‘Eminent Christians’ Category

Book Review: Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder by Gilbert Laws

March 16th, 2015 Posted in Andrew Fuller, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians

Gilbert Laws, Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: The Carey Press, 1942), 135 pages.

laws fullerBook reviews are usually reserved for recent items, not for publications of the more distant past. Yet, from time to time, it is helpful to recall the contribution made by works from an earlier time. The book being reviewed here is noteworthy in view of the fact that while there had been a handful of biographies of Andrew Fuller in the nineteenth century—mostly written by friends, colleagues and family members—there was only one of any substance in the twentieth century, namely, that by Rev. Gilbert Laws (1876–1962), long-time minister of the historic Baptist congregation in Norwich, St. Mary’s Baptist Church (now Norwich Central Baptist Church). Laws was a well-known preacher in the Baptist Union during the 1930s and 1940s, and also served as the President of this body.

Laws’ biography of Fuller, not easily found these days, was printed on sub-standard wartime paper, and most copies that I have seen have been the worse for wear. The subtitle gives the major categories in which Laws treats his subject: Fuller as a pastor, a theologian, and a “ropeholder,” that is, missions advocate and loyal friend and supporter of William Carey. An earlier article on Fuller by Laws that appeared in The Baptist Quarterly had examined Fuller’s life briefly under these very headings (“Andrew Fuller, 1754–1815,” The Baptist Quarterly 2.2 [April 1924]: 76–84). Now, in this book-length endeavor, Laws expanded the scope of his treatment.

The strength of Laws’ study lies in his fine discussion of Fuller as a pastor and in his service to the Baptist Missionary Society. Laws does not attempt to hide his admiration of Fuller—“we may affirm that to Fuller the Christian cause in general and the Baptist denomination in particular owes so much that, excepting only Carey, it is hard to name his fellow” (p.132). Yet, he deals honestly with his character, which at times could be stern and gruff. Robert Hall, Jr said of Fuller after his death, he was “less eminent for the gentler graces than for stern integrity” (p.123), while Fuller’s own wife, Ann Coles Fuller, admitted that “there was a degree of bluntness in his manner” (p.124). In detailing Fuller’s role as a pastor and “ropeholder,” Laws has made good use of the numerous anecdotes and stories about Fuller found in the various nineteenth-century biographies as well as those that Fuller himself recorded in his letters and diaries.

The one area where the work is not strong is his treatment of Fuller as a theologian. For instance, referring to Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, his first major publication, Laws comments, “it is impossible to summarize its argument” (p.35). Laws does attempt a brief overview, which is as it should be, for this work began Fuller’s career as an apologist. Laws’ failing here is one, however, general to the twentieth century that largely forgot Fuller’s importance in this area and remembered simply his role as a missionary statesman. Nineteenth-century biographers and theologians, on the other hand, did not share this weakness as Laws himself knew (see his reference to A.H. Strong’s significant use of Fuller’s corpus on p.126).

All in all, though, this is a very good study of Fuller, especially revelatory of the humanity of the Baptist theologian. When Andrew Gunton Fuller published his 1882 biography of his father in the series “Men Worth Remembering,” C.H. Spurgeon personally thanked the younger Fuller for having shown interested readers something of the personal side of Fuller. Likewise, looking at Laws’ biography standing alone in the long twentieth century, he is to be thanked for having kept alive the memory of a man truly worth remembering.

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 God Glorious in Holiness”

March 5th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller perceptively distinguished God’s moral perfections as the ground for his holiness.  All of God’s attributes of greatness and power would not be as attractive without his goodness and equity.  Fuller argued that Deism was defective because it did not acknowledge the holiness and moral perfection of God.  He then identified the religion of the Old Testament as worshiping a God full of love and truth.  Israel’s worship was to be morally distinct from the lewd and decadent worship of the pagan nations because Israel’s God was morally perfect.  And in that apologetic context, he explained thus:

There are certain perfections which all who acknowledge a God agree in attributing to him; such are those of wisdom, power, immutability, &c.  These, by Christian divines, are usually termed his natural perfections. There are others which no less evidently belong to Deity, such as goodness, justice, veracity, &c., all which may be expressed in one word—holiness; and these are usually termed his moral perfections. Both natural and moral attributes tend to display the glory of the Divine character, but especially the latter. Wisdom and power, in the Supreme Being, render him a proper object of admiration; but justice, veracity, and goodness attract our love. No being is beloved for his greatness, but for his goodness. Moral excellence is the highest glory of any intelligent being, created or uncreated. Without this, wisdom would be subtlety, power tyranny, and immutability the same thing as being unchangeably wicked. We account it the glory of revelation that, while it displays the natural perfections of God in a way superior to any thing that has been called religion, it exhibits his moral excellence in a manner peculiar to itself. [1]


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 2: Controversial Publications, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 9.

