It is witnessed of David, that he “served the will of God in his generation.” Every generation has its peculiar work. The present age is distinguished, you know, by the progress of infidelity. We have long been exempted from persecution; and He whose fan is in his hand, perceiving his floor to stand in need of purging, seems determined by new trials to purge it. The present is a winnowing time. If we wish to serve the will of God in it, we must carefully attend to those duties which such a state of things imposes upon us.
In the first place, Let us look well to the sincerity of our hearts; and see to it that our Christianity is vital, practical, and decided. An army called to engage after a long peace requires to be examined, and every one should examine himself. Many become soldiers when danger is at a distance. The mighty host of Midianites were overcome by a selected band. A proclamation was issued through the army of Israel, “Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return;” and after a great diminution from cowardice, the rest must be brought down to the water to be tried. Such, or nearly such, may be the trials of the church: those who overcome may be reduced to a small company in comparison of those who have borne the Christian name. So indeed the Scriptures inform us. They that obtain the victory with Christ are “called, and chosen, and faithful.”*
The manner in which things of later ages have moved on, in the religious world, has been such as to admit of a larger outer-court, if I may so speak, for a sort of half worshippers. A general religious reputation has been hitherto obtained at a small expense. But should infidelity prevail throughout Christendom, as it has in France, the nominal extent of the Christian church will be greatly reduced. In taking its dimensions, the outer-court will, as it were, be left out and given to the Gentiles. In this case, you must come in or keep out; be one thing or another; a decided friend of Christ, or an avowed infidel. It is possible the time may come when all parties will be reduced, in effect, to two—believers and unbelievers.
“Never,” says a late masterly and moving writer, “were times more eventful and critical than at present; never were appearances more singular and interesting, in the political or in the religious world. You behold, on the one hand, infidelity with dreadful irruption extending its ravages far and wide; and, on the other, an amazing accession of zeal and activity to the cause of Christianity. Error in all its forms is assiduously and successfully propagated; but the progress of evangelical truth is also great. The number of the apparently neutral party daily diminishes; and men are now either becoming worshippers of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, or receding fast through the mists of scepticism into the dreary regions of speculative and practical atheism. It seems as if Christianity and infidelity were mustering each the host of the battle, and preparing for some great day of God. The enemy is come in like a flood; but the Spirit of the Lord hath lifted up a standard against him. ‘Who, then, is on the Lord’s side? who?—Let him come forth to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty!’ ”*
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Concluding Addresses: To Christians,” in The Gospel Its Own Witness. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 2, pp. 105–106). Sprinkle Publications.