The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Fuller

The Westminster Conference 2015: “The Power of God for Salvation”

with one comment

Brochure 2015The Westminster Conference will take place later this year, God willing, in central London at Regent Hall on Oxford Street. As usual, there are two days of lectures and discussion, Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th December. The outline for the two days is below, and the brochure can be downloaded to obtain the booking form. More information can be found at the conference website.

Sin and sanctification in John Owen (Sinclair Ferguson ~ Elder at St. Peter’s Free Church, Dundee). John Owen is one of the monumental figures of the seventeenth century. His profound scriptural sensitivity to sin and understanding of sanctification form some of the deepest currents of his work both as a theologian and as a pastor. This paper will explore these complementary and contradictory elements of Christian experience through the lens of Owen’s wrestling with the issues.

“On the side of God”: Andrew Fuller’s pastoral theology (Jeremy Walker ~ Pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley). Andrew Fuller is recognised as a theologian and for his friendship with and support of William Carey. However, these labours cannot be divorced from his principles and practices as a pastor and a preacher. This was his primary calling. It informed and was expressed in everything else in which he was involved. This paper will draw together some of the convictions recorded, conclusions reached and counsels expressed by Andrew Fuller in the realm of pastoral theology.

The atonement and evangelistic preaching in John Owen (David Pfeiffer ~ Minister of Cheltenham Evangelical Free Church). Apparent tensions between convictions about the definite extent of the atonement joined with commitments to the freeness of the gospel offer are perennial issues in Christ’s church. Few men have contended for the former more effectively than John Owen and his works breathe a lively and transparent concern that lost men should trust in the only Saviour of sinners. David Pfeiffer will help us to see these elements of Owen’s labour in healthy parallel.

Erasmus and the Greek New Testament (Peter Hallihan ~ retired from pastoral ministry; Editorial Consultant for TBS). Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469–1536) was the genius sometimes described as the prince of the humanists. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to learning and religion was his edition of the Greek New Testament of 1516, which became the basis of most vernacular translations of the Scriptures for the next three centuries. Peter Hallihan will give us insights into the man and his work, tracing some of his influences and influence.

Jonathan Edwards and the religious affections (Paul Helm ~ formerly Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, King’s College, London). The name of Jonathan Edwards, together with select elements of his theology, have become more prominent in the thinking and practice of Reformed evangelicals in recent years. Ready reference is made to well-known but not always well-understood works such as Edwards’ study of the religious affections. Paul Helm will take a fresh look at this book, emphasising its setting and its sources, helping us grasp the substance and application of Edwards’ work.

Isaac Watts and the gift of prayer (Benedict Bird ~ ThM Student and Greek Teacher at London Theological Seminary). Best known for his hymnody, Isaac Watts was also an influential theologian. He considered prayer to be not only a duty but a precious privilege, and he wrote to assist the saints in learning to pray. He showed that prayer is a gift, but one that can be developed. Prayer is not always high on the agenda in the church of Christ, and not often developed to a high degree when it is. In his Guide to Prayer, Watts directs us still to cultivate “this holy skill of conversation with God.”

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815)

with one comment

Two hundred years ago today, on the morning of Sunday 7th May 1815 dawned, the sixty one year old Andrew Fuller was grieved that he had not the strength to go and worship his God with his people. As his end approached, so his faith had increased. When his dear friend John Ryland Jr. heard that Fuller had testified to a brother minister, “My hope is such that I am not afraid to plunge into eternity,” he declared it the most characteristic expression his friend might have uttered.

Fuller spent his last half-hour seemingly engaged in prayer, though the only words which could be distinctly heard were, “Help me!” He died, said his friend Mr Toller, an Independent minister, “as a penitent sinner at the foot of the cross.”

Just a few days before going home, as Fuller considered his approaching death, he was able to write this to Ryland:

I know whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day. I am a poor guilty creature; but Christ is an almighty Saviour. I have preached and written much against the abuse of the doctrine of grace; but that doctrine is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other hope, than from salvation by mere sovereign, efficacious grace, through the atonement of my Lord and Saviour. With this hope, I can go into eternity with composure. Come, Lord Jesus! come when thou wilt! Here I am; let him do with me as seemeth him good!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 7 May 2015 at 15:07

Posted in History & biography

Tagged with ,

The Untied Kingdom?

leave a comment »

Scotland is heading to the voting booths. The people of Scotland will shortly declare whether or not they wish their country to remain part of the Union, or secede. It is, by all accounts, a momentous decision with consequences which can in some measure be accurately predicted, some which can at least be observed coalescing, and some which no-one will have expected. The campaigning, especially as the vote looms, has become strident, even violent. Impassioned pleas ring out from both “Yes” and “No” camps. And many Christians are making what seems to be a watertight case as to how they and others should vote. And some are saying, “Yes,” and others, “No.”

We can and should recognise with thanksgiving the peculiar heritage of the United Kingdom and its constituent parts, with the blessing of genuine Christian influence upon some elements of our national systems and structures. At the same time, I aver that the United Kingdom – in whole and in its parts – is not and never really has been a Christian country. At times, more “a people of the Book,” but not a Christian country. There are Christian individuals, and there are Christian churches, and there is Christian influence, but there are not Christian countries. It’s just not how it works.

So, what difference does this make? What difference might it make in Scotland? In the rest of the Union? In Europe (geographically and politically)? Across the globe?

Andrew Fuller’s brief sermon on “Christian Patriotism” from his collected works is always a helpful read at such a time, whether one considers oneself English, Scottish, Welsh or British. Whichever dog we think we have in the fight, Fuller puts it on a proper leash.

The outcome of the Scottish vote will, in some measure, in the shorter and longer terms, change the circumstances in which the saints go about their business. But our business will not change. We are all still citizens of a heavenly kingdom. When all these things are shaken, as they are in time and most certainly will be when the end comes, the kingdom of Christ remains. Our hopes for the kingdom are not shackled to any particular country or individual or system of government. Our fears need not rise or fall with any fall of rise of any person, party, policy or process, need not be yoked to any particular nation-state. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world – not absolutely of any part or portion of it, but throughout it and above it.

As Christian citizens and Christian patriots, we have genuine and legitimate interests in such questions as those now being posed. Our responsibilities and concerns as Christians in particular nations are many. There may be pains and pleasures, profits and losses, progress and retreat, as an apparent or untraced consequence of the vote in Scotland tomorrow, one way or the other.

