Andrew Fuller: A Model for Faithfully Presenting Christ and for Love to World Mission

Andrew Fuller (6 February 1754 – 7 May 1815) was an English Particular Baptist minister and theologian. In his funeral sermon John Ryland jr. described him as the perhaps the most judicious and able theological writer that ever belonged to our (Calvinistic Baptist; PdV) denomination. Charles Haddon Spurgeon acknowledged that he was greatly helped by the writings of Fuller to articulate both the sovereignty of God and the free offer of the gospel. He considered him as the greatest theologian of the nineteenth century.

Together with William Carey, the pioneer of the modern mission movement, and John Ryland jr. Andrew Fuller belonged to a circle of Particular Baptist ministers in England who very greatly influenced by the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards. In the 18th century most the Particular Baptists were more or less hyper-Calvinistic in the orientation of their theology. They confessed that salvation is by grace, sovereign grace alone, but thought that because of that you could not say that faith and repentance may and must be preached as duties to unbelievers. The offer and invitations of grace to unbelievers were not or very veiled heard in their preaching.

By reading the works of Jonathan Edwards came to understand that the inability of man has a moral nature. Unbelief must be preached as guilt. In 1785 he published The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Together with the understanding the offer of the gospel comes to all its hearers Fuller and his spiritual brothers got a mind for mission. William Carey went out to India and Fuller became the first secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society.

Besides the battle with hyper-Calvinism, or as Fuller himself called it high Calvinism, he warned against what has been called Sandemanianism. Sandemaninanism has got its name from the Scottish congregationalist preacher Robert Sandeman (1718-1771). He taught that justifying faith is just the passive’s mind persuasion that the gospel is true. Sandeman wanted in his own way to protect the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but he did not see that we need the regenerating work of the Hoy Spirit to act faith and stripped faith of its experiential element. It became a pure intellectual faith devoid of all emotions. Fuller emphasized that a living faith is a faith that lives in the heart. It means that the sinner comes to Christ, flees to Christ and seeks refuge in Christ. He feared the deadening influence of Sandemanianism for spiritual life.

John Piper, founder and teacher of desiring God and for more than thirty years pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, wrote a helpful booklet on Fuller. He highlights the vital link between doctrinal faithfulness and a healthy spiritual life pointing especially to love for world mission. Piper rightly states that we can learn from Fuller’s life that the exegetical and doctrinal defense of true justifying faith and true gospel preaching is not a hinder but an advance for the cause of gospel.

Piper also points to the remarkable fact his extraordinary suffering (he lost his first wife and eight children) did not hinder him to work abundantly in the vineyard of the Lord. It makes his faithful perseverance more astonishing. Piper finishes his booklet on Piper with an exhortation to all Christians and especially to pastors to devote themselves to experiencing Christ in the gospel biblically and authentically. Fuller is here a helpful model for us.

John Piper, Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission, Foreword by Michael A.G. Haykin (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016), paperback 64 pp., $8,99 (ISBN 9781433551895)

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