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among the professors of his Name, He would more abundantly reveal the operations of his Power, and pour into their minds the comforts which flow from the inexhaustible Fountain of his love. In our religious meetings, we shall not, at once, enter on the solemn acts of devotion, without feeling his Influence to prepare our minds to approach Him with acceptable offerings, that our
prayer might be set forth as incense before Him, and the lifting up of our hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psa. cxli. 2. But till this qualification is experienced, the most rational exercise, on these occasions, is, reverently to wait upon Him. In this waiting state of mind, He is often pleased to clothe us with humility, under a sense of our weakness and entire dependence on Him for all our comforts, and for the springing up, in the heart, of that animating Influence, whereby a qualification is experienced for the various acts and exercises, which are required in the Church of Christ.
It is only in a deep sense of humility and dependence upon God, animated by a lively impression of his goodness, that we can be prepared to bow, and cast down cvery crown before Him. And it is the imme. diate operation of his Power alone, that can enable us truly to speak in his Name, or to offer up to Him the tribute of reverent adoration and praise.
The Scriptures afford clear evidence that the Law was designed as a “schoolmaster" to lead to Christ;" Gal. iij. 24: and that “ the divers washings and carnal, ordinances" which it imposed, were to continue only till “the time of reformation," or the introduction of the New Covenant Dispensation. Heb ix.
It also appears that John's ministry belonged to the typical and shadowy dispensation, designed to prepare the
the Lord,” Luke iii. 4. vii. 27. John i. 23,to bear testimony that the time of his coming was at hand to typify the purifying operations of his Power, and finally to apply his testimony to the person of Jesus of Nazareth: for all these things were effected by that mesa, senger and his ministration. As multitudes flocked to his preaching and baptism, he directed their attention to Christ; representing himself as his humble forerunner, whose baptism was to decrease as a thing of course, and contra-distinguishing it from the baptism of Christ;“ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Matt. iii. 11. This clear and pointed testimony was owned by our Lord, at his . coming, with the same kind of assent that he gave to the Law, by submitting to the rituals which accompanied it.
“ Think not,” said our Lord, “ that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets ; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matt. v. 17. And, in fulfilling, He ended that typical Dispensation, in his own, which was of a pure and spiritual nature.
'There was a peculiar propriety in this; for these typical rites and ceremonies being of Divine appointment, their force or obligation lasted till the New Covenant Dispensation was completely introduced; which did not take place until the Great Sacrifice was completed. Here their obligation ended, but they were continued, in condescension, a considerable time after their obligation had ceased.
It is very remarkable, that the peculiar rite which was considered the seal of the “ former Covenant," Gen. xvii. 10. was abrogated by the introduction of the New Dispensation. Acts. xv. Under the Law, this rite was not to be dispensed with; but, on the contrary, its disuse was no less than a dereliction of the Covenant itself, with the promises and blessings annexed to it. Gen. xvii. 14. But when it had accomplished its office, when the Antitype had come, under the New Dispensation, the apostle assured some who wished still to retain the ceremony, that if they conformed to the Law in this respect, Christ should profit them nothing. Gal. v. 2. Not that one ceremony had been instituted for another. For this, which was an outward rite, and made a seal of an outward Covenant, pointed to an in
ward change of heart, as the seal of a spiritual Covenant.
And here were probably the grounds of the strong prohibition of the retension of this ceremony, as it would be a relinquishment of the Spiritual Dispensation to which it pointed; or a denial of the coming of the Antitype.
That this ceremony had a direct allusion to a change of heart, was understood even under the Law: as may be seen by reference to Deut. x. 16. and xxx. 6. and Jer. iv. 4., and many other passages of Scripture.
Thus the whole body of ceremonies under the Law, was designed to represent the coming of Christ and his Spiritual Dispensation. Many of them were practised after the ascension of our Lord, not of necessity, but of condescension. Even that seal of the Old Covenant, which was ultimately so positively prohibited, was allowed for a time by the apostle Paul, as well as others. In condescension to the weakness of the human mind, which cannot bear sudden transitions, but must be gradually enlightened and enlarged, these things were permitted or suffered for a time; but in the language of John, they were to decrease, and finally to disappear.
All that has been said of the ceremonies of the Law, in general, will apply to the ministration of John; for he was under the Law, as well as the prophets that had preceded him. He was “the voice of one crying in the Wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord !” Matt. iii. 3. His whole office was but preparatory to the coming of our Lord in the flesh; and he was to “decrease," (John iii. 30.), as the Dispensation of the Gospel advanced to a complete establishment: thus giving place gradually, not ceasing entirely at once.
As John approached neårer to the Gospel Dispenia sation in point of time, 'than any other prophet, so his testimony was more direct and pointed.
And as our Lord acknowledged the testimony of the Law, and applied it to Himself, so He also acknowledged the testimony of John, than whom a greater prophet had not appeared. And as He came to fulfil the Law, so He also fulfilled the ministration of John. It may be particularly remarked, that, in speaking of the Law, He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matt. v. 17. And this fulfilling evidently was, by introducing the spiritual realities to which it pointed, to end the types and shadows, with all the" washings and carnal ordinances, imposed till the time of reformátion." - And, as He used the word "fulfil," as applied to the Law and the prophets, so He used it as applied to John and his baptism ! '* Suffer it to be soʻnow, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Matt. iii. 15.
The Jews were in expectation of the promised Messiah : howevér erroneous their ideas might have been respecting his character, still He was much desired. They had lost their power and pre-eminence among the mations of the earth. They had been conquered and made tributary, by one nation after another, till their yoke had become grievous. They were informed by the 'ancient prophets,'that a Messenger would be sent before the Messiah, in the spirit and power of Elias. When John commenced his ministry, there was something singular and striking in his appearance. The prophecy represented him as the voice of one trying in