John Foreman on Duty Faith (Complete)

68 The Use Of Texts In Isolation, Without Regard To The Overall Teaching Of Scripture

There are many who now say, ‘that they think it best to take the scriptures and preach from them as they find them.’ If this was in the mind and spirit of truth, it would be all right; for although there might be a difficulty in coming at the precise meaning of some circumstantial passages, all fundamental truths would be clear as a sunbeam, the scriptures would be seen to be perfectly harmonious without a shadow of discord, and so uniform as a whole, as not to admit the appearance of self contradiction, jar, or what could not be righteously reconciled. But this is not what is meant; but the taking of the letter of scripture as it stands in mere sounds, without any of that special regard to the mind of the Spirit, on the proper distinctions of the law and of the gospel, of the different covenants, and the language used peculiar to their constitution and design; of characters, the living by quickening and regenerating grace, from the dead in sin; the called and believing churches of the saints in Christ, from the world at large which lieth in wickedness; which is always required, to read the scriptures with understanding. The scriptures can never with self-consistency, harmony, and without irreconcilable contradictions, be made to support any sentiments or religious principles contrary to what God really intends in and by his word; and when men take up and hold principles contrary to the mind of the Lord, they are always obliged to hold the scriptures in a way self-contradictory and self-irreconcilable, to support those sentiments; and which is as certain a sign of error, as when a sentiment is held for which there is not even the mere sound of one text to support it, but many directly opposed. By taking and preaching from the scriptures as they find them, as it is called, by catching at mere sounds, those men make even God to say and unsay, and the scriptures, most of all books under the heavens, to lack the common sense of self-consistency, and to abound with irreconcilable contradictions; for some of them have spoken out and said, that ‘No man can reconcile the contents of the Bible;’ that ‘Christ taught no system;’ that ‘Truth is no system.’ This must be all true of the scriptures, and of the gospel of Christ, or those men must be all this distance from the truth of the scriptures, and of the gospel of Christ.

The very thing that infidels have strove for ages to establish, is by such preachers tamely given up into their hands; namely, ‘That the scriptures are such a Jargon of confusion, that they cannot be made to agree with themselves.’ And as one in relation to the Bible said in public print but the other day, ‘Why refer at all to a record that is made to say anything?’ And from which, infidels boldly conclude, that as contradictions must involve falsehoods on the one side, or the other, further evidence is not required upon which to condemn the scriptures, as neither in whole nor in part the revelation of the wisdom of a God. And can this awful conclusion be wondered at, when preachers and professed friends and advocates of truth, to support their carnal notions, can tax the very sacred text of all revealed religion with such awful and irremediable discrepancies?

From this taking of the scriptures as they find them, it has been said, ‘There are as may passages in the scriptures for free will, as there are for free grace;’ although the inspired Paul has declared this to be impossible, Rom 11:6; Heb 6:17,18. This preaching from the scriptures as they find them, is a very fine plea for ignorance of the mind of the Spirit in the holy word, and an excuse from the labor of comparing ‘spiritual things with spiritual,’ the tedious necessity of a spiritual discernment, 1 Cor. 2:13,14, and from the toll of ‘rightly dividing from the word of truth,’ 2 Tim 2:15; and is very convenient for the preaching of one sort of gospel in the morning, and another in the after part of the day, and another in the weekly lecture, according to the people that attend; and a different gospel in different pulpits according to the sentiments of the people, and especially so if they are after money; what awful trickery this is with the souls of men, and trifling with the solemn word of God; surely that text can seldom strike them, ‘Thou, God, seest me.’ And this scheme of preaching from the scriptures as they find them, is a nice convenient wide open door for the inlet of carnal men into the ministry and for a carnal ministry altogether; for no speaking by the Holy Ghost as holy men of old did, no speaking as the Spirit giveth utterance, no preaching with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, is required in such a ministry; but (1) Self-righteousness, the universal sentiment of human nature, for the main subject, and as the chief feature of countenance to every subject. (2) The possession of sufficient natural ability to make a clever oration. (3) The studied art of neither preaching the doctrines of divine revelation nor yet openly denying them, of theatrically working upon the natural passions, and of pleasing the carnal; and this is all that is required to make ‘An acceptable preacher’ in such a ministry. And then follows ‘like people like priest;’ but at length comes the judgment of God on the matter, Hos. iv 9. For those who take and preach from the scriptures as they find them, I would look up and propose a few texts for them; they may it very convenient, take it kindly, and thank me for my trouble. And I would say: Preach in the Morning, ‘Many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus,’ John 12:11. Afternoon, ‘And no man receiveth his testimony,’ John 3:32. Morning, ‘The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,’ 2 Cor. 4:4. Afternoon, ‘If ye were blind ye should have no sin,’ John 9:41. Morning, ‘To open the blind eyes,’ Isaiah 42:7. Afternoon, ‘That they which see might be made blind,’ John 9:39. Morning, ‘I will destroy my people,’ Jer. 15:7. Afternoon, ‘Therefore my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,’ Jer. 31:14. Morning, ‘And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel,’ Hos. 10:6. Afternoon, ‘And my people shall never be ashamed,’ Joel 2:26,27. Morning, ‘Hast thou not known? has thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?’ Isaiah 40:28. Afternoon, ‘I am weary to bear,’ Isaiah 1:14. Morning, ‘But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?’ Job 23:13. Afternoon, ‘Therefore he was turned to be their enemy,’ Isa 63:10. Morning, ‘I will love them no more,’ Hos. 9:15. Afternoon , I will love them freely,’ Hos. 14:4. Morning, ‘And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,’ Rom 5:12. Afternoon, ‘If I had not done among them the works that none other man did, they had not had sin,’ John 15:24. Morning, ‘But the doers of the law shall be justified.’ Rom 2:13. Afternoon, ‘Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight,’ Rom 3:20. Morning, ‘There is none that doeth good, no, not one,’ Rom 3:12. Afternoon) ‘And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just,’ Luke 23:50. Morning, ‘Who will have all men to be saved,’ 1 Tim 2:4. Afternoon, ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes,’ Matt 11:25. Morning, ‘Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,’ 2 Pet 3:9. Afternoon, ‘Therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour,’ Isa 27:11. Morning, ‘I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel,’ Hosea 1:6 . Afternoon, ‘For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting,’ Ps 110:5. Morning, ‘But I will utterly take them away,’ Hos. 1:6. Afternoon, ‘And so all Israel shall be saved,’ Rom 11:26.

Now if those who think it best to preach from the scriptures as they find them, will but take these texts in their mere letter and sound as they find them, irrespective of premises relation, and character, I will venture to say their ministry will not be chargeable with sameness, either in itself, or relatively, as to what the apostles preached. And will not the people be fed with knowledge and understanding too, so as to know just as much at twice seven years, end as at the beginning, of their right hand from their left, as to the great principles of revelation? and perhaps may then be told, ‘They need not trouble themselves about doctrines, for that piety is every thing!’

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.