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separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, that they may execute the services of the Lord.” Following up the spirit of these rules, they were also accustomed to baptize the heathen who laid aside their idolatry, and conformed to the law of Moses. “Wherever they sojourned, if they found any of that country that chose to adopt their religion, they would not admit him unless he would be first washed or baptized by them. And this was called baptizing them unto Moses.” 5 And it was an example of John's baptism of repentance ; of the apostle's baptism in the name of Jesus. The same words might be addressed to these proselytes, as were addressed to Paul on his conversion, “ Arise, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord.” As much as to say, Your sins have defiled you, and rendered you unfit to appear in the presence of God: more unfit, than the squalid beggar to seek a place in a royal court. The body, which has been long neglected, must be cleansed from its defilement by the washing of water. And we baptize you with water, as an emblem of that cleansing which is needful to the soul. The body leaves its defilement in the water wherein it is plunged. Ye too must leave the sins of which ye repent. And your baptism is a token of this change.
This was the intent of BAPTISM. John indeed was not baptizing Gentiles, converted from the habits of idolatry. But the emblem which he practised signified to them in the liveliest manner, that a new era was at hand; that God was visiting his
5 Wall on Infant Baptism, Introduction.
people, and they must be prepared to meet him? And such a spirit accompanied his words, that the hearts of the people were affected, as formerly they had been affected by the prophet whose character the Baptist bore. At the words of Elijah, fire fell from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice, and the multitudes who had been worshippers of Baal cried out with one voice, “ The Lord, he is the God, the Lord he is the God.” John was acting “ in the spirit and power of Elijah.” 9 And now, as he baptized in the wilderness, and preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
As if a herald were to pass through a land, where the inhabitants were not acknowledging their sovereign, perhaps engaged in rebellion against him : and were to exhort them, Return to your allegiance; the king demands it: he proclaims forgiveness of the past: he offers reconciliation, not imputing to offenders their trespasses ; “ your sins and your iniquities he will remember no more," as many as “ repent and believe the gospel."
Thus John fulfilled the mission to which he had been ordained, and prepared the hearts of men to receive Him who was to come, who should pay the ransom which they needed, atone for the sins of which they repented, and so complete the covenant of pardon.
7 Luke i. 68.
1 Kings xviii. 37–39. 9 Luke i. 17.
Let us consider him as preaching to ourselves, as he preached to his countrymen of that day, saying,
Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 8 Are we faithful members of that kingdom, reverencing and glorifying its King ?9 Or if another John the Baptist were to be commissioned, calling men to repentance, would he have need to say to us, “ A wake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light ?"
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST.
MARK. i. 6-8.
6. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins ; and he did eat locusts and wild honey ;
7. And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.1
There was much to excite John's vanity, when people of all conditions came to his preaching and his baptism; when even the Sadducees and Pharisees
Eph. v. 14. Who is higher above me, than a master above the lowest of his servants.
8 Matt iii. 2.
were moved by his exhortations, and sought a refuge from the “ wrath to come." 2 But the same Holy Spirit which separated him from other men, as the especial servant of God, also preserved him from presumption, or spiritual pride. Like the apostle Paul after him, he “ preached not himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord." He would receive no honour to
3 which he was not entitled. He knew that like the moon which fades away before the brightness of the sun in the perfect day, he must“ decrease,” whilst the fame of Jesus “ increased.”* And therefore, whilst the multitude came to him, and sought his counsel, he still referred them to one, who, though coming after him, should be preferred before him; one mightier than he, in comparison of whom he was so mean and humble, as to be unworthy to perform for him even a servant's office: one who could not only call men to repent, but bring them to repentance; enable them to lay aside their corrupt habits, and forsake their evil ways, and to “ walk worthy of God, who had called them to his kingdom and glory.”
8. I indeed hare baptized you with water ; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
Water was the emblem of the Holy Ghost; and baptism with water represented that cleansing and renewing which the soul requires, but which it is not possible for water to effect. John by his preaching convinced the people of their sinfulness, showed them their need of change; and so prepared the way for that mightier one who should complete what the forerunner had begun. He should baplize with the Holy Ghost ; fulfil the prophecy, which had compared the Spirit to the purifying stream : saying, “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring :"5 “ I will sprinkle clean
Matt. iii. 7.
3 2 Cor. iv. 5.
4 John iïi. 27-30.
I water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all
l your filthiness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”
“ That which is born of the flesh, is flesh :" partakes of that sinfulness which Adam contracted, and which belongs to all who are born in the likeness of Adam. So that “ unless a man be born again,”
. 6 after a new image ; become as different from what he was before, as the body is different when cleansed from former defilement ;-he“ cannot see the kingdom of God.” But water, which cleanses the body, cannot effect the cleansing of the soul. It can only be the sign of what must be done by other
And therefore John does not conceal that more was wanting; and says, I indeed have baptized you with water ; but he of whom I am the messenger and forerunner, shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, shall put a new heart and a right spirit within you,” that ye may be “ followers of God as his dear children."
The apostles received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, when they were “ endued with power from on high,” ? on the day of Pentecost, and “ they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” 8 These gifts, and others like them,
5 Isa. xliv, 3. Ezek. xxxvi. 25. 7 Luke xxiv. 49.
6 John v. 2-7. 6 Acts ii. 3.