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But it is of importance to ask, What effect have they produced upon our minds? Have we not again and again been constrained to say, "What hath God wrought!" "What manner
of love is this wherewith the Father hath loved us!" Be assured, that the man who is not frequently (I might almost say, habitually,) impressed with this thought, knows nothing of God, nor has he any part or lot in the gospel salvation---]
2. How strenuous should be their exertions to walk worthy of them!
[It is thought by some, that views of God's sovereign grace and unchanging love will lead men to carelessness and presumption. It behoves us all to shew, that there is no foundation for this calumny; and that the stupendous love of Christ will rather constrain us to obedience. Let us remember, that, if the promises of God are sure, so also are the threatenings: and that we can no more reverse these, than Satan can reverse the others, if we be found in a state against which God has threatened his displeasure.
How painful is the thought, that, notwithstanding all the warnings which God has given them, many will yet perish in their sins! Methinks, if God's mercy will excite wonder among those that are saved, so will sin excite wonder among them that perish. With what force will that reflection strike us in the day of judgment, "What hath SIN wrought!" O think upon it now: and let us not only flee from it, but endeavour so to "walk, that God in all things may be glorified through Christ Jesus!"]
GOD WILL FULFIL HIS WORD.
Numb. xxiii. 19. God is not a man, that he should lie. THERE is scarcely any thing that more strongly manifests the depravity of our nature, than that propensity to lying which we perceive in children, as soon as they begin to speak. Even when men are grown to the full exercise of their reason, they too often. deviate from truth, sometimes through forgetfulness, sometimes from a change of sentiment or inclination, and sometimes from an inability to perform their word. Hence it is characteristic of man to lie: and we are all so sensible of this, that in matters of great importance we require of men an oath to confirm
a Ps. lviii. 3.
their word, and enter into written covenants with them, which we take care to have properly attested". Now we are apt to "think that God is even such an one as ourselves:" and that he also may be prevailed upon to "alter the word that is gone out of his lips." Balak evidently entertained this idea of him; and laboured by many repeated sacrifices to divert him from his purpose. But Balaam was inspired to declare the vanity of such an hope, and to assert in a most humiliating comparison the unchangeableness of Jehovah.
To unfold the full meaning of his words, we observe, I. Some men think that God will lie
God has told us with strong and repeated asseverations, that "we must be born again". this is totally disbelieved by,
1. The profane—
[They persuade themselves, that such strictness in religion as is implied in the new birth, is not necessary; and that they go to heaven in their own way
2. The self-righteous
[These consider regeneration as a dream of weak enthusiasts; and are satisfied with "the form of godliness without" ever experiencing "the power of it"—— -]
3. The hypocritical professors of religion
[These, having changed their creed together with their outward conduct, fancy themselves Christians, notwithstanding their faith neither "overcomes the world," nor "works by love," nor "purifies their hearts"
That all these persons think God will lie, is evident beyond a doubt: for if they really believed that "old things must pass away, and all things become newd," before they can enter into the kingdom of heaven, they would feel concerned to know whether any such change had taken place in them; nor would they ever be satisfied till they had a scriptural evidence that they were indeed "new creatures in Christ Jesus." But as this is in no respect the case with them, it is manifest that they "do not believe the record of God," and consequently, however harsh the expression may seem, "they make God a liar."]
b Heb. vi. 16. Gal. iii. 15.
c John iii. 3. See the full import of this in Discourse on that text. d 2 Cor. v. 17. e 1 John v.
While some do not hesitate to entertain these dishonourable thoughts of God,
II. Others fear he may lieThis is common with persons, 1. Under conviction of sin
[When men are deeply convinced of sin, they find it exceeding difficult to rest simply on the promises of the Gospel. God promises to cast out none who come to him by Christ Jesus; to wash them from sins of deepest dye; and to bestow on them all the blessings of salvation freely "without money and without price." Now this appears too good to be true: they cannot conceive how God should "justify the ungodly," and therefore they seek to become godly first, in order that they may be justified: and if they cannot bring some price in their hands, they keep back, and give themselves over to desponding fears—]
2. Under temptation or desertion—
[God has declared that "he will not suffer his people to be tempted above what they are able to bear.” But when they come into temptation, they are apt to say, as David, "I shall one day perish by the hands of Sauli." They see no way for their escape; and therefore they fear that the very next wave will overwhelm them utterly
If God at these seasons hide his face from them, they conclude "there is no hope;" they think "his mercy clean gone for ever, and his loving-kindness come utterly to an end for evermore," notwithstanding God has so frequently and so expressly declared, that he will never leave them nor forsake them1
Now these persons do not, like the ungodly, deliberately think that God will lie; but they have many misgiving fears lest he should and that they do so is obvious; for, if they did not, they would take God at his word, and "stay themselves on him when they are in darkness, and have no light "."]
