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THE GROUNDS OF BAD MEN’S ENMITY TO THE TRUTH.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.—JOHN iii. 20.
AMONG all the advantages which God hath afforded mankind, to conduct them to eternal happiness, the light of the Christian religion is incomparably the greatest; which makes it the greater wonder, that, at its first appearing in the world, it should meet with such unkind entertainment, and so fierce and violent an opposition. Of all the blessings of nature, light is the most welcome and pleasant; and surely to the mind of man, rightly disposed, truth is as agreeable and delightful, as it is to the eye to be hold the sun; and yet we find, that when the most glorious Light that ever the world saw visited man kind, and Truth itself was incarnate, and came down from heaven to dwell amongst us, it was so far from being welcomed by the world, that it was treated with all imaginable rudeness, and was opposed by the Jews, with as much fierceness and rage, as if an enemy had invaded their country, with a design to take away their place and nation. No sooner did 2the Son of God appear, and begin to send forth his light and truth among them, by the public preaching of his doctrine, but the teachers and rulers among the Jews rose up against him as a common enemy, and were never quiet till they had taken him out of the way, and by this means, as they thought, quite extinguished that light.
Now what can we imagine should be the reason of all this, that a person who gave such clear evidence that he came from God, that a doctrine which carries such clear evidence of its Divine original, should be rejected with so much indignation and scorn?” that light and truth, which are so agreeable to mankind, and so universally welcome, should be so disdainfully repulsed?” What account can be given of it, but that which our Saviour here gives in the text?” “Light was come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light; because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved, (or discovered; for so the word likewise signifies, and may very fitly be so rendered in this place;) but (as it follows) he that doeth the truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God;” that is, that they are of a Divine stamp and original. In which words our Saviour represents to us the different disposition and carriage of good and bad men, as to the receiving or rejecting of truth, when it is offered to them: they that are wicked and worldly are enemies to truth, because they have designs contrary to it. “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” And on the contrary, a good man, “he that doeth the truth,” and sincerely practises 3what he knows, “cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest.”
I shall not need to handle these distinctly, because in speaking to one, the contrary will sufficiently appear. That therefore which I shall speak to at this time, shall be the former of these, viz. The enmity of bad men, and of those who carry on ill designs to the truth, together with the causes and reasons of it. “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be discovered.” Here our Saviour’s doctrine (as I have shewn in the three last discourses) is represented to us by the metaphor of light, because it was so clear a revelation of the will of God, and our duty, and carried in it so much evidence of its divinity; it being the chief property of light to discover itself and other things. So that those great and important truths contained in our Saviour’s doctrine, are the light here spoken of, and which men of bad designs and practices are said to hate and decline: “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
In which words two things offer themselves to our consideration:”
First, The enmity of wicked men to the truth: “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light.”
Secondly, The ground or reason of this enmity: “Lest his deeds should be discovered.”
First, The enmity of wicked men to the truth: “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light.” Men of ill designs and practices hate the light, and because they hate it they shun it and flee from it; “neither cometh he to the light.” Now this enmity 4to truth appears principally in these two things; in their resistance, and in their persecution of it.
1. In their opposition and resistance of it. A bad man is not only averse from the entertainment of it, and loath to admit it, but thinks himself concerned to resist it. Thus the Jews opposed those Divine truths which our Saviour declared to them; they did not only refuse to receive them, but they set themselves to confute them, and by all means to blast the credit of them, and to charge them not only with novelty and imposture, but with a seditious design, and with blasphemous and odious consequences; they perverted every thing he said to a bad sense, and put malicious constructions upon all he did, though never so blameless and innocent. When he instructed the people, they said he was stirring them up to sedition; when he told them he was the Son of God, they made him a blasphemer for saying so; when he healed on the sabbath-day, they charged him with profaneness; when he confirmed his doctrine by miracles, the greatest and plainest that ever were wrought, they reported him a magician; when they could find no fault with many parts of his doctrine, which was so holy and excellent, that malice itself was not able to misrepresent it, or take any exception to it, they endeavoured to destroy the credit of it, by raising scandals upon him for his life; because his conversation was free and familiar, they taxed him for a wine-bibber, and a glutton; and because he accompanied with bad men, in order to the reclaiming and reforming of them, they represented him as a favourer of such persons, “a friend of publicans and sinners.”
