Book: Currently Reading – A Memoir of the Life and Writings of Andrew Fuller, by Thomas Ekins Fuller


CHAPTER 13 – Conversations and Characteristic Anecdotes

IT has been said of Mr. Fuller, that though he was an admirable controversialist, he was not a ready reasoner, and therefore would not have been able with the best advantage to encounter "the dexterous evasions and extemporaneous plausibilities of the more learned or witty of the Oriental disputants." To support this view, an anecdote is related of a vehement discussion between him and Robert Hall. The latter, it is said, with his characteristic acuteness and volubility, "fairly perplexed, and not a little displeased, his antagonist." "Fuller’s replies were slowly conceived, and slowly uttered, and stood little chance before the never­ceasing torrent of powerful reasoning or confusing eloquence, rapid words and pungent satire, of his friend." He was at length compelled, in his own emphatic manner, to exclaim: "Well, brother Hall, I cannot answer you off-hand; but put it down on paper, and I will meet you."

Without wishing to throw any discredit on this narrative, the statement it is quoted to support cannot be received without great hesitation. It is somewhat remarkable that there are very full memoranda of sharp argumentative encounters carried on between Mr. Fuller and various opponents whom he met with in the course of his busy life. These memoranda prove him to have been a most skilful and persistent dialectician, readily detecting the sophistry of a reply, and pushing his opponent into a corner with the ease of a master. No doubt he was calm and measured in his retorts; but to suppose that he was so easily bewildered as to want any unusual time before he could perceive the drift of an opponent’s reasoning and furnish a suitable reply, is contradicted by every passage of his life. It was seldom, indeed, he would have to do battle with so dexterous and well-armed an opponent as Robert Hall; and we can well imagine he would ask for breathing time beneath the bewildering torrent of words that was rained upon him. Yet he came into collision with men of knightly renown, and never failed to acquit himself admirably. It would be of little moment to show he could fight in close combat as well as at a "long range," if it were not that some of these hand-to­hand conflicts furnish us with many deeply-interesting and truly characteristic incidents.

It may excite a little surprise that so many of the conversations and anecdotes recorded of Andrew Fuller assume the tone of censure and rebuke, as if he lived in an element of perpetual strife, and saw only that side of life which called for stern treatment. It must be remembered that God called him to a soldier’s work; and it must not excite surprise if, into his ordinary intercourse, he brought some­what of the soldier’s tone and manner. Some one has told us of a certain artist, who, entering upon severe toil to gain the laurels of his art, painted a picture of himself with the mission of his life before him. He drew a fierce soldier’s face, with a battle-axe in the hand. "Who is that?" said a friend, looking over his shoulder at his easel. "It is myself," exclaimed the eager student, "with my work before me !" "Then," said his friend, "you have not painted a man, but a soldier." Thus it is that the severity of chosen toil may give a severe tone to our work and our words. One of his biographers has cleverly said that Mr. Fuller’s notions of a church undoubtedly coincided with those of the "great Mr. Rowe," viz., "the true and proper notion of the Christian church, or the churches of Christ in general, is, that they are hospitals, – or, rather, one great hospital, – wherein are persons of all sorts under cure. There is none that is sound, none that is not diseased, none that hath not wounds and sores about him." We may add that, as in the treatment of the sick, one class of men use the knife, and another apply the healing remedies, so it is with the sick and sore in another realm, and with the ministers whom God has sent to heal them.

Not only from the sort of work given to him was much of this sternness to be accounted for, but from the great independence of his character, and the stern, unbending integrity of his life. " The severest suspicion never reached him; his elevation on this part of the moral scale placed him beyond the keenest eye of jealousy, and nearer to the throne of Eternal Justice than is common to the most distinguished mortals." To such a man, cutting out a new path for himself; great forbearance would be the hardest of virtues, and a certain "pride of consistency" the most easily besetting sin. He tells us himself, in a good story, how he had resolved never to be an imitator. A friend was conversing with him on the philosophical character of Dr. Franklin, when Mr. Fuller inquired, "What do you call a philosopher, or in what respect was he one?" "Oh! he seems to have made rules for himself in childhood which regulated him even in old age." Mr. Fuller replied: "If this be any mark of a philosopher, you will make me one. My father was a farmer, and in my younger days it was one great boast among the ploughmen that they could plough a straight line across the furrows or ridges of a field. I thought I could do this as well as any of them. One day, I saw such a line, which had just been drawn, and I thought, ‘Now I have it.’ Accordingly, I laid hold of the plough, and, putting one of the horses into the furrow which had been made, I resolved to keep him walking in it, and thus secure a parallel line. By and by, however, I observed that there were what might be called wriggles in this furrow; and, when I came to them, they turned out to be larger in mine than in the original. On perceiving this, I threw the plough aside, and determined never to be an imitator."

