A MEMOIR OF THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ANDREW FULLER: Thomas Ekins Fuller


This is the fifth chapter of the above-titled book. The earlier chapters can be found via the categories listing at the end of the post.

 

CHAPTER 5: The Secretary’s Minute-Book

 

AT the age of thirty-eight, Mr. Fuller commenced those great missionary labours which we may call ” The Gospel worthy of all Acceptation ” put to life, as it had been put to speech and paper. He had worked out a great result by patient thinking. In the second epoch of his life, he changes the instrument, but not the theme. What he had written and spoken, he set to the dull music of hard, grinding toil, and, until death, worked out the conception of his earlier years.

It remained for another, however, to draw the conclusions of which Mr. Fuller’s writings were the premises. It was easy to see that if the Gospel was worthy of all acceptation, its acceptance ought to be pressed on all mankind. But though Mr. Fuller fell in with such a conclusion, it was not given to him to arrive at it, or at the first to urge its claims upon the church. “The origin of the mission,” says Mr. Fuller, ” is to be found in the workings of Brother Carey’s mind.” These workings were of just such an order as to bring to a practical issue the new principles that had been received by so many.

While yet a shoemaker, he was busy constructing maps of the world, and studying the geography of the countries and the habits of the various tribes. Already, moreover, he was holding communion with the nations through their tongues. His power of acquiring languages, and the little incidents that would start him in some new enterprise, are now familiar to all. He would learn a language sooner than most Englishmen would master the dialect of Yorkshire or Devonshire.

It has been frequently said that amidst all these dreams of other lands, he made but poor work at his shoemaking and cobbling; and this common impression has been confirmed by a book of deservedly high authority in all that relates to the Serampore missionaries. His own words, however, emphatically contradict the report. It seems to have gained credence before his death, and in one of his letters home he declares that he was accounted both ” a skilful and an honest workman.”

He had not been unexercised by the questions which engaged the attention of Mr. Fuller. ” The Gospel worthy of all Acceptation” came just at the right time to strengthen and confirm his own convictions. From the time he was possessed with the missionary idea, he never ceased to press it upon the attention of ministers and laymen with whom he came in contact. Passing through Birmingham, he had a conversation with a Mr. Potts on the subject. Singularly enough, he declared that if he had the opportunity he would commence missionary labours at Otaheite, in the South Seas – the very scene of the London Missionary Society’s operations in later years.

Having been ordained minister of the village chapel at Moulton, in Northamptonshire, he came into nearer communion with that faithful band whose praise is now in all the churches. Ryland, of Northampton; Fuller, of Kettering; Sutcliffe, of Olney; Carey, of Moulton, were within easy distance of each other.

At a meeting of the Association, at Northampton, Mr. Carey, when pressed to propose a subject for discussion, submitted to the assembled brethren, “Whether the command given to the apostles to teach all nations was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent.”

Without waiting for the judgment of the company, the senior minister, addressing him, said he “certainly ought to have known that nothing could be done before another Pentecost, when an effusion of miraculous gifts, including the gift of tongues, would give effect to the commission of Christ as at first; and that he was a most miserable enthusiast for asking such a question !” To render the question still more memorable, it so happened, as if by a prophetic glance, that Mr. Carey’s interlocutor made a direct allusion to the Eastern languages, and said, in the course of his sarcastic remarks: ” What, Sir, can you preach in Arabic, in Persic, in Hindostani, in Bengalee, that you think it your duty to “preach the Gospel to the heathen ?”

There is no evidence that before this gathering Mr. Fuller had ever directly communicated with Mr. Carey on the subject of a mission to the heathen. After the senior minister just referred to had retired, Mr. Fuller drew near to him, offered his sympathy, and encouraged him to proceed in his inquiries.

Mr. Carey never lost sight of his object, but sought perpetually to engage the attention of his brother ministers. In the year 1790, he found his way to Birmingham, and unburdened his soul to Samuel Pearce, who entered into his views with characteristic ardour. Several members of the church at Birmingham shared their counsels, and urged Mr. Carey to prepare his “Thoughts” for publication. On his return to Northampton, he sought Mr. Fuller and two other brethren, and requested them to undertake the publication. Mr. Fuller, however, declined the task, though he still encouraged Mr. Carey to pursue the matter.

