” and those which speak of the duration and eternity of it: (Psal. c. 5.) “And his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psal. cxvii. 2.) “And the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.” (Psal. cxlvi. 6.) “Who keepeth truth for ever.”
As the Scripture doth attribute this perfection to God, so it removes the contrary from him with the greatest abhorrence and detestation: (Numb. xxiii. 19.) “God is not a man, that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall not he do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” They are Balaam’s words, but God put them into his mouth. (1 Sam. xv. 29.) “The Strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent.” (Rom. iii. 4.) “Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar.” Nay, the Scripture goes further; does not only remove lying, and falsehood, and in constancy from God, but speaks of these as things impossible to the Divine nature: (Tit. i. 2.) “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Heb. vi. 18.) “That, by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
And the Scripture doth not only in general attribute this perfection to God, but doth more particularly assure us of his sincerity, and truth, and faith fulness. Of his sincerity, that he deals plainly with us, and speaks what he intends, that his words are the image of his thoughts, and a true representation of his mind. God is very careful to remove this jealousy out of the minds of men, who are apt to entertain 504unworthy thoughts of God, as if, notwithstanding all that he hath declared, he had a secret design to ruin men; therefore, he interposeth his oath for our greater assurance. (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.” When God speaks to us, he speaks his mind, and hath no design to circumvent and possess us with error and delusion: if he offer life and happiness, we may believe he is real; and that if he did not intend to bestow it upon us, or if there were no such thing as a future glory, he would not have declared it to us: this was the temper of our Saviour, who was “the express image of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John xiv. 2.) “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.”
And as the Scripture assures us of his sincerity, so of his truth and faithfulness in the accomplishment of all his predictions, and performances of all his promises. As for the truth of his predictions, and certain accomplishment of them, the Scripture frequently useth this proverbial speech, to assure us of the certainty of their accomplishment; “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. xxiv. 35.) For the faithfulness of God in his promises, the Scripture makes frequent mention of it: (Deut. vii. 9.) “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy.” (Psal. lxxxix. 33, 34.) “I will not suffer my faith fulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” The Scripture doth record God’s punctual and full performance of his promises, particularly of that promise 505to Abraham, after four hundred years, to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, and to give them the land of Canaan for an inheritance, (Gen. xv. 13) The punctual accomplishment you have recorded, Exod. xii. 41. “And it came to pass, at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt “(See likewise, Josh. xxi. 44, 45; xxiii. 14; 1 Kings viii. 56.) And upon this account it is that God is so frequently in Scripture styled “the God that keepeth covenant,” (1 Kings viii. 23; Nehem. i. 5; ix. 32.) and in several other places. And so likewise of predictions of evil to come, God is true in fulfilling his word: (1 Sam. xv. 29.) when the prophet had threatened Saul to rend the kingdom from him, he adds, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man that he should repent.”
III. I come to remove some objections that may be made against the truth and faithfulness of God.
First, It is objected against the sincerity of God, and his plain dealing, that he is sometimes represented in Scripture as inspiring prophets with false messages. (1 Kings xxii. 22, &c.; Jer. iv. 10; xx. 7; Ezek. xiv. 9.)
Answer.—As to three of these texts, it is a known Hebraism to express things in an imperative and active form, which are to be understood only permissively. So where the devils besought Christ, that he would suffer them to enter into the herd of swine, “he said unto them, Go,” (Matt. viii. 31.) He did not command, but permit them. And so (John xiii. 27.) where our Saviour says to Judas, “What thou doest, do quickly;” we are not to understand, that he commanded him to betray him, though that 506seem to be expressed in the form. So likewise here, where an evil spirit offered himself to be “a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophet;” and God says, “Go forth, and do so;” this only signifies a permission, not a command. And so (Jer. iv. 10.) where the prophet complains that God had greatly deceived the people, “saying, they should have peace, when the sword reacheth to the soul;” we are to understand this no otherwise, but that God permitted the false prophets to deceive them, prophesying peace to them; as appears by the history. (Ezek. xiv. 9.) “I the Lord have deceived that prophet;” that is, permitted him to be deceived, and to deceive the people, as a just judgment upon them for their infidelity, with respect to his true prophets. This he threatens at the 5th verse; “I will take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols;” because they have chosen to themselves false gods, I will suffer them to be deceived with false prophets: and that this is the meaning, appears by the threatening added, “and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and I will destroy him from the midst of my people.” Now God will not punish that whereof he is the author.
