Praying as lost sinners: Andrew Fuller’s Edwardsean anthropology and the practice of prayer

Deeply influenced by the view of human nature espoused by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) built his theology of salvation on similar foundations as the theologian from the colonies. Fuller believed individuals, apart from a work of the Holy Spirit, were not able to respond to the gospel. Yet, like Edwards, Fuller made a distinction between natural inability and moral inability. Despite this inability, Fuller understood that all men had a duty to believe on the Lord. This duty, Fuller believed, was a reason to preach the gospel to all and sundry. Fuller explained his position in his landmark work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1785). In that influential work, Fuller also explained how prayer was the means by which lost sinners took hold of the grace offered them in the gospel. Fuller expounded, “Until a sinner despair of any help from himself, he will never fall into the arms of sovereign mercy.”

This paper will argue that Fuller’s Calvinistic (and Edwardsean) understanding of salvation involved an affectionate outpouring of prayer to a merciful God. While other studies of Fuller’s theology of prayer have shown the connections of Edwards’s influence to the need for all to pray (Bryant), it has not been shown that Fuller saw prayer as the means used by God to bring unbelievers out of darkness into the light of the gospel. I will show this by first offering a summary of The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, along with the influence of Edwards therein. Next, Fuller’s positive answer to the Modern Question will be reviewed. Finally, the place of prayer within Fuller’s understanding of an individual’s experience of salvation will be displayed to be of utmost importance.

Leave a Comment