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THE PRICE OF TRUTII.
Proverbs xxiii, 23.
Buy the Truth.
WHAT is truth ? John xviii
. 38. This ques, tion Pilate formerly put to Jesus Christ, and there are two things, my brethren, in the scripture account of this circumstance very surprizing. It seems strange that Jesus Christ should not answer Pilate's question; and it seems equally strange that Pilate should not repeat the question till he procured an answer from Jesus Christ. One principal design of the Son of God in becoming incarnate, was to dissipate the clouds with which the enemy of mankind had obscured the truth ; to free it from the numberless errors, with which the spirit of falshood had adulterated it among the miserable posterity of Adam ; and to make the fluctuating conjectures of reason subside to the demonstrative evidence of revelation. Jesus Christ himself had just before said, to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth, ver. 37. yet here is a man lying in the dismal night of paganism; a man born in darkness, having no hope, and being without God in the world, Eph, v. 8. and ii. 12. here is a man, who from the bottom of that abyss in which he lies, implores the rays of that light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, John i. 9. and asks Jesus Christ What is truth ? And Jesus
Christ refuseth to assist his enquiry, he doth not even condescend to answer this wise and interesting question. Is not this very astonishing? Is not this a kind of miracle ?
But if Jesus Christ's silence be surprizing, is it not equally astonishing that Pilate should not repeat the question, and endeavor to persuade Jesus Christ to give him an answer: A man who had discovered the true grounds of the hatred of the Jews; a man who knew that the virtues of the illustrious convict had occasioned their accusations against him; a man who could not be ignorant of the fame of his miracles ; a man who was obliged, as it were, to become the apologist of the supposed culprit before him, and to use the plea, I find in him no fault at all, which condemned the pleader, while it justified him for whose sake the plea was made ; this man only glances at an opportunity of knowing the truth. He asks, What is truth? But it does not much signify to him, whether Jesus Christ answers the question or not. Is not this very astonishing? Is not this also a kind of miracle
My brethren, one of these wonders is the cause of the other, and if you consider them in connection, your astonishment will cease.
On the one hand, Jesus Christ did not answer Pilate's
question, because he saw plainly, that his iniquitous judge had not such an ardent love of truth, such a spirit of disinterestedness and vehement zeal as truth deserved. On the other, Pilate, who perhaps might have liked well enough to have known truth, if a simple wish could have obtained it, gave up the desire at the first silence of Jesus Christ. He did not think truth deserved to be inquired after twice.
The conduct of Jesus Christ to Pilate, and the conduct of Pilate to Jesus Christ, is repeated eve
ry day. Our assiduity at church, our attention to the voice of the servants of God, our attachmen to the sacred books in which truth is deposited; all these dispositions, and all these steps in our conduct, are, in a manner, so many repetitions of Pilate's question, What is truth? What is moral truth? What is the doctrinal truth of a future state, of judgment, of heaven, of hell ? But how often, content with the putting of these questions, do we refuse the assiduous application of mind, that close attention of thought, which the answers to our questions would require? How often are we in pain, lest the light of the truth, that is shining around us, should force us to discover some objects of wbich we choose to be ignorant. Jesus Christ, therefore, often leaves us to wander in our own miserable dark conjectures. Hence, so many prejudices, hence, so many erroneous opinions of religion and morality, hence, so many dangerous delusions, which we cherish, even while they divert our attention from the great end to which we ought to direct all our thoughts, designs, and views.
I would fain shew you the road to truth to-day, my brethren ; open to you the path that leads to it; and by motives taken from the grand advantages that attend the knowledge of it, animate you to walk in it.
I. We will examine what it cost to know truth. II. What truth is worth.
Our text is buy the truth, and the title of our sermon shall be, the christian's logic. Doubtless, the greatest design that an immortal mind can revolve, is that of knowing truth one's self; and the design, which is next to the former in importance, and which surpasseth it in difficulty, is that of imparting it to others. But if a love of truth, if a desire of imparting it to a people, whom I bear always in my heart; if ardent prayers to the God of truth ; if these dispositions can obtain the knowledge of truth, and the power of imparting it, we may venture to hope that we shall not preach in vain. May God himself crown our hopes with success !
1. We are to inquire for the road that leads to truth; or, to use the ideas of our text, we are to tell you what it costs to know truth.
Before we enter on this enquiry, it is necessary to determine what we mean by truth. If there be an equivocal word in the world, either in regard to human sciences, or in regard to religion, it is this word truth. But, not to enter into a metaphysical dissertation on the different ideas that are affixed to the term, we will content ourselves with indicating the ideas which we asfix to it here.
Truth ought not to be considered here as subsisting in a subject, independently on the reflections of an intelligence that considers it.
I do not affirm that there is not a truth in every object which subsists, whether we attend to it or not : but I say, that in these phrases, to search truth, to love truth, to buy truth, the term is relative, and expresseth a harmony between the object and the mind that considers it, a conformity between the object and the idea we have of it. To search after truth, is to endeavor to obtain adequate ideas of the object of our reflections; and to buy truth, is to make all the sacrifices, which are necessary for the obtaining of such ideas as are proportional to the objects, of which our notions are the images. By truth, then, we mean an agreement between an object and our idea of it.