‘Baptist Life & Thought’ Category

“A Lovely Proportion in Divine Truth”

April 23rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller was gifted at engaging in theological controversy.  Near the end of his “Reply to Philanthropos” in Section IV, “On the Death of Christ,” Fuller discloses his heart for engaging in controversy.  He exemplifies how to contend for truth with conviction without being contentious:

As I did not engage in controversy from any love I had to the thing itself, so I have no mind to continue in it any further than some good end may be answered by it….  There is a point in all controversies beyond which they are unprofitable and tedious. When we have stated the body of an argument, and attempted an answer to the main objections, the most profitable part of the work is done….

A reflection or two shall conclude the whole. However firmly any of the parties engaged in this controversy may be persuaded of the goodness of his cause, let us all beware of idolizing a sentiment. This is a temptation to which controversialists are particularly liable. There is a lovely proportion in Divine truth; if one part of it be insisted on to the neglect of another, the beauty of the whole is defaced; and the ill effects of such a partial distribution will be visible in the spirit, if not in the conduct, of those who admire it.

Further, Whatever difficulties there may be in finding out truth, and whatever mistakes may attend any of us in this controversy, (as it is very probable we are each mistaken in some things,) yet, let us remember, truth itself is of the greatest importance. It is very common for persons, when they find a subject much disputed, especially if it is by those whom they account good men, immediately to conclude that it must be a subject of but little consequence, a mere matter of speculation. Upon such persons religious controversies have a very ill effect; for finding a difficulty attending the coming at the truth, and at the same time a disposition to neglect it and to pursue other things, they readily avail themselves of what appears to them a plausible excuse, lay aside the inquiry, and sit down and indulge a spirit of scepticism. True it is that such variety of opinions ought to make us very diffident of ourselves, and teach us to exercise a Christian forbearance towards those who differ from us. It should teach us to know and feel what an inspired apostle acknowledged, that here we see but in part, and are, at best, but in a state of childhood. But if all disputed subjects are to be reckoned matters of mere speculation, we shall have nothing of any real use left in religion.[1]

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[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 2: Controversial Publications, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 510-11.

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Evan Burns (Ph.D. candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons. They are missionaries with Training Leaders International. He also works as the Director of the M.A. in Global Leadership program at Western Seminary.

Book Review: 30 Days of Devotions: From the Sermons of Andrew Fuller ed. Joshua C. Breland

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

30 Days of Devotions: From the Sermons of Andrew Fuller, ed. Joshua C. Breland (Wake Forest, NC: Evangelical Heritage Press, 2015), [iv]+57 pages.

30 Days of DevotionsRecently doing some work on the fourth-century theologian Athanasius, I used a database to search for articles on him and came up with some 1400 separate items in a few seconds. I thought I would do a similar search for Andrew Fuller, my favorite theologian, and came up with considerably less: about sixty. All of this is to simply say that although a renaissance of Fuller studies is underway—to quote fellow Fuller scholar Nathan Finn—things are still very much in their infancy. Understandably, it was with great joy that I came across a reference to this new Fuller item by Joshua Breland, who is a grad student at our sister seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The title accurately reflects the book’s contents. The book is divided into a month of readings from the sermonic corpus of Fuller. Heading each selection is simply the number of the day, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on.  There is no reading for the 31st day of such months as January, March, etc. At the end of each reading the sermon from which it is drawn is indicated by a reference to the sermon by Roman numeral. For example, the reading for the 10th day of the month comes from “Sermon XI.” To find out which sermon this is, one has to turn to the back of the book, where ninety-two of Fuller’s sermons are listed by title and biblical text upon which they are based. Curiously, though, there is no indication from which edition Breland has drawn his selections. It appears to be the three-volume Sprinkle edition (a 1988 reprint of an 1845 edition), which contains the exact same listing of sermons in the first volume.

As with any book of selections like this, there is a certain degree of personal eclecticism evident. Breland’s choices are not exactly the ones I would have chosen—and I am sure, the same would be true vice versa. What he has chosen, though, is a good cross-section of Fullerism: from reflections on the nature of justification (the reading for the 4th day of the month, p.5–7) to the vital necessity of love (the reading for the 10th day of the month, p.15–17). And as is typical with Fuller’s works, there is the Puritan characteristic of making pithy statements that continue to resonate in the reader’s mind long after he/she has put the book down. For example, at the very close of the reading for the 17th day, Fuller sums up what he has been saying thus: “The union of genuine orthodoxy and affection constitutes true religion” (p.28)—so true.

