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maternal ancestors were men and women who were Puritans by conviction. His parents regularly attended the Baptist cause at Soham, about two and a half miles from Wicken. The pastor of this small work was John Eve (d.1782), who had been a sieve-maker before becoming the pastor of Soham Baptist Church in 1752. Eve was a High Calvinist, and, according to Fuller, he “had little or nothing to say to the unconverted.” Not surprisingly, Fuller later noted: “I…never considered myself as any way concerned in what I heard from the pulpit.” Nevertheless, in the late 1760s Fuller began to experience strong conviction of sin, which happily issued in his conversion in the autumn of 1769. After being baptized the following spring, he joined the Soham church. Over the course of the next few years, it became very evident to the church that Fuller possessed definite ministerial gifts. Eve had left the church in 1771 for another pastorate, and Fuller, after ministering in the church for a couple of years, was formally invited to become pastor in 1775. REFUTING HIGH CALVINISM Fuller’s pastorate at Soham, which lasted till 1782, when he moved to Kettering in Northamptonshire, was a decisive period for the shaping of Fuller’s theological outlook. It was during these seven years that Fuller began a lifelong study of the works of the New England divine Jonathan Edwards, his chief theological mentor after the Scriptures. He also made the acquaintance of Robert Hall, Sr., John Ryland, Jr., and John Sutcliff, who would later become his closest friends and colleagues. And he decisively rejected High Calvinism and drew up a defence of his own theological position

in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, though this book would not be published until 1785. This epoch-making book sought to be faithful to the central emphases of historic Calvinism while at the same time attempting to leave “ministers with no alternative but to impress upon their hearers the universal obligation of repentance and faith.” With regard to Fuller’s own ministry, this book was a key factor in determining the shape of that ministry in the years to come. For instance, it led directly to Fuller’s whole-hearted commitment to the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 and his role as secretary of this missionary body till his death in 1815. On the other hand, the book involved Fuller in much unwanted controversy. Not long after the publication of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Fuller was assailed in print by two London High Calvinists, William Button and John Martin. In the midst of this controversy, Fuller emphasized that he had “a high esteem” for Button and “many others of his sentiments.” He continued: “I do not account them as adversaries, but as brethren in Christ, as fellow labourers in the gospel; and could rejoice…to spend my days in cordial fellowship with them.” Fuller was to describe his own theological position as “strict Calvinism,” differentiating it from High Calvinism, which was “more Calvinistic than Calvin” and “bordering on Antinomianism,” and from moderate Calvinism, which was essentially the theological perspective of the Puritan Richard Baxter whom Fuller considered a “half Arminian.” Strict Calvinism Fuller reckoned to be “the system of Calvin.” In a letter written to a Josiah Lewis |


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