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THE NATURE AND IMPORTANCE
TRUTH AND VERACITY.
Exodus xx. 16.
The preceding Command was intended to secure Justice to mankind: this was intended to establish Truth.
The word Truth denotes, among other things,
I. Such Declarations, as are accordant with the real state of things :
2. That division of Truth, which is called JMoral, or Evangelical :
3. Veracity; or a disposition to speak Truth:
4. Faithfulness; or a disposition to fulfil, exactly, Promises, Trusts, and Covenants.
Under this Command are properly ranged the following Subjects.
II. Lying ;
III. Perjury; and,
These I propose to consider in the order specified.
The first of them, viz. Truth, shall occupy the present discourse. In examining it, it is my design to consider the Nature and Importance of Truth, and the Importance of Veracity. Concerning the former of these Subjects I observe, 1. That Truth is an account of the real state of things. JMathematical Truth is an account of the real state of Number, and Quantity, together with their various relations; Philosophical Truth, understood in the natural sense, of Material bodies, and their operations; and Moral Truth, of Intelligent beings, their relations, their duties, and their actions. The real state of things is that, with which only we have any concern: and with this our concern is infinite. In the present world, so far as the present world only is concerned, our whole interest is involved in the real state of ourselves, our business and the subjects of it; our families, our country, and mankind. The collection of truths, which we receive concerning these and other subjects, is what is called knowledge; our guide to all that conduct, which may be useful to us, and our security against that, which may be noxious. The truth, that bread is whole. some food, enables us to eat it with safety. A falsehood, in this case, might lead us to swallow poison. A knowledge of the true state of our farms, and of agriculture, enables us to cultivate our farms with profit. A knowledge of the real state of the markets, enables us to trade with safety and success. A knowledge of the real characters of men, enables us to choose those, who will be our real friends; and secures us from inviting to our friendship base and treacherous men. Misapprehension, in these respects, would ruin both our business and ourselves. In the Moral World, the truth concerning God, his pleasure, ourselves, the relations which we sustain to him and to each other, and the duties springing from these relations, enables us to obey him ; to become blessings to each other; and to obtain the blessings of immortality. Falsehood, in these respects, would lead us infinitely astray. False apprehensions of God have led a great part of mankind to worship devils, men, beasts, trees, stocks, and stones; to mistake sin for virtue, and ruin for safety. No man ever dreamed, that his interests lay in the regions of fiction, or that his sober correspondence should be car. ried on with fairies and genii. But the man, who embraces falsehood, and is governed by it, places his interests, so far, in a world equally visionary; and corresponds not with real beings, but with creatures of fancy. As happiness can never come to us from the regions of fiction, or their imaginary inhabitants; so happiness never sprang, and never will spring, from false views of the real world, and its real inhabitants. Our only connection with these objects is through the medium of truth, or the knowledge of their real state. 2. Truth is, in itself, a rich source of Enjoyment. By this I intend, that it is an object immediately enjoyed; and that, when presented to the mind, it communicates pleasure of course. Fiction may be, in this sense, and, I acknowledge, often is, a source of real enjoyment to the mind. God, to raise our views to a better world than that which has been ruined by our apostacy, and to awaken in us desires for a nobler happiness than any which this world supplies, has made us capable of forming many delightful objects in our imagination; many, which are beautiful; many, which are sublime; and many, which are wonderful. On these the mind rests with pleasure, during short periods; especially in youth; and, so long as they are regarded as objects of imagination merely, they are sources of pleasure, which may be really enjoyed, and to a considerable extent. But when any fiction is changed into a falsehood; when it ceases to be an object of the imagination, and becomes an object of belief; it is always, sooner or later, a source of suffering, and not of enjoyment. Even in the character of fiction, it gradually loses its power to please. As we advance in years, the love of Truth, considered as a source of pleasure merely, takes its place; and the mind seeks for enjoyment in knowledge, and not in the exercises of imagination. But Truth is always capable of yielding more delight to the mind, than