The promise to Israel was gradually fulfilled; and the same is observable of that which is made to Christ and his people. It was almost five hundred years, from the time that God entered into covenant with Abraham, before his posterity were permitted to set foot upon the land, as possessors of it; and nearly five hundred years more elapsed before their possession was completed. And, in establishing the kingdom of his Son, God has proceeded in a similar manner. The accession of the Gentiles was promised to Noah, under the form of Japheth being persuaded to dwell in the tents of Shem; but more than two thousand years roll on before any thing very considerable is accomplished. At length the Messiah comes; and, like Joshua by Canaan, takes possession of the heathen world. At first, it seems to have bowed before his word; and, as we should have thought, promised fair to be subdued in a little time. But every new generation that was born, being corrupt from their birth, furnished a body of new recruits to Satan’s army; and as the Canaanites, after the first onset in the times of Joshua, gathered strength, and struggled successfully against that generation of Israelites which succeeded him and forsook the God of their fathers; so, as the church degenerated, the world despised it. Its doctrine, worship, and spirit being corrupted, from being a formidable enemy, the greater part of it becomes a convenient ally, and is employed in subduing the other part, who hold fast the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Thus the war is lengthened out; and now, after a lapse of eighteen hundred years, we see not all things yet put under him. On the contrary, when reviewing our labours, it often seems to us that “we have wrought no deliverance in the earth, neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.” But let us not despair; we see Jesus upon his throne; and as the Canaanites were ultimately driven out, and the kingdom of Israel extended from sea to sea, so assuredly it shall be with the kingdom of Christ.
The great Disposer of events has, for wise ends, so ordered it that the progress of things shall be gradual. He designs by this, among other things, to try the faith and patience of sincere people, and to manifest the hypocrisy of others. Hereby scope is afforded both for faith and unbelief. If, like Caleb and Joshua, we be for going forward, we shall not want encouragement; but if, like the others, we be weary of waiting, and our hearts turn back again, we shall not want a handle, or plea, by which to excuse ourselves. God loves that both persons and things should appear to be what they are.
Excerpt from: “God’s Approbation of our Labours Necessary to the Hope of Success,” Sermon VII in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, p. 187). Sprinkle Publications.