Mr. Bridgman: “The preacher offered to pay the national debt, if we from the Holy Scripture produced baptized infants. He offered a real impossibility, for a supposed impossibility, and in that he was not wise nor honest neither; for no honest man will, at least ought, to put his hand to a bill he cannot pay when due. The 1 Cor. 10:2. tells me that many infants were baptized in, or rather by the sprinkling of the cloud and by the spray of the sea; you will be so kind as to forward the national debt by return of post.”
1. I said I would pay the national debt of England in four instalments within twelve months, if infant sprinkling, as a New Testament ordinance, could be proved and supported by one single text in the word of God; and so I now say, to you and all infant sprinklers. And why do you not immediately arise and stop my mouth, if such a text can be found?
2. You say, “He offered an impossibility for a supposed impossibility, and in that he was not wise.” This I did to expose infant sprinkling to public ridicule, by the Prophet’s rule on another textless subject, (1 Kings 18:27.) until it shall be supported and approved as an ordinance of God, at least by the fair reading of one plain text in the sacred word directly to the point. And did it also to rouse the souls of its admirers, either to find precept or precedent for it in the text of divine authority, or to give it up as a textless intrusion into the place of God’s ordinance, and a perversion of his truth. And for this plan of speaking I have Bible example in Job 40:6 to 14. And therefore it must be a vast deal more unwise for you to practice what you cannot support by any part of the Lord’s revealed will, than it was for me to speak of the unmeaning thing which stands where it ought not, in the place of the Lord’s enjoined ordinance.
3. “Nor honest neither, for no honest man will, at least ought, to put his hand to a bill he cannot pay when due.” It seems that you can much easier say all manner of bad things of me than you can refute what I have said, or find Scripture to support your more fleshly pleasing and fancied better way. I have done nothing in this affair whereby you should accuse me of dishonesty, for I only spoke out too plain and honest on the truth for error to live by. For my hand has been set to no such bill, as you have not delivered the required goods, my brother; and you know that such bills say, value received. You have sent me something for a text; but the sending that instead of what I ordered, looks as though you could degrade yourself to trifle with the word of God, insult his wisdom, the penmanship of the inspired, and what little sense I have, to keep your little Dagon on its legs. Let me receive the value above required, and then if I cannot maintain my credit, I will publicly confess myself a confounded Baptist, an imprudent and worthless insolvent, and a dishonest bankrupt, uncertificated to speak any more in the name of the Lord forever.
4. Now, let every honest-hearted Bible believer hearken to and judge, of what my brother Bridgman has adduced from the sacred book of God, to prove that infant sprinkling is a New Testament ordinance, to prove me dishonest, and to demand my above pledge, as having met my challenge. “The 1 Cor. 10:2, tells me that many infants were baptized in, or rather by the sprinkling of the cloud, and by the spray of the sea!” This is the only text brought to meet my challenge, and doubtless it is the nearest to the point—the best, and the most appropriate that my friend could find in support of infant sprinkling as a New Testament ordinance; and it has just as much to do with the point, as it has to do with how many particles of sand, strung as beads, it would take to reach from here to the moon, or with how many drops of water it took to make the flood in the days of Noah. For what the text does say of baptism, is for the distinguished people of God only, and that by immersion also; for they were baptized in the sea, and in the cloud, and not by either. But my friend says, “Rather sprinkled,” although the text never said, thought, or meant any such a thing; for it is taken, with other things, from the Old Testament, to warn and reprove the Corinthians, as a baptized church. But it would rather suit his taste best, it seems, could it be made to say that; and it now seems rather more palatable to pervert it into that meaning, against the common sense of its reading, than to take the good sense and mind of the Spirit, as it evidently stands; and that he would rather have people weak enough to take it for granted to mean sprinkling, than read the plain text for themselves, and follow the evident mind of the Spirit therein expressed: and this rather looks like a want of art enough to twist scripture about with that cunning, so as not to be found out in supporting infant sprinkling without one fairly quoted text. And my friend says, the text “tells him that there were many infants baptized:” but it must tell him what it never told anyone else, and he cannot point out to me wherein it tells him so, either in sound or sense; for I am sure it tells me quite as much and as plainly, that there were many herds and flocks of cattle, and many kneading troughs baptized. Ex. 12:32, 33. But the subject of the text is altogether an allegory, and the eternal Spirit of truth and wisdom has taken only the fathers, as the characters of the figure, carrying out the representation also in a way, that I am sure must at once destroy all conclusions for infant sprinkling on these premises; saying, And did all eat of that spiritual meat; and did all drink of that spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. ver. 3, 4. But in order to consider this matter more closely, let us observe the following particulars:
