IT may seem an unnecessary task to write a new Memoir of ANDREW FULLER when three have already appeared, each possessing great excellence, written by men who had the best of all qualifications for a biographer, – a personal knowledge of the life they portrayed. Besides these more lengthy memoirs, there have appeared lighter sketches, from the pen of familiar friends and warm admirers; so that, long ere this, the public has had ample means of forming its judgment on his character.
A new book, however, is sure to find new readers, and the life of such a man as Andrew Fuller is not one to pass away lightly from us. Anything that will revive the fellowship of old friends, and introduce new ones to a knowledge of his history, can scarcely be unwelcome.
I have tried to keep in view the supposition that many of my readers have only the most general notion of what Mr. Fuller said and did; and that some, at least, are scarcely likely to be tempted to a closer acquaintance by the uninviting folio of small print which contains his works. I have, therefore, endeavoured to give a careful summary of his labours and writings, and to define his position in reference to his various antagonists. Above all, I have been concerned to point out how his life, previous to the year 1792, was one solemn preparation for his great missionary work.
Many readers will find much in this volume with which they are already familiar: a life cannot be re-made, even if it be re-written. They may, however, possibly find old material so re-arranged as to enable them to trace clearly the growth of Mr. Fuller’s mind and the progress of his labours. A good part will certainly be new to almost all; and I can but hope, that for the sake of this, Mr. Fuller’s friends will pardon the repetition of what is already known, to them. As in the history of a country, old buried material will turn up to refresh the page of the historian, so is the biographer gladdened with memoranda which, a loving friendship has kept to itself as a sacred treasure, or which circumstances of an accidental kind have brought to his hand. Of such a character are the Letters to the Serampore brethren, and some unpublished parts of the Diary, with other lighter gleanings. The book has been written under circumstances anything but calculated to insure its accuracy and interest. It has, however, been compiled with a warm interest in the theme; and I can only hope it may be as pleasant and refreshing to the reader to peruse these memorials as it has been to me to collect them.
T. E. F.
Introduction – The Portrait
MOST men have a desire to know something of the outward appearance of those whom they have known only through books or public fame. They are curious to see how far the qualities they have learnt to love and appreciate will find their way into the face, or express themselves in the gait and form of the "whole man." Though sometimes the personal appearance of one whom our affection has exalted into a hero, is a little disappointing, more frequently it revives our old acquaintance, and deepens the impressions we have received of his character from other sources.
Andrew Fuller cannot now be seen in the flesh, for nearly half a century has passed away since he died. Now and then an "old disciple" may be met with, having recollections of personal communion, but the number of those thus privileged is fast lessening. The reader may, nevertheless, be introduced to what can be told here of "his bodily presence." As form helps to realize life, he may find, as he tracks the pilgrimage of this strong and holy man, the glimpse he has caught of the outward man, even, by description, may be of some service.
The writer may perhaps be tempted to this course, since, long before he knew anything about the life and writings of Andrew Fuller, he was familiar with a portrait of him, painted with no common power; which portrait, hanging over the mantelpiece, seemed to cast a solemn shadow over the room, imparting its grave and serious look to the very furniture. It was hard, indeed, to believe it was not alive, so searching was the deep and tender glance with which it chased the observer into every corner. It looked down on us like a silent judge, deciding our childish quarrels, and frightening back the angry word from the lip, with an expression of mute yet pleading sternness it would be hard to find on any other canvas. Nor was it in the room alone its power was felt. It seemed to haunt the house. Many and many a time it has been near in childish watchings in the night, as if conscience had taken bodily shape in the abiding presence of so stern a monitor.
This was the writer’s first acquaintance with Andrew Fuller; yet now that years have passed away, and another, and, it may be presumed, more matured estimate of him, has been formed from the perusal of his life and writings, all the old child feeling comes back again. The two impressions though received under such different circumstances, are much the same. Moreover, the remembrance of that picture has been like an interpreting companion in the study of his life. He has seemed ever at our side as we followed him in his stern, unbending way. Not only can we "well believe" all that we read of his loyal fidelity to conscience, his calm confidence in battle, and his unswerving constancy to his chosen toil, as he holds the home-link of the chain that bound the brethren in England to their messengers across the sea; but a glance at the picture tells us it must have been so.
The portrait thus referred to is that of a man. tall, broad-chested, and firmly-set, the whole figure well harmonizing with the expression of the face. Ponderous, and perhaps a little heavy, but surely not ungainly, for "not giants but monsters are ill-proportioned." The hair is parted in the middle, the brow square and of fair height, the eyes deeply set, overhung with large bushy eyebrows, not giving you the idea of seeing quickly the surface of things, but of slowly penetrating to their depths. The whole face has a massive Johnsonian expression, which the accomplished author of "Rab and his Friends" characterizes as "sleeping thunder," and to quote an expression from the same author, in describing his humbler hero, having about it the "marks of many battle-fields." Shining through these sterner features there is a look of great tenderness, but not of tenderness weakly exercised – ‘very jealous for the "Lord God of hosts," yet full of pity for the erring and the lost.
It would not be difficult, with the picture as our guide, to conjecture the mental and moral features of the man whom it portrays. We should surmise that he had made his own way in the world, through much toil and many sorrows. If we wished to add to it an illustration of his life, we should put an axe in his hand, and the clearings of a forest in the background, as representing one who had settled in strange lands and broken up virgin soil. We should further conclude, that he would be ruled by intense convictions, and, fearless of danger, would follow wherever they led him, and he would leave his mark on whatever he undertook. The lower part of the face looks as if his speech would faithfully interpret the meanings we have read elsewhere. There will be, we should say, neither eagerness nor haste in his words, but they will be few and weighty, and their utterance slow and pausing.
Such, indeed, were the features of the life which this picture realizes so faithfully. In its first stage we have the history of one slowly growing up to the great truth expounded in " The Gospel worthy of all Acceptation;" and in its second, impelled by the principle he had reached, seeking the salvation of the world in the great missionary enterprise, in the service of which he lived and died The church reveres his memory, and would fain perpetuate it, because he made a great outline of truth and filled it up with his life.
It behoves the artist to spend his main skill on the face of the sitter, that the beholder may carry away that which it is most desirable he should remember. The biographer has the same task, filling up the happy outline which has been given him, once for all, by the author of the "Worthies of England," when he declares his aim and task to be, (1) Giving some glory to God; (2) Preserving the memory of the dead; (3) Holding forth examples to the living; (4) The entertainment of the reader.
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