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Andrew Fuller was a Particular Baptist minister in England in the 1700s and into the 1800s. His most known work was The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. In the work he argued against the prevailing notion of day amongst English Particular Baptists that the gospel is only for the elect and should not be openly proclaimed (a.k.a Hyper-Calvinism). Fuller’s work against this belief was the tipping point which saw the Particular Baptists move to be more evangelic in their life and theology (proclaiming the gospel openly).
The other night I was reading a overview of Fuller’s work by Dr. Peter Morden, “Baptist and Evangelical: Andrew Fuller and the Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.” (Strict Baptist Historical Society, Bulletin 2011, Number 38). In his work Dr. Morden gives two influences which helped Fuller craft and argue his position: The Bible and Jonathan Edwards. I believe seeing these things at work in Fuller can help us as we work to understand the teachings of the bible. (Note: All quotes are drawn from Dr. Morden’s work)
The first is Fuller’s commitment to let the bible be the final authority upon what he believed. Fuller wrote the following as a personal ‘covenant’ to himself,
Let not the sleight of wicked men, who lie in wait to deceive, nor even the pious character of good men (who yet may be under great mistakes), draw me aside. Nor do thou suffer my own fancy to guide me. Lord, thou hast given me a determination to take up no principle at second hand; but to search for everything at the pure fountain of thy word. (Ryland Jr., Andrew Fuller, 1st edn., pp. 203-204)
Fuller committed himself to going back to the bible to let it be the authority as to what he believed. Fuller did know that he was susceptible to error. But it did not keep him from pursuing truth as much as he could.
Along with this commitment was a secondary influence of Jonathan Edwards. Not only did Fuller study the bible but he used the thinking of others help him understand what the bible taught. This was very apparent when it came to the issue of how we can offer the gospel to people who do not have the ability to believe it (non-elect). Fuller turned to the bible but he also turned to the writing of Edwards on the Freedom of the Will. And it was Edwards who helped him unlock the puzzle as Fuller describes (speaking of himself in the third person),
He had read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, with some other performances on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in the distinction; as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence – to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures .. The more he examined the Scriptures, the more he was convinced that all the inability ascribed to man, with respect to believing, arises from the aversion of his heart. (Fuller’s Works, Vol. 2, p. 330)
While thinking through the scriptures Fuller relied on Edwards to describe what the bible was teachings. And Edwards’ work was no light reading! Fuller took time and energy to read and grasp what Edwards was showing about how God can command men to do things which they do not have the ability to preform while not infringing upon His justice. Fuller considered what Edwards was saying against the teachings of Scripture. But without Edwards he would not have been able to develop what the scriptures were teachings with regards to this particular objection.
Thus, we see the blend of personal study with the aid of what others have studied. God wants us to use our personal minds to think through His word and discover, through the work of the Spirit, what is revealed there. But He also has the very same relationship with every other believer. With the bible as the norming norm we are to use God’s working with others as we think through what the bible is teaching.
Genesis I-II is `primeval history’ or `prehistory’. It is concerned with beginnings: the origin of the world, and also the origin of things that play an important part in the lives of human beings, such as sin, death, marriage, conflict (between husband and wife, within families and communities and between nations), the nature of God and his relationship with human beings, judgment, forgiveness and covenant. The OT believers are confronted with the same world as their counterparts in Babylon and Ugarit. They are also aware of the mythologies of surrounding nations, in which those nations seek to account for the world as they see it, though from a very different perspective; and they present their own explanation of the way things are, an explanation that puts God at the centre. That is not to suggest that this is a human attempt to explain origins. It continues to be divine revelation, but revelation given in a form that would make most sense to those who would receive it rather than necessarily appealing to modern standards of scientific and historical enquiry.
-Robin Routledge, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005)
This section brings out a lot of helpful information when reading the Old Testament
1. The main aim of texts in the Old Testament, such as Genesis 1-11 and others, is to teach about theology (who God is, who we are, and how this relates to the world around us) not history or science. That is why the texts are not at all interested in explaining facts like where the wife of Cain came from. It does not make-up anything about history and science but it is not concerned with it. If, thus, we are going to let the bible speak we must approach the texts as they were meant to be read as theological. Not as discussion starters about whether or not Adam had a belly button.
