Note: This is a brief Memoir of the life of Andrew Fuller written a few months after his death. A more complete account of his life was written later and is here.
A Memoir of the Rev. Andrew Fuller
Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society
The Baptist Magazine, 1815
Mr. Andrew Fuller, was born February 6th, 1754 at Wicken, a village in Cambridgeshire, seven miles from Ely, and about the same distance from Newmarket; in which village his paternal ancestors had. resided from time immemorial.
His father, Robert Fuller, was a farmer: he removed in 1758 from Wicken to Mildenhall; in 1761, to Soham; in 1773, to Bottisham, until which time, his son Andrew assisted him in his business; and, in 1780, to Isleham; places at no great distance from each other; in each of which he rented a small farm, and at the last of which he died, in January 1781, aged 58.
His mother, Philippa, daughter of Mr. Andrew Gunton, a farmer at Soham, is a member of the Baptist Church there, but has resided for many years at Kettering. She survives to lament his loss, but hopes to dwell for ever with him, in a better world. She had in all three children; two of whom are still living; viz. Mr. Robert Fuller, a farmer at Isleham; born in 1747; and Mr. John Fuller, a farmer at Little Bentley, in Essex, born in 1748. They are deacons of Baptist Churches.*
Mr. Andrew Fuller received an English education at the free-school at Soham. An opinion prevailed in the town, that he was more learned than his master. Though this might not be true, it contributed, in no small degree, to the respect with which he was treated by the inhabitants.
As this brief sketch will be followed by memoirs of his life,
* Mr. John Fuller had a son named Joseph, who was a student at Bristol, having been called to the ministry out of his uncle's church at Kettering, of which he was a member. He was a youth of the most gentle manners, and promising talents. He died of a consumption when about twenty years of age, after having made a remarkable proficiency in literature.
which are preparing by some of his oldest and most intimate friends, we shall pass over his early years; the manner of his conversion, which took place in November, 1769; his baptism In April, 1770; his joining the Baptist Church at Soham under the care of Mr. John Eve; and the debates which took place in that church, and which terminated in Mr. Eve's leaving it in October, 1771. These debates were the occasion of his turning his thoughts to many of those subjects which afterwards occupied his pen.
Mr. Joseph Diver, a gardener at Isleham, a member and a deacon of the church at Soham, used, at the request of the church, to expound the scriptures every Lord's day. He was a man of considerable reading, and of great piety and prudence. The destitute situation of the church was however distressing, and occasioned no small uneasiness to our young friend, who looked forward with great anxiety to the time when they should again be blessed with a pastor. Under the pressure of this anxiety, as he was riding, on a Saturday in November 1771, to a neighbouring village, his mind fell into a pleasing meditation upon Psalm xxx. 5, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. He was astonished at his flow of thoughts, and said within himself, "If I had any body to hear me, I do think I could preach." On his return, his mother said to him, "You have often wished for a trade; if you will go to London, I have heard of a situation, which I think would suit you." Notwithstanding he had always been desirous of learning a trade, he now felt no inclination to fall in with his mother's proposal, but said he would take time to consider of it.
The next morning, as he was going to meeting, one of the members said to him, "Friend Andrew, brother Diver has sprained his leg, and cannot be at meeting to-day; but he wished, me to say to you, that he hopes the Lord will be with you!" He was a little surprised at this message, but still more when, after singing and prayer, Thomas Irons, the other deacon, said, "Brother Andrew, will you read some part of the word of God, and try to drop some remarks as you go along?" After some hesitation, however, he stood up, and addressed the congregation for about half an hour, from that text upon which he had been meditating the preceding day. After this, Mr. Diver invited him to speak again; but riot enjoying the same liberty as before, he discontinued his addresses till the beginning of 1773, when, in Mr. Diver's absence, he spoke from Luke, xix. 10. This time he spoke with very great liberty: the congregation listened with much attention; and several young persons were impressed, who afterwards joined the church.
