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Andrew Fuller was born on February 5, 1754 in Wicken, Cambridgeshire, England. He was the son of poor Baptist farmers. Because Fuller ministered during the same era as George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers it would be easy for his name to get lost in their giant shadows. He pastored two congregations during his life at Soham (1775-1782) and at Kettering (1782-1806). Christianity in England was in a generally depressed condition at the time to which Fuller was born. Particular Baptists had fallen into a hyper-Calvinism that denied the need to evangelize the lost or even to offer salvation to anyone<%=Application("WhoOn")%>
Arminianism, represented by General Baptists and the Wesleys, had relegated God to a secondary position behind mans free will. Needless to say missions to foreign lands did not exist as a result. After a false profession, Fuller finally came to saving faith in Christ as a young man. Like Jonathan Edwards, whom he read deeply, Fuller was a Calvinists who believed in an experiential religion. His salvation was very real in his life and faith. Writing many years after his conversion, he recalled his first real encounter with grace as though it had happened the day before:
"I now found rest for my troubled soul.. When I thought of the gospel way of salvation, I drank it in as cold water is imbibed by a thirsty man. My heart felt one with Christ, and dead to every other object around me ... I now knew experimentally what it was to be dead to the world by the cross of Christ..."1
Like Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller was a Biblical theologian driven by a pastors heart. His study into the nature of salvation and the Gospel call was fueled by his dealings with people in his congregation rather than by cold academic considerations. As a young pastor Fuller began to question the hyper-Calvinistic view of his day which rejected any gospel invitation to the lost. At his first church Fuller wrote:
"With respect to the system of doctrine which I had used to hear from youth, it was in the hyper-Calvinistic strain ... Abstinence from gross evils might be enforced. But nothing was said to them from the pulpit in the way of warning them to flee from the wrath to come, or inviting them to apply to Christ for salvation ... I began to doubt whether I had got the truth respecting this subject ... " 2
While never straying from the doctrines of Grace, Fuller came to see that such doctrines did not preclude offering the gospel to all men. He saw this offer of salvation in the writing of such a diverse group of men as Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John Bunyan, and David Brainerd. Beyond such men, Fuller saw in Scripture itself a firm insistence on freely preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men. Gilbert Laws notes that on moving away from hyper-Calvinism: "Fuller had followed what he found for himself in the Scriptures. He had dared to preach as John the Baptist preached and as the Master Himself had preached, and as the apostles preached, inviting and beseeching sinners to believe and live." 3
Andrew Fullers greatest work is The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. "It is the single merit of Andrew Fuller ... that he demonstrated that a man can be both a Calvinist and an Evangelical."4 Contrary to many modern arguments, holding to the Doctrines of Grace does not kill evangelism but rather grounds it solidly in Scripture. This work presented clearly Fullers belief that one could hold both to the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man at the same time. A good example of Fuller's beliefs on the subject of salvation can be found in his sermon, The Great Question Answered.
Perhaps Fullers greatest contribution to Christianity was to free us from the shackles of philosophical theology. Because many could not see any consistency between Gods sovereignty and mans responsibility they rejected one or the other. Fuller on the other hand, concluded that any lack of logic in such thinking was due to his own lacking, not Gods.
"The truth is, there are but two ways for us to take: one is to reject them both, and the Bible with them, on account of its inconsistencies; the other is to embrace them both, concluding that, as they are both revealed in Scriptures, they are both true and both consistent, and that is owing to the darkness of our understandings, that they do not appear so to us." 5
Andrew Fuller in no way rejected what could be called Calvinism. He tenaciously held to a sovereign work of God in calling those whom He alone elected. Fuller also reminded fellow Baptists and all Christians that regeneration precedes faith not vice-a-versa.
"Mans response to the invitation to repent and to come to Christ is not simply a wise human decision, a balancing of the arguments for and against, and thinking that those for are more cogent. The decision is itself a work of grace."6
Fullers theology was never relegated to the confines of sermons or books. Instead, he lived out his beliefs in the real world. No where is this better seen than in Fullers friendship with William Carrey, the first of modern-day foreign missionaries. Most Particular Baptist pastors had rejected Carreys call to missions but not Fuller. Carrey found in Fuller, the theological foundation for his own leaning toward missions. Fuller became, as Carrey called him, the rope holder. Carrey would go to India but Fuller and others would hold the other end of the rope that supported Carrey in England. The modern missions movement was thus grounded in the solid moorings of Gods grace:
"Andrew Fuller not only championed the cause of foreign missions but strongly defended the Doctrines of Grace. The modern foreign-mission movement was founded upon thoroughgoing commitment to the absolute sovereignty of God, coupled with uncompromising insistence upon the full responsibility of man. "7
"Andrew Fullers work made perhaps the most notable contribution towards providing a missionary theology and incentive for world evangelism in the midst of a people both Calvinistic and church oriented. He helped to link the earlier Baptists, whose chief concern was the establishment of ideal New Testament congregations, with those in the nineteenth century driven to make the gospel known worldwide. His contribution helped to guarantee that many of the leading Baptists of the 1800s would typify evangelism and world missions. Charles Spurgeon and J.P. Boyce would be fervent evangelical Calvinists " 8
The two previous quotes mark what makes Andrew Fuller so very important. He proved to his peers and Baptists to come that solid theology and evangelism go hand in hand. For that alone, we owe him a great debt!
1 Andrew Fuller by Gilbert Laws, DD., Carney Press: London, 1942, pp. 20-21.
2 ibid., pp. 27-28.
3 ibid., p. 34.
4 The Baptist Quarterly 15:195-202, 1954, p. 95.
5 Works, by Andrew Fuller, p. 168.
6 ibid., p. 506.
7 By His Grace and For His Glory by Thomas J. Nettles, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1986, p. 129.
8 Baptist Theologians by Timothy George and David S. Dockery, Broadman Press: Nashville, TN, 1990, pp. 132-133.
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