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men by Jesus Christ.' The result will be a universal conviction that all is right; a conviction in the mind of every man with regard to himself and to others. Not even the guilty will dare to accuse the justice, by which they are condemned: however reluctant, they will be compelled to acknowledge the righteousness of their doom; and their sufferings will be heightened by the sad reflection, that they are the fruits of their own doings : “ Just and true are thy ways, O thou King of saints."'t
His Truth and Faithfulness-Truth of his Communications to Man through the Senses, Reason,
and by Revelation-Faithfulness of his Promises—Remarks respecting the Promises Examples of Performance-Faithfulness of his Threatenings—Sincerity of his Invitations to Sinvers, The Nature of God incapable of Error or Deceit.
I PROCEED now to consider the truth and faithfulness of God. When we call him the true God, we distinguish him from those to whom this designation has been improperly given, and affirm, that he has not only the name, but the nature and perfections of God. “ The idols of the nations are silver and gold, but our God is in the heavens." When we call him the God of truth, our design is not to assert his Divinity, but to illustrate his character; and we declare that an undeviating regard to truth marks all his communications to mankind; that he never deceives them, but treats them with the same openness and sincerity which they are required to observe in their intercourse with one another. Did we not believe that truth is an attribute of God, we should be involved in the utmost uncertainty, and driven to absolute scepticism. For aught that we could tell, human life might be a dream. Truth would be known, if known at all, only as a thing unattainable ; and wandering in endless doubt and perplexity, we should close our comfortless existence, without being able to tell whence we had come, and whither we were going. A Divine revelation would afford no satisfaction, because amidst the subversion of all evidence, it would be impossible to ascertain that it had proceeded from the Author of our being; and even although this point were settled, we could not determine whether its statements were worthy of credit. The truth of God gives validity to the deductions of reason, and is the foundation of faith. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” In this emphatic manner does an apostle affirm that truth is essential to God. Whatever may become of the veracity of men, who may be induced by temptation to deceive, the Divine veracity shall never be justly impeached.
When we speak of truth as one of his perfections, we assume, that the communications which have been made by him to men accord with the nature of things, and are genuine expressions of his views and intentions. Falsehood consists in designed misrepresentation of the subject of discourse, and in creating expectations which we do not mean to realize, in affirming that that is which is not, and that we will do what we have resolved not to do. There are different ways in which God has made declarations to us; by our senses, by reason, and by revelation. On each of these we shall bestow some observations; and with respect to the last, in which we are so deeply concerned, I shall consider the doctrines which it proposes to our faith, the * Rom. ii. 12, 16.
+ Rev. xv. 3.
Rom. iii. 4.
promises which awaken our hopes, the threatenings which are addressed to our fears, and shew that these, as well as the invitations, entreaties, and expostulations with which the Scriptures abound, are characterised by veracity and sincerity.
In the first place, God is true in all his declarations. These are made to us, first, through the medium of our senses, by which we acquire the knowledge of external objects. We are impelled by the law of our nature, to give implicit credit to their testimony, to believe that objects exist without us, that they are invested with certain forms, and endowed with certain qualities, and arranged in a certain order. The evidence of sense has indeed been controverted, and what is there that vanity and ill intention have not endeavoured to perplex? and some philosophers have maintained that matter does not exist; that the sun, the earth, trees, men, and animals, are merely ideas in our minds. Their arguments may have puzzled those who could not readily detect their fallacy, but have not, I presume, produced conviction in a single instance. Their reasoning had no effect upon themselves; and while they pretended that the universe was a phantom, they were as careful as other men not to throw themselves into fire or water, or to leap over a precipice. It is acknowledged, that our senses do not make us acquainted with the internal nature of objects ; but this can only be called an imperfection, and does not invalidate the certainty of the information which they do give us. As far as they go, they are faithful instructors, who convey to us the knowledge of the qualities or properties of things, but leave us in ignorance of their essences, because the knowledge of these, if we were capable of it, would be of no real utility. We may be content not to know what matter is, since we know its primary and secondary qualities, for this knowledge is sufficient for all the purposes of life. ses do indeed sometimes deceive us; but it is only when they are in a diseased state, or when they are disadvantageously situated for making observations, or when we are too hasty in drawing conclusions. When all the requisite conditions are provided; when the eye, for example, is perfect, the object is at a due distance, and the degree of light is sufficient to exhibit it clearly, and when we take a deliberate view of it, it appears to us exactly as it ought to appear according to the laws of vision. We find ourselves safe and comfortable in acting according to the notices of our senses, and under their guidance, in subservience to reason, the human race has been preserved for thousands of years.
