WITNESSES CITED FOR GOD; AND ALL THEIR WITNESSING WOES SUMMED UP IN THIS ONE POINT, VIZ., THEIR ATTESTING THAT HE IS GOD?
This sermon was preached immediately before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at Dunfermline, July 17th, 1743. To which is subjoined, A Discourse on the same subject, delivered at the conclusion of the solemnity. We are told in the first edition of the sermon, that the Author’s notes were lost, and that it was gathered from the shorthand characters of some who wrote it down as it was delivered. On this account, probably, it isneither so complete, nor appears with such advantage as it would have done had it been copied from the original.
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” Isaiah 43:12.
We are professing to be a witnessing congregation. It would be our mercy if we all knew what we are called to bear witness unto. A communion time is a special witnessing time, wherein the Lord
calls his people to bear witness to his Being, and his being a God in Christ, to bear witness that he is a God of grace and mercy in Christ, to bear witness to his goodness in the doing and suffering of
Christ for us; and wherein God is calling us forth to, and setting us upon this work to be his witnesses, saying, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
When the people of Israel were led aside into idolatry, and when strange gods, idols of the nations, were brought among them, assuming the throne of God, and claiming equal honor and homage with him, the great God condescends to call forth a number of his people to bear witness to his omnipotency, and to his being the only true God, to bear witness that he, and he only, is God, God the Saviour, in the 11th verse, “I even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour.” “I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed when there was no strange god among you,” (v.12). Are you not, might the Lord say, eye and ear-witnesses how I have declared myself, how I. have saved you, how I have showed my glory amongst you, even when there was no strange god among you? Therefore, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”
In which words we have these three things observable, 1. The most honorable work that any can be called unto, viz., [is] to be God’s witnesses. 2. Here is the most honorable and glorious truth that any can be called to witness unto, namely, the truth of all truths, that God is GOD; That I am God. 3. Here is the most notable call and authority by which any can be called forth unto this honorable office. It is the great God that says it, and by his saying it, he makes them his witnesses; “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
Without taking up time further, the subject I proceed to speak upon is the following doctrine, namely:—
That the whole witnessing work of the Lord’s people is summed up and comprehended in this one point, their being witnesses that he is God; or, their attesting that he is God. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”
We have here God, the great God, who needs no testimony from any of his creatures, appealing to his people and appealing to them three times in this and the following chapter: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen,” (Isa. 43:10); not only you that are my people, and you my servant the prophet, but also my righteous Servant Jesus Christ, whom I have chosen;Jesus Christ, the chief of God’s servants, is called here to bear witness to this saying, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord; and my servant whom I have chosen.” Another time you have it mentioned in “Fear ye not, neither be afraid; have not I told thee from the time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me?” (Isa. 44:8)). And here it is again said in the text a third time, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.”
In the prosecuting of this subject, as the Lord shall be pleased to assist we propose to do the following things: —
I. To premise some things for clearing this doctrine.
II. To show how it is, or by what means we are to be God’s witnesses; and how his people are his witnesses.
III. We would speak a little of the import of these words, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
IV. We would demonstrate and prove that the whole witnessing work of the Lord’s people is summed up and comprehended in this one, their witnessing that he is God.
V. Deduce some inferences for the application.
I. As to the first of these general heads. There are some things I would shortly premise for clearing of the doctrine. And,
1. We premise, “That the great God has seen fit to call a court, to which he cites and summons all his people to bear testimony for him and his truth, and to witness particularly to this, That he is God.” God may be said to havecalled a court for this purpose, when he brings a people to be his professing people; when he forms them into a visible church, professing his name, and calls them his people, that were not his people, (Rom. 9:25).
2. We premise, “That God is both Judge and Witness present in this court, to see who is there, to mark down all that compear [to appear in court personally] to witness for him.” He marks downwho are his witnesses: and who refuse to witness for him that he is God: for “He is not a God afar of; he searcheth Jerusalem as with lighted candles.
3. I premise, “That there are competitors with the great God, who do pretend unto that headship and sovereignty which belongs only to God.” Not only the idols of the nations, that are nothing but dumb and dead idols, but also everything that is set up in the room of God. Ever since the human race did depart from the living and true God, they have been setting up other gods. The world is become their god; and the god of this world has always been assuming the throne of God: yea, every man is setting up himself for his god, ever since that original temptation prevailed, “Ye shall be as gods,” (Gen. 3:5). And therefore I remark,
4. “That the great question that is to be discussed at this witnessing court is just this, Who is God? and whether God be God, or any other thing ought to be acknowledged as God?” It comes, I say, to that question of Elijah, “How long will ye halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him,” (1 Kings 18:21). And if the Lord alone, if Jehovah only, be God, then it is he only that you are to be witnesses for: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” Again,
5. I premise, “That there are many, yea, the most part of the children of men, that refuse to be witnesses unto this matter, That he is God.” They will not receive his testimony concerning himself that he only is God; and therefore they will not give their testimony unto him that he is God. Such is the degenerate state of mankind, so far are they departed from God, that they will not so much as acknowledge that he is God; they say upon the matter that the devil is God, for his works they do; that the world is their God, for they give it the throne of their hearts; or themselves their God, self having the throne. Whatever they do in show, or in profession, or with their mouths, yet they practically refuse to acknowledge that God is God, or to witness for him: “They profess to know God, but in works deny him.”
6. I premise, “That God is pleased to recover some of the race of Adam from this universal idolatry, from this natural atheism, and to show his glory to them, so as that he can commit unto them the deciding of this question, Whether the Lord is God? He can entrust them with it, and employ them, and boast of them as his witnesses, saying, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” It is true, there are some that are believers in Christ by profession, to whom Christ cannot commit the deciding of this question, and to whom he will not commit himself. We read of some that believed in him, to whom he did not commit himself, because he knew all men; and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man, (John 2:23-24). Indeed, many profess to be believers in Christ, unto whom Christ will not commit the deciding of this question, Whether he is God or no? Such is the blasphemous spirit of the time, this question could scarcely get fair play sometime before the judicatories, whether Christ was God; or whether one that denied the supreme deity of Christ was to be deposed or excommunicate; yea, or no? Again,
7. Another thing I premise is this, “That although the great God stands in no need of man’s testimony, yet he is pleased for his own declarative glory, to adduce many witnesses to prove that he is God; and particularly some are select and special ones.” There are two sorts of witnesses for God. There are passive and active witnesses. On the one hand, the passive witnesses are many; yea, they are innumerable. All the inanimate creatures, sun, moon, and stars, are witnesses that he is God: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his hand-work.” (Ps. 19:1). Sensitive and vegetative creatures they are witnesses to the being of God. Even heathens have observed, that “God was to be seen in every herb of the field,” Presentemque refert quaelibet herba Deum, God is to be seen in all the works of his hands. In the rational world some are passive witnesses for God that yet are active witnesses against him. The devil and the wicked world are witnesses against God actively; and yet, whether they will or not, they are passive witnesses for him that he is God; for God gets glory upon them. The Lord is many times known by the judgment he executes on them, known in his power and justice, as it is said of Pharaoh; “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth,” (Rom. 9:17). Their wickedness, and God’s vengeance following it, witness that he is a true God in his threatenings. In this respect God has many, yea, innumerable passive witnesses in the rational world, that are yet active witnesses against him, and will not directly witness that he is God. But there are some whom God creates for his glory, and forms for himself, whom he makes his willing subjects and his active witnesses, to bear witness directly in open court, as it were, that he is God: and of these he speaks here; “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” And therefore,
8. I premise, “That God claims a special relation to those whom he thus calls forth to be his faithful and honest witnesses: Ye are MY witnesses that I am God.” This imports both his relation to them as their God; and their relation to him as his witnesses: ye bear witness that I am the Lord your God. And, indeed, his calling them to be his witnesses makes them so. He makes them his witnesses, just by saying, Ye are so: Ye are my witnesses. As he calls them his people that were not his people; so he calls them to be his witnesses that were not his witnesses; for he calls things that are not, as though they were. He manifests forth his glory to them, and then says, “Ye are my witnesses that I am God.”
