By David E. Prince
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) consistently comes to my personal rescue as I think through current issues in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. In the excerpt printed below from Andrew Fuller, in a few brief paragraphs Fuller helps us avoid the ditches of political idolatry and political apathy. Both approaches dishonor the Lord Jesus Christ and our responsibility to represent His eternal Kingdom as we live in the temporal kingdoms of this world. I have added the headings below, but the rest is directly from Fuller. He beautifully articulates the relationship between our political engagement, yearning for social justice, and our faith in Christ, His gospel, and His Kingdom. I hope you find this short excerpt from Fuller, as helpful to your peace of mind and the gospel equilibrium during this bizarre election cycle as I have.
[Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications, J. Belcher, Ed., Vol. 2 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 3-4.]
The struggle between religion and irreligion has existed in the world in all ages; and if there be two opposite interests which divide its inhabitants, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God, it is reasonable to expect that the contest will continue till one of them be exterminated. The peaceful nature of Christianity does not require that we should make peace with its adversaries, or cease to repel their attacks, or even that we should act merely on the defensive. On the contrary, we are required to make use of those weapons of the Divine warfare with which we are furnished, for the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Politics, Human Passions, and Spiritual Infidelity
One thing which has contributed to the advantage of infidelity, is the height to which political disputes have arisen, and the degree in which they have interested the passions and prejudices of mankind. Those who favor the sentiments of a set of men in one thing, will be in danger of thinking favorably of them in others; at least, they will not be apt to view them in so ill a light, as if they had been advanced by persons of different sentiments in other things as well as in religion. It is true, there may be nothing more friendly to infidelity in the nature of one political system than another; nothing that can justify professing Christians in accusing one another merely on account of a difference of this kind, of favoring the interest of atheism and irreligion: nevertheless it becomes those who think favorably of the political principles of infidels to take heed, lest they be insensibly drawn away to think lightly of religion. All the nations of the earth, and all the disputes on the best or worst modes of government, compared with this, are less than nothing and vanity.
Politics Are Important, But Never Ultimate
To this it may be added, that the eagerness with which men engage in political disputes, take which side they may, is unfavorable to a zealous adherence to the gospel. Any mere worldly object, if it become the principal thing which occupies our thoughts and affections, will weaken our attachment to religion; and if once we become cool and indifferent to this, we are in the high road to infidelity. There are cases, no doubt, relating to civil government, in which it is our duty to act, and that with firmness; but to make such things the chief object of our attention, or the principal topic of our conversation, is both sinful and injurious. Many a promising character in the religious world has, by these things, been utterly ruined.
The Church of Christ Cannot Be Overthrown, So Be Politically Active
The writer of the following pages is not induced to offer them to the public eye from an apprehension that the Church of Christ is in danger. Neither the downfall of popery, nor the triumph of infidels, as though they had hereby overturned Christianity, have ever been to him the cause of a moment’s uneasiness. If Christianity be of God, as he verily believes it to be, they cannot overthrow it. He must be possessed of but little faith who can tremble, though in a storm, for the safety of the vessel which contains his Lord and Master. There would be one argument less for the divinity of the Scriptures, if the same powers which gave existence to the antichristian dominion had not been employed in taking it away. But though truth has nothing to fear, it does not follow that its friends should be inactive; if we have no apprehensions for the safety of Christianity, we may, nevertheless, feel for the rising generation. The Lord confers an honor upon his servants in condescending to make use of their humble efforts in preserving and promoting his interest in the world. If the present attempt may be thus accepted and honored by Him, to whose name it is sincerely dedicated, the writer will receive a rich reward.
Kettering, October 10, 1799.
David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.