God also communicates knowledge to us by the medium of reason. It must be acknowledged that reason often errs, but it is not therefore a fallacious faculty. It discovers many truths, physical and moral, in which the mind rests with full confidence. There were philosophers in ancient times who avowed universal scepticism, maintaining that certainty was unattainable upon any subject and that the utmost at which we can arrive is probability; but their system has been rejected by all rational men. Truth may often lie at the bottom of a well, but in most cases we are furnished with the means of drawing it up. The fallibility of reason is, however, indisputable, and the many mistakes into which men have been betrayed are proofs of it. Yet if we give due attention, we shall perceive that these are not so much owing to the faculty itself, as to the abuse of it. If we employ it upon subjects which lie beyond its sphere, we shall be led into the region of hypothesis and conjecture. If we proceed hastily, without going through the process of regular investigation; if we draw general inferences from partial premises ; if we begin with prejudice, and are guided by passion, we have no right to complain that we have gone wrong, for we have voluntarily turned into a devious path. Reason, properly used, is a guide to man in all matters which belong to its jurisdiction ; but as it was not intended to suffice for all purposes, nor bestowed that he might be independent of his Maker, he ought to look up to the VOL. I.-34
Source of wisdom, and receive with gratitude the extraordinary or supernatural discoveries, with which he has been pleased to favour him.
With respect to these communications, we affirm that they are true in all their parts; that whether they relate to doctrines or to facts, they are free from the slightest mixture of falsehood. That the Scriptures are the word of God, is not a point to be believed upon their own naked testimony, any more than a man is to be believed in any matter relating to himself simply upon his own affirmation. A book, indeed, may contain internal marks of divinity, in the sublimity of its doctrines, the holiness of its precepts, the harmony of its parts, and its power to affect the conscience and heart; or it may betray its human origin by the meanness of its sentiments, its licentious tenets, its manifest errors and contradictions. But although we may be convinced by internal evidence, that the Scriptures are a revelation from God, and every man, who is enlightened and renewed by the Holy Ghost, has the witness in himself that they are true; yet our belief of their heavenly origin rests, in the first place, upon external evidence, upon ancient and catholic tradition, referring them to the times when, and the persons by whom, they are said to have been written, upon the miracles by which the commission of the prophets and apostles was attested, and upon the prophecies which have been fulfilled, or are at present fulfilling. Having ascertained in this manner, that God has made a declaration to mankind upon subjects of importance, and in what documents it is contained, we are bound to receive it with profound respect. And here it is proper to remark, that the office of reason in reference to a revelation, is not to discuss its contents, to try them by its own standard, and to approve or disapprove, as they agree or disagree with it; for this would be to treat it as if it were not a revelation, at the moment when we acknowledge it to be such, or to insinuate that the word of God, although known to be his word, is not entitled to credit, unless it be supported by independent proof. The sole province of reason is to examine the evidence exhibited, to shew that it is his word, and to investigate its meaning by the rules which are used in determining the sense of any other book. These preliminaries being settled, the state of mind which a revelation demands is faith, implicit faith, to the exclusion of doubts and objections ; the subjection of our understandings to the authority of God, entire submission to the dictates of infinite wisdom. The reason is, that his testimony supplies the place of all other evidence. Our senses are here of no service, because the subjects revealed are past and future, invisible and spiritual. Our reason furnishes no data from which they can be deduced, because they belong to a supernatural order of things, which mere reason was not intended to contemplate. But if human testimony convinces us of the truth of many things, which we have not seen, and have no means of proving, the testimony of God is the ground of the highest assurance. There may be doctrines in reve elation which are new and strange, which we in vain attempt to comprehend, which are at variance with our previous conceptions, and the common notions of mankind. But the difficulty which we feel in assenting to such doctrines, should yield to the reflection, that they are attested by Him whose understanding is infinite, while ours is bounded by very narrow limits; and that they relate to subjects, of which a small portion of humility might make us sensible that we are not competent judges; his nature, and counsels, and dispensations. On attentively perusing the Scriptures, we find, that although they consist of many books, which were composed in different ages, and by persons of different habits and tempers, they harmonise in their views and statements, and no real contradiction has been discovered. We find also that the historical parts of them are confirmed by other authentic records, and that the doctrines and precepts, as far as we are able to judge, are agreeable to the purest dictates of reason. Having these evidences of their truth, we are bound in reason to believe, that those articles which are mysterious and incomprehensible, are equally true, and appear such to beings of superior understanding. Candour would require, that if a book were distinguished by the justness of its sentiments and the accuracy of its details so far as we could read it, we should believe that it maintained the same character throughout, although the remaining portions of its contents were written in a language which we did not understand, or were obliterated that we could not fully make out the sense of the Author. Nothing is more equitable in such a case, than to judge of what is unknown from what we do know. The ascertained truth of some parts of Scripture, is a voucher for the truth of other parts, which we have been prevented from subjecting to the same test. At the same time, this is only a subsidiary argument; and we should remember that we have the highest evidence for the truth of every part, in the testimony of God himself. The whole proceeds from the sanie source; and the most exact and learned inquiries have terminated in establishing their entire credibility, and demonstrating that the Bible is the only book on which we can depend for information respecting the nature and government of God, the conduct we should pursue, and the hopes which we may entertain.
“ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work." "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times."*
Besides those declarations by which knowledge is communicated, there are engagements with men into which God has entered by pledging his word for good or evil, according to their conduct. His truth in relation to these is properly called faithfulness, and comes to be considered in the second place. The obvious division of them is into promises and threatenings.
God is faithful in his promises. They are expressive of an intention to bestow the blessings exhibited, and will be performed to those who have a claim to them: “Faithful is he who hath promised, who also will do it.” To prevent misapprehension and to obviate objections, it is necessary to remark that the promises are distinguishable into two classes, absolute and conditional. An absolute promise is one, the performance of which is suspended upon no condition, and is to be expected solely from the faithfulness of the promiser. It is significant of God's determinate purpose to bestow some blessing, or to bring to pass some event pregnant with good.
The failure of such a promise would imply a direct violation of truth : “But God is not a man that he should lie ; neither the son of man that he should repent; hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?”+ Of this nature was the promise of a Saviour, which flowed from his sovereign love, and did not depend upon the conduct of men. It was therefore performed at the appointed season, although the nations of the world had for ages provoked him by their idolatry and their other crimes, and among the Jews faith could hardly be found when the Messiah appeared. Of this nature too, was the promise to him of a spiritual seed, in consequence of which those who are dead in trespasses and sins are quickened by the Divine Spirit, who begins to operate upon them when they are unworthy of his care, and instead of soliciting his agency, are disposed to resist it. Other promises are conditional; I mean that they suppose some action or course of action as necessarily preceding the performance, some previous state of mind in the person upon whoin the blessing is to be bestowed. The promise of salvation is not made to all who hear the gospel, but to those alone who believe it. There is a difference between the publication and the making of a promise. The publication simply and generally announces the fact that there is such a promise; the making of it respects individuals, and declares that upon them the promised good will be 2 Tim. iii. 16. Ps. xii. 6.
+ Numb. xxiii. 19.
bestowed. The promise of salvation is published to all, but the persons to whom it is made are specified in the following words, “ He that believeth shall be saved."* From zeal for the doctrine of free grace, some have been betrayed into the mistake of representing the promises in general as absolute, and have not attended to the difficulty in which they involve themselves. If their view of the promises were correct, every man to whom they are addressed, would have a claim to salvation, as a promise of pardon to all the criminals in a kingdom would entitle them all to life and liberty. It is idle to say, that they will all be saved if they believe; for this is to retract what has been affirmed, or rather is to maintain a self-contradictory proposition, that the promise is at once absolute and conditional. If. God had promised to save all men, without specifying any condition, or term, or qualification, or previous state of mind, his faithfulness would require that they should be all saved without a single exception. But a conditional promise may not be performed without any impeachment of his truth, since the cause of its non-performance is not a failure on his part, but on the part of men. The Israelites who came out of Egypt, were not admitted into the land of Canaan, into which God had promised to conduct them. Had he changed his intention? Had he recalled his word? No; but they had proved a disobedient and ungrateful race, and so had forfeited all claim to the inheritance. “After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years; and ye shall know my breach of promise.”+ An apostle referring to this case says, “ We see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."!
Examples of the faithfulness of God in performing his promises, are frequent in the history of the saints. They are recorded in Scripture for his honour, and as an encouragement to faith. We see him fulfilling his word at the appointed time. The promise of the Messiah was made immediately after the fall, and was renewed on different occasions; but there was an interval of four thousand years before the seed of the woman appeared to bruise the head of the serpent.
6. When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."'S The descendants of Abraham were long strangers in Canaan and slaves in Egypt; but the promise by which they had been sustained did not fail, and the prefixed time of their deliverance was punctually observed. “ 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 of the land of Egypt."| These instances enforce the exhortation, “ The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”I We see, besides, in the history of the saints, the Almighty fulfilling his word when obstacles insurmountable by human power and wisdom stood in the way, and realizing the hopes of his people when all circumstances seemed to justify despair. The case of Abraham furnishes a striking illustration. A son was promised to him by Sarah, who was barren ; but the time passed on till both had arrived at such an age, that according to the laws of nature there could be no hope of posterity; and when Isaac was born, Sarah was ninety, and Abraham was a hui
ed years old. The stedfast faith of the patriarch while there was not a single thing to encourage him, and what was improbable at first had become physically impossible, was truly wonderful, and is mentioned in the Scriptures in the highest terms of commendation: “He was strong in faith, giving glory to God.”
Mark xvi. 16. + Numb. xiv. 34. | Heb. iii. 19. iv. 1. Gal. iv. 4, 5. Exod. xij. 41. 1 Hab. ii, 3.
** Rom. iv, 20.