Chapter 7—On Baptism, Answering The Charge Of Willfull Falsehood
Mr. Bridgman: “But the preacher more than implied that the command for believers only to be immersed in water is as plainly written in the New Testament, as those particular directions about the Ark, &c. were in the old. I appeal to his common honesty, and he seemed to be an honest man; but to that principle I appeal, and to his face I would say, and in God’s presence I would say, You Know that is not the truth.”
1. This is carrying the point of hostility to a high pitch and to a great length. Wrong opinions may through mistake be with great sincerity entertained both of persons and things until the judgment be better informed, but a positively affirmed charge must involve immediate guilt on the one side or the other. I am here charged as in the presence of God, with WILLFUL LYING IN THE PULPIT, as KNOWING what I Said IS NOT The Truth. My brother Bridgman says, that his pen is not dipped in honey, but unfortunately, on the contrary, he hath so filled it as to blot his lines with gall. However, I am not troubled at this, for as the Lord liveth, by whom the heavens and the earth were made, by whom I have my being and my breath, before whose solemn judgment-seat I must shortly stand, by whose august will, and by the word of whose mouth the final destiny of my never-dying soul must finally be determined, I KNOW NO SUCH THING AS Mr. Bridgman SO SOLEMNLY AFFIRMS THAT I DO.
2. The command, mind, and will of God in the New Testament, on believers’ baptism and immersion, and that of believers’ only, is as plain to my view, and to my entire confidence, as the above directions referred to, and as any one truth of God revealed in the whole Scriptures, and has been so for above these twenty years. And all that I have read and heard to the contrary, for between these five and six and twenty years, have not at all shaken my confidence, but on the contrary, have always more confirmed it. And I do most soberly declare, that so plain has the subject appeared to me for the above years, that I have often felt the greatest difficulty in believing those persons sincere who have opposed it. And the books that I have read, which have been written against it, have increasingly plain appeared to me to be entirely without foundation in the Scriptures, forced upon the sacred text, and the Word of God perverted to what was never in the remotest sense intended, in order to mystify and throw into darkness by art, that subject, when it could not by plain honesty to the current testimony, and evident sound and sense of the Scriptures, be denied or refuted. And that this was done for no other evident reasons than because, as with some other undeniable points of truth, it is of itself unconvertible into anything respectably pleasing, and so is despised among men, and therefore to be first criticized into disputation, and then to be rejected with many foul and opprobrious epithets; after the manner in which the enemies of our Lord, first scourged him, then heaped reproach upon him, and then crucified him ; and for no other reason than because the truth of him was unsavory to their very different religious taste, John 19.
I am a plain man, and I read my plain English Bible, and according to that I have through the tender mercies of our God received every point which I believe in the name of the Lord to be the truth. And although my friends can give you full proof that I am not wanting in Christian affection and due familiarity, yet, touching principle, I care no more about any connection with ministers, any church, congregation, or individual friends, or about any pulpit, or pastorship, than I do about how many fishes there are in the seas, moles in the earth, or gnats flying in the air on a summer’s evening, otherwise than as I can therewith plainly, freely, and openly hold my individually espoused sentiments on the sacred text of my plain Bible; considering principles first, and then connection; seeking no principle from connection, bending no principle to any connection, always ready to give up any principle that I cannot maintain and defend on the plain and fair reading of my Bible, and holding every man to be flesh and blood inspired, or something worse therein who hold any prominent sentiment, for which not one text in the Scriptures can be found to be fairly conclusive to the point.
I will by and by set before you how and in what way it is, that things appear so plain to me as they do on exclusive believers’ baptism ; and then if you think me a poor blind fool, be it so; but that of being a lying rogue in or out of the pulpit, I must deny, claiming sincerity always as my hitherto un-forfeited right; and if after this, I be accused, I must then tell our heavenly Father of the injury, and beg him to defend me.
3. That the little figurative things of a figurative dispensation that was to continue but for a while with a few figurative people, and then all to give up into a permanent dispensation extending to a people of all nations, kingdoms, and tongues, in the simplicity that is in Christ, should have more determinable plainness of the mind and will of God, as to how he would therein be worshipped, than that permanent dispensation and kingdom of Christ itself has, as to how he will be confessed, worshipped, and adored by the more deeply obligated objects of his peculiar and eternal favor; is to me a subject so strange and unaccountable, that I cannot any way make it out; and yet you say it is so, but which appears to me like saying, That the picture of a man is a great deal more like the man than the man is like himself.
And to consider that the New Testament word of God is not plain enough at once to give us the will of God as to all standing New Testament ordinances, whereby the heavenly heirs of eternal life and favor, shall rightly acknowledge, fear, and reverence the Lord in spirit and in truth, is an idea that I cannot receive, but must oppose as contrary to truth and big with malignant tendency. To admit that God is not clearly enough revealed by his commands in the New Testament for his will to be directly known, as to what he would have us to do in the standing institutions of his house, must be a very serious reflection on divine wisdom, and is calculated to more than bring into doubt the divinity and infallibility of the sacred Scriptures, to destroy before men the order, character, and importance of Christian obedience to God, as having no direct law, to give the infidel and every vulture-eyed enemy of godliness the unhallowed advantage they are always seeking to obtain, and to throw confusion into the minds of thousands of God’s people, and to wound and weaken the hands of the already feeble before their enemies.
Every prophetic representation of the New Testament kingdom and household of Christ, is that of more light than in the Old, as, Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, Mai. 4:2. Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, Isa. 60:1. The people that walked in darkness, upon them hath the light shined, Isa. 9:2; compared with Matt. 4:16., Luke 2:32, John 1:9. And John the Baptist, as such, as his whole ministry is characterized by baptism, is in the heavens and hemisphere of the New Testament declared to be, A burning and a shining light, John 5:35. But all this your suggestion goes to deny, and to declare, that in some of the standing ordinances of the New Testament, there is so little light, and so much more darkness than in the old, as for them to be at most but a doubtful disputation. That there is much darkness, must be admitted, but not in the Word of God about his commands and ordinances, but in the mind, the will, the taste, and the course of action of professing men, through a flood of early corruptions and carnal inventions, brought within the profession of the Savior’s name by the subtle workings of the man of sin, disguised into the very appearance of the wisdom and power of God, and which, though textless, yet being man pleasing, have gendered a kind of unperceived darkening bias into the mind even of many a man of God unto this day; and together with the inventions now acting to please and confederate all men, it is here and in these things the darkness lies, and not in the divine text, nor in the practical pattern apostolically drawn out in the New Testament.
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.”