Tag Archives: Andrew Fuller

Missiological Implications of the Optimism in Jonathan Edwards’s Humble Attempt

It is well known that Humble Attempt helped spark the missionary movement when John Ryland Jr. received a parcel of books from John Erskine in 1784. Ryland, fully aware of the esteem in which Fuller and Sutcliff held Edwards, swiftly send them the books and thereby changed missions history. The secondary literatures have recognized the influence of Humble Attempt on the Prayer Call of 1784, but few have seen the role that Edwards’s eschatological optimism played in driving the British missionary enterprise. Edwards’s thinking about the end of the world depended on his interpretation of the slaying of the witnesses in Revelation 11. Some thought this implied a coming catastrophe for the church, but Edwards argued for the exact opposite in order to promote the Concert of Prayer. Edwards feared that if the slaying of the witnesses were a future event yet to be fulfilled, it would be a great “hindrance” for the Concert. Instead Edwards argued for an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit of God, and a time when the whole world would embrace the light of the gospel, with Christ’s kingdom victorious against the dark world. Fuller also saw the ransacked days of the church as a thing of the past, for he interpreted the French Revolution as a crucial sign that that shook the “papal world to its centre.” The fact that Humble Attempt was reprinted in 1789, when the Revolution began, seemed to confirm the optimistic Edwardsean eschatology which Fuller adopted. Although Fuller did not stress immediacy in the way Edwards did, both believed the latter days would be publicly discernible, and that the current ascendancy of Protestantism, coupled with diminishing papal authority in Europe and America, were evidence of fulfillment of apocalyptic forecasts in the Book of Revelation. This optimistic eschatological outlook encouraged Fuller and motivated those in Northamptonshire to pray more fervently. It became the groundwork for courage to engage in rigorous foreign missions. In describing the 1789 edition of the Humble Attempt, Fuller speaks about “how much this publication contributed to that tone of feeling” and gave the confidence to “venture,” and face their “fear” in taking on a missionary task of “such magnitude.” He adds, “I cannot say; but it doubtless had a very considerable influence on [BMS].” In such a setting, it is not surprising that William Carey was able to find confident expectation in propagating the success of the Great Commissions to the church, and thus coined his famous phrase, “Attempt great things for God; Expect great things from God.” It could therefore be reckoned that while Edwards and Fuller may have been mistaken about their interpretations of the apocalyptic particulars in the history of the world, but there is no doubt behind the formation of BMS in general, and Fuller’s view in particular that this was the worldview that fuelled the global missions. For good or ill, it is in this eschatological climate, that BMS and the Modern Missionary Movement was born. 

 

– Chris Chun –

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Filed under Andrew Fuller, Jonathan Edwards, Missions

Andrew Fuller News!

Greetings friends of Fuller!

I wanted to keep you abreast of some Fuller news…

First, with some slight changes, this next issue of Eusebeia: The Bulletin of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies will be dedicated to Andrew Fuller. Instead of the issue on the Puritans (which has been moved to the Fall 2008 issue) this coming issue (Spring 2008) will have many of the papers that were presented at last years Fuller conference that was held at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as a few others that were not. So, if you are a fan of Fuller, look forward to this coming issue with articles by Tom Nettles, Barry Howson, Jeff Jue, Carl Trueman, and Russ Moore amongst others!

Second, if you are anywhere near the Chicago area on March 28-29 be sure to visit the Midwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society being held at the Moody Bible Institute. On Friday at 11:00 AM, yours truly, will be presenting a paper titled, “‘To Declare the Whole Counsel of God’: Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) on Preaching.” I do hope at least a handful of people will attend! If you are unable to attend the conference presentation, I will be planning on seeking publication for the article in the near future and will keep you all informed.

Blessings to you all!

Allen Mickle

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Happy Birthday!

 

Friends of Fuller rejoice! It was just our good friend, Andrew Fuller’s, 254 birthday yesterday. Fuller was born on February 5, 1754. Let us continue to celebrate and remember the influence that this man of God had in his own time and that he continues to have today! Happy Birthday Andrew Fuller!

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Andrew Fuller’s Pastoral Priorities

There are not enough good pastoral role models. It’s true. Oh, there are some good ones out there, and many of them have quite a following among the collegians, seminarians, and young pastors who find them. But it’s unfortunate there are not more good pastoral role models, or perhaps better, more role models who have the ability (or platform) to influence younger ministers. Many of the godly role models out there are laboring in small churches in sometimes obscure locales. Because these brothers do not write books, speak at all the prominent conferences, and preach in seminary chapel services, aspiring and less experienced pastors are unable to benefit from their wisdom and influence.

Because of this vaccuum, many younger (and seasoned) ministers turn to the examples of faithful pastors from bygone days. This is possible because of the faithful ministry of publishers committed to reprinting works of historical import (e.g. Banner of Truth, Particular Baptist Press) and the growing number of resources available on the internet. Resources like, Lord willing, this very weblog!

I believe contemporary pastors can learn much from the life of Andrew Fuller. My friend and fellow contributor, Paul Brewster, has written a much-lauded dissertation on Fuller’s pastoral theology, and many of us expect to see a published version of that work in the next two or three years. Of course there is the forthcoming multi-volume Andrew Fuller Works project, as well as other versions of Fuller’s writings available through Sprinkle Publications or, more recently, Banner of Truth.

This is what one notable biographer says about Fuller’s pastoral priorities:

Thus he prosecuted his pastoral and ministerial work, most grateful and joyous when he had experienced “a good time” in preaching or in prayer, and most deeply dejected when he had felt no “tenderness of heart” in conducting the public services. He was a constant visitor, especially at the houses of the poorer members of his church, and acknowledged that he gained much good from the practice. The griefs and sorrows of his people became his own, and he entered into their joys with all his heart. Knowing that the success of his work depended in no small measure upon his own spirituality, he hungered and thirsted after righteousness. Every hour of the day the care of the church was upon him. He thought but little of popularity, but earnestly desired to accomplish great things for the glory of God.

[Andrew Gunton Fuller, Men Worth Remembering: Andrew Fuller (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), pp.57-58, available online here.] 

What a contrast to what we too often see in today’s pulpits. In a day of CEO pastors, virtually prayerless ministries, never-ending church growth seminars, and the proliferation of what some have called our “therapeutic culture,” Fuller’s model of simple, Christ-centered faithfulness resonates with those longing to find a better–and more biblical–approach to pastoral ministry. May we all benefit from his example and the examples of countless others, whether they be other historical role models, contemporary pastors laboring in those fields deemed less “strategic” by wordly standards, or even those dozen or so “Reformed Rock Stars” to whom so many in my generation rightly look for pastoral wisdom.

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Filed under Andrew Fuller, Preaching, Spirituality