Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Application of Absolute Promises

Such as Isa. 43:25.

The sense of this passage, like most others, requires to be ascertained from the context. God is addressing Jacob, or Israel, as a nation, and reminding them of their great depravity; whence he asserts that all the mercy exercised towards them must be free or unmerited. God often spared them as a nation, when he might utterly have destroyed them, and must have done so had he dealt with them according to their sins; and his thus remitting the punishment of their iniquity was a kind of national pardon, Numb. 14:19, 20. Such a pardon was bestowed of God, for his “own name’s sake;” or, as he often reminds them, out of regard to the covenant which he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: and was extended equally to the godly and ungodly among them. To fulfil the promise which he had made to the patriarchs, of preserving their posterity in being as a nation, till Shiloh the Messiah should come, it was necessary that many such national remissions should be bestowed; though multitudes among them were uninterested in such a pardon as is connected with eternal life.

If the forementioned passage include any thing more than the above, if it comprehend such a forgiveness of sins as implies the special favour of God, it could belong to none but the godly among them. The truth taught in the passage will doubtless apply to them, and to all other godly persons; namely, that the forgiveness of their sins is wholly owing to the free grace of God. It is not for any thing in us, but for his own name’s sake, that he saveth and calleth us, forgiveth and accepteth us. As to naming this an “absolute promise,” all promises of spiritual blessings are in this sense absolute, though made to characters of a certain description; yet it is not on account of any goodness in them, but for his own name’s sake, that every blessing is conferred. Where promises are addressed to particular characters, as in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” they are designed to point out the subjects interested in them, and to exhibit encouragements to return to God. Where no character is described which is of a spiritual nature, as in the passage in question, the design is to point out the cause of salvation. But the Scriptures ought to be taken together, and not in detached sentences. No person has a warrant to conclude himself interested in a promise, wherein God merely teaches the cause of forgiveness, unless he possess that contrition which leads him to “confess and forsake his sins;” for this would be to have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, 1 John 1:6; Prov. 28:13.

Still it is inquired, What use may the people of God in all ages make of those promises and declarations of Scripture which were made to particular persons on special occasions? “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.”—“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”—“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”—“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee,” Deut. 33:25, 27; Josh. 1:5; Isa. 43:2.

I answer, examine the truth contained in each of the promises, and try whether it fairly applies to your particular case, as well as theirs to whom it was originally addressed. General truths, or truths of general use, are often delivered in Scripture to particular persons, and on special occasions. If the above passages were originally addressed to men considered as the people of God in the highest sense, that is, to the truly godly among the Israelites, they are equally applicable to the people of God in all ages of time, when placed in similar circumstances. Or if otherwise, if they had an immediate reference to God’s providential care over Israel as a nation, still it is just to reason from the less to the greater. Dear as that nation was to God, yet “Israelites indeed,” the spiritual children of Abraham, are still more so. That, therefore, which to them would contain only blessings of an earthly nature, to the others would include blessings spiritual, heavenly, and without end. There is nothing in any of these passages, that I recollect, but what in other parts of Scripture is abundantly promised to all the people of God in all ages of time. It is therefore consistent with the whole tenor of God’s word, that Christians, through patience and comfort of such promises of Holy Scripture, might have hope.

I shall add one thing which may afford assistance to some who are desirous of knowing whether they have an interest in the Divine promises. If the blessing contained in any promise of a spiritual nature be such as to meet your desires; if you be willing to receive it in the way that God bestows it; if you would prefer this blessing, could you but obtain it, above any thing and every thing of a worldly nature, it is undoubtedly your own: for every one that thirsteth is welcome to the waters of life.


Excerpt from “An Application of Absolute Promises” in Various Promises.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 634–635). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |May 10th, 2019|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday|

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