Historia ecclesiastica
The Weblog of Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin & friends

A Circle of Friends: Reflections on a Letter from Fuller to Carey

February 25th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions, William Carey

By Steve Weaver

I love a letter from Andrew Fuller to William Carey contained in Andrew Gunton Fuller’s 1882 biography of his father.[1] It illustrates beautifully the love and collegiality of the circle of friends among whom the modern missionary movement was birthed. In the letter, Fuller indicates that he had been visiting with John Sutcliff, Baptist pastor in Olney, “on missionary concerns” when a letter from Carey (dated October 10, 1798) had arrived, or as he put it, “while I was there, in bolted Carey!” Fuller’s response to the missionary includes updates on all the major characters associated with the early days of the Baptist Missionary Society. Carey, the Society’s first missionary, was the recipient of the letter and Fuller, the secretary of the Society from its beginning until his death in 1815, was the author. Fuller knew that Carey would want to know about the welfare of their mutual friends—John Ryland, Jr. (1753–1825), John Sutcliff (1752–1814), and Samuel Pearce (1766–1799).

The fruits of Brother Ryland’s labours at Bristol appear to good purpose, not only in a number of spiritual young men in the Academy, but in so charming a group of missionaries as are now going. Brother Sutcliffe has baptized nine lately. He is appointed to supply you with books, and I doubt not but he will magnify his office. Pearce is a wonderful Christian; he preached here last autumn like an apostle, from Psalm xc. 16, 17. Hall, who preached after him, was dismayed at the thought of following him; not so much at an idea of inequality of talents, but of spirit and unction. But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows.

There is also a reference to Robert Hall, the younger (1764-1831), the esteemed preacher and son of Robert Hall, the elder (1728–1791). The reference to Hall, who was well-known as a great orator, is striking. When scheduled to preach after Pearce, who Fuller calls simply “a wonderful Christian,” Hall feared to follow Pearce due to the latter’s “spirit and unction.” This letter was likely written in late 1798 or early 1799. Pearce would die within the year on October 10, 1799. His obvious declining health was the reason Fuller added, “But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows.”

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 150-151.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

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“Belle: an 18th-century triumph of humanity”: A Review of Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

February 23rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Books, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

“Belle: an 18th-century triumph of humanity”

A review of Paula Byrne, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice (New York: Harper, 2014), xii+283 pages.

belleA painting now hanging in Scone Palace near Perth in Scotland, once entitled in 1904 as “Lady Elizabeth Finch-Hatton with a Negress Attendant,” provides biographer Paula Byrne with the impetus for recounting the extraordinary story of Dido Belle (1761­–1804), the illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an African slave. Unlike the vast majority of children so conceived, Dido enjoyed privilege and wealth as she was raised by her great-uncle, William Murray (1705­–1793), the first Baron of Mansfield, one of the most eminent jurists of the eighteenth century. Building upon a previous historical piece that identified the black girl in the painting as Dido and a handful of literary texts that relate to her life, Byrne skillfully interweaves the little that we know about Dido with the life of her father, Sir John Lindsay, and the lives of Lord and Lady Mansfield, her adoptive parents. Lord Mansfield was an ardent foe of the slave trade, and Byrne reckons that his love for his adopted daughter was instrumental in convincing him of the evils of slavery and the slave trade.

Mansfield’s ruling in the case of James Somerset in 1772, a slave who had run away from his master in England, been recaptured and sold to a slave trader bound for the West Indies, proved to be a key milestone in the fight against the slave trade by eighteenth-century abolitionists. Mansfield ruled in favour of Somerset’s freedom, and many viewed the ruling as having made slavery illegal on English soil. From there, the logic was obvious: if slavery were wrong in England, how could it be morally right for the English to have slaves abroad? This is the very question, in fact, asked by Fanny Price in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, which, in an appendix, Byrne shows has links to the story of Dido and Lord Mansfield. Byrne knows Austen particularly well, having written two major studies on the English author, one of which, Jane Austen and the Theatre, has been described by historian and biographer Paul Johnson as “the best book on Austen I have ever read.”

