Discourses on John 3:1-21


John 3:21

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
I have of late endeavoured to set before you, the danger of resisting, stifling and shunning the light of gospel truth. A subject which though not pleasing is very needful to be frequently insisted on in this place, where the grace of God shining in the Gospel is by so many received in vain. But blessed be God there are some otherwise minded, who receive the truth in the love of it, who are faithful to what they know and desirous to know more. May the Lord make our meditations on this verse comfortable to all such, that they may have a good evidence of their own sincerity, and a good hope that the Lord on whom they depend will accomplish what he has begun and as he has enabled them to will, so he will work in them to do according to his good pleasure. [1] We have here:
1.      their character: he that doth truth
2.      their practice: cometh to the light
3.      their end and aim: that his deeds may be manifest... etc.
1. [Their character]
We have the character of a soul taught of God: He that doeth truth. Truth here signifies, right principles, and an upright disposition, and stands opposed both to ignorance and error, and to insincerity.
  1.1 He that does truth, must know the truth. His knowledge may be very faint and imperfect in degree and extent, but it must be the right kind. Without knowledge the heart cannot be good, and this knowledge must be communicated by the Spirit of God, for a man receiveth nothing except it be given him from above. [2] The principles of the natural man are all error and uncertainty, and till these are laid aside nothing good can be done. The truth must be known:
    1.1.1 as it respects ourselves – sinful, without righteousness, helpless, without strength.
    1.1.2 with respect to God – his majesty, holiness and grace.
    1.1.3 with respect to the nature of true happiness – that it is not to be found in worldly things, but in deliverance from sin and in communion with God.
  1.2 To do the truth implies sincerity.
    1.2.1 A sincere regard to the will of God and a desire to please him; without this every religious service is abomination in his sight. Examine with what views you came here today, and have engaged in the services before you.
    1.2.2 A sincere abhorrence of every sinful way, and desire to be delivered from them. Psalm 66:18. [3]
    1.2.3 A sincere preference of the favour of God in Christ, to everything the world can propose. Without this, profession will soon fail.
2. This is evidenced by practice: he cometh to the light. He is jealous of himself, knows that he has but little knowledge either of the deceitfulness of his heart, or the rule of his duty, and therefore he wants to be instructed in what is wanting, confirmed in what is right, and convinced of what is wrong. Psalm 139:23,24 and 19:12,13. [4] This is his design in prayer, in reading the Word – in hearing the Gospel. He says, O that Thou wouldst teach me that which I know not.
3. His great view is that his works may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. When may this be said or what does it impart?
A good work, or wrought in God, is performed:
  3.1 With a view to his glory. If we stop short of this we do nothing. We may have the reward we propose but it will be a poor one. Matthew 6. [5]
  3.2 In dependence on his strength, that is, by faith in Christ – all works without faith are but dead works.
  3.3 By the rule of his Word. It is easy to multiply inventions[ideas], but without this warrant all our labour will be lost.
Now the gracious soul suspects itself in all these points – cannot be satisfied with any works, duties or privileges, unless thus qualified. Nothing but union and communion with Jesus will content such a one – and therefore he comes to the light. [6]
Now have I not described some of you? Do not your consciences bear you witness, that you are thus sincere? Was it not your desire today, that the Lord by the preaching might discover[reveal] to you anything amiss, and enable you to forsake it? Do you not love those sermons that are faithful and searching and come close to your case? Then go home and thank God – he has done a great thing for you; if you love the light of his word, you shall in due time rejoice in the light of his countenance.
But let all formal worshippers and hypocrites take care – the eyes of the Lord are as a flame of fire. You cannot impose[deceive] him. You may deceive yourselves but God will not be mocked. What a poor thing it is to be but chaff among the wheat. Behold the judge cometh and his fan is in his hand. [7]

Series No. 24

[1] Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
[2] John 3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
[3] Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
[4] Psalm 139:23,24; 19:12,13 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
[5] Matthew 6 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven… And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward… Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward… But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
[6] ‘Union and communion’ is a phrase used by John Flavel in England's duty under the present Gospel liberty, from Revel. III vers. 20. Wherein is opened the admirable condescension and patience of Christ, ... (London, 1701).
[7] Psalm 98:9 Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
Matthew 3:11,12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Cowper & Newton Museum, 714(2) No. 4

Marylynn Rouse, 28/10/2020