Third. Universal invitations fully imply and really breathe the spirit of a total denial of that personal change of state, which, according to the word of God, must take place in the person for the soul to be saved; and which change of personal state is declared to have been wrought in all them who, according to New Testament record, have been believers unto salvation, and that also to have been God’s own work only. And this indispensable personal change of state is set forth in the word of God, by such figures of expression as defy any commixture of agency in the thing itself, and all power but the power of God alone to produce the same. And out of the many, we will take notice of four of those forms of expression by which this change of state for the kingdom of God is set forth.
(1) It is set forth under the figure of being generated, saying, `Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,’ James 1:18. Surely the Holy Ghost never inspired this figure without a correspondent meaning; and with this fact duly considered as the truth of God in his own holy word, universal invitations must appear most senseless and opposed to all the laws of truth, unless it be good sense and quite consistent with the laws of truth, to invite the unbegotten to beget themselves into a new begotten state, and to say that is it the duty of the unbegotten so to beget themselves. And if, according to the word of God, no person can come into the Christian state, and the blessings of that state, without being thus begotten, then universal invitations must be an inviting of people to beget themselves into a new begotten state, and duty faith must go to say, that it is the duty of all men to beget themselves into a new begotten state! If such a thing were possible, and any one did in very deed so beget himself, he would belong to no race or family ever yet heard of in heaven or on earth, and so not at all to the family of God, for they are all begotten by himself, `of his own will,’ and `according to his abundant mercy,’ into all they are, and unto all they have and shall have, as a Bible people in state and character for the kingdom of heaven.
(2) The indispensable change in personal state of the soul for the kingdom of God is compared to a birth, saying, ‘Ye must be born again,’ John iii 7. All therefore who are believers indeed unto eternal salvation, are first born of God, John 1:13; and `of incorruptible seed,’ 1 Pet 1:23; and are come into divine life `as new-born babes,’ 1:12. Now we know nothing of inviting the unborn to effect their own birth, and we know nothing of duties devolving on the unborn, as relating to an after-birth life; and we know nothing of children remaining in the womb to die and rot, because they do not produce their own birth as a matter and course of duty; and yet duty faith and universal invitations, with their awful penalties, amount to all this to the soul, in regard to that spiritual birth which must take place for the soul to enter the kingdom of heaven; and which, by our Lord’s double verily, must be wrought of God himself, and which is accordingly compared to the mystery and power of the wind blowing where it listeth, as to any power there is in man to cause it or prevent it, for that like the wind’s blowing it is of God only, John iii 8. And why is this all-important and indispensable point of fact to be smothered over, concealed, and tacitly denied by duty faith and universal invitations? Why is not this point of truth maintained as plainly as our Lord stated it, since its indispensability and importance are not at all abated? Why? because pulpit men, many of them, however, are vain enough to think that they can effect more good to souls by their fleshly pleasing schemes of piety, than God himself will do through an honest and simple statement of his own plain truth. And so, instead of the great first point in all true personal godliness, the new birth by the Spirit and power of God, being kept most prominent as its real importance demands, duty faith and universal invitations are substituted in the place thereof, and a mere change of habits, with an outward profession, is put for newness of personal state; not saying, ‘Ye must be born again,’ as the solemn truth is.
(3) The indispensable change in the personal state of the soul for the kingdom of God, is compared to creation, and every believer unto salvation is such a piece of divine workmanship as that of being `created in Christ Jesus.’ A man must be all this, to be a believer unto salvation; and no soul is a believer unto salvation with less than this newness of state by the creating hand of God. For a believer unto eternal life is in Christ, and a man cannot be a believer unto salvation without being so in Christ, and a man cannot be in Christ without being a new creature. `Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new; and all which new things are of God,’ 2 Cor. 5:17,18. This is called creation, to show that none but the creator of all things could effect it, and that it is his work, and his prerogative alone to do it. And it is called new creation, to shew that it is not a mere reformation of the old creation state, but is distinct from it, is no part of it, is in principle altogether a new state of being, which was not included in, nor in any way of principle, privilege, or duty, belonging to the first creation state of man. And as all the duties of creation must lie within itself, and cannot lie beyond itself by any sort of anteriority, even so, it is no more the duty of any man to create himself anew in Christ Jesus, than it was the duty of nonentity to create dust, and then form that dust into a man, and make that man to become a living soul in the first creation; nor is there any more truth, reason or propriety, in the talk of duties, and invitations to such duties in the one case, than in the other; while short of a new creature in Christ Jesus, the soul has no mark or property for the kingdom of God.
(4) The indispensable change in the personal state of the soul for the kingdom of God, is called a quickening, and raising up together with Christ. This is and must be God’s work alone; and as none but God himself can quicken and raise the common dead, so none but God alone can quicken and raise a soul into spiritual and newness of life in Christ Jesus; and to declare which as the truth of the case, the figure of speech used is employed in our text, Eph ii 5,6. And it is no more the duty of the soul to quicken itself into new life in Christ, than it is the duty of the dead in the grave to raise themselves up into the life of the world to come; and there is no more truth or propriety in universal invitations, or invitations to the dead, in the one case than in the other.
I am aware that the force of the above figures of speech will be artfully attempted to be shuffled and frittered away, as not meaning all they would seem to imply. But let them mean much or little, what is meant, is so called as to set forth what none but God alone could perform or produce, and to mark it as God’s work alone, and as that which must be as much out of man’s duty, as it is of God’s grace only. And, therefore, according to the fair import and evident truth of the Holy Ghost in the above forms of expression, duty faith and universal invitations must, to say anything at all, go plainly to say, that it is the duty of the unbegotten to beget themselves, and should be invited to do so. That it is the duty of the unborn to produce an after-birth state, and should be invited to do so; and that, too, whether conceived or not. That it is the duty of nonentity to create existence, and should be invited to do so. That it is the duty of the dead to quicken themselves, and should be invited to do so! Wonder, 0 heavens! at the wisdom, experience, and honesty of duty faith preachers on these points; and be astonished, 0 earth! at the people’s blindness and folly in receiving such stuff for the gospel of the grace of God, the glorious gospel of the blessed God!
John Foreman (1792-1872) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone, serving this position for close to forty years.