9. I further premise, “That the special work of God’s people, after they are effectually called, is witnessing-work; and the matter of their testimony, is God’s being and attributes.” All the duties they are called to are but branches of this one duty of witnessing for God, and of knowing and acknowledging that he is God, and their God; for this leads them to worship and glorify him accordingly.
10. I premise, “That there are special times wherein God calls forth his witnesses to attest that he is God; and particularly times wherein strange gods appear on the field: “I have declared and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you;” therefore, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” He calls them forth to it, when there are strangers to compete with him, and when he is denied in his Godhead; when he is denied in any of his truths, any of his names, any of his attributes and perfections, for then he is denied to be God. So his witnesses are called forth, to attest, at such a time, that he is God.
II. The second thing I proposed was, To show how, and by what means they are his witnesses. How are they to witness for him? His people are called to do so,
1. By believing with the heart; for, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” (Rom. 10:10). Faith in God, as he is a God in Christ, is a notable way of witnessing, and it is the root of all right witnessing; namely, by setting to our seal that God is true. If we receive his testimony concerning himself and concerning his Christ, then we witness that he isGod, that he is the true God. By unbelief we bear false witness against God, and make him a liar, and so deny him to be God; but by faith we set to ourseal that God is true.
2. They are to witness also, by confessing him with the mouth: “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” (Rom. 10:10). We believe with the heart, and then confess with the mouth. And thus here we are called to confess God to God himself, and then to the world; to acknowledge God first to himself, as the Psalmist, when he said, “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my God.” We are to acknowledge God even unto God, and then to acknowledge him before the world; to confess and not to be ashamed of him: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven: but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven,” (Matt. 10:32-33).
3. We are to witness that he is God, by a holy practice, a holy life and conversation; by religious duties and attendance on God in ordinances; holiness in our family religion: “I will walk before my house, says the Psalmist, with a perfect heart:” holiness in social religion, in keeping society with other of God’s witnesses in Christian converse and communication: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name,” (Mal. 3:16). And holiness in the whole of our walk and conversation. We are to witness for God by a gospel-conversation, and such as shall adorn, before the world, the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
4. We are called to witness for God, sometimes even with our handwriting; giving up our names, as it were, to the Lord, is sometimes called for, as a notable way of witnessing for God, and against the enemies of his glory. I remember a word you have in “Now go, write it before them in a table; and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever,” (Isa. 30:8). This is a way of witnessing that God sometimes calls to; after that promise, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground,” (Isa. 44:3) &c. it follows, verse 5, “One shall say, I am the Lord’s: and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob: and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel,” (Isa. 44:5).
5. We are called to be his witnesses sometimes by suffering for him and his truth: “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” We are to follow Christ, who endured the cross, and despised the shame; we are to follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach; and thus to witness for him by suffering: “For, if we suffer with him, we shall be glorified with him.” When truth falls in the street, it is an honor to fall in with it; for they that will fall with it, shall rise with it. We are not to be ashamed, but to account it all joy, when we are brought to tribulation for the cause of Christ.
6. We are to witness by dying, as well as suffering; even by dying in the faith, and dying in the Lord: “Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord,” (Rev. 14:13). “All these died in faith,” (Heb. 11:13). This is one of the noblest ways of witnessing, especially if it be not only a dying in the faith, but dying for the faith, in a way of witnessing thereunto, as the proto-martyr Stephen, the first witness for Christ in this manner. But,
III. We go on to the third thing, viz. To inquire into the import of this expression, “Ye are my witnesses that I am God.”
1st, As to this character, “Ye are my witnesses,” it takes in and imports these two things:
1. As if the Lord should say, Ye in a particular manner, are these whom I have created for my glory, as it is, Isaiah 43:7, “I have created him for my glory.” So it is in verse 21, “This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise.” “Ye are my witnesses;” I have separated you from the rest of the world. Observe the phraseology: he says, Ye are, in the present time, it is spoken of in the present tense; the present time, a fit time for witnessing. The interest of truth, and of my glory, calls for it; and it is dangerous to neglect the opportunity of witnessing for God.
“Ye are my witnesses;” that is, Ye are upon my side, upon the side of truth, and for me. When others are against me, “Ye are my witnesses. Ye are my acquaintances: I know you and you know me. Ye are my advocates on earth, as I am yours in heaven: ye plead my cause. Ye are my remembrancers, as it is said in the close of the chapter, “Put me in remembrance. Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence;” the words are, “Ye that are his remembrancers. Ye that are my witnesses.” Ye are my followers, when others forsake me. Ye are my confidents and trusty friends, whom I may credit to bear my testimony, and whom I can entrust with this question to be decided in open court by you, That I am God. But again,
2dly, As to their testimony, “That I am God.” O what a great matter is here, that they are called to attest “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” O what is that? Who can tell what it is? They witness, That he is God, that he is what he is. Ye are my witnesses that I am what I am; my witnesses that I am aSpirit infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Ye are my witnesses that I am Being itself; that I am wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and faithfulness itself. O! ye are my witnesses, that I am God all sufficient: that I am all in all. It is a bearing witness to all things relating to the Deity: that the Father is God, that the Son is God, that the Holy Ghost is God; and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God. “O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God;” that I am a God in Christ, God the Saviour that is here spoken of; “Besides me there is no Saviour.” Ye are my witnesses that I am God in Christ; that God is in Christ federally; for, he has made a covenant with his Chosen; that God is in Christ fully; for, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead:” that God is in Christ graciously, reconciling the world to himself: that God is in Christ gloriously, showing forth all his glory, the glory of all his perfections: that God is in Christ immutably; for he says, “I am the Lord, and change not;” and that God is in Christ perpetually, because he declares, “This is my rest, here will I stay.” God dwells in Christ, and he is in Christ delightful and merciful: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. It pleased the Lord to bruise him.” It pleased the Lord to raise him; it pleased the Lord to glorify him: “By him we believe in God who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might bein God.”
