The Kind of Man God Uses: Samuel Pearce (1766-1799)

Founders Journal · Summer 2004 · pp. 24-25

The Kind of Man God Uses:
Samuel Pearce (1766–1799)

Tom J. Nettles

The beloved friend of Andrew Fuller and William Carey, Samuel Pearce (1766-1799), personified the living relation between doctrinal purity and passion for God’s glory in evangelism. [1] Pearce participated with boundless energy and sacrifice in the Missionary society work and served as editor of the Periodical Accounts. Not only did he promote the mission cause in England with all his might, he urged William Rogers of the Philadelphia Association to begin a Baptist foreign mission society in America that would involve the energies of the entire denomination. Cathcart’s Encyclopedia calls him “one of the warmest advocates of foreign missions that dwelt on earth since the Son of Mary came from his heavenly home on a foreign mission to this lost world.” He has been compared to Robert Murray McCheyne and David Brainerd for combination of fervent piety and zeal.

In a funeral sermon preached for Pearce, Fuller asserted that Pearce was a “singular instance of the holy and happy efficacy of divine grace, whose imperfections were as few, and whose excellencies as many as I have ever witnessed in a mortal man.” Comparing him to king Josiah, Fuller noted that Pearce came to Christ at a tender age, like Josiah was tender-hearted, and, again like Josiah, had a “lovely uniformity of character.” Then, in a memorable passage outlining the balance of his character, Fuller said, “For my own part, I never knew a man in whom were united greater portion of the contemplative and the active; holy zeal, and genuine candor; spirituality, and rationality; talents which attracted almost universal applause, and the most unaffected modesty; fortitude that would encounter any difficulty that stood in the way of duty, and gentleness that would not break a bruised reed; faithfulness in bearing testimony against evil, and compassion to the soul of the evil-doer; deep seriousness, and habitual cheerfulness; finally, a constant aim to promote the highest degree of piety in himself and others, and, at the same time, a readiness to hope the best of the lowest.” [2]

Also he harbored and nurtured a deep desire to go to the heathen himself and studied the Bengalee language in preparation for that purpose. A combination of constant prayer, self-examination, and rational consideration informed his desires. When he began to learn that the Missionary Society felt hesitant about sending him he reflected, “I do think, however, if they knew how earnestly I pant for the work, it would be impossible for them to withhold their ready acquiescence” [3]

In a circular letter Pearce wrote in 1794, he pointed particularly to the truth that God uses ordained means to accomplish his sovereign decreed will. [4] “There is not one doctrine in the gospel but what is ‘according to godliness’,” Pearce wrote, and quickly added, “nor one promise of future happiness unconnected with present holiness.” In the same way, if the Bible teaches us “the doctrine of God’s everlasting love and his sovereign choice of his people,” it also teaches us that they “are predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ…through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” Our redeemer’s “efficacious sacrifice” certainly removes the iniquity of his people and just as certainly purifies “unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.” [5]

Given the certainty of the decree as executed through the means, Pearce implores his hearers that they “let not shame, or the fear of displeasing men, withhold you from an attempt to lead sinners to Christ.” They are not ashamed of their master, why should Christians be ashamed of theirs? You know little? But you know Christ and Him crucified. You have little time? Fill it then all the more with service to God. What will you regret in a dying hour? Your lack of expending yourself for eternal purposes. “Finally,” Pearce seemingly rises to a crescendo, “think what pleasure it will give you at the judgment day to meet and spend eternity with some to whose salvation you have been instrumental; such a circumstance would add fresh energy to your joy, and lustre to your crown.” [6]

Fuller identified the driving principle of Pearce’s life as “Holy Love.” [7] The following circular letter written by Pearce demonstrates the power the doctrines of grace had establishing this holy love in his heart and enflaming his soul for the glory of God in the salvation of sinners.


Notes:

1 Fuller wrote a memoir of Pearce at his death. Andrew Fuller, “Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Pearce, M.A.” in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1845) 3:367-446.

2 Joseph Belcher, ed., The Last Remains of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1856), 321-22.

3 Fuller, “Memoirs” in The Complete Works, 3:391.

4 Samuel Pearce, “Circular Letter, 1794,” in The History of the Midland Association of Baptist Churches, 115-121.

5 Pearce, 116.

6 Pearce, 120.

7 Fuller, “Memoirs,” in The Complete Works, 3:429.