CHAPTER 15 – The Last Year
AMIDST unwearied and increasing labours, Mr. Fuller entered on the year 1814 with the strong presentiment that his life was drawing near its close. His sickness was of so chronic a character, that the foreboding came long before the end, and before even the cessation of his work. Never did his favourite maxim, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," receive more earnest fulfilment. "No letters," he says, under date of May 26th, 1814, "will reach me
at Kettering until the first week in August." So, ill as he was, he tasked himself with nearly three months of weary travel. During this time he visited most of the midland counties, as well as the great northern cities, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, and Hull. In the midst of his wanderings, he was called to London to secure from the Government the passage for a missionary, in consequence of the continued obstruction of the East India Company. After an interview with the Earl of Buckingham, matters
were satisfactorily arranged. So altered was he in appearance, that his friends in London declared that "though he had with him all his soul, he only brought half his body."
In the week following, he went to Leicester to give a parting blessing to Mr. Yates, – the same Dr. Yates that afterwards acquired so brilliant a reputation as an orientalist and as a successor to Dr. Carey. He preached at Leicester, it is said, with unusual solemnity and affection. He never appeared more absorbed than then in the concerns of the mission; it seemed as if his soul had gone across the seas, to hold fellowship with the brethren at Serampore. On parting with the friends at Leicester,
he told them he was very ill, that he should probably see them no more, that his work was nearly done, but that he could not spare time to nurse himself, and must labour as long as he could.
During these severe labours, his intimate friend and adviser, Mr. Sutcliffe, was taken to his rest and reward. "Well," said Mr. Fuller, when he received the sad tidings, "the government is on His shoulder: ours will soon be from under the load; but while we are reducing in number, and increasing in labour, it may be the heavier for a time: God grant we may finish our course with joy!" In the midst of his harassing toils, he wrote to Robert Hall, begging him to furnish some
account of Mr. Sutcliffe’s character to the public. Mr. Hall at first complied, but afterwards begged release from his promise in the following characteristic note:
"My DEAR BROTHER, – I am truly concerned to be obliged to tell you that I cannot succeed at all in my attempts to draw the character of our dear and venerable brother Sutcliffe. I have made several efforts, and have sketched out, as well as I could, the outlines of what I conceive to be his character, but have failed in producing such a portrait as appears to me fit for the public eye. I am perfectly convinced that your intimacy with him, and your powers of discrimination, will enable
you to present to posterity a much juster and more impressive idea of him than I can. I am heartily sorry I promised it. But promises I hold sacred; and, therefore, if you insist upon it, and are not willing to release me from my engagement, I will accomplish the task as well as Ican. But if you will let the matter pass without reproaching me, sub silentio, you will oblige me considerably. It appears to me, that if I ever possessed a faculty of character-drawing I have lost it, probably for want of use, as I
am far from taking any delight in a minute criticism on character, to which, in my younger days, I was excessively addicted. Both our taste and talents change with the progress of years. The purport of these lines, however, is to request you to absolve me from my promise, in which light I shall interpret your silence; holding myself ready, however, to comply with your injunctions. – I am, my dear Sir, your affectionate Brother,
Besides the heavy loss of that friend whom he was wont to say was second in counsel only to Abraham Booth, there therefore fell upon him the labour of preparing some account of his beloved brother. It was no easy task to improve the death of one so well loved by him. He asked, instead, to be indulged in silent grief. The memorial, while it was a fitting tribute to a valued and useful life, is of especial interest, as it sets forth the temper of his own soul. The calm survey of death and judgment
is uttered plainly by one who is himself girt and ready for the last passage; the description of another’s hope interpreted his own:-
"View the grave," he says, "as a long, dark, and comfortless abode, and it is sufficient to appal the stoutest spirit; but take into consideration that here the Lord lay – that He was raised from the dead, that He might be the firstfruits of them that slept – and that of all that the Father gave Him He will lose nothing, but will raise it up at the last day – and it will wear a different aspect. Job, when contemplating the grave as a long and dreary habitation, describes it
in the most plaintive language: ‘Man lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more!’ But when his views are fixed on the deliverance which he should obtain at that great and glorious day, his complaints areexchanged for triumphs. It is delightful to observe the erection of soul which a believing prospect of the resurrection gave him, after all his depression: ‘Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.’ In a strain very similar to this, the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, describes the victory over death and the grave, representing believers as actually raised from the dead, and as standing upon their graves,
looking the conquered enemy in the face, and exclaiming, ‘O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ By looking for this part of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be reconciled to death, even before we meet it."