He was himself, it is said, often reminded of his proneness to severity, though it is a curious fact that in the heart­searching sentences of his Diary he scarcely ever alludes to it, except he humbly bewails not being severe enough with himself. And herein is the truthfulness of his character revealed. Though stern, he was not censorious; he uttered as severe things about his own doings as he ever did concerning others. One day, it is said, he ventured to mention to a company of ministers the complaint about his sternness, and ventured to appeal to them as to its truth. One of them replied: "Why, Sir, you do not appear likely to make war without some just occasion; but it is pretty evident (pointing to his eyebrows) that you keep up a formidable peace establishment." The company of course enjoyed the pleasantry of the remark, till another, perceiving that the "establishment" might suddenly alter its footing, exclaimed: "We had better stop, or we shall be in danger of putting Brother Fuller’s troops in motion."

Ah! it was something to see those troops in motion when an enemy was near. It seemed impossible to keep them in their tents when vice, or error, or any unfair dealing was at hand. He was never ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but asserted boldly and fearlessly his Christian character wherever he went. At inns, and in coaches, in his many journeyings, bad, bold men were hushed into silence by his presence and words.

On one occasion, travelling in the Portsmouth mail, he was much annoyed by the profane conversation of two young men who sat opposite. After a time, one of them, observing his gravity, accosted him with an air of impertinence, inquiring, in rude and indelicate language, whether on his arrival at Portsmouth he should not indulge himself in a manner evidently corresponding with their own intentions; Mr. Fuller, lowering his ample brows, and looking the inquirer full in the face, replied in measured tones: "Sir, I am a man that fears God." Scarcely a word was uttered during the remainder of the journey.

If ever a conversation was commenced on sacred subjects, involving a difference of opinion on belief or forms of doctrine it is very wonderful to see how, all the while, Mr. Fuller, while patiently pursuing the argument, pierces the surface of syllogisms and words to the moral and spiritual aspect of the question, and watches his opportunity to press it home right to the heart of his opponent. His conversation with a Jew has been already referred to in describing his journeys for the mission, but with no intention of letting the whole dialogue escape us. While arguing on the great day or atonement, and the greater sacrifice its oblations prefigured, with what sudden and almost startling earnestness he declares its relation not only to the types and shadows of the law, but to a guilty sinner; nay, to the guilty man before him, and, joining himself humbly with his fellow-traveller, saying: "Sir, if our sins be not atoned for by a greater sacrifice than any that were offered under the law of Moses, we are undone!" But Mr. Fuller shall give his own account of the interview :-

"Finding I had a compound of infidelity and profligacy to contend with, and about a fifty-hours’ journey before me, in which I should be cooped up with him night and day, I did not oppose him much at first; but let him go on, waiting for fit occasions. I asked for a proof of Moses’s ignorance.

" ‘Jew. He spoke of the earth as stationary, and the sun as rising and setting.’

" ‘Fuller. And do not those that you call learned men speak the same in their ordinary conversation?’

" ‘J. To be sure they do.’

" ‘F. They could not be understood, nor understand themselves, could they, if they were to speak of the earth’s rising and setting?,

"’J. True.’

"After a while, he praised the ten commandments. I acquiesced, and added: ‘I have been not a little hurt, Sir, in observing, since we have been together, how lightly you treat one of them, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain!’

"’J. I must own that is a bad habit: I have been told of it before.’ We had no more swearing.

"He talked, after this, of the merit of good works, and told me, at my request, much about their worship and ceremonies; particularly their great day of atonement, which he said was very impressive.

" ‘F. Do you offer sacrifices?’

" ‘J. No; not since the destruction of the temple; except it be a fowl or so, just as a representation of what has been.’

" ‘F. And do you really think that the blood of any animal, or any of those ceremonies, can take away sin?’

" ‘J. If you deny that, you deny the law of Moses.’

