Dear Sir,—Your letter came to hand Oct. 21, or the day following the date thereof. At first sight I thought of giving a short and private answer only, but in looking it over again, I feel convinced that justice to you, to myself, to the truth, and to the denomination to which I have the honor to belong, demands an answer in a very different way.
My labor in the pulpit at Crosby Row, on the eighteenth, in stating the nature, constitution, and order of a gospel church, seems greatly to have displeased you, both in manner and in matter too; so that beside speaking very low and contemptuously of me, calling me “The Preacher” sixteen times on your single sheet, you have condemned our sentiments as a denomination as false, on exclusive believers baptism and the communion of believers only as so baptized; and then you wish us to blush. But at this I am not surprised, and had you stayed here, I should have taken but little notice, because it would have only been to me a marking out the difference that we know exists in sentiment between us. But as I challenged any one to find one text of Scripture in the Word of God for infant sprinkling, and for any other communion at the table of the Lord than that of believers, who are baptized on a profession of faith in Christ, you have so strangely perverted and misapplied the Word of God for the purpose, and seem, with a look of disdain upon us, to please yourself in the triumph you suppose you have gained over the challenge. And your deadly charge also upon the integrity of my public character in the pulpit that day, you having taxed me with saying what I knew not to be the truth, I must consider demands a public trial. Your several reflections, as well as statements, on the sentiments in dispute, shall be fairly sectioned out, and set down in your own words for observation. And Mr. Bridgman: “He said, indeed, (else I should not have thought it) that he came after much prayer; but what think you? Could a man under such influence, -exhibit flippancy of manners, and use light and low language?”
I am a plain man, Gen. 25:27; using great plainness of speech, 2 Cor. 3:12; to make the matter plain upon tables, Hab. 2:2; using similitudes, Hos. 12:10; but not enticing words, 1 Cor. 2:4; not preaching to please men, Gal. 1:10; nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, 2 Cor. 4:2; considering it my duty to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude 3; to diminish not a word, Jer. 26:2; and to hold in derision all things that are not true by any word from the mouth of the Lord, Ezek. 23:32.
And thus I labored on the day I offended you, and reflecting thereon in regard to this part of your letter, I do recollect two or three things that I said, to which I suppose you refer, and which I will here set down. And
1. I observed, that profession of religion is now wrought into such a multitude of diversified forms and figures, that to state the fashion of a Church, according to the many gospels of the present day, I should have an endless job, and never come to a conclusion; for that it was like a field of land I knew in the country, which was called queer field, because it had so many corners; having just before that also said, that if I had come there that day to work by the day, I should have to take my stand upon similar ground to that of the Jew-invented system which our Lord condemned in Mark vii.; but that as I came to work by the Bible, I should take my stand in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
2. I observed that what I said against infant sprinkling, in its having no support as an ordinance of God in the plain Scriptures of the New Testament, was not said out of want of love to the persons of my Independent brethren in the faith of God. But that I would say, the case was something similar to a circumstance which occurred in my family; when a little boy of mine, who had one day been out, and that when he came home, he said he had found such a nice pretty thing, and had got it in his bosom, but when it came to be examined what this nice thing was, it was found with some alarm to be a nasty Toad, and that, although the toad was thrown away with great resentment, the child was loved none the less; for that children would pick up anything.
3. I said that, even some of the Pseudo-Baptist, or (as infant sprinkling is no baptism) Anti-Baptist ministers themselves very evidently felt a difficulty in reading over those parts of the Word of God where believers’ baptism is too plainly stated to be fairly concealed, and that they would hack, hem, stammer, and skip over them, similar, to a person that I knew who was a poor reader, and that when he came to any place in the chapter where there were any hard words, he would do so and get over them. I did not then state any circumstances, but will now, that will justify such an observation, and—
1. The late beloved Dr. Hawker was one day preaching at Plymouth, and in quoting a passage of Scripture, he left off very abruptly, just at the verge of something plain to the point of believers’ baptism, and several of his people observed it, and were struck with it, and who afterward went to the Doctor, and asked him his reasons for so doing. And the Doctor’s reply was, “That he had been many years where he was, and that he did not then care to say anything on that subject.” The Doctor came to town a few days after, and those friends reading the Scriptures for themselves, acted by their authority, and were baptized.
2. About eighteen years ago, an Anti-Baptist was preaching in Conway street Chapel, in London, and a little forgetting himself, it would seem, he was taken by an evident surprise in making a quotation from the Acts of the Apostles, saying, ” Can any man forbid—seeing they have received the Holy Ghost as well as we, leaping over the words water, that these should not be baptized. This was done very dry, but not very clean, from a handling the Word of God deceitfully. But if the whole text had been read, some of the people there who had received the Holy Ghost, might have been inclined to wet both head and foot in obedient honor of their baptized Lord; but that would not have been the thing to the preacher’s purpose.
3. About twenty-four years ago, an Independent minister was ordained over a people in the county of Suffolk, and in his confession of faith, he declared his firm belief in infant baptism, meaning sprinkling; and the only solitary passage from the Word of God, which he quoted in support thereof, was the following one, and that sawn asunder in the following cruel manner, saying, For the promise is unto yon, and to your children, and to all that are afar off; leaving out the words, Even as many as the Lord our God shall call, Acts ii. 39. Thus changing the countenance of the text, and reducing the great promise of all spiritual blessings, and of eternal life, to the election of grace of that people, to a mere carnal convenience for the support of what corruption only invented and introduced, pride and worldly interest has fostered into custom, and custom has sanctioned into a law; and which fleshly passions and carnal reason now receive as a most important boon from heaven, although no one is able to shew any right for so doing by any one plain passage in the whole Scriptures, even if you send down to Moses and Aaron for a plan of New Testament house-keeping.
4. The late beloved Mr. Hern, minister in the establishment at Debenham, in the county of Suffolk, was one day asked by a friend of mine, who used often to hear him, and on whom he used to make his friendly calls, where infant baptism or sprinkling was to be found written in the Scriptures, and he frankly and unhesitatingly answered, ” It is nowhere written in the scriptures, but it is established by law.”
5. About two years ago an Independent minister in town was preaching on a subject in Isaiah, and in quoting a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, he very evidently, unawares, read down to the subject of believer’s baptism, and being in manifest confusion, he hacked and hemmed as though he wanted to cough, and so he leaped over the place and out of his difficulty. And this he was obliged to do, or he would soon have had to read, They both went down into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him; and we know that this must have been very much against the grain, because this gentleman threatened to write against the Baptists when I first came to settle in London.
6. A minister now in the establishment in the county of Gloucestershire who has several children, has never had any of them sprinkled for the want of anything like authority for so doing in the Word of God; and he is a learned man, and a nearest relative of one of the highest dignitaries.
Now what can be inferred from these things, but that the Scriptures are too plain on believer’s baptism to be read with perfect freedom and good conscience by many, if by any, of its God-fearing opponents, and others we think nothing of; but because I told you this in plain figures, anger hath filled your mind, and gall your pen. But my love for you as a man of God is not disturbed thereby brother Bridgman, only I still hate the toad in the bosom, and shall hereby as plainly express the same, as Moses did his dislike of good Aaron’s bad calf, although I have no hope of effecting a like destruction.
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.