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"One of the sentences uttered by your deceased pastor, when drawing near his end, was, 'I WISH I HAD PRAYED MORE.' This was one of those weighty sayings which are not unfrequently uttered in view of the solemn realities of eternity."
[A Sermon Delivered at the funeral of the Rev. John Sutcliff, of Olney, June 28, 1814.]
The Principles and Prospects of a Servant of Christ
By Andrew Fuller
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep
yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." - Jude 20, 21.
I FEEL a difficulty in speaking on this occasion. A long and intimate friendship, cemented by a similarity
of views and a co-operation in ministerial and missionary labours, produces a feeling somewhat resembling
that of a near relation, who, on such an occasion, instead of speaking, must wish to be indulged in silent
grief. But the request of my deceased brother cannot be refused.
In selecting a passage for so solemn an occasion, it was natural for our dear friend to fix on one that
should express his last sentiments and his future prospects. He wished, no doubt, to leave a testimony of
his firm persuasion of the truth of those principles which he had believed and taught, and to the hope which
they inspired in the prospect of eternity.
The occasion on which the passage is introduced is deserving of our notice. Certain men, of pernicious
principles, had crept unawares into the churches, so as to render it necessary for the apostle to write even
on "the common salvation," and to exhort the brethren earnestly to "contend for the faith once delivered
to the saints." Nor was it confined to principles: those who had departed from the faith had also gone far
into impure and dissolute conduct; "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, defiling the flesh, despising
dominion, and speaking evil of dignities." It is no new thing for deviations in Christian doctrine to be
followed by those in practice. As truth sanctifies the mind, so error pollutes it. It was to turn the apostacy
of these ungodly men to the advantage of the faithful that the apostle addressed them as he did: "But ye,
beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the
love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Having exposed the wicked
ways into which these men had turned aside, he points out the good and the right way, and holds up the
end to which it leads.
In discoursing on the subject, we shall notice the principles which we have suggested to us, and the
prospects which they furnish in respect of a blessed hereafter.
I. Let us offer a few remarks on The Principles Which are Here Suggested to Us, as Constituting True Religion. Whatever ideas we have entertained of truth and true religion, it is necessary to bring them to the Scriptures, as to the standard.
1. True evangelical religion is here represented as a building, the foundation of which is laid in the faith
of Christ: - "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith." Whether it relate to personal or to social
religion, this must be the foundation of the fabric, or the whole will fall. Many persons are awakened to
some serious concern about futurity, and excited to inquire what they must do to be saved; and, in that state
of mind, it is not unusual for them to have recourse to reading and prayer, as a preparation for death. Many
preachers, too, will think it sufficient to direct them to the use of these means. But if the death and mediation
of Christ be overlooked, it is not reading, or prayer, or any other religious exercise, that will avail us.
did John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles lay the foundation of the gospel kingdom by calling on sinners
to "repent and believe the gospel?" Was it not because all other duties, prior to these, were of no account?
When some, who followed Christ for loaves, inquired what they must do to work the works of God, his
answer was, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent;" plainly intimating that
no work, prior to this, could be pleasing to God. The Scriptures direct men to pray, but it is in faith. To the
question, "What must I do to be saved?" there is but one answer - "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
thou shalt be saved." Christ is the door; by him if any man enter in he shall be saved. To direct inquirers
to any thing short of this is to direct them to that which, if complied with, will leave them short of salvation.
This the Scriptures never do: there is not a direction in the oracles of God but, if truly followed, will lead
to everlasting life.
One lays the foundation of his religion in what he calls reason; but which in fact is his own reasoning.
The same inspired writer who in one sentence commends understanding, in the next warns us against
leaning to our own understanding. To strengthen ourselves and one another in this way, is to build up
ourselves on our own conceits. Another founds his religion on his good deeds. Good deeds undoubtedly
form a part of the building, but the foundation is not the place for them. They are not the cause, but the
effects of faith. They prepare us for heaven, as meetening us for it, but not as rendering us deserving of it.
A third builds his religion on impressions. It is not from the death of Christ for sinners or any other gospel
truth that he derives his comfort, but from an impulse on his mind that his sins are forgiven, and that he is
a favourite of God, which is certainly no where revealed in the Scriptures. We may build ourselves up in
this way, but the building will fall. A fourth founds his religion on faith, but it is not a holy faith, either in
respect of its nature or its effects. It is dead, being alone, or without fruit. The faith on which the first
Christians built up themselves included repentance for sin. As when forgiveness is promised to repentance,
faith in Christ is supposed; so when justification is promised to believing, repentance is supposed. However
distinct they are, as to their nature and objects, they have no separate existence. Hence, in the preaching
of John, Christ, and the apostles they are united; and hence the faith of Christ, supposing a renunciation of
every thing opposed to it, and including a cordial acquiescence in the gospel way of salvation through his
death, is most holy.
These principles your clear deceased pastor has long believed and taught. May you long continue to
exemplify their holy influence.
