John Foreman's Believer's Baptism And Communion Considered (Complete)

Chapter 15—On Communion, Answering The Charge Of Discrimation

Mr. Bridgman: “Are the elect, redeemed, and regenerated of the Lord, to be kept from, or thrust back if they approach the Lord’s table, because they have not been immersed in cold water—although, as the elect, their names are in the Lamb’s book above.” 

My Reply:

1. The Lamb’s book above is no rule for our conduct in the church below, but the revealed and written will of God, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, given under heaven. 

2. Neither election, redemption, nor regeneration, constitute any perceptive law of institutions, or of order in the church; but the word of the God of all such grace.

We are to be neither law-makers for the wicked, nor breakers of divine law for the saints. Divine favor does not exempt from scripture obligations, but qualifies for them, and brings the soul within the household commands and precedents given in the word of God for his believing church and people obediently to observe. Our Lord was as much the beloved of heaven, and in that character, had as great a claim to be excused from the commands and orders of the written word of God, as any regenerated soul can have, but he never pleaded an exemption because he was the Son of God; but on the contrary, said, “Honor to whom honor is due. Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer; that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” And he did that at Jordan which his professed followers can now speak of in the most reproachful manner. And in those days, when any point of argument came in the way, the enquiry used to be, ” What saith the scriptures?” but now your argument goes to say, “What would you like best? ‘What plan do you adopt?’ Come which way you please; the child is not to be denied a folly, because it is a child, and it is to have all its own way, disregarding the Father’s word, according to its own self-willed convenience, although the Father’s honors be trampled in the dust.” The unregenerate are nowhere in God’s word required to walk in those ordinances of God, which are peculiarly given to his called and believing people, because they are dead in sins, and their hearts are not gospel-wise right before God: but according to your idea, the regenerated are to be excused, because they are blessed with regeneration grace unto eternal life. This will just suit carnal and presuming professors, because it is an argument only to get rid of the Bible-obligations of practical obedience to the written word, which are enjoined on all that are called to be saints, and who name the name of Jesus. What the Lord did for his Old Testament people was, that they might observe his statutes and keep his laws. Ps. 105:45. But your argument is, that New Testament saints, since the New Testament pattern of the will of God has been practically drawn out, and plainly written down by inspired authority, are to be excused by what the Lord in his goodness hath done for them; so that instead of leading to, divine favor is to exempt from gospel obedience by the written word; while on the contrary, it is such favor only that qualifies for and obligates to such obedience. This is recommending a liberty to neglect the written word of God, as of little importance, compared to the studied convenience of believers, because grace abounds. This may sound very sweet, and many there are who are fond of such sweet things; but to eat much of such honey is not good (Pro. 25:27), because it is contrary to the very Spirit of God’s word, which saith, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant, his master; if I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name.” Mai. 1:6. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 15:15. ” Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Chap. 15:14. ” This is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. They are a yoke, but to the obedient spirit they are easy. Matt. 11:29, 30. When constrained by the love of Christ, we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 2 Cor. 13:8. And we contend that the New Testament truth of God to us is, what is written, in the plain sense in which command and example are practised out. And we consider it a daring imposition, although from the greatest of men, for any one now to put a meaning upon our Lord’s commission and example to his apostles, which they themselves never named, hinted at, or practiced out, in whole or in part, in any shape whatever recorded. 

If you will bring the authority of scripture with you, for communion at the Lord’s table without baptism, on a personal profession of faith in Christ, I do hereby solemnly engage, that with timely notice from you, I will call our friends together, and hold a communion, and you shall freely commune with us, and all that you like to bring with you of your sentiment. Therefore do not accuse us, but convict us, and come, as hereby invited, and confound us with the truth of God’s holy word; and if you do not do this, we shall, from the time these papers come under your notice, hold your opposition and your charge on us of being schismatical, and of our thrusting the Lord’s redeemed, in that public contempt their own textless futility will justly deserve. And if you can bring scripture to prove even that the thing was ever apostolically thought of and contemplated as allowable at any time, although not then decided; but so as that if the apostles now lived upon the earth they would practice it, even with such proof, we will allow any communion you please for twelve months, taking the whole length of that time prayerfully to consider how, with all good conscience, in the truth towards God we are then in future to act. And be assured of this, that we would then have mixed, open, or antibaptismal communion, if it could possibly be had with truth; and that especially, because of the respectability it would gather into our connexion—the reproach it would save us from which we now have to bear for the truth’s sake—and also for the drag it would bring into our net (Hab. i. 16); for many parsons have now found out that that certainly is the right partition side of the ship, and take that side accordingly, whatever be truth’s side. 

3. “Because they have not been immersed in cold water.” 

Ah, that is the difficult point! Believers’ baptism exclusively is right enough, and is clear enough written, but the water is cold; it is despised—it is no way respectable and accommodating to proud flesh and blood; and although the scripture letters of it are weighty and powerful, its bodily presence is weak, and its speech is contemptible, as God’s servant Paul was. 1 Cor. 10:10. And this is enough to make the water cold, and to keep it so. But who warmed the waters of Jordan—the much water of Enon—and the waters in the wilderness for the Eunuch? The waters were as cold to the natives of that climate literally, as they are in any other climate to the natives; but carnal invention in religious profession, religious pride, and indifference to the pure word of God as the only rule of right, are since that grown so warm, that baptismal waters with religious professors, are now become so much more cold in the proportion than then! If believers’ baptism was merely for persons to gracefully lounge on any easy couch, and be sprinkled with something that they like best of sweet odor; and communion was for persons to stand up to the waist in cold water, and so take the elements, we should very soon have as many more Baptists than communicants, as we now have of communicants more than Baptists: if even there were then seven times as much written in the holy word of God on communion as there now is, and but one-seventh written on baptism that there now is. I would not speak in this way, if undeniable evidence did not bear me out, in the face of the very contrary proportion written in the sacred word for the two ordinances. And your speaking so reproachfully of believers’ baptism, is not speaking against me, but against the only recorded order of the word of God on that subject. For we have frequent accounts therein of believers being baptized, when communion at the table is not even hinted at ; and no account is given us of any other persons but believers being intentionally baptized, or of any coming to the table who were not first so baptized. 

These things I tell you openly before the public, and it is for you to contradict them, if you can, with the word of truth, or go on reproaching the word of God, the Lord himself who was baptized in the river of Jordan, and us for adhering to the fair reading and only recorded order of the scriptures—just as long as you can find pleasure in so doing, my brother. If there were an instance or two recorded, where any person or people did come to the table of communion, without being first baptized, on their own personal profession of faith in Christ, it would suit your taste much better no doubt; but we ought not to be blamed because it is not so, nor because we cannot make it so for you, nor because we cannot allow that it is so for your convenience, when it is not so, nor because we are content with the matter as it is written, and to act exclusively by that rule, and the evident common sense that is uniformly conveyed by what is written—nor because we contend that what is contrary to what is written, is wrong—nor for our considering that to be altogether of the flesh, and without authority from God, that is without sacred text, until by the word of God we are proved wrong in so doing. While we act in the name of the Lord, in belief of the scriptures as we closely read them, and until it be proved that we have mistaken them, and are condemned by them, we shall laugh at reproach, and believe (2 Tim. 3), adhere to (Phil. 4: 9), and take the encouragement of (1 Peter 3:13) — not fearing that we shall thereby feel, see, speak, or do any harm, in our own souls, to any one on earth, or before the God of the whole earth. Acts 28:5, 6, 21. Phil. 2:15. 

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.