‘Eminent Christians’ Category

“A Lovely Proportion in Divine Truth”

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

By Evan D. Burns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael A.G. Haykin
Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

To download the review as PDF, click here. To see other book reviews, visit here.

Andrew Fuller on the Doctrine of Election and Gospel Preaching

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

By David E. Prince

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

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

Election Declares the Source of Salvation is Mere Grace

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

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

Love as Exemplified in Scripture

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

God’s Love is Not Mere Favoritism

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

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

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

Pray for the Lost as Fellow Sinners and Not as Reprobates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince begins by excerpting the following paragraph from the sermon.

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

To read the post in its entirety, see here.

 

Samuel Pearce’s Religion of the Cross

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

By Evan D. Burns

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

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

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

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

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.