However, when the voting is done, and the dust has settled, and the fallout begins, Christ himself remains our peace. He has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

While, of course, Paul is not speaking about the English and the Scots – whose enmity, it might be said, sometimes seems to rival that of the Jew and the Gentile – the principle surely stands. What saints from every country have in common transcends all that divides us. When the end comes, these will not be the things that last and they will not be the things that matter. There will come a time when we shall behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Until then, all our wrangling and wrestling, all our voting and investing, should be conditioned by these heavenly realities. After all, whatever afflictions we suffer here – up to and including being (un)shackled (together) – they are but for a moment, and they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Fix your eyes there before the vote. Consider it well when you or others vote. Hold fast to it after the vote. For we do not set our minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.

Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, His Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 17 September 2014 at 21:46

Wrestling with Fuller

with one comment

andrew-fuller-2For those who might be in the vicinity of Bulkington in the UK (not far from Coventry and Leicester), I hope to be at Bulkington Congregational Church this coming Monday (Mon 03 Feb) at 7.30pm for the first of this year’s church history lectures. My subject is “Wrestling: The Life of Andrew Fuller.” I will be attempting an overview of the life and labours of this man of God, drawing some particular lessons for our own day. All are welcome.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 29 January 2014 at 12:33

Blasts from the Baptist past

leave a comment »

Gary Brady offers us Benjamin Beddome here on what Jesus is doing now:

Christ is our advocate with the Father. His presenting his spotless sacrifice before the throne, is a powerful intercession. He also presents the prayers and supplications of the saints, without which, instead of being received with complacency, they must be rejected with abhorrence. But besides this, is there not a vocal intercession? The Scripture leads me to think that there is. Christ was that angel who pleaded for Judah and Jerusalem. “In the days of his flesh he prayed for Peter, that his faith might not fail” and he assured him, and the rest of the disciples, that he would perform the same office for them in heaven: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.” And as Job evidently speaks of Christ as a Redeemer in one place, so it is not at all improbable that he refers to him as an advocate in another: “O that one” says he, “might plead for a man with God as a man pleadeth for his neighbour.” “It is,” says Dr Owen, “no ways unbecoming the human nature of Christ, in its glorious exaltation, to pray to God; for this seems to be one condition of the advancement of his interest as mediator.” “Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” I have made the two last remarks chiefly because some translate the words of my text,—”Prayer shall be made by him, or through him, continually.”

And here Andrew Fuller on Scripture, of which an excerpt:

All I say, is, when the truth contained in any passage of Scripture is opened to the mind, and impressed upon the heart, this is Christian experience—this is the work of the Spirit; but it is not his work to make any new revelation to the soul, of things not provable from Scripture, which is the ease when he is supposed to reveal to us that we are the children of God, by suggesting some passage of Scripture to our minds, which expresses so much of some other person or persons, there spoken of.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 20 July 2012 at 08:10

Getting Fuller right

leave a comment »

Ah, this is what I love about Fuller: his balance—a profound embrace of sovereign grace coupled with a passion for the salvation of sinners. These doctrines are never at odds, but companions in the extension of Christ’s kingdom.

So says Michael Haykin in correcting some wrong-headed notions about the Particular Baptist theologian.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 3 July 2012 at 12:43

Posted in While wandering . . .

Tagged with

Andrew Fuller

leave a comment »

Steve Weaver continues his survey of Baptists you should know with a man I highly esteem, one of the first Baptists of the eighteenth century that I read with any kind of thoroughness, Andrew Fuller. Roll on the critical edition!

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 29 May 2012 at 17:36

Posted in History & biography

Tagged with

Andrew Fuller and his friends

leave a comment »

The schedule for the 6th annual conference of the Andrew Fuller Centre is available. If you are near or can get to Louisville this September, and enjoy (Baptist) church history, this looks like a good’un.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 21 April 2012 at 21:21

Posted in While wandering . . .

Tagged with

Introducing “The Andrew Fuller Review”

leave a comment »

One of Michael Haykin’s many irons in the fire is a replacement for the Eusebia journal called The Andrew Fuller Review. Full details can be found here, and you can read the editorial for the first issue here.

We look forward to it.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 14 April 2012 at 16:35

Posted in Book notices

Tagged with

Theology and doxology

leave a comment »

Essentially, Fuller argued that if faith and theological reflection concerned only the mind, there would be no way to distinguish genuine Christianity from nominal Christianity. A nominal Christian mentally assents to the truths of Christianity, but those truths do not grip his heart and so re-orient his affections to glory in God. The opposite of saving faith in Scripture, Fuller noted, is not “simple ignorance,” which it would be if the Sandemanian view of faith were correct. Its opposite is an ignorance that has its roots in a deep-seated hatred of the true God. Christ can therefore state that unbelief rejects Him because, in the words of John 3:19, “people [love] the darkness rather than the light.” Likewise, Ephesians 4:18 talks about the understanding of unbelievers being darkened “because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Surely, Fuller reasoned, the ignorance in view here is much more than mere lack of knowledge. Does it not entail, he asked, a deepseated aversion to God and holy things?

But if unbelief comprises much more than ignorance, then faith and right theology must entail more than knowledge. If unbelief involves an aversion to the truth and a forthright rejection of the gospel, then faith in and reflection on the truth must include a love for and joy in the truth.

Michael Haykin @ Ligonier draws on Andrew Fuller, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and other men who knew the connection between theology and doxology to press it home into our hearts.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 22 February 2012 at 19:05

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with

Divine sovereignty & human responsibility

leave a comment »

Tim Challies quotes two of my favourite pastor-theologians on the tension between and reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

Andrew Fuller:

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 unable fully to 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. And thus a Christian minister, if he view the doctrine in its proper connexions, will find nothing in it to hinder the free use of warnings, invitations, and persuasions, either to the converted or the unconverted. Yet he will not ground his hopes of success on the pliability of the human mind, but on the promised grace of God, who (while he prophesies to the dry bones, as he is commanded) is known to inspire them with the breath of life.

Charles Spurgeon:

That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and I find that in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 10 January 2012 at 19:33

Andrew Fuller’s significance

leave a comment »

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 21 July 2011 at 12:37

Posted in History & biography

Tagged with

Haykin on reading Fuller

leave a comment »

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 17 May 2011 at 08:15

“Christ has much more yet to do”

leave a comment »

What I think what vast numbers are hasting the downward road; how few walk the narrow way; and, comparatively speaking, what little success attends our preaching, and what little ground Christ gets in the world, my heart fails and is discouraged. But it did my heart good last night to read Isaiah xlii, 4, “He shall not fail or be discouraged till he have set judgement in the earth!” I could not but reflect that Christ had infinitely more to discourage him that I can have to discourage me; and yet he persevered! But, methought, judgement is not yet set in the earth, except in a small degree. And what then? May I not take courage for that the promise has not yet spent its force? Christ has much more yet to do in the world; and, numerous as his enemies yet are, and few his friends, his heart does not fail him; nor shall it, till he has spread salvation throughout the earth, and leavened the whole lump.

