Fuller on Defending the Faith

Fuller defending faithBy David E. Prince “The struggle between religion and irreligion has existed in the world in all ages; and if there be two opposite interests which divide its inhabitants, the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God, it is reasonable to expect that the contest will continue till one of them be exterminated. The peaceful nature of Christianity does not require that we should make peace with its adversaries ,    or cease to repel their attacks, or even that we should act merely on the defensive. On the contrary, we are required to make use of those weapons of the Divine warfare with which we are furnished, for the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

The opposition of the present age has not been confined to the less important points of Christianity, nor even to its first principles: Christianity itself is treated as an imposture. The same things, it is true, have been advanced, and as frequently repelled, in former ages; but the adversaries of the gospel of late, encouraged it should seem by the temper of the times, have renewed the attack with redoubled vigor […].

One thing which has contributed to the advantage of infidelity, is the height to which political disputes have arisen, and the degree in which they have interested the passions and prejudices of mankind. Those who favour the sentiments of a set of men in one thing, will be in danger of thinking favourably of them in others; at least, they will not be apt to view them in so ill a light, as if they had been advanced by persons of different sentiments in other things as well as in religion. It is true, there may be nothing more friendly to infidelity in the nature of one political system than another; nothing that can justify professing Christians in accusing one another merely on account of a difference of this kind, of favoring the interest of atheism and irreligion: nevertheless it becomes those who think favourably of the political principles of infidels to take heed, lest they be insensibly drawn away to think lightly of religion. All the nations of the earth, and all the disputes on the best or worst modes of government, compared with this, are less than nothing and vanity.

To this it may be added, that the eagerness with which men engage in political disputes, take which side they may, is unfavourable to a zealous adherence to the gospel. Any mere worldly object, if it become the principal thing which occupies our thoughts and affections, will weaken our attachment to religion; and if once we become cool and indifferent to this, we are in the high road to infidelity. There are cases, no doubt, relating to civil government, in which it is our duty to act, and that with firmness; but to make such things the chief object of our attention, or the principal topic of our conversation, is both sinful and injurious. Many a promising character in the religious world has, by these things, been utterly ruined.

The writer of the following pages is not induced to offer them to the public eye from an apprehension that the Church of Christ is in danger. Neither the downfall of popery, nor the triumph of infidels, as though they had hereby overturned Christianity, have ever been to him the cause of a moment’s uneasiness. If Christianity be of God, as he verily believes it to be, they cannot overthrow it. He must be possessed of but little faith who can tremble, though in a storm, for the safety of the vessel which contains his Lord and Master. There would be one argument less for the divinity of the Scriptures, if the same powers which gave existence to the antichristian dominion had not been employed in taking it away. But though truth has nothing to fear, it does not follow that its friends should be inactive; if we have no apprehensions for the safety of Christianity, we may, nevertheless, feel for the rising generation. The Lord confers an honour upon his servants in condescending to make use of their humble efforts in preserving and promoting his interest in the world. If the present attempt may be thus accepted and honoured by Him, to whose name it is sincerely dedicated, the writer will receive a rich reward.”

Excerpt From “The Gospel Its Own Witness”, 1799

Fuller, Andrew,  The Works of Andrew Fuller. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007.

Book review: William of Orange

William of Orange book coverDaniel R. Horst,William of Orange, trans. Lynne Richards (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2013), 70 pages. To a reader acquainted with English history rather than that of the Netherlands, the name William of Orange recalls the Dutch prince who played the key role in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and became England’s William III. The subject of this small monograph, however, is the great-grandfather of the English king and is often known as William the Silent (1533–1584). This William was the central figure in the Dutch Protestant revolt against the Spanish Hapsburgs in the late sixteenth century and also has the dubious distinction of being the first head of state assassinated by a handgun. William died at the hand of a fanatical Roman Catholic Balthasar Gerards, who shot him in the chest with two pistols in the Prinsenhof, Delft, on July 10, 1584.

Horst’s monograph focuses on the portraits and statuary associated with the assassinated prince from the painting by Cornelis Anthonisz when William was twelve to his funerary monument to various prints and paintings done after his death (even including a 2007 poster relating to the integration of Morroccans into Amsterdam culture). Horst illuminates the way this art reflects the Dutch culture of the time and the way William became an icon of liberty. William’s tomb, for instance, is a stone illustration of the “frugality and humility” of the regnant Dutch Calvinism (p.49). Along the way, Horst gives the reader an excellent overview of the history of the Netherlands in one of the most important periods of Dutch history as well as a superb illustration of the importance of art in reading history (the lavish illustrations make the book a delight to read).