2. That religion which has its foundation in the faith of Christ will increase by "praying in the Holy
Spirit." As there is no true practical religion without faith in Christ, so there is no true prayer but "in the Holy
Spirit." It is true "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" but it is no less true that we know not
what to pray for as we ought, but as the Spirit helpeth our infirmities: clear proof this, by the way, that that
may be man's duty which yet, owing to his depravity, cannot be performed but by Divine grace; and that
the Holy Spirit works that in us - which God as the Governor of the world requires of us; writing his law
upon our hearts, or working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.
The assistance of the Holy Spirit, however, is not that of which we are always sensible. We must not
live in the neglect of prayer at any time because we are unconscious of being under Divine influence, but
rather, as our Lord directs, pray for his Holy Spirit. It is in prayer that the Spirit of God ordinarily assists
us. Prayers begun in dejection have often ended
in joy and praise: of this many of the Psalms of David
furnish us with examples.
One of the sentences uttered by your deceased pastor, when drawing near his end, was, "I WISH I
HAD PRAYED MORE." This was one of those weighty sayings which are not unfrequently uttered in view
of the solemn realities of eternity. This wish has often recurred to me since his departure, as equally
applicable to myself, and with it the resolution of that holy man, President Edwards, "so to live as he would
wish he had when he came to die." In reviewing my own life, I wished I had prayed more than I have for
the success of the gospel. I have seen enough to furnish me with matter of thankfulness, but, had I prayed
more, I might have seen more. I wish I had prayed more than I have for the salvation of those about me,
and who are given me in charge. When the father of the lunatic doubted whether Jesus could do any thing
for him, he was told in answer, that, if he could believe, all things were possible. On hearing this he burst
into tears, saying, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!" He seems to have understood our Lord as
suggesting that, if the child was not healed, it would not be owing to any want of power in him, but to his
own unbelief. This might well cause him to weep and exclaim as he did. The thought of his unbelief causing
the death of his child was distressing. The same thought has occurred to me as applicable to the neglect of
the prayer of faith. Have I not by this guilty negligence been accessory to the destruction of some that are
dear to me! And were I equally concerned for the souls of my connexions as he was for the life of his child,
should I not weep with him? I wish I had prayed more than I have for my own soul: I might then have
enjoyed much more communion with God. The gospel affords the same ground for spiritual enjoyment as
it did to the first Christians. I wish I had prayed more than I have in all my undertakings: I might then have
had my steps more directed by God, and attended with fewer deviations from his will. There is no
intercourse with God without prayer. It is thus that we walk with God, and have our conversation in
3. We are given to understand, that by means of building on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy
Spirit, we "keep ourselves in the love of God." The love of God here is to be understood not of his love
to us, but of ours to him; as when our Lord told the unbelieving Jews that they had not "the love of God"
in them. To keep alive this sacred flame amidst the temptations of the world is in a manner the sum of the
Christian life. If this be preserved, every other grace will thrive, and we shall prosper in all that we set our
hands to in the service of God. Not only must natural affection to our dearest friends and relations give
place to the love of God, but even the love of our Christian brethren must be on account of their obedience
to him: "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? - Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which
is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
This is a subject into which your dear pastor entered with deep interest, considering it as essential to
true religion. He dwelt much in his preaching on the glory of the Divine character and government, as
displayed in the law and the gospel, and scrupled not to declare his firm persuasion that all religious
affections which disregarded this were spurious, and would prove of no account at the great day. He was
persuaded that as sin must be hated as sin, or it is not hated at all; so God must be loved as God, or he is
not loved at all. But to love God as God is to love him for what he is, as well as for what he has done for
us. He had, indeed, no such notion of loving God for his own excellency as should render us indifferent to
our own salvation. On the contrary, he considered it as essential to the love of
God to desire his favour as
our chief good. But we can no more desire this, irrespective of what he is, than we can desire any other
object without considering it as in itself desirable. Unless we love God in respect of his character, his favour
would be no enjoyment to us.
In these views I am persuaded that our brother was in the right, and that, instead of their being mere
metaphysical subtilties, they enter into the essence of true religion. The glory of the gospel consists in an
exhibition of the glory of the Divine character. Had it been possible for sin to have been forgiven, and
sinners accepted, in a way inconsistent with righteousness, however agreeable it might have been, as
furnishing us with the means of escape from wrath, there had been no glory in it, and, had we truly loved
God, no satisfaction to our minds.
In judging of what is true or false, right or wrong, the love of God is that to the mind which an ear for
music is to harmony, or which a delicate sense of fitness is to our speaking and acting with propriety. It is
thus that the apostle represents it in his Epistle to the Philippians: "And this I pray, that your love may
abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are
excellent;" or - in all sense; that ye may try things that differ. In short, there is no calculating the bearings
of this principle: it is the life-blood that flows through all the veins of true religion. Hence the prayer of the
apostle: "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God."
