Adiel Sherwood was one of the major leaders among Georgia Baptists during the period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. He helped introduce Sunday Schools and temperance societies in Georgia. He was one of the leaders in the formation of the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1822. A tireless advocate of theological education, Sherwood served as the first professor of theology at Mercer University. He was involved in mission work, especially on the frontier that was the 19th century American west. Sherwood was also something of a controversialist, particularly in his arguments for cooperative missions over against Primitive Baptists and his contending for distinctive Baptist principles on the frontier.
Like many 19th century Southern Baptists, Sherwood was also significantly influenced by Andrew Fuller. The following quotes are from Jarrett Burch’s fine biography of Sherwood, Adiel Sherwood: Baptist Antebellum Pioneer in Georgia (Mercer University Press, 2003).
[T]hrough the publication of Fuller’s theological works in America, mission-minded Baptists possessed a theological text that defended a missionary rationale of calling on sinners actively to repent. Many Baptists in America adopted “Fullerism” as it was called and used his theology as a justification for doing mission work in the 1820’s. Sherwood promoted the same theological emphases as Fuller in his promotion of mission causes in Georgia (pp. 11-12).
Influenced by the evangelical thrust of Andrew Fuller, Sherwood’s earliest letters and newspaper articles accentuated the theme of duty faith. Sherwood believed, like Fuller, that faith was a moral duty. Mirroring a similar transition Fuller made in England, Sherwood took the revivalist theology of Jonathan Edwards, which claimed that unconverted people lacked the moral ability to exercise faith. Even though God alone could bestow this moral ability, all sinners had a duty to believe … Sherwood followed Fuller in adopting Edwardsean Calvinism (p. 51).
Sherwood represented the form of evangelical Calvinism filtering into the South that held to this modified view of the atonement–an atonement sufficient for all but efficient for the elect. By embracing Andrew Fuller’s version of limited atonement, Sherwood, like many other Georgia Baptist preachers, could uphold God’s intent to save his own, while assuring their audience that Christ’s atoning work could be offered to all people (p. 243).