Andrew Fuller to Benjamin Francis [?], Horsley, 3 July 1788; Regent’s Part College, Oxford: Angus Library, Fuller 4/5/1.

HT: here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 17 May 2011 at 05:38

Review: “Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian”

with one comment

Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian

Paul Brewster

B&H Publishing Group, 2010, 224pp., paperback, £15.75 / $24.99

ISBN 978-0805449822

Among the most significant Baptist theologians of the past 300 years, Andrew Fuller is slowly developing the reputation and garnering the attention he deserves. Paul Brewster’s study of Fuller as pastor-theologian will only contribute to this momentum. Brewster, himself what some call a ‘reverend doctor’ (a phrase Fuller would have loathed from his soul), contends that Baptists need more men who – like Fuller – combine an earnest and faithful pastor’s heart with orthodox and profound theological acumen. To encourage this, he puts Fuller in his context, then considers his theological method (this chapter is particularly strong and fresh), his soteriology (intelligently discussing Fuller’s commitment to substitutionary atonement alongside his use of governmental language), and his pastoral practice (including his evangelistic and missionary labours). The author’s concluding sketch of Fuller as pastor-theologian shows that Brewster is no mere hagiographer, but an insightful and careful student as he gives us a sympathetic but carefully nuanced portrait of this man of God. Brewster’s style can be a little workmanlike at times, and one might take careful issue with his contention that Fuller opened the door to radical and unhealthy changes in Baptist theology (other, stronger currents feeding this stream can be identified). Nevertheless, pastors would be well-served to consider the model presented here, and Brewster’s cogent plea to embrace and pursue it. Any servant of God seeking the means and a pattern for the establishment and exercise of an accurate and active theology might profitably start here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 12 February 2011 at 10:52

Review: “Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 1741-1845”

with 4 comments

Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 1741-1845

Transcribed and ed. Timothy D. Whelan

Mercer University Press, 2010, 522pp., cloth, $55 / £48.95

ISBN 978-0881461442

The ‘accidental’ discovery of a few letters by the editor of this volume led to further burrowing into the archives of the John Rylands University Library, eventually bringing to light some 300 letters sent within the Baptist community from 1741 to 1845, the vast majority previously unpublished. Diving in, we enter worlds at once strange and familiar, displaying a whole range of theological, ecclesiastical, and domestic concerns across a fascinating and seminal one hundred years of denominational history. In this, the volume transcends the merely academic sphere, and sheds light on a swathe of issues of principle and practice, both seemingly prosaic and indisputably significant. Although many letters involve luminaries such as John Sutcliff (prominently), Andrew Fuller, John Gill, the senior and junior Rylands, William Carey, William Knibb, Joseph Ivimey and John Rippon, there are hosts of less well-known men and women represented, plus non-Baptists such as George Whitefield and John Newton. The biographical footnotes and the magnificent 126 pages of biographical index, giving sketches of some 300 individuals, are probably worth the price of the book in themselves, not to mention a variety of helpful indeces. We owe Dr Whelan a great debt of gratitude for his painstaking labours, which have made available an invaluable resource for Baptist historians, and one which individuals as well as colleges and seminaries will crave.

PS I know it’s a Ronseal title, and not the most thrilling (this may not be a field where imagination is in great demand), but at least you’ll not forget what’s inside.

Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #5

with 4 comments

IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

So far in this series on Andrew Fuller’s letter seeking the assistance of his Christian hearers in promoting the interest of Christ we have considered the introduction, in which Fuller establishes the principle of cooperation upon which he will proceed. Following on from that, we have looked at the first three groups of people that pastors address and to which they minister: “serious and humble Christians”, “disorderly walkers”, and those “inquiring after the way of salvation”.

The final category in which Fuller pleads for the assistance of the saints is that of those “living in their sins” and unconcerned about salvation. Again, here he is dealing with the progress of the kingdom in an absolute sense, in the bringing of those who are in darkness into God’s marvellous light.

Alongside the second category of “disorderly walkers” this is the group with which most believers will struggle. It might be considered a relatively easy thing to encourage a healthy child of God; if someone is seeking Christ, then they might at least be inclined to hear a Christian’s efforts to point them to Jesus. However, backslidden Christians and unbelievers careless about their souls are both more likely, at least initially, to resent and resist the believer’s overtures. In both instances, a degree of courage for potential confrontation about sin is required.

Let us hear Fuller on the matter:

Fourthly, There is in all congregations and neighbourhoods a considerable number of people who are living in their sins, and in a state of unconcernedness about salvation. – Our work in respect of them is, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, to declare unto them their true character, to exhibit the Saviour as the only refuge, and to warn them to flee to him from the wrath to come. In this also there are various ways in which you may greatly assist us. If, as heads of families, you were to inquire of your children and servants what they have heard and noticed on the Lord’s day, you would often find occasion to second the impressions made by our labours. It is also of great consequence to be endued with that wisdom from above which dictates a word in season to men in our ordinary concerns with them. Far be it from us to recommend the fulsome practice of some professors, who are so full of what they call religion as to introduce it on all occasions, and that in a most offensive manner. Yet there is a way of dropping a hint to a good purpose. It is admirable to observe the easy and inoffensive manner in which a patriarch introduced some of the most important truths to a heathen prince, merely in answer to the question, How old are thou? “The days of the years of my pilgrimage,” said he, “are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage.” This was insinuating to Pharaoh that he and his fathers before him were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth – that their portion was not in this world but in another – that the life of man, though it extended to a hundred and thirty years, was but a few days – and that those few days were mixed with evil – all which, if the king reflected on it, would teach him to set light by the earthly glory with which he was loaded, and to seek a crown which fadeth not away.

You are acquainted with many who do not attend the preaching of the word. If, by inviting them to go with you, an individual only should be caught, as we say, in the gospel net, you would save a soul from death. Such examples have frequently occurred. It is an established law in the Divine administration, that men, both in good and evil, should in a very great way draw and be drawn by each other. The ordinary way in which the knowledge of God is spread in the world is, by every man saying to his neighbour and to his brother, Know the Lord. It is a character of gospel times, that “Many people shall go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Add to this, by visiting your neighbours under affliction you would be furnished with many an opportunity of conversing with them to advantage. Men’s consciences are commonly awake at such seasons, whatever they have been at others. It is as the month to the wild ass, in which they that seek her may find her.