" ‘F. No; the sacrifices of Moses were not designed to take away sin, but to prefigure a greater sacrifice.’ He paused. I added, ‘Sir, you are a sinner, and I am a sinner; we must both shortly appear before God. I know not upon what you rest your hopes. You have talked of human merit; I have nothing of the kind on which to place my trust. I believe we have all merited the displeasure of our Creator, and if dealt with according to our deserts must perish for ever. Sir, if our sins be not atoned for by a greater sacrifice than any that were offered under the law of Moses, we are undone.’ He seemed impressed by this, and owned that according to their law, and confessions on the day of atonement, they were all sinners, and that their good works could not save them. I then endeavoured to point him to Christ as the only hope; but he began to make objections to His conception by the power of the Holy Spirit.

" ‘F. That was no more impossible than God’s making the first man and woman.’

" ‘J. True; but God having made these, the rest are born by ordinary generation.’

" ‘F. You might as well say that God having given the sea its laws, it moves in future according to them, and therefore the Red Sea could not have been divided. Your argument goes to destroy all miracles.’

" ‘J. We think charitably of you, but you do not of us.’

" ‘F. How can you think well of us, when you consider us as deluded by an impostor?’

" ‘J. We think well of all that do good.’

" ‘F. So do we. But what a singular impostor must Jesus have been, if He was one! Did you ever know or read of such a one, either as to doctrine and manners?’

" ‘J. Who wrote the life of Jesus ?’

" ‘F. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.’

" ‘J. Very well: were they not His disciples, and, therefore partial to Him?’

" ‘ F. You might as well object to all the books of the Old Testament, that they were not written by adversaries.’

" ‘J. Ah! He should have come down from the cross, and then all would have believed in Him !’

" ‘F. If evidence had been the thing that was wanted, why did not the resurrection of Lazarus satisfy them?’

" ‘J. That was a doubtful matter. I reckon Jesus was a learned man; Lazarus might not be dead, but only apparently so; and He might make an experiment upon him, as many have done since, and restored suspended animation.’

" ‘ F. Did you ever read the New Testament?’

" ‘J. Yes; I read it when a boy of eight years old.’

" ‘F. And not since ?’

" ‘J. No ‘

" ‘F. What then can you know about it? You only take the objections of your rabbi (whom he had, a little before, acknowledged to be, many of them, no better than learned knaves); if you had read and considered the history of the resurrection of Lazarus, you could not object as you do.’

" After this, I asked him what he thought of prophecy? ‘Prophecy!’ said he, ‘I have often, when a boy, looked at the clouds, and seen in them horses and chariots, and I know not what!’

" ‘ F. I understand you; but it is strange that imagination should find in the prophecies the substance of all succeeding history. Were not all the great empires that have been in the world from the times of Daniel to this day, namely, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, with their various subdivisions, clearly foretold by him!’ He would make no answer to this, but treated it all as fable. ‘They talk,’ said he, ‘of our being restored to the Promised Land. I will tell you the whole mystery of it. Those of us who have plenty, wish for no other promised land; but those that are poor would be glad enough to better their condition.’

"He complained of the persecutions that the Jews had undergone from Christians. I disavowed all such treatment, as the conduct of wicked men. ‘But,’ said he, ‘you have been, even in this war,  fighting for your religion.’ I answered, ‘Those who profess to fight for religion, fight for the want of it; and Christianity employs none but spiritual weapons.’ I also assured him that real Christians felt a tender regard towards them, and loved them for their fathers’ sake. ‘Yes,’ said he, sneeringly, ‘the good people at Glasgow pray, every Sunday, for our conversion!’ I answered, ‘Very likely; it is what I have often done myself.’

"When we got to Liverpool he requested that, when I came to London, I would call and see him. I told him I would on one condition, which was that he would permit me to present him with a New Testament, and promise to read it carefully. He consented; but, that he might put far from him the evil day, proposed that if, when I called to see him, I would bring one with me, he would read it. I saw no more of him; but meeting with a ‘Gospel its own Witness,’ in Liverpool, in which is an ‘Address to the Jews,’ I wrapt it up in paper, and sent it to him at his inn, having written withinside as follows: ‘A small token of respect from the author, to Mr. D. L. A., for his friendly attentions to him on a journey from Glasgow to Liverpool, September 23, 24, 25, 1802.”’