Men and angels will never be able to tell what is imported in this, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God;” that I am God, in the revelation that I have made of myself in the word. I need go no further than his name. In this chapter [Isa. 43]; “Now, thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob; and that formed thee, O Israel: fear not: for I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine,” (v. 1). “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God,” in that sweet word that follows; “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” What think ye of God in such a word as this? “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God,” according to that word, “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia, and Seba for thee.” Again, that he is God, according to the revelation he makes of himself, (not to read all the chapter): “I am the Lord, your holy One; the Creator of Israel, your King. Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters. “Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army, and the power: they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.” Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” A God that says, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall bring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I gave waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise.” (vv. 15-21). Is there not much of God to be seen here, sirs? Again, what think you of this account of God, as a promising and pardoning God in Christ, that you have, after it is said, “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities; “yet it follows, to the wonder of men and angels, “1, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance,” (vv. 25-26), put me in mind of this name, of this word. “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God,” in all the revelations that I have made of my name in the word. Ye are my witnesses, that I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and vowedst the vow; that I am the God that brought you to the foot of mount Sinai, and discovered my awful, terrible majesty to you; that I am a consuming fire out of Christ; that I am the God that brought you to mount Zion, and showed you the glory of my grace; that I am the God that brought you out of the horrible pit and miry clay, and set your feet upon a rock. Many times ye are my witnesses, that I am theGod that brought you to the wilderness and there spake comfortably to you. Witness, that I am JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU, the Lord your righteousness; “that I am “JEHOVAH-NISSI, the Lord your banner; “that I am “JEHOVAH-ROPHI, the Lord that heareth you; that I am “JEHOVAH-JIREH; in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen—the Lord will provide.” Ye are my witnesses, that I am the God that heareth prayer, and that I am your God; that I am not only what I am, but that I am the Lord your God, according to my covenant, “Thy God, and the God of thy seed,” if thou art a parent. You are to be witnesses that I am God, even thy God, and the God of thy seed, and to witness it by believing, and laying hold on my covenant, and the entail of it. Ye are witnesses that I am God in all the providences that are past and do pass over your head; that I have fed you all your life long, and led and clothed you. Ye are my witnesses that I am God, that I am Scotland’s covenanted God, hitherto maintaining a banner for the truth, and a testimony for my name. Ye are my witnesses that I am the God of ordinances, that sometimes have-met with you there; ye sat down under my shadow, and my fruit was sweet unto your taste: that I am God, a promising God, and a God that calls you to witness for me. When at a communion table, the sacramental feast, ye are to be witnesses, that I Am an incarnate God; that I in Christ am become meat and drink for you; “My flesh is meat indeed) and my blood is drink indeed;” that I have finished the work of redemption, paid the price of it, and satisfied justice to the full; and that I am your Saviour, your Redeemer: that I am God in Christ, and so a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, and open to you. “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” But as I said, it is impossible to speak all that is imported here, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” I shall speak a word,
IV. To the fourth thing I proposed, namely, To prove that the whole of the witnessing work of the Lord’s people, is comprehended in this, their attesting and witnessing that he is God. This is plain if you consider these four things:
1. That the sum of all duties lies in this witnessing that he is God. No duty whatsoever can be rightly performed without carrying in it an acknowledgment of, or witnessing to this, that he is God. This is the sum of all duties when we own and acknowledge that God hath commanded so-and-so, and have a respect to all God’s commandments; and do whatsoever he calls us to do, upon the account of the authority of God. Then we are practically witnessing that he is God.
2. The sum of all sin lies in refusing to witness that he is God. All sin is summarily comprehended in this refusal. It is a practical denying that he is God the Lawgiver, and a bearing false witness against God. Every transgression of the law of God is a trampling upon God and his authority, a denying our obligation to God amour God; and either an implicit or express denying that he is God. All sin is comprehended therein.
3. The sum of all truth we are called to witness for, is imported in this truth, that he is God. This is the radical and comprehensive truth that hath all truths in the bosom of it. We will find every truth of God comprehended in this, “that he is God.” For example: The truth relating to the election of some from eternity is summed up in this, that God is the sovereign Elector. The truth relating to redemption is summed up in this, that he is the God Redeemer. The truth relating to our reconciliation with God is summed up in this, that he is God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. The whole truth relating to justification is comprehended in this, that he is the Lord our righteousness, God the justifier, that set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sin, that he may be just, and the justifier of them that believe in Jesus. The truth relating to sanctification is summed up in this, that he is God, the holy God, the sanctifier. All truths of the Bible and of the glorious gospel centre in this. This is the substance and sum, and the all of them, that he is God: “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
4. The sum of all the errors that we are called to witness against lies in this, not witnessing that he is God. I say, they are all summed up in this, the denying that he is God. Every error is a denying of God, and the refusing to witness against any error is a refusing to witness that he is God, for every error in principle or practice is so far a denying of God; therefore it is said of some, “They profess to know God, but in works do deny him,” while they live an ungodly life. Evil works are just a denying of God, or a denying that he is God. And all errors in principle are also summed up in this, a denying of God, or saying, with the fool in his heart, “There is no God.” And to embrace any error is just to deny God, or some attribute of God, and some part of his name. To deny the truth of God is to deny the God of truth. The root and spring of every error is the same with that of the error of the Sadducees, to whom Christ said, “Ye err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” Every error flows from ignorance of God and the word of God. As the first command requires us to know God, so it forbids [us] to deny God; intimating, that a not knowing God is a denying him. Arminians deny the grace of God; Legalists deny and darken the gospel of God. Corruption in doctrine is a denying and destroying the truth and veracity of God; corruption in worship is a denying the purity and Spirituality of God; corruption in discipline is a denying and discrediting the power and authority of God, as a just corrector of the disorders of his family; corruption in government is a denying the dominion and sovereignty of God in Zion, as the great ruler in Jacob, to the ends of the earth. Christ’s name and his government are put together: “The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” (Isa. 9:6). To pretend to give him his name, and yet to rob him of his government in the visible church, is to, separate what God hath joined, and hath made inseparable, without sacrilege. It is true, some now-a-days make discipline and government small things, as being neither essential nor fundamental; but, if they be not so in themselves, they are so much so, by virtue of the authority of God stamped upon them, that contempt thereof, when once made known and attained, is as damnable as is ignorance of, and error in fundamentals. In a word, every error, every corruption in the church of God is a denying of some letter of God’s name; denying of some word of God, and of something whereby he makes himself known; and not to witness against the errors and corruptions of the time wherein we live, it is just a refusing to witness for God, or to be witnesses that he is God. The witnessing work, then, of God’s people, is summed up and comprehended in this, their being witnesses that he is God.
