Chapter 5—On Baptism, Answering The Charge Of Callousness
Mr. Bridgman: “The preacher said, indeed, that he respected our feelings, yet at the same time dealt out with all his vehemence, hard blows, not, indeed, of sound argument, but which certain sophists know best suit weak minds, merely hard words and positive assertions.”
1. You make a mistake about my saying that I respected your feelings, for I neither said, thought, nor meant so; but that I loved my Independent brethren in the faith of Christ, although I condemned infant sprinkling to be sent back to its mother at Rome, and I am still of the same mind. My work, my aim, and my object was to state what I believe in the presence of God, and on the text of the holy Scriptures to be the truth, and to oppose what I believe to be not so; consulting no feelings whatever any further than such sentiments and such statements would go.
2. As to vehemence, I know of no such thing about my speaking on that day, more than what is my usual way when speaking to so many hundreds so closely crowded together, and out at the doors, that could not get in, and consequently could not hear, unless the speaker made some exertion. Nor do my friends who were there, that are in the habit of hearing me, know of anything peculiar of the kind on that day; but if sentiment had suited, sound would not have offended; but as the contrary was the fact, the consequent was according.
3. As to hard blows, I cannot see how that could be, unless it was in the force of plain truth, hitting you were you were unshielded, uncovered, and naked of truth’s plain chapter and verse; and so being yourself doubtfully tender were pinched; for a mist can never hurt, and that which will not apply cannot affect.
4. And as to my being a sophist, or acting the part of a sophist, there was no dark and mysterious cunning, nor subtlety of argument with concealed intrigue, in what I said that day on believers’ baptism; for I spoke so plain that any one might understand me, and laid myself so nakedly open that any one might see what I was; and it seems that you beheld me a monster, or you have strangely over-rated me with sorry epithets. And as for the principle advanced, I referred the people entirely to the Scriptures, and to read them for themselves, without once pointing out plan or place, except to the New Testament for New Testament ordinances; and if this be sophistry, what is simplicity?—what is honesty?
5. There is no soundness in any argument used to uphold a sentiment in religion that has no Scripture for its support; and that which has Scripture sufficiently plain to be referred to, needs no argument to maintain the right of its being, for the sacred text is sufficient authority. Let us look to the Scriptures to make out for us all our religious principles, and then carry out their importance, connection, bearing, and advantages, by the best arguments we can use; but let us be careful never to labor by arguments to set up principles for which there is no plain authority in the word of God, and then again labor to uphold them in the same way that poor infant sprinkling is obliged to be, viz. by all manner of far-fetched bewildering arguments, and the putting of cunning written books, adapted to work upon the passions, into the hands of inquirers, to becloud the judgment, and silence the mind from inquiry, by Scriptures also as much perverted for the purpose, as ever they were in the Church of Rome to support her corruptions; while it is well known that it will not do, and so it is never recommended, that for a right settlement of mind on the sentiment, the New Testament be closely read through with prayer, and that that course be taken that is therein most evidently marked out; but with all my sophistry this is the plan I recommended, and do always recommend, as not knowing a more excellent way.
6. As to my hard words, they were plain, and so not hard to be understood: they might be hard to reconcile with infant sprinkling, but not so with the sacred text: Their hardness, therefore, must lie in their difficulty of refutation, and in their likelihood by plain truth to advance the New Testament ordinance of believers’ baptism; and also to expose that anomaly, infant sprinkling, that can mean nothing in, nor form any part of the system of, personal, vital, regenerate, and new creature-ship religion of the New Testament.
7. My positive assertions now stand open for your contradiction with plain chapter and verse. Confidence cannot be wrong in a good cause, for in the “fear of the Lord is strong confidence, and the righteous are as bold as a lion,” Prov. 14:26. 28:1. If I advanced untruth, I am now in your hands to confound; for “the mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom; but the forward tongue shall be cut out. The lip of truth shall be established for ever; but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” Prov. 10:31. 12:19. I stood up that day on purpose to make statements of our belief, and not so much to use arguments of defense; and I believed, and therefore have I spoken (Ps. 116:10), and my labor was consistent with place, circumstance, and appointment; and if our sentiment and the statement thereof be so offensive on believers’ baptism, arise, my brother, unsheathe the sword of the Spirit, and thereby, in the name of the Lord, overcome and vanquish it, and you will do valiantly; we shall profit by losing dross, and your infant sprinkling shall then stand as well credentialed as the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Gal. 1:11, 12.
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. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“John Foreman (1792-1872) was for upwards of 40 years pastor of the Church at Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone—a tall, stalwart, rugged man, with an iron constitution and of tremendous energy. When an agricultural labourer in the county of Suffolk he was called by grace; his first pastorate was at Cambridge, whence in 1827 he came to London. Although not a learned man, in the usual sense of that expression, he possessed varied general information, which he obtained by considerable reading, by intercourse with men, and by long and close observation. As a preacher he was distinguished by great plainness of speech and vigour of address; his sermons were often very instructive and impressive, and many of his thoughts grand and lofty. There was, however, considerable inequality in their value. His voice was strong and clear and, when he was warm in his subject, was exerted with great animation and rapidity of utterance. He was emphatic in declaring salvation to be entirely by grace and not in any sense or degree by works. Hence he had a great antipathy to what is termed the duty-faith scheme, which in his view, as it makes salvation depend on the exercise of faith as a moral duty, entirely enervates and destroys the character of the Gospel dispensation; changing a system of free favour and special distinguishing grace into one of condemnation and legal bondage. At the same time he was careful to maintain the necessity of good works, as the fruit of a gracious change of heart. His "Remarks on Duty-faith," with a preface by James Wells, is a valuable production worthy of a reprint. It gives a fairly complete idea of his views of truth, and affords a sample of his style in writing and preaching. As an able minister of the New Testament, he distinguished carefully between the several covenants therein set forth, and faithfully described the various characters therein indicated. Careful and prayerful attention to the nature of these covenants, as set forth in various parts of the Old Testament especially, will clear away clouds of difficulties which often trouble young believers. He was tender and sympathetic in his addresses to the weak and tried, and careful and considerate to the lambs and nurslings of the flock. He was a remarkable proof of what the Divine Spirit can effect by the instrumentality of a plain, unlettered man, so far as the learning of the schools is concerned. Possessed of the smallest possible advantages of early education he had to make his way by dint of perseverance and self-culture. Part of a report published by bis Sunday School during his pastorate has present-day lessons.
"At the commencement of our school it was supposed by some of our friends that it was impossible to carry on the Sabbath-school on free grace principles. The experiment, however, was tried, and our prayers have been answered —we have not to pronounce it a failure. Free-will and duty-faith have never formed a part of the creed of any of the teachers to our knowledge. We have always contended that life must precede action, and, consequently, have never been able to invite the dead to perform acts that belong alone to the living. The first chapter that was read in the school, in the hearing of the children, was John 3, in which is set forth the necessity of the new birth, and that alone by the invincible and omnipotent power of the Holy Ghost. Here we took our stand and from this point we have never swerved. The grand and glorious doctrines of free and distinguishing grace, as preached by our pastor, have ever been maintained as the truth within the walls of our school; and, although warm advocates for the use of means, we have never believed, much less taught, that there is any power or efficacy in them, but that they are only useful as made so by the Holy Ghost. The providing of suitable class books has been a matter of no small concern. A catechism was chosen, and others added after, besides reading and spelling books; but as years rolled on, one after another was given up, until we are left with the Bible only. This is our one class book for all who can put their words together.”