Mr. Bridgman: “You call it strict, I call it schismatical communion, because you, not we, keep away the children from their Elder Brother’s table, unless they conform to your rules, I say your rules ; for since the national debt is to be paid by one of us, I will pay it twice, if you will find me scripture text which saith, or seem to say, Let men and women first be dipped, and so let them eat of the bread, and drink of the cup.”
1. Your calling us schismatical is an old popish opprobrium, now and then raked out from among the bats and cobwebs of college cloisters, by the true sons of secular churches, for difference of sentiment only, without once proving, or being able to prove it to be for a difference from the truth. We are so accustomed with our dear Master, and his apostles, to be called by bad names, that we are quite indifferent to it; as they are only terms that are found in the vocabulary of human prejudice, and not in the book of God against us. But this does shew us, that whatever friendship you may express towards us, you inwardly esteem us as schismatics!
2. We keep no brother from the Lord’s Table, but we invite them to come according to the word of God, as I have invited you to come, in whatever way the text of God’s word authorizes. And if it be now counted a sin to stand fast by that, and to walk by that rule, in its recorded doctrines and ordinances, we must still be reckoned vile, moving on as the not many mighty, not many noble, not many wise men after the flesh; and as the hated of all men tor the truth’s sake, in its own order. For we must consider, that all our contest lies in this— whether divine text, and the only known and recorded order thereof, are absolute law, to be steadfastly regarded always ; or whether human caprice and studied convenience, are to give laws, and constitute rules of obedience in the church of God? We oppose the latter, and are blamed; but prove the former to be wrong, or that we have not the former with us, and we will submit, and resign in both ordinances. Something no doubt you will do in reply to this, and we shall expect you will cut a considerable figure on the plain text, for the instruction of the humble in this life and the poor in spirit; and for the stopping of the mouth of gainsayers, and for the reclamation of them that are out of your way.
3. ” Unless they conform to your rules, I say your rules.”
Well, call them our rules, we have no objection to that, for we are in too good company to object. For they believed, and were baptized, and were then added to the church; and these our rules. And they continued in such doctrine and fellowship, and these are our rules. There is not a word of their being baptized until they believed, nor a word of their being added to the church until they were so baptized, nor a word of their breaking the bread of fellowship at the Lord’s table, until they were so added to the church, Acts ii, and these are our rules, but not yours ; although we will challenge you before heaven and earth to find any other rule of communion in the church of Christ in the New Testament, or to prove that the apostles, in any one instance, ever deviated from these rules, or knew, or even thought of yours but as they apprehended the workings , of the man of sin.
4. “For since the national debt is to be paid by one of us, I will pay it twice, if you will find one scripture text which saith, or seem to say, let men and women first be dipped and so let them eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
We know there is no such a saying in any one scripture text, for the scriptures are too much the penmanship of the Holy Spirit to have any such a needless and weak composition inserted in their sacred pages. For baptism, as the believer’s putting on of a public profession of Christ, so entirely and distinctly preceded all connection with the church in communion, and the well-known truth of this fact, was so settled amoung them that believed, as the only known order by the revelation of God, as altogether to preclude all consistent ground, occasion, or opportunity for anything of such a form of words. The baptism of believer’s was in full ministration by direct commission from God, before any New Testament church was orderly united, or the communion at the table was at all instituted; both by John, and the apostles of our Lord too in the presence of their great Master. And in our Lord’s final and standing commission to the end of the world, baptism was as much commanded on all believer’s, as the preaching of the gospel to all nations was; and the apostle fully and clearly demonstrates the same in their acts, and that so they understood their Master both in his presence and absence; and yet not one word is there to be found in that commission about the communion at the table. Many were baptized who had no opportunity at or near the time to commune at the table, as those who were baptized before the table was instituted, and others situated as the Eunuch was; although none were baptized but such as were considered regenerated children of the chosen family of God; but you will never find that there was ever one believer who came to the table unbaptized, because he had not an opportunity to be baptized, although a believer. Our Lord entered upon his public character as the Christ of God, by baptism; and he did not institute the table of communion until just before he left the world. Philip baptized the Eunuch on his profession of faith, but not one word is said in the case about communion at the table. Ananias was sent of God to converted Saul of Tarsus, and he went and commanded him to arise and be baptized, and he baptized him; but not one word is said in the affair about the table. Paul in giving an account of his conversion, distinctly states his baptism, but says not a word about the table at the time Acts xxii. Baptism is mentioned in Epistles where not one word is said about the table, as in the first of Peter; and baptism is mentioned later too than any thing is to be found said of the table: as in the Epistles to the Galatians and the Ephesians Baptism as evidently appointed of God, was publicly and uniformly practiced as an individually putting on of a profession of Christ, and of faith in his name; and a person was not fully and openly a professor without being baptized. And therefore baptism is called a putting on of Christ; and which also clearly shews what the ordinance of baptism must be, as to the subject, the mode, and the personal profession made therein. While the ordinance of the table was, and properly is the communion of the body, who are thus baptized into a profession of Christ; and no other communion at the table is to be found in the word of God. No one can say that Nicodemus was not a vessel of mercy, but as we hear nothing of his ever being baptized, so we hear nothing of his ever coming to the table of communion. And Joseph of Arithmathea was a good man, Luke xxiii. 