He speaks, moreover, as one who is going to his account in the full belief that all his actions, and those of his brother, must be revealed at the last day. "It was a mistake," he said, "to suppose that the lives of Christians would be covered from that solemn scrutiny." Then, he says, with touching beauty, "another stream of mercy shall visit us," quoting impressively Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus: "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus, for he
oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me: the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day. After this, nothing remains but that ETERNAL LIFE into which, as into an ocean, these streams of mercy will flow: ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of theworld.’ Such was the object of your dear pastor’s hope; may such be yours and mine! Let our last end be like
his!" We can imagine the sympathetic earnestness with which the weary workman would repeat the lines on his friend’s lips in his last hours:-
"We walk a narrow path, and rough,
And we are tired and weak;
But soon we shall have rest enough
In those blest courts we seek.
"I once have tasted Canaan’s grapes,
And now I long to go
To where my Lord His vineyard keeps,
And where the clusters grow."
Towards the close of 1814, he somewhat recovered from his sickness; and set out northward to complete the work he had left unfinished. But the shadow of the darkness to come does not leave him. It was all the deeper because his old friends were one after another being taken away. "Death," he says, "has been making havoc of late among us. Mrs. Sutcliffe died on the 3rd of September. Yesterday I preached a funeral sermon, if so it might be called, for three members of our church
lately deceased. I feel as one who has the sentence of death, and whose great concern it is whether my religion will bear the test! Almost all my oId friends are dead or dying. Well, I have a hope that bears me up, and it is through grace. In reviewing my life, I see much evil. ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ "
In December of the same year he preached a sermon in London on behalf of the British and Foreign School Society. It was the last grand effort of his life. Never, it is said, will this discourse be forgotten by those who heard it. Though his body was enfeebled by sickness, it seemed as if all the powers of his soul had gathered themselves for one last appeal to the charity of the church. The occasion was just such as to call forth from the preacher’s lips the most grateful and passionate utterances.
For one short hour inhis life he might be permitted to compare the lonely strife of his past days with the signs of awakened zeal everywhere about him.
We can imagine the preacher’s reflections as he travelled up to London that year to preach his farewell sermon in the metropolis; or if we wrong his humility in attributing to him such thoughts, we at least cannot help entertaining them concerning him. Twenty years before, he had travelled that same way on his solitary errand of missionary zeal. The church of Christ, both within and without the pale of the establishment, was to a mournful extent insensible to the guilt and sorrow of men both
at home and abroad. They seemed absorbed in the contemplation of their own privileges, and unable to realise their appointed mission. But what had been accomplished in that twenty years! Not only had his own beloved Society passed from the eagerness of youth to the strength of manhood, but enterprises of a similar nature had been set on foot by other bodies. Besides those of a distinctly missionary character, many schemes of charity and beneficence – such as the one he was going to serve – had started into life;
and all this awakened enterprise was mainly resulting from the toil of himself and his brethren. The church had been as a widow mourning at the tomb of her enshrined Lord, enshrined in the sloth and superstition of the church; but now she was arraying herself in her true bridal beauty, and challenging the love of her living Saviour!
