‘Eminent Christians’ Category

“Whitefield and the Great Awakening”: An Invitation from Michael Haykin

September 12th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Historians, Revivals

By Michael A.G. Haykin

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George Whitefield was not only the most celebrated preacher of the eighteenth century, but he was also a central figure in the creation of modern Evangelicalism. His emphasis on the new birth, his passion for evangelism, his ability to cross denominational boundaries and build networks of Christians based on the gospel and Reformation convictions were central features in what we know today as Evangelicalism. In this conference celebrating the tercentennial (1714) birth of Whitefield, we will explore these key themes of this remarkable Christian’s life and what they meant for his day and mean for ours.

Please make plans to join us on the beautiful campus of Southern Seminary on October 21-22, 2014 for this one-of-a-kind celebration of the three hundredth year of George Whitefield’s birth with some of the best Whitefieldian scholars in the world .

For more information and to register, please visit events.sbts.edu/andrewfuller.

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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.

 

Judson’s Baptismal Prayer

September 11th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

The first American missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), wrote a number of different kinds of tracts, some of which have never been translated before into English. For my Ph.D. dissertation research, I have managed the translation project of a few of his untranslated Burmese tracts. It is fascinating to read them for the first time in English. For instance, in one of his practical tracts for church order and discipleship, The Septenary, Judson suggested this prayer as part of the closing liturgy for the baptism service:

Prayer to be said before baptism….  O almighty and everlasting God, who has great compassion; previously I/we had worshiped and followed the wrong god and have transgressed against our Saviour and have sinned.  By your grace I/we repent and confess my/our sins.  Referring to the fact that those who believe in Jesus Christ and took baptism will be saved, with faith I/we ask to be baptized.  As body filth is washed off by water may my/our conscience be washed off by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Like the dead body of flesh is buried in the ground through baptism, die as son of the world and in coming out of the water help me/us to resurrect as new person of heaven.  The person who takes baptism must discard wrong religion and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit till the end of days.  Rejecting own preference, bear the cross and follow Jesus Christ.  I/we promise to try and put into effect all the principles a believer should follow.  Grant upon me/us the Holy Spirit so that I/we do not break my/our promise and abide with the principles all the days of my/our life/lives.  I/we reverently pray that when I/we pass away from this world let me/us be at thy foot together with the saints enjoying the never-ending heavenly riches, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.[1]


[1]Adoniram Judson, The Septenary, or Seven Manuals, 2nd ed. (Maulmain: American Baptist Mission Press, 1836), 66-67.

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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.

Spurgeon’s Kind of Revival

September 4th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Revivals

By Evan D. Burns

In his day, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) called for Christians to labor in prayer for revival.  He outlined a few facets of genuine revival:  First of all, revival, if is authentic, should be “real and lasting” as opposed to “feverish and transient.”  Second, genuine revival should emphasize “old-fashioned doctrine,” including teaching the infallibility of the Scriptures and doctrines such as “the ruin, redemption and regeneration of mankind.”  Third, true revival would see the rise of “genuine godliness” and men who are “consecrated to the Lord and sanctified by His truth.”  Fourth, real revival should affect “domestic religion” in such a way that families are “trained in the fear of God.”  And fifth, the revival that Spurgeon prayed earnestly for was a revival of “vigorous, consecrated strength” where men of God find power in secret prayer.  Let us heed Spurgeon’s call for genuine revival in our day:

Saints acquire nobility from their constant resort to the place where the Lord meets with them. There they also acquire that power in prayer which we so greatly need. Oh, that we had more men like John Knox, whose prayers were more terrible to Queen Mary than 10,000 men! Oh, that we had more Elijahs by whose faith the windows of heavens should be shut or opened!  This power comes not by a sudden effort; it is the outcome of a life devoted to the God of Israel! If our life is all in public, it will be a frothy, vapoury ineffectual existence; but if we hold high converse with God in secret, we shall be mighty for good. He that is a prince with God will take high rank with men, after the true measure of nobility….  Given a host of men who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, the glory of God’s grace will be clearly manifested, not only in them, but in those round about them. The Lord send us a revival of consecrated strength, and heavenly energy![1]


[1]Charles Spurgeon, The Kind of Revival We Need.

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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.

