Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Andrew Fuller

FULLER, Andrew (17541815), a distinguished preacher and theological writer of the Baptist denomination, was born on the 6th of February 1754, at Wicken, in Cambridgeshire, where his father was a small farmer, and received the rudiments of his education at the free school of Soham to which place his parents had removed about 1760. Early in life he began to assist in the work of the farm, and he continued to do so till he was twenty years of age. In his seventeenth year he became a member of the Baptist church at Soham, and soon afterwards began to exercise his gifts as an exhorter with so great approval that, in the spring of 1775, he was called and ordained as pastor of that congregation. In 1782 he removed to Kettering in Northamptonshire, where, besides other advantages, he enjoyed that of frequent intercourse with some of the most eminent ministers of the denomination, such as Ryland, Sutcliff, and the Halls. About that time the Calvinism prevalent among the Baptists of England had come to be mingled and overlaid with many crudities which the Genevan Reformer would have disowned as foreign to his system; and for many years Fuller’s intellectual and spiritual development had been much impeded, not only by the narrowness of his outward circumstances, and by the defects of his early education, but also by the contracted religious views of those to whom he had been accustomed to look for guidance. Even before leaving Soham, however, he had written the substance of a treatise, in which he had sought to counteract that hyper-Calvinism which, “admitting nothing spiritually good to be the duty of the unregenerate, and nothing to be addressed to them in a way of exhortation excepting what related to external obedience,” had so long perplexed his own mind. This work he published, under the title The Gospel worthy of all Acceptation, soon after his settlement in Kettering; and although it immediately involved him in a somewhat bitter controversy which lasted for nearly 20 years, it was ultimately successful, as from its ability and force it deserved to be, in considerably modifying the views prevalent among English Dissenters with regard to the matters of which it treats. In 1793 he published a treatise in which the Calvinistic and Socinian systems were examined and compared as to their moral tendency. This work, which, along with another against Deism, entitled The Gospel its own Witness, is regarded as the production on which his reputation as a theologian mainly rests, was attacked by Toulmin and Kentish, to whom he replied in a supplementary pamphlet in which the weak side of Socinianism was still further exposed. Fuller also published an admirable Memoir of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, of Birmingham, and a volume of Expository Lectures in Genesis, besides a considerable number of smaller pieces, chiefly sermons and pamphlets, which have been issued in a collected form since his death, and like everything he did gave evidence of great intellectual vigour and acuteness as well as of deep religious convictions. Perhaps the most important services of his life, however, were those rendered in connexion with the Baptist Missionary Society, which was formed at Kettering in 1792, and of which he was secretary until his death on the 7th of May 1815. The correspondence he maintained, the journeys he undertook, the pamphlets he wrote in defence of the society, and the discourses he preached on its behalf, imply an amount of work which few men could possibly have overtaken, and which ultimately proved too heavy even for his naturally powerful constitution. Several editions of his collected works have appeared, and a Memoir, principally compiled from his own papers, was published about a year after his decease by Dr Ryland, his most intimate friend and coadjutor in the affairs of the Baptist mission. There are also biographies by his son, the Rev. A. G. Fuller, and by the Rev. J. W. Morris.