This conversation does not look as if Mr. Fuller was not a "ready reasoner." The replies are all clearly and appropriately given; while some of them cut to the very bone. Better still is it to notice with what humble thoughts Mr. Fuller regarded it afterwards. No thought of his having crossed swords skilfully with his opponent, and clearly gained the victory, seems to have entered his mind. "After all," he exclaims, in reflecting upon it, "I felt guilty in having said so little to the purpose, and was persuaded that, if I had been more spiritually minded, I should have recommended my Lord and Saviour better than I did."

Very often the "troops" were put in formidable motion by the Antinomian and other heresies, of which he was the known opponent. Having once made up his mind as to the obligation to preach the Gospel to all men, he would give no encouragement to any other practice, and would carry this principle into all his public engagements. It is related of him that, having engaged to take part in an ordination service, he rode over, as was often his wont; but finding the minister’s confession of faith not quite up to the mark on this matter, he threatened, if it were not altered, to have his nag saddled, and ride back again. On one occasion, one of the high Calvinists, then to be found, no doubt, in almost every congregation, accosted him, after he had been preaching, with the impertinent remark: "You left Christ at home, Sir." "Did I, indeed!" was the reply: "then I hope to, find Him there when I return."

A keen discussion is reported between him and a minister well known for his great powers on the question of the innocence of error. The initial will probably suggest to the reader the name of Mr. Fuller’s opponent. He gives an, account of it in a letter to Dr. Ryland.

"I find you have heard, though by what channel I cannot conceive, that I have had a little dispute with a certain ingenious gentleman, who has been used to plead for the innocence of mental error. The point was, Whether everyone ought to believe the truth. If this had been granted, his innocence of error must have fallen. The substance of the conversation, as far as I can remember, was this:-

" ‘R. Well, Mr. Fuller, I am told there is a revolution of principles among some of you. Mr. L., of N., tells me we are all going to be learned (taught) how to preach. Mr. Hall, of Arnsby, has written a book ("Help to Zion’s Travellers"), and Mr. Fuller another; but it is only the old story over again about repentance and faith being the duty of sinners. Now I told him faith could not be a duty, because that is the effect of examination, and what, when a person does, he cannot help doing.’

" ‘F. It is as you have heard as to Mr. Hall’s having written a book. His book, however, is not wholly on that subject. He had occasion to say something on natural and moral inability, and so touches on the subject you mentioned.’

" ‘R. Natural and moral inability ! Well, I think that is a very just distinction.’

" ‘F. Do you not think, Sir, that it is everyone’s duty to believe the truth?’

" ‘R. No; it is everyone’s duty to examine the truth; and, if they do that fairly, they will necessarily believe it. But believing, itself, can no more be said to be a duty than it is my duty to be warm when I stand by the fire. Being warm, is the effect of my standing by the fire: it is the influence of fire upon me. So faith is the effect of examination; the effect, or influence, of truth upon the mind.’

" ‘F. If to be the effect of some prior cause cannot consist with duty, then love is not a duty; for love is the effect of discerning the beauty of an object; and it has also the other property of faith you mentioned; that is, when we love, we cannot help doing as we do, can we?’

‘" R. No.’

" ‘F. And is not love the effect of discernment, too ?’

" R. Yes.’

" ‘F. Well, is not love a duty?’

" ‘R. No; properly speaking, it is our duty to examine the excellence of an object; and if we do that, we must love it, if it be lovely; but love itself is not, properly speaking, a duty.’

" ‘F. What, then, did God mean by commanding us to love Him with all our hearts; and Christ, by commanding us to love one another? Are we commanded to do what is not a duty?’

" (No answer, that I remember.)

" ‘F. Is it not our duty to choose the good and refuse the evil?’

" ‘R. Not philosophically speaking.’

" ‘F. What duty, Sir, can you point out that is not the effect of some prior cause? No action, I presume, of any kind; for that is the effect of thought and choice.’

" ‘R. Yes; but whatever is a good action, I allow to be duty,’ but faith is not an act.’

" ‘F. Nor love! Nor choice!’

" ‘R. No.’

"’What, then, are mental acts? and why are the verbs, to believe, to love, to choose, actively expressed?’

" (No answer.)

‘" F. What think you of 1 John v. 10, "He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar?"

" ‘R. Ay, that is, he believeth not the Gospel.’

" ‘F. Very well; is it no sin to make God a liar?’