Finally, Enable us to use strong language when recommending the gospel by its holy and happy effects. – Unbelievers constantly object to the doctrine of grace as licentious; and if they can refer to your unworthy conduct, they will be confirmed, and we shall find it impossible to vindicate the truth of God without disowning such conduct, and it may be you on account of it: but if we can appeal to the upright, the temperate, the peaceable, the benevolent, the holy lives of those among whom we labour, it will be of more weight than a volume of reasonings, and have a greater influence on the consciences of men. A congregation composed of kind and generous masters, diligent and faithful servants, affectionate husbands, obedient wives, tender parents, dutiful children, and loyal subjects, will be to a minister what children of the youth are said to be to a parent: As arrows in the hand of a mighty man: – “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed , but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

These, brethren, are some of the principal ways in which we affectionately solicit your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ. In doing this, we virtually pledge ourselves to be ready on all occasions to engage in it. We feel the weight of this implication. Let each have the other’s prayer, that we may both be assisted from above, without which all the assistance we can render each other will be unavailing. Should this address fall into the hands of one who is yet in his sins, let him consider that the object of it is his salvation; let him reflect on the case of a man whom many are endeavouring to save, but he himself, with hardened unconcern, is pressing forward to destruction; and finally, should he bethink himself, and desire to escape the wrath to come, let him beware of false refuges, and flee to Jesus the hope set before him in the gospel.

  • We need to pray for wisdom and courage to serve Christ in this endeavour. Pray for those whose primary responsibility it is to preach the truth to men, and pray for yourselves, that you might be willing and able to play your part, whatever the opposition.
  • We must be ready to follow up with those under our care or influence the public ministry of God’s word. We may not have many servants in the UK these days – but then, I don’t know where you are reading this, so perhaps you do – but there may be children and others for whom you have some responsibility or obtain some influence, and pressing home the truths that have been proclaimed from the pulpit may drive something into the soul that would otherwise have remained on the surface.
  • Do not be obnoxious, supercilious, or overbearing in the name of piety, but rather seek the wisdom that speaks a word in season to those without Christ. At the same time, do not use the ploy that you are waiting for the right season to cover your cowardice.
  • Find ways to bring the gospel to those who do not normally hear the Word of God, or to bring them under the sound of the word. This may be by taking opportunities to invite them to hear the Scriptures preached, or by taking the gospel to them when you have opportunities. Do not neglect times of distress, hardship and affliction: these may be very appropriate occasions to speak of Jesus, especially if your good neighbourliness as a matter of course has made a way into their affections and assured them of your good intentions.
  • Live in such a way as to complement to the gospel preached from the pulpit, so as to make your life a second sermon. If your own life adorns the gospel, and demonstrates and endorses the truth preached, then you make yourself every true preacher’s ally. If your life is a contradiction of the truth you or your pastors proclaim, if you have the name of a saint but fall short in the life, then you not only offend Christ but you put an obstacle in the path of every man who can discern the gap between Christian testimony and your practice.

    So, are you in?

    Remember Fuller’s opening description of the early church:

    The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe for the support of an accomplished men who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spoke the truth; but it was in love; they observed discipline; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model!

    As much as ever, the church needs her people to speak the truth in love, and observe that holy discipline that will enable her to march as an army with banners, and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil, and be the means in God’s hands of plucking brands from the burning and building up the church of Christ.

    To this end, the whole church must be engaged. If your pastors “virtually pledge ourselves to be ready on all occasions to engage in” this work of promoting the cause of Christ, will you pledge yourself to stand with them, pray for them, labour alongside them, pouring yourself out as opportunity and calling provide for the glory of Christ on the earth, seen in the salvation of the lost and the strengthening of the family of God?

    IntroductionFirst groupSecond groupThird groupFourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Thursday 25 November 2010 at 21:05

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #4

    with one comment

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    The previous sections of Andrew Fuller’s letter have seen this pastor-theologian begin by emphasising the principle of co-operation that ought to unite the whole body of Christ in holy endeavour, before going on to deal with two of the four groups of people to whom every pastor seeks to minister: “serious and humble Christians” and “disorderly walkers.” We have looked at Fuller’s counsels and sought to expand and apply them.

    Now Fuller moves on to the third group he is considering: people “inquiring after the way of salvation.” This is the longest of the four treatments of these different groups, and the most developed. Fuller traces the declension of many churches to a lack of concern in the hearts of God’s people for the lost among them, and a lack of skill in “the world of righteousness.” He unpacks these twin concerns, and in doing so exposes an error that was prevalent in his own day, and may be prevalent in our own, especially in some churches.

    While we will unpack some of the positive exhortations at the close of this post, it is worth noting that the error that Fuller is particularly keen to avoid is the tendency for counsellors of those awakened to their need of salvation to adopt some of the mistaken assumptions of those whom they are counselling. Specifically, Fuller says that many a one inquiring after salvation “is employed in searching for something in his religious experience which may amount to an evidence of his conversion; and in talking with you he expects you to assist him in the search.” Too many believers are ready to help in this quest, turning the eye of the seeker upon himself rather than upon Christ. Fuller is well aware of the fact that it is not wrong for someone to examine himself to see whether the evidences of true conversion are present in his life, but this is not his concern here. Rather, he is thinking of those who are seeking in their own experience some warrant to come to Jesus, some mark that they are ripe for salvation, or some indication from their own distresses or burdens that God is ready to receive them. Fuller’s point is that the gospel is all the warrant that is needed, and that those who look elsewhere are not looking in the right place, and do not in fact properly understand the gospel itself. What sinners need is Jesus as Saviour, and it is to him that we must point men.

    Thirdly, In every church of Christ we may hope to find some persons inquiring after the way of salvation. – This may be the case much more at some periods than at others; but we may presume, from the promise of God to be with his servants, that the word of truth shall not be any length of time without effect. Our work in this case is to cherish conviction, and to direct the mind to the gospel remedy. But if, when men are inquiring the way to Zion, there be none but the minister to give them information, things must be low indeed. It might be expected that there should be many persons capable of giving direction on this subject as there are serious Christians; for who that has obtained mercy by believing in Jesus should be at a loss to recommend him to another? It is a matter of fact, however, that though, as in cases of bodily disease, advisers are seldom wanting; yet, either for want of being interested in the matter, or sufficiently skilful in the word of righteousness, there are but few, comparatively, whose advice is of any value; and this we apprehend to be one great cause of declension in many churches. Were we writing on ministerial defects, we should not scruple to acknowledge that much of the preaching of the present day is subject to the same censure; but in the present instance we must be allowed to suppose ourselves employed in teaching the good and the right way, and to solicit your assistance in the work. When the apostle tells the Hebrews that, considering the time, “they ought to have been teachers,” he does not mean that they ought all to have been ministers; but able to instruct any inquirer in the great principles of the gospel.

