by Thomas Manton
Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth. — Psalm 119:142
IN this verse the word of God is set forth by a double notion, of righteousness and law; accordingly two things are predicated of it: as it is righteousness, it is said to be an everlasting righteousness; and as it is law, it is said to be the truth. Both imply our duty: as there are truths in the word, it is man's duty to believe them; as there are commands, it is man's duty to obey them. I shall treat first of the notions, secondly of the predications.
First, The notions; and there the word is first called righteousness, 'Thy righteousness.' God's righteousness is sometimes put for the righteousness which is in God himself; as ver. 137, 'Righteous art thou, O Lord;' Ps. 145:17, 'The Lord is righteous in all his ways.' And sometimes for the righteousness which he requireth of us; as James 1:20, 'The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God;' that is, the righteousness which God requireth of us; and here in the text. Once more, that righteousness which God requireth of us in his word is sometimes taken, in a limited sense, for the duties of the second table, and so usually when it is coupled with holiness, Luke 1:75; Eph. 4:24, 'The new man is created after God in righteousness and true holiness.' Holiness giveth God his due, and righteousness giveth man his due. Sometimes it is taken in a more general sense, as to imply the whole duty and perfection of man; thus righteousness when it is put alone.
In this general sense I take it here, and observe this point—
1. The word of God is righteousness. This is one of the notions by which it is expressed in this psalm; so it is called in the text.
[1.] Because it is the copy of that righteousness which is in God. God's natural perfections are represented in the creatures, his majesty and omnipresence in the sun, but his moral perfections in the word. The heavens declare his excellent majesty and glory, but his law, his purity, righteousness, and holiness—Ps. 19, the sun and the law are compared together,—as the creatures in their kind set forth God, so doth the word in its kind. Well may it be called righteousness, because it is the fairest draught and representation of God in his moral perfections, the chief of which are called righteousness and holiness. The knowledge we get by the creatures tendeth to exalt God; the knowledge we get by the law to humble and abase man, because of our impurity; and therefore the prophet, when he saw God, cried out, Isa. 6:3, 'Woe is me! I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips;' and David, when he contemplated the holiness of the law, cried out presently, Ps. 19:12, 'Lord, cleanse me from my secret sins.'
[2.] It is the rule and pattern of all righteousness and justice in man; for our righteousness is a conformity to God's law. Indeed, habitual righteousness is a conformity to God's nature; actual righteousness, to his law. His Spirit reneweth our nature according to the image of God, and telleth us what is pleasing to God: Isa. 51:7, 'Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law.' They that have the law of God in their hearts do only know righteousness, that is, know what belongs to it; the new nature is tried, and all our ways tried by it.
[3.] It is the great instrument to promote righteousness. It maketh the man that doth observe it just and righteous before God. There is a twofold righteousness before God—the righteousness of justification and the righteousness of sanctification. The righteousness of justification, that is the great truth revealed in the scriptures. Nature saw nothing of that; the heathen saw something of a breach, that there was need of appeasing God, but nothing of a righteousness before God: that secret was hid from the wise men of the world, and reserved for the scriptures; and therefore the apostle saith, Rom. 3:21, 22, 'But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God, which is by Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all that believe.' The law and the prophets set forth this mystery to teach men, that we are to be justified before God by faith in Christ. Nature could convince us of guilt, but not of a righteousness.
2. For the way of sanctification, or how a man that is justified should approve himself to God and men. The scripture crieth up another righteousness, that becometh justified persons; that is, the way to be righteous is to do righteousness: 1 John 3:7, 'Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doth righteousness is righteous.' So it is said of Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke 1:6, that 'they were righteous before God, and walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.' So Deut. 6:25, 'And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments, before the Lord our God, as he commanded us.' This wisdom we learn from the word, where nothing but righteousness is recommended; for it cometh from the righteous God, who is essentially good and holy, and cannot be contrary to himself in commanding unjust things: and therefore his commandments are in all points right. There is no way right to prove principles but by arguing ab absurdis, and so prove the goodness of them. What a miserable case would the world be in if there were not such a law and rule! a place of villanies and wickedness. And therefore here is righteousness, and all righteousness; we need not seek further for direction. Sure God can tell what will best please him, and our sense and experience inform us what things are good and honest in the sight of men.
