Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: September 2012



September 2012



The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor

Written by , Posted in History, Ministry, Theology

My friend Michael Haykin read a paper at last year’s annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society titled “The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor.” That paper has been published as a feature article in the Spring 2012 issue of The Andrew Fuller Review (see subscription details). In the article, Haykin outlines four ways in which church historians serve the church as spiritual mentors.

The church historian thus informs God’s people about their predecessors in the faith, those who have helped shape their Christian communities and thus make them what they are. As such, he or she serves as a spiritual mentor who builds humility into lives and so exercises a sanctifying influence (p. 17).

As a spiritual mentor, the church historian is also ideally suited to help Christians fulfill Paul’s command in Romans 12:2 that they “not be conformed to this world,” for the study of church history helps to liberate a person from what C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) called “the idols of our marketplace” (p. 19).

The church historian further functions as a spiritual mentor when he puts his or her hearers in touch with the wisdom of the past (p. 20).

In making available to the church the lives of Christians from the past, the church historian is engaged in a task somewhat similar to the writer of Hebrews, who, in Hebrews 11, uses the history of God’s faithful people in the old covenant to encourage his readers to run the “foot-race” of faith (p. 21).

Haykin certainly summarizes many of the reasons why this Baptist preacher decided to earn a PhD so he could teach church history to seminary students. For the full article, see Michael A.G. Haykin, “The Church Historian as Spiritual Mentor,” The Andrew Fuller Review (Spring 2012): 16-23.

(Image credit)



September 2012



More on Robert Hall Sr.

Written by , Posted in Conferences, History, Theology

Tomorrow, I’ll give my plenary address “Robert Hall Sr. (1728-1791): Andrew Fuller’s Mentor” at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary. I blogged on Hall earlier this week. I thought I’d post about him one more time before the conference.

The following short quotations, written by nineteenth-century pastor-historians, express how the following generation of British Baptist pastors remembered the life and ministry of Robert Hall Sr.

He was the centre of attraction to a large circle of ministers and Christian friends, who went to Arnsby for instruction and advice, as the people once resorted to the prophet who dwelt at Shiloh. Both Carey and Fuller had their theological learning from this school, which continued for many years to diffuse a spirit of enquiry, and contributed not a little to raise them to that eminence in the christian [sic] church which they afterwards attained.[1]

Robert Hall lives long in the embalmed remembrance of all who knew him. And, as almost threescore years have ran their eventful round since the day of his departure, perhaps every one of his brethren, then connected with him in the ministry, and particularly in that association of churches with whom he was so intimately united, have also ceased from their labours. Nevertheless, the revival and reprinting of this Memoir, may not only prove interesting to the present generation, but may also serve to stir up the ministers of the everlasting gospel, to “follow him as he followed Christ.”[2]

William Carey was very close to Hall, considering him a key mentor. This is what Carey said of the influence of Hall’s book Help to Zion’s Travellers (1781) on his own thinking.

Mr. Skinner one day made me a present of Mr. Hall’s Help to Zion’s Travellers; in which I found all that arranged and illustrated which I had been so long picking up by scraps. I do not remember ever to have read any book with such raptures as I did that. If it was poison, as some then said, it was so sweet to me that I drank it greedily to the bottom of the cup; and I rejoice to say, that those doctrines are the choice of my heart to this day.[3]

The following quote is Hall’s written prayer ten days after the death of his first wife. I think it speaks to his personal godliness and his willingness to trust the Lord, even in the midst of suffering.

Oh that this may be a year of mercy to my person, my family, the neighbourhood, the church and the state. Lord keep me pure, make me fervent in thy work, faithful to thy cause and active in it. Prepare goodness for me and mine. May we have peace with thee and one another. Give us near access, fervent love, and a constant fear of thee. Be not a terror to me, oh Lord. Withdraw thy hand from me, as to continued or renewed troubles; but as to afflictions, thy will be done. Keep me, oh Lord, keep me and mine from sin, whatever we may suffer. Bless thy word, oh Lord, in the neighbouring villages this year. May the church at Arnsby prosper, be fruitful, peacaeable [sic], humble and holy. Lord, work by thy poor instrument, R. Hall.[4]


[1] J.W. Morris, “Memoir of the Rev. Robert Hall, Arnsby, Leicestershire,” in The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Robert Hall, ed. J.W. Morris (London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1828), p. 37.