    It has been already intimated that, to give advice to a person under concern about salvation, it is necessary, in the first place, that we be interested on his behalf, and treat him in a free and affectionate manner. Some members of churches act as if they thought such things did not concern them, and as if their whole duty consisted in sending the party to the minister. A church composed of such characters may be opulent and respectable; but they possess nothing inviting or winning to an awakened mind. To cherish conviction, and give a right direction to such a mind, we must be free and affectionate. When a sinner begins to think of his condition, such questions as the following will often cross his mind: – Was there ever such a case as mine? Are there any people in the world who have been what I am, and who are in the way to eternal life? If there be, who are they? Where are they? But if, while he is thinking what he must do to be saved, he neither sees nor hears any thing among you which renders it probable that such was ever your concern – if, as soon as a sermon is ended, he sees merely an exchange of civilities, and, on leaving the place, observes that all the congregation immediately fall into conversation about worldly things, what can he think? Either that there is nothing in religion, or, if there be, that he must seek elsewhere for it. The voice of a Christian church to those who attend upon their ministry should be that of Moses to Hobab: “We are journeying to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you. Come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”

    It is of great consequence to the well-being of a church, that there be persons in particular in it who are accessible to characters of this description, and who would take a pleasure in introducing themselves to them. Barnabas, who, by a tender and affectionate spirit, was peculiarly fitted for this employment, was acquainted with Saul while the other disciples were afraid of him. It was he that introduced him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

    Affection, however, is not the only qualification for this work: it requires that you be skilful in the word of righteousness; else you will administer false consolation, and may be instrumental in destroying, instead of saving souls. Not that it requires any extraordinary talents to give advice in such cases; the danger arises principally from inattention and erroneous views of the gospel.

    If, brethren, you would assist us in this delightful work, allow us to caution you against one prevailing error, and to recommend one important rule. The error to which we allude is, Taking it for granted that the party has no doubts as to the gospel way of salvation, and no unwillingness to be saved, provided God were but willing to save him. Such are probably his thoughts of himself; and the only question with him is, whether he have an interest in Christ and spiritual blessings. Hence he is employed in searching for something in his religious experience which may amount to an evidence of his conversion; and in talking with you he expects you to assist him in the search. But do not take this account of things as being the true one: it is founded in self-deception. If he understood and believed the gospel way of salvation, he would know that God was willing to save any sinner who is willing to be saved by it. A willingness to relinquish every false confidence, every claim of preference before the most ungodly character, and every ground of hope save that which God has laid in the gospel, is all that is wanting. If he have this, there is nothing in heaven or earth in the way of his salvation. In conversing with such a character we should impress this truth upon him, assuring him that if he be straitened [hemmed in or restricted] it is not of God, but in his own bowels [inner being] – that the doubts which he entertains of the willingness of God, especially on account of his sinfulness and unworthiness, are no other than the workings of a self-righteous opposition to the gospel (as they imply an opinion, that if he were less sinful and more worthy, God might be induced to save him) – and that if he be not saved in the gospel way, while yet his very moans betray the contrary, we should labour to persuade him that he does not yet understand the deceit of his own heart – that if he were willing to come to Christ for life, there is no doubt of his being accepted; in short, that, whenever he is brought to be of this mind, he will not only ask after the good way, but walk in it, and will assuredly find rest unto his soul.

    The rule we recommend is this: Point them directly to the Saviour. It may be thought that no Christian can misunderstand or misapply this important direction, which is every where taught in the New Testament. Yet if you steer not clear of the above error, you will be unable to keep to it. So long as you admit the obstruction to believing in Christ to consist in something distinct from disaffection to the gospel way of salvation, it will be next to impossible for you to exhort a sinner to it in the language of the New Testament. For how can you exhort a man to that which you think he desires with all his heart to comply with, but cannot? You must feel that such exhortations would be tantalizing and insulting him. You may, indeed, conceive of him as ignorant, and as such labour to instruct him; but your feelings will not suffer you to exhort him to any thing in which he is involuntary. Hence, you will content yourselves with directing him to wait at the pool of ordinances, and it may be to pray for grace to enable him to repent and believe, encouraging him to hope for a happy issue in God’s due time. But this is not pointing the sinner directly to Christ. On the contrary, it is furnishing him with a resting-place short of him, and giving him to imagine that duties performed while in unbelief are pleasing to God.

    If you point the awakened sinner directly to the Saviour, after the manner of the New Testament, you will not be employed in assisting him to analyze the distresses of his mind, and administering consolation to him from the hope that they may contain some of the ingredients of true conversion, or at least the signs that he will be converted. Neither will you consider distress as ascertaining a happy issue, any otherwise than as it leads to Christ. If the question were, Do I believe in Jesus for salvation? then , indeed, you must inquire what effects have been produced. But it is very different where the inquiry is, What shall we do? or, What shall I do to be saved? The murderers of Christ were distressed; but Peter did not attempt to comfort them by alleging that this was a hopeful sign of their conversion, or by any way directing their attention to what was within them. On the contrary, he exhibited the Saviour, and exhorted them to repent and be baptized in his name. The same may be said of the Philippian jailer. He was in great distress, yet no comfort was administered to him from this quarter, nor any other, except the salvation of Christ. Him Paul and Silas exhibited, and in him directly exhorted him to believe. The promise of rest is not made to the weary and heavy laden, but to those who come to Christ under their burdens.

    Once more, If you keep this rule, though you will labour to make the sinner sensible of his sin, (as till this case he will never come to the Saviour,) yet you will be far from holding up this his sensibility as affording any warrant, qualification, or title to believe in him, which he did not possess before. The gospel itself is the warrant, and not any thing in the state of the mind; though, till the mind is made sensible of the evil of sin, it will never comply with the gospel.

    While in the first two categories of persons, our author was more concerned with the progress of the gospel intensively (that is, in the hearts of those converted, pursuing increasing godliness) here he turns to the progress of the kingdom extensively, in the conversion of sinners. Like Charles Spurgeon after him, Fuller wants the church to be a true ‘Salvation Army’: “We want, in the Church of Christ, a band of well-trained sharpshooters, who will pick the people out individually, and be always on the watch for all whom come into the place, not annoying them, but making sure that they do not go away without having had a personal warning, a personal invitation, and a personal exhortation to come to Christ” (Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994], 135). Are you ready to play your part? If so:

