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THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES VOLUME 8 (2016)
The Journal of Baptist Studies California Baptist University 8432 Magnolia Avenue Riverside, CA 92504
THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES Editors: Anthony Chute and Matthew Y. Emerson Book Review Editor: John Gill Board of Editors: John Crowley, Nathan Finn, Michael Haykin, James Patterson, Mark Rogers, Earl Waggoner, Doug Weaver The Journal of Baptist Studies is an electronic, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought. The journal is produced under the oversight of a Board of Editors representing numerous Baptist denominations and both religious and secular institutions. JBS does not advocate a particular theological or denominational agenda, but rather reflects the scholarship of individuals who identify with a number of positions and affiliations. The journal is available online for free and is independent of any institution. For submission policies and other information related to the Journal of Baptist Studies, please visit http://www.baptiststudiesonline.com. Please direct all correspondence related to the journal to Anthony Chute (email@example.com). Baptist Studies Online (BSO) is a website dedicated to the study of Baptist history and thought, with special emphasis on Baptists in North America. The purpose of BSO is to facilitate the scholarly study of Baptists by making available to researchers and students an online journal, a primary source library, a comprehensive collection of Baptist history-related links, and a periodically updated list of dissertation abstracts from SBC seminaries. BSO is a collaborative effort by Baptist scholars from a variety of traditions, with technical support provided by California Baptist University in Riverside, California.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016)
THE JOURNAL OF BAPTIST STUDIES VOLUME 8 (2016) Editorial...........................................................................................................1 Contributors.....................................................................................................2 Articles An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity: The Fullerism of Andrew Fuller’s The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation By Michael A. G. Haykin................................................................................3 Trans-Atlantic Friendships: Andrew Fuller and the New Divinity Men By Peter Beck................................................................................................16 Andrew Fuller on the Atonement: Was Fuller’s Approach Nearer to That of Jonathan Edwards or the Younger? By Chris Chun...............................................................................................51 The Doctrine of the Bible’s Truthfulness in Andrew Fuller’s Theology By Brian Daniels...........................................................................................72 C. H. Spurgeon: A Fullerite? By G. Stephen Weaver..................................................................................99 Book Reviews Beale, G. K. Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, reviewed by Jeff Cate...118 Martin, Oren. Bound for the Promised Land: A Biblical Theology of the Promised Land, reviewed by Matthew Y. Emerson...................................121 Meyer, Jason C. A Biblical Theology of Preaching, reviewed by D. Jeffrey Mooney........................................................................................................123 Pinson, J. Matthew. Arminian and Baptist: Explorations in a Theological Tradition, reviewed by Nathan A. Finn......................................................126
Table of Contents
Pratt, Zane, M. David Sills, and Jeff K Walters, Introduction to Global Missions, reviewed by Brian Zunigha.........................................................130 Tooze, George H., ed., The Life and Letters of Emily Chubbuck Judson (Fanny Forester), Volumes 1â€“7, reviewed by Melody Maxwell................133
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016)
Editorial By Anthony Chute This issue of the Journal of Baptist Studies highlights the continued interest in Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who my friend and fellow-historian Nathan Finn casually describes as “a Jonathan Edwards who got baptism right.” Paedobaptists may disagree with the latter half of that assertion but Fuller certainly shares significant commonalities with the famed Northampton pastor-theologian: both were intellectually gifted, yet piously oriented; both were Calvinistic in their soteriology, yet evangelistically motivated; both dove headlong into current controversies and subsequently changed the theological landscape with their writings. We have five articles on Andrew Fuller in this issue. Michael Haykin illustrates Fuller’s work as a pastor-theologian by contextualizing his transition from High Calvinism to biblical evangelism, a move that occurred while Fuller served as pastor in Soham. Haykin cites the careful exegesis that led Fuller to square his views on salvation as a sovereign work of God with the example of apostolic preaching of the gospel to all. Peter Beck documents controversies that arose from Fuller’s writings, particularly accusations from Abraham Booth that Fuller had abandoned Calvinistic thought. Beck ably demonstrates Fuller’s dependency on Jonathan Edwards and examines Fuller’s continued willingness to learn from new Divinity men while still distancing himself from the more controversial aspects of their theology. Chris Chun also addresses the Edwards-Fuller-New Divinity connection by citing the scholarly tendency to identify Grotianism exclusively through the New Divinity movement. By examining similar language through Edwards’ writings, Chun argues that questions regarding Fuller’s understanding of the atonement must take into account the conclusions that Edwards himself mounted prior to the impact of New Divinity men. Brian Daniels explores Fuller’s view on Scripture as expressed in his Letters on Systematic Divinity and exemplified through writings such as Gospel Worthy. In so doing, Daniels demonstrates that evangelicals read the Bible for doctrinal clarity in addition to devotional purposes. Finally, Steve Weaver notes the impact that Andrew Fuller had on another Baptist giant, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. While many Baptists know about the impact Fuller had on William Carey, few are aware that Spurgeon gladly identified himself as a “Fullerite,” despite the fact that it had been a term of derision used by opponents of Fuller. Weaver thus queries whether or not Baptists today will choose to embrace the missionary and evangelistic vision of the Fuller-Spurgeon tradition. In addition to these articles, we have provided a number of book reviews for your perusal. We also invite you to submit papers for consideration. Upcoming issues include “Baptists and Persecution” and “Baptists and the Reformation.” Our submission guidelines can be found on the website. Whether or not you can submit a paper proposal, we are grateful for your interest in Baptists and we hope you enjoy the Journal of Baptist Studies. 1
CONTRIBUTORS Michael A. G. Haykin (Th.D., Wycliffe College and the University of Toronto) is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of several books, including Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011). Peter Beck (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Christian Studies and Director of the Honors Program at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwardsâ€™s Theology of Prayer (Evangelical Heritage, 2010). Chris Chun (Ph.D., University of Saint Andrews) is Associate Professor of Church History at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. He is the author of several books, including Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things: William Carey and Adoniram Judson, Missionary Pioneers (Wipf and Stock, 2013). Brian Daniels is a Ph.D. candidate at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. G. Stephen Weaver, Jr., (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is the author of several books, including Orthodox, Puritan, Baptist: Hercules Collins (1647-1702) and Particular Baptist Identity in Early Modern England (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015).
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016)
AN HISTORICAL AND BIBLICAL ROOT OF THE GLOBALIZATION OF CHRISTIANITY: THE FULLERISM OF ANDREW FULLER’S THE GOSPEL WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION By Michael A. G. Haykin As Geoffrey F. Nuttall, the twentieth-century doyen of the study of British Nonconformity, once remarked, it has been given to few Englishmen to have a system of theological thought named for them. Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) of Kettering, England, is among those few.1 “Fullerism” initially appeared, it seems, as a term of reproach while Fuller was still alive. The Norfolk Baptist pastor Job Hupton (1762–1849), for instance, employed this term in an 1803 pamphlet to denote specifically the concept, erroneous in his mind, that it is the “duty of all who hear the gospel to believe it.” In this pithy phrase Hupton accurately caught an essential aspect of Fuller’s thinking, though the same cannot be said for his further critique of Fuller’s theology as that of a “buffoon” who regarded all
Geoffrey F. Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question: A Turning-Point in EighteenthCentury Dissent,” in his Studies in English Dissent (Weston Rhyn, Oswestry, Shropshire: Quinta Press, 2002), 207. The classic study of Fuller’s life is John Ryland, Jr., The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope Illustrated; in the Life and Death of the Reverend Andrew Fuller (London: Button & Son, 1816). The same publisher published a second edition of this biography two years later with a slightly different title: The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope, illustrated; in the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (London: Button & Son, 1818). It is this second edition that is used in this paper. For two important recent studies, see Paul Brewster, Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010), and Peter J. Morden, The Life and Thought of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2015). Also see the excellent study by E. F. Clipsham, “Andrew Fuller and Fullerism: A Study in Evangelical Calvinism,” The Baptist Quarterly 20 (1963–1964): 99–114, 146–54, 214–25, 268–76. For an accessible copy of his works, see The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, revised Joseph Belcher (1845 ed.; repr. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 3 vols. This work is henceforth cited as Complete Works.
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity “who cannot swallow his sophisms, or subscribe to his creed, as if they were not worthy to black his shoes.”2 By the time this critique and ad hominem attack appeared, though, Fuller was no stranger to theological controversy. Since the publication in 1785 of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation—his rebuttal of the High Calvinism of men like Hupton3—he had been engaged in defending his position against various critics of his evangelical Calvinism as well as grappling in print with the heterodoxies of Socinianism and Deism, apologetic works that had brought him a measure of fame and respect as a Christian apologist.4 Given the missional globalization of Christianity in the past two centuries, however, our attention is rightly placed upon the first of Fuller’s apologies, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which Ernest A. Payne once described as a “book destined to effect a theological and practical revolution.”5 That revolution broke the bondage of High Calvinism that encompassed far too many British Particular Baptist communities and led directly to the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792. In Harry Boer’s
Job Hupton, A Blow struck at the Root of Fullerism (London: L. J. Higham, 1803), as cited in a review of this book in The New Theological Repository (1803), 116. Fuller did not reply to Hupton, but see the reply of George Stonehouse, Fullerism Defended; or, Faith in Christ Asserted to be a Requirement of the Moral Law: in Reply to a Pamphlet, entitled, “A Blow Struck at the Root of Fullerism” (Cranbrook, Kent, UK: S. Waters, 1804). 3 For the term “High Calvinist,” see Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question,” 207n4. 4 Fuller’s main refutation of Socinianism may be found in The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined and Compared, as to their Moral Tendency, Complete Works, 2:108–242). His chief response to deism, especially that of the popularizer Thomas Paine (1737–1809), is The Gospel Its Own Witness, Complete Works, 2:1–107. For examinations of Fuller’s reply to these theological aberrations, see Michael A. G. Haykin, “‘The Oracles of God’: Andrew Fuller and the Scriptures,” Churchman 103 (1989): 60–76; idem, “A Socinian and Calvinist Compared: Joseph Priestley and Andrew Fuller on the Propriety of Prayer to Christ,” Dutch Review of Church History 73 (1993): 178–98. 5 Ernest A. Payne, College Street Church, Northampton 1697–1947 (London: Kingsgate Press, 1947), 22.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) words: “Fuller’s insistence on the duty of all men everywhere to believe the gospel . . . played a determinative role in the crystallization of Carey’s missionary vision.”6 “Rest for my soul in the cross of Christ”7 The youngest of three brothers, Andrew Fuller was born on February 6, 1754, at Wicken, a small village now on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens, about six miles from the cathedral city of Ely. His parents, Robert Fuller (1723–1781) and Philippa Gunton (1726–1816), rented and worked a succession of dairy farms.8 When Fuller was seven years of age, his family moved to the village of Soham, about two and a half miles from Wicken. Once settled in Soham, they joined themselves to the Calvinistic Baptist work in the village that met for worship in a rented barn.9 The pastor of the work was John Eve (d. 1782), originally a sieve-maker from Chesterton, near the town of Cambridge. Eve had been set apart to preach the gospel by St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, in 1749,10 and three years later was ordained as the first pastor of the Baptist cause at Soham, where he ministered for nearly twenty years until his resignation in 1771. Eve was a High Calvinist or, as Fuller later put it, one whose teaching was “tinged with false Calvinism,”11 for Eve did not believe it was the duty of the unregenerate to 6
Pentecost and Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1961), 24. See also Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question,” 230; Brian Stanley, The History of the Baptist Missionary Society 1792–1992 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), 12–13. 7 Andrew Fuller, Letter to Charles Stuart, 1798, in Ryland, Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 19–20. 8 Andrew Gunton Fuller, “Memoir,” Complete Works, 1:1. For details of Fuller’s family, see Ryland, Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 8–10; Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 11–12. 9 Ted Wilson, Soham Baptist Church 250th Anniversary 1752–2002 (Soham, UK: Soham Baptist Church, 2002), . This is an eight-page stapled pamphlet without pagination. 10 L. G. Champion, L. E. Addicott, and K. A. C. Parsons, Church Book: St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, Cambridge 1720–1832 (London: Baptist Historical Society, 1991), 17. 11 Fuller, “Memoir,” Complete Works, 1:2, 12.
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity exercise faith in Christ. To be sure, they could be urged to attend to outward duties, such as hearing God’s Word preached or reading the Scriptures, but nothing of a spiritual nature could be required of them, since they were dead in sin and only the Spirit could make them alive to spiritual things.12 Eve’s sermons, Fuller thus noted, were “not adapted to awaken [the] conscience” and “had little or nothing to say to the unconverted.”13 By 1767, though, Fuller had begun to read and be deeply affected by passages from John Bunyan’s (1628–1688) autobiographical Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, as well as his Pilgrim’s Progress and some of the works of Ralph Erskine (1685–1752), a Scottish evangelical and Presbyterian minister. Over the next two years Fuller had a number of religious experiences accompanied by weeping and tears, but all of them ultimately proved transient. “The great deep of my heart’s depravity had not yet been broken up,” he later commented about these experiences of his mid-teens.14 It was not until November 1769 that Fuller reckoned he found true peace with God and, in his words, “rest for my soul in the cross of Christ.”15 The following spring, 1770, Fuller was baptized and joined the church at Soham. “To feel my way out of a labyrinth”16 Within five years the church had called Fuller to be its pastor. Although he had personally known the deadening effect of High Calvinistic preaching, Fuller knew of no other way of dealing with non-Christians from the pulpit, and initially he “durst not . . .
Ibid., 1:12. Ibid., 1:2. 14 Andrew Fuller, Letter to Charles Stuart, 1798, in Ryland, Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 15. 15 Ibid., 19–20. 16 Fuller compared his movement out of High Calvinism to the finding of a path out of a labyrinth; Fuller, “Memoir,” Complete Works, 1:13. 13
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) address an invitation to the unconverted to come to Jesus.”17 But as he studied the style of preaching exhibited in the Acts of the Apostles and especially in Christ’s ministry, he began to see that the “Scriptures abounded with exhortations and invitations to sinners.” But how was this style of preaching to be reconciled with the biblical emphasis on salvation as a sovereign work of grace?18 This question was not unique to Fuller, of course. It had been agitating the ranks of the Dissenters for about forty years, ever since the Congregationalist Matthias Maurice (d. 1738) had published A Modern Question Modestly Answer’d, in which he argued that when a person “sincerely and unfeignedly makes the Bible the rule of his faith,” he cannot but conclude that “God does by his Word plainly and plentifully make it the duty of unconverted sinners, who hear the Gospel, to believe in Christ.”19 Maurice’s position on this question was taken up by Abraham Taylor (active 1727–1742), the Congregationalist minister of Little Moorfields, London, in a tract he published anonymously in 1742, The Modern Question concerning Repentance and Faith.20 What some regarded as a definitive answer to Taylor came from the doughty High Calvinist John Brine (1703–1765) in his A Refutation of Arminian Principles, Delivered in a Pamphlet, intitled [sic], the Modern Question concerning Repentance and Faith (1743). Brine, a confidant of his fellow London minister John Gill (1697–1771), argued, “Evangelical repentance and special [saving] faith, are the duties only of such persons, to whom God reveals himself in his Word, as their Redeemer through Christ.”21 It is 17
Ibid., 1:12. Ibid., 1:15. 19 Matthias Maurice, A Modern Question Modestly Answer’d (London: James Buckland, 1737), 4. See also Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question,” 208, 215–17. 20 Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question,” 221–23. 21 A Refutation of Arminian Principles, Delivered in a Pamphlet, intitled [sic], the Modern Question concerning Repentance and Faith (London: A. Ward, 1743), 10. 18
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity noteworthy that Gill himself did not enter directly into this controversy concerning what came to be called the “Modern Question,” though it is clear he basically stood shoulder to shoulder with Brine on the issue. As Gill wrote on one occasion, the phrase “offering Christ” is clearly unbiblical since it was “improper” and “too bold and free, for a minister of Christ to make use of.”22 Important for Fuller’s struggle with the “Modern Question” was the pamphlet by Taylor, whom Brine had all but considered a crypto-Arminian. What especially impressed Fuller was a catena of biblical texts drawn up by Taylor conclusively showing that “John the Baptist, Christ, the apostles, all in turn did offer grace and salvation to the unconverted.”23 By 1780 Fuller had thus come to see that his own way of preaching was unduly hampered by a concern not to urge spiritual duties upon non-believers. As he wrote in his diary for August 30 of that year: Surely Peter and Paul never felt such scruples in their addresses as we do. They addressed their hearers as men—fallen men; as we should warn and admonish persons who were blind and on the brink of some dreadful precipice. Their work seemed plain before them. Oh that mine might be so before me!24 The pulpit, Fuller commented a few months later, seems an awful place!—An opportunity for addressing a company of immortals on their eternal interests—Oh how important! We preach for eternity. We in a sense are set for the rising and falling of many in Israel. . . . Oh would the Lord the Spirit lead me into the nature and importance of the work of the ministry!25
Citing Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question,” 220. Ibid., 229. 24 Fuller, “Memoir,” Complete Works, 1:23. 25 Ibid., 1:25, diary entries for February 5 and 8, 1781. 23
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) By the time Fuller left Soham to take up the pastorate of the Baptist work in Kettering, Northamptonshire, in 1783, he was convinced, he told the Kettering congregation at his induction on October 7: 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 moral, and therefore of the criminal kind—and that it is their duty to love the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in 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 a part of my duty, which I could not omit without being guilty of the blood of souls.26 Two years later, this theological revolution in Fuller’s sentiments about the duty of sinners to believe the gospel and how that gospel should be preached was published for all to see and ponder in his The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation.
“Cordial belief of what God says . . . [is] every one’s duty” 27 Two editions of The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation were issued in Fuller’s lifetime. A first draft had been written by 1778, the manuscript of which is now housed in the archives of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It begins thus: What a narrow Path is Truth! How many Extremes are there into w[hich] we are liable to run! Some deny Truth; others hold it, but in Unrighteousness. O Lord, impress thy Truth upon my Heart with thine own Seal, then shall I receive it as in itself it is, “A Doctrine according to Godliness.”28
Andrew Fuller, Confession of Faith XV, in Michael A. G. Haykin, ed., The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Joshua Press, 2001), 279. 27 “Preface” to The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation, 1st ed. (Northampton, UK, 1785), iv. Subsequent references to this work are to the first edition unless otherwise noted. 28 Andrew Fuller, “Thoughts on the Power of Men to do the Will of God, Wrote in 1777, or 1778” (Archives, James P. Boyce Library, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY), 1.
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity This draft was re-written, and the work was roughly in its final form by 1781.29 It was another four years, however, before Fuller finally decided to publish the work. He feared it might injure the cause of Christ and was also afraid of the controversy it would engender. This latter fear was only alleviated by the conviction that his argument for the obligation of men and women to believe in Christ was indeed of vital importance. Finally, in October 1784 Fuller took the plunge and made the decision to publish. The following month he walked the thirteen or so miles from Kettering to Northampton to deliver it into the hands of Thomas Dicey (1742–?), a wealthy Northampton printer whose father and grandfather had published ephemeral popular literature. Fuller’s work was anything but ephemeral. When the first edition appeared in May 1785, it bore a lengthy subtitle—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. It is interesting that the advertisement of its publication in the local newspaper, the Northampton Mercury, cited Mark 16:15–16 and not what has come to be called the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19–20.30 A second edition appeared in 1801 with a shortened title—The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation— and simpler subtitle, The Duty of Sinners to Believe in Jesus Christ, which well expressed the overall theme of both editions of the book.31 There were a number of substantial differences between the two editions, which Fuller freely admitted and which primarily related to the doctrine of particular redemption, but the major theme remained unaltered:
J.W. Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (London, 1816), 270. Advertisement in The Northampton Mercury, 66.10 (Monday, May 9, 1785): 2, col. 3. 31 For the second edition see Complete Works, 2:328–416. 30
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) “Faith in Christ is the duty of all men who hear, or have opportunity to hear, the gospel.”32 Or, as he put it in his preface to the first edition: True faith is nothing more nor less than an hearty or cordial belief of what God says, surely it must be every one’s duty where the gospel is published, to do that. Surely no man ought to question or treat with indifference any thing which Jehovah hath said.33 What is quickly evident in both of the editions is the large amount of space given to closely reasoned exegesis. In the first edition, for example, Fuller devotes the second major part of the work to showing that “faith in Christ is commanded in the Scriptures to unconverted sinners.”34 Reflection on Psalm 2, for instance, had first led Fuller to doubt the High Calvinist refusal to countenance faith as the duty of the unconverted.35 He now undertook an interpretation of this text in light of his subject, reading it, as the New Testament reads it in Acts 4, as a Messianic psalm. The command to “the heathen” and “the people” of Israel (v. 1) as well as to “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” (v. 2)— interpreted in Acts 4:27 as “Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the gentiles, and the people of Israel”—to “kiss the Son” (v. 12) is a command given to those “who were most certainly enemies to Christ, unregenerate sinners.” And “kissing the Son” Fuller understood to be a “spiritual act,” which meant, from the perspective of the New Testament, nothing less than “being reconciled to, and embracing the Son of God, which doubtless is of the very essence of true saving faith.”36 Clearly, Fuller reasoned, here was both Old and New Testament support for his position.
Ibid., 2:343. Extremely helpful in tracing the differences between the two editions is Robert W. Oliver, History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1771–1892: From John Gill to C. H. Spurgeon (Edinburgh/Carlisle, UK: Banner of Truth, 2006), 156–72. 33 “Preface” to Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation, iv. 34 Ibid., 37. 35 “Preface” to ibid., iii. 36 Ibid., 37–39.
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity A number of Johannine texts also plainly reveal that “true saving faith” is “enjoined [by the New Testament] upon unregenerate sinners.” 37 John 12:36, for instance, contains an exhortation of the Lord Jesus to a crowd of men and women to “believe in the light,” that they might be the children of light. Working from the context, Fuller argued that Jesus was urging his hearers to put their faith in him. He is the “light” in whom faith is to be placed, that faith which issues in salvation (John 12:46). Those whom Christ commanded to exercise such faith, however, were rank unbelievers, of whom it is said earlier, “They believed not on him” (v. 37). And, as Fuller pointed out on the basis of the quote of Isaiah 6:10 in John 12:40, “it seems” these very same people whom Christ called to faith in him “were given over to judicial blindness, and were finally lost.”38 Then there is John 6:29, where Jesus declares to sinners: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Fuller pointed out that this statement is made to men who in the context are described as following Christ simply because he has given them food to eat (v. 26) and are considered by Christ to be unbelievers (v. 36). Christ rebukes them for their mercenary motives and urges them to “labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (v. 27). Their response as recorded in verse 28 is to ask Christ, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” His answer is to urge them to put their faith in him (v. 29). It is as if, Fuller said, Christ had told them that faith in him is the “first duty incumbent” upon them, “without which it will be impossible . . . to please God.”39
Ibid., 40. Ibid. 39 Ibid., 40–43. 38
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Again, in John 5:23 Fuller read that all men and women are to “honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” Giving honor to the Son entails, Fuller reasoned, “holy hearty love to him” and adoration of every aspect of his person. It necessarily “includes faith in him.” Christ has made himself known as a supreme monarch, an advocate who pleads the cause of his people, a physician who offers health to the spiritually sick, and an infallible teacher. Therefore, honoring him in these various aspects of his ministry requires faith and trust.40 Among the practical conclusions following such Scriptural argumentation was that preachers of the gospel must passionately exhort their hearers to repent and commit themselves to Christ.41 In the second edition, Fuller sharpened this emphasis, more than ever convinced there was “scarcely a minister amongst us”—that is, amongst the Calvinistic Baptist denomination—“whose preaching has not been more or less influenced by the lethargic systems of the age.”42 Far too many of Fuller’s fellow Baptist ministers failed to imitate the preaching of Christ and the apostles, who were not afraid to exhort the unconverted to immediate repentance and faith. For a variety of reasons, these High Calvinists regarded the unconverted in their congregations as “poor, impotent . . . creatures.” Faith was beyond such men and women and could not be pressed upon them as an immediate, present duty. Fuller was convinced this way of conducting a pulpit ministry was unbiblical and simply helped the unconverted remain in their sin.43
Ibid., 43–44. Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation, 163–72. 42 Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Complete Works, 2:387. 43 Ibid., 2:387–93. 41
An Historical and Biblical Root of the Globalization of Christianity Coda Fuller’s book was indeed an epoch-making work. It provided a theology for many others in the Particular Baptist community whose thinking was moving in the same direction and developing along the same lines. Consider, for instance, Thomas Steevens (1745– 1802), pastor of Colchester Baptist Church, Essex, from 1774 until his death in the first decade of the next century. Steevens has in fact been described as a “‘Fullerite’ before Fuller.”44 A few months after the publication of the first edition of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Fuller’s close friend John Sutcliff (1752–1814) had written to Steevens, asking him what he thought of Fuller’s work. Steevens’s response reached Sutcliff on the final day of November 1785. The Colchester Baptist found much to admire in the book and admitted that since 1777 he had been coming over to Fuller's point of view, though he was unaware, he said, “that I had any partners.” He was hopeful that “Some who cannot fully adopt his [i.e. Fuller’s] views, will yet so far profit by it as to address their fellow sinners more in the style of Scripture.” He drew Sutcliff's attention, though, to the fact that many of the Baptists with whom he was personally acquainted would have nothing to do with the book. “Some of them,” he further informed Sutcliff, “already deem me an Arminian,”45 a charge also leveled against Fuller. The counties of Suffolk and Norfolk, to the immediate north of Steevens’s church in Colchester, were a bastion of High Calvinism—witness Job Hupton, the critic of Fullerism with whom this paper began. Many of the Baptists of whom Steevens spoke in this letter to Sutcliff were almost definitely from this area of East Anglia. Theological
Henry Spyvee, Colchester Baptist Church—The First 300 Years, 1689–1989 (Colchester, UK: Colchester Baptist Church, 1989), 31. 45 Thomas Steevens, Letter to John Sutcliff, November 10, 1785 (JRL English Mss 369–71, John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester).
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) conflict, as Fuller had foreseen, was thus inevitable. But ultimately it was a blessed conflict, for Fuller’s conclusion that ministers needed to press home repentance and faith as immediate duties upon all of their hearers was foundational to William Carey’s later argument that this needed to take place not only in England but also throughout the world. The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation thus not only answered the “Modern Question”; it also played a central role in Carey’s going to India and, as such, needs to be considered as nothing less than a “missionary document.”46
A. Chadwick Mauldin, Fullerism as Opposed to Calvinism. A Historical and Theological Comparison of the Missiology of Andrew Fuller and John Calvin (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 60.
