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Did Jonathan Edwards Inspire the Modern Missions Movement?

April 27th, 2016 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Puritans


By Obbie Todd

In June 1805, from Kettering, England, pastor Andrew Fuller wrote to American theologian Timothy Dwight concerning Fuller’s honorary diploma from Yale College. Fuller had attained considerable renown across the Atlantic for his treatises, owing much to the theological heritage bequeathed to him by Dwight’s grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. In this small letter, the reader discovers not only Edwards’ influence upon Fuller, but upon Fuller’s band of missionary compatriots as well: “The writings of your grandfather, President Edwards, and of your uncle, the late Dr. Edwards, have been food to me and many others. Our brethren Carey, Marshman, Ward, and Chamberlain, in the East Indies, all greatly approve of them.”

The legacy of Jonathan Edwards prospered and grew in the theology and missiology of Andrew Fuller. In his defense of evangelistic Calvinism and puritanical piety, the man Charles Spurgeon called “the greatest theologian” of his century called upon the works of Edwards to meet a post-Reformation scholasticism beginning to relinquish its dedication to Scriptural principles. For all of his doctrinal and metaphysical influence, the “theologian of the Great Commandment” stirred Fuller to an even deeper spirituality with his Life of David Brainerd (1749), a biography of an American missionary to the Delaware River Indians. Fuller’s Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce (1800) bears striking resemblance to Edward’s work in many ways, giving credence to Chris Chun’s assertion that “Fuller’s main contribution was to expand, implicate, and apply Edwardsean ideas in his own historical setting.”

Edwards article

It is important to remember that while the two men lived in the same enlightened century, they also occupied both poles of it. Andrew Fuller was born in Soham, England in 1754: the year that Edwards’ Freedom of the Will was published and four years before Edwards’ death. Thus to say that the Congregationalist and the Particular Baptist were contemporaries would be false. However, their historical proximity was beneficial for Fuller, as he faced the same eighteenth-century rationalism as his predecessor. Edwards indeed lived on in his writings, serving to fuel Fuller’s theological aims years after his death. (Edwards’ Freedom of the Will was recommended to him by Robert Hall of Arnsby in 1775) Fuller responded forcefully to those who questioned his allegiance to Edwards: “We have some who have been giving out, of late, that ‘If Sutcliff and some others had preached more of Christ, and less of Jonathan Edwards, they would have been more useful.’ If those who talked thus preached Christ half as much as Jonathan Edwards did, and were half as useful as he was, their usefulness would be double what it is.”

Edwards’ Freedom of the Will helped him reconcile evangelistic preaching with the divine sovereignty of Calvinism. In his second edition of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1801), Fuller acknowledges his debts to Edwards’ Freedom of the Will in distinguishing between natural and moral inability. In addition, Edwards not only aided Fuller in his response to the High Calvinism of John Gill and John Brine, but his Religious Affections equipped Fuller to refute Sandemanianism (“easy-believism”) as espoused by Archibald McLean. Fuller boasted that Edwards’ sermons on justification gave him “more satisfaction on that important doctrine than any human performance which I have read.”

Still, the name of David Brainerd was one Fuller held in high esteem. At Fuller’s funeral, friend John Ryland, Jr. could not help but mention Edwards’ famous biography: “If I knew I should be with…Fuller tomorrow, instead of regretting that I had endeavored to promote that religion delineated by Jonathan Edwards in his Treatise on Religious Affections and in his Life of David Brainerd, I would recommend his writings…with the last effort I could make to guide a pen.” Such a reference to Brainerd in Fuller’s funeral was apropos for a man who had served as the founding secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society since 1792. Fuller had dedicated himself to the Great Commission since his disillusionment from the Hyper-Calvinism of his childhood pastor John Eve that neglected to invite sinners to repent and believe in the Gospel. Men like Jonathan Edwards had aided Fuller in returning to the Scriptures.

It was in his last year at Soham that Fuller wrote A Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1786), but his removal to Kettering in 1782 would spell the beginning of a ministry set against “false Calvinism,” sparking the dawn of a movement. According to John Piper, Fuller helped initiate the first age in modern missions. (Hudson Taylor’s founding of the China Inland Mission in 1865 would begin another.) Here in the Northamptonshire Association of Baptist Churches, Fuller would meet the likes of John Ryland, Jr. of Northampton, John Sutcliffe of Olney, then a little later Samuel Pearce of Birmingham and William Carey of Leicester.

