« السابقةمتابعة »
which was first executed by one who knew him not, is to me an incomprehensible mystery.
2. The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance, or reformation, as a preparation for the approaching kingdom of God: the institute of Christ included an explicit profession of faith in a particular person, as the Lord of that kingdom. The ministry of John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths strait." All he demanded of such as repaired to him, was to declare their conviction that the Messiah was shortly to appear, to repent of their sins, and resolve to frame their lives in a manner agreeable to such an expectation, without requiring a belief in any existing individual as the Messiah. They were merely to express their readiness to believe on him who was to come, (Acts 19: 4,) on the reasonable supposition that his actual appearance would not fail to be accompanied with attestations sufficient to establish his pretensions. The profession required in a candidate for Christian baptism, involved an historical faith, a belief in a certain individual, an illustrious personage, who had wrought miracles, declared himself the Son of God, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and rose again the third day. As the conviction demanded in the two cases was totally distinct, it was possible for him who sincerely avowed the one, to be destitute of the other; and though the rejection of Christ by John's converts would have been criminal and destructive of salvation, it would not have been self-contradictory, or absurd, since he might sincerely believe on his testimony that the Christ was shortly to appear, and make some preparations for his approach, who was not satisfied with his character, when he was actually manifested.
That such was the real situation of the great body of the Jewish people, at our Lord's advent, is evident from the evangelical records. In short, the profession demanded in the baptism of John was nothing more than a solemn recognition of that great article of the Jewish faith, the appearance of the Messiah, accompanied indeed with this additional circumstance, that it was nigh at hand. The faith required by the Apostles included a persuasion of all the miraculous facts which they attested, comprehending the preternatural conception, the Deity, incarnation and atonement, the miracles, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the one was contained a general expectation of the speedy appearance of an illustrious person under the character of the Messiah; in the other, an explicit declaration that Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and death are recorded in the Evangelists, was the identical person. But in order to constitute an identity in religious rites, two things are requisite, a sameness in the corporeal action, and a sameness in the import. The action may be
the same, yet the rites totally different, or Christian baptism must be confounded with legal Jewish purifications, the greater part of which consisted in a total immersion of the body in water. The diversity of signification, the distinct uses to which they were applied, constitute their only difference, but quite sufficient to render it absurd to consider them as one and the same. And surely he is guilty of a similar mistake who, misled by the exact resemblance of the actions physically considered, confounds the rite intended to announce the future, though speedy appearance of the Messiah, without defining his person, and the ceremony expressive of a firm belief in an identical person, as already manifested under that illustrious character.
3. Christian baptism was invariably administered in the name of Jesus; while there is sufficient evidence that John's was not performed in that name. That it was not during the first stage of his ministry is certain, because we learn from his own declaration, that when he first executed his commission he did not know him, but was previously apprised of a miraculous sign, which should serve to identify him when he appeared. In order to obviate the suspicion of collusion or conspiracy, circumstances were so arranged, that John remained ignorant of the person of the Saviour, and possessed at the commencement of his career, that knowledge only of the Messiah, which was common to enlightened Jews. If we suppose him at a subsequent period to have incorporated the name of Jesus with his institute, an alteration so striking would unquestionably have been noticed by the Evangelists, as it must have occasioned among the people much speculation and surprise, of which, however, no traces are perceptible. Besides, it is impossible to peruse the gospels with attention, without remarking the extreme reserve maintained by our Lord, with respect to his claim to the character of Messiah; that he studiously avoided, until bis arraignment before the High Priest, the public declaration of that fact; that he wrought his principal miracles in the obscure province of Galilee, often accompanied with strict injunctions of secrecy; and that the whole course of his ministry, till its concluding scene, was so conducted, as at once to afford sincere inquirers sufficient evidence of his mission, and to elude the malice of his enemies. In descending from the mount of transfiguration, where he had been proclaimed the Son of God from the most excellent glory, he strictly charged the disciples who accompanied him to tell no man of it, till he was raised from the dead. The appellation he constantly assumed was that of the Son of Man, which, whatever be its precise import, could by no construction become the ground of a criminal charge. When at the feast of dedication, "the Jews came around him in the temple, saying, how long dost
thou keep us in suspense? If thou be the Christ tell us plainly:" he replied, "I have told you, and ye believe not: the works which I do in my Father's name they bear witness of me." (John 10: 22, 30.) From this passage it is evident that our Lord had not hitherto publicly and explicitly affirmed himself to be the Messiah, or there would have been no foundation for the complaint of these Jews; nor does he on this occasion expressly affirm it, but refers them to the testimony of his works, without specifying the precise import of that attestation. In the progress of his discourse, however, he advances nearer to an open declaration of his Messiah-ship, than on any former occasion, affirming his Father and himself to be one, in consequence of which the people attempt to stone him, as guilty of blasphemy, in making himself the Son of God. As his time was not yet come, he still maintains a degree of his wonted caution, and vindicates his assumption of that honor, upon principles far inferior to what he might justly have urged. Yet such was the effect of this discourse, that in order to screen himself from the fury of his enemies, he found it necessary immediately to retire beyond Jordan. In an advanced stage of his ministry, we find him inquiring of his disciples the prevailing opinions entertained respecting himself; on which they reply, "Some say, thou art John the Baptist, others Elias, others Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets." That he was the Messiah, was not, it is evident, the opinion generally entertained at that time, by such as were most favorably disposed towards his character and pretensions, which it could not fail to have been, had this title been publicly proclaimed; but this was so far from his intention, that when Peter, in the name of the rest of the Apostles, uttered that glorious confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;" our Lord immediately enjoins secrecy. What he enjoined his disciples not to publish, he certainly did not publish himself, nor for the same reason suffer it to be indiscriminately proclaimed by his forerunner. But if we suppose John to baptize in his name, we must suppose what is equivalent to an explicit declaration of his being the Messiah; for since he on all occasions predicted the speedy appearance of that great personage, the people could not fail to identify with him, the individual whose name was thus employed, and all the precautions maintained by our Saviour would have been utterly defeated. For what possible purpose could he forbid his disciples to publish, what John is supposed to have promulgated as often as he administered the baptismal rite? And how shall we account, on this hypothesis, for the diversity of opinion which prevailed respecting his character, among those who were thoroughly convinced of the Divine mission of that great Prophet? From these considerations, in addition to the total si
lence of Scripture, the judicious reader, I presume, will conclude without hesitation, that John did not baptize in the name of Jesus, which is an essential ingredient in Christian baptism; and though it is administered, in fact, in the name of each person of the blessed Godhead, not in that of the Son only, this instead of impairing, strengthens the argument, by enlarging still farther the difference betwixt the two ordinances in question; for none will contend that John immersed his disciples in the name of the Holy Trinity.
