Duty faith makes the gospel a ministration of cruelty and injustice, but men are damned for law-breaking not for failing to savingly believe. I think we have shown sufficiently plain above, that duty faith in a covenant of grace unto salvation could never grow out of, nor come from the Eden covenant of works; so that such an obligation, to exist at all, must be new, and peculiar to the gospel dispensation as its cause. And then, in reply to this, we ask, and does the gospel give universal life and strength to all where it comes, to become such as the word of God declares to be believers unto salvation? We know it does not, for a natural man under the gospel is no more than a natural man anywhere else. And has any natural man in and of himself, or even had in Adam at first by that covenant, the power to make himself what the word of God declares a believer unto salvation? I say, no; and very few will venture to say, against all truth, that he has. And yet men holding duty faith, will say that the natural man ought to believe, and that it is his duty; and many, if not all of them, will go so far as to say, ‘That though the natural man has not the power to believe unto salvation, yet that he will be damned for not believing! But this is charging God foolishly, and turning the precious gospel of the grace of God into a ministry of cruelty and self-inconsistency; because it makes it to set up divine claims, for which, in no state, has the natural man by the hand of God been capacitated, or made equal. And this would at once make the false charge of the Israelites against the Lord true, saying, ‘The way of the Lord is not equal,’ Ez 18:25. And it would also make true the false charge against the Lord, as set forth by our Lord in a parable, saying, ‘Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed,’ Matt 25:24. But, contrary to all this, our God never demands usury, but in accordance with his own deposit of principle, Matt 25:27; and, therefore, if the natural man never was in his nature from its original, capacitated by the laws of his creation to make himself what the word of God really calls a believer unto salvation, then duty faith is usury without principle, and is consequently ungodly and untrue.
Adam had his duties in Eden, but he had capacities equal to them, and consequently, defect is his fault, and the fault of all is in him. Abraham had his duties and his seed with him, by the covenant made with them, but they had capacities equal to them, and their defect was consequently their fault. And the heaven-born man of God and of covenant favor has his Christian duties, as a son, a servant, &c; but he is capacitated to every command, and to all that is meant in the commands of his Lord, and his omissions of right, or commissions of wrong, according to the New Testament, are his faults, and will be chastised; as the above, according to the different laws of the different covenant conditions, or states. Man by sinning only, lost his ability to fulfill all the Eden duties of his rational and pure creature ship, so that his disobedience to the law of works, his lack of obedience, and his inability perfectly to obey that law, are justly to his condemnation, and all his seed in him, as confirmed by their personal practical transgression. But what man never was, is not required of him; nor is he condemned for not possessing what he never had at the hand of God.
A gospel damnation I have never yet been able to understand; I have at no time been brought to fear it from any conviction, or to know anything of such a point as taught by the word of God. And so for any man to be damned to hell for not believing unto salvation, the very idea appears to me to be as silly as it is false and cruel; because it conceals and denies the just cause of sinning man’s condemnation, and condemns him to death without real cause; that is, not for disobedient law-breaking, but for not obtaining favor by means that God himself never put in natural man’s power. I know it is written, ‘He that believeth not, shall be damned,’ Mark 16:16; but the gospel does not bring that condemnation upon the unbeliever; not does the lack of faith, or the non-believing of the gospel unto salvation, create, make, cause, or bring that damnation; but leave the soul under it, as by law for sin, denounced upon every sinner., as death’s sentence by law is passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. But as it is the Lord’s pleasure to deliver, and save from the wrath, death, curse, and damnation denounced by the law, all on whom he will have mercy, the believing soul through grace, according to the assurances and descriptions of the word of God, is the escaping, saved, and delivered person, from the denounced condemnation; while the unbeliever remains under the death sentence of the law, as though there had been no mercy nor salvation in Christ for any. And so we read, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that beleveth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him, John 3:36. ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death,’ 1 John 3:14. And therefore, the turning of the gospel of the grace of God into a penal ministry, is of the pharisaic spirit of anti-Christ, and of the devil himself in that character. Because, by that notion, both the law and the gospel are robbed of their real, distinct, and respective honors; and the state of sinful man is misrepresented, for that instead of his being shewn up in truth as he is, a divine law breaker, and upon whom, as such, the sentence of death by the law is already passed, and that he is a dead man in law, and must remain so to endless condemnation, but as the Lord, by his grace and mercy, may be pleased to deliver and save him, he is made out to be a gospel sinner only, for not possessing the grace of a gospel-blest character, and because he does not without ever having had the power in his nature to do so, or any promise from the Lord of any such favor, believe unto salvation, whether the Lord has purposed it, and will save him, or not.
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.