It is by building up ourselves on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Spirit, that we are supposed
to keep alive this heavenly flame. These are the means adapted to that important end; they are to the love
of God that which oil is to the fire, tending to feed and to enliven it. It is by a growing acquaintance with
the word of God, accompanied with habitual prayer, that, the love of God increases and abounds more and
more. There are things which are inconsistent with the love of God, such as the love of the world and the
indulgence of its lusts: "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." But a life of faith and
prayer will subdue these weeds, no less than they, when indulged, are known to choke the word of God,
and to render it unfruitful. Let the field be but well occupied with good seed, and there will be no room for
the weeds: "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh."
4. We are taught that, when we have done all, in looking for eternal life, we must keep our eye singly
and solely on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was this part of the subject that our dear brother
particularly repeated, as expressive, I doubt not, of both the ground and object of his hope. Every one who
knew him can bear testimony that he was a just and holy man, and that it was his great concern, in every
station he filled, to maintain good works; but his dependence for acceptance with God was not on them.
He looked for eternal life through "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ." The best characters have always
been the most sensible of their own unworthiness, and the furthest from self-righteous boasting. After all
their labours in the cause of God, they feel to have been unprofitable servants, as having done only what
was their duty to do, and that with so much imperfection as to furnish matter of humiliation and self-abasement.
It is true that a servant of God may enjoy a portion of solid satisfaction in reviewing those thing
which, by the grace of God, he has been enabled to accomplish, and this without any mixture of self-righteous
boasting. This was the case with the apostle of the Gentiles. He could say, on the approach of
death, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord
the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that
love his appearing." But if Paul himself had been speaking of the consideration on which he hoped to be
accepted and saved, he would, like Jude, have resolved it into "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You know, brethren, that this is the doctrine which your pastor has preached among you for nearly
forty years. It is true he did not so represent the grace of God as to cherish a spirit of slothfulness or
wantonness, but, in all his labours, it was his uniform design to direct his hearers, whether they would bear
or whether they would forbear, to the only way of salvation marked out in the Holy Scriptures: "By grace
are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." He preached the doctrine of
sovereign grace in such a manner as to warn every man against trusting to his own righteousness, and teach
every man in what way he must be saved, if saved at all, as well as to lead those who had believed in Jesus
to ascribe it to the grace of God that they were what they were. And now, having, as I said, for nearly forty
years, pointed you to the good and the right way, he has himself walked in it; leaving you and all the world
with this sentiment upon his lips - "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life!"
Let us now proceed to the latter part of the subject; namely,
II. The Prospects Which These Prinicples Furnish as to a Blessed Hereafter: "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
By "the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ" I understand that which is communicated through his death,
and with the dispensation of which he is invested, both now and at the day of judgment: "Of his fulness have
all we received, and grace for grace. - The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that
We have already received much of the mercy of Christ. It was mercy that induced him to assume our
nature, and undertake our salvation; to give himself an offering and a sacrifice to God for us; to send his
Holy Spirit to renew us, when we were dead in sin; to intercede for us at the right hand of God; and to be
with us in all our labours and sufferings for his name's sake: but in respect of actual enjoyment, there is
much more yet to be expected. The mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ is communicated in greater and greater
degrees, till, like rivers terminating in the ocean, it issues in eternal life.
The first exercise of mercy which the Scriptures direct us to look for, on our leaving the body, is an
immediate reception into the presence of Christ, and the society of the spirits of just men made perfect.
"The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. - Lord, remember me when thou
comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me
in paradise. - Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. - We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the
body, and to be present with the Lord. - I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be
with Christ, which is far better. - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the
dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and
their works do follow them." What this overwhelming tide of mercy will prove we have yet to learn. When
the Lord turned again the captivity of Judah, they were like those that dream; the deliverance seemed too
great to be real. And thus it may be with believers on their departing from the body, and entering into the
joy of their Lord. But of this our dear brother knows more, since his taking
leave of us, than we should be
able to discover in a series of years on earth, even though we should make it our constant study. If an
inspired apostle could say, "We know not what we shall be," it is vain for us to think of forming an
adequate conception of it.
I do not know whether I ought not to reckon under this particular the glorious progress of Christ's
kingdom in this world. Why should we suspect whether our brethren who rest from their labours be from
hence interested in this object? If there be joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner that repenteth,
why not among the glorified saints? And if over one sinner, much more over the multitudes that shall be
gathered in the latter days from every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.1 There is a sense in
which the dead know not any thing: "Their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished, neither
have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." All this is true, as to the
things of this world; but it does not follow that those who die in the Lord have no more a portion in his
spiritual kingdom. As well might we infer that their love of him and hatred of evil shall perish. But I ask
leave, on this subject, to refer to A Meditation on the Nature and Progressiveness of the Heavenly
Glory, contained in a small volume of "Dialogues, Letters, and Essays," published in 1806.2
Another stream of mercy for which we are directed to look will attend the second coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and consist in the dead being raised, and the living changed. "The Lord himself shall descend
from heaven, - with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise
first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the
Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." It has been usual for nations to reserve the most
notable acts of grace to the appearance or coronation of their kings, as tending to honour their entrance
on the government. And thus both the first and second appearing of Christ are periods which God has
distinguished by the most glorious displays of mercy. The former was a jubilee to the Gentile world; and
the latter will be the same to the whole creation. As, on the sounding of the jubilee trumpet, the captives
were liberated; so, when the trump of God shall sound, the righteous dead shall be raised, and their
resurrection will be to the creatures of God the signal of emancipation from under the effects of sin.
