Andrew Fuller Friday: On Holding Fast to Sound Words

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”—2 Tim. 1:13.

This Epistle was written on the near approach of death, and is very solemn. It is addressed to Timothy, and as such is doubtless especially applicable to ministers; but it is by no means exclusively so, since all Scripture is given for the sake of the church.

I. Let us notice the exhortation itself.—“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me,” &c. The gospel is here denominated “sound words,”—and “a form of sound words;” and requires to be “held fast in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

1. The gospel is called “sound words.”—Much has been said of sound words, and every one reckons his own creed to be such. I would only observe, that sound words must be true words, and words suited to convey the truth. All other systems are hollow. We must be more concerned about their being true, than fine or harmonious. We must beware of specious words, which are often vehicles of error. The words which the Holy Ghost teaches are the standard of soundness. So much regard as we pay to them, so far are we orthodox, and no further.

2. The gospel is called “a form of sound words.”—The word signifies a brief sketch, or first draft; such as artists sketch when they begin a painting. Paul intimates that he had given Timothy such a sketch—a compendium, or epitome. Whether he had given him any thing of the kind, different from what we have, we know not; but what he wrote to him and others contains such a form, expressed in different ways. As—“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”—“Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”—We have one of the forms in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 15:1–4. And a still more perfect one in his Epistle to the Romans, chap. 3:24, 25.

The term implies two things:—(1.) That what the apostles taught was a sure guide. We are quite safe here. Where will men go, if the apostles’ doctrines are treated as mere opinions? These are the genuine criterion of orthodoxy. Keep within these lines, and you are safe. They are able, through faith, to make you “wise unto salvation.” By these, the man of God may be “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—(2.) It implies that what he taught, though it contained the outline of truth, and as much as was necessary for the present, yet is not the whole. It was only an outline, only a sketch, for Timothy and all other Christians to fill up, and to meditate upon. Paul did not know all. Angels do not. It will require eternity to reveal all. There is plenty of room for meditation; only let us keep within the lines which the apostles have sketched out.

3. The gospel, as a form of sound words, must be “held fast.”—This supposes that we do, at least, hold the faith. Alas! many do not. Some have hold of a wholly false doctrine, and hold it fast too. Some are Gallios, perfectly indifferent, and hold fast the world, or any thing rather than the gospel. Nay more, it is to be feared that many who talk and profess much about doctrines, and Scripture doctrines too, yet do not hold them fast. We must find the gospel, as Philip and Nathanael found the Messias, and then we shall hold it fast. They sought out Jesus, and compared his character and pretensions with the descriptions of the Messiah in the prophecies; and were convinced from examination. If, instead of being convinced of the truth from actual personal research, we receive the notions of others, without examination, upon their representations, even if these notions should be correct, we shall be in danger of not holding them fast. Many will try to wrest the truth from us. Persecutions—temptations—and false doctrines, sanctioned by fashion and the appearance of learning, have occasionally made sad havoc with the truth, and forced many a one who held it loosely, many a one who received his faith at second-hand, instead of drawing directly from the fountain, and who therefore never fully comprehended it, to give it up.

4. The gospel must be held “in faith and love.”—There is such a thing as a bigoted and blind attachment to doctrines, which will be of no use, even if they be true. The word does not profit, unless it be “mixed with faith.” And there is such a thing as a sound creed, without charity, or love to God and men. But the gospel must be held in faith and love. The union of genuine orthodoxy and affection constitutes true religion.

II. Let us enforce the exhortation.—

1. Consider the inestimable value of these sound words. They are the words of eternal life. There is nothing in this world equal to them. They are the pearl of great price.

2. They have been held in such esteem that many of the best of men have sacrificed their lives, rather than part with them.—And shall we cowardly desert the truth, or shun the avowal of it, merely lest the indifferent should call us bigots, or infidels, or enthusiasts? There is not a more dangerous foe to the truth than indifference. Then “hold fast” the form of sound words.

3. They are the only principles that can meet the exigencies of perishing sinners.—All besides, however plausible, will flatter, and allure, and deceive, and destroy the soul.

4. They are the only source of a holy life.—People foolishly discard doctrines under the pretence of exalting practice; but holy doctrine is the source and spring of a holy life. What has the church become where these doctrines are given up? And what have those dissenters become who have embraced another gospel? Mere men of the world.

5. They are the only source of real happiness.—They inspire a peace and joy in health, a cheerful acquiescence under affliction, and a hope in death and the prospect of futurity, to which all are strangers who are building on any other foundation than that laid in the Scriptures by the apostles, even Jesus Christ—himself being the chief corner-stone.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Holding Fast the Gospel,” Sermon LXXXIX. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 547–549). Sprinkle Publications.

By |May 10th, 2024|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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