4. The baptism instituted by our Lord, is in Scripture distinguished from that of the forerunner, by the superior effects with which it was accompanied; so that instead of being confounded, they are contrasted in the sacred historians. "I, indeed," said John, "baptize you with water unto repentance, but there cometh one after me who is mightier than I; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost, and in fire." The rite administered by John was a mere immersion in water, unaccompanied with that effusion of the Spirit, that redundant supply of supernatural gifts and graces which distinguished the subjects of the Christian institute. On the passage just quoted, St. Chrysostom has the following comment: -"Having agitated their minds with the fear of future judgement, and the expectation of punishment, and the mention of the axe, and the rejection of their ancestors, and the substitution of a new race, together with the double menace of excision and burning, and by all these means softened their obduracy, and disposed them to a desire of deliverance from these evils, he then introduces the mention of Christ, not in a simple manner, but with much elevation; in exhibiting his own disparity, lest he should appear to be using the language of compliment, he commences by stating a comparison betwixt the benefit bestowed by each. For he did not immediately say, I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes, but having first stated the insignificance of his own baptism, and shewn that it had no effect beyond bringing them to repentance, (for he did not style it the water of remission, but of repentance,) he proceeds to the baptism ordained by Christ, which was replete with an ineffable gift." (Homily XI. on Matthew.) This eminent Father, we perceive, insists on the prodigious inferiority of the ceremony performed by John to the Christian sacrament, from its being merely a symbol of repentance, without comprehending the remission of sins, (Mark 1: 4. Luke 3: 3.) or the donation of the Spirit. The Evangelists, Mark and Luke, it is true, affirm that John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, whence we are entitled to infer, that the rite which he administered, when accompanied with suitable dispositions, was important in the order of preparation, not that it was accompanied with the immediate or actual collation of that benefit.
Such as repented at his call, stood fair candidates for the blessings of the approaching dispensation, among which, an assurance of pardon, the adoption of children, and the gift of the Spirit, held the most conspicuous place; blessings of which it was the office of John to excite the expectation, but of Christ to bestow. The effusion of the Spirit, indeed, in the multifarious forms of His miraculous and sanctifying operation, may be considered as equivalent to them all; and this, we are distinctly told, was not given (save in a very scanty manner) during our Lord's abode upon earth, because He was not yet glorified. Reserved to adorn the triumph of the ascended Saviour, the Apostles were commanded to wait at Jerusalem until it was bestowed, which was on the day of Pentecost, when "a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind, filled the place where they were assembled, and cloven tongues of fire sat upon each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost." This was the first example of that baptism of the Spirit, as the author of which, John asserts the immense superiority of the Messiah, not to himself only, but to all preceding Prophets. In the subsequent history, we perceive that this gift was, on all ordinary occasions, conferred in connexion with baptism. In this connexion, it is exhibited by St. Peter in his address on the day of Pentecost; "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Thus it was also in the case of Saul of Tarsus. Agreeable to our Lord's prediction of the signs which should accompany them that believe, there is reason to suppose, a greater or less measure of these supernatural endowments, regularly accompanied the imposition of the hands of the Apostles on primitive converts, immediately subsequent to their baptism; which affords an easy solution to the surprise Paul appears to have felt, in finding certain disciples at Ephesus, who though they had been baptized, were yet unacquainted with these communications. "Into what then," he asks, "were ye baptized?" and upon being informed "into John's baptism," the difficulty vanished.
Since the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or the copious effusion of spiritual influences, in which primitive Christians were, so to speak, immersed, was appointed to follow the sacramental use of water, under the Christian economy, while the same corporeal action performed by John was a naked ceremony, not accompanied by any such effects, this difference betwixt them is sufficient to account for their being contrasted in Scripture, and ought ever to have prevented their being confounded, as one and the same institute.
5. The case of the disciples at Ephesus, to which we have just adverted, affords a demonstrative proof of the position for which