" (No answer.)

‘" F. Suppose you should go home and tell a fact from your own knowledge. Your son affects to doubt it. "What, cannot you believe me?" "Father," replies the boy, "I am examining the affair. Possibly you may be mistaken, or tell me a lie.’"

" ‘R. Very well; it would be his duty merely to examine.’

" ‘F. I should be unwilling to be in the boy’s clothes, if you had a stick in your hand. I think, Sir, the sum is, we each suppose the soul to move, by a number of movements, as it were, by gradation. First, I think, judge, then choose, love, act, &c. Now, I suppose duty to be predicable of each of these; you only of the first in the series. I judge it to be everyone’s duty to act right; and in order to do that, to judge right, choose right, &c. You suppose it duty to examine in a right manner; and then, because the other will follow of course, they can be no duties. And so there is no virtue in doing a good action, or vice in an evil one; nor in good choice or evil; but barely in examining these matters. This, I own, reduces good and evil to a very narrow compass.’ "

Perhaps nothing more quickly moved his anger than the sight of any vanity or display, particularly in ministers of the Gospel. He said of two young preachers, whom he thought somewhat ambitious: "There are two birds fluttering and fluttering, and they will be D.D.’s some day." In each case the prediction was realised. At a ministers’ meeting, in administering a rebuke to some brother, he was laying it on so heavily that Dr. Ryland exclaimed, in his own peculiar voice, "Brother Fuller! Brother Fuller! you can never admonish a mistaken friend but you must take up a sledge­hammer and knock his brains out." A young man calling on him on a Saturday, announced in a rather consequential manner, that he was going to preach on the following day. Mr. Fuller asked him for his text. He readily answered: "" One thing is needful.’" "And what is that one thing?’ said Mr. Fuller. The young man replied without hesitation: "Christ, certainly." "Why, then," said he, "you are worse than the Socinians. They do allow Him to be a man, but you are going to reduce Him to a mere thing." It would be quite a mistake, however, to suppose that this was his habitual manner. He was most ready to give help in every way to his younger brethren, and often would take no little pains to assist them, but he could not endure a vain and pretentious manner.

Mr. Fuller, it must be remembered, felt himself charged, in a way, with the interests and honour of the Baptist denomination, and the troops were often set in motion on their behalf. They were in that day, or at least a little before that day, to a great extent looked down upon, for the names of Foster, Hall, Fuller, Carey, and others, had already done much to raise them in the estimation of the world. While, on the one side, there might be the temptation, on the part of richer bodies, to hold them in some contempt, and possibly to regard their rising influence with a little jealousy, there was very likely on the part of those who, like Mr. Fuller, were deeply attached to the practice of believers’ baptism, in guarding the interests of a weak body, a little proneness to suspect insult, or coldness where none was intended. In such union meetings as then existed, Mr. Fuller sternly upheld what he deemed to be the rights of his brethren. One of the occasions which frequently called together the leading men of different denominations, was the committee meeting of the Evangelical Magazine. At one of the meetings held at St. Paul’s Tavern, January 22nd, 1802, an amusing and somewhat sharp discussion took place between the assembled brethren. There were present Messrs. Eyre, Wilks, Rowland Hill, Waugh, Beck, Williams, and Andrew Fuller. The minutes of this meeting, in the handwriting of Mr. Fuller, have hitherto been withheld from the public, from a commendable delicacy of feeling. But the matter in dispute is so remote, and the character of the excellent men who joined in it is so well known, and the discussion itself so well illustrates Mr. Fuller’s sturdy assertion of denominational rights, that it seems a pity to keep it back. It appears that the dispute in question was occasioned by the refusal of three Baptist widows, whose cases had been presented by Dr. Ryland; and this, although the committee had abundance of money at their disposal, and were even funding it. The truth of the matter appears to have been, that the Baptist applications were unusually large, from the poverty of their ministers, and so it was thought that they had a rather undue share of the proceeds. Mr. Fuller, as it will be seen, maintained that the question of denomination ought not to be taken into account, if there were really need and enough to relieve.

We may slip into a room at St. Paul’s Tavern as the chairman is inquiring of Mr. Fuller if he can inform them why Dr. Ryland is hurt at some proceedings of the committee, a letter from him having been read. The colloquy then proceeds:-

"’Chair. It appears that Dr. R. feels himself hurt: can you, Mr. F., inform us of particulars?’

