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truth.' 'O,' said my friend, it is high time that you and I should have found it, for the graves are ready for us’; and he added, “Blessed be God, I found it fifty years ago, and have been living on it ever since !' And I, brethren, have laboured in the Ministry in Bath for more than fifty years; and I am sure you would be both surprised and ashamed if you were to hear me say this evening, It is my opinion that Christ is God as well as man. It is my opinion that He made a proper atonement for our sins, and was raised again for our justification. It is my opinion that in Him alone we have righteousness and strength. My opinion! What would become of my peace and joy if I were still floating among opinions ? No, my brethren, I can speak with the certainty of the Apostle John when he wrote : 'We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.' Now as to the question, 'What is truth ?' Some are too sectarian in their
One says of Arminianism, This is the truth; another says of Calvinism, That is the truth ; and another comes forward to say that truth lies between the two extremes : that neither Arminianism nor Calvinism has it wholly; but that both have it in part, and both savingly. How is a sincere enquirer to decide in such a matter? I do not intend on this occasion to dogmatize or endeavour to establish any particular doctrine, but to throw out a few hints to enable you to find the truth for yourselves, recommending you :
First of all, To be much in prayer to the Father of lights that He would teach and guide you. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.”
Secondly, Acknowledge no human authority in Divine things. Call no man master upon the earth, for one is your Master, even Christ.' Think for yourselves : follow the noble example of the Bereans, who ó searched the Scriptures daily, to ascertain whether the things taught by Paul were true.
Thirdly, Remember that Christians who hold the Head,' do not differ from each other so much as some imagine. They come very near to each other in experience and devotion. They differ from each other while sitting, but get them to kneel and pray together, and you will soon find that they are one. Besides, the things about which they differ are of little consequence compared with those about which they are agreed.
Fourthly, As to what you hear and read : regard that as the truth which accords most naturally and obviously with the Scriptures. Do not depend on long-worded paraphrases or wait for learned and acute criticisms. Our Saviour was heard of the common people gladly, for they knew what He meant. The poor had the Gospel preached to them, and they understood that.
Fifthly, Do not be guided by any single phrase in what you read, but by the entire texture of Revelation. Especially consider its strain and tendency. Does what you are led to believe tend to lessen, or to enhance the evil of
sin ? Does it tend to diminish the value of the Saviour, or to exalt Him more and more? Does it lead you to attach the highest importance to His death and blood-shedding, as that which provides for the salvation of sinners ? The Gospel is not a mere republication of the law of nature attended by a clearer revelation of a future state, and accompanied by more powerful sanctions, while it still leaves us to ourselves. No; like its Divine Author, it comes to seek and to save that which is lost. It regards us as fallen creatures, and offers a remedy corresponding to the disease and equal to its cure. It regards us as guilty, and inspires us with the hope of pardoning mercy. It regards us as depraved, and furnishes us with sanctifying grace; and since the Fall has left us without strength, it assures us of Divine assistance if we seek it in time of need. Now, what correspondence is there between these things and the schemes of the legalist and the Socinian ?
Lastly, That is likely to be truth which agrees the most with the experience of those who give the best evidence of being 'born again' and 'led by the Spirit of God.' What is it they value so highly and relish so much ? What is it they mean when they say, 'That which we have seen and heard declare we
may have fellowship with us : and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.' Especially, What is it they commend? what recommend in their dying hours ? Mrs. Savage said, 'I find that people of the world never speak well of it at parting.' To be sure they do not! They have seen too much of its falsehood, its baseness and its rascality to commend it then. What said Mr. Hervey to the physician who attended him on his death-bed ? Doctor, beware of the world, beware of the world, BEWARE OF THE world!' Did you ever hear of a Christian who in his dying hour recommended his friends not to be religious ? or to depend upon their own merits for acceptance with God? or to guard against thinking too highly of Jesus Christ or loving Him too much ?
II. The Importance of finding the Truth.
1. This importance depends upon the value of the truth itself. Everything that is important must be true, though everything that is true is not important. But as to the Gospel, it is not only 'a faithful saying,' but also • worthy of all acceptation.' It is the one thing needful. It is wisdom, and wisdom is the principal thing : therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.'
Some plead for the innocency of error; but if error be harmless, truth in the same proportion is of no value. As we think, we feel, as we feel, we desire, as we desire, we act, and by our actions our character is formed, and our state is determined.
Let it never be forgotten that all the suffering in the universe has arisen from the loss or absence of truth. Why did not the fallen angels keep their firgt estate ? They sinned, but how? Christ has told us : The devil "abode not in the truth.' He was the first heretic. While Adam believed in God, and abode in the truth, he was safe ; but as soon as he believed the
devil's lie he fell, and involved all his posterity in his ruin. No one can question that idolatry is error-error most absurd and abominable. The Apostle Paul says of the heathen that they changed the truth of God into a lie.' Yes, Paganism is a lie. And there are other lies. Mohammedanism is a lie. Pharisaicalism is a lie. Popery is a lie. Puseyism is a lie. "Baptismal Regeneration' is a lie. "Apostolical succession' is a lie. Antinomianism is a lie. What a blessing it would be if all these lies could be driven back to the place from which they came! Then the Lord would cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.' Truth would “spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven.'
2. The importance of finding the truth appears from the character and procedure of God Himself. He is called 'the God of truth. His Spirit is *the Spirit of truth. The command He gives is in accordance with His character : ‘Buy the truth, and sell it not.' 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom'; and this Word is called the Word of the truth of the Gospel.'