TRANS-ATLANTIC FRIENDSHIPS: ANDREW FULLER AND THE NEW DIVINITY MEN By Peter Beck The impact and import of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) are undeniable. Theologians weigh the significance of his contributions in terms of movements rather than ideas. Historians measure the extent of his reach in centuries rather than decades. The echoes of his life span the globe. Nearly two hundred years after his death, scholars still care about what Fuller said and who he knew. The importance of Andrew Fuller was not lost on his contemporaries, either. A survey of his intimates and enemies reveals a veritable “who’s who” of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century evangelical life. Among his friends he counted virtually every British Baptist and evangelical worthy of note. He claimed an intimate friendship with the likes of Robert Hall Sr., John Ryland Jr., John Sutcliff, and William Carey. He knew John Newton. He corresponded with William Wilberforce. Even his antagonists were men of note, such as the Arminian Dan Taylor and the staunch Calvinist Abraham Booth. Such was Fuller’s gravitas that his English contemporaries simply could not ignore him. Fuller’s influence did not end at the western shores of Great Britain. His arguments and reputation drew an audience in the New World as well. Baptists on the other side of the Atlantic were familiar with the pastor of Kettering. In the South, Richard Furman of Charleston counted Fuller among those whom he followed theologically. In the North, Samuel Stillman of Boston served as a conduit between Baptists in America
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) and those in Britain. Fuller’s ideas were such that they could not be overlooked, even from three thousand miles away. That Fuller could influence the diminutive Baptist denomination in America comes as little or no surprise. While slowly building a cadre of significant theologians of their own, the magnitude of the ideas of a key Baptist thinker in Britain could hardly escape the attention or admiration of the early American Baptists. What may come as a surprise to some, however, is the platonic relationship between this Baptist in Old England and disciples of the foremost Congregationalist in New England. Not only did Andrew Fuller and the New Divinity men share a profound admiration for Jonathan Edwards; not only did they know of their counterparts half a world away; a true kinship was forged among these trans-Atlantic theological brothers, a friendship that would span decades and survive open ideological differences. Fuller’s familiarity with and use of Jonathan Edwards is well attested. The theological connections between Fuller and Edwards’s followers are also well known and much debated. Fuller readily acknowledged as much in several places. In a letter responding to one Mr. Martin’s accusations, Fuller noted, “Much is said of my having read EDWARDS, BELLAMY, and other American writers.” This, he continued, was public knowledge.1 Thus, the link between Fuller and the leading New Divinity thinkers should catch no one unaware. The strength of these relationships, however, remains to be fully explored. Given the frequent accusation, then and now, that Fuller imbibed the
Andrew Fuller, “Letter 1 (undated),” in “Remarks on Mr. Martin’s Publication Entitled ‘Thoughts on the Duty of Man Relative to Faith in Jesus Christ,’ in Five Letters to a Friend,” The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller [Works], ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845; reprinted, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 718.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships moral government theory of the atonement from his American friends, these bonds merit further consideration. An examination of the breadth and depth of Andrew Fuller’s friendliness toward the New Divinity men and their ideas follows. To that end, we will consider briefly the theological relationship that served as the mutual link between Fuller and his New England counterparts. A survey of Fuller’s reading of and correspondence with these American theologians will further illustrate his theologically friendly relationship with the likes of Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins. Finally, a series of letters between Fuller and Hopkins; between Fuller’s proxy, John Ryland, and Hopkins; and between Fuller and Ryland will be shown to define the extent of Andrew Fuller’s friendship with the New Divinity. In the end, it will be seen that Fuller knew the New Divinity men, learned from the New Divinity men, befriended the New Divinity men, and yet believed there to be a limit to his friendship with the New Divinity men. A Mutual Friend The writings of your grandfather, President Edwards, . . . have been food to me and many others.2 In this 1805 letter to Timothy Dwight (1752–1817), president of Yale and a New Divinity man himself, Fuller admitted what most later historians have highlighted: the theological career of Andrew Fuller was nourished by the work of Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). A casual reading of Fuller’s works proves this conclusion to be undeniable and unavoidable. As Tom Nettles notes, “Fuller made sure the world knew this by his many quotes of Edwards, his unabashed integration of Edwards’s ideas into his own major 2
Andrew Fuller, “Letter to Timothy Dwight (June 1, 1805),” Works 1:85.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) works, and his open testimony to the usefulness of Edwards’s ideas by letter, diary, and memoir.”3 In Jonathan Edwards, Fuller found a theological friend, mentor, and kindred spirit. Fuller’s connection to Edwards began with his British friends. His first encounter with Edwards’s thought came in 1775 with the recommendation of Robert Hall Sr. (1728–1791), who “took a particular delight in the writings of President Edwards.”4 Upon hearing of Fuller’s theological struggles during his ordination council, Hall was convinced the young pastor would benefit from a reading of Freedom of the Will, a book he believed to be the “most able performance on the power of man to do the will of God.”5 As providence would have it, Fuller picked up the wrong book by the wrong Jonathan Edwards, a British Episcopalian. He would not come upon the correct volume until 1777. In the meantime, through the ministrations of the Northamptonshire Association, Fuller met John Sutcliff (1752–1814) and John Ryland Jr. (1753–1825) in 1776. They, too, were struggling with the question of hyper-Calvinism and the general offer of free grace. In Sutcliff and Ryland, Fuller wrote, “I found familiar and faithful brethren; and who, partly by reflection and partly by reading the writings of Edwards, Bellamy, Brainerd, etc. had begun to doubt of the system of False Calvinism.”6 Together, though living miles apart, Fuller and his newfound friends began to work their way through the quagmire of human responsibility and divine sovereignty thanks to the guidance of Jonathan Edwards.
Thomas J. Nettles, The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity, vol. 1 (Fern, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2005), 263. 4 John Ryland Jr., “Preface to the 2nd London Edition,” Help to Zion’s Travellers, xl. 5 Fuller, “Memoir,” Works 1:15. 6 Ibid., 1:16.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships Fuller’s 1785 published response to the High Calvinists of his day, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, bore a marked resemblance to Edwards’s Freedom of the Will (1754). Edwards’s distinction between moral and natural ability became the linchpin of Fuller’s thesis that man stands responsible before God for his acceptance or rejection of the gospel and, thus, should be called to repentance as his evangelical duty. In presenting his case, Fuller offered eleven pages of precise definitions and helpful illustrations, all clearly informed by his reading of Edwards. As Ryland observed, Fuller “found much satisfaction in this distinction [between natural and moral inability]” and saw it as the means to “disburden the Calvinistic system of a number of calumnies with which the enemies had loaded it.”7 In this way, Jonathan Edwards helped the British Baptists answer the Modern Question and proved his usefulness to Fuller. Fuller turned to Edwards in other theological debates as well. “Of all questions that can occupy the human mind,” he wrote, “there is none of greater importance than that which relates to the way of acceptance with God.”8 As he formulated his own explanation of the doctrine of justification, Fuller once again sought out Edwards’s aid: “The greatest, though not the only, instruction that I have received from human writings, on these subjects,” he wrote to Ryland, “has been from President Edwards’s Discourse on Justification” (1738).9 He echoed that sentiment in his letter to Timothy Dwight: “The President’s sermons on justification have afforded me more satisfaction on that important doctrine than any human performance which I have read.”10 In fact, the very shape of Fuller’s tripartite defense of justification by faith alone reveals more than a passing
Ryland, “Preface” to the 2nd ed. of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Works 2:330. Fuller, “Justification,” Works 1:276. 9 Fuller, “Letter VI: Baxterianism (January 22, 1803),” in “Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:715. 10 Fuller, “Letter to Timothy Dwight (June 1, 1805),” Works 1:85. 8
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) familiarity with Edwards’s earlier work. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Fuller’s “Justification” followed Edwards’s “Justification by Faith Alone” in thought and form.11 In this case, too, the student remained true to his master. The works of Edwards provided spiritual food for Fuller as well. During a period of ministerial malaise in 1781, he reflected upon Edwards’s Religious Affections (1746) and the twelfth true sign of saving faith: being active in ministering to others.12 Three years later we find Fuller reading and circulating among his friends Edwards’s Humble Attempt (1748).13 In July of that same year he made a note in his diary of his reading this work to his friends in his own attempt to “excite them to like practice.”14 Later, in 1790, following another season of spiritual dryness, Fuller wrote that he had received great encouragement from his reading some sermons by Edwards that “have left a deep impression on my heart.”15 Just three months later Fuller again found himself reading Edwards’s sermons, this time “On the Importance of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,” which moved him to a “desire to rise earlier, to read more, and to make the discovery of truth more a business.”16 One also finds references to The Life of Brainerd (1749) scattered throughout Fuller’s diary and sermons. Even Edwards’s unfinished summa, The History of the Work of Redemption (preached 1739, published posthumously 1774), like so many others, found its way into Fuller’s hands, challenged his thinking, and encouraged his soul.17
See Peter Beck, “The Gospel According to Jonathan Edwards: Andrew Fuller’s Appropriation of Edwards’ ‘Justification by Faith Alone,’” Eusebia 4 (Spring 2005): 53–76. 12 Fuller, “Memoir,” Works 1:25. 13 Ibid., 1:35. 14 Ibid., 1:36. 15 Ibid., 1:56. 16 Ibid., 1:57. 17 Fuller, “Letter III” in “Letters on Systematic Divinity (undated),” Works 1:690.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships The conclusion is inescapable. Fuller not only knew of Edwards, he relished his words, followed his thoughts, and espoused his theology at many points. Though dead for nearly twenty years before his discovery by Andrew Fuller, Jonathan Edwards was more than a source for intellectual reflection. As Michael Haykin observes, “Edwards’s theological reflection provided both the shape and the substance for Fuller’s own theology and piety.”18 For this Edwards occupied a special place in Fuller’s heart and affection. The “American Doctor” and His American Friends I have enjoyed great pleasure in reading many of your metaphysical pieces, and hope those who can throw light on evangelical subjects in that way, will continue to write.19 The pleasure Fuller derived from his reading of and relationship with the American divines extended beyond Edwards, as a letter to Samuel Hopkins in 1798 proves. The followers of Edwards brought great encouragement and help to Fuller also. Such was his appreciation and appropriation of the New Divinity writers that Mr. Martin complained of Fuller “importing [his] sentiments from America.”20 Abraham Booth (1734–8016) in his prolonged dispute with Fuller frequently labeled him the “American Doctor,” likely in reference to his receiving honorary doctorates from the College of New Jersey (1798) and Yale (1805), as well as to his personal affinity for the likes of Bellamy, Hopkins, West, and Jonathan Edwards Jr. and their teaching. From the late 1770s, when Fuller first began working through his answer to the Modern Question for the first edition of The Gospel Worthy of Acceptation (1785), into the first decade of the 1800s, when he revised that work, Fuller never denied his friendly 18
Michael A. G. Haykin, “The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller,” in The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Judson Press, 2001), 29. 19 Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (undated),” quoted in John Webster Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller [Memoirs] (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1830), 257. 20 Fuller, “Remarks on Mr. Martin’s Publication,” Works 2:717.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) relationship with the New Divinity men. As he plainly replied to Martin, “It is true I have received instruction in reading the authors abovementioned; nor do I know of any sin or shame either in the thing itself, or in openly acknowledging it.”21 A careful reading of Fuller’s works reveals the breadth and depth of his familiarity with them, and a survey of his correspondence with them displays his affection. When Fuller first became acquainted with the New Divinity writers is not exactly clear. The first explicit mention of them in his memoirs refers to his initial encounter with Sutcliff and Ryland in 1776. Both of these men were already familiar with the Americans’ work, and by Fuller’s own account it would seem the topic might have come up in that introductory encounter. Other evidence suggests Fuller became personally aware of their work as early as the mid-1780s. It is clear, however, that his familiarity with them grew throughout the next two decades as both his polemical works and surviving correspondence reveal. Of Edwards’s earliest disciples, Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803) provides a powerful theological and personal link between Edwards and later New Divinity thinkers. Admittedly such an argument is tenuous when Fuller’s written works are taken into account. While Hopkins may have helped shape his thinking on one issue or another, the works themselves do not bear the clear mark of Hopkins. Only once in the nearly 2500 published pages of The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller does one find Hopkins’s writings directly quoted. In his Strictures on Sandemanianism (1811), written in response to the thought of Archibald M’Lean, Fuller used Hopkins’s True State of the Unregenerate (1769) to make that case that those who have been exposed to the gospel
Trans-Atlantic Friendships and yet choose to continue in their sins face a far greater wrath than those who have not been so exposed. As Hopkins argued, and Fuller concurred, He who continues, under all this light, and contrary to the plain dictates and pressing painful convictions of his own conscience, obstinately to oppose and reject Jesus Christ, is, on the account of this his impenitence and obstinacy under this clear light and conviction of conscience, (whatever alteration or reformation has taken place in him in other respects,) more guilty, vile, and odious in Godâ€™s sight than he was before.22 Beyond that one quote, Fuller failed to give Hopkins another single literary nod. Personal correspondence between Fuller and Hopkins, however, demonstrates the strength of the bond between the two theologians. So confident was he in this regard, Fuller could express warm regards and sincere reservations in the same letter, expecting both would be received in kind. One particular series of interactions illustrates well this sense of mutual respect and trust. As John Webster Morris remarked in his account of the life of Fuller, Mr. Fuller began to acquire considerable celebrity as an author, and some of his works were reprinted and circulated beyond the Atlantic. The American divines especially, having entered pretty deeply into theological controversy, regarded him as a very able polemic, and set a high value on his publications. Desirous of expressing their esteem for his talents and character, they conferred on him the honorary title of Doctor in Divinity.23 The institution to which Morris referred was the College of New Jersey, once presided over by Edwards and at the time by Samuel Hopkins. Fuller did not learn of the honor directly from Hopkins. Instead, word came to him through other channels. When the matter finally did come to his attention in 1798, Fuller wrote at length to Hopkins. In this letter, Fuller admitted his surprise, having received no official communique on the matter, and thanked Hopkins for the compliment. 22 23
Fuller, â€œLetter I,â€? in Strictures on Sandemanianism, Works 2:563. Webster, Memoirs, 43.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) “If I had [received official notice],” he wrote, “I should have written them a respectful letter, expressive of my gratitude for their having offered such a token of respect, and acknowledging what is the truth, that I should esteem it as coming from that quarter which, beyond any other in the world, I most approved.” Fuller then added, however, that he felt compelled to refuse the honor, “partly because I have not those qualifications which are expected to accompany such titles, and partly because I believe all such titles in religion to be contrary to our Lord’s command, Matt. xxiii.8.” Self-educated, he did not find himself worthy of the distinction academically. Humble, he did not seek this distinction professionally. The ease with which Fuller thanked and rebuffed Hopkins without fear of rejection by the American speaks volumes of his boldness and their budding relationship.24 Fuller then devoted a significant portion of this lengthy letter to Hopkins to matters of theological interest. Fuller addressed the ongoing debate related to Booth’s criticisms of both Hopkins and Fuller. Telling of the strength of their developing relationship, at least as Fuller perceived it, he also proceeded to point out several other matters of concern he had with the American’s theology. Hopkins responded seven months later, in October 1798. He accepted Fuller’s apology for Booth’s attitude but refused to forgive Booth for what Hopkins believed to be theological imprecision. After graciously responding to Fuller’s criticism of his own thought, Hopkins began to conclude his response with a word of appreciation for the “distinguished piety and zeal” of William Carey and John Thomas. Hopkins’s salutation is laden with heartfelt gratitude for Fuller, his English peers, and their adoption of and apologetic for Edwardsean theology. “I rejoice that many circumstances in England give 24
Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Memoirs, 43.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships you opportunity to spread your sentiments,” Hopkins wrote. “May prosperity attend your attempts to support and propagate the truth; to promote the cause of Christ and the salvation of sinners.” In spite of Fuller’s theological challenges, Hopkins considered himself Fuller’s “obliged, affectionate friend.”25 While the editor of Hopkins’s Works commented that Hopkins and Fuller maintained an extensive friendly correspondence, no other letter written by Fuller to Hopkins was included in Fuller’s Complete Works.26 The Works of Hopkins, however, does include the text of at least one more letter from America to England. Responding to an unpublished letter from Fuller, presumably recounting the latest news from Baptist Missionary Society’s efforts in India, Hopkins wrote again in 1799. “Since I first heard of Carey and Thomas,” he told Fuller, “I was pleased with their character,—that of Carey especially,—and have had fond hopes that great things (pun intended?) will be done by them and those who may be added to them.”27 Apparently Fuller had also provided Hopkins with an update regarding the theological climate among English Baptists, to which Hopkins responded, “I am pleased to hear that Edwardsean principles are gaining ground and spreading.” The proof of which, he added, was that “the late remarkable exercise to send missionaries among the heathen, and propagate the gospel among others in Europe and America, have originated in a poor shoemaker, from having imbibed these principles.”28 Seeing a similar spread of Edwards’s ideas in New England as well, Hopkins described the takeover of several
Samuel Hopkins, “Letter to Andrew Fuller (October 12, 1798),” in The Works of Samuel Hopkins, D.D. [Works], (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1854), 1:226. 26 Ibid., 1:227. 27 Hopkins, “Letter to Fuller (October 15, 1790),” Works 1:236. 28 Ibid.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) colleges by New Divinity men29 and the beginning rumblings of what would become known as the Second Great Awakening: What appears most favorable now to the spread of our principles and of true religion, is a great and remarkable revival of religion, which is spread wider and has risen higher than any thing of the kind has done in America, for above fifty years.30 Hopkins specifically mentioned a spiritual work taking place in New England, an area later burned over by revival fires of preachers also claiming a connection to Edwards via the New Divinity. To this Hopkins added that a similar adoption of Edwardsean thought and resulting revival was spreading among Baptists in America as well as they discarded “the principles of Dr. Gill, &c., and have imbibed those of Edwards.”31 Having reported the good news, Hopkins informed Fuller of his own circumstances, including a stroke suffered earlier in the year. Not afraid of death and grateful for his wife’s work of transcription, Hopkins closed this letter with terms of great affection for Fuller: “I am yours in the strongest bonds.”32 Joseph Bellamy (1719–1790), another student and personal friend of Jonathan Edwards, seemingly held a dear place in Fuller’s theological heart too. References to Bellamy appear in Fuller’s memoirs and in several of his writings. In The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1785 and 1801), Fuller quoted Bellamy’s True Religion Delineated (1750) at length to prove that man is duty bound to “receive and approve whatever God reveals.”33 Bellamy wrote,
Ibid., 1:236–37. Ibid., 1:237. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Works 2:349. 30
Trans-Atlantic Friendships If any man has a taste for moral excellency, a heart to account God glorious for being what he is, he cannot but see the moral excellency of the law, and love it and conform to it, because it is the image of God; and so he cannot but see the moral excellency of the gospel, and believe it, and love it, and comply with it; for it is also the image of God. . . . He, therefore, that despises the gospel, and is an enemy to the law, even he is at enmity against God himself.34 Fuller borrowed this same concept from Bellamy again, especially in regard to the doctrine of general revelation and fallen man’s accountability before God for his response to that revelation, in his letters by Agnostos written in reply to the Dan Taylor controversy.35 Declaring his appreciation for Bellamy’s True Religion Delineated and following the lead of Edwards, Fuller would eventually write the preface for the English edition of Bellamy’s book in 1812. That Fuller knew and approved of many of the younger New Divinity men, trained by disciples of Jonathan Edwards, is clear. Among these were men like Timothy Dwight, Jonathan Edwards Jr., and Stephen West. The words of Timothy Dwight found a friendly ear with Fuller. Dwight’s ideas proved particularly useful in Fuller’s polemic against deism, The Gospel Its Own Witness (1799). There Fuller leveled the accusation against his deistic opponents that their worldview, lived to its logical conclusions, could never produce true morality. To make the case, he continued, one must look no further than the lives of those who held to such a philosophy. “No books are so plain as the lives of men,” he argued; “no characters so legible as their moral conduct.”36 To further his argument Fuller offered examples of the failed moral dealings of deists from history and contemporary news. Here Fuller quoted Dwight’s 1798 baccalaureate address to Yale graduates, “The Nature and Danger of 34
Quoted in Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Works 2:352. Fuller, “Letter VIII (undated),” in “The Reality and Efficacy of Divine Grace,” Works 2:539. 36 Fuller, The Gospel Its Own Witness, Works 2:27. 35
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Infidel Philosophy,” at length.37 Later in the same work, Fuller again directed his reader to Dwight’s “Dissertation on the Poetry, History, and Eloquence of the Bible” as an adequate response to the deistic complaint that the Bible lacked beauty and style.38 In both cases, Dwight’s intellect served Fuller’s purposes well. While evidence is not readily available to testify to the extent of Fuller and Dwight’s correspondence, at least one letter from each, including evidently the first between them, survives. Both are included in their entirety in Fuller’s Works. Dwight initiated this exchange in March 1805. In his letter, Dwight announced that Yale had granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity to Fuller. He assured Fuller that such a decision was not made lightly: As this act is the result of the knowledge of your personal character and your published works only, and as such degrees are not inconsiderately given by this body, I flatter myself that it will be regarded by you in the light of a sincere testimony of respect to you. Dwight closed with “best wishes” for Fuller’s “personal welfare” and “success” in his labors before concluding with this telling salutation: “I am, very respectfully, your affectionate friend and brother.”39 Not quite four months later, Fuller responded to Dwight’s overture. While grateful for the American’s compliment, Fuller graciously denied acceptance of the award. He wrote, Could I reconcile it to my judgment and feelings to make use of such a title of distinction from any quarter, there is none which I should prefer to that which you have done me the honour to communicate.
Ibid., 2:36–37. Ibid., 2:68. 39 Timothy Dwight, “Letter to Andrew Fuller (March 18, 1805),” quoted in Works 1:84. 38
Trans-Atlantic Friendships Fuller added that he had received such an honor from the College of New Jersey in 1797 and responded in a similar fashion to Samuel Hopkins. To keep from possibly offending Dwight by inadvertently suggesting he had acted presumptuously in repeating an offer refused previously by assuming his was a greater honor than Hopkins’s, Fuller preemptively offered that it would be quite understandable if Dwight had been unaware of the private writings between Fuller and Hopkins. Official business finished, Fuller then took the opportunity in this letter to express his personal appreciation for the work of “President Edwards” and his son “Dr. Edwards,” Dwight’s grandfather and uncle, respectively. It is here that Fuller included additional insight regarding the great impact Edwards’s sermons on justification by faith alone had on his own understanding of that doctrine. To this he added, “Some pieces which I have met with of yours have afforded me much pleasure.” After mentioning his intention to send some of his own works to be included in Yale’s library, Fuller offered a warm closing: “I am, dear sir, yours with respect and affection.”40 By his own admission in the letter to Dwight, Fuller respected the work of Jonathan Edwards Jr. (1745–1801) greatly. From Ryland Fuller received a copy of Dr. Edwards’s Free Grace and Atonement in 1794 and remarked in a letter to Ryland that he had read it years before and did so again with “great pleasure.”41 In another letter to Ryland, Fuller intimated that he counted the younger Edwards among America’s “best divines.”42 Strangely, however, not a single direct quotation or reference to a particular work of the younger Edwards is to be found among the echoes and shadows of the New 40
Fuller, “Letter to Timothy Dwight (June 1, 1805),” Works 1:85. Fuller, “Letter to John Ryland (April 21, 1794),” in Ryland, The Work of Faith the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope, illustrated; in the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller [Work of Faith], 2nd ed. (London: Button & Son, 1818), 226. 42 Fuller, “Letter to John Ryland (October 9, 1795),” in Ryland, Work of Faith, 229. 41
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Divinity influences in Fuller’s Complete Works. Clearly a fan of Edwards Jr. and friendly in posture toward his ideas, a note from Fuller to Ryland suggests Fuller did not have direct correspondence with Edwards. Instead, he asked Ryland to address Edwards for him. The sentiments he wished to express, however, speak volumes. “Should you write to him,” he requested, “give my sincere love to him.”43 Much the same could be said of Fuller’s appreciation for Stephen West. To Ryland, who seems to have been the source of much of the American material that Fuller read,44 he expressed disappointment in not receiving West’s work on the atonement, something for which he admitted he “very much longed.”45 Whatever influence West’s writings may have had on his later thought, Fuller failed to quote or cite him in any of his own work. The written testimony, though, is irrefutable. Andrew Fuller was well aware of his theological peers in New England. His familiarity was broad, as he seemingly read all of their major works. His familiarity was deep, as he nurtured long-distance relationships with a number of them. Thus Fuller’s affinity for the New Divinity men is beyond debate. What that affinity meant for his theology remains to be seen. Friends at Arm’s Length I have read [Edwards, Bellamy, and other American writers], and approve of some of their sentiments; and is there any crime in this?46
Fuller, “Letter to John Ryland (January 1, 1795),” in Ryland, Ryland Jr., Work of Faith, 227. Ryland also provided English material for the Americans. In a letter from Jonathan Edwards Jr., we learn Ryland had sent him Fuller’s The Gospel Its Own Witness; see Jonathan Edwards Jr., “Letter to John Ryland (February 27, 1801, unpublished).” 45 Fuller, “Letter to John Ryland (October 9, 1795),” in Ryland, Work of Faith, 227. 46 Fuller, “Letter 1 (undated),” in “Remarks on Mr. Martin’s Publication,” Works 2:718–19, emphasis mine. 44
Trans-Atlantic Friendships Fuller’s openness toward “American Theology” worried some of his contemporaries. In addition to Mr. Martin, the Hopkinsian system of thought alarmed Abraham Booth as well and proved to be the cause of a great rift between Booth and Fuller, whom Booth believed imbibed of the American errors to the fullest. Fuller, however, believed there to be a limit to his friendship with his New England counterparts. Contrary to the caricature of his blindly accepting any and all ideas flowing from the pens of Edwards and his followers, Fuller openly entertained some concerns about the “American Theology.” Books and letters crossed the ocean in an ongoing dialog between Fuller and Hopkins over points of agreement and disagreement. Fuller drew Ryland into the conversation as well, using his British friend’s way with words to communicate his theological trepidations to Hopkins on his behalf. Abraham Booth also entered the fray, accusing Hopkins of theological chicanery and, in Fuller’s eyes, implicating Fuller in the process. Finally, Fuller responded to the entire issue at length, addressing the accusations of Booth in six letters to Ryland illustrating the limits of Fuller’s acceptance of New Divinity thought. Per Fuller’s desires, his concerns with Hopkins’s theology and the theological boundaries he set for himself are plain to see. Neither Belcher’s edition of Fuller’s Complete Works nor the published works of Hopkins includes the portion of the letter in which Fuller refused to accept the honorary degree from the College of New Jersey. 47 Tellingly, though, both sets include the remainder of that letter, in which Fuller outlined his complaints against Hopkins and his peers’ theology.48 The first area of concern Fuller mentioned was the American argument
Morris’s memoir of Fuller includes that portion of the letter; see “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” quoted in Memoirs, 43. 48 See Hopkins, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Works 1:223–24; and Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Memoirs, 257–58.
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that God is the author of sin. He understood Hopkins’s premise; he disapproved of Hopkins’s language: I am not sure that your idea of God being “the author of sin,” is essentially different from the notion of those Calvinists who consider sin as the object of divine decree: but I am satisfied of this, that to say “God is the author of sin,” does so naturally convey to almost every mind the idea that God is the friend and approver of sin.49 That conclusion, Fuller contended, stands in clear contradiction to the Scripture. Hopkins responded in the affirmative months later in a letter of October 1798: “You may be sure it is not [my intention to differ with those Calvinists], so far as you can rely on my declaration,” he wrote. To this he added, “I have endeavored to prove that God being, in the sense explained, the origin or cause of sin, does not imply any thing contrary to his infinite holiness, or that he is pleased with sin, considered in itself.” As Hopkins went on to explain, the crux of his argument was that God acts as the author sin in that “God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”50 Answered in this way, Fuller’s hopeful interpretation that Hopkins maintained an orthodox position proved correct. As for Fuller’s observation that, taken at face value, Hopkins’s writings seemed to contradict the clear teaching of the Bible, particularly James 1:13, the American responded at length, carefully expounding the text and answering Fuller’s complaint from that passage. Hopkins, firmly convinced that his argument was clear, however, ignored Fuller’s concern about his vocabulary. The editor of Hopkins’s memoirs picked up on this fact and offered his own apologetic for Hopkins, adding in a note, “The phraseology of
Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Memoirs, 257. Hopkins, “Letter to Andrew Fuller (October 12, 1798),” Works 1:225.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships Hopkins often does injustice to his real meaning.”51 In the end, all of Fuller’s observations were accurate. He had read Hopkins correctly and refused to support his arguments without reservation. The second of Fuller’s concerns pointed to a greater, systemic problem already surfacing among the younger New Divinity men: the tendency to stray further afield theologically from Edwards’s initial teachings. As Fuller commented, I have enjoyed great pleasure in reading many of your metaphysical pieces, and hope those who can throw light on evangelical subjects in that way, will continue to write. But I have observed that wherever an extraordinary man has been raised up, like President Edwards, who has excelled in some particular doctrines, or manner of reasoning, it is usual for his followers and admirers too much to confine their attention to his doctrines or manner of reasoning, as though all excellence was there concentrated.52 Therein lays Fuller’s great objection to many practitioners of the New Divinity. He continued, I would allow that your present writers do not implicitly follow Edwards, as to his sentiments, but that you preserve a spirit of free inquiry: yet, I must say, it appears to me that several of your younger men possess a rage of imitating his metaphysical manner, till some of them become metaphysic mad. Taken to the extreme, Fuller worried, “The simplicity of the gospel should be lost, and truth amongst you stand more in the wisdom of men, than in the power of God.”53 Tellingly, perhaps, Hopkins failed to address this charge in his response. Only fragments of another series of letters between Fuller and Hopkins are available in their published works. In a sermon on 2 Samuel 15:26, Fuller proved critical
Ibid. Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Memoirs, 257–58 53 Ibid. 52
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) of some aspects of Hopkinsian thought, particularly the doctrine of disinterested love.54 To his audience Fuller pointed out what he perceived to be error in those who, according to his reading, had misunderstood the nature of disinterested love as Edwards originally taught it. As Edwards explained in Charity and Its Fruit, disinterested love is that love in which “God is loved for himself and for his own sake,” not for what he can offer to the one who loves him.55 The New Divinity thinkers, notably Hopkins, proffered that truly disinterested love would render one willing to be damned, if necessary, for the glory of God.56 Fuller reasoned from his biblical text that the Bible lacks any such requirement for “any who lives under a dispensation of mercy.”57 Word somehow reached Hopkins of Fuller’s criticism. In an unpublished letter, sent via their mutual friend Ryland, he apparently sought to correct Fuller’s misunderstanding.58 Upon hearing from Hopkins, Fuller responded to him in another letter that also remains unpublished. Fuller, however, did inform Ryland that his position remained the same even though he found Hopkins to be a “mighty reasoner.”59 Fuller waited for a reply from Hopkins, a reply that seems to have never come, as Fuller promised Ryland he would publish the interaction between himself and Hopkins for others to read. Despite their differences, however, their friendship and mutual respect remained intact.