Byrne is a consummate researcher and has well researched the historical background of slavery, its accompanying moral degradation, and its tentacles throughout the English economy, especially through the massive consumption of sugar. She rightly notes that the deepest roots of the abolitionist movement were among the Quakers, who by 1760 were disciplining members who participated in the slave trade, and Evangelicals like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. In fact, it was arguments based upon principles derived from the Bible that eventually did most to rouse anti-slavery feeling in the British Isles.

While this book is largely a search for the biography of Dido, Lord Mansfield also comes across as a remarkable figure. He was able to rise above the racism endemic in eighteenth-century English society and social mores, and both in his home and in the courtroom do what was good, right and just. A movie version of book, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (as Dido) and Tom Wilkinson (as Lord Mansfield), was released here in the US last May.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Audio of “The Legacy of Andrew Fuller” Conference Now Online

February 20th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Historians

Fuller Legacy Mini-Conference

On February 6, 2015, The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies hosted a mini-conference to consider the legacy of Andrew Fuller. 2015 marks the bicentennial of Fuller’s death so it was appropriate The Andrew Fuller Center devote some time to assessing his legacy. As an added bonus, the conference date of February 6th was the 261st birthday of Fuller. The conference was hosted on the third floor of the Legacy Hotel on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. We are pleased to make available the audio from the conference free of charge below.

Conference Audio:

Why Andrew Fuller?” (MP3) a brief intro to the conference by Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin (Professor of Church History and Director of AFCBS at SBTS)

“Fuller and the 19th Century Southern Baptists” (MP3) by Dr. Gregory A. Wills (Professor of Church History and Dean of School of Theology at SBTS)

“C.H. Spurgeon: a Fullerite?” (MP3) by Dr. G. Stephen Weaver, Jr. (Research Assistant and Fellow of AFCBS)

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“Free, Sovereign, and Great Grace”

February 19th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:22, entitled, “Equity of the Sentence Against Those Who Love Not Christ.”  He began by asserting:

A sense of the excellency of Christ, or of his worthiness of being loved, is of great importance in religion. Without this we can never truly love him, nor prize any thing which pertains to him. Destitute of this, we shall see his name degraded without indignation, and hear it exalted without delight. Without this, we shall esteem his salvation itself no otherwise than a happy expedient to escape eternal misery. In short, without this, we shall be mere statues in Christianity, bring no glory to its Author, and enjoy none of its refined pleasures. [1]

He went on to explain why eternal judgment is a just penalty for those who do not love Christ.  He gave three main reasons, which he expounded with depth and insight:  (1) To not love Christ is to be an enemy of God; (2) to not love Christ is to be an enemy of mankind; and (3) to not love Christ is to be an enemy of self.  And he closed by arguing that it is all of sovereign grace that any sinner loves Christ at all.  His conclusion was penetrating and ardent:

Oh how is it that we are not all excommunicated and accursed of God? Are we better than others? No, in nowise. God might justly have banished us from the abodes of the blessed. It is all of grace, free, sovereign, and great grace, if we are brought to love him, and so escape the awful curse; and for this we can never be sufficiently thankful. [2]


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 438.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 441.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

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The Catholicity of Fuller

February 17th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

One of the key things that rescued the Particular Baptists from becoming little more than a dunghill in society (Andrew Fuller’s words) was the catholicity of men like Fuller and Ryland and Pearce and Carey. If we would know possibly what they knew, we must recover not only their robust evangelical Calvinism but also know the catholic ambience in which they lived and breathed and had their being.

The catholicity of Fuller is on display throughout his life but can be especially seen in his gracious dealings with the Arminian Dan Taylor, his friendship with the Anglican William Wilberforce and the Presbyterian Thomas Chalmers, his friendship with the High Calvinist William Button and the day of prayer spent with the eccentric John Berridge. Most of all it is there in his deep friendship with the open communion and open membership John Ryland (recall Fuller was closed communion and closed membership in a day when thus was a very important issue). There are some today who would claim Fuller’s mantle but whose narrowness of spirit belie their claim.