If his thoughts turned from the altered face of things in England to the labours of his beloved brethren in India, the same cheering thought must have refreshed his soul. True it is, he could not boast of thousands converted to God, or a nation "having been born in a day;" but the Serampore band were translating the Word of God into languages that would bring it home to millions of the heathen. The dream of Pentecost was receiving its true interpretation. Turning our thoughts for
a moment from the journey of the secretaryto the labours of the first missionary, we find a work accomplished at which the spirit of industry itself might stand aghast. Before William Carey languished into life in the warm eastern air, he and his co-workers had translated the whole, or part, of the Book of God into forty dialects and languages, covering a population of two hundred and seventy millions of immortal beings; that is, he had given the Bible to nearly a third part of the whole human family. Though
that consummation was not quite reached when Andrew Fuller was on the way to London, the work had been planned and partly executed, and the glorious consummation was approaching.
Beside all this, the Society of which he was the secretary had sent missionaries into the dark and neglected parts of England, giving the lie to the oft-repeated charge that the churches neglect those near at home in caring for the heathen abroad, and proving the truth of the Divine proverb, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty." The general advancement in the arts of life, the extension and improvement
of the means of communication, the promise of peace to the nations long weary of war, would all give animation and vividness to the scene.
He took for his text the inspiriting words of the prophet :"Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Referring to the so-called philosophical illumination, which, by excluding the Bible, was to ameliorate the condition of men, he pointed to the barrenness of its promises, and the blighting effects it produced. He boldly declared that that knowledge "which should bring healing to the people, and such a stirring up of life as would justify the words of the
prophet, was the knowledge of the one living and true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent, – that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom;" the knowledge that the wicked would not understand, but the wise should know. The heralds of salvation were as lampbearers, running eagerly into the dark places of the earth to dispel the darkness. He turned to the dark places of their own country, and bid them think of the many poor boys and girls who could not read or write, nor converse with wise men;
who were very little, if anything, superior to savages. With impressive power he pointed to the graves of the poor in the country churchyards, who had lived and died in utter neglect, as witnesses to the church’s indolence, quoting the lines of Gray:-
"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart, once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
"But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul."
He then turns and glances at the wonderful work going on all around; and though the Society for which he is pleading for the most part confined its labours to England, he cannot in his present mood separate home and foreign affairs. "We might, all of us," he said, "be like Abraham, who, although He was called and blessed alone, yet had given to him a covenant of blessing to the nations. If God gives us the cup of salvation, we must hand it round; if He gives us knowledge or riches,
or any other gift, we must not keep it to ourselves, but run to and fro that we may impart it."
"If it be the design of God," he proceeded, "to diffuse the knowledge of Himself over the earth in these last days, it might be expected that suitable means and instruments would be employed to accomplish it. When He meant to rear a tabernacle in the wilderness, He raised up Bezaleel and Aholiat, and other wise-hearted men, in whom He put wisdom and understanding. Thus we might expect men to be gifted and qualified for the work appointed them, and to be stirred up to engage in
it. It might be expected, supposing a great work was designed to be accomplished, that societies would be formed, some to translate the sacred Scriptures into the languages of the nations, some to give them circulation, some to scatter tracts which shall impress their leading principles, some to preach the Gospel, and some to teach the rising generation to read and write.
"Who can observe the movements of the present times without perceiving on them the finger of God? They may not have risen just in the order above described. The institution of Sunday Schools, as they are called, for the children of the poor, took the lead about thirty years ago; since then other institutions of various kinds have followed; but they have all risen nearly together, and all indicate a Divine design. They form a whole, and like the different parts of a machine, all work together."
From the fact that he accepted the invitation to preach on behalf of this Society, and more especially from the following passage in the discourse; it will be seen that he was no narrow zealot, so absorbed in his own pursuits that he could not perceive the value of secondary influences.
