A Body of Divinity
The Truth of God
The next attribute is God’s truth. 'A God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is he.’ Deut 32: 4. 'For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.’ Psa 57: 10. 'Plenteous in truth.’ Psa 86: 15.
I. God is the truth. He is true in a physical sense; true in his being: he has a real subsistence, and gives a being to others. He is true in a moral sense; he is true sine errore, without errors; et sine fallacia, without deceit. God is prima veritas, the pattern and prototype of truth. There is nothing true but what is in God or comes from God.
II God's truth, as it is taken from his veracity in making good his promises. 'There has not failed one word of all his good promise.’ I Kings 8: 56. The promise is God's bond; God's truth is the seal set to his bond.
There are two things to be observed in the promises of God to comfort us. [I] The power of God, whereby he is able to fulfil the promise. God has promised to subdue our corruption. 'He will subdue our iniquities.’ Micah 7: I9. Oh, says a believer, my corruption is so strong, that I am sure I shall never get the mastery of it. Abraham looked at God’s power. 'Being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform.’ Rom 4: 2I. He believed that God, who could make a world, could make dry breasts give suck. It is faith’s support that there is nothing too hard for God. He that could bring water out of a rock is able to bring to pass his promises.
 The truth of God in the promises. God’s truth is the seal set to the promise. 'In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie has promised.' Tit 1: 2. Eternal life, there is the sweetness of the promise: God which cannot lie, there is the certainty of it. Mercy makes the promise, truth fulfils it. God's providences are uncertain, but his promises are the 'sure mercies of David.’ Acts 13: 34. 'God is not a man that he should repent.' I Sam 15: 29. The word of a prince cannot always be taken, but God's promise is inviolable. God's truth is one of the richest jewels of his crown, and he has pawned it in a promise. 'Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.' 2 Sam 23: 5. Although my house be not so, that is, though I fail much of that exact purity the Lord requires, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, that he will pardon, adopt, and glorify me; and this covenant is ordered in all things and sure. 'The elements shall melt with fervent heat;' but this covenant abides firm and inviolable, being sealed with the truth of God. Nay, God has added to his word his oath, wherein he pawns his being, life, and righteousness to make good the promise. Heb 6: I7. If as often as we break our vows with God, he should break promise with us, it would be very sad; but his truth is engaged in his promise, therefore it is like the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered. 'We are not,' says Chrysostom, 'to believe our senses so much as we are to believe the promises.' Our senses may fail us, but the promise cannot, being built upon the truth of God. God will not deceive the faith of his people, nay, he cannot. 'God, who cannot lie, has promised;' he can as well part with his Deity as his verity. God is said to be abundant in truth. Exod 34: 6. What is that? If God has made a promise of mercy to his people, he will be so far from coming short of his word that he will be better than his word. He often does more than he has said, never less. He is abundant in truth.
(I.) The Lord may sometimes delay a promise, but he will not deny. He may delay a promise. God's promise may lie a good while as seed under ground, but at last it will spring up into a crop. He promised to deliver Israel from the iron furnace, but this promise was above four hundred years in travail before it brought forth. Simeon had a promise that he should not depart hence, 'till he had seen the Lord's Christ,’ Luke 2: 26, but it was a long time first, but a little before his death, that he did see Christ. But though God delay the promise, he will not deny. Having given his bond, in due time the money will be paid.
(2.) God may change his promise, but he will not break it. Sometimes God changes a temporal promise into a spiritual. 'The Lord shall give that which is good,' Psa 85: I2; which may not be fulfilled in a temporal sense, but a spiritual. God may let a Christian be cut short in temporals, but he makes it up in spirituals. If he does not increase the basket and the store, he gives increase of faith, and inward peace. Here he changes his promise, but he does not break it, he gives that which is better. If a man promises to pay me in farthings, and he pays me in a better coin, as in gold, he does not break his promise. 'I will not suffer my faithfulness to fail.’ Psa 89: 33. In the Hebrew it is, to lie.
How does it consist with the truth of God, that he will have all to be saved, and yet some perish? I Tim 2: 4.
Augustine understands it, not of every individual person, but some of all sorts shall be saved. As in the ark, God saved all the living creatures; not every bird or fish was saved, for many perished in the flood; but all, that is, some of every kind were saved; so he will have all to be saved, that is, some of all nations.
It is said, Christ died for all. 'He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.’ John 1: 29. How does this consist with God’s truth, when some are vessels of wrath? Rom 9: 22.
(I.) We must qualify the term world. The world is taken either in a limited sense, for the world of the elect; or in a larger sense, for both elect and reprobates. 'Christ takes away the sins of the world,’ that is, the world of the elect.
(2.) We must qualify also Christ's dying for the world. Christ died sufficiently for all, not effectually. There is the value of Christ’s blood, and the virtue. Christ's blood has value enough to redeem the whole world, but the virtue of it is applied only to such as believe. Christ's blood is meritorious for all, not efficacious. All are not saved, because some put away salvation from them, as in Acts 13: 46, and vilify Christ's blood, counting it an unholy thing. Heb 10: 29.
