Summarizing the Life and Influence of Robert Hall Sr.
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.