It has been said, `That it is the duty of all men to be what grace makes the Christian.’ This is plain, and the plainer it is the better we can understand it, and the less likely we are to make mistakes. But in reply to this, let us observe:
First. That so it would be the duty of all men, if Adam had been as a head to his whole posterity exactly what Christ is as a head to his believing church, and the whole posterity of Adam had been in him at the first exactly what the quickened and called church is in Christ; but not otherwise, since it cannot be any man’s duty now, to be more than man was at the first. And taking Adam as a pattern of the whole, that he was in his moral uprightness, in his life and standing in Eden, and in his meetness for Eden, just what the Christian man by grace is unto salvation; and that the man of God by grace unto eternal salvation, is but a repetition of Adam’s first constitutional state and standing figure before God in Eden, either personally, systematically, properly, or prospectively, I challenge and defy any duty faith man under the heavens to prove by any one text in all the word of God. For that while Adam had in his first state but a pure earthly paradise, he stood in the very height and perfection of the bliss for which he had a personal meetness, and that on condition only of his upright continuance in the moral rectitude in which God had made him; while the Christian, by grace `a new creature,’ has a meetness for the incorruptible inheritance of heaven itself, and that ensured to him in the very life of Christ, John 14:19. The word of God, in speaking of Adam in his own order of first state, never calls him a spiritual man, but a natural man; and in speaking of the man of God by grace, in his own order as such, never calls him a natural man, but a spiritual man; and according to the word of God, these two cannot mean the same thing and the same state of being, but differ as greatly and distinctly in meaning as does the law and the gospel, the letter and the spirit, the ministration of death and the ministration of the Spirit, the old and the new covenant, the earthy and the heavenly, 1 Cor. 15:47,48; 2 Cor. 3.
Second. The idea of its being the duty of all men to be what grace makes the Christian, reduces, lowers, diminishes, and levels down the whole work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the quickening, teaching, comforting, Christ-glorifying work of the Holy Spirit, to the mere restoration and re- establishment of the first natural Adam state and obedience as required of man by creation law. And which idea also goes to declare, that all that is so richly said in the word of God of the great, the everlasting, unchangeable, and inseparable love of God; of his great and everlasting mercy, his manifold grace, his deep counsels, his mighty works, his truth which endureth for ever, his many exceeding great and precious promises, his covenant that he will not break, nor remove, but remember for ever; and all his gracious names that he savingly bears in his holy word; and all that is therein said by his saints with grateful wonder and praise for all his greatness in goodness, love, and mercy toward them, is only about God’s doing for some men what was the duty of all men to do for themselves, and amounting to nothing more at!! 0 what a robbery is the notion of duty faith unto salvation, upon the exceeding riches of grace, upon salvation’s deep and sweet mystery, and upon God’s holy and gracious honor and glory! 0 what a pious fraud is duty faith unto salvation, gravely played off upon the self- willed, self-righteous, gracelessly pious multitudes, who like to have it so! And 0 how liberal and free is all this too from all such heavenly and Bible religious bigotry which holds, with so much narrow-mindedness, that a soul must be born again of the Spirit and grace of God to be a Christian, or to commence one step in the path which leads to eternal life, and that salvation is wholly in and of the will, pleasure, hand, and power of God only! But how will it be in the end?
Third. The idea of its being the duty of all men to be what grace makes the Christian, makes our Lord Jesus Christ to be nothing more as a head to his grace-made Christian seed, than Adam was and would have been to his whole natural posterity had he continued to stand and had not sinned. And so all those high and glorious, spiritual and heavenly distinctions of gracious and salvation excellency, which the word of God ascribes to Christ alone, as Head of his church, and to his church in him, by an everlasting covenant of life and peace, above, and all surpassing Adam, and his natural posterity in him at the first, are by duty faith at once thrown down, denied, and destroyed, to make room for itself, in the place of the things of the Spirit, while itself is but of natural origin, and not of the Spirit by saving grace.
Man’s original state must embrace every duty of the natural man, and as those duties were in accordance with nature’s constitution, and within nature’s own inherently constituted power to perform them, we call them natural duties to God the Creator by the law of nature. And if it be the duty of every man to be what grace makes the Christian, while it cannot be the duty of any natural man to be any thing more or less or any thing otherwise than as God made man at the first, then the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ must be after all nothing more than the religion of nature, and Christ must be only a natural head, as Adam was at the first, of natural religion; and so, godliness altogether by grace is but the mere restoration of the religion that Adam lost; and so, according to this, all that is said of the mystery of godliness, the mystery of Christ, and of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, &c, they are nothing more than what were the commonplace things of nature before Adam fell! Only you must be a duty faith saint to believe this!
We see, however, by this idea of every man’s duty, that duty faith is but natural faith, the faith of nature by the law, in nature’s Author and Lawgiver; and which natural faith took the lead in Adam’s pure nature, in his obedience to God’s law of nature to man in the Eden state. We do not deny natural faith, but believe in the truth of it, and that it is a natural duty under the law of nature toward the Lawgiver; and that the obedience to this natural faith is the fulfilling and keeping the law of God’s common revelation of himself, as at first made to Adam. But if every man had as much of this natural faith as Adam had at the first, and as pure, it would not then be the faith of the gospel that is unto salvation, nor any thing related to it; for so taking it is a deadly deception altogether; and here lies the awful but popular error about duty faith, as having any thing to do with salvation.
And here, I perceive, lies your own great mistake, Sir, about Christian obedience and faith unto salvation, as growing out of, and as being `the essence of God’s law.’ I am aware that the duty faith system virtually, and some at least of its advocates declaratively, deny there being more than one kind of faith; and then the faith of nature under the law, is blindly, fondly, and self-righteously taken up for, and made out to be, all the faith the Bible means, and to stand for every purpose, end, and intent of faith; while the supernatural `faith of God’s elect,’ `that is of the operation of God,’ is obtained `through the righteousness of God,’ and that is not of man, nor of works, nor of duty, is artfully put away as no reality; and natural faith, which is a duty under the law, is turned into a duty faith unto salvation under the gospel; and this is the thing I oppose under the character of duty faith. The faith of nature under the creation law of divine claims and human obligations, and the faith of the seed of Abraham under the law of conditional privileges by the land of Canaan covenant, and the faith of God’s elect, made to stand in the power of God, and within the saving grace of the everlasting covenant with Christ the elect head for the whole `election of grace,’ are by no means the same thing; but are as different as the respective premises are, and as much so, as the fact is, that the two first could hold nothing of Eden or of Canaan secure, but on the respective conditions of human doings; while the latter has all in free promises in Christ, secured by divine faithfulness in him, `Yea and amen;’ `that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.’ Rom 4:16.
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.