By these and such-like calumnies they endeavoured 5 to disparage his doctrine, and to alienate men from it; being prejudiced against the truth themselves, they did what they could to keep others from embracing it; and, as our Saviour tells, “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, neither going in themselves, nor suffering others that were going in to enter.”
2. The enmity of bad men to the truth, likewise appears in their persecution of it; not only in those that propound it to them, but in all those that give entertainment to it: and this is the highest expression of enmity that can be, to be satisfied with no thing less than the destruction and extirpation of what we hate. And thus the Jews declared their enmity to the gospel. When this great light came into the world, they not only shut their eyes against it, but endeavoured to extinguish it, by persecuting the author of this doctrine, and all those that published it, and made profession of it; they persecuted our Saviour all his life, and were continually contriving mischief against him, seeking to entrap him in his words, and so render him obnoxious to the Roman government, and at last putting him to death upon a false and forged accusation; and all this out of enmity to that truth which he delivered to them from God; as he himself tells us; (John viii. 40.) “But ye now seek to kill me, a man which hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God.”
But their malice did not rest here; they persecuted in like manner his disciples and followers, casting them out of their synagogues, and for bidding them to speak to the people in the name of Jesus, delivering them up to councils, and condemning them to death. Never did good men shew 6greater zeal and earnestness for the truth, than these wicked men did against it; so that had our blessed Saviour been the greatest impostor that ever was, and brought the most pernicious doctrine that ever was into the world, they could not have persecuted him with more rage and fury, and given greater testimony of their enmity against him. I pass to the
Second thing I proposed; namely, To inquire into the causes and reasons of this enmity: “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be discovered.” Here is the bottom of men’s malice and enmity against the truth, it lays open their evil deeds and designs; men of honest intentions are not afraid of the light, because it can do them no prejudice; it shews what they ought to do, and they have a desire to know it, that they may do it: “He that doeth the truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest.” Light is an advantage to good and virtuous actions, which the more they are seen and understood, the more they are approved and esteemed; but they that do evil, “love darkness rather than light,” because they are afraid their deeds should be discovered.
And there is a twofold discovery of their actions which bad men are afraid of. They are afraid they should be discovered to themselves, because that creates trouble and uneasiness to them; and they are afraid they should be discovered to others, because that causeth shame.
1. They are afraid the evil of their actions should be discovered to themselves, because that creates guilt and trouble; men do not care to see their own faults, and to have the vileness of their 7deeds truly represented to them. And this, no doubt, was the principal reason which set the scribes and pharisees so much against our Saviour and his doctrine, because it discovered their hypocrisy to them: and how beautiful soever they appeared without, in their affected piety and formal devotion, yet, “like painted sepulchres, they were within full of uncleanness and rottenness.” Those real virtues which our Saviour taught, and the practice whereof he made so necessary to the eternal happiness and salvation of men, were a severe reproof of their lives and actions, and did discover to them how defective they were in that righteousness which alone will bring men to the kingdom of God: so that his doctrine must needs be very trouble some to them, and they did not care to hear it, no more than a bad face loves to look in a true glass; they had flattered themselves before, in a conceit of their own righteousness, but when the light came, it discovered all their spots and deformities, so that they were no longer able to hide them from themselves; and this was a double trouble to them.
(1.) It robbed them of that good opinion which they had of themselves before; and it is no small vexation to a man to be put out of conceit with himself. Truth flatters no man, and therefore, it is no wonder that so many are offended at it: a good man is satisfied with himself, and so would bad men fain be too; and therefore, truth must needs be very unwelcome to them, because it attempts to deprive them of so great a satisfaction, and to chase away one of the most pleasant delusions in the world.