Degrees in Glory

August 21st, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Biblical Spirituality, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller was a man who loved to think of heaven and future glory awaiting all who love the Lord.  His sermon entitled, “Degrees in Glory Proportioned to Works of Piety, Consistent with Salvation by Grace Alone,”[1] is medicine for the soul.  In relation to the degrees of glory enjoyed in heaven based upon piety and obedience in this life, the fragrance of Jonathan Edwards emanates from Fuller’s pen.  Here is a brief outline of Fuller’s sermon:

  1. First, Heavenly bliss will greatly consist in our being approved of God.
  2. Secondly, Heavenly bliss will consist in the exercise of love, supreme love to God.
  3. Thirdly, Heavenly bliss will consist in ascribing glory to God and the Lamb.
  4. Fourthly, Heavenly bliss will consist in exploring the wonders of the love of God.

And then Fuller goes on to elaborate how heavenly rewards should motivate our piety in this life:

  1.  In the first place, Rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, because those very works which it pleased God to honour are the effects of his own operation.
  2. Secondly, All rewards to a guilty creature have respect to the mediation of Christ.
  3. Thirdly, God’s graciously connecting blessings with the obedience of his people serves to show, not only his love to Christ, and to them, but his regard to righteousness.

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 741-43.

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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.

Fuller’s Sketch of the Lord’s Prayer

August 8th, 2014 Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Andrew Fuller, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Eminent Christians, Prayer

By Evan D. Burns

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a skillful pastor-theologian.  He was also a soul physician who knew how to guide God’s people into a deeper knowledge of Christ.  Below is an example of Fuller’s ability to unfold the principles and meaning of Scripture in a way that is clear, practical, and faithful to the text.  Fuller summarizes the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-15) with a few simple observations:[1]

If in anything we need Divine instruction, it is in drawing near to God. It does not appear to have been Christ’s design to establish a form of prayer, nor that it was ever so used by the disciples; but merely a brief directory as to the matter and manner of it. Such a directory was adapted not only to instruct, but to encourage Christians in their approaches to God.

  1.  First, The character under which we are allowed to draw near to the Lord of heaven and earth.—“Our Father.”
  2. Secondly, The place of the Divine residence.—“Our Father, who art in heaven.”
  3. Thirdly, The social principle which pervades the prayer.—“Our Father—forgive us,” etc.
  4. Fourthly, The brevity of it.—“Use not vain repetitions, but in this manner pray ye.”
  5. Fifthly, The order of it.—Our attention is first directed to those things which are of the first importance, and which are fundamental to those which follow.

As there are three petitions in respect of God’s name and cause in the world, so there are three which regard our own immediate wants; one of which concerns those which are temporal, and the other two those which are spiritual.

  1.  “Give us this day (or day by day) our daily bread.” Bread comprehends all the necessaries, but none of the superfluities, of life.
  2. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” As bread in this prayer comprehends all the necessaries of life, so the forgiveness of sin comprehends the substance of all that is necessary for the well-being of our souls.
  3. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The last petition respected the bestowment of the greatest good; this, deliverance from the worst of evils. Christ teaches us to suspect ourselves.

The concluding doxology, though omitted by Luke, and thought by some not to have been originally included by Matthew, appears to agree with the foregoing petitions, and to furnish encouragement to hope for an answer.


[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 578-583.

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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.

“It Is All Right”

July 31st, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Eminent Christians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

After the death of Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote to her mother to inform her of Ann’s death.  In his long letter, he weaves together his heavenly-minded piety with his providentialist piety in order to make sense of Ann’s protracted suffering and in order to comfort Ann’s grieving mother.  Here is a small portion of that letter:

Oh, with what meekness, and patience, and magnanimity, and Christian fortitude, she bore those sufferings!  And can I wish they had been less?  Can I sacrilegiously wish to rob her crown of a single gem?  Much she saw and suffered of this evil world; and eminently was she qualified to relish and enjoy the pure and holy rest into which she has entered.  True, she has been taken from a sphere, in which she was singularly qualified, by her natural disposition, her winning manners, her devoted zeal, and her perfect acquaintance with the language, to be extensively serviceable to the cause of Christ; true, she has been torn from her husband’s bleeding heart, and from her darling babe; but infinite wisdom and love have presided, as ever, in this most afflicting dispensation.  Faith decides, that it is all right, and the decision of faith, eternity will soon confirm.[1] 


 [1]Adoniram Judson, “Letter from Rev. Dr. Judson, to Mrs.Hasseltine of Bradford, (Mass.), Amherst, Feb. 4th, 1827,” in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. 7, 89 vols. (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1827), 261–62.

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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.