Use. Let us live as becometh them that have such a righteous rule: 'Wisdom is justified of her children,' Mat. 11:19. Let us bear witness by our faith, profession, and godly life to the doctrine of God. This is to glorify the word, Acts 13:40, when we express the excellencies of it in our practice; do not only approve it in our judgments, and commend it with our mouths, but express it in our lives. Practice glorifieth more than verbal praise. Let us show that the word is righteousness; that is to say, the copy of God's righteousness, by being the rule and instrument of ours. Let us look after the righteousness of justification. We can never be truly righteous, unless we lay the foundation of the spiritual life in faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance from dead works, that maketh way for the spirit and power of godliness; for Christ is made of God to us righteousness before he is made sanctification, 1 Cor. 1:30. There is no acceptance with God without it: Rom. 5:19, 'By the obedience of one, many were made righteous.' Thereby our persons are accepted. In ourselves there is none righteous, no not one; and it is dangerous to look after any other righteousness while this is neglected: Rom. 10:3, 'Being ignorant of God's righteousness, they went about to establish their own righteousness,' &c. Again, let me press you to look after the righteousness of sanctification, to see that we be renewed by the Spirit, and entered into a holy course; and not only so, but we go on still in righteousness: Rev. 22:11, 'He that is righteous, let him be righteous still.' We are renewed but in part: Prov 15:9, 'The Lord loveth him that followeth after righteousness;' that maketh it his business to grow more righteous every day, and increase the acts, to perfect the habit; this earnest endeavour must never be left off.
Secondly, Now I come from the notion to the predication. This righteousness, it is an everlasting righteousness: it is so in two respects—in the constitution among men, and in the effects of it.
1. In the constitution of it. The covenant of grace is an everlasting covenant; so it is called Heb. 13:20; and the gospel is called the 'everlasting gospel,' Rev. 14:6; and 'I will make an everlasting covenant with you,' Isa. 55:3. The privileges of this covenant are eternal. Christ 'hath obtained an eternal redemption for us,' Heb. 9:12; Dan. 9:24. There is an unchangeable righteousness which Christ hath established in the church; he is the Lord our righteousness. His righteousness is still the same, and the plot was first laid in his everlasting decrees. The terms of life and salvation held forth in the new covenant are to continue for ever, no change to be expected. From the beginning of the world to the end thereof, the covenant of grace cannot cease; the obligation still continueth; men are for ever bound to love God and their neighbour. There shall no time come when the law of loving God and our neighbour shall be reversed and out of date. The covenant is essentially the same, under all the diversity of administrations. And as the privileges, so the duties are of an eternal obligation. Among men, τὰ δίκαια κινούμενα, that is just at one time that is not just at another. Lawgivers cannot always live to see their laws executed, and men cannot foresee all occasions and inconveniences, and therefore often repeal their laws. But God is wise; he hath made an unchangeable law, and he forbiddeth things intrinsically evil, and commandeth things intrinsically good.
2. As to the effects of it, in case of obedience or disobedience. (1.) In case of disobedience, eternal wrath lighteth on them that reject this covenant, that walk contrary to it, they shall be eternally miserable: 2 Thes. 1:9, 'Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.' Not a temporal but an everlasting destruction; and Mark 9:44, 'The worm shall never die, and the fire shall never be quenched.' An eternity of torments, because they despised everlasting mercy, and rejected the authority of an everlasting God. Having offended an infinite God, their punishment abideth on them for ever. If they will stand out their day, it is fit their recovery should be hopeless. (2.) The benefits are eternal in case of obedience. There is everlasting grace, everlasting comfort, and everlasting life: 1 John 2:17, 'The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but be that doeth the word of God abideth for ever.' The Spirit is given as a comforter that shall abide for ever, John 14:16; and 2 Thes. 2:16, 'God who hath loved us, and given us overlasting consolation, and good hope through grace.' And it is fit it should be so, because it is built upon God's unchangeable love, and Christ's eternal merit and intercession. God's love is an everlasting love, Jer. 31:3. The efficacy of Christ's merit never ceaseth, Heb. 13:8. His continual intercession ever lasteth, Heb. 7:25, and Rom. 8:39, 'Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.' He liveth for ever, by which we continue for ever in the favour of God, and the covenant standeth firm between him and us; the fountain of comfort is never dried up.
