‘Baptist Life & Thought’ 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.

Beeson Podcast features “The Baptist Story”

March 3rd, 2016 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Podcast

In the latest Beeson Podcast, Timothy George talks with Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin about their book, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement.

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

Books At a Glance Interviews the Authors of The Baptist Story

January 5th, 2016 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Podcast

Books At a Glance has posted a recent interview with Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin, authors of The Baptist Story. 

Books At a Glance (Fred Zaspel): 
Hi this is Fred Zaspel executive editor here at books at a glance. Today we are talking with three authors Tony Chute, Nathan Finn and Michael Haykin about their new book The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, a new textbook on Baptist history. We’re glad for the book. Were glad for them to be with us. Welcome you guys. Thanks for coming.

Click here for the full interview.

5 Minutes in “Baptist” History

October 29th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Podcast

By Dustin Bruce

If you are unfamiliar with Ligonier’s “5 Minutes in Church History” podcast, then I certainly recommend giving it a listen. Host, Dr. Stephen Nichols, does a fantastic job teaching church history in an engaging and accessible way. It’s the kind of podcast that appeals to a graduate student in theology or a faithful churchgoer interested in learning more about “our family history,” to borrow Dr. Nichols’ phrase.

There is one particular episode I would recommend for readers of the AFC blog. In an Episode released on August 5th, “Lon to Phil,” Dr. Nichols introducers listeners to two Baptist confessions of faith, the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

Spend five minutes with Dr. Nichols as our Presbyterian brother tackles the question, “what do Baptists believe?”


Update: There were some challenges to the details of the episode, which Dr. Nichols addressed here.

 

Andrew Gifford baptizes Mrs. Deschamps

October 27th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Baptist Life & Thought

By Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin

On June 19, 1748, the London Particular Baptist Andrew Gifford (1700–1784) noted the following in the minute book of his church:

A wonderful appearance of providence at baptism. Mrs. Deschamps had been long disabled from walking alone by a rheumatic gout, but sometimes after the Lord was pleased to call her by his grace, she told the writer this: She was convinced that baptism by immersion was both her duty and privilege. He endeavoured to evade it and dissuade her from it as not absolutely necessary to salvation, but, not…satisfied with his arguments, she, after some time, solemnly demanded it of him as a minister of Jesus. Upon this the church was consulted, and after solemn searching the Lord it was agreed that if she persisted in the demand, it should be complied with. To this the pastor, A.G., was forced to comply—with great reluctance, fear and trembling, lest it should be attended with any ill consequence. To this she said, “Don’t you be afraid, I am persuaded God will prevent any scandal…” Accordingly the ordinance was administered. Unable to walk, she was carried down into the water. She went out of the water well and rejoicing and triumphing in the Lord Jesus. Blessed be his name. …Sister Deschamps was so lame as to be carried down into the water. She went up out of it without the least help, rejoicing.

 

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

David S. Dockery’s Endorsement of The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement

July 22nd, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Historians

Three weeks from today (on August 15, 2015), The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin will be released. Below the cover image is the endorsement by David S. Dockery, president of Trinity International University.

TheBaptistStory_CVR

The Baptist Story is a masterful work by three superb Baptist historians.  Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin are to be commended for providing us with an even-handed, incisive, well-organized, and accessible survey of the larger Baptist family. Readers will be introduced to both general and particular Baptists, as well as revivalists and landmarkists, fundamentalists and liberals. In doing so, they will gain a fresh appreciation for the contributions of thoughtful theologians, practical pastors, along with faithful missionaries and martyrs. This full-orbed, carefully researched, and well-written look at the expansion and development of Baptists over the past four hundred years will certainly become a standard resource for the study of Baptist history for years to come. It is with much enthusiasm that I gladly recommend this work.

David S. Dockery, president, Trinity International University

Pre-order the volume from Amazon here.

Peter Beck’s Endorsement of The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement

July 15th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Historians

One month from today (on August 15, 2015), The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin will be released. Below the cover image is the endorsement by Peter Beck, associate professor of Christian studies at Charleston Southern University.

TheBaptistStory_CVR

The Baptist story is long and often convoluted. Numerous histories have been written over the course of their 400 years. Each new volume proffers its own interpretation of the data and furthers the cause and concern of the author. While honest, this has not always been helpful, and often fails to provide today’s Baptists with a modern account of their tale that informs the mind and encourages the soul.

The Baptist Story, as told by Haykin, Chute, and Finn, changes all that. The authors give us an irenic yet thorough reading of our collective past. They admit the nuances of a faith that boldly defends and exemplifies liberty of conscience while explaining the facts. While the authors concede that their goal was not to provide THE definitive telling of the Baptist story, they may have done just that. Haykin, Chute, and Finn are to be commended for their effort, thanked for their grace, and congratulated for their contribution to the cause of Christ and the history of the Baptist people. The Baptist Story always encourages, sometimes challenges, and never disappoints.

Peter Beck, associate professor of Christian studies, Charleston Southern University

Pre-order the volume from Amazon here.