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notions : whereas the apostle Paul writing to Timothy, saith, “Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding oppositions of science, falsely so called; which some professing, have erred concerning the faith,” i Tim. vi. 20, 21. And what is the reason, that not only some, but many have now erred concerning the faith, and have fallen from their stedfastness, but because they have been thus affected? Or because they have not been built on the rock Christ; but on some sandy, and washy foundation : whereas the Psalmist saith, “He set my feet on a rock, and established my goings,” Ps. xl. 2, but if men be upon the sand, they must needs fall, and great will be their fall, as their profession is great. Sometimes men live high, and profess beyond that stock of grace which they have: but if you would be kept and established, observe what the causes, and reasons are, of the instability and apostacy of others, and take heed thereof.
But what shall I do, that I may be more settled in regard of my judgment; and that I may be established in the present truth?
Get a clear and distinct understanding in the things and truths of the gospel : labour, not only to know, but to get a clear, and judicious apprehension, and clearness in the truths of Christ; Ps. cvi., it is said of the Israelites, that when they saw the Egyptians drowned in the sea, " They sang the praises of God, and believed his words," verse 12, "yet they soon forgat his works,'' verse 13. And why so ? but because they had no clear understanding in them, verse 7,“ Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt.” And this apostle Peter, doth join the unlearned and unstable man together, 2 Peter iii. “Which they that are unlearned, and unstable, wrest to their own destruction,” verse 16. Some would have it read thus: “Which those that are unteachable, and do refuse.” But unlearned suits well enough with the original, apateic:* for what is the reason that men are so unstable, but because they are not grounded, and studied, in the body of divinity? They take up some truth by hear-say, and education; and not being studied in them, they are soon removed from them: study therefore, and get a clear and
* Græcum apadruç proprie significat indociles qui nolunt rectius instrui et informari, qui monstratæ ex verbo Dei cælesti veritati locum dare renunt.Gerard in loc.
distinct knowledge in the great mysteries and truths of the gospel.
Take heed of unsettling principles ; for they will baptize your judgment into a conformity with them; such as the apostacy of saints, and falling from grace. If a man hold that he may be a saint to day, and none to-morrow; a saint the third day again, and none the fourth day; must not he needs be unsettled in judgment? It is commonly known that Bertius wrote a book de Apostasia Sanctorum, of the apostacy of the saints;* and as well known, that being then a protestant, he after fell away unto popery: and when he came to France, and made a renunciation of his former faith, and shewed the reasons of his conversion to the popish faith, he tells us in his printed oration, that primus conversionis gradus, the first step to his popish conversion was, the knowledge of, and contending for, that doctrine, that faith, as an act justifies; and that the to credere, is imputed to us for our justification in the sight of God. And well might that principle have such an influence upon him, being brought forth by his former unsettling principles. Unsettling principles will make an unsettled judgment; and an unsettled judgment, will bring forth an unsettled life, and practice. Take heed therefore of unsettling principles.
Be sure that you do not make any impression, the rule and square of your judgment; judge not doctrines by impressions; “ We have a more sure word of prophesy, whereunto ye shall do well, that you take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place,” saith the apostle, 1 Pet. i. 19. Where do ye find in all the scripture, that God hath put heart-impressions into the chair, to be judge of doctrines ? If I judge of a doctrine by an impression made upon my soul, the devil
* Cum improbarem illam novatorum sententiam, qua docebant non justificari nos a Deo nisi justitia aliena videremqne illius sententiæ. Authores in dicto illo B. Pauli fides credentis reputatur ipsi in justitiam vocem fidei non proprie accipere sed per catalepsin aut metonymiam ita scil. ut per fidem non ipsa fides sed objectum fidei Christus scil. vel obedientia Christi significaretur ; ostendi non tamen id a Scripturis esse alienum sed etiam nervos religionis, hoc est studium bonorum operum ea sententia succidi suscepi ergo adversus. Sibrand. Lubbertum, acerrimum novæ illius arrogantis et prophanæ opinionis patronum grave certamen hic ergo primus suit meæ ad fidem catholicam conversionis gradus.Petri Bertii Oratio qua rationem reddit cur romano catholicam fidem amplexus sit. page 19.
knows how to fetch me off quickly from the truth : what settlement, or establishment of soul can there be, whilst men will make their light within them, the rule of their judging doctrines? The word of God without, is my rule; the light within, is my help to understand that rule : but if I judge of doctrines by impressions of the word on my heart, I can never be settled; therefore take heed of that.
Get into the house of God: God's house, is an house of establishment; there he commandeth his blessing, and life for evermore; there if one fall, another may help him up; and if one err, another may inform him ; there the Lord hath promised to make men pillars for stedfastness : “And he that overcometh, I will make him (saith Christ) a pillar in the temple of God, and he shall go no more out," Rev. iii. 12. Ye know how it is with the bee : so long as it is fair, and sun-shining weather, it is abroad in the fields; but if the winds be high, and rough, it doth then keep its hive. Now as Solomon saith, Learn of the pismire ; so say 1, Learn of the bee. Are the winds high and rough? Keep your hive; and your hive, or rather God's house, will keep you.