That text, (Jer. xx. 7.) “Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived,” signifies no more, but that he had mistaken the promise of God to him; who, when he gave him his commission, told him he would be with him, by which he understood that no evil should come to him, and now he was become a derision, and the people mocked him; and in his passion and weakness he breaks forth into this expression, “Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived;” whereas it was his own mistake of the meaning of 507God’s promise, which was not that he should not meet with scorn, and opposition, and persecution, but that they should not prevail against him, as you may see at the latter end of the first chapter.
Second objection against the faithfulness of God as to performance of his promise. It is objected, that God did not give the children of Israel all the land which he promised to Abraham; as will appear by comparing Gen. xviii. 19, 20. with Josh. xiii. 1, &c. and Judg. ii. 20, 21. (Gen. xv. 18.) God promised to give Abraham and his seed such a land, the bounds whereof he describes, (Josh. xiii. 1.) It is said there, that “there remained very much land” yet unconquered, which they had not got the possession of. And (Judg. ii. 20.) it is said, that the people having not performed their part of the covenant, God would suspend the further performance of his promise, and would not drive out any more of the nations before them; and it is probable, that the Israelites never were possessed of the promised land in the full latitude and extent of the promise.
Answer.—This covenant of God with Abraham, was upon consideration of his past faith and obedience, though it seems the full performance of it did likewise depend upon the future obedience of his posterity; in pursuance of this covenant, notwithstanding all the murmurings and rebellions of that people, God did bring them into the promised land, though “they provoked him to destroy them many a time; because he remembered his covenant with Abraham:” when they were possessed of it, God gave them a title to the rest, and would have assisted them in the conquest of it, if they had performed the condition required on their part; that is, continued 508faithful and obedient to him; but they did. not, and thereby discharged God from any further performance of his promise; and God, when he had done this, had fully performed the covenant he made with Abraham, so far as concerned his part, as appears by the acknowledgment of Joshua, even in a time when a great part of the land was unconquered, (Josh. xxi. 44.) and of Solomon, (1 Kings viii. 56.) Yea, and had it not been that God had made this covenant, as well upon consideration of Abraham’s faith and obedience, as upon condition of the future obedience of his posterity, the rebellions and disobedience of the people in the wilderness had released God wholly from the promise; and he had not been unfaithful if he had destroyed utterly that people, and made a full end of them, and they had “never entered into that land;” because a failure of the condition doth make the obligation to cease: and that this condition was implied in this covenant with Abraham, appears by these texts, (Deut. vii. 12, 13; xi. 22, 23, 32.) And (Judg. ii. 20, 21.) God gives this reason why he suspended the complete performance of his promise; “The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice, I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them, of the nations which Joshua left when he died.”
Third objection: God is not punctual in performing his threatenings; as, when he threatened Adam, (Gen. ii. 17.) “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;” which yet was not accomplished, for he lived many hundred years after. God threatened Ahab, to bring evil upon him and his 509family, (1 Kings xxi. 21.) but, upon his humiliation, he is pleased to respite it, (ver. 29.) So God threatened Hezekiah with death; but, upon his prayer, adds fifteen years to his life. (2 Kings xx.) Thus Nineveh was threatened; but, upon their repentance, “God repented of the evil,” (Jonah iii. 10.) Now, how is this deferring and turning away of judgment consistent with the truth of God? Doth not this seem to charge him with falsehood or levity?
