By David E. Prince
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) is best known for his robust defense of the free offer of the gospel to all people. His book, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, influenced William Carey and others, and it can be rightly considered the foundational theological document that helped launched the modern missions movement. The man C.H. Spurgeon referred to as, “The greatest theologian of his century,” was a local church pastor who unceasingly wed doctrine to practice.
In August 1803, Fuller delivered a sermon on “Christian Patriotism” to his congregation at the Baptist Church of Kettering. His sermon, based upon Jeremiah 29:7 (“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it”), sought to help his congregation understand their Christian duty during a time of crisis. Many English citizens feared an imminent French invasion led by Napoléon Bonaparte. As a Particular Baptist dissenter, Fuller spoke about the Christian’s duty as a citizen from the cultural margins of English society and not from a seat of cultural power.
Christians in America are assuming the role of prophetic minority at breakneck speed, and we would do well to heed Fuller’s biblical gospel wisdom. The former conservative Christian Moral Majority voting block is a relic of a bygone era. Fuller’s biblical call to serve the kingdom of Christ as good citizens who seek the welfare of our country transcends whether we like or dislike the current governmental regime.
According to Fuller, seeking the welfare of our nation means we must have the courage to pursue justice and speak out about governmental faults, but though we must complain, we must not become complainers. And when we do speak out against the ruling authority, we should do so with both regret and respect. Consider some helpful portions of Fuller’s sermon I have excerpted below:
We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.
Seek the peace of the city. The term rendered peace signifies not merely an exemption from wars and insurrections, but prosperity in general. It amounts, therefore, to saying, seek the good or welfare of the city. Such, brethren, is the conduct required of us, as men and as Christians. We ought to be patriots, or lovers of our country.
If my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of mankind, let it be unprosperous!
To prevent mistakes, however, it is proper to observe that the patriotism required of us is not that love of our country, which clashes with universal benevolence, or which seeks its prosperity at the expense of the general happiness of mankind. Such was the patriotism of Greece and Rome; and such is that of all others where Christian principle is not allowed to direct it. Such, I am ashamed to say, is that with which some have advocated the cause of Negro slavery. It is necessary, forsooth, to the wealth of this country! No; if my country cannot prosper but at the expense of justice, humanity, and the happiness of mankind, let it be unprosperous!
Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults I will seek thy good
The prosperity which we are directed to seek in behalf of our country involves no ill to anyone, except to those who shall attempt its overthrow. Let those who fear not God, nor regard man, engage in schemes of aggrandizement, and let sorted parasites pray for their successes. Our concern is to cultivate that patriotism which harmonizes with good-will to men. Oh my country, I will lament thy faults! Yet, with all thy faults I will seek thy good; not only as a Briton, but as a Christian: "for my brethren and companions sakes, I will say, Peace be within the: because of the house of the Lord my God, I will seek thy good!"
A dutiful son may see a fault in a father; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him
If we seek the good of our country, we shall certainly do nothing, and join in nothing, that tends to disturb the peace, or hinder its welfare. Whoever engages in plots and conspiracies to overthrow its constitution, we shall not. Whoever deals in inflammatory speeches, or in any manner sows the seeds of discontent and disaffection, we shall not. Whoever labors to deprecate its governors, supreme or subordinate, in a manner tending to bring government itself into contempt, we shall not.
Even in cases wherein we may be compelled to disapprove of measures, we shall either be silent, or express our disapprobation with respect and with regret. A dutiful son may see a fault in a father; but he will not take pleasure in exposing him. He that can employ his wit in degrading magistrates is not their friend, but their enemy; and he that is an enemy to magistrates is not far from being an enemy to the magistracy, and, of course, to his country. A good man may be aggrieved; and, being so, may complain. Paul did so at Philippi. But the character of a complainer belongs only to those who walk after their own lusts.
It becomes Christians to bear positive good-will to their country, and to its government, considered as government
If we seek the good of our country, we shall do everything in our power to promote its welfare. We shall not think it sufficient that we do it no harm, or that we stand still as neutrals, in its difficulties. If, indeed, our spirits be tainted with disaffection, we shall be apt to think we do great things by standing aloof from conspiracies, and refraining from inflammatory speeches; but this is no more than maybe accomplished by the greatest traitor in the land, merely as a matter of prudence. It becomes Christians to bear positive good-will to their country, and to its government, considered as government, irrespective of the political party which may have the ascendancy.
In cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives in its defense
We may have our preferences, and that without blame; but they ought never to prevent the cheerful obedience to the laws, a respectful demeanor towards those who frame and those who execute them, or a ready co-operation in every measure which the being or well-being of the nation may require. The civil power, whatever political party is uppermost, while it maintains the great ends of government, ought, at all times, to be able to reckon upon religious people as its cordial friends; and if such we be, we shall be willing, in times of difficulty, to sacrifice private interest to public good; shall contribute of our substance without murmuring; and, in cases of imminent danger, shall be willing to expose even our lives in its defense.
[The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, vol. 1, ed. Joseph Belcher (Sprinkle publications): 204-205.]
This article originally appeared at the Ethics and Religious Liberty website on March 6, 2015. http://erlc.com/article/a-christians-duty-to-county-and-the-injustice-of-racism-lessons-from-andrew
David E. Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY.
By Steve Weaver
A few days ago, Brian Croft posted an article with ten lessons that he learned during a recent sabbatical from studying Andrew Fuller. He writes about his experience:
One of my goals for my sabbatical last year was to study the life and ministry of the 18th century English particular Baptist Pastor, Andrew Fuller. Now that my time away has ended and feels so long ago, I thought I would still share about my findings. After a few books read, portions of the 3 volume works read, and a very meaningful breakfast with Michael Haykin and Jeremy Walker (friends and Fuller experts) discussing Fuller, the blessing of studying this faithful man of God exceeded my expectations.
I was so blessed and learned so much that it would be unwise to try and share all the ways I was impacted. However, as a steward and discipline to my time of study, I have summarized ten lessons that I learned from Andrew Fuller’s life that will impact my pastoral ministry from this moment on. Because of this, I thought I would share them with you with the hopes you will be challenged in the same way I was and as a result, might be moved to dig deeper into this man’s life.
Croft gave the following lessons for modern pastors from Fuller in no particular order:
- Affirm a needed process to affirm pastors for pastoral ministry.
- Maintain the essential call for clear, faithful, and unwavering precision on the atonement.
- See the value of close, transparent, and life-long pastoral friendships.
- Embrace the opportunity for pastoral networks and associations.
- Keep the value of formal theological education in its proper perspective.
- Be steadfast in the primary focus between seekers/saints in the public gathering.
- Trust God’s unique purposes in the suffering of pastors.
- See the value of pastoral leadership outside a pastor’s individual local church.
- Be cautious to carefully balance family and ministry.
- Be wise to delegate responsibility.
Pastor Croft elaborates on each of these lessons in his original article. He also provides a list of resources that were helpful to him during his study of Fuller. Croft's study of Fuller was clearly edifying for his spiritual life and ministry. I commend a similar study by other pastors for your own enrichment and encouragement.
Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 15. You can read more from Steve at his personal website: Thoughts of a Pastor-Historian.
By Michael A.G. Haykin
A month or so before the seizure of the Bastille in 1789, an association of English Particular Baptist churches in the West Country met, as was their annual wont, for two days of worship and fellowship. This annual meeting on this occasion—June 3–4, 1789—took place at Horsley, Gloucs., where the redoubtable Benjamin Francis was the pastor. On such occasions as these, a circular letter would be drawn up by one of the pastors; then, when approved by the association messengers, it would be sent out to the churches. On this particular occasion Caleb Evans, the Principal of Bristol Baptist Academy, was asked to write the letter.
Among other comments in the letter, which was aimed at refuting especially Antinomianism, although Socinianism was also targeted, was Evans’ critique of what he called a “poisonous doctrine”: “That as God’s love to his people is from everlasting, it must have existed when they were sunk in sin and sensuality, in as high a degree, and in the same manner, as it will be when they are brought to glory” (The Elders, Ministers, and Messengers of the Several Baptist Churches [Circular Letter, Western Association, 1789], 8). Evans called this perspective—usually associated in that era with hyper-Calvinism—an “ignorant, shocking doctrine” and proceeded to refute it. Little did he know the firestorm his remarks would create.
Within the year, one of his fellow pastors in the Western Association, the minister of Chard, Samuel Rowles, attacked Evans in his Thoughts on the Love of God, which led to a reply from Evans and then a surrejoinder by Rowles. And to make things even more difficult the London minister William Huntington also entered the lists against Evans.
Reading over Evans’ circular letter just recently, it struck me that although Andrew Fuller is remembered as the great theologian of this era—David Bebbington once referred to him as a theologian of the caliber of Athanasius—he was surrounded by many capable men: such a man was Caleb Evans.
Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.
By Nathan A. Finn
In recent months, a debate has been stirring mostly among our conservative Presbyterian friends over antinomianism, or the idea that because believers live under grace God’s moral law should not be considered an appointed means used in our sanctification. Most antinomians are not libertines (a common misperception), but because they downplay the necessity of good works in the life of a Christian, mainstream Reformed believers argue that antinomian views do lead to a stunted understanding of sanctification.