Use 1. To inform us of the difference between the laws of God and the laws of men. There are many differences, some of which I shall touch by and by; this expression offereth two—it is righteousness, and everlasting righteousness.
1. It is righteousness. Men have and do often decree wickedness by a law, not only in the first table, where man is most blind, but also in the second; not only in their barbarous worship, their sacrificing of men, but also in their human constitutions. The Lacedemonians held it lawful to steal, if he were not taken ἐπʼ αὐτῷ φέρειν, in the very act. In Cyprus they held it lawful for their virgins, if they were poor, to prostitute themselves to get a dowry or portion. By the law of the twelve tables a man might kill his wife if she smelt of wine or counterfeited his keys. And among the Romans, if a slave had killed his master, all his fellow-slaves were put to death with him, though never so innocent. By the same laws, a father might thrice sell his child; they might tear their debtors in pieces if they were not solvent. Thus blind were men in their own concerns and what made for human commerce; much more in the way of pleasing God and the interest of the world to come. Bless God for this righteous law. Again—
2. It is everlasting righteousness; not only righteous at the first giving out, but righteous in all ages and times; and should we slight this rule that will hold for ever? In the world, new lords new laws; men vary and change their designs and purposes; privileges granted to-day may be repealed to-morrow, but this word will hold true for ever; our justification by Christ is irrevocable, that part of righteousness is everlasting. Be sure you are justified now, upon terms of the gospel, and you shall be justified for ever; your forgiveness is an everlasting forgiveness, and your peace is an everlasting peace: Jer. 33:34, 'I will remember your sins no more.' So the other righteousness of sanctification, it is for ever. Approve yourselves to God now, and you will approve yourselves at the day of judgment.
Use 2. Exhortation.
1. Let this take us off from seeking things that have no continuance in them. The everlastingness of the word is opposed often to the transitory vanities of the world: 1 Peter 1:23–24, 'All flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of grass: the grass withereth, and the flower falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever.' Why should we hunt after that glory that soon fadeth? So 1 John 2:17, 'The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.' All these things change, and move up and down by divers circumrotations; we sit fast and loose in the world, but in the covenant of grace all is sure.
2. Let us choose this word to live by, that we may be partakers of that everlasting good which cometh by it. Oh, let us regard it! Eternity is concerned in it. If the righteousness of God be everlasting, let us begin betimes to get interested in it, and persevere in it to the end. Let us begin betimes, for we have but a few days to live here in the world, and so either to express our thankfulness or lay a foundation for our eternal hopes; therefore let us set about the work the sooner. And let us persevere; our care to keep this law must be perpetual, not like temporaries. Many will carry themselves well and godly for a while, but afterwards fall off; this doth not become an everlasting law; there is the same goodness in God's law that there was at first.
3. Let us comfort ourselves with the everlastingness of the privileges offered to us in God's word. The redeemed of the Lord should have an everlasting joy: Isa. 35:10, 'And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.' Let other things end and change as they will, our right by the new covenant changeth not. Sometimes we are in request in the world, and sometimes in disgrace; but God's love is everlasting and sure. We are not in with him to-day and out tomorrow; he hath dealt with us upon sure and unchangeable terms; nay, when you die, you may comfort yourselves in this, Ps. 103:17, 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him, and his righteousness upon children's children.' Yea, not only in the changes of your outward condition is here an everlasting spring of comfort, but also in the ups and downs of your spiritual condition, and the clouds which now and then darken your comfort and hope in God. In a time of desertion we seem to be dead and cast off; yet remember God loves to be bound for ever: 2 Sam. 23:5, 'Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made an everlasting covenant.' Though we are not so punctual, exact, and faithful, but are subject to many errors and failings, yet God will mind his eternal covenant: Ps. 89:33–34, 'Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail; my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.' Death doth not dissolve it, nor desertions break it off.
Now for the second notion by which the word of God is expressed, 'thy law,' from whence observe—
Doct. That the word of God hath the nature and force of a law.