His talents for public speaking having now become conspicuous, he was called to the work of the ministry January, 26, 1774. The first sermon, which he preached after this was a funeral discourse, for an elderly
lady, at her own request, a member of the church.*
On the third of May, 1775, he was ordained pastor. The Rev. Thomas Pilley, of Luton, began the service; the Rev. Robert Hall, of Arnsby, near Leicester, delivered the charge, from Acts, xx. 28; and the Rev. John Emery, of Little Stoughton, near Kimbolton, addressed the people, from Galatians v. 13, latter clause.
When Mr. Hall, who had not been at Soham previously to this ordination, was near the town, he fell into conversation with one of its inhabitants and asked him the name of it. The man replied, "Soham." Mr. Hall then said, "There are to be great doings at Soham tomorrow, are there not?" 'Yes,' answered he,' they are going to qualify a young man to give the sacrament.' "And pray," said Mr. Hall, "what kind of a man is he?" 'A very good kind of a man,' answered the other; 'but he holds with predestination: what say you to that?' "Say to that?" replied Mr. Hall; "I have somewhere met with an old author who held the same sentiment: his name, I think, was Paul." The man looked at him with some surprise, and said, 'I do think you are one of them.'
In 1776 he became acquainted with Mr. (now Dr.) Ryland, who then lived at Northampton, and Mr. Sutcliff, who had lately come to Olney. These ministers, partly by reflection, and partly by reading the works of President Edwards, Bellamy, Brainerd, &c. had begun to entertain doubts concerning the Pseudo-Calvinistic system, or rather to be satisfied that it was antiscriptural.
The new system has been strangely misunderstood and misrepresented. It has been supposed to be not so far removed from Arminianism as the old one was. This is a great mistake. It maintains, that election is eternal, personal, absolute, and unconditional; that the peculiar blessings of redemption, purchased by the death of Christ, are limited to the elect only, every one of whom shall certainly enjoy them; that mankind are so universally and totally depraved, that they cannot be brought back to God without the drawings of the holy Spirit; that the special operations of the Spirit are invincibly efficacious, and cannot be frustrated by the rebellious will of man; and that all who are truly regenerated shall persevere in grace until it terminate in glory. In fact, the new system is little more than a revival of the old Calvinism, which subsisted before the time Hussey and the other founders of Pseudo-Calvinism.
In December, 1776, he married a young woman, of respectable family, named Gardiner, a member of the church. His income from the church and
* Minute from the Church Book. "February 26, 1774, Brother Fuller baptized two persons. Conversion work now went forward, and, July 17, the Church requested him to take the pastoral care of them. This request was repeated four times; and, on February 19, 1775, it was accepted."
congregation, and other sources, being very slender, and his little property gradually diminishing, he set up a school by the advice of his friends, in April, 1779, which he hoped would answer if he could procure about twenty children. But the free-school being open to all the parishioners, he had only seven or eight scholars, and therefore relinquished his school in April, 1780.
Having had four children in less than four years, he now found himself under the necessity of informing the church that his salary was insufficient for his subsistence. It was, therefore, a little increased. The people do not appear to have been parsimonious towards him; but they were poor: and so great was his affection for them, that, though his talents, which his obscure situation could not conceal, might have commanded a far more comfortable situation, in a worldly point of view, he was determined to continue with them as long as he could gain a subsistence for himself and his family. He was not, however, without great discouragements. One member of the church, and two or three of the congregation, were dissatisfied with his preaching; real religion appeared to be at a low ebb; private meetings were with difficulty kept up; and very little was said of edification under the word. All these things, united with what he deemed the unkind behaviour of a few of his friends, greatly affected him; and, in the spring of 1781, he was brought down by sorrow, and by sickness, almost to the grave.