"The British and Foreign School Society claims our attention; and such a Society is wanted to give success to all other institutions for the diffusion of knowledge; for if the world were full of Bibles, it would be of little avail if the people were not taught to read them. Is not the British system of education an engine capable of moving the moral world? From what I know of it, I am persuaded it is; and that God has caused it to be brought forward for this purpose. Its principle appears
to me to be military. We all know that astonishing effects are produced in the political world by forming and organizing a number of men, every one filling the most advantageous post, and all acting together in concert. If this principle has been brought to bear in war, why should it not rather be employed in promoting knowledge, and diffusing the blessings of peace? It is but of small account whether it originated with a Bell or with aLancaster, and whether the societies act in concert or not, so that they do
but act. It may be useful rivalry, and serve to provoke to good works. It requires to be supported, and I trust it will be so. If the nations of Europe who have sent and are sending messengers to learn the principles of our operations, should perceive our hands to slacken in the use of them, it must not only sink us in their esteem, but impede the progress of the work. It is only to be a little more economical; denying ourselves a few of the superfluities of life, and we may support all these institutions. The
expense of one lust is greater than all the taxes of benevolence and religion."
In the commencement of the following year he was labouring under the most depressed state of mind and body, although his heart was calm and trusting. He would sing about the house, to a simple and plaintive air:-
"I sojourn in a vale of tears;
Alas! how can I sing?
My harp doth on the willows hang,
Distuned in every string.
"My music is a captive’s chain,
Harsh sounds my ears do fill;
How can I sing sweet Zion’s songs,
On this side Zion’s hill?"
Yet in the midst of all this suffering he was working at his desk twelve hours in the day. An exclamation escapes the over-tasked workman as he glances at all the papers before him : "That which is lacking cannot be numbered, and that which is crooked cannot be made straight." His beloved wife sits by his side full of sadness, and ventures a remark on the closeness of their occupation; for, indeed, no small share of care devolved on her, in consequence of the severity of his labours.
He replied to her tender remonstrance: "Ah, my dear, the way for us to have any joy is to rejoice in all our labour, and then we shall have plenty." "But you allow yourself no time for recreation," continuesthe pleading wife. "Oh, no," he replies; "all my recreation is a change of work." She tries once more: "Yes, but you will wear yourself out." He replies, slowly and solemnly:"I cannot be worn out in a better cause; we must ‘work while it is day.’ "
From a scrap he wrote on February 1st to his brother at Isleham, we find that though so near his death he was still forming plans for another campaign: "Well," he writes, " ‘the Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock !’ I am conscious of no wicked way in me, but I feel myself to be an unprofitable servant; we shall soon finish our course, may it be with joy! If I am able next summer, it is in my mind to take a tour eastward, to Wisbeach, Lynu, Fakenham, Norwich, Yarmouth; and some
other places in Norfolk and Suffolk, and return by Isleham Soham; but perhaps I may prove like Samson, who went out to do as at other times, and wist not that his strength was departed from him."
Men who really love work, ofttimes, in the feebleness of death, scheme plans which they are never permitted to carry out. We are reminded of one who, after he had "fought the good fight, and finished his course," earnestly demands fresh helpers, asking for a cloak, books, and parchments, as if he were commencing his apostolic work.
On the 29th of March he paid his last visit away from home. It was to attend at the ordination of Mr. Mack, of Clipstone. He addressed the assembled congregation in the most impressive manner, from the words, "Look to yourselves that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward." When he reached the vestry, under great exhaustion, he exclaimed, "I am very ill, – a dying man;" and on taking leave the next day, "All is over – my work
is nearly finished – I shall see you no more – Farewell!"
The following Sabbath, April 2nd, was the last Sunday he ever spent with the beloved people of his charge. He discoursed from the words, "Thus saith the Lord, the heavenis my throne, and the earth is my footstool," speaking with peculiar earnestness. After the service, he administered the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper for the last time. During his short, but deeply solemn address, partly from weakness and partly from emotion, he was interrupted by long and painful pauses. There was
scarcely one among the congregation who did not feel that they were receiving the memorials of a Saviour’s love from his hands for the last time. Weak, worn, and faint, his eye kindled with an almost unearthly intensity of feeling, he seemed utterly absorbed in the contemplation of his dying Lord, and quoted with pausing emphasis the hymn of Dr. Watts:-
"Jesus is gone above the skies,
Where our weak senses reach Him not;
And carnal objects court our eyes,
To thrust our Saviour from our thought.