One thing I missed are footnotes to biblical texts cited and a footnote for the occasional personal reference. For instance, in the selection for the 25th day, Fuller refers to an observation by “dear Pearce” about the cross (p.42). He is, of course, referring to his close friend Samuel Pearce (1766–1799), whose memoirs he had written. But the reader new to Fuller would have no idea who he is talking about. The introduction is a brief, but adequate, introduction to Fuller and his ministry. Though, even a Fullerite as ardent as myself was surprised by the statement that Fuller was “perhaps the greatest model of a pastor-theologian the world has ever seen” (p.iii). These quibbles aside, I was thrilled to see this devotional from the sermons of a man from whom I have learned so much.

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.

Andrew Fuller on the Doctrine of Election and Gospel Preaching

April 10th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By David E. Prince

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) wholeheartedly affirmed the sovereignty of God and the biblical doctrine of election. He also wholeheartedly affirmed the obligation to preach the gospel to all men and persuade all men to turn to Christ by faith. According to Fuller, the sovereign creator God is best glorified by the urgent and promiscuous proclamation of the gospel to all men. Fuller was a theologian, and an apologist, but he was foremost a pastor and his treatment of the relationship between election and gospel preaching is as helpful as I have ever read.

Below, under the first heading I have excerpted a Fuller article, “Connections of the Doctrine of Election in the Scriptures,” in which he offers a positive affirmation of the biblical doctrine of election. The subsequent headings are excerpts from Fuller’s, Gospel its Own Witness, where he explains what he sees as the abuse of the doctrine of election in preaching and his recommendations for a biblical, Christ-centered approach to the relationship between election and gospel preaching. I have added the headings and updated a few spellings.

Election Declares the Source of Salvation is Mere Grace

[Election] is introduced to declare the source of salvation to be mere grace, or undeserved favor, and to cut off all hopes of acceptance with God by works of any kind.—In this connection we find it in Rom. 11:5, 6, “Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace; and if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” All compromise is here forever excluded, and the cause of salvation decidedly and fully ascribed to electing grace.

With this end the doctrine requires to be preached to saints and sinners. To the former, that they may be at no loss to what they shall ascribe their conversion and salvation, but may know and own with the apostle that it is by the grace of God they are what they are; to the latter, that they may be warned against relying upon their own righteousness, and taught that the only hope of life which remains for them is in repairing as lost and perishing sinners to the Savior, casting themselves at the feet of sovereign mercy.1

Love as Exemplified in Scripture

Love as exemplified in the Scriptures, though it can never be willing to be lost, (for that were contrary to its nature, which ever tends to a union with its object,) yet bears an invariable regard to the holy name or character of God. “How excellent is thy name in all the earth!”—“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”—“Let them that love thy name say continually, The Lord be magnified.”—“Blessed be his glorious name for ever and ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen.”

God’s Love is Not Mere Favoritism

But love, as exemplified in the patrons of this system, is mere favoritism. God having as they conceive made them his favorites, he becomes on that account, and that only, a favorite with them. Nor does it appear to have any thing to do with goodwill to men as men. The religion of the apostles was full of benevolence. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, they persuaded men, and even besought them to be reconciled to God.

Preach Christ to Sinners as Freely as if No Doctrine of Election Existed

They had no hope of sinners complying with these persuasions of their own accord, any more than the prophet had in his address to the dry bones of the house of Israel; nor of one more being saved than they who were called according to the Divine purpose; but they considered election as the rule of God’s conduct—not theirs. They wrote and preached Christ to sinners as freely as if no such doctrine existed. “These things are written,” said they, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Pray for the Lost as Fellow Sinners and Not as Reprobates

Jesus wept over the most wicked city in the world; and Paul, after all that he had said of the doctrine of election in the ninth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, protested that “his heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel was that they might be saved.” He did not pray for them as reprobates, but as fellow sinners, and whose salvation while they were in the land of the living was to him an object of hope.2

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1 Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, p. 808). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

2 Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 2, p. 737-738). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

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David E. Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. Check out his personal blog at Prince on Preaching.