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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 Circle of Friends: Reflections on a Letter from Fuller to Carey

February 25th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, Andrew Fuller, Church History, Eminent Christians, Missions, William Carey

By Steve Weaver

I love a letter from Andrew Fuller to William Carey contained in Andrew Gunton Fuller’s 1882 biography of his father.[1] It illustrates beautifully the love and collegiality of the circle of friends among whom the modern missionary movement was birthed. In the letter, Fuller indicates that he had been visiting with John Sutcliff, Baptist pastor in Olney, “on missionary concerns” when a letter from Carey (dated October 10, 1798) had arrived, or as he put it, “while I was there, in bolted Carey!” Fuller’s response to the missionary includes updates on all the major characters associated with the early days of the Baptist Missionary Society. Carey, the Society’s first missionary, was the recipient of the letter and Fuller, the secretary of the Society from its beginning until his death in 1815, was the author. Fuller knew that Carey would want to know about the welfare of their mutual friends—John Ryland, Jr. (1753–1825), John Sutcliff (1752–1814), and Samuel Pearce (1766–1799).

The fruits of Brother Ryland’s labours at Bristol appear to good purpose, not only in a number of spiritual young men in the Academy, but in so charming a group of missionaries as are now going. Brother Sutcliffe has baptized nine lately. He is appointed to supply you with books, and I doubt not but he will magnify his office. Pearce is a wonderful Christian; he preached here last autumn like an apostle, from Psalm xc. 16, 17. Hall, who preached after him, was dismayed at the thought of following him; not so much at an idea of inequality of talents, but of spirit and unction. But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows.

There is also a reference to Robert Hall, the younger (1764-1831), the esteemed preacher and son of Robert Hall, the elder (1728–1791). The reference to Hall, who was well-known as a great orator, is striking. When scheduled to preach after Pearce, who Fuller calls simply “a wonderful Christian,” Hall feared to follow Pearce due to the latter’s “spirit and unction.” This letter was likely written in late 1798 or early 1799. Pearce would die within the year on October 10, 1799. His obvious declining health was the reason Fuller added, “But whether we shall ever hear him again, God only knows.”

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 150-151.

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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 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

Audio of “The Legacy of Andrew Fuller” Conference Now Online

February 20th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Historians

Fuller Legacy Mini-Conference

On February 6, 2015, The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies hosted a mini-conference to consider the legacy of Andrew Fuller. 2015 marks the bicentennial of Fuller’s death so it was appropriate The Andrew Fuller Center devote some time to assessing his legacy. As an added bonus, the conference date of February 6th was the 261st birthday of Fuller. The conference was hosted on the third floor of the Legacy Hotel on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. We are pleased to make available the audio from the conference free of charge below.

Conference Audio:

Why Andrew Fuller?” (MP3) a brief intro to the conference by Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin (Professor of Church History and Director of AFCBS at SBTS)

“Fuller and the 19th Century Southern Baptists” (MP3) by Dr. Gregory A. Wills (Professor of Church History and Dean of School of Theology at SBTS)

“C.H. Spurgeon: a Fullerite?” (MP3) by Dr. G. Stephen Weaver, Jr. (Research Assistant and Fellow of AFCBS)

“Free, Sovereign, and Great Grace”

February 19th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:22, entitled, “Equity of the Sentence Against Those Who Love Not Christ.”  He began by asserting:

A sense of the excellency of Christ, or of his worthiness of being loved, is of great importance in religion. Without this we can never truly love him, nor prize any thing which pertains to him. Destitute of this, we shall see his name degraded without indignation, and hear it exalted without delight. Without this, we shall esteem his salvation itself no otherwise than a happy expedient to escape eternal misery. In short, without this, we shall be mere statues in Christianity, bring no glory to its Author, and enjoy none of its refined pleasures. [1]

He went on to explain why eternal judgment is a just penalty for those who do not love Christ.  He gave three main reasons, which he expounded with depth and insight:  (1) To not love Christ is to be an enemy of God; (2) to not love Christ is to be an enemy of mankind; and (3) to not love Christ is to be an enemy of self.  And he closed by arguing that it is all of sovereign grace that any sinner loves Christ at all.  His conclusion was penetrating and ardent:

Oh how is it that we are not all excommunicated and accursed of God? Are we better than others? No, in nowise. God might justly have banished us from the abodes of the blessed. It is all of grace, free, sovereign, and great grace, if we are brought to love him, and so escape the awful curse; and for this we can never be sufficiently thankful. [2]


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 438.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 441.

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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.