[2] John Ryland, Memoirs of The Rev. Robert Hall of Arnsby, with a Brief History of the Baptist Church at Arnsby, Leicestershire, ed. J.A. Jones (London: James Paul, 1850), p. 23. Emphasis in original.

[3] Quoted in Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D. (Boston: Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, 1836), p. 11.

[4] Morris, “Memoir of the Rev. Robert Hall,” p. 26.




September 2012



Some Thoughts on Southern Baptists, Baptism, and Communion

Written by , Posted in Links, Ministry, SBC, Theology

LifeWay Research released a study yesterday demonstrating that a slight majority (52%) of the Southern Baptist pastors they polled believe that any professing believer can participate in communion. Yet, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) say of the Lord’s Supper that, “Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.” I’ve posted my thoughts on this issue at Between the Times. I hope you’ll check out that post.



September 2012



Summarizing the Life and Influence of Robert Hall Sr.

Written by , Posted in Books, Conferences, History, Theology

Later this week, I’m delivering a plenary address at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Seminary (click here for the schedule). I’m looking forward to speaking on the topic of “Robert Hall Sr. (1728-1791): Andrew Fuller’s Mentor.” I’ve written on Hall in the past, most recently editing a new edition of his 1781 classic Help to Zion’s Travellers (BorderStone, 2011).

Robert Hall Sr. is hardly a household name among contemporary Baptists, but I think he ought to be. He played a critical role in pushing back against the hyper-Calvinism that had so deadened much of Particular Baptist life during the eighteenth century. He also significantly influenced a group of younger pastors who later succeeded him in fame and influence, most notably Fuller and William Carey.

One of Hall’s early biographers was J.W. Morris, who also wrote a biography of Andrew Fuller. Morris wrote a paragraph in his biography that I believe perfectly summarizes the life and influence of Robert Hall Sr.

With Hall originated the disposition to examine into the inordinate pretensions of Hypercalvinism [sic], which had long passed as the undoubted test of orthodoxy, particularly in the baptist [sic] connection, where [John] Gill and [John] Brine had been considered as the true conservators of the doctrines of grace. The rural pastor at Arnsby broke the spell, and awakening a spirit of enquiry, which gradually effected the revival of those primitive principles, which gave new life and energy to the ministry of his brethren, and prepared the way for the Mission to the East. He gathered around him all the talent that existed in the neighbourhood, gave an impulse and a direction to religious sentiment and feeling, and a distinguished eminence to that part of the denomination to which he more immediately belonged. Others moved in a wider sphere, and were engaged in more active services, but wisdom and prudence dwelt with him, and all their activities were stimulated and guided by his counsels.

See J.W. Morris, “Memoir of the Rev. Robert Hall, Arnsby, Leicestershire,” in The Complete Works of the Late Rev. Robert Hall, ed. J.W. Morris (London: W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1828), p. 38.



September 2012



Recommendation: Alvin Reid’s Tribute to Roy Fish

Written by , Posted in Links, Missions, SBC

Southern Baptist readers may know that Roy Fish, longtime professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary, passed away earlier this week. His funeral is being held today at Southwestern. Dr. Fish was one of the most beloved men in the Southern Baptist Convention, a soul-winner and a teacher of soul-winners. He taught for over a half-century at Southwestern and later served as interim president of North American Mission Board. The Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern is named in his honor.

Since my seminary education took place at Southern and Southeastern Seminaries, respectively, I never took a class with Dr. Fish. But his influence looms large, even in my own studies. My personal evangelism professor in my MDiv program was Timothy Beougher, currently the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary. Some of my doctoral students in evangelism were undertaken with my friend and colleague Alvin Reid, the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern.  (Though my primary doctoral studies were in historical theology and Baptist studies, I took nine seminar hours in evangelism and missions, which is more or less my unofficial minor.) Both men studied personal evangelism under Dr. Fish for one or more of their graduate degrees.

Alvin has written a wonderful tribute to Dr. Fish today at Between the Times. I hope you will read it. May Dr. Fish’s love for the lost continue to permeate Southern Baptists as we seek to push back the darkness and make disciples of all peoples here, there, and everywhere.

(Image credit)