Richard Fuller, D. D.
By Ben M. Bogard
In his Bible is found, in his own handwriting, this record: "Richard Fuller, Born April, 1805; Born Again, Aug. 27, 1832." The place of his two births was Beaufort, S. C.
His early education was conducted by Elder Brantly, D. D., of Beaufort, and he afterward studied at Harvard, and in his class of eighty students stood first in his studies.
Upon his return from Harvard he entered the practice of law, and he soon became one of the most successful lawyers in the State. His success along that line is another answer to the slander that men go to preaching when they can't successfully do anything else.
Mr. Fuller's religious experience was somewhat unusual. He first united with the Episcopal church, and his keen eye discovered that only immersion was baptism. He, therefore, demanded immersion at the hands of the Episcopal clergyman and was immersed. However, under the preaching of Eld. Daniel Barker, the famous evangelist, he was led to see that he had never been regenerated, and that he was in the "gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity." He was radically converted and united with the Baptist church in Beaufort, S. C., and was baptized
by the authority of that church in the year 1832. His conversion was so radical, his new life was so distinct, that he could with perfect confidence make the record in his Bible, already referred to: "Richard Fuller, Born, April, 1805; Born Again, Aug. 27, 1832." There might be doubt about the exact day of his physical birth, and the exact day is not given in that record, but there was perfect certainty about "Aug. 27, 1832," being the exact date of his spirital birth.
His Episcopal immersion was not looked upon by the convert nor by the church as being valid baptism, and, therefore, he was baptized by the authority of a Scriptural church. There could be no better index to the doctrinal character of the Beaufort church, and of Richard Fuller, than the fact that alien immersion was not considered by them as valid baptism. If they had regarded the Episcopal church as being a church, in the Bible sense, they would have accepted its baptism as valid, hence we are forced to the conclusion that the Beaufort church and Richard Fuller, at that time, regarded only Baptist churches as being Scriptural churches. That puts the church and the man in the list of churches now known as Landmarkers. He was rebaptized by Eld. Wyer, then pastor of the First Baptist church, Savannah, Ga.
Almost immediately after his conversion he entered the ministry and was elected pastor of the church in Beaufort, where he preached for over fourteen years; he afterward was called to the care
of the Seventh Baptist church, Baltimore, Md., where he preached twenty-four years, and then he organized the Eutaw Place church, in the same city, and preached for it until his death — five years. He, therefore, spent forty-three years with three churches, his shortest pastorate was five years and his longest twenty-four. This is a remarkable record and is another illustration of the value of long pastorates.
Dr. Fuller was one of the greatest pulpit orators that has ever lived. Many regarded him as being the greatest. Certainly there were not more than two or three others that were anything near his equal, and there was only one that anybody thought could surpass him — the matchless J. R. Graves was regarded by some as being his superior, but it is fair to say that many others thought Fuller was superior to Graves. Perhaps the one who was heard last was regarded as the greater.
As a debater Dr. Fuller was invincible. His great discussion with Bishop England, of Charleston, S. C., on the claims, of the Roman Catholic church, won for him the reputation of a most powerful and skillful controversialist. His published debate on the slavery question with Dr. Francis Wayland is a remarkable book. His language is choice, his temper excellent, his manner graceful. Notwithstanding the fact of the slavery agitation, which had unsettled everybody and everything and threatened to disrupt the Union, he was as calm as a May day. Not a harsh word was spoken, not a
thing was said of which he might be ashamed in after years. As gentle as a refined woman, as fearless as a lion, that was Richard Fuller. He did not seek controversy, neither did he belong to the sentimental crowd which is opposed to debates; a mighty man who stood like a great pillar of strength for nearly half a century.
As a writer Dr. Fuller was eminent, and his writings were saturated with the classic spirit; his well-balanced sentences and his illustrations were superior to those of almost any other theological writer of his time. His published sermons, one of which is published at the close of this sketch, are models of oratorical beauty. Of course these published sermons can only give the words of the great man, while the flash of the eye, the gestures, the expression of the face, the general bearing in the pulpit, the tones of the voice, and the very presence of the living man are all lost, and yet the printed sermons are great sermons. His work on "The Terms of Baptism, and Communion" is a book of great worth. His articles for the religious newspapers and magazines were noted for beauty of diction, strength of argument and soundness of doctrine.
In an address at his funeral Dr. Brantly, his co-laborer in Baltimore, said: "To these natural powers, improved by diligent culture and varied reading, Grace added a love for Christ and a love for souls so intense as to pervade his whole being. When ordinary men were indifferent, he felt; when
others only felt, he glowed; and when others were glowing, he was all aflame. * * * It was this fiery working of the unseen machinery which urged the whole man onward, right onward, to his object and made him a very prince in the pulpit."
His love for souls was shown in his work among the negroes. He often said that he would rather be the means of the conversion of one poor negro than to please ten thousand white people.
He was a hard student throughout life, and this, perhaps, was the great secret of his successful life. He remarked once to Dr. Brantly: "I am the hardest student in the State. My sermons usually cost me three days of careful study, beginning in the morning and working all day." That left him three days in the week for general study, visiting and literary work.
Just before his death he said: "To one in my condition the chief question is, 'If a man die shall he live again?' The world does not believe it. The church only half believes it. But I know it and I rejoice in it. When I am gone, go speak to the people and tell them Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light in the Grospel." A short time after that he said, "Put this down: In a time of great, trial my faith is perfect." When told of the great number who had been saved under his preaching, and reminded of the fact that this ought to cheer him, he said: "Poor creature! poor sinner!'' How he felt his
own unworthiness! The last audible words he spoke were: "Lord Jesus, keep us near thee; make us perfect, and thine shall be the glory forever and ever, amen." Jesus had called for him and he went home, and we are reminded of the words of Jesus when he said: "Father, I will that those thou hast given me be with me where I am."
At his residence, 87 Park avenue, Baltimore, Md., on Friday morning at 9 o'clock, Oct. 20, 1874, Richard Fuller "fell on sleep." His funeral took place in the Eutaw Place church, and addresses were made by Dr. W. G. Brantly and Dr. J. W. M. Williams. He was buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, and his body awaits the resurrection. "Well done, good and faithful servant." ================[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900. — jrd]
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