Andrew Fuller (1754-1815): A Brief Overview of His Life & Legacy
Andrew Fuller was an indefatigable Baptist theologian and pastor, an outstanding figure with qualities that make him one of the most attractive figures in Baptist history. Many in his day and after could echo the words of his very close friend William Carey, “I loved him.”
Self-taught when it came to theology, Fuller immersed himself in the works of Baptist and Puritan authors, including John Bunyan and John Gill, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. Ultimately, though, it was to the Scriptures that he looked for his theological convictions.
His first major work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which appeared in 1785 with a second edition in 1801, proved to be an epoch-making book that decisively refuted Hyper-Calvinism and laid the theological foundations for the modern missionary movement. In 1793 he issued an extensive refutation of Socinianism or Unitarianism, The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems examined and Compared, as to their Moral Tendency, which well displays the Christ-centered nature of eighteenth-century Evangelical thought. Fuller also published influential rebuttals of Deism and Sandemanianism, the latter an eighteenth-century form of “easy-believism.”
One other of Fuller’s literary works deserves mention. His Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce (1800), modeled after Jonathan Edwards’ life of David Brainerd, recounts the life of his close friend, Samuel Pearce of Birmingham, whose walk with God was admired by many in the nineteenth century. Fuller’s own spirituality, which was deeply indebted to the piety of Jonathan Edwards, also played a key role in shaping Baptist life in the years after his death. In addition to these literary projects Fuller was also a conscientious pastor and secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. As a pastor-theologian, he is a great mentor for Baptists today.
It is clear that Fuller had remarkable stores of physical and mental energy that allowed him to accomplish all that he did. But it was not without cost to his body. In the last fifteen years of his life he was rarely well. He preached for the last time on 2 April 1815 and died 7 May of that year.
The importance of his theological achievements was noted during and after his life. The College of New Jersey (1798) and Yale (1805) both awarded him a DD, though he declined to accept either of them. C.H. Spurgeon did not hesitate to describe Fuller as “the greatest theologian” of his century, while the Southern Baptist historian A. H. Newman said that “his influence on American Baptists” was “incalculable.” Without a doubt, he was the most important theologian of the late eighteenth-century transatlantic Baptist community.