It is often so called in scripture; not only the decalogue, which is the abridgment of all moral duties, but the whole scripture is God's law: Isa. 51:4, 'A law shall proceed from me;' and Ps. 1:2, 'His delight is in the law of God;' and the gospel is called 'the law of faith,' Rom. 3:28. Here I shall show you how necessary it was that God should give man a law, both as we are considered apart, and with respect to community; and then show that the word hath the force of a law.
1. Consider man apart. Surely the reasonable creature, as it is a creature, hath a superior to whose providence and ordering it is subject. So all the creatures have a law, by which the bounds of their motion are fixed and limited: Ps. 148:6, 'He hath established them for ever and ever; he hath made a decree which shall not pass;' Prov. 8:29, 'He gave the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment.' The sun, moon, and stars are under a law; all the creatures are balanced in a due proportion, and guided and fixed in their tract and course by an unerring hand, which is a kind of law to them. As a creature, man is subject to the direction of God's providence, as other creatures are; but as a reasonable creature, he is capable of moral government; for so he hath a choice of his own, a power of refusing evil and choosing good. Other creatures are ruled by a rod of iron, necessitated to what they do by an act of God's power and sovereignty; but man, being a voluntary agent, is governed by laws which may direct and oblige him to good, and warn and drive him from evil. This law was at first written upon man's nature, and that was sufficient while he stood in his integrity to guide him and enable him to serve and please God in all things propounded to him. The law written on the heart of man was his rule and principle. But that being obliterated by the fall, it was needful that God should give a new law, to guide man to his own blessedness, and to keep him from erring. The internal principle of righteousness being lost, the laws of men could not be sufficient, for they have another end, which is the good of human society. They aim not at such a supernatural end as the enjoyment of God; their laws reach no further than the ordering of men's outward conversations, and meddle not with the inward workings and motions of the heart, of which they can take no cognisance. These may be inordinate, do a great deal of mischief; therefore, as the wise God directed men to give laws to order men's actions, so he would himself give laws to order the heart, which man cannot reach. Lay all these together, and there is a necessity that God should give a law to man.
2. But much more if you consider man in his community, as he is a part of that spiritual community called a church. All societies of men from the beginning of the world have found the establishing of laws the only means to preserve themselves from ruin. There is no other way against confusion; and would God leave that society which is of his own institution, that of which he is the head, and in which his honour is concerned, without a law? Deut. 32:9, 'The Lord's portion is his people,' which was set apart to serve him, and to be to him for a name and a praise. Surely a people that have God so near them, and are in special relation to him, have their laws by which they may be governed and preserved as to their eternal good, unless we should say God took less care for his own people than for others. This necessity is the greater because this society is spiritual; though made up of visible men, yet combined for spiritual ends, commerce and communion with God, and that mostly in their spirits, which maketh this society the hardest to be governed, and this, the most scattered and dispersed of all societies throughout all parts of the earth, should therefore be knit together with the strongest bonds. Surely then there needeth a common law, whereby they may be united in their conjunction with Christ, the head, and one another, that it may not be broken in pieces; and this to be given by God, that he may preserve his own authority and interest among them.
This law is the scripture, those sacred digests in which God hath discovered not only his wisdom and justice, but his will and imperial power, what he will have us do. The one showeth the equity, the other the necessity of our obedience; surely this is his law or none. The church to whom the law was given, God hath constituted the keeper of its own records; never acknowledge another; nor can any other make any tolerable pretence.
Now, having brought the matter home, I shall show you wherein it hath the nature and force of a law, as we commonly take the word; and here I shall—
1. Show you wherein it agrees.
2. Wherein it differs from the ordinary laws of men.
1. Wherein it agreeth.
[1.] A law is an act of power and sovereignty by which a superior declareth his will to those that are subject to him. There are two branches of the supreme power—legislation and jurisdiction; giving the law, and governing according to the law so given. And so God's power over the reasonable creature is seen in legislation, and in the administration of his providence there is his jurisdiction. In the scripture he hath given the law, and he will take an account of the observance of it; in part here, at the petty sessions; hereafter, more fully and clearly at the day of general judgment. But for the present, here is God's power seen over the creature in appointing him such a law. God hath the greatest right and authority to command: Isa. 33:22, 'The Lord is our judge and our lawgiver.'
