This volume depicts the lives of another thirteen Baptists stalwarts. Michael Haykin’s starts with a moving portrayal of Benjamin Francis, the man Gill wanted to succeed him at Carter Lane. Francis’ triumphs through his humble faith are inspiring. Then Robert Oliver gives interesting insights into the life and ministry of Abraham Booth, a man respected and honoured outside Baptist circles. Oliver sees Booth as following Gill’s leadership in combating Antinomianism and devotes a large section to the controversy between Fuller and Booth which ended in the latter calling Fuller ‘lost’. Booth spoke of a true imputation in the sense that the elect’s guilt was transferred to Christ. Fuller denied any transfer, viewing substitutionary imputation as a figure of speech to describe an ‘as if’ state. Oliver quotes Fuller’s letter to Carey in which Fuller claims Booth misunderstood him but Fuller’s Six Letters to Dr. Ryland show that Booth’s criticism was just. Oliver finds Fuller’s view of penal substitution orthodox, though Fuller denies that Christ was punished on our behalf and robs the term ‘substitution’ of all concrete meaning.

     Sharon James gives a most balanced pen-portrait of John Rippon, however, James’ explanation of the church split concerning Rippon’s call gives a wrong impression. Actually the 30 members who could not accept Rippon as pastor on the grounds that the church was not unanimous were not a minority but represented half of the actual worshippers at the time. This sad drop in worshippers being due to the church’s refusal to follow Gill’s advice and call a new pastor though he had been unable to carry out full pastoral duties for two years.

     John Ryland Jr often suffers from the greater honour given his father. Gordon shows how Ryland was an important figure in his own right and had a very wide influence in his day. Though Ryland’s father was a major educator, little is known of Ryland’s work in this area. Gordon fills the gap in our knowledge, but his explanation of the College Lane decline in membership cannot stand. Ryland Senior had built up a very large congregation before the Modern Question controversy left father and son on different sides. However, after around 1781, Ryland began to forsake the doctrines of his father to which he and the members had pledged their allegiance. He then demanded that the members should change with him. Objectors, including their relations, were excommunicated and all further discussion banned. Many then left voluntarily. Yet Gordon omits this evidence and lays the blame for the change in doctrine at the feet of William Huntington and the excommunicated.

     Tom Nettles’ paper on Andrew Fuller, presents, like Oliver’s essay discussed above, a new, moderate approach. Nettles no longer introduces Fuller as England’s Luther but honestly confesses that he has been ‘confused’ by such studies as my own on Fuller, a fact that has obviously made him think – and write – more guardedly. Nettles skims over controversial topics and demonstrates what a fine Christian Fuller was in his private life and how great were his troubles which he bravely faced. These facts are all too often ignored. However, Fuller was not just a private man but one who caused a U-turn in Baptist thinking and the reasons for this need to be aired. Possibly to avoid controversy, Nettles redefines the Modern Question in terms Gill, Huntington and Spurgeon could have all signed. Yet the crux of the Modern Question as understood by Fuller regarding the natural capacity, ability and duty of every sinner to exercise saving faith is ignored. This view is based on ideas of atonement foreign to God’s Word. Fuller’s son, Andrew Gunton Fuller, states that his father believed that faith in Christ was a law duty. Robert Hall added that this view demanded a “general redemption” to “support the universal offer of the gospel.” Furthermore, Nettles refrains from dealing with Fuller’s restitution theory which views man as still in an Adamic probation with God demanding that he behaves himself as if he had never apostatised. Nor does he deal with Fuller’s view that Natural Law (Fuller’s capitals) is superior to revealed law (Fuller’s minuscules). Though Nettles knows of Fuller’s Hyper-Calvinist background, he ignores the Johnsonian elements which remained in him, especially Fuller’s fixed-idea that the full gospel is for believers only. Nor does Nettles examine Fuller’s high view of the Mosaic law gained from Bellamy’s idea that following the law produces faith in Christ and that the gospel is there merely to encourage law-observance. Actually, Fuller’s law is his true gospel. Most disappointing is Nettles’ defence of Fuller’s rational theory of inference to discern the work of the Spirit. Nettles denies that this ‘inference’ was rational but even if it were irrational, Fuller still rejected the direct and personal inner-working of the Spirit as a means to salvation, indeed, the work of the Spirit is Fuller’s most neglected topic. Nettles obviously approves of Fuller’s statement that “It is very indifferent by what means we are brought to embrace the gospel of salvation, if we do but cordially embrace it.” But this statement is theologically meaningless if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is rejected as such a means. Finally, although Nettles emphasises the missionary interest of Fuller, he fails to comment on the fact that after the publication of Fuller’s notorious work on his ‘acceptable’ new gospel, his association declined in numbers from then on and soon became highly Liberal whereas the churches of the ‘High Calvinists’ he criticised prospered.

