John Foreman on Duty Faith (Complete)

65 ‘And This Is The Condemnation, That Light Is Come Into The World, And Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light…”

‘And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil,’ John 3:19. We should have thought this text and its connections to be too plain to involve any difficulty, and to be such a plain statement of mere facts, on the hardened, sinful, condemned, and yet self-righteous state of man under the law by nature, and of the truth of which being simply, yet fully made manifest by the light of Christ, truth and holiness, that a misapplication would be scarcely possible to be made of the subject. But this text and its connections have, however, not escaped being twisted about to duty faith purposes; and to say that men are condemned to eternal death for their not receiving the mercy and favour of God in Christ Jesus to eternal life; as though God, in his great love, proposed eternal life to their believing, and then changed his love into wrath, and eternally damns them, for their not believingly receiving the eternal blessings of his everlasting love in Christ Jesus; making man’s believing the cause of God’s mercy to salvation, and man’s not believing to salvation the cause of condemnation!

Most certainly our Lord had no such meaning, unless the apostle Paul was awfully and altogether wrong in saying, ‘For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all,’ Rom 11:32. These words are a pointed denial to every thing of such meaning on our Lord’s words in our text and the connection; and a full proof the apostle never so understood his Lord and Master, either here or elsewhere. And to put any such construction upon our Lord’s words, in- our text or its connection, I am sure we might just as well say from the apostle’s words, that unbelief is the cause of God’s mercy; ‘for God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.’ But the apostle’s sole and only meaning, is to set forth the perfectly free, sovereign, and unconditional favor of God alike to both Jews and Gentiles, and that their native unbelief is made really to prove, illustrate, and set off the truth of the same; in the same way as he implies, that ‘our unrighteousness commends and righteousness of God,’ Rom 3:5; and the same as God commended his love, in that while we were not considered as alive by faith, but as dead in sin and unbelief, ‘Christ died for us,’ Rom 5:8. The apostle also very clearly shews, that the mercy of God is the cause of faith, and not faith the cause of God’s mercy; and that faith of itself is none other than a bestowment of God’s mercy on the heirs of life: as on them a sign, and to them and in them, the witness of God, that they are, as in scripture character, the children of his love, promise, and so of his salvation, Rom 8:30-32. ‘He that believeth not is condemned already,’ verse 18; and he is so by the law as a transgressor; but his not believing unto salvation does not make him so, but proves and declares him to be so, and he is as a sinner just where he would be if there were no Saviour of any; ‘because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ This because intends neither moving nor procuring cause, but evidential of the unbeliever’s state. The sentence of condemnation is by the law passed upon every sinner, and Christ Jesus is the only name given under heaven whereby there is salvation from that condemnation: and as by the word and will of God, faith in Christ is the face, countenance, and representative sign of the soul’s whole and real state, and of interest in Christ unto salvation from all the condemnation of the law; even so, unbelief in Christ is the face, countenance, and representative sign of the soul’s whole and real state, as under sin, without Christ, and under the condemnation of the law; the wrath of God, by the sentence of the law, still’ abiding on him,’ verse 36, he having no deliverance by Christ, of the truth of which his unbelief is a proof, sign, and representation, by the light, truth, and testimony of the word of God. And the root of this unbelief is discovered, and the truth of this condemnation state is further shewn and made manifest, by a man’s ‘loving darkness rather than light,’ but this love of darkness and the condemnation entailed upon it, is not created, but proved and confirmed as to fact, by the light that is but proved and confirmed as to fact, by the light that is come; the light being not the cause, but the test and proof of true character. And this is true, whether it be of the child of light, who cometh to the light for an honest manifestation and proof of his true and real state; or of the child of darkness, who hates the light because he loves darkness, and hates the detection of his loved evil deeds, by the light of truth and holiness.

And this may be illustrated by the figure of a family man, who, taking a light in his hand, and going round to see how all things are in the house as a last thing at night, and going into the room where his several little boys are in bed, all wakeful, he holds up the light, and while with pleasure he reads in their little sparkling eyes his own dear children, they, with enlivened pleasure, read in his eyes and countenance their loving parent, and all is well there. But hearing some noise, he proceeds to another part of the house, enters a room, and there finds some thieves busy at their work of knavery; and at first the thieves try to put out the light, but failing in that attempt, they scamper out at the window or elsewhere, to escape the light, loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. Now the light in the man’s hand makes neither children nor thieves, but shews up both in true character. And this appears to me to be our Lord’s entire meaning, the same as the apostle’s ‘savor of life unto life, and of death unto death,’ as we have observed on that text.

If, from the mere face of our text, it be yet contended, that our Lord really means that man’s not believing unto eternal salvation is the cause of his eternal condemnation by the light of truth and grace that is come into the world by Christ Jesus, then other texts ought, and have a right, on the mere face of them, to be taken in the same way; and then it must be admitted, and cannot be self consistently denied, that our Lord’s coming, speaking, and doing what he did, really made men to be sinners! Saying, ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin,’ John 15:22. ‘If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin,’ verse 24. So making out our holy Lord Christ himself, in Corning, speaking, and working as he did, to be the cause of the sin, and sinful state, for which unbelieving men are condemned! This is awful in the very sound of it, and yet it is but a direct and fair conclusion on the two latter-cited texts; if the duty of natural men to believe unto eternal salvation and their not believing to eternal salvation the cause of their eternal condemnation, be determined the doctrine and meaning of our Lord *in our text and its connection.

But if we take all the above texts, as they do really and properly mean, and are intended to mean, the test, proof, and disclosure of men and things in their true character, as in the sight of God, then the whole are plain in truth and holiness, according to the word of the Lord saying, ‘Judgment will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hall shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place,’ Isaiah 23:17. ‘And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles,’ Zeph 1:12. ‘Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor,’ Matt 3:12. ‘And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is,’ 1 Cor 3:13. ‘Every plant, which my heavenly Father both not planted, shall be rooted up,’ Matt 15:13.

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.