Chapter 13—On Communion, Answering The Charge Of Inconsistency
Mr. Bridgman: “That your sect goes too far, much too far, or to be thoroughly consistent with a bad principle, not far enough.”
1. We go too far for you and for your opinion it seems, and too far for the confederating, accommodating, faithless, fleshly spirit of the age; and consequently too far for our own carnal interest, but not far enough to establish a bad principle, and so not too far for the word of God, and not far enough for you to condemn us, except by your own opinion. This is just were we wish to be, out-running all supineness in regard to the sacred text as our only standard and our rule, without going into extravagance by any unhallowed constructions upon the holy word of God.
2. By our going too far and not far enough, I suppose you mean, that for us to be so particular on communion we ought to be equally particular about some other things that are recorded in the New Testament that we do not literally practice. I know there are such things, but you must prove to us that they are standing perpetual ordinances by the command of the Lord to the end of time, as evidently as the ordinances of baptism and the communion at the table are; and as evidently exampled out to us for the same purpose. The selling of all their possessions by the first converts, and the having all things common among them who then believed, were from circumstances which rendered that order of their affairs necessary for their support. Acts 4:34. 35. And that also in the wisdom of all foreseeing providence, brought the value of their estates into happy use for themselves and for the Lord’s young church, before they should be scattered abroad by the hand of persecution and so lose the whole forever, and their enemies enrich themselves thereby. Benevolence among the saints, and to each other as such, by his love and for his name sake who hath sanctified them, is a lovely principle and action of vital godliness; but their selling pf their whole possessions and casting all the value into God’s cause, was the result of divine influence peculiar to the time and circumstances of the church, and may be reckoned among the divine miracles of wisdom, power, and love; and not of perpetual command. The exercise of that family principle was enjoined by command, and encouraged by divine promise and example, but to that extent, and in that way, was purely optional; as the apostle Peter very evidently shews. Acts 5:4. And the after accounts of the collecting for the poor saints, shews that it was done by voluntary contributions, as we do now; but that the possessions of them that had them were not then sold and given up; so that as that practice did not continue, even though the days of apostles, it never was commanded in the shape and obligation of an appointed standing institution of God. And there are several other things to which perhaps you may refer, but they are so much of a similar nature and so unlike the two great standing distinguishing and perpetual ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper, that I deem it unnecessary to notice them till further called upon; except that of laying on of hands, which I would just name. It appears that the laying on of hands, and that which is so called in the scriptures, was for the purpose of conferring extraordinary gifts, as that of tongues &c; and there is no evidence that they were laid on for any other purpose—healing being a different thing. And this, was done by the apostles only, by the power of the Holy Spirit that was so with and upon them, and by no one else; for Philip that great graced evangelist of God, did not so lay his hands on any one at Samaria, but the apostles only did it when they came there. Acts 8:17. 18; and therefore it was never an appointed perpetual ordinance, or authorized beyond the apostles. However we are none of us perfect, and how much so ever we may be ignorantly deficient in all things, we challenge you before God, the elect angels, and all good men, to prove your charge, and that we are not fully authorized by the sacred text to go as far as we do as a ” sect,” practically on the subject of communion.
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.”