50. 51, and secretly a disciple of Jesus, John xix. 38. 39; but as we hear nothing of his ever being baptized, so we hear nothing of his ever being in the communion of the church. There were many of the chief rulers that believed on Jesus, but they did not confess him (I presume to say) by the distinguishing and openly declarative ordinance of baptism; and as they did not confess him by baptism, so we hear nothing of their ever coming to the table of communion. And the two reasons assigned why they did not so confess Christ, are first, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue;” and the next is, because, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God;” and herein they are not alone. John xii. 42. 43. So that if your proposed saying were anywhere to be found in the holy word, together with the present current testimony, and all that can now be gathered from the New Testament, it would only go to say, that your corruption was then creeping about the church, and was in those early days cautioned against, withstood, and condemned. And the text that you refer to in, 1 Cor. xi. 26, has just as much to do with persons not baptized on a profession of faith coming to the Lord’s table of communion as it has to do with how many colors there were in Joseph’s coat, and no more. For the Corinthian church was a baptized one, as all the churches of Christ then were, on their own personal confession of faith; Acts xxviii. 8. 1 Cor. xii. 13; and I will defy you in the name of the Lord, to prove that that order was ever subverted or confounded by apostolical authority. 1 Cor. xi. 1. 2. The apostle was writing to the church, and of those only who then belonged to the church; and whoever will impartially read the tenth and eleventh chapters, will see that the apostle’s design was to correct certain abuses and irregularities which had obtained and were practiced among them; without the remotest thought or idea of receiving persons to the table without their first being baptized on their own personal profession of faith in Christ; for he says, “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? and the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” Chap. x. 18. “Wherefore my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” ver. 14. “And I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table and of the table of Devils. Do not provoke the Lord to jealously.” ver. 20, 21, 22. “Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not.” Chap. xi. 17, 18, 19, 20 21. “What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in? or, despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?” ver. 22. “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together to condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when 1 come.” ver. 33, 34. It hereby appears to me as clear as the sun in the heavens in a cloudless day, that the apostle was not speaking nor even thinking of receiving communicants at ail in any shape; but that he was contending for a proper and becoming deportment on the part of those who were already in church fellowship, in their coming together to the table of the Lord, so that they did not commit guiltiness and provoke the Lord in carnally abusing, instead of obediently and worshipfully using that institution of the Lord. And therefore, a greater perversion of the mind, meaning, and entire intention of the word of God, and of an inspired writer, was never practiced in the high days of Home, than your reference to 1 Cor. xi. 26, as a standing criterion and divine authority, for receiving of unbaptized persons to the communion of the Lord’s table ; and for the proving us wrong in not doing so; infant sprinkling being not baptism at all and altogether unknown in the scriptures. And why my brother, do you thus catch at the mere sound of a word, and so strangely rest its evident meaning? Is it not because you must do this or nothing on your point as the scriptures do not contain one single text minded to your purpose.
And why and on what ground is the ordinance of the table made so much of, as though it was almost a sure passport for heaven, when so little is said on it in the scriptures; and believer’s baptism is made so little of, and even rejected and spoken most contemptuously of, when so much is said of it in the scriptures? Surely an enemy must have brought this about; for the table is but an ordinance of the Lord, and believers’ baptism is no less; having its direct commission from heaven, and honored by our Lord, himself being baptized and commencing his public character thereby. That which has least said upon it in the sacred word, is in many respects carried to a pitch of superstition, and that which has so much the most said upon it is despised and rejected of men. This would not be the case if baptism was to be in rose water, instead of being as it is in common, “cold water;” but more especially so, if the New Testament scriptures of God were purely regarded as the sole and exclusive law of religious conclusions on the New Testament ordinances of God. For though you so pathetically call the table, “the table of our elder brother,” the scriptures are much more full of record to declare the baptism of believers to be a distinguishing ordinance of the eternal God of salvation, than of the table, and also to precede it; and was obediently observed so through the New Testament by the believing before they came to the table. But religions corruptions have since that runned to seed in the hearts of professing men, and that is what makes all the difference between now and then; and between you and me.
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.