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Messiah. "I indeed," said he, "baptize you in water, but there standeth one among you, whose shoe-latchets I am not worthy to unloose, he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire ;" referring unquestionably to that redundance of prophetic and miraculous gifts, which were bestowed on the church, after the effusion of the Spirit. We accordingly find that, after his resurrection, our Lord commissioned his Apostles to teach and baptize all nations, the execution of which order was usually accompanied by the collation of such gifts on believers, as fully corresponded to those predictions. Though he who is confined to no times or seasons, was pleased in some instances to communicate these preternatural endowments, previously to the act of baptizing, at others not in connexion with that rite, yet that they were its usual and expected concomitants, is evident from the language of St. Paul to the disciples at Ephesus, who not having heard of such an effusion of the Spirit were interrogated in the following terms; "Into what then were ye baptized?" a question totally irrelevant, but upon the supposition that these gifts were the usual appendage or effect of that ordinance. No such consequences followed the rite administered by John; an important disparity, to which he himself repeatedly directed the attention of his followers, as a decisive proof of his personal inferiority to him that was to come, as well as of the ceremony he administered, to that which should usher in the succeeding dispensation. In exact agreement with the genius of eastern phraseology, he suppresses the mention of water on this occasion, choosing rather to characterize an ordinance accompanied with such stupendous effects, by its more elevated feature, rather than by one, in which it coincided with his
Again, it is universally admitted that Christian baptism has invariably been administered in the name of Jesus, and that circumstance is essential to its validity; while it is evident from the solicitude with which our Saviour avoided the avowal of himself as the Messiah, that during his personal ministry, his name was not publicly employed as the object of a religious rite. After he had been declared on the mount of transfiguration to be the Son of God, he charged his disciples to tell no man of it, till he was risen from the dead, and when Peter had solemnly avowed his profession of faith in him under the same character, he and his fellow-apostles were strictly enjoined to tell no man that he was the Christ. Nor is there a single example of his publicly acknowledging that fact, until his arraignment before the High Priest. But how this is consistent with the practice of baptizing in his name, which must have been equivalent at least to a public confession of his being the Messiah, it is difficult to conceive. If we examine the matter
more closely, we shall perceive that ceremony to import much that it includes an act of adoration and of worship, of which he in whose name we are immersed is the avowed object. To multiply words with a view to demonstrate the inconsistency of such a procedure, with the acknowledged reserve maintained by our Lord on this subject, would be to insult the understanding of my readers; nor when furnished with certain matter of fact, are we left to form an opinion from previous probabilities. The historian informs us that while John was baptizing, amidst an immense concourse of people from various parts of Judæa, all men were musing in their hearts whether he were the Christ or not, (Luke iii. 15,) and that the deputation sent from the Sanhedrim to inquire into his character, were disposed to infer from his introducing a new religious rite, that he pretended himself to be the Messiah. But how is it possible, let me ask, that such a question should arise amongst the people, on the hypothesis maintained by our opponents? or how could it enter into their imagination to infer, from his baptizing in the name of Jesus, that he himself was, or that he pretended to be, the Messiah? His constant and daily practice must have completely precluded such a suspicion.
If St. Paul's citation of the language of John, in the nineteenth of the Acts, be correct, what he said to the people was this"That they should believe on him who was to come." (Acts xix 4.) The epithet o oxouevos, he who is coming, it is generally admitted, was the usual appellation applied to the Messiah at that period, which, while it expresses the certainty and near approach of the event of his coming, intimates not less clearly its futurity. At the time when the son of Zechariah entered on his ministry, nothing could be more accurate than the idea conveyed by that phraseology-the Messiah was not yet manifest to Israel; John was sent before him, to announce his speedy appearance; he was as yet coming, not actually come; on which account, the language which the forerunner held was precise and appropriate; it was not a demand of present faith in any known individual, but was limited to a future faith on a certain personage who was about to evince his title to the character he assumed, by his personal appearance and miracles. He said to the people that they should believe. in him that was to come. Could the same person, let me ask, at the same moment be described by terms expressive of the present and of the future tense-at once as an existing individual, a person torically known, and as one that was to come? In a word, if John expressed the act of faith which he required, in the future tense, (morεvowo, Acts xix. 4,) it unquestionably respected a future act; and if he described its object under the term o ¿oxóμevos, he that is to come, he did not immerse in the name of Jesus, which would have been a palpable contradiction.
Again, the spiritual import of Christian baptism, as asserted by St. Paul, transcends incomparably the measure of religious knowledge possessed during the ministry of John. "Know ye not," is his appeal to Christians, "that so many of you as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death; therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans vi. 4.) We have here an appeal to the conscience of all baptized persons respecting the spiritual signification of that ordinance, the views which it embraced, and the obligations resulting from thence to a holy and heavenly life. What is the meaning of the words baptized into his death? Whatever else it may comprehend, it unquestionably means the being baptized into a belief of his death. But at the time that John was fulfilling his course, this belief was so far from possessing the minds of his converts, that even the Apostles were not only ignorant of that event, but impatient of its mention; and with respect to his resurrection we find these same Apostles after the transfiguration inquiring among themselves "what the rising from the dead could mean ;" (Mark ix. 10.) while from the expectation of the Jews at large, nothing was more abhorrent than the death and crucifixion of their Messiah. While they were thus unacquainted with the principal fact it is designed to exhibit, how could they possibly comprehend the import of Christian baptism? In all probability they regarded the consecrated use of water merely as an emblem of purification, of that reformation of manners to which they were summoned; for to such a use of it they had long been accustomed; but for the sublime mysteries of the Christian sacrament, connected with events of which they were ignorant, and with truths which were veiled from their eyes, they were utterly unprepared. It is impossible to evade the force of this argument, by distinguishing betwixt the disciples of John, and those who were converted to the Christian faith at a subsequent period. The language of St. Paul precludes the possibility of such a distinction. "As many of us," says he, "as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death;" which is surely equivalent to affirming that whoever were not baptized into his death, were not baptized into Christ. But the disciples of John were not baptized into (the belief of) his death. Therefore they were not baptized into Christ.
