How cheering is the thought that the time is coming when these spots and wrinkles will be no more; but the church, and every individual member of it, shall be “holy and without blemish.”
Holy beauty, in every stage and degree of it, is lovely. The character given to that generation of the Israelites which grew up in the wilderness, and which, warned by the crimes and punishments of its predecessors, clave in great numbers to the Lord, is charming: Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first-fruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, said the Lord.” It was then that Balaam endeavoured in vain to curse them; and that, instead of cursing, he was constrained to bless them. Like an old debauchee, awed by the dignity of virtue, he was compelled to desist, and even to admire the object which he could not imitate: “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!—Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” Such, I may say, was the youthful beauty of the Jewish church; and that of the Christian church was still greater. To read the Acts of the Apostles, and to see the faith, the love, the zeal, the disinterestedness, the diligence, and the patience of the first disciples, is very affecting. It was then that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers; that great grace was upon them all; and that, having believed in Jesus, they rejoiced in being thought worthy to suffer for his name. But, lovely as both the Jewish and Christian churches were, neither of them could vie with the church made perfect. The disparity between the highest degrees of holiness and a state of sinless perfection is inconceivable. The deliverance of the captives from mere temporal thraldom, and which was only the effect of sin, was so overcoming, that they were like those that dream, scarcely believing themselves to be what and where they were; but for the church of God, in full remembrance of its foul revolts, to feel itself holy, and without blemish, is an idea too great for sinful creatures to comprehend.
If any imagine that this language is too strong, and that sinless perfection, or what is near to it, has been attained by many in the present life, I would recommend them to consider that to be holy, and without blemish, is different according to the different kinds and degrees of light in which it is viewed. A vessel may be clean if viewed in a dim light, and very foul if viewed in a clear one. Thus a character may be holy, and without blemish, if viewed only in the light of selfish partiality, or even by the partiality of friendship; nay, if he be a recluse, the prejudice of an enemy may not be able to detect his faults; but place him before the tribunal of God, set his secret sins in the light of his countenance, and the decision will be different. To be presented holy, and without blemish, is to be so in his sight. Such is the idea conveyed by the words of Jude: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy. To be faultless in the presence of an earthly judge, especially of one distinguished by his penetration and impartiality, is no small matter; but to be so in the presence of him to whom all things are known, implies a change far surpassing every thing experienced among mortals.
Excerpt from: “Sermon XIV: The Furture Perfection of the Church,” in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 247–248). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.