Rope Burn: Suffering and the World Mission for Those Who Stay: Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), Part 2

  • andrew fuller

andrew fuller

[The following post contains notes taken from an address Dr. Prince gave on Andrew Fuller. Read Part 1 here. Look for two additional posts coming this week]

The Making of a Missionary, Pastor-Theologian (1777-1783)

During his Soham pastorate Fuller wrestled with the theological views he had previously been taught regarding the preaching of the gospel. He also met Robert Hall, John Ryland Jr., and John Sutcliff who became his closest friends and colleagues. They too began to reject the notion that the gospel should not be offered freely to all sinners.

He began his ministry at Soham Baptist following the same path the church had been on previously stating that he did not dare “address an invitation to the unconverted to come to Jesus.” (Baptist Theologians, p. 122)

By 1781, through reading John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, countless conversations with friends Hall, Ryland, and Sutcliff, and most importantly intense study of the Scriptures his conscience would not allow him to continue on the same course. He became convinced that his preaching ministry was defective in that it said far less than Scripture regarding the Gospel.

In that year he completed a treatise he titled, The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation: or The Obligations of Men Fully to Credit, and Cordially to Approve, Whatever God Makes Known. Wherein is Considered the Nature of Faith in Christ, and the Duty of Those Where the Gospel Comes in That Matter.

Now that is an appealing title, isn’t it (Not exactly, Your Best Life Now)? Fuller would author many more works, his collected works total 2,419 pages (Sprinkle edition), but nothing would so define his ministry and passion as The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation. Historian, Michael Haykin, rightly refers to the document as the “Foundation for a Missionary Spirituality.” (The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, p. 29)

Fuller had come to believe that it was a dangerous error to believe that only sinners who were distressed about their spiritual condition had the right or warrant to believe on Christ and became convinced that genuine faith is Christ-centered and not an inordinate focus on self to see if signs were evident to provide warrant for faith in Christ. Fuller became entrenched in the idea that the Scripture mandates the free offer of salvation to sinners without distinction. To put it simply, Fuller believed that it is the duty of all to put their faith in Christ and it is the duty of pastors to preach the gospel to all without distinction.

“The true churches of Jesus Christ travail in birth for the salvation of men. They are armies of the Lamb, the grand object of whose existence is to extend the Redeemer’s kingdom.” (The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, p. 35)

“The army of the Lamb is composed of the whole body of Christians. Every disciple of Jesus should consider himself as a missionary.” (The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, p. 11)

In 1783, he reluctantly struggled with and eventually accepted the call to become the pastor of the church at Kettering. Fuller was fiercely loyal and trusted in God’s providence so he did not believe the difficulties he faced at Soham were a reason to leave. His friend John Ryland Jr. wrote about Fuller,

“Men who fear not God would risk the welfare of a nation with fewer searchings of heart than it cost him to determine whether he should leave a little dissenting church, scarcely containing forty members beside himself and his wife.” (Completed Works, 1 p. 19)

Fuller penned a succinct statement of the theological positions he had come to hold and presented it to the Kettering Church. He stated:

“I believe it is the duty of every minister of Christ plainly and faithfully to preach the gospel to all who will hear it. And, as I believe the inability of men to spiritual things to be wholly of the criminal kind—and that it is their duty to love the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him for salvation, though they do not—I, therefore, believe free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls, and warnings to them, to be not only consistent, but directly adapted, as means in the hands of the Spirit of God to bring them to Christ. I consider it as part of my duty, which I could not omit without being guilty of the blood of souls.” (The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, p. 279)

Fuller’s commitment to preach the gospel to all men without exception calling them to repent of their sin and trust in Christ had already proven costly in his life. He wrote, The Soham people, “Were inclined to find fault with his ministry, as it became more searching and practical, and as he freely enforced the indefinite calls of the gospel.” (History of the English Baptists, 163).

They responded by withholding tithes and offerings, his salary was meager, and he was forced to try to earn money in other ways. He could hardly afford his tiny piece of property. These were the people he was so reluctant to leave because he believed God used suffering to advance the gospel.


By |February 10th, 2015|Categories: Blog|

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today