Fuller’s famous relationship with Carey forged a now-legendary mission to India in which Fuller would “hold the rope” for Carey back in England. And Fuller regarded Pierce so highly that he wrote his Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce (1800) to serve as a paradigm of piety. The “seraphic Pearce” (1766-1799) has since been dubbed “the Baptist Brainerd” due to the strong correlation between the two men. According to Michael Haykin, it is important to note “Fuller’s clear indebtedness to what is probably the most popular of the American divine’s books, namely, his account of the life and ministry of David Brainerd (1718-1747).”

Without a doubt, The Life of David Brainerd was a central document to the modern missions movement. Fuller began work on the Memoirs not long after hearing of Pearce’s death while on a fund-raising trip in Scotland for the Baptist Missionary Society. The news brought Fuller to tears…and action. The idea for Pearce’s biography was not a new one, but the proper window and impetus had been supplied. Fuller desired to show the world a remarkable example of Christian spirituality and support Pearce’s widow Sarah and her five children. The end product would be a biography that paralleled Edwards’ Brainerd in many ways, beginning with the very purpose it was written.

For Fuller, “The great ends of Christian biography are instruction and example. By faithfully describing the lives of men eminent for godliness, we not only embalm their memory, but furnish ourselves with fresh materials and motives for a holy life.” This sounds remarkably like the beginning to Edwards’ biography of Brainerd: “I am persuaded every pious and judicious reader will acknowledge, that what is here set before them is indeed a remarkable instance of true and eminent Christian piety in heart and practice – tending greatly to confirm the reality of vital religion, and the power of godliness – that it is most worthy of imitation, and many ways calculated to promote the spiritual benefit of the careful observer.”

Important to note is that, in addition to the passionate evangelism and suffering of both Brainerd and Pearce, Fuller and Edwards both spend much of their biographies depicting the last months of their subjects – indicating that this was a significant part of the story they wished to tell. Nothing displayed Christian piety more than the passionate earthly exits of both men. And Fuller’s model clearly follows Edwards’. As Tom Nettles insightfully observes, “Intimate acquaintance with the ideas of a great theologian tends to make the student a wise and sensitive pastor. Fuller took the difficult ideas of Edwards, digested their spiritual implications and used them for the good of souls.” What the natural-moral inability distinction and religious sensibilities generated for Fuller’s polemical soteriology, the piety of David Brainerd did for Fuller’s own spiritual devotion.

Despite his never serving as an international missionary for the Baptist Missionary Society, Pearce’s zeal for evangelism is something Fuller wished to capture. Pearce once wrote to William Carey expressing his excitement at the prospect of serving with him abroad: “I should call that the happiest hour of my life which witnessed our both embarking with our families on board one ship, as helpers of the servants of Jesus Christ already in Hindostan.” Despite the vast gulf in continents, the strongest commonality between Pearce and Brainerd was their greatest mutual desire: the Gospel.

Samuel Pearce stood next to William Carey on the conviction that Matthew 28:19-20 was still in effect for Christians everywhere: “I here referred to our Lord’s commission, which I could not but consider as universal in its object and permanent in its obligations. I read brother Carey’s remarks upon it; and as the command has never been repealed – as there are millions of beings in the world on whom the command may be exercised – as I can produce no counter-revelation – and as I lie under no natural impossibilities of performing it – I conclude that I, as a servant of Christ, was bound by this law.” Quotes like this one leave little doubt that the Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce packaged Fuller’s invitational Calvinism in biographical form.

With an ocean and decades between them, Brainerd and Pearce fixed their eyes upon the same target: the heathen. From an early age, Brainerd held a special place in his heart for the lost, and he pleaded with God to be sent on His behalf: “My great concern was for the conversion of the heathen to God; and the Lord helped me to plead with him for it.” Brainerd’s Godward focus continually directed him to the lost, not simply for their sake, but for his God’s: “Oh that all people might love and praise the blessed God; that he might have all possible honour and glory from the intelligent world!” Likewise, Samuel Pearce, who fought off Antinomians in his own Birmingham congregation, worked diligently to seek out those same heathen: “O how I love that man whose soul is deeply affected with the importance of the precious gospel to idolatrous heathens!”