The church at Kettering had been destitute of a pastor from August, 1779. Mr. Fuller had preached at different times amongst them; and his character and talents were held by them in the highest estimation. A correspondence was kept up between him and Mr. Beeby Wallis, a deacon of that church; and although Mr. Wallis, and the church at Kettering did not act improperly towards the church at Soham, it could not but be known to Mr. Fuller how great an affection and esteem the former had for him, nor could he avoid feeling a considerable affection for them. He was therefore under the influence of contending motives. On the one hand was his love for a people amongst whom he had resided from his early years, and in whose communion he had passed the whole of his religious life; and, on the other hand, were his inability to maintain his family where he was, and the hope of greater usefulness in a more extended field of action. His judgment inclined him to choose the latter; but his feelings, and the strong attachment of his people, inclined him to prefer the former.
In this difficulty, he laid his case before nine ministers at Kettering, who were unanimously of opinion, that it was his duty to leave Soham. In consequence of this advice, combined with other circumstances, he requested the church to expect his departure. He was obliged to summon all his
resolution in order to do this. His intention had been suspected some time before. "It seemed to me," says Mr. Fuller in a letter to Mr. Hall, "as if they were for reading my heart by my looks and carriage. One person, who had said much evil against me, came and humbled himself; and this set all my feelings a going in a way of compassion. I wept some hours after he was gone, till I could scarcely weep any longer. I had many outgoings of heart to the Lord for direction. At length we had a church meeting, July 12, 1781. I was distressed, not knowing what to do. However, I ventured to desire the church to expect my departure from them in three months. The place was a Bochim! I can only say, I was utterly overcome. However, I then told them I was resolved, if I knew it, to do right. If any of them could prove it wrong for me to depart, I would not do it, be the consequences what they might. I said, that I did not desire to be my own judge, but was willing to submit to be determined by any two or three honest, judicious, impartial persons. The next Lord's day they consulted, and proposed to accept this plan. I was agreeable; and did not desire them to confine themselves in the nomination to ministers. They, however, nominated three ministers, who had not, that we knew of, heard of our case, and who, therefore, could not be prepossessed. I acquiesced; and proposed, as we could not have an interview with them, that the church and I should each write our tale, and should each sign the other's letter. I was desired to write mine first. I did so, and read it to them last Lord's day. A few expressions to which they objected, I corrected: they then acknowledged it to be a fair and candid relation of facts, but, I think, gave over answering it, or writing any thing on their part. And now the whole design of settling things by arbitration seems by them to be dropped. Poor hearts! they say, 'We wish you would stay, and let us have no writing about the matter.*
"Since I have given them this notice, I have been at times very unhappy; sometimes I am afraid lest, after all, 1 should displease God in it, and that, though the way in which I go may seem right to me, the end thereof should be death. Not long since I wrote to Mr. Booth for special advice. He says, that mine is a case of right, and that that right respects my neighbour. As such, he recommends Matthew vii. 12. as my rule. He advises me to put myself in the church's place, and some other minister in mine, and then to judge impartially, and to act accordingly. I am not quite satisfied how I should judge in such a case. Several of the people will not believe that I shall go, after all. I remain very unhappy, and suppose I shall continue so, at least, till the three months are expired, and I either go, or determine to stay."
In a letter to another friend, he writes thus, "I was requested to write my case first; I did so, and read it before the church the following Lord's day. But when they had heard my tale, which they owned to be candid, they despaired of writing, and so the design of settling things by arbitration from that time dropped.
