On this subject I shall say but little in reply to your letter, compared to what I have said on baptism; because the very same authority required of you for infant sprinkling, is now required of you for any other communion whatever at the Lord’s table, than that of persons previously baptized, on their own personal profession of repentance towards God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; namely, the New Testament word of God, in either precept or precedent, and One single text in the evident mind of the Spirit direct to the point, or from which it may be justly and honestly concluded, shall determine the point in your favor.
In the name of the Lord, I will agree with and hold anything in the world for baptism, and will receive, hold, and agree with any and every sort of communion, that has the support of the New Testament word of God my Savior. But short of that, beyond that, or contrary to that, God forbid my soul ever to take its stand; although I may have to stand alone, and be exposed to all the malignant arrows expected to be furiously shot at a reputed schismatic; and although I have lived long enough to see and to know, that both infant sprinkling and mixed communion, are truly parsonic flesh hook considerations, that copiously bring up that to hand, which it would be folly in the extreme otherwise to expect to obtain. Jude 12. 1 Sam. 2:13,14. Job 32:21, 22. But a close adherence to the sacred text is better than fat feeding; and a good conscience on the written word of truth, is better than all perishable gain; for a plain possession of the divine word is the fairest answer to every question, the best argument in every dispute, and a sure defense against every accusation.
You may hold the worst opinion of us, call us by the worst of names, and dip your pen in the gall of angry contempt; but all that says nothing to the points in hand—that proves nothing—that clears no truth— that can do no good: it is a ministry that has no promise, for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. James 1:20. To the word of God then, my brother, for that is our appeal—and we ask no more than to stand by that, or by that to be convicted. If there be any other church of Christ in the New Testament than that of persons baptized on their own personal profession of faith in the truth and Christ of God, do be so kind as to tell us where to find it, for we can find nothing of the sort. And if there be any such a thing in the word of God, as any one individual ever being taken into communion with such a baptized church, without being first baptized on a personal profession of faith—do be so kind as to tell us where it is recorded; because that also is a thing that we cannot find from the Dan to the Beersheba of the whole word of God, travelled all over with close observation. And if you can find these things for us, and do not, you will be very cruel, so to leave us still in the dark. And you will not be as the apostle’s advice, of a ready mind— apt to teach—in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves. 1 Peter 5:2. 2 Tim. 2:24, 25. Nor will you be so kind and considerate as the poor lepers were, when they knew what no one but themselves knew in all Israel, and said one to another, “We do not do well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.” 2 Kings 7:9. And if you cannot produce these things from the word of God, and they are nowhere therein to be found, then you have done very naughtily in reproaching, accusing, and bearing false witness against your neighbors. But doubtless this was done in haste (Ps. 116:11), or ignorantly (1 Tim. 1:13) understanding neither what you said, nor whereof you affirmed (ver. 7); for we have all our passions (James 5:17), and are none of us as yet perfect (Phil, 3:12). But in regard to your letter on the subject of communion, I will, with the help of mercy, briefly notice the following things.
Mr. Bridgman: “I mean what he termed strict, but I call schismatic communion.”
1. Communion at the Lord’s table, has been called by many names, because to suit their own convenience, men have thrown it into so many shapes and forms, as they have severally thought proper to “adopt.” But the word of God knows but one way, and if this one way only had been righteously observed, no particular terms of defilement would have been required to distinguish bible communion; nor would any minister of the gospel ever have called that schismatical. We reckon the word of God to be plain enough for our guide, if we are disposed to be guided by it; and we profess to take that alone for our guide, and we challenge you to prove the mind of the Spirit in any one text against our order of communion; and yet if you cannot do that, you stand guilty of denouncing the sacred word of God itself schismatical. And if to stand without contradiction from the mouth of God by his sacred word, be schismatical, we are content to bear the name, the blame, and the shame thereof, from you and all others who have taken lovely expediency, and not divine authority for your order. If you are right, we are wrong of course, and it is for you to prove that we are wrong, not by human multitude, but by sacred truth; and we shall expect that you will try, and then let us see your production for an experiment. You have made your charge, and you have thereby either done great justice to truth, or equally great injustice to us and the truth too. On communion, as on baptism, we take the written New Testament word of God, to be his revealed will to his New Testament church for a rule, in every age to time’s end; and that every change or deviation from that standard in the professing church, is of the world, the flesh, and the devil—is the corrupt offspring of the man of sin—and is not to be cherished, but opposed by the written word of God, as the only true model and unbending law of all true religion before God. But I know that to contend for this, is to expose ourselves to persecution, and raise again the old popish hue and cry of schism, schismatic, schismatical— with our esteemed brother Bridgman too as a chief mate in the phalanx. “We claim the sacred text by its own authority ; and it is for you, or anyone else, to disprove that claim simply by the same authority; and until then, we are in waiting position; and when that is done, teach us and warn us, and if we repent not, then let us be unto you as heathen men; but do not accuse us with what you cannot prove by divine law, because that act is capable of so many not very honorable interpretations.
By the terms strict and close communion, we mean strictly all of a piece, all of one heart and one soul, in faith and baptismal principles, according to the reading and meaning of the sacred text; and a keeping close as such to that, as our one only rule and authority; for two cannot well walk together, with becoming and true honesty, except they be agreed. Amos 3:3. A man might just as well pretend honestly to serve two directly opposite masters, as for that to be. Matt. 6:24. And as the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord, no man is to be saluted in regard either to his principles or his feelings, at the expense of, or contrary to, the great Master’s holy word. John 17:17. We live in a day in which such salutations are the very spirit of the times; and faithfulness earnestly to contend for, and to give place to, nothing short of nor less discriminating than the plain but solemn text of eternal truth, is counted schismatical, monstrous bigotry, is smote on the mouth, and is led out to be crucified—as the religious Jews did its Lord and Lawgiver.
2. “But what I call schismatical communion.” They that gladly received the word, were baptized, and then, and not until then, they were added to the church; and they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:41, 42. And it is for this order that we contend; and here we take our stand, because there is no other order that we can find in sacred text, to be admitted in the New Testament church of Christ: but as this does not answer your purpose, you call it schismatical; although, even with evident wresting of the scriptures, you have not been able to shew the least seeming divine authority for any other. Your calling it so, does not prove it is so; and such accusations without proof of guilt, only shew your own weakness, strengthen our hands, and make us more bold to travel on without the camp, joyfully bearing such reproach for the sacred text. No one was ever worse named than the Holy One of God, and by none more so than by professors of the religion of God, and that because he could not go with the popular multitude, and approve of their self-bred, pleasing traditions, before or even with the sacred text. And truth, even from like quarters, must expect the same fate with its Lord, having but one uncompromising countenance; while error has as many beguiling charms, as Diana of Ephesus is reputed to have had breasts, kindly giving suck to all nature. Words, being cheap, it is much easier to accuse, than to convict. Our divine law condemns no man, until it hears him, and finds him guilty; try us by that law, for we have no fear of consequences. But until we are proved wrong by the sacred text, which of you convinces us of sin? John 8:46. Are we not hated without a cause? chap. 15:25. Is not our brother moved with envy only 1 Acts 7:9. Do you not judge after the flesh? John 8:15. With us it is a very small thing that we should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; he that judgeth us is the Lord. 1 Cor. 4:3, 4. To the word of God then, my brother, and if you can find and prove to us any other communion at the Lord’s table, known and approved in the New Testament, than that of persons baptized on a profession of faith, you shall find it among us in less than six months after such proof; for the word of God is our only rule, whatever may be yours.
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.