V. We proceed, now, to make some application. Is it so, that this is the sum of our witnessing work, to witness that he is God, to what he is, and what he hath revealed himself to be in his word? Then, by way of information,
1. Hence see what an honorable work it is to be called forth to witness for God. It is a great honor and dignity. And whatever truth of God we are called to witness for, it can be no trifle you are employed about, for it is summed up in this, and carries in it a testimony, That he is; and God reckons himself concerned, his very being is concerned in any faithful testimony that is lifted up for his truth and name. And they that are his witnesses have this testimony; he intimates it to themselves; therefore he says, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
2. Hence see the nature of sin, it is a saying upon the matter, “There is no God.” Every sin and error strikes at God, and denies that [he] is God. The malignity of sinners is such, they witness against God. They are so far atheists, that will not join in, but rather oppose any faithful witnessing work; they will not bear witness that he is God. The devil hath so, far blinded the world as to make them practically assert there is no God, or none but the god of this world, who had blinded the minds of them that believe not, so as they will not set to their seal, that God is true, or that God is God. Oh! how degenerate is the human race from the happy state inwhich they were first created, that there is none to bear witness for their Creator among them! None saying in earnest, “Where is God my Maker?” till, by a new creation, he form a number of witnesses for himself, to show forth his praise, and create them for his glory, (Isa. 43:7).
3. Hence see the nature of faith: it is a giving God a testimonial, as it were, a bearing witness that he is what he is; it is a witnessing that he is what he hath said in the word he is; it is a witnessing what he is in himself, what he is in Christ, what he is in the Spirit, what he is to Zion, what he is to them in the promise. Your faith of the law is a believing that he is a terrible God out of Christ; that in the law he is a God dishonored by our sin, a God threatening wrath and damnation against all sinners, and against you in particular. Your faith of the gospel is a believing what he is in Christ, a God reconciled in Christ, a God calling you to be reconciled to him, because he is pacified in Christ towards you for all that you have done; a God calling you to return to him, and come in to his bosom, and to behis witnesses, first before God and conscience, that he is a God of peace; and then before the world, by confessing him with your mouth, and making your light shine before men, that they seeing your good works, may glorify God: therefore,
4. Hence see the duty of the day. Why, what are we called to? Sirs, when the enemies are saying, “Where is your God?” when there comes to be, as it were, competitors with our God, the God of glory—when there are, as it were, different-like gods upon the field—when their God leads them one way, and our God leads us another way, why, sirs, how shall it be known whether the God whom we worship is God? Why, it seems to be brought to a question, as it was once, “How longwill ye halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, then follow him: But if Baal, then follow him,” (1 Kings 18:21). Why, sirs, we need to inquire at this day, when there seem to be strange gods, and strange principles, strange delusions, strange apostasies from our reformation work; we need to put it to a trial, and see whether Baal be God, or if the Lord is God. What way shall we try it, say you? You are to try it two ways: 1. By what is past. 2. By what is present.
(1.) By what is past. Seewhat the Lord says in the text here, “I have declared, I have shewed, I have saved, when there was no strange God among you,” (Isa. 43:12). O let us inquire, sirs, hath not God showed himself in Scotland unto our reforming forefathers, which carried on a work of reformation in a way of solemn covenanting with God? Did he not declare when there was not such strange gods as there are now? Did he not save, did he not show his glory, did he not declare his name, did he not manifest himself, so as to pour out of his Spirit from on high at times in remarkable ways?But to come yet nearer home, hath not God declared his name, and saved his people, by giving sweet experience of his powerful presence among as, even in our day, particularly on solemn sacramental occasions? Hath not the Lord sometimes showed himself and discovered his glory in the sanctuary, even here, before there were any such strange gods, such strange principles sad opinions, such strange novelties, distractions, and delusions, as now take place? Hath he not showed himself? I remember, that at the first communion in Dunfermline, after the Lord brought me in his holy providence to this place, he led me to speak on the back of it, in the evening, on that word, “The name of the city from that day shall be JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, the Lord is there,” (Ezek 48:35). Although many here were not then born, yet there are many people witnesses to attest, that from time to time, from sacrament to sacrament, God hath been pleased to show forth something of his glory he saved, he showed himself, he declared his name, before therewere any such strange gods amongst you; therefore, ye are his witnesses that he is God, that he is the God of Bethel; that he is the same God, the same immutable God. Whatever changes are now taking place, whatever strange appearances there are on the field, yet know that he is God. “Ye are my witnesses that I am God.”
(2.) By what respects the present time. May it not be said, “Ye are my witnesses?” What way shall it be known at present? I shall allude to a word said, “Call ye, says Elijah, upon the name of your gods, and I will call upon the name of the Lord; and the God that answers by fire, let him be God,” (1 Kings 18:24). Let us meditate a little upon this, “The God that answers by fire from heaven, let him be God.” It may be supposed that many of the strange gods answered by strange fire, by wild fire; I say, there seems to be some very strange fire amongst Baal’s priests, Baal’s prophets here, that had strange effects on them, as we see, “And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them,” (v. 28). Why, there, was a fire, the fire of hell in their bosom; their god, it seems, was a cruel god, he had no mercy on their souls or bodies. Yea, you know it is possible for Satan to transform himself into an angel of light; and when he is transformed into an angel of light, his light may also have heat accompanying it: the heat of strong fancy and imagination. How then shall we know what is the fire of God, the fire of the Lord, fire from heaven? I think, we may further allude unto this history and examine into the matter, particularly in these four respects.
[1.] Then, fire from heaven is that which comes in the way of acknowledging of God, as the covenanted God of our forefathers; for, as you see it in Elijah’s prayer here: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day, that thou are God of Israel,” (v. 36). Here he acknowledges God as the covenanted God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The fire then that comes not this way, but rather in a way of rejecting and abandoning our forefathers, covenantal God, this seems plainly to be strange fire.
[2.] The fire from heaven, it is of such a nature, as it burns up all things that are combustible about our sacrifices. It burns up all things about our services, that we are ready to gaze on and trust in. What was the effect of the fire from heaven? “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench,” (v. 38). It left nothing but the sacrifices to be trusted unto; it left nothing to be seen but God, the invisible God. It seems to be strange fire that does not burn up the sacrifices, that does not lick up the water, but leaves something to be gazed on, and removes the proper object of faith; and that makes the object of it the same with the object of sense and imagination; something visible to the eye, something perceptible to the imagination. The fire that does not burp all these things is strange fire. The fire from heaver burns up all, that there may be nothing to be a ground of faith, but the great, the invisible God; for, true faith is a seeing him that is visible.
