2 Timothy 3:14-15
But continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them;…
Comprehensively, we may say that there are two things to be noticed in this passage: first, that the proper use and end of all religious know ledge is the promotion of good conduct and character; and, secondly, that there is a definite and important relation between certain truths and certain moral results. The same fruits will not follow as well from one set of principles as from another. Right belief has much to do with right conduct. Believing is the basis of all instruction and education. Every parent, every teacher, every moralist, as well as every preacher of righteousness, holds that human life and conduct will largely depend upon the things that men are taught to believe. There has sprung up a popular notion that it makes no difference what a man believes concerning religion if only he be sincere. There is just enough truth in the phrase, in some of its applications, to make it plausible, and to give it currency. And so it has come to be a proverb. When it is said, "It matters little what a man's creed is if his life be right," if it meant, "It matters little what a man's head knowledge is, so that he is sound in his heart," and by sincerity is intended, not sincerity in belief, but sincerity in life or godliness, a great truth is expressed — a truth that is not enough recognised. In education it is of great importance what sort of truth you employ, for some kinds of teaching are a great deal more likely to produce godliness than others. But, whatever the teaching has been, if the man is a good man, however strange it may appear that such a creed should have such a disciple, however far he may be from the average results which ordinarily follow the teaching of such things as he believes, his godliness is to be acknowledged in spite of the beliefs. There are thousands that are not half as good as they ought to be, considering the things that they believe. A man's creed does not necessarily make him good. And there are thousands that are better than their creeds. But generally this maxim does not mean sincerity of life in the form of godliness; it means that it does not matter what a man believes, so that he only believes it sincerely. The first question then, that arises, is this: What are we to understand by a man's belief? Do we understand by it simply those things of which he has an intellectual conception? Do they amount to a belief? Truth that touches a man not merely through a cold perception, but through some warm feeling — that is the kind of truth the Scripture teaches to constitute belief. It may be intellectually conceived; but no moral truth and no social truth is ever presented so as to be believed, unless it be presented in such a way as to carry sympathy and feeling with it — and that is not the case with all kinds of truth. Physical truths, scientific truths, do not touch the feelings, and do not need to. Arithmetic deals with truths that have no relation directly, except with the understanding. They never come with desire, sorrow, pity, or emotion of any sort. Bat all truths that relate to dispositions in men, to moral duties — they never stop with the understanding, but touch the feeling as well. A man cannot be said to believe a moral truth unless he believes it so that he carries some emotion with it. And, in this respect, it makes great difference what a man believes. Let us, then, look at this a little in the light of the experience of men in this world. In regard to the truths of the physical economy of the globe, does it make any difference what a man believes? Would it make any difference to a machinist whether he thought lead was as good for tools as steel? Would it make any difference to a man in respect to the industries of life if he thought that a triangle was as good as a circular wheel in machinery? In respect to the quality of substances, the forms of substances, the combination of substances, and the nature of motive powers, does success depend upon sincere believing or on right believing? Suppose a man should think that it made no difference what he believed, and should say to himself, "I wish to raise corn, but I have not the seed; so I will take some ashes and plant them; and I believe sincerely that they are as good as corn," would he have a crop of corn? What would his sincerity avail? Take one thing further. There are affectional and social truths. Does it make no difference what a man believes in respect to these? Is there no difference between pride, vanity, and selfishness on the one hand, and tenderness, sympathy, and love on the other? As it is with the lower forms of moral truth, so experience teaches us it is with the higher forms of moral truth. There is a definite and heaven-appointed connection between the things a man holds to be true, and the results that follow in that man's mind. All truths are not alike important, and all truths do not show the effects of being believed or rejected with equal rapidity. There are many truths which bear such a relation to our every-day life, that the fruit of believing or rejecting appears almost at once. These are spring truths, that come up and bear fruit early in the season. There are other truths that require time for working out their results. They are summer truths, and the fruit of belief or disbelief does not ripen till July or August. Other truths, in respect to showing the results of belief or disbelief, are like late autumnal fruits, that require the whole winter to develop their proper juices. Thus it is a matter of great importance whether a man believes in his obligation to God or not; whether he believes that he is sinful or not; whether he believes in the necessity of the influence of the Spirit in regeneration. A man's belief is not the only thing that works upon him. There is a great mistake in saying that as a man believes so is he, if you mean that his character depends upon his belief in any technical theological truth. What a man is depends in a great measure upon his father and mother, and brothers and sisters, and friends; that is, it depends partly on the things that he believes, and partly upon the influences that are working upon him in the family, in the society, and in the party to which he belongs. There are a thousand and one circumstances that have much to do with what a man is; and his character is not formed alone by his technical beliefs. Let us apply the foregoing reasonings and explanations to the more important truths which we are appointed to preach. We preach, then, that this life is a very transient scene; that we are strangers and pilgrims here; that we are started here to be transplanted; that we are undergoing a process of education in this life with reference to a life to come. We are taught in the Word of God that all men are sin-struck, and that every man that lives needs the grace, and forbearance, and forgiveness of God, and moral renovation at the hands of God. If a man believes that he is good enough, of course he becomes listless, and heedless, and inattentive. If another man by his side believes that he is sinful, and needs to be born again, with what a constantly quickened and watchful conscience must he needs live! and how, with all his moral power, must he perpetually strive to live a godly life? Does it make no difference what a man believes in respect to the character of God, the nature of the Divine government in this world, its claims upon us, and our obligations under it? What, then, is the application, finally, of this? It is just this: that, according to the tenour of the passage from which our text is taken, it makes all the difference in the world which you believe in respect to those truths that are connected with godliness — with purity of thought, purity of motive, purity of disposition. You must believe right about them. If there are any truths to be indifferent about, they are those that relate to your worldly good; and if there are any truths that you cannot afford to be indifferent about, they are those that relate to your character, to your immortality, and to the eternity that awaits you. Indeed, your character and destiny depend upon your beliefs in truth. If, then, any of you have hitherto been reading the Word of God as a book of curiosity, I beseech you remember that it is not made known to you for the purpose of curiosity. It is made known to you to be your guide from sin, from sorrow, from earthly trouble, toward immortality, and toward glory. Now when I sit in my house, where there is no gale, and with no ship, and read my chart out of curiosity, I read it as you sometimes read your Bible. You say, "Here is the headland of depravity; and there is a lighthouse — born again; and here is the channel of duty." And yet every one of you has charge of a ship — the human soul. Evil passions are fierce winds that are driving it. This Bible is God's chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbour is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars. Is is the book of life; it is the book of everlasting life; so take heed how to read it. In reading it, see that you have the truth, and not the mere semblance of it. You cannot live without it.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;