Thus generally is the veracity of him who is truth itself, either questioned or denied:
III. But God neither will nor can lie
It is humiliating beyond expression that ministers should be forced to vindicate the veracity of God. But as he himself has seen fit to do so in the sacred
oracles, and as the unbelief of men is so inveterate, we submit to the necessity, and proceed to shew that, 1. He will not lie
[First, let us hear the testimonies of those who have tried him. Had ever any one more opportunities of proving his fidelity than Moses, Joshua, and Samuel? Yet they all attest in the most solemn manner that he neither had deceived them in any thing, nor ever would".
Next, let us attend to God's own assertions and appeals Would he ever venture to speak thus strongly on his own behalf, if his creatures could make good their accusations against him?
Lastly, let us look to matter of fact. He threatened to punish the angels if they should prove disobedient: he denounced a curse on Adam if he should eat of the forbidden tree: he threatened to destroy the whole world with a deluge; and to overwhelm Sodom and Gomorrha with fire and brimstone; and to scatter his once chosen people over the face of the whole earth. See now whether he has forborne to execute any of these threatenings. He also promised to send his only dear Son to die for sinners; and to make him great among the Gentiles, while his own nation should almost universally reject him. Have either of these promises been forgotten? Or, if such promises, and such threatenings have received their accomplishment, is there any reason to doubt respecting any other that are yet unfulfilled? Are not his past actions so many types and pledges of what he will hereafter perform P?] 2. He cannot lie―
[Truth is as essential to the divine nature as goodness, wisdom, power, or any other attribute; so that he can as easily cease to be good, or wise, or powerful, as he can suffer "one jot or tittle of his word to fail." If for one moment he could divest himself of truth, he would cease to be deserving of all confidence or affection. Let it only be said of any man, "He is great, and wise, and generous, but no dependence can be placed on his word," would he not on the whole be deemed a contemptible character? How then would Jehovah be degraded, if any such infirmity could be laid to his charge?
It should seem that St. Paul was peculiarly solicitous to guard us against entertaining the smallest possible doubt of the divine veracity; for he abounds in expressions declarative of this perfection. "God," says he, "cannot lie ;" and again,
n Deut. xxxii. 4. Josh. xxiii. 14. 1 Sam. xv. 29. • Isai. v. 4. and xlix. 19.
p 2 Pet. ii. 4-9. Jude, ver. 7. Пpókεivтaι detyμa.
q Tit. i. 2.
"he cannot deny himself';" and again in still stronger terms, "It is impossible for God to lies." Nor let it be thought that this detracts from God's power: for to be able to lie, would be a weakness rather than a perfection: and as it is man's disgrace that he is prone to violate his word, so it is God's honour that he neither will nor can lie.]
1. How vain are the expectations of unconverted men!
[Men, whatever may be their state, persuade themselves that they shall be happy when they die. But how delusive must be that hope, which is built upon the expectation that God will prove himself a liar! Who are we, that God should, (if we may so speak) undeify himself for us? And what security should we have if he were even to admit us into heaven in direct opposition to his own word? Might he not change his word again, and cast us into hell at last? Surely heaven would be no heaven, if it were held on so precarious a tenure. Let us then lay aside all such delusive hopes. Let us learn to tremble at God's word; and seek to attain that entire change both of heart and life, to which the promises of salvation are annexed.]
2. How groundless are the fears of the converted!
[There is a holy fear or jealousy that is highly desirable for every one, however eminent, however established. But there is a tormenting slavish fear that arises from unbelief, and which greatly retards our progress in the divine life. Now we ask, Does this fear arise from an apprehension of our own unfaithfulness, or of God's? If it be God's faithfulness that we doubt, let us know that "his gifts and callings are without repentance," and that "where he hath begun a good work, he will perfect it unto the day of Christ"." If, on the other hand, we suspect our own faithfulness, let us recollect on whom our faithfulness depends: if it depend wholly on ourselves, who amongst us will be saved? Thanks be to God, he who has been the author of our faith, has engaged to be the finisher of it'; and has promised, not only that he will not depart from us, but that he will put his fear in our hearts, so that we shall not depart from him. Let us then 66 set to our seal that God is true." Let us commit ourselves to him, knowing in whom we have believed, and assured that, while we stand on the foundation of his word, we are immovably secure.]
r 2 Tim. ii. 13.
s Heb. vi. 18.
t Compare Rom. xi. 29. with the words following the text.
u Phil. i. 6.
y Heb. xii. 2. Zech. iv. 9.
a John iii. 33. b 2 Tim. i. 12.
x 2 Cor. iii. 5. Zech. iv. 6.
z Jer. xxxii. 39, 40.
c 2 Tim. ii. 19.