‘Andrew Fuller’ Category

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.

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.

The Kingdom of Christ and Politics: Andrew Fuller and the 2016 Election

March 11th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller

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 electionof 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.

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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.

An initial reading plan of Andrew Fuller

February 5th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Reading Church History Lists

By Michael A.G. Haykin

I was recently asked by a brother who had purchased Andrew Fuller’s Works where and what to begin reading. I suggested first off, his circular letters, especially these:

  1. Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival (1785)
  2. Why Christians in the present Day possess less Joy than the Primitive Disciples (1795)
  3. The Practical Uses of Christian Baptism (1802)
  4. The Promise of the Spirit the grand Encouragement in promoting the Gospel (1810)

Then his Edwardsean work in which you see Fuller the theologian of love:

  1. Memoirs of Rev. Samuel Pearce (1800)

His ordination sermons are also gems, especially:

  1. The Qualifications and Encouragements of a Faithful Minister, illustrated by the Character and success of Barnabas
  2. Spiritual Knowledge and Holy Love necessary for the Gospel Ministry
  3. On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God

Finally, the best of his apologetic works, his rebuttal of Sandemanianism:

  1. Strictures on Sandemanianism (1810).

Tolle lege!

Audio: The Life of Andrew Fuller by Pastor Harry Dowds

January 26th, 2016 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Podcast

The Life of Andrew Fuller

by: Pastor Harry Dowds

Presented on Thursday, 19th March 2015 at The Irish Baptist Historical Society (from http://www.irishbaptistcollege.net/?p=ibhsa)

The Life of Andrew Fuller

Coming Soon: A Bitesize Biography of Samuel Pearce by Michael Haykin and Jerry Slate

September 21st, 2015 Posted in 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions

pearce

“What is Christian Love?”

June 25th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Throughout the works of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), there is a predominant theme of love—love to God and love to man.  In a sermon entitled, Nature and Importance of Christian Love, Fuller preached on his meditations from John 13:34-35.  Before he delineated the nature of Christian love, he first discussed what it is not.  He said:

  1. It is not mere good neighbourhood, or civility between man and man.
  2. It is not mere friendship.
  3. It is not mere respect on account of religion.
  4. It is not mere party attachment.
  5. It is not that excessive and mistaken attachment which shall lead us to idolize and flatter a minister, or to exempt each other from the exercise of faithful discipline.
  6. It is not mere benevolence itself.[1]

So then, he asked, “What is Christian love?”  And Fuller answered his own inquiry thus:

It is complacency in the Divine image.—It is a union of heart, like that of Ruth to her mother-in-law. Christian love is love for Christ’s sake.  This last remark, I suppose, furnishes a clue for its being called “a new commandment.” The old commandment required benevolence, or love to our neighbour; but this is complacency in Christ’s image, or the love of Christians as such. And being introductory to the New Testament or gospel dispensation, under which the church should be composed of believers only, it is suited to it. Personal religion is now to be the bond of union. This was never so expressly required before. This is more than love to our neighbour, or benevolence; this is brotherly love, or complacency in each other as brethren in Christ, Rom. 12:10; Heb. 13:1. This is genuine charity, 1 Cor. 13.[2]

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[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 523.

[2]Fuller, Complete Works, 1:523.

Part I of a review article of Peter J. Morden, The Life and Thought of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815)

June 8th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

Part I of a review article of Peter J. Morden, The Life and Thought of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) (Studies in Evangelical History and Thought; Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire: Paternoster, 2015), xxii+232 pages.

life and though of andrew fullerIn this year, the bicentennial of the death of the significant Baptist pastor-theologian Andrew Fuller, it is right and proper to have an academic biography of the English Evangelical leader. And this new work by the Vice-Principal of Spurgeon’s College nicely fits the bill. Having already written extensively on Fuller—see especially his Offering Christ to the World: Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) and the Revival of Eighteenth Century Particular Baptist life (2003)—Morden is well equipped to write this biographical study.