2. The texts of the Old Testament were written in a world like ours with real world questions. Work was hard, relationships where rampant with conflict, and death was an unwelcomed guarantee. My, how things have not changed much. The Old Testament is not a collection of abstract historical facts but a revelation of God’s workings in this broken world with broken people. Texts like Genesis 1-11 are giving explanations to the real issues and problems people in that day, and ours as well, face.
3. There is an apologetic purpose in the Old Testament narratives. They were not written in a bubble. Surrounding people had their own explanation of how the world came to be and how a person was suppose to live. The Hebrews needed counters to these ideas and so we have the Old Testament. The text was not just written to inform but to delineate.
4. The Old Testament was written for the people of the day to understand it. When the bible starts talking about the “foundations of the earth” and such it is not making a scientific claim about the tetonic plate structures. God is using the language and understanding of the people He is speaking with to adequately communicate His truth in a comprehensible manner. It was not God’s aim to give secret scientific information to his followers so that they would know the different magma layers of the earth while others didn’t. His aim was that they would know Him! And thus, for humans with small brains and small language capacities He spoke in forms they could understand.
5. All this should make us give praise to our loving and compassionate God who stoops down to bring His word to us. He is not distant but speaks our frail language to our limited minds about the issues which matter to our well being. He wants us to know Him, to know Christ, and to be in relationship with Him. How low the infinite becomes so we could live with Him!
What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over a half century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his scenario in his weekly sermon…Barnhouse speculated that is Satan took over Philadelphia,
all of the bars would be closed,
and the pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other.
There would be no swearing.
The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,”
and the churches would be full every Sunday
…where Christ is not preached
-Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 15. Emphasis his.
This is a good reminder that we do not proclaim good morals. We proclaim Christ! “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
“When the heart is cast into the mould of the doctrine which the mind embraces, . . . when not the sense of the words but of the things is in our hearts, when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for, then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men. Without this, all our contending is of no value to ourselves. What am I the better, if I can dispute that Christ is God but have no sense that he is a God in covenant with my soul? . . . It is possible to contend for truth in a spirit most opposite to its nature, and most warmly to advocate the rights of a cause from which we ourselves may derive no benefit. In all cases, it should be remembered, that the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.”
John Owen, in The Works of John Owen, edited by Thomas Russell (London, 1826), I:164-165.
HT: Ray Ortlund
In the final analysis, we take up our privilege as proclaimers of the gospel, not because we are more intelligent or creative than the world, nor because our powers of rhetorical and logistical techniques are greater than those of other religious spokesmen. None of these powers will ever serve to win one person to Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the Christian Church always advances from a position of human weakness, not human strength…Instead, we step out to accomplish the greater works because the Spirit of God, on the merits of our Savior’s death, has been given to us. According to His own good pleasure He will be pleases to take our feeble and flawed presentations of the gospel and fill them with His irresistible power, consequently overcoming the hearts of sinful people that, otherwise speaking, will prove to be impenetrable.
Arturo G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving The Holy Spirit In Your Ministry (Great Britain: Mentor, 2007), 26-27.
But what is true and what makes a man great? “In this,” says the Prophet, “let him that glories, glory that he understands and knows that I am the Lord” [Jer. 9:24]. This constitutes the highest dignity of man, this is his glory and greatness: truly to know what is great and to cleave to it, and to seek after glory from the Lord of glory. The Apostle tells us: “He that glories may glory in the Lord,” saying: “Christ was made for us wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written: he that glories may glory in the Lord” [1 Cor. 1:30-31]. Now this is the perfect and consummate glory in God: not to exult in one’s own righteousness, but, recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness, to be justified by faith in Christ alone.
-Basil of Caesarea
Quoted in Michael A. Haykin, Rediscovering The Church Fathers: Who They Were And How They Shaped The Church (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011), 113.