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He who thinks himself freest, many times is the greatest bondslave. I should also have showed how, before a man be in Christ, he is in the greatest bondage may be. For if a man did undergo a great burden, whereof he were sensible, (like the children of Israel in Egypt,) he might come to cry out of his miserable estate, and seek for liberty; but otherwise such are bound, like unto the Jews here, and know it not. Cursed be this liberty which binds a man more and more. This should have been stood upon; of our miserable thraldom till we be in Christ, having this excellent knowledge, and how the truth doth make us free; for hereby comes our only true freedom, as our Saviour tells them, "Whosoeverh committeth sin is the servant of sin," and so a slave to sin. There is no servitude like to this, when a base affection doth lead a man on, and rule in him, so that he is led captive therewith. On the other side, our Saviour tells us the sum of all freedom, what it is, "Verily1, verily, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." Christ shows, if it were no more but to be a bond slave, the state of nature were somewhat tolerable; but (which is more) this delivers a man over to the first and second death; for which causek, the devil is said to have the power of death. And Christ is said for this cause to have come into the world, that he might loose the works of the devil. If a man could see sin uncovered, what a vile and ugly thing it were, and how every sin, like the stab of a dagger, strikes a man to the heart, and binds him faster and faster to the devil, he would fly it by all means. Why dare our gallants of this age be so bold to venture and rush on sin as they do, but because they know not the state of nature and end of sin? Want of consideration marreth all. They durst not, for all the world, go on so in sin, if they knew what they did. But I cannot go on, at this time, any further, because of the time. Now let us pray. O Lord our God, &c.
h John, chap. 8. ver. 34. 1Ibid. verse 51.
k Heb. chap. 2. ver. 14.
John, Chap. VIII. Ver. 32.
These words, as lately I delivered in another place, are a particular encouragement given by our Saviour Christ unto those believing Jews, his hearers; as they had now made a fair beginning, so he wills them to continue in his truth, that they might know the truth. In handling whereof I told you, there was a certain excellent knowledge of the truth, which could not be attained at our first hearing or liking of the word, but by continuing therein: for which cause, by the apostle James (I told you) it is called the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls, and by which a man must be judged at the last day. When a man attends to the word, to rivet it in; when a man is transformed with the image thereof, so as to be one with it, it remaining one in him, and he in it; then the truth doth make us free. Therefore our Saviour here wills them not to be contented with having a flash of the truth, but to continue in his word, that they might know the truth, and the truth might make them free. From that, he shows them, shall another knowledge come, which shall make a man to see more excellent things. But to know Christ's meaning, consider,
1. What is truth?
2. What our liberty here promised is?
Truth is a great word, of large extent, often used by our Saviour Christ, and St. John uses it much. A matter it is worth the looking after; for our Saviour affirms, "For*
* John, chap. 18. ver. 37.
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." When he had thus said unto Pilate, then he asks at our Saviour, "What is truth?" The princes of this world knew it not. It is not an easy matter to tell what truth is. But howsoever the meaning be, Christ himself is principally meant. Look at verse 45. There Christ saith to the Jews, " Becauseb I tell you the truth, you believe me not." He himself is chiefly the truth, as we may see, "Ic am the way, the truth, and the life." But truth is diversely taken in other places; as here, verse 45. of this chapter, where my text is: M Because"i I tell you the truth, you believe me not." 1. Truth is there opposed unto falsehood, when there are tricks and dissimulation in the business. 2. So in that place it signifies an integrity in the whole man ; from which (it is set down verse 44.) the devil fell, and stood not. It is written, "He continued not in the truth;" to wit, in that former state of integrity wherein he was placed at first. Now, the reason why integrity is called truth is, because it is as a girdle to fasten all our spiritual armour, and tie it close about us: as we see our clothes hang loose about us, till they be girded on; and then they are close and more handsome. So long as a man's graces are not girded with this girdle, all are nothing; integrity fastens and makes all sure. 3. All the state of the gospel is there called the truth: "The0 elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth. For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever." 4. By truth, in another place, is meant the word of God; as it is where Christ prays, " Sanctify' them through thy truth; thy word is truth." 5. Lastly; by truth is meant Christ himself. Saith he, " l" am the way, the truth, and the life." And thus Christ tells the Jews, the truth shall make you free. That is, as if he should have said, I being believed in, apprehended, and applied as true in all my
b John, chap. 8. ver. 45.
c Ibid. chap. 14. ver. 6.
e 2 John, ver. 1.
'Ibid. chap. 14. ver. 6.
words by you, being obeyed and esteemed as that sovereign and universal good, so long since looked for and promised; this shall make you free. Which is proved verse 36. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, then shall you be free indeed. The truth makes us free, when the Son makes us free. We must not separate the word from the ground and substance thereof. And for this you see what is written Psal. * * * *
And so of our Saviour Christ, it is said, "Thath God hath exalted him highly, and given him a name above every name." But yet we see he hath engaged his truth and his word above all his name. By his word also we know him, and thereby see what he hath done for us. "Yeai, by his knowledge (saith the Lord) shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." That is, by those instructions from his word, believing therein, they shall come to have assurance of their freedom from condemnation.
Now, ere I come to the main matter of this text, I will observe one thing, and so pass on to the rest. Our Saviour here showeth himself to be the true witness; he is the truth. For by truth here (I have showed you) is meant Christ and his word. Thou mayest trust him in whatsoever he saith; heaven and earth shall pass away, rather than his word fail. I say the point is: the Son who shall make us free, whatsoever he promiseth us, we may build upon it. It is certain and sure, and shall be done. It must be so, for he is the truth itself. See to this purpose, what the Spirit speaketh of Christ, after his resurrection. "Thesek things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." This is the chief name, Amen, the faithful and true witness.
The inference from hence is; as he is, so is his word. And therefore it is, that this truth of God and of his word is so much stood upon by our Saviour, and by all the prophets and apostles; that we might have confidence and
h Phil. chap. 2. ver. 9. 1Isa. chap. 53. ver. 2.
k Rev. chap. 3. ver. 14.
trust therein. For the promises are of great things, such as without this we durst not reach at; to make us the sons of God; of bondslaves, freemen; to make us heirs, yea, co-heirs with Christ; and give us a kingdom in eternal life. And in this life also the promises are great: to be with us in all temptations and dangers, to overrule all crosses and afflictions so, as in the end all shall make for our good, notwithstanding Satan and all his malice; and in death to bring us that way to life. In all which, if we rest not on the truth of the promiser, we shall stagger; as we see Christians (like unto David) are ready to fly out upon every little cross to distrust, as if he had left them, unless this truth be looked upon. When David was greatly afflicted, he said in his haste, " AllTM men are liars." Thus began his distrust, when he began to doubt of the truth of all men. But afterwards he fell into more distrust, when he said in his heart, "I" shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me, than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines, and Saul shall despair of me." And so, in another place, for fear of Achish, we read, "He0 feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down by his beard." So it is with us: we do never play the fools, till we begin to distrust God, and leave trusting in him; then we come to show ourselves madmen, to scratch on the wall, and to be full of distempers and vile passions; then are we foolish indeed, and much woe and misery befalls us in this estate.
The servants of God for this cause are plentiful (as I have showed) to set forth the truth of God unto us; as, to instance onep, after he had brought them into the land of Canaan, as the Lord had promised, thus he speaks unto them before his death: "And behold this day I am going the way of all the earth; and ye know in all your hearts, that in all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you, all are come to pass unto you, and not one
■ Psalm 116. ver. 10,11.
"1 Sam. chap. 27. ver. 1.