Tom Nettles provides keen insight into the true depths of Edwards’ influence upon Andrew Fuller’s world: “Fuller and his entire circle of friends found within Jonathan Edwards the key to a peculiar theological perplexity that vexed their souls and virtually the entire Particular Baptist fellowship.” The faith and reason of the “public theologian” had emigrated from Northampton, Massachusetts to Fuller’s Northamptonshire Association, re-shaping the Great Commission for its late eighteenth-century context. While his Freedom of the Will helped Fuller reconcile the pastoral responsibility to plead for sinners and divine sovereignty to draw them, Edwards’ Life of David Brainerd served as the prototype in Andrew Fuller’s Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, M.A.–a devotional biography meant to illustrate evangelical piety.

The purpose, subject, and style of the respective biographies correlate to such a degree as to leave no doubt of Edwardean influence upon the missional thought of Andrew Fuller. In his book Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian, Paul Brewster locates evangelism as the overarching theme of Fuller’s ministry: “Fuller’s greatest legacy among the Baptists: to support a missionary-oriented theology that helped foster deep concern for the salvation of the lost.” (106) Thanks to the life of David Brainerd and the pen of Jonathan Edwards, the modern missionary movement was born in the evangelism of Andrew Fuller.

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Andrew Fuller Friday: Ministers and Churches Exhorted to Serve One Another in Love

April 15th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

Printed below is a powerful summary of an ordination Sermon that Andrew Fuller addressed to both the pastor and the people of the congregation.

Enjoy,

David E. Prince

[Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., J. Belcher, ed., (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988) 544-545].

Ministers and Churches Exhorted to Serve One Another in Love

“By love serve one another.”—Gal. 5:13.

My brethren, having been requested on this solemn occasion to address a word of exhortation to both pastor and people, I have chosen a subject equally suitable for both.

I shall begin by addressing a few words to you, my brother, the pastor of this church.

The text expresses your duty—to “serve” the church; and the manner in which it is to be performed—“in love.”

Do not imagine there is any thing degrading in the idea of being a servant. Though you are to serve them, and they you, yet neither of you are to be masters of the other. You are fellow servants, and have each “one Master, even Christ.” It is a service, not of constraint, but of love; like that which your Lord and Master himself yielded. “I have been among you as one that serveth.” Let the common name of minister remind you of this.… The authority you exercise must be invariably directed to the spiritual advantage of the church. You are invested with authority; you are to have the rule over them, in the Lord; but not as a “lord over God’s heritage.” Nor are you invested with this authority to confer dignity on you, or that you may value yourself as a person of consequence; but for the good of the church. This is the end of office: “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” … But, more particularly,

  • You must serve the church of God, by feeding them with the word of life.

This is the leading duty of a minister. “Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season.” This will be serving them, as it will promote their best interests. For this end you must be familiar with the word. “Meditate on these things: give thyself wholly to them.” It is considered a fine thing with some to have a black coat, to loiter about all the week, and to stand up to be looked at and admired on the sabbath. But truly this is not to serve the church of God. Be concerned to be “a scribe well instructed in the things of the kingdom.” Be concerned to have treasures, and to bring them forth. I would advise that one service of every sabbath consist of a well-digested exposition, that your hearers may become Bible Christians. Be concerned to understand and to teach the doctrine of Christianity—“the truth as it is in Jesus.” Be careful, particularly, to be conversant with the doctrine of the cross; if you be right there, you can scarcely be essentially wrong any where. Cut off the reproach of drydoctrine, by preaching it feelingly; and of its being inimical to good works, by preaching it practically.

And do all this in love.—Your love must be, first, to Christ, or you will not be fitted for your work of feeding the church, John 21:15–17. Also to the truth, or your services will be mischievous, rather than useful. And to Christians, for Christ’s sake, Acts 20:28. And to the souls of men, as fellow men and fellow sinners. If love be wanting, preaching will be in vain.

  • You must feed the church of God, by watching over them.

“Be instant in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” Watch over them, not as a vulture, to destroy them: but as a good shepherd, who careth for the sheep. If you are compelled to reprove, beware that your reproof be conveyed, not in ill temper, but in love; not to gratify self, but to do your brother good.

  • You must serve them, by leading them on in all spiritual and holy exercises.

Lead them by your example. “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Visit them. You have as much need to pray with them and for them in private, as to preach to them in public. And you must do all this in love. An affectionate example and deportment will draw them on.

Let me now address myself to the church.—You also must serve your pastor, as well as he you, and this in love. You must seek his good, as well as he yours.

  • Be assiduous to make him happy in his mind.

If he discharge his work with grief, it will be unprofitable for you. If you be touchy, and soon offended, or cold and distant, it will destroy his happiness. Do not be content with a merely negative respect. Be free, open, kind, inviting to friendly and Christian intercourse and conversation; and be early and constant in your attendance on public worship.

