True religion is a narrow way. We are in danger of missing it, not only in what we do, but in the end for which, or why we do it. The apostle had been dissuading the Corinthians, in the tenth chapter of his first epistle to them, from eating things sacrificed to idols, lest it should hurt the consciences of others, and concludes his discourse in striking language: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God;” as though he would lay down the principle, In our most simple and ordinary concerns we must never lose sight of God, but do whatsoever we do to his glory. This important truth I shall endeavour to illustrate and enforce.
The glory of God is either essential or declarative; either what he is in himself, or what he is in the account of others. Nothing we do can have any influence on the former, but much on the latter. “Our iniquity cannot injure, nor our righteousness profit him.” Job 35:8. To do what we do to his glory, therefore, is to act with a view of raising his character, and promoting his cause in the esteem of all around us. The love of God will naturally lead us to promote his declarative glory in the whole tenor of our lives. Love towards a needy object will prompt us to communicate to his wants; but towards an object incapable of being benefited by us, it will lead us to ascribe to him his native excellences and glory, and to raise his reputation in the esteem of those around us.
The most ordinary actions of our lives require to be done to the glory of God. Every action in a rational being must have an end; and this end is either good or evil. If there were any actions which might be considered as absolutely, indifferent, and in which it were allowed to leave out God, they must be such as eating, drinking, &c.; but these have an end, which is either God, or self as his rival. Some may say, “We eat and drink for refreshment, no doubt.” True, this is, and may be your immediate object; but wherefore do you wish to be refreshed? If for any other ultimate end than that you may serve the Lord and do good in your generation, you in so doing live to yourself, rather than to him who died for us and rose again. If we eat and drink for mere self-indulgence, our table will prove our snare. Labour, too, and all kinds of business, must be pursued to the same end with eating and drinking. The acquisition of property is very natural, and if desired for the sake of serving the Lord, and doing good in our generation, it is lawful; but if that we may consume it upon our lusts, it is sinful. Jas. 4:3; Deut. 31:21. It is natural, too, for parents to lay up for their children, and if it be accompanied with a desire that our children and all they possess may be devoted to the Lord, it appears to me lawful. I am aware that some do not consider it so, but Paul’s allusion to it in his second epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 12:14, seems sufficient to justify it; and our Lord’s prohibition in his sermon on the mount, Matt. 6:19, regards selfish laying up only; and if we do so that our children may be great in the world, it is sinful.
If the most ordinary actions require this reference to the glory of God, much more do those of a religious nature. Jer. 4:1–3. Prayer, praise, preaching, hearing the gospel, alms-giving—all, if done to a right end, are acceptable to God; but if God be left out of them, instead of being pleasing, they must be offensive to him.
If the foregoing observations are just, two things will follow: first, that the nature and boundaries of good and evil are determined by the intention or end, at which we aim. It has been said, that “the difference between good and evil consists in degree; or that the same things which in one degree are lawful, in another degree are sinful; as eating and drinking in moderation are lawful, but in excess sinful; the acquisition of property in one degree is commendable industry, in another covetousness; the love of praise in one degree is commendable emulation, in another pride.” This is plausible, but in my apprehension not just. It is incredible that good and evil, with which salvation and damnation stand connected, should be alike in nature, and differ only in degree; and that the difference between them should be of such a kind, that it is impossible to say with certainty where the one ends and the other begins. It is not the degree, but the end, that determines the good or evil of the action. Neither emulation, in this sense, nor the desire of property, if to consume it upon our lusts, are lawful in any degree; and if we eat and drink, even in moderation, without regard to the glory of God, it becomes sinful. Secondly, the end we have habitually in view, not only determines the nature of our actions, but the state and character which we sustain in the sight of God. Here is often the main difference between good and bad men. There may be so many defects in, the one, and so much apparent good in the other, that to human judgment they may be nearly alike. Yet the one may be serving God, the other himself. It is an important thing that our end or intentions be pure. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil,” or diseased, “thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”
The subject may be enforced by weighty considerations. Such, as to pursue this end, is fit and right. God’s glory is worthy of being our ultimate end. Rev. 5:13, 14. He is worthy in himself, and for what he has done for us. It is the only return, too, that he asks for all his love and mercy. 1 Cor. 6:20. “Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God;” and again, 2 Cor. 5:15, “He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them.” To pursue this end is to pursue the general good, and to promote universal happiness. Wherefore is the world so full of misery? Because all seek their own; therefore all are at variance. If all loved God supremely, they would love each other for his sake, and be happy. To pursue this end is to pursue our own good, which is not only included in the general good, but hath a special promise; “them that honour me I will honour.” To pursue this end is the most effectual preservative from the abuse of mercies. If we eat and drink that we may be strengthened to serve the Lord, and to do good in our generation, such an object in view would be sure to preserve us from intemperance, immoderation, and excess. And if we keep this end in view we shall not be hindered in religion, but rather assisted by the necessary cares and avocations of life. Let us but serve the Lord in them, and we shall never be out of the path of duty. Worldly business, and stated and occasional devotions, instead of clashing with each other, would then form one beautiful whole. Why is it that prayer and other religious duties are driven into a corner by worldly business? Because in that business we lose sight of God, and serve ourselves. It is the service of God and mammon, and not the different parts of God’s service, which are at variance.
Some persons will object, “How can we be always thinking of God in our worldly pursuits?” It is not necessary in glorifying God, that God should always be the direct and immediate object of your thoughts; but if you love him supremely, this love will have an influence, whether you perceive it or not, upon the whole tenor of your life. A virtuous woman who loves her husband may not always be directly thinking of pleasing and honouring him; but such love, like the blood in the human body, which runs through every vein, will influence every action. If she reflect on the operations of her mind, she will perceive that not only in her daily business, she has his accommodation in view, but even in all the little ornaments of dress, and in all the turns of conversation and deportment, her habitual study and delight is to render herself agreeable to him. Nothing but love, supreme love, is necessary, “that whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we do all to the glory of God.”
For even more Fuller content check out David Prince’s latest book Preaching the Truth as It is in Jesus: A Reader on Andrew Fuller.
Excerpt from: “The Great Aim of Life,” in Fugitive Pieces.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 3, pp. 819–821). Sprinkle Publications.