First, Though faith be a duty, the requirement of it is not to be considered as a mere exercise of authority, but of infinite goodness, binding us to pursue our best interest. If a message of peace were sent to a company of rebels who had been conquered, and lay at the mercy of their injured sovereign, they must of course be required to repent and embrace it, ere they could be interested in it; yet such a requirement would not be considered, by impartial men, as a mere exercise of authority. It is true the authority of the sovereign would accompany it, and the proceeding would be so conducted as that the honour of his government should be preserved; but the grand character of the message would be mercy. Neither would the goodness of it be diminished by the authority which attended it, nor by the malignant disposition of the parties. Should some of them even prove incorrigible, and be executed as hardened traitors, the mercy of the sovereign in sending the message would be just the same. They might possibly object that the government which they had resisted was hard and rigid; that their parents before them had always disliked it, and had taught them from their childhood to despise it; that to require them to embrace with all their hearts a message the very import of which was that they had transgressed without cause, and deserved to die, was too humiliating for flesh and blood to bear; and that if he would not pardon them without their cordially subscribing such an instrument, he had better have left them to die as they were; for instead of its being good news to them, it would prove the means of aggravating their misery. Every loyal subject, however, would easily perceive that it was good news, and a great instance of mercy, however they might treat it, and of whatever evil, through their perverseness, it might be the occasion.
If faith in Christ be the duty of the ungodly, it must of course follow that every sinner, whatever be his character, is completely warranted to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul. In other words, he has every possible encouragement to relinquish his former attachment and confidences, and to commit his soul into the hands of Jesus to be saved. If believing in Christ be a privilege belonging only to the regenerate, and no sinner while unregenerate be warranted to exercise it, as Mr. Brine maintains,* it will follow either that a sinner may know himself to be regenerate before he believes, or that the first exercise of faith is an act of presumption. That the bias of the heart requires to be turned to God antecedently to believing has been admitted, because the nature of believing is such that it cannot be exercised while the soul is under the dominion of wilful blindness, hardness, and aversion. These dispositions are represented in the Scriptures as a bar in the way of faith, as being inconsistent with it;† and which consequently require to be taken out of the way. But whatever necessity there may be for a change of heart in order to believing, it is neither necessary nor possible that the party should be conscious of it till he has believed. It is necessary that the eyes of a blind man should be opened before he can see; but it is neither necessary nor possible for him to know that his eyes are open till he does see. It is only by surrounding objects appearing to his view that he knows the obstructing film to be removed. But if regeneration be necessary to warrant believing, and yet it be impossible to obtain a consciousness of it till we have believed, it follows that the first exercise of faith is without foundation; that is, it is not faith, but presumption.
If believing be the duty of every sinner to whom the gospel is preached, there can be no doubt as to a warrant for it, whatever be his character; and to maintain the latter, without admitting the former, would be reducing it to a mere matter of discretion. It might be inexpedient to reject the way of salvation, but it could not be unlawful.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Concluding Reflections,” in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 383–384). Sprinkle Publications.