Mr. Bridgman: “St. Paul’s rule of admission to Christian communion is this, As many as Christ has received, let us receive. Rom. 15:7. The whole of Chap. xiv. is applicable, and especially the 15:5, 6, 7. I wish you could be made to blush for your inconsistency— I mean not yours alone, but of your party.”
1. Wherein have we differed from Paul’s rule in the admission to communion? For that is all still to be discovered and to be proved. You must prove that any one was ever admitted to communion, without being first added to the church, and that there ever was one added to the church without being first baptized on a personal profession of faith in Christ, or that such a thing was ever asked for, or thought of, by either candidate, minister, or the church; before you can prove that we differ from Paul’s rule of receiving all whom Christ hath received.
2, You have to prove that Rom. xiv., and chap. 15:5, 6, 7, has anything to do with our subject at all, any more that it has to do with the plagues of Egypt. I will positively affirm and challenge contradiction before men of any degree, that no such thing is the mind and intent of the Spirit; and that no such thing was in Paul’s mind, argument, aim, or intention in these two chapters, as that the church at Rome was to receive into their communion at the Lord’s table, persons who were not baptized on their own personal profession of faith in Christ; or that baptism, for or against, was any way concerned as a question, in the business of Paul’s writing the xiv. and xv. chapters, to the Romans. To me it appears truly awful, that you, as a man of God, a minister of the gospel, and a man of letters, should so wring, wrest, and twist, the sacred word of God, into a meaning which, is as evident as the sun is clearly in the heavens in a cloudless summer’s noon day, was never the mind, meaning, or intention of the Holy Spirit on the inspired apostle’s soul in what is written; and that you should do this, to support what cannot be upheld in the name of the Lord by a more true, fair, and honest reading of his sacred word. So to snatch up and drag in, as by the hair of one’s head, merely adapted sounds, irrespective of the particular meaning or the evident general drift of argument and design of what is written, as the best and only support you can obtain from the holy word, is but the more fully to prove that your particular subject in hand is altogether unscriptural; and also worse than that, to betray truth in general into the hands of its communion vultur-eyed foes. Psalm 22:7.
From the use that is made of the Old Testament scriptures by references in the New, we see that great liberty is allowed in the using of the sacred word for the elucidation of revealed subjects; but to lay down any portion of the sacred word, as the positive ground upon which to found those conclusions on doctrines or ordinances, that shall affect the public order and character of the church of God, we must adhere immediately, and be particular to the primary and infallible meaning and intent of the Holy Spirit by the pen of the inspired writer. It is miserably bad to hear what is generally the truth, advanced upon a false construction on a text of scripture, but it is many times more awfully worse to falsely construe a portion of the sacred word for the purpose of supporting what the true reading and meaning of no part of the word of God will support for a truth. That which is most pleasing to a man, is to him generally the least like an error, although it may at the same time be most erroneous; and therefore we ought always, and particularly on controverted points, to take that cautionary question with us, “How readest thou?” Luke x. 26. And also that we always keep in mind the sacred injunctions, “take heed how ye hear.” Luke xviii. 18. “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.” 1 John iv. 1. The business of the saints of God is not to receive all things, but to prove all things, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual, 1 Cor. xi. 13; holding fast that which is good. 1 Thess. v. 21. For it is the simple only who believeth every word, while the prudent looketh well to his goings; Prov. xiv. 15; finding no holy path of safety to walk in, where there is no light of the divine word; Psalm cxix. 104, 105; nor warrant to conclude in favor of that which hath no sacred text; 1 Cor. xi. 16; but praying in all things, “O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Psalm cixix. 10.