Go not into those companies, and meetings, where the false prophet, and unclean spirit are, and where false doctrine is taught; false doctrine is a great leaven. Ye read of three leavens in the New Testament: 1. The leaven of hypocrisy, Luke xii. 1. “ Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” 2. The leaven of ill company, and society, 1 Cor. v. 6. " A little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump.” 3. The leaven of false doctrine, Matt. xvi. 6. 11, 12; Gal. vi. 8, 9.“ This persuasion, is not of him that calleth you; a little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump,” verse 9. Possibly all these three leavens may be in such a meeting : but the two last are certainly. And can you think to be under the power of these leavens, and to come away unleavened ? It argues unsettledness to go to such a meeting; and by your going, you will be more settled in your unsettleduess : as men are confirmed in that grace which they bring to God's ordinances : so they will be confirmed in that sin, which they carry to the devil's ordinances. Who can come freely off from the devil's ground? Will men tempt God, and think to prosper? And what is it to tempt God, but to put him upon an unnecessary protection, and preservation of us? Take
heed therefore, how you come at such meetings, lest you leaving God, he do leave you.
Whatever truth you know, do not only know it in a spiritual way, but put the same into practice; for he that knows truth carnally, is not far from error; and the way to be established in the truth, is to walk therein ; “ As ye have therefore received Christ (saith the apostle) so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith," Col. ii. 6, 7.
Then go to God for his establishing grace, and put your judgments into the hand of Christ to keep them for you: even as you would put your children, or family into God's hand, to keep them for you, when you are absent from them; so put your judgment into God's hand, to keep it for you also: for it is God alone who doth settle us, even the God of all grace ; and he hath said, Prov. xvi. 3., “ Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established :" it is he that hangeth weights on the wings of the wind who hath founded the earth on nothing; and therefore though your thoughts be as fleeting and uncertain as the wind; yet he can hang weights upon them, he can make you solid, staid, sober, who do now stagger to and fro like a drunken man.
And if you put your judgment into Christ's hand, he will keep it for you; for faithful is he who hath called you, who will also establish your hearts in the truth received.
But what shall I do, that I may be more settled in my life, and established in the good ways of God? for I want settlement in my ways and practises.
You must be very sensible of your own unsettledness, and be humbled for it: he is not far from grace, that is sensible of his sin, that is contrary to it; he is not far from humility, that is sensible of his pride; not far from sincerity, that is sensible of his hypocrisy; not far from faith, that is sensible of his unbelief; not far from establishment, that is very sensible of his own unsettledness.
Labour for a serious spirit, a staid, solid, and a serious spirit; a serious spirit, and an established heart go together, Prov. iv. 26., “ Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.” Young men generally, are more unsettled, than ancient men: and what is the reason of it, but
because ancient men are the more serious and ponderous ? Young men are the less serious, and so the more unsettled. * Labour therefore to be more serious, for the more you think of the greatness of God, and the great things of your everlasting estate and condition, the more serious you will be.
Be sure that you do not live upon your condition itself, but on the God of your condition: that is perpetual, which hath a perpetuating cause.* God is perpetual, but your condition is uncertain, although it be never so firm and good; therefore live not upon your condition I say, but on the God of your condition.
Take heed of a divided heart, that you have not a mind, and a mind: “ The double-minded man, is unstable in all his ways," saith the apostle. Now a man may have a mind, and a mind thus; when his conscience runs one way, and his affection another way. So it was with Herod; his conscience told him, that John was a just, and an holy man, and a powerful preacher; therefore his mind was to deliver him ; but his affection was to gratify the damsel which begged John's head, and so his mind was to kill him. Pilate also had a mind, and a mind; the mind of his conscience was to deliver Christ; but the mind of his affection, was to gratify and please the Jews. Zedekiah had a mind, and a mind; the mind of his conscience was to spare Jeremiah; but the mind of his affection was to gratify his nobles : and between these two minds, how unconstant was he? So now, if the mind of your conscience lie one way, and the mind of your affection lie another way, you will be wrung like Paul's ship, between two streams; one while you will be a servant unto your affection, another while a servant to your conscience, and so between both, you will never be settled: take heed therefore of this divided heart; the Lord hath promised to give us one heart, Ezek. xi., oneness in regard of God, that we shall be one with him ; oneness in regard of men,
that shall be one with them: oneness in regard of our selves, that we shall not be divided in our own souls: therefore pray unto him for this oneness, and he will fulfil this his promise.t
* Perpetuum est quod habet causam perpetuantem.
† Et dabo eis cor unum. Mihi soli deserviens non idolis, nunc enim divisum quando habent cor quo et me et idola colunt sic interpretatur R. David eodemque