After a brief introductory chapter that sets out the current state of Fuller studies and lays bare Morden’s own Evangelical convictions, chapter 2 details Fuller’s early life in the context of the 18th-century Particular Baptist community of which he was a part. This is well-trodden ground, but Morden does well in establishing the larger historical context and then examining Fuller’s own narrative about his conversion. With regard to Fuller’s conversion and early Christian experience, scholars are dependent for their information upon some letters Fuller wrote between 1798 and 1815: two to a Scottish friend Charles Stuart, then one in 1809, and then finally two more at the close of his life to “an unnamed friend in Liverpool” (so Morden names the correspondent, page 33, n.122). The “unnamed friend in Liverpool” was actually Maria Hope, the sister of Samuel Hope (1760–1837), a well-known Liverpool banker and extremely wealthy. They both had links to the Baptist cause at Byrom Street, Liverpool, and he was a strong supporter of the Baptist Missionary Society. Morden stresses that Fuller’s narrative of his early life in these letters, which were written between thirty and forty-five years after the events they describe, reveal a man deeply shaped by the contours of 18th-century Evangelicalism.

Chapter 3 charts Fuller’s entry into pastoral ministry in the 1770s and his theological development during that decade and the one that followed, which saw the publication of his first major work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1785/1801). This book was the definitive response to the High Calvinism that dominated far too many Particular Baptist circles in the British Isles and that had been hegemonic in Fuller’s own Baptist experience up until his conversion. Making good use of various unpublished manuscripts, Morden delineates not only the argument of the book, but also why Fuller left behind this version of Calvinism, which Fuller later castigated as “false Calvinism.” The latter Morden locates in Fuller’s biblicism (almost definitely the major reason from Fuller’s own point of view), his reading of Puritan literature and especially that of his older contemporary Jonathan Edwards, and his friendship with like-minded pastor-theologians like John Ryland, Jr. and John Sutcliff of Olney. Again Morden stresses that by the time Fuller published his Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, the core tenets of 18th-century Evangelicalism, shared by men of widely-differing ecclesial convictions, were now his (p.67).

The shape of Fuller’s ministry at Kettering, where he moved in 1782, and the way Fuller answered various attacks on the theology of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation constitutes Chapter 4. Morden helpfully touches on some aspects of Fuller’s life hitherto rarely examined, such as Fuller as a man of prayer. What Fuller told Robert Fawkner at the latter’s ordination in 1787, he sought to make a reality in his own life: “Give yourself up to the word of God, and to prayer” (cited p.74). This chapter also breaks new ground in Morden’s analysis of Fuller’s tendency to depression between 1782 and 1792 (p.103–109). Normally I am chary of trying to psychologically analyze men and women of previous generations; we often have difficulty enough trying to figure out what people sitting across from us are thinking let alone people of the past, which, to quote L.P. Hartley, “is a foreign country.” But Morden skillfully draws upon Fuller’s unpublished diary to argue his case. And Fuller himself once observed of himself, “I was born in a flat [i.e. minor] key” (cited Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller [London, 1882], 79).

To be continued.

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.

Fuller’s Blessed Death in the Lord

May 14th, 2015 Posted in 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality

By Evan D. Burns

Last Thursday many evangelicals remembered the bicentennial anniversary of the death of the great Baptist theologian, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815).  Fuller’s theology and spirituality has affected me personally in numerous ways.  Probably the first and most enduring influence of Fuller on my own piety has been his heavenly-mindedness.

A vision of heaven and the promised reward of being forever with the Lord captivated Andrew Fuller’s soul.  From the sweetness of his heavenly meditations he penned the funeral sermon for Beeby Wallis at Kettering in April 1792.  Wallis was a deacon of the Baptist church in Kettering.  He served as the first treasurer of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS).  Fuller preached on “The Blessedness of the Dead Who Die in the Lord”.  Though intending to eulogize and memorialize Wallis, Fuller spent the majority of his sermon expounding on biblical themes such as the need for Christian perseverance, the promise of rewards, heavenly rest, earthly labour, true blessedness, and the inevitability of death.  Fuller sought to strengthen the hearts of his mourning hearers who had followed Christ even amidst affliction.  He did this by elucidating the aforementioned themes, specifically the promises of heavenly rest and rewards.

Fuller’s chief text upon which he meditated for this sermon was Revelation 14:13, which says, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”  Fuller began by stating the original telos of this passage: “The original design of the passage seems to have been to support the afflicted followers of Christ in times of persecution.”[1]  Yet, he said that though this passage was originally intended “to arm the holy martyrs against the terrors of death”[2], it does seem that it could be generally applied to Christians under other degrees of affliction as well.