Use one: The truth of God is a great pillar for our faith. Were not he a God of truth, how could we believe in him? Our faith were fancy; but he is truth itself, and not a word which he has spoken shall fall to the ground. 'Truth is the object of trust.' The truth of God is an immovable rock, on which we may venture our salvation. Isa 59: I5. 'Truth faileth:' truth on earth does, but not truth in heaven. God can as well cease to be God, as cease to be true. Has God said, he 'will do good to the soul that seeks him,' Lam 3: 25, and he will 'give rest to the weary?' Matt 11: 28. Here is a safe anchor-hold, he will not alter the thing which is gone out of his lips. The public faith of heaven is engaged for believers. Can we have better security? The whole earth hangs upon the word of God's power, and shall not our faith hang upon the word of God's truth? Where can we rest our faith but upon God's faithfulness? There is nothing else we can believe in but the truth of God. To trust in ourselves is to build upon quick sands; but the truth of God is a golden pillar for faith to stay upon. God cannot deny himself. 'If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.’ 2 Tim 2: 13. Not to believe God's veracity, is to affront God. 'He that believeth not, has made God a liar.' I John 5: 10. A person of honour cannot be more affronted or provoked, than when he is not believed. He that denies God's truth makes the promise no better than a forged deed; and can there be a greater affront offered to God?
Use two: If God is a God of truth, he is true to his threatenings. The threatenings are a flying roll against sinners. God has threatened to 'wound the hairy scalp of every one that goes on still in his trespasses.' Psa 68: 2I. He has threatened to judge adulterers. Heb 13: 4. To be avenged upon the malicious. Psa 10: I4. 'Thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thine own hand;' and to 'rain fire and brimstone upon the sinner.' Psa 11: 6. God is as true to his threatenings as to his promises. To show his truth he has executed his threatenings, and let his thunderbolts of judgement fall upon sinners in this life. He struck Herod in the act of his pride. He has punished blasphemers. Olympius, an Arian bishop, reproached and blasphemed the blessed Trinity, and immediately lightning fell down from the heaven upon him and consumed him. Let us fear the threatening that we may not feel it.
Use three: Is God a God of truth? Let us be like God in truth. (I.) We must be true in our words. Pythagoras being asked what made men like God, answered, 'When they speak truth.' It is the note of a man that shall go to heaven. 'He speaketh the truth in his heart.’ Psa 15: 2. Truth in words is opposed (I.) To lying. 'Putting away lying, speak every one truth to his neighbour.' Eph 4: 25. Lying is when one speaks that for truth which he knows to be false. A liar is most opposite to the God of truth. There are, as Augustine says, two sorts of lies. An officious lie, when a man tells a lie for his profit; as, when a tradesman says his commodity cost him so much, when perhaps it did not cost him half so much. He that will lie in his trade shall lie in hell. A jesting lie, when a man tells a lie in sport, to make others merry, and goes laughing to hell. He who tells a lie makes himself like the devil. 'The devil is a liar, and the father of it.' John 8: 44. He deceived our first parents by a lie. Some are so wicked, that they will not only speak an untruth, but will swear to it; nay, they will wish a curse upon themselves, if that untruth be not true. I have read of a woman, one Anne Avarie, who in 1575, being in a shop, wished that she might sink if she had not paid for the wares she took, and fell down speechless immediately and died. A liar is not fit to live in a commonwealth. Lying takes away all society and converse with men. How can you converse with a man when you cannot believe what he says? Lying shuts men out of heaven. 'Without are dogs, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.' Rev 22: 15. As it is a great sin to tell a lie, so it is a worse sin to teach a lie. 'The prophet that teacheth lies.’ Isa 9: I5. He who broacheth error teacheth lies; he spreads the plague; he not only damns himself, but helps to damn others. (II.) Truth in words is opposed to dissembling. The heart and tongue should go together, as the dial goes exactly with the sun. To speak fair to one’s face, and not to mean what one speaks, is no better than a lie. 'His words were smoother than oil, but war was in his heart.' Psa 55: 21. Some have an art to flatter and hate. Jerome, speaking of the Arians, says, 'they pretended friendship, they kissed my hands, but plotted mischief against me.’ 'A man that flattereth his neighbour, spreadeth a net for his feet.’ Prov 29: 5. Impia sub dulci melle venena latent [Cruel poison can be hidden under sweet honey). Falsehood in friendship is a lie. Counterfeiting friendship is worse than counterfeiting money.
(2.) We must be true in our profession of religion. Let practice go along with profession. 'Righteousness and true holiness.’ Eph 4: 24. Hypocrisy in religion is a lie. The hypocrite is like a face in a glass, which is the show of a face, but no true face. He makes show of holiness, but has no truth in it. Ephraim pretended to be that which he was not; and what says God of him? 'Ephraim compasseth me about with lies.’ Hos 11: I2. By a lie in our words we deny the truth; by a lie in our profession we disgrace it. Not to be to God what we profess is telling a lie; and the Scripture makes it little better than blasphemy. 'I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and are not.' Rev 2: 9. Oh! I beseech you, labour to be like God. He is a God of truth. He can as well part with his Deity as his verity. Be like God, be true in your words, be true in your profession. God’s children are children that will not lie. Isa 63: 8. When God sees 'truth in the inward parts,’ and 'lips in which is no guile,' he sees his own image, which draws his heart towards us. Likeness produces love.