When a Friend Dies: A Funeral Sermon for Andrew Fuller

By Dustin Benge

The day before his forty-second birthday, May 21, 1815, Joseph Ivimey, arrived to preach his usual Sunday sermon at the Baptist church at Eagle Street, London. This Lord’s day at Eagle Street stood in marked contrast to all the rest. Ivimey would not deliver his usual exposition, but instead, would reflect on the memory of his dear friend and fellow BMS member, Andrew Fuller. Fuller, pastor of Kettering Baptist Church, Northamptonshire, died at Kettering, about eleven o’clock on the Lord’s day morning, May 7, 1815, at sixty-two years of age. The English Baptist world began to lament his death with several sermons being preached marking the loss of this great stalwart of gospel zeal. Ivimey mounted the pulpit on May 21, no doubt with much heaviness in his heart, to preach a sermon entitled, The Perpetual Intercession of Christ for His Church: A Source of Consolation Under the Loss of Useful Ministers.

Ordained as pastor of Eagle Street in 1805, Ivimey had occupied the same pulpit for 10 years and became one of the leading forces of the English Baptist denomination. Biographer, George Prichard, said of Ivimey in 1835, “he was a warm friend and zealous advocate of missionary enterprise.”[1] It was this zeal for the missionary enterprise that lead him to his first acquaintance with the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, Andrew Fuller, while Fuller was visiting London in 1807 on official BMS fund-raising business. The following years would be marked by frequent correspondence and communication between these two growing friends. In 1812, Ivimey would be invited by Fuller to become apart of the executive management of the BMS. On April 19, 1814 the Baptist Society for Promoting the Gospel in Ireland was formed. Ivimey was the first secretary (an honorary office); he visited Ireland in May 1814, and retained the secretaryship till October 3, 1833. Ivimey died on February 8, 1834, and was buried on at Bunhill Fields in London. A little before his departure he was reported to have said, "Not a wave of trouble rolls across my peaceful breast." The legacy of Joseph Ivimey is seen most vividly in his four volume, A History of the English Baptists, for which he is most widely known.

The Perpetual Intercession of Christ for His Church is not ostentatious flattery, but on the contrary, is a humble reflection of an eminent figure of theological and pastoral stature, as well as a dear friend. The sermon climaxes with a careful analysis of the honorable and godly character of Andrew Fuller. Character that was attested to by many. Ivimey describes his personal inadequacy to fully describe such a man’s character. He says, “It may, however, be said of him, as it was of Barnabas: He was a good man.” Regarding Fuller’s view and practice of friendship, Ivimey says, “To those who were indulged with his friendship, he felt and manifested tender affection.”

Ivimey’s words weave a portrait of a man who loved Christ, loved the gospel, and gave his life in the advance of the Kingdom of Christ with the assistance of many dear friends. Ivimey speaks of a man who admits time and time again, that his work could never have been accomplished had it not been for the undergirding of friends. Ivimey says, “Surely, the language of David, concerning Abner, “Know ye not, that a prince, and a great man, is fallen this day in Israel?” May, without any impropriety, be applied to the late Andrew Fuller.”

                [1] George Pritchard, Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Joseph Ivimey (London: George Wightman, 1835) 82.


Dustin Benge serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Kentucky. He is also a PhD candidate at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a junior fellow at The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. Dustin and his wife, Molli, live in Jackson.