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CHRIST THE SOLE AUTHOR OF GRACE AND TRUTH.
John i. 17.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth
came by Jesus Christ.
There is a great dispute among expositors, whether these words were first written by St. John the Evangelist, or spoken first by St. John the Baptist, as they a little before were; but this is, like most other disputes, frivolous and unnecessary: for it is no matter who spoke or wrote them, so long as we are sure they are the words of the Holy Ghost, who was pleased not only to dictate, but to cause them also to be recorded, that mankind might always know, by whom grace and truth came into the world; a thing so necessary to be known, that our eternal Salvation depends upon it: for it is only by grace and truth that we can be saved; but unless we know how, and by whom it came, we can never know how to come at it, so as to be saved by it. And therefore the Holy Spirit of God, of His infinite mercy, hath been pleased to acquaint us with it, saying, “ For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
For the understanding of which Divine sentence, we must first observe in general, that what we here translate grace and truth, is the same that so often occurs in the Old Testament under the names of nog on, the latter of which is always translated truth or faithfulness; the other on we commonly, following the LXX, translate mercy, sometimes
goodness, sometimes loving-kindness, or the like; but it most properly signifies, that which we call grace, favour, or kindness, especially to one that doth not deserve it, and can no way require it. In this sense these two words are frequently put together, none more in all the Old Testament. The first time we meet with them together, is where Abraham's servant being sent to fetch a wife for his master's son, and finding his journey prosperous, he said, “ Blessed be the Gen. 24. 27. Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of His mercy, and His truth.” Afterwards he said to Laban and Bethuel, “ If ye will deal kindly and ver. 49. truly with my master.” In the original it is, “ If ye will deal kindness, or mercy and truth;" the same words that were used before. The same phrase is used also by Jacob Gen. 47. 29. to Joseph, and by the two spies to Rahab. And David said Jos. 2. 14. to Ittai, “ Mercy and truth be with thee,” which is the same 2 Sam. 15. in effect, as if he had said, “ The Lord be with thee;" or as he himself had before said to the men of Jabesh-Gilead, “The Lord shew kindness and truth to you," that is, “ The ch. 2. 6. Lord preserve you and save you ;" for it is to these two things that our preservation and Salvation are ascribed. “Let Thy loving-kindness," saith he,“ or Thy mercy and Ps. 40. 11. truth, preserve me.” “O prepare mercy and truth, which Ps. 61.7. may preserve him.” “Mercy and truth preserve the king," Prov. 20.28. saith Solomon. And David again, “He hath remembered Ps. 98. 3. His mercy and truth toward the house of Israel, and all the ends of the world have seen the Salvation of our God.” “ By mercy and truth iniquity is purged.” See also, Ps. Prov. 16.6. lxxxv. 9, 10; xl. 10; Prov. iii. 3; xiv. 22. Hence it is that David so often praiseth God, particularly for these two Divine properties together; “ I will praise Thy name for Thy Ps. 138. 2. loving-kindness, and for Thy truth.” “ Not unto us, O Ps. 115. 1. Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give the glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake.” “ For Thy mercy is Ps. 57. 10; great unto the Heavens, and Thy truth unto the clouds." 36 Thus he praiseth God also, Ps. lvii. 3; lxxxix. 1, 2, 14; c.5; cxvii. 2. And to sum up all in few words, he saith, “ All Ps. 25. 10. the paths of the Lord,” that is, all His dealings with them, “are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”
SERM. From all which it appears, that the Church hath all
along, from Abraham's time, been used to speak of these two properties together; neither can it be imagined that Abraham's servant first began it, but that he learned it of his master, and he from his ancestors, as they had received it from Adam, when God first promised mercy to mankind: for the promise being made by God Himself, His faithful people could not but believe in the truth of it, and therefore constantly used this form of speech,“ mercy and truth,” to testify their faith in, and their thankfulness for the said promise, notwithstanding their unworthiness of it; which
they could not but acknowledge, as Jacob did, saying to Gen. 32. 10. God, “ I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and
of all the truth;” or, as it is in the original, “I am less than all the mercies, and all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy servant."