A good question to ponder is this: how does a love for all who love the Lord Jesus (Spurgeon said this marked the life of Fuller’s friend William Carey) reveal itself?

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

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Book Review of Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury by Andrew Atherstone

February 16th, 2015 Posted in 20th Century, 21st Century, Books, Church History, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Andrew Atherstone, Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2014), viii+152 pages.

welbyWhat drew me to this unauthorized biography of Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, was frankly the author, Andrew Atherstone, currently Tutor in History and Doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Having profited greatly from books that he was written in the past, I looked forward to the same in this sympathetic biography.

Welby was born into wealth and was very successful in the world of finance—he was a treasurer in the oil industry and had a salary of £100,000 per annum in 1989; but the compulsion of the Spirit and constraints of the gospel led him to train for vocational ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. During the early days of his Christian life after a distinctly evangelical conversion he was deeply shaped by the Vineyard as it found expression in the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton.

His first ministerial charge was at Chilvers Coton in the diocese of Coventry. This diocesan locale proved to be important for Welby’s long-term career. The destruction of Coventry and St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1940 during World War II had led to the formation of the Community of the Cross of Nails (so named because of three medieval nails from the destroyed cathedral that were fused into a cross after the bombing), which came to focus on reconciliation projects in trouble spots around the world. In time, reconciliation became a defining hallmark of Welby’s ministry.

From Chilvers Coton, Welby went to Southam, Warwickshire, as the rector of Sr. James, where he became increasingly concerned for parish renewal, the relationship between theology and ethics, and the ministry of reconciliation. The latter frequently took him to Africa, where he faced mortal danger more than once, especially in Nigeria where violent clashes between Muslim and Christian were becoming more and more frequent in the 2000s.

Welby has insisted that he is “an orthodox Bible-believing evangelical,” for whom Scripture is “my final authority for all matters of life and doctrine” (p.90). But his concern for reconciliation has also led him to seek to preserve the unity of the Anglican communion despite recent deep divisions over women’s ordination and the question of same-sex marriage. There is no doubt that the latter issue will definitely test his abilities as Archbishop, for, in the final analysis, same-sex marriage is incompatible with a high view of Scripture.

Three things in particular struck me in Atherstone’s story of Welby’s life thus far: Welby’s concern for unity; in his own words, it is an “absolute essential” (p.113). Sadly, because unity has all too often in the past century been the concern of ecumenical types with a low of scriptural authority, evangelicals have not paid the matter the attention it deserves. But such an attitude is out of sync with both Scripture and the tradition of evangelicalism. The critical question, of course, has to do with the dynamics of making it happen. Then, there is Welby’s early experience with the charismatic movement and Third Wave theology that seems to have given him a life-long desire for revival, which, he would argue, is rooted in the resurrection: “Our hope of revival is based on the resurrection. Again and again in church history churches far worse off than us have, with clear leadership, found new life, and finding it have seen astonishing growth. Personally I believe passionately that it is possible” (p.131). To be honest, I did not expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak in such terms. Yet, his words are welcome and wise.

Third, it is clear that while Welby’s roots are evangelical, he has moved beyond the boundaries of evangelicalism in his practice of the Christian life. For instance, Atherstone notes Welby’s deep indebtedness to both Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality (p.94–97, 143). Reading this, it struck me that Welby typifies so many other evangelicals who have turned to other traditions of piety to enrich their faith. To be sure, it is not the case that we evangelicals have nothing to learn from these traditions. But the questions lay burning in my heart long after I had finished reading this biography: do we not have a tradition of piety that can nurture the deepest recesses of the believer’s heart (forsooth we do) and why is it not being retrieved and taught?

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Spurgeon Reflects on Fuller’s Baptism

February 13th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Steve Weaver

On July 19, 1863, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching from Romans 10:10 on “Confession with the Mouth” at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. During the sermon he reflected on his reading “the life of good Andrew Fuller” the previous day.