[2.] That there is not only direction given to us, but an obligation laid upon us. There is this difference between a law and a rule—a bare rule is for information, a law for obligation. So herein the word of God agrees with a law; it is not only the result of God's wisdom, but the effect of his legislative will. He would not only help and instruct the creature in his duty, but oblige him by his authority. Decretum necessitatem facit, exhortatio liberam voluntatem excitat, saith the canonist. Exhortation and advice properly serveth to quicken one that is. free, but a decree and a law imposeth a force, a necessity upon him. So Hierome, lib. ii. contra Jovin—Ubi consilium datur operantis arbitrium est, ubi prœceptum necessitas servitutis. A counsel and a precept differ; a precept respects subjects, a counsel, friends. The scriptures are not only God's counsel, but his precept. There is a coactive power in his laws. God hath not left the creature at liberty to comply with his directions if he please, but hath left a strict charge upon him.
[3.] Every law hath a sanction, otherwise it were but an arbitrary direction; the authority might be contemned unless it hath a sanction, that is, confirmed by rewards and punishments; so hath God given his law under the highest penalties: Mark 16:16, 'He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;' Gal. 6:8, 'If ye sow to the flesh, of the flesh ye shall reap corruption;' Rom. 8:13, 'If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.' God telleth them what will come of it, and commandeth them to abstain as they will answer to God at their utmost peril. The obligation of a law, first, inferreth a fault, that is, contempt of authority; so doth God's, as it is his law, and so it will infer a fault in us to break it; and as we reject his counsel, it inferreth punishment, and the greater punishment the more we know of God's law: Rom. 2:9, 'Tribulation, wrath, and anguish upon every soul that doeth evil, upon the Jew first, and also upon the Gentile.' Why the Jew first? They knew God's mind more clearly.
[4.] A sanction supposeth a judge, who will take an account whether his law be broken or kept, otherwise all the promises and threatenings were in vain. The law, that is the rule of our obedience, is the rule of his process; so the word of God hath this in common with other laws; therefore God hath appointed a judge and a judgment-day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he hath appointed; and 2 Thes. 1:8, 'He will come in flaming fire, to render vengeance on all them that know not God, and obey not the gospel.' According to the law they have been under, Gentiles, Christians, they must all appear before the Lord, to give an account how they have observed God's law. Now in patience he beareth with men, yet sometimes interposeth by particular judgments, but then they shall receive their final doom.
2. Let us see wherein they differ from ordinary laws among men.
[1.] Man in his laws doth not debate matters with his subjects, but barely enjoineth and interposeth authority; but God condescendeth to the infirmities of man, and cometh down from the throne of his sovereignty, and reasoneth with and persuadeth and prayeth men that they will not forsake their own mercies, but yield obedience to his laws, which he convinceth them are for their good: Isa. 46:8, 'Remember this, show yourselves men; bring it to mind again, ye transgressors;' Isa. 1:18, 'Let us reason together, saith the Lord.' God is pleased to stoop to sorry creatures, to argue with them, and make them judges in their own cause: Micah 6:2, 3, he will plead with Israel, 'O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against we.' He will plead with Israel about the equity of his laws, whether they are not for their good. It is a lessening of authority for princes to court their subjects—they command them; but God will beseech and expostulate and argue with his people; 2 Cor. 5:20, he draws with the cords of a man, sweetly alluring their hearts to him.
[2.] The laws of God bind the conscience and the immortal souls of men; the laws of men only bind the behaviour of the outward man, they cannot order the heart. God takes notice of a wanton glance, of an unclean thought, a carnal motion, Mat. 5:28. Men's words and actions are liable to the laws of men; they cannot know the thoughts; but the law of God falls upon the counsels of the heart: Rom. 7:14, 'For I know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal;' Heb. 4:12, 'It is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.'
[3.] The law of God immutably and indispensably bindeth all men without distinction; no man beggeth exemption here because of their condition; there is no immunity and freedom from God's law. Men may grant immunity from their laws: 1 Sam. 17:25, 'He will make his father's house free in Israel.' Men's laws are compared to spiders' webs; the lesser flies are entangled, great ones break through. God doth not exempt any creature from duty to him, but speaketh impartially to all.