fiction: or, in other words, intellectual enjoyment is always capable of being superior to that, which flows in by the fancy. The actual state of things, which God has made, is, in every respect, more beautiful, glorious, and desirable, than any, which the mind can imagine. Every person, who understands the modes, in which the mind is actively employed in forming complex ideas, whether of the Intellect, or the Imagination, knows, that all such ideas are made out of those, which it receives from objects really existing. These it can compound, and compare ; but can add to them nothing, but what it has already perceived. New beauty, new sublimity, new loveliness, it can form, only by bringing together, in new unions, the perception of beauty, sublimity, and loveliness, which it has derived either from the actual state of things, or from Revelation. In the objects formed by the fancy, therefore, there can be nothing, in degree, more sublime, beautiful, or lovely, than that, which it has already received. In conformity with these observations, no object was ever described by the pen of man, so as to make the impression of sublimity equally with the object itself. No images in human writings were ever so sublime, as those of Inspiration. No character, formed by the imagination, was ever to be compared with that of Christ. . When I speak of the actual state of things, which God has made, as in every respect more beautiful, glorious, and desirable, than any, which the mind can imagine, I mean the whole state of things. The Universe is a single system. Every thing, belonging to it, is a necessary, and proper, part of the system: such a part, as Infinite Wisdom thought it best to make ; and, therefore such, as was more desirable, than any thing else, in its place. The whole, taken together, is a perfect system: the result of the perfect views of the All-Perfect Mind. In such a sense is it perfect, that it is truly said, Jehovah shall rejoice in his Works : that is, because all, united, are such, as to accomplish, to the utmost, the good pleasure of his boundless Wisdom. The Truth concerning this system, or the knowledge of its real state, will for ever delight, as well as enlarge, the minds of virtuous and immortal beings. * In the present world, imperfect, prejudiced, and narrow, as our minds are, the exhibitions of Truth concerning this subject in the Scriptures, are not only superior to every thing, conceived by the human imagination, but more delightful to every virtuous being; more delightful beyond comparison, as well as superior beyond degree. The Character of God; the Mediation of the Redeemer; the Agency of the Divine Spirit; the dispensations Vol. IV. 42
of infinite mercy; the restoration of sinners to virtue and happiness; the consummation of all things; the blessings of immortality; the glory of Heaven; and the future union of sanctified minds in that delightful world; leave out of sight, and out of remembrance, all the creations of Poetry; all the splendid excursions of Imagination. Into these things, Angels desire to lookAll those, whose minds are attuned to the disposition of Angels, love to follow them in this divine employment. Nay, God Himself regards this combination of wonderful objects as a glorious picture, an illustrious emanation, of his own Wisdom, which he beholds for ever with the smiles of infinite complacency. 3. That great division of Truth, which is called Moral, or Evangelical Truth, is, in an important sense, the foundation of all Virtue. Sanctify them through thy Truth thy Word is truth : said our Saviour in his intercessory prayer, John xvii. 17. Of his own will begat He us, with the Word of Truth, James i. 17. The Truth, said Christ to the Jews, shall make you free. From these declarations it is completely evident, that Evangelical Truth is the means of that mighty change in the human soul, by which, according to the strong language of the Scriptures, it is turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. The Law of the Lord, says David, is perfect, converting the soul. But the Law of God is nothing but Truth, communicated in the preceptive form. All its influence on the soul is derived from this fact : and, were it not conformed to Truth, or were it, in other words, founded on falsehood, its moral influence would cease. Particularly, its influence to produce this conversion would be annihilated. Truth, then, is, in this point of view, of just as much importance to the happiness of mankind, and to the glory of God, as the salvation of all the millions, who have been, or will be, saved. Falsehood, or error, has, in the mean time, never had the least influence towards the accomplishment of this glorious purposeFrom the erroneous moral systems of men, no individual ever gained the least tendency towards real virtue. Truths, indeed, these systems have always involved: and the influence of these truths has so far been felt by mankind, as to prompt them to