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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 Ephesus; and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have 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
ed to the kingdom of God generally, i. e. without respect to an immediate discipleship to Christ. They were those who had been waiting for redemption in Israel. Perhaps they had some knowledge, and belief in the dispensation, of the Gospel, and in Christ, as the Messiah. Be this however as it may; they were subjects of John's baptism only. They were unacquainted even with the name of the Holy Ghost; the gift of which attended the baptism into Christ, in distinction from the baptism of John. They were now baptized by Paul, in the name of the Lord Jesus; in consequence of which, they received the Holy Ghost, in his miraculous influences. Here then, was a complete rebaptization; or else, the baptism of John, and Christian baptism were materially different. A rebaptization will not be pretended. Therefore John's baptism was of a peculiar nature, and confined to him. To evade this, it is alledged, that Paul did not here baptize these persons; but that the 5th verse, "And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus," is merely a continuance of Paul's testimony respecting John; i. e. Paul says, when the people heard what John said, that they should believe in Christ, then they were baptized by John in the name of the Lord Jesus. But this is wresting the passage at a shocking rate. It is departing from the plain and obvious meaning of it, and adopting one which invention only can supply. John did indeed preach such doctrine. But there is no evidence that he baptized into the name of Christ. Evidence is altogether the other way. He could not, with propriety do it. For Jesus was not yet manifested. John's baptism was the baptism of repentance, which looked forward to Christ as to come. The baptism into the name of Christ, was a baptism into him as actually come. Besides, the Holy Ghost was given generally, not in consequence of confirmation by the imposition of hands, as a thing quite removed from baptism; but in immediate connexion with baptism itself.*
* It is true, that a few Podobaptists have adopted this construction ; but the reason is obvious. When men have an end to answer, truth is a secondary object.
In connexion with this account of John's baptism, let us spend a few thoughts upon the particular baptism which was administered by John to the Messiah.
We can have no difficulty in concluding that the baptism administered to Christ, could not have been precisely for the same reason, nor have imported the same thing in all respects, with the other baptisms of John. For it could not have been a symbol of his being cleansed from sin, and becoming spiritually prepared to receive the Messiah, as king of Zion; he himself being that person, and antecedently holy.
Neither could it have been a seal of the covenant. That he had already received in his infancy. Nor could it have been an initiation into the Levitical priesthood. He was not made priest of the Aaronic order. "For," Heb. vii. 14, 15, 16. "It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe, Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident; for that after the similitude of Melchisedec, there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment; but after the power of an endless life." Christ was indeed priest, as well as prophet, and king. These three characters were combined in him, as they were in Melchisedec, his principal type. But his priesthood had no connexion with that which was ordained by the Sinai law. To have assumed this sort of priesthood therefore, instead of being a fulfilment of righteousness, would have been a violation of rule.
What then was the import of this baptism?
It is to be remembered, that the three offices of prophet, priest, and king, in the Messiah, were inseparable. His manifestation to Israel, was therefore a manifestation of him, in all these respects. His baptism, which connected with it John's testimony; the descent of the Holy Ghost upon him in the form of a dove; and the voice from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," was this manifestation. His baptism was eminently distinguished from John's other baptisms, by these miraculous events, which were
a concurrent and decisive testimonial, that Jesus was the true Messiah. This seems to be confirmed by all the circumstances which preceded. Let us briefly run over them. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan (a considerable distance) to John, to be baptized of him." He came to John, because he was expressly designated, to manifest him to Israel, as the true Messiah. No other reason for his coming to John, can be assigned. John had been told, John i. 33. Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." He had not been told to baptize Jesus. When Jesus therefore requested baptism of him, he refused. What reason does he give? "I have need to be baptized of thee; and comest thou to me?" I am the servant. You are the master, I have need to be your disciple. It is unseemly for me to number you with mine. Jesus replied, "Suffer it to be so now." I am indeed your Lord and Master, the Messiah; and you might well hesitate, if I proposed my self for baptism, upon the principle of being a sinner. But there is another reason why I should be baptized. This is requisite as a regular manifestation of me, in my official character. The reason is then given,." For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteouness." John's hesitancy was because he knew him to be the Messiah. And Christ's request to be baptized was on that very ground, that he was the Messiah. John was convinced by the reason assigned, that it was a part of his of ficial duty, by this symbol, as well as by a direct testimony, to manifest him; and that it was incumbent on Jesus to be thus manifested. Here was right, with respect to both. This right, i. e. the propriety of John's baptizing Jesus, and of Jesus' being baptized, must be the righteousness intended by Jesus, in the reason assigned.
Righteousness supposes a law. What law was it which required this baptism? I answer, typical usage. This typical usage originated in the requirement that the priests of the Aaronic order, who, as is to be col
lected from Numbers iv. 3, assumed their office at 30 should be washed with water, as a symyears of age, bol of their investiture with this office, and of their being true priests of the law. Symbols of this kind, plainly grounded upon this law, had ever been in use, in investing men, with the priestly, prophetic, and regal offices. And as these offices were all united and consummated in Christ, as Messiah, it became necessary, (To wgewov), it was comely, suitable, regular, that a corresponding symbol should attend his public induction into his Messiahship. Thus he became in all things like unto his brethren, a partaker even in their symbolical investitures. Thus also it appeared, that he took not this honor upon himself, the honor of a priesthood, after the order of Melchisedec, rashly, and in a disorderly way, as an impostor, but was called of God, as was Aaron.