Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Utility of Grace

Give us your attention, brethren, while we next attempt to point out the utility of this heavenly grace throughout the Christian life.—Truly this is beyond expression. If hope in general is of so much, use among men as to stimulate them in all their labours, support them in their sorrows, and extricate them from a thousand labyrinths in life—if by it they brave dangers, encounter hardships, and endure difficulties—if, in short, it be that by which, as a means, even God himself as it were bears up the pillars of the world—then what must be the use of that hope which, as we have already seen, so much surpasses this in excellence! As far as the objects of Christian hope exceed in value, and its grounds in solidity, those of natural hope, so far does the use of one exceed that of the other. Its special use will, however, be best ascertained by taking a view of some of those exercises, cases, and circumstances wherein you are concerned in your passage through life.—Particularly,

You have known its value from the time when you were first converted unto God, when in that time of need it presented before you an all-sufficient refuge.—You remember, dear brethren, it may be some of you particularly, “the wormwood and gall” in that great work, which is commonly begun with a painful conviction of sin. You remember when a sense of the nature and demerit of sin, of your sin, was such that your souls had almost dwelt in silence! Ah, you remember when the glorious character of God appeared, though excellent, yet terrible, approaching judgment unavoidable, and the Judge at the door! And have you forgotten the “door of hope” which then was opened to you? Have you forgotten the sound of the great trumpet which invited you to come when you were ready to perish? No, surely. While many, like Cain and Judas, despair of mercy, and so “die in the pit,” you have reason to bless God for having enabled you to “turn to the strong hold as prisoners of hope!”

Moreover, as servants of God, you have a great work to do.—Though the meritorious part of your salvation has been long since finished, yet there is a salvation for you still to work out. By prayer, by patience, by watchfulness, and holy strife, you have to overcome the world, mortify sin, and run the race set before you. Hope is of excellent use in this great work. It is well denominated a “lively hope.” Its tendency is not to lull the soul asleep, but to rouse it to action. We trust, dear brethren, that the hope of which you are partakers will more and more animate your breasts with generous purposes, and prompt your souls to noble pursuits. For this you have the greatest encouragements surely that a God can give! God will employ none in his service without making it their inestimable privilege. They that plough for him shall plough in hope. Mansions of bliss stand ready to receive you, and crowns of unfading glory to reward you; therefore, beloved brethren, “be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Again, You are attended with indwelling sin: a “body of sin,” which, in the account of every one that loves and longs for purity, is a body of death; yea, worse than death itself!—You wish to think spiritually, pray fervently, hear profitably, and, in a word, grow in grace; but this proves a dead weight to all: “the good that ye would, that ye do not!”—You wish to hate and avoid evil, and all its detestable appearances; but you find it in ten thousand forms haunting, surprising, and drawing you aside, so that too often “the evil that ye would not, that ye do!” We doubt not, dear brethren, but that in secret you frequently groan with the apostle, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Now we ask what can afford relief in this case, but a good hope through grace of being freed at the hour of death? This proves a helmet in your spiritual warfare. This will inspire you with courage in every conflict: nothing invigorates the soldier like the hope of conquering at last. With this you will tread down strength, and, in prospect of approaching victory, sing with the apostle, “I thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Again, You are subject to many fears and despondings of mind ere you reach your desired haven. Too often, through an unwatchful, unholy conduct, the Spirit of God is grieved. His presence once withdrawn, darkness will overspread the mind, and evidences for glory seem blotted out. Satan is often permitted at such seasons to stand as at your right hand, accusing you of your filthy garments; suggesting that such a one cannot be “a brand plucked out of the burning.” Under these exercises the mind is apt to be depressed beyond measure; the soul, afraid of acting presumptuously, in laying hold of consolation, is ready, strangely ready, to sink beneath the waves of dark despair. If any offer consolation, like Rachel on the loss of her children, he “refuseth to be comforted.” The spirit, at some such seasons, is so dejected, it is as if all must be given up. The painful language of the heart is, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and” he whom I once thought “my God hath forgotten me!”—“My hope is dried up, and I am cut off for my part!” Ah, farewell hope! farewell heaven! farewell Christ!—No,—no,—nor Christ, nor heaven, nor hope will suffer this! Let deep call to deep, let waves, let billows overflow, deliverance shall arise, hope will not fail, but will afford relief. It will prove “an anchor to your soul, sure and steadfast.” Yes, it will cheer your heart, and enable you to sing, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God!”

Fuller, A. G. (1988). “The Excellency and Unity of Hope,” in Circular Letters. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 3, pp. 313–315). Sprinkle Publications.

By |July 21st, 2023|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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