Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Suffering of the Present Age vs. the Glory to be Revealed

There is, in this part of the Epistle, a richness of sentiment and a vast compass of thought. The apostle, having established the great doctrine of justification by faith, dwells here on things connected with it; some of which are designed to guard it against abuse, and others to show its great importance. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation,” says he, “to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.—As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Having thus entered on the privileges of believers, the sacred writer is borne away, as by a mighty tide, with the greatness of his theme. “Heirs of God!” what an inheritance! Such is the tenor of the covenant of grace: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”—“Joint-heirs with Christ!” what a title! We possess the inheritance not in our own right, but in that of Christ; who, being “heir of all things,” looketh down on his conflicting servants, and saith, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit down with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” It is true, we must suffer awhile; but if it be “with him,” we shall be glorified together.

By “the glory to be revealed in us” is meant, not that glory which we shall receive at death, but the consummation of it at the resurrection. It is the same as that which, in the following verses, is called “the manifestation of the sons of God”—“the glorious liberty of the children of God”—“the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” It is “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” for which Christians are taught to look; that grace in pursuit of which we are exhorted to “gird up the loins of our minds, to be sober, and hope to the end,” and which is to be “brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

On this great inheritance, to which the sons of God are heirs, the apostle enlarges in the words of the text. It is an object of such magnitude, says he, that all the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with it; of such magnitude as to interest the whole creation; and, finally, of such magnitude that our highest enjoyments do not satisfy us, but we groan earnestly after the full possession of it. To review these three great points is all that I shall attempt.

I. Such is the magnitude of the glory to be revealed in us, that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with it. In speaking of these opposites, the apostle, as by a kind of spiritual arithmetic, seems to place them in opposite columns. The amount of the column of sufferings, if viewed by itself, would appear great. Much evil attends us, both as men and as good men. The misery of man is great upon him; and great are the afflictions which have been endured by the faithful for Christ’s sake. For his sake they have been “killed all the day long,” and “accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” He who entered on this reckoning could not have made light of the sufferings of this present time, for want of an experimental acquaintance with them. In answer to those who depreciated his ministry, he could say, “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?” Yet the same person assures us that he reckons the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. They may be heavy and tedious, when viewed by themselves; but weighed against a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, they are light and momentary.

It is thus that, in the subject before us, he considers our sufferings as confined to “this present time.” The short duration of suffering ordinarily renders it tolerable, even though, for a time, it may be acute; and if succeeded by lasting enjoyment, we consider it unmanly to make much of it; and if it be in the service of a beloved sovereign, and in support of a cause of great importance, and which lies near the heart, it is usually treated as a matter of still less account. Thus it was that the apostle reckoned his sufferings not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us.

To say of two things that one of them is not to be compared with the other, is a strong mode of expression. It is in this way that the great God expresses his infinite superiority to the most exalted creatures: “Who in the heavens can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto Jehovah?” So, when two things of an opposite nature come in succession, and the latter so entirely prevails over the former as to obliterate it, or in a manner to efface the remembrance of it, it may be said of the one that it is not to be compared with the other. Thus the joy that followed the resurrection of Christ was to the sorrow that preceded it: “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Such also will be the joy of the heavenly inheritance, that it will efface from our remembrance the few years of sorrow which have preceded it; so efface them, at least, that we shall never think of them with regret, but as a foil to heighten our bliss.

Excerpt from: “The Magnitude of the Heavenly Inheritance,” Sermon XXVI, in Sermons and Sketches.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 333–335). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |November 5th, 2021|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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