We have already remarked, in a former treatise, that as the ministry of John commenced previously to that of the Messiah, which succeeded his baptism, no rite celebrated at that time is entitled to a place amongst Christian sacraments, since they did not commence with the Christian dispensation, nor issue from the authority of Christ as Head of the Church. The sacraments prop
erly Christian, undoubtedly belong to the kingdom of God, a phrase which is constantly employed in Scripture to denote that state of things which is placed under the avowed administration of the Messiah, and which consequently could not precede his personal appearance. But during his residence on earth, until his resurrection, this kingdom is uniformly represented as future, though near at hand. Even after John's imprisonment, the language which he held respecting that object is the same; "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel;" (Mark 1: 15.) which is also the precise intelligence he commanded the seventy disciples to proclaim, (Luke 10: 11.) a little before his decease. He was inaugurated into his office at his baptism, till which period he remained in the obscurity of private life, at the utmost remove from assuming a legislative character.
An attention to the general history of the period to which these transactions refer, will conduct us to the same conclusion. When we consider the great popularity attached to the ministry of the forerunner, and the general submission of the Jewish people to his doctrine, it is in the highest degree improbable, that of the three thousand who were added by St. Peter to the church on one day, there were none who had been previously his disciples; this incredible supposition is reduced to an impossibility, when we recollect that of the twelve Apostles, two are actually affirmed by an Evangelist to have been of that number. But as it is universally admitted that they who were savingly convinced. of the truth of Christianity after the Pentecost, were baptized on that occasion, what conclusion can be more inevitable, than that the rite administered by the harbinger of our Lord, was essentially distinct from the Christian ordinance?
To conclude this branch of the subject, the Acts of the Apostles furnish us with a decisive instance of an Apostle's rebaptizing certain disciples of John at Ephesus; but as we shall have occasion hereafter to examine that incident more fully, in reply to the evasions of the author of the Plea, I shall content myself at present with barely referring to it.
Such are the principal grounds on which we have ventured to assert the fundamental disparity betwixt the baptism of John, and the Christian institute.
We now proceed to notice the manner in which the author of the Plea for Primitive Communion attempts to evade these
I. He endeavors to invalidate the assertion that John's commission did not originate in the command of Christ, or that he on any occasion ascribes his mission to the Father, in distinction from
the Son. The author of Terms of Communion is charged with representing "John as uniformly doing that of which there is no decisive evidence he ever did at all, that is, ascribe his commission to the Father, in distinction from the Son." (Plea for Prim. Com. p. 21.)
We should have supposed that when the origin of a certain proceeding is constantly assigned to one agent, and no notice is taken of another, there is no impropriety in affirming that the proceeding in question is ascribed to him who is mentioned, in distinction from him who is not. But let the Scripture speak for itself, and let the reader judge whether John did, or did not, ascribe his commission to the Father, in distinction from any other person. "He who sent me to baptize," said he," the same said unto me, He on whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding on him, He it is who shall baptize in the Holy Ghost, and in fire." (John 1: 33.) Here the personage speaking distinguishes himself from the Messiah, as clearly as words can distinguish him, for he speaks of Christ in the third person, while he himself is denoted by the first; and so uniform is the language of Scripture on this subject, that not a syllable is to be found in which the mission of John is ascribed to any other person than the Father. But to ascribe any operation whatever to the Father in distinction from the Son, this writer contends, is inconsistent with the belief of the ineffable union which subsists betwixt those divine personages. (Pl. for Prim. Com. p. 21.) "Will those," he asks, "who believe the ineffable union of the Father and the Son, be disposed to conclude from this text that John derived his authority from the Father, to the exclusion of the Son?" To which I reply, that believing firmly as himself, that there is such a union subsisting betwixt the personages in the blessed Godhead as constitutes them one living and true God, instead of inferring from thence the impropriety of distinguishing their operations, it has always appeared to me, that the chief advantage resulting from the doctrine of the Trinity is, that it facilitates our conception of the plan of redemption, in which each of these glorious persons is represented as assuming distinct, though harmonious offices and functions; the Father originating, so to speak, the Son executing, and the Spirit applying the several parts of that stupendous scheme. The Father accordingly is uniformly asserted to have sent the Son, the Son to have assumed the office of Mediator, and the Spirit to be imparted by both, to enlighten and sanctify the elect people of God. If we suffer ourselves to lose sight of such an application of the doctrine, it subsides into barren and useless speculation. And are we to be told that such is the ineffable union betwixt the Father and the Son, that the distinct exercise of these