Fuller’s concern was not with the terminology, as he himself advocated “disinterested love.” As Ryland observed, Fuller was known for preaching it himself and was often criticized because of this; see Ryland, Work of Faith, 342. 55 Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits in Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsay, Works 8 (1989), 264. 56 Hopkins, “A Dialogue between a Calvinist and a Semi-Calvinist,” Works 3:143–57. 57 Fuller, “Letter to Ryland (undated),” Memoirs, 259. 58 Referenced in Hopkins, “Letter to Dr. Ryland (September 1803),” Works 2:753. 59 Ibid.
Trans-Atlantic Friendships John Ryland also enjoyed a literary friendship with Hopkins and the New Divinity. As Robert Hall Jr. (1764–1831) noted in his eulogy for Ryland, The system of divinity to which he adhered, was a moderate Calvinism, as modeled and explained by that prodigy of metaphysical acumen, the celebrated Jonathan Edwards. For the writings of this great man and those of his followers, he formed a warm predilection very early, which continued ever after to exert a powerful influence on his public ministry, as well as his theological inquiries and pursuits.60 More than that, however, Ryland maintained a “friendly correspondence” with Hopkins. According to the editor of Hopkins’s Works, the volume of letters between Hopkins and Ryland “was as extensive as that with Andrew Fuller.” 61 So important was this relationship that two letters to Ryland are included in Hopkins’s Works. The first of these letters seems to have been in response to Ryland’s initiatory overtures, presumably in 1797, a full year before Hopkins would develop his relationship with Fuller. Hopkins noted his awareness of Ryland prior to receiving a letter from him: “I have for a number of years been acquainted with your character and writings,” he wrote, “and you have my affectionate esteem and good will.”62 With his letter Ryland had included Abraham Booth’s Reign of Grace. After a lengthy consideration of Booth’s theology, Hopkins returned to the pleasantries expected of a first letter to a new friend: “You have my hearty wishes and prayers, dear sir,” he concluded, “that you may be greatly blessed and useful in that important station in which you are placed [the Bristol Academy], and be enabled to maintain and propagate the truths of Christianity, in the midst
Quoted in Hopkins, “Memoir,” Works 1:227. Ibid. 62 Hopkins, “Letter to Dr. Ryland (November 24, 1797),” Works 2:749. 61
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) of the opposition with which you are surrounded.”63 “With much esteem and cordial affection,” Hopkins closed this letter to his newfound friend.64 Sometime late in 1802 or early 1803, Fuller forwarded to Ryland a letter he had received from Hopkins. About that same time Ryland also received a letter directly from Hopkins. With the American weighing heavily on his thoughts, Ryland wrote Hopkins in February 1803. After admitting his leadership of the Bristol Academy left him little time for correspondence or keeping up with the latest theological developments, Ryland quickly turned his attention to a concern he shared with Fuller about various aspects of New Divinity theology. He struggled, he admitted, with some “difficulties which I cannot wholly surmount, tho I may perhaps be more favorably disposed toward your view than most.”65 First among his concerns was the question of “divine Agency in respect to Sin.” Like Fuller, Ryland saw great potential for error in this way of explaining God’s relation to the origin of sin. He worried that the constant need for clarification of Hopkins’s meaning necessary to preserve the doctrine of man’s accountability for his sinful actions took away from time better spent discussing God’s relationship with all that is good in the universe. Worse, he admitted, “I am afraid, that if we get the former part of this last Notion into Men’s hands, we shall never be able to prevent their drawing a contrary Conclusion.” Ryland also intimated a concern that echoed Booth’s critique of Hopkins in Glad Tidings: his argument that a person must respond favorably with a renewed mind to the Law antecedent to his acceptance of the gospel went against commonly held understandings of 63
Ibid., 2:752. Ibid. 65 Ryland, “A Significant Letter from John Ryland to Samuel Hopkins (February 21, 1803),” trans. and ed. Daniel T. Weaver and Michael A. G. Haykin, The Andrew Fuller Center Review 4 (Summer 2012): 31. 64
Trans-Atlantic Friendships the order of salvation. Ryland expressed his desire for Hopkins to respond to these concerns, health permitting. If not, Ryland added, he did not want a reply from someone he perceived to be a more problematic New Divinity theologian, specifically someone like Nathanael Emmons. Because of the strength of their bond and their mutual commitment to discovering the truth, Ryland added, “I am strongly persuaded that I need not make an Apology to you for so freely mentioning the points on which I feel most difficulty.”66 Hopkins responded to Ryland’s queries from his deathbed. He was “much obliged,” he said, to the Baptist for “plainly stating some difficulties and objections in your mind respecting several doctrines advanced on this side of the water.”67 Answering Ryland’s questions about the nature of regeneration, Hopkins wrote, “The law of God must be understood, and approved or loved as perfectly right, good, and excellent, before the gospel can be embraced, liked, or even understood.”68 Speaking in language reminiscent of Edwards’s doctrine of evangelical humility and his modified preparationism, Hopkins reasoned that a fallen man cannot see the beauty of the gospel or his need of it apart from a clear appreciation of the Law. As the nature and character of God, his law, and sin, or a person’s own character in the light of these, must be first understood, and the mind must be thoroughly impressed with them, and consent to them as true, right, and important to be known, before, and in order to the gospel being understood and approved, the ideas and knowledge of the former must first be entertained by, and impressed on, the renewed mind, so as to bring it to a hearty submission, approbation, and compliance with them, before the latter can be received or understood.69
Ibid. Hopkins, “Letter to Dr. Ryland (September 1803),” Works 2:752. 68 Ibid., 2:753. 69 Ibid., 2:754. 67
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) As Hopkins reasoned, “The law must thus first come, before the grace of the gospel can give true relief.”70 Ryland had also broached the subject, like Fuller, of disinterested love and the willingness to be damned for the glory of God. Ryland had asked in his letter, “What call have they to be willing to be damned, when God assures them that Christ is able and willing to save them, and can be glorified more in their salvation than in their damnation?” 71 Interestingly, Hopkins did not answer the base concern that he had misunderstood the doctrine of disinterested love. Instead, he argued that to deny that such a willingness to be damned for God’s glory does in fact bring him great glory would be tantamount to reasoning that since God is more glorified in the salvation of sinners than in the damnation of such, God must save all sinners alike. Surely, he reasoned, Ryland could not agree with such a conclusion.72 Hopkins also attempted to answer Ryland’s concerns regarding the idea of God as the author of sin. He acknowledged Ryland’s complaint: “You might think we spend too much time, and take more pains,” he wrote, “in explaining and vindicating the divine agency in the existence of moral evil than in proving that God is the Author of all moral good.”73 Ironically, seemingly in agreement with Ryland’s observation, Hopkins directed his friend to his other writings for his teachings on this subject rather than clarifying what he had already written. As to the warning that excessive attention to the doctrine of God’s decrees could prove unhelpful to the lost, Hopkins rebutted that such a problem might arise from the attention given to any theological concept in which the main meaning
Ibid., 2:755. Ryland, “A Significant Letter,” 30. 72 Hopkins, “Letter to Dr. Ryland (September 1803),” Works 2:756. 73 Ibid. 71
Trans-Atlantic Friendships might be missed. This, he continued, does not and should not keep theologians from giving all complex theological concepts the attention due to such important topics.74 Finally, to address Ryland’s observation that such matters might be better left unsaid unless they can be explained to the simplest of minds, Hopkins in a flash of sardonic humor concluded by agreeing he would provide a final explanation of this doctrine accessible to the “Hindoos” in India only when Ryland could provide a simple explanation that could be understood by the British.75 The letter closed with some words of intimacy for Hopkins’s friend across the water. As the American observed, “I have just entered on the eighty-third year of my age, and do not expect to preach or live much longer.” While wishing Ryland continued success, Hopkins noted that he hoped to finally meet him “where Christ will abundantly reward his faithful servants.” In the meantime, he closed, “I remain your assured friend and fellow-servant in the gospel.” To this Hopkins’s wife, Elizabeth, acting as his secretary, appended a note expressing his desire that Ryland, Fuller, and Sutcliff join forces to respond to his theology for future publication.76 This Ryland and Fuller would ultimately oblige to do, but under very different circumstances. Abraham Booth would put Fuller’s friendship with Hopkins and the New Divinity to the test. He openly criticized the Hopkinsian system, and connected Fuller’s ideas to those of Hopkins in person. His accusations of theological error drew Ryland into the fray, and Booth forced Fuller to draw very clear lines of distinction between his theology and Hopkins’s.
Ibid., 2:757. Ibid. 76 Ibid., 2:758. 75
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) As the pastor of the Particular Baptist church on Preston Street in London, a charge he would keep for nearly thirty-seven years, Booth came into contact with Fuller and the Particular Baptist Missionary Society. In fact, it was Booth who introduced the group to John Thomas, William Carey’s initial partner in the Indian mission. The collegiality between the two, however, suffered great injury with the publication of Booth’s Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners (1796). On the surface, Booth and Fuller shared a similar concern: both were responding to the hyper-Calvinism of their day. Moreover, both believed an objective warrant existed for unbelievers to respond to the gospel. Their theological construct, however, differed. Booth came from the perspective of John Owen’s theology, while Fuller reflected the influence of Jonathan Edwards. Glad Tidings represents Booth’s theological presuppositions and his distaste for any of system of thought that contradicted it, even if that competing system led to the same conclusions. Throughout the work Booth pointed to what he perceived to be glaring deficiencies in Samuel Hopkins’s theology. While never mentioned by name, Fuller took those attacks to be directed at himself because of his connections to Hopkins.77 As he wrote to William Carey, Mr B’s book is controversial, but very difficult to know who or what it opposes. What he aims to establish in the former part is denied by nobody that I know of, except the High Calvinists—yet he did not mean I am persuaded to oppose them. I believe it was his intent to oppose our sentiments, and that he chose to attack us under Hopkins’ name. The latter part I think is erroneous.78 77
The overt and subtle references to Bellamy and others in the New Divinity found in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation led Booth to make much of those influences. Peter Morden concurs: “These controversies [between Booth and Fuller] highlight particularly well not only the growing importance of Edwards for Fuller,” he writes, “but also (and especially), the growing influence other New England theologians had over his work. Principal among these were Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins.” In Morden, Offering Christ to the World (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2003), 77. 78 Fuller, “Letter to William Carey (September 6, 1797),” quoted in Robert W. Oliver, “Abraham Booth (1734–1806),” in The British Particular Baptists, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, vol. 2 (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press, 2003), 2:47.
Thus, both Hopkins and Fuller rose to the occasion to defend themselves against Booth’s accusations. These defenses reveal a theological fault line in their friendship. Booth’s assault on Hopkins depended on the latter’s belief that a “hearty submission to, and acquiescence and delight in, the law of God, rightly understood, and so a true hatred of sin, must take place in order to any degree of true approbation of the gospel, and faith and trust in Christ.”79 Rather than believing that regeneration preceded faith chronologically, as Hopkins did, Booth believed that the two events occurred simultaneously. Booth also took exception to Hopkins’s understanding that regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit apart from the use of any means, including Scripture.80 Furthermore, he argued that Hopkins’s explanation of imputation was inconsistent.81 As Booth reasoned, Hopkins taught “the object of justification must be, not an ungodly, but a pious person.” 82 Hopkins believed, Booth surmised, that the “exercise of virtue is absolutely necessary, in order to justification.”83 The only way Hopkins could prove his case, Booth concluded, was to twist the plain meaning of Scripture.84 Hopkins proved quite sensitive to Booth’s targeting his theology in Glad Tidings. In a 1797 letter to Ryland, he devoted considerable space to a critique of Booth’s work. He found Booth’s argumentation “senseless, evasive, and contradictory.”85 Using the same language he would use in a letter to Fuller a year later, Hopkins complained that “[Booth’s] theory of Christianity and religious exercises is wholly selfish; which is as
Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners (London: Chidley, 1839), 40. Ibid., 80. 81 Ibid., 107. 82 Ibid., 110. 83 Ibid., 111. 84 Ibid., 116–17. 85 Hopkins, “Letter to Dr. Ryland (November 24, 1797),” Works 2:749. 80
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) opposite to true religion as darkness is to light, as sin to holiness.”86 The whole work, he continued, undermined all the good Booth had accomplished with The Reign of Grace.87 In the end, Hopkins proposed, Booth was guilty of “what we, on this side of the water, call British pride.”88 Apparently Ryland shared Hopkins’s letter and critique with others within his circle. When Fuller wrote Hopkins in 1798, he admitted a familiarity with Hopkins’s critique of Booth.89 Fuller noted he had met with Booth shortly after the book was released. In that meeting he mentioned to Booth that he agreed with his basic proposition in the first half of the book—that fallen man did have warrant to believe—but felt Booth’s position as argued suggested “sinners were very willing to come to Christ” apart from an antecedent work of grace.90 When Fuller commented that he disagreed with the entirety of the second half of the book, in which Hopkins came under severe scrutiny, Booth was not surprised.91 Thus it is little wonder that Fuller interpreted the entire controversy as being directed at him. After demurring from a full-on criticism of the elder Baptist statesman, Fuller conceded, “I will not say that [Booth] is destitute of what on both sides of the water, for aught I know, may be called ‘British pride.’”92 While the opening salvos of the controversy were aimed, publicly anyway, at Hopkins, Fuller’s belief that he was the real target of Booth’s barbs proved true a few years later. While in London in the spring of 1802, Fuller met with Booth on two or three occasions. In a series of six letters written to John Ryland in January 1803, Fuller 86
Ibid. Ibid., 751. 88 Ibid., 2:752. 89 Fuller, “Letter to Samuel Hopkins (March 17, 1798),” Memoirs, 255. 90 Ibid. 91 Ibid., 256. 92 Ibid. 87
Trans-Atlantic Friendships recounted those meetings and responded to new accusations from Booth that had since arisen. In these letters one discerns clear, yet unspoken, limitations to Fuller’s friendliness with the ideas of the New Divinity. The first provides the “narrative” of Fuller’s London encounter with Booth the year prior. At that meeting, Booth “suggested that [Fuller] had changed [his] sentiments on some important doctrines of the gospel.” Given Booth’s stature in the Baptist community, Fuller took the charge seriously. In response, he demanded an example of such a change so that he might respond. Booth answered, “It is on the doctrines of imputation and substitution that I conceive you to err.” In rebuttal, Fuller asked the elder statesman if his own views were those commonly known as the “commercial view” of the atonement. Booth replied in the negative. Satisfied with Booth’s answer, Fuller concluded, “There could be no material difference betwixt us.” He wrongly assumed that was the end of the matter.93 Months later Fuller received a letter from Booth accusing him of denying any substitutionary value to the atonement.94 From Fuller’s perspective, the entire debate in those first meetings revolved around differing vocabulary, not differing theology. At this point, however, the controversy became public and personal. A rumor circulated that Fuller admitted to being an Arminian.95 Fuller believed Booth to be the source of this rumor and refused to participate in any further theological dialog until Booth explained his actions. Booth refused. Thus Fuller felt it necessary to respond publicly to the accusations, particularly that he had changed his theological position from Calvinism to Arminianism, that he agreed with Baxter’s understanding of a universal atonement, and 93
Fuller, “Letter I,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:699. Ibid. 95 Ibid., 2:701. 94
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) that he denied the doctrines of imputation and substitution as commonly understood by Calvinists.96 The six letters to Ryland were the public response to these accusations. Fuller addressed the doctrine of imputation in his longest letter, the second. Explaining his understanding of imputation, Fuller wrote, It is thus also that I understand the imputation of sin to Christ. He was made sin for us, in the same sense that we are made the righteousness of God in him; he was accounted in the Divine administration as if he were, or had been, the sinner; that those who believe on him might be accounted as if they were, or had been, righteous.97 According to Fuller, Booth had misunderstood him to say that Christ was not made sin but was merely a sacrifice to appease God’s anger. In fact, Fuller claimed, he used the phrase “made a sacrifice” to explore Booth’s convictions further, not to define his own. Thus, he surmised, Booth must have erroneously believed him to have embraced another view on the atonement, one that did not involve substitution.98 It would seem that Booth believed Fuller had adopted a Hopkinsian view of the atonement. This, said Fuller, could not be further from the truth: “As to Christ’s being punished, I have no doubt,” he wrote, “and never had, of his sufferings being penal.” He continued, “I believe the wrath of God that was due to us was poured upon him.”99 In the end, it was he and Booth who believed the same thing, not he and Hopkins, on this crucial doctrine.100 In his third letter Fuller further addressed his views on substitution. From the first, he argued, “Whether Christ laid down his life as a substitute for sinners, was never a question with me.”101 As in the second letter, Fuller continued to maintain that he held to
Ibid., 2:702. Fuller, “Letter II,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:703–4. 98 Ibid., 2:704. 99 Ibid., 2:705. 100 Ibid., 2:706. 101 Fuller, “Letter III,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:706. 97
Trans-Atlantic Friendships the traditional view of penal substitution and nothing else. The only point of debate, he believed, on which he should have been challenged was the question of the “persons for whom Christ was a substitute; whether the elect only, or mankind in general.”102 Fuller carefully answered by stating that according to God’s revealed will, the substitution was for all mankind, “for sinners as sinners.” As he had argued in The Gospel Worthy, the gospel should be addressed “to sinners without distinction,” irrespective of their status as the elect or non-elect. In the end, however, according to God’s secret will, Fuller added, the substitution of Christ is “strictly applicable to none but the elect.”103 He did not believe his position to be unbiblical, seeing both thoughts in Scripture. Fuller concluded that the free offer of the gospel depended “upon the atonement of Christ” being sufficient for all. Otherwise, to offer sinners the gospel would be inviting them to do what is “naturally impossible,” something he had strongly decried in The Gospel Worthy. Until someone proved him wrong, Fuller stood by his arguments, regardless of the labels applied to them.104 As to the accusation that Fuller had changed his sentiments, Booth would argue, said Fuller, that “I could not now oppose [Dan Taylor] as I formerly did; we being more nearly agreed than we were twelve or fifteen years ago.”105 Fuller acknowledged he had learned something in that debate. Prior to his Reply to Philanthropos, Fuller owned, “I read and thought but little on the subject [of the extent of the atonement].” His position on particular redemption had indeed changed because of his involvement in that
Ibid. Ibid., 2:707. 104 Ibid., 2:09. 105 Fuller, “Letter IV,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:709. 103
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) controversy.106 Taylor’s questioning forced Fuller to realize his own views on the matter expressed in the first edition of The Gospel Worthy were inconsistent with the biblical testimony and his own thesis about the free offer of grace. So, not in an attempt to ameliorate Taylor or borrow from his theology, Fuller modified his own position according to what he found in the Bible. To his relief, he discovered “all the old Calvinists defending the doctrine upon the same ground.”107 Thus, he conceded to Taylor that the death of Christ was “sufficient for all mankind” while limiting its efficacy to the elect. Fuller noted this change in the second edition of The Gospel Worthy. Moreover, he concluded, Booth also held to this view.108 Booth wrote Ryland in December 1802 about the ongoing controversy: “It is to me beyond a doubt that [Mr. Fuller] does not hold the doctrine of substitution, and of imputation, as Calvinists have commonly done, and still continue to do,” he posited. Ryland shared that letter with Fuller. As Fuller interpreted it, Booth’s contention was that “Mr. B. is a Calvinist, and I am not.” Fuller dedicated the fifth letter to that accusation. His investigation of the matter led him to conclude that Booth was in fact a “High Calvinist” who was, as Hopkins pointed out, acting inconsistently when he argued for the free offer of grace. Moreover, “his opinions,” noted Fuller, were not “those of Calvin or of Calvinists during the sixteenth century.”109 As he observed in his reading of church history, “[The Reformers] held the doctrines of imputation and substitution so as to feel at liberty to
Ibid. Ibid., 2:710. 108 Ibid., 2:711. 109 Fuller, “Letter V,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:711. 107
Trans-Atlantic Friendships exhort sinners, without distinction, to repent and believe in Christ.” “Mr. B. does not.” Thus it was Booth who was not a Calvinist. Instead, he was guilty of “Crispism.”110 The sixth letter from Fuller to Ryland regarding the Booth Controversy dealt with the suggestion that Fuller’s modified position was that of Richard Baxter (1615–1691). Before replying, Fuller admitted to being unfamiliar with Baxter’s theology, finding his works “so circuitous, and full of artificial distinctions, and obscure terms, that I could not in many cases come at his meaning, nor could I have read them through without making myself ill.” Again, the root issue of Booth’s complaint was the extent of the atonement, accusing Fuller of holding a view similar to Baxter. This, said Fuller, was impossible: “Mr. Baxter pleads for ‘universal atonement;’ I only contend for the sufficiency of the atonement, in itself considered, for the redemption and salvation of the whole world; and this affords a ground for a universal invitation to sinners to believe.”111 Baxter, he added, was wrong on the doctrine of justification as well. The source of his own thought on that doctrine, Fuller conceded, was Jonathan Edwards. Thus Booth was proved wrong again. Knowing it unlikely that Booth would accept his defense, Fuller closed with this supplication: If what I have written contain any thing injurious to the truth, may the Lord convince me of it. And if not, may He preserve me from being improperly moved by the frowns of men.112 Fuller believed from the first that Booth’s critique of Hopkins in Glad Tidings was really directed at himself. This proved to be the case when Booth finally turned his attention to Fuller six years later. In the ensuing debate, Booth’s primary concerns were leveled against Fuller’s theological adaptations that allowed him to answer the Modern 110
Ibid., 2:713. Fuller, “Letter VI,” in “Six Letters to Dr. Ryland,” Works 2:714. 112 Ibid., 2:715. 111
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Question with a resounding “Yes, the gospel is to be shared indiscriminately.” Booth rightly recognized the influence of Edwards and some of the New Divinity men in The Gospel Worthy. Booth wrongly assumed, however, that Fuller had accepted some of the peculiarities of the New Divinity. Their direct influence in the matter was limited to the question of ability and inability, not to the extent or nature of the atonement. For those doctrines he turned to the sixteenth-century Reformers. In the end, Fuller’s shift was a move toward not the New World but the Old. Conclusion We have some who have been giving out, of late, that “If Sutcliff and some others had preached more of Christ, and less of Jonathan Edwards, they would have been more useful.113 Speaking of Edwards and his followers, Fuller admitted to his closest friend, John Ryland, that the ideas providing the theological underpinnings used to justify the Modern Missionary Movement “originated with men of these principles.”114 Throughout his life, even in this last letter to Ryland, Fuller never denied his friendship, theologically or personally, with the men of New England. He did not, however, prove to be a mindless disciple following their every lead either. As John Webster Morris observed, Mr. Fuller and his connections certainly had a very high esteem for the writings of President Edwards, and others of the New England school, which they read with considerable advantage; . . . that [Andrew Fuller] indiscriminately adopted the sentiments of these writers, or admitted all of their reasonings, is far from being true.115 Yet Booth and others accused Fuller of that very thing in spite of his many protestations. Fuller denied Booth’s conclusions publicly; he rejected them privately. Fuller’s letters to the New Divinity men themselves bear witness to the limits he placed on 113
Fuller, “Letter to John Ryland (April 28, 1815),” Works 1:101. Ibid. 115 Morris, Memoirs, 256–57. 114
Trans-Atlantic Friendships their friendship. He criticized their works as freely as he copied them. His personal friendship with them afforded him the opportunity to learn and dissent from them as only friends can do. While Booth would not do so, we would do well to accept Fullerâ€™s word as the final word on the matter.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016)
ANDREW FULLER ON THE ATONEMENT: WAS FULLER’S APPROACH NEARER TO THAT OF JONATHAN EDWARDS OR THE YOUNGER? By Chris Chun Historical Precedent of Grotianism More than any other aspect of Andrew Fuller’s theology, his beliefs concerning the doctrine of the atonement have generated debate among those who see themselves as representing historic Protestant orthodoxy. In England, along with Fuller, Abraham Booth was the leading Particular Baptist theologian of his day. Booth was theologically closer to the hyper-Calvinists than Fuller, but unlike the majority of London-based ministers of the period, he was an avid supporter of the BMS (Baptist Missionary Society). However, what made Booth begin to doubt1 Fuller’s allegiance to Reformed orthodoxy was that Fuller had actively read the works of the New England theologians starting in the early 1790s;2 by the summer of 1802, Booth actually accused Fuller of being an Arminian. As a former Arminian himself, Booth was alarmingly aware of what it meant to hold the governmental view of the atonement. He certainly did not wish the
This was largely because, as Oliver reports, “Booth was aware of moves towards governmentalism in New England,” where “Edwards’s successors had moved beyond their teacher’s position”; Robert Oliver, “Andrew Fuller and Abraham Booth,” 203–22, and Michael Haykin, “Andrew Fuller and the Sandemanian Controversy,” 223–36, in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist, ed. Michael Haykin, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 6 (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2004), 216. 2 In 1794, seventeen years after Fuller first’s exposure to Edwards, Fuller was soaking himself in New England theologians, especially Edwards Jr.’s Free Grace and Atonement and West’s The Scripture Doctrine of Atonement Proposed to Careful Examination. See Peter Morden, Offering Christ to the World: Andrew Fuller 1754–1815) and the Revival of Eighteenth Century Particular Baptist Life, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 8 (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2003), 91.
Andrew Fuller on the Atonement
Particular Baptists to go anywhere near what he saw as Grotianism. As Fuller had successfully released Particular Baptists from the evangelistic restraint of HyperCalvinism and had established a reputation as one of the leading theologians of the later eighteenth century in championing evangelical Calvinism, Booth perhaps had every reason to be apprehensive. He was fully aware of Fuller’s ability to popularize a doctrine within his own denomination. Accordingly, as Fuller’s interest in New England theologians was growing and Booth heard Fuller had made corrections to the previous edition of Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Booth saw these alterations as a sign of a possible resurgence of moral government, a development of enormous concern. To counter Fuller’s views, Booth wrote Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Nature in 1803. In New England, historical precedent suggests accepting Edwards as a proper heir to the Reformation, while rejecting his successors, was routine. In nineteenth-century America, Calvinistic Baptists in the South embraced Edwards’s theology regarding God’s sovereignty and human responsibility,3 yet many shared Booth’s concerns about Fuller’s view of the atonement as some sort of moral governmental theory. While there are other factors,4 from the traditional Calvinistic perspective New England theologians became stigmatized during the nineteenth century largely as a result of the efforts of two great 3
See Sean M. Lucas, “‘He Cuts up Edwardsism By the Roots’: Robert Lewis Dabney and the Edwardsian Legacy in the Nineteenth-Century South,” in The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards: American Religion and the Evangelical Tradition, ed. D. G. Hart, Sean M. Lucas, and Stephen Nichols (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 200–14; see also the section “The Soteriological Legacy of Fuller on Baptist” in Paul Brewster, “Andrew Fuller: Model Baptist Pastor-Theologian,” PhD Thesis, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007, 109–22. 4 Historically, an influential work in interpreting the New Divinity School was Frank Foster, A Genetic History of the New England Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1907); while commending Edwards Amasa Park for articulating the “most perfect system” of New England theology, Foster believed that if this theology were to be “consistently carried out, [it] must in the end disrupt the system of Calvinism” (471, 452). Neo-Orthodox criticism of New Divinity School was most notable in Joseph Haroutunian, Piety versus Moralism: The Passing of the New England Theology (New York: Holt, 1932).