First, he discussed the character of those “who die in the Lord”.  They are necessarily united to Christ, as in a marriage union where two parties are united by mutual affection, common pursuits, and identical causes.  So, death is the introduction of the believer’s full union with Christ.  And being in this union, he described believers who die as abounding in good works just as a branch necessarily bears fruit since it is united to the vine.  Second, Fuller said that part of the blessedness observed in this passage comes from the voice from heaven, which demonstrates that heaven values the saints’ homecoming whereas fallen man values worldly prosperity and security.  Third, that John was commanded to write down this verse indicates the enduring blessedness of its promise for believers of all ensuing generations.  Fourth, Fuller said that the phrase, “from henceforth,” refers to the time of their souls’ departure from the body in physical death.  Fifth, two aspects of this post-death blessedness are rest from labours and the glorious reward of good works.  And, it is in this fifth observation that Fuller expounded two predominant themes: rest from labour and rewards of grace.

Fuller designed this funeral sermon  to encourage afflicted Christians to hope in future reward and to rejoice for those who have died and entered in to that eternal joy.  Fuller carefully knit pastoral application with theological specificity, validating his preeminence as a pastor-theologian.  He successfully demonstrated how rest from labour and reward for grace-empowered work are heavenly realities, which Christians should joyfully anticipate.  In heaven, Christians will rest from all the labour they experience in this life in opposition to sin and the curse.  But, their work will not cease; they will be perfected and supremely worshipful as they serve God with infinite gladness.  Christians are saved not only from God’s just wrath but are also saved for eternal joy in God.  Fuller longed for this heavenly rest in God, and even in his dying hours, he sought to experience the reward through prayer to God:

When under great anguish, he one day said to his son, “All misery is concentrated in me!”—“Bodily misery only, I suppose, father?”—“Yes: nothing else.”  But the expression which he used to Mr. Blundell of Northampton, was the most characteristic of any of which I have been informed—“My hope is such that I am not afraid to plunge into eternity!”  On the Lord’s-day morning on which he died, May 7, 1815, he said to his daughter Sarah, “I wish I had strength enough . . . She asked, “To do what?” He replied, “To worship, child.” Soon after, his daughter Mary entering the room, as soon as he understood who it was, he said “Come, Mary, come and help me.” He was then raised up in bed, and for the last half-hour appeared to be engaged in prayer.  His children surrounded his bed, listening attentively, to catch, if possible, the last words of their dying parent: but nothing could be distinctly heard, but, “Help me!” Then, with his hands clasped, and his eyes fixed upwards, he sunk back and expired.[3]

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[1]Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller with a Memoir of His Life by Andrew Gunton Fuller, 3 vols., ed. J. Belcher (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845; repr., Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 1:152.

[2]The Complete Works, 1:152.

[3]John Ryland, The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope, Illustrated; in the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Late Pastor of the Baptist Church at Kettering, and Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society, from Its Commencement in 1792, Chiefly Extracted from His Own Papers, Extracted by John Ryland, D.D. (London: Button & Son, Paternoster Row, 1816), 550.

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Evan Burns (Ph.D., 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. He also works as the Director of the M.A. in Global Leadership program at Western Seminary.

Andrew Fuller Bicentennial Round-up

May 9th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Steve Weaver

On Thursday, May 7th, we observed the 200th anniversary of the death of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815). Fuller was one of the most significant Baptist theologians in history. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the nineteenth-century Prince of Preachers, called Fuller “the greatest theologian” of his century. Fuller was the theologian behind the Modern Missionary Movement most commonly associated with the efforts of William Carey.

There was a lot of chatter on social media about Andrew Fuller, much of which directed people to examine this website for more information about the life and legacy of Fuller. Several blog posts were written to commemorate the anniversary also. Below are links to some of these posts with a brief excerpt or description of the post.

No historical author outside of the Bible has influenced my thinking as significantly as Andrew Fuller. What draws me to Fuller’s life and writings is that he addresses everything with the sober-minded clarity of a working pastor. His work as a theologian, apologist, and missionary never lost sight of Jesus, his church, and his gospel. No topic Fuller addresses is treated in an abstract and hypothetical way, but rather, he treats it as having concrete implications for week-by-week gospel preaching, congregational worship, pastoral care, and church governance. READ MORE.

  • Jeremy Walker – Over at the Reformation21, Jeremy Walker acknowledged the anniversary of Fuller’s death by posting on Andrew Fuller’s dying words.
  • Steve Weaver – I posted on my personal blog on “Andrew Fuller’s Dying Hope,” relying on testimony from Fuller’s son, Andrew Gunton Fuller.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fuller, these links will help you to be introduced to this important thinker and doer. If you are already familiar with Fuller, perhaps these links will help you to join us in giving thanks to God for this gift to the church.

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Steve Weaver serves as a Teaching and Research Associate with the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and is 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 16.