“That He Might Find Access To Their Souls”

By Evan D. Burns

In a sermon delivered at the Old Jewry Chapel, London, on December 27, 1797, Andrew Fuller unpacked the implications of soul prosperity from the book of 3 John:  “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2).  Fuller’s sermon demonstrates his uncommon ability to wring out of a simple text every drop of biblical import and implication.  Outlined here are his observations of the prosperous soul:

What then are those marks of a prosperous soul which it behoves us to aspire after?

1)   A prosperous souls is one in whom the truth dwells, and dwells richly.

2)   The prosperous soul is a soul where the doctrinal and the practical parts of religion bear lovely proportion and are united.

3)   The prosperous soul is a soul in which is united a happy mixture of the retired and the active—a happy attention to the duties of retirement mingled with an equal attention to the duties of active life.

4)   The prosperous soul may be known by this, that it is accompanied by a good degree of public spirit, and largeness of heart.

5)   The prosperous soul is dispossessed of an ambitious spirit—it is meek and lowly.

The standard which prosperity of soul affords to our safety in prosperity of other kinds [is]:

1)   That prosperity of soul makes prosperity of other kind safe.

2)   With prosperity of soul, the general good is promoted.[1]

Fuller’s concluding appeal is for his hearers to be prosperous in soul for the sake of being evangelical in action.  He sees mercy ministry as the door that opens the soul to prosper with the balm of the gospel.

To this I may add, that the relieving of men’s bodies to get access to their minds is a primitive and an excellent practice. The Son of God himself—and who can doubt that he had access wherever he pleased?—has set us the example; he went among the poor, the blind, the lame, the diseased. He mingled himself with them, and healed their bodies, that he might find access to their souls. The Almighty God, in human nature, would not overturn the laws of humanity; his desire was to establish and sanctify them. Let us operate by a system he himself has established, and do good to the bodies of men with a view to obtain access to their minds, thus relieving the temporal wants of the afflicted poor, and administering the balm of consolation unto the wounded spirit.[2]

[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 405-08.

[2]The Complete Works, 1:409.  


Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.