1. The Israelites were as a body, a figurative people, and as such, were of God chosen apart and distinguished from all other nations and people on the earth; with the oracles and institutions of God peculiarly given to and set up among them. They were a figure and representation of the true church of Christ, of New Testament days, consisting of the chosen, redeemed, and personally quickened and called out of all nations, kingdoms, kindred’s, and tongues. They in figure, represented no other, and these only, young or old, are the true and vital antitype. And in that figure it is said of them, “All our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” And this the apostle treats as alike figure of the baptism of the true and quickened saints of the New Testament. And the manna which they after this received, and the water which they drank out of the smitten Rock, the apostle sets forth as a like figure of the communion of baptized saints at the Lord’s table; calling the Rock in figure, Christ, and the Manna, spiritual meat, and the water, spiritual drink. And this the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, as a church of baptized believers, who were at that time not very regular and consistent among themselves, but much to the contrary; to warn them of the chastising rod of God, which they might expect, if they laid not aside their follies, and more consistently observed the revealed will of God, in the privileges and obligations of their antitypical situation; as it befell their type, for their sins in the wilderness, verse 5. But this has nothing to do with nature’s children, as such only, of any nation, or at any age, for they are not the antitype of the Israelites; but it has alone to do with the quickened and heaven-born children of grace; and this I think you must yourself admit, if you only consider how the Corinthians were re-provably situated at this time, and what was consequently the apostle’s evident design in thus writing.
2. They were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. This baptism was a figurative burial and resurrection, for they were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea (ver. 1), and which was as a covering (Ps. cv. 39), and it was a perfect separation between them and the Egyptians (Ex. 14:20); and the waters stood as an heap (Ps. 78:18), and were as a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left (Ex. 14:22). And thus they were shut in as in a grave, and were to Egypt as those that were dead and buried; while their passing up out of the sea towards the land of promise, was as a resurrection to newness of life, with old things passed away, and all things become new. And they are said to be baptized unto Moses; that is, unto him as their acknowledged leader and conducting head; and into the doctrines he taught, the institutions he established, and the whole system he exhibited of distinction from all the nations of the earth—in the fear of the one God of heaven and earth, and in the hope of his promise; and which was in likeness of figure to the baptismal burial of a believer in the faith of Christ, and in allusion to which figure, baptized believers are said to be buried with Christ by baptism, and to be baptized into Christ.
3. The all that the eternal Spirit, by Paul, makes any mention of, as the only characters exhibited for our observation in this allegory, and which ought to govern our ideas as to the mind of the Spirit therein, relating to the baptism and the baptized in the text, are equally said to all eat, and to all drink, of the same spiritual meat and spiritual drink. Now it does not appear any way possible to find the antitype of this figure in sprinkled infants, for we can form no idea of their capability of eating and drinking of the spiritual things of the gospel of Christ. But as the Holy Spirit has stated the subject in our text, it comes exactly into our sentiment, that they who are qualified for baptism, are the qualified to apprehend, handle, and taste the things signified, and that they properly attend to the former, as a profession of faith and interest in the latter. And this also shews that all who are worthy of the ordinance of baptism, are equally worthy and proper subjects for the table of the Lord. And unless you can prove that the table of the Lord is for the faithless world at large, and not exclusively for the church of personally regenerated believers, you cannot apply anything in the figure of this text to nature’s infants; as I have all along observed, that it is only where both ordinances are spiritually applicable, that either are to be administered, according to the plain sense of scripture.
4. Although the Holy Spirit says nothing about infants as forming any part of character in the intended allegory of our text, yet as they were with their parents by natural consequent of their literally leaving Egypt, I would say, for argument sake, let them have some figurative place in our ideas. And then they must be considered as a part of the distinguished congregation of God’s Israel, and as such to have come out of Egypt; and this you cannot say of, nor apply to the mere infants of fallen nature, no, not even to the infants in a good man’s house, for they are the babes of his nature and of his flesh, and not of his faith and spirituality. And therefore, the congregation of Israel, from the aged to the infant, could only represent the grace distinguished people and spiritual church of God; consisting of believers only, in the several degrees of little children, young men, and fathers. 1 John 2:13. As this can say nothing for the sprinkling of Gentile infants, and no other text can be found in the word of God to say more, it is a gross perversion of the word of God, to apply what our Lord said of believing little ones, to the babes of nature, for the purpose of dragging in infant sprinkling in some way, as though both warrantable and beneficial, and to set all down as worse than sea monsters (Jazer Vindicated, page 25), who reject it for want of divine text to give it either authority, sense, or benefit; but who will all embrace it as soon as you, and our brother Joseph Irons, shall, with all your art, and his bluster, find one single text in the word of God, which the Holy Spirit ever intended for infant sprinkling—evidenced by any New Testament practice, recorded on the sacred page.