View the grave as a long, dark, and comfortless abode, and it is sufficient to appal the stoutest spirit;
but take into consideration that here the Lord lay - that he was raised from the dead, that he might be the
first-fruits of them that slept - and that of all that the Father gave him he will lose nothing, but will raise it
up at the last day - and it will wear a different aspect. Job, when contemplating the grave as a long and
dreary habitation, describes it in the most plaintive language: "Man lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens
be no more!" But when his views are fixed on the deliverance which he should obtain at that great and
glorious day, his complaints are exchanged for triumphs. It is delightful to observe the erection of soul which
a believing prospect of the resurrection gave him, after all his depression: "Oh that my words were now
written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock
for ever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall
1 Such, we know, were the ideas of our dear departed brother; which, as some may remember, he enlarged
upon at the Thursday morning meeting of the Association, held at Kettering, in 1813.
2 Published in the third volume of the present edition. - B.
stand at the latter day upon the earth; and
though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself,
and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." In a strain very
similar to this, the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, describes the victory over death and the
grave, representing believers as actually raised from the dead, and as standing upon their graves, looking
the conquered enemy in the face, and exclaiming, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us
the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." By looking for this part of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we shall be reconciled to death, even before we meet it.
But there is another stream of mercy beyond this, to which we are directed to look, and which pertains
to the last judgment. We have an impressive idea given us of this in Paul's prayer for Onesiphorus: "The
Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain;
but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that
he may find mercy of the Lord in that day."
We have needed mercy on many days, and have found it; but that is a day in which we shall need it
more than ever. It is a fond notion, entertained by some, that the sins of believers will not be brought into
judgment. We are assured, however, that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every
one of us shall give an account of himself to God; and that of every idle word that men shall speak they shall
give account thereof at the day of judgment. The mercy of the Lord in that day will not consist in
connivance; but, as in all other instances, be exercised consistently with righteousness. In our present state
of mind, we may wish to have it otherwise. David might wish that the evil he had wrought in secret should
be kept secret; but the Lord determined to expose it before the sun. It does not comport with the character
of God to conceal the truth, but to make it manifest. If the sins of believers were not brought into judgment,
there would he no occasion for the exercise of forgiving mercy. It is from the strictness of the trial, and the
awfulness of the sentence to which, if dealt with according to their deserts, they would be exposed in that
day, that mercy will be needed. The world shall know their guilt, and their repentance, and the way in which
they are forgiven; so as to glorify God, though it be unwillingly, and to feel the justice of their own
condemnation. In this view of the last judgment, the manifestation of guilt, and wrath, and mercy will each
surpass all our present conceptions.
It is commonly represented, in the Scriptures, that every man will be judged "according to his works;"
and true it is, that all our actions and words, and even thoughts, will undergo an impartial scrutiny, and be
considered as the test of character. They, for example, who have ministered to Christ's members in their
necessities, will be treated as having ministered unto him; and they that have disregarded them, as having
disregarded him: but if, by being judged according to our works, were meant that God will proceed with
us on the principles of mere justice, giving to every one his due, we should all be condemned: "If thou,
Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou
mayest be feared."
Nor will the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, in that day, be confined to the forgiveness of sin: even the
rewards of that day, though expressive of righteousness and faithfulness, yet have their origin in mercy. The
crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give in that day
to all who love his
appearing, will not be a reward of debt, but of grace. But for grace, we should have had no good deeds
to be rewarded; or if we had, they could no more be named in that day than the good behaviour of a
murderer will bear to be alleged as a balance against his crimes. But being accepted in Christ, what is done
for him is rewarded for his sake. Hence the crown of glory that shall be bestowed on his appearing is
denominated, "the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
After this, nothing remains but that eternal life into which, as into an ocean, all these streams of mercy
flow "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world." Such was the object of your dear pastor's hope. May such be yours and mine: let our last end be
The separation of a pastor and a people is a serious event. He is gone to give account of his ministry,
and his account will include many things pertaining to the people of his charge. Some of them, I trust, will
be found to have received the love of the truth, and will be his joy and crown of rejoicing. Could he have
uttered his heart to you, his children, it would have been to press upon you a perseverance in the things that
you have received and learned. Nay, he did so far utter his heart as to say, to those about him, "If any thing
be said as from me, let the last word be, 'As I have loved you, see that ye love one another.'" I doubt not
but it has been his endeavour that, after his decease, you might have these things always in your
remembrance; and that he was less anxious that you should remember him than them: but I trust you will
remember both. Others, I fear, will be found to have sat under his ministry in vain. The word preached has
not profited them, not being mixed with faith. It is an affecting case to perish from under a faithful minister;
for if he be .pure from your blood, on whose head must it be found, but on your own? Let us hope that,
if the warning voice of your minister has not been heard before, it may be heard now. His last end furnishes
a lesson of instruction, by which he being dead yet speaketh. You see here, that if a man keep Christ's
saying, he will never see death. Death to him is not death, but the introduction to everlasting life. But know
also, that he that believeth not the Son will never see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
I shall conclude with a brief account of our deceased brother; which I give partly from my own
knowledge, and partly from the communications of others.
