The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Causes of declension in religion and means of revival #2 Contentment with present attainments without aspiring after eminence in grace and holiness

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Following on from section 1 of Andrew Fuller’s letter, section 2 is below.  Here Fuller weighs in against a too-ready satisfaction with where we are at.  He puts to us a challenge that sticks in my mind: am I inclined to ask “What must I do for God?” or “What can I do for God?”

Another thing which we apprehend to be a great cause of declension is, a contentedness with present attainments, without aspiring after eminence in grace and holiness.  If we may judge of people’s thoughts and aims by the general tenor of their conduct, there seems to be much of a contentment with about so much religion as is thought necessary to constitute them good men, and that will just suffice to carry them to heaven; without aiming by a course of more than ordinary services to glorify God in their day and generation.  We profess to do what we do with a view to glorify God, and not to be saved by it; but is it so indeed?  Do these things look like it?  How is it, too, that the positive institutions of Christ are treated with so little regard?  Whence is it that we hear such language as this so often as we do.  “Such a duty, and such an ordinance, is not essential to salvation – we may never be baptized in water, or become church members, and yet go to heaven as well as they that are”?

It is to be feared the old puritanical way of devoting ourselves wholly to be the Lord’s, resigning up our bodies, souls, gifts, time, property, with all we have and are to serve him, and frequently renewing these covenants before him, is now awfully neglected.  This was to make a business of religion, a life’s work, and not merely an accidental affair, occurring but now and then, and what must be attended to only when we can spare time from other engagements.  Few seem to aim, pray, and strive after eminent love to God and one another.  Many appear to be contented if they can but remember the time when they had such love in exercise, and then, tacking to it the notion of perseverance without the thing, they go on and on, satisfied, it seems, if they do but make shift just to get to heaven at last, without much caring how.  If we were in a proper spirit, the question with us would not so much be, “What must I do for God?” as, “What can I do for God?”  A servant that heartily loves his master counts it a privilege to be employed by him, yea, an honour to be entrusted with any of his concerns.

If it is to be inquired, “What then is to be done?  Wherein in particular can we glorify God more than we have done?”  We answer by asking, “Is there no room for amendment?  Have we been sufficiently earnest and constant in private prayer?  Are there none of us that have opportunities to set apart particular times to pray for the effusion of the Holy Spirit?  Can we do no more than we have done in instructing our families?  Are there none of our dependants, workmen, or neighbours that we might speak to, at least so far as to ask them to go and hear the gospel?  Can we rectify nothing in our tempers and behaviour in the world, so as better to recommend religion?  Cannot we watch more?  Cannot we save a little more of our substance to give to the poor?  In a word, is there no room or possibility left for our being more meek, loving, and resembling the blessed Jesus than we have been?”

To glorify God, and recommend by our example the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, are the chief ends for which it is worth while to live; but do we sufficiently pursue these ends?  Even these chief ends of our existence, are they in any good degree so much as kept in view?  Ah, what have we done for God in the towns, villages, and families where we reside?  Christians are said to be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth – do we answer these characters?  Is the world enlightened by us?  Does a savour of Christ accompany our spirit and conversation?  Our business, as Christians, is practically to be holding forth the word of life.  Have we, by our earnestness, sufficiently held forth its importance, or by our chaste conversation, coupled with fear, its holy tendency?  Have we all along, by a becoming firmness of spirit, made it evident that religion is no low, mean or dastardly business?  Have we by a cheerful complacency in God’s service, gospel, and providence sufficiently held forth the excellency of his government and the happy tendency of his holy religion?  Doubtless, the most holy and upright Christians in these matters will find great cause for reflection, and room for amendment; but are there not many who scarcely ever think about them, or if they do, it only amounts to this, to sigh, and go backward, resting satisfied with a few lifeless complaints, without any real and abiding efforts to have things otherwise?

(work through the whole letter: section 1, section 2, section 3, section 4, section 5)

Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 23 June 2008 at 11:08

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