"He knows what wandering hearts we have,
Apt to forget His lovely face!
And, to refresh our minds, He gave
These kind memorials of His grace.
"The Lord of life this table spread
With His own flesh and dying blood;
We on the rich provision feed,
And taste the wine, and bless the God.
"Let sinful sweets be all forgot,
And earth grow less in our esteem;
Christ and His love fill every thought,
And faith and hope be fixed on Him.
"While He is absent from our sight,
‘Tis to prepare our souls a place,
That we may dwell in heavenly light,
And live for ever near His face.
"Our eyes look upwards to the hills,
Whence our returning Lord shall come;
To wait Thy chariot’s awful wheels,
To fetch our longing spirits home."
On the Tuesday following he solemnly surrendered himself into the hands of God: "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, my family, and my charge. I have done a little for God, but what I have done needs forgiveness. I trust in sovereign grace and mercy. I could be glad to be favoured with some lively hopes before I depart hence. God, my supporter and my hope! I would say, not my will, but Thine be done:-
‘God is my soul’s eternal Rock,
The strength of every saint.’
I am a poor sinner, but my hope is in the Saviour of sinners."
Though his friends felt on the Sabbath day as if they had taken a public farewell at least of their beloved pastor, they resolved to use every means in their power to prolong his life. His medical advisers had often urged him to make a trial of the Cheltenham waters. Without delay his friends made him a present of £50 towards the expenses of his journey. Everything was arranged for him to leave home on the following Monday, but the pressure of increasing disease obliged him to give up the scheme.
Among those who frequently visited his sick room was his beloved brother Mr. Toller, the pastor of the Independent church at Kettering. Though belonging to a different denomination, Mr. Fuller had enjoyed with his brother a most affectionate intercourse. "Though living," says Mr. Toller, in speaking of their friendship, "in the same town, engaged in the same profession, and that under the banners of different denominations, for about thirty years, I do not recollect that ever an angry word passed
between us, or a single jar occurred by our means among our respective connexions." Robert Hall, in one of the happiest efforts of his pen, compares the characters of these two men :-
"It has rarely been the privilege of one town, and that not of considerable extent, to possess at the same time, and for so long a period, two such eminent men as Mr. Toller and Mr. Fuller. Their merits as Christian ministers were so equal, and yet so different, that the exercise of their religious functions in the same place was as little adapted to produce jealousy as if they had moved in distant spheres. The predominant feature in the intellectual character of Mr. Fuller was the power
of discrimination, by which he detected the minutest shades of difference among objects which most minds would confound. Mr. Toller excelled in exhibiting the commonsense of mankind in a new and impressive form. Mr. Fuller never appeared to so much advantage as when occupied in detecting sophistry, repelling objections, and ascertaining, with a microscopic accuracy, the exact boundaries of truth and error: Mr. Toller attached his attention chiefly to those parts of Christianity which come most into contact with
the imagination and the feelings, over which he exerted a sovereign ascendency. Mr. Fuller convinced by his arguments, Mr. Toller subdued by his pathos; the former made his hearers feel the grasp of his intellect, the latter the contagion of his sensibility. Mr. Fuller’s discourses identified themselves after they were heard with trains of thought; Mr. Toller’s with trains of emotion. The illustrations employed by Mr. Fuller (for he also excelled in illustration) were generally made to subserve the clearer comprehension
of his subject; those of Mr. Toller consisted chiefly of appeals to the imagination and the heart. Mr. Fuller’s ministry was peculiarly adapted to detect hypocrites, to expose fallacious pretensions to religion, and to separate the precious from the vile; he sat as ‘the refiner’s fire, and the fuller’s soap.’ Mr. Toller was most in his element when exhibiting the consolations of Christ, dispelling the fears of death, and painting the prospects of eternity. Both were original; but the originality of Mr. Fuller
appeared chiefly in his doctrinal statements, that of Mr. Toller in his practical remarks. The former was unquestionably most conversant with speculative truth, the latter possessed, perhaps, the deeper insight into the human heart.
"Nor were the characters of these eminent men, within the limits of that moral excellence which was the attribute of both, less diversified than their mental endowments. Mr. Fuller was chiefly distinguished by the qualities that command veneration; Mr. Toller by those which excite love.
"Laborious, zealous, intrepid, Mr. Fuller passed through a thousand obstacles in the pursuit of objects of public interest and utility. Mr. Toller loved to repose, delighting and delighted, in the shade of domestic privacy. The one lived for the world; the other for the promotion of the good of his congregation, his family, and friends. An intense zeal for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, sustained by industry that never tired, a resolution not to be shaken, and integrity incapable
of being warped, conjoined to a certain austerity of manner, were the leading characteristics of Mr. Fuller; gentleness, humility, and modesty those of Mr. Toller. The secretary of the Baptist Mission, attached, in my opinion, too much importance to a speculative accuracy of sentiment; while his fellow minister leaned to the contrary extreme. Mr. Fuller was too prone to infer the character of men from their creed; Mr. Toller to lose sight of their creed in their character."
After reading such a comparison, we can well understand how closely their souls were knit together, and how solemn would be their parting. The difference in their nature, so far from keeping them apart, would only draw them the nearer to each other. At their last parting, Mr. Toller grasping the hands of his dying friend, observed with deep emotion, not expecting to see him more, "We have lived harmoniously many years in the same place, I trust we shall one day meet above." Mr. Fuller
caught up the closing words and replied, "Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life."
Seven days before his death, he seems to have longed to have some communion with one of his dearest surviving friends, Dr. Ryland. Dear to him as a fellow-labourer, and,perhaps, dearer still from the communion of sorrow. It was for his little sick one that Dr. Ryland had written the hymn:-
"Lord, teach a little child to pray."
Such things as these bind men in death, even more than the fellowship of public work. Unable to hold his pen himself, he dictated the following letter, signing his initials with hisown hand:-
"MY DEAREST FRIEND, – We have enjoyed much together, which I hope will prove ‘an earnest of greater enjoyment in another world. We have also wrought together in the Lord’s vineyard, and He has ‘given us to reap together in His vintage. I expect this is nearly over; but I trust we shall meet, and part no more. I have very little hope of recovery; but I am satisfied to drink of the cup which my Heavenly Father giveth me to drink. Without experience, no one can conceive of the depression
of my spirits; yet I have no despondency. ‘I know whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.’ I am a poor guilty creature; but Christ is an Almighty Saviour. I have preached and written much against the abuse of the doctrine of grace; but that doctrine is all my salvation and all my desire. I have no other hope than from salvation by mere sovereign, efficacious grace, through the atonement of my Lord and Saviour. With this hope, I can go into eternity
with composure. Come, Lord Jesus! Come when Thou wilt! Here I am; let Him do with me as seemeth Him good!
"We have some who hath been giving out, of late, that ‘if Sutcliffe and some others had preached more of Christ and less of Jonathan Edwards, they would have been more useful.’ If those who talked thus preached Christ half as much as Jonathan Edwards did, and were half as useful as he was, their usefulness would be double what it is. It is very singular that the mission to the East should have originatedwith men of these principles; and, without pretending to be a prophet, I may say, if
ever it falls into the hands of men who talk in this strain, it will soon come to nothing.