3. The Roman Church was a Baptist Church and there were no cavils, hesitations, or questions in it, or about it, to settle on that subject. But as a people settled of one heart and of one mind therein, the apostle did enforce their godly and Christian-like observance of what they professed to be, and to believe in their baptism: that they might do credit to that profession, and honor God as the truly risen to newness of life according to it, chap. vi. 3, 4. This church appears evidently to have consisted of Jews and of Gentiles; and although these were alike the subjects of the free grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet from the great difference there was in their former character, situation, circumstances, habits of life, relations by blood, and deep laid prejudices, and the unhallowed handle that the ill-tempered nature of flesh and blood might make of these things; together with some things, which from the second, third, and fourth chapters, we may fairly and safely judge the apostle had already heard of them; there appeared so great a danger, as to render it needful closely and solemnly, to caution them against being jealous one of another, and to admonish them to exercise due affection toward one another, that the peace and harmony of the church as a body, might not be incautiously disturbed with such things, as ought for ever to be forgotten, in their equal debtor-ship to the free grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. And to cure this evil, or to prevent this likely one, was the apostle’s design; as also that the different degrees of knowledge, strength of hope, and boldness in the faith ‘ of Christ, that there was among them, should create no misunderstanding, but that the strong should bear with and help the weak, and love and receive them, as the Lord had received them all both weak and strong, and alike made them all what they were for the kingdom of heaven; the strong having nothing to boast, and the weak having nothing to fear. And that if the Jews still had a regard for certain days on certain accounts which the Gentiles knew nothing about, that that should be of no consideration of disturbance, so long as the Lord’s own given order of divine ordinances for his New Testament church was not disturbed thereby. And that if the Gentiles could with good conscience eat certain meats which the Jews could not, that they should not be considered unclean, nor unbelievers, nor be despised for so doing, so long as the divine model laid down for the New Testament church was duly regarded and honorably maintained by them. And that the weak and much bound should not be treated with indifference but with tenderness, because they could not see far and clear enough to enter more into liberty. And that those who were most favored with the glorious liberty of the sons of God, should not be considered presumptuous because of that liberty; but that all should use what measure of grace they had, to the glory of God, in a studious regard with all needful self-denial for each other’s welfare in the Lord; for that which should be profitable for them all, and well pleasing to God, as in 1 Cor. viii. These are evidently the ends and designs the inspired man of God had on his mind, when moved to write the xiv. and xv. chapters to the Romans, and particularly so in the 5, 6, 7, verses of Chap, xv; without the least or remotest thought of disturbing God’s own given order of believer’s baptismal communion, or of receiving unbaptized persons into the communion of the church. Nor can I see that the design of the argument regards the receiving of fresh communicants to the table, but the receiving of those into each other’s affections, prayerful concern, and care, who were already members in communion. And I am confident that no such thing is either said, meant, or thought of, as that of their receiving new communicants in any way contrary, to the one way of divine will, in which they were at the first united as a baptized people on their own personal profession of faith. But contrary to all that you can prove to be either said, meant, or thought of, by the inspired writer, you falsely apply the things said in these chapters to the setting aside of baptism, and to the establishment of communion without it; and that not because you really have one text to disprove baptism, but because you do not like it.
4. “I wish I could make you blush for your inconsistency, I mean not yours alone, but your party.”
I dare say you do wish so; and fools enough should we be to blush without cause: and a considerate man you must be to wish us to do so without showing us cause. If we had to wring the nose of scripture, until we bring forth the blood of violence done to its evident and only true sense and meaning (Prov. xxx. 33), to make it look our way, and could no how get it to do so after all, as you have done with just such want of success, to make it look in your favor on the points in hand, we would instantly blush, and you should then have your wish without any further trouble. But what is our “inconsistency?”
1. It is because we cannot sprinkle infants, and call the act an ordinance of God, when neither you, nor any one of its advocates, can find one passage in the whole scriptures of God intended for its existence or support, nor one text to give it any signification whatever when it is done, except it be that of turning God’s own ordinance outdoors, to be laid in a manger, that the inn may be differently occupied by the more agreeable.
2. It is because neither we, you, nor anyone else, can find any churches of Christ in the New Testament but of persons baptized on their own personal profession of faith in Christ? And because it is equally impossible to find the least mark or trace of any other communion at the Lord’s Table, than that of persons so baptized.
3. It is because we cannot consent to be more self-inconsistent and self-contradictory than the Popish Church of Rome herself is, or than any of the national churches are, or than any class and denomination of people at all professing the religion of Christ on the face of the whole earth are. By which we mean, that as Baptists, to believe that water baptism is an ordinance commanded of God in his holy word, and that the baptism of believers only, on their own personal profession of faith, to be that ordinance of God according to the scriptures, and so only to administer it; and to hold accordingly, that infant sprinkling, or sprinkling at any time, is no baptism at all, and so is not God’s commanded ordinance observed at all; and then to take persons into our communion whom we so consider to be not baptized at all—is to act more sell-inconsistent and self-contradictory, than any other denomination will so degrade themselves to consent to. Because of all those denominations who hold infant sprinkling to be baptism, or pouring, or the baptizing of believers to be so, if persons think proper, while either way is considered among them to do as well, none of them will admit into their communion those persons who have not been (as they reckon it) baptized in some way, and at some time. The mixed communion Baptists therefore, in receiving persons to the table of communion, whom they do consider, on their own professed belief of baptism, to be not baptized at all, do on the one hand hold baptism to be a commanded ordinance of God according to the scriptures, and on the other hand they practically deny it altogether; and according to their own professed sentiments thereof, they do it in the worst way of any people. My decided belief of such conduct is, that it is not done to lose one penny by it, nor to meet nor please the shoeless beggar, nor to fulfil any known part of God’s revealed will commanded in the scriptures; and that flesh and blood only hath revealed this course unto them, and not our Father which is in heaven. What is called mixed communion is the practicing of a flat contradiction, and when I can see a right for that in the word of God, I shall then be able to see that baptism may be dispensed with altogether in every way, as well as to be denied in such a way. To ask us to admit of mixed communion, is to request of us according to our sentiments, to give up baptism altogether in the case of every such candidate; and that is more than our friends on the opposition bench would, according to their sentiments, give up to any request of ours. Where I an Independent, I should despise the crouching, cringing, curling, fleshly accommodating, and flattering conduct of a mixed communion Baptist minister (Prov. xxviii. 20, 21), although a man of God (1 Kings xiii, 9, 21, 22), because I should consider it done to catch the wealthy and respectable, who otherwise might go and help to support some place of their own denomination. And when a Baptist might come to the table to commune with me, I should laugh to see how easy, how towardly, and how senseless the poor thing could practically deny its own sentiments on baptism, and justify the very opposite. And I should suppose the independent ministers do so now sometimes, if the truth of it could be known; but if the Baptists will be weak enough so to betray their own sentiments, let them be secretly laughed at.
