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hinder the pursuit of it. In these days of liberality, so many new opinions have been disseminated, that the careless have been easily misled; and it is esteemed bigotry and intolerance to censure their levity. To contend for a fixed standard, before which the reasonings and opinions of men should bow down, is deemed superstitious usurpation. Yet it surely must be most desirable to discover such a standard ; and most needful for those who believe they possess it, to hold it up
before the eyes of all men. Our Lord said to Pilate, 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.” His ministers, in like manner, have been set apart to bear the same testimony. Having themselves attentively hearkened to the voice of their divine Master, they are bound to repeat his instructions, and enforce obedience to his authority. They are not, for one moment, to admit that there is any doubt concerning the nature or the seat of truth; but must stand forward as its unflinching advocates, assured that all who are of the truth will hear them—that their cause is just, and will prevail.
Relying, then, on His aid in whose name I minister, I desire, my brethren, this day to excite you to a sincere inquiry after truth. This will be the main object of the present discourse, which I hope to follow up by others, in which the truth may be asserted in opposition to the various forms of error most prevalent and most dangerous at the present period.
Allow me, then, to entreat your attention whilst I endeavour to shew
I. The great importance of knowing the truth.
II. That it can only be known by the communication of God, in whom it essentially dwells; and
III. That we ought on that account most thankfully and diligently to study the revelation he has given us.
I. The importance of knowing truth must be evident from its
nature. Truth is reality - solidity--that which indeed exists—that on which we may place our confidence. The Hebrew term for it signifies firmness, or constancy, or a foundation—the Greek, that which is opposed to deceit. Truth is light as opposed to darkness, wisdom to folly, strength to impotence.
He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” How dangerous as well as distressing his condition ! Enemies may surround him, stumblingblocks may lie in his way, but he perceives them not. His path, uncertain at the best, may lead in precisely the opposite direction to that he wishes to pursue. The various beauties spread over the face of nature yield him neither enjoyment nor information. If such be the inconvenience of physical, how much greater that of mental darkness, of that darkness wherewith “ the god of this world blinds the eyes of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them.” If the sight of the eyes be precious, and the light which shines on them instructive and exhilarating, how much more that light which, shining inwardly on the soul, dispels the mists of prejudice and the delusions of misguided fancy, displaying every object in its real form and character. Truth is this light; and if we are destitute of it, our condition is worse than
that of the physically blind, who can employ their other senses,
way to safety. Falsehood, be it remembered, is not the mere privation of knowledge, but the prevalence of error. It not only conceals the right, but shews the wrong way.
It teaches men to call evil good, and good evil; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. If such mistakes are injurious in temporal, how much more injurious must they be in spiritual concerns! If our religious sentiments be perverted, our moral principles depraved, so that we are led to pursue the very things we ought to shun, and reject those which ought to be cordially embraced, the consequences may be fatal not only to our temporal, but to our eternal interests. The mariner whose charts are incorrect, or whose chronometer keeps imperfect time, may run upon shoals and quicksands at the very moment that he hopes to steer safely into his destined harbour. Serious, indeed, will be his loss; but how much more serious must his be whose religion has been superstitious or heretical, and who, when called to the bar of God, finds that he has a lie in his right hand, instead of that truth which would secure his safety!
I have said that truth is wisdom as opposed to folly, and strength to impotence. What is speculative wisdom but an acquaintance with truth ; and practical, but conduct consistent with it? We know how much science enlarges human power
we know that
persons of feeble frame may often, by their mental energy, overcome difficulties, and produce effects, to which the brute strength of multitudes would be wholly unavail
ing: much more does this take place in moral and spiritual labours. “ The wisdom which is from above” unspeakably surpasses in value the highest sagacity that reaches only to the summit of this world's advantages. To be ignorant of truth in things which concern the soul, is not only to forfeit the supreme good, but to incur the extremity of evil. “ They that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” are threatened with “everlasting destruction from his presence, and from the glory of his power.” Surely, then, it must be madness to remain wilfully ignorant, with the means of information in our reach. Will
dare to say that the threatening will not be accomplished? The infidel may reject, but he never can disprove, the divine declaration. He never can be certain that the doctrines he opposes may not be established by the fullest evidence. He cannot, therefore, proceed beyond scepticism — at the least a most uncomfortable, and, if Christianity be true, a most dangerous state of mind.
You will recollect that my argument is designed to prove the importance, the infinite importance, of religious truth. Few deny the value of an acquaintance with physical and moral truth. But I am contending for that which has its bearing on eternity. O, then, my brethren, let that solemn word awaken your attention! What is eternity ? and what have we to do with it ? Eternity is unlimited duration, a life which will never end. Can it be a matter of indifference whether there be such a life, or whether it shall be spent in happiness or misery? No man would be indifferent to the
question, whether the remainder of his days on earth should be days of health or of irremediable sickness, whether passed in affluence and comfort or in abject poverty. No man who, by any effort, could determine such a question in his own favour would neglect to do
Even the most stupid and careless would probably be roused to some exertion. If, then, all take an interest in that condition which a few hours may, which a few years must, bring to a close, how is it that reasonable beings can be careless about that which will have no termination? Will any of you banish the consideration from your minds, and leave to chance the solution of this momentous problem? O, my brethren, if we are endowed with reason, let us use it for the promotion of our best interests — let us see what are our prospects, and what course we are steering — let us inquire whether there is any chart or compass by which our voyage may be guided to a port of safety,
Away with the idle pretence (for argument I will not call it), that, amidst the many jarring opinions prevalent on religious subjects, we have no means of being sure that we shall adopt the right one. In all essential points enlightened and consistent Christians are agreed; the differences are, for the most part, concerning matters of unspeakably minor importance.
Truth is somewhere. Whether we know it or not, it is worth seeking; infinitely more worth than that imaginary stone in pursuit of which so many self-styled philosophers have spent their lives and substance. Did such a stone exist, it could not be put in competition with divine truth, which can shew us how to exchange