In 1792, a group of Particular Baptist pastors, mostly from the Northamptonshire Association, founded the Baptist Missionary Society. The key leaders in the formation of the new missions society were Andrew Fuller and William Carey. Fuller, a widely respected pastor-theologian, served as secretary (president) of the BMS from its inception until his death in 1815. Carey, of course, became one of the society’s first two missionaries. He is frequently called the father of the modern missions movement in the English-speaking world because of his four-decade ministry in India.
On March 26, 1793 a farewell service was held at Carey’s church at Harvey Lane, Leicester. Fuller preached the main sermon for the occasion from John 20:21. The sermon’s title was “The Nature and Encouragements of the Missionary Work.” Carey would periodically read over the text of Fuller’s sermon to encourage him during times when he was dejected on the mission field. I’ve included the recorded text of the sermon below. You can also download a PDF of Fuller’s sermon.
THE NATURE AND ENCOURAGEMENTS OF THE MISSIONARY WORK
Substance of the Charge delivered to the first Missionaries of the Baptist Society at the parting Meeting at Leicester, 1793.
“Peace be unto you ; as my Father sent me, so tend I you!”—John xx.21.
MY very dear brethren, every part of the solemnities of this day must needs be affecting; but, if there be one part which is more so than the rest, it is that which is allotted to me, delivering to you a solemn parting address. Nevertheless, I must acknowledge that the hope of your undertaking being crowned with success swallows up all my sorrow. I could myself go without a tear, so at least I think, and leave all my friends and connections, in such a glorious cause. Impressed, therefore, with these sentiments, I can the more readily and cheerfully part with you.
My dear brethren, let me address you in the words of our Lord Jesus to his disciples, “Peace be unto you; as my Father sent me, so send I you!” The whole of this language was sweet, especially considering the troubles of their hearts to whom it was primarily addressed,—The preface is sweet: “Peace be unto you”—as if he had said, All is well as to the past, and all shall be well as to the future.—The commission itself is sweet. Nothing could well be more grateful to those who loved Christ than to be employed by him on such an errand, and to have such an example to imitate.
There is to be sure a great disparity between your mission and that of Christ. He came to offer himself a sacrifice for sin, and by his blood to obtain eternal salvation for poor lost sinners. Yet, notwithstanding this disparity, there are various points of likeness between your undertaking and that of your Lord and Master. I shall single out three or four, which I would wish to impress upon your minds. These are—the objects you must keep in view—the directions you must observe—the difficulties you must encounter—and the reward you may expect.
First: There is an analogy between the OBJECTS of Christ’s mission and those of yours. The great objects of his mission were to glorify God, and to seek and to save lost souls; and yours are the same. Men and devils have dishonored God; they had virtually called him a hard master; had thrown off his yoke, and represented him, in the punishment of sin, as a Being whose ways were not equal. But Christ by his obedience and death rolled away these reproaches. By the former, that is, by making it his meat and drink to do the will of his Father, he proved in the face of a rebellious world that his yoke was easy and his burden light. By the latter, that is, by enduring the full penalty of the divine law without a murmuring thought, he manifested its equity, declaring in effect that God was in the right, and that man deserved to fall a sacrifice to his justice. You also, my brethren, have to glorify God, and that both by your cheerful obedience to his will and by patiently enduring affliction. The heathen will judge of the character of your God, and of your religion, by what they see of your own character. Beware that you do not misrepresent your blessed Lord and his glorious gospel. It is a great encouragement to be engaged in the same cause with Christ himself. Does he ride forth as on a white horse, in righteousness judging and making war? —Rev. xix. You are called, like the rest of the armies of heaven, to follow him on white horses, pursuing the same glorious object, that India may be conquered by his truth. May you be able at the close of your lives to say, after the example of your Lord, “I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Christ was sent of the Father, not only to glorify his name, but to seek and to save that which was lost; and such, my brethren, is your errand. Go then, after your Saviour’s example, go in pursuit of the lost sheep; follow after them, search and find them out, that they may be brought home to his fold, from the dark mountains whither they have wandered, and gathered from the dreary deserts whither they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day; that they may be delivered from the errors and abominations of the heathen, and be brought to the knowledge and enjoyment of God.
Secondly: Christ, in the execution of his mission, was UNDER THE DIRECTION OF HIM THAT SENT HIM, and you must be the same. As mediator, he always acted as the Father’s servant Though a Son, and as such equal with God, yet in his official capacity he learned obedience. It is emphatically said of him, he both did and taught; and in both he inflexibly adhered to the directions of him that sent him. “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him who sent me.”—“I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me; he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.”
Christ acted as the Father’s servant; and you are the servants of Christ. There is a woe upon any minister if he preach not the Gospel of Christ, but especially upon those whose business it is to preach the Gospel among the heathen. Among us, if you do not preach the gospel of Christ, others will; but there all, under God, will depend upon you. When the Lord first planted the Israelites in Canaan, he planted them wholly a right seed. Be exceedingly careful to follow this example. See that the doctrines you teach, and the duties you inculcate, be not yours, but His who sent you. A right seed is necessary to a profitable harvest. You must likewise do the will of Christ as well as teach it, and that after his example. He pleased not himself. Perhaps no men must expect to have their wills so often crossed, or to meet with so frequent calls for self-denial, as those who embark in such an undertaking as yours. This leads me to observe,
Thirdly: Christ, in the execution of his mission, had GREAT DIFFICULTIES AND TRIALS to encounter, and you must expect the same. The trials of your Lord were partly from pain, and partly from contempt. Great were the hardships he had to undergo. Foxes had holes, and birds had nests, but he had not where to lay his head. And, notwithstanding all that your brethren can do to make you comfortable, you may expect to taste of the same cup. Your Lord was also exposed to contempt. He is mad, said they, why hear ye him? If these things were done to the green tree, what may be expected of the dry? But Jesus “endured the cross, and despised the shame.” May you be enabled to follow his example. He met with trials, not only from open enemies, but from pretended friends. Those who ate of his bread lifted up the heel against him. Betrayed, denied, and forsaken, he yet persevered; nor did he desist till he could declare “it is finished.” Then, when he could appeal to him who sent him, saying, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do,” then he bowed his head and gave up the ghost! What an example for you to follow!
Fourthly: Christ was not sent forth in his undertaking without a PROMISE OF SUPPORT IN IT AND A GLORIOUS REWARD FOR IT. It was predicted of him, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have brought forth judgment unto victory.” This implied that he would meet with much to discourage him. If many waters could have quenched his love, it had been quenched: but divine Omnipotence supported him. And, as his Father sent him, so sends he you. Faithfully has he promised to be with you always to the end of the world. The divine Father promised him souls for his hire; that he should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. And herein, as the Father sent him, so sends he you. You also shall have your reward. The joy set before him encouraged him to endure the cross; you also shall enter into the joy of the Lord. Keep that joy in your view. For “it is a faithful saying, If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.” Hearken to the promise of your Lord and Master, for his sayings are very true, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit down with me in my throne, as I also have overcome and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
Go then, my dear brethren, stimulated by these prospects. We shall meet again. Crowns of glory await you and us. Each, I trust, will be addressed at the last day, by our great Redeemer, “Come ye blessed of my Father;—these were hungry, and you fed them; athirst, and you gave them drink; in prison, and you visited them;—Enter ye into the joy of your Lord.” Amen.
Andrew Fuller, “The Nature and Encouragements of the Missionary Work,” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, With a Memoir of His Life by Andrew Gunton Fuller, vol. 2 (Boston: Lincoln, Edmands, & Co., 1833), pp. 416–417