« السابقةمتابعة »
we are contending; for if John's baptism was the same with our
Either this must be supposed, or the words which in their original structure are most closely combined, must be conceived to consist of two parts, the first relating to John's converts in general, the second to the twelve disciples at Ephesus; and the rela
tive pronoun expressive of the latter description of persons, instead of being conjoined to the preceding clause, must be referred to an antecedent, removed at the distance of three verses. In the whole compass of theological controversy, it would be difficult to assign a stronger instance of the force of prejudice in obscuring a plain matter of fact; nor is it easy to conjecture what could be the temptation to do such violence to the language of Scripture, and to every principle of sober criticism, unless it were the horror which certain divines have conceived, against every thing which bore the shadow of countenancing anabaptistical error.
cient commentators appear to have felt no such apprehensions, but to have followed without scruple the natural import of the passage.*
6. Independently of this decisive fact, whoever considers the extreme popularity of John, and the multitude of all descriptions who flocked to his baptism, will find it difficult to believe, that there were not many in the same situation with these twelve dis
The intelligent reader will not be displeased to see the opinion of St. Aus tin on this point. It is almost unnecessary to say that it is decisively in our favor; nor does it appear that any of the Fathers entertained a doubt on the subject. In consulting the opinion of those who contended that such as were reclaimed from heresy ought to be rebaptized, he represents them as arguing, that if the converts of John required to be rebaptized, much more those who were converted from heresy. Since they who had the baptism of John were commanded by Paul to be baptized, not having the baptism of Christ, why do you extol the merit of John, and reprobate the misery of heretics. "I concede to you," says St. Austin, "the misery of heretics: but heretics give the baptism of Christ, which John did not give."
The comment of Chrysostom, on the passage under consideration, is equally decisive. "He (Paul) did not say to them that the baptism of John was nothing, but that it was incomplete; nor does he say this simply, or without having a further purpose in view, but that he might teach and persuade them to be baptized in the name of Jesus, which they were, and received the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of Paul's hands." In the course of his exposition, he solves the difficulty attending the supposition of disciples at Ephesus, a place so remote from Judæa, having received baptism from John. "Perhaps," says he," they were then on a journey, and went out, and were baptized.' But even when they were baptized, they knew not Jesus. Nor does he ask them, do ye believe on Jesus, but have ye received the Holy Ghost? He knew that they had not received it, but is desirous of speaking to them, that on learning that they were destitute of it, they might be induced to seek it. A little afterwards he adds, "Well did he (Paul) denominate the baptism of John, the baptism of repentance, and not of remission; instructing and persuading them that it was destitute of that advantage: but the effect of that which was given afterwards was remission."-Homily in loco, Vol. 4. Etone.-I am aware that very learned men have doubted the authenticity of Chrysostom's Commentary on the Acts, on account of the supposed inferiority of it to his other expository works. But without having recourse to so violent a supposition, its inferiority, should it be admitted, may be easily accounted for by the negligence, ignorance, or inattention of his amanuensis; supposing (which is not improbable) that his discourses were taken from his lips. From the time he was sixty years of age, he permitted his discourses to be taken down in short-hand, just as he delivered them.--Euseb. Lib. 6, c. 26.
ciples. The annunciation of the speedy appearance of their Messiah was the most welcome of all intelligence to the Jewish people, and did not fail for a time to produce prodigious effects.
The reader is requested to notice the terms employed to describe the effects of John's ministry, and compare them with the language of the historian, in depicting the most prosperous state of the church. "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the coast round about Jordan, and were baptized in Jordan, confessing their sins." Where is such language employed to represent the success of the Apostles? Their converts are numerically stated, and at some distance from our Lord's ascension, appear to have amounted to about five thousand, while a great majority of the nation continued impenitent and incredulous. We read of no party formed against the son of Zechariah, no persecution raised against his followers; and such was the reverence in which he continued to be held after his death, that the Scribes and Pharisees, those determined enemies to the gospel, dared not avow their disbelief of his mission, because all the people considered him as a Prophet. The historian Josephus, who is generally supposed by the learned to have made no mention of our Saviour, bears decisive testimony to his merits, and imputes the misfortunes of Herod to the guilt he contracted by putting him to death. Antiq. Jud. Lib. 8. Colon. 1691.