[3.] Fire from heaven is such fire as inflames men with zeal, witnessing zeal for God. It makes them acknowledge that the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is God; “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they say,The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God,” (v. 39). And true fire from heaver makes people fall a witnessing forGod, as the people here did for God, the God of their forefathers that was in covenant with them. To be sure, it appears to be strange fire that doth not lead people to witness for God, but rather leads people away from witnessing for our covenanted God, who is Scotland’s covenanted God and King, and is rather ashamed of that name, and want to bury it.
[4.] The fire from heaven it, fires them with zeal against the false prophets; “Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal, let none of them escape; and they took them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there,” (v. 40). And whatever was peculiar and extraordinary in this case, I am not to insist on; only, it plainly shows us, that true fire from heaven fills people with zeal for God, and against all the enemies of God, as enemies of his glory; against false prophets and false teachers; against all corruptions and corrupters. Then it must be strange firein our day that fills people with zeal against these that are witnessing for God, and for the reformation-work, and that makes people cordially embrace and bear with all the intruders and the corruptions, and all the boars and foxes that are in God’s vineyard, with all the thieves and robbers there; and that leads people to a countenancing of them, strengthening of their hands, instead of witnessing against them. This strange fire that is burning here and there through the land, what is it but the fire of hell mixed with the fire of God’s wrath, against an apostate generation! And if God be saying to us this day, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God,” let us witness for our covenanted God that he is God, that he is King, and that he is our God.
But I would apply the subject next in a word by way of examination. Try and examine yourselves whether or not you be fit for witnessing openly at a communion-table that he is God; whether you be of those who are true, faithful, honest witnesses for him, ofwhom he says, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.” How shall we know it? Why, if you be true witnesses for him, then,
1. Ye are witnesses against yourselves. You are surely witnesses against your own sins; witnesses before God, and content to be witnesses before the world, with reference to your sinfulness. O you are witnesses that your heart and nature are corrupt: “That your hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” (Jer. 17:9); that your hearts are hearts full of wickedness; that your hearts are a hell full of devils, full of all abominations; that you are sinners, the chief of sinners. If you are witnesses for God, you are witnesses against yourselves, and all your sins and abominations, and are loathing yourselves.
2. If ye are true witnesses for God, then you will be ready to witness for every truth of God, and against every error, and everything that tends to dishonor the name of God, that tends to the denying that he is God, in whatever revelation he makes of his name: “Thou holdest fast my name,” (Rev. 2:13).
3. If ye are witnesses that he is God, your faith and hope will rest and depend on this leading truth, this truth of all truths, this center of all truths, “That heis God;” I say, your faith will terminate and rest upon God, the object of faith. He is not the object of fancy or imagination. The object of faith is God, the eternal, invisible God in Christ. It is but a delusive faith, if your faith does not terminate on God. The object of faith is not Christ, but as he is the Christ of God; and it looks to God in Christ. It is not the word, but as it is the word of God. It is not the promise, but as it is the promise of God; Yea and Amen in Christ, to the glory of God. The object of faith is not the blood of Christ, but as it is the blood of God. It is not the righteousness of Christ, but as it is the righteousness of God. Faith looks to God, and rests upon a God. The faith and hope of a true believer terminates and rests itself upon this, “That he is God;” hopes for eternal life in him, and from him, because he is God, (1 John 5:11). And if God be giving you his testimony this day, saying, “Ye are my witnesses,” then you will be giving him your testimonial, saying, He is God; he is “IMMANUEL, God with us; JEHOVAH, our righteousness.”
4. Your witnessing for God will be a practical witnessing; endeavoring, in your conversation, by your profession, by your walk, to glorify God before the world; “Let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ: stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind, striving together for the hope [faith] of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:27).
In a word, if you be witnesses for God, you will have the witness in you; for “He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself,” (1 John 5:10). You have the Spirit of Christ in you; and, indeed, when the Spirit of Christ is in a man, it leads him to a dependence on Christ without him; on Christ in a word, and upon a God in Christ, and to witness that he is God.
I shall now close with a word of exhortation. O sirs, let these that never were witnesses to this great truth, that God is God, that the Lord is God, O let them bear witness that he is God, by coming to Christ, and believing in him; this is to witness, and the leading way of witnessing that he is God; “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 3:23). “This is the will of God, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life,” (John 6:40). And God gives testimony for Christ, that he is God, “The true God, and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20); “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son,” (1 John 5:11). As we are called this day to believe in the Son of God, so to believe in God and to attest that God is true; for he that hath received God’s testimony concerning Christ hath set to his seal that God is true.
Why, sirs, if you believe in Jesus, that is the great thing that you are called to, in order to witness for God. If you believe in him, then you witness that God is a God of infinite wisdom, providing well for his glory and your good; that he is a God of infinite power, that supported Christ under the load of infinite wrath, enabling him to satisfy infinite justice, and enabling him to destroy principalities and powers, and conquer death; you will witness that God is a God of infinite holiness, and see the glory thereof in Christ’s obedience unto death: by believing you will see that he is a God of infinite justice, that he is the infinitely just God. This is to be seen most clearly in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, offered up of himself to the satisfaction of justice. O how justice shone in the man Christ Jesus, when upon the cross, between heaven and earth, deserted of God, the heavens darkened above him, and the earth trembling below him, and he bearing the whole load of wrath, that would have pressed us down forever and ever! O, you will be witnesses that he is an infinitely just God. And also, by believing, you will witness he is the true and faithful God; you will set to your seal to his truth, believing that he is truth, and that his truth is sealed by the blood of Christ; and that he, in and by death, satisfied all the threatenings of the law, and sealed all the promises of the gospel at once, and so cleared: the truth of God in both. In a word, you will witness that God is a merciful God, by believing in Christ. You will be a witness to the grace of God, as it reigns through the righteousness of Christ unto eternal life.
