The Domestic Benefits of “A Right Spirit”

By Dustin Bruce

With the recent birth of my daughter, I have given much thought to Paul’s command to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). I’ve read page after page on the importance of family worship, catechetical instruction, consistent discipline, and more. Andrew Fuller joined a chorus of helpful voices in offering a bit of heart piercing counsel.

Fuller, in a 1798 sermon at Ipswich, gave a sermon on David’s request that God “renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Surprisingly, Fuller elaborated on the familial benefits of possessing a right spirit in relation to God. According to Fuller, David was never more a sinner than when he dealt with Uriah, but he was never more a saint than when, in true repentance, he penned the 51st Psalm. He goes on to speak of a right spirit as signifying true religion, which he defines as follows:

A right spirit is a spirit of love to God, and love to our neighbour, and a right disposition to ourselves. A right spirit towards God is a spirit of love to him, a spirit of faith in God, a spirit of gratitude to God, a spirit of submission to God, a spirit of obedience to God, and so of every grace of the Spirit of God. A right spirit is not that of him who has experienced right feelings at a distant period only, but of one who habitually lives in the exercise of them: a constant spirit, as expressed in the margin. The term right has respect to some rule; this rule is the law of God, which is a right rule—the rule by which the Spirit of God works in the conversion of a sinner: hence he has said, “I will write the law in their hearts;” and as this is the rule by which God works, so it is the rule by which Christians ought to walk.[1]

The personal consequences to losing a right spirit are devastating. However, failure to maintain such a spirit affects one’s family as well. First, the loss of a right spirit makes us ineffective Christians at home. As Fuller explains,

We can do no good in our families. When a person has lost his right spirit, he commonly lives in the neglect of his duties, and too often in the commission of some small sins, neither of which seem to affect his conscience, so that religion appears of little consequence in the eyes of those around him. As he has not a savour of religion in his own mind, he cannot communicate it to others. As he has no love to God, no zeal for God, he cannot enkindle the flame of them in others. And it is mostly found when a person is in such a state, when he attempts to perform duties, he does it in such a manner, that, instead of exciting lively emotions in the lives of others, makes them burdensome, and so become disgustful. Sin unrepented of will spoil our usefulness. Guilt will chain our minds, and keep us from the discharge of what we know to be our duty. In this state we cannot with freedom or pleasure engage in it, and so give it up. Thus it appears we can do no good during this state of mind in our families.[2]

Second, we cannot rightly enjoy our families without a right spirit. Fuller goes on,

It is essentially necessary that we should possess this right spirit, rightly to enjoy what is good in this life. There is no good to be enjoyed in our families, nor good done, without it. The domestic comforts of life are no comforts without it; nor are our relatives a support to us. We may rove among our connexions from object to object, seeking relief, but all will be in vain. The great defect is in ourselves; wanting the right spirit which gives a relish to our comforts, we want the great essential of all.

As the consequence of this, instead of the cheerfulness which infuses a savour into the comforts of social life, and which ought to be seen on our countenances by our domestics, there is nothing but gloom and sullen despair. [3]

In typical fashion, Fuller penetrates to the heart of domestic piety. The great responsibility of bringing up children, as well as the great joy associated with it, are both dependent on the possessing of a right spirit. Family worship may go wrong more than it goes right and children may forget catechisms. But they will never forget growing up in a home with parents who maintained a right spirit of love toward God. May we join David in praying, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 837.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 839.

[3] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 840.


Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.