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or rather so enlivening as the light; which is that, that gives a seasonage to all other fruitions, that lays open the bosom of the universe, and shews the treasures of nature; and, in a word, gives opportunity to the enjoyment of all the other senses.
It is reported of a certain blind man, that he yet knew when a candle was brought into the room, by the sudden refreshment that he found caused by it upon his spirits. Now give me leave to shew, that truth is as great a comfort to the soul. For what makes the studious man prefer a book before a revel, the rigours of contemplation and retirements, before merry-meetings and jolly company? Is it because he has not the same appetites with other men, or because he has no taste of pleasure ? No, certainly; but because a nobler pleasure has rendered those inferior ones tasteless and contemptible.
For is there any delight comparable to what reason finds, when it pursues a conclusion into all its consequences, and sees one truth grow out of another, and by degrees rise out of obscurity into evidence and demonstration? Do you think that the intent speculations of Archimedes were not infinitely more pleasing than the carouses of Epicurus ? And if the embraces of natural truth be so transporting to a philosopher, what must the discovery of the supernatural revealed truths of the gospel be to a Christian ? where the pleasure is heightened according to the different worth of the object; where every truth comes recommended to the soul with a double excellency, its greatness and its concernment.
(2.) Truth comes to have this comforting influence upon man's mind, from the peculiar and
sovereign virtue it has to clear the conscience; and that, from the two great annoyances and disturbances of it, guilt and doubting : which two are the causes of all the trouble and perplexity of man's mind.
First, It clears it from guilt. Sin is the standing and eternal cause of sorrow, and that not only from those outward, penal effects that it draws after it, but from the very reflection of the mind upon it. It is troublesome, offensive, and opposite to the principles of nature. The conscience shrinks, and feels a kind of horror within itself, when it thinks of a vile action. Every sin upon the apprehensive conscience is like a dust falling upon the ball of the eye; how pungent, sharp, and afflicting is it to that tender part !
Now truth discharges the conscience of the trouble of guilt, by being the great means to prevent the sin. Hence the way of holiness is frequently in scripture called the way of truth : and it is worth our observation, that there is no sin ever committed, but it is ushered in by some error of the mind, and a false judgment passed upon things. For notwithstanding that in most sins the mind has a general judgment of the evil of the thing that it is about to do, before the sin comes to be actually committed: from all circumstances and particulars put together, as the present gratification, and yet withal future safety upon repentance, the mind passes a particular practical judgment, that it is better for it to do that sin, than not to do it. And here is the deception, after which follows the sinful action. But now, did the mind proceed by the unerring rules and informations of truth, it would judge
otherwise, and consequently do otherwise ; and thereupon be secured from that trouble, horror, and anguish of conscience, that God by an irreversible decree has entailed upon the commission of sin.
Secondly, Truth clears the conscience of doubt; and this frequently exerts its perplexing quality, where there is no other foundation but a mere surmise of guilt. For how come the consciences of the most pious and the strictest persons to be oftentimes in such plunges of horror and amazement, but from misgivings about the safety of their spiritual estate? And what is the cause of doubting but the disappearance of truth? How comes the mind to be frighted and amazed, but because it is in the dark ? When truth wraps itself in a cloud, and shuns the eye, then the reason of man is in suspense, and under various fluctuations which way to determine :; but it is certainty alone, that is the bottom of all rational determinations.
There is no weariness like that which rises from doubting, from the perpetual jogging of an unfixed
The torment of suspense is very great ; and as soon as the wavering, perplexed mind begins to determine, be the determination which way soever, it will find itself at ease. But now it is the Spirit of truth that gives assurance, assurance that cashiers doubt, and consequently restores comfort.
And thus much for the first part of the text, in which is contained the promise of sending the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. I proceed now to the
Second, viz. the end of his being sent, which was to testify of Christ.
In which we are to consider two things.
1. What it was that the Spirit was to testify of Christ.
2. By what ways and means he was to testify this of him.
1. For the first of these, the Holy Ghost was never sent to testify any thing of Christ, but what he had testified of himself before; as that he was the Son of God, the Messias, and Saviour of the world. In all that the Spirit was to do or speak, he was but to act the part of an ambassador: in John xvi. 13, Christ says, that he should not speak of himself. And again, in the next verse, He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All the suggestions of the Spirit in this case were not invention, but repetition.
2. As for the ways and means by which the Spirit testified of Christ, they were the gifts conferred by him upon the disciples, to enable and fit them for their apostolic employment; of the memory of which action, this day is the solemn celebration. Now, though it is not to be doubted, but the gifts of the Spirit were so universal, as to reach and cure all their unfitness; yet there were three that seemed more eminently designed, and more peculiarly effectual for the great purpose of preaching the gospel.
(1.) The first was the gift of miracles. Every miracle is the suffrage of Heaven to the truth of a doctrine. And as Christ had done greater miracles than any before him, so he promised his disciples a power of doing greater miracles than himself. The acts of the apostles were so many demonstrations of the truth of Christianity; for all those signs and wonders were done in Christ's name, which retained
a surviving efficacy, even after his departure. His name was enough to supply his presence; a name to which every knee bowed, either by way of adoration or submission. The devils confessed him, his enemies oftentimes acknowledged him, even when their interest denied him ; Acts iv. 16. Yea, every malady and disease proclaimed the truth of Christ's doctrine, while they felt the curing influence of his power. Every preacher was then a physician, without changing his profession.
(2.) The second was the gift of tongues. That a man should learn all tongues in a day's space, one would think it impossible ; yet we have seen it done when the Spirit was the teacher: so easily can God in an hour's time outdo the acquisitions of human industry for many years.
And this surely was à convincing, amazing argument of the truth of the Christian religion to all its adversaries: and the tongues by which the apostles spoke were a sufficient demonstration of the truth of what they spoke; neither was it any more than suitable to the nature of this doctrine, that what was to be known to all nations should be proclaimed in all tongues, should speak an universal language. The wisdom of Heaven did not think fit to bespeak men in an unknown tongue; nor, what had been more miraculous than all miracles, that men should be saved by what they could not understand.
(3.) The third and great means by which the Holy Ghost testified of Christ, was by that strange, undaunted, and supernatural courage that he infused into the disciples. Truly so great, that, upon a due consideration of man's nature, I look upon it as a