(2.) The discovery of men’s faults fills them with trouble and guilt. Truth carries great evidence along with it, and is very convincing, and where 8men will not yield to it, and suffer themselves to be convinced by it, it gives them a great deal of disturbance; Gravis malae conscientiae lux est, says Seneca; “Light is very troublesome to a bad conscience,” for it shews men their deformities whether they will or no; and when men’s vices are discovered to them, they must either resolve to persist in them, or to break them off, and either of these is very grievous.
Some men are so habituated to their vices, and so strongly addicted to them by their inclination, and attached to them by their interest, that they cannot quit them without offering the greatest violence to themselves; it is like cutting off a right hand, or pulling out a right eye, as our Saviour expresses it. Now to avoid this pain and trouble, most men, though they be convinced of their faults, choose to continue in them, and yet this is full as troublesome as the other, though it is hard to convince men of it; there cannot be a more restless state than that of guilt, the stings and torment whereof are continually increased by men’s practising contrary to the convictions of their own minds. Perhaps the trouble of repentance and reformation may be as great at first; but all this pain is in order to a cure, and ends in health and ease: but he who goes on in a bad course, after he is convinced of the evil of it, lays a foundation of perpetual anguish and torment, which, the longer he continues in his vices, will perpetually increase; so that it is no wonder if they that do evil hate the light, when it is every way so grievous and uneasy to them.
2. Bad men are enemies to the truth, because it discovers the evil of their actions to others, which causeth shame. The doctrine of the gospel lays 9open the faults of men, and upbraids them with their vices. Precepts of holiness and virtue are a public reproof to the corrupt manners of mankind; and men hate public reproof, because it shames them before others, and exposeth them to censure and contempt. This made the pharisees so offended with our Saviour’s doctrine, because it was so severe a censure of their manners, and abated the reputation of their sanctity and devotion; it discovered them at the bottom to be very bad men; and how righteous soever they appeared outwardly, to be inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Now reputation is a tender part, which few men can endure to have touched, though never so justly; and therefore, no wonder if bad men be impatient of that truth which lays them open to the world, and do by all means endeavour to suppress and conceal it from themselves and others. Thus I have as briefly as I could, given you an account of the true ground and reason of the enmity of wicked men against the truth, because it discovers their errors and faults, both to themselves and others.
I shall only now draw two or three inferences from this discourse, by way of application, and so conclude.
I. From hence we may learn the true reason why men are so apt to reject and oppose the principles of religion, both of natural and revealed religion. By the principles of natural religion, I mean those which nature acquaints us with, as the being of God and his providence, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments after this life: by the principles of revealed religion, those which are revealed in the Holy Scriptures, especially in the gospel, which is the clearest and most perfect 10revelation of the Divine will that God ever made to the world. Now the reason why men oppose these principles, and endeavour to throw them off, is, because they are loath to be under the restraint of them; they are so many checks and fetters to men of ill designs, and bad lives, and therefore no wonder if they bite at them, and endeavour to break them off; they contradict the lusts of men, and fly in their faces when they do wickedly; they are continually pricks in their eyes, and thorns in their sides, and therefore they would fain be rid of them: and therefore there is a plain reason why these men oppose the truth, and endeavour to baffle it; because it opposeth and affronts them in those wicked practices, in which they are resolved to continue. I do not say that all bad men fly thus high, as to endeavour to extinguish the belief of religion in themselves and others; but there are three sorts of men more especially, that think themselves concerned to promote atheism either in themselves or in others.
1. Those who are more enormously wicked, are concerned to be atheists themselves, because the principles of religion are so plainly inconsistent with their practice. This is so visible, that they cannot but see it; and therefore they must declare themselves enemies to such principles, as are so notoriously contrary to the course they live in.
2. Those who, though their lives are not so notoriously bad, have quicker understandings than the common sort of sinners; because these do sooner discern the inconsistency of these principles with their own actions; and being resolved not to reform, partly for the peace of their own minds, and partly to vindicate themselves to others, they declare war against these principles; and if they can overthrow 11them, they gain a double advantage by it. They think they shall be at more ease in their own minds, if they can but free themselves from the check and control of these principles; and indeed they would be so, if they could root them out; but nature hath planted them so deep, and rivetted them so fast, that when we have done all we can to extirpate them, they will spring up again. And then they hope also by this means to vindicate themselves to others, because they can now no longer be up braided with the disagreement of their principles with their practice.
