My Dear Friend,
I received yours yesterday, and, though my hands are full, I must write you a few thoughts on the Lord’s day. Your views on that subject, I am persuaded, are injurious to your soul, and to the souls of many more in——. It is one of those consequences which arise from an extreme attention to instituted worship, to the neglect of what is moral. If the keeping of a sabbath to God were not in all ages binding, why is it introduced in the moral law, and founded upon God’s resting from his works. If it were merely a Jewish ceremonial, why do we read of time being divided by weeks before the law? There was a day in the time of John the apostle which the Lord called his own; and as you do not suppose this to be the seventh, (for, if it were, we ought still to keep it,) you must allow it to be the first. The first day then ought to be kept as the Lord’s own day, and we ought not to think our own thoughts, converse on our own affairs, nor follow our own business on it. To say, as you do, that we must not eat our own supper on that day is requiring what never was required on the Jewish sabbath. Necessary things were always allowed. Nor did my argument from 1 Cor. 11 suppose this. The argument was—the ordinance of breaking bread being called the Lord’s supper proved that they ought not to eat their own supper while eating that supper; therefore the first day being called the Lord’s day proves we ought not to follow our own unnecessary concerns while that continues, but to devote it to the Lord, and this is a moral duty—that, whatever day we keep, we keep it to the Lord.
Your notions of instituted worship, to the overlooking of what is moral, I am persuaded have injured you as to family worship and family government. It is not said of Abraham that God gave him a special precept about commanding “his household after him,” but knew him that he would do it. It was one of those things, and so is the other, of which it might be said, “Ye need not that I write this unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to do these.”
But allowing your argument, that there is no sin in attending to worldly things on the Lord’s day, yet, according to Paul’s reasoning in 1 Cor. 8, you ought to refrain. You cause others to offend God by breaking what they consider a divine commandment. And the reasoning of Paul in chap. 8:8, applies to you: If you do these things you are not the better, and if you abstained you would not be the worse. Do you not hereby sin against Christ, and wound those whom you account your weaker brethren? You must also have done harm to your son, and to the waiters at the inn. Reckon me if you please a weak brother. But so fully convinced am I of the invariable obligation of keeping a day to the Lord, that if I had seen what I did on the Lord’s day morning, it would have marred all my comfort at the Lord’s supper, and I know not that I could have there united with you. I write not because I love you not, but the reverse … but alas! the taint of your old principles I fear will remain … Oh that they did not!
My dear friend, I see in you so much to love that I cannot but long to see more; and particularly to see that old leaven purged out. “The knowledge of the holy is understanding.” It is this sort of leaven that makes those few Baptists at——afraid to unite with many of your Baptists; and I cannot but approve of their conduct. They would unite with any individual who comes to them and gives satisfactory evidence of his Christianity, and of his Christian walk; but if they unite with Baptists by whole companies, they are ruined. I was told at——that the way in which the Baptists in Mr.——’s connexion take in members was by merely requiring an account of their faith, that is, a creed, and not of the influence of truth upon their own mind. The consequence is, as might be expected, great numbers of them are men of no personal godliness, but mere speculatists. Churches formed on such principles must (like what I have heard of many——societies) sink into nothing, or worse than nothing, mere worldly communities, a sort of freemasons’ lodges. My dear friend, flee from the remains of such religion! I mean no reflection upon individuals. I trust Mr.—— is a good man; and I have been told his church is in the main one of the best: but, on such a principle, it cannot stand. Affectionately yours,
Excerpt from a letter written in Kettering, August 25, 1805.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 828–829). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.