A Good Friday Meditation from Andrew Fuller (via David Prince)

April 3rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

David Prince, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., is a faithful reader of Andrew Fuller and regularly posts excerpts from his reading at his personal website: Prince on Preaching. This week, Pastor Prince has posted excerpts from a sermon by Andrew Fuller on “Being made conformable unto his death” from Philippians 3:10.

Prince begins by excerpting the following paragraph from the sermon.

The death of Christ is a subject of so much importance in Christianity as to be essential to it. Without this, the sacrifices and prophecies of the Old Testament would be nearly void of meaning, and the other great facts recorded in the New Testament divested of importance. It is not so much a member of the body of Christian doctrine as the life-blood that runs through the whole of it.

To read the post in its entirety, see here.

 

Samuel Pearce’s Religion of the Cross

April 2nd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

In Andrew Fuller’s (1754-1815) memoir of his late friend, Samuel Pearce (1766-1799), he described Pearce as a man smitten with the cross of Christ.  As we reflect upon the cross and resurrection this week, let us follow Pearce’s example and seek to be more amazed at the love of God in the cross of Christ.  Describing Pearce’s crucientric piety, Fuller said thus:

Christ crucified was his darling theme, from first to last. This was the subject on which he dwelt at the outset of his ministry among the Coleford colliers, when “he could scarcely speak for weeping, nor they hear for interrupting sighs and sobs.” This was the burden of the song, when addressing the more polished and crowded audiences at Birmingham, London, and Dublin; this was the grand motive exhibited in sermons for the promotion of public charities; and this was the rock on which he rested all his hopes, in the prospect of death. . . . “Blessed be his dear name,” says he, under his last affliction, “who shed his blood for me. He helps me to rejoice at times with joy unspeakable. Now I see the value of the religion of the cross. It is a religion for a dying sinner. It is all the most guilty and the most wretched can desire. Yes, I taste its sweetness, and enjoy its fulness, with all the gloom of a dying bed before me; and far rather would I be the poor emaciated and emaciating creature that I am, than be an emperor with every earthly good about him, but without a God.”[1]

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[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 430-31.

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

A Christian’s duty to country and the injustice of racism: Lessons from Andrew Fuller

March 24th, 2015 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Current Affairs, Pastoral Ministry

By David E. Prince

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) is best known for his robust defense of the free offer of the gospel to all people. His book, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, influenced William Carey and others, and it can be rightly considered the foundational theological document that helped launched the modern missions movement. The man C.H. Spurgeon referred to as, “The greatest theologian of his century,” was a local church pastor who unceasingly wed doctrine to practice.

In August 1803, Fuller delivered a sermon on “Christian Patriotism” to his congregation at the Baptist Church of Kettering. His sermon, based upon Jeremiah 29:7 (“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it”), sought to help his congregation understand their Christian duty during a time of crisis. Many English citizens feared an imminent French invasion led by Napoléon Bonaparte. As a Particular Baptist dissenter, Fuller spoke about the Christian’s duty as a citizen from the cultural margins of English society and not from a seat of cultural power.

Christians in America are assuming the role of prophetic minority at breakneck speed, and we would do well to heed Fuller’s biblical gospel wisdom. The former conservative Christian Moral Majority voting block is a relic of a bygone era. Fuller’s biblical call to serve the kingdom of Christ as good citizens who seek the welfare of our country transcends whether we like or dislike the current governmental regime.

According to Fuller, seeking the welfare of our nation means we must have the courage to pursue justice and speak out about governmental faults, but though we must complain, we must not become complainers. And when we do speak out against the ruling authority, we should do so with both regret and respect. Consider some helpful portions of Fuller’s sermon I have excerpted below:

We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.

Seek the peace of the city. The term rendered peace signifies not merely an exemption from wars and insurrections, but prosperity in general. It amounts, therefore, to saying, seek the good or welfare of the city. Such, brethren, is the conduct required of us, as men and as Christians. We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.

If my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of mankind, let it be unprosperous!

To prevent mistakes, however, it is proper to observe that the patriotism required of us is not that love of our country, which clashes with universal benevolence, or which seeks its prosperity at the expense of the general happiness of mankind. Such was the patriotism of Greece and Rome; and such is that of all others where Christian principle is not allowed to direct it. Such, I am ashamed to say, is that with which some have advocated the cause of Negro slavery. It is necessary, forsooth, to the wealth of this country! No; if my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of mankind, let it be unprosperous!

Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults I will seek thy good

The prosperity which we are directed to seek in behalf of our country involves no ill to anyone, except to those who shall attempt its overthrow. Let those who fear not God, nor regard man, engage in schemes of aggrandizement, and let sorted parasites pray for their successes. Our concern is to cultivate that patriotism which harmonizes with good-will to men. Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults I will seek thy good; not only as a Briton, but as a Christian: “for my brethren and companions sakes, I will say, Peace be within the: because of the house of the Lord my God, I will seek thy good!”

A dutiful son may see a fault in a father; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him

If we seek the good of our country, we shall certainly do nothing, and join in nothing, that tends to disturb the peace, or hinder its welfare. Whoever engages in plots and conspiracies to overthrow its constitution, we shall not. Whoever deals in inflammatory speeches, or in any manner sows the seeds of discontent and disaffection, we shall not. Whoever labors to deprecate its governors, supreme or subordinate, in a manner tending to bring government itself into contempt, we shall not.

Even in cases wherein we may be compelled to disapprove of measures, we shall either be silent, or express our disapprobation with respect and with regret. A dutiful son may see a fault in a father; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him. He that can employ his wit in degrading magistrates is not their friend, but their enemy; and he that is an enemy to magistrates is not far from being an enemy to the magistracy, and, of course, to his country. A good man may be aggrieved; and, being so, may complain. Paul did so at Philippi. But the character of a complainer belongs only to those who walk after their own lusts.

It becomes Christians to bear positive good-will to their country, and to its government, considered as government

If we seek the good of our country, we shall do everything in our power to promote its welfare. We shall not think it sufficient that we do it no harm, or that we stand still as neutrals, in its difficulties. If, indeed, our spirits be tainted with disaffection, we shall be apt to think we do great things by standing aloof from conspiracies, and refraining from inflammatory speeches; but this is no more than maybe accomplished by the greatest traitor in the land, merely as a matter of prudence. It becomes Christians to bear positive good-will to their country, and to its government, considered as government, irrespective of the political party which may have the ascendancy.

In cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives in its defense

We may have our preferences, and that without blame; but they ought never to prevent the cheerful obedience to the laws, a respectful demeanor towards those who frame and those who execute them, or a ready co-operation in every measure which the being or well-being of the nation may require. The civil power, whatever political party is uppermost, while it maintains the great ends of government, ought, at all times, to be able to reckon upon religious people as its cordial friends; and if such we be, we shall be willing, in times of difficulty, to sacrifice private interest to public good; shall contribute of our substance without murmuring; and, in cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives in its defense.

[The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Belcher (Sprinkle publications): 204-205.]

This article originally appeared at the Ethics and Religious Liberty website  on March 6, 2015. http://erlc.com/article/a-christians-duty-to-county-and-the-injustice-of-racism-lessons-from-andrew

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David E. Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.

“Accustomed to the Safety of a Free Government”

March 19th, 2015 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

In 1819, English and American missionaries in Burma faced the reality of inevitable opposition and persecution by the Burmese government. Consequently, many missionaries were compelled to pull out and commence work in a more tolerant, peaceful environment. Enduring the scrutiny of such a repressive government, Adoniram Judson’s (1788-1850) devotion to his call remained firm. Judson determined to wait until the government actually forced him to forego his work for the Lord through imprisonment or deportation. His words are timely for Christians who, though once graced with religious freedom, are facing the loss of such liberties. In a letter, he wrote thus:

One malicious intimation to the king would occasion our banishment; and banishment, as the Burmans tell us, is no small thing, being attended with confiscation of all property, and such various abuses as would make us deem ourselves happy to escape with our lives. Such a situation may appear somewhat alarming to a person accustomed to the liberty and safety of a free government. But let us remember that it has been the lot of the greater part of mankind to live under a despotic government, devoid of all security for life or property a single moment. Let us remember that the Son of God chose to become incarnate under the most unprincipled and cruel despot that ever reigned.  And shall any disciple of Christ refuse to do a little service for his Saviour, under a government where his Saviour would not have refused to live and die for his soul? God forbid. Yet faith is sometimes weak—flesh and blood sometimes repine. O for grace to strengthen faith, to animate hope, to elevate affection, to embolden the soul, to enable us to look danger and death in the face; still more, to behold, without repining, those most dear to us suffering fears and pains, which we would gladly have redoubled on ourselves, if it would exonerate them. We feel encouraged by the thought that many of the dear children of God remember us at the mercy seat. To your prayers I desire once more to commend myself—the weakest, the most unqualified, the most unworthy, and the most unsuccessful of all missionaries.[1]