The Reformed version of antinomianism (there are many versions of this particular error) that has often appeared among Calvinists argues against the necessity of the moral law based upon a fatalistic view of predestination and/or a too-sharp distinction between law and gospel. PCA pastor-theologian Mark Jones’s new book Antinomianism retraces the history of Reformed antinomianism and makes some contemporary application. In fact, Jones’s comments about some well-known Calvinist pastors, especially Tullian Tchividjian, have played a key role in bringing the current controversy to a head. You can read more about the dust-up at The Gospel Coalition, Reformation 21, and Tchividjian’s website. For a timely and edifying word that is inspired by this controversy, see Nick Batzig’s excellent blog post “Dangers of Theological Controversy.”
Once upon a time, the English Calvinists Baptists faced their own kerfuffle over antinomianism. Robert Oliver discusses this topic at length in his book History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771-1892: From John Gill to C.H. Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 2006). This issue played a key role in the separation of the Strict and Particular Baptists from the majority Particular Baptist movement during the first half of the eighteenth century. Among Particular Baptists, there was often a connection between antinomianism and High Calvinism, though this wasn’t always the case.
Andrew Fuller wrote against the Reformed version of antinomianism in a posthumously published treatise titled Antinomianism Contrasted with the Religion Taught and Exemplified in the Holy Scriptures (1816). Fuller’s treatise can be found in the second volume of the “Sprinkle Edition” of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller. Fuller argued that antinomianism is, at root, a species of spiritual selfishness that is concerned more with the spiritual benefits of the faith than a wholehearted devotion to Lord that is evidenced, in part, though the pursuit of ongoing spiritual maturity.
For an excellent introduction to Fuller’s critique of antinomianism, check out Mark Jones’s plenary address on that topic from last fall’s Andrew Fuller Center Conference.
Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.
By Evan D. Burns
The Puritan John Owen argued that preachers must have “experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls.... A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.” So his resolution was: “I hold myself bound in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, ‘I have believed, and therefore I have spoken.’”
Would that the Holy Spirit raise up more preachers who would resolve never to preach a text unless they have already tasted its spiritual sense.
 Owen, Works, XVI: 76.
 Works, X: 488.
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.
By Steve Weaver
Audio of this year's conference, Andrew Fuller & His Controversies, is now available online for free streaming or MP3 download. The conference, which was held on September 27-28, 2013, featured speakers such as Paul Helm, Mark Jones, Tom Nettles, Nathan Finn and other scholars. You may access the audio for the conference here. Audio of previous conferences is available by clicking on "Conference" on this website's left sidebar. On the conference page, you may choose from previous conferences on the right sidebar. Most of these include the audio of all sessions for free streaming or MP3 download.
Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 2 and 14.
By Dustin Bruce
With the Fuller Conference coming up later this month, I thought I would present you with five reasons to consider attending this year’s conference. Thanks to Dustin Benge for contributing a number of these.
1. Engage first-class scholarship in the field of Baptist studies. The Andrew Fuller Center exists to further historical research and interest in the field of Baptist history, theology, and related disciplines. The annual conference, which features a number of distinguished speakers, serves as one way we try and do this. This year, you can hear notable scholars such as Paul Helm, Mark Jones, Tom Nettles, Nathan Finn, and more.
2. Equip yourself to face current controversy from a historical perspective. The Fuller Conference is not just for scholars. At The Andrew Fuller Center, what we care about most is the church. With every conference, we aim to empower ministers and lay leaders to serve more effectively in the context of local Baptist churches.
This year is no different. What church does not face controversy from time to time? If you are a ministry leader, come learn how to handle questions on hyper-Calvinism, Arminianism, and eschatology from a historical perspective.
There is truly nothing new under the sun. Controversies don’t die; they just reappear under a different name. You may have never heard the term ‘Socinianism,’ but listening to Dr. Nettles on the topic will guide your approach to dealing with its modern counterpart, Unitarianism. The same could be said about Deism, Socinianism, and more.
3. Engross yourself into another century. Evangelicals all too often fall into what C.S. Lewis described as “Chronological Snobbery,” the penchant to automatically discredit ideas from the past and uncritically accept contemporary thought. At the Andrew Fuller Conference, you will have the opportunity to leave the twenty-first century and travel back to the eighteenth-century. In doing so, you may just find that much of what you assume to be true is false (and vice-versa).