Was John Bunyan a Baptist? A Test Case in Historical Method

July 29th, 2014 Posted in 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Theology

By Nathan A. Finn

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the life and legacy of John Bunyan (1628–1688). Some readers will know that Bunyan was the famous tinker-turned-pastor who spent most of 1660 to 1672 (and a few months in 1675) imprisoned for preaching illegally during the reign of King Charles II. This was a season when many Dissenting pastors, including Baptists, were fined and often imprisoned for violating the Clarendon Code, a series of laws meant to promote Episcopal uniformity in Britain. Over 2000 Puritan ministers lost their pulpits during the “Great Ejection” of 1662 alone.

No doubt even more readers will know that Bunyan authored the famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), a work that has remained continuously in print, been translated into over 200 languages, and likely outsold every book in the English language besides the King James Bible. Of course, Bunyan also wrote numerous other books and tracts, including his famous spiritual autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and the allegory The Holy War, which focuses on cosmic spiritual warfare (1682).

What many readers may not know is that scholars have debated whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist or a Congregationalist since at least the late-1800s. There are several reasons for this debate. First, Bunyan’s church in Bedford, which began as a Congregationalist (Independent) meeting, seems to have embraced a dual baptismal practice prior to his pastorate. Second, though there is no evidence the church baptized infants during Bunyan’s pastorate, the church continued an open membership policy that included both credobaptists and pedobaptists. (Bunyan even engaged in a literary debate with William Kiffin, among others, over the relationship between the ordinances and church membership.) Finally, after Bunyan’s death in 1688, the church gravitated toward mainstream Congregationalism and rejected credobaptism as a normative practice.

For these reasons, scholars have tended to fall into three camps when debating Bunyan’s baptism bona fides. First, some scholars argue he was not a Baptist, but rather was a Congregationalist who privately preferred credobaptism to pedobaptism. Second, some scholars argue that Bunyan was an “Independent Baptist,” i.e., a Baptist who practiced open membership. Finally, some scholars punt (ahem) and suggest that Bunyan was “baptistic,” but falls short of being a consistent Baptist.

This makes for a good test case in historical method.  A growing number of scholars argue there was considerable interchange and even intercommunion between various Dissenters prior to 1660. It was not unusual for one to move between Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and even Quaker meetings during his lifetime (besides other lesser-known sects and the Church of England). Among Baptists, even the very terms “General Baptist” and “Particular Baptist” are arguably anachronistic when used prior to the 1640s, because the two groups were different trajectories rather than fully formed denominational traditions.

Furthermore, many scholars of the Independents in particular suggest that there was a great diversity of baptismal views in the tradition prior to the adoption of the Savoy Declaration in 1658. In other words, it was perfectly possible, even acceptable to be an anti-pedobaptist Independent, yet not self-identify as a Baptist (the latter carried considerable cultural baggage due to frequent association with Anabaptism). Other historians have suggested that there was a “dotted line” between many Independents and their Particular Baptist friends.

Finally, there is no doubt that a number of self-identified Baptist congregations, all of which had their roots in Independency, did practice an open membership policy, at least for a season. Examples include Henry Jessey’s congregation in London, the Broadmead Church in Bristol, the Baptist meeting in Oxford, and some Welsh Baptist congregations.

As in so many historical debates that touch upon the nature of Baptist identity, the answer to the question of whether or not Bunyan was a Baptist depends upon whether one is speaking descriptively or prescriptively. From a descriptive standpoint, I find it hard to argue that Bunyan was anything other than a Baptist, at least during his years of formal pastoral ministry. He was an Independent Baptist who practiced open membership and open communion. While this was a minority position, it was not unknown among British Baptists. For the past century, this exact position has been quite common among Baptists in the British Isles and Australasia (and, increasingly, in North America).

This does not mean I agree with Bunyan from a descriptive standpoint—far from it. I reject Bunyan’s contention that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are private ordinances that are not directly related to the church. Scripturally, I see a close connection between the ordinances and the church, leading me to affirm a closed membership that restricts communion to biblically baptized believers. However, for me to hold Bunyan to my prescriptive convictions would be to confuse the work of the historian with the work of the theologian. The same point could be made about nearly all General Baptists and, eventually, Particular Baptists prior to 1641/1642; their baptism by affusion does not measure up to my theological standards, but for historical reasons I consider them to be Baptists.

Historians of Christianity will always be tempted to be theologians. And, of course, one cannot be a very good historian of Christianity if he or she doesn’t understand theology. Nevertheless, the task of the historian is primarily descriptive, whereas the task of the theologian is primarily prescriptive. We would do well to avoid confusing the two, even when we hold very strong theological convictions. As a historian, I have little doubt Bunyan was a Baptist. As a theologian, I have strong disagreements with aspects of Bunyan’s ecclesiology. It’s a matter of description versus prescription, and for the historian, the former ought to win every time.