Answer.—This may be said in general—that every one that understands the nature of God, cannot but be very well assured, that falsehood and levity are very far from God; and though he could not untie some particular knots, and answer all difficulties, yet he ought to rest satisfied in this assurance. I confess this objection is troublesome, and requires a distinct consideration. I will not be peremptory in nice matters; but I shall, with submission, offer these things in answer to it:
1. As for the expression of God’s repenting, we are to understand it, as many others in Scripture, after the manner of men, and spoken by way of condescension to our weakness, and accommodated to our capacities, and not as casting any imputation of falsehood or inconstancy upon God, as if either he did not intend what he saith, or out of levity did alter his mind. When God is said to repent, the expression only signifies thus much—that God doth not execute that which seemed to us to have been his purpose, that he is pleased to do otherwise than his threatenings seemed openly to express, because of some tacit condition implied in them; and this doth not derogate either from the truth, or sincerity, or constancy of God, in his word. Not from his truth; for he speaks what he intends really, if something 510did not intervene to prevent the judgment threatened; upon which he was resolved, when he threatened, to be taken off, and stop his judgments: nor doth it derogate from his sincerity and plainness; for he hath told us that his threatenings have such conditions implied in them: nor doth it derogate from the constancy and immutability of God, because God doth not mutare consilium, sed sententiam; “he doth not change his counsel and purpose, but takes off the sentence” which he had passed with reserved conditions.
2. As to the instances, that I may give more particular satisfaction to them, I shall consider the threatenings of God with this double respect either with relation to a law, or with relation to the event; with relation to a law, as they are the sanction of it; or with relation to the event, as they are predictions of something to come.
(1.) Some threatenings have only relation to a law, as they are the sanction of it. And thus considered, they differ from promises; for promises confer a right. Omne promissum cadit in debitum; but a threatening doth not convey any right, nor, if for borne, can the party complain of wrong done to him; and therefore, in this case, it can only signify what the offence against the law deserves, and what the offender may expect; for the end of threatening is not punishment, but the avoiding of it: and this may answer the first instance. God gave Adam a law; and, by way of sanction, not of prediction of an event, he threatened the breach of it with death: now God did not execute the punishment threatened at the time threatened, but deferred it, and this with out any impeachment of his justice or truth, because this threatening was only the sanction of the law.511
(2.) We may consider threatening with relation to the event, and as predictions; and as to the accomplishment of these, there seems to be a greater degree of necessity, because the honour of God’s knowledge, and power, and truth, seem to be concerned in them; for if his word be not fulfilled, it must either be for want of knowledge to foresee events, or power to bring them to pass, or constancy to his word. Now, if we consider threatenings with respect to the event, as they are predictions of future judgments, I think all the other instances may be satisfied, by laying down this rule for the understanding of them; viz. “That all prophetical threatenings or predictions of judgments are to be under stood with this tacit condition—if there do not intervene the humiliation, and repentance, and prayer of the persons against whom the judgment is threatened; and if so, God may, upon repentance, without any impeachment of the honour of his truth, or knowledge, or power, either defer, or abate, or remit the punishment.” And that the predictions of judgments are to be understood with this condition, appears clearly from that known text, Jer. xviii. 7, 8.
I come now to the last thing I proposed, To make some use of this doctrine.
First, If God be a God of truth, then this gives us assurance that he doth not deceive us, that the faculties which he hath given us are not false; but when they have clear perceptions of things, they do not err and mistake. Were it not for the veracity of God, we might, for anything we know, be under a constant delusion; and no man could demonstrate the contrary, but that this is our make and temper, and the very frame of our understandings, to be then most of all deceived, when we think ourselves to be 512most certain; I say, no man could be assured of the contrary but from hence, because veracity and truth is a Divine perfection, and therefore God cannot be the author of error and delusion. Therefore we may be assured, that the frame of our understandings is not a cheat, but that our faculties are true, and, unless it be our own fault, we need not be deceived in things that are necessary to our happiness.
Secondly, If God be a God of truth, then there is reason why we should believe and assent to whatever we are satisfied is revealed to us by God. A Divine revelation is a sufficient ground for the most firm assent; for this very thing, that any thing is revealed by God, is the highest evidence, and ought to give us the most firm assurance, of the truth of it. Hence it is that the word of God is called the word of truth, yea, and truth itself: (John xvii. 17.) “Thy word is truth.”