I am aware that some great and good men have imposed silence on these occasions. Without
impeaching their motives, I take the liberty to differ from them. It is true that for sinful creatures, as we all
are, to heap encomiums on one another, is vain and sinful; yet we may err, on the other hand, by concealing
what the grace of God has done for us. In this view one may, on occasion, speak of himself, as did the
apostle Paul; and if so, why not of another? David did not withhold a tribute of affection to the memory of
his brother Jonathan. Nor did Luke conceal the fruits of faith and love which had appeared in Dorcas. She
might have left an injunction that at her decease nothing should be said of her; but the widows must weep,
and show the garments which she had made for the poor in her lifetime. It is not for us to suppress the
feelings of nature, and still less those of grace.
Our deceased brother was born near Halifax, in Yorkshire, on the 9th of August, 1752, O.S. His
parents were both of them pious characters, and remarkable for their strict attention to the instruction and
government of their children. Of course he would be taught the good and the right way
from his childhood.
It does not appear, however, that he was made wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus, till about
the sixteenth or seventeenth year of his age. This was under the ministry of his revered friend and father Mr.
John Fawcett, pastor of the church meeting at Hepden Bridge. Of this church he became a member, on
May 28, 1769. Being of a serious and studious turn of mind, he appeared to his friends to possess gifts
suited to the ministry, which was proposed to his consideration. The proposal met with his own wishes,
and, being desirous of obtaining all the instruction he could, he went, in January, 1772, to the Bristol
Academy, then under the care of Messrs. Hugh and Caleb Evans. Of his conduct in this situation, it is
sufficient to say that it procured him the esteem of his tutors to the end of their lives.
In 1774 he left the academy, and, after stopping a short time at different places, in July, 1775, he came
to Olney. It was in the spring of the following year, when the Association was held at Olney, that my
acquaintance with him commenced; and, from that day to this, all that I have known of him has tended to
endear him to me.
I cannot say when it was that he first became acquainted with the writings of President Edwards, and
other New England divines; but, having read then, he drank deeply into them: particularly into the harmony
between the law and the gospel - between the obligations of men to love God with all their hearts and their
actual enmity against him - and between the duty of ministers to call on sinners to repent and believe in
Christ for salvation, and the necessity of omnipotent grace to render the call effectual. The consequence
was, that while he increased in his attachment to the Calvinistic doctrines of human depravity, and of
salvation by sovereign and efficacious grace, he rejected, as unscriptural, the high, or rather hyper,
Calvinistic notions of the gospel, which went to set aside the obligations of sinners to every thing spiritually
good, and the invitations of the gospel as being addressed to them.3 Hence it was that his preaching was
disapproved by a part of his hearers, and that, in the early part of his ministry at Olney, he had to encounter
a considerable portion of individual opposition. "By patience, calmness, and prudent perseverance,
however," says one of his friends, "he lived to subdue prejudice; and though his beginning was very
unpropitious, from a small and not united interest, he raised it to a large body of people, and a congregation
most affectionately attached to him."
He had a largeness of heart that led him to expect much from the promises of God to the church in the
latter days. It was on his motion, I believe, that the Association at Nottingham, in the spring of 1784, agreed
to set apart an hour on the evening of the first Monday in every month for social prayer for the success of
the gospel, and to invite Christians of other denominations to unite with them in it.
It must have been about this time that he became acquainted with Mr. Carey, who then resided at
Hackleton. Mr. C. had been baptized by Mr. (now Dr.) Ryland, at Northampton, on the 5th of October,
1783, and, after a while, joined the church at Olney, by whom he was sent into the ministry. Without
reading any thing material on Christian doctrine, besides the Scripture, he had formed his own system; and,
on comparison, he found it to be so near to that of several of the ministers in his neighbourhood as to lay
the foundation of a close and lasting friendship between them. But to return to our deceased brother -
3 His views of the gospel may be seen by a small piece, first published in 1783, entitled, The First
Principles of the Oracles of God, represented in a Plain and Familiar Catechism for the Use of Children. It has
gone through several editions.
In all the conversations between the years 1787 and 1792, which led on to the formation of the Baptist
Missionary Society, and in all the meetings for fasting and prayer, both before and after it was formed, he
bore a part. In 1789 he republished President Edwards's "Humble Attempt to promote Explicit Agreement
and Visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion." How much this
publication contributed to that tone of feeling which, in the end, determined five or six individuals to venture,
though with many fears and misgivings, on an undertaking of such magnitude, I cannot say; but it doubtless
had a very considerable influence on it.