  • Be concerned to render him as easy in his circumstances as possible.

If he serve you in spiritual things, is it such a great thing that he partake of your carnal things? I hope he does not covet a haughty independence of you; but neither let him sink into an abject dependence. Worship not with—offer not to God—that which costs you nothing. It is the glory of Dissenting churches, if they voluntarily make sacrifices for the maintenance of the true religion among them.

  • If there be any thing apparently wrong in his conduct or his preaching, do not spread it abroad, but tell him of it alone.

You may have mistaken him, and this will give him an opportunity of explaining, or, if he be in fault, this will give him an opportunity of correcting himself.

And do every thing in love.

Love will dictate what is proper on most occasions. It will do more than a thousand rules; and all rules without it are nothing.

To the deacons let me say, Be you helpers in every thing—whether agreeable or disagreeable.

To the congregation generally, I would say, You also have an interest in the proceedings of this day. My brother considers you as part of his charge. His appointment by the church is with your approbation. He will seek the good of you and your children. Then teach them to respect and love him …

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Review: Revival of Religion in Northamptonshire

April 11th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

Pickles, Davis front coverStephen Pickles, The revival of religion in Northamptonshire and the neighbouring counties under the ministry of Richard Davis (1658–1714) (Bethersden, Ashford, Kent: The James Bourne Society, 2015), 286 pages.

If the name of Richard Davis of Rothwell, Northamptonshire, is known today, it is because of John Gill’s recommendatory preface to the seventh edition of his hymns (1748) in which he raises the subject of the free offer of the gospel (p.196). As Stephen Pickles rightly argues and demonstrates in this new study of Davis, which has been clearly a labour of love, this evangelist and preacher needs to be known for other reasons as well. Davis had a remarkable ministry from 1689 to 1714, one that anticipated the revivals of the 1730s and 1740s (p.230). Throughout his preaching ministry, Davis knew the unction of the Holy Spirit and significant numbers were converted by his sermons and congregations planted (p.28, 36–38, 74–78, 158–163, 216, 224), some of which later became Baptist—for example, Southill Strict Baptist Chapel in Bedfordshire (p.37–38) and College Lane Baptist Church in Northampton (p.162–163).

It is probably owing to Davis and his writings being largely unknown that Pickles quotes extensive sections of his works. Chapter 7, for instance, which deals with the relationship of the law and the gospel in Davis’ works, is essentially comprised of very large quotations from Davis’ writings, some of which run for a page or two, with very little analysis. At times, it would have been more helpful to have cited less and given more attention to the scriptural argumentation of Davis—how he interpreted Scripture and the questions he was asking of the biblical text. The advantage of Pickles’ approach, on the other hand, is to lay before the reader who has no easy access to Davis’ works, today found only in a few libraries, the rich literary corpus of this early eighteenth-century preacher.

Pickles devotes three chapters to the opposition that was raised against Davis, rightly showing that it had no basis in fact (chapters 4–6). He also examines Davis’ view of the law and the gospel (chapter 7), his hymns (chapter 8) and various other publications (chapter 10), Davis’ preaching (chapter 11)—which includes a discussion of the free offer of the gospel—and some of his religious practices (chapter 12). In chapter 11, Pickles affirms Gill’s comment about Davis that while the latter used the language of the free offer in his early ministry, ‘before his death, [he] changed his mind in this matter, and disused the phrase, as being too bold and free for a minister of Christ to make use of’ (p.196). Davis never lost his zeal for the salvation of the lost, but his conviction that salvation was all of grace, came to shape the language that he used to express that zeal in his preaching. It is surely fascinating that seventy or so years after Davis’ death, Andrew Fuller in nearby Kettering (less than five miles from Rothwell) was wrestling with the very same issue (how should the gospel preacher address the lost?) and came to quite different conclusions, ones that this reviewer believes are truer to the Scripture model of apostolic preaching.

It is also noteworthy that the one Lord’s Supper hymn of Davis cited by Pickles, ‘Ravishing mercy! Wondrous love!’ (p.147–148), has a high view of the Table. In its fifth stanza, for example, we read:

Ravishing food! Delicious wine!

The flesh and blood of Christ!

With joy and strength we feed upon

The sacrifice and priest.

Such realistic language bespeaks a consciousness that at the Table the believer communes with his risen Lord, albeit spiritually. This Calvinistic view of the presence of Christ at the Table was standard fare for Davis’ day, though, sadly, by the close of the long eighteenth century, it was increasingly rare among Calvinist Nonconformity.

