Chapter 12—On Communion, Answering The Charge Of Extremism
Mr. Bridgman: “In this matter I have always been of opinion that your sect goes too far, much too far, or else to be thoroughly consistent with a bad principle, not far enough.”
1. You are not the first person that has had a bad opinion of our sect; for a great long while ago, it was hated of all men, even of brothers too, for Christ’s sake; Mat 10:22; it was everywhere spoken against, Acts 28:22. and made as the filth of the earth, and the off scouring of all things unto this day. 1 Cor. 4:13. And it has been the opinion of many religious folk, that service has been done to God when we have been cast out of the synagogues; not reckoning killing too bad for us, John 16:2; while the proud have sometimes been reckoned a happy people, Mai. 3:15. But we are told by good authority, not to think it strange, 1 Peter 4:12, but to count it all joy when such temptations are our lot, James 1:2, and that although it may be a fiery trial, 1 Peter 4:12, to be counted aliens to our mother’s children, Psalm 59:8, yet it is but the trial of our faith, to prove to ourselves and to those about us, whether we can stand the test of opposing opinions for the truth’s sake; and that it shall be precious in the end, for that herein the disciple is but as his master.
2. Your opinion having been always, is greatly to be suspected of being too old to be good; and of having sprang up in early ignorance, prejudice, chimera, and of the flesh and not of the spirit. For when Paul became a man in Christ, he put away his childish opinions in the flesh, to make room for new and better ones; 1 Cor. 13:11; and he had not had an opinion worth a penny above fifteen years, when he wrote his second epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 12:2. Besides opinions are so innumerable and diversified as to form no true ground of reliance nor point of decision. And of those opinions that have not been always, above nine hundred out of the thousand have been taken up by one man from another, and a vast number of them out of old corrupt human systems, and by the rule only of what is most generally received, without acting impartially by the best of rules, namely, the searching of the scriptures daily to see if things be so; Acts 28:11; and like Abraham, if needs be, come out alone to serve God; Heb. 11:8; and like Paul, who conferred not with flesh and blood; Gal. 1:16.; counting all opinions that were contrary to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and contrary to the obedience of faith revealed, loss, dross, and dung, Rom. 16:26. Phil. 3:7. 8. The divine will, declaratively and practically drawn out on the sacred page, is the only rightful law of decision, rule of judgment, and authority by which to accuse, to condemn, to approve, or to justify ; and to that court we appeal, and demand judgment there. To the law and to the testimony, our cause is with God, and truth, thereby supported is our meaning; while we esteem mere human opinion, affecting the public order of the church, without sacred text, from the otherwise greatest of good men, but as the wild and unimportant specter of an imperfect brain of frail liabilities. Every godly sentiment inspired in the soul by the eternal Spirit of truth, hath its correspondent on the sacred page; and that which is not a recorded principle of truth in the scriptures, is not an eternal truth of divine influence in the heart. And therefore our Lord said to men of opinion, “search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39.
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.”