‘" F. The refusal of three widows which he has presented, and which he considers as deserving cases, has doubtless rendered him cool towards the Magazine, and even careless whether his name continues any longer in it.’

‘" Beck. I have presented several cases myself, which have been refused. There must be some rule.’

" ‘F. I do not attribute the whole of these refusals (I mean of such as I consider as deserving cases) to party prejudice. I think them partly owing to your funding system, which may induce you to be penurious.’

" ‘Hill. I abhor the very name of parties: we are of no party.’

" ‘ F. You are as really a party man as I am. You, Mr. H., are a Methodist as much as I am a Baptist. You go to bed every night a Methodist, and a Methodist you rise every morning. I might add, your party is the most intolerant of any. Other parties, like independent nations, have learnt to respect each other’s flag; but yours respects none but its own, and, under the name of Catholicism, aims to swallow up every other in its vortex.’

" ‘Chair. What ground have you for suspecting a party spirit to have influenced the decision of the committee in the distribution of the profits?

" ‘F. I appeal to everyone of you whether there have not been for a considerable time past murmurings on account of the number of Baptist cases?’

"All acknowledged this was true, but denied that this had influenced their decisions.

" ‘Wilks. I have always been the advocate of the Baptist widows.’

" ‘F. I know you have, Mr. W., and I thank you for it. Yet it is not very pleasant to understand that our widows should have stood in need of such an advocate. Though you say that such things have not influenced your decisions, while three Baptist widows have lately actually been refused, and you acknowledge that many grumblings have existed, I cannot but suspect the one to have arisen, in part at least, from the other.’

" ‘Hill. I think you must balance accounts: their grumblings against your evil surmisings. I wish all party spirit and bigotry at an end.’

" ‘F. A party spirit is not peculiar to one party. The parade which you have made about the funeral of bigotry has furnished you with a little fun: that is all. Bigotry still lives among you, and is likely to live. If I should separate from you, it will be on account of your bigotry.’

"Here the conversation being rather too warm, Mr. Williams, to give it a turn of pleasantry, asked leave to read a very short dialogue between Bigotry and Candour, which went to confirm his being alive and in good health.

" ‘Hill. Have not the Baptist widows received nearly one-half of the profits of the Magazine; that is, as much as all the other denominations put together?’

" ‘F. I suppose they have.’

" ‘Hill. How is it, then, that you speak of partiality? I should have thought you should have been the last to have complained.’

" ‘F. If our widows have received so large a proportion, it is because we have more poor ministers than any other denomination; – as many, it should seem, as all the others put together. And if on this account you choose to decline a connection with us, you have a right to do so; but while that connection exists, and the profits are professedly distributed to the widows of poor ministers, as such, without any respect to denomination, the number of anyone denomination ought not to be mentioned nor thought of. I acknowledge, however, that, on account of the number of our widows, we, as editors, stand on unequal ground; and you appear, by your murmurings on that head, to think the same. I have, therefore, partly in justice to you, serious thoughts of a secession, and of taking all our widows upon our own hands.’

"To this all replied, that if it were so, it would be our own doing, not theirs, and that they should be sorry.

" ‘F. I cannot bear to have deserving cases refused, nor to receive what is received as a favour. Therefore now declare that I am ready from this time to take all our widows off your hands.’

" ‘Beck. What are the cases of the widows which have been rejected? One, I perceive, is objected to as being an Irish widow; and it has been said we might as well admit the American widows; but I question whether the case ought to be reckoned an Irish one. Was her husband an Englishman?’

" ‘F. Yes; one of the Bristol students.’

" ‘Beck. And was he settled as pastor at Dublin, or only a probationer?’

" ‘F. I am not certain, but I rather think the latter only.’

"If so, they all, except Eyre, said she ought not to be reckoned an Irish widow.

"I took no part in this question, and used no arguments to persuade them, but merely answered such questions as were put to me. They, however, brought it in an admissible case, and Eyre gave me immediately five pounds for her.

"The next widow was then brought up, whose husband had served a congregation for twenty years, though not a pastor; and it was said that the money had already been sent her for this year; and an inquiry was to be made into the particulars of her case.

"The Welsh widow was supposed to be the widow of a preaching tradesman, many of whom had been refused among the Methodists, and must be refused in equity.

