Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fuller, Andrew
FULLER, ANDREW (1754–1815), baptist theologian and missionary advocate, was born at Wicken, Cambridgeshire, 5 Feb. 1754. In his boyhood he was deeply exercised with religious questions; about the age of sixteen he joined the baptist church at Soham. He had no special training for the ministry, but his powers of exposition and exhortation commending him to the members of that church during a vacancy, he was called to be their minister in the spring of 1775. He remained at Soham for several years, till receiving an earnest call from the church at Kettering, Northamptonshire, he decided, after some hesitation, to accept it. In 1782 he removed to Kettering, where he remained till his death.
Fuller was an able preacher and theological author. He was one of the founders of the Baptist Missionary Society, its first secretary, and the unwearied and very able promoter of its interests. His controversial activity was always great.
Among the particular baptists there was a tendency to push the tenets of Calvinism to an extreme. With such views there was associated a strong tendency to antinomianism. It was usually alleged by Socinians that the necessary tendency of the doctrines of free grace was towards a relaxation of the sense of moral obligation. Fuller wrote, in opposition to such views: 1. ‘The Gospel worthy of all acceptation, or the Obligations of Men fully to credit and cordially to approve whatever God makes known.’ 2. ‘The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems examined and compared as to their Moral Tendency,’ 1794, 1796, 1802. 3. ‘The Gospel its own Witness, or the Holy Nature and Divine Harmony of the Christian Religion contrasted with the Immorality and Absurdity of Deism,’ 1799–1800. 4. ‘An Apology for the late Christian Missions to India.’ 5. ‘Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, A.M., of Birmingham,’ 1800. 6. ‘Expository Discourses on Genesis,’ 2 vols. 1806. 7. ‘Expository Discourses on the Apocalypse,’ 1815. 8. ‘Sermons on Various Subjects,’ 1814. 9. ‘The Backslider,’ 1801, 1840, 1847. Besides these Fuller wrote many separate pamphlets, sermons, and essays. He contributed likewise many papers to De Coetlogon's ‘Theological Miscellany,’ the ‘Evangelical Magazine,’ the ‘Missionary Magazine,’ the ‘Quarterly Magazine,’ the ‘Protestant Dissenters' Magazine,’ and the ‘Biblical Magazine.’ Dr. Ryland, in his ‘Life of Fuller,’ enumerates 167 articles contributed to these several journals. Editions of his ‘Complete Works’ appeared in 1838, 1840, 1845, 1852, and 1853. Joseph Belcher edited an edition in three volumes for the Baptist Publication Society of Philadelphia, and his principal publications were issued with a memoir by his son in Bohn's Standard Library, 1852.
His work in promoting the missionary enterprises of the baptist church began about 1784. A sermon published by him then, entitled ‘The Nature and Importance of Walking by Faith,’ with an appendix, ‘A Few Persuasives to a General Union in Prayer for the Revival of Religion,’ though not bearing expressly on foreign missions, helped to stimulate the spirit out of which the enterprise sprang. The Baptist Missionary Society was formed at Kettering in 1792. William Carey (1761–1834) [q. v.] had been greatly impressed by Fuller's work, ‘The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation.’ He became the first missionary, and upon Fuller devolved the labour of directing and maintaining the work at home. As Fuller put it, comparing them to miners, Carey said, ‘I will go down if you will hold the rope.’ ‘But before he went down we engaged that while he lived we should never let go the rope.’ The care and concerns of the mission lay far more on Fuller than on any man in England, and till his death he spared no labour or form of service by which he might advance its interests.
Fuller was a man of great force and energy of character. His turn of mind, according to one of his biographers (J. W. Morris), led him to cultivate the intellectual and practical parts of religion rather than the devotional. His want of fervour and unction in preaching and in prayer was remarked on by several of his friends, who attributed to this cause the want of adequate success in his ministerial work. A friend once stopped him with the remark, ‘Brother Fuller, you can never administer a reproof to a mistaken friend but you must take up a sledge-hammer and knock his brains out.’ A missionary in India, whom he had sharply admonished, thus replied, ‘Thank you, Brother Fuller; your sledge-hammer is a harmless thing at this distance! Samson, too, is sometimes as meek as other men.’ Of this tendency he was aware, and he sometimes lamented it; but when he tried to apologise he seemed to make things worse. To his sterling integrity, the nobility of the objects to which he devoted his life, and the spirit of self-denial in which he prosecuted them, all who knew him bore the fullest testimony. He has been compared to John Knox, both in respect to his excellences and his defects.
Fuller received the degree of D.D. from Princeton College and from Yale College, United States, but he never used it. He died 7 May 1815, at the age of sixty-one.[Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, late Pastor of the Baptist Church at Kettering, and Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society, by John Ryland, D.D.; Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, by J. W. Morris, 1816; A Memoir of Thomas Fuller, by Thomas Ekins Fuller, 1863; Herzog and Schaff's Encyclopædia.]