3. There are others, who, though they be not atheists themselves, yet from the spirit and interest of a worldly church, are concerned to promote atheism in others. And this hath been a very common practice of the factors for the church of Rome in this age: when they cannot gain men directly to their religion, they fetch a strange compass, and try to make them infidels, or sceptics, as to all religion; and then they doubt not to bring them about at last to the outward profession of their religion, which will serve their turn well enough: for when men are once unhinged from the principles of all religion, it is no hard matter for their own ease and interest to persuade them to an outward compliance with that religion which is coming in fashion, and will bring them some advantage. And this is not an uncharitable suspicion, but certain in fact and experience; that this impious method of several of the priests of the church of Rome, hath been one of the principal sources of the infidelity and scepticism of this age.
II. This is a great vindication of our religion, that it can bear the light, and is ready to submit 12itself to any impartial trial and examination: we are not afraid to expose our religion to the public view of the world, and to appeal to the judgment of mankind for the truth and reasonableness of it: truth loves to come abroad and be seen, being confident of her own native beauty and charms, of her own force and power to gain upon the minds of men: and, on the contrary, it doth justly draw a great suspicion upon any religion, if it declines the light; and nothing can render it more suspected, than for the teachers of it to make it their great care to keep people in the dark about it; or if they chance to peep into it, and to espy the defects of it, to awe them by the extremity of danger and suffering, from declaring against those errors and corruptions which they have discovered in it. I do not know two worse signs of the falsehood and corruption of any church or religion, than ignorance and an inquisition: these two are shrewder marks of a false church, than all the fifteen marks, which Bellarmine hath mustered up, are, to prove the church of Rome to be the only true Christian church. Methinks their church and ours differ like Egypt and Goshen, in the time of the plague of darkness; only in this they differ from Egypt, that God sent the plague among them, but the church of Rome affects it, and brings it upon themselves; a darkness so gross that it may be felt; and to make it more thick and palpable, they impose upon men the belief of direct nonsense, under the grave, venerable pretence of mystery, as in their doctrine of transubstantiation. And the great design of the Inquisition is to awe men from reading the Scriptures, and from searching into, and examining, the grounds of their religion, because they think they will not 13bear the test.—This is the condemnation of that church, that when light is come into the world, they love darkness rather than light, because their doctrines and their deeds are evil.
III. And lastly, This gives us the plain reason why some in the world are so careful to suppress and conceal the truth, and to lock up the knowledge of it from the people in an unknown tongue, and do so jealously guard all the avenues whereby light and knowledge should enter into them, it is because their doctrines, and designs, and deeds are evil, and they are afraid they should be discovered to be so. This is the true reason why “they love darkness rather than light;” for the church of Rome are wise enough in their generation, to understand that nothing but the darkness of their shops can hinder people from discerning the falseness of their wares; they have several things to put off to the people, which cannot bear the trial of a clear and full light. What else makes them conceal the word of God from men?” that great light which God hath set up in the world, to be a lamp to our feet, and a lantern to our steps; it is not to keep out heresy, but light and truth: when they cannot be ignorant that God has set up this candle on purpose to enlighten the world, why do they put it under a bushel, but that they are guilty to themselves, that several of their doctrines and practices will be discovered and reproved by it?”
What makes them in the face of the world to conceal from the people the second commandment in their ordinary catechisms and manuals, but lest the people should come to understand that God hath expressly forbidden the worship of images?” We do not conceal those texts, “feeding sheep,” and 14“upon this rock will I build my church,” for fear the people should discern the pope’s supremacy and infallibility in them, but are content to run the hazard of it, and let them find them there if they can.
And then, why do they mask the public service of God, and the prayers and devotions of the people, in an unknown tongue, but that they are afraid they should understand the gross superstitions and idolatry of many of them?” If they mean honestly, why do they cast such a mist about their religion?” why do they wrap and cover it all over in darkness, but that they are heartily afraid, that the more people understand it, the worse they will like it?”