I was noting when reading yesterday the life of good Andrew Fuller, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped? and such like questions which are common enough now-a-days. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day. [1]

This is likely a reference to Fuller’s account in the memoir of his early life compiled from two series of letters written to friends. This memoir formed the basis of the nineteenth-century biographies of Fuller by his son Andrew Gunton Fuller, John Morris, and John Ryland, Jr. Fuller had written,

Within a day or two after I had been baptized, as I was riding through the fields, I met a company of young men. One of them especially, on my having passed them, called after me in very abusive language, and cursed me for having been ‘dipped.’ My heart instantly rose in a way of resentment; but though the fire burned, I held my peace; for before I uttered a word I was checked with this passage, which occurred to my mind, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation.’ I wept, and entreated the Lord to pardon me; feeling quite willing to bear the ridicule of the wicked, and to go even through great tribulation, if at last I might but enter the kingdom. [2]

Spurgeon’s familiarity with the life of Fuller and the popular stories about him that were circulating in the nineteenth century served him well for illustration purposes throughout his ministry.


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 401. This is likely a reference to Spurgeon described this reading in almost identical words in his autobiography.

I was noting, when reading the life of good Andrew Fuller, that, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped, and such like questions which are common enough nowadays. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day.

Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:149–150.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845), 7. This was originally from a letter written by Fuller to a friend in Liverpool in January, 1815. See Michael A.G. Haykin, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Joshua Press, 2001), 77–78.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

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Book Review: The Quest for the Trinity by Stephen Holmes

February 9th, 2015 Posted in Books, Church Fathers, Church History, Theology

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen R. Holmes, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012; xx+231 pages.

the quest for the trinityA part of an ever-growing body of recent literature on the most important doctrine of the Christian Faith, that is, that the true and living God is a triune Being, this comprehensive study by Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St. Andrews, is a solid critique of the direction of much of this literature. As Holmes notes, many theologians in the twentieth century, especially in the latter half, believed that the doctrine of the Trinity had been neglected, even lost, and they sought to recover it. As Holmes adeptly shows, though, this recovery by the likes of Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, and John Zizioulas has given rise to a perspective on the Trinity quite at odds with what had prevailed in Christian thinking and devotion from the patristic era to the end of the eighteenth century. The reason for this Holmes deftly shows to have been the fact that twentieth-century thinkers regarded the patristic understanding of the Trinity, which Christian tradition had assumed to be correct down to the rise of biblical criticism in the eighteenth century, as deeply problematic. The Fathers’ insistence on the simplicity and ineffability of the divine being, the fact that the three divine hypostases are distinguished by the eternal relations of generation and procession, and that the entirety of Scripture bears witness to the Triune God have basically been ignored by modern writers. And the result, in Holmes’ opinion, can hardly be described as a “Trinitarian revival.”

Holmes first looks at the biblical witness to the Trinity (p.33-55) and rightly stresses that the Patristic development of the doctrine of the Trinity is “largely a history of biblical exegesis” (p.33). Some of their exegesis seems odd to early twenty-first-century readers, but Holmes helps us make sense of their hermeneutics and also shows why it can be regarded as viable. He then turns to the actual development of the patristic understanding of the Trinity, which rightly occupies a significant amount of his book (p.56­–143). Critical to his argument here is his cogent demonstration that there is a unified patristic witness about the Trinity, contra the common, but very wrong, assumption that the Greek Fathers, personified in the Cappadocians, and the Latin Fathers, personified in Augustine, took two very different and conflicting pathways of thought about God.

Chapter 7 looks at the medieval doctrine of the Trinity and the debate over the filioque (p.147­–164), where Holmes argues that neither position in the latter should be regarded as doing “violence to the received orthodox and catholic tradition” (p.164). While this reviewer personally sees the filioque as a correct development, I think Holmes is right in his emphasis here. Chapter 8 (p.165–181) tracks the story from the Reformation to the close of the eighteenth century. The period after the Reformation is often ignored in the history of Trinitarianism, and Holmes’ careful, though succinct, attention to this era is very welcome. The final chapter (p.182–200) looks at Trinitarian thought in the last two hundred years—the speculative nature of much of it in the nineteenth century after G.W.F. Hegel and F.D.E. Schleiermacher and then the supposed recovery in the twentieth century.

