Reason. I shall give but one reason of the point, and that is taken from the great trust which God puts in his saints concerning his truth. This is the great depositum—treasure, which God delivers to his saints, with a strict and solemn charge to keep against all that undermine or oppose it. Some things we trust God with, some things God trusts us with. The great thing which we put into God’s hand to be kept for us is our soul. ‘He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day,’ II Tim. 1:12. That which God trusts us chiefly with is his truth. It is therefore said to be ‘delivered’ to them, as a charge of money to a friend whom we confide in. ‘Contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints,’ Jude 3. ‘Unto them,’ saith the apostle, speaking of the Jews, ‘were committed the oracles of God,’ Rom. 3:2. They were concredited with that heavenly treasure. So Paul Exhorts Timothy to ‘hold fast the form of sound words,’ II Tim. 1:13, and this, he calls the ‘good thing which was committed to him,’ ver. 14. If he that is intrusted with the keeping of a king’s crown and jewels, ought to look carefully to his charge that none be lost or stolen, much more the Christian that hath in his charge God’s crown and treasure. Rob God of his truth, and what hath he left? The word of truth is that testimony which the great God gives of himself to man, Ps 19:7; Isa.20; Heb. 12:1; Rev. 11:3. The saints are his chosen witnesses above others, whom he calls forth to vouch his truth, by a free and holy profession thereof before men—called therefore the witnesses of God. He that maintains any error from the word, bears false witness against God. He that for fear or shame deserts the truth, or dissembles his profession, denies God his testimony; and who can express what a bloody sin this is, and what a high contempt of God it amounts? It were a horrid crime though but in a man’s case. As when one is falsely accused in a court, [it would be that one able] to speak something that might clear the innocency of the man, should yet suffer him to be condemned, rather than hazard himself a little by speaking the truth in open court. O, what then is his sin, that when God himself in his truth stands at sorry man’s bar, dares not speak for God when called in to declare himself, but lets truth suffer by an unjust sentence, that himself may not, at man’s hands, for bearing witness to it!
Objection. But this may seem too heavy a burden to lay on the Christian’s back. Must we lay all at stake, and hazard all that is dear to us, rather than deny or dissemble our profession of the truth? Sure Christ will have but few followers if he holds his servants to such hard terms.
Answer. Indeed it is hard to flesh and blood —one of the highest stiles to be gone over in our way to heaven—a carnal heart cannot hear it but he is offended presently, Matt. 13:21. Therefore such as are loath to lose heaven, and yet unwilling to venture thus much for it, have set their wits at work to find an easier way thither. Hence those heretics of old —Priscillianists and others, whose chief religion was to save their own skin—made little of outward profession. They thought they might say and unsay, swear and forswear—according to their wretched principle, juro, perjuro, mentem injuratum gero—I swear and forswear, I bear a mind that is not bound by any oath—so in their heart they did but cleave to the truth. O what fools were the prophets, apostles, and other holy martyrs, that have sealed the truth with their blood, if their might have been such a fair way of escaping the storm of persecution. [Those must be] bold men, that to save a little trouble from man for truth’s sake, durst invent such detestable blasphemies against the truth; yea, deface those characters which nature itself engraves upon the conscience. The same window that lets in the light of a deity, would, with it, let in this also, that we should walk in the name of this God. The every heathen know this: ‘All people will walk every one in the name of his god,’ Micah 4:5. Socrates, to blood, held [that] there was but one God; and in his apology for his life said, ‘If they would give him his life on condition to keep this truth to himself, and not teach it to others, he would not accept it.’ Behold here the powerful workings of a natural conscience! Have not they then improved the knowledge of the Scripture well in the meantime, that are so far outshot from nature’s weak bow? Religion would soon vanish into an empty nothing, if, for fear of every one we meet, we must, like runaway soldiers, pluck off our colours and put our profession as it were in our pockets, lest it should be known to whom we belong. What doth God require by a free profession of his truth, more than a master doth of his servant, when he bids him take his livery and follow him in the streets? Or, than a prince, [when he] calls his subjects into the field, to declare their loyalty by owning his quarrel against an invading enemy? And is it reasonable, what man requires of these—and only hard, when it comes from God’s hands? Nay, it is not more, nor so much as we desire of God for ourselves. Who would not have God make profession of his love to us, and bear witness for us against Satan and our own sins, at that great day when men and angels shall be spectators? And shall we expect that from God which he owes us by no law, but of his own free promise, and deny him that which we are under so many bonds to pay? If it be but in some affliction, while we are here, how disconsolate are we if God’s face be a little overcast, and he doth not own us in our distress? And is there no kindness to be shown to that God that knows your soul in adversity? When his truth is in an agony, may not Christ look that all his friends should sit up and watch with it? O it were shame with a witness that any such effeminate delicacy should be found among Christ’s servants, that they cannot break a little of their worldly rest and enjoyments, to attend on him and his truth.