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Princetonians: Charles Hodge, with his criticism of Edwards Amasa Park, and the abrasive judgment delivered by B. B. Warfield.5 Ever since the debate between Park and Hodge, the practice of pitting Edwards against his New England successors for deviating from orthodox Calvinism has been the standard interpretation of New England theologians. Edwards’s Outlook on Grotianism Suffice it to say, Edwards’s orthodoxy is hardly in question.6 Nevertheless, when a certain conservative strand of the Reformed camp expresses doubts as to Fuller’s Calvinistic credentials, it is often done in the context of his close network with New England theologians, thereby somehow implicating Fuller’s view on the atonement as a species of Grotianism. 7 This leads us to inquire whether Fuller subscribed to the governmental theory of the atonement proposed by Hugo Grotius (1583–1645).8 This is
See Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (London: Thomas Nelson, 1874), 2:578–58; B. B. Warfield, “Edwards and the New England Theology,” in The Works of Benjamin B Warfield (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), 9:515–38. For a concise and overall summary of New England theologians, see Douglas Sweeney, “Edwards and his Mantle: The Historiography of the New England Theology,” The New England Quarterly 17/1 (Mar. 1998): 97–119. 6 Except, as Mark Noll points out, it was only Hodge who “expressed serious reservations” concerning Edwards Sr., yet even then these reservation were quickly “balanced by Hodge’s general approval” of him. Mark Noll, “Jonathan Edwards and Nineteenth-Century Theology,” in Jonathan Edwards and American Experience, ed. Nathan Hatch and Harry Stout (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 264. 7 Historically, Abraham Booth is the most prominent, but there are others who opposed Fuller’s view of the atonement. See William Rushington, A Defence of Particular Redemption; Wherein the Doctrine of the Late Mr. Fuller Relative to the Atonement of Christ, is Tried by the Word of God (Liverpool, 1831). Even after the revival in Particular Baptist life led by Fuller, the Strict and other High Calvinists still loitered on the outer edge of the Particular Baptists under the guidance of men like William Gadsby (1773–1844). For more information on this subject, see Ian Shaw, High Calvinists in Action: Calvinism and the City, Manchester and London, 1810–1860 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002), 111–53. 8 Grotius was a Dutch jurist and statesman who argued against the Socinian conception of the atonement. His Arminian framework was sometimes portrayed as providing a balanced view between punitive substitutionary atonement and the Socinian view. The most important work by Grotius in the matter of atonement is Defensio Fidei Catholicae de Satisfactione Christi. For more information on Grotius, see Edwin Rabbie, “General Introduction,” in Hugo Grotius, Ordinum Hollandiae AC Westfrisiae Pietas (1613) (New York: Brill, 1995), 1–35.
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highly improbable given that there is no actual evidence Fuller had ever read Grotius. It is also interesting to note that, although Grotius’s name is not mentioned in the framework of Edwards’s own articulation of atonement, it may be scandalous to some to realize that Grotius was no stranger to Edwards. 9 Since Edwards’s own day, the majority of theologians and historians have interpreted Edward, despite all his odds and ends,10 as in the line of the Westminster Puritan tradition. Thus Conrad Cherry was correct in saying, “For good or ill, Edwards was a Calvinist.”11 Yet, in an attempt to see Edwards solely as the Reformed theologian par excellence, Iain Murray, a confessional Reformed scholar, has seriously downplayed the role of philosophy in Edwards’s thinking, thereby failing to underscore the uniqueness of Edwards’s rendering of Calvinism.12 As much as many traditional Calvinists would like to claim this intellectual giant as their own (and perhaps much to their shame), there are strands of Grotianism in the thinking of Edwards that do not fit nicely into the tightly molded system of traditional Calvinism. For example, John Gerstner, whose interpretation of Edwards is strictly in the
Grotius was frequently cited in Edwards’s Miscellaneous Observations on Important Theological Subjects (Edinburgh: M. Gray, 1793), 67, 102, 107, 108, 111, 222, 375; “Notes on the Bible,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards [WJEEH], vol. 2, ed. Edward Hickman (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 689, 691, 694, 707, 711, 714–15; “Freedom of the Will,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards [WJE], 26 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1957–2008), 1:402; “Discourse on the Trinity” and “‘Controversies’ Notebook: Justification,” WJE 21:127, 344, 400, 403. 10 Although Reformed traditions claim Edwards as their own, much confusion exists concerning Edwards’s stance on the imputation of Adam’s sin to posterity. For instance, Warfield and John Murray thought Edwards held immediate imputation, whereas Hodge and Foster argued that Edwards maintained mediate imputation. Clyde Holbrook and Gerstner thought Edwards believed in neither. The latter seems the most plausible in light of the presumption that Edwards was not quite satisfied with the traditional doctrine of federalism to describe the doctrine of imputation. This is why Edwards made enormous metaphysical efforts in his Original Sin to once and for all settle the nagging objection, “Why should we be held culpable for Adam’s transgression?” 11 Conrad Cherry, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards: A Reappraisal (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), 3. 12 “The plain fact is that Edwards’s excursions into philosophy were only occasional and peripheral to his main thought; it was theology, or ‘divinity’, which belonged to the warp and woof of his life. Edwards’s place in history is not alongside of Locke, Berkeley or Kant. His life and impact were essentially religious.” Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, UK: Banner of Truth, 1987).
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Westminster Puritan tradition, laments and almost cannot believe that Edwards would say, “If God did not punish sin, ‘nobody could charge God with any wrong.’” This, of course, would irritate Gerstner since the classical formulation of the Grotian account would also maintain that the nature of God does not demand sacrifice, and God can therefore relax the penalty. This explains Gerstner’s perplexity in writing, “How could an Anselmian like Edwards say that?” 13 Thus, as Stephen Holmes suggests, while the governmental metaphor of the atonement is not the “most important” one, “Edwards has no problems with a ‘moral government’ theory.”14 In light of this evidence, the historical trend of traditional Calvinists to accept Edwards as their own, while strongly rejecting his successors, ought to be revisited—or, should that rejection occur, such Calvinists ought to proceed with deliberation given the complex nature and stigma associated with Grotianism in some circles of Reformed tradition. The chief concern for such denunciation is, of course, the moral governmental theory of the atonement in the New England divines. However, if their champion of Reformed orthodoxy had a certain amount of “Grotianism” in his thinking, and if they admire Edwards as one of their own, before dismissing the New Divinity men as a stereotypical lump they must seriously consider the New England theologians. This is especially true in light of the fact that Grotius himself may not, as some commentators have argued, be clearly “Grotian.”15 Furthermore, this bias must be treated with disdain not only because there are complexities as well as significant variations among the New 13
John Gerstner, The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Orlando, FL: Ligonier, 1991), 2:435–36. 14 Ibid., 145n65, italics mine. 15 For useful summaries of Grotius’s doctrine of the atonement, see L. W. Grensted, A Short History of The Doctrine of The Atonement (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1920), 281–306. See also Robert Franks, The Work of Christ, A Historical Study of Christian Doctrine (London: Thomas Nelson, 1962), 389–409.
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England theologians,16 but more importantly because there is a qualitative difference between the so-called Grotianism of the New England theologians and the Grotianism more classically associated with American Methodism in the nineteenth century.17 Hence, Booth’s reservations raise the question of Fuller’s relationship with the New England theologians and the degree to which Jonathan Edwards or the New England theologians influenced Fuller’s doctrine of the atonement. An attempt to answer this question is the basis for the discussion in this essay. Jonathan Edwards the Younger and New England Theology Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins were the first generation of Edwards’s pupils literally under continuous tutelage throughout Edwards’s lifetime. However, Edwards’s own son, Jonathan Edwards Jr. (1745–1801),18 often referred to as “Dr. Edwards” or “Jonathan Edwards the Younger,”19 is also an important figure. It may be worth noting
For differences between Bellamy, Hopkins, Edwards Jr., and West, see Frank Foster, A Genetic History of the New England Theology (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 1907), 107–207. For a concise summary of their position, see also Dorus Rudisill, The Doctrine of the Atonement in Jonathan Edwards and His Successors (New York: Poseidon, 1971), 113–24. For relevant historical background, see Allen Guelzo, Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Theological Debate (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989), 87–111. 17 This view was thoroughly captured in John Miley’s The Atonement in Christ (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1879). Contrary to the position taken in Miley’s version of Grotianism (i.e. Arminian), which claims the atonement was not necessary, the New England (i.e., Calvinist) version affirms the absolute necessity of the atonement. As the title indicates, Jonathan Edwards Jr. strongly advocates this point in The Necessity of the Atonement and the Consistency between that and free grace in forgiveness: Three Sermons, in Edwards Amasa Park, ed., The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises, (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1859). I am gratefully indebted to Oliver Crisp who brought this point to my attention. Crisp’s paper, titled “Penal Non-Substitution,” was presented at the Theology Seminar at the University of St. Andrews on March 14, 2007, and addressed this important distinction. 18 Born in Northampton, MA, as Edwards’s second son, he graduated from Princeton in 1765 and then studied theology under Bellamy. When Edwards Jr. arrived at Bellamy’s home, he carried a letter of introduction from Hopkins. That letter, plus Bellamy’s close friendship with his by then late father, was an instant recipe for a cordial relationship between the two men. See Foster, Genetic History, 189. 19 Edwards Sr. was referred to as “President Edwards” or “the elder Edwards.”
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here that otherwise fine scholars have made the mistake 20 of confusing the two Edwardses. This is especially so since the cover of the younger Edwards’s Free Grace and Atonement ambiguously listed its author as “Jonathan Edwards, D.D.” When Booth accused Fuller of being overly fond of, and uncritically dependent upon, New England theologians, Booth was only partially right. It is difficult to overstate Fuller’s esteem for Edwards. However, it was not only Edwards of whom Fuller was fond, but his son as well: “I have read Dr. Edwards on Free Grace and Atonement with great pleasure. I suppose I read it sometime ago; but I never relished it so well before.” Thus Booth was correct in judging this aspect of Fuller, but he was mistaken about Fuller’s naïve reliance since in the same breath he also said, “I do not coincide with every thing it contains.” 21 This investigation will therefore continue to address Booth’s skepticism of whether Fuller uncritically adopted the American moral governmental theory of atonement. Edwards the Younger on the Nature of the Atonement22 During the mid 1780s the concept of moral government rapidly began to infuse New England. Prior to this period it had strong roots in the theologies of Edwards, Bellamy, and Hopkins, but it did not emerge as a full blown system of thought until, most notably, 20
Sheehan listed “Free Grace and Atonement” as a work of Edwards Sr., when in fact it was his son’s sermon. Clint Sheehan, “Great and Sovereign Grace: Fuller’s Defence of the Gospel against Arminianism,” in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word,” 85n12. 21 Fuller, “Extracts from Diary on April 21, 1794,” in John Ryland Jr., The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love and the Patience of Hope Illustrated in the Life and Death of the Reverend Andrew Fuller (London: Button and Son, 1816), 365–66. 22 The Necessity of the Atonement and the Consistency between that and free grace in forgiveness: Three Sermons was originally delivered in 1785 and can be located in Edwards Amasa Park, ed., The Atonement: Discourses and Treatises (Boston: Congregational Board of Publication, 1859), 3–42. This volume includes other New Divinity men such as John Smalley, Jonathan Maxcy, Nathanael Emmons, Edward Dorr Griffin, and Caleb Burge; William Raymond Weeks’s take on atonement can be located there as well. For another useful textual exposition of Necessity of the Atonement, see Foster, Genetic History, 200–4.
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Edwards Jr.’s response to universalism. The rise of universalism in New England was championed by John Murray and Charles Chauncy, who denied the traditional doctrine of hell, leading to a denial of the necessity of conversion. This alarmed the New Divinity School. Stephen West, John Smalley, and Edwards Jr. responded rigorously in challenging universalism;23 in that process, the son modified the father’s position with what he believed to be an improvement, further advancing the governmental idea of the atonement.24 The understanding that such an historical context provides may be yet another reason to be sympathetic toward this new Calvinism in New England from a more traditional Calvinistic camp. In any case, as Sweeny suggests, in many ways the sermons of Edwards Jr. in Free Grace and Atonement provided a “cornerstone”25 for New England theology. Charles Hodge also saw Edwards Jr. as a key theologian who advanced this theory: “The death of Christ, therefore, could have no other design than to render the forgiveness of sin consistent with the best interests of the moral government of God. This theory was elaborated by [Edwards Jr.].”26 As the title of the three sermons suggests,27 in following President Edwards’s position his son grounded the nature of atonement in “free grace in forgiveness”; he saw “grace [as] consistent with atonement” rather than seeing its divine commutative justice as being a sine qua non. Paving the ground for other developments within the New
Sweeny described this response as “rapid-fire succession, each one published on the nature and extent of the atonement within span of a single year”; Douglas Sweeney, Nathaniel Taylor, New Haven Theology, and the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 104. 24 For these so-called improvements, see Jonathan Edwards Jr., “Remarks on the Improvements Made in Theology of His Father, President Edwards,” in The Work of Jonathan Edwards D.D. Late President of Union College with a Memoir of His Life and Character, by Tryon Edwards, 2 vols. (Boston: Jewett), 1:486–88. 25 Sweeny, Nathaniel Taylor, 104. 26 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:578. 27 1) “The Necessity of Atonement”; 2) “The Atonement Consistent with Free Grace”; 3) “Inferences and Reflections.”
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Divinity School, Edwards Jr. distinguished three types of justice that need satisfied by atonement.28 Commutative justice has reference to proper and exact payment of debts, entailing God’s making the death of Christ satisfy the exact payment corresponding to the debts owed. The younger Edwards explicitly denied this point, one on which the elder Edwards remained wary. Moreover, Edwards Jr. explained that distributive justice relates to the punishment of crimes and sins, and hence the forensic justification of the elect is the ground upon which expiation is based. Lastly, general, public, or rectoral justice refers to divine goodness in general—God’s regard for the good of the universe. With this distinction, Edwards Jr. explicitly denied the first two justices within divine satisfaction and affirmed only the third: In what sense justice and the divine law are satisfied by the death of Christ; and in what sense the atonement of Christ is properly called a satisfaction. It is only the third kind of justice before mentioned, that is satisfied by the death of Christ. No man, for the reasons already given, will pretend that commutative justice is satisfied by Christ; for the controversy between God and the sinner is not concerning property. Nor is distributive justice satisfied. If it were, there would indeed be no more grace in the discharge of the sinner, than there is in the discharge of a criminal, when he hath endured the full punishment to which, according to law, he hath been condemned. If distributive justice were satisfied, it would have no further claim on the sinner. . . . If distributive justice be satisfied, it admits of no further punishment, and to punish him further, would be as positively unjust, as to continue a man’s punishment, after he hath endured the full penalty of any law. . . . Distributive justice, therefore, is not at all satisfied by the death of Christ. But general justice to the Deity and to the universe is satisfied. That is done by the death of Christ which 28
“Commutative justice, in the recovering of debts, has no respect at all to the character or conduct of the debtor, but merely to the property of the creditor. Distributive justice, in the punishment of crimes, has no respect at all to the property of the criminal, but merely to his personal conduct; unless his property may, in some instances, enhance his crimes. . . . General or public justice comprehends all moral goodness . . . whatever is wrong or improper to be done, is said to be unjust, or an act of injustice. To practise justice in this sense [i.e. General], is to practise agreeably to the dictates of general benevolence, or to seek the glory of God and the good of the universe. And whenever the glory of God is neglected, it may be said that God is injured or deprived of his right. Whenever the general good is neglected or impeded, the universe may be said to suffer an injury.” In Edwards Jr., Necessity of Atonement in The Atonement, 21.
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supports the authority of the law, and renders it consistent with the glory of God and the good of the whole system, to pardon the sinner.29 While one may be able to stretch the words of both Edwards and Fuller to establish a trajectory in the direction of the moral governmental realm (if that), nowhere in their works do they explicitly deny the first two justices in this way. Such a feature in the work of Edwards Jr. cannot be found in either Edwards or Fuller. Edwards Jr. then proceeds to describe the satisfaction not in terms of a divine reaction to sin, which sees God as an offended party, but in terms of God as a moral governor of the universe whose interests lay in the common good, the only firm rectoral justice in public law and order. The account of the atonement by Edwards Jr. is external to the purpose of the ontological God’s interest in the public good. This means Christ did not suffer the penalty under which sinners stood legally condemned, but instead suffered according to general justice. Rudisill summarizes the younger Edwards’s atonement as having “absolutely nothing to do with making God’s grace effectual in individual’s life! The Atonement was effected not for us as persons but for the government of God.”30 Such an understanding of the atonement makes perfect sense in Edwards Jr.’s historical context, especially as he was writing in a period when the young American government was advancing a similar ideology in its judiciary system. In writing about the idea of moral government, Mark Noll suggests that it did not become a theological category through the “simple process of intellectual borrowing,” but rather was “shaped by the
Ibid., 37–38. Rudisill, Doctrine of the Atonement, 94.
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usages of broader public life.”31 This modification of his father’s theory on the atonement seems a better fit with the intellectual and political climate of the era. Edwards on the Nature of Atonement E. F. Clipsham has argued that Edwards’s influence on Fuller on the issue of atonement was “indirect” and “mediated through” Edwards’s successors.32 Oliver likewise states that Fuller’s inspiration from Grotianism “appears to come from New England, where Joseph Bellamy and Jonathan Edwards Jr. had resurrected the governmental theology of the Atonement.”33 There is no doubt that this appears to be the prevailing consensus in Fullerite scholarship, and I am willing to concede that these agreements are not without warrant per se. Yet what has been overlooked by the secondary sources is the influence of the elder Edwards’s Grotian language on Fuller’s writing. As careful a scholar as Morden was when he argued, “It is almost impossible to believe that Fuller would have started using the language of ‘moral government’ without the New England writers,”34 this may still be an overstatement insofar as the degree of influence exercised by the New England theologians upon Fuller is concerned. While I am by no means accusing Edwards of being a Grotian, it is evident that Edwards’s usage of governmental language may have been influential on Fuller. This inquiry will now consider the governmental language of Edwards. In order to fulfill the terms of Sarah Edwards’s will, her children committed Edwards’s “sermons” and “miscellanies” manuscripts to the custody of Jonathan 31
Mark Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 291. 32 E. F. Clipsham, “Andrew Fuller and Fullerism: A Study in Evangelical Calvinism,” Baptist Quarterly 20 (1967): 112. 33 Robert Oliver, “The Emergence of a Strict and Particular Baptist Community Among the English Calvinistic Baptists, 1770–1850,” PhD thesis, CNAA, London Bible College, 1986, 13. 34 Morden, Offering Christ, 92
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Edwards Jr., who was charged with the responsibility of seeing to their publication. As Thomas Schafer points out, many on both sides of the Atlantic enthusiastically received these new literary extracts of Edwards.35 Among several, one particular volume Edwards Jr. transcribed and John Erskine edited was Remarks on Important Theological Controversies (1796), which displayed in embryonic form what came to be seen as the New Divinity School’s governmental ideas.36 The outlook of the elder Edwards on Grotianism and New England theology has been addressed earlier, but his Remarks provide further evidence that Edwards certainly did not hesitate to use the language of moral government, seeing God as the moral governor of the universe: “[God] has infinitely the greatest right to exercise the power of a moral governor, if he pleases.”37 Furthermore, “He is infinitely the most worthy of that respect, honour and subject that is due to a moral governor. He has infinitely the best qualifications of a governor.”38 Notice the elder Edwards’s language of rectorship, which one would expect to find in classical expressions of moral governmentalism: The law of God should be maintained and executed . . . [as] the great rule of righteousness and decorum . . . that the Supreme and Universal Rector has established and published, for the regulation of things in the commonwealth of the universality of intelligent beings and moral agents, in all that relates to them as concerned one with another.39
Thomas Schafer, “Editor’s Appendix,” WJE 13:545. The titles of chapters in Remarks: Chapter 1, “Concerning God’s Moral Government, a future state, and the immortality of the soul”; Chapter 2,”Concerning the endless punishment of those who die impenitent”; Chapter 3, “Concerning the divine decrees in general, and election in particular”; Chapter 4, “Concerning efficacious grace”; Chapter 5,” Concerning the perseverance of saints”; Chapter 6, “Concerning the necessity and reasonableness of the Christian doctrine of satisfaction for sin”; Chapter 7, “Concerning faith.” 37 Remarks on important theological controversies. By the late Reverend Dr. Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh, UK: Galbraith, 1796), 7. 38 Ibid., 8. 39 Ibid., 347. 36
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Some scholars have acknowledge that Edwards Sr. denied quid pro quo commutative justice in atonement,40 but there were also times he was not keen to push distributive justice: “There is nothing in God’s disposal towards men in this world, to make his distributive justice and judicial equity manifest or visible.” 41 This means Edwards (not Edwards Jr.) not only was wary of speaking of the atonement as the exact payment of debt, but also used the principle of satisfaction that utilizes divine law to support governmental theory. Additionally, in one of Fuller’s favorite Edwards sermon, Justification by Faith Alone, the elder Edwards writes: Christ came into the world to that end, to render the honour of God’s authority and law, consistent with the salvation and eternal life of sinners; he came to save them, and yet withal to assert and vindicate the honour of Lawgiver, and his holy law.42 If these texts utilizing governmental terminology were taken in isolation, without the firm grasp of the elder Edwards’s overarching theology of redemption,43 and were the identity of the author of these quotations remain concealed, one could easily mistake the elder Edwards for his son. Accordingly, it is on these points that Fuller could be seen as expressing himself similarly to Edwards Jr. Should there be any discrepancy between Edwards and Fuller, the latter only made explicit what Edwards had kept implicit. Hence, the elder Edwards’s use of governmental language reveals he was not tied down to any 40
Morden, Offering Christ, 90, wrote, “The elder Jonathan Edwards had rejected the idea of the atonement as the literal quid pro quo payment of a debt.” Rudisill, Doctrine of Atonement, 114, likewise argued, “President Edwards modified the Penal theory,” since he “abandoned the view of a rigid quid pro quo.” 41 Edwards, Remarks, 15. 42 Justification, WJE 19:188. 43 For excellent treatment of this overarching view, see Stephen Holmes, God of Grace and God of Glory: An Account of the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 125–67. There are other parts of Edwards’s works where transactional metaphors are very much alive and well. For instance, in History of Redemption, the metaphor Edwards brings to light is a mercantile rather than governmental metaphor. That is, Christ purchases redemption by his satisfaction and merit. See History of Redemption, WJE 9:127–28, 295–96. While Edwards used the moral governmental language in his sermon on justification, he continued to talk about the active and passive obedience of Christ.
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specific theory of the atonement, as the watershed debates of the late nineteenth century between Hodge and Park would not have been factored in for Edwards’s consideration. Instead, he embraced the multifaceted nature of the atonement, as indeed did Fuller.
Was Fuller’s Approach to the Atonement Nearer to that of Edwards or Edwards Jr.? The historical Reformed position has maintained that vicarious satisfaction is the substitutionary equivalent to the penalty incurred by human sin.44 The atoning works of Christ are equivalent to that penalty in this view, whereas according to the governmental theory, the creditor can discharge his debtor without full payment since God can forgive the penalty of sin without satisfaction. However, the demand of the governmental theory for a consequence of sin is due not to the divine’s own intrinsic inner nature, but to his concern for the welfare of the created order. In other words, sin is more or less viewed as an infraction of the law, giving no personal injury to God. God is simply acting as a “moral governor for the public good.” The atonement, according to Edwards Jr., is ab extra to God. The purpose of penology is not to express the divine internal distaste for sin as promulgated by divine holy attribute, but to govern properly his creation. However, Fuller’s language regarding the divine dispositions of ab intra distaste for sin and personal injury of God should be noted when he maintains, “It is necessary that the displeasure of the offended [i.e.
“We are unable to make that satisfaction in our own persons, or to deliver ourselves from the wrath of God, he hath been pleased of his infinite mercy to give his only-begotten Son for our surety, who was made sin, and became a curse for us in our stead, that he might make satisfaction to divine justice on our behalf,” Second Head of Doctrine, Article II, Canons of the Synod of Dort (1619), in Philip Schaff and Henry B. Smith, eds., The Creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1877), 2:586.
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offended God] should be expressed in as strong term.”45 For both Fuller and Edwards,46 the law is grounded in the very nature of God. However, a true Grotian would argue that since God as governor stands above the created world, the penalty of sin can be remitted without the inner nature of God being offended. Yet in Fuller, notice the internal principle of the divine nature in action when it meets the disobedient subject: “[Punishment’s] design is to express displeasure against disobedience,”47 but the purpose of this punishment, according to Fuller, is “not the misery of the offender, but the general good.” It is language such as “general good” often taken in isolation that makes Fuller susceptible to charges of being a Grotian. Edwards never explicitly said this in the context of the atonement, although the idea of the “public good”48 is deeply imbedded in the elder Edwards’s understanding of true virtue. This concept seemingly laid the foundation for Fuller and other New England theologians to pursue this end. It is only in this respect that I concede that Fuller may have been serving a mediating position on the issue of the atonement between the elder Edwards and the New England theologians. To be fair to Fuller and other New England theologians, Edwards probably did not explicitly reach the conclusions of Fuller, for the doctrine of atonement was not a contested issue in New England during his lifetime.49
“The Deity of Christ,” in The Complete Works of the Rev Andrew Fuller: With a Memoir of his Life by the Rev. Andrew Gunton Fuller [Works], 3 vols. (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 3:694. 46 Like Fuller, other commentators have argued the same point for Edwards as well. See Rudisill, Doctrine of Atonement, 91. 47 Works 3:693, emphasis mine. 48 McDermott pursues various aspects of the public good: “In a 1738 sermon, the pastor-turnedpolitical theorist lectured the handful of magistrates in the congregation (and the voters who elected them) that good rulers would serve the public good, not their own private interests,” in Gerald McDermott, One Holy and Happy Society: The Public Theology of Jonathan Edwards (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), 122. See Charity and Its Fruits, 8:261–62 and True Virtue, 8:582–83. 49 This is not to argue that the elder Edwards had taken the line of Edwards Jr. Given his commitment to traditional Calvinism, had Edwards engaged in the atonement controversy in his lifetime, I
Andrew Fuller on the Atonement
With regard to the atonement, “Edwards did not attack any view presented by a then living theologian nor was he attacked by any contemporary New England Calvinist for this view,”50 whereas Edwards Jr. and Fuller certainly dealt with opposition from all sorts of directions. Be that as it may, despite such language as the “general good,” if Fuller can be read in light of the overall structure of his theology, then any Grotian indictment ought to be dropped. In this particular case, Fuller makes an argument within the context of an internal principle of a divine, judicial characteristic. It is grounded in the inner satisfactory nature of divine justice: “Where punishment is inflicted according to the dessert [sic] of the offence, there justice is satisfied.”51 Hence Fuller’s rendering of the atonement includes God’s external structure, such as his created order and general good, but not to the exclusion of the divine internal principle that demands satisfaction for sin, as with Edwards Jr. The younger Edwards only affirmed the general good at the exclusion of commutative and distributive justice. The same could not be said of Fuller’s account of atonement, and such an implication would construe a misreading of him. This can be avoided by understanding Fuller as one who actually believed in penal substitution, yet was quite wary of speaking about the atonement in only those terms. Fuller, like Edwards, held to a view of the multifaceted nature of the atonement—and denied a concept of atonement in which penal substitution and governmental theory are necessarily viewed as mutually exclusive. Therefore, reading Fuller as Grotian would be deeply inadequate.
suspect he would have ended up in the same place as Fuller, but probably would not have gone as far as his son’s position on the subject. 50 Rudisill, Doctrine of Atonement, 21. 51 Works 3:693.
