His death is one of those mysteries in providence, not of very unfrequent occurrence, in which the Great Supreme after forming and fitting an instrument for usefulness in this world, removes it to another.
A Memoir of Joseph Fuller
By Andrew Fuller
The Baptist Magazine, 1813
Who died at Little Bently, in Essex, March 23, 1812, in the 18th year of his age, in a Letter from his Uncle to Dr. Ryland, dated March 25th.
My Dear brother,
I have received a letter from Bentley, dated the 23rd instant, of which the following is an extract: - "This morning, about a quarter after seven, our dear Joseph left this world of sin and sorrow, and we trust has entered into rest. He could not talk much, but said, 'That gospel that I have recommended to others, is all my support in the prospect of death.' He was sensible to the last."
Thus God has blasted our hopes concerning this dear youth. It was in July 1806, that I and Mrs. Fuller, paying a visit at Bentley, observed in him a talent for literary acquirements. At the same time his parents seemed to think him not much adapted to other business. We therefore agreed for him to come to Kettering the October following, when he would, be thirteen years old, and to go to school to our friend Mr. Mason of Rowell. After being at School three months, he spent the holidays at the close of 1805 at my house. One day he was looking over the greek alphabet, and presently getting it by heart, wanted to learn the language. He obtained a few instructions before the holidays were ended, and on his returning to school, I spoke to my worthy friend, the Rev. Mr. Brotherhood of Desborough, whose residence was within two miles of him, requesting him to teach him the latin and greek languages. With this request Mr. B. not only readily complied, but generously declined any recompense for his trouble. On an evening, after the school-hours were over at Rowell, Joseph would walk to Desborough, and spend an hour or two with Mr. B. who with Mrs. B. treated him as a young friend, rather than as a pupil. His diligence, sobriety, and good sense, seem to have raised him much in the esteem of Mr. B.; nor was Mr[s]. B. less esteemed by him.
In this course he continued through the years of 1807 and 1808. He could talk of religion, and from his childhood I believe had thoughts of the ministry: but till the autumn of 1808 we saw no signs of real personal Christianity. From that time, however, there appeared an evident change in his spirit and behaviour. This was observed not only by us, but by Mr. Mason. I found too that he wished to open his mind to me, and I soon gave him an opportunity. In short, we were all well satisfied as to his being the subject of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. On the 30th of April, 1809, I baptized him, and he became a member of the church at Kettering. Under these circumstances I could not but think of his being employed in the work of the ministry, provided his own heart were in it. On gently sounding him upon that subject, I found it was. I then mentioned it to the deacons, and after that to the church. He appeared to be too much of a child to be asked to speak on probation before the church; but a letter was sent to the Bristol Education Society recommending him as a pious promising youth, whose talents we wished to have improved. In August 1809, he went to Bristol. With his conduct and proficiency in learning, while there, you are better acquainted than I. From your letters concerning him, however, I have reason to conclude that though in an instance or two you had occasion to admonish him; yet upon the whole, he afforded you and his other tutors great pleasure, and considerable hopes of his future usefulness.
At the vacation in 1810 he went home, and on his return towards the end of July came by Kettering. Being at the church meeting he was requested to speak from a passage of scripture, which he did much to our satisfaction. The text was, "I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
His journey from Kettering to Bristol, which (being very fond of walking) he principally performed on foot, was I fear injurious to him. He got wet, as I learned afterwards, several times on the journey. He said himself however that he was very well for sometime after that journey.
From his earliest religious impressions he expressed a desire to engage in the work of the mission. I did not discourage this desire. but told him he was too young at present to determine on a matter of such importance. In November, 1810, I wrote to him, communicating such counsel as I thought he needed, and sounding him as to the state of his mind respecting the mission. On February 26, 1811, I received an answer, in which he wrote as follows:"My very dear Uncle,Such were the workings of his mind at a time when a mortal consumption had begun to undermine his constitution. He does not appear to have been apprehensive of any such thing, but writes of himself as being in "good health." By your letters to me, however, two months before this, you were not without apprehensions concerning him.
I am through mercy in good health. I received your Letter of Nov. 10th, and am much obliged to you for the kind advice you have given me, which I pray may not be altogether unprofitable. I see more and more the need of entirely distrusting myself, and looking alone to Jehovah for righteousness and strength.