Therefore, whoever entertains the Scriptures as the word of God, and is satisfied of the Divine authority of them, ought, in reason, to believe every thing contained in them, yea, though there be some things of which no reasonable account can be given, and which our reason and understanding cannot give us particular satisfaction in; yea, because we are satisfied that they are revealed by God, “who can not lie,” whose knowledge is infallible, and whose word is true, we ought, upon this higher and superior reason, to yield a firm assent to the truth of them; if we do not, we dishonour this perfection of God, and rob him of this essential property, his veracity: (1 John v. 10.) “He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” 513As, on the other hand, if we do believe what God hath revealed, we glorify this perfection of his, and set our seal to his veracity. So it is said of Abraham, (Rom. iv. 20.) that “he was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” And St. John the Baptist, speaking concerning our Saviour, saith, (John iii.33.) “He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true.”
Thirdly, If God be a God of truth, and faithful in performing his promise, then here is a firm foundation for our hope and trust. If God have made any promise, we may securely rely upon it, that it shall be made good; we may hold fast our hope “without wavering, because he is faithful who hath promised,” (Heb. x. 23.) Hence it is that the blessings of God’s covenant are called “sure mercies.” (Isa. lv. 3.)
We attribute much to the word of a faithful friend, and look upon the promise of an honest man as very good security; but men may fail us when we rely upon them: but God is true, though all men should prove liars. Men are fickle and mutable; but the nature of God is fixed, he cannot fail those that trust in him. When God hath made any promise to us, we may plead it with him, and urge him with his faithfulness. So we find David did, 2Sam. vii. 25, &c.
Only we should be careful to perform the condition which is required on our part; (Heb. iv. 1.) we should “take heed, lest a promise being left us, any one should come short of it,” by not performing the condition; for that doth release and discharge him of the promise; and he is faithful, though he doth not perform what he promised, because he did not promise but upon condition: and this seems to be the meaning of those words, (2 Tim. ii. 13.) “If we 514believe not, yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself.” He said before, that if we perform the conditions required, God will bestow the blessings promised: “It is a faithful saying; for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him:” but if we deny him, the curse threatened will then take place, and he will deny us; and God is not unfaithful in doing this, he does not deny himself.
Now if we have such assurance, we may trust him with our greatest concernments, and venture our souls with him: (Psal. xxxi. 5.) “Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” We should rely upon him, when there are the greatest improbabilities of the accomplishment of his promises. Thus did Abraham, Rom. iv. 17, &c.
This should make us also patient in hope: if a promise be not speedily accomplished, we should not be dejected, or disquieted. David challengeth himself upon this account: (Psal. xlii. 11.) “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” And so likewise in reference to the rewards of another world, though at a distance; yet we should, as the apostle speaks, “wait for the blessed hope.”
Fourthly, The truth of God is matter of terror to the wicked. All the threatenings of temporal evils may justly be expected, because their sins deserve them, and there is no condition implied in them, upon which thou canst reasonably hope for the avoiding or abating of the evils threatened, but of humiliation and repentance: and if, notwithstanding 515these threatenings, thou continuest in thy sins, and “blessest thyself, saying, I shall have peace, though thou walk in the imaginations of thy heart;” by this very thing thou provokest the justice of God not to spare thee, and makest his wrath and his jealousy to smoke against thee; and if thou continuest impenitent, however he may defer the execution of temporal evils, his truth and veracity is concerned to inflict eternal punishments upon thee; for “he hath sworn in his wrath” that such “shall not enter into his rest.”
Fifthly, Let us propound to ourselves the truth of God for our pattern and imitation. Would you be like God? be true and faithful. Truth and faithfulness are Divine perfections, but lying and falsehood are the properties of the devil, and the predominant qualities of hell. The character of the devil is, that “he abode not in the truth, and there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, it is of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John viii. 44.)
