Had this question been addressed to the first genius upon earth, unacquainted with the gospel, it could not have been answered. Had it been put to all the great philosophers of antiquity one by one, and to all the learned doctors among the Jews, none of them could have resolved it to any good purpose. Nor, amidst all the boasted light of modern times, can a single unbeliever be found who would know what to do with it. Yet it is a question which arises in almost every man’s mind at one period or other of his life, and a question that must be resolved, or we are lost for ever.
Reader! is it possible this important question has already occupied your mind. An alarming sermon, a death in your family, a hint from a faithful friend, or it may be an impressive dream, has awakened your attention. You cannot take pleasure as formerly in worldly company and pursuits, yet you have no pleasure in religion. You have left off many vices, and have complied with many religious duties, but can find no rest for your soul. The remembrance of the past is bitter; the prospect of the future may be more so. The thoughts of God trouble you. You have even wished that you had never been born, or that you could now shrink back into non-existence, or that you were any thing rather than a man. But you are aware that all these wishes are vain. You do exist; your nature is stamped with immortality; you must go forward and die, and stand before this holy Lord God!
If these or such like exercises occupy your mind, the question of the Philippian jailer is yours; and to you let me address a few directions included or implied in the answer.
If by this question you mean, What can you do to appease the wrath of God, or recommend yourself as a fit object of his mercy? What can you do as a good deed, or the beginning of a course of good deeds, in reward of which he may bestow upon you an interest in the Saviour? I answer, nothing. An interest in Christ and eternal life is indeed given as a reward, but not of any thing we have done or can do; no, not by Divine assistance; it is the reward of the obedience of Christ unto death. To us it is of mere grace, and as such must be received. Faith, though in itself a holy exercise of the mind, yet, as that by which we are justified, is directly opposed to doing. “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” He that worketh seeks to obtain life and the favour of God in some way or other as a reward; but he that believeth receives it as a free gift to the unworthy. And let me apprise you that this is the state of mind you must be brought to, or you must perish for ever. So far as you think of doing any thing, call it what you may, with a hope of being pardoned and justified for its sake, so far you reject the only way of salvation, and have reason to expect your portion with unbelievers.
Let me deal freely with you. Yours is a most serious situation. The gospel rest is before you; and if you enter not in, it will be because of unbelief. You know the answer given to the jailer; and this is the only answer that can with safety be given to you. Consider and beware, as you regard your eternal salvation, that you take up your rest in nothing short of it.
But, in the first place, let me declare unto you the gospel of God, which you are directed to believe. If this meet your case—if, rightly understood, it approve itself not only to your conscience, but your whole soul—if it accord with your desires, as it undoubtedly does with your necessities—all is well, and well forever. I shall not trouble you with the opinions of men as to what the gospel is, nor even with my own, but direct you to the accounts given of it by him whose it is. The New Testament abounds with epitomes, or brief descriptions of it, delivered in such plain and pointed language that he that runs may read it. Such are the following: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.—Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.—This is a faithful saying, (a truth of such importance as to have become a kind of Christian proverb,) and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.—We preach Christ crucified.—I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.—This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
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. 545–546). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.