4. Or does our “inconsistency,” lie in our not considering baptism the demarcation of all vital godliness for the kingdom of God? And that because we do not consider all who are not baptized to be dead in sin, and in the way to perdition? And because we cannot violate the only to be found order in the word of God on communion, that we do not conclude to have nothing to do with unbaptized persons? Or is it because, that while we consider many unbaptized persons to be the called heirs of glory, we do not set one of God’s commanded ordinances aside altogether to accommodate to them some carnal corruption that has intruded into the professing church, while the Lord himself by the mercy they have obtained of him, commands them to keep his commandments, and not us to set them aside and so justify others in the neglect of them. We wish to go and act together in Christian love, with all the children of mercy and subjects of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so far as we can in all good conscience toward God on the truth and order of his holy word; but to go no further with any person or people than we can do it on principle by the word of God, as we read it and understand it; holding that, we honestly consider to be unscriptural, to be as really so in the hand of a good man, as the same would be in the hand of an infidel; giving it no more quarters in the one case than in the other, but esteeming the brother as a brother still, as the apostle Paul did Peter. Gal. ii. 11.
5. Our Lord preached in the Jews temple and in their synagogues, but he did not invite the priests, Levites, nor congregations to the table of communion, and we cannot say that there were not many whom Jesus secretly knew to be the heirs of life, quite as well as we can judge of persons when they are openly called by grace; but he regarded the revealed order of truth. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, acted a godly Christian part toward the body and cause of our great Redeemer, and the service so done was acceptable and lovely in the esteem of the disciples, and the Holy Spirit has recorded those deeds as such; but as they were never baptized, that we know of, so the disciples never invited them to the table, although they received their Christian acts, and doubtless esteemed their persons. And is it our “inconsistency” to act in like manner by the revealed order of truth? Be it reckoned so, we are quite content to bear such reproach, while we are commanded to steadfast in the faith (1 Cor. xvi. 13), in the liberty (Gal. v. 1), and in the one spirit of the gospel (Phil. ii. 27), and in the Lord, as his word declares his will. Chap. iv. 1, 2. And likewise to strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. Rev. iii. 2. And I do feel it my duty before God, to contend as earnestly for believers’ baptism as the only baptismal ordinance revealed in the scriptures, and for the communion of saints here below on such principles only, as I do for any one of the doctrines of grace; and that for no other reason than because they are the scripture matters of the perceptive will of God to me, without controversy on the sacred page. And as to their importance or non- importance, touching the salvation of souls, that is a matter which I feel to be no business of mine to stop to enquire about; the revealed word of the Lord is the imperial law to my soul, and it rests exclusively with Him, what he will do with that word. And as to who may see things so, or who do not—who may receive them so, or who may not—how many, and what great men have rejected such an order of things—and who will, or who will not, go to heaven, of those who here reject or receive such an order of things—are matters that belong entirely to my great, wise, and gracious Master, and by no means to me. My orders are to Let my eyes look right on, and to let mine eyelids look straight before me (Prov. iv. 25) ; and I suppose this to be toward my great Master, and the whole of his revealed will in its recorded truth and order. And it is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Cor. iv. 2. And this is as much required in a steward in the midst and in regard to the family, as it is among and in regard to strangers and enemies; and so with all faithfulness unto death, to occupy until the Master comes, and then to receive the crown of life. Luke xix. 13. Rev. ii. 10. 5. “But your party.”
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.