These three selections from Andrew Fuller’s works have been made by Professor Michael Haykin, see also ‘Andrew Fuller, theologian of love‘.
(1) ‘The qualifications and encouragement of a faithful minister illustrated by the character and success of Barnabas’.
My dear brother,
It is a very important work to which you are this day set apart … You need both counsel and encouragement; I wish I were better able to administer both. In what I may offer, I am persuaded you will allow me to be free; and understand me, not as assuming any authority or superiority over you, but only as saying that to you which I wish to consider as equally addressed to myself.
Out of a variety of topics that might afford a lesson for a Christian minister, my thoughts have turned, on this occasion, upon that of example. Example has a great influence upon the human mind; examples from Scripture especially, wherein characters the most illustrious in their day, for gifts, grace and usefulness, are drawn with the pencil of inspiration, have an assimilating tendency.
Viewing these, under a divine blessing, we form some just conceptions of the nature and importance of our work, are led to reflect upon our own defects, and feel the fire of holy emulation kindling in our bosoms.
The particular example, my brother, which I wish to recommend to your attention, is that of Barnabas, that excellent servant of Christ and companion of the apostle Paul. You will find his character particularly given in the words I have just read [from Acts 11].
He was ‘a good man’
It were easy to prove the necessity of a person being a good man, in order to his properly engaging in the work of the ministry. Christ would not commit his sheep but to one that loved him … [But this statement] is not barely meant of Barnabas that he was a regenerate man, though that is implied, but it denotes that he was eminently good.
We use the word so in common conversation. If we would describe one that more than ordinarily shines in piety, meekness and kindness, we know not how to speak of him better than to say, with a degree of emphasis, ‘He is a good man’.
After this eminence in goodness, brother, may it be your concern, and mine, daily to aspire! …
He was ‘full of the Holy Spirit’
The [term] ‘Holy Spirit’ sometimes denotes his extraordinary gifts, as in Acts 19, where the apostle Paul put the question to some believers in Christ whether they had received the Holy Spirit.
But here it signifies his indwelling and ordinary operations, or what is elsewhere called ‘an unction from the Holy One’. This, though more common than the other, is far more excellent. Its fruits, though less brilliant, are abundantly the most valuable. To be able to surmount a difficulty by Christian patience is a greater thing in the sight of God than to remove a mountain.
Every work of God bears some mark of Godhead, even a thistle or a nettle. But there are some of his works which bear a peculiar likeness to his holy moral character; such were the minds of men and angels in their original state.
This will serve to illustrate the subject in hand. The extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are a communication of his power; but, in his dwelling in the saints and the ordinary operations of his grace, he communicates his own holy nature. And this it was of which Barnabas was full. To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be full of the dove, as I may say, or full of those fruits of the Spirit mentioned by the apostle to the Galatians; namely, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness’.
To be sure, the term ‘full’ is not here to be understood in an unlimited sense, not in so ample a sense as when it is applied to Christ. He was filled with the Spirit without measure, but we in measure.
The word is doubtless to be understood in a comparative sense, and denotes as much as that he was habitually under his holy influence.
A person that is greatly under the influence of the love of this world is said to be drunken with its cares or pleasures. In allusion to something like this, the apostle exhorts that we ‘be not drunken with wine, wherein is excess; but filled with the Spirit’. The word ‘filled’ here is very expressive. It denotes, I apprehend, being overcome, as it were, with the holy influences and fruits of the blessed Spirit.
How necessary is all this, my brother, in your work! Oh how necessary is ‘an unction from the Holy One’! …
I think it may be laid down as a rule, which both Scripture and experience will confirm, that eminent spirituality in a minister is usually attended with eminent usefulness.
I do not mean to say our usefulness depends upon our spirituality, as an effect depends upon its cause, nor yet that it is always in proportion to it. God is Sovereign and frequently sees proper to convince us of it in variously bestowing his blessing on the means of grace.
But yet he is not wanting in giving encouragement to what he approves, wherever it is found. Our want of usefulness is often to be ascribed to our want of spirituality, much oftener than to our want of talents.
God has frequently been known to succeed men of inferior abilities, when they have been eminent for holiness, while he has blasted others of much superior talents when that quality has been wanting.
Hundreds of ministers, who, on account of their gifts, have promised to be shining characters, have proved the reverse; and all owing to such things as pride, unwatchfulness, carnality and levity.
This sermon was preached at the ordination of Robert Fawkner at Thorn, Bedfordshire, on 31 October 1787.
(2) Letter (1788) to Benjamin Francis (1734–1799), pastor of the Baptist church at Horsley, Gloucestershire.
When I was at your house, you kindly requested a letter on my return. Excuse my not attending to your request before. I am slow at writing, not knowing how in general to write anything to purpose. I shall always remember my visit to Horsley with pleasure. I wish, in some future time, not far hence, you might be able to say the same of Kettering.
Since I saw you, we have had two public meetings; one of which is our annual association. I think our churches have never been in so thriving a state, upon the whole, for several years.
I have just received one of your circular letters; am glad to see things go on so well with you. Blessed be God for any appearances of Christ’s kingdom being enlarged. My dear brother [John] Ryland, jun., preached us a sermon at our association from John 3:30, ‘He must increase’.
The very mention of the words did my heart good. I hope I could rejoice if I were to sink into obscurity, like the Baptist, if by that means Christ’s cause might but be enlarged.
When I think what vast numbers are hastening 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 42:4, ‘He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth!’
I could not but reflect that Christ had infinitely more to discourage him than I can have to discourage me; and yet he persevered! But, methought, judgment 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!
Oh that my own soul was more leavened! My greatest difficulties arise from within. I am not what a servant of Christ should be. I want an unction from the Holy One.
I have lately preached an ordination sermon or two … in which I have endeavoured to come as home to the heart and conscience of my brethren as I knew how. But, oh, what shame covers my face when I turn my attention inward!
I am the man who am too, too guilty of many of those things which I have cautioned them to avoid. I remember, in August last, when I came out of the pulpit at Carlton, in Bedfordshire, after preaching an ordination sermon to my brother [John] West, from Ezra 7:10, Mr [Thomas] Pilley of Luton, a dear and faithful servant of Christ, in a tone of familiarity, thus accosted me: ‘Are not you ashamed of yourself? I am’, said he.
‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and so am I’.
I find a perpetual proneness to read and study as a minister than as a Christian, more to find out something to say to the people than to edify my own soul.
How great a matter is Christian perseverance, to hold out to the end, and be saved! I have sometimes wondered at the grace in that astonishing gradation, Jude 24. What ‘Him’ must that be that is able to keep me from falling — and to present me — to present me faultless — faultless before the presence of his glory — and that with joy — yea, with exceeding joy!
(3) The choice of Moses (first published posthumously in 1826).
The society of the people of God, though afflicted, reproached and persecuted, exceeds all the pleasures of sin while they do last. It is delightful to cast in our lot with them; for the bond of their union is holy love, which is the sweetest of all sweets to a holy mind.
If we have once tasted of this, everything else will become comparatively insipid. How sweet a bond of union is the love of Christ! How sweet is the fellowship of saints! Even when borne down with reproaches and afflictions, how sweet are the tears of sympathy!