When we consider the shortness of time, and the variety of weighty concerns which call for our attention during that transitory period, you will agree with me that whatever has not some degree of importance attending it has no claim upon our regard. Every object certainly deserves regard in proportion to its importance. If, then, truth and a right belief of it are things of no importance, or at most of very little, they can assuredly lay claim but to a small share of our attention. But if, on the other hand, truth—Divine truth I mean—should prove to be a matter of great, yea, of the highest importance, then inattention to it would be a conduct chargeable with the greatest culpability. Were you and I of that fashionable opinion—“that it matters not what we believe, if our lives be but good,”—all attempts to investigate religious sentiments, it should seem, would be to no purpose; for why need I put myself to the trouble of writing, and you of reading what I write, if, after all, it is very immaterial what we think or believe in these matters?
Though I know you have no such ideas of things, yet, seeing that the importance of truth is itself a truth on the belief of which our attention and attachment to all other truths depends, you will allow me to begin by establishing that.*
I have sometimes wondered why it should be thought more criminal to disobey what God commands than to disbelieve what he declares. Certainly, if any master of a family came into his own house and told a plain tale from his own knowledge, and if any of the family were to affect to doubt it, he would take it as ill as if they refused to do what he commanded. Yea, for aught I know, more so; for to call in question his integrity would probably be more heinous in his view, than merely to disregard his authority.
There are two passages of holy writ that have especially struck my mind on this subject. One is, that solemn piece of advice given by the wise man: “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” He does not name the price, because its value was beyond all price. As when we advise a friend to purchase some very valuable and necessary article we say, “Buy it, give what you will for it, let nothing part you.” So here,—Buy it at any rate! It cannot be too dear! give up ease, wealth, or reputation, rather than miss it! part with your most darling prejudices, preconceived notions, beloved lusts, or any thing else that may stand in the way! And, having got it, make much of it—sell it not! no, not for any price! make shipwreck of any thing rather than of faith and a good conscience! part with life itself rather than with Divine truth!—But why so tenacious of truth, if after all it is of little or no importance?
I remember not many years since hearing a minister preach at a certain ordination from Heb. 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” In enforcing his subject he made use of what might be supposed to be the call of the martyrs from heaven. He represented one as crying to us, “Hold it fast; I died in a dungeon rather than forego it.” “Hold it fast!” says another, “I bled for it.” “Hold it fast!” says a third, “I burned for it.” These sentiments and motives, I own, met with my warmest approbation. But if, after all, it matters not what we believe, why all this ado?
The other passage that has especially struck my mind is that memorable commission of our Lord, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” He that believeth—what? The gospel, no doubt, which they were commissioned to preach. As if he had said, Go preach the gospel: he that shall receive your message, and evidence it by a submission to my authority, shall be saved; but he that shall reject it, let him see to it—he shall be damned!—This is very awful, and ought to excite us, instead of playing with truth and error, seriously to examine whether we be in the faith!
What is believing the gospel but heartily admitting what it implies and what it declares? What but admitting that God is an infinitely amiable Being, and that his law is “holy, and just, and good?” for, otherwise, the sacrifice of Christ for the breach of it would have been injustice and cruelty. What but admitting that sin is an infinite evil, and that we are infinitely to blame for breaking God’s law without any provocation? for, if otherwise, an infinite atonement would not have been required: God would have accepted some other sacrifice rather than have given up his own Son. What but admitting that we are utterly depraved and lost, lying entirely at God’s discretion? If he save us alive, we live; or if we have our portion with devils, with whom we have sided against him, he and his throne are guiltless. This is implied in the gospel of a crucified Saviour; for if we had not been utterly lost, we had not needed a Saviour—at least, such a great one. In fine, what is it but admitting that the plan of redemption is a plan full of infinite glory, the device of infinite wisdom, the expression of infinite love, the work of infinite power, and the display of infinite glory, justice, and faithfulness?—a plan originating in the heart of God, effected by means the most astonishing, and productive of ends the most glorious!—no less glorious than the eternal honour of its author, the triumph of truth and righteousness, the confusion of Satan, the destruction of sin, and the holiness and happiness of a number of lost sinners which no man can number!—a plan this, therefore, “worthy of all acceptation!” worthy of being approved and acquiesced in with all the heart! These, I think, are some of the principal truths which the gospel exhibits; and whosoever really believes them shall be saved.
Excerpt from: “On the Importance of Truth and the Right Belief of it,” in Strictures on Some of the Leading Sentiments of Mr. R. Robinson, Letter 1.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 588–590). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.