A Walk Through Thomas Watson’s, “Body of Divinity” – Part II

October 20, 2009


watson photo ii“Settled and Grounded”, two brothers forming the reasoning behind Thomas Watson’s call to catechising.  Rather than trying to define and separate these two myself, let’s let Noah Webster have a go.  From his 1828 dictionary:

Settle:  6. To  pre=”To “>determine what is uncertain; to establish; to free from doubt; as, to settle questions or points of law. The supreme court have settled the question.

Grounded:  1. To found; to fix or set, as on a foundation, cause, reason or principle; as arguments grounded on reason; faith grounded on scriptural evidence.

I believe it’s important to clear some ambiguity away from these concepts so we can understand better why being settled and being grounded is important to our faith.  My thoughts are that if you’re well grounded in something you should be well settled in the matter.  And if you’re settled, then you must needs be grounded.  Now, I think that’s true, mostly.  I also believe there is often more of one and less of the other.  For example, I’m settled in my convictions about the covenant of redemption.  But, since it’s a doctrine that is not specifically mentioned by name in the bible, I would do well to continually strengthen my scriptural knowledge so as to be well grounded in the theology.  Conversely, I don’t know of anyone settled in the matter of eschatology (at least correctly), but many people are well grounded in the corresponding biblical concepts.  Being settled gives us clear convictions; being grounded strengthens our convictions.  These are terms associated with a growing faith.  About being grounded, Thomas Watson says:

 [1] That we should be grounded in the knowledge of fundamentals. The apostle speaks of “the first principles of the oracles of God.” In all arts and sciences, logic, physics, mathematics, there are some rules and principles which must necessarily be known for the practice of those arts; so, in divinity, there must be the first principles laid down.The knowledge of the grounds and principles of true religion is exceedingly useful.

 (1.) Else we cannot serve God aright. We can never worship God acceptably, unless we worship him regularly; and how can we do that, if we are ignorant of the rules and elements of true religion? We are to give God a “reasonable service.” If we understand not the grounds of true religion, how can it be a reasonable service?

(2.) Knowledge of the grounds of true religion much enriches the mind. It is a lamp to our feet; it directs us in the whole course of Christianity, as the eye directs the body. Knowledge of fundamentals, is the golden key which opens the chief mysteries of true religion; it gives us a whole system and body of divinity, exactly drawn in all its lineaments and lively colors; it helps us to understand many of those difficult things which occur in the reading of the word; it helps to untie many Scripture knots.

[2] This grounding is the best way to being settled: grounded and settled.” A tree, that it may be well settled, must be well rooted; so, if you would be well settled in true religion, you must be rooted in its principles. We read in Plutarch of one who set up a dead man, and he would not stand. “Oh,” said he, “there must be something within.” So, that we may stand in shaking times, there must be a principle of knowledge within; first grounded, and then settled. That the ship may be kept from overturning, it must have its anchor fastened. Knowledge of principles is to the soul—as the anchor to the ship, which holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution. First grounded and then settled.

Clearly, being settled in your Christian convictions speaks of having great assurance of belief.  This belief in turn comes from being well studied and grounded in scriptural knowledge.  The point of salvation often springs forth from a furrow, ploughed and seeded by the Holy Spirit; not fertilized with much more than general revelation and a sense of inherent sinfulness.  But, certainly, the deeper things of God, that Peter speaks of about Paul’s writings, are necessarily understood by much scriptural meditation and prayer.

Friends, giving a cursory nod of understanding to these principles is all well and good.  But, I’m deathly afraid that we are being lulled to sleep in the fatness of the comfort of our lifestyles.  Justification is still by grace, but assurance comes by faith (Romans 10:17) and our faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  Much of the christian church today, isn’t, and many true believers can’t defend even the most essential of biblical truths.  Oh, what misery we heap upon ourselves and what joy we miss-out on when we take our eyes off God.  Because of the battle being waged, scriptural grounding is the most profoundly needed tool for survival in the twenty-first century.

A Body of Divinity can be found online through Monergism: http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Puritans/Thomas-Watson/

Photo courtesy of Reformation Art, http://www.reformationart.com/index.html





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