[4.] Men's laws do more propend to punishment than they do to reward. For robbers and manslayers death is appointed, but the innocent subject hath only this reward, that he doth his duty, and escapeth these punishments. In very few cases doth the law promise rewards; the inflicting of punishments is its proper work, because its use is to restrain evil; but God's law propoundeth punishments equal to the rewards; eternal life on the one hand, as well as eternal death on the other: Deut. 30:15, 'See I have set before thee this day life and good, death and evil;' because the use of God's law is to guide men to their happiness. This should be much observed; it is legis candor, the equity and condescension of man's law to speak of a reward; it commands many things, forbids many things, but still under a penalty; that is the great design of man's power; in very few cases doth it invite men to their duty by a reward; only in such cases where every good man would not do his duty. It is more exact and vigilant in its proper and natural work of punishing the disobedient, that wickedness should not go unpunished; the common peace requireth that; but that good should be rewarded, there is no human necessity. Human laws were not invented to reward good, but prevent evil.
Use. Let us humble ourselves that we bear so little respect to God's word, that we so boldly break it, and are so little affected with our breaches of it. Do we indeed consider that this is God's law? The greatest part of mankind fear the prince more than God, and the gallows more than hell. If every vain thought or carnal motion in our hearts were as the cutting of a finger or burning in the hand, men would seem more afraid of that than they are of hell. Nay, I will tell you, men can dispense with God's law to comply with man's: Hosea 5:11, 'Ephraim is oppressed, and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.' A little danger will draw men into the snare, when hell will not keep them from it. Oh, let us rouse up ourselves! Is not man God's subject? Is he not a more powerful sovereign than all the potentates in the world? Doth he not in his word give judgment on the everlasting estate of men, and will his judgment be in vain? Hath not God appointed a day when all matters shall be taken into consideration? If you can deny these truths, go on in sin and spare not; but if conscience be sensible of God's authority, oh! break off your sins by repentance, and walk more cautiously for the time to come! Every sin is ἀνομία, 1 John 3:4, a breach of God's eternal law; and will God always wink at your disloyalty to him?
Nothing remaineth to be spoken to but the last clause, 'Thy law is truth.'
Doct. God's law is truth.
1. I shall show in what sense it is said to be truth.
2. The reasons why it is truth.
3. The end of this truth.
First, In what sense it is said to be truth.
1. It is the chief truth; there is some truth in the laws of men and the writings of men, even of heathens; but they are but sorry fragments and scraps of truth, that have escaped since the fall; but the truth of the word is transcendent to that of bare reason. Here are truths of the greatest concernment, matters propounded that are very comfortable and profitable to lost sinners, 1 Tim. 2:16. Here moral duties are advanced to the highest pitch: Deut. 4:6, 'Keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations.' The end of these is not only to regulate your commerce with men, but to guide you in your communion with God, and help you to the everlasting enjoyment of him.
2. It is the only truth, that is, the only revelation of the mind of God that you can build upon; it is the rule of truth. A thing may be true that is not the rule of truth. There is veritas regulata, and veritas regulans; the word is the measure and standard, and they are true or false as they agree or disagree with it. Every custom and tradition must be tried upon it; from the beginning it was not so; from the beginning, my Christianity is Jesus Christ. We must not attend to what others did, but what Christ did, who is before all; every dictate of reason must be tried by it, for here is the highest reason. It is written to make the man of God perfect, or else it cannot guide you to your happiness, 2 Tim. 3:15, 16. Every revelation must be tried by it, Gal. 1:8. If an angel or man bring any doctrine which differs from or is besides the written word, it is a cursed doctrine: this is the rule.
3. It is the pure truth; in it there is nothing but the truth, without the mixture of falsehood; every part is true as truth itself. It is true in the promises, true in the threatenings, true in the doctrines, true in the histories, true in the precepts, true in the prohibitions. God will make it good to a tittle. True in moralities, true in the mysteries of faith; not only true in duties that concern man and man, but in the sublimer truths that concern commerce with God, where nature is more blind: Ps. 19:9, 'The testimonies of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' It is true where a carnal man would not have it true, in the curses and threatenings. If God's word be true, woe to them that remain in a sinful way, they shall find it true shortly, and feel what they will not believe. It is true where a godly man feareth it will not be true; no promises contradicted by sense but will prove true in their performance. Whatsoever, in the hour of temptation, carnal reason may judge to the contrary, within a while you will see your unbelieving fears confuted.