The book is a handsomely-produced volume with extensive illustrations, mostly of figures associated with Davis—ranging from John Owen (p.14) to John Gill (p.215–217; Pickles speculates that Gill may actually have been taught by Davis in the 1710s)—and a comprehensive index. There are three appendices, which include Davis’ statement of faith and the Rothwell Church covenant.

Michael A.G. Haykin

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Andrew Fuller Center to Hold Mini-Conference on April 20

April 8th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies will hold a mini-conference from 10-11:30 a.m., April 20 in roomPinson 303 of the Legacy Center.

Dr. Matthew Pinson, president of Welch College in Nashville, Tennessee, will present a paper, “What Has Nicaea Got to Do With Norwich? Thomas Grantham & the Ancient Church.”

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Book review: Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition

March 29th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

Eamon Duffy, Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), viii+311 pages.

In this well-researched and well-crafted collection of essays, Eamon Duffy, Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Magdalene College, continues to argue the case that he made in The Stripping of the Altars (1992), namely, that the English Reformation really did not take hold of the hearts and minds of Englishmen until well into the reign of Elizabeth I. From Duffy’s perspective, the Protestant Tudor monarchs Edward VI and Elizabeth had to employ force and political persuasion to wrest the English people away from their commitment to Roman Catholicism and the papacy. It is a bold thesis—though Duffy is not the only historian who has made this argument—and his arguments for it are strong and compelling. In the final analysis, however, I must say I am not wholly convinced.

In addition to a number of essays that look at the material religious culture of early Tudor England (chapters 3–5), which Duffy believes substantiate his case, recent historiography of the English Reformation (chapters 1 and 2) is also examined. Duffy is right to outline the way in which this historiography has been shaped by the religious allegiances of English historians of the Reformation, though it bears noting that Duffy’s own deep roots in pre-Vatican II Roman CathoUnknownlicism should not be overlooked when considering the bent of his historical scholarship.[1] Chapters 6–9 trace the spirituality of two key Roman Catholic cardinals, John Fisher and Reginald Pole, who were far more well-known in the European world of their day than their Protestant counterparts, men like Thomas Cranmer (whose piety is compared with that of Pole in chapter 8) or Hugh Latimer. Chapter 8 is especially interesting where Duffy contrasts the Protestant memory of Cranmer as a noble martyr with that created by Pole: “a very different Cranmer, a concubinate priest, feebly subservient to brutal tyranny [that of Henry VIII], untruthful from the start, and unstable to the end” (p.194).

In chapters 10 and 11, Duffy traces the legacy of Tudor Catholicism. I found the final chapter—“Bare ruin’d choirs: remembering Catholicism in Shakespeare’s England (p.233–253)—especially significant as Duffy looks at the evidence of a single line from Sonnet 73 (“Bare ruin’d quiers, where late the sweet birds sang”) with regard to the religious convictions of William Shakespeare and some of his contemporaries. Duffy rightly questions the supposed Puritanism of the playwright’s father, John Shakespeare (p.240–241), a view that was put forward by a few authors a hundred or so years ago. On the other hand, he convincingly demonstrates through contextual analysis of this line that “if we cannot quite be sure that Shakespeare was a Catholic, it becomes clearer and clearer that he must have struck contemporaries as a most unsatisfactory Protestant” (p.253).

Why then do I remain not fully convinced? First, there is the stubborn fact of the thousands of Bibles from Tyndale’s version to that of the Geneva Bible produced by Protestants in these years: who was reading these copies of the Scriptures if Protestantism was essentially restricted to a small coterie of figures? Then, there are the various “common” people martyred during the reign of Mary I: they surely indicate that if there were many whose hearts were still loyal to the ethos, doctrine and piety of Rome, there were also many whose hearts had been won to the “new” faith. But even if I cannot follow Duffy’s revisionism (though, see his comments in this regard in the Introduction) the whole way, his arguments are not lightly dismissed and reveal that the English Reformation was much more complex, and messier, than some historians in the past have thought.

Michael A.G. Haykin

[1] See, for example, his essay, “Confessions of a Cradle Catholic” in his Faith of our Fathers: Reflections on Catholic Tradition (London/New York: Continuum, 2004), 11–19.

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Andrew Fuller Fridays: Fuller on Passages that Seem Contradictory (Rom. 2:14 & Eph. 2:3)

March 25th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

By David E. Prince

“The Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law.”—Rom. 2:14.

