It was a small step, but it was the step that was needed to make Fuller and Carey’s sermons a reality. These two sermons were able to provide the foundation for the organizing of the Baptist Missionary Society. According to historian Christopher Smith, “Nothing less than a grand, God-glorifying, mission-oriented ‘theology of hope’ was entrusted to the Church that day.” These two faithful, but unknown, pastors delivered two faithful, but mostly unheard, sermons that would usher in a movement in history that is influencing our world today.
Sermons can have a powerful individual effect. It is under the hearing of these sermons that people are saved, instructed, and grow in their faith. People will leave the church building saying, “It’s like he was preaching to just me” or “ I needed to hear that today.” However, some sermons go beyond personal effect. Some have the power to move a denomination and, in turn, leave a lasting change in the world.
This is precisely what happened to the Particular Baptist denomination of England when Andrew Fuller and William Carey delivered two powerful sermons to their local association in the early 1790s. God used these two sermons, and these two men, to change the course of history and usher in what we now call the modern-missions movement.
At this time Fuller and Carey’s denomination, the Particular Baptists, overwhelmingly embraced the doctrine of High-Calvinism. High-Calvinists believed that in order for someone to come to saving faith, they had to be given a “warrant of faith” by God. Open invitations for hearers to repent and believe the gospel was thought to be doing a disservice to the sovereignty of God, and thus they were never practiced. This is the system that Fuller and Carey were brought up in. Fuller said concerning this doctrine, “I conceive there is scarcely a minister amongst us whose preaching has not been more or less influenced by the lethargic systems of the age.” The natural outcome of High-Calvinism spread among the Particular Baptists, and thus diminished their evangelistic zeal, and the denomination began to shrink in number and influence.
Fuller and Carey both broke away from this belief system. They offered invitations in their sermons for people to come to Christ. Likewise, they were both becoming increasingly convinced of the need for the gospel to be taken globally. However, they were lesser-known pastors, in less influential churches, and in a dying and shrinking denomination. Still, these two were given the opportunity for their voices to be heard, and it would change history forever.
Andrew Fuller first delivered his message entitled “The Instances, Evil, and Tendency of Delay, in the Concerns of Religion” from Haggai 1:2 on April 27, 1791. Fuller was determined to begin turning the ship of the denomination. He said regarding the great commission:
When the Lord Jesus commissioned his apostles, he commanded them to go and teach “all nations” and preach the gospel to “every creature”; and that notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions that would lie in their way. The apostles executed their commission with assiduity and fidelity; but, since their days, we seem to sit down half contented that the greater part of the world should remain in ignorance and idolatry. Some noble efforts have indeed been, made; but they are small in number, when compared to the magnitude of the object. 
In his sermon, Fuller did everything but say that the Great Commission was binding on Christians, but it was very much implied. Fuller believed that Christians were to carry on the work of the apostles and urged his fellow Particular Baptists to do that very thing. Fuller continues,
Are the souls of men of less value heretofore? No. Is Christianity less true or less important than in former ages? This will not be pretended. Are there no opportunities for societies, or individuals, in Christian nations, to convey the gospel to the heathen? This cannot be pleaded as long as opportunities are found to trade with them, yea, and (what a disgrace to the name of Christians) to buy them, and sell them, and treat them with worse than savage barbarity? We have opportunities in abundance; the improvement of navigation, the maritime and commercial turn of this country, furnish us with these; and it deserved to be considered whether this is not a circumstance that renders it a duty peculiarly binding on us.