Ever since Eustace Carey, the missionary nephew of William Carey (1761-1834), brought out his biography of his famous uncle two years after his death [Memoir of William Carey, D.D. (London: Jackson and Walford, 1836)], there has been a never-ending stream of books and articles about the man who has been hailed as “the father of modern missions.” Far too many of these studies, though, have been simply interested in Carey the missionary activist and have really done very little to probe the theological taproot from whence sprang his missionary endeavours, namely his evangelical Calvinism. If they had done so, the name of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), his close friend and life-long supporter, would be much better known, for, as missiologist Harry R. Boer has observed, “Fuller’s insistence on the duty of all men everywhere to believe the gospel…played a determinative role in the crystallization of Carey’s missionary vision” [Pentecost and Missions (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1961), 24]. While there were a handful of biographies of Fuller in the nineteenth century—mostly written by friends, colleagues and family members—there was only one of any substance in the twentieth century [Gilbert Laws, Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: Carey Press, 1942)]. Thus, in an 1991 article entitled “Where Would We Be Without Staupitz?,” which appeared in Christianity Today and which looked at five unsung heroes behind five great church leaders, American church historian Bruce Shelley rightly included Fuller as “the unsung hero” behind Carey’s “pioneering missionary career in Asia.” [“Where Would We Be Without Staupitz?”, Christianity Today, 35, no.15 (December 16, 1991), 31].
Things have begun to change, though, and within the past three years there has been a fresh biographical study of Fuller and a collection of essays exploring Fuller’s apologetical works. See Peter J. Morden, Offering Christ to the World: Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) and the Revival of Eighteenth-Century Particular Baptist Life (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K./Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Press, 2003) and Michael A. G. Haykin, ed., ‘At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word’: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K./Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Press, 2004).
There is also a project underway that hopes to see all of Fuller’s works, both previously published and unpublished, printed in a critical edition of some twelve volumes with the first volume to appear in December of this year. For more details, see my “THE ANDREW FULLER WORKS PROJECT” [Historia Ecclesiastica (http://mghhistor.blogspot.com) October 17, 2005]. Paternoster Press is planning on publishing this series in both cloth and paperback.
Hopefully, these new studies and fresh edition of his works will provide the basis for a growing interest in Fuller and his theology, and we will understood better why Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), no mean judge of Christian writers and theologians, once described Fuller as “the greatest theologian” of his century (cited Laws, Andrew Fuller, 127).