One point made by Horst, however, stuck this reader as questionable but all too typical of modern historians. The sculptor Hendrik de Keyser (1565–1621), arguably the most important Dutch architect of the time, was commissioned to build William’s tomb. De Keyser was also responsible for designing three of the oldest Protestant churches in Amsterdam—the Zuiderkerk, Noorderkerk, and the Westerkerk. But Horst believes De Keyser’s design and supervision of the construction of Amsterdam’s stock exchange was the most important task he accomplished for this structure was central to this city’s growth into a world mercantile power (p.42). Many of De Keyser’s contemporaries would certainly have disagreed: their Calvinist faith was absolutely central to their resistance to the Spanish.

Albeit a minor point, this is a mistake common to many contemporary historians: religious convictions are not important to many in the modern world, or are seen as a screen for deeper convictions, and so the assumption is unconsciously made that the same is true of the past. But while the remarkable growth of the Netherlands as an economic power in this era is key to the Dutch “Golden Era,” so is Dutch Reformed theology and the houses of worship in which such theology was fleshed out. Whatever the faith commitment of men and women in the modern-day Netherlands (and large numbers are atheists), the history of this nation cannot be explained without taking into serious consideration the centrality of the Christian Faith to the Dutch men and women of the past.

Michael A.G. Haykin

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Andrew Fuller Fridays: Fuller on Passages That Seem Contradictory (2 Tim. 3:12 & Prov. 16:7)

By David E. Prince “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”—2 Tim. 3:12.

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”—Prov. 16:7.

Some consideration is required for the difference of times. It was the genius of the Old Testament, more than of the New, to connect obedience to God with temporal prosperity; and therefore that might be said under the one which would be less applicable under the other.

It is allowed, however, that this is not sufficient to solve the difficulty. There has always been the same radical enmity in general between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. He that was born after the flesh then, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; and so it is now. And by how much more spiritual the church at any time has been, by so much higher has the enmity arisen against them. It is also true under the gospel, as well as under the law, that where a man perseveres in righteousness and godliness, though he may have many enemies, yet their enmity shall frequently be prevented from hurting him, and even turned away from him into other channels. The truth seems to be, that neither of the above passages is to be taken universally.

The peace possessed by those who please God does not extend so far as to exempt them from having enemies; and though all godly men must in some form or other be persecuted, yet none are persecuted at all times. God has always given his people some seasons of rest. The former of these passages may, therefore, refer to the native enmity which true godliness is certain to excite, and the latter to the Divine control over it. The rod of the wicked must be expected to fall, but not to rest upon the lot of the righteous. Man’s wrath shall be let loose in a degree; but further than what is necessary for the praise of God it shall not go. It shall be suffered to shoot forth in measure; but God will debate with it. “He stayeth his rough wind in the da

The Serampore Form of Agreement

By Michael A. G. Haykin In recent studies on the Serampore Form of Agreement (1805), drawn up by William Ward and William Carey and signed by number of other missionaries, I came across this statement in the version I was using: “It was these truths [the doctrine of the cross] that filled the sermons of the modern Apostles, Whitefield, Wesley, etc., when the light of the Gospel which had been held up with such glorious effects by the Puritans was almost extinguished in England.” I got this version from “Wholseome Words: Worldwide Missions

The description of Whitefield and Wesley as “modern Apostles” struck me as odd as did the mention of Wesley. Andrew Fuller, the close friend of both Ward and Carey, regarded Wesley (wrongly, of course) as a crypto-Jesuit!

I decided to check out the original, which appeared in Periodical Accounts Relative to the Baptist Missionary Society 3 (1805):198–211. And sure enough this entire sentence is not there. What is there is this: “It was these truths which filled the sermons of the most useful men in the eighteenth century.” At some point—I suspect it is the 1874 edition that was published at Sermapore—this sentence was changed to the above. Neither Ward nor Carey would have regarded Wesley (rightly or wrongly) as one of “the most useful men in the eighteenth century. Though, interestingly enough, CH Spurgeon would have.

Andrew Fuller Friday: Fuller on Passages That Seem Contradictory (1 Jn 1:8 & 1 Jn 3:9)

imgresBy David E. Prince  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”—1 John 1:8.

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”—1 John 3:9.

It appears that the word sin, in these passages, is of different significations. In the former it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived, and that he has yet to learn what is true religion.

But in the latter, it seems, from the context, that the term is intended to denote the sin of apostacy. If we were to substitute the term apostacy for sin, from the sixth to the tenth verse, the meaning would be clear. Whoso abideth in him apostatizeth not: whosoever apostatizeth hath not seen him, neither known him.—He that is guilty of apostacy is of the devil; for the devil hath been an apostate from the beginning.—Whosoever is born of God doth not apostatize; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot apostatize, because he is born of God.

This sense of the latter passage perfectly agrees with what is said of the “sin unto death,” ver. 16–18. “There is a sin unto death.… We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” It also agrees with chap. 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Altogether, it affords what we might presume to call an incontestable proof of the certain perseverance of true believers.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

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David E. Prince is assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and is pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This article originally appeared on his blog, Prince on Preaching.