Rope Burn: Suffering and the World Mission for Those Who Stay: Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), Part 1
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On February 5, 1754 in Cambridgeshire, England, the Elephant of Kettering, as he would later be described, was born. His parents were simple farmers and named their third son Andrew Gunton Fuller. No one could have foreseen that this son of farmers would later be described as:
Such praise was for a man born in humble circumstances and who lacked any formal education beyond reading and writing.
Andrew Fuller’s parents were committed Baptists and at age seven moved to Soham. They attended Soham Baptist Church pastored by a man named John Eve. Fuller’s experience sitting under the preaching of John Eve would leave an indelible impression on him.
Fuller would later write that Eve “had little or nothing to say to the unconverted” and “I never considered myself as any way concerned in what I heard from the pulpit” (The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, p. 24-25)
Fuller grew up in this theological environment of what was known as High Calvinism but what Fuller referred to as False Calvinism. These teachers taught that the preacher had no responsibility to call sinners to believe the gospel. In fact, there was no warrant for lost sinners to believe on Christ and it was an offense to God’s sovereignty to call them to do so. Fuller often tried to convince himself that he was elect even though he had no love for Christ.
At age 14, Fuller read the autobiography of John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, as well as, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and was moved with hope that he might be able to turn to Christ and be saved. He found no encouragement from his parents, pastor, or church to believe on Christ and said he was “like a man drowning, looking every way for help.” (Complete Works, 1 p. 5)
Fuller went through periods of hopefulness and weeping over his sin and his need of salvation; and periods of despair realizing his sin and rebellion. Fuller kept finding in the Scripture what seemed to contradict what he had been taught his whole life.
“Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)
One morning, 1769, at age 15, he went on a walk with an unusually heavy sense of his sin. He remembered his lies, sins, broken promises and presumption in the sight of God.
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15)
His conscience was “like the gnawing worm of hell.” (The Baptists, 1 p. 246).
He knew that “God would be perfectly just in sending me to hell, and that to hell I must go, unless I were saved of mere grace, and as it were in spite of myself.” (The Baptists, 1 p. 246).
“Yet is was not altogether from a dread of wrath that I fled to this refuge; for I well remember that I felt something attracting in the Savior. I must—I will—yes—I will trust my soul, my sinful, lost soul in his hands—if I perish, I perish! However it was, I was determined to cast myself upon Christ, thinking, peradventure, he would save my soul.” (Complete Works, 1 p. 8)
From that point on Fuller had an assurance of the gospel and his faith in Christ. His torturous fears were gradually removed. Fuller declared that he had passed from spiritual death unto life. In 1770, Fuller was baptized and became a member of Soham Baptist Church.
“In 1770 a sixteen year old named Andrew Fuller was converted and baptised in the local river. At that time baptismal services were held either very late at night or at 3 o’clock in the morning due to the disruption that some of the local people would cause.” (www.sohambaptistchurch.org.uk)
In 1771, a church conflict resulted in pastor Eve leaving Soham Baptist Church and, shortly thereafter, Fuller began filling the pulpit on a regular basis. In the Spring of 1775, Soham Baptist Church made Andrew Fuller its pastor at age 20. One year later, in 1776, Fuller married Sarah Gardiner.
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