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CHAPTER II.

TESTIMONY FROM THE EVANGELISTS.

CH A P. BAPTISM stands as the door to Christianity, as a public II.

profession, in every stage of its developement. Mark Baptism styles the ministry of John “the beginning of the gospeculiar to Christianity pel of Jesus Christ;" and John " came baptizing.” The Mark i. 1. Son of God himself was baptized on his entrance on the

work of his public ministrations. Immediately his disciples began to make converts under his authority, we find them baptizing. And finally, when Christ gave his last great command to his disciples, to preach the gospel to every creature, the injunction to baptize was incorporated with it. Are these facts compatible with the idea so frequently thrown out, that the subject of baptism is one of small importance, and unworthy of the attention bestowed upon it? Each of the four connections in which baptism is presented to us in the writings of the evangelists, will form a distinct topic for investigation.

SECTION I.

BAPTISM OF JOHN.

The minis. The brief hour of dawn precedes the light of day ; try of John the dawn of the sun arises veiled by the mists of earth; till at length Christianity its power dispels them, and its rays burst forth with unimpeded refulgence. The preaching of John the Bap- SECT. tist was the dawn of the glorious day of Christianity;

I. in the personal ministry of our Saviour the Sun of Righteousness arose ; but so dense were the mists of prejudice on the minds of his disciples, that he unveiled but little of his glory even to them; and the instructions he did give were but very imperfectly comprehended, till the “ mighty rushing wind,” the symbol of the Spirit's power, cleared the clouds which, till the Pentecostal day, had enveloped their minds. But is not the dawn a part of the day? The evangelist evidently thought so, when he asfirmed that “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” was “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The ministry of John, by divine appointment, began John i. 6.

Luke vii. 29. the great change from night to day. The patriarchs and prophets were stars amidst the dark heavens ; but John was as the light of the sun, which, though not yet risen, still fills the heavens with a light which presages his glorious appearing. In this view only can the say. Testimony ing of our Lord be justly appreciated, “ What went ye Luke vii. 26, out for to see ? A prophet ? Yea, I say unto you, much more than a prophet. Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” In what respects was John superior to Isaiah and Daniel ? Only as partaking of the splendour, though in a faint degree, that was associated with the appearance of the Son of God in the flesh; and when our Lord adds, “but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he;"—the least of the apostles, (the direct rays of the Saviour's glory,) is greater than John, (the strongest light of the dawn ;) the relation of the ministry of John and all connected with it, to

28.

II.

CHAP. the Christian dispensation, seems to be fixed by Christ

himself with a precision which should have precluded the discussions which have been continually carried on re

specting it. Topics of This view exactly accords with the great topics of the John's preaching. preaching of this “more than a prophet,”-repentance

and faith in Him that was immediately to come forth in his public character as the Messiah. The dawn is the great change from night; the day is but the increase (great indeed,) of the same light. The light of John was that of the Saviour already in the world, but not manifested to it. It was no 6 shadow," like the Mosaic economy: his teachings were not mingled, like those of the Prophets, with predictions and promises peculiarly Judaic, but were filled with the same element of universality which distinguished the preaching of Him whose shoe's latchet he declared himself unworthy to unloose. His ministration had the same direct tendency, if not in so luminous a degree, as that of the apostles, to attract attention to Christ; the one prospectively, the other retrospectively. The saying of the Baptist, “ He must increase, but I must decrease,” beautifully accords with the figure employed. The light of dawn is lost amid the powerful effusion of the rising, though beclouded

sun; but it was still the same light. Baptism of If the preaching of John was the “ beginning of the John, Christian baptism gospel,” then was the baptism of John the beginning of

Christian baptism : not baptism fully developed, but baptism begun. The baptism of Christ himself, then the disciples of Jesus, immediately after, baptizing by his authority, connect the baptism of John inseparably with the final commission of our Lord. There surely was no dispensation between the Mosaic and the Christian. The ministry of John must belong to one or the other

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if to the former, John was not more than a prophet;" SECT. if to latter, it is no objection that he was “ less” than

1. the least of those who enjoyed the pentecostal day, which has never set, and never will set on the Christian Church. I regard the baptism of John as Christian baptism in an incompletely developed state; yet with all its elements of character strongly marked. I am aware that in taking this view it is in opposition Mr. Hall's

views. to that of one of the greatest and best men that have adorned this or any other age, whose transient acquaintance will ever be remembered by the writer, like a gleam of sunshine amid a day of storms. That celebrated author regards the baptism of John and that of Christ as “ two distinct institutes." He remarks, in his characteristic style:

“ 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 nor 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 splendour 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 its 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

a Works of the Rev. Robert Hall, vol. iii. p. 20, London edition.

No inter

CHAP. the desire of all nations, the messenger of the covenant, in II. 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 extin. guished by that ineffable effulgence before which nothing can retain its splendour.")

This is indeed a beautiful passage: but is its argumediate dis

ment sound? In what respect did the ministry of John pensation.

the Baptist" possess something of the attributes and cha

racter of the “ Mosaic dispensation,” any more than Acts xxi. 24. did that of the apostles, who were " orderly keepers of the

law ?" How can it be said " that the light which he emitted was of short duration ?” However much additional light was exhibited in the ministry of the apostles, did not every sentiment that John uttered constitute a por. tion of their ministrations ? The twilight of evening may be eclipsed by the brilliancy of the orb of night, but the dawn of the morning surely cannot be said to be eclipsed by the rising sun ! Which illustration best suits the subject under consideration, I leave the reader to de. cide. Against the introduction of a third era—a kind of purgatorial dispensation-for the purpose of dissevering the ministry of John from its connection with the Gospel dispensation, I protest, as an act of injustice to one who performed the greatest act of Christian baptism which ever has occurred, or ever can occur--the baptism of the Great Founder of Christianity.

• Hall's Works, vol. ii. p. 39, 40.

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