‘Biblical Spirituality’ 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.

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.

Book Announcement: Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians: A Critique of Contemporary Christian Spiritualities by Adam McClendon

April 7th, 2015 Posted in Biblical Spirituality, Books

WIPFSTOCK_TemplateAdam McClendon has released a new book with Wipf and Stock titled Paul’s Spirituality in Galatians: A Critique of Contemporary Christian Spiritualities. McClendon has a Ph.D. in biblical spirituality from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The book’s foreword was written by Donald S. Whitney and is endorsed my Michael A.G. Haykin.

Dr. Haykin’s Endorsement:

“Contrary to the thinking of Western culture in general, spirituality is not merely a human achievement. First and foremost, true spirituality comes from God and is given shape and substance by God’s witness to himself in the Scriptures. Beginning with this vital principle, this new work by McClendon dismantles a number of contemporary models of spirituality in order to build one rooted in the thought of Paul as it appears in the New Testament, and especially, in his letter to the Galatians. An extremely helpful and engaging study.”
–Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

From the Publisher:

Spirituality is a hot topic in today’s culture. Spirituality is essentially how one’s beliefs and experiences influence the way one lives their life. Such influences for living are of critical importance to one’s faith within the Christian community.

What role does the Bible play in developing an expressed spirituality among the Christian community? How do one’s religious traditions, cultural influences, and personal preferences influence the way Christian spirituality is perceived and expressed? All too often, and at times unintentionally, the foundational truths of the Bible are subordinated to tradition, culture, and personal preference.

This book provides a context for understanding Paul’s foundational components for Christian spirituality within the book of Galatians while showing how an accurate understanding of these components can and should serve as a corrective lens to various aspects of Christian spirituality as expressed and experienced today.

Click here to order from the publisher.

Amazon has the Kindle edition available.

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.

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.

“May the God of Samuel Pearce be my God!”

January 30th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Prayer

By Michael A.G. Haykin

Samuel Pearce’s (1766–1799) only pastoral charge was at Cannon Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, England. Here he labored for the conversion of many of the illiterate poor of Birmingham who had been drawn to the city because of work in the factories of the Industrial Revolution. He saw some 335 converted and baptized during his ten-year ministry. His passion for the lost found outlet in other venues: preaching in neighboring villages; writing tracts for Muslim sailors and dock workers in London; ardently supporting the first missionary society, the Baptist Missionary Society that sent William Carey to India in 1793 (Carey was one of his closest friends); going on an arduous mission to Ireland for six weeks and preaching to Roman Catholics.

In short, his friend Andrew Fuller saw him as a paradigm of missionary spirituality. No wonder Fuller prayed: “May the God of Samuel Pearce be my God!”

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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.

“Let Your Time Be Spent On Him”: A Christmas Sermon by George Whitefield

December 18th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

In a Christmas sermon on Matthew 1:21, called “The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of all Christians; or the True Way of Keeping Christmas,” George Whitefield (1714-1770) provided some suggestions “for the true keeping of that time of Christmas.”  He advised spending time reading, praying, and in religious conversation:

What can we do to employ our time to a more noble purpose, than reading of what our dear Redeemer has done and suffered; to read, that the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, came from his throne and took upon him the form of the meanest of his servants; and what great things he underwent.  This, this is an history worth reading, this is worth employing our time about:  and surely, when we read of the sufferings of our Savior, it should excite us to prayer, that we might have an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; that the blood which he spilt upon mount Calvary, and his death and crucifixion, might make an atonement for our sins, that we might be made holy; that we might be enabled to put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, even the Lord Jesus Christ; that we may throw away the heavy yoke of sin, and put on the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, my brethren, these things call for prayer, and for earnest prayer too; and O do be earnest with God, that you may have an interest in this Redeemer, and that you may put on his righteousness, so that you may not come before him in your filthy rags, nor be found not having on the wedding garment.  O do not, I beseech you, trust unto yourselves for justification; you cannot, indeed, you cannot be justified by the works of the law.  I entreat that your time may be thus spent; and if you are in company, let your time be spent in that conversation which profiteth:  let it not be about your dressing, your plays, your profits, or your worldly concerns, but let it be the wonders of redeeming love:  O tell, tell to each other, what great things the Lord has done for your souls; declare unto one another, how you were delivered from the hands of your common enemy, Satan, and how the Lord has brought your feet from the clay, and has set them upon the rock of ages, the Lord Jesus Christ; there, my brethren, is no slipping; other conversation, by often repeating, you become fully acquainted with, but of Christ there is always something new to raise your thoughts; you can never want matter when the love of the Lord Jesus Chris is the subject:  then let Jesus be the subject, my brethren, of all your conversation.

Let your time be spent on him:  O this, this is an employ, which if you belong to Jesus, will last you to all eternity.  Let others enjoy their cards, their dice, and gaming hours; do you, my brethren, let your time be spent in reading, praying, and religious conversations.  Which will stand the trial best at the last day?  Which do you think will bring most comfort, most peace, in a dying hour?  O live and spend your time now, as you will wish to have done, when you come to die.

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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 of Poetry by Michael A.G. Haykin

December 17th, 2014 Posted in Biblical Spirituality, Books, Poetry

By Steve Weaver

sweetnessofgod

Michael A.G. Haykin, director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, has released a new book. That’s not news. However, this book differs from the typical historical works for which he is widely known. This new release from Borderstone Press is a collection of poetry written by Dr. Haykin over the past four decades. The collection is beautifully titled, The Sweetness of God: Poetic Reflections on the Grace and Love of the Triune God. The title reflects two specific emphases of Haykin’s teaching, which I remember from my time as one of his students. First, the use of the term “sweetness” in church history is a topic that has long fascinated him. Second, the subtitle’s explicit reference to “the Triune God” reflects an emphasis in Haykin’s teaching on the self-disclosed nature of the God who is eternally three in one. Together, the title combines these two emphases in a way that illustrates Haykin’s personal piety and affection for the Triune God revealed in Scripture.

