The Progress Of Truth Dependent On Correct Interpretation -- By: Seth Sweetser

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 027:105 (Jan 1870)
Article: The Progress Of Truth Dependent On Correct Interpretation
Author: Seth Sweetser


The Progress Of Truth Dependent On Correct Interpretation1

Rev. Seth Sweetser

The excellent and learned Dr. Cudworth, in the opening of his celebrated sermon preached before the House of Commons in 1647, has these words: “The sons of Adam are now as busy as ever himself was about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, shaking the boughs of it, and scrambling for the fruit; whilst, I fear, many are too unmindful of the tree of life.” Such an apprehension is as becoming in our day as it was two centuries ago. All knowledge, whether of God himself or of his works, of man, his nature and capacity, or his duty and destiny, should advance us in fitness and disposition to glorify and enjoy God. No higher aim can be proposed to us. The exercise of our faculties in the discovery and comprehension of laws and principles, both in material things and in the realm of mind, affords pleasure. But the pleasure of knowing, elevated as in one sense it is, is trivial and ephemeral when compared with the fruit of knowing, as knowledge feeds, fashions, and purifies the proper life and being of the soul. The divine goodness has made the bread we eat sweet to our taste, and the satisfaction of hunger a relish and delight. Yet is it unworthy of us to eat for mere pleasure; so it is with knowledge, which is to be got for the right use of it, rather than for the luxury of knowing.

The text has relation to a particular kind of knowledge, namely, that of God’s truth; and it implies a particular end to be gained by it, namely, holiness: “Sanctify them

through thy truth; thy word is truth.” As God in his moral character is comprehensively described as holy, and as the summit of human attainments is likeness to God, it follows that understanding and applying God’s truth is the way to secure the true and noblest end of our being.

Our chief duty lies with the word of God and the use of it. We admit without question, as implied in the text, that the word of God is truth. The designed effect involves the necessity of knowing it. The spirit of it, transfused through the soul, quickening it, and dwelling at the centre of activity and inciting us, is the power of spiritual growth and vigor; even as the heat of the sun, permeating the soil, seeking out the rootlets of a plant, and imparting warmth, is the quickening force in vegetable life. This, however, we should consider, — there is no magical power in the words of God—no charm in the letter to sway us and transform us, but only a moral power, acting through our understanding upon our will and affections. So then, having the words of God, we are to draw out from them the true idea of which they are th...

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