Well, by believing in Christ, you come to bear witness to this truth, that he is God, that he is a God of all glorious attributes and perfections. By rejecting Christ, not coming to him, not believing in him, you deny God, you make God a liar instead of being a God of truth, you make God an impotent deity instead of being a God of power, you make him a cruel tyrant instead of being a God of mercy; you deny all the attributes of God by refusing to come to our Lord Jesus Christ. You deny God and you make yourself God. O, sirs, by unbelief you make God no God, you make him nothing at all, and you make yourselves God and yourselves all; but by faith in Jesus, you will make yourselves nothing, and God to be what he is, “All and in all; “and unto you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Tell me, O sinner, can you receive the record of God concerning his name? “What is his name?” He hath a name bearing relation to you, his name is “the Lord thy God.” He not only says in the covenant of promise what he will be—I will be thy God; but he tells what he is to you, “I am the Lord thy God.” O, sirs, are you able to receive this? May the Lord make you able this day to receive it on the bare word of God, and to drink in this name, that he is God, and that he is the Lord THY GOD? Why does he say, “I am the LORD THY GOD?” Why yours?Even because he is Immanuel, God with us; “God with you, God with me; your God, and my God. How may we give God such a name, or define him after this manner, by his relation thus to us? Because we may define him as he defines himself. Here we are called to witness what he calls himself. He calls himself, The Lord our God, “I am the Lord thy God.” Here the whole of his name, bearing a relation both to himself and us; what he is in himself, and what he is to us, “I am the Lord thy God.” The Lord JEHOVAH has mixed our name and his own together. This is the good news of the glorious gospel that comes to us, “I am the Lord thy God.” We dare not givehim another name, because, as he thus defines himself, so the SON of his bosom defines him this way; when he ascended to heaven he said, “I ascend, to my Father and your Father; to my God and your God.” He left his Father’s name behind him; he is my Father and your Father, he is my God and your God; “I am the Lord thy God.” It is true, it is a general name that belongs indefinitely to all the visible church; but if it be received by the hearing of faith, then it infers a peculiar privilege and your special interest in him as your God forever and ever. Can you therefore receive this name of God when he says, “I am the Lord thy God? “God knows best how to define himself. Is it the worse for us that he mixes our name in with his; that he puts us in his name, as he is a God in Christ, saying, “I am the Lord thy God?” His name is, I AM THAT I AM; and as sure as I am, so sure I am thy God. I am that I am, says he; I am thy God, and thy assurance of faith, and of my being thy God, is to be founded on the faith of my being what I am. As sure as I am God, thou may depend upon it, “I am the Lord thy God.”
O, sirs, can you take this name? Can you take it to you upon his bare word? Whatever you are, whatever wicked nature you have, and however greatly you have offended this God, yet when he comes to you this day, with his name and proclamation, “I am the Lord thy God;” I am JEHOVAH thy God, because I am IMMANUEL; he is Immanuel, God with us; a God for us, and a God to us; a God to save us, a God to bless us, a God to be a heaven and happiness to us through all eternity. O, what think you of this name of God? Tell me, O sinner, can you gladly receive this name? “Know you the Lord, that he is God? Not we, but he us made;” not we, but he us saves; not we, but he is God. “Ye shall be as Gods,” was the first temptation; the power of it is never broke till you can say, “Not we, but he is God.” It is he that is God, and he is the Lord our God.
O, poor soul, are you gladly welcoming this name of God? Are you receiving and embracing it? Are you glad that God comes to you with such a name as this? Do you receive, and believe, and take it on God’s word that he is God, and being God, he is the Lord thy God? Why, then, he is taking you for his witnesses this day; and he is glad to have your testimonial, in the midst of this atheistical age, when so many are denying God, making themselves and other things to be gods. He is calling you to witness for his name, and if you answer his call, he is marking your name in Zion; for, “When God writes the people, and counts that this man and that man was born there,” he records their names as witnesses for him, saying, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God.”
A DISCOURSE AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SOLEMNITY.
(Editor’s Note: Prior to reading the Author’s Conclusion please read the attached Endnote)
Seeing, on this occasion, you have been hearing what God says to you in these words, “Ye are my witnesses, that I am God;” it may perhaps be inquired, 1. Why, and upon what considerations are you to witness? 2. In what cases? 3. How, and by what means, and in what manner may you do so?
1st, Why, and upon what considerations are we to witness?
1. The command of God should sway us. We are commanded to hold fast the form of sound words, (1 Tim. 1:13); to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, (Heb. 4:14; 10:23). “Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).
2. You are called to this duty, because it is for the honor of God that we be witnesses for him that he is God; and for the honor of the Lord Jesus, that we be witnesses that he is God. God has sworn that to him every knee shall bow. By honest and faithful witnessing for him, we bow and pay homage to him.
3. You are called to this, because it is commendable God not only commands, but commends this duty. We find the church of Pergamos commended for this; “Thou holdest fast my name,” (Rev. 2:13), It was commendable in Paul the apostle, that he had fought the good fight of faith. It was commendable in John, that he confessed the Lord Jesus, and denied not, but confessed that he was the Christ. It was commendable in the church that they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, (Rev. 12:11).
4. You are called to it by the example of our Lord Jesus, who witnessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate: when he asked, “Art thou a king?” Jesus answered, Thou gayest that I am a king, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth,” (John 18:37). Again,
5. You are called to it from the consideration of the great advantage of being his witnesses. O sirs, what great advantage is it? Why, I shall inform you of several advantages thereof.
(1.) They who are true witnesses for God and his truth, they are honored of God. As they are not ashamed of him, so he is not ashamed of them. The witnesses spoken of, it is said of them, “God is not ashamed to be called their God,” (Heb. 11:16). He owns them; and is not this an advantage?
(2.) He strengthens them. This he did to Paul, “At my first answer, no man stood with me; but all men forsook me: Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me,” (2 Tim. 4:16-17). And is it not a great advantage likewise to his witnesses,
(3.) That he puts honor on them, even before the world? Indeed, they are the most hated persons in the world; “Ye shall be hated of men, for my name’s sake.” Yet the Lord orders matters so, that they are honored not only by God, but sometimes by men also “Them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me, shall belightly esteemed,” (1 Sam. 2:30). Again,
(4.) The advantage of it lies in this, that they come, to be preserved in a day of temptation; “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation,” (Rev. 3:10). How comes it that many have fallen in the hour of temptation at this day? They have been careless about, and have not made conscience to keep the word of Christ’s patience. Again,
(5.) It is an advantage to these that are his witnesses, that they are admitted to communion with him. The more they witness and declare with the apostle, “That which they have seen and heard, and handled of the world of life,” (1 John 1:1); the more communion they have with God; for, after this witnessing for the Lord it immediately follows, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” (v. 3). Again,
(6) Honest witnessing for Christ gives evidence that they are of God. We read, 1 John iv. 3, “Whosoever confeeseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [together with all the truths that relate to, depend upon, and are necessarily connected with it, he gives evidence that he], is of God.”
(7.) It is a great advantage to ourselves and, I may add, to others also; for, honest witnessing may excite others to embrace the truth, and confirm other witnesses therein: whereas, not confessing the truth may be stumbling to the godly, as Peter’s dissimulation was, (Gal. 1:13).
6. Another reason or motive for encouraging to witness for God, is the great disadvantages of not witnessing. I will tell you three disadvantages of not witnessing for the Lord.
(1.) It tends to bring on temporal judgments. We read, after it was said, “They are not valiant for the truth upon the earth,” (Jer. 9:3) it is added, “Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (Jer. 9:9). Alas! what vengeance from heaven is awaiting this genera-lion, that will not witness for God, but rather stand up against him and his cause, particularly his covenanted cause, in this nation!
