Friday, March 19, 2010

Andrew Fuller: A kinder, gentler Baptist Calvinist

Part of an ongoing series on Southern Baptist history . . . 

Previous post in the series: Those Particular Baptists

Andrew Fuller
Andrew Fuller
After 1750, a revival took place among Particular Baptists that helped them recover more vital theology, preaching, and evangelism. This movement drew from the power of the Great Awakening led by the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield. Robert Hall, Sr. (1728-1791) preached a sermon in 1779 to the Northampton Association from Isaiah 57:14, “remove the stumbling block from my people.” Hall affirmed that “the way to Jesus is graciously laid open for everyone who chooses to come to him.”

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a big, broad-shouldered man over six feet tall with incredible strength. Converted at sixteen, by twenty-nine he took his second pastorate at Kettering where he served the rest of his life. Reared in a hyper-Calvinist church, he dared not give a gospel invitation until he read in 1775 a pamphlet by Abraham Taylor, The Modern Question, which showed from Scripture that Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles addressed the gospel to sinners and invited them to believe. 

As a member of the Soham church, Fuller chided a church member who was frequently drunk. The drunkard excused himself citing his hyper-Calvinist views that he could not help himself and therefore was not accountable. The church membership backed the drunkard, indicating their hyper-Calvinist position. Later when Fuller became pastor of the Soham church, he complained that they were inclined to find fault with his ministry as it became more in depth in the Scriptures, more practical in application, and as he freely enforced long invitations to the Gospel in worship. In ten years at Soham Church, he did not see a single baptism. As a result, he began to study and write down what he understood about the Atonement from the Scriptures. “The Gospel is a feast,” Fuller wrote, “and you are to invite guests.”

Andrew Fuller became the greatest theologian English Baptists produced. Fuller offered a different Calvinism in his book, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. The first fifteen and last fifteen pages give you his main ideas. He deals with the Atonement differently by teaching both the Sufficiency and Efficiency of the Atonement.
  • ·         Christ’s Atonement is fully Efficient to save all the elect completely. The Atonement saves only those who trust Christ and not the whole world.
  • ·         Christ’s Atonement is completely Sufficient to save everyone who calls on Him. If the whole world called on Christ, they would be saved.
Fuller said, “I believe it is the duty of every minister of Christ plainly and faithfully to preach the gospel to all who will hear it. . . . I therefore believe free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls and warning to them, to be not only consistent, but directly adapted, as means in the hand 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.”  

Andrew Fuller’s view gets the Baptist Missionary Vision rolling in people like his friend William Carey

Go to the next post in the series: Baptists in America