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That being said, when Rudisill observes, “It is true that President Edwards looked upon the Atonement as work of pure grace,”52 it is in this aspect of atonement that Edwards and Edwards Jr. were in accord with Fuller. Fuller may have been referring to such an idea when he wrote to Timothy Dwight in 1805: “The writings of your grandfather, President Edwards, and of your uncle, the late Dr. Edwards, have been food to me.”53 However, where the elder and younger Edwards differed, Fuller appears to have followed Edwards and not Edwards Jr. It is accurate to say that Edwards and Fuller saw atonement as a work of grace. Still, for them God’s real justice had been satisfied,54 not only in the sense of general justice. All three theologians saw that grace was logically prior to the atonement, but for Edwards and Fuller—unlike Edwards Jr.—the efficacy of the atonement was applied to the elect personally. Indeed, where Edwards Jr. and Edwards differ, Fuller subscribed to the view of Edwards. According to Fuller’s contemporary biographer’s report: Much as [Fuller] approved of the able Discourses of Dr. Jonathan Edwards on the consistency of the Atonement with the doctrine of Grace, “I object, says he, to [Dr. Edwards’s] account of public justice, as being too indefinite.”55 Fuller was apparently closer to Edwards, given that he obviously thought the latter’s account of public justice in the atonement was indefinite. Morden’s appraisal was thus appropriate in reading Fuller as someone who “would never follow Edwards Jr. in holding to a general, rather than particular, redemption. He continued to speak of the
Rudisill, Doctrine of the Atonement, 107. Works 1:85. As Clipsham argued, for Fuller, quid pro quo in the doctrine of substitution made salvation a “matter of right rather than grace,” in “The Development of a Doctrine,” 112. 54 In The Gospel its Own Witness, Fuller refers to chapter 6, “Concerning the Necessity and Reasonableness of the Christian Doctrine of Satisfaction for Sin,” in Jonathan Edwards, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies (Edinburgh, UK: Galbraith, 1796). See Works 2:74. 55 J. W. Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (London: Wrightman and Cramp, 1826), 298, emphasis his. 53
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atonement in substitutionary terms.”56 Although Fuller, in agreement with Edwards Jr., saw atonement as the pure grace of God, it was not at the expense of God’s justice in satisfaction; Fuller followed the elder Edwards when he said that if the “atonement is not made,” then “mercy triumphs at the expense of righteousness.”57 Such reservations about the notion of divine grace and mercy overtaking at the expense of justice58 are not the concern of Edwards Jr. Nevertheless, the significant and defining features of the younger Edwards’s governmentalism appear to be exactly the opposite of what Fuller argued in The Deity of Christ Essential to Atonement: If God requires less than the real demerit of sin for an atonement, then there could be no satisfaction made to Divine justice by such an atonement and though it would be improper to represent the great work of redemption as a kind of commercial transaction betwixt a creditor and his debtor, yet the satisfaction of justice in all cases of offence requires that there be an expression of the displeasure of the offended, against the conduct of the offender, equal to what the nature of the offence is in reality.59 Fuller accentuates the words “satisfaction” and “equal”; the necessity of satisfaction and the specified canceling of the debt should be noted as part of the divine internal structure. This leads to a further fundamental violation, with which Edwards Jr. and other later New Divinity men would have problems. In this sense Fuller is clearly of a higher Calvinist order than his New England friends. Although Fuller may not be as rigid a literalist as Booth, he is still working within the general boundaries of both commutative and distributive frameworks in Christ’s satisfaction: equal payment of the debt (commutative) and the basis for classical forensic justification (distributive). Of
Morden, Offering Christ, 95. Works 3:694, italics mine. According to this text, Fuller is arguing that the righteousness of God demonstrated in the atonement is sine qua non. If there is no propitiatory sacrifice, the divine intra righteous attribute is denounced by his merciful one. 58 Perhaps Fuller is referring to some types of commutative and distributive justices here. 59 Works 3:693, italics his, underlining mine. 57
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course, when Fuller said it was “improper to represent the great work of redemption as a kind of commercial transaction betwixt a creditor and his debtor,” it was this notion that concerned Booth. However, Edwards denied this strict equivalence as well. Amy Pauw for instance, observes that for Edwards, “transactional language of atonement falls away.” 60 Perhaps Pauw was overstating her case, for the language of Edwards’s transactional never completely “falls away,” especially in History of Work of the Redemption, which Fuller had in his catalogue and cited.61 In Remarks there are more glimpses of Edwards Sr.’s moral governmental ideas: Christ suffered the wrath of God for men’s sins in such a way as he was capable of, being an infinite holy person, who knows that God was not angry with him personally, knew that God did not hate him, but infinitely loved him.62 Edwards certainly held to penal substitution, yet in common with Fuller, he was quite wary of speaking in terms of strict quid pro quo. He stressed that God was not personally angry with Christ but treated him as though he were a sinner. Thus Rudisill is right to observe that “Edwards avoid[ed] saying that God punished His son.”63 However, it should be noted that a similar idea penetrates Fuller’s thinking when he wrote, “I
Amy Plantinga Pauw, The Supreme Harmony of All: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 141. If Edwards did work within these commutative and distributive frameworks, what would be the mechanics of a non-transactional transaction here? Perhaps T. F. Torrance offers one possible solution, referring to “atoning reconciliation as accomplished within the incarnate constitution of the Mediator and not in some external transactional way between himself and mankind,” in T. F. Torrance, Karl Barth, Biblical and Evangelical Theologian (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990), 230. Mindful of the risk of appearing somewhat anachronistic here, it should be noted that not I am advocating a proto-Barthian Edwards and Fuller here, yet Torrance’s insight may shine some light on how non-transactional yet commutative and distributive justice functions in the thinking of Edwards and Fuller. 61 The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems, Works 2:208. 62 Edwards, Remarks, 375. Since 1796 the Edinburgh edition of Remarks is not readily accessible, but very similar text can be located in Hickman’s edition, under the subheading of “Of God’s Moral Government” and “Of Satisfaction,” WJEEH 2:511–15; 565–78. In the Yale edition, see also “Wisdom of God Displayed in the Way of Salvation,” in Miscellanies, WJE 20:329–34. 63 Rudisill, Doctrine of the Atonement, 32, italics mine. Morden agrees that the elder Edwards had rejected the literal payment of a debt, “but had nevertheless the events of the cross God did punish Christ in order to vindicate his own character,” in Morden, Offering Christ, 90.
Andrew Fuller on the Atonement
believe the wrath of God that was due to us was poured upon [Christ]; but I do not believe that God for one moment was angry or displeased with him.”64 Like Edwards, Fuller had problems seeing Christ as being punished and did not see God as being angry with Christ. God was treating his son as if he were a sinner. Morden identifies this feature of Fuller’s thinking—of “Christ as not being punished”—as a place where “more than anywhere, the influence of the New England theologians can be seen.”65 Still, if Edwards also had problems with the insinuation that God punished his son, and thereby introduced the language of “as though” and “as if” to articulate the doctrine of substitution and imputation, there are no compelling reasons to assume such ideas were derivative of the New England theologians. Contrary to the consensus in Fullerite scholarship, Edwards’s mediatory influence via the New England theologians does not need to be presumed here, since Fuller certainly could have received those concepts directly from Edwards. Insofar as the notion of propitiation is concerned, Fuller did not hesitate to use propitiatory language. If Fuller was truly a Grotian, he should have been extremely reluctant to make such remarks as, “In the atonement of Christ, God is said to have ‘set him forth to be a propitiation—declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.’”66 It may be true that Fuller regularly portrayed God as ruler and moral governor, yet he did not reduce the divine satisfaction in atonement to a mere general justice, as did Edwards Jr. Fuller maintained that Christ had “suffered” under the penalty of the law as a penal substitute. On the positive side, Fuller believed that if there is such thing as the pardoning of sin without justification by Christ’s righteousness, then, in his own words, Fuller 64
Letters to Dr. Ryland, Works 2:705. Morden, Offering Christ, 89. 66 Ibid., 3:694, italics mine. 65
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would be charging himself with perverting the gospel and thereby denying the very nature of the deity of Christ.67 Hence the reading of Fuller as a Grotian is in need of serious reevaluation, as there are too many features in his thinking that are quite contrary to the governmental theory of atonement. Indeed, it is sufficient to say that Fuller’s approach to the atonement was nearer to Edwards’s than to his son’s.
“If the Deity of Christ be a Divine truth, it cannot reasonably be denied that it is of equal importance with the doctrine of justification by his righteousness. If therefore a rejection of the latter was deemed a perversion of the gospel, nothing less can be ascribed to the rejection of the former”; Works 3:695, italics mine.
The Doctrine of the Bible’s Truthfulness
THE DOCTRINE OF THE BIBLE’S TRUTHFULNESS IN ANDREW FULLER’S THEOLOGY By Brian Daniels The eighteenth century was an era of profound theological change for English Particular Baptists. During this time, through the immense influence of London theologians John Gill and John Brine, a strain of Calvinistic soteriology swept through the denomination and brought with it certain emphases that could only have a loss of evangelistic fervor as their logical and practical outcome.1 This High Calvinism assumed that God’s place in the plan of salvation rendered any gospel offering to the lost an infringement upon the proper order God had established in the redemption of his elect. The hyper-Calvinistic interpretations of the doctrines of grace, including a belief in eternal justification,2 came together to define a theology of conversion that stressed that only those individuals who had a “warrant” to draw near to Christ could do so. It was in this theological scene that one of the most influential Baptist theologians of all time was reared in the faith. Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) was converted to Christ and received a call to Christian ministry while a member of the High-Calvinist Baptist congregation at Soham. As a young man, Fuller’s theology was strictly hyper-Calvinistic, and this stress made its way into the early years of his pastoral ministry as he succeeded
See Peter Morden, “Andrew Fuller: A Biographical Sketch,” in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 6 (Milton Keyes, UK: Paternoster, 2004; repr., Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2006), 2–3. 2 On eternal justification, see E. P. Clipsham, “Andrew Fuller and Fullerism: A Study in Evangelical Calvinism: (1) The Development of a Doctrine,” Baptist Quarterly 20/3 (July 1963): 104.
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John Eve as the pastor at Soham. Little by little, however, his attachment to this brand of Calvinism began to give way to a more evangelical variety that made ample room within its compass for gospel appeals. A major influence that aided his turn from the hyperCalvinism of his early years was a pamphlet on the so-called “Modern Question” by the Congregationalist Abraham Taylor. Fuller himself notes the impact this work had on him. Fuller admits that, prior to coming into contact with Taylor’s work, “It is true, I perceived the Scriptures abounded with exhortations and invitations to sinners; but I supposed there must be two kinds of holiness, one of which was possessed by man in innocence, and was binding on all his posterity—the other derived from Christ, and binding only on his people.”3 His understanding of these matters was shaken, however, when he encountered Taylor: But in the autumn of 1775, being in London, I met with a pamphlet by Dr. Abraham Taylor, concerning what was called The Modern Question. I had never seen any thing relative to this controversy before, although the subject, as I have stated, had occupied my thoughts. I was but little impressed by his reasonings till he came to the addresses of John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostles, which he proved to be delivered to the ungodly, and to mean spiritual repentance and faith, inasmuch as they were connected with the remission of sins. This set me fast. I read and examined the Scripture passages, and the more I read and thought, the more I doubted the justice of my former views.4 What is noteworthy about this statement is the importance Fuller placed on Scripture in his engagement with High Calvinism. As he said, Taylor’s “reasonings” were quite unimpressive; it was Taylor’s comments on what John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles said to unbelievers that caused him trouble. In other words, the Bible got in the
Andrew Gunton Fuller, Memoirs of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, ed. Andrew Gunton Fuller (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 2007), xxv. 4 Ibid. On the importance of Taylor’s pamphlet for Fuller, see Paul Brewster, Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian, Studies in Baptist Life and Thought (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 24, 25, 77.
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way of his hyper-Calvinism. According to Paul Brewster’s account of this incident, “As he remembered the processes that led to his change of sentiment, Fuller gave pride of place to the role of the Bible, as presented through Abraham Taylor’s pamphlet.”5 Thus, any account of Fuller’s remarkable change from his former High Calvinist views must take notice of the role of Scripture in his thinking, since, even for the young Fuller, Scripture was to receive a prominent place in the theologian’s work. But is there more that can be said about Fuller’s bibliology? What, in particular, did Fuller believe about the nature and character of Scripture? The following study will examine Fuller’s understanding of the Bible by noting in particular what he had to say about its inspiration and truthfulness. This article will argue that Fuller maintained a high view of Scripture6 during his theological ministry, anchored in what he perceived to be the work of God in giving his people an authoritative and inerrant Word. Before directly examining Fuller writings on these issues, however, it will first be beneficial, for purposes of further clarifying both this essay’s thesis as well as Fuller’s historical background, to look at the evangelical context of Fuller’s life and ministry. A Brief Sketch of Fuller’s Evangelical Context Andrew Fuller was an evangelical theologian,7 and this article will assume as much in its exposition of his doctrine of the Bible. 8 The history of evangelicalism assumes a
Ibid., 77. See Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 47. 7 See Keith S. Grant, Andrew Fuller and the Evangelical Renewal of Pastoral Theology, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 36 (Milton Keyes, UK: Paternoster, 2013); Peter J. Morden, Offering Christ to the World: Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) and the Revival of Eighteenth Century Particular Baptist Life, Studies in Baptist History and Thought 8 (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 2003), esp. 151; and Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 69–70, 106. 8 Peter Morden notes, in regard to Fuller’s famous book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, that this work “shows that Fuller was able to submit his theological system to a rigorous biblical critique 6
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prominent place in the overall historical study of the modern Christian era, as its effects are significant even to the present day.9 According to Mark Noll, the words evangelical and evangelicalism have a long history. They are etymologically related to the Greek noun euangelion, meaning “gospel” or “good news,” thereby indicating that the adjective evangelical is intricately connected to the message of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected.10 “Thus,” as Noll indicates, “‘evangelical’ religion has always been ‘gospel’ religion, or religion focusing on the ‘good news’ of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.”11 When the Protestant Reformation was underway in sixteenth-century Europe, the word evangelical assumed an important role in distinguishing Protestants from their Roman Catholic opponents. At this time, evangelical and Protestant meant the same thing. To be evangelical, then, meant to subscribe to the distinctives of Reformation Christianity.12 Important as this meaning is to the study of church history, however, historians recognize another meaning for the term evangelical that post-dates the Reformation. It refers, in this instance, to a phenomenon that began in the eighteenth century in Great Britain, “a set of convictions, practices, habits and oppositions that resemble what Europeans describe as ‘pietism.’” 13 Seventeenth-century Pietism, associated with the Lutheran Philipp Jakob Spener, emphasized the need for personal
and revise it accordingly, at great personal cost. In this he displays a characteristic that was one of the hallmarks of the Evangelical Revival.” See Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 38, italics mine. 9 For various perspectives on the nature of evangelicalism, see the essays in David Naselli and Collin Hansen, eds., Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011). 10 Mark A. Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism, History of Evangelicalism 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 15–16. 11 Ibid., 16. 12 Ibid., 16–17. 13 Ibid., 17.
The Doctrine of the Bible’s Truthfulness
spirituality as well as the importance of the Bible for all Christians.14 In a similar vein, other revival movements in Britain and the American colonies sprang up in the eighteenth century, and it is to this point that historians trace the beginnings of modern evangelicalism.15 According to Noll, this “series of interconnected renewal movements,” as he terms it, grew out of the Protestant Reformation as it had been experienced in the British Isles, but more was going on than a mere repetition of Reformation beliefs and practices. A series of revivals—or intense periods of unusual response to gospel preaching linked with unusual efforts at godly living— marked the origin of a distinctly evangelical history. In Britain these precipitating events were known as the Evangelical Revival, while in the American colonies they were called the Great Awakening.16 Evangelicalism, then, is a movement born in the context of the renewal and revival of the historic Christian church, and its impact was felt across the Christian landscape. As David Bebbington, an influential historian of evangelicalism, has described this phenomenon, Evangelical religion is a popular Protestant movement that has existed in Britain since the 1730s. It is not to be equated with any single Christian denomination, for it influenced the existing churches during the eighteenth century and generated many more in subsequent years. It has found expression in a variety of institutional forms, a wine that has been poured into many bottles.17 In short, then, the eighteenth-century revivals gave birth to a new movement within modern Christianity, and it was onto this scene that Fuller stepped at a crucial period in the history of the Particular Baptist denomination.18
Ibid., 17–18. Ibid., 18. 16 Ibid. 17 D. W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History From the 1730s to the 1980s (Unwin Hyman, 1989; repr., New York: Routledge, 2005), 1. 18 See Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 4. 15
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But apart from purely historical considerations, in which, as noted, postReformation evangelicalism is described as the variety of Christianity birthed during the eighteenth-century revivals, what else might be said about how evangelicalism is demarcated?19 According to Bebbington’s influential work in this area, evangelicalism is characterized by four emphases or (to use Noll’s term) “convictions”:20 “conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.”21 Thus, evangelicalism is a complex movement within the Christian faith, and it is necessary to consider Bebbington’s entire quadrilateral in any attempt to capture the movement as a whole, as well as individuals who lived and ministered within it. For the purposes of the present study, however, only one of these elements will be singled out in the work of Andrew Fuller. Fuller, it has been noted before, was very much an evangelical in his understanding of the nature of the Bible,22 and this essay will seek to unpack this highly important and central aspect of his thought. It is notable, however, what Bebbington has to say about the place of Scripture at the beginning of the British evangelical revival. As he sees it, evangelicals at this time were primarily concerned with conversionism and crucicentrism. Activism, while important, was given less attention, and, he says, “Likewise they did not normally put the
Cf. Noll, Rise of Evangelicalism, 18–19, where he notes, “Two complementary perspectives are useful for defining the evangelical history that began with these revivals. On the one hand, evangelicalism was constituted by the individuals, associations, books, practices, perceptions and networks of influence shared by the promoters of the eighteenth-century revivals and their descendants. . . . Yet evangelicalism was always also constituted by the convictions that emerged in those revivals and that drove its adherents in their lives as Christians. In this sense, evangelicalism designates a consistent pattern of convictions and attitudes that have been maintained over the centuries since the 1730s.” 20 Ibid. 21 Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 2–3; he calls these a “quadrilateral of priorities” (3). 22 See Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 61.
The Doctrine of the Bible’s Truthfulness
Bible among the most important features of their religion.”23 This was not, however, due to a low view of Scripture, for “The Bible, after all, was professedly held in high esteem by all Protestants.”24 Thus evangelicals were being faithful to their Reformation heritage; they still held to the vital importance of the Bible.25 But apparently, as Bebbington sees it, at least on the whole this respect for Scripture did not take center stage among the work of early evangelicals. Bebbington reinforces this point by noting that eighteenth- and early-nineteenthcentury evangelicalism had a remarkably underdeveloped bibliology. In a significant paragraph in his treatment of evangelical biblicism, Bebbington states, There was agreement among Evangelicals of all generations that the Bible is inspired by God. When it came to determining the implications, however, there were notable divergences. Henry Venn of Huddersfield referred incidentally in 1763 to ‘the infallible word of God’ and the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion confessed its belief in 1783 in ‘the infallible truth’ of the scriptures. ‘The Bible is altogether TRUE’, wrote Edward Bickersteth in his extremely popular A Scripture Help (1816). ‘It is true without any mixture of error.’ Yet in the period up to that date there was no attempt to elaborate any theory of infallibility or inerrancy. On the contrary, there was remarkable fluidity in ideas about the effects of inspiration on the text. The overriding aim of early Evangelicals was to bring home the message of the Bible and to encourage its devotional use rather than to develop a doctrine of scripture.26 One gets the picture, then, of an evangelical movement that prized Scripture— with a “belief that all spiritual truth is to be found in its pages”27—but subordinated a
Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 3. Ibid. 25 “Yet they were notably devoted in their searching of the scriptures. The centrality of the Bible could still be taken as read in the mid-nineteenth century, even when activism was mentioned explicitly” (ibid.). 26 Ibid., 13–14, italics mine. He does note, citing W. J. C. Ervine, that verbal inspiration of the text and inerrancy became important in the 1820s (14; cf. 3). See also Kenneth J. Stewart, “The evangelical doctrine of Scripture, 1650–1850: a re-examination of David Bebbington’s theory,” in The Advent of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities, ed. Michael A. G. Haykin and Kenneth J. Stewart (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008), 394–95. 27 Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 12. 24
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desire to develop a theologically rich account of the Bible to other priorities. As Bebbington understands it, it was the devotional use of Scripture that was prioritized over theological clarification and doctrinal clarity. It is not the purpose of this article to critique the whole of Bebbington’s analysis of this issue. He may be largely correct in characterizing early British evangelicals in this way. But there does appear to be a notable exception to this general trend. Andrew Fuller did not share this view of the Scriptures. To be sure, he did encourage a devotional commitment to the Bible,28 but he did not stop there. The remainder of this article will contend that he did “put the Bible among the most important features of his religion.”29 Andrew Fuller’s Doctrine of Scripture as Presented in Letters on Systematic Divinity The most natural place to begin this exploration of Fuller’s bibliology is with his unfinished treatment of Christian dogmatics, Letters on Systematic Divinity. It was written in 1814, shortly before his death in 1815, and is comprised of nine letters written at the request of Fuller’s close friend John Ryland Jr.30 Here the reader finds a detailed statement of Fuller’s theology of Scripture. Letter V After considering the being of God in Letter IV, Fuller picks up in Letter V with the topic of the necessity of revelation. Fuller recognizes the existence of both general, or natural,
See Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 54. See n23 in this essay. For a general critique of Bebbington’s claims along similar lines to that presented here, see Kenneth J. Stewart, “The evangelical doctrine of Scripture, 1650–1850,” 394–413. For a favorable response, see, in the same volume, David Bebbington, “Response,” 423–24. 30 This information can be found in the advertisement at the beginning of the book: Andrew Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 740. Haykin also recites the background information; see Michael A. G. Haykin, “‘The Oracles of God’: Andrew Fuller’s Response to Deism,” in “At the Pure Fountain of the Thy Word,” 134–35. In his essay Haykin also provides an overview of the Letters, but what is given here will go into more detail in hopes of supporting the thesis of the article. 29
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revelation and special revelation (though it seems he preferred to use “revelation” only of Scripture). The latter, he thinks, should never cause one to forget or downplay the former: In establishing this principle [on the necessity of revelation], let it be observed, we are not required to depreciate the light of nature. The word of God is not to be exalted at the expense of his works. The evidence which is afforded of the being and perfections of God by the creation which surrounds us . . . is no more superseded by revelation than the law is rendered void by faith.31 But notwithstanding the obvious importance of God’s natural revelation of himself, man is in great need of the Bible, for it is the “means of enlightening and saving sinners”32— that is, “Divine revelation is necessary to a competent knowledge of God, and of his will concerning us.”33 Fuller defends this latter point concerning the Bible’s necessity by noting, first, how inadequate human reason is to penetrate into the divine realm. “The light of nature,” he argues, “though sufficient to bear witness for God, and so to leave sinners without excuse, was never designed in any state to furnish man with all he needed. Even in innocence man was governed by a revealed law.”34 Thus even Adam and Eve needed a word from God, that is, special revelation, something beyond their ability to discover for themselves. And so, by means of arguing from the lesser to the greater, it is manifestly
Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 745. In the following discussion of the letters, only direct quotations will be referenced in the footnotes. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid.. emphasis his. 34 Ibid. A little later in the same letter, Fuller says, “It is true that God instructs us, as has been said, by his works; but they contain only a few of the rudiments of Divine knowledge; like the parables of our Saviour, they were not designed to furnish perfect information on the subject, but merely a general intimation, tending to excite humble inquiry for further instruction; which, when asked, was readily granted, but, when set at nought, it was ‘seeing and not perceiving, hearing and not understanding; lest they should be converted and healed’” (746).
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clear that sinful men and women need Scripture: “If revelation was necessary in innocence, much more now man’s foolish heart is darkened.”35 In the second place, Fuller believes special revelation is necessary for faith. In short, salvation depends upon the presence of special revelation,36 for Paul has said, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17, KJV). As Fuller understood it, “without revelation, therefore, there would be no faith, and so no salvation.” 37 Fuller acknowledges the progressive nature of biblical revelation, but contends that at each stage of God’s revelation man was expected to believe what God had revealed to him: “Both revelation and faith may, however, exist in widely different degrees. Revelation was first given in obscure intimations, afterwards in types and shadows, in promises and in prophecies; and under each it was the office of faith to keep pace with it.”38 Letter VI In the next letter Fuller moves on to discuss inspiration. He offers a litany of biblical passages to demonstrate that the Bible testifies to its own inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 35
Ibid. In the last paragraph of this letter, Fuller makes some rather startling comments about faith in the absence of the special revelation of the Bible that may seem to lean toward an inclusivist view of salvation, whereby people may be saved even if they have never heard the gospel preached. He notes the different ways God dealt with sinners during Old Testament times: “Good men under the Old Testament stood on much lower ground than those under the New Testament” (746). Similarly, “Cornelius, the Roman centurion, being stationed in Judea, learned enough of the God of Israel to be just and devout, giving much alms to the people, and praying to God alway; and, before he had heard of Jesus being the Messiah, his prayers and his alms were approved God.” The very next sentence provides both some clarification as well as more confusion: “Yet the words spoken to him by Peter were those by which he was saved: a prof this, not of their being another way of acceptance with God than that which the gospel reveals, nor of its being possible without faith to please God; but that faith may exists while as yet there is no explicit revelation of the Saviour.” On the whole, it does appear that Fuller would hold to explicit belief in Jesus as the only way to be saved, since he does indicate that, his belief in the God of Israel notwithstanding, Cornelius was saved only when Peter came to him with the gospel. 37 Ibid. See also Michael Haykin, “The Oracles of God,” 136: “The burden of the Scriptures [for Fuller] is shown to be the doctrine of salvation.” 38 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 746. 36
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with its teaching that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God”; 2 Peter 1:21, where the apostle says that “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”; and 1 Corinthians 14:27, with Paul’s declaration that “The things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (all KJV). Fuller believes that when considering this testimony, the reader has a decision to make: he can either accept what Scripture says about itself or turn away in unbelief: We must, therefore, either admit these writings to be the word of God, or consider them as mere imposture. To pretend to “venerate them as authentic records of the dispensation of God,” and yet deny their inspiration, is absurd; it is believing the writers in what they say of other subjects, and disbelieving them in what they say of themselves. If their writings be not what they profess them to be, they are imposture, and deserve to be rejected. There is no consistent medium between faith and unbelief.39 So, as far as Fuller was concerned, there are no halfway measures when it comes to accepting the Bible’s authority. Either it is a revelation from God, or it is not. It is absurd to respect what the Bible says about things other than itself if it is wrong when claiming to be inspired. Regarding the nature of inspiration, Fuller admits that it comes in degrees. He argues that “. . . though all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, it does not follow that it is so in the same sense and degree. It required one degree of inspiration to foretell future events, and another to narrate facts which fell under the writer’s knowledge. The one required less exercise of his own judgment, the other more.”40 Nevertheless, God was involved throughout the composition of the Bible, for even in the simple setting forth of facts, such as in historical narratives, God was at work to keep the author from error: “Inspiration, in the latter case [i.e., in narrating facts], might be little more than a Divine 39 40
Ibid. Ibid., 746–47, emphasis his.
