Fuller’s “Lively Hope”

By Evan D. Burns

In a circular letter, entitled, “The Excellency and Utility of the Grace of Hope,” Andrew Fuller reasoned from Scripture to show that hope in eternal rest and reward energizes the minister today to be active in the Lord’s service.  In many ways, it sounds similar to John Piper’s call to faith in Future Grace.  The whole letter is excellent, and the two paragraphs below are especially encouraging excerpts:

HOPE, or an expectation of future good, is of so extensive an influence, that whether true or false, well or ill founded, it is one of the principal springs that keep mankind in motion. It is vigorous, bold, and enterprising. It causes men to encounter dangers, endure hardships, and surmount difficulties innumerable, in order to accomplish the desired end. In religion it is of no less consequence. It is claimed by almost all ranks and parties of men. It makes a considerable part of the religion of those that truly fear God; for though in all true religion there is and must be a love to God and Divine things for their own excellency, yet God, who knows our frame, and draws us with the cords of a man, condescends also to excite us with the promise of gracious reward, and to allure us with the prospect of a crown of glory….[1]

Moreover, as servants of God, you have a great work to do.—Though the meritorious part of your salvation has been long since finished, yet there is a salvation for you still to work out. By prayer, by patience, by watchfulness, and holy strife, you have to overcome the world, mortify sin, and run the race set before you. Hope is of excellent use in this great work. It is well denominated a “lively hope.” Its tendency is not to lull the soul asleep, but to rouse it to action. We trust, dear brethren, that the hope of which you are partakers will more and more animate your breasts with generous purposes, and prompt your souls to noble pursuits. For this you have the greatest encouragements surely that a God can give! God will employ none in his service without making it their inestimable privilege. They that plough for him shall plough in hope. Mansions of bliss stand ready to receive you, and crowns of unfading glory to reward you; therefore, beloved brethren, “be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”[2]

Fuller saw hope in future reward has eminently useful for active labour in the Lord’s service.  We labour heartily in our Master’s vineyard because he assures us that we will eat at table with him and enjoy the wine of his inheritance.  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24).

[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 308-09.

[2] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 314.


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