[1]This letter was to William Staughton (1770-1829). Staughton was a friend of Samuel Pearce (1766-1799) and William Carey (1761-1834). See Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D., vol. 1 (Boston: Phillips, Samson and Company, 1853), 197-98.

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

New Book: Baptists and War: Essays on Baptists and Military Conflict, 1640s-1990s

March 19th, 2015 Posted in 17th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History

9781625646743Just released from Pickwick Publications, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, a collection of essays on Baptists and War. These papers, which were originally delivered at the 2011 annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, were compiled and edited by Gordon L. Heath and Michael A.G. Haykin. The book is available for purchase now from the publisher and on Amazon. For a PDF flyer with all the book details see here.

Description from Publisher:

While Baptists through the years have been certain that “war is hell,” they have not always been able to agree on how to respond to it. This book traces much of this troubled relationship from the days of Baptist origins with close ties to pacifist Anabaptists to the responses of Baptists in America to the war in Vietnam. Essays also include discussions of the English Baptist Andrew Fuller’s response to the threat of Napoleon, how Baptists in America dealt with the War of 1812, the support of Canadian Baptists for Britain’s war in Sudan and Abyssinia in the 1880s, the decisive effect of the First World War on Canada’s T. T. Shields, the response of Australian Baptists to the Second World War, and how Russian Baptists dealt with the Cold War. These chapters provide important analyses of Baptist reactions to one of society’s most intractable problems.

Endorsements:

“Conflict challenges the Christian conscience, fostering divergent responses. Hence Baptists have commonly sought peace, sometimes to the extent of condemning war outright, but equally they have often believed that justice required the taking up of arms, even with enthusiasm. The detailed and penetrating international studies contained in this book illuminate contrasting attitudes over the centuries, showing how war has put Baptists to the test, spiritually as well as materially.”
–David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland,
UK

“Baptists have had a varied approach to war from the Pietist/Reformed tensions of four hundred years ago to the reactions to the Vietnam War. This work explores the theme in different time periods and, using a number of individuals as case studies, opens the past so the reader can reflect on the present. The volume is an important contribution to both Baptist studies and the Christian approach to war and peace.”
–Robert Wilson, Professor of Church History, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Canada

 

But if I Preach Christ in Every Text …

March 17th, 2015 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality

By David E. Prince

After teaching preaching for almost a decade at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, some questions and objections appear every semester like clockwork when I begin to lecture on expository preaching and propose the following definition:

Expository preaching is preaching that takes a particular text of Scripture as its subject, proclaiming the truth of that text in light of its historical, epochal, and Christocentric, kingdom-focused canonical contexts, thereby exposing the meaning of the human and divine authors for the purpose of gospel-centered application.

Hands immediately began to go in the air with questions that presuppose preaching Christ in every sermon can only be done at the expense of credible exegesis and hermeneutics. Students begin to ask questions like: If we preach Christ in every text how can we avoid allegory? What if the text isn’t about Christ? What if the sermon is on a particular doctrine? What if the sermon is simply advocating a biblical moral principle? Will all of my sermons begin to sound the same if I preach Jesus every week?

Recently, I have been reading The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller again and feasting on his Christ-centered, gospel-saturated, missional-oriented, theological and practical writings. I came across a sermon he preached in 1801 to pastors at an annual meeting arguing that pastoral labors can only hope to find success if they meet with God’s approval. One of his central assertions is that all doctrine, ministry, and preaching must center on Christ and him crucified to have divine approval. In the sermon he responds to what evidently were common objections to his central assertion, and they are the same objections that I face every semester in my classroom. The writer of Ecclesiastes was certainly correct when he asserted, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).

Below I have added headings with common objections to the notion we should preach Christ in every text, and I also provide Andrew Fuller’s answers from his sermon to pastors in 1801 below the headings. In fact, I think I will bring Fuller with me to class at the beginning of the next semester and simply read his answers to my students.