Though Mr. Fuller was thus slow in co-operating with his friend, he really contributed powerfully to the promotion of his desires. The next impulse which the movement received was from a sermon preached by him at Clipstone, in the year 1791, on the “Pernicious influence of delay in matters of religion.” How thoroughly Mr. Fuller had now made up his mind to the whole work before him, will appear from the following striking passage, which it is impossible to forbear quoting. Let it be remembered that Mr. Carey was amongst the hearers. How eagerly would he listen to the enumeration of his own long cherished desires, by the man whom, most of all, perhaps, he desired to influence. The preacher is actually assailing the very caution he has exercised, and with almost agonising earnestness pressing immediate action upon his audience. After deprecating delay because of the difficulties to be encountered, he proceeds:-

” Had Luther and his contemporaries acted upon this principle, they had never gone about the glorious work of the Reformation. When he saw the abominations of Popery, he might have said, These things ought not to be; but what can I do? If the chief-priests and rulers in different nations would but unite, something might be effected; but what can I do, an individual, and a poor man? I may render myself an object of persecution, or, which is worse, of universal contempt; and what good end will be answered by it ? Had Luther reasoned thus – had he fancied that, because princes and prelates were not the first to engage in the good work, therefore the time was not yet come to build the house of the Lord – the house of the Lord, for anything he had done, might have lain waste to this day.

“Instead of waiting for the removal of difficulties, we ought, in many cases, to consider them as purposely laid in our way in order to try the sincerity of our religion. He who had all power in heaven and earth could not only have sent forth His apostles into all the world, but have so ordered it that all the world should treat them with kindness, and aid them in their mission; but, instead of that, He told them to lay their accounts with persecution and the loss of all things. This was no doubt to try their sincerity; and the difficulties laid in our way are equally designed to try ours.

“Let it be considered whether it is not owing to this principle that so few and so feeble efforts have been made for the propagation of the Gospel in the world. When the Lord Jesus commissioned His apostles, He commanded them to go and teach ‘all nations,’ to preach the Gospel to ‘every creature;’ and that, notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in the way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should still remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have been made; but they are small in number when compared with the magnitude of the object. And why is it so? Are the souls of men of less value than heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages ? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the Gospel to the heathens ? This cannot be pleaded so long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what is a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity! We have opportunities in abundance : the improvement of navigation, and the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserves to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us,

“The truth is, if I am not mistaken, we wait for we know not what; we seem to think ‘the time is not come, the time for the Spirit to be poured down from on high.’ We pray for the conversion and salvation of the world, and yet neglect the ordinary means by which those ends have been used to be accomplished. It pleased God, heretofore, by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believed; and there is reason to think it will still please God to work by that distinguished means. Ought we not then at least to try by some means to convey more of the good news of salvation to the world around us than has hitherto been conveyed ? The encouragement to the heathen is still in force, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved: but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?”

So profound was the impression produced by these words, that it is said the ministers were scarcely able to speak to one another at the close. Mr. Carey, seizing the opportunity, urged the immediate formation of a Missionary Society. Mr. Sutcliffe, however, counselled more deliberation; and the brethren separated with a recommendation to Mr. Carey to publish his “Thoughts.” His pamphlet appeared soon afterwards, under the title of ” An Inquiry into the Obligations of Christians to send the Gospel to the Heathen.”

In the spring of the following year, Mr. Carey preached his memorable sermon, in which he embodied his “Thoughts” in two mottoes which have been the watchwords of the missionary movement ever since: ” Expect great things from God;” “Attempt great things for God.” A resolution was passed afterwards, that “against the next meeting of ministers a plan should be prepared for the purpose of forming a society for propagating the Gospel among the heathen.” The long days of preparation were now passed. Henceforth we have to follow Mr. Fuller as the life and soul of an organization which has been increasing in influence and power ever since.

The narrative is henceforth furnished by a small quarto book which lies on the writer’s table. It is the first minute-book of the Baptist Missionary Society. It records with minuteness every particular of its history for the first seven years, and leaves off just at the time when Marshman and Ward added their names to the missionary roll.

On its first page the minute-book relates that the Rev. Andrew Fuller was appointed secretary, and the Rev. Reynold Hogg treasurer. A list of the subscriptions is given, amounting to the well-remembered sum of £13 2s. 6d. The meeting is adjourned to October 31st, and is to meet at Northampton. In the interval of twenty-nine days a branch has been formed, more fruitful so far than the mother tree, for when the committee met on the 31st, the Society at Birmingham had yielded £70, which, with a few other sums, makes a total of £88 18s. Already the Association rejoices in the title of the Primary Society. No definite plans are as yet formed as to where they are to send missionaries, or who is to go; but at the third meeting, in November, the brethren separate with the resolution to gain what information they can from books of travel, Christian merchants, or from such persons as would at least favour the design of converting the heathen, and to consider the needful qualifications for a missionary.

