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the Wilderness, saying; “ Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a high-way for our God!” Isa. xl. 3. He commenced his ministry in the Wilderness of Judea. His food, his clothing, his doctrine, and his baptism, were all calculated to impress the minds of those who resorted to him, with the idea that the important event was then at hand. His testis mony on this head was clear: and though his reproofs were severe, his message was gladly received. For we read in the evangelist; “ Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Matt. iii. 5, 6. Submission to his baptism, I consider, was intended by those who did it, as an acknowledgment to his testimony. This testimony, however, was not complete till he had applied it persona ally to our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it was that John fulfilled his commission, and accomplished the very end for which he was sent, to prepare
of the Lord.” When therefore our Lord commenced His ministry, it was seen fit, in Infinite Wisdom, that He should own the testimony of John. This opened a door of easy access to discipleship with Him. And those who had submitted to the baptism of John, were thus introduced to the very threshold of profession with Christ, before they were aware of it: and, by this means, many of the strong prejudices that would have operated unfavourably on them, were removed. But there is another consideration, of some importance to a correct understanding of the subject. As the Law was represented as a "schoolmaster” to lead “to Christ,” Gal. ïï, 24, so John and his ministry were designed to pre
of the Lord.” Matt. iii. 3. Isa. xl. 3. The object was the same, though the mode of expression was different. In point of authority too, they may be placed on the same ground, for both were of Divine appointment. And as no abrogation of types and shadows took place till the crucifixion of Christ, so the observance of John's baptism, in common with the other rituals of that Dispensation, was to be expected to continue till that important period. The obligations of the ceremonial law rested on the disciples of Jesus Christ, while He was personally with them, as fully as on the pious Jews, before his visible appearance. And our Lord not only observed the Law Himself, but encouraged the observance of it in others. The last supper which He took with His disciples, was in conformity to the ceremonial law.mand He directed one whom He had healed, to “ show himself to the priest, and offer the gift” prescribed by the Law. Matt. viii. 4. Indeed it is generally admitted that the Law was fully in force, in all its parts, till our Lord exclaimed; “It is finished !" John xix. 30. And as the Dispensation previous to this event, completely and fully embraced the baptism of John, it is not strange that this baptism was observed, with the other ceremonies of the time then present. To these causes we may ascribe the sanction which our Lord gave to his disciples, in using John's baptism. There was. Divine wisdom, as well as condescension in it. And further, it served to show the harmony that existed in all the Divine Dispensations. But our Lord, as if to guard against wrong conclusions, that might be formed from these proceedings, never used this baptism Himself. And in using the word now, when he applied
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to John to be baptized, He limited the use of it to that Dispensation.
The reasons for the use of water baptism among the disciples, were not permanent. They applied only to that particular time, when the influence of John and his ministry was necessary to the introduction of Christianity among that people. It was also peculiar to the Jews; for they, and not the Gentiles, were the subjects of John's baptism.
When, therefore the New Dispensation was come so far as this baptism was a type and shadow of the spiritual baptism of Christ, it stood just on the same ground with the types and shadows of the Lawthat is, the substance remained, the types and shadows ceased and passed away--at that same period too, it had done its office, in preparing the way of the Lord, and facilitating the introduction of the New Dispensation. It only then remained for the strong attachment which had been formed to it, and by which, in part, it effected its office mto wear away. This required time, during which, in condescension, it was borne with, as were many of the abrogated ceremonies of the Law. And this was the fulfilment of the prophecy of John himself: “He must increase, but I must decrease." John iii. 30. For the decrease of attachment to this, as well as the other relics of the typical Dispensation, was only to be expected through the increasing influence of the pure, living principle of Divine Life in the soul.
And thus it was in the primitive Church. It is evident that the apostles themselves were more or less under the influence of their education, and the attachments they had formed to institutions while they were
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in force. So powerful was this prejudice, that Peter needed a vision to induce him to go to Cornelius. It was at that very time, that he queried ;
forbid water, that these should not be baptized ?" Acts x. 47. He spoke hesitatingly, and not as he did when preaching the doctrines of the Gospel. He was, long after this, entangled with the ceremonies of the Law, so that Paul withstood him to the face. But this misunderstanding did not relate to the great fundamental doctrines of the Gospel ; and it only depended on the force with which the mind retained its hold on things originally of Divine appointment, but which, in the change of Dispensations, had become unessential, and even an incumbrance and hindrance.
The apostles, however, gradually rose above these things. First, they saw beyond the contracted views of their education, and embraced the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, in the effusions of Gospel love. The question of circumcision soon claimed their attention, and that rite was adjudged to have ceased in point of obligation. Nor was baptism entirely passed over unnoticed. The apostle Paul, finding the attachments to this ceremony not giving way so fast as they should have done, let them know it was no part of his mission, and thanked God that he had baptized only a few individuals which appears to have been done a considerable time before the period at which he wrote. The apostle Peter also found it necessary to enforce on the minds of those to whom he wrote, that saving baptism was "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Pet. iii, 21.
The Transfiguration of our Lord on the mount was a striking illustration of the several dispensations, their objects and duration. It is recorded by the evangelists in the following words ; " And after six days, Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. . And, behold! there appeared unto them Moses and Elias, talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” Matt. xvii. 144. “For he wist not what to say.” Mark ix. 6. “While he yet spake, behold! a bright cloud overshadowed them : and, behold! a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen again from the dead.” Matt. xvii. 5-10. The concluding charge had allusion to the completion of the vision, when Jesus, or his Spiritual Dispensation, was to be left alone ; and not till that time was it seasonable to impress its mystical application.
As He assumed that Divine glory, as seen in his transfiguration, Moses and Elias were seen talking with