Rev. Andrew Fuller was born in Wicken, Cambridgeshire, England, Feb. 6, l754. When about fourteen years of age he first became the subject of religious exercises. This question arose in his mind, What is faith? He could not answer it, but he satisfied himself that it did not require an immediate response, and that he would learn in the future what it was. Nevertheless he was not as indifferent about his soul as in former times, and occasionally he was very unhappy. Once, with some boys in a blacksmith's shop, while they were singing foolish songs, the words addressed to Elijah seemed to pierce his soul, -- What doest thou here, Elijah? And he arose and left his companions.
He was considerably affected at times by reading Bunyan's "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" and his "Pilgrim's Progress," and once he was led to weep bitterly in reading Ralph Erskine's "Gospel Catechism for Young Christians." A little later he was deceived by an imaginary conversion, which gave him great joy for a short time. But the joy departed and his sins returned, and for months they exercised dominion over him; then his convictions came back and filled his soul with misery continually; he saw that God would be perfectly just in sending him to the regions of despair. At this time Job's words came to him, and soon created the same resolution in him, "Though he slay me yet will I trust him;" and the words of Esther intensified his purpose, "'If I perish, I perish,' but I must go to Jesus;" and driven by his sins, and attracted by the redeeming power of the Lamb, he trusted Christ for the full salvation of his soul, and soon his guilt and fears were removed.
In March, 1770, he saw two young persons baptized. He had never witnessed an immersion before, and it made such an impression upon him that he wept like a child, and he went away fully convinced that what he saw was the solemn appointment of the royal Saviour, disobedience to which would be rebellion in him. One month after this baptism he was immersed himself into the membership of the church of Soham.
In the spring of 1775 he was ordained pastor of the church of Soham. His income was miserably small, compelling him to resort to some secular pursuits to support his family. In October, 1782, he removed to Kettering, in Northamptonshire, where he spent the rest of his life. It gave him the greatest distress to leave the church of Soham, and nothing but a firm persuasion that he was following the will of God would have ever led him to Kettering.
A pamphlet published by Jonathan Edwards on the importance of general union in prayer for the revival of true religion, led to a series of prayer-meetings among the ministers of "The Northamptonshire Association" for this special purpose. Resolutions were passed by the Association at Nottingham, and at subsequent meetings held elsewhere, recommending that the first Monday evening of every month should be set apart for prayer for the extension of the gospel. It is with some reason believed that these prayer-meetings started that missionary tidal-wave that soon England and America, the surging waters from which reached India, and many other sections of the heathen world. At a meeting held in Kettering on the 2d of October, 1792, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed, and the first collection for its treasury, amounting to L13 2s. 6d., was taken up. Mr. Fuller was appointed its first secretary, and while others nobly aided, Andrew Fuller was substantially the society till he reached the realms of glory. Speaking of the mission to India, he says, "Our undertaking at its commencement really appeared to me to be somewhat like a few men who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine which had never been explored. We had no one to guide us, and while we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said, 'Well, I will go down if you will hold the rope.' But before he went down he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us at the mouth of the pit to this effect, 'that while we lived we should never let go the rope.'" And Mr. Fuller held it fast till his hand fell powerless in death. He traveled all over England very many times, pleading for foreign missions; five times he journeyed through Scotland on the same errand of love; and he visited Ireland once to advocate the cause of the perishing. The noblest cause that stirred up Christian hearts, the cause that brought the Saviour himself from the heavens, found in Andrew Fuller its grandest champion, and to him more than Ito any other human being was the first foreign missionary society of modern times indebted for its protection in infancy, and the nurturing influences that gave it the strength of a vigorous organization.
His literary reputation spread all over his own country, and his name, long before his death, was as familiar in England and America as a household word. All denominations read his writings with profound interest, and they place the highest value upon them still. His "Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared, as to their Moral Tendency," and "The Gospel its own Witness; or, the Holy and Divine Harmony of the Christian Religion Contrasted with the Immortality and Absurdity of Deism," are works worthy of the greatest theologian of any age, and long since they have placed their author beside Dr. John Owen, Dr. John Gill, and John Howe, as one of the first expounders of the Bible of the Anglo-Saxon race. "The Franklin of theology," as he has been called. Mr. Fuller was a voluminous writer; and his works passed through several editions. Though a staunch Baptist on the communion question, in 1798 Princeton College conferred on him the honorary degree of D.D., which he declined. Yale College, under the presidency of Timothy Dwight, followed the example of Princeton in 1805, with a similar declination from Mr. Fuller.
His death, on May 7, 1815, excited a profound sensation, and occasioned general grief. Throngs attended his funeral, -- Episcopalian, Congregational, and other ministers vied with Baptist pastors in doing honor to his memory. His church erected a beautiful monument, which commemorates in glowing words their exalted appreciation of his great worth.
Mr. Fuller was "tall, broad-shouldered, and firmly set. The hair was parted in the middle, the brow square and of fair height, the eyes deeply set, overhung with large bushy eyebrows. The whole face had a massive expression."
He had great decision of character; he was usually very clear in his views of any subject that had occupied his attention. He was a natural warrior, ready to assail the foes of truth in every direction, but this characteristic was restrained and regulated by a heart filled with supreme love to Jesus, and by generous affections.
His style was clear as a sunbeam, with little effort at ornament. His arguments were commonly as forcible as the blow of a sledge-hammer, when delivered with all the power of a strong and practised hand. He was one of the few Englishmen that knew how to use the Scottish custom of expository preaching, and in this mode of applying the Word of God to men Mr. Fuller attained distinction.
In general his theology is Calvinistic. His treatment of several of "the doctrines of grace" is such as to afford no comfort to the disciples of Arminius. His views of the atonement, however, were innovations to the English Baptists of his day, which stirred up vigorous opposition. Dr. Gill was the theological teacher of one section of his denomination, and Mr. Fuller of the other. Mr. Fuller's doctrine of the great sacrifice is generally received by English and American Baptists, though there are still some among us who regard Dr. Gill, in the main, as approaching nearer to Paul's representation of the nature of Christ's glorious propitiation than the profound theologian of Kettering. These brethren agree with Mr. Fuller in using every Christian effort to bring sinners to Jesus, and to spread the gospel throughout the whole earth.
Fuller's views of substitution and imputation have had a far wider influence in the Presbyterian and Congregational denominations than the kindred opinions of Richard Baxter, of Kidderminster, conspicuous as their author and his doctrines have been for more than two centuries.
Andrew Fuller was one of nature's noblemen, and he was a blameless Christian; his life was eminently useful, and his death was full of peace.
[From The Baptist Encyclopedia, William Cathcart, editor, 1881; rpt, 1988, pp. 420-422. - Scanned by Jim Duvall]
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