     Timothy George on William Carey is excellent, instructive and edifying. However, his lengthy asides on Hussey, Fuller, Maurice and the Modern Question make things heavy going at times as the connection with Carey either way is not proved. George’s suggestion that Ryland’s criticism of Carey was due to the Modern Question controversy is worthy of consideration though Carey’s major supporter Sutcliffe and his Olney church also felt initially that Carey was not ready to witness for his Lord.

     Sharon James presents a fine mini-biography of William Steadman. Baptist educators have been greatly neglected. I would like to see Mrs James doing a separate volume on the two Rylands, Caleb Evans, William Steadman, John Ash, Joseph Stennett, John Ward, Nathan Bailey and John Fawcett et. al., discussing their aims in Christian education and their methods of drawing up curricula and working out didactics and methodology. Those of us interested in Home and Christian Schooling would be in her debt.

     Tom Wells on Samuel Pearce reminds us of the oft-forgotten role Pearce played in sending off Carey and later missionaries to foreign fields. One never hears a harsh word said about Pearce. Sadly, however, Wells otherwise adequate and objective presentation of his subject is disrupted by yet another Modern Question-Fuller ‘plug’ with a Marrow Controversy add-on this time. All this is left in the air without application to the subject and threatens to take the reader’s mind of the saintliness and sincerity of the subject.

     Geoffrey Thomas deals with fellow-Welshman Christmas Evans. Thomas has the ‘feel’ of Evans and through his eyes we receive a true image of this man who is criticised and laughed at by so many as if he were a silly yokel. Some yokel! This reviewer often thinks that men of God who are so down to earth as Evans and Huntington are those best fitted out to lift us to the skies. Thomas is to be congratulated on portraying his subject ‘warts and all’. Evans’ detour into Sandemanism demonstrates that this heresy is always nearer to us than we think and it is perhaps the easiest to slide into.  How Evans came out of the doldrums Sandemanism drew him into is a lesson that could help all. Even Thomas, however, has to put in his Fullerite ‘spot’, leaving me wondering if the editor had advised his team to make sure that whoever they write about, they must take a break midway during their programme for a Fullerite ad. Dr Haykin assures me that this was not the case.

     George McGuiness on Robert and James Haldane depicts two fine men who are perhaps as well-known on the Continent as in Britain and whose testimony is treasured by all denominations. They were also men of society, indeed men of the world in the best meaning of the term and never lost their interest in international affairs and the cause of God world-wide. The Haldanes’ educational work both at home and abroad deserves to be better known and those of us indebted to Geneva will be delighted to know how Robert Haldane paid back some of that debt by leading many of Geneva’s youth to Christ. James stands rather under the shadow of Robert in this portrayal, but he would not have minded. In all, a fine study and even the brief Fullerite add-ons did not spoil the work.

     The two final papers are on almost forgotten heroes of Baptist history due to the stage-light of time being mostly focussed on Fuller and Carey. Joshua and Hannah Marshman and William Ward of Serampore, portrayed here by A. Christopher Smith, are monuments and sign-posts in the history and outreach of the gospel. These three missionaries also put to flight the idea that they were mere puppets on the strings of a far away mission-board. They settled down as Paul to pay their own way so as not to be a financial burden on the praying supporters in Britain. The Marshmans’ linguistic work and evangelical outreach are still mere pious dreams for us lesser saints of today. Smith emphasises that where we read ‘Joshua’, Hannah is there supporting him and at times even leading him by the hand.

     Whereas Marshman was skilled in languages, Ward was a born journalist, craftsman and printer of the kind called ‘a jack of all trades’. His outspokenness, or rather courage, brought him close to being arrested several times, for the best of causes, before leaving for India. The Mission Board must have wondered about the human and political risk of sending out Ward to such a conservative country as India. However, Ward found himself busy doing so many chores that neither the Marshmans nor Carey could manage so he had no time for controversy accept when disagreeing strongly with Fuller concerning the latter’s insistence on ruling the Serampore church like an absentee bishop. In these struggles, Ward had the better arguments but withdrew opposition so as not to rock the mission boat.

    All in all this is a valuable book. It is scarcely possible to find another multi-volumed work which brings so many Baptist stalwarts together and provides so much information for further reading. What was tolerable in the first volume, however, has become intolerable in the second. The editor would have been advised to edit out all the often irrelevant discussions concerning Fuller interspersed in the biographies. Nettles could have integrated them into his own Fuller article after ridding them of repetitions and overlaps. Controversy is welcome but those engaged in it in conjunction with biography are advised to relate the controversy to the subject at hand and, after giving evidence, draw conclusions one way or the other. The Fuller material appears to have been thrown in arbitrarily with loose ends all around. Where a discussion of Fuller’s interference with the Serampore Church would have been quite in place in the last two essays, Smith is diplomatically silent.

     We look forward to the third volume and also to the general index.