Andrew Fuller’s Dying Hope

On this date (May 7, 1815) 200 years ago, Baptist theologian and pastor Andrew Fuller died. Andrew Fuller was the theologian behind William Carey and the Modern Missionary Movement. His most famous work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, made the case for the universal responsibility of believers to take the gospel to the lost and for the universal responsibility of the lost to respond to the gospel message. Fuller, a Calvinist, had written much against hyper-Calvinism, a distortion of biblical teaching that resulted in a refusal to offer the gospel indiscriminately to all. After preaching what would prove to be his final sermon, Fuller dictated a later to Dr. John Ryland, Jr. In the letter he asked his old friend to preach his funeral sermon from Romans 8:10, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

He went on to say in the letter:

I have preached and written much against the abuse of the doctrine of grace; but that doctrine is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other hope than from salvation by mere sovereign and efficacious grace through the atonement of my Lord and Saviour: with this hope I can go into eternity with composure. Come, Lord Jesus, come when Thou wilt! Here I am; let Him do with me as seemeth Him good.

After closing the letter, he raised both hands and repeated the same sentiment from the letter with emphasis: “If I am saved, it will be by great and sovereign grace!  I have no raptures, but no despondency. My mind is calm. My God, My Saviour, my Refuge, to Thee I commit my spirit. Take me to Thyself. Bless those I leave behind.”

He then set up on his bedside and said, “All my feelings are sinking, dying feelings.” His wife was noticeably upset, so Fuller added, “We shall meet again. All will be well.”

Fuller’s son, Andrew Gunton Fuller, records his eyewitness account of the deathbed scene when his father joined the heavenly choir.

The dread day—dreaded by all but himself—arrived when he must submit to the test the hope with which he had declared he could “plunge into eternity.” It was (as in the present year) Lord’s day, May 7th. A profound silence reigned in the room. Nothing was heard save the measured breathing of the dying man. He seemed to have lost his consciousness, and to have entered on the borderland between worlds. No one thought now of trying to win his attention, when the sound of solemn psalmody was heard through the wall that separate the apartment from the congregation assembled for worship. His attention was roused; he tried to raise himself. Turning to my sister Sarah he said, “I wish I had strength enough.” “For what, father?” “To worship, child.” “Come, Mary, come and help me.” He was by careful and united effort raised up. He seemed to sing “with the spirit and the understanding” without the bodily accompaniment; then, joining his hands as in earnest prayer, the only words distinctly heard were “Help me!” and within half an hour from the time of rousing himself he joined the “everlasting song.”

Never, perhaps, had the choirs of earth and heaven been in nearer proximity—the dying pastor was the connecting link. If the eye of our faith sees that which is invisible, it will scarcely be a gratuitous imagination that hears in like manner the mingling of heavenly with earthly harmonies as we approach the innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.

Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882),188-190.

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