We can imagine the brethren retiring to consult such books of travel as they could lay their hands on. Not many years before, Captain James Cook had published his “Voyages Round the World;” and some, certainly, would follow his track on the high seas, wondering where, amid all the strange lands he lighted on, was the best place for them to begin their enterprise.

It is well known how the problem was solved by the appearance of a Mr. Thomas, who had recently returned from India, having made some efforts there to convert the Hindoos. Mr. Carey, according to general expectation, offered himself as a fellow-labourer; and the services of these brethren were gladly accepted as the first missionaries of the Society. At the fourth meeting of the committee, under date January 9th, 1793, the acceptance of these brethren is thus solemnly recorded: “After a most serious, solemn, and affectionate meeting, attended with fasting and prayer to Almighty God, accepted the offers of both the above brethren; engaged to pay every possible attention to the temporal accommodation of them and their families, and to afford every possible assistance to the church at Leicester, who must be deprived of the labours of their beloved pastor.” At this committee Mr. Thomas unexpectedly arrived, and was, for the first time, introduced to the companion of his future toils. “It was late in the evening,” says an eyewitness, “and while in full deliberation, that his arrival was announced. Impatient to behold his colleague, he entered the room in haste, and Mr. Carey rising from his seat, they fell on each other’s necks and wept.” All was hope and resolution; Mr. Carey’s memorable words, “Expect great things,” had become the watchword of the little band. “It is clear,” said Andrew Fuller to Carey, “that there is a rich mine of gold in India; if you will go down, I will hold the ropes.”

There is the following addenda to the minutes of the committee:-

“N.B. – The treasurer put into Mr. Squire’s bank:

 

 

£.

s.

d.

Nov. 1, 1792

87

17

0

Jan. 7, 1793

27

3

6

 

£115

0

6


This was their financial position at the time they had accepted the missionaries, pledged themselves to their support, and to the care of their families during their absence! So they work on in faith. A vigorous effort is now made through the country to procure funds, and form district societies to aid what is called the “primary society.” The reader must know that these journeys in no way resembled the trips of a modern missionary deputation, whom Squire Johnson, with the pretty house and park, is so glad to see; who find their names placarded at every town in expectation of their visit, and finally go home, not foot-worn and weary and loaded with abuse, but crowned with all kinds of itinerant honour, and much the better for the change! These early chronicles record that Mr. Thomas got into Bath, on the errand of collecting for the mission, wet through, late on Saturday evening. He preached the following morning, but so unmoved were the people that he says, “I thought I should get nothing here; but some woman, after hearing the case, sent in one penny. I thanked them, and set down, Bath, 1d.” This seemed to have moved the ecclesiastical pride of Bath, and our collector ultimately went away with some £20.

The farewell meeting of the missionaries proved quite a Pentecostal visitation. The minute-book thus describes it: ” The forenoon was spent in prayer. At two o’clock Mr. Thomas preached from Psalm xvi. 4, ‘Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another God,’ proving how this truth was exemplified in the state of the heathen, and exciting the compassion of Christians to endeavour to rescue them from their miserable situation.” The sad farewell had to be taken, and we are further informed “that Mr. Hogg preached from Acts xxi. 14, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’ After this, Mr. Fuller addressed brethren Thomas and Carey, from John xx. 21, ‘Peace be unto you; as my Father hath sent me, so send I you.’” So richly was the missionary spirit poured out upon the assembled congregation, that the collections at the meeting amounted to upwards of £600. There were no ” ‘prentice hands” at the helm of the little craft that had breasted heavy seas, and already rejoiced in a favouring gale. The incident recorded is only six months after the meeting at Kettering, and how much had been accomplished in the interval!

The passage to India, however, was not so easily secured. These were the days of the ” traditional policy ” of the East India Company. And it is worth our while to see how a Christian Englishman contrived to reach British colonial possessions in the year 1793. It is only fair, however, to say that Mr. Thomas brought some of this trouble on himself by his indiscretions when in India.

