The American Baptist Magazine, 1830
Review of J. W. Morris' Memoirs of Andrew Fuller Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, late Pastor of the Baptist Church at Kettering, and First Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society.
By J. W. Morris
First American [Edition] from the last London Edition. Edited by Rufus Babcock, Jr. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands. 1830. pp. 320.
IN the denomination with which we feel it an honor and happiness to be associated, there have always been found men of powerful minds and cultivated talent, able to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. We acknowledge that prejudices against the education of our ministry have prevailed to a considerable extent; yet such has been God's watchful care of his church, that he has raised up men who were qualified to become leaders in the field, and by the services to which he called them, and the graces he imparted to them, and the benefits which he made them instrumental in conferring on the church, he has convinced us that it is a part of his economy to work by means, and that when human attainments are sanctified to the service of the Cross, he will own and bless them in his employ, and render them subservient to the developement [sic] of his plans and purposes of mercy to a ruined world.
When thinking of the bright and shining lights who have adorned our denominational hemisphere, the mind is pleased to rest on Fuller; and he not only commands our attention as a star of the first magnitude, but we love to gaze on him in the midst of so luminous a constellation of worthies as Scott, Newton, Sutcliffe, Carey and Ryland.
Like many of God's most honored messengers of mercy, Mr. Fuller was drawn from obscurity, and led to usefulness, and introduced to fame by a way that he knew not. The minority of Abraham Booth was spent at a stocking room - Dr. Carey was a shoe maker - the early days of Dr. Staughton were spent in a manufactory - and till he was twenty years of age, Andrew Fuller was employed every morning in milking cows.
We remember when the tidings of Fuller's death were received, that an eminent Congregational minister observed, "What a subject for Biography! but who will undertake the task?" But it was not to be expected that such a man would pass away "unhonored or unsung." A large number of funeral sermons were delivered and published on the mournful occasion; yet the public voice called for a more permanent memorial to the worth of the Secretary of the Baptist Mission.
The family of the departed immediately announced that arrangements were made, by which a Memoir would be given to the world by Mr. Fuller's most intimate friend, the Rev. Dr. Ryland of Bristol. This produced high expectations.
But before the publication of this work could possibly take place, "The Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, late Pastor of the Baptist church at Kettering, &c. &c. By J. W. Morris," appeared from the press.
Although fifteen years have elapsed since the publication of this work in England, yet it has never been known in America, till the appearance of this edition. We have long admired the Biography, and regarded it as valuable. We congratulate the religious public on the acquisition of such a volume, and feel indebted to Mr. Babcock for his editorial labor. We can entertain no doubt that he will hear of much usefulness arising from the circulation of this work in our churches. We hope that his judicious preface will be carefully read.
Dr. Ryland's Life of Fuller has long been in the possession of the American public. Comparisons are generally painful employments, and usually entail mortifying consequences: yet there are occasions when we cannot fairly avoid them ; and our duty on the present occasion seems to demand that we should institute a scrutiny into the characteristics of these rival publications. It has been said of these two volumes, that Morris gives his readers the intellect of Fuller, while Ryland presents you with his heart. Now if the authors have actually confined themselves to these departments, we doubt if either can be successful; because the connection of the judgment and affections is too intimate to allow of separation.
Dr. Ryland was the son of the learned and eccentric John Ryland, of Northampton, and from his cradle was conversant with books and literature. In his early years he enjoyed the company of men of letters and science. He was a bookworm, and acquired extensive information, especially on theological subjects. He was universally ranked among the first Hebrewists of the day; but the Doctor was not very intimately acquainted with human nature; he had not mingled sufficiently in the world; he was very wanting in good taste, and had but little promptness and decision on emergencies. A clergyman who knew him well, and who was able to estimate his character, has most correctly remarked: "In the entire influence of moral principle he surpassed all his cotemporaries. This gave him his power in the religious world; and his other qualities, though possessed in mediocrity, not being contemptible, did not detract from his reputation: he was an object of affection rather than admiration."