The Catholicity of Fuller

February 17th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

One of the key things that rescued the Particular Baptists from becoming little more than a dunghill in society (Andrew Fuller’s words) was the catholicity of men like Fuller and Ryland and Pearce and Carey. If we would know possibly what they knew, we must recover not only their robust evangelical Calvinism but also know the catholic ambience in which they lived and breathed and had their being.

The catholicity of Fuller is on display throughout his life but can be especially seen in his gracious dealings with the Arminian Dan Taylor, his friendship with the Anglican William Wilberforce and the Presbyterian Thomas Chalmers, his friendship with the High Calvinist William Button and the day of prayer spent with the eccentric John Berridge. Most of all it is there in his deep friendship with the open communion and open membership John Ryland (recall Fuller was closed communion and closed membership in a day when thus was a very important issue). There are some today who would claim Fuller’s mantle but whose narrowness of spirit belie their claim.

A good question to ponder is this: how does a love for all who love the Lord Jesus (Spurgeon said this marked the life of Fuller’s friend William Carey) reveal itself?

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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.

Spurgeon Reflects on Fuller’s Baptism

February 13th, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians

By Steve Weaver

On July 19, 1863, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching from Romans 10:10 on “Confession with the Mouth” at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. During the sermon he reflected on his reading “the life of good Andrew Fuller” the previous day.

I was noting when reading yesterday the life of good Andrew Fuller, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped? and such like questions which are common enough now-a-days. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day. [1]

This is likely a reference to Fuller’s account in the memoir of his early life compiled from two series of letters written to friends. This memoir formed the basis of the nineteenth-century biographies of Fuller by his son Andrew Gunton Fuller, John Morris, and John Ryland, Jr. Fuller had written,

Within a day or two after I had been baptized, as I was riding through the fields, I met a company of young men. One of them especially, on my having passed them, called after me in very abusive language, and cursed me for having been ‘dipped.’ My heart instantly rose in a way of resentment; but though the fire burned, I held my peace; for before I uttered a word I was checked with this passage, which occurred to my mind, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation.’ I wept, and entreated the Lord to pardon me; feeling quite willing to bear the ridicule of the wicked, and to go even through great tribulation, if at last I might but enter the kingdom. [2]

Spurgeon’s familiarity with the life of Fuller and the popular stories about him that were circulating in the nineteenth century served him well for illustration purposes throughout his ministry.


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 401. This is likely a reference to Spurgeon described this reading in almost identical words in his autobiography.

I was noting, when reading the life of good Andrew Fuller, that, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped, and such like questions which are common enough nowadays. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day.

Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:149–150.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845), 7. This was originally from a letter written by Fuller to a friend in Liverpool in January, 1815. See Michael A.G. Haykin, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Joshua Press, 2001), 77–78.

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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 4 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.

“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.

James Davis Knowles on the character of Andrew Fuller

January 23rd, 2015 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Eminent Christians

By Michael A.G. Haykin

James Davis Knowles (1798–1838) was converted under the ministry of John Gano around the age of twenty-one and subsequently became a member of First Baptist Church, Providence, RI. A gift for preaching was evident and he was encouraged to study for the ministry. After pastoring for a number of years, he was appointed Professor of Pastoral Duties and Sacred Rhetoric at the Newton Theological Institution (today part of Andover Newton Theological Seminary). Here he found time to write a memoir of Roger Williams, having already tried his hand at a biography of Ann Judson. The same year that his memoir of Williams appeared, he also wrote an extensive study on the “Character of Andrew Fuller” (The American Quarterly Observer, 2 [1834], 110–127), which was prompted by the publication of a two-volume edition of Fuller’s works by the Boston Baptist publishers Ensign Lincoln (1779–1832) and Thomas Edmands (1781–1851).

Knowles observed that though his “education was small,” yet “the works of Fuller are justly entitled to rank with those of Owen and Edwards” (pages 115, 113). One of the reasons for this was, as Knowles asserted, the fact that “few theological writers have equaled him in plain, direct, robust force of understanding” (page 119). Another reason, in Knowles’ estimation, was Fuller’s “originality and vivacity of mind.” Yet, he was also a man marked by “an humble submission to the authority of Scripture” (page 120). And it is the latter, Knowles rightly believed, that made “Fuller a safe and valuable guide” in Christian theology (page 123). Finally, Knowles mentioned Fuller’s piety as a reason for the value of his books: his love for God and humanity “made him a reformer, without dogmatism, and a controversialist, without asperity” (page 126). It is a shame that Knowles did not live to write a full biography of Fuller—he died of smallpox in 1838.

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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.

Coming September 2015: Owen on the Christian Life by Matthew Barrett & Michael A.G. Haykin

January 19th, 2015 Posted in 17th Century, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians

Coming in September 2015 from Crossway. By Matthew Barrett and Michael A.G. Haykin: Owen on the Christian Life.

Owen on the Christian Life