From these considerations, I infer, that if we suppose the converts made by the Apostles to have been universally baptized, on their admission into the church, (a fact not doubted by our opponents,) multitudes of them must have been in the same situation with the disciples at Ephesus. How How is it possible it should have been otherwise? When the number of his converts were so prodigious, when the submission to his institute appears to have been almost national, when of so small a number as twelve, two at least of the Apostles were of his disciples, who can doubt for a moment, that some at least of the multitudes who were converted on or after the day of Pentecost, consisted of such as had previously submitted to the baptism of John? Is it possible that the ministry of the forerunner, and of the Apostles of our Lord, should both have been productive of such great effects among the same people, at the distance of a few years, without operating in a single instance in the same direction, and upon the same persons? Amongst the converts at the day of Pentecost, and at subsequent periods, there must have been no inconsiderable number who had for a time been sufficiently awakened by the ministry of John to comply with this ordinance; yet it is evident from the narrative in the Acts, as well as admitted by our opponents, that Peter enjoined on them all, without exception, the duty of being immersed in the name of
Christ. That such a description of persons should need to be converted by the Apostles, will easily be conceived, if we allow ourselves to reflect on the circumstances of the times. "He was a burning and a shining light," said our Lord, speaking of his forerunner," and ye were willing for a time to rejoice in his light." This implies that their attachment was transient, their repentance superficial, and that the greater part of such as appeared for awhile most determined to press into the kingdom of God, afterwards sunk into a state of apathy. The singular spectacle of a Prophet arising, after a long cessation of prophetical gifts, his severe sanctity, his bold and alarming address, coinciding with the general expectation of the Messiah, made a powerful impression on the spirits of men, and disposed them to pay a profound attention to his ministry; and from their attachment to every thing ritual and ceremonial, they would feel no hesitation in submitting to the ceremony he enjoined. But when the kingdom which they eagerly anticipated, appeared to be altogether of a spiritual nature, divested of secular pomp and grandeur, when the sublimer mysteries of the gospel began to be unfolded, and the necessity inculcated of eating the flesh, and drinking the blood, of the Son of Man, the people were offended, and even of the professed disciples of our Lord, many walked no more with him. A general declension succeeded, so that of the multitudes who once appeared to be much moved by his ministry, and that of his forerunner, the number which persevered was so inconsiderable, that all that could be mustered to witness his resurrection amounted to little more than five hundred, (1 Cor. 15: 6.) a number which may be considered as constituting the whole body of the church, till the day of Pen
The parable of the house forsaken for a time by an evil spirit, swept and garnished, to which he returned with seven more wicked than himself, it is generally admitted, was designed to represent this temporary reformation of the Jewish nation, together with its subsequent apostacy. The day of Pentecost changed the scene, the power of the ascended Saviour began to be developed ; and three thousand were converted at one time. Nor did it cease here; for soon after, we are informed of a great multitude of priests who became obedient to the faith; and at a subsequent period St. James reminds the Apostle of the Gentiles of many myriads of converted Jews, all zealous for the law.
Let me ask again, is it possible to suppose that none of these myriads consisted of such as had been baptized by John? Were they all, without exception, of that impious class which uniformly held his mission in contempt? It is impossible to suppose it; it is contradicted by the express testimony of Scripture, which af
firms two of the Apostles to have been his disciples and companions. (John 1: 35, 36, 37.) But if such as professed their faith in Christ, under the ministry of the Apostles, were baptized on that profession, without any consideration of their having been previously immersed by John, or not, what stronger proof can be desired, that the institutes in question were totally distinct. Were we satisfied with an argumentum ad hominem, with the sort of proof sufficient to silence our opponents, here the matter might safely rest. But independent of their concession, I must add, that it is manifest from the whole tenor of the Acts, that the baptismal rite was universally administered to the converts to Christianity subsequent to the day of Pentecost. Peter said unto them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you :" it is added almost immediately, "Then they that gladly received his words were baptized."
It will possibly be asked, if the rite which the forerunner of our Lord administered is not to be considered as a Christian institute, to what dispensation are we to assign it, since it is manifestly no part of the economy of Moses. We reply, that it was the symbol of a peculiar dispensation, which was neither entirely legal or evangelical, but occupied an intermediate station, possessing something of the character and attributes of both; a kind of twilight, equally removed from the obscurity of the first, and the splendor of the last and perfect economy of religion. The law and the prophets were till John; his mission constituted a distinct era, and placed the nation to which he was sent, in circumstances materially different from their preceding or subsequent state. It was the era of preparation; it was a voice which, breaking through a long silence, announced the immediate approach of the desire of all nations, the messenger of the covenant, in whom they delighted. In announcing this event as at hand, and establishing a rite unknown to the law, expressive of that purity of heart, and reformation of life, which were the only suitable preparations for his reception, he stood alone, equally severed from the choir of the Prophets, and the company of the Apostles; and the light which he emitted, though it greatly surpassed every preceding illumination, was of short duration, being soon eclipsed and extinguished by that ineffable effulgence, before which nothing can retain its splendor.
The wisdom of God in the arrangement of successive dispensations, seems averse to sudden and violent innovations, rarely introducing new rites, without incorporating something of the old. As by the introduction of the Mosaic, the simple ritual of the patriarchal dispensation was not so properly abolished, as amplified and extended into a regular system of prefigurations of good things