‘Baptist Life & Thought’ Category

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.

Newman on Fuller: A reflection on the 200th anniversary of the death of Andrew Fuller

May 7th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Albert Henry Newman (1852–1933) was one of the most learned and widely trusted Baptist historians at the turn of the twentieth century. For example, during his twenty years in Toronto at Toronto Baptist College and then McMaster University (1881–1901) he wrote a number of vital monographs that clearly gave him a solid grasp of the shape of Baptist history. In his edited volume, A Century of Baptist Achievement (Philadelphia, 1901), which brought together some of the finest Baptist authors of the day, though a number of them were theological modernists, he penned the first chapter: “A Survey of Baptist History to 1801” (p.1–18). It is a masterly piece.

When he comes to the sub-section entitled “Baptists and the Evangelical Revival,” Newman began by noting the different ways in which Baptists responded to the “enthusiastic evangelism of Wesley and Whitefield” (p.13). It was Andrew Fuller, Newman then asserted, “more than to any other individual, that restoration of the Particular Baptist body to its original evangelical position was chiefly due” (p.13). This is a large claim—but, give due recognition to other factors behind the revitalization of the English Baptist cause—Newman was right and equally correct to say that through Fuller’s “great activity as a preacher and writer, multitudes were brought to see the consistency between a true preaching of the doctrines of grace and the most earnest efforts for the salvation of sinners” (p.13). He went to note that Fuller’s significance as a Christian thinker and activist resides not solely in what he did for the modern missionary movement, but also for what his writings meant for the Baptist community in the British Isles: “The Baptist cause in Great Britain was by Fuller’s public activity raised to a higher plane…” (p.13).

So, on this bicentennial anniversary of his death, we thank God for his life and ministry that bore such rich fruit then and that are still bearing fruit.

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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.

Book Review: The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, compiled and ed. Terry Wolever

April 27th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

The Life and Works of Joseph Kinghorn, compiled and ed. Terry Wolever (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 1995, 2005, and 2010), 3 vols.

Kinghorn

Joseph Kinghorn

Joseph Kinghorn (1766–1832) is all but forgotten today. The only major biography of his life—Joseph Kinghorn of Norwich:  A Memoir by Martin Hood Wilkin, the son of a close friend—was published in 1855 and never reprinted until the first of these three volumes, skillfully edited by the independent Baptist historian Terry Wolever. The bulk of volume 1 contains this marvelous biography, which, typical of Victorian biographies, is rich in Kinghorn’s correspondence. Volume 1 also contains two funeral sermons preached at the time of his death. Volumes 2 and 3 contain the majority of Kinghorn’s published works—sermons, tracts, book reviews, and assorted letters. His major defences of closed communion—the key area where he found himself in opposition to the open communionist Robert Hall—do not appear in these volumes, but are to be published separately in two future volumes.

Kinghorn grew up in the home of a Calvinistic Baptist pastor, David Kinghorn (d.1822), but unlike his father, with whom he had a very close friendship, Joseph had the benefit of a formal theological education at Bristol Baptist Academy from 1784 to 1787. Two years after graduation, he was called to be the pastor of St Mary’s Baptist Church in Norwich. The rest of his ministry would be intertwined with this church and this city.

A profound scholar, few Particular Baptists in his day that had as firm a grasp of Greek, Hebrew and rabbinic studies as Kinghorn did. Not surprisingly, he was twice asked to head up a Baptist seminary: first, in 1804 with regard to Horton College in Yorkshire (1:301–311), and then, six years later, with regard to the Baptist Academy at Stepney, which later became Regent’s Park College (1:328–330 and 3:339–374). But Kinghorn refused to leave Norwich, convinced as he was of his call to be a pastor.

Each of the various pieces in these three volumes is carefully introduced by the editor, who has also provided extensive person, subject, and church indices to all three volumes (3:481–590). The third volume also contains two portraits of Kinghorn (3:8–12), one of which is a fine reproduction of a color portrait of the Baptist pastor. Particular Baptist Press is to be commended for making available again Wilkin’s important biography of Kinghorn as well as the bulk of his written works.

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.

“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.