Observe what God has done for the truth. He has magnified His word above all His name. A thousand miracles have been wrought for it, and ages have been required and employed to accomplish it. A whole nation was separated to be the depositaries of it, and the witnesses for it. Prophets aud Apostles were of old inspired to preach it. Since their times, multitudes of men have been raised up and qualified and sent forth to minister it. But let us hear what our Saviour said to Pontius Pilate : To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.'
And not only observe what has been done for the truth, but what has been done by it. For this the wilderness and the solitary place have been glad, and the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as the rose. It is this that has abolished human sacrifices and put an end to gladiatorial exhibitions. It is the truth as embodied in Christianity that has softened the horrors of war, so that captives are not maimed or enslaved as they formerly were. By excluding polygamy and unjust divorce, it has rendered marriage a source of domestic purity and peace, which has done more to advance the welfare of society than any other institution. It has led the noblest nation on earth to abolish slavery throughout its immense empire. It has introduced and carried out that spirit of benevolence which now prevails. It has tamed the ferocity of the passions and the savageness of mankind, and has so raised the tone of public morals that vices in which the most celebrated characters formerly gloried would now banish them to the very dregs of society.
And what has God done by the truth of the Gospel for our beloved country? He has said, ' Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.' What has He done for our families ? Read the answer in our many abodes of neatness and order, of sobriety and comfort, of domestic peace and happiness. What has he done for you as individuals ? It was a clap of the thunder of truth that awoke you when slumbering on the
very verge of destruction, and led you to cry, ‘Lord, save; or I perish.' It was a flash of this sword of the Spirit' that separated you from your sins ; and then the Lord, by His own gentle hand, removed a burden too heavy for you to bear. And what would you have done without the word of truth in your afflictions ? Some of you have had many severe trials ; but you
could say, 'In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul.'
It is this truth that is the proper food of the understanding. It opens a thousand sources of pleasure. I could gaze with delight for an hour together on such texts as these : 'God is love ;' and '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.'
It is this truth that prepares you for all the duties of life, personal and relative, civil and sacred : and therefore an enemy of the Gospel is really an enemy to the well-being of society. Only imagine that the Gospel, which some men oppose, were withdrawn from the earth, with all its discoveries, its promises, its consolations and its influences ! Why, the devil would have everything his own way, and the whole world would lie once more in the wicked one.'
III. The Use we are to make of the Truth.
1. We are to seek to understand it; by getting clear and complete views of it; not exposing ourselves to the reproach of the Apostle : “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. If you regard it as your heritage, go and explore it in all the length and breadth thereof, that you may
know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' 2. We must apply it to the purposes for which it is given. You cannot imagine that it was given to gratify your curiosity, to amuse you, or to furnish
you with matter for controversy. You are told that Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.' You are told that these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.'
3. We are to confess it. If it had required us to be Christians without appearing to be so, there never would have been a martyr in the Church. But while we are to believe with the heart,' we are to confess with the mouth.' The Saviour says 'to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. Our religion is to regard others as well as ourselves, and we are to let our 'light shine before men.' "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words,' says Christ, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.'
4. We are to defend it. It is to little purpose that we do nothing against
the truth, that we avoid erroneous teachers and infidel companions, and that we refrain from reading impure publications. We must do all we can for the truth. We are to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. We are to strive'together for the faith of the Gospel': that is, Christian with Christian, members with members, Churches with Churches, and one denomination with another. We are not to strive for sameness of opinion in all religious matters, for sameness of discipline, or for sameness in the order of public worship. This is not necessary. Let the Scotch Greys and the Oxford Blues retain their names and colours too, if they remember that they belong to the same army. And we may retain our separate places, and our peculiar views on various subjects, provided we always remember that we belong to the same Saviour, and co-operate in the same cause. This, brethren, is the best union that can be cherished.
5. We are to diffuse it. It was designed to be extended everywhere; and, therefore, Christ commanded its first promulgators to 'Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.' It is adapted to universality. It overlooks outward and adventitious distinctions, and meets man as man, essentially the same in all ages and countries. I could, therefore, never see an alternative between believing the truth and importance of the Gospel and feeling that we are under obligation to extend it. We have it, not only as a blessing to enjoy, but as a talent to use ; not only as a privilege for ourselves, but as a trust for others; and their debtors we are.
It is in vain to plead that God Himself has engaged to spread it universally. He has ; but He will do so by the use of means; and if you are in a right state of mind you will desire to be instruments in His hands. If you
refuse to do anything to extend His cause, you will lose the honour and blessedness of serving Him, and will incur the guilt of neglecting to avail yourselves of an opportunity of doing good, thus exposing yourselves to the curse of Meroz: Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.'
Let me now introduce to your notice one of our Missionary Institutions. I say one ; and I hope you all bless God that there are more than one. There is room for all, and need of them all, and all should engage your prayers for the spread of the truth as it is in Jesus.'
But it is impossible to carry on the affairs of our Missionary Institutions without pecuniary resources; and if more were given, more would be accomplished. Remember, too, that there is nothing so worthy of your support as that which concerns the soul and eternity. Then you are not called upon to give so often as some imagine ; at least, you are not called upon to give as often as you receive. You are always receiving, but you are not always giving.
You ought to rejoice in being called upon as you are, for it is a sign that good is going on.
When I began my ministry you might have attended a place of worship for nearly a whole year without these godly vexations. But