The 259th anniversary of Andrew Fuller’s birthday and his place in the dictionaries

After the death of Andrew Fuller in 1815, one of his friends, Robert Hall, Jr., the son of Fuller’s mentor, the elder Robert Hall, was dining with a John Greene not far from the place of Fuller’s birth in the fens of East Anglia. “Do you remember, sir,” Hall asked Greene, “what occurred at his [i.e., Fuller’s] birth?” Greene, who was a lot younger than either Hall or Fuller, had no idea what Hall was referring to. “Why, sir,” Hall told him, “the fen-ditches were all convulsed, the earth shook to its very centre, and the devils ran frightened to one corner of hell”![1] Greene appears to be the only source for these curious remarks, a kind of Gothic description of the impact of Fuller’s thought on his fellow Baptists, and more broadly, on the world of Evangelical thought and action. Such is a right estimate of the impact and importance of Fuller in his day, as a variety of dictionary entries over the past century bear witness. I spent three hours today, from roughly 4:30pm to about 7:30pm, photocopying a variety of dictionary entries on Fuller that bespoke his significance, from the famous eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1910) to a recent piece by Jeffrey Anderson in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (2011).  A couple of entries stood out.

First, that by E.F. Clipsham in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), in which an early figure in the renaissance of Fuller studies affirmed that Fuller was “unquestionably one of the outstanding evangelical leaders of his day.” The other was by an older Baptist historian, the renowned Albert Henry Newman, who rightly noted in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia (1908–1914) that Fuller’s impact “on American Baptists has been incalculable.”

Good cause to remember this dear brother and thank God for Andrew Fuller (which a number of us did at the Bristol Grille here in Louisville yesterday afternoon—see previous post).

[1] John Greene, Reminiscences of the Rev. Robert Hall, A.M. in Olinthus Gregory and Joseph Belcher, eds., The Works of the Rev. Robert Hall, A.M. (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1854), 26–27, n.§.