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Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

“Silently Blessed”

July 17th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Great Quotes

By Evan D. Burns

While Judson was in prison for 21 months, Ann Judson cared for Adoniram Judson, and concurrently their daughter, little Maria, was ill.  The gravity of this tribulation nearly pushed the Judson family to the breaking point.  Recording the Judsons’ submission to the sovereignty of God, Ann wrote:

Our dear little Maria was the greatest sufferer at this time, my illness depriving her of her usual nourishment, and neither a nurse nor a drop of milk could be procured in the village.  By making presents to the jailers, I obtained leave for Mr. Judson to come out of prison, and take the emaciated creature around the village, to beg a little nourishment from those mothers who had young children. Her cries in the night were heart-rending, when it was impossible to supply her wants.  I now began to think the very afflictions of Job had come upon me.  When in health, I could bear the various trials and vicissitudes through which I was called to pass. But to be confined with sickness, and unable to assist those who were so dear to me, when in distress, was almost too much for me to bear; and had it not been for the consolations of religion, and an assured conviction that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I must have sunk under my accumulated sufferings.[1]

After being imprisoned under torture and horrid conditions for 21 months, Judson wrote to Dr. Bolles about his sufferings with the perspective that God works all things together for the good of his people.

[My sufferings], it would seem, have been unavailing to answer any valuable missionary purpose, unless so far as they may have been silently blessed to our spiritual improvement and capacity for future usefulness.[2]


[1]Wayland, Memoir, 1:361.

[2]Middleditch, Burmah’s Great, 209.

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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.

“All is Alike Inspired”

July 10th, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Eminent Christians, Theology

By Evan D. Burns

Seeking to counter those who say the Bible is not inspired because of the varieties of its style and authorship, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) employed metaphors and analogies that are very helpful for understanding the continuity of Scripture and its overall sufficient inspiration:

It proves nothing against inspiration, as some have asserted, that the writers of the Bible have each a different style. Isaiah does not write like Jeremiah, and Paul does not write like John. This is perfectly true— and yet the works of these men are not a whit less equally inspired. The waters of the sea have many different shades. In one place they look blue, and in another green. And yet the difference is owing to the depth or shallowness of the part we see, or to the nature of the bottom.  The water in every case is the same salt sea. The breath of a man may produce different sounds, according to the character of the instrument on which he plays. The flute, the pipe, and the trumpet, have each their peculiar note. And yet the breath that calls forth the notes, is in each case one and the same. The light of the planets we see in the skies is very various. Mars, and Saturn, and Jupiter, have each a peculiar color. And yet we know that the light of the sun, which each planet reflects, is in each case one and the same. Just in the same way the books of the Old and New Testaments are all inspired truth— and yet the aspect of that truth varies according to the mind through which the Holy Spirit makes it flow. The handwriting and style of the writers differ enough to prove that each had a distinct individual being; but the Divine Guide who dictates and directs the whole, is always one. All is alike inspired. Every chapter, and verse, and word— is from God.[1]


[1]J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading.

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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 Digest of Scripture

July 3rd, 2014 Posted in 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Missions

By Evan D. Burns

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) wrote a handful of tracts for his evangelism/discipleship ministry, one of which was a tract called A Digest of Scripture.[1]  It is written like a primer on basic theology for young believers.  Judson outlines some unique aspects of evangelical doctrine and for living the Christian life.  His chapter titles below demonstrate what he saw as the dominant doctrines taught by Scripture and those doctrines in which faithful believers should abide:

  1.  Introduction: Scripture and Wisdom
  2. The Being and Attributes of God
  3. The Trinity
  4. The State of Man
  5. The Lord Jesus Christ
  6. Salvation Bestowed
  7. Salvation Accepted
  8. The Evidences of Faith
  9. The Benefits of Faith
  10. Duty to God
  11. Duty to Men
  12. Duty to One’s Self
  13. Prayer
  14. The Church
  15. The Extension of the Gospel
  16. The Afflictions of Believers
  17. Death
  18. A Future State
  19. The Resurrection
  20. The Last Judgment
  21. The Retribution of Eternity: Hell, Heaven

[1]Adoniram Judson, A Digest of Scripture: Consisting of Extracts from the Old and New Testaments (Maulmain: American Baptist Mission Press, 1840).

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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.