What if my sermon text is focused on a particular doctrinal truth, and the text says nothing of Christ?

The doctrine we teach must be that of Jesus Christ and him crucified. The person and work of Christ have ever been the cornerstone of the Christian fabric: take away his divinity and atonement, and all will go to ruins. This is the doctrine taught by the apostles, and which God, in all ages, has delighted to honor. It would be found, I believe, on inquiry, that in those times wherein this doctrine has been most cordially embraced the church has been the most prosperous, and almost every declension has been accompanied by a neglect of it.

It is one thing for a community to retain doctrines in its decrees and articles, and another for ministers to preach them with faith and love in their ordinary labors. Divine truth requires to be written, not merely with ink and paper, but by the Spirit of God, upon the fleshly tablets of the heart.

Christ crucified is the central point, in which all the lines in evangelical truth meet and are united. There is not a doctrine in the Scriptures but what bears an important relation to it. Would we understand the glory of the divine character and government? It is seen in perfection in the face of Jesus Christ. Would we learn the evil of sin, and our perishing condition as sinners? Each is manifested in his sufferings. All the blessings of grace and glory are given us in him, and for his sake.

What if my sermon text is focused on a moral truth and not on Christ?

Practical religion finds its most powerful motives in his dying love. That doctrine of which Christ is not the sum and substance is not the gospel; and that morality which has no relation to him, and which is not enforced on evangelical principles, is not Christian, but heathen.

If I preach and teach Christ from every text of Scripture won’t I be guilty of isogesis and have to import Christ in by way of fanciful allegory?

I do not mean to be the apologist for that fastidious disposition apparent in some hearers, who require that every sermon shall have Christ for its immediate scene, and denominate everything else legal preaching. His sacred name ought not to be unnaturally forced into our discourses, nor the Holy Scriptures turned into allegory for the sake of introducing it; but, in order to preach Christ, there is no need of this. If all Scripture doctrines and duties bear a relation to him, we have only to keep that relation in view, and to urge practical religion upon those principles. If I leave out Christ in the sermon and allege that the subject did not admit of his being introduced, I fear it will only prove that my thoughts have not been cast in an evangelical mold. I might as well say there is a village which has no road to the metropolis, as that there is a Scripture doctrine or duty which has no relation to the person and work of Christ.

If I preach Christ in every sermon text, will not every sermon begin to sound the same?

Neither can I justly allege that such a way of preaching would cramp the powers of my soul, and confine me to four or five points in divinity: we may give the utmost scope to our minds, and yet, like the apostle, determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is breadth, and the links, and depth, and height sufficient in his love to occupy our powers, even though they were 10,000 times larger than they are. In all our labors, brethren, in the church or in the world, in our native country or among the heathen, be this our principal theme.

(All quotes from the sermon: “God’s Approbation of our Labors Necessary to the Hope of Success,” Preached by Andrew Fuller at the Annual Meeting of the Bedford Union, May 6, 1801 in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, The Banner of Truth Trust, 570-571)

This post originally appeared at “Prince on Preaching” on March 5, 2015. http://www.davidprince.com/2015/03/05/preach-christ-every-text/

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David E. Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.

Dr. Mohler & “Baptist Augustinianism”—a brief reply to Scot McKnight

March 14th, 2015 Posted in Baptist Life & Thought, Church Fathers, Church History

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Carl Trueman has a helpful addendum to Scot McKnight’s take on R. Albert Mohler’s comments about the conversions of Southern Baptist twins to Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism. Reading the original remarks, though, by Scot left me with a concern not addressed by Carl.

Scot is critical of a Baptist piety that is of the “no-creed-but-the-Bible” variety and one that has no regard for the Great Tradition that stretches back into the patristic era. And well he should be (here I fully concur with Carl’s piece at First Things). But Scot gives the reader of his blog-post the distinct impression that Dr. Mohler’s theological perspective is shaped by both of these emphases he finds wanting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A careful reading of Dr. Mohler’s written corpus and his spoken words reveals a deep-seated confessionalism, a consciousness that the Protestant Reformation is deeply indebted to the patristic era, and a profound Augustinianinsm. Moreover, the teaching of patristic studies at the school under his leadership further belies Scot’s remarks about a lack of interest in this great era of Christian thought.

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