By Evan D. Burns

In the fourth letter of “Strictures on Some of the Leading Sentiments of Mr. R. Robinson,” Andrew Fuller writes “on the necessity of the Holy Spirit for the right understanding and believing the Holy Scriptures.”  He offers three propositions for the necessity of the Spirit in illumination: “1. That holy dispositions are necessary, in order to the admission of Scripture truth.  2. That men by nature have no such disposition.  3. That the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary to produce it.”[1]

On this third point, Fuller solemnly warns us not to be overconfident in our common sense and discerning knowledge.  The knowledge of the holy is a sacred gift given by the Spirit, the truth of which should compel us to plead for more of the Spirit’s illuminating work.

A man may read his Bible, and be mightily pleased with himself for the discoveries he makes by the mere dint of common sense; but if he have no other perception, with all his ingenuity he will be blind to itsreal glory. Our own times furnish us with too many exemplifications. Let us tremble, lest we grieve the Holy Spirit by undervaluing his influences. If those who think they can do without the Spirit were left to their own ingenuity, He would be just, nor could they complain. I wish our character be not drawn in that of the Laodiceans: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; but knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” May we hearken to the counsel given to that deluded people, and apply to the true source of all spiritual light, for “eye-salve that we maysee.” They were wonderfully enamoured with theirdiscernment: but Christ pronounced them blind. They had applied to the wrong source for light. If they wished for knowledge worth obtaining, they must apply to him for it. Oh that we had a heart to hearken to this counsel!…  All I mean to affirm is, that there are truths in the Holy Scriptures—truths, too, which constitute the essence and glory of the gospel-truths the discernment and belief of which form the essence of true religion, which cannot be admitted without an answerable disposition; and that this disposition must be produced by the Holy Spirit.  Whoever may think lightly of his influences, and fondly imagine they can do without them, may it be your prayer and mine—“Take not thy Holy Spirit from me”—“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”[2]


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Gunton Fuller, Volume 3: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 602.

[2] Fuller, Works, III, 604.


Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.


This first appeared on the website of the Andrew Fuller Center of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.