(2.) Another disadvantage is that as it brings on temporal, so it likewise procures spiritual judgments. When people receive not the truth in love, God justly gives them up to strong delusions to believe a lie, (2 Thess. 2:11). And these who do not witness, they expose themselves to apostasy. God may justly leave them to partial apostasy, as Peter, who denied his master; or total apostasy, as the Jews, who were rejected from being the people of God. Another spiritual judgment is, that it brings sore anguish and terror to the consciences, of those who refuse to witness for God, in their day, There is a word, “For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” (1 Tim. 6:10) In the margin it is “They have been seduced from the faith.” People who havevoluntarily erred from the faith, or been seduced by the snares of the time from it, they have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
(3.) Refusing to witness for God, brings eternal wrath, the wrath of God upon them who continue, to reject the testimony of God, and to neglect to witness that he is God, in the several relations he makes of himself to them in his word: “If any man draw back, says God, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,” (Heb. 10:38). “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways, (Prov. 14:14). If we deny him, he will also deny us, (2 Tim. 2:12). As for such, as turn aside after their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity, (Ps. 125:5). For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and, of my words, in this adulterous andsinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels, (Mark 8:38). No man havingput his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of. God, (Luke 9:62). Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven,” (Matt. 10:33).
7. Another motive may bedrawn from Christ’s appearing for us in heaven; therefore we should be his witnesses on earth. Thus the apostle argues, “Seeing then that we have a great High priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession,” (Heb. 4:14). See also“Let us hold fast in the profession of our faith without wavering (Heb. 10:23).
8. Another motive is the preciousness of the truths of God we are called to witness for. What is the great thing you are called to witness? Even to witness that he is God; to be witnesses for the truth of God, and the God of truth. Every truth is part ofGod’s name and of his word; and though there are many precious tenths yetthey are all one thing in God. Our God cannot be divided; therefore, by your refusing to witness for God, in any of the precious truths which he has held out to us in his word, you refuse to witness “That he is God,” in this revelation of his name. Every truth is a precious pearl of the Mediator’s crown.
2dly, In what cases are we to witness? I shall only say a few words upon it. We are sometimes called to witness publicly, if God should call us before courts, as in the case of the apostles; and sometimes more privately, perhaps to particular persons, to give everyone a reason of the hope that is in you; sometimes called in company to defend the truths of God, and his name, when blasphemed by others; and to do, what we can to witness for God. We should endeavor every one to have that for our motto, the apostle speaks of himself, “I am set for the defense of the gospel.” This should be our motto also, “I am set for the defense of the name of my God,” because we are his witnesses that he is God.
There are two or three cases especially wherein we are called to witness for him; namely,
1. In times of defection. The neglect of this was complained of, “They were not valiant for the truth upon the earth,” (Jer. 9:3). When many of Christ’s disciples went back, and walked no more with him: “Then said he to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:66-67). When there are defections from, the truth, or any strange errors, or strange apostasies, or strange principles taking place, then we are called to cleave to, and witness for the truth.
2. In times of doubting. John bore witness to the truth, when the Jews were not come the length of denying, but in a suspense about the coming of Christ, (John 3:33). When some of the Lord’s children may be in a doubt about such and such a truth, then we are called to witness. Our Lord Jesus says, that John did bear witness of him; and it was in a time wherein many were doubting about the truth, (John 5:33). We ought to witness for, the truth, in order to the fortifying of the faith of those who are ready to waver.
3. We are called to witness, particularly, in a day of temptations. When there are many snares and temptations to lead us away from the Lord and from the truth, then it is a time of testifying and witnessing. Our Lord gives us an example of this: whenever Peter began to tempt him to that whieh was contrary to his name and truth, and, glorious, design, he says, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Why, can a saint be a Satan? Yes, when he tempts to any strange principles, and to desert the cause of Christ, then we may say to a saint, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” In times of temptation we are called to witness for him.
4. In times of persecution, when the cause of Christ is a persecuted cause. You see Peter and John, (Acts 4:8, 12), when they were imprisoned and persecuted, how readily did they witness at such a time before their judges? They told them, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner,” (v. 11). When prohibited to preach in Christ’s name they undauntedly reply, “Whether we should obey God or man, judge ye,” (vv. 19-20).
5. In a word, a time when there is few to witness is a time we are called particularly to witness for God. I remember the apostle Paul, (2 Tim. 1:15), after he had said, “Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” (v. 8) then he adds, “All these in Asia have turned away from me,” therefore do not ye turn away, “Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
3dly, The next question was to inquire, “How, or by what means, and in what manner, are we to be his witnesses?”
[1.] By what means. Would you be honest witnesses for God, and witnesses that he is God? I would advise you,
1. To seek the lively faith, the rooted faith of all the truths ye are called to witness for, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” (Rom. 10:10). And as David said, “I believe, therefore have I spoken,” (Ps. 116:10), so let this be your way, I believe, therefore I speak; I believe, and therefore witness. I close by faith with such a truth, and therefore witness. Seek to be established in the faith of the truth.
2. Call in the help of the Spirit of God, and made use of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, for the defense of the truth, for it is your safety to cleave to the cause of Christ, whatever be the consequence; let no event beyour rule, but let the word of God be your rule. Remember the warning Christ hath given you, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended,” (John 16:1; compare v. 33). Christ warns them of what they might expect, that so they might not be discouraged when trials for the truth come on. Well) “These things have I spoken to you; they shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth God serviee.” And “These things have I spoken to you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation,” (v.33).
Again, call in the help of the Spirit of God, for the furniture in order to witnessing work. What furniture? Even that which is treasured up in the glorious Head. In Christ the Head, it is to be forthcoming for the members. Christ is anointed with the Spirit above measure, “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles,” (Isa. 42:1). It is that Spirit that is promised to all his members. “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, not out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, from henceforth and for ever,” (Isa. 59:21). Therefore, O sirs call in the help of the Spirit. And,
 As to the manner of witnessing. O sirs, seek of the Lord to help you to witness in the following manner; Namely, to witness for the truth fully; for all truth, without mincing any of the truths of God; and to witness freely, without constraint or compulsion; to witness openly, without shame; and to witness boldly, without fear, and with holy courage; also to witness meekly, without pride. It is said, that we are to give the reasons of the hope within us with meekness and fear; (1 Pet. 3:15); in the margin it is, “with meekness and reverence.” O sirs, have a regard and reverence to all these truths ye are called to witness for. Remember, God is in every truth; and when you witness for any truth, you witness for God. Therefore, see that your witnessing be done with reverence and godly fear. Reverence every truth of God. See that your witnessing be a humble witnessing. O how humbly did John the Baptist witness for Christ, when he witnessed for him, and said, “He that cometh after me is preferred before me, the latchet of whose shoes I am unworthy to unloose!” We ought to witness uprightly, without hypocrisy; and out of love to Christ, and seal for the glory of God, the credit of his cause, and the honor of his truth. Again, O endeavor to witness joyfully; be not disheartened, whatever trials you come under; witness, I say, joyfully. It is said, “The rejoiced that they were thought worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ,” (Acts 5:41). We ought also to witness innocently, without giving offence, or any just occasion to any to speak evil of us. Again, you should witness constantly, without fainting of giving over, till we have finished our testimony. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Lastly, O endeavor to witness dependently, without confidence in the flesh, depending on the grace of Christ. Though you had as much grace as the apostle Peter, yet, if you depend not on the Lord Jesus, you will, with Peter deny him, “Before the cock crow twice thou shall deny me thrice.” Endeavor to witness dependently on the grace that is in Jesus Christ; otherwise, who knows how soon you may, as it were, be thrown on your back with temptations of the times, that have carried so many down the stream, Think what a trial the poor apostles were brought unto when Jesus was crucified and laid in the grace; there was no appearance of him as yet, and they began to say, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel,” (Luke 24:21). They began thus to doubt of the great truth they seemed to be established in; this fundamental truth.