    • Consider whether or not you have played a part in the past. If not, then repent of your sins against men and God, particularly with regard to any lack of concern for the souls of men and any culpable failure to grasp the truth so as to be able to explain it to others. Pray God that – should you have the opportunity – you would be one who is willing and able to contribute in this way, and not merely ready to send the inquirer to the preacher, or someone else presumed to be competent in the matter.
    • Remember that the whole church ought to be concerned in the salvation of the lost. Consider that it is not solely the pastor’s responsibility, neither only the officers’ business, nor a matter for the keen and zealous, but rather the concern of the whole local body.
    • Then, pursue an affection for and accessibility to those burdened in soul. The former must spring from within, and must be nurtured with prayer for men. Pray for it generally, that God would give you a heart for the lost, and specifically, that God would bless this one or that one whom you know to be troubled in heart, and so stir up a holy regard and concern for the individuals who need Christ. Avoid all coldness, distance, pomposity, invasiveness, false joviality, and all the other boundaries to transparent and earnest conversation about things that matter. Seek the “tender and affectionate spirit” that characterised Barnabas, and made him such an encourager to Saul and countless others.
    • Further, do nothing to inhibit the seeker or to counteract his concerns, especially in the immediate context of the worship of God. I distinctly remember as a child my disgust – as I felt it then to be – with the church for professing to be concerned with high and holy things, and yet to see men and women turn to each other within moments of a service ending to begin talking about things that simply did not matter. Perhaps I was right to be disgusted. Might we not see more results if our first questions to each other were less along the lines of “How was your week?” and more akin to “How are things with your soul?” Labour to communicate to others that you are as much concerned about your soul and theirs as they are or should be about their own, and that the things of eternity press more upon your spirit than the things of time.
    • Remember that no special gifts or extraordinary talents are required for you to speak the good news about Jesus to a needy sinner. Do not be hindered by flawed and false expectations of yourself. Your primary qualification is your own experience of grace, “for who that has obtained mercy be believing in Jesus should be at a loss to recommend him to another?”
    • In this regard, do not be sucked into a man’s own mistaken notions of his warrant for believing (see above), but rather make it your errand to point sinners directly to Christ as Saviour. Do not, first and foremost, urge them to attend more sermons, come to more services, read more books, search their hearts more diligently, consider their sins more humbly, pray for grace to repent and believe, or tell them simply to wait upon God’s time for a blessing. Though some of these counsels may be appropriate in a legitimate context and their proper place, our primary business as believers is this: to urge sinners as lost and needy to flee to the Lord Christ, and to trust and take Jesus Messiah as their Redeemer and Lord.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Wednesday 24 November 2010 at 11:41

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #3

    leave a comment »

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Andrew Fuller’s “pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ” begins with an introduction establishing the principles of co-operation upon which he intended to proceed, namely, the united and active interest of every member of Christ’s body in the health and growth of that body. He then deals with opportunities for co-operation in terms of four groups of people with whom pastors have to do. The first group is “serious and humble Christians.” The second group is composed of “disorderly walkers” – professing believers whose life does not measure up to their testimony, those who – for various reasons and in varying degrees – are spiritually unhealthy.

    Here follows Fuller’s exhortations:

    Secondly, in every church we must expect a greater or less proportion of disorderly walkers. – Our work, in respect of them, is to warn, admonish, and, if possible, reclaim them; or, if that cannot be, to separate them, lest the little leaven should leaven the whole lump. But in these cases, more than in many others, we stand in need of your assistance. It is not ministers only, but all “who are spiritual,” that the apostle addresses on this subject; and spiritual characters may always expect employment in restoring others in the spirit of meekness. It is of great importance to the well-being of a church that men are not wanting who will watch over one another in love, observe and counteract the first symptoms of declension, heal differences at an early period, and nip disturbances in the bud. By such means there will be but few things of a disagreeable nature, which will require either the censures of the church or the interference of the pastor.

    There will be instances, however, in which both the pastor and the church must interfere; and here it is of the utmost consequence that they each preserve a right spirit, and act in concert. There are two errors in particular into which individuals have frequently fallen in these matters. One is a harsh and unfeeling conduct towards the offender, tending only to provoke his resentment, or to drive him to despair; the other is that of siding with him, apologizing for him, and carrying it so familiarly towards him in private as to induce him to think others who reprove him his enemies. Beware, brethren, of both these extremes, which, instead of assisting us in our work, would be doing the utmost to counteract us. We may almost as well abandon discipline as not to act in concert. It was on this principle that the apostle enjoined it on the Corinthians “not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat.”

    Your assistance is particularly necessary to resist and overcome those unlovely partialities which are too often found in individuals towards their relations or favourites. We have seen and heard of disorderly walkers, whose connexions in a church have been so extensive, that, when they should have been censured or admonished, either a strong opposition was raised in their favour, or at least a considerable number have chosen to stand neuter, and so to leave the officers of the church to act in a manner alone. It is glorious to see a people in such cases acting in the spirit of Levi, who “did not acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children; but observed God’s word, and kept his covenant!”

    It is often extremely difficult for a pastor to go through with such matters without injury to his character and ministry. He, being by his office obliged to take the lead, becomes the principal object of resentment; and every idle story is raked up by the party and their adherents which may wound his reputation, and impute his conduct to suspicious motives. If, in such circumstances, his brethren stand by him, he will disregard the slander of his enemies: but if they be indifferent, it will be death to him. Should such a conduct issue in his removal, it is no more than might be expected.

    Here again are several ways in which healthy saints can co-operate in the work of ministry, in those aims of reclaiming and restoring the erring brother or, if the former proves impossible, preventing infection of the whole body:

    • Foundationally, by words and in deeds, positively encourage and exemplify the pursuit of full-orbed godliness. Do all you can to advance godliness in our own life and in the life of others. Your own holiness will teach and expose all at once, as well as giving credibility should you need to address sin in a brother or sister.
    • Then, deal righteously and lovingly with those going astray: “watch over one another in love, observe and counteract the first symptoms of declension, heal differences at an early period, and nip disturbances in the bud.” Paul made it the responsibility of every member to keep a loving watch over the whole body: “if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6.1). There is a crippling spirit abroad that opposes love and rebuke, however sensitively, wisely and humbly delivered. One of the kindest and most loving acts we can perform for our brothers and sisters is graciously to confront them at some point along a path of sin or foolishness, and the earlier the better. This is not the fruit of a perpetual witch-hunt, forever hunting out the flaws and failings of our fellow members, but the love which, when it faces a sin which cannot be covered, will – out of a concern for the well-being of their immortal soul – look a sinning brother in the eye and draw attention to the danger. Though the more you may love, the less you will be loved, let neither a craven cowardice nor a false sentimentality keep you from such faithfulness.
    • Then, should formative discipline prove insufficient and individual rebuke unfruitful, you can deal righteously and impartially with those who require corrective discipline. Avoid the extremes which Fuller identifies of excessive harshness and excessive softness. With regard to the former, take pains to ensure that the sinning brother has no excuse for assuming anything but love in your dealings with him. With regard to the latter, make sure that the discipline of the church has teeth, and that you are not the member who – out of some false sense of obligation or sheer lack of sense and wisdom – draws those teeth and prevents the discipline accomplishing its intended ends. The aim of church discipline is repentance and restoration, and excessive harshness and softness will militate against both. Should you need to act in a case of discipline, stand for what is right, not for what or whom you know or like. Show no partiality, except to righteousness. If your pastors are dealing fairly and faithfully, then hear no slander against them, but give them the benefit and blessing of your principled support; do not let their acts of faithfulness become the opportunity of Satan to weary or crush them.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Tuesday 23 November 2010 at 20:24

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #2

    leave a comment »

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Co-operation in action

    We began this series yesterday with Fuller’s introduction to his letter entreating the assistance of his Christian hearers in promoting the interest of Christ in the world. There, he briefly established the principles of co-operation upon which he intended to proceed, namely, the united and active interest of every member of Christ’s body in the health and growth of that body.