But that which is chiefly to be observed in our present
case, is, that when Moses desired to see the glory of God, Exod. 33. saying to Him, “I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory;"
God said, “ I will make all My goodness pass before thee,
and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee.” ch. 34. 6. And soon after, “ The Lord accordingly passed by before him,
and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gra
cious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth ;" Ps. 86. 15. or, as we elsewhere translate the same words, “ Plenteous,
or full of mercy and truth,” which will give great light to
the words a little before my text, and they to my text itself; John 1.14. " And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us (and
we babald Ilis glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of
the father,) full of grace and truth.” The Evangelist is vi 1,3. here speaking of the “Word, by which all things were
made." And he here saith, “the same Word was made Flesh,” or, as we say, incarnate, mai corývwoty Šv jiv, “and dwelt in us,' in our nature, and so among us : “ And we,” saith St. John, “ beheld His glory, the glory as of the Onlybegotten of,” or from,“ the Father;" such glory as became the Only-begotten Son of God. This glory St. John, with two other Disciples, saw at our Lord's transfiguration upon the mount, when “ His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light;" and there came a voice
that said, “ This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well Matt. 17.2, pleased.” “Then,” as another of them saith, “they were 2 Pet. 1. 16. eye-witnesses of His majesty; for He received from God 17. the Father, honour and glory,” &c. So that what Moses desired to see upon one mount, these three Disciples saw upon another, even “the glory of God:” and what God there proclaimed of Himself, is here proclaimed by His Spirit of Him whose glory the Disciples saw, which is itself also His greatest glory, even, “ that He is full of grace and truth ;” or, which is the same, “ of goodness,” or “ of mercy and truth :" which great glory is here asserted of Him, as He is the Word made flesh, God and man in one person; as such, He is full of grace and truth. And then it follows in the next verse but one, “ And of His fulness have all we ver. 16. received," not only we who saw His glory upon the mount, but all of us receive of His fulness: "For it pleased the Col. 1. 19. Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell.” And how much soever we receive of His fulness, His fulness is still the same; as the sun loseth nothing by our receiving light and heat from it. But that which is here more particularly spoken of, is His fulness of grace and truth; and therefore when the Evangelist had said, “ Of His fulness have all we received,” he adds, “and grace for grace;' that is, grace in us for that which is in Him, or which He is full of: and, by consequence, all manner of grace, or favour, or mercy, that we can possibly stand in need of; for it is all fully in Him, and it is of His fulness that we receive it. He doth not add, “and truth for truth;" for though Christ be as full of truth as He is of grace, yet that is only in Him, and is not communicated, but only manifested to us; and we cannot properly be said to receive, but to believe it: and it is by our believing His truth, that we receive of the fulness of His grace. And we cannot receive the one, without believing the other: for which reason they are so frequently put together not only here, but, as I have shewn, all along in the Old Testament.
Now my text is brought in as a proof of what thus went before. It was before said, “That the Word made flesh was full of grace and truth, and that of His fulness we have all received." Now to prove this, it is here added, “ For
SERM. the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by
Jesus Christ :” for, if grace and truth came by Him, it is of Him only that we can receive it.
But here we may observe, first, that this is the first place wherein Jesus Christ is expressly named by this Evangelist; before this, he had all along called Him “ the Word:” but that we may know whom he means by “the Word,” he here plainly calls Him “Jesus Christ.” Again, we may here observe how much he prefers Jesus before Moses : Moses was hitherto accounted by the Jews the greatest person that ever lived upon earth ; none being, in their esteem, comparable to him. But here we see one preferred far before him : for only the law was given by Moses, the law of Commandments and Ordinances; no grace to enable us to obey that law, nor mercy to any that transgressed it: nor so much as any promise of such grace or mercy, upon the truth of which we could depend for it. But “ both grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” as certainly as the law was given by Moses.
And it is very observable also, that the law is here said to be given by Moses; but it is not said that grace and truth was given, but that it came by Jesus Christ, éyévero,
it was made' by Him : the same word that is used a little John 1.3. before, where it is said, rúvia di witoũ šyéveto, * All things
were made by Him. As all things else, so grace and truth was made, had its very being and existence by Him; so that without Him there would have been no such thing, as either grace or truth, ever heard of in the world, which is far more than what is said of Moses in respect of the law: for the law was only given by him as a servant or minister, sent from God to deliver His Will to mankind; “But grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” as the author and founder of it. And therefore, as the Apostle argues, “ This Man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant; but Christ, as a Son over His own house." Though the law was given by Moses, it was not his own, but the law of God; whereas both grace and truth is Christ's own; He Himself is full of it in Himself,
Heb. 3. 3, 5, 6.