Has Holmes proven his case? This reviewer thinks so: twentieth-century theologians have clearly regarded the patristic synthesis as deeply problematic and taken thinking about the Trinity in very different directions from the received tradition. If so, what is needed then is a true ressourcement, in which the Fathers’ thinking on the Trinity is carefully delineated and its significance for the present day cogently argued.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Book Review: Edward VI: The Last Boy King

February 2nd, 2015 Posted in Books, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Stephen Alford, Edward VI: The Last Boy King (London: Allen Lane, 2014), xii+98 pages.

edward viStephen Alford’s adroit use of a wide variety of sources contemporary to Edward VI makes this a delightful biography to read, one of the first in the new series initiated by Penguin Books, “Penguin Monarchs.” In a concentrated space of less than a hundred pages, Alford ably documents not only the power politics that surrounded Edward—two of his Protestant uncles attempted coups and paid the price for their treason—but also Edward’s devotion to learning—by his death he was reading and writing fairly fluently in Latin, Greek and French—and his love of such things as astronomy and various court festivities (though firmly Protestant, Edward did not share the later distaste by some Puritans of the latter). Alford is also able to capture another dimension with regard to Edward through his commentary on various contemporary portraits of Edward—one by Guilim Scrots of Edward at fourteen is particularly striking. These mini-studies provide further aid the reader’s understanding of the way Edward appeared to those who knew him.

Alford is quite aware of the importance of religious issues for Edward—he was firmly committed to the faith of the Reformation personified in the work of men like Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer. In a lengthy discussion of Edward’s important document “My device for the succession,” drawn up in the final months of his life so as to secure a Protestant monarchy after his death, Alford notes that guiding Edward was “one question only”: “Who was best qualified after his death to rule England and Ireland as defender of the faith and Supreme Head of the Church of England…?” (p.76–77). Yet, there is really very little said about the monumental religious changes that Edward’s reign brought to the English state.

Alford does cite a portion of an intriguing sermon preached by Latimer after the downfall of Edward’s uncle, Thomas Seymour, who had married Henry VIII’s widow, Katharine Parr. But it seems that this extract is primarily introduced to draw attention to the fact that it took two blows by the executioner’s axe to decapitate the traitor (p.42). Cranmer is mentioned a number of times, but nothing said about the religious changes his archbishopric had brought to English religious life beyond the fact that the revolutionary “[c]hange had come from the top” (p.45). This remark may well reflect the relatively recent revisionist opinion that Protestantism was very much an elite affair in England until well into Elizabeth’s reign, an opinion belied in part by the large numbers of Bibles circulating in England during the reigns of both Edward and his father, Henry VIII and also in part by the many “common folk” who perished for their evangelical convictions during the reign of Edward’s Roman Catholic sister, Mary I.

On the other hand, Alford provides the reader with an excellent character study of “the last boy king” of England, which reveals a young man increasingly assuming the reins of power when he died at the age of fifteen. Had he lived he might have proven to be a formidable monarch and major religious player in England and even beyond.

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

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Kettering Issue 2 Now Available for Download

January 30th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Church History

By Dustin Bruce

Cover 2

The latest issue of Kettering: A Newsletter for the Andrew Fuller Center of Baptist Studies is now available for download. In Issue no. 2, you will find a number of insightful pieces relating to Baptist History, including an editorial from Fuller Center Director, Dr. Michael Haykin,and an excerpt from a Fuller sermon entitled, “The Qualifications and Encouragement of a Faithful Minister.” Also, you will find an article from Haykin on Benjamin Davies and another by Dr. Steve Weaver on the subject of “Baptist as Puritans.” A number of book reviews, as well as coverage of the most recent Andrew Fuller conference, are also included.

Download your copy today. And as always, help us spread the word!

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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.

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