The truth is, their doctrines are evil, and “their deeds are evil,” and plainly condemned almost in every page of the Bible; and therefore it is a dangerous book to be suffered in the hands of the people; and there is hardly any thing which the church of Rome contends against, with more stiffness and zeal, than letting the people have the service of God and the Holy Scriptures in a known tongue. When the office of the mass was, not many years since, by some bishops and others in France, translated into the vulgar tongue, for the benefit of the people, how did the then pope Alexander the Seventh thunder against them for it, calling them that did it sons of perdition, and condemning the thing as if it had been the wickedest thing in the world, and had directly tended to the overthrow of the Christian religion!
And then, for the use of the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, they have put that under so many locks and keys, that the greatest caution in the world is used in the permission and allowance of it to any particular person: the priest hath not power 15to do it, it is only the bishops that can grant this liberty; and they do it very rarely, and only to those of whom they are very secure, and this power since that time again revoked; so that the gospel, which before our Saviour’s appearance was “a mystery, hid from ages and generations,” continues so still to the common people of the church of Rome, and is under a thicker veil, more muffled and hid from the people, in an unknown tongue, than it was to the Jews, under the obscure prophecies, and darktypes and shadows, of the Old Testament. So that though Christ be “read in their churches every day,” as Moses was to the Jews in their synagogues, yet he hath “a veil upon his face,” as Moses had. “Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men, and neither enter in yourselves, nor suffer those that would enter to go in.” The people of the church of Rome are indeed to be pitied, who are kept in ignorance against their wills; but the governing part of the church are without excuse, who, to cover their errors and corruptions, hide the Scriptures from the people, “love darkness rather than light;” this therefore is their great condemnation.
Witness the black and hellish design of this day,11Preached Nov. 5, 1684. such as never before entered into the heart of man, to have ruined a whole kingdom at once, in its prince and representative; and by a cruel, sudden blow, to have taken away the lives of the greatest and most considerable assembly in the world. They must needs love darkness, and hate the light, who have such designs to carry on, and such deeds of darkness to justify and make good; they have need 16to suppress, and, if possibly they can, to extinguish, not only the revealed truth of God, but even the great principles of natural religion, the belief of a God, and a judgment to come, that attempt such things.
Time was, when, in despite of the clearest evidence in the world, they did confidently deny that any such design was laid by those of their religion, but that it was a contrivance of some minister of state, who drew in a few rash and hot-headed per sons of desperate fortunes into it, and then betrayed and discovered them: but when the late popish plot broke out here, then they were contented to own the gunpowder treason, because they that were executed for it, did confess it, that they might with a better colour bring themselves off from this, which was so constantly denied by those who were condemned and executed for it; but this was but a shift and artifice to blind the clear evidence of this latter conspiracy, which pressed so hard upon them: and since that, because they are afraid it is still believed, they have used all imaginable arts, and taken a great deal of pains, to wash this blackamoor; yet the negro is a negro still, and I doubt not but they are still at work, carrying on the same design, which, if God do not mercifully frustrate and disappoint, is like at last to involve this nation in great misery and confusion.
“But the Lord reigneth, therefore let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad there of. He that sitteth in the heavens laughs at them, the Lord shall have them in derision.” There are many plots and “devices in the heart of man: but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand;” and if we would but live up to the light which we enjoy, 17and adorn our reformed religion by a holy and unblamable conversation; if we would avoid those bloody and rebellious ways, which are so natural and suitable to their religion, and so contrary to ours, and so scandalous to all religion; if we would break off our sins by repentance, and put an end to our foolish differences and disputes, by returning to the ancient peace and unity of this once happy and firmly-compacted church, we have no reason yet to despair, but that God would “return to us in mercy and loving-kindness,” and “think thoughts of peace towards us,” and preserve the best religion in the world to us, and our posterity after us.
“Now unto him that hath delivered us so often, and so wonderfully, and doth deliver us, and we trust will still deliver us, to him be honour and glory, praise, and thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.”18
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