In April, 1791, there was a double lecture at Clipstone, and both the sermons, one of which was
delivered by brother Sutcliff, bore upon the meditated mission to the heathen. His subject was Jealousy
for God, from I Kings xix. 10. After public worship, Mr. Carey, perceiving the impression that the sermons
had made, entreated that something might be resolved on before we parted. Nothing, however, was done
but to request brother Carey to revise and print his "Inquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means
for the Conversion of the Heathen." The sermons also were printed at the request of those who heard
From the formation of the Society, in the autumn of 1792, to the day of his death, our brother's heart
and hands have been in the work. On all occasions, and in every way, he was ready to assist to the utmost
of his power.
In 1796 he married Miss Jane Johnstone, who was previously a member of his church. This connexion
appears to have added much to his comfort. For eighteen years they lived together, as fellow helpers to
each other in the ways of God; and their separation has been but short. The tomb that received his remains
has since been opened to receive hers. He died on the 22d of June, and she on the 3d of September
following, possessing the same good hope, through grace, which supported him. A sermon was preached
at her interment, by Mr. Geard of Hitchen, from Romans v. 2, "By whom also we have access by faith into
this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Mr. Sutcliff had been in a declining state of health for several years past. On the 3d of March, 1814,
being on a visit at London, he was seized, about the middle of the night, with a violent pain across his breast
and arms, attended with great difficulty of breathing. This was succeeded by a dropsy, which, in about three
months, issued in his death.
Two or three times, during his affliction, I rode over to see him. The first time he had thoughts of
recovering; but, whatever were his thoughts as to this, it seemed to make no difference as to his peace of
mind. The last time I visited him was on my way to the annual meeting in London, on the 19th of June.
Expecting to see his face no more, I said, on taking leave, "I wish you, my dear brother, an abundant
entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!" At this he hesitated; not as doubting his
entrance into the kingdom, but as questioning whether the term abundant were applicable to him. "That,"
said he, "is more than I expect. I think I understand the connexion and import of those words - 'Add to
4 If he published any other sermons, or any thing else, besides his Catechism, and the Introductory
Discourse at the Ordination of Mr. Morgan of Birmingham it has escaped my recollection. He, however, wrote
several of the Circular Letters of the Northamptonshire Association; namely, that of 1799, On Providence; of 1786,
On the Authority and Sanctification of the Lord's Day; of 1797, On the Divinity of the Christian Religion; of 1800,
On the Qualification for Church Fellowship; of 1805, On the Lord's Supper; of 1805, On the manner of attending to
Divine Ordinances; of 1808, On Obedience to Positive Institutions; and of 1813, On Reading the Word of God.
virtue - give diligence to make your calling and election sure - for so an entrance shall be
ministered unto you abundantly.' I think the idea is that of a ship coming into harbour with a fair gale and
a full tide. If I may but reach the heavenly shore, though it be on a board or broken piece of the ship, I shalt
The following letter received from his brother, Mr. Daniel Sutcliff, who was with him the last month,
will furnish a more particular account of the state of his mind than I am able to give from my own
"From the commencement of his illness I found, by his letters,5 that his mind was in general calm and
peaceful. 'All,' said he, 'is in the hands of a wise and gracious God. We are the Lord's servants, and he
has a right to dispose of us as he pleases, and to lay us aside at any time.' Nearly a month before his end
I went to see him - to see the chamber where the good man dies.
"His mind was generally calm and happy; though, as to strong consolation, he said he had it not. When
something was mentioned of what he had done, in promoting the cause of Christ, he replied, with emotion,
'I look upon it all as nothing; I must enter heaven on the same footing as the converted thief, and shall be
glad to take a seat by his side.'
"His evidences for heaven, he said, were a consciousness that he had come to Jesus; and that he felt
a union of heart with him, his people, and his cause; and Jesus had said, 'Where I am, there shall my friends
be.' The heaven that he hoped for, and which he had in no small degree anticipated, was union and
communion with Christ and his people. He said, 'The idea of being for ever separated from him appears
to me more dreadful than being plunged into non-existence, or than the greatest possible torture.'
"He often intimated that his views of Divine things were far more vivid and impressive than they had
ever been before. He had a greater sense of the depravity of the human heart, and of the exceeding
sinfulness of sin, as consisting in disaffection to the character and government of God, than at any former
period of his life. He had, he said, an inexpressibly greater sense of the importance of ministers having
correct views of the import of the gospel message, and of their stating and urging the same on their hearers,
than he had ever had before. He was ready to think, if he could communicate his present views and
feelings, they must produce a much greater effect than his preaching had ordinarily done. 'If I were able
to preach again,' said he, 'I should say things which I never said before: but God has no need of me; he
can raise up men to say them better than I could say them.' He would sometimes say, 'Ministers will never
do much good till they begin to pull sinners out of the fire!'
"To Mrs. Sutcliff he said, 'My love, I commit you to Jesus. I can trust you with him. Our separation
will not be long; and I think I shall often be with you. Read frequently the Book of Psalms, and be much
in prayer. I am sorry I have not spent more time in prayer.' At another time he said, 'I wish I had
conversed more with the Divine promises: I believe I should have found the advantage of it now.' Others
of his expressions were, 'Flesh and heart fail. - All the powers of body and mind are going to pieces. -
Shortly this prison of my clay must be dissolved and fall. - Why is his chariot so long a coming? I go to
Jesus; let me go - depart in peace - I have seen thy salvation.' A day or two before he died, he said, 'If
any thing be said of me, let the last word be, As I have loved you, see that ye love one another.'
