The first thing that we shall request you to make inquiry about is, whether there is not a great degree of contentedness with a mere superficial acquaintance with the gospel, without entering into its spirit and end; and whether this be not one great cause of the declension complained of.—In the apostles’ time, and in all times, grace and peace have ever been multiplied by the knowledge of God; and, in proportion as this has been neglected, those have always declined. If we are sanctified by the word of truth, then, as this word is received or disrelished, the work of sanctification must be supposed to rise or fall. We may give a sort of idle assent to the truths of God, which amounts to little more than taking it for granted that they are true, and thinking no more about them, unless somebody opposes us; but this will not influence the heart and life, and yet it seems to be nearly the whole of what many attain to, or seek after.
We maintain the doctrine of one infinitely glorious God; but do we realize the amiableness of his character? If we did, we could not avoid loving him with our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.—We hold the doctrine of the universal depravity of mankind; but do we enter into its evil nature and awful tendency? If we did the one, how much lower should we lie before God, and how much more should we be filled with a self-loathing spirit! If the other, how should we feel for our fellow sinners! how earnest should we be to use all means, and have all means used, if it might please God thereby to pluck them as brands out of the burning!—We hold the doctrine of a trinity of Persons in the Godhead; but do we cordially enter into the glorious economy of redemption, wherein the conduct of the sacred Three is most gloriously displayed? Surely if we did, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost would be with us more than it is.—We avow the doctrines of free, sovereign, and efficacious grace; but do we generally feel the grace therein discovered? If we did, how low should we lie! how grateful should we be! We should seldom think of their sovereign and discriminating nature, without considering how justly God might have left us all to have had our own will, and followed our own ways; to have continued to increase our malady, and despise the only remedy! Did we properly enter into these subjects, we could not think of a great Saviour, and a great salvation, without loathing ourselves for being such great sinners; nor of what God had done for and given to as, without longing to give him our little all, and feeling an habitual desire to do something for him.—If we realized our redemption by the blood of Christ, it would be natural for us to consider ourselves as bought with a price, and therefore not our own; “a price, all price beyond!” O, could we enter into this, we should readily discern the force and propriety of our body and spirit being his; his indeed! dearly bought, and justly due!—Finally, we all profess to believe the vanity of this life and its enjoyments, and the infinitely superior value of that above; but do we indeed enter into these things? If we did, surely we should have more of heavenly-mindedness, and less of criminal attachment to the world.
It is owing in a great degree to this contentment with a superficial knowledge of things, without entering into the spirit of them, that we so often hear the truths of the gospel spoken of with a tone of disgust, calling them “dry doctrines!” Whereas gospel truths, if preached in their native simplicity, and received with understanding and cordiality, are the grand source of all well-grounded consolation. We know of no consolation worth receiving but what arises from the influence of truth upon the mind. Christ’s words are spirit and life to them who hunger and thirst after them, or have a heart to live upon them; and could we but more thoroughly enter into this way of living, we should find the doctrines of the gospel, instead of being dry, to be what they were in the days of Moses, who declared, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass,” Deut. 32:2. O brethren, may it be our and your concern not to float upon the surface of Christianity, but to enter into the spirit of it! “For this cause” an apostle bowed his knees “to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that we might “comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of things; and for this cause we also wish to bow our knees, knowing that it is by this, if at all, that we are “filled all the fulness of God,” Eph. 3:14–19.
Excerpt: Andrew Fuller, Circular Letters. “Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival,” 1785.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 318–320). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.