    In the letter, he deals with the opportunities for such contributions in terms of four groups of people with whom pastors have to do, and in the service of whom the saints might make a vital contribution. The first group is “serious and humble Christians,” and here are Fuller’s suggestions and requests:

    First, It may be supposed that in every church of Christ there will be a considerable portion of serious and humble Christians. – Our work in respect of them is to feed them with the wholesome doctrine of the word, and to teach them the mind of Christ in all things. The assistance which we ask of you, brethren, in this part of our ministry, is, that you would not only pray for us, but be free to impart to us the state of your minds, and whether our labours be edifying to you or not. It is not so much by a systematical statement and defence of Christian doctrines that believers are edified, as by those doctrines being applied to their respective cases. This is the way in which they are ordinarily introduced in the Scriptures, and in which they become “words in due season.” But we cannot well preach to the cases of people unless we know them. Add to this, the interest which you discover in the things of God has a more than ordinary influence on our minds in the delivery of them. You cannot conceive the difference between addressing a people full of tender and affectionate attention, whose souls appear in their eyes, and answer, as it were, to the word of God; and preaching to those who are either half asleep, or their thoughts manifestly occupied by other things. By looking at the one, our hearts have expanded like the flowers before the morning sun: thoughts have occurred, and sensations have been kindled, which the labours of the study could never have furnished. But, by observing the other, our spirits are contracted like the flowers by the damps of the evening, and thoughts which were interesting when alone have seemed to die as they proceeded from our lips.

    It will tend not a little to increase your interest in hearing, if you exercise yourselves on other occasions in reading and reflection. If you attend to the things of God only, or chiefly, while hearing us, we shall preach to you under great disadvantage. The apostle complained of many things being hard to be uttered, owing to the Hebrews being dull of hearing; and that, when for the time they ought to have been teachers, they had need that one should teach them again which were the first principles of the oracles of God. Thinking hearers gave a facility to preaching, even upon the most difficult subjects; while those whose minds are seldom occupied at other times can scarcely understand the most easy and familiar truths.

    Here, then, are ways in which healthy saints can make a vital contribution to the work of ministry:

    • Firstly, and most fundamentally, you can pray for your pastors. It was Spurgeon who spoke for countless men (albeit on a different scale) when he said that the secret of all his pastoral ‘success’ was that his people prayed for him. Prayer opens the windows of heaven to bring down a blessing. If you can do nothing else, you can pray for your pastors, and plead a blessing on their labours.
    • Secondly, you can labour to know and be known by those who serve you, with a ready transparency and in intelligent communication. It is this ready and easy relationship that enables the under-shepherd to minister to his particular flock, and to the particular sheep in it. To this end, will you open your hearts to your pastors about your joys and troubles, your hopes and fears, your delights and concerns, so that they might minister to you wisely? Further, will you intelligently communicate to them whether or not they are feeding your souls and scratching your spiritual itches in and out of the pulpit, if not on the Lord’s day then with a phone call, quiet word, grateful note or encouraging email during the week? How many never respond with any outward sign of intelligent appreciation! How many more never get beyond “Good word, pastor!” at the door on the way out, or platitudes about being “so blessed”? Knowing how and in what ways we have profitably served, or if we are failing to bring forth from our treasure things new and old for the good of the saints, helps preachers to be wise physicians of your souls.
    • Thirdly, you can be exemplary listeners. To be sure, there are bad days when the kids were up all night and you struggle to keep your eyes open, or when that headache means you can only look at the preacher with a squint, or when you are persuaded that you did indeed leave the oven on at full heat. But, generally speaking, do you draw the truth out of your preachers, contributing to a lively spiritual dynamic in which, by means of mutual sensitivity, the flow of truth – under divine pressure and hissing-hot – comes flooding out of his soul into yours? Your appearance and spiritual disposition under the preaching of the word will contribute either to the flowering or the withering of your pastors in the act of preaching. (See also here.)
    • Fourthly and finally, you can maintain spiritual fitness for hearing by your own reading and reflection apart from the services of worship. Such activity forms the channels down which the truth must run, and dredges out the silt that too readily builds up to inhibit that flow of truth. Especially on Saturday evenings, stoke up a good fire in your souls, so that on the Lord’s day morning you need only to rake over the coals to see the flames leap up once more. Holy familiarity with God’s truth in the general run of life will equip you to understand and receive it when it is offered to you morning and evening on the Lord’s day.

    And, brothers and sisters, the best time to begin is now, and the best Lord’s day to put this into practice is the coming one, and the one after that, and so on and so on, until glory dawns, and faith is sight.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Saturday 20 November 2010 at 14:00

    Advancing Christ’s kingdom together #1

    with 3 comments

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    In 1806, the Baptist pastor and theologian Andrew Fuller drew up a letter to be circulated among the churches with which his congregation was associated. This particular letter was entitled, “The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ.” Like other letters of the same sort, it was intended to be read and received among the churches as a means of stirring up the saints to lively faith and a faithful life.

    As the title of this particular letter indicates, Fuller’s concern is to engage the hearts, minds, hands and mouths of God’s people in the cause of Christ’s kingdom, urging them to use all proper and legitimate means to add their strength to that of gospel ministers in seeking the glory of Christ in the salvation of the lost and the building up of his church. It is a cogent piece of pastoral reasoning, profitable as much now as it was then.

    While the author acknowledges that he might have gone in any number of directions with such entreaties and exhortations, he settles on the plan of identifying four groups of people with whom pastors deal – serious and humble Christians; those who are walking in a disorderly way; people concerned about salvation; and those who are manifestly unconverted – and shows how God’s people can assist pastors in bringing the Word of God fruitfully to bear upon them, and pleading with the saints to do all they can to this end.

    I intend to post Fuller’s letter in several parts over the coming days (with links to help navigation), and hope that it will prove a spur to each one of us to embrace our privilege and responsibility in this matter. We begin with Fuller’s introduction, in which he sets out the grounds of seeking such assistance from the church at large.

