The apostle Peter’s words to the Jews, saying, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,’ Acts 11 38, are also set down by you in the 14th article of your proposed doctrinal plan for the Strict Communion Baptist Association, as an authority for the natural man’s duty to believe unto salvation. And as these words stand in the very same order, and the speech is immediately of the very same nature as that to the jailor I suppose you equally consider this text likewise to be an express command;’ and truly this is quite as much a command as that. But these words are neither an express command, exhortation, or invitation; but a gospel reply to the living and heaven-wrought penitent cry and agonizing importunity of the vitally ‘pricked in their heart,’ verse 37.
From occasions stated in this chapter, Peter stood up and preached Christ, and charged the Jews with the sin of having ‘crucified’ him, whom God had ‘raised up’ end made both ‘Lord and Christ.’ This was plain gospel ministry- like work, with an honest appeal. ‘And when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?’ This pricking in the heart was God’s gracious quickening, vital conviction, and the seeds of divine life sown of God in the heart beginning to germinate, and which put them altogether into a new state of soul being, as different to what they ever were in before as life is to death, as humbling and heart-dissolving convictions are to obduracy, and as the light of God in the conscience is to the darkness of Satan’s undisturbed dominion over the soul; and now brought to repentance, under divinely wrought convictions, and hedged in with guilt, like all other truly and savingly convinced sinners, not knowing God’s gracious and merciful *intentions with them, unable to bear themselves, and not knowing what to do, cried out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ And with suited words of truth and grace, Peter answered them according to their request. And what can the unbelieving world in their unbelieving state have to do with this? And what can this answer to the cry of the grace-living have to do with the sin-dead? Let the whole world be so quickened and convinced as so to cry, and we would gladly answer the whole world in like manner. And have you ever been so pricked in your heart, and so hedged in as to be obliged so to cry, and find no relief but by mercy’s voice, in the truth and grace of the gospel? Because to me, from experience, it appears unaccountable, that any man who has, and especially a minister and teacher of others, should so muddle the law of divine claims and penal obligations, and the gospel of the grace of God; the dead in sins, and the quickened by the power and grace of God, all up so together; as though the first two were but one and the same ministry, and the latter two were but one and the same character; the pricked in their heart differing so little from the world that lieth dead in wickedness, as to admit no proper distinction.
And herein lies a great and awful error, in teaching the vital, saving and spiritual conviction work of God in the heart, but as an emotion of nature; and considering the state of the world at large to be so altered, by the mere coming and existence of the gospel ministry, as for all men to be responsible to do, be, have and know, all what the pricked in the heart are crying after of a saved state; and the gracious gospel answer to their cry, to be a new obligatory command of God to the world! Surely your own experience, if you have any, must teach you better than all this, while men of no experience, who work all by the speculations of the head, may well make such refined blunders in spiritual things, as their heart cannot teach their mouth, nor add learning to their lips, Prow xvi 23. Peter’s words, saying, ‘Every one of you,’ will not afford you the least authority to carry out our text beyond the ‘pricked in their heart,’ because he, to strengthen and confirm his encouragements to these, says, ‘For the promise is unto you, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call,’ as these were now called, verse 39-41.
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.