Few men were ever more justly beloved and revered than Dr. Ryland. His Life of Fuller is in many respects interesting; but we confess that the long continued extracts from Mr. Fuller's diary is not to our taste; and we fear that too free a use is made by biographers of the journals of the departed. We believe that most readers will close "The work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope,"* with a wish to get some farther information respecting the lamented Secretary, and we cordially recommend to such a perusal of Morris's publication. Let Mr. Morris tell his own pretensions as it regards his qualifications for his task. "He [Mr. M.] professes to have enjoyed a long and intimate acquaintance with the distinguished individual whose memoirs he submits to the public - an acquaintance more intimate and unreserved than was enjoyed by any other person. He has seen him in every shape and attitude amid his multifarious labors, and in the moments of relaxation has known him in every difficulty, and shared with him all the pains and pleasures of life." * * * * "The interchange of thought and feeling by conversation, by letter, by preaching, by every mode of expression was continued almost daily for a number of years, during the most active and enterprising period of life."
These statements were justified by the facts of the case. For many years he was Fuller's friend, and we might add, his "very humble servant." He learned Mr. Fuller's stenography, that he might be able to assist him in transcribing his manuscripts, and he was very frequently employed as his amanuensis. It may be proper to remark, that although for some few years previous to Fuller's death his intimacy with Mr. Morris was painfully interrupted, yet the historian's pen has delineated his character with strict impartiality.
The work is divided into thirteen chapters. Of these chapters we give a brief epitome.
Chapter 1. Mr. Fuller's parentage - early life - conversion - call to the ministry, &c.
* The title of Dr. Ryland's Life of Fuller.
Chap. 2. Settlement at Kettering - domestic afflictions - ministerial labors, &c.
Chap. 3. His ministerial talents - style of preaching - pastoral labors, &c.
Chap. 4. Origin of the Baptist mission - early notices of Dr. Carey.
Chap. 5. Journal of a tour through Scotland, &c.
Chap. 6. Extracts from Mr. Fuller's diary.
Chaps. 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Review of his doctrinal and practical writings, and his controversies.
Chap. 12. The last year of his life.
Chap. 13. Brief review of Mr. Fuller's character.
We have been much interested with the following highly graphic description of Mr. Fuller as a preacher : a painter could give no better delineation."He had none of that easy elocution, none of that graceful fluency which melts upon the ear, and captivates the attention of an auditor. His enunciation was laborious and slow; his voice strong and heavy; occasionally plaintive, and capable of an agreeable modulation. He had none of that eloquence which consists in a felicitous selection of terms, or in the harmonious construction of periods: he had a boldness in his manner, a masculine delivery, and great force of expression. His style was often deformed by colloquialisms and coarse provincials; but in the roughest of his compositions, "the bones of a giant might be seen."
"In entering the pulpit he studied very little decorum, and often hastened out of it with an appearance of precipitation; but while there he seldom failed to acquit himself with honor and success. His attitude, too, was sufficiently negligent. Not aware of its awkwardness, in the course of his delivery, he would insensibly place one hand upon his breast, or behind him, and gradually twist off a button from his coat, which some of his domestics had frequent occasion to replace. This habit was in process of time much corrected, and many other protuberances were smoothed away by the improvement of his taste, and the collisions of society; but certainly in these respects he was not the exact model of an orator.
"His presence in the pulpit was imposing, grave, and manly; tending to inspire awe, rather than conciliate esteem. His general aspect was lowering and cloudy, giving indications of a storm, rather than affording hopes of serenity. Yet there was nothing boisterous, loud, or declamatory; no intemperate warmth, or sallies of the passions; all was calm, pathetic, and argumentative, overcast with a kind of negligent grandeur. He was deeply impressed with his subject, and anxious to produce a similar impression on his hearers.
