As there is not one text from the lips of our Lord, or the pen of his apostles, that can be construed to mean any thing in favor of the duty of the natural man to believe unto eternal salvation or of universal invitations, without doing violence to the connection, and to the credit of the sacred speakers; perhaps it will be asked, where then did duty faith, and universal invitations come from? And how is it that so many good men, great writers, and most of those who are called the ancient Fathers, have in a greater or less degree held them? My answer to these questions is, that they came from the early corruptions of Christianity; and of those many spirits that were not of God, that were even as early as the apostles’ days gone out into the world, 1 John 4:1; working subtly, though to the apostles evidently, and which they called the mystery of iniquity, and the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, 2 Thess. 2:7,9. And the same continued so to ‘work, until the pagan government of the Roman empire was first shaken, and then abolished, and so that which hindered was taken out of the way, verse 7; and then as opportunity suited, corruption advanced, and the countenance and character of Christianity became almost universally changed from individual godliness in conscience by the Holy Ghost, into collective, provincial, and then national religion, by syndical decrees, councils, and then national enactments; these being of course considered binding, as divine, and of equal authority as the scriptures themselves, and the scriptures also were twisted, wrested, and corrupted into a seeming sanction of these things; and it was then considered accordingly, to be the duty of all to be Christians as so prescribed. And so instead of personal, vital godliness in the soul, by the immediate regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, was substituted a religion of solemn mimicry of scripture spirituality, vitals, words, and ordinances; in mere external rites, forms and ceremonies. And all this as we have said, being determined by syndical decrees, councils and national enactments, and these being gravely considered binding, as divine laws, it was consequently considered the duty of all by law to be Christians and to be invited, exhorted, and commanded, and at length even to be made to be Christians and infants, and all; and the latter to be told they were so and should be so when they grew big enough; and that by such a dutiful submission to be Christians as by such divine law prescribed, they should go to heaven; and this established at once the ought to be Christians and the consequent ought of all, as such, to go to heaven. And this wild delusion of the duty of all, to be saints for heaven, inseparable from national church notions, has stuck fast to a greater or less degree to most even good men, in that connection, ever since; attaching an unwarrantable importance to the ancient Fathers as guides, who were most, if not all of them, so tainted with the above corruptions and delusions, that the rankist papist under the heavens can now quote them for their authority; as Dr Pusey of Oxford does.
From this fruitful source of early corruption, and in this way of commendation, the plausible, self-righteous, and flesh and blood pleasing errors of duty faith unto eternal salvation, and universal invitations of all of themselves to be, and to have, the personal state of character, and the special blessings of the saved and blest of the Lord, found their way falsely into the name of the religion of the true God, and our Lord Jesus Christ; and in that name, have now made their wide spread over the earth, into every denomination of religious professors; and which are now fostered and maintained, (1) By a concealment of the great and discriminating doctrines of revealed truth. (2) By the concealment of the all-important truth, that the soul of sinful man is nothing, and has nothing, whereby possibly to see, or enter the kingdom of God, unless born of the Spirit of God, and the fact also, that none but a new creature, the free grace workmanship of God only, is personally in Christ for eternal life. (3) By applying the scriptures in a way and manner to persons and things, evidently never intended; as that to the world that belongs only to the believing people and church of God, &c; as though the believing, and truly regenerated church and people of God, were only one part of the world, merely self-reformed, as the other part ought to be. (4) By a most corrupt mixing up of things as all one, which are so distinct in nature, design, and language, that they can never be made up into one, and the same thing, without direct self-contradiction; such as the law by Moses, and grace, and truth, by Jesus Christ, John 1:17 – The less glorious ministration of death and the more glorious ministration of the Spirit, 2 Cor. 3:7-11 – The inferior and the better, as the first and the second, the old and the new covenants, Heb 6:6,7,13 – The better hope, which implies another that was not so good, Heb 7:19 – A more excellent ministry, which implies another that was not so excellent, Heb 8:6 – The two mounts, Heb 12:18,22-24 – The two allegorical women, the bond-woman and the free- woman, Gal 4:20, and to the end of the chapter – The circumcision made with hands, and the circumcision made without hands, Matt 2:11, Col 2:11 – The law of works, and the law of faith, Rom 3:27. These things are as perfectly different and distinct in their nature, place, and design, as a shadow is from the substance, a demand is from a gift, and as a death warrant is from a royal warrant of free pardon. But bible distinctions of truth, strictly observed, would anew up duty faith, and universal invitations, in too ridiculous a figure to be endured; for those sentiments cannot properly be kept with any countenance upon their feet, only upon bible distinctions being confounded to self contradiction.
But some will say, we have great and learned authors, and the Fathers to support our side. But our Lord said to his disciples, ‘Call no man your Father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven,’ Matt 23:9. And so his word is to be first taken, in all ages. And others will say, if we err, we err in good company, for many good men have held duty faith, &c. And so the Jews might equally have said, they erred in good company, when they worshipped the calf that Aaron the high priest of God set up; but their wickedness was none the less, nor the calf less an idol, nor the God of Israel less denied thereby.
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.