“Among whom we all had our conversation in times past.… and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”—Eph. 2:3.

The term “nature” in these two passages is of very different signification. In the former it stands opposed to the written law of God, or the light of revelation. In the latter it is opposed to custom, education, or any thing merely accidental. In the one case, it is expressive of their want of external means; in the other, of the inward disposition of their minds. The phrase “by nature,” in the former, refers to the rule of action; but, in the latter, to the cause of it. All arguments, therefore, against the total depravity of human nature, or in favour of a natural disposition to virtue, drawn from the former of these passages, are entirely unfounded.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

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David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.

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Anne Dutton Not a Hyper-Calvinist

March 22nd, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

By Michael A. G. Haykin

Anne Dutton has in times past been accused of being a hyper-Calvinist by a number of Baptist historians. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Here is Anne in her A Caution Against Error, When it springs up together with Truth talking about the First Great Awakening: “I hope that the Revival  which the Lord hath now begun, of his Truth, and Work, will be like the Morning-Light, which shineth more and more until the perfect day” (p.51). This did not mean that she accepted all of the revival uncritically, but let this suffice to indicate once and for all, that Anne is anything but a hyper-Calvinist, for Baptist hyper-Calvinism was profoundly critical of the revival

 

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Review: Radical Religion in Cromwell’s England

March 21st, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

Andrew Bradstock, Radical Religion in Cromwell’s England: A Concise History from the English Civil War to the End of the Commonwealth (London/New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), xxvi+189 pages.

In seven crisply written chapters, Andrew Bradstock, currently Secretary for Church and Society with the United ReformChurch in the United Kingdom, outlines seven important communities that emerged in England during the religious and social chaos of the 1640s and 1650s: Baptists, Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Quakers, Fifth Monarchists, and Muggletonians. Bradstock’s deft analyses of the origins of each of these groups and their ideological perspectives, which is based on a close reading of relevant primary sources, makes this volume both a joy to read and a ready reference tool for the student of this era. He rightly emphasizes that these groups, obscure though some of them may be (for example, the Muggletonians) are of ongoing significance for the very fact that they raised vital questions regarding liberty and equality before the law—increasingly an issue in western democracies let alone in other parts of the world—and that they remind us of “the power of religious ideas to inspire political action” (p.164)—a great reminder in a culture that deems religious convictions to be a smokescreen for other, more fundamental matters.

The first chapter, which deals with Baptists, will be of particular interest to readRadical Religioners of this website. It handles well all of the key issues about Baptists during the time period covered by the book, including, for example, their relationship to the Anabaptists of the previous century, their style of worship, and their “dipping” of believers. And, as Bradstock rightly points out, their democratic approach to leadership and emphasis on religious liberty made them appear to political authorities as “subversive and a threat to good order” (p.25), which is also a good reminder in a day when many equate being Baptist with political conservatism.

Michael A.G. Haykin

Professor of Church History & Biblical Spirituality

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Fuller on Passages that Seem Contradictory (John 20:17 & John 20:27)

March 18th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller

By David E. Prince

“Jesus saith unto Mary, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”—John 20:17.

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.”—John 20:27.

It is manifest, from these and other passages, that the reason why Mary was forbidden to touch her risen Saviour was not because the thing itself was impossible. Indeed, if it had been so, the prohibition had been unnecessary; for we need not be forbidden to do that which cannot be done. There might, however, be an impropriety in her using the same freedoms with him in his immortal state as she had been wont to do in his mortal state. It might be proper to touch him at his own invitation, and so to answer an important end, (see Luke 24:39,) and yet improper to do so without it. By comparing the passage with Matt. 28:9, 10, it appears that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who was with her did touch him; for they are said to have “held him by the feet, and worshipped him.” There is reason to think, therefore, that the words, “Touch me not,” in John, were used merely to induce her to desist from what she was doing; and that on account of his having more important employment for her—“Go, tell my brethren!” This agrees with the reason given in John—“Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father,” &c. This was as much as if he had said, You need not be so unwilling to let go my feet, as though you should see me no more: I am not yet ascended, nor shall I ascend at present. Yet do not imagine that I am raised to a mere mortal life, or am going to set up a temporal kingdom in this world.… No.… “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and unto my God, and your God.”

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

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David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.

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St. Patrick Was Not a ‘Closet Baptist’

March 17th, 2016 Posted in Church Fathers, Uncategorized

Michael Haykin and other historians examine the legacy of St. Patrick in this article by David Roach today on Baptist Press.

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