There is a tendency in the human mind to deviate from Divine truth. Had it not been for the illuminating influence of the Spirit of God, we should never have understood it; not because of its abstruseness, but on account of the uncongeniality of our minds; and when we do understand and believe it, there is a continual tendency in us to get wrong. It might seem that when a person has once obtained a just view of the gospel, there is no danger of his losing it; but it is not so. There is a partiality in all our views, and while we guard against error in one direction, we are in equal danger from a contrary extreme. Many, in shunning the snare of self-righteous pride, have fallen into the pit of Antinomian presumption; and many, in guarding what they consider as the interests of practical religion, have ceased to teach and preach those principles from which alone it can proceed. Besides this, there are many ways by which a minister may get beside the gospel without falling into any palpable errors. There may be nothing crooked, yet much wanting. We may deliver an ingenious discourse, containing nothing inconsistent with truth, and yet not preach that truth “in which believers stand, and by which they are saved.” We may preach about the gospel, and yet not preach the gospel, so as to “show unto men the way of salvation.” And if we get into a vain, carnal, and worldly frame of mind, this is almost certain to be the case. It is no breach of charity to say, of hundreds of sermons that are ordinarily delivered by those who are reputedly orthodox, that they are not the gospel which Jesus commissioned his servants to preach; and if it be thus among preachers, is it marvellous that a large proportion of religious people are not strictly evangelical, but imbibe another spirit? And if the doctrine of Christ be neglected, (not to say corrupted,) the effects will appear in a neglect of faithful discipline, in a worldly spirit, and in a gradual disregard of a watchful, circumspect, and holy individual conduct.
It is no breach of charity to suppose that many who profess evangelical principles are Christians only in name, and that these principles are professed merely on account of their popularity in the circles in which they move. The ways of such must be crooked. Like Saul, they know not how to go about obedience to God, but are always stumbling, or turning aside in pursuit of some carnal object.
There are few things more spoken against in the present times than party zeal; but there are few things more common. To unite with those whom we consider on mature examination as being nearest the mind of Christ, and having done so to act up to our principles,—is our duty; but few things are further from the mind of the partisan than this. Having enlisted in the cause of a party, he sees no good but that which is within its pale, and will say and do almost any thing to keep up its reputation. “Many things have I seen in the days of my vanity.” There is a man whose heart unites with every one who loves our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and who rejoices in the work of God wherever he sees it; but not being of the right party, he is of little or no account: and there is a man who gives no other proof of his liberality than that of boasting of it; yet, being of the right party, he is liberal.
Genuine candour and liberality are not to be looked for in parties, but in individuals of various parties. There are men who, while seeking the good of their immediate connexions, consider them not so much as their party as an integral part of the kingdom of Christ, and who know how to rejoice in the success of truth and true religion wherever it is found: but is it thus with the bulk of any denomination, established or unestablished? I fear not. He that has lived thirty or forty years in religious society, and has not met with things that must needs have shaken his confidence in professions, must either be a very happy man, or very unobservant of what has passed before him. What shall we say then? Shall we sigh, and say, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight?” Be it so; let us distinguish between Christianity and the conduct of its professors; so that while we are grieved at the latter, we may not think the worse of the former. “Let God be true, and every man a liar!” Let us also examine our own hearts, and pray that we may have grace at least to correct the deviations, and supply the defects, that are to be found in ourselves; in which case, whatever may befall others, we shall find rest for our souls.
Excerpt from: “Irremediable Evils,” in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 467–468). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.