THE death of Mr. A. Fuller has produced a strong sensation throughout the religious public. His brethren in the ministry, in all parts of the kingdom, have hastened to pay a tribute of reverence to his memory. And many, who were almost strangers to his character, talents, and writings, cannot but revere a name so strictly interwoven with the fabric of the Baptist mission to India. The name of Fuller does excite, and will long excite, a strong pulsation of interest in the friends of the perishing heathen. The occasion and subject of this sermon cannot fail to insure it a wide circulation. And we are happy to seize an early opportunity of giving our testimony to the solid excellencies of this production. Both the plan and the execution, receive our approbation and praise. The text is, Hebrews vii. 23-25.
On this passage the author builds two reflections.
First. The removal of faithful ministers, from their office, by death, is a cause of deep affliction to the church. Mr. Ivimey assigns four reasons why we should lament their death. - Because the condition of unregenerate sinners is thereby rendered increasingly dangerous. - The means of spiritual. edification provided for believers, are diminished. - There are fewer persons to defend the truth against opposers. - Their number is reduced who may be expected to feel compassion for the destitute condition of unenlightened heathens.
Second . The perpetual intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ affords a ground of strong consolation under such afflictive events. Under this reflection, the writer introduces four particulars also. - Continual accessions will still be made to the church by the conversion of sinners. - The means of edification will still be provided for the church. -There will still be persons provided to maintain and defend the purity of truth in the church. - The conversion of the heathen, by the universal spread of the gospel, will certainly be accomplished.
The sermon contains a sketch of Mr. Fuller's dying experience, and of the leading features of his character; and concludes with an appropriate improvement.
The execution is not unworthy of the design: the sentences are short; the style is perspicuous, correct, nervous, and sometimes elegant. The language flows freely from the author's pen, sparkling with many allusions to the sacred scriptures, and enriched with many appropriate quotations from them. The dress of Mr. Ivimey becomes his character as a servant of Christ, free from the tawdry ornaments which show the vitiated taste, not the chaste judgment, of the wearer. Simplicity of diction cannot he too eagerly cultivated by the preachers of the gospel, in a period when, too frequently, the play of fancy is preferred to the labour of intellect, and pompous epithets are introduced in crowds to hide the want of mental beauty.
His illustrations are plain, brief, and forcible. In some places, brevity is indulged rather to excess. And were the author to review the illustrations of the four particulars belonging to the second part of his subject, he might question, if they were as distinct and separate as they ought to be.
Near the bottom of the tenth page is the following anecdote of Mr. Fuller, which merits the attention of all engaged in the sacred ministry: "I was once complaining to him of the difficulty I found to preach so as to edify the people. 'Preach Christ,' said he, 'make him prominent in every sermon.' lie added, 'Some years ago, I heard, before I left the town where I had been preaching, that it was said, I had not preached Christ to them. I mused on this, when, returning home, and thought, Well, it may probably be true, that I did not preach Christ sufficiently to them. But I am resolved, by divine help, that my hearers shall not have to complain of that again, as I am determined, in future, not to preach on any other subject than Christ and him crucified.'" Many ministers complain, that their labours are unsuccessful. Do they habitually preach the truths of Christ's person, and work, and grace, and mediation, which the Spirit delights to take and show to the minds of men?
Under the third particular of the first part, is introduced an account of Mr. Fuller's writings. In estimating the character of Mr. Fuller as a Christian, and his utility as a minister of the churches, this is fairly done. His whole soul is brought into his compositions. The cast of his mind, his sentiments, his feelings, his passions, his favourite subjects, may be easily gathered from them.
He began his distinguished career of authorship by the celebrated piece, "The Gospel worthy of all Acceptation; or, the Duty of Sinners to believe in Christ." Mr. Ivimey thus expresses himself on this piece: "He has been much blamed for stirring up a controversy fatal to the peace of our churches. He, however, considered it as necessary, in order earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints; and that the truth of the gospel might continue, which was in danger of being expelled by the ascendancy of a system, which, while it would not admit of the gospel being preached to every creature, led unconverted hearers to conclude, that their rejection of the gospel arose more from the sin of Adam than from their own sin; and that their final destruction depended more on the decree of God appointing them to wrath, than on the depravity of their hearts, which prevented them from coming to Christ, that they might have life. Mr. Fuller's design was to prove, that the only reason why sinners did not repent and believe the gospel, was the depravity of their hearts, manifested by their love of sin, and their enmity to the ways of God," &c. It may not be improper to say, that the obligation of sinners, to whom the message of mercy is sent, to forsake their sins, to seek the favour of their Maker, to embrace the redemption of Christ; in a word, to secure the salvation of their souls, does not rest on any metaphysical question. Whether depravity of heart be the only cause of unbelief, or whether other causes combine with enmity of heart to produce a rejection of the gospel grace, does not at all affect the plain declarations of God's word on the subject. Mr. Fuller wrote that treatise in 1781, when he was young in years, and had been a short time in the ministry.
His second work was, "The Tendency of the Calvinistic and Socinian Systems compared." This is a masterly performance, and soon stamped his character for deep and correct thinking, for enlarged views, for genuine candour, for decided and evangelical sentiments. We wish that Mr. Ivimey had allowed himself to expatiate, at some length, on the merits of this work, which throws a lustre on the denomination to which the author belongs, and which first brought the writer of it forward on the stage of deserved celebrity.
Mr. Ivimey just notices the work against Deism, and concludes, by introducing his last polemical treatise, "Strictures on Sandemanianism." "In this," says Mr. Ivimey, "he has discovered an intellect of the acutest order. Here he has laid hold of a spirit which was too subtile for most men to have perceived." The spirit of Sandemanianism may be subtile and invisible, but the body is gross and tangible. Had Mr. Fuller permitted himself to introduce facts in the place of some of his reasonings, the book would have been more serviceable to the bulk of readers.
Practices, indulged and defended by the most devoted partizans of the sect, would, if they were fairly and judiciously exposed, throw clearer light on the spirit and tendency of Sandemanianism, than the strongest chain of sound reasoning.
We lay this sermon down with reluctance. Its composition reflects honour on the talents and piety, and spirit of the worthy writer. Yet we cannot conclude, without respectfully intreating Mr. Ivimey to do greater justice to his own talents, by employing more time, and taking more pains in his compositions intended for the press. The age is fastidious; literature, of a light kind, at least, is widely diffused; and a certain elegance, the result of much care and correctness, both in thinking and composing, is expected, nay, demanded of the candidates for public attention and commendation.
[From The Baptist Magazine, 1815, pp. 514-516. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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