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Respecting John's ministry, and baptism ; and the baptism
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THE nature of John's office, and baptism, is to be learned from his character, his mission, and the effects of his ministry. Here we must have recourse to prophecy. The prophetic designation of John, is found in Isaiah xl. 3, 4, 5. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert, a high way for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Also in Malachi iii. 1. ~ Behold I will *send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way be. fore me.” He is intended by Elijah the prophet, in the 5th verse of the 4th chapter. The effects of his ministry are described in the 6th verse. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
John's office then, was to prepare the way of the Messiah. This was to be done morally; by effecting a reformation in Israel. It was to be done also, by announcing his approach, and pointing him out, when he should actually appear ; by recognizing his Messi. ahship, and asserting his dignity, and glory. Accordingly we find his preaching to have been, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Messiah is coming to fulfil the promises made to the fathers. Pre, pare to meet him, by forsaking your sins. For you must be holy, to receive rightly so holy a character. His baptism is expressly called by Paul, Acts xix. 4. • The baptism of repentance.” The subjects of the reformation wrought, in connexion with their baptism, openly confessed their sins.” Mat. ii. 6. « And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." “ He came for a witness, to bear witness of that light." "He tzzz baptis
John i. 7. Accordingly, in an express manner, he • pointed out the Messiah when he came into his view.
29th verse, and on. “The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man, which is preferred before me ; for he is before me, and I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water." John then, had a designation entirely different from any other character that has ever appeared, or ever will appear. And his baptism was entirely distinguishable from all preceding, and all following baptisms. To be sure it had a similar moral meaning with all other baptisms enjoined by God, whether before Christ, or after him. For they are all symbolical of internal purity; a cleansing from sin. So far, if you will, John's baptism was Christian baptism. But so far, it was Jewish, or Mosaic baptism also, or a baptism according to the law. For the bap tisms under the law were symbolical of inward spirit. ual cleansing, no less than those under the Gospel. Still John's baptism had a peculiar character. It was different from all other baptisms, essentially so. It was not an ap pointed seal of God's gracious covenant. Those to whom it was administered, were already subjects of this scal. They carried it in their flesh. It was not the baptism instituted by Christ, to be administered to converts from the Gentile world. This was to be, “into (eis) the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost." Into this name, baptism could not yet be administered.--For the Son was not yet manifested, and exalted to his kingdom. He had not yet bsen manifested to be the
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Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead. And the Holy Ghost was not yet given, for Jesus was not yet glorified. Christian baptism is not a preparation, for the appearance of the Messiah ; but looks back to him as already come. Christian baptism is administered, as expressive, that Jesus is glorified, and that the Spirit is given. The disciples of John were not as such, the disciples of Christ. Many of the former, no doubt, became the latter. But they are often spoken of as distinct and separate bodies.
John's baptism therefore, let the mode of it have been what it would, was appropriate to him. It was limited to his ministry, and terminated with the close of it. This is so plain a case, that perhaps to add any farther proof, would be entirely superfluous. But I am constrained to take notice of one other, and that the rather, because it is so often perverted and abused. This is found in the beginning of the 19th chapter of the Acts. I will quote the passage at large. “And it came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephe. sus; and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Haye ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard, whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized ? And they said, 'unto John's baptism. Then, said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him, which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve." These twelve persons, called disciples, though now resident at Corinth, were probably Jews. Their having received John's baptism, seems to prove that they were. For his ministry was addressed to the Jews only, and confined to the wilderness of Judea. They were disciples, as they belong