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superintendence, preserving him from error, and from other defects and faults, to which ordinary historians are subject.”41 This is a significant statement for Fuller to make, indicating that he believed all of Scripture to be free from error, even in matters of historical detail.42 In the next section of the letter, Fuller takes on the role of an apologist43 and delineates the features of Scripture that should lead one to accept its inspiration. Regardless of whether the reader finds these to be compelling proofs for the Bible’s authenticity, Fuller’s discussion contributes to his overall doctrine of Scripture. In the first place, Fuller notes that the Bible is true. He says in regard to this characteristic, It requires that a book professing to be a revelation from God should contain truth, and nothing but truth: such particularly must be its history, its prophecies, its miracles, and its doctrines. Now, as the Scriptures abound with these, if they be untrue, it can be no difficult undertaking to prove them so. The facts being stated, with the evidence accompanying them, it lies upon those who disbelieve them to show cause. It certainly has not been for want of adversaries, nor of adversaries of talent, that this work has never been accomplished.44 This is a straightforward and unqualified testimony to the Bible’s inerrancy,45 which Fuller grounds in the nature of God. In his mind, if a book claims to be from God as his personal revelation, it must be true and “contain nothing but truth.” Its account of history, its predictions of the future, its testimony to God’s supernatural work in the world, and its teachings—everything must be accurate, or it cannot be a Word from God.
Ibid., 747. On this issue of degrees with respect to inspiration, see also Haykin, “‘The Oracles of God’,”
There has been considerable attention given to Fuller’s apologetics. See the various essays in Haykin, ed., “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”; and Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 144–56. 44 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. 45 See also Michael A. G. Haykin, “Andrew Fuller and the Sandemanian Controversy,” in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word,” 224.
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And what is more, Fuller believes that the Bible is open for falsification—the unbeliever may examine its contents for himself. Second, Fuller notes the Bible’s consistency.46 This characteristic, he thinks, is inconceivable apart from God’s inspiring work. It is just not possible for a book like the Bible to maintain consistency with itself if it is not of God: A book written by more than thirty men, of different talents and stations in life, living in different ages, the greater part of whom, therefore, could have no communication with each other, must, had it not been written under the inspiration of God, have been full of contradictions. Let any other production be named which has preserved a consistency under such circumstances. To suppose a succession of writings, the work of designing impostors, or at least of weak-headed fanatics, capable of maintaining that harmony which is apparent in the sacred Scriptures, is no less absurd than the notion of Epicurus, that the world was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, without a designing cause.47 Fuller thus seems to assume that the consistent, non-contradictory character of Scripture is clear to any fair-minded reader.48 When one opens the Bible, he is confronted with a work many hundreds of years in the making that is nonetheless remarkably consistent. This consistency is grounded in inspiration, for “The Old and New Testaments are dictated by one and the same Spirit.”49 He is quick to note, however, that consistency is normally only a negative test for the presence of truth, “since error and falsehood may, in some particulars, be made to agree.” 50 Yet one must go further with reference to Scripture: “In a subject whose bearings are multifarious and minute, they [i.e., error and falsehood] cannot escape detection; nothing but truth in such cases will be found
See L. Russ Bush and Tom J. Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, rev. and exp. ed. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 96–98. 47 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. 48 Cf. ibid., 745, and Fuller’s comments on a “state of mind to receive” natural revelation. 49 Ibid, 747. 50 Ibid.
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consistent throughout.”51 Once again, Fuller is keen to emphasize the Bible’s inerrancy: “nothing but truth.” Third, Fuller points to the perfection of the Bible. “If the Bible be of God,” he says, “perfection must be one of its properties.”52 Fuller makes reference to Psalm 19:10, in which the Pentateuch (as Fuller identifies David’s subject) is described as more desirable than great wealth and sweeter than honey. For Fuller, the perfection of the Bible means that even a portion of it is a great boon to the reader: “Even a leaf from the sacred oracles would, in innumerable instances, teach him that should find it, and read it with a humble mind, the way to everlasting life; and this not as possessing any thing like a charm, but as containing principles which, if understood and followed, will lead the inquirer to God.”53 Fourth, Fuller refers to what he terms the “pungency” of the Scriptures: the Bible cuts to one’s innermost being. God has given it not simply to exercise the mind, but more importantly, to touch the heart. “They are a mirror, into which he that seriously looks must, in a greater or less degree, see his own likeness, and discover what kind of character he is. That which was said of Jesus by the Samaritan woman, might be said of them, in thousands of instances: ‘He told me all that ever I did.’” 54 After all, the Scriptures themselves testify to their power to penetrate deeply: “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12, KJV). Fuller at this point takes time to make a
Ibid. Ibid. 53 Ibid. 54 Ibid. 52
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ministerial application: preaching, he says, should reflect this characteristic of Scripture. “If our preaching be but little adapted to produce these effects, surely it contains but little of the word of God.”55 Fifth, Fuller notes the Bible’s usefulness. Here he seizes on Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 concerning the profitability of Scripture. “There is much,” he says, “in the sacred Scriptures that is entertaining and pleasing to the ingenious, and more to console the sorrowful: it was not, however, to please, nor merely to comfort, but to profit us that they were written.”56 Fuller supports this contention by noting that those who follow Scripture live upright and exemplary lives, being the “best members of society; while they who disbelieve and traduce it are the worst.”57 Thus, for Fuller, the Bible has much practical value, and such can be discerned in the lives of those who live according to its dictates and in service to the God who inspired it. Finally, he closes this portion of his letter with a short exposition of Psalm 19:7– 11.58 His discussion makes it clear that he considered these verses to be a clear and forceful testimony to the nature of the Bible, as well as a window granting a glimpse of the glory of God. He clarifies again how he understood the relationship between general and special revelation, though this time with more exalted language concerning the former: “Having declared the glory of God, as manifested by his works, the writer proceeds to exhibit another medium of the Divine glory, less magnificent, but more
Ibid. On Fuller’s preaching, see Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 110–20. Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. 57 Ibid. This mode of argument recalls the way Fuller engaged Socinianism and deism. See his The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Examined as to Their Moral Tendency, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 50–109; and The Gospel Its Own Witness, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 3–49. 58 On the importance of Psalm 19, see Haykin, “The Oracles of God,” 136. Fuller has in mind what he thinks is Thomas Paine’s mishandling of the psalm. 56
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suited to the cases of sinful men, namely, his word.”59 Exactly why Scripture is a less significant medium for revelation, Fuller does not specify; perhaps it is for the simple reason that a book, considered in itself, pales in comparison to the majesty of creation. But again, Fuller recognizes that general revelation, as grand as it is, is “not suited to the cases of sinful men” and therefore must be complemented by the Word of God. Letter VII Fuller expands on his understanding of the importance of Scripture for the people of God in the seventh letter, where he argues for the notion of the “uniform bearing of the Scriptures on the person and work of Christ.”60 Interestingly, Fuller does not think that literally everything in the Bible refers to Jesus. He very candidly remarks, We need not follow those who drag in Christ on all occasions. To suppose, for instance, that all the Psalms of David refer to him, is to establish the gospel on the ruins of common sense. Still less need we see him prefigured by every thing in which a heated imagination may trace a resemblance. This were to go into a kind of spiritual Quixotism, finding a castle where others would only find a windmill.61 Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to follow “common sense” in recognizing places where Christ is not the subject of the text, even in an extended or typological sense. But this recognition does not overturn the fact that, taken as a whole, the Bible is about Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless, the sacred Scriptures are full of Christ, and uniformly lead to him.”62
Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. Ibid., 748. This is the title of the letter, and capitalization has been removed. 61 Ibid. 62 Ibid. 60
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From here he goes on to show how the creation story of Genesis, the history and institutions of Israel (“Their priests, and prophets, and kings were typical of him”63), and the Old Testament prophecies all lead directly to Christ. And then one arrives at the New Testament, where the expectations of the Old Testament are finally realized: “The one abounds with prophecies; the other relates to their accomplishment. The ordinances of the former were prefigurative; those of the latter are commemorative. But both point to the same object. Every Divine truth bears a relation to him. . . . In the face of Jesus Christ we see the glory of the Divine character in such a manner as we see it no where else.”64 With this, then, the reader is brought full circle, for at the beginning of his treatment of Scripture Fuller noted its necessity for salvation, and here in the final letter on the Bible he emphasizes the place of Christ within its pages. “The evil nature of sin is manifested in his cross, and the last [sic] condition of sinners in the price at which our redemption was obtained. Grace, mercy, and peace are in him. The resurrection to eternal life is through his death. In him every precept finds its most perfect fulfillment.”65 Fuller’s Doctrine of Scripture as Expressed in Other Writings In his controversy with General Baptist leader Dan Taylor over his famous work The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Fuller once made the following observation regarding how he planned to prosecute his argument on Christ’s atonement: The extent of Christ’s death is well known to have been a matter of great controversy. For my part, I cannot pretend to so much reading upon the subject as to be fully acquainted with the arguments used on either side. If
Ibid. Ibid. 65 Ibid., 749. 64
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I write any thing about it, it will be a few plain thoughts, chiefly the result of reading the sacred Scriptures.66 These words encapsulate an attitude toward the Bible that permeated Fuller’s entire theological and pastoral ministry. As he saw it, what mattered most in theology was one’s exegesis of Scripture. He believed that reading the thoughts of others who had engaged the Bible’s contents was also important, but it could never supplant the proper place of Scripture in one’s thinking.67 According to Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, “Whenever Fuller opposed the heresies of his day, or when he was advising his fellow believers, his appeal was always to the truth of Scripture.”68 The preceding discussion of Fuller’s bibliology as expressed in Letters on Systematic Divinity has borne this point out. In contrast to Bebbington’s remarks on the underdeveloped doctrine of Scripture among the early evangelicals in eighteenth-century Great Britain, it seems quite certain that Fuller maintained a thorough and nuanced theory. For him, given the nature of the Bible and its origin in God’s inspiring work, Scripture did assume a place among the most important features of his religion.69 In short,
Andrew Fuller, A Defence of a Treatise Entitled The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 223. 67 Michael Haykin notes that “Fuller . . . differentiated between the books of fallible men, albeit good thinkers, and the truth of God in Scripture. The writings of fallible men are, at best, unable to sustain a lifetime of spiritual growth. Since they stem from fallible minds, they are inevitably partial perspectives on the truth and inadequate to support the believer in a time of trial. By contrast, Scripture is a sure guide for the believer.” See Michael A. G. Haykin, “‘A Great Thirst for Reading’: Andrew Fuller the Theological Reader,” Eusebeia 9 (Spring 2008): 7–8. See also the further comments on p. 8. On the role of Scripture in Fuller’s theological method, see Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 45–53. 68 Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 99–100. 69 It was noted above that, according to Bebbington, early evangelicals “did not normally put the Bible among the most important features of their religion.” See Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 3.
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it was indispensible and central. 70 “Throughout his ministry, Fuller remained a thoroughgoing biblicist.”71 What follows in the remainder of this article is simply further elaboration on points of Fuller’s thought already identified above in Letters on Systematic Divinity. It will be seen that his high view of Scripture was not confined to this later work, but was present in many of his other writings as well. It will be useful to organize these further remarks under three headings: the Bible’s inspiration, its authority, and its inerrancy. Inspiration According to Letters of Systematic Divinity, Fuller saw a close link between Scripture’s necessity and its inspiration. As noted above, Fuller believed the Bible was necessary because of the limitations of human reason and because of man’s need for salvation. All this meant that God must supply revelation to meet man’s need, and so in Letter VI of his dogmatics, Fuller acknowledges as much when he notes that he addresses inspiration “so as to answer to this necessity.”72 As Fuller understood it, man’s condition was hopeless apart from God’s intervention, but in graciously providing man with revelation of himself, God made the necessary provisions to meet humanity’s need. In Fuller’s theology, then, Scripture could only be seen properly as a gift from God that originated in his inspiring work. The Bible may have been written by humans—according to Fuller, “more than thirty” of them73—but God was behind it nevertheless.
See Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 38, 89, where he notes the centrality of Scripture for
Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 45. This same point emphasizing a “thoroughgoing biblicism” is made in Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 50 (see also 38). 72 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 746. 73 Ibid., 747.
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In his work against Socinianism, Fuller rehearses the biblical testimony to inspiration in a way similar to what he had done in Letters on Systematic Divinity. He cites both Old and New Testament texts. From the former he notes the familiar refrain of “Thus saith the Lord,” and concerning the latter he refers again to 2 Timothy 3:16–17 and 2 Peter 1:20–21 to establish his case. He also refers to 1 Corinthians 7:25 as posing a potential problem for his understanding of biblical inspiration. After arguing that the New Testament writers were just as conscious of the presence of God behind their compositions as they were of that same presence behind the Old Testament Scriptures, Fuller states, “There seems to have been one instance in which Paul disowned his having received any ‘commandment from the Lord,’ and in which he proceeded to give his own private ‘judgment.’” 74 This is a surprising concession for Fuller to make. Paul’s statement, however, is not cause to deny biblical inspiration, for Fuller goes on to say: “This appears to have been a particular exception from a general rule, of which notice was expressly given; an exception, therefore, which tends to strengthen, rather than to weaken, the argument for apostolic inspiration.” 75 So apparently, for Fuller, Paul’s comment, rather than overturning the doctrine of inspiration, actually proves that the apostles were conscious of writing under divine influence, so much so that Paul was compelled to indicate when such influence was not present. As controversial as Fuller’s comment on 1 Corinthians 7:25 may seem, he was nonetheless willing to affirm that the entire Bible is inspired. In the same work just referenced, while critiquing Socinianism for leading to deistic beliefs, Fuller notes that Socinians have no scruple about abandoning plenary inspiration. Furthermore, “To give
Fuller, The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Compared, 89. Ibid.
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up the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is to give them up as the word of God, and as binding upon the consciences of men; to which our opponents apparently have no objection.”76 Thus, in Fuller’s mind, a robust doctrine of plenary inspiration was crucial for a proper Christian understanding of the Bible. Nothing less than an affirmation of complete inspiration is sufficient to account for God’s work in bringing the Scriptures into existence for his people.77 Despite Fuller’s strong claims for God’s role in the Bible’s composition, he did not appear to hold to a strict dictation theory of inspiration. Earlier in this article, however, Fuller was quoted as saying that “The Old and New Testaments are dictated by one and the same Spirit.”78 What does Fuller mean by this? Haykin has convincingly argued that such language was metaphorical for Fuller and did not signal a particular theory about how the Holy Spirit worked in the biblical writers. On the contrary, “His . . . statement about the ‘degrees’ of inspiration certainly precludes a literal understanding of this . . . expression.”79 That is, if the Spirit was dictating the Scriptures to the writers, no degrees of inspiration could be admitted since there would be uniformity across the entire canon of Scripture. The Spirit’s work would be the same regardless of the biblical genre. One final feature of Fuller’s doctrine of Scripture can be noted before moving on: emphasis on the biblical autographs. It is apparent upon reading Fuller that he highly valued study in the original languages.80 And for him it is the autographs, with their use
Ibid., 103, emphasis his. See Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 98. 78 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. 79 Haykin, “The Oracles of God,” 136 (see also 135). Haykin here refers to an essay by J. I. Packer in which the author argues that John Calvin’s use of “dictation” language to describe the Bible is “simply a theological metaphor.” Haykin applies the same to Fuller. See J. I. Packer, “Calvin the Theologian,” in John Calvin, ed. G. E. Duffield (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1966), 163; quoted in Haykin, “The Oracles of God,” 136. 80 Haykin, “A Great Thirst for Reading,” 8. 77
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of these languages, that bear the mark of inspiration.81 This comes out in his Remarks on the Translation of the English Bible,82 which he begins with the comment, Allowing all due honour to the English translation of the Bible, it must be granted to be a human performance, and, as such, subject to imperfection. Where any passage appears to be mistranslated, it is doubtless proper for those who are well acquainted with the original languages to point it out, and to offer, according to the best of their judgment, the true meaning of the Holy Spirit.83 Thus, as Fuller makes clear, there is no reason to denigrate in principle the existence of English translations of Scripture; but the existence of such translations does not mean that study in the original languages is unimportant, for the Holy Spirit inspired, not the English version, but the originals. Authority J. W. Morris, a biographer of Fuller, once made the following remark about the subject of his work: He burst asunder the enslaving fetters of human dogmas, emancipated himself from their paralysing influence on his researches after truth, and taking the word of God alone for his guide, he determined to call no man master upon earth, but to follow, with a firm and cautious step, the dictates of an enlightened understanding.84 Fuller’s biographer has here given a succinct summary of Fuller’s view of Scripture’s authority: he took “the word of God alone for his guide.” As noted before, David Bebbington, the eminent scholar of British evangelicalism, has stated that the earliest evangelicals “did not normally put the Bible among the most important features of their
Haykin, “The Oracles of God,” 135. See ibid. 83 Andrew Fuller, Remarks on the English Translation of the Bible, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 990. 84 J. W. Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 1st ed. (High Wycombe, 1816), 270–71; quoted in Morden, Offering Christ to the World, 62–63. 82
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religion.”85 Fuller, however, maintained a view of Scripture in which God’s word was given a high place of honor, and it can safely be argued that the Bible was certainly among the “most important features” of Fuller’s Christianity. This point has been borne out in the above discussion of the Letters on Systematic Divinity, and it can be found elsewhere in Fuller’s corpus. It comes across in a particularly compelling way in a sermon entitled “On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God.” Here he acknowledges that his hearer “feel[s], I doubt not, a great esteem for many of your brethren now living, and admire[s] the writings of some who are now no more; and you will read their productions with attention and pleasure.” 86 Fuller’s comments express no disparagement toward reading and studying the writing of others,87 but he believes the Christian should pay attention to a far more important piece of writing: Whatever excellence your brethren possess, it is all borrowed; and it is mingled with error. Learn your religion from the Bible. Let that be your decisive rule. Adopt not a body of sentiments, or even a single sentiment, solely on the authority of any man—however great, however respected. Dare to think for yourself. Human compositions are fallible. But the Scriptures were written by men who wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Human writings on religion resemble preaching—they are useful only so far as they illustrate the Scriptures, and induce us to search them for ourselves.88 Fuller, then, draws a sharp and clear distinction between “fallible” human writings and what is clearly, for him, the infallible Word of God. The latter should be the “decisive rule,” the final authority, in the Christian’s life. Thus it is evident that Fuller maintained a
Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 3. Andrew Fuller, “On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance with the Word of God,” in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 682. 87 See Haykin, “A Great Thirst for Reading.” 88 Fuller, “On an Intimate and Practical Acquaintance,” 682. 86
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high view of Scripture’s authority in his own life, as Morris indicated, and exhorted others to do the same. One can also discern Fuller’s attitude toward biblical authority in how he treated human reason.89 As Brewster has observed, in Fuller’s thought, “Reason must retain a subordinate position to the authority of Scripture.”90 There are several places in his works in which Fuller notes that Scripture must reign supreme in what it teaches, even if reason is unable to comprehend what is taught and how it is to fit together. For example, in his famous book The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Fuller notes that there seems to be a discrepancy between the Calvinistic understanding of God’s decrees and the practice of commanding sinners to believe in Christ for salvation.91 But he is also quick to assert the following: Were a difficulty allowed to exist as to the reconciling of these subjects, it would not warrant a rejection of either of them. If I find two doctrines affirmed or implied in the Scriptures, which, to my feeble understanding, may seem to clash, I ought not to embrace the one and to reject the other because of their supposed inconsistency; for, on the same ground, another person might embrace that which I reject, and reject that which I embrace, and have equal Scriptural authority for his faith as I have for mine.92 Here one finds Fuller’s deference for Scripture illustrated practically. As he sees it, Scripture cannot contradict itself—but it may seem to do so,93 and when it does, the one who is truly submissive to the Bible’s authority will not reject one portion of the Bible’s teaching for another. As he notes,
On this, see Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 51–53. Brewster notes, “A corollary to the priority Fuller insisted must be given to the Scriptures in pursuing theological truth is that reason must also be kept in a subordinate place. Fuller had nothing bad to say about the role of reason per se in pursuing truth.” (51). See also Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 98. 90 Brewster, Andrew Fuller, 52. 91 Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, 167–68. 92 Ibid., 168, emphasis his. 93 See Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 98.
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The truth is, there are but two ways for us to take: one is to reject them both, and the Bible with them, on account of its inconsistencies; the other is to embrace them both, concluding that, as they are both revealed in the Scriptures, they are both true, and both consistent, and that it is owing to the darkness of our understandings that they do not appear so to us.94 This same attitude is evident elsewhere in Fuller’s writings.95 What other scholars have said respecting specific controversies in Fuller’s life can be understood to be indicative of his whole thought. As Clint Sheehan has observed in his study of Fuller’s critique of Arminianism, “Fuller’s humility also ensured his comfort with the deep mysteries found in God’s Word. He was never so vain as to believe that his own understanding was the final arbiter of the veracity of any particular doctrine. What Fuller understood Scripture to assert, Fuller accepted as truth, even where this gave rise to counterintuitive or seemingly paradoxical conclusions.”96 Sheehan also notes how Fuller approached the issue of reconciling his stress on urging sinners to respond to the gospel with God’s sovereignty in salvation: “Both were plainly asserted in the pages of Scripture and so both must be true even if they appear mutually exclusive to many.”97 And with regard to the doctrine of election, Sheehan likewise points out the same attitude: The humility of Fuller was evidenced in his treatment of unconditional election. He conceded that some apparently unanswerable questions attended this doctrine, but felt no need to have an answer to every question. The truth of this doctrine did not depend upon his being able to answer, or not answer any question. The ostensible problem was the relationship between election, free agency and accountability. ‘A fleshly mind may ask, “How can these things be?” How can Divine predestination accord with human agency and accountableness? But a truly humble Christian, finding both in his Bible, will believe both, though he may be 94
Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, 168. See the following: A Defence of a Treatise Entitled The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, 229, 231; Three Conversations on Imputation, Substitution, and Particular Redemption, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 313; and Six Letters to Dr. Ryland Respecting the Controversy with the Rev. A. Booth, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 321. 96 Clint Sheehan, “Great and Sovereign Grace: Fuller’s Defence of the Gospel against Arminianism,” in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word,” 85. 97 Ibid., 86. 95
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unable to fully understand their consistency; and he will find in the one a motive to depend entirely on God, and in the other a caution against slothfulness and presumptuous neglect of duty.’ In his response to this common Arminian objection Fuller in essence is arguing that there must be concordance between these three since all are taught in Scripture.98 Fuller, then, rooted this attitude toward the Bible’s authority in the virtue of humility. A “fleshly mind” questions the logic of Scripture, but the “truly humble Christian” recognizes that the Bible is true and authoritative for Christian doctrine even if the mind is at a loss in understanding the biblical teaching.99 Inerrancy In the Letters on Systematic Divinity, when Fuller says that “It requires that a book professing to be a revelation from God should contain truth, and nothing but truth: such particularly must be its history, its prophecies, its miracles, and its doctrines,”100 he was signaling a strong belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. If the Bible is truly revelation from God, he argued, it must be true—and so the Bible is. According to Bush and Nettles, as Fuller saw it, “Inerrancy is . . . a necessary correlative of revelation. According to Fuller, revelation naturally implies infallibility, and infallibility determines inerrancy.”101 This comes out clearly elsewhere in Fuller’s work. In one place he refers to the Bible as the “oracles of truth.”102 In another he speaks of the law revealed in Scripture as
Ibid., 106, emphasis mine. The quote is from Letter II of Letters on Systematic Divinity (ibid.,
On Fuller’s treatment of reason, see also Barry Howson, “Andrew Fuller and Universalism,” in “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word,” 200–1. He notes that Fuller, in dealing with universalism, had a very definite attitude toward reason: “It is evident from Fuller’s letters that Scripture stands over reason—he was willing to use reason in his arguments against universalism but his final authority was certainly God’s word. Vidler [Fuller’s opponent], on the other hand, appears to have placed Scripture and reason on a par, at least in practice if not in theory” (201). 100 Fuller, Letters on Systematic Divinity, 747. 101 Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 98. 102 Andrew Fuller, Letters to Mr. Vidler on the Doctrine of Universal Salvation, in The Works of Andrew Fuller, 144.
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an “unerring rule.”103 And in the confession of faith he wrote for the church at Kettering, he states, in a passage on original sin, “I own there are some things in these subjects, which appear to me profound and awful. But seeing God hath so plainly revealed them in his Word, especially in the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, I dare not but bow my shallow conceptions to the unerring testimony of God.”104 This last quotation bears striking similarities to the foregoing discussions of Fuller’s view of biblical authority; here, as there, he acknowledges that his reason runs up against certain teachings of Scripture, but he nonetheless holds that the Bible, God’s “unerring testimony,” has the final say.
Conclusion In light of all that has been said about Fuller, his background as an early evangelical leader, and the theology expressed in his writings, what might be concluded about the man’s attitude toward the Bible? In short, this article has demonstrated that Fuller maintained an articulate and developed bibliology, and that, contrary to David Bebbington’s contention regarding the attitudes toward Scripture prevalent within early evangelicalism, Fuller was keen to give the Bible an honored position within his understanding of Christianity. Fuller, it seems, could do no different, given his strong belief about the Bible’s origin in God himself. To borrow from a well-used theological summation of a conservative doctrine of Holy Scripture, Fuller understood that what the Bible says, God says, and that fact alone means the theologian and preacher of the gospel ignores the Scriptures to his own peril.
Fuller, Defence of a Treatise Entitled The Gospel Worthy, 217. This is from the confession as reprinted in Brewster, Andrew Fuller, appendix 1, 183.
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C. H. SPURGEON: A FULLERITE?1 By G. Stephen Weaver, Jr. Andrew Gunton Fuller (1799–1884), son of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815), lived to the age of 85. In 1831, he gathered his father’s writings and published them in five volumes. This set was later revised by Joseph Belcher and published in three volumes by the American Baptist Publication Society in 1845. Both these sets included a biographical memoir of Fuller by his son. Near the end of his life, in 1882, he published a biography of his father in the “Men Worth Remembering” series published by Hodder & Stoughton. 2 He apparently sent a copy of this biography to the most famous Baptist English preacher of the latter nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892). Spurgeon responded with a letter that reveals how highly Spurgeon regarded Andrew Fuller as a theologian:3 Venerable Friend, I thank you for sending me your Andrew Fuller. If you had lived for a long time for nothing else but to produce this volume, you have lived to good purpose. I have long considered your father to be the greatest theologian of the century, and I do not know that your pages have made me think more highly of him as a divine than I had thought before. But I now see him within doors far more accurately, and see about the Christian man a soft 1
This paper was originally presented at a mini-conference on “The Legacy of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815),” sponsored by The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, on February 6, 2015. 2 Andrew Gunton Fuller, Andrew Fuller, Men Worth Remembering (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882). 3 It was used in advertisements for the Fuller volume in subsequent publications by Hodder and Stoughton. See William Mackergo Taylor, John Knox (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884), 215
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radiance of tender love which had never been revealed to me either by former biographies or by his writings. You have added moss to the rose, and removed some of the thorns in the process. Yours most respectfully, C. H. Spurgeon4 Even if this letter had not survived, there would still be ample evidence to demonstrate Spurgeon’s appreciation for Fuller. The purpose of this article is to explore this evidence and to demonstrate that Spurgeon not only read and appreciated Fuller throughout his ministry, but also consciously identified himself as a Fullerite. The article will catalogue Spurgeon’s use of anecdotes from Fuller’s life in his preaching and teaching, demonstrate his knowledge of Fuller’s writings, and explore the question of whether Spurgeon identified himself as a Fullerite. Spurgeon’s Use of Fuller Anecdotes Spurgeon clearly admired Fuller and read books both by and about him. From time to time, Spurgeon alluded in his sermons to an incident from Fuller’s life as an illustration of some biblical truth. In what follows, I have provided examples of how Spurgeon used Fuller anecdotally in his preaching, teaching, and writing. On July 19, 1863, Spurgeon preached from Romans 10:10 on “Confession with the Mouth” at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. During the sermon he reflected on his reading “the life of good Andrew Fuller” the previous day: I was noting when reading yesterday the life of good Andrew Fuller, after he had been baptized, some of the young men in the village were wont to mock him, asking him how he liked being dipped? and such like questions
Cited in Gilbert Laws, Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: Carey, 1942),
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which are common enough now-a-days. I could but notice that the scoff of a hundred years ago is just the scoff of to-day.5 This is likely a reference to Fuller’s account in the memoir of his early life compiled from two series of letters written to friends. This memoir formed the basis of the nineteenthcentury biographies of Fuller by Andrew Gunton Fuller, John Morris, and John Ryland, Jr. Fuller had written, Within a day or two after I had been baptized, as I was riding through the fields, I met a company of young men. One of them especially, on my having passed them, called after me in very abusive language, and cursed me for having been ‘dipped.’ My heart instantly rose in a way of resentment; but though the fire burned, I held my peace; for before I uttered a word I was checked with this passage, which occurred to my mind, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation.’ I wept, and entreated the Lord to pardon me; feeling quite willing to bear the ridicule of the wicked, and to go even through great tribulation, if at last I might but enter the kingdom.6 Spurgeon’s familiarity with the life of Fuller and the popular stories about him circulating in the nineteenth century served him well for illustration purposes throughout his ministry. On December 29, 1867, Spurgeon preached a sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle from Psalm 136 titled “A Song, A Solace, A Sermon, and A Summons.” Near the end of the sermon, Spurgeon referred to an occasion when Fuller preached in Scotland from a text very dear to Spurgeon’s heart: Isaiah 45:22—“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”7
C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons [MTPS], vol. 9 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 401. 6 Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845), 7. This was originally from a letter written by Fuller to a friend in Liverpool in January, 1815. See Michael A. G. Haykin, The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller (Dundas, ON: Joshua Press, 2001), 77–78. 7 This is the text from which the layman was preaching when Spurgeon was converted on January 6, 1850. For Spurgeon’s own account of this, see Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:105–8.