This is the time wherein precious truths and some truths wherein you thought yourselves established, and laid up in your mind, as beyond debate, are now turned controverted points, and debatable questions. Who would have thought that it would have been debated in Scotland, that our solemn covenanted work of Reformation was the word of God; and that these covenants were binding and obligatory upon posterity? Who would have thought that it would have been debated in Scotland, that Christ, the King of Zion, hath a fixed government in his visible church? Some great truths both relating to the doctrine and government of Christ, come now-a-days to be disputed. Therefore, I say, there is need of close dependence, that you man exonerate yourselves by honest testimony. Now, consider how you will exonerate yourselves at the hand of God and of Christ, who lays no other burden upon you that this, “Hold fast till I come,” (Rev. 2:25). How shall you be exonerated at the hand of men; at the hand of your witnessing forefathers, who transmitted truth pure to us, at the expense of their blood, and of whom many travailed night and day to get the work of Reformation brought to the scripture pattern; to get Confessions of Faith adapted and conformed to the scripture purity? How shall we be exonerated at their hands, if we in this generation be transmitting nothing to posterity but lumber and trash, instead of precious truth? How shall we be exonerated at the hand of the present generation, or our children and posterity after us? What will we answer for betraying the trust of reformation-principles and treasures, which God, by our forefathers, left at our door? If we be not faithful witnesses for God and his truth, and if we leave nothing to our seed and offspring but counterfeits instead of gold; poisonous errors, instead of wholesome food. Covenant-breaking Scotland never thinks upon this! But,
I shall just close with a word particularly to the people of this congregation. There may be some here of Dunfermline people, that, with many others, have turned their backs on witnessing work, and have fallen in with the defections of the day, the delusions of the time, and the intrusions of the place. I think the Lord is saying to them as the prophet Ezekiel, “For they are impudent children and stiff-hearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them,” (Ezek. 2:4-5). So I may say to many in Dunfermline, Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, yet they shall know that there hath been a witness among them; I mean, not one witness, the poor man that hath been so long dispensing the word amongst them; but manifold witnesses that God hath against them; they shall know that God hath a manifold witness among them; and God hath been setting up a multitude of witnesses at this occasion against many in Dunfermline; a witness against all profane drunkards, whoremongers, Sabbath breakers; a witness against every unbelieving hypocrite and legalist; a witness against every backslider, that have turned their backs upon Christ and upon his cause; a witness against every Demas, who hath forsaken us, having loved the present world; a witness against every Judas, who betrays the Son of God with a kiss, and betrays the cause of Christ; a witness against all and every Elder in Dunfermline, who have deserted their office, and turned their back on the cause that they solemnly engaged in; a witness against, every intruder in the parish or presbytery of Dunfermline, that have not entered in by the door of the chief Shepherd, opened in the everlasting gospel; a witness against every man and woman in Dunfermline who have no regard to the Testimony and Warnings I have particularly given, at several times, and read before and have allowedly be published, that none may pretend ignorance.1 God I say, hath been setting up witnesses against all such. Why, whom is he adducing witnesses? Not only the poor man that hath been left so long in the ministry here, but all his brethren associated with him; not only the people of this place, that cleave still to the lawful minister that God hath continued with them, but also God is saying with reference to Dunfermline, I will bring in among them witnesses against them, witnesses from their neighbors, from all parishes round about Dunfermline, that shall witness when many in the parish of Dunfermline are going out, rejecting the testimony of the day, and the witnessing work of the day. I will bring into it others from parishes, about, to be witnesses in Dunfermline, against Dunfermline, for their apostasy and rebellion, against the Lord. And what if the Lord becalling us to say, as inanother case the apostle said to the Jews, “It was necessary that the gospel should be first preached unto you,” (Acts 13:46); but in regard, and as far as you reckon yourselves, unworthy of eternal life: lo, we turn to the Gentiles: Even so, it was necessary, that the gospel should be preached to you in Dunfermline, and preached by us to you, these thirty and two years; and now that the ministry, at last, should be accompanied with testimony for all the truths that are deserted by the generation: it was necessary that this should be done; and if you reckon yourselves unworthy of it, know it, that lo we turn to another congregation; and turn, as it, were, away from the old congregation of Dunfermline, to a witnessing congregation there, that shall witness for God, against all the perfidious, treacherous persons in Dunfermline, that havedisregarded all the warnings of God. Consider therefore what you are doing; how many witnesses God has been adducing against you. Consider there are two or three thousand that have come to the table of the Lord at this occasion; some of them, and we hope a good part of them, honest witnesses for God; but they are all, by their profession, witnesses against these that have turned their backs on us and our ministry: they are all professed witnesses against such; and all that are witnesses now, will be brought forth as witnesses against you at the last day, unless you return and repent, and unless the Lord arise, in his infinite favor, in and through Jesus Christ, and have mercy on you. Therefore, O poor soul, seek that this occasion may not be lost; that you may not perish, and be involved, not only in the guilt of your own sins, but also in the public guilt of the sins of the generation wherein you live. O that you would go to God alone, and cry to him, that there may, be some saving good come to your soul by this solemnity, that it may not be produced as a witness, against you! O sirs, be restless till, you be brought among the number of God’s true and honest witnesses, whom he will make honorable mention of, saying, “Ye are my witnesses that I am God.”
To unfold this affair a little to the Reader, which our Arthur here speaks so warmly and affectedly about, it may not be improper to observe, That the general Assembly, 1740, having passed the sentence of Deposition against eight Ministers, of which our Author was one, for their faithfully testifying against the prevailing corruptions of the time, and their steadfast adherence to our Reformation principles, several of the inhabitants of Dunfermline, on this occasion deserted the ministrations of their lawful pastor. The Presbytery of Dunfermline, in order to implement the sentence of the supreme Judicatory, appointed his pulpit to be supplied. This induced our Author at sundry times, to emit three different Warnings to his congregation. The first on Sabbath, June 6, 1742, when Mr. Hardie at Culross, first took possession thereof. The second was read August 22, said year, when the Presbytery, in concurrence with some in the parish had taken some steps towards calling a minister in his room. The third on Sabbath, May 1, 1743, when intimation was made of the admission of one to be minister in his place, on Thursday thereafter. (Return to reading)