" ‘F. You should define what you mean by a preaching tradesman. If you include under that character every minister who follows business in aid of his ministry, you will exclude a very large proportion of our widows, and of the most deserving cases.’

" ‘Wilks. That is just. We have had much difficulty where to draw the line; but I now see where it ought to be drawn. Every minister that devotes his life to the ministry, and follows business only in aid of it, or on account of the inability of his people to support him, he is to all intents and purposes a minister, and his widow is entitled to relief. But he that follows trade as his main pursuit, and preaches only occasionally, is not, and his widow must not, be admitted.’

"I could not speak to the case of the Welsh widow, but told Wilks afterwards that I strongly suspected they would find her to be of the former description, or Dr. R. would not have presented her case. To this he replied: ‘If so, let her case be stated again, and it will be attended to.’

" ‘F. I conceive that whenever you refuse a case, you ought to communicate to the presenting editor the particular reasons for which you cannot admit it.’

"To this they assented.

" ‘F. I must also be free to speak my sentiments of your funding system. I am a trustee for the regular and faithful application of the profits: yet you have appropriated £600, I am told, to the purchase of stocks, and that in the name of only two persons. If I had been consulted, I am doubtful whether I should have consented to any fund; but if I had, I should have insisted on four persons being chosen by the editors – one of each denomination.’

‘" Wilks. The country editors have given way to jealousies without grounds. They talk of "embezzlement." I disdain the insinuation.’

" ‘F. I never suspected either you or Mr. Eyre of private embezzlement; but you are neither of you incapable of party attachment. The love of power, Mr. W., is your besetting sin.’

"Mr. Eyre read the copy of a letter which had been, or was to be, sent to Mr. Burder, who had required an explanation on this business. It alleged that the final editor was sometimes obliged to layout his own money for the widows, before things could come round – as much as £150, and that there ought to be something to cover his risk; that it was their wish to be able to allow the widows more than five pounds, which, by funding the overplus, might in time be effected; that, meanwhile, they had not knowingly refused any case that came within the rules of the society; and that as to Messrs. Wilks and Eyre being the names in which the stocks had been purchased, it was so ordered at a committee meeting, merely on account of their being the most active persons in the Magazine, with whom it originated, and who were never likely to withdraw from it.

" ‘F. I admit that Mr. Eyre, if obliged to layout his own money, should be made secure; but that is a small matter compared with what is funded; and I must insist that whatever is funded, it should be by the concurrence of all the editors, and in the names of four persons – one of each denomination.’

"R. Hill exclaimed against the jealousy of such a measure. The rest, however, consented that two more editors of the other denominations should be added to the trust, and seemed willing to discontinue the funding of the profits, unless there were a want of suitable objects to receive them.

" ‘Chair. Will Dr. Ryland withdraw his name from the editorship of the T. M. ?’

" ‘F. I cannot tell. Were I in his place I would, so long as I continued connected with the Evangelical Magazine.’

" ‘Chair. Will you repeat to him the substance of this conversation, and ask for his answers?’

‘" F. I will; and I suppose I may say that, according to the opinion of the committee, he must either withdraw from them or you?’

"To this they all assented, as being inconsistent with their engagements with the bookseller that any editor should lend his name to another periodical work of the same kind.

" ‘F. I wish to say a few words on the concern I have had in the Biblical Magazine. At the beginning of that work I was against it; and attempted to dissuade the editor from it. He, however, persisted. I soon after this learned that there had long been surmisings among our editors on account of the number of our widows. From that time I was not sorry that it existed, and gave it more support than at first, as judging that it might be necessary for the support of our widows, when they should be thrown upon it; an event which appeared to be neither impossible nor very distant. From this motive I had hitherto acted; and till I saw that there was no danger, at least, I should continue to do so.’

" ‘R. Hill. If what has been now said do not satisfy you, you will never be satisfied: and if you be not united with us in heart, we had better part at once.’

"To this last they all assented, and I also: I added, that my union with them should be cordial or not at all. To this, also, they expressed their assent.

"After this the conversation became more tender and affectionate; and all expressed what regret the secession would occasion. I told them I did not wish to give them a final answer at this time. I should consider, and advise; and when I had made up my mind, in conjunction with Brother Ryland, with whom they must expect me to act, I would write them.

"The chairman then left the chair, and departed. He and Waugh, and some others, conducted themselves with great moderation and propriety.

