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To conclude; the ways of God are, very frequently, not our ways; Yet, when the difference is most striking, a diligent inquiry will sometimes convince us (as in the case before us) that they may be justified even to our apprehensions: The use of which conviction should be, to satisfy us, in other cases, that his ways are always adorable, even when to us, in this state of weakness and blindness, they are past finding out.
z Isaiah lix. 8.
PREACHED JANUARY 24, 1773.
JOHN xiv. 2.
In my Father's house are many mansions: IF
IT WERE NOT SO, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU.
THESE words are not a little remarkable ; and, if carefully considered, will be found to make very much for the honour of the Christian religion, and its divine author.
Our blessed Lord was now upon the point of leaving the world. He foresaw, distinctly, his own approaching death, and the discouragements of all sorts, which, of course, would oppress his disciples, when he should be taken
from them. He therefore applies himself, in this farewell address, to animate their courage by the assurance of future glory. "Let not your heart be troubled, says he, at the worst that may befall you: Ye believe in the general providence of God: believe also in me, in the care which I shall especially take to see an ample recompence made you for all your sufferings on my account. For in my Father's house are many mansions; wherein each of you, according to his deserts, shall for ever enjoy an inviolable repose and felicity. And on this promise ye may rely with the most entire confidence for know this, That, if it were not so, no consideration should have induced me to fill your minds with vain hopes; on the other hand, I would have told you the plain truth, how unwelcome soever it might be to you.
We have here, then, from the mouth of Christ himself, an express disavowal of RELIGIOUS FRAUD OR IMPOSTURE; and that, in a point where wise men have sometimes thought themselves at liberty, nay under an obligation, to lye for the public service, and in a conjuncture, too, when, if ever, it might seem allowable for a good man to deceive his friends on a mere principle of compassion.
For what so beneficial, it may be said, to mankind, at large, as the persuasion of a future state, in which their happiness shall be proportioned to their virtue? And whỏ, that has any bowels, would carry his attachment to strict truth so far, as not to suffer an unhappy friend to die, at least, in this persuasion, when the hopes of life, or the comforts of it, had entirely forsaken him ?”.
These questions are plausible: but our Lord, who was the Truth, as well as the Life, governed himself by other maxims. He knew that the real interests of mankind are only, or are best promoted by veracity; that every degree of fraud, though it may have some immediate, or temporary good effects, is, in the order of things, productive of much mischief; is injurious to our moral and reasonable nature, which was made for truth, and finds its proper satisfaction in it; is liable to detection, to suspicion, at least; and if it be but the latter (entertained on probable grounds, and become, as it soon will be, universal), not only the chief benefits of the imposture are, thenceforth, lost, but truth itself, in other cases, is taken for imposture of which there is not a more deplorable instance, than in the subject we are now considering: for, it being well known
that men have been forward to deceive each other in matters of religion, and particularly in what concerns the hope or fear of a future state, hence, an incurable suspicion has sunk deep into the minds of too many, concerning Christianity itself; as if, in this momentous doctrine of life and immortality, it amused us only, as many other schemes of religion have done, with a plausible and politic fiction.
But our blessed Lord, as I said, had other views of this matter, and governed himself by other principles. He knew, who it was that had been a liar, and therefore a man-slayer from the beginning a; and left it to him, the adversary of God and man, to signalize himself by murderous deceit and imposture. For himself, he tells his disciples, whom of all men, it concerned him most to possess with this salutary belief of a future state; He tells them, I say, that, instead of deluding them with a groundless hope, he would certainly, and even at this season, which made that hope so infinitely precious, declare to them the simple truth, and on no account permit them to continue under a false (if it had been false), though flattering persuasion.