By Dustin Bruce
Every historian knows the rare joy of finding an unsuspected link to his or her primary research interest when engaging in a secondary research project. This recently happened to me as I found mentions of and quotations from Andrew Fuller (my primary research interest) in 19th century Baptist newspapers. Though the findings were not directly applicable to the project I was working on, I learned a great deal about Fuller’s reception among 19th century Baptists in the South and filed the articles away for later use.
To illustrate how 19th century Baptist papers were using Fuller, I would like to mention two articles taken from the Baptist Recorder, the North Carolina state paper. My main reason for highlighting the Baptist Recorder is the ease of doing research in the paper’s online database. Researching most state papers involves hours spent gazing at a microfilm machine, but here the Biblical Recorder has been digitized and rendered fully searchable from the years 1834-1970.
The first article I would like to highlight is entitled “Did Judas Partake of the Lord’s Supper” and appears in a June 29, 1844 issue of the Biblical Recorder.[i] In this article, the author addresses the question posed in the title by examining Fuller’s opinion on the topic. We learn a great deal about the esteem in which Fuller was held by the author’s remarks. He states, “Andrew Fuller, whose opinion, on all theological subjects, is entitled to great consideration, has answered this question in the negative.” He then follows with a summary of Fuller’s argument, capping the article off with a direct quotation taken from his works.[ii] Nearly thirty years after his death and across the Atlantic Ocean, Fuller’s opinion carried weight with Baptists of North Carolina.
The second article I would like to highlight comes from the September 9, 1885 issue and is entitled, “To What Causes in Ministers may Much of Their Want of Success be Imputed?”[iii] In this article, the author cites relevant portions of Fuller’s Memoirs[iv] in an effort to show “how little the world has changed in some respects in a hundred years.” After discussing the 1785 minister’s meeting associated with this piece, the author cites Fuller’s three main points to answer the question presented in the title. His answer is as follows:
1st. The want of personal religion; particularly the neglect of close dealing with God in closet prayer.
2nd. The want of reading and studying the Scriptures more as Christians for the edification of our souls. We are too apt to study them merely to find out something to say to others without living upon the truth ourselves. If we eat not the book, before we deliver its contents to others, we may expect the Holy Spirit will not much accompany us.
3rd. The want of being emptied of self-sufficiency. In proportion as we lean upon our own gifts or parts or preparations, we slight the Holy Spirit; no wonder that, being grieved, he should leave us to do our work alone. Besides when this is the case, it is, humanly speaking, unsafe for God to prosper us, especially those ministers who possess considerable ability.
Recognizing the religious climate had undergone some changes, the author added two more reasons of his own: a lack of ministerial sympathy for God’s people and the presence of a spirit of fear among ministers. Yet, it is clear that the name and ministry of Andrew Fuller resonated with at least a portion of the readership of the Biblical Recorder in 1885.
Fuller’s ministry remains just as instructive for Baptists today as it was for North Carolina Baptists in the 19th century. I look forward to the next time my primary research interest and my secondary research interests collide.
[i]Anemond, “Did Judas Partake of the Lord’s Supper,” The Biblical Recorder, vol. IX, no. 26, June 29, 1844: 2.
[ii]Andrew Gunton Fuller, “The Presence of Judas at the Lord’s Supper,” The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions – Miscellanies, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 473-74.
[iii]J.R. Jones, “To What Causes in Ministers may Much of Their Want of Success be Imputed?,” The Biblical Recorder, vol. 51, no. 10, September 9, 1885: 1.
[iv]Andrew Gunton Fuller, “Memoir,” The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 47.
Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.