The Evangelistic Fervor of a 17th Century Particular Baptist

When Andrew Fuller was wrestling with the question of whether or not the gospel should be preached indiscriminately to all, he found a model for promiscuous gospel preaching in the seventeenth-century English Particular Baptist John Bunyan. Fuller noted that Bunyan, contrary to the contemporary Particular Baptist examples of preaching he knew, regularly addressed the unconverted directly and appealed to them to trust in Christ’s saving work. Fuller would eventually realize that the hyper-Calvinistic approach was an intrusion into Particular Baptist life and not faithful to its original heritage. Seventeenth-century Particular Baptists preached the gospel to all, calling upon all to believe and repent.

HC Funeral Sermon pageAlong with Bunyan, Fuller could have also read the writings of men such as Benjamin Keach, Thomas Harrison, William Collins and Hercules Collins. Each of these men were convinced Calvinists soteriologically, subscribing to the Second London Confession of Faith. Yet, each of these men pleaded with sinners to be saved. In his funeral sermon for Hercules Collins, John Piggott commented upon the evangelistic zeal of Collins by saying that “no man could preach with a more affectionate regard to the salvation of souls.”[1] He later called the regular attenders of the Wapping-street Church who remained unsaved as witnesses to the gospel fervor of Hercules Collins: “You are witnesses with what zeal and fervour, with what constancy and seriousness he used to warn and persuade you.”[2] Piggott then began to plead with the lost present himself by crying out, “Tho you have been deaf to his former preaching, yet listen to the voice of this providence, lest you continue in your slumber till you sleep the sleep of death.” He then closed with these forceful words:

You cannot but see, unless you will close your eyes, that this world and the fashion of it is passing away. O what a change will a few months or years make in this numerous assembly! Yea, what a sad change has little more than a fortnight made in this congregation! He that was so lately preaching in this pulpit, is now wrapped in his shroud, and confined to his coffin; and the lips that so often dispersed knowledge amongst you, are sealed up till the resurrection. Here’s the body of your late minister; but his soul is entered into the joy of his Lord. O that those of you that would not be persuaded by him living, might be wrought upon by his death! For tho he is dead, he yet speaketh; and what doth he say; both to ministers and people, but “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh?”[3]

Historical evidence such as this should put to rest the claims of some that Calvinism necessarily inhibits evangelistic fervor. Hyper-Calvinism, indeed, is an error that must be rejected by Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike. Those who refuse to call upon all sinners to believe and repent are not only disobedient to the clear teaching of Scripture, they are also not living up to the best of their Calvinistic Baptist heritage exemplified by men such as John Bunyan, Hercules Collins, and Andrew Fuller.


[1] John Piggott, Eleven Sermons, 236.

[2] Ibid., 240.

[3]Ibid.

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This post previously appeared at the blog of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. It is also posted at HerculesCollins.com.

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