"They have since used measures more powerful: they have tried to draw with the bands of love and prayer. Silent sighs, significant looks, tender carriage, and fervent prayer. Ah! here I lose all my resolution. My heart melts, and I am utterly overcome. O what an arrow pierced my heart about a week ago, when I heard one of them in prayer, with weeping eyes, thus express himself, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from us.'* "I am a very unhappy man. Oh! would it had never been my lot to have had to undergo the trial of a remove! such things not only kindle my affections, but my fears. I am not without my fears after all, that, if I do remove, I shall sin against the Lord, which, I think, I would rather go softly all my years, in the bitterness of my soul, than do. Truly his favour to me is better than life. On the other hand, I am not without thoughts that I should not offend the Lord in so doing. One day I had a most melting season for about two hours, consisting of many reflections and earnest ejaculations to the Lord. I then thought it seemed right for
forme to go. Yet, even that thought filled me with fear and trembling. I thus thought; If I go, I am going to take upon me a greater charge than I have hitherto had: That greater charge is attended with proportionably greater obligations to diligence, faithfulness, &c. I thought, that when greater opportunities of doing good are put into our hands, it is but having more talents put into our hands to improve; more souls to be accountable for. These things made me, as I said, fear and tremble." We have not room here for the case of Mr. Fuller; nor for that which the church afterwards
* We here behold what the author of the Velvet Cushion calls the Religion of Barns; - an appellation which also suited that of the Waldenses, and of the primitive Christians.
The last sermon which Mr. Fuller preached was on April 2, 1815, from Isaiah, lxvi. 1, 2. "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."
"If God overlook the heavens and the earth, the work of his own hands, in order that he may look on his despised servants, surely he will not be detained from looking upon them by the most magnificent building erected by men. Christians, worshipping God in a barn, are themselves 'a building fitly framed together, and grow unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom they are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit,' Ephesians ii. 21, 22. The same apostle also says,'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' 1 Corinthians iii. 16. 'It is a dangerous thing to despise the servants of God: for the Lord is their avenger.' 1 Thessalonians iv. 6."
drew up for themselves; nor for the opinions of the arbitrators; nor for the advice given by the umpire, Mr. Robinson of Cambridge; nor for the- remarks upon the whole proceedings by Mr. Hall; &c. Suffice it to say, that Mr. Fuller concluded to stop at Soham another year.
In October, 1782, he came with his family to reside at Kettering. In the preceding August, he wrote to a friend as follows: "* * * * The most unfeigned sorrow, I believe, prevailed in almost every heart. For my own part, I found it exceedingly difficult to go on in preaching, and to keep from weeping quite out. I hastened, as soon as worship was over, to get alone, and there to give a full vent to all my sorrows. We had a private evening meeting, which was more trying to me than the day. I saw a spirit in the church in general, which had I seen half a year ago, I could never have left them come what would, whatever I do now. I went home to my house with a heart full of distress, and my strength nearly exhausted with the work and weeping of the day. *
"The next day, August 12, I devoted to fasting and prayer, and found special outgoings of heart, and encouragement to pray from many scriptures. I scarcely remember such a day for tenderness, and importunity in prayer in my life. Two days after, I felt my spirits all the morning exceedingly depressed; but I got alone, and found a heart to pray, with, I think, greater importunity than I had done before. It seemed as if I must have my petition granted, or I could not live. The last sabbath was a tender day, but not like the sabbath before.
"Truly, Sir, nothing but the thoughts of an open door for greater usefulness in Christ's cause (surely this is not an illusion)
* Is not this a practical comment upon Philippians i. 7, 8? "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; - for God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." And upon 2 Corinthians vii. 3? "Ye are in our hearts to live and die with you."
There was much in the church at Soham to engage his affection. "During the little while," say they, in their case, "he hath preached the word among us, about thirty have joined us. Out of these, about twenty were converted under his preaching. Four were baptized and added in the last year. And we hope the word hath been blessed to the conversion of several more, to whom we are ready to say, 'Come in, ye blessed of the Lord; why stand ye without?'" - And again, "On July 12, our pastor told us, that we must expect his departure from us. A mournful day was that! That word, 'to see his face no more,' sounded in our ears so much, that it caused our hearts to be full of sorrow, and the tears to gush out on our cheeks. 'There were weeping and lamentation heard that day in Israel!' We are all well satisfied with his preaching, and have no itching ears to hear any other preacher when we can hear him. This is fairly seen from some of our brethren, who live six or seven miles off, and have a convenience of hearing a great deal nearer. Some live about two miles off, where the gospel is preached. Yet these, with many others, scarcely ever miss coming all weathers. We think this shows love to him, and to what is delivered by him."
and my having been so much engaged to pray for the coming of Christ's kingdom, could have kept me from dropping all opposition, and yielding to the church's desire."
