Andrew Fuller on "making that a first concern which is first"

On August 1, 1804, Andrew Fuller wrote to John Williams (1767-1825), a Welsh Baptist pastor who had emigrated to New York city, the following snippet in a larger letter having to do with the Serampore mission. This is a real gem, with which I am compelled to wholeheartedly agree: “We consider the mission to Bengal as the most favourable symptom attending our denomination. It confirms what has for some time been, with me, an important principle, that when any denomination, congregation, (or individual) seeks only its own, it will be disappointed: but where it seeks the kingdom of God and his righteousness, its own prosperity will be among the things that will be added unto it. I have seen great zeal for what among us is called the dissenting interest; and in such hands the dissenting interest has died. Had they sought more to make men Christians, they should in most cases have been dissenters of their own accord. In fact, I see that in those congregations where the main object is, what it should be, there religion flourishes. The same may be said of Baptists. If the first fruits of our zeal be laid out in making proselytes to that denomination, however right the thing may be in itself, the Lord will frown upon us, and leave us. But if we are mainly employed in making men Christians, we need not fear but they will be Baptists. It is of great consequence to pursue things according to their importance, making that a first concern which is first, and that a second which is secondary. In seeking the salvation of others, a man will man will find his own. He who is exalted as head over all things, obtained that glory by denying himself for the sake of others.”

[cited “Interesting Intelligence from India”, The Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Magazine, 1, no.4 (May 1805), 97–98].

Ten years ago I included this letter in my The armies of the Lamb: The spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, Ontario: Joshua Press, 2001), 193–195. But I was citing it from the original copy that was then in the American Baptist Historical Archives that was located in Rochester, NY, but has now relocated to Atlanta, GA. It impressed me then as containing real wisdom, and even more now do I conceive it to be vital to the health of a Christian community of association of churches. I think the principle that Fuller said was an “important” one to be still of great importance.