Mr. Bridgman: “I ask was it candid, was it fair, when bills were sent round to Pseudo-Baptist chapels, with requests to ministers and people to attend (not an immersion, but) an ordination, was it fair in the preacher to turn the opportunity into a clap-trap, to draw away the weak and simple among our people into your pools of water?”
My reasons for saying so much on baptism, on that and on all such occasions are,
1. Because so much is said against it without the least true authority of chapter or verse from the mouth of God.
2. Because so many of its professed friends say so little about it as a part of the revealed will of God and of their ministry, to what the first New Testament preachers evidently did.
3. Because I have determined in the help of the Lord with its comparatively few firm, consistent, and unbiased advocates, that that lamp in the temple of truth shall not be quite extinguished in these compromising, vacillating, passion-pleasing, and respectability-seeking days, while I can lift up my voice in my Great Master’s name. I am but a servant, and it is not in me to pick or to choose, or to have any will of my own but as arising out of and again devolving into the will of God. Preach the preaching that I bid thee, Jon. 3:1. Whatsoever I command thee, that thou shalt speak, Jer. 1:7. Preach the Word, 2 Tim. 4:2. teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, Mat. 28:20. Diminish not a word, Jer. 26:2; and Whosoever shall break one of these least commands, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, Mat. 5:19; are my solemn orders and instructions from the throne of the Holy. The whole revealed will of God, in doctrine, precept, promise, and ordinance, as exampled out in the spirit, mind, and order of the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, is my message to deliver, and my premises to defend; and my orders are, to salute no man by the way, by way of compromise on any part of truth, but to be faithful unto my Master’s death, and my own too, as time, place, and occasion may demand. And where the siege is laid, there to defend; where opposition stands, there earnestly to contend, and where it stands within the household, to withstand even as Paul did Peter to his face, opposing however, not persons but things, with all boldness, but with godly fear; with firmness, but with affection; not in anger, but in love; not for self-mastery, but for the advancement of truth and the Lord’s honor; not with imaginations, conjectures, and suppositions of what may be the truth, but in the divine authority of what is set forth and declared to be so. This is how I understand my appointment to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God, both in his parental gift, and operations of the blessings of eternal life, and in his holy kingly rights and honors in the whole elect dominion of his mercy. And if in these things I am mistaken correct me, while my clumsy way of handling must be ascribed to my unskillfulness.
4. Because that occasion, above all others, and particularly that part that I was published to take required it. For it was then to speak out on such a subject or never, for it was a bible Baptist ordination, and you were to please yourself whether you would come or not, and your friends too, for there was not that I know of, any announcement on the bills of a collection, so as that you and your friends were asked to come and help us. And when I gave out that there would be a collection to meet some little expenses, I said, they who liked the service would show it by contributing, and that must be all fair. But
5. You say, “Not an immersion.” And we say so too, nor did we immerse, for if we had, we should have acted as untimely, disjointedly, and as incoherently with the published business of the day, and looked as prettily as our esteemed friend Joseph Irons did, with a baby in his arms at a chapel opening, and again at a common anniversary, sprinkling its face in particular, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and calling such a practice an ordinance of the Lord, when God has nowhere set his name to any such practice in any given shape of character whatever, and when also such a practice can in no way whatever, in truth, be made to signify, embrace, or stand good for anything, consistent with any one discriminating doctrine of a discriminating covenant of love and favor, Rom. 8:29, 30; 9:5, 6; John 1:13.
6. You ask, “Was it fair for the preacher to turn the opportunity into a clap-trap to draw away the weak and simple of our people into your pools of water.” If I had advanced any sentiment, that is not the truth of the Word of God, and then artfully used insinuating and beguiling arguments to ensnare the minds of the simple, then you might fairly ask such a question, but such you know was not the case, for I was stating the Scripture doctrine of believers’ baptism, and much as you condemn us, you admit that believers’ baptism may be a truth, but not so exclusively, or that baptism is “for and of believers only.” But you seem afraid that your people should be drawn into a close examination of the Scriptures for themselves on this truth, for my appeals were pointedly made to the Scriptures and to them only. There is one thing that I will tell you as my decided opinion, and which is, that it is only for you and the anti-Baptist ministers in general to make a little stir, and keep it up awhile on the subject, and vast numbers of your people would become in baptism one with us. And therefore be quiet, do not make a noise, hush, and be very still, for you will be sure to lose some if you rouse any impartial scriptural inquiry! And this latter is what I labored to effect on the day I offended you. for I again and again recommended that none would take mine or any man’s opinion, but that they would prayerfully read the Scriptures for themselves; and this you cannot do upon infant sprinkling with any safety, because they might search for ever and never find one text for it in the Scriptures, and such labor and disappointment would be likely, in the hand of the Lord, to convince. An anti-Baptist minister had need be a very clever man, or always be in sentimental danger of falling into our river, pond, or pool of much water, and of letting the little ones fall out of his arms, of breaking the hand-basin, of spilling the finger water, and of losing many of his adults, if not himself and all, from his present textless into our New Testament side of the question, by the force of undeniable truth.
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.