4. Enjoy the close fellowship of a smaller conference. At The Andrew Fuller Center, we thank God for giant conferences that bring together thousands to extol the riches of God’s grace through preaching and song. Yet, this is not our aim. At the Fuller Conference, our intention is to create a thriving environment of brotherly affection centered on the gospel. With our smaller size and more pointed focus, we think we do just that. Come join us and enjoy the fellowship of godly men and women in a smaller, more intimate conference setting.
5. Experience the campus of Southern Seminary. The Andrew Fuller Center has the great benefit of being located on the beautiful campus of Southern Seminary. Come join us and enjoy the amenities of The Legacy Hotel and Conference Center while enjoying Southern’s 80-acre campus located in the Cherokee Park section of Louisville, KY. Close to everything Louisville has to offer, the Fuller Conference would pair great with a family trip to this historical city.
We hope you will join us at the 7th annual Andrew Fuller Conference. If you have any questions, contact:
The Office of Event Productions
Phone: (502) 897-4072
The Andrew Fuller Center
Phone: (502) 897-4613
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.
By Dustin W. Benge
In his first sermon as president of the College of New Jersey (1768–94; now Princeton University), John Witherspoon (1722–1794) affirmed that "true religion in the heart is of far greater importance to the success and efficacy of the ministry than eminence or gifts." He enlarged on it, for example, in his Lectures on Eloquence. He had no hesitation as to what ought to be at the beginning of the list of "the qualities of most importance" for the preaching of the gospel:
1. Piety – To have a firm belief of that gospel he is called to preach, and a lively sense of religion upon his own heart.
2. It gives a man the knowledge that is of most service to a minister. Experimental knowledge is superior to all other, and necessary to the perfection of every other kind. It is indeed the very possession, or daily exercise of that which it is the business of his life, and the duty of his office, to explain and recommend. Experimental knowledge is the best sort in every branch, but it is necessary in divinity, because religion is what cannot be truly understood, unless it is felt.
3. True piety will direct a man in the choice of his studies. The object of human knowledge is so extensive, that nobody can go through the whole, but religion will direct the student to what may be most profitable to him, and will also serve to turn into its proper channel all the knowledge he may otherwise acquire.
4. It will be a powerful motive to diligence in his studies. Nothing so forcible as that in which eternity has a part. The duty to a good man is so pressing, and the object so important, that he will spare no pains to obtain success.
5. True religion will give unspeakable force to what a minister says. There is a piercing and penetrating heat in that which flows from the heart, which distinguishes it both from the coldness of indifference, and the false fire of enthusiasm and vain-glory. We see that a man is truly pious has often esteem, influence, and success, though his parts may be much inferior to others, who are more capable, but less conscientious. If, then, piety makes even the weakest venerable, what must it do when added to the finest natural talents, and the best acquired endowments?
6. It adds to a minister’s instruction, the weight of his example. It is a trite remark, that example teaches better than precept. It is often a more effectual reprimand to vice, and a more inciting argument to the practice of virtue, than the best of reasoning. Example is more intelligible than precept. Precepts are often involved in obscurity, or wrapped by controversy; but a holy life immediately reaches, and takes possession of the heart.
…observe, as the conclusion of the whole, that one devoted to the service of the gospel should be really, visibly, and eminently holy.
 John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh, 1815), 5:160.
 John Witherspoon, "Ministerial Character and Duty" in The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1800), 2:285.
By Evan D. Burns
In a sermon on Proverbs 14:8, Andrew Fuller looked long and hard at the virtue of godly wisdom. He extracted many helpful principles from this verse, and one of the most insightful comments he made was how to use the Word of God in getting wisdom. He says that the Word functions in two main ways in teaching us wisdom. It shows us what the destructive end will be of folly, from which wisdom deters us. Moreover, he makes an amazing observation about wisdom—the eye of wisdom should not chiefly look to the negative consequence of folly in order to avoid it; rather, the eye of wisdom should zealously fix its sight on Christ who is worthy of its gaze. Such Christ-enamored wisdom is cultivated through meditation and prayer.
We shall read the oracles of God: the doctrines for belief, and the precepts for practice; and shall thus learn to cleanse our way by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word. It will moreover induce us to guard against the dangers of the way. We shall not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, nor of the numerous temptations to which our age, times, circumstances, and propensities expose us. It will influence us to keep our eye upon the end of the way. A foolish man will go that way in which he finds most company, or can go most at his ease; but wisdom will ask, “What shall I do in the end thereof?” To understand the end of the wrong way will deter; but to keep our eye upon that of the right will attract. Christ himself kept sight of the joy that was set before him. Finally, as holy wisdom possesses the soul with a sense of propriety at all times, and upon all occasions, it is therefore our highest interest to obtain this wisdom, and to cultivate it by reading, meditation, prayer, and every appointed means.
Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 465-66.
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.