The persecutions which have been carried on against religion are grievous to humanity, and equally repugnant to justice and to good policy; but they are not in the least surprising. There was not a truth more prominent in our Saviour’s addresses to his followers than this, that, having received his word, the world would hate them, because they were not of the world, as he was not of the world. When he sent them forth to preach the gospel, it was, “as sheep among wolves;” and they were treated accordingly. When he took leave of them, previously to his death, he left them his peace, as knowing that in the world they should have tribulation. All this was no more than might be expected; for if it be the character of true religion, that it sets itself against every vicious propensity of the human heart, it is natural to suppose that every one who is under the dominion of such propensity will feel averse from true religion, and from those who adhere to it. The manner in which mankind have stood affected towards godly men has been nearly uniform from the beginning. Cain slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian mocking: as he that was born after the flesh then persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Why was Jerusalem a burdensome stone to the nations? Why were they continually forming leagues to root out its remembrance from the earth? The same spirit that was discovered by Edom, Moab, and the children of Ammon towards Israel, was apparent in Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and their companions towards Judah; and the part acted by the Horonite, the Ammonite, and the Arabian, was afterwards reacted, with additional zeal, by Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the governors and people of Israel. Those who could agree in nothing else could agree in this. The persecutions of pagan and papal Rome, and of all who have symbolized with her, have been only a continuation of the same system; and the descriptions which deistical historians give of these works of darkness, notwithstanding their pretended regard to religious liberty, bear witness that they allow the deeds of their fathers, and inherit their dispositions. The same malignant spirit which was discovered by the heathens towards the ancient Israelites is discoverable in all the writings of unbelievers towards that people to this day. It is true, they are more reconciled to the modern Jews; and for a very plain reason: they feel them to be near akin to themselves. Herod and Pilate were made friends by the crucifixion of Christ. Since that time the old enmity has been transferred to believing Gentiles, who, being grafted into the Jewish olive, and partaking of its advantages, partake also of its persecutions; and by how much the Christian church, at any period, has exceeded the Jewish in purity and spirituality, by so much more force has the wrath of a wicked world burned against it.
After all the pains that unbelievers take to shift the charge of persecution, and to lay it at the door of Christianity, it is manifest, to an observant eye, that there is a deep-rooted enmity in all wicked men, whether they be pagans, papists, protestants, or deists, towards all godly men, of every nation, name, and denomination. This enmity, it is true, is not suffered to operate according to its native tendency. He who holdeth the winds in his hand restrains it. Men are withheld by laws, by policy, by interests, by education, by respect, by regard founded on qualities distinct from religious, and by various other things. There are certain conjunctions of interests, especially, which occasionally require a temporary cessation of hostilities; and it may seem on such occasions as if wicked men were ashamed of their animosities, and were all on a sudden become friendly to the followers of Christ. Thus at the revolution, in 1688, those who for more than twenty years had treated the nonconformists with unrelenting severity, when they found themselves in danger of being deprived of their places by a popish prince, courted their friendship, and promised not to persecute them any more. And thus, at the commencement of the French revolution, deists, catholics, and protestants, who were engaged in one political cause, seemed to have forgotten their resentments, all amicably uniting together in the opening of a place for protestant worship. But let not the servants of Christ imagine that any temporary conjunction of interests will extinguish the ancient enmity. It may seem to be so for a time; and all things being under the control of Providence, such a time may be designed as a season of respite for the faithful; but when self-interest has gained its end, if other worldly considerations do not interpose, things will return to their former channel. The enmity is not dead, but sleepeth.
Excerpt from: The Gospel Its Own Witness. Chapter II, “The Harmony of Scripture with Truth Evinced from its Agreement with the Dictates of an Enlightened Conscience, and the Result of the Closest Observation.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 65–67). Sprinkle Publications.