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02 June, 2014

Being Settled In The Doctrine of Faith - Watson


By Thomas Watson

 It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith. It is the apostle's prayer, "May the who his religion changed as often as the moon. The Arians had every year a new faith. These are not pillars in the temple of God—but reeds shaken every way. The apostle calls them "damnable heresies." A man may go to hell as well for heresy as adultery!
God of all grace establish, strengthen, settle you." That is, that they might not be meteors in the air—but fixed stars. The apostle Jude speaks of "wandering stars". They are called wandering stars, because, as Aristotle says, "They do leap up and down, and wander into several parts of the heaven; and being but dry exhalations, not made of that pure celestial matter as the fixed stars are, they often fall to the earth." Now, such as are not settled in true religion, will, at one time or other, prove wandering stars; they will lose their former steadfastness, and wander from one opinion to another. Such as are unsettled are of the tribe of Reuben, "unstable as water," like a ship without ballast, overturned with every wind of doctrine. Beza writes of one Belfectius,
To be unsettled in true religion, argues lack of judgment. If their heads were not giddy, men would not reel so fast from one opinion to another.
To be unsettled in true religion, argues lightness. As feathers will be blown every way, so will feathery Christians. Therefore such are compared to infants. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." Ephesians 4:14. Children are fickle sometimes of one mind sometimes of another, nothing pleases them long. Just so, unsettled Christians are childish; the truths they embrace at one time, they reject at another; sometimes they like the Protestant religion, and soon after they have a good mind to turn Papists.
[1] It is the great end of the word preached, to bring us to a settlement in true religion. "And he gave some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the edifying of the body of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children." The word is called "a hammer". Every blow of the hammer is to fasten the nails of the building; so the preacher's words are to fasten you the more to Christ; they weaken themselves to strengthen and settle you. This is the grand design of preaching, not only for the enlightening—but for the establishing of souls; not only to guide them in the right way—but to keep them in it. Now, if you be not settled, you do not answer God's end in giving you the ministry.
[2] To be settled in true religion is both a Christian's excellence and honor. It is his excellence. When the milk is settled it turns to cream; now he will be zealous for the truth, and walk in close communion with God. And his honor. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness." It is one of the best sights to see an old disciple; to see silver hairs adorned with golden virtues.
[3] Such as are not settled in the faith can never suffer for it. Sceptics in religion hardly ever prove martyrs. Those who are not settled, hang in suspense; when they think of the joys of heaven they will espouse the gospel—but when they think of persecution, they desert it. Unsettled Christians do not consult what is best—but what is safest. "The apostate (says Tertullian) seems to put God and Satan in balance, and having weighed both their services, prefers the devil's service, and proclaims him to be the best master: and, in this sense, may be said to put Christ to open shame." He will never suffer for the truth—but be as a soldier that leaves his colors, and runs over to the enemy's side; he will fight on the devil's side for pay.
[4] Not to be settled in the faith is provoking to God. To espouse the truth, and then to fall away, brings an ill report upon the gospel, which will not go unpunished. "They turned back and were as faithless as their parents had been. They were as useless as a crooked bow. They made God angry by building altars to other gods; they made him jealous with their idols." Psalm 78:57-58. The apostate drops as a wind-fall into the devil's mouth!
[5] If you are not settled in true religion, you will never grow. We are commanded "to grow up into the head, even Christ." But if we are unsettled there is no growing: "the plant which is continually replanted, never thrives." He can no more grow in godliness, who is unsettled, than a bone which is out of joint can grow in a body.
[6] There is great need to be settled, because there are so many things to unsettle us. Seducers are abroad, whose work is to draw away people from the principles of true religion. "These things have I written unto you, concerning those who are trying seduce you." Seducers are the devil's agents. They are of all others, the greatest felons—who would rob you of the truth.
Seducers have silver tongues, which can pawn off bad wares; they have a sleight to deceive. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Ephesians 4:14. The Greek word there is taken from those who can throw dice, and cast them for the best advantage. So seducers are impostors, they can throw a dice; they can so dissemble and sophisticate the truth, that they can deceive others. Seducers deceive by wisdom of words. "By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple." They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on the weaker sort.
Another sleight is a pretense of extraordinary piety, so that people may admire them, and suck in their poisonous doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, and to be divinely inspired, and pretend to new revelations.
A third cheat of seducers is—laboring to vilify and nullify sound orthodox teachers. They would eclipse those who bring the truth, like black vapors which darken the light of heaven; they would defame others, that they themselves may be more admired. Thus the false teachers cried down Paul, that they might be received, Gal 4:17.
The fourth cheat of seducers is—to preach the doctrine of liberty; as though men are freed from the moral law, the rule as well as the curse, and Christ has done all for them, and they need to do nothing. Thus they make the doctrine of free grace a key to open the door to all license to sin.
Another means is—to unsettle Christians by persecution. 2 Tim 3:12. The gospel is a rose which cannot be plucked without prickles. The legacy Christ has bequeathed, is the CROSS. While there is a devil and a wicked man in the world, never expect a charter of exemption from trouble! How many fall away in an hour of persecution! "There appeared a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven." The red dragon, by his power and subtlety, drew away stars, or eminent professors, who seemed to shine as stars in the skies of the church.

To be unsettled in good, is the sin of the devils. They are called, "falling stars;" they were holy—but mutable. As the vessel is overturned with the sail, so their sails being swelled with pride, they were overturned. 1 Tim 3:3. By unsettledness, men imitate lapsed angels. The devil was the first apostate. The sons of Zion should be like mount Zion, which cannot be removed.