"As to India, I have at different times various exercises of mind upon going thither. I often make it the subject of self examination. I endeavour narrowly to scrutinize the motives which induce me to wish to engage, and make it the subject of frequent prayer that no unworthy motives might be concealed in my mind, that I may not put forth unhallowed hands to that great work. I frequently endeavour to realize the difficulties attendant on the work, that I may not be like one who began to build, but sat not down to count the cost, or be disheartened at my entrance into such a work with unexpected difficulties. I then endeavour to call to mind the considerations which ought to animate me in such an undertaking, and upon the whole, though I may not feel that ardour for it which I did at first, yet I find my mind more confirmed and settled. The motives which then inclined me to the work have lost nothing of their weight, but on the contrary, appeared more forcible from frequent examination.
"It is a work which requires great sacrifices, and is attended with great difficulties; to leave parents, and friends and native land, to live in a foreign climate, to be a year or two learning a foreign language before I shall be able to do any good with it, are not small things; but there is no situation in which a conscientious minister, who seeks not to please men but God, and is determined to pursue his glory in spite of every obstacle, can be exempt from trials; and when compared with those considerations which ought to animate me to the work, they sink to nothing. What are the sacrifices I am called to make, the pleasures I must forego, the difficulties I must encounter, when brought in competition with the diffusion of divine truth, the spread of Messiah's kingdom, the salvation of immortal souls, and the promotion of the divine glory?
"Indeed when I call them sacrifices I am conscious that I do not speak correctly; there can be no sacrifices in foregoing that which never was my own. I know that I am not my own, but God's; that I have no right to seek my own pleasure, but his glory. This ought to be my constant aim, and for me to consult my own gratification by swerving from its pursuit, were an act of direct rebellion against the divine government, and base idolatry in preferring my supposed interests to his. Woe be unto me, therefore, if I preach not the gospel. Woe be unto me if ever I should permit temptations to allure, dangers to terrify, or difficulties to dishearten me from the pursuit of the divine glory. If then there appears in India the likeliest prospect of promoting that object, I ought not, I cannot, and even were I willing, I dare not refuse to go.
"Perhaps I may not know what spirit I am of; I do sometimes however feel such a compassion for perishing souls, such a desire to promote the divine glory, such a concern for the spread of his kingdom, that I could gladly give up all to embark in that cause, and I trust when it comes to the trial, the love of Christ and of immortal souls, will so outweigh every other consideration, as to make me willing to spend and be spent, to suffer all things so that I may but win souls to Christ.
"I know that it is a great work, requiring much zeal, much prudence, much patience, much perseverance. I know that were I to look to myself for strength I should be miserably deficient, and were all to depend upon my own zeal, resolution, and prudence, it must come to nothing; but in the Lord Jehovah is righteousness and strength; and if I sincerely engage in his cause and seek his glory, depending on his strength, he can easily qualify, assist and support me. Thus I trust "I shall go in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness and of his only."
It was not long after this that he left the Academy, and went to his father's house, in hope that rest and country air might restore him to health; but these hopes were unfounded. At times he seemed to be getting better, as is common with this disorder, but upon the whole grew worse and worse. Having spent the greater part of the summer of 1811 at Bentley, he wished to avail himself of a kind invitation which he had received from Mr. NEWMAN, as he passed through London, to visit the New Academy at Stepney. Here he stopped about two months, during which all possible kindness was shewn him by Mr. and Mrs. NEWMAN, and the best medical advice obtained for him. Being in London myself early in November, I took him with me to Kettering, where he stopped about six weeks; and so far as his affliction would permit, (for we saw him literally die daily) enjoyed the company of his friends, and they his. In the first week in December he got over to Rowell, and Desborough, to see his dear friends, Mr. M. and Mr. B. On the 18th of that month I took him to Cambridge, from whence after stopping awhile with his relations at Newmarket, he went to his father's house at Bentley. At Cambridge we spent the Lord's day, and there I took leave of him. At parting we both wept, as not expecting to see each other again in the flesh! The last Lord's day in January 1812, his father informed me, he had a great desire to go with them to Thorpe to unite at the Lord's supper, which with much difficulty was accomplished.
His death is one of those mysteries in providence, not of very unfrequent occurrence, in which the Great Supreme after forming and fitting an instrument for usefulness in this world, removes it to another. I do not remember to have known a lad of his years who possessed more maturity of judgment or command of temper, and whose mind seemed more habitually directed to the glory of God.
I am affectionately yours,
[From The Baptist Magazine, February 1813, pp. 45-49.]
Sermon Sketches by Joseph Fuller
Sketch of a Sermon by Joseph Fuller, No. 1. "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin." - Galatians iii. 23.
Sketch of a Sermon by Joseph Fuller, No. 2. "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners." - Romans v. 19.
Sketch of a Sermon by Joseph Fuller, No. 3. "By the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous." Romans v. 19b.
[Documents from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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