Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller on Spiritual Preaching as Gospel Preaching

Near the end of his life, Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) ruminated on spiritual preaching in a letter dated February 21, 1813, to his Scottish friend Christopher Anderson.

I have been thinking of late [1813] of the force of the petition, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” As spiritual things are spiritually discerned, if the Lord leave us to ourselves, we shall lose sight of the gospel, and somehow get beside it. I have heard many ingenious sermons, and perhaps preached some, in which the gospel was overlooked; and if a sinner heard it, and never heard the way of salvation before, he might have died, and gone to the bar of God, for any thing he could have heard then, without having been told his danger, or the way of salvation. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us! It is for want of spirituality of mind, surely, that there is so much orthodox, and at the same so little evangelical preaching.

Joseph Belcher, ed., The Last Remains of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, [1856]), 361. For the full text of the letter, see Hugh Anderson, The Life and Letters of Christopher Anderson (Edinburgh: William P. Kennedy, 1854), 214-215.

An Unsung, but Influential Sermon in the Rise of the Modern Missionary Movement

On April 27, 1791, Andrew Fuller preached a message at a Minister’s Meeting at Clipstone. The title of the message was “Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion.” The text was Haggai 1:2, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In the sermon, Fuller pleaded with his fellow ministers not to delay in regard to the work of missions and to use means for the spread of the gospel among the nations. It was a bold sermon. Not only was William Carey in attendance, but so too were many of those, as Andrew Gunton Fuller tells us, “who had refused — some of them not in the kindest manner — to listen to his proposal.” [1] Fuller said in part,

Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way, in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth his apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, he told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations,” to preach the gospel to “every creature;” and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been made; but they are small in number, when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.

The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think “the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.” We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?” [2]

Fuller’s son records that the “impression produced by the sermon was most deep; it is said that the ministers were scarcely able to speak to each other at its close, and they so far committed themselves as to request Mr. Carey to publish his “thoughts.” [3] The next spring, Carey preached his famous sermon at Nottingham based on Isaiah 54:2-3 calling on ministers to “expect great things from God” and “attempt great things for God.” In 1792, he also published his “thoughts”—An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (PDF). On October 2, 1792, in the home of Mrs. Beeby Wallis, the Particular Baptist Society for Propogating the Gospel Among the Heathen was launched.

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[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller. Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 103.
[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 147–148.
[3] Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 104.

“Baptists and the Cross” AFCBS Conference

The fourth annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is scheduled for August 30-31, 2010.  The theme is:  Baptists and the Cross:  Contemporary and Historical Reflections. The conference will feature speakers such as Danny Akin (president, SEBTS), David Bebbington (professor, University of Stirling), Maurice Dowling (professor, Irish Baptist College), James Fuller (professor, University of Indianapolis), Tom Schreiner (professor, SBTS), Glendon Thompson (president, TBS and pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church), and Stephen Wellum (professor, SBTS).  For full bios of the speakers, see here.

Discounted registration rates are now available for the conference and there is a special rate for students.  Students may receive a discounted rate by using the code: “8051974”.  For more information on the conference visit http://events.sbts.edu/andrewfuller.

An 18th Century Great Commission Resurgence

Dr. Michael Haykin is currently writing a series of articles for the state paper of Oklahoma Baptists on the 18th Century Great Commission Resurgence which launched the modern Baptist missionary movement.  The Baptist Messenger is edited by the very capable Douglas E. Baker.  The first two in the series are now online and others will be posted in the weeks ahead.

The first article looks at the conditions among 18th-century Baptists which made a Great Commission Resurgence necessary.  The second article focuses on the the Prayer Call of 1784 which preceded the move of God which we know as the dawn of the modern missionary movement.  It is hoped that these articles and the ones which follow might provide a historical perspective on a contemporary phenomenon, the Great Commission Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Registration Now Open for AFCBS Conference on “Baptist Spirituality”

Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary (August 24-25, 2009).  The theme this year is “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives”.  Featured speakers will include: Crawford Gribben, Robert Strivens, Greg Thornbury, Kevin Smith, Tom Nettles, Greg Wills, Gerald Priest, Jason Lee, and Malcolm Yarnell. Other established Baptist History scholars, as well as several Ph.D. students will be presenting papers on the conference theme during the parallel sessions.  A special early conference rate is now available through the end of May.  For more information about the conference, including schedule, registration costs, and the opportunity to register online, click here.

A New Issue of Eusebeia Available Soon

A new issue of Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is almost finished being edited and will be available soon. The following is the list of articles in the upcoming journal. All but two articles were presented at last year’s Annual Conference.

  • “A GREAT THIRST FOR READING”: ANDREW FULLER THE THEOLOGICAL READER by MICHAEL A.G. HAYKIN
  • ANDREW FULLER: HEIR OF THE REFORMATION by JEFFREY K. JUE
  • JOHN OWEN AND ANDREW FULLER by CARL R. TRUEMAN
  • ANDREW FULLER’S READING OF JOHN GILL by BARRY HOWSON
  • THE INFLUENCE OF JONATHAN EDWARDS ON ANDREW FULLER by THOMAS J. NETTLES
  • SENSE OF THE HEART: JONATHAN EDWARDS’ LEGACY IN THE WRITING OF ANDREW FULLER by CHRIS CHUN
  • CHRIST’S ABSOLUTE DETERMINATION TO SAVE: ANDREW FULLER AND PARTICULAR REDEMPTION by JEREMY PITTSLEY
  • ANDREW FULLER’S ORDINATION SERMONS by NIGEL WHEELER
  • THE LETTERS OF JOHN ERSKINE TO THE RYLANDS by JONATHAN YEAGER

I will be assuming the position of Managing Editor for Eusebeia with the next issue (#10).  Subscriptions for Eusebeia are available at the rates of $20 in North America or $30 outside North America.  Individual issues are available for $10.

For more information about receiving this issue, subscribing to Eusebeia, or attending this year’s conference (August 25-26, 2008 at SBTS) then contact me (Steve Weaver) at andrewfullercenter@sbts.edu.