After describing the mortifying refusal of the Company’s servants to give them a passage, the missionary proceeds : ” While Carey wrote to his wife, I would go to a coffee-house, with eager desire to know whether any Swedish or Danish ship was expected to sail from Europe to Bengal. When, to the great joy of a bruised heart, the waiter put a card in my hand, whereon were written these life-giving words, ‘A Danish East-Indiaman. No. 10, Cannon-street.’ No more tears that night. . . . Within twenty-four hours after our arrival in London, Mr. Carey and his family embarked for Dover to catch the ship in passing, while I set out for Portsmouth to fetch the baggage. It would be too late if I brought it by land, and it was so dangerous to go by water that the boatmen refused large sums, saying the channel was full of privateers from France, which came hovering close on our coasts. At last, one man undertook to go in an open boat for twenty guineas. Terrified as I was lest the ship should pass by, yet I refused to give this, and I spent two whole days in searching for a man, till a fisherman took me for nine guineas. “Who can cease wondering or praising,” he adds, ” that the captain of a foreign ship received us with the utmost tenderness and concern?”

Now that we have started the missionaries Eastward on their great errand, let us pause and inquire what was going on in other parts of Europe in this same year of our Lord. The priests of France were engaged in a far different work from that of the poor despised ministers of Northamptonshire. They were watching the political fortunes of the day, and bidding for the favour of the stronger party. Their property had been appropriated for national purposes by the sweeping measures of the Revolutionists; and they had been compelled to change their occupation of strangling liberty into that of keeping their own possessions from a power against which all their incantations had been impotent. It was only three years before, that the gloomy walls of the Bastille had been swept away by the fury of the multitude, and the prisoners set free; on that day twelvemonths, the king came to swear fealty to the multitude. The arena of the Champ de mars was filled with about 400,000 spectators; an ancient altar was erected in the centre, and 400 priests with tri-coloured sashes were posted at the four corners. Mass was celebrated amidst the sounds of military music, and the Bishop D’Autun blessed the “oriflamme and the banners.” On the same spot on which the Bastille had stood and the chains of its prisoners clanked, a grand ball was held, and the words, “Ici on danse,” were emblazoned at the entrance. With the smiles of the king and the forced benedictions of the church, the Revolution had taken heart. But the year-following witnessed other and more terrible scenes. The moderate counsels of the Gironde had been exchanged for the daring designs of the Mountain and Jacobin clubs. On the terrible 2nd of September, 300 assassins massacred all the political prisoners in cold blood. Meanwhile, the prevailing philosophy was indirectly aiding the blood-thirsty spirit of the times. The healing creed of JESUS of Nazareth had been exchanged for the worst forms of materialism. What mattered it that the cemeteries of the capital were being filled with the slain, when the creed of that day inscribed over them the motto, “Death is an eternal sleep”?

In the autumn of this same year, 1792, a few ministers met at a house still standing in Kettering, and formed the grand, but then ridiculed, design of preaching the Gospel to the whole world.

In the spring of the following year both these movements sought extension beyond the boundaries of the country. A strong soldier’s hand had been training in France to put down the internal dissensions and to carry the principles of the Revolution beyond the Rhine and the Pyrenees. Only a fortnight before William Carey started for India to preach the Gospel to its perishing millions, a young Frenchman, driven by the English fleet, sailed for an island of the Mediterranean. It was Napoleon Buonaparte, thwarted in his; first military undertaking, and with his mother and sister on the way to Marseilles.

Nor do these two things, thus strangely forming part of the same year’s history, lack another link of relation.

The Revolutions of 1645 and 1688, in England, had been steadily working out grand results. It is true that these had been almost as great, though not so bloody, as that of France. Yet, beneath the surface of things, there had been a quiet growth of civil and religious freedom springing from earnest religious conviction, which, after a while, manifested itself in a thousand schemes of charity and beneficence. One of these schemes was the great missionary enterprise. There were thus in Europe, almost at the same time, two movements taking an aggressive shape, and both tracing their ancestry to the English Revolution. The one was fitly personified in the person of Napoleon, looking over the frontiers of the Empire to the snows of Russia and the quiet hills of England, wishing all Europe were his own. The other is the eastward journey of one earnest man, landing amidst a wilderness of sin and death, yearning to reclaim it for his Master. The one filled Europe speedily with the terror of war and the glory of empire, but soon found his grave behind the rocks of St. Helena; and in that grave lay buried, evermore, the hope of changing the life of nations by dreams of outward liberty interpreted with fire and sword. The other, though he died in a far-off land, amidst strange faces, laid the foundation of a kingdom still slowly gathering in power. When William Carey gave the Gospel to the tribes of India, he took possession of the land for Christ. Thereafter “the one far-off, divine event, to which the whole creation moves,” was but a matter of times and seasons in the hands of the Great Disposer of all events.

 

NOTE: I will be posting the entirety of this work on both this Blog and my web site at:

http://particularbaptist.com/library/memoir_fuller_contents.html

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s