In another letter, he says, "My mind is not happy, yet not so distressed as it has been. I do hope the hand of God is in all this. I feel a secret longing to have my time, my soul, my all, devoted to Christ's interest, in some respects different from what I can here."
How these desires have been fulfilled, let the plains of India tell!
On the seventh of October, 1783, he was set apart to the pastoral office over the church at Kettering. He received a second charge from his revered father, Mr. Robert Hall, of Arnsby, from the last words of Paul to Timothy, The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. * Mr.(now Dr.) Ryland addressed the church.
On the second of April, 1792, died his friend Mr. Beeby Wallis, in whose house some of the most early meetings were held relative to the Mission to India, and in which the Society was formed.
The following Epitaph for him, was written by Mr. Fuller.KIND sycamore, preserve, beneath thy shade,Mr. Fuller's first wife died on the twenty-third of August in this year. She was an excellent woman.
The precious dust of him who cherish'd thee:
If or thee alone; a plant to him more dear
He cherish'd, and with fost'ring hand uprear'd.
Active and generous in virtue's cause.
With solid wisdom, strict integrity.
And unaffected piety, he liv'd
Beloved amongst us, and belov'd he died.
Beneath an Allon-Bachuth Jacob wept:
Beneath thy shade we mourn a heavier loss.
On the thirtieth of December, 1794, he married his second wife, Miss Ann Coles, daughter of the Rev. William Coles, of Ampthill. She was dismissed in May, 1795, from the church at Maulden, to that at Kettering, of which she is now a member. Her affection and prudence greatly contributed to his happiness.
It was in the year 1792, that the Baptist Missionary Society was instituted, in which he undertook the office of secretary, how laboriously and successfully he discharged the duties of that office for twenty-three years, by long and painful journeys, by incessant preaching, and by his admirable writings, our readers must very well know; but we mean not to enter into particulars of this (confessedly the most important) part of his life, as this will be done hereafter.
The following extract of a letter from himself to Mr. Burls, contains a specimen of his persevering labours in this great work, in which he spent so many years of his valuable life, and in which, that life was at length sacrificed!
Kettering, May 11, 1814.
"I have much journeying before me; first, to Olney and Bedford next week; then to the association at Leicester, in Whitsun-week; then into Essex,
* Mr. Fuller delivered the funeral oration for Mr. Hall, March 17, 1791; as did the son of that great and good man for Mr. Fuller, May 15,1815. Dr. Ryland preached the funeral sermon for both.
on June 6th, where I must be at a Missionary Meeting of that county, at Docking, on June 8th, and collect what I can between that and our London Annual Meeting, which I suppose is on Wednesday, 22d of June; then I must return and be at Kettering by the 26th, which is our Lord's supper day. Then I must set off and be out all July in the North of England, viz. the first sabbath at Liverpool, second at Manchester, third at Leeds, fourth at Newcastle, and fifth at Hull. May the Lord strengthen me for these labours!
We hasten to the concluding part of his life. The following is an extract of a letter, dated October 20, 1814, to a young lady, member of an Independent church, who resides not far from the borders of Wales: "It was addressed," says she, "in his own kind words, - to the child. Every line of his letters was valuable to me; so also was his blessing, which, when he took leave of me last at * * * *, he laid his hand upon my head and gave me. May that prayer be heard and answered. Amen."
