Andrew Fuller and Antinomianism | Michael Haykin

by | Oct 11, 2022 | Church History, Historical Theology


In retelling the story of the English Particular Baptist community in the late eighteenth century, scholarly attention has generally focused on the way that pastor-theologians like Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) and John Ryland, Jr. (1753–1825) sought to promote the revival of the denomination and played a vital role in the genesis of the modern missionary movement, in which their mutual friend William Carey (1761–1834) became something of an iconic celebrity. The pathway to renewal and mission necessitated a literary demolition of what was a regnant theological narrative in far too many Baptist circles, namely, that of High Calvinism, which gloried in eternal justification and rejected the free offer of the gospel. Alongside this battle against what Fuller bluntly called “false” or “hyper” Calvinism,”[1] however, there was also a concerted attempt to rid the denomination of what was once described in 1790 as “the baneful and pernicious poison of Antinomianism.”[2] Nearly thirty-five years later at John Ryland’s funeral, the preacher on the occasion, Robert Hall, Jr. (1764–1831), recalled that one of the extremes against which Ryland was “most solicitous to guard the religious public,” was “Antinomian licentiousness … which he detested as an insult … on the majesty and authority of the law.”[3]

Fuller also wrote what Ryland himself called “a very important work” against Antinomianism.[4] He had begun its composition early in his ministry but had never found sufficient time to complete it to his satisfaction. His original plan was to write three sections after the introduction. The first part entailed an overview of the leading features of Antinomianism and Fuller’s arguments against its main principle. Part II, which Fuller does not seem to have finished, was a detailed examination of the deleterious effects of Antinomianism on key elements of the Gospel. The third section, which Fuller never seems to have begun, was to have been a treatment of the practical impact of Antinomianism on the character and conduct of its adherents.[5]

Over the years he had shown it to a number of friends, from differing denominational backgrounds, who all deemed it publishable as it was and especially relevant for their day. And not long before he died in 1815, he lent it to Ryland to look over and it was Ryland who saw it through the press in two editions, the first in 1816 and the second in 1817.[6] Incomplete though it is, sections of it show tremendous reasoning and it is worthy of ongoing study.


[1] Cited Andrew Gunton Fuller, “Memoir” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, revised Joseph Belcher (1845, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 1:2, 12.

[2] Philip Gibbs, On Truth and Error in The Baptist Annual Register, For 1790, 1791, 1792, and Part of 1793, ed. John Rippon (London, 1793), 56.

[3] Robert Hall, “A Sermon, occasioned by the Death of the Rev. John Ryland, D.D.” in The Works of the Rev. Robert Hall, A.M., ed. Olinthus Gregory and Joseph Belcher (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1854), 1:221.

[4] John Ryland, The Work of Faith, the Labour of Love, and the Patience of Hope, illustrated; in the Life and Death of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 2nd ed. (Charlestown, MA: Samuel Etheridge, 1818), 135.

[5] Andrew Fuller, Antinomianism Contrasted with the Religion taught & exemplified in the Holy Scriptures, 2nd ed. (Bristol: J.G. Fuller, 1817), 22 and 60.

[6] John Ryland, “Preface” to Andrew Fuller, Antinomianism Contrasted, iv.

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Are all sins the same? | Tom Hicks

Are all sins the same? | Tom Hicks

“Is it true that all people are equally sinful? If someone has sinful anger in his heart, but never acts on it, is that person really the same as someone who has sinful anger in his heart and then murders his whole family?”

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