"To an acute and vigorous understanding were united a rich and fertile imagination, an even flow of feeling, seldom rising to an ecstasy, and an awful sense of eternal realities; these, accompanied with an energetic manner of speaking, supplied every other defect, and gave to his ministry an unusual degree of interest. He could never be heard but with satisfaction; if the heart were not at all times affected, yet the judgment would be informed and the taste gratified, by an
unexpected display of some important truth, ingeniously stated, and powerfully applied. His own ideas were strong and lucid, and he had the faculty of placing them in the clearest light; if he failed to produce conviction, he was rarely deficient in evidence.It is gratifying to see the good effects of ministers' meetings testified to by such authority. These meetings have been objects of suspicion to some uninformed and timid brethren, who have feared that ministers' meetings were dangerous to the welfare of churches. We have seen some good private brethren, whose dread of a ministers' meeting was really unaccountable: perhaps their fears of mischief on this head may be lessened by Mr. Fuller's account of one:
"Though his writings enter deeply into controversy, in his ministry it was far otherwise. There he took the high places of the field; here he tarried at home and divided the spoil. The least disputable points of religion, which are at all times the most essential, were the leading theme of his ministry. The cross of Christ was the doctrine that lay nearest his heart; this, in all its tendencies and bearings, in all its relations to the government of God, and the salvation of the soul, he delighted to elucidate in every diversity of form, and on this he dwelt with growing zeal and ardor to the close of life. It was a subject that met him in every direction, that beautified and adorned every other topic, that lived and breathed in all his preaching, and laid the foundation of all his hopes.""We had a Ministers' Meeting at Northampton. The best part of the day was, I think, in conversation. A question was discussed, to the following purport: To what causes, in ministers, may much of their want of success be imputed? The answer turned chiefly upon the want of personal religion; particularly the neglect of close dealing with God in closet prayer. Jeremiah x. 21, was referred to: 'Their pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and their flocks shall be scattered.' Another reason assigned was, the want of reading and studying the Scriptures more as Christians, for the edification of our own souls. We are too apt to study them, merely to find out something to say to others, without living upon the truth ourselves. If we eat not the book before we deliver its contents to others, we may expect the Holy Spirit will not much accompany us. If we study the Scriptures as Christians, the more familiar we are with them, the more we shall feel their importance; but, if otherwise, our familiarity with the word will he like that of soldiers, doctors, or grave-diggers, with death - it will wear away all sense of its importance from our minds. To enforce this sentiment, Proverbs xxii. 17, 18, was referred to: 'Apply thine heart unto knowledge - the words of the wise will be pleasant, if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.' To this might be added, Psalm i. 2, 3. Another reason was, our want of being emptied of self sufficiency. In proportion as we lean upon our own gifts, or parts, or preparations, we slight the Holy Spirit; and no wonder that, being grieved, he should leave us to do our work alone. Besides, when this is the case, it is, humanly speaking, unsafe for God to prosper us, especially those ministers who possess considerable abilities. Reference was also made to an Ordination Sermon, lately preached by Mr. Booth, of London, to Mr. Hopkins, Dr. Gifford's successor, from 'Take heed to thyself.' O that I may remember these hints for my good!"
We cannot resist another extract. The anecdote is so illustrative of character."Mr. Fuller was generally candid and forbearing towards young ministers, and ready to assist them in the explication of a subject, or in the composition of a sermon; but he also knew how to chastise vanity, ignorance, and conceit, and was not very sparing with persons of this description. A young man calling on him on a Saturday, and announcing rather consequentially, that he was going to preach on the morrow at a little distance; Mr. Fuller asked him for his text. He readily answered that he was going to preach from, 'One thing is needful.' And what is that one thing? said Mr. Fuller. Tyro replied without hesitation, Christ, certainly. Why then, said he, you are worse than the Socinians. They do allow him to be a man, but you are going to reduce him to a mere 'thing.' This unfortunate remark spoiled Tyro's sermon; and when he arrived at the place of his destination, where the flock was waiting for his sage instructions, he had not courage to bring forward what he had provided with much study and care."It would be improper to close this notice of the work before us, without a particular mention of the Review of Mr. Fuller's writings. This part of the volume is calculated to produce the most happy effects. It is an epitome of Fuller's productions; and a studious perusal of it will be indispensably necessary for those who wish to comprehend the full point and scope of the various controversies in which this eminent champion of the truth was engaged.
There is much discrimination of mind evinced in the Reviews, and Mr. Morris seems to have reserved his energies for this part of his subject. His whole style improves, and he rises into positive beauty and force of diction.
What pastor of a church can read this Memoir, and see the labor and assiduity of this man of God, in the Missionary cause, together with the care of a large church, and not blush at the small influence he has exerted in this cause of Jesus and hope of the world?
It is gratifying to learn that the publishers of this volume intend to give a new edition of Fuller's Works to the public, and it cannot be doubted that this fascinating biography will aid in the extensive circulation of that undertaking. If the pastors of our churches would stir themselves, and endeavor to place this book in the families of their respective charges, we should anticipate very satisfactory consequences. Ministers and congregations would derive benefit from the wholesome lessons which it affords.
A Google Book digitized version of J. W. Morris's book, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller is here.
[From The American Baptist Magazine, Volume 10, October, 1830, pp. 302-307. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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