The first part of this essay appeared on last week’s Andrew Fuller Friday.
Reader! “Can thine heart endure, and thine hands be strong, in the day that he shall deal with thee?” Think of the “wrath to come.” If it were founded in caprice or injustice, supported by conscious innocence you might possibly bear it; but, should you perish, you will be destitute of this. Conscience will certainly say Amen to the justice of your sufferings. If you had mere justice done you, unmixed with mercy, your sufferings would be more tolerable than they will be. If you perish, you must have your portion with Bethsaida and Chorazin. Goodness gives an edge to justice. The displeasure of a kind and merciful being (and such is the wrath of the Lamb) is insupportable.
If after having heard these things, and lived in a country where they are fully declared, you do not feel interested by them, you have reason to fear that God has given you up to hardness of heart, and that that language is fulfilled in you: “Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing; and their eyes have they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Remember that in Old Testament times, when God blessed his people Israel with singular temporal blessings, he punished their transgressions mostly by temporal judgments; but now that we are favoured with singular spiritual privileges, the neglect of them is commonly punished with spiritual judgments.
But whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear, I will declare unto you the only way of salvation. That which was addressed to the Philippian jailer is addressed to you “God hath so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He has given him not only to teach us the good and the right way, but to be made a sacrifice for sin, and as such to be himself the way. He suffered from the hands of wicked men; but this was not all: “it pleased the Lord to bruise him. He hath put him to grief,” and made “his soul an offering for sin.” He commanded his sword to awake against him, that through his death he might turn his hand in mercy towards perishing sinners. He hath set him forth “to be a propitiation to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” This is the only sacrifice which is well-pleasing to God. All that went before were of no account, but as they pointed to it; and all the prayers and praises of sinful creatures are no otherwise acceptable than as presented through it. It is not for you to go about to appease the Divine displeasure, or to recommend yourself to the Saviour by any efforts of your own; but, despairing of help from every other quarter, to “receive the atonement which Christ hath made.” To this you are invited, and that in the most pressing terms. He that made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, hath on this ground committed to his servants the ministry of reconciliation; and they as “ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you” by them, “pray you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
The blessings of pardon, peace, and eternal life are compared to a feast or marriage-supper, which the King of heaven and earth hath made for his Son; and he hath commanded his servants to go forth, as to the highways and hedges, and to invite, without distinction; yea, to “compel them to come in.” Nor is this all; you are exhorted and commanded to believe in Christ, on pain of damnation. All your other sins expose you merely to the curse of the law; but the sin of unbelief, if persisted in, will expose you, like the barren fig-tree, to the curse of the Saviour, from which there is no redemption.
Say not in thine heart, All these things I have believed from my youth up. You may indeed have been taught them, and have received them as a tradition from your fathers; but such faith is dead, and consequently unoperative. It is the same as that of the Jews towards Moses, which our Saviour would not admit to be faith. “If ye believed Moses,” saith he, “ye would believe me, for he wrote of me.” It is no better than the faith of devils, and in some respects has less influence; for they believe and tremble, whereas you believe and are at ease.
But it may be you will say, I have examined Christianity for myself, and am fully persuaded it is true.—Yet it has no effect upon you, any more than if you disbelieved it, unless it be to restrain you within the limits of exterior decorum. Your faith, therefore, must still be “dead, being alone.” Believing in Christ is not the exercise of a mind at ease, casting up the evidences for and against, and then coldly assenting, as in a question of science, to that side which seems to have the greatest weight of proof. To one whose mind is subdued to the obedience of faith, there is indeed no want of evidence; but it is not so much from external proofs as from its own intrinsic glory, and suitableness to his case as a perishing sinner, that he feels himself impelled to receive it. The gospel is too interesting, and hath too much influence on our past and future conduct, to be an object of unfeeling speculation. It is a “hope set before us,” which none but those who are “ready to perish” will ever embrace. To believe it is to renounce our own wisdom, our own righteousness and our own will, (each of which is directly opposed to it,) and to fall into the arms of mere grace, through the atoning blood of the cross. If the good news of salvation be not in this manner believed, it signifies but little what speculative notions we may entertain concerning it; for where there is no renunciation of self, there is no dependence upon Christ for justification; and where there is no such dependence, there is no revealed interest in that important blessing; but the curses and threatenings of God stand in all their force against us.
If after all your examinations you continue to make light of the gospel feast, and prefer your farms, merchandises, or any thing else before it, you will be found to have no part in it. Yet be it known unto you that the feast shall not be unattended. Heaven shall not go without inhabitants, nor Christ without reward, whether you be saved or lost. The Stone set at nought by man is nevertheless “the Head of the corner.” Consider then, take advice, and speak your mind.
Excerpt from: “The Great Question Answered,” in Miscellaneous Tracts, Essays, Letters, etc.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 543–544). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.