" If I should never see your face in the flesh, I could wishone last testimony of brotherly love, and of the truth of the Gospel, to be expressed by your coming over and preaching my funeral sermon, if it can be, from Rom. viii. 10. I can dictate no more, but am ever yours,
On the same day, one of the deacons, to whom he had expressed himself as in great depression of body, replied, "I do not know any person, Sir, who is in a more enviable situation than yourself, – a good man on the verge of a blessed immortality." He modestly assented, and lifting up his hands, exclaimed: "If I am saved, it will be by great and sovereign grace – BY GREAT AND SOVEREIGN GRACE." On attempting to raise himself in bed, he said, "All my feelings are sinking,
dying feelings." Glancing round the room, and seeing his poor wife weeping, he said, "We shall meet again! It will be well." He declared that he never before felt such depression of animal spirits, accompanied with such calmness of mind; so slowly and surely did the soul gain and assert its mastery over the disease that had so long preyed upon the body. How fully in keeping with his whole life, was its quiet yet calmly triumphant close. He came fully equipped, with weapons sharpened with long and
severe conflict, to meet his last enemy, but he had vanished from the field. "My mind is calm," he exclaimed; "no raptures; no despondency. My HOPE IS SUCH THAT I AM NOT AFRAID TO PLUNGE INTO ETERNITY’" His dauntless courage did not desert him when he took the last step into the cold, dark river.
On Sabbath day, May the 7th, within an hour of his death, he caught the strains of a hymn being sung by his beloved congregation in the adjoining chapel. The last lingering sparks of life suddenly rekindled, and he said tohis eldest child at his bedside, "I wish I had strength enough." "To do what, father?" "To WORSHIP, CHILD!" the dying man responds, adding, "my eyes are dim." His family seeing that the end was near, gathered round his bed, but as if
in eager haste to join the melody, he still cried, "Come and help me." They raised him in bed for a few minutes, while, with hands clasped, he seemed as if his soul was borne upwards with the measure of the psalm. He did worship, but the strain mingled with other voices, and was heard on another shore.
"In nothing," says Mr. Toller, "can I so fully join issue with him as in the manner of his dying. Had he gone off full of rapture and transport, I might have said, ‘O let me die the triumphant death of the righteous!’ but it would have been far more than I could have realized or expected in my own case: but the state of his mind towards the last appears to have been, if I may so express it, ‘after my own heart.’ He died as a penitent sinner at the foot of the cross." It
is not the voice of congratulation on the best spent life, however just, that is most acceptable in those awful moments, to pious minds: that is often heard with trembling diffidence and conscious apprehension of contaminating motives and counteracting defects. The sweetest music in the ears of expiring piety must be struck from another string. This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
The funeral services were attended by crowds of mourners from all parts of the country, and representing all denominations of Christians – clergymen and Dissenting ministers were drawn to the meeting at Kettering, some of them from a long distance, to pay their last tribute of affection and respect. Dr. Ryland and the Rev. Robert Hall, assisted by the ministers of the town, conducted the services.
A tablet erected to his memory by his beloved flock, bears a loving yet truthful witness to the value of the life that hadpassed from them. We, at this distance of time, who still desire to perpetuate his memory, may well ask, humbly and reverently, to join the mourners in their words of grief and love:-
OF THEIR REVERED AND BELOVED PASTOR, THE
REV. ANDREW FULLER,
THE CHURCH AND CONGREGATION HAVE ERECTED THIS TABLET.
HIS ARDENT PIETY,
THE STRENGTH AND SOUNDNESS OF HIS JUDGMENT,
HIS INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART,
AND HIS PROFOUND ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES,
EMINENTLY QUALIFIED HIM FOR THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE, WHICH
HE SUSTAINED AMONGST THEM THIRTY-TWO YEARS.
THE FORCE AND ORIGINALITY OF HIS GENIUS,
AIDED BY UNDAUNTED FIRMNESS,
RAISED HIM FROM OBSCURITY
TO HIGH DISTINCTION IN THE RELIGIOUS WORLD.
BY THE WISDOM OF HIS PLANS,
AND BY HIS UNWEARIED DILIGENCE IN EXECUTING THEM,
HE RENDERED THE MOST IMPORTANT SERVICES TO
BAPTIST MISSIONARY SOCIETY;
OF WHICH HE WAS THE SECRETARY FROM ITS COMMENCEMENT, AND
TO THE PROSPERITY OF WHICH HE DEVOTED HIS LIFE.
IN ADDITION TO HIS OTHER LABOURS,
HIS WRITINGS ARE NUMEROUS AND CELEBRATED.
HE DIED MAY 7TH, 1815, AGED 61.
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):