Let us consider, in the first place, the things wherein pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is said to consist. In visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and in keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. Visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction—This is the exercise which immediately calls for our attention. The fatherless and widow, my brethren, are represented in the Scriptures as the objects of Heaven’s peculiar care—God is pleased to represent himself as the Father of the fatherless and the Husband of the widow. He is pleased to represent himself as the avenger of the fatherless and the widow. Beware, says Jesus, that thou oppress not the fatherless and the widow, for if they cry to me—which intimates that the oppressed must cry to some one—they must cry for help somewhere to be redressed; and if they cry to me I will hear them, and will avenge their wrongs. Thus the Lord assumes the character of Patron, Friend, and Avenger, of the fatherless and the widow. If this be the case, it must follow that to partake of that disposition, that compassionate disposition that loves to visit them, to participate of their griefs, to alleviate their sorrows—is to be of the mind of God; and it must be pure and undefiled religion: it is the very essence of true religion to be of God’s mind. This was the object, you know, of our Lord’s prayer in the 17th of John: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee.” I entreat they may be one in us. God was the friend of the fatherless and the widow—Jesus was the friend of the fatherless and the widow; and he prays that we may be one, or of the same mind and the same spirit; and this is the essence, I say, of pure and undefiled religion.
Again: the fatherless and widow, we may remark, are, perhaps, more than any other persons, exposed to oppression and hardship; they have no spirit, they have no power to resist the encroachments of the mighty, and, generally speaking, are overrun,—trodden under foot. Often have I witnessed myself the fatherless and the widow trodden down like children in a crowd, even where there was no particular ill-will against them, where there was no special malignity or design to do them harm; yet they were like, as I have said, little children in a crowd which overlooked them, and so trod on them without knowing scarcely who they were Thus it is with the fatherless and widow in a vast variety of situations. Now, if they are in this unprotected state, and subject to grief, and oppression, and hardship, it becomes especially our duty and our honour to espouse their cause—to feel for them—to visit them in their affliction—to know their wants—to alleviate their sorrows. A sturdy beggar will meet you at every corner of the street, and din your ears with his wants; but the fatherless and the widow are pining, and, perhaps, half perishing, in their lonely habitations—go visit, go search, go find them out. “The cause that I knew not,” said an excellent man, “I searched out.” Yes; to visit the fatherless and the widow is, therefore, to visit those that are most exposed to oppression, that are least under protection.
But once more: the fatherless and the widow are objects of compassion at all times, but especially in times of affliction; “to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction.” Ah! that is a time of affliction, when, bereaved of their only earthly friend, when the man that has felt, that has cared, that has laboured, that has wept with them, is now no more—has gone to his long home, to his Father’s house! Is not that, think you, a time of affliction, when the house, the garden, the spot that knew him will know him no more? Is not that a time of affliction, when he no longer stands by, to take his children by the hand, and to provide their food? It is. Visit them in this their season of affliction.
The hand of God is often added, too, to this bereaving stroke; many a destitute family is left exposed to trials and afflictions—peculiarly so. While under the visitations of God, let them enjoy your assistance; go and alleviate their griefs; and if to all this you know of any oppression or hardship, if you know of any that have not been kind or attentive, any who have been unkind or unjust to them, visit them, counsel them, relieve them; be a friend and a helper to those who have no other helper.
Excerpt from: “The Characteristics of Pure Religion,” a sermon delivered in London on behalf of the Widow’s Fund, March, 27, 1800.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 399–400). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.