An exposing of self-righteous false confidence
‘And ye will not come unto me that ye might have life,’ John v 40. Most duty faith men have considered this text to be a good authority for duty faith, universal invitations, and to show that there is eternal life for all in the fulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, only they will not come and have it. Those men never make half so free with those words of our Lord saying, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father, which both sent me, draw him,’ ch 6:44. ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father,’ verse 65; and as the apostle saith, ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Spirit;’ and without this, there is no coming to him as such, Heb 11:6. And so, to put a construction upon our text contrary to these passages, must be false and not of the truth; because our Lord, without any contradiction to his own meaning in our text, very plainly showed who had come, who would come, who do come, and who shall come, and who only he looked for to come, saying, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,’ John 6:37; adding, ‘Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,’ verse 54. Our Lord did not in our text beg, entreat, beseech, nor command any man to come to him; nor say that they ought to come, or should come, or that it was their duty to come and have eternal life; nor did he say will you come? nor that it was his soul’s desire that they should come, nor that he should have come into the world in any thing in vain, and would be disappointed and grieved if they did not come and have eternal life; but he said, ‘Ye will not come unto me.’ And let us observe,
First. That this was but a charging their own folly, presumption, and self- contradiction home upon them, according to their self-deceiving false confidence. For that in their then present state they looked for, and with great confidence expected, and thought most certainly, eternal life was theirs, or whose should it be? while they were at the same time opposed to, and fighting against, the only way and truth of eternal life, in their persecution of Christ, John 5:16. He said to them, ‘Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me,’ verse 39; as though he had said, ‘If ye would have life, ye must come to me for it, and as ye will not come to me, ye cannot have eternal life, as it is in no other way, nor anywhere else to be had. If your confidence was good, you would come to me; but as your confidence is bad, you oppose that which is good, and cannot bear the truth; as is, always the case with false confidence. You profess to be very righteously concerned to have and secure to yourselves eternal life, and yet with all this ye will not come to me; I am not in your concern, and therefore your concern about eternal life is all false, is not of God, nor of the truth, but ye are confidently deceiving yourselves and one another, or you would come to me; ‘For every one that had heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me’ as you would, if you had as really so heard and learned of him, as you profess to be taught, claim to be wise, to be right, and to have eternal life.’ Thus, their religion, their great zeal, their righteousness and their confidence was all turned upon them as false by this evidence, that Christ and his truth were opposed and not received thereby. And from this we may solemnly ask, what does our religion embrace, or what exclude? seeing it is possible to be as righteously zealous and confident as those Jews, and yet be as awfully wrong! The very spirit and intent of this text is, therefore, a direct attack made upon self- righteous false confidence, instead of anything of a warrant for duty faith or universal invitations.
Second. That on principles of truth in general, our Lord by our text very plainly declares, that if it were left to the natural will in of man, not one soul of Adam’s fallen race would obtain eternal life; and that of all the ways the self-righteous will of man would devise, the way to Christ, and the only true way of eternal life by him, would never be found, sought, nor desired; and that so, not one soul of the race of mankind would be found an inhabitant of heaven at last, though every one Might be as righteous in his own way as Paul was, till omnipotent grace killed his self-righteousness and created his soul anew in Christ Jesus.
Third. That in the lost state of man, the will is lost, and that while the will is lost the man is lost; and that a willing state is by the power and grace of God only; ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,’ Psalm 110:3; and that when the will is saved, the soul is saved. And let all poor doubting, trembling souls think of this and take courage, for it is God that worketh in them to will, as much as it is God that worketh in the strongest saints to do, Phil 2:13; and that so it is, that ‘whosoever will,’ shall in due time ‘take of the water of life freely,’ Rev 22:17.
Fourth. That sovereign, discriminate, free, and determinate grace, ‘according to the purpose of election,’ does no violence to the will of any man, for those whom the Lord will gather, and who ‘shall come and see his glory,’ the Lord makes willing to come; and those whom the Lord will not gather, cause to come, and save to life eternal, they are of themselves all quite willing to stay where they are, opposed to everything that belongs to coming to Christ.
Fifth. Our text most clearly shews, that fallen man, in his fallen nature state, is too much a lump of death, without an ear to hear, without will, understanding, or affection, for any thing that savingly pertains to godliness, to be any way savingly affected, altered, or bettered in his condition by the mere ministry of the gospel, though it be preached by the ablest ministers or by an angel from heaven, or by one rose from the dead, Luke 16:13, or by our Lord himself, as his ministry to the Jews fully proves, and as every minister of the gospel has a practical proof of, and as the apostle confessed, that effectually, ‘Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.’ And as the many believing through the apostles’ preaching is wholly ascribed to the hand of the Lord being with them, Acts 11:1; and to the Lord’s giving ‘testimony to the word of his grace,’ Acts 14:3; and with our text, and with these facts before our eyes, how awfully wicked, proud, ignorant, false and senseless, it does appear in men who can stand up and say, that ‘the Lord has committed the salvation of the world to his church and his ministers,’ and that ‘ministers are accountable for the souls by whom they are surrounded.’ If the Lord were to take those men upon the awful responsibility they so presumptuously and hypocritically assume, for myself, I must cry, Great Jehovah, save my poor feeble soul from their condemnation!
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.