"Kettering, Oct. 20, 1814. ***** On my return from London to Kettering, I had a very serious attack of an inflammation in the liver, from which I have not yet recovered. (This attack was after his morning sermon, on Lord's day, September 4. He was unable to attend in the afternoon.) I have preached only twice for the last five or six weeks, but am gradually, though slowly, recovering. Since I was laid by from preaching, I have written out my sermon, and drawn up a memoir, for my dear brother Sutcliff, which is just gone to press. Your partiality for the memoir of dear Pearce, will insure me one reader, at least, for that of Sutcliff. I hope the great and good Mr. Charles (of Bala) will find some one who will do justice to his memory. Mrs. Sutcliff died, on the 3d of September, less than eleven weeks after her husband. Death has swept away almost all my old friends; and I seem to stand expecting to be called for soon. It matters not when, so that we be found in Christ."
In March, 1815, his death evidently drew near. He was, however, at the ordination of Mr. Mack, as pastor over the church at Clipstone, twelve miles from Kettering, on the twenty-ninth of that month, and addressed the people from 3 John, 8. His last sermon was preached in his own pulpit on Lord's day afternoon, April 2.
In a letter to a friend at Kettering, who was prevented by illness from visiting him, he thus writes, April 19. "I am ordered to go next Monday for Cheltenham. I should be happy to come and see you before I go; but whether the weather and my affliction will permit, I know not. When I shall return is uncertain. The Lord's supper must be suspended. My times are in the Lord's hand: but to me all is uncertainty."
In prospect of his dissolution, he wrote to Dr. Ryland the
letter which appeared in our number for last month.
On the afternoon of the same day, he told a deacon of the church, that his bodily depression was so great, that he appeared to himself as if he could not live. His friend replied, "I do not know any person, Sir, who is in a more enviable situation than yourself; a good man on the verge of a blessed immortality." He modestly acquiesced. He then lifted up his hands, and exclaimed, "If I am saved, it will be by great and sovereign grace," which last words, he repeated very emphatically - "by great and sovereign grace."
His dear friend, Mr. Burls of London, saw him the day before his death; but, on account of his almost unintermitted bilious vomitings, with which he had been afflicted for some days, he could scarcely speak to him.
A few days before this, he said to his son, Mr. John Fuller, "All misery is concentrated in me." "Bodily misery only, I suppose, father?" answered he. "Yes," said he, "nothing else."
On the morning of the Lord's day on which he died, he said to one of the family, just loud enough to be heard, " I wish I had strength to worship with you." From eleven till about half-past eleven of that morning, he was engaged in fervent prayer. He sat up in bed, and, at the close, fell back, and in five minutes expired. His daughter, Mrs. Levet, distinctly heard the words, "Help me," whilst he was praying. His hands, at his death, were clasped as in prayer.
Thus expired Mr. Andrew Fuller; a man, unpolished in his manners, but kind and benevolent in his disposition; who paid no reverence to greatness, unless it was accompanied by goodness; who would have exercised all the faithfulness of a Latimer to an irreligious Henry; but who behaved with all the sweetness of a Melancthon, or a Sutcliff, to the bruised reed, and the smoking flax; a man, in whom the intellectual vigour of a Johnson, was united with the indefatigable industry of a Gill; and whose name will be transmitted to the latest posterity, in union with those of Carey, and the other chieftains of the Indian band
We have been favoured by Mr. Toller, with an extract from his sermon, on the occasion of Mr. Fuller's. death, which we insert as an appendix to the preceding memoir.*
* Since writing the above, we have received the following extract from the minutes of the British and Foreign Bible Society: "May, 22, 1815, this committee learn, with deep regret, the decease of the late Rev. Andrew Fuller, Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society; and, impressed with a sense of the valuable services rendered by that excellent individual, in promoting the translation and publication of, the Scriptures in the East,' desire to unite their condolences, on this afflictive event, with those of their Baptist brethren, to whom he was more particularly allied; and of the Christian world, by whom his memory will deserve to be held in affectionate and grateful veneration.
[From The Baptist Magazine, July, 1815, pp. 265-274. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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