"On the 22d of June, about five in the afternoon, an alteration took
5 They had been used to correspond in short-hand.
place; he began to throw up blood.
On perceiving this, he said, 'It is all over; this cannot be borne long.' Mr. Welsh of Newbury6 being present,
said, 'You are prepared for the issue.' He replied, 'I think I am: go and pray for me.' About half an hour
before his departure, he said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. - It is come - perhaps a few minutes more
- heart and flesh fail - but God - That God is the strength of his people is a truth that I now see as I never
saw it in my life.' These were the last words he could be heard to speak. Life, take thy chance; but oh
for such an end!'"
Mr. Daniel Sutcliff adds the following lines, as having been frequently repeated in his illness:
"We walk a narrow path, and rough,
And we are tired and weak;
But soon we shall have rest enough
In those blest courts we seek.
Soon in the chariot of a cloud,
By flaming angels borne,
I shall mount up the milky way,
And back to God return.
I once have tasted Canaan's grapes,
And now I long to go
To where my Lord his vineyard keeps,
And where the clusters grow!"
In saying a few things relative to his character, talents, temper, &c. I would not knowingly deviate in
the smallest degree from truth. He possessed the three cardinal virtues, integrity, benevolence, and
prudence, in no ordinary degree. To state this is proof sufficient to every one who knew him. He was
economical, for the sake of enabling himself to give to them that needed. The cause of God lay near his
heart: he denied himself of many things that he might contribute toward promoting it. It was from a
willingness to instruct his younger brethren whose minds were toward the mission, that, at the request of
the Society, he took several of them under his care: and, in all that he has done for them and others, I am
persuaded he saved nothing; but gave his time and talents for the public good.
I have heard him sigh under troubles; but never remember to have seen him weep but from joy, or from
sympathy. On his reading or hearing the communications from the East, containing accounts of the success
of the gospel, the tears would flow freely from his eyes.
His talents were less splendid than useful. He had not much brilliancy of imagination, but considerable
strength of mind, with a judgment greatly improved by application. It was once remarked of him, in my
hearing, by a person who had known him from his youth, to this effect - That man is an example of what
may be accomplished by diligence and perseverance. When young he was no more than the rest of us; but
by reading and thinking he has accumulated a stock of mental riches which few of us possess. - He would
not very frequently surprise us with new or original thoughts; but neither would he shock us with any thing
devious from truth or good sense. Good Mr. Hall of Arnsby, having heard him soon after his coming to
Olney, said familiarly to me, "Brother Sutcliff is a safe man: you never need fear that he will say or do an
He particularly excelled in practical judgment. When a question of this nature came before him, he
would take a comprehensive view of its hearings, and form his opinion with so much precision as seldom
to have occasion to change it. His thoughts on these occasions were prompt, but he
6 Now of Uxbridge. - B.
was slow in uttering
them. He generally took time to turn the subject over, and to digest his answer. If he saw others too hasty
for coming to a decision, he would pleasantly say, "Let us consult the town-clerk of Ephesus, and do
nothing rashly." I have thought for many years that, among our ministers, Abraham Booth was the first
counsellor, and John Sutcliff the second. His advice in conducting the mission was of great importance, and
the loss of it must be seriously felt.
It has been said that his temper was naturally irritable, and that he with difficulty bore opposition; yet
that such was the overbearing influence of religion in his heart that few were aware of it. If it were so, he
must have furnished a rare example of the truth of the wise man's remark, "Better is he that ruleth his spirit
than he that taketh a city." Whatever might have been his natural temper, it is certain that mildness, and
patience, and gentleness were prominent features in his character. One of the students who was with him
said he never saw him lose his temper but once, and then he immediately retired into his study. It was
observed by one of his brethren in the ministry, at an Association, that the promise of Christ, that they who
learned of him, who was "meek and lowly in heart, should find rest unto their souls," was more extensively
fulfilled in Mr. Sutcliff than in most Christians. He was "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." Thus
it was that he exemplified the exhortation of the apostle, "Giving no offence, that the ministry be not
There was a gentleness in his reproofs that distinguished them. He would rather put the question for
consideration than make a direct attack upon a principle or practice. I have heard him repeat Mr. Henry's
note, on Proverbs xxv. 15, with approbation; - "We say, Hard words break no bones; but it seems that soft
ones do." A flint may be broken on a cushion, when no impression could be made on it upon an unyielding
substance. A young man, who came to be under his care, discovering a considerable portion of selfsufficiency,
he gave him a book to read on self-knowledge.
He is said never to have hastily formed his friendships and acquaintances, and, therefore, rarely had
reason to repent of his connexions; while every year's continued intimacy drew them nearer to him; so that
be seldom lost his friends: but his friends have lost him!
