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
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.
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.