Haykin describes the work as follows: “The poems in this collection were written over a lengthy period of more than thirty-five years, from the mid-1970s to the present day. They seek to express, in ways not accessible to an historian’s prose, my experience of the delights and paradoxes of being a believer in and follower of the Triune God.”

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and 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 3 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

“Seek it at the Fountain-Head”

December 4th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

In a sermon entitled, “On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God,” Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) unfolded the bibliocentric piety demonstrated in Ezra 7:10—“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”  Fuller observed four features of Ezra’s character, which Fuller highly commended for Christian’s to imitate.  Here is what he gleaned from one verse:

  1.  SEEK THE LAW, or will, of God
    1. Seek it.
    2. Seek it at the fountain-head.
    3. Seek the will of God in every part of the Bible.
    4. Seek it perseveringly.
  2. PREPARE YOUR HEART to seek the law of the Lord
  3. KEEP THE LAW.
    1. Dread nothing more than recommending that to your people to which you do not attend yourself.
    2. More is expected from you than from others.
    3. You will attend to practical preaching.
    4. Attend not only to such duties as fall under the eye of man, but walk with God—in your family, and in your closet.
  4. TEACH in Israel the statutes and judgments of God.
    1. Let Christ and his apostles be your examples.
    2. Give every part of the truth its due proportion.
    3. Dare to teach unwelcome truths.
    4. Give Scriptural proof of what you teach.
    5. Consider yourself as standing engaged to teach all that hear you—rich and poor, young and old, godly and ungodly.
    6. Teach privately as well as publicly.[1]

Under the first point, Fuller masterfully contended for seeking the will of God in the Bible alone:

Seek it at the fountain-head.—You feel, I doubt not, a great esteem for many of your brethren now living, and admire the writings of some who are now no more; and you will read their productions with attention and pleasure. But whatever excellence your brethren possess, it is all borrowed; and it is mingled with error. Learn your religion from the Bible. Let that be your decisive rule. Adopt not a body of sentiments, or even a single sentiment, solely on the authority of any man—however great, however respected. Dare to think for yourself. Human compositions are fallible. But the Scriptures were written by men who wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Human writings on religion resemble preaching—they are useful only so far as they illustrate the Scriptures, and induce us to search them for ourselves.[2]


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 483-486.

[2]The Complete Works, 1: 483.

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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.

Judson’s Ground of Self-Denial

November 20th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Evan D. Burns

On May 10, 1836, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) preached his only English sermon in Burma; it was for the ordination of the missionary printer, S. M. Osgood (1807-1875).  This lengthy sermon is a definitive presentation of the inherent relationship in Judson’s spirituality between the example of Christ and Christian minister’s mandatory self-denial in imitation of Christ.  Preaching from John 10:1-18 about Christ as the Good Shepherd, Judson began by saying that though Christ is the “Exemplar” of all his people, he is especially the “Exemplar” of his “subordinate shepherds.”  He urged Osgood to “look continually to the chief Shepherd” for emulation.  First, Judson instructed, the minister ought to imitate Christ’s wholesale denial of worldly desires.  Christ gave up his life for the good of his flock, and in the language of disinterested benevolence, Judson said the minister ought to imitate Christ by surrendering all worldly ambitions, pleasures, and gains “that he may, by all means, save some.”  Second, Judson taught that the minister ought to imitate Christ by showing affection and brotherly love to the flock.  Third, Judson said the chief duty of a minister in imitation of Christ is to indiscriminately call out Christ’s elect; then once they come in through the universal preaching of the gospel, the minister ought to make disciples through teaching them to observe the commands of Christ, of which the minister ought to be the greatest example of obedience.

Though the minister’s chief duty should be doing good, Judson went on to elaborate on the dominant motivation of such duty.  He explained that Christ’s “supreme regard to his Father’s will” and “the love of God” were the controlling themes of Christ’s life.  Judson tied Christ’s example of supreme love to the Father and a supreme desire to please the Father to the responsibility of the minister to esteem the will of God above all other good things.  He said no good works of self-denial or charity “are truly estimable, but just so far as they spring from regard to the will of God.  All true virtue has its root in the love of God.  Every holy affection looks beyond self . . . and finds its resting place in God alone.”  Then he went on to wax eloquent about God’s God-centeredness and righteous love for himself above everything else.  In light of God’s supreme happiness in God, Judson said it was fitting that Christ would “have supreme regard to the will of the Father,” greater than his regard for perishing souls.  Therefore, every minister must submit to the will of God.  In light of Christ’s example of supreme submission to the infinitely wise and loving will of the Father, the most God-centered Being in the universe, Judson issued a decisive verdict for his spirituality of self-denial:  “On this ground we rest the doctrine of self-denial, renunciation of self-interest, abandonment of self.  Still further, even our compassion for souls and our zeal for their salvation must be kept in subordination to the supreme will of God.”[1]  In his self-denying imitation of Christ, “Judson was indeed a Gethsemane soul.”[2]


[1]Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D., vol. 2 (Boston: Phillips, Samson and Company, 1853), 486-94.

[2]John Brush, “The Magnetism of Adoniram Judson,” Andover Newton Quarterly 2, no. 3 (January 1, 1962): 3.

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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.