"Wilks and Eyre, and another or two, tarried longer, and we talked over things in a tender way. They thought our disunion would greatly injure religion.

" Eyre complained that the Baptists were not cordial with them; that Dr. Ryland’s letter was dictated by temper; and that my conversation during the day had been all in the style of complaint, without expressing any regard to the work itself.

"There was one subject which formed a part of the conversation while the chairman was present, which I have forgotten to mention. I complained of the advertisements on the blue covers of the Magazine, as being, some of them, the grossest insults upon the Baptists.

" ‘There was such an advertisement, some years ago, written by a scurrilous pen at St. Alban’s. And now another, still more scurrilous, has appeared, in which we are called Anabaptists, and accused of tricks in our dealings with men. We are no more Anabaptists than you are. We baptize none whom we consider as having been baptized before; and as to "tricks," I know not that we are more addicted to such things than other Christians. As to the effects which such pieces produce, they are of no account: we despise them. But to advertise them on the Magazine, on which some of our names are inserted as editors, is making us the slanderers of ourselves.

‘" In this light the public must consider us, or, at least, as tame simpletons, who, for the sake of a few pounds for our widows, can connive at the grossest insults on the whole denomination. ‘

" ‘Eyre. The covers of the Magazine are the bookseller’s. He has the perquisites of advertisements upon them; so that we have nothing to do with them. We dislike them as much as you do.

" ‘As to the work itself, you know that from the time of the revises of Peter Edwards, of which I saw the impropriety, nothing of the kind has appeared. There was lately an advertisement which much provoked us all, – a man advertising for a wife. We have talked to Chapman about it, but as his interest is concerned, we are at a loss how to remedy it.’

" ‘F. The public make no distinction between the covers and the work itself. They suppose it all to pass under your inspection; and under your inspection it ought to pass.’

" ‘At the outset of this conversation I expressed a wish to see Mr. Chapman, and to ask him a question. As he will not be here, I will mention it to you. He is very tenacious of Dr. Ryland’s name where his own interest is concerned; how is it that he should, on the same cover, wantonly insult it, and the names of all his brethren? For a few shillings, it seems, Mr. Chapman will turn either way.’

"They all agreed that this was an abuse that must be remedied. Various methods were proposed. To counteract the last scurrilous piece, from one Nash, addressed to Dr. Rippon, they agreed to review it in their next number. And all advertisements in future should be inspected by Eyre or Williams. We parted very amicably.

"The above is the substance of what passed; but in a five hours’ conversation, in which I was so fully engaged as to be almost laid by when it was over, there are, doubtless, many omissions; and what is said is not in the exact words that were spoken.

"Next morning I took down the above from memory, in shorthand, and carried it to Williams, to have his opinion whether I had done justice to the conversation. He made a few corrections, which I have adopted."

Mr. Fuller was said to have been a man "without nerves;" and, certainly, though capable of the deepest emotion, he pursued the even tenour of his way with singular calmness and regularity. "He would often," says Mr. Morris, "divert himself with the saying of Lady Huntingdon, who, on noticing the effeminacy of modern ladies, would ‘thank God she was born, before nerves were in fashion.”’ About the year 1793 the shock of an earthquake was felt across the kingdom, a little before eleven o’clock at night. Mr. Fuller had preached that evening at Braybrook, a few miles from Kettering, and had just retired to rest. The friend at whose house he lodged being much alarmed, awoke him by reporting the dreadful news of an earthquake. "Very well," said he, "I must sleep;" . . . and with perfect composure he nestled down to rest, while the frightened family were filled with consternation and dread.

Mr. Fuller was singularly simple and plain in his habits; and would frequently remark that the great difference between the comfort of one man and another often depended on the fact that the one simplified his wants, – the other multiplied them. "He never allowed himself in night studies; and when persons wondered how he could write so much, he was wont," says the biographer just mentioned, "to tell a tale about Dr. Gill." A gentleman having heard of his great learning and voluminous writings, called upon him to inquire by what extraordinary means he had achieved so much, and wherein his peculiar habits consisted. The Doctor answered: "He did not know that there was anything extraordinary about it; for he ate, and drank, and rose like other people."


See also:

Particular Baptist Reading Group:

A memoir of the Life and Writings of Andrew Fuller Discussion Page:

The Full Book (coming soon – please check, it may be available):


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