Whether we set forth truth or whether we expose error, and we can scarcely do the one without at the same time performing the other, the Word of God must ever be the grand armoury whence we take the weapons of our spiritual warfare. This is both apostolic precept and apostolic practice. "Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. vi. 17). "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. iv. 11). "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Cor. x. 4).
...[W]e have little hope of convincing those who have drunk deeply into the spirit of error. The poison is already in their veins, vitiating in them all that once seemed like truth and simplicity. As infidelity, when once it has got full possession of the mind, rejects the clearest evidences from positive inability to credit them, so error, when once it has poisoned the heart, renders it for ever afterwards, in the great majority of instances, utterly incapable of receiving the truth. Against every text that may be brought forward in support of truth an objection is started, a false interpretation offered, a counter statement made, an opposing passage quoted— the object evidently being not to bow down to truth, but to make truth bow down to error; not to submit in faith to the Word of God, but to make the Word of God itself bend and yield to the determined obstinacy of a mind prejudiced to its lowest depths.
O what a state of mind to be in! How careful, then, should we be, how watchful, how prayerful, lest we also, "being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from our own steadfastness" (2 Pet. iii. 17).
A tender conscience, a believing heart, a prayerful spirit, a watchful eye, a wary ear, a guarded tongue, and a cautious foot, will, with God’s blessing, be great preservatives against error of every kind.
...[T]o see light in God’s light, to feel life in His life, to have sweet fellowship and sacred communion with the Father and the Son, to walk before God in the beams of His favour, to find His Word our meat and drink, and to be ever approaching Him through the Son of His love, pleading with Him for His promised teaching—this is the true and only way to learn His truth, to believe it, to love it, and to live it. No heretic, no erroneous man, no unbeliever ever stood on this holy ground.
That childlike spirit, without which there is no entering into the kingdom of heaven; that godly jealousy for the Lord’s honour which makes error abhorred and truth beloved; that tender fear of His great and glorious Name which leads the soul to desire His approbation and to dread His displeasure; that holy liberty which an experimental [experiential, ed.] knowledge of the truth communicates to a citizen of Zion; that enlargement of heart which draws up the affections to those things which are above, where Jesus sits at God’s right hand—these, and all such similar fruits of divine teaching as specially distinguish the living saint of God, are not to be found in that bosom where error has erected its throne of darkness and death.
On the contrary, a vain-confident, self-righteous, contentious, quarrelsome spirit, breathing enmity and hatred against all who oppose their favourite dogmas, and thrust down their darling idols, are usually marks stamped upon all who are deeply imbued with heresy and error. They may be very confident in the soundness of their views, or in the firmness of their own standing, but God rejects their "confidences, and they shall not prosper in them" (Jer. ii. 37).
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
*J.C Philpot, excerpted from the opening remarks of his exposition on "The True, Proper, and Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ The Only Begotten Son of God," Chapter 3, published in 1861, posted at http://www.the-highway.com/Sonship_Chapter3.html. Adapted for blog posting.