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
When that man of God, Mr. Andrew Fuller, was once preaching in Scotland, the place was very crowded, and numbers were outside. A woman, the worst woman in the town, seeing the crowd, thought she would push into the Kirk to listen to the English minister. He was preaching from the text, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” “Ah,” said she, “I have gone far, but I have not gone over the ends of the earth, at any rate, and if God says, ‘Look, and be saved, all the ends of the earth,’ he must mean me.” She did look, and became afterwards an honourable woman in that parish, converted by the grace of God.8 On June 6, 1869, in a sermon titled “The Overflowing Cup” from Psalm 23:5, Spurgeon preached on the danger of allowing the goods of the world to become idols of the heart. He told of Andrew Fuller going to a gold bullion merchant’s shop and being shown a mass of gold. He took it in his hand and said, “How much better it is to hold it in your hand than to have it in your heart!” Spurgeon commented, “Goods in the hand will not hurt you, but the goods in the heart will destroy you.”9 On May 14, 1885, in a sermon delivered on a Thursday evening at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on behalf of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Spurgeon admired the ingenuity of Fuller and friends in spreading the gospel: I admire the enterprise of Andrew Fuller, and some others long ago, who printed hymns upon papers which were to be used in the sale of cottons and other small wares. They gave those papers to tradesmen that they might do their goods up in them. So long as the truth does but travel, it does not matter how.10 Spurgeon drove home his point with the forceful question: “How is he a Christian who in some shape or other does not spread this matchless Word?”11
Spurgeon, MTPS 13:719. Ibid.,15:318. 10 Ibid., 58:248. This incident was recorded in the previously mentioned 1882 volume by Andrew Gunton Fuller, which Spurgeon had read a few years earlier. A. G. Fuller, Andrew Fuller, 88. 11 Spurgeon, MTPS 58:248. 9
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Spurgeon preached an undated sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle titled “Work for Jesus” from Matthew 21:28—“Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” Spurgeon stressed that the text said “Go and work,” not “Go and criticize.” He then cited an uncomfortable encounter Fuller faced with some Scottish Baptists about the discipline of the English churches. The Scots lectured Fuller severely on the topic, to which Fuller replied, “You say that your discipline is so much better than ours. Very well, but discipline is meant to make good soldiers. Now, my soldiers fight better than yours, and I think therefore that you ought not to say much about my discipline.” 12 Spurgeon concluded in a manner that seems to have been Fuller’s inclination as well: So the real thing is not to be for ever calculating about modes of church government, and methods of management and plans to be adopted and rules to be laid down, which it shall be accounted a serious breach to violate. All well in their place, for order is good in its way. But come, now, let us go to work. Let us have something done.13 In another undated sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle titled “Christ the Tree of Life” from Revelation 22:2, Spurgeon used an incident in the life of Fuller as an illustration of the nature of saving faith:14 When Mr. Andrew Fuller was going to preach before an Association, he rode to the meeting on his horse. There had been a good deal of rain, and the rivers were very much swollen. He got to one river which he had to cross. He looked at it, and he was half afraid of the strong current, as he did not know the depth. A farmer, who happened to be standing by, said, “It is all right, Mr. Fuller; you will get through it all right, sir; the horse will keep its feet.” Mr. Fuller went in, and the water got up to the girth, and then up to the saddle, and he began to get uncomfortably wet. Mr. Fuller thought he had better turn round, and he was going to do so when the same farmer shouted, “Go on, Mr. Fuller; go on; I know it is all right;” and Mr. Fuller said, “Then I will go on; I will go by faith.” Now, sinner, it is very like that with you. You think that your sins are so deep that Christ will never be able to carry you over them; but I say to you,—It is all right, 12
Ibid., 23:89. Ibid., 23:89–90. 14 Fuller, Complete Works, 1:117. 13
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sinner; trust Jesus, and he will carry you through hell itself, if that is needful. If you had all the sins of all the men that have ever lived, and they were all yours, if you could trust him, Jesus Christ would carry you through the current of all that sin. It is all right, man! Only trust Christ. The river may be deep, but Christ’s love is deeper still. It is all right, man! Do not let the devil make you doubt my Lord and Master. He is a liar from the beginning, and the father of lies, but my Master is faithful and true. Rest on him, and all will be well. The waves may roll, the river may seem to be deeper than you thought it to be,—and rest assured it is much deeper than you know it to be;—but the almighty arm of Jesus—that strong arm that can shake the heavens and the earth, and move the pillars thereof as Samson moved the pillars of Gaza’s gates,—that strong arm can hold you up, and bear you safely through, if you do but cling to it, and rest on it. O soul, rest in Jesus, and you are saved!15 According to Joseph Belcher, this incident occurred when Fuller was on his way to preach at Nottingham to the Northamptonshire Association on June 2, 1784. The encounter brought to his mind the text of 2 Corinthians 5:7—“We walk by faith, not by sight,” which Fuller proceeded to preach at the meeting. Upon the request of the brethren present, it became his first published sermon, “The Nature and Importance of Walking By Faith.” This information was only included in the 1845 American edition, indicating Spurgeon must have owned this edition. Spurgeon also used Fuller in his lectures to the students of his Pastors’ College. In a lecture titled “Attention!” Spurgeon cited Andrew Fuller on the importance of a preacher keeping the attention of his hearers. He told of a time when Andrew Fuller had just begun his sermon and the people were already falling asleep. Fuller reportedly said, “Friends, friends, friends, this won’t do. I have thought sometimes when you were asleep that it was my fault, but now you are asleep before I begin, and it must be your fault. Pray wake up and give me an opportunity of doing you some good.”16
Spurgeon, MTPS 57:247–48. C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, vol. 1 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1875), 149. 16
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In 1889, Spurgeon published a two-volume collection of proverbs arranged topically, which he titled The Salt Cellars.17 In the second volume, under the heading “Praise little, dispraise less,” Spurgeon added the following “homely note” coupled with an anecdote from Fuller’s life: Let your expressions be well weighed, so that value may be attached to them. He who is constantly expressing his hasty opinions will find that little regard is paid to him. Andrew Fuller tells of one, who, being much edified by the discourse of a popular minister, met him at the pulpit stairs with, “I really must not say what I think of your sermon, it might do you harm.” “Not at all, my friend,” was the rejoinder, “speak out, for I do not attach much importance to your opinion.” More frank than flattering.18 Spurgeon’s use of Fuller was not always positive; he used him as a negative example on at least two occasions—once in a sermon and once in the pages of The Sword and the Trowel. In a Thursday evening sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on July 5, 1883, Spurgeon admonished his hearers to use a delicate hand when giving necessary rebukes. He cites Fuller as one who did not do this. “It was said of good Andrew Fuller that frequently he gave a rebuke so severely that it reminded you of one who saw a fly upon his brother’s forehead and seized a sledge hammer to knock it off.”19 Spurgeon perhaps had in mind the incident to which he had referred in a February 1865 article in The Sword and the Trowel. Spurgeon was similarly urging gentleness to his readers, citing almost verbatim a passage from John Morris’s memoir of Fuller: Although it is uncertain where Spurgeon read this, the anecdote had been cited in the July, 1853 issue of The Church: Andrew Fuller, one Sunday afternoon, saw the people, during the singing of the hymn before sermon, composing themselves for a comfortable nap; and, taking the Bible, he beat it against the side of the pulpit, making a great noise. Attention being excited, he said, “l am often afraid that I preach you to sleep; but it can’t be my fault to-day, for you are asleep before I have begun.” The Church 7 (July 1853): 188. 17 C. H. Spurgeon, The Salt Cellars. Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Thereon, 2 vols. (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1889). 18 Ibid., 2:101. 19 Spurgeon, MTPS 29:392. Joseph Belcher provides a few examples of Fuller’s severity in a footnote in Fuller, Works, 1:112.
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
It is written of Andrew Fuller, that he could rarely be faithful without being severe; and, in giving reproof, he was often betrayed into intemperate zeal. Once, at a meeting of ministers, he took occasion to correct an erroneous opinion delivered by one of his brethren, and he laid on his censure so heavily that Ryland called out vehemently, in his own peculiar tone of voice, “Brother Fuller! brother Fuller! you can never admonish a mistaken friend, but you must take up a sledge hammer and knock his brains out.”20 Spurgeon’s Knowledge of Fuller’s Writings Spurgeon was not merely knowledgeable of the life of Fuller and the various anecdotes popularly circulated in his day; he also knew the writings of Fuller. In Spurgeon’s library, preserved in part at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, are only two books authored by Fuller, but we know Spurgeon likely owned more than these.21 We now explore the evidence that he was very familiar with Fuller’s writings. On May 3, 1850, the recently converted fifteen-year-old Charles Haddon Spurgeon was immersed as a believer at the Isleham Ferry on the River Lark. Baptized with Spurgeon that day was Eunice Fuller, a descendant of Andrew Fuller’s oldest brother, Robert.22 The first baptism at this spot had occurred fifty years before when, on September 13, 1798, Andrew Fuller baptized a father and his son and three others.23 The month before fully identifying with the Baptists through baptism, Spurgeon had read from the Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller. In his diary on April 17, 1850, Spurgeon wrote, “Read some of ‘Fuller upon Antinomianism.’ My God, what a gulf is near me! I
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1865 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 19. Cf. John Morris, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Pastor of the Baptist Church at Kettering, and Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society (London: Wightman and Cramp, 1826), 369. 21 The list of items in the Spurgeon Collection at Midwestern Library is currently being revised. The online records are not exhaustive at this point. The two volumes by Fuller listed are Andrew Fuller, Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce A.M. (London: G. Wightman, 1831); and Andrew Fuller, Strictures on Sandemanianism: in twelve letters to a friend (Nottingham, UK: C. Sutton, 1810). 22 Gilbert Laws, Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (London: Carey, 1942), 12. 23 Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:151–52.
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think I can say that I hate this religion; I would desire to love God, and to be as holy as my Father-God Himself.”24 This reading of Fuller would continue throughout the rest of his life. In 1876, Spurgeon published Commenting and Commentaries.25 In this work he provided an annotated list of commentaries. Spurgeon’s comments are often entertaining in their candor. Fuller’s Expository Discourses on the books of Genesis and Revelation are included in his list of commentaries. Also included is a commentary on Genesis by George Bush (1796–1859), professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature at New York University from 1832 to 1846. Spurgeon was not impressed: Bush has in the most barefaced manner taken copious verbatim extracts from Andrew Fuller, without acknowledgment, and he has also plagiarized Lawson on Joseph by wholesale, without even mentioning his name. For such a scholar to be guilty of wholesale plunder is inexcusable. It is one of the worst cases of robbery we have ever met with, and deserves a far stronger denunciation than our gentle pen and slender space will permit.26 A few entries later, Spurgeon commends Fuller’s Expository Discourses on Genesis as “weighty, judicious, and full of Gospel truth. One of the very best series of discourses extant upon Genesis, as Bush also thought.”27 Spurgeon gave a positive blurb to Fuller’s Expository Discourses on the Apocalypse with only slightly less humor: “Fuller is too judicious to run into speculations. The work is both condensed and clear. Fuller called Faber ‘the Fortune-teller of the Church,’ and there are others who deserve the name.”28 There is a hint at his disgust for many commentators on the book of Revelation. Spurgeon tipped his hand at his view of some commentators on apocalyptic 24
Ibid., 1:131. C. H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle (New York: Sheldon, 1876). 26 Ibid., 81. 27 Ibid., 82. 28 Ibid., 280. 25
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
literature: “We reverence the teaching of the prophets, and the Apocalypse, but for many of the professed expounders of those inspired books we entertain another feeling.”29 In one of his lectures to the students of the Pastors’ College, Spurgeon put it more forcefully, Blessed are they who read and hear the words of the prophecy of the Revelation, but the like blessing has evidently not fallen on those who pretend to expound it, for generation after generation of them have been proved to be in error by the mere lapse of time, and the present race will follow to the same inglorious sepulchre.30 Spurgeon quoted widely from Fuller in his “magnum opus,” The Treasury of David. The last volume of this seven-volume exposition of the book of Psalms was published in 1885. Spurgeon referenced Fuller by name sixteen times—three times in his “Hints to Preachers” and thirteen times in “Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings.” These citations indicate a broad reading of Fuller’s sermons and other writings. Spurgeon: the Fullerite What is a Fullerite? Scientifically, according to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, a fullerite is a polymer composed of fullerenes, spherical molecules made of carbon atoms. It places first on the list of ultra-hard materials (harder than diamond), with values ranging from 150 to 300 GPa (gigapascals). But that is not the kind of Fullerite this article is considering. According to Michael A. G. Haykin, “A Fullerite is a Calvinist who is committed to the free offer of the gospel since it highlights the reality of moral obligation and human responsibility alongside the divine sovereignty of salvation.”31
Ibid., 62. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 1:83. 31 Michael A. G. Haykin, e-mail message to author, February 4, 2015. 30
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Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon was accused of being a Fullerite, a badge he wore with honor. In his expansive treatment of the theology of Spurgeon, Tom Nettles expresses an understanding similar to Haykin’s of what it meant to be a Fullerite. Nettles assesses that Spurgeon “would agree with the confessional commitment of Andrew Fuller.” He cites a sermon in which Spurgeon said he did not consider a man “faithful to his own conscience, who can preach simply the doctrine of sovereignty, and neglect to insist upon the doctrine of responsibility.”32 In his book on the spirituality of Spurgeon, Peter J. Morden references an unpublished sermon manuscripts from the Waterbeach days in which Spurgeon preached from Isaiah 1:18. As he continued to do until his dying day, the young Spurgeon “insisted that ‘none’ were ‘excluded’ from the gospel invitation to come to Christ and trust in him except those who excluded themselves. The invitation was to ‘all sinners.’”33 Not all were happy with this kind of preaching. In his autobiography, Spurgeon tells the story of how he was accused of being a Fullerite, likely for the first time: Another of those worthy brethren, a dear old Christian man, said to me, one day, when I was at his house to dinner, “My dear sir, I wish you would not preach those invitation sermons. You are too general in your appeals; you seem to press the people so much to come to Christ. I do not like it; for it is not at all consistent with my doctrinal views.” “Well,” I replied, “what would you have me preach?” “Well, sir,” he said, “though I don’t like such preaching, yet it is evident that the Lord does; for my sonin-law was converted to God under one of those sermons; and when I came home, the other Sunday, so angry with you for being such a Fullerite, there was my daughter crying fit to break her heart; so,” he added, “don’t you take any notice of an old man like me. As long as God blesses you, you go on in your own way.” I said to him, “But, my dear brother, don’t you think, if God approves of this kind of preaching, that you ought to like it, too?” “Well,” he answered, “perhaps I ought; but I am 32
Tom Nettles, Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Fearn, UK: Mentor, 2013), 279–80. 33 Peter J. Morden, “Communion with Christ and His People”: The Spirituality of C.H. Spurgeon, Centre for Baptist History and Heritage Studies 5 (Oxford: Regent’s Park College, 2010), 65.
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an old man, and I have always been brought up in those views. I am afraid I shall not get out of them; but don’t you take the slighest notice of what I say.” That was exactly what I had determined in my own mind that I would do, so we agreed after all.34 Spurgeon did not deny the charge of being a Fullerite and affirmed that he purposed to continue in this style of preaching. On another occasion early in his ministry, Spurgeon preached that God heard the prayers of the unregenerate. He was strongly rebuked by some of “the brethren” who “were of the ‘very sound’ sort.” As he said of them elsewhere, “They believed in Calvinistic doctrine, not as I do, reckoning sixteen ounces to the pound, but allowing eighteen or nineteen ounces, and those extra ounces were not good for the people to feed upon.”35 Possibly, you doubt whether natural cries are heard by God; let me assure you that they are. I remember saying something on this subject on one occasion in a certain Ultra-Calvinistic place of worship. At that time I was preaching to children, and was exhorting them to pray, and I happened to say that long before any actual conversion I had prayed for common mercies, and that God had heard my prayers. This did not suit my good brethren of the superfine school; and afterwards they all came round me professedly to know what I meant, but really to cavil and carp according to their nature and wont. “They compassed me about like bees; yea, like bees they compassed me about!” After awhile, as I expected, they fell to their usual amusement of calling names. They began to say what rank Arminianism this was; and another expression they were pleased to honour with the title of “Fullerism;” a title, by the way, so honourable that I could heartily have thanked them for appending it to what I had advanced. But to say that God should hear the prayer of natural men was something worse than Arminianism, if indeed anything could be worse to them.36
Spurgeon, Autobiography, 1:256–57, emphasis mine. Spurgeon, MTPS 51:415. Spurgeon told this story with slight variation two times. The first time was in a sermon titled “The Ravens’ Cry” preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday evening, January 14, 1866. The second time was in a sermon titled “True and Not True” preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday evening, May 23, 1875. In the latter sermon, Spurgeon says, “They considered me to be as bad as Andrew Fuller, and to them he was, doctrinally, about the most horrible person that could be.” Spurgeon, MTPS 51:415. 36 Spurgeon, MTPS 12:56, emphasis mine. 35
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Spurgeon considered “Fullerism” to be an honorable title and something for which he would thank his opponents for attributing to him. The esteem with which Spurgeon held Fuller can be further demonstrated by the company in which he included him. In an 1871 The Sword and the Trowel article, Spurgeon reacted vehemently against the intellectual elites of his day and those who praised the sophisticated audiences of preachers with liberal theology. He stated his preference with sanctified sarcasm: “Those superficial beings, the Puritans, and those unintelligent persons of the type of Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller, are, to our mind, far better models than the intellectual dandies who have been in fashion.” 37 Instead of the intelligentsia of his day, Spurgeon declared his preference for the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, and Andrew Fuller. These he regards as “better models” than the latest fashionable preachers. I would argue that these three who most quickly came to his mind were the major influences in his theology. It is clear that Spurgeon identified himself favorably with the terms “Fullerite” and “Fullerism,” but how did his Fullerism manifest itself in his preaching ministry? The first work by Fuller the young Spurgeon read was Antinomianism Contrasted With the Religion Taught and Exemplified in Holy Scriptures, which he read a few weeks before his baptism in 1850. In this book, Fuller emphasized the importance of holy living as a duty for a Christian. Fuller argued that human beings were responsible before God for their actions by distinguishing between moral and natural (or physical) ability/inability: It is undoubtedly true that the Scriptures represent man by nature as unable to do any good thing; that is, they declare that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit; that they who are evil cannot speak good things; that they whose eyes are full of adultery cannot cease from sin; that they who are in the flesh cannot please God; finally, that they whose hearts are attached to 37
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1871 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 52.
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
their idols, or to the mammon of this world, cannot serve the Lord. This doctrine, if properly understood, is of great account in true religion. Hence arises the necessity of our being created anew in Christ Jesus ere we can perform good works; and of our being continually kept from falling by the power of God. He that has the greatest sense of his own weakness and insufficiency to do any thing as he ought, will be most earnest in crying to the strong for strength, and most watchful against the temptations of the world. It is thus that “when we are weak, then are we strong.” But if this doctrine be confounded with physical inability, and understood to excuse the sinner in his sins, it is utterly perverted. If the connexion of the above passages were consulted, they would be found to be the language of the most cutting reproach; manifestly proving that the inability of the parties arose from the evil dispositions of their own minds, and therefore had not the least tendency to render them less accountable to God, or more excusable in their sins; yet such, in spite of Scripture, conscience, and common sense, is the construction put upon it by Antinomianism.38 Fuller learned this distinction through his reading of Jonathan Edwards’s philosophical and theological masterpiece, Freedom of the Will. 39 Fuller would make use of this distinction to argue against two characteristics of the hyper-Calvinism of his day— antinomianism and the denial of the free offer of the gospel. In Fuller’s most influential work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, which was subtitled in its second edition The Duty of Sinners to Believe in Jesus Christ, Fuller used the Edwardsean distinction to argue that the inability of sinners to come to Christ is not because of a “physical” or “natural inability” but because of a “moral inability.” This means sinners lack not the physical ability to respond to the gospel, but the desire to do so. Therefore, they are morally responsible and culpable if they fail to do so. All sinners have a duty to believe in Jesus Christ, and therefore Christians have a responsibility to declare the gospel to everyone indiscriminately. Spurgeon, who learned to hate 38
Fuller, Complete Works, 2:745, emphasis his. Jonathan Edwards, A Careful and Strict Enquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of That Freedom of Will, Which is Supposed to be Essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame (Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754). For a careful study of Edwards’s influence upon Fuller, see Chris Chun, The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 162 (Leiden: Brill, 2012). 39
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antinomianism as a new Christian by reading Fuller, would employ the distinction widely in his preaching. He would do so, just as Fuller had, both against antinomianism and to stress the duty of sinners to respond to the gospel message. In what follows are examples of Spurgeon’s use of the distinction between moral and natural ability/inability.40 On October 23, 1881, in a Sunday morning sermon on “Without Christ–Nothing” from John 15:5, Spurgeon simply declared that the doctrine of moral inability of the unregenerate was a “doctrine I most firmly believe.”41 On July 3, 1864, Spurgeon went into more detail on the distinction between moral and natural inability in a sermon titled “A Bad Excuse is Worse Than None” from Luke 14:18—“They all with one consent began to make excuse.” “Well,” says one, “I cannot trust Christ, I cannot believe him.” You talk Latin, brother; you talk Latin. “No,” you say, “I do not talk Latin.” Yes, you do. I will translate that word into the English for you. It means, “I will not.” When you say, “I cannot,” it means, “I will not;” and understand, whenever the minister says, “You cannot,” he means, “you will not;” for he does not mean that you have any natural inability, but that you have a moral inability caused by your love of sin—a wilful inability. “I cannot,” is the Latin, but “I will not,” is the English of it.42 Spurgeon went on to illustrate the difference between the two kinds of inability: A man once sent his servant to a certain town to fetch some goods; and he came back without them. “Well, sir, why did you not go there?” “Well, when I got to a certain place, I came to a river, sir, a very deep river: I cannot swim, and I had no boat; so I could not get over.” A good excuse, was it not? It looked so, but it happened to be a very bad one, for the master said, “Is there not a ferry there?” “Yes, sir.” “Did you ask the man to take you over?” “No, sir.” Surely the excuse was a mere fiction! So there are many things with regard to our salvation which we cannot do. Granted, but then there is a ferry there! There is the Holy Spirit who is 40
Although Spurgeon read and benefited directly from the writings of Jonathan Edwards, his use of the Edwardsean distinction between moral and natural ability/inability seems to be mediated through Fuller, as he applied it to their common areas of concern in Baptist life in the nineteenth century— antinomianism and the refusal to offer the gospel indiscriminately to all. 41 Spurgeon, MTPS 27:593. 42 Ibid., 10:386, emphasis mine.
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
able to do all things, and you remember the text, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” It is true you cannot make yourself a new heart, but did you ask for a new heart with sincerity and truth? Did you seek Christ? If you say, “Yes, I did sincerely seek Christ, and Christ would not save me,” why then you are excused; but there never was a soul who could in truth say that. There never was a sinner yet who perished seeking Christ, and there never will be; and if thy heart’s sincere desire is after the salvation which is treasured in Christ Jesus, then heaven and earth may pass away, but Christ will never cast you out while his own word stands, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” “Still,” you say, “I cannot trust Christ.” Now, I am at issue with you here—I am at issue with every awakened sinner. I agree with you, if you will let me give my own translation of the word cannot—that you will not, but if it is to stand as the word is generally used, I am at issue with you.43 In a March 5, 1871, sermon on “Faith and Regeneration” from 1 John 5:1, Spurgeon used the distinction between moral and physical ability to argue for the sinner’s responsibility to believe the gospel message: Inasmuch as the gospel command, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” is addressed by divine authority to every creature, it is the duty of every man so to do. What saith John: “This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,” and our Lord himself assures us, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” I know there are some who will deny this, and deny it upon the ground that man has not the spiritual ability to believe in Jesus, to which I reply that it is altogether an error to imagine that the measure of the sinner’s moral ability is the measure of his duty. There are many things which men ought to do which they have now lost the moral and spiritual, though not the physical, power to do. A man ought to be chaste, but if he has been so long immoral that he cannot restrain his passions, he is not thereby free from the obligation. It is the duty of a debtor to pay his debts, but if he has been such a spendthrift that he has brought himself into hopeless poverty, he is not exonerated from his debts thereby. Every man ought to believe that which is true, but if his mind has become so depraved that he loves a lie and will not receive the truth, is he thereby excused? If the law of God is to be lowered according to the moral condition of sinners, you would have a law graduated upon a sliding-scale to suit the degrees of human sinfulness; in fact, the worst man would then be under the least law, and 43
Ibid., emphasis his.
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become consequently the least guilty. God’s requirements would be a variable quantity, and, in truth, we should be under no rule at all. The command of Christ stands good however bad men may be, and when he commands all men everywhere to repent, they are bound to repent, whether their sinfulness renders it impossible for them to be willing to do so or not. In every case it is man’s duty to do what God bids him.44 Spurgeon not only used the distinction between moral and natural ability to argue for the duty of sinners to repent and believe the gospel, he also used the distinction to refute an antinomian view of the law. In a Sunday morning sermon on “The Perpetuity of the Law of God” from Matthew 5:18, preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on May 21, 1882, Spurgeon used the Fuller/Edwards distinction between moral and physical inability to show that men are not free from their responsibility to obey the law of God: It has been said that man’s moral inability to keep the perfect law exempts him from the duty of doing so. This is very specious, but it is utterly false. Man’s inability is not of the kind which removes responsibility: it is moral, not physical. Never fall into the error that moral inability will be an excuse for sin. What, when a man becomes such a liar that he cannot speak the truth, is he thereby exempted from the duty of truthfulness? If your servant owes you a day’s labour, is he free from the duty because he has made himself so drunk that he cannot serve you? Is a man freed from a debt by the fact that he has squandered the money, and therefore cannot pay it? Is a lustful man free to indulge his passions because he cannot understand the beauty of chastity? This is dangerous doctrine. The law is a just one, and man is bound by it though his sin has rendered him incapable of doing so.45 In another Sunday morning sermon preached on August 25, 1889, from Colossians 2:13, titled “Life and Pardon,” Spurgeon used the distinction to show that humans are responsible for their sin against God: One point must be noticed here, which makes this spiritual death the more terrible: they are dead, but yet responsible. If men were literally dead, then they were incapable of sin; but the kind of death of which we speak involves a responsibility none the less, but all the greater. If I say of a man that he is such a liar that he cannot speak the truth, do you therefore think 44 45
Ibid., 17:136–37. Ibid., 28:283.