    The pastor’s address to his Christian hearers, entreating their assistance in promoting the interest of Christ

    Beloved brethren,

    The ministry to which God by your election has called us forms a distinguished part of the gospel dispensation. Divine instruction was communicated under the Old Testament, and an order of men appointed of God for the purpose; but their work can scarcely be denominated preaching. They foretold the good news; but it is for us to proclaim it. The poor having the gospel preached to them is alleged in proof that the Messiah was come, and that they were not to look for another.

    The very existence of Christian churches is in subserviency to the preaching of the gospel; or they would not have been described as “golden candlesticks,” the use of which is to impart light to those around them. We speak not thus, brethren, to magnify ourselves. There is an important difference between Christian ministers and the Christian ministry. The former, we are ready to acknowledge, exist for your sakes. “Whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas – all are yours;” but the latter, as being the chosen means of extending the Redeemer’s kingdom, is that for which both we and you exist. “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

    These considerations will enable us to account for the joy which the apostle expressed in “Christ’s being preached,” even though it were from “envy;” and may teach us to rejoice in the same thing, though it be in the most corrupt communities, or even from the most suspicious motives. But though God may cause his truth to triumph wherever and by whomsoever it is taught, yet it should be our concern to publish it willingly, and to the best advantage.

    The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe for the support of an accomplished men who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spoke the truth; but it was in love; they observed discipline; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model!

    We trust it is our sincere desire as ministers to be more intent upon our work; but allow us to ask for your assistance. Nehemiah, zealous as he was, could not have built the wall if the people had not had a mind to work. Nor could Ezra have reformed the abuses among the people if nobody had stood with him. But in this case the elders, when convinced of the necessity of the measure, offered themselves willingly to assist him. “Arise,” said they, “for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.” Such is the assistance, brethren, which we solicit at your hands.

    We might enumerate the different ways in which your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ is needed. We might ask for your prayers, your early attendance, your counsels, your contributions, and your example; but what we have to offer will arise from a review of the different branches of our own labours.

    In the discharge of our work we have to do with four descriptions of people, and in dealing with each we stand in need of your assistance: namely, serious and humble Christians – disorderly walkers – persons under concern about salvation – and persons manifestly unconverted.

    The key question for the saints is: are you persuaded of the identity and purpose of Christ’s church, and of the part you might play in pursuing the ends for which the church has been called out of the world? Will you say with Fuller that

    [the early churches] were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ’s kingdom in their own souls and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only; the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and, according to their several abilities and stations, took part in it.

    Furthermore, saying it, will you embrace it? In Fuller’s quaint language, “interest” is not passing concern, but active involvement and determined participation, knowing oneself to be part of the body of Christ.

    IntroductionFirst group ∙ Second group ∙ Third group ∙ Fourth group

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Friday 19 November 2010 at 16:56

    Meeting men at the bar of God

    leave a comment »

    In preparing for the pulpit, it would be well to reflect in some such manner as this: – I am expected to preach, it may be to some hundreds of people, some of whom may have come several miles to hear; and what have I to say to them? Is it for me to sit here studying a text merely to find something to say to fill up the hour? I may do this without imparting any useful instruction, without commending myself to my man’s conscience, and without winning, or even aiming to win, one soul to Christ. It is possible there may be in the audience a poor miserable creature, labouring under the load of a guilty conscience. If he depart without being told how to obtain rest for his soul, what may be the consequence? Or, it may be, some stranger may be there who has never heard the way of salvation in his life. If he should depart without hearing it now, and should die before another opportunity occurs, how shall I meet him at the bar of God? Possibly some one of my constant hearers may die in the following week; and is there nothing I should wish to say to him before his departure? It may be that I myself may die before another Lord’s day: this may be the last time that I shall ascend the pulpit; and have I no important testimony to leave with the people of my care?

    Andrew Fuller, Complete Works, 1:715-16

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Friday 19 November 2010 at 12:15

    A question of covenants

    with 2 comments

    A friend asks if I know of any book or article on the subject of church covenants. He had in mind the sort of thing discussed in William Guthrie’s The Christian’s Great Interest. Can any reader suggest a helpful treatment of churches covenanting together, probably drawing on the Puritan tradition? Please let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions.

    Here is Andrew Fuller on a similar topic from a different angle:

    It is to be feared the old puritanical way of devoting ourselves wholly to be the Lord’s, resigning up our bodies, souls, gifts, time, property, with all we have and are to serve him, and frequently renewing these covenants before him, is now awfully neglected.  This was to make a business of religion, a life’s work, and not merely an accidental affair, occurring but now and then, and what must be attended to only when we can spare time from other engagements.  Few seem to aim, pray, and strive after eminent love to God and one another.  Many appear to be contented if they can but remember the time when they had such love in exercise, and then, tacking to it the notion of perseverance without the thing, they go on and on, satisfied, it seems, if they do but make shift just to get to heaven at last, without much caring how.  If we were in a proper spirit, the question with us would not so much be, “What must I do for God?” as, “What can I do for God?”  A servant that heartily loves his master counts it a privilege to be employed by him, yea, an honour to be entrusted with any of his concerns.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Thursday 4 November 2010 at 11:21

    Pondering a picture

    leave a comment »

    Michael Haykin is pondering this well-known picture of Particular Baptist luminaries from the eighteenth century, and has so far pondered thrice: here and here and here. Haykin looks at the prominence of certain figures, their relationships hinted at in their positions, and the different theologies represented.

    A sample of these thoughts on how art is sending a message about stature and theology:

    The seated figures in the front row–(from l. to r.) William Carey, Joseph Kinghorn, John Ryland, Jr., Andrew Fuller, and John Foster–were all remarkable figures, but the creator of this portrait seems to have wanted to highlight Hall. He is standing in a posture that surely bespeaks the preacher with a Bible in his right hand. And if the Baptists of that era were about anything it was preaching. As a means of grace, it was second to none as a way of communicating God’s will and presence. All of the men in the picture were preachers (except for Foster, who tried to preach but failed miserably in it–his forte was the written essay), why highlight Hall in this regard? Does it reveal the conviction that Hall represents the cream of Baptist preaching? There is no doubt, for many of that era, Hall was the greatest of a great generation of preachers.

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Tuesday 5 October 2010 at 11:33

    Gill and Fuller: papers from Haykin

    leave a comment »

    Michael Haykin makes available his papers from the True Church Conference hosted by Grace Life Church of Muscle Shoals, AL, the first on John Gill and hyper-Calvinism, and the second on Andrew Fuller.  Both papers are posted in PDF format:

    Written by Jeremy Walker

    Tuesday 2 March 2010 at 16:48

    %d bloggers like this: