George Ella on Doctrinal Matters

The Works of Andrew Fuller with a Biography (Part 2)

The Works of Andrew Fuller with a Biography
by the Editor Andrew Gunten Fuller
A Banner of Truth Trust Facsimile Reprint

Part Two

The bulk of BOT publications between the late nineteen-fifties and mid-eighties were a great support to the churches. Since then the BOT have lowered their standards to meet a wider readerships and have bowed to popular demands for less solid doctrines. Surprisingly, this broadening of views has led to the BOT adopting a narrow, intolerant, party spirit against those who refuse to take their lead. With their reprint of Andrew Fuller’s works, the BOT have now abandoned Reformation teaching altogether, giving their readers a philosophy of religion which appeals to the fallen human heart and mind. Fuller based his gospel on the human ideal of man’s alleged agency in co-operating with God in salvation as His partner. Iain Murray tells us that ‘God works all and man does all’.[1. Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, p. 84.] Geoffrey Thomas says ‘God does all and man does all’ in salvation.[2. ET, July 1995, p. 11.] Fuller’s ‘Gospel’ which he says is ‘Worthy of All Acceptation’ is therefore man’s supposed natural capacities regarding faith; his alleged duties to natural law; and his hypothetical awareness of nature as his true link with God. In the same mock-gospel, Fuller preaches pessimism and scepticism regarding the Word of God, the doctrines of grace and the work of Christ. He re-defines the gifts of God’s free grace as the law duties of the graceless. Fuller’s man-made gospel is a linguistic display of pseudo-cleverness based on a misuse of terms which never mean what they say. It is a religion of moral (natural) law and duty-faith. Ian Murray argues therefore that salvation does not rest ‘upon a basis of sovereign mercy’ but is ‘founded upon the principle of moral government’.[3. Ibid, p. 135.] This is the religion of ‘manners’ propagated by the Latitudinarians, Rationalists and Grotians of the 17th and eighteenth centuries who equated being ‘morally governed’ with being a Christian.

To retain an ear amongst the orthodox, the BOT are striving to promote Fullerism as the teaching of John Bunyan brought up to date, concealing the fact that Bunyan denounced all that Fuller stood for.[4. See my NF review of Bunyan’s, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ and their subtle Introduction. Also Haykin’s Introduction to the Fuller reprint, (no numbered pages).] The BOT ignore the evidence that the bulk of evangelical writings of the major denominations, with the Gospel Magazine to the fore, denounced Fuller’s false gospel in the 19th century in the strongest terms. Nevertheless, the BOT are re-animating dead Fullerism, with the help of such as Robert Oliver, Erroll Hulse and Michael Haykin, in an attempt to spread an alternative religion long thought extinct. Fuller did not see man as been totally fallen in his whole being but taught that he was still naturally good though morally defective.[5. S (Sprinkler Edition) Works, vol. 2, p. 330; p. 355; 378, 438, BOT p. 191 ff..] All that was really fallen in man was his will to believe but the awareness of a will, indeed, a duty, to believe was still in man so that he was not hindered by any natural inabilities to choose faith.[6. S, vol. 2., p. 345; 374; 376; 387; 472 ff., BOT p. 157 ff., 170 ff., 175 ff., 216 ff..] God had spread a table of salvation before him and he only had to reach out and eat from it.[7. S, vol. 2., p. 338, BOT p. 154.] Sin and the atoning work of Christ are merely metaphors for Fuller who never spells out in concrete terms what the gospel really entails. Fuller’s gospel mystery of symbolic hocus-pocus is to be worked out by human understanding in discerning what Fuller calls the ‘reason, nature and fitness of things’. Modern Fullerite adepts who boast that they have solved Fuller’s riddles claim a monopoly on what they call ‘preaching the gospel properly’. They forget that the word ‘proper’ like ‘positive’ in Fullerite jargon means temporary and arbitrary things and can just as well be translated as ‘improper’ and ‘negative’.

Fuller absolutely denies the inward work of the Spirit in moving, even compelling, sinners to find Christ. The Spirit works no inner moral change in sinners but serves merely as an external prompter or encourager.[8. S, vol. 2., pp. 546-547 notes and Fuller’s Inward Witness of the Spirit (vol. 1, pp. 624-626) whose contents have nothing to do with the title. See also The Promise of the Spirit the Grand Encouragement in Promoting the Gospel, vol. 3, pp.359-363, BOT p. 249 and Fuller’s works on the Holy Spirit.] Indeed, the Holy Spirit scarcely figures in Fuller’s theology. Moreover Fuller’s two extremely short essays on the Trinity give but a scanty introduction to such important subjects as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.[9. S, vol. 1., p. 707 ff. and vol. 3, p. 707 ff., BOT p. 750 ff.; 944.] Though Fuller has written at length on the deity of Christ and on His Sonship, showing His alleged mastery at metaphor, there is very little on his humanity. Fuller has also little on Christ’s relation to the Mosaic Law. In his Sonship of Christ, he interprets Christ’s being under the Law as a metaphor for the fact that Christ was to ‘redeem the transgressors of the Law’. However, Fuller views redemption, too, as a metaphor. In Conversation on Substitution, Fuller tells us that Christ did not put himself under the law but remained “above the law, deviating from the letter, but more than preserving the spirit of it.”[10. S, vol. 2., p. 689, BOT p. 312 ff..] What he meant by this, is anyone’s guess.

Fuller denies that justification is a work of God’s grace shown to His enemies. It is not for sinners but for saints only.[11. S, vol. 3, p. 715, BOT p. 948.] Here Fuller’s Johnsonism is peeping through. Thus ‘ungodly’ in Romans 4:5 Fuller denies that justification is a work of God’s grace shown to His enemies. It is not for sinners but for saints only.[11. S, vol. 3, p. 715, BOT p. 948.] Here Fuller’s Johnsonism is peeping through. Thus ‘ungodly’ in Romans 4:5 must, according to Fuller, be interpreted as hyperbole just as when Paul called himself ‘the chiefest of sinners’. It is not strictly true but an overstatement concerning the quality of ungodly believers. Naturally, according to Fuller, there is no justification prior to initial belief. He goes further and teaches that there was no actual reconciliation or atonement at the cross at all.[12. S, vol. 2, p. 695, BOT p. 315-316.] Atonement, for Fuller, is not that which was wrought out at Calvary but that which is taken from God’s provisions after belief. That a man’s justification originates ‘in God’s mind’ is denied as irrational.[13. S, vol. 1., p. 17;, BOT p. xxvi. ] Fuller, when opposing James Hervey and the Marrow Men, even denies that being saved can be called a ‘gift or grant’ of God.[14. S, vol. 2., pp. 335-336, BOT p. 154.] It merely becomes a gift after being taken. Furthermore, Fuller cannot accept the doctrine of penal substitution, nor any doctrine of the transference of human sin to Christ by way of punishment. Christ cannot be punished for what He did not do, so Fuller, because guilt is not transferable.[15. S, vol. 2., pp. 683; 705n. and passim, BOT p. 945 ff., 309 ff.. and passim.] In orthodox teaching, vicarious substitution means that Christ bore our guilt and punishment voluntarily. Fuller wriggles out of this by postulating that the Bible is a book of metaphorical imagery and we must get behind this imagery to find what it really means. For instance, Christ’s being made sin for us does not mean what it says but merely that the Son became a sin-offering to pacify the Father.[16.S, vol. 2., pp. 680-687, also vol. 2, pp. 702-706, BOT p. 309 ff., 317 ff., 945 ff.. ] This robs both sin and sin-offering of their true meanings and dodges the issue of what really happened at Calvary. Needless to say, Fuller denies the doctrine of imputation, which moved Abraham Booth to declare Fuller ‘lost’.[17. S, vol. 2., pp. 699-702, BOT p. 317 ff..]

