Understanding that a certain preacher, who was reported to be more than ordinarily evangelical, was to deliver a sermon in the town where I reside, and hearing some of my neighbours talk of going to hear “the gospel,” I resolved to go too. I thought that I loved the gospel, and felt a concern for my neighbours’ welfare: I wished therefore to observe, and form the best judgment I could of what it was to which they applied with such an emphasis that revered name.
I arrived, I believe unobserved, just after the naming of the text; and staid, though with some difficulty, till the discourse was ended. I pass over what relates to manner, and also much whimsical interpretation of Scripture; and shall now confine my remarks to the substance and drift of the discourse.
There were a few good things delivered, which, as they are stated in the Bible, are the support and joy of pious minds. I thought I could see how these things might please the real Christian, though, on account of the confused manner of their being introduced, not the judicious Christian. Pious people enjoy the good things they hear, and, being thus employed, they attend not to what is erroneous; or, if they hear the words, let them go as points which they do not understand, but which they think the wiser preacher and hearers do.
I cannot give you the plan of the sermon, for the preacher appeared not to have had one. I recollect however, in the course of his harangue, the following things.—“Some men will tell you,” said he, “that it is the duty of men to believe in Christ. These men say that you must get Christ, get grace, and that of yourselves; convert yourselves, make yourselves new creatures, get the Holy Spirit yourselves,” &c. Here he went on with an abundance of misrepresentation and slander, too foul to be repeated.
He asserted with the highest tone of confidence I ever heard in any place, much less in a pulpit, his own saintship; loudly and repeatedly declaiming to this effect—“I must go to glory—I cannot be lost—I am as safe as Christ—all devils, all sins cannot hurt me!” In short, he preached himself, not Christ Jesus the Lord. He was his own theme, I believe, throughout one half at least of his sermon. He went over what he called his experience, but seemed to shun the dark part of it; and the whole tended to proclaim what a wonderful man he was. Little of Christ could be seen: he himself stood before him: and when his name did occur, I was shocked at the dishonour which appeared to be cast upon him.
All accurate distinction of character, such as is constantly maintained in the Scriptures, vanished before his vociferation. The audience was harangued in a way which left each one to suppose himself included among the blessed. This confusion of character was the ground on which he stood exclaiming, “I am saved—I am in Christ—I cannot be lost—sins and devils may surround me, but, though I fall and sin, I am safe—Christ cannot let me go—lusts and corruptions may overwhelm me in filth and pollution, as a sea rolling over my head; but all this does not, cannot affect the new man—the new nature is not touched or sullied by this: it cannot sin, because it is born of God—I stand amidst this overwhelming sea unhurt.” All this the hearers were told in substance, and persuaded to adopt; and it was sin and unbelief not to do so!
The whole was interspersed with levity, low wit, and great irreverence. On the most solemn subjects of “hell, devils, and damnation,” he raved like a Billingsgate or blasphemer. On the adorable and amazing names of the ever-blessed God, he rallied and sported with such lightness and rant as was truly shocking. This was especially the case in his repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light; let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” The manner in which the sacred name was here used was highly profane and impious.
On returning from the place, I was affected with the delusion by which some of my neighbours were borne away, crying up the preacher as an oracle, “a bold defender of the gospel.” To me his words appear to answer with great exactness to what is called, by the apostle to Timothy, “profane and vain babbling;” and which, from an accurate observation, Paul declared “would increase unto more ungodliness; and would eat as doth a canker,” or gangrene.
Need I ask, Can this be true religion? The effects which it produces, both on individuals and on societies, sufficiently ascertain its nature. It was and is affecting to me to think what a state the world is in; so few making any profession of serious religion, and so few of those that do who have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. To think of Christian congregations who have heard the word of truth for a number of years being carried away with such preaching as this, is humiliating and distressing to a reflecting mind. Alas, how easily men are imposed upon in their eternal concerns! It is not so with them in other things; but here the grossest imposture will go down with applause. Yet why do I thus speak? “There must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). “A Picture of an Antinomian,” in Fugitive Pieces. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 3, pp. 829–831). Sprinkle Publications.