He had a great thirst for reading, which not only led him to accumulate one of the best libraries in this
part of the country,7 but to endeavour to draw his people into a habit of reading.
Allowing for a partiality common to men, his judgment of characters was generally correct. Nor was
it less candid than correct; he appreciated the good, and if required to speak of the evil, it was with
reluctance. His eye was a faithful index to his mind; penetrating, but benignant. His character had much of
the decisive, without any thing conceited or overbearing.
In his person he was above the ordinary stature, being nearly six feet high. In the earlier stages of life
he was thin; but during the last twenty years he gathered flesh, though never so much as to feel it any
inconvenience to him. His countenance was grave, but cheerful; and his company always interesting.
I shall conclude with a few extracts of letters concerning him, which I have received since his decease
from those who knew him intimately.
"His zeal for the cause of Christ," says one of his congregation, "was uniform and increasingly ardent
to the end of his life. One of the last conversations that he had with me, he concluded in these words: -
'Farewell! Do your utmost for the cause of Christ. I have done a little, and
7 This library is left, by his will, to the Bradford Baptist Academy, only on condition of the trustees
paying L100 to his relations; a sum far short of its value.
am ashamed that I have done
no more. I have such views of its importance, that, had I ability, I would spread the gospel through the
world.' His knowledge of books was very extensive: he appeared to have a facility in extracting the
substance of them in a short time, as a bee extracts the honey from the expanded flower. He possessed an
equal facility in knowing men, more especially ministers, and that not confined to his own denomination; so
that in a few minutes he could give you an account who they were, what places they had occupied, and
what was their general reputation. From this he was many times able to give seasonable advice."
"I believe," says a minister who had been one of his pupils, "I was the first young man placed under
the care of our dear deceased father Sutcliff. From my first acquaintance with Divine things, on seeing and
hearing him occasionally in my native village, I formed a very high opinion of the general excellence of his
character; and the intimate knowledge I had of him, from residing in his family, so far from diminishing my
esteem and veneration for him, greatly increased them. His piety was not merely official and public, but
personal and habitual. The spirit of devotion rested on him. He was the man of God in all his intercourse.
He conducted the worship of his family with singular seriousness, ardour, and constancy, never allowing
any thing to interfere with it, except great indisposition. He manifested a parental tenderness and solicitude
for the welfare of his pupils, and took a lively interest in their joys or sorrows. I have seen him shed the
sympathizing tear over them in the hour of affliction. Such was the kindness and gentleness of his
deportment, that they could freely impart their minds to him; but while his affectionate spirit invited their
confidence, the gravity of his manner and the commanding influence of his general character effectually
prevented any improper freedoms being taken with him. Such, too, were the sentiments with which he was
regarded among his people; they loved and venerated him. He heard the sermons of his younger brethren
with great candour, and if he saw them timid and embarrassed on public occasions, would take an
opportunity of speaking a kind and encouraging word to then, and aim to inspire them with a proper degree
of confidence. He was singularly regular and punctual in fulfilling his engagements, whether in preaching or
visiting, not only in attending, but in being there at the time; and earnestly inculcated it on his pupils, if they
wished to command respect. He endeavoured to preserve and promote the order and regularity of
Christian families where he visited. I never saw him out of temper but once, and that was produced by want
of punctuality in another person. I often regret that I did not profit more by his instructions and example.
He has many times, by his judicious counsel, been 'the guide of my youth.' His name and his memory will
ever be dear tome. 'My father! my father!'"
"I have just heard," says another who had some years since been his pupil, "of the death of Mr. Sutcliff.
It has returned upon me, whether alone or in company. Such an event may well do so. In him I saw bright
lines of resemblance to our Lord and Master, such as are seldom, very seldom, to be met with in poor
mortals. Such amiableness of manners, so much of the meekness and gentleness of Christ, of sound
judgment and of warm affection, we seldom see united. While memory holds her place, his name and
manner will be cherished by me with pleasing melancholy, not without anticipations of meeting him in
another and better world."
"The memory of Mr. Sutcliff," says another, who had been his pupil, and who was present at his death,
"will live in my warmest affections while I possess the powers of recollection. It seems impossible that I
ever forget such a friend, or speak of him without blessing God that I ever knew him. I am grieved
that he is gone, yet grateful that he was continued with us long enough for me to receive his instructions, and
to witness his example. You have heard some of his dying sentiments. As his address to me may be
considered as his dying advice to the young men who were under his tuition, I communicate it, leaving it
to your discretion what use to make of it. About three in the morning of the day on which he died, like
Israel, he strengthened himself, and sat up on his bed. Calling me to him, he, in the most affectionate
manner, took hold of my hand, and expressed himself as follows: 'Preach as you will wish you had when
you come to die. It is one thing to preach, and another to do it as a dying man. I am glad you are settled
where you are. I think you may say, I dwell among my own people. I am glad we ever knew one another.
Spiritual unions are sweet. I have fled to Jesus: to his cross I am united. The Lord bless you, and make you
[From Joseph Belcher, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Volume I, 1845; reprint, 1988. Document provided by David Oldfield, Post Falls, Idaho. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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