Going through all Fuller’s fables would take a whole book but one further major error must be condemned. This is what J. P. Boyce in his excellent Abstract of Systematic Theology calls Fuller’s ‘Universalism’.[18. Abstract, pp. 311-317; 338] Because Fuller sees the atonement as a symbol indicating sufficiency for all, he presents salvation as being there as a free-for-all. The purpose of the gospel and the evidence of nature is merely to prepare the above-mentioned feast. The food on the table is more than sufficient for those who have the appetite (will) to enjoy it. However, Fuller, following New Divinity teaching which inspired and filled his notorious work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptance, believes that man is naturally capable of keeping the Law and that the Gospel is merely a kind of law to be obeyed. He therefore teaches that though Christ died symbolically for everybody’s sin, it is merely efficacious where man’s agency is involved in following the so-called moral law which points to Christ. However, he argues that those who follow the Ten Commandments, follow the Gospel and thus follow Christ.[19. S, vol. 2., pp. 483-488, BOT pp. 221-223.] For those who do not merit the reward of salvation, the metaphor of Christ has no purpose. In this way, Fuller dodges the issue of whether Christ actually died for His elect only or for all sinners. Metaphors know no ‘actuality’, they have no concrete existence. Orthodoxy teaches that Christ and the Scriptures testify to the fact that the Saviour planned to save His entire Bride the Church alone and did not lose a single sinner for whom He died. Notwithstanding, in Fuller’s gospel of contradictory thoughts, Fuller declares that we cannot really rely on revealed doctrines as they merely declare the arbitrary will of God. What we must rely on is natural law and man’s ability to recognise ‘the nature and fitness of things’.[20. S, vol. 2, p. 473, vol. 3., pp. 352-359, BOT pp. 216, 733-736.] So, too, we must remember that Fuller grew up in a Hyper-Calvinistic and Antinomian environment and pastured people of this persuasion for many years. He never rid himself of their major tenets and believed to his dying day that the full gospel cannot be preached to the whole man in ‘mixed congregations’ but is for believers only.[21. S, vol. 2., pp. 495; 498, BOT p. 226 ff.]

It is easy to see how this dangerous philosophy has perverted much modern Reformed thinking. Indeed, it also explains why New Focus’ major critics are those who use natural law and common grace to persuade people to become ‘Christians’. They then believe in teaching the doctrines of grace as a post-conversion duty. This down grading, however, is speeding up. These Free Offer and Duty Faith preachers attached to the BOT are now refusing to teach even the doctrines of grace to their converts, claiming such ‘uncomfortable’ doctrines should be kept secret. These Fullerite down graders, whether ancient or modern, claim falsely with their usual distaste for historical truths that the Baptist faith was rapidly becoming contemptuous and a veritable dunghill before Fuller came on the scene.[22. See J. W. Morris’ Memoirs, 1816, p. 269 and David Gay’s Battle for the Church, 1997, p. 480;] They also teach that this goes for all other denominations accept Fullerite sects. The truth is that Fuller certainly did more than any other previous Particular Baptist to verify this account and the only fit place for Fuller’s fables is on the dunghill he created. The BOT’s present fight against evangelical doctrines poses a major threat to world-wide gospel witness.

George Ella


George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.

George M. Ella, born February 1939 in Yorkshire, England, has lived most of his life on the European Continent. He is a retired Senior Civil Servant formerly employed in teaching, post-graduate teacher-training, chairing examination boards and curricula work. He holds degrees from London, Hull, Uppsala, Essen, Duisburg and Marburg universities with doctorates in English Literature and Theology. Dr. Ella has written regularly since the seventies for a number of magazines and newspapers and published numerous books on Church History, including biographies of William Cowper, William Huntington, James Hervey, John Gill, Augustus Montague Toplady, Isaac McCoy and Henry Bullinger besides works on doctrine and education. He is currently finishing the third volume of his series 'Mountain Movers'; a biography of John Durie; a work on Law and Gospel and further study material for the Martin Bucer Seminar. Dr. Ella is still internationally active as a lecturer and is a Vice-President of the Protestant Reformation Society. He is keenly interested in missionary work and has written on the spread of the Gospel amongst the Same people of Lapland, the people of India and the Native Americans. This present volume follows Dr. Ella's 'The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism', also published by the Martin Bucer Seminar. George Ella is married to Erika Ella, nee Fleischman, a former government administrator, and they have two sons Mark (41), Director of a Polytechnic College in Bremerhaven and Robin (39), Leading Senior Physician in a newly-built Geriatric and Psychiatric clinic in Dessau.

George Ella on Doctrinal Matters
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