Foundations: No.78 Spring 2020
Being a pastor: A conversation with Andrew Fuller
Michael Haykin, Brian Croft, Ian Clary, Evangelical Press, 2019, 256pp, £11.50
In his famous lectures published as Preaching and Preachers Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones revealed that when he was discouraged and weary in ministry he would invariably go to the eighteenth century for his reading. Many have taken his advice since he wrote that and found great refreshment and wisdom in Whitefield and Edwards and the other giants of that age when the Spirit was so powerfully at work in these islands and beyond. Reformed Baptists have discovered that one of the giants among their forefathers in the long eighteenth century was Andrew Fuller (1754-1815). This is the latest book to seek to mine some of the golden riches available in Fuller and his writings. This time the subject is an under-explored but fascinating area, that of the ordination sermon.
At the heart of the book is a series of some 19 of the 29 extant ordination sermons and similar items preached by Fuller over the years and preserved to varying degrees and in various places. This forms the second of the three main parts of the book. The sermons themselves are on a good variety of Scriptures (Jeremiah, Ezra and Acts as well as the more obvious New Testament places) and make a number of useful points. They are supplemented by a number of additional items that together form a very useful handbook for pastoral ministry today.
Prior to that, Part I contains two items: First, an historical survey of the ordination sermon in eighteenth-century English Dissent by Professor Michael Haykin, who in recent years has done perhaps more than anyone to put the spotlight on eighteenth-century evangelicalism in general and on Fuller in particular. He usefully focuses on Presbyterian Matthew Henry, Baptist John Gill and the Congregationalist Philip Doddridge and shows where they and Fuller mesh in their concerns and emphases.
This is followed by a survey of Fuller’s sermons by Andrew Fuller Centre fellow Dr Ian Clary. He picks up and outlines Fuller’s main themes such as being a good man, getting one’s religion from the Bible, habitually dealing with Christ, being full of the Spirit and faith and the importance of love.
After the sermons comes Part III. This is chiefly by Pastor Brian Croft. It seeks to drive home the lessons in the sermons with a number of modern pastoral applications. This is well done.
The book is further enhanced by its excellent footnotes throughout, a foreword by Jeremy Walker, ten monochrome illustrations, a time-line for Fuller and five appendices. An index would have been a useful addition. The appendices contain two relevant letters by Fuller, a description of his ordination by William Carey, a useful set of 22 study questions for use with Fuller’s sermon on Barnabas and a list of all known ordination sermons published by eighteenth-century Particular Baptists. Fuller’s collection of sermons is the largest known by a long way but there are 35 further items here by 21 men, from Beddome to Gill to Wallin and these might form the basis for a further work on this important but neglected subject (a fuller work one might say rather than this mere Fuller work).
It is a good idea for pastors to read at least one book a year on pastoral ministry. Why not make this your next? Better still, it would make great text for group or one-on-one study.
Pastor, Childs Hill Baptist Church, London