Spurgeon: A Fullerite?
him blameless? No; but you judge him to be all the more worthy of condemnation because he has lost the very sense which discerns between a truth and a lie. If we say of a certain man, as we have had to do, “He is a rogue ingrained; he is so tricky that he cannot deal honestly, but must always be cheating”; do you therefore excuse his fraud, and pity him? Far from it. His inability is not physical, but moral inability, and is the consequence of his own persistence in evil. The law is as much binding upon the morally incapable as upon the most sanctified in nature. If, through a man’s own perversity, he wills to reject good and love evil, the blame is with himself.46 This evidence can be multiplied many times over from Spurgeon’s voluminous sermons. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that Spurgeon thought as a Fullerite. He not only proudly identified himself as such, he utilized the same distinction between moral and natural ability/inability made by Fuller to argue, as Fuller had, for the duty of sinners to respond to the gospel message in repentance and faith and to refute any sense of antinomianism. Conclusion On June 3, 1801, Andrew Fuller preached a sermon on Jude 3 to an “Association of Baptist Ministers and Churches at Oakham.” In the sermon, titled “The Common Salvation,” Fuller listed four aspects of the “common salvation”: There are, I conceive, four things which essentially belong to the “common salvation;” its necessity, its vicarious medium, its freeness to the chief of sinners, and its holy efficacy. If we doubt whether we stand in need of salvation, or overlook the atonement, or hope for an interest in it any otherwise than as unworthy, or rest in a mere speculative opinion, which has no effectual influence on our spirit and conduct, we are at present unbelievers, and have every thing to learn.47 Fuller did not expound any further on these four aspects in his sermon, but nearly eighty years later, on April 10, 1881, Spurgeon quoted Fuller in his own sermon on Jude 3, also
Ibid., 35:459, emphasis mine. Fuller, Complete Works, 1:411.
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titled “The Common Salvation.” Spurgeon believed that the four aspects mentioned by Fuller could and should unite all Christians, even those who differed on the perennially divisive five points of Calvinism. After quoting Fuller, Spurgeon declared, We may differ on the “five points,” but we are agreed upon these four points. . . . [T]here is an agreement upon their need of a Saviour, their faith in his death, the freeness of his grace, and the change of heart which it produces. All believers in Christ have a common delight in a common salvation.48 Just as Spurgeon expressed a belief that true Christians were united around the four essentials of common salvation espoused by Fuller, could modern-day Baptists be united through a recovery of the theological vision of Andrew Fuller? Could the divisions between Calvinists and non-Calvinists be overcome if Baptists on both sides of the issue understood the distinction between moral and natural ability? This distinction enabled Fuller and Spurgeon to hold both a high view of divine sovereignty and a strong view of human responsibility. The legacy of Andrew Fuller is that his theological emphases not only fueled the Modern Missionary movement, but also underlay the evangelistic preaching ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Perhaps a recovery of the theology of Andrew Fuller can motivate similar movements and ministries today.
Spurgeon, MTPS 27:198.
BOOK REVIEWS G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 562 + xiii pages.
A 562-page commentary with “shorter” in the title might seem amusing to some, but Greg Beale’s new paperback commentary on Revelation is truly abridged, less than half the length of his 1999 New International Greek Testament Commentary on Revelation (1245 pages). The longer, earlier volume was meticulously researched, painstakingly detailed, and well-received by his peers—especially those with Augustinian or reformed emphasis on divine sovereignty, amillennism, and downplaying excessive futurism. Beale explains in the new preface that in his 1999 commentary he wanted to (1) explore the OT allusions in Revelation; (2) study the Jewish exegetical tradition on those same OT passages; (3) trace the overarching exegetical argument of the Apocalypse; and (4) interact with the vast secondary literature. This newer “shorter” commentary retains much of the material regarding that third goal but removes the expansive details addressing the other three. Those familiar with Beale’s 1999 commentary but who feared its size and scope will appreciate this newer volume, but those who enjoyed the length and detail of the earlier commentary will probably be disappointed. Reducing anything to half its original length means much is left on the cutting room floor. Basically, discussions of the Greek text are largely eliminated, and the New American Standard Bible, with slight modifications, is now used as the base text. References to secondary literature and Jewish interpretations of OT passages are also largely 118
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) gone. The numerous excursuses on various peripheral topics in the 1999 volume are absent as well. Beale still considers all these matters important and states, “Ultimately, the longer commentary serves as one big footnote to this shorter commentary” (viii). Readers will notice that many of the verse-by-verse comments in the newer volume are, as expected, succinct highlights—sometimes verbatim—from the 1999 volume. In the process, Beale has focused only on the most probable interpretations of passages without elaborating on minor nuances or other interpretative options, as in his previous volume (viii). Despite being shorter, one important addition to the newer commentary is the inclusion of “suggestions for reflection.” These short sections appear about every three to five verses and offer devotional and homiletical insights for Christian application of the text that were not part of the 1999 commentary. The introduction has been greatly reduced, from 177 pages to only 34—less than 20 percent of its earlier length. Whole sections on the manuscripts and grammar of the Apocalypse are now gone, and other introductory sections are reorganized for conciseness. The absence of the “idealist” view among major interpretative approaches (7–9) is intriguing, since Beale continues to utilize a modified idealist viewpoint. Beale still includes his expertise in the OT background of the Apocalypse and emphasizes Rev. 1:19 as his interpretive key to the book. The theology of Revelation is now succinctly summarized as victory through suffering, God’s sovereignty, and new creation as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Book Reviews One noticeable difference of opinion between Beale’s 1999 and 2015 commentaries regards authorship. In 1999, Beale never defended John the Apostle as the author but instead suggested that the authorship was unimportant and “not crucial” (1999, 36, n. 11), since “regardless of which John wrote, the author . . . identifies himself as a prophet” (1999, 35–36). Now, in 2015, Beale states, “We can presume with confidence that this letter [i.e., Revelation] is indeed a record of a vision given to the beloved disciple [i.e., John the Apostle of the Fourth Gospel], now an old man, at the very close of the New Testament period” (3). Beale’s change of mind on this matter is because, to him, “It is highly unlikely that another John, originally a Jew from Palestine but otherwise unknown to us, lived and worked among the churches of Asia and carried such a level of authority” (2). Unfortunately, in the 1990s, as Beale (NIGTC, 1999) and David E. Aune (Word Biblical Commentary, 3 vols, 1997–98) were working on their massive commentaries on Revelation simultaneously, they did not have the opportunity to interact with each other in print, except for a brief review of Beale’s commentary by Aune. This lack of published dialogue continues in 2015, as this shorter volume does not attempt to respond to secondary literature, and Aune’s commentary is strangely absent in Beale’s list of recommended resources (ix). Books should be evaluated based on their purpose. This newer commentary was not intended to replace or even update Beale’s earlier work as a second edition after 16 years. His goal was to offer a concise, more readable alternative. Unfortunately, the complexities of the Apocalypse demand lengthy explanations, and commentaries on the Apocalypse are not a good place to practice the cultural
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) adage that “less is more.” If one opts for this shorter commentary as a less-daunting alternative, one will find Beale’s interpretation but without much of its support or other alternatives. Ideally, one should use this newer commentary in tandem with Beale’s 1999 edition for more comprehensive explanations. Jeff Cate Professor of New Testament California Baptist University Oren R. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land: A Biblical Theology of the Promised Land (NSBT 34; D. A. Carson, ed.; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2015), 208 pages. Oren Martin, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, hopes in Bound for the Promised Land to “demonstrate that the land promised to Abraham . . . and its blessings find their fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth won by Christ” (17). The book, a revision of Martin’s 2013 PhD thesis at SBTS, is a contribution to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series and, as such, follows the structure of many of those volumes: after an introductory chapter on method, Martin gives an overview of the biblical story and then traces his particular theme through each corpus of the Christian Bible. His method as defined in that introductory chapter is a mixture of Lints, Beale, and Horton—Martin reads the Bible intertextually, canonically, and epochally. The narrative of Scripture, according to Martin, is a movement from creation to new creation via the redemptive work of the Godman Jesus Christ. The chapters in which Martin surveys the land promise comprise the majority of the work. After a detailed discussion of the initial promise to Abraham and its relationship to the creation narrative in chapter 3, Israel’s narrative from its inception in
Book Reviews Exodus to its exile in Kings is told in chapters 4 and 5, with a particular focus on the land promise. Martin finishes the OT portion of his survey with a chapter on the land promise in the prophets and a concluding summary. Chapters 7–9 focus on the land promise in the three sections of the New Testament (Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation). The book concludes with a number of theological reflections, particularly articulating the implications of the work for the relationship between the covenants. Martin is especially keen to demonstrate how his conclusions impact a dispensational understanding of the land and the new covenant, and I believe it fair to say he believes his work overturns a dispensational understanding of the land promise and the relationship between the covenants. Readers of Bound will find much in common with G. K. Beale’s work on the biblical-theological theme of the temple, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (also an NSBT volume), and Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry’s recent tome on the relationship between the covenants, Kingdom Through Covenant. The overall structure of the work, as well as its interest in dispensationalist vs. covenantal conversations, will at times overlap. But this is, in my view, a necessary overlap, as the temple theme and new covenant structure provide the crucial ecology for the land promise. In terms of content, I found myself saying “yes” or “amen” over and over again as I read. While I had a few quibbles with Martin’s articulation of certain issues (e.g., the twofold conditionality and unconditionality of the Abrahamic, not just Mosaic, covenants), perhaps the best way to summarize my overall impression of the book is that this is the kind of book every scholar hopes to write—one that fills a needed lacuna in the field, is well written and
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) engaging, and makes a compelling argument. I cannot commend it more highly to scholar and pastor alike. Matthew Y. Emerson Dickinson Assistant Professor of Religion Oklahoma Baptist University Jason C. Meyer, A Biblical Theology of Preaching (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 368 pages. Many pastors, scholars, and teachers have written on preaching for the last several decades, mostly to counter more informal models of preaching (topical, narrative, etc.). As far as I know, Jason Meyer is the first to marry preaching to biblical theology, as he does in his book A Biblical Theology of Preaching. Baptist pastors should feel respected by Meyer, who shows real admiration for them, and others like them, in the 5-section layout of his book. He understands the difference between those who appreciate walking through biblical theological discussions and those who would rather simply “get on with it.” Evidence of this is the unique “choose your own adventure” arrangement of the book. Meyer offers the reader the option of reading section 1, the theological foundation of preaching, and then jumping to section 3, where he fleshes out expository preaching. Section 2 is for those who want to move more carefully through the arguments and biblical theological categories he sets forth in chapter 4. Meyer understands the question “What is preaching?” as integral to the question, “What is the ministry of the Word” throughout Scripture (21)? He defines the ministry of the Word as follows: “The ministry of the Word in Scripture is stewarding, heralding, and encountering God through his Word.” These three elements are three “sequential phases”
Book Reviews of ministering the Word through preaching and are defined as follows: (1) stewarding— faithfully receiving the Word; (2) heralding—providing human voice to the Word of God; and (3) encountering—the stewarding responsibility of both people and speaker subsequent to the preached Word of God (22). Meyer unpacks these three terms and notes that each phase successfully decenters the preacher (22–30). The steward is entrusted with something not his own. The herald speaks with both authority and substance not original to himself. The encountering community and preacher engage God. This last step functions as stewardship 2.0, producing for the community and the pastor the stability of knowing and enjoying the living God, who encounters them through his Word. Meyer notes that chapter 4 is “perhaps the most important chapter in the book because it is foundational for everything else” (43). Meyer argues that the ministry of the Word appears in ten major scenes throughout the canon. He categorizes these scenes as “call and fall stories as well as (stories of) two seeds and two cities” (45). For Meyer, knowing the end of the story helps to define and affirm the journey toward the end and, by extension, our place in it.
• o • o o o o o • • o o •
Adam and Eve (Call Narrative + Fall Narrative) The Song of the Seed The Flood of Corruption and the Flood Judgment The Line of Curse The Line of Blessing The Angelic Fall Noah’s Call and Fall Narrative Blessing and Curse for Noah’s Sons The False City Abraham Call and Fall Narrative Seeking the True City to Come The Line of Judah
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) o o • o o o • o o o o o o • o o o • o o • o o o
Judah’s Fall Narrative The Lion King and the Line of Judah Israel before the Monarchy Israel’s Call and Israel’s Fall Joshua’s Call and Fall Judges: Call and Fall Israel under the Monarchy David’s Call and Rise: The True King? The Rise of Jerusalem: The True City? David’s Fall Narrative Rejecting or Despising the Word of the Lord Solomon’s Call and Fall The Fall of Jerusalem The True King No Fall Narrative: This Is The One We Waited for! The Call of the 12 Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension The True Conquest Acts Commentary on the Quest: Epistles The Return of the King and The Final Conquest Wrath of the Lamb The Resistance of Babylon The Lamb Will Conquer
In section 2 (chapters 6–16), Meyer unpacks each of the 10 scenes from the history of redemption, demonstrating that preaching is the “same song, next verse” of the ongoing ministry of the Word throughout Scripture. He notes that in Scripture one finds the Word both rightly and wrongly stewarded and heralded, resulting in both good and dangerous encounters with God,. He does this without confusing the present ministry of the Word with the inscripurated ministry of the Word—a very important distinction for all who take the Bible seriously. Meyer notes that expository preaching expresses the vital relationship between stewardship and heralding (239). In defining expository preaching, he successfully avoids the two hazards of too much rigidity and an “anything goes approach” (237–38). Meyer premises his method for exposition upon 3 s-words: share the point of the passage, show
Book Reviews why that point is the point from the passage, and shepherd the flock according to where the text leads as applied to the present circumstances of the congregation. Meyer elaborates on his second s-word, stating that the preacher needs to show just enough of his homework so that the people are in a position to agree or disagree with him honestly (258). In his last section, Meyer provides a helpful and balanced chapter on topical preaching, advocating a proper and careful approach to the category rather than dismissing it out of hand or embracing it in a typical casual manner. There are three appendices in the book: one gives the reader the origin and germination of this book, one demonstrates how this book is different from other preaching books, and one provides the reader with important (though not altogether contemporary) books and essays on preaching. Overall, Baptists should embrace this book. It is clear in its presentation, biblically rich in its content, and generous in its format. All interested in the topic should read and profit from Meyerâ€™s hard work. D. Jeffrey Mooney Associate Professor of Old Testament California Baptist University J. Matthew Pinson, Arminian and Baptist: Explorations in a Theological Tradition (Nashville: Randall House, 2015), 262 + xiii pages. Much ink has been spilled over the resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists in America and the various conferences, coalitions, and controversies that have resulted. Those who are more Calvinistic often point out that Reformed soteriology has deep roots in the Baptist tradition, both in England and North America. They argue that Calvinistic
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Baptists were leaders historically when it came to promoting revival, engaging in foreign missions, and writing systematic theologies. And, of course, they claim Charles Spurgeon as their own. Those who are less Calvinistic respond that the earliest Baptists in England and many of the early Baptists in the American colonies were Arminians, not Calvinists. They point out that General Baptists and their heirs, though not in the majority in the early seventeenth century, actually produced the earliest Baptist theological treatises and have their own noteworthy history of awakening and missions. Yet most of those modern non-Calvinists who make this argument refuse to identify explicitly with the General Baptist tradition because most Baptist groups today emerged out of historically Calvinistic traditions, and most Baptists continue to affirm some form of eternal security, a view rejected by most Arminian Baptists. Baptists from across the Arminian-Calvinist perspective will benefit from Matthew Pinson’s new book, Arminian and Baptist: Explorations in a Theological Tradition. Pinson serves as president of Welch College, a Free Will Baptist school in Tennessee. Over the past fifteen years or so, Pinson has been reintroducing scholars to the General Baptist tradition. More importantly, he has been making the case for a staunchly evangelical, theologically robust “Reformed Arminianism” strongly committed to justification by faith alone, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and penal substitutionary atonement, contra many modern Arminians (especially Wesleyans). Arminian and Baptist brings together a collection of his essays and papers to make a book-length contribution to Baptist historical and theological debates.
Book Reviews Arminian and Baptist is divided into seven chapters. The first two situate Jacob Arminius squarely within the Reformed tradition. Rather than rejecting Reformed theology, Arminius intended to revise it in ways he believed to be more biblical. Pinson places particular emphasis on Arminius’s commitment to substitutionary atonement rather than the governmental atonement he is often accused of having affirmed. He also closely examines Arminius’s view of election, contrasts Arminius with his Remonstrant followers, and argues that Arminius did not affirm Molinism. Unlike many later Arminians, who ventured further away from their Reformed roots, Pinson advocates a ressourcement of the earliest Continental Arminian tradition that was more deeply rooted in the Reformation. Chapters 3 and 4 explore the theologies of John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, founders of the General Baptist tradition. Pinson shows that Helwys—who established the first permanent Baptist church—affirmed a more grace-oriented, Reformational understanding of sin and salvation, in contrast to Smyth, who gravitated toward the more semi-Pelagian categories characteristic among the Waterlander Mennonites. Chapter 5 focuses on the theology of Thomas Grantham, a seventeenth-century General Baptist who wrote the first systematic theology from a Baptist perspective. Though not as well known as his Puritan Arminian contemporary John Goodwin, Grantham affirmed an Arminianism more closely tied to Reformation convictions. This also distinguished Grantham’s Arminianism from the version affirmed by later General Baptists who gravitated toward rationalism. Grantham also possessed a keen sense of catholicity and, contra the arguments of some scholars, affirmed a full-throated Nicene faith.
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Chapter 6 critiques John Wesley’s soteriology, finding it insufficient on many counts. This chapter is indicative of Pinson’s effort to distinguish Reformed Arminianism from Wesleyanism. The final chapter looks at the history of Arminian Baptist confessionalism, discusses theological declension at various times (especially in Christological matters), and argues for a renewed Arminian Baptist confessionalism that reflects the Reformed Arminianism vision Pinson is commending. The appendices include reprinted book introductions and review essays Pinson has previously published that engage the Calvinism and Arminianism discussion from a Reformed Arminian perspective. Arminian and Baptist is a welcome and needed contribution to Baptist soteriological debates, making a number of contributions. First, it engages the thought of key figures from Baptist history whose soteriology has often been obscured by studies of their views of religious liberty. Second, it provides insightful engagement with the thought of Jacob Arminius and John Wesley, two important figures about whom Baptists know far too little, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Third, Arminian and Baptist owns and commends a theological tradition too many Baptist Calvinists do not interpret generously and too many non-Calvinists have more affinity with than they readily admit. Fourth, Pinson’s version of Arminianism is far more rooted in an evangelical understanding of the gospel than what often passes for Arminian thought among more revivalistic evangelicals. Finally, the winsome way Pinson makes his case is refreshing in a debate that is often uncharitable and prone to conspiracy theories. (Perhaps this past sentence is truer of Southern Baptist versions of the debate than of others.)
Book Reviews Though I am not an Arminian, I am grateful for Matt Pinson’s thoroughly orthodox, gospel-centered, mission-minded version of Baptist Arminianism. May his tribe increase—and I really mean that. Baptists are blessed in that no one soteriological tradition defines us. Adding such a rich and engaging Arminian voice to the discussion will only help all of us refine our particular convictions about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in the salvation of sinners through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nathan A. Finn Dean of the School of Theology and Missions Professor of Christian Thought and Tradition Union University Zane Pratt, M. David Sills, and Jeff K Walters, Introduction to Global Missions (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2014), 288 pages. This generation’s desire to be involved in advancing God’s kingdom globally has grown in recent years. The explosion of the short-term missions movement has driven the popularity of books like Radical and The Insanity of God. With the growing desire for books about missions comes a need for books defining missions. Pratt, Sills, and Walters have written an extremely helpful work clarifying terms and creating a framework necessary for further study. Following a familiar organization, the main sections of this work cover biblical foundations, historical groundwork, cultural implications, and strategy. One notable work following a similar structure is Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, a reader first published in 1981. This format excels in answering questions on “why” before addressing questions on “how.”
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Introduction to Global Missions begins by addressing the topic of the “missionary call.” The purpose of starting here is to challenge the reader to consider his role as a “sender or a goer” as he reads the book (15). The section on biblical and theological foundations looks at missions via a classic survey through Scripture pointing out the global metanarrative of the Bible. After establishing the global purposes of God throughout Scripture, they demonstrate the importance of developing our missiology from a robust theology. Throughout this section they also address common topics like the exclusivity of Christ and the plight of those who never hear the gospel. The historical section is as thorough as could be expected, covering two millennia of history in less than 40 pages. More space is given to “The Practice of Global Mission,” which is in line with the practical nature of the book. Topics like discipleship, the role of the church, and preparing to go are covered well while encouraging the reader toward further study. One helpful discussion is on “people groups.” In defining the task of missions for the church, the concept of panta ta ethne (“all the nations,” Matt. 28:19) must be clearly defined in order to clarify obedience to Christ’s Great Commission. In using Ralph Winter’s monumental address at the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelization in 1974, as well as books by Paul Hiebert and Patrick Johnstone, the authors draw from excellent sources on this concept. They follow with a healthy examination of the dangers of people group research and encourage the reader to use research to be “inclusive and not exclusive” without reinforcing ethnic animosity (259). The book features a healthy stress on the role of training and language for the potential missionary that is often overlooked, as missionary candidates are eager to get overseas.
Book Reviews The book did feel disjointed at times, which is to be expected in a broadly written introductory book by multiple authors. A paragraph at the beginning and end of each chapter, or at least sections showing how these ideas build on each other, would have helped to create a more cohesive framework. More references to sources in the chapters on history would have been helpful for those who might want to explore a topic further. Several pages are wisely devoted to demystifying “the call” and knowing God’s will; however, the role of the church, as often is the case when addressing this topic, is neglected. Pratt, Sills, and Walters briefly discuss the external call drawn from the “body of believers in close fellowship with the one called” (5) and the importance of the “church’s affirmation, blessing and commissioning” (14), but in discussing the importance to seek counsel, more emphasis is placed on “those who know you well and who have shown wisdom in the choices of their own lives” (11) than on the church. I assume their assumption is that “those” would be found in the church, but we have seen a pattern of people who find and clarify their “calling” outside any direction from the leaders responsible for their shepherding and sending. What is lacking in the initial discussion of the missionary call is remedied to some degree later as they point out, “It was the church at Antioch that discerned the call of Barnabas and Saul,” in reference to Acts 13 (241). However, over 200 pages separate the idea of discerning a missionary call and the brief look at the church’s role in that discernment. This stands as an excellent work and should be a helpful resource. It would benefit both those interested in and those ignorant of the topic of missions and should not
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) be limited to those thinking about serving as missionaries. The broad nature of the book would be a benefit in churches as well as academic settings. Brian Zunigha Director of Discipleship California Baptist University George H. Tooze, ed., The Life and Letters of Emily Chubbuck Judson (Fanny Forester), Volumes 1â€“7 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009â€“2013), 4072 pages. In recent years, Mercer University Press has produced many well-edited volumes of historical letters. Several of these collections feature the letters of distinguished Baptist women, including Anne Dutton, Annie Armstrong, and Lottie Moon. Joining such works is a series detailing the life and letters of Emily Chubbuck Judson, also known as Fanny Forester. In early adulthood, Chubbuck cultivated a successful career as a writer. Later she met and married Adoniram Judson, an eminent missionary twenty-nine years her elder whose first two wives had died on the mission field. The seven published volumes of her life and letters provide insight into her life, vocation, and family, contributing to contemporary understanding of nineteenth-century female missionaries, as well as the Judsonsâ€™ story. Editor George Tooze lacks advanced training as a historian but is no stranger to meticulous archival research. The sheer amount of work evinced in these volumes should garner the respect of even the most senior scholar. Although readers would benefit from broader contextualization of the Judson story, overall the series does what it is intended to do: provide an annotated compilation of important primary sources.
Book Reviews Tooze’s thorough efforts are most obvious in volume 1, which includes nearly 400 pages of biographies and timelines related to the Judsons. While such detailed records may intimidate the casual reader, they supply valuable information for reference throughout the series. The contents of the volume range from a one-page “Outline of the Life of Emily Chubbuck Judson” to sections as specific as “A Timeline of the Children of Adoniram Judson and Their Desire to Be a United Family.” Volume 2 may prove the least interesting to historians of Christian mission, but is fascinating to those who seek to understand Chubbuck’s childhood and vocation. It includes charming poems, such as “The Little Girl’s Soliloquy” (2.2–4), demonstrating how Chubbuck’s literary genius developed during her childhood. Here, as with all of Chubbuck’s writings, Tooze includes thorough footnotes elucidating people, places, and events that might otherwise be unfamiliar. Also noteworthy is Chubbuck’s correspondence with editors and publishers, especially N. P. Willis. “Take a kiss from my spirit lips” (2.312), he urged Chubbuck in one of several letters discussing their relationship. No dull, dry history here! Romance is also a theme of volume 3, in which relationships unfold with the drama of a soap opera. While awaiting Willis’s return, Chubbuck met Judson—and soon confessed that “I love him a great deal better than . . . any body else on earth” (3.4). Pages will turn quickly as readers review Chubbuck’s emotional correspondence with both men and her eventual marriage to Judson. Readers will discover a romantic, playful side of Judson not readily evident in missionary records or biographies. They will also
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) find detailed descriptions of early missionary life in the land Chubbuck Judson called “queer, ridiculous, half-beautiful, half-frightful, exceedingly picturesque Burmah” (3.355). Volume 4 will interest those who wish to continue the story of the Judsons, which Adoniram called a “deliciously happy family” (4.95). This happiness was not to last, however, as both he and Emily soon became ill. Despite a sea voyage designed to revive his health, Adoniram soon passed away, leaving his wife “in the midst of sickness and crushing sorrow” (4.387). This volume includes many notes of sympathy providing insight into the hardships of missionary life, as well as the roles considered appropriate for widowed missionaries at the time. The story continues in volume 5, detailing Judson’s travels, health, and writings after her eventual return to the United States. Included is voluminous correspondence concerning the biography of Adoniram on which she and Francis Wayland collaborated. With more than 500 pages of letters spanning only one year, the volume may seem tedious, but it certainly provides a thorough account of Judson’s affairs. Such details continue in Volume 6, which describes the completion of Adoniram’s biography. Many letters also provide insights into Emily’s relationships with the Judson children (from all three marriages), who came to adore her as their “dear dear ma” (6.152). The volume concludes with her waning health; “I am very sick now, and rapidly failing,” she wrote before her death at age 36 (6.428). Her untimely demise (as well as that of Adoniram’s previous wives) reminds the reader of the price early missionaries paid to spread the gospel.
Book Reviews In addition to updating volume 1, volume 7 compiles much of Judson’s poetry and fiction. These writings span the course of her life, beginning with the simple poems of a girl and moving to mature reflections on life, as well as entertaining short stories. Judson’s writings continued after her relocation to Burma, though at a lesser volume. Of note is her suggestion that she embarked on this move because of her love for her husband (not necessarily because of a personal calling). The challenges discussed in previous volumes come alive when expressed in verse: the reader feels Judson’s grief as she writes, “Sweet mother, I am here alone / In sorrow and in pain” (7.484). Although the poems end with Judson’s death, her legacy will not soon be forgotten. In addition to providing valuable information about early American missionary efforts, these volumes reveal insights into female roles and relationships in the midnineteenth century. Like many other American women of the period, Judson and her female friends shared nicknames and physical contact in ways that may startle twentyfirst-century readers. Their letters also occasionally commented on women’s roles. Even the independent and successful Judson affirmed her domestic tasks, declaring, “I believe women were made for such things” (3.383). It is refreshing to read a series highlighting the perspectives not of a famous male missionary but of his wife, noteworthy in her own regard. Of course, additional volumes of letters from Adoniram Judson (and his first two wives) would be welcome. Altogether, The Life and Letters of Emily Chubbuck Judson provides a significant historical record of a member of one of America’s most famous missionary families. Along with Rosalie Hunt’s Bless God and Take Courage, it offers a tremendous compendium of information about the Judsons’ life and the early Baptist mission in
The Journal of Baptist Studies 8 (2016) Burmaâ€”one ripe for analysis by historians of religion. I recommend the volumes to all interested parties without reservation. Melody Maxwell Howard Payne University