One of the first and most natural notions that we have of religion is, that it is to imitate God, and to endeavour to be like him, so far as we are capable; and to contradict any of the Divine excellences and perfections is the highest sin; because it is against the clearest dictates of our mind, and contrary to those principles which are most deeply rooted in our nature. No man can be cruel and unmerciful, false and treacherous, without a very high degree of guilt; because these sins are contrary to the chiefest and most essential perfections of God. Lying is a sin that would fly in the face of a heathen, because it directly contradicts those natural notions which every man hath of God and religion; therefore, we find that there is hardly any thing that men are 516more ashamed of, than to be taken in a lie, and it is esteemed the highest reproach to be charged with it; it argues such a direct contrariety to that which is the rule of perfection, the nature of God, and consequently so much imperfection and baseness; he that tells a lie out of fear, is at once bold towards God, and base towards men.
Upon these accounts, God expresseth himself highly offended with those that practise lying and falsehood, and to have a detestation of them; (Prov. xii. 22.) “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” It renders us unlike to him: (Eph. iv. 24, 25.) “Put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness” (or, in the holiness of truth). And from hence he infers, “Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth to his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Col. iii. 9, 10.) “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him;” that is, because we profess to be conformed to the image of God. More particularly, we should charge ourselves with truth and faithfulness towards God and men.
1. Towards God, in our oaths, and vows, and covenants. In our oaths, when we swear in any matter, we tell God that what we speak is truth, and invoke him to bear witness to it. To falsify in an oath, is one of the most solemn affronts that we can put upon the God of truth.
And so in our vows, which are a solemn promise to God, of such things in which we have no precedent obligation lying upon us. He that regardeth truth, will neither be rash in making a vow, nor 517careless to perform it: (Eccles. v. 4.) “When thou vowest a vow to God, defer not to pay it, for he hath no pleasure in fools.” Not to perform what we have vowed, is an argument of folly; either of rashness in the making of it, or of inconstancy in not keeping it.
So, likewise, in all our covenants with God, to serve him, and obey him, and keep his commandments, we should strictly charge ourselves with performance of these. There is a natural obligation upon us to these things, from the very law of our creation, though we should never solemnly make any such promise, nor enter into any such engagements, because it is a tacit condition of our beings: but the taking of this covenant solemnly upon us in baptism, strengthens this obligation, and makes our unfaithfulness the greater sin. All our hopes of happiness are founded in the faithfulness of God; and if thou be false to him, how canst thou expect he should be faithful to thee? It is true, indeed, that “he abides faithful, he cannot deny himself;” but if thou hast any ingenuity in thee, this should be an argument for thee to be faithful to him; I am sure this can be no encouragement to thee to be unfaithful; for if thou breakest the covenant thou hast entered into, and neglectest the conditions upon which God hath suspended the performance of his promise, thou dischargest the obligation on his part.
2. Towards men: We should charge ourselves with truth in all our words, and faithfulness in all our promises. It becomes us, who worship the God of truth, to speak truth; to use plainness and sincerity in all our words; to abhor falsehood and dissimulation, and those more refined ways of lying, 518by equivocation of words, and secret reservations of our minds, on purpose to deceive. Those that plead for these, it is a sign they do not understand the nature of God, and of religion; which is, to conform ourselves to the Divine perfections. We meet with many complaints in the Old Testament, of the want of truth and faithfulness among men: (Psal. xii. 1, 2; Isa. lix. 1-15; Jer. vii. 2. 8, 9; ii. 4-6; Hos. iv. 1.) I am afraid there is as much reason for this complaint now; for we live in an age of greater light, which doth reprove and make manifest this work of darkness; and, methinks, there is no sadder sign of the decay of Christianity, and of the little power and influence that the gospel hath upon us, than that there is so little regard had by Christians to these moral duties; which, because moral (how ever men may slight that word), are therefore of eternal and indispensable obligation, having their foundation in the nature of God.
To conclude all: That man that can dispense with himself, as to moral duties, that makes no conscience of telling a lie, or breaking his word; what badge soever he may wear, what title soever he may call himself by, it is as impossible that such a man should be a true Christian, as it is to reconcile the God of truth and the father of lies.519
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