4. It is the whole truth; it containeth all things necessary for the salvation of those that yield up themselves to be instructed by it: John 16:26, 'He shall teach you all things,' and remember you of all things;' John 16:13, 'Lead you into all truth;' in all things that pertain to religion and our present conduct towards everlasting happiness. Therefore nothing is to be hearkened to contrary to what God hath revealed in his word; there is no room left for tradition, nor for extraordinary revelations; all that is necessary for the church is revealed there; it is a full perfect rule.
Secondly, The reasons.
1. From the author; God is a God of truth, and nothing but truth can come from him, for God cannot lie, Titus 1:2. The truth of the law dependeth upon the truth of God; therefore it must needs be without error; yea, it corrects all error; if God could deceive or be deceived, you might suspect his word.
2. The matter itself; it commends itself to our consciences by the manifestation of the truth: 2 Cor. 4:2, 'Approving yourselves by the word of truth,' 2 Cor. 6:7. If the heart be not strangely perverted, and become an incompetent judge by obstinate atheism and corrupt affections, it cannot but own these truths to be of God: 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost,' 1 Cor. 4:4.
3. The end of it, which is to regulate man and sanctify man. Now it were strange if he should be made better by a lie and a cheat: John 17:17, 'Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.' Certainly it is the most convenient instrument to reduce man to his wits, and make him live like a man.
4. It pretends to be the law of God; it is so, or else it would be the greatest cheat in the world; for it speaketh to us from God all along, and by virtue of his authority. None can be so brutish as to think that the wisest course of doctrines that ever the world was acquainted with is a mere imposture.
Use 1. To commend the word of God to us; we cannot have true doctrine, nor true piety, nor true consolation without the scriptures. Not true doctrine: Isa. 8:20, 'To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.' It is to be condemned of falsehood, if not according to the word. You cannot have true holiness, for holiness is but scripture digested and put in practice, James 1:18. The foundation of the spiritual life is laid in the word; scripture faith and scripture repentance are still fed by the word. It teacheth us how to believe, and how to repent, and how to pray, and how to live, especially the heavenly life; and there can be no true comfort and peace without the word: Rom. 15:4, 'That ye through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.'
Use 2. 1. We should consider the truth of the word, partly in the general, for the strengthening and settling of our faith, and to make it more clear and solid and certain: Eph. 1:13, 'In whom ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth.' When boisterous temptations would carry us to some evil, which God hath forbidden and severely threatened, that the point of the sword of the Spirit be put to the bosom of it, Deut. 29:19, 20.
2. When you are settling your souls as to the main point of acceptance with God: 1 Tim. 1:15, 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.' The word will never deceive them that seek righteousness there.
3. When difficulties arise that oppose the promise or expectation of relief according to the promise, you should urge the truth of the word in the very face of difficulty: 'Thy law is truth.' Take Paul's instance, Acts 27. God by promise gave all that sailed with Paul in the ship their lives, yet how many difficulties came to pass! At first, when they were in the Adriatic Sea for so many days and nights, and had neither seen sun nor stars, they knew not where they were, nor whither they should go; here was little appearance of God's making good his word to Paul. Another difficulty fell out, they feared they were near some country; they sounded and found they were near some land, but what land they could not conjecture, and were afraid of being split in pieces against the rocks; but the shipmen, that knew the danger of these seas, they must go out of the ship, they would make use of their long boat, and so they were ready to miscarry in the sight of the land, but Paul prevented them. And after it was day, the men were so spent because of long fasting and conflicting with the waves, they could not ply the oar. Another difficulty, they were where two seas met; they ran the ship aground and resolved to kill Paul and the rest of the prisoners, lest they should swim to land; but the captain, willing to save Paul, prevented that purpose; and so at length they came all to shore, though followed with difficulty upon difficulty. God made good his promise to a tittle, ver. 44. Pray observe how Paul urged God's promise against the greatest difficulties, as sufficient ground of encouragement to expect relief: ver. 25, 'For I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.'