5. Not one, either young or old, of the whole congregation of Israel were ever once sprinkled or sprayed by either the cloud or by the sea, any more than they were all drowned and destroyed therein. And this I say, for the following several reasons—-first, Because the waters were a wall on the right hand and on the left (Ex. 14:22, 29), and so were settled and quiet, as a complete miracle of divine power and peace, and not in a state of disorder and convulsive agitation, so as to throw a spray over the thousands of Israel. And to say sprinkled by the spray of the wall, would sound so odd, that it would not be considered common sense, but for the purpose of expunging believers’ baptism. Second— Because the waters were gathered together; the flood stood upright as a heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. Ex. 15:8. And there can be no spray from congealed waters, when they are bound together like ice, in solid mass, as though petrified. So that while there was perfect safety, there was no appearance of danger, nor anything to mar the divinely created beauty, majesty, and charm of their miraculous journey through the sea; of which they accordingly sung. Third—Because while the waters of the Red Sea were turned into rocky walls of salvation to the Israelites, they were waters of divine judgment and wrathful indignation to the Egyptians. And as the Lord had put a perfect difference between Israel and the Egyptians (Ex. 11:7), not one single drop, any more than a destructive wave, of those waters of wrath to Egypt could ever fall on the head of the Israel of God; for that would have confounded the difference he had put between them. There is not, nor can there be, the least particle of God’s condemnation on the wicked, that can overtake or fall on the head of them that are in Christ Jesus; and without spray, the finger of God distinctly pictured out this at the Red Sea, when a single spray would have spoiled the figure. Fourth— Because the cloud was not a common cloud of nature, and consequently not a water cloud at all (Ex. 13:21, 22); for it was a pillow of fire by night, and so it must very soon change to be a water cloud for the convenience of my sprinkling brother by day. But it was a cloud of darkness to the Egyptians, and of light to Israel; and it was God’s ordinance of separation of his Israel church, from the Egyptian world. Ex. 14:19, 20. It was the abode of the angel of God’s presence with his people, and was a perpetual pillow and cloud to them all their journey through the wilderness. Neh. 9:19. And it was therefore a miraculous cloud, and full of spiritual figure; being a military hostile cloud to the hosts of the Egyptians (Ex. 14:24, 25), and a cloud of sanctuary favor to Israel (Chap, 33:9, 10); herein representing our incarnate and all-glorious Lord and Savior, who is to the world who lieth in darkness, as a root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness, a stumbling block and rock of offence, and the preaching of him, foolishness; while to his chosen, redeemed, and called church, he is altogether lovely, the true light, the wisdom and power of God, and consequently precious. Fifth—Because the Lord’s promise was, that the children of Israel should go on Dry through the midst of the sea. Ex. 14:16. And this promise was strictly fulfilled, for the Lord made the sea Dry! ver. 21. He turned the sea into Dry! Ps. 66:6. And the children of Israel walked upon DRY in the midst of the sea. Ex. 14:29. Yea, the children of Israel went on Dry in the midst of the sea. Chap. 15:19. Now, from these considerations, and the plain reading of the sacred text, it appears that the Israelites were just as much sprinkled with frogs, lice, locusts, and all the other plagues and judgments that fell on Egypt, as ever they were sprinkled by the spray of either the cloud or the sea. But we live and learn, and learn something of one another, for unless I had been told, it would have never entered into my mind, that the baptism of fathers is the sprinkling of infants, or any authority for it.
6. All the congregation of Israel passed the baptismal ordinance of discrimination and separation from Egypt, before they came to the associate ordinance of communion among themselves, by the manna and the water, which the apostle keeps up so strictly in the order of the figure. Not one Israelite came any other way than through the sea, and under the cloud; and which in the figure, as the apostle has drawn it, contains all we contend for, as the only order known or to be found in the New Testament, of first repentance and leaving off the old things and works of darkness : then follows baptism, and then communion at the Lord’s table.
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.