Imágenes de páginas

burning incense in the holy place, were appointed by the God of Israel. But the two former, being prior in point of institution, always had the priority in point of administration."*

As this is a leading argument, and will go far towards determining the point at issue, the reader will excuse the examination of it being extended to some length. It proceeds, obviously, entirely on a matter of fact, which it assumes as undeniable, the priority in point of time of the institution of Christian baptism to that of the Lord's Supper; and this again rests on another assumption, which is the identity of John's baptism with that of our Lord. If it should clearly appear that these were two distinct institutes, the argument will be reversed, and it will be evident that the Eucharist was appointed and celebrated before Christian baptism existed. Let me request the reader not to be startled at the paradoxical air of this assertion, but to lend an impartial attention to the following reasons:

1. The commission to baptize all nations, which was executed by the apostles after our Saviour's resurrection, originated in his express command; John's baptism, it is evident, had no such origin. John had baptized for some time before he knew him; it is certain, then, that he did not receive his commission from him. "And I knew him not," saith he, “but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." If the manifesting Christ to Israel was the end and design of John's mission, he must have been in a previous state of obscurity; not in a situation to act the part of a legislator by enacting laws or establishing rites. John uniformly ascribes his commission, not to Christ, but the Father, so that to assert his baptism to be a Christian institute, is not to interpret, but to contradict him. "And I knew him not," is his language, "but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bear record, that this is the Son of God." It was not till he had accredited his mission by many miracles, and other demonstrations of a preternatural power and wisdom, that our Lord proceeded to modify religion by new institutions, of which the Eucharist is the first example. But a Christian ordinance not founded on the authority of Christ, not the effect, but the means of his manifestation, and which was first executed by one who knew him not, is to me an incomprehensible mystery.

2. The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance, or reformation, as a preparation for the approaching kingdom of God: the institute of Christ included an explicit profession of faith in a particular person, as the Lord of that kingdom. The ministry of John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." All he demanded of such as repaired to him was, to declare their conviction that the Messiah was shortly to appear, to repent of their sins, and resolve to frame their lives in a manner agreeable to such an expectation, without requiring a belief in

* Booth's Apology, page 41.

any existing individual as the Messiah. They were merely to express their readiness to believe on him who was to come,* on the reasonable supposition that his actual appearance would not fail to be accompanied with attestations sufficient to establish his pretensions. The profession required in a candidate for Christian baptism, involved an historical faith, a belief in a certain individual, an illustrious personage, who had wrought miracles, declared himself the Son of God, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and rose again the third day. As the conviction demanded in the two cases was totally distinct, it was possible for him who sincerely avowed the one to be destitute of the other; and though the rejection of Christ by John's converts would have been criminal and destructive of salvation, it would not have been self-contradictory, or absurd, since he might sincerely believe on his testimony that the Christ was shortly to appear, and make some preparations for his approach, who was not satisfied with his character when he was actually manifested.

That such was the real situation of the great body of the Jewish people at our Lord's advent is evident from the evangelical records. In short, the profession demanded in the baptism of John was nothing more than a solemn recognition of that great article of the Jewish faith, the appearance of the Messiah, accompanied, indeed, with this additional circumstance, that it was nigh at hand. The faith required by the apostles included a persuasion of all the miraculous facts which they attested, comprehending the preternatural conception, the deity, incarnation, and atonement, the miracles, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the one was contained a general expectation of the speedy appearance of an illustrious person under the character of the Messiah; in the other, an explicit declaration that Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and death are recorded in the evangelists, was the identical person. But in order to constitute an identity in religious rites two things are requisite-a sameness in the corporeal action, and a sameness in the import. The action may be the same, yet the rites totally different, or Christian baptism must be confounded with legal Jewish purifications, the greater part of which consisted in a total immersion of the body in water. The diversity of signification, the distinct uses to which they were applied, constitute their only difference, but quite sufficient to render it absurd to consider them as one and the same. And surely he is guilty of a similar mistake who, misled by the exact resemblance of the actions physically considered, confounds the rite intended to announce the future though speedy appearance of the Messiah, without defining his person, and the ceremony expressive of a firm belief in an identical person, as already manifested under that illustrious


3. Christian baptism was invariably administered in the name of Jesus; while there is sufficient evidence that John's was not performed in that name. That it was not during the first stage of his ministry is certain, because we learn from his own declaration, that when he first

*Acts xix. 4.

executed his commission he did not know him, but was previously ap-
prized of a miraculous sign, which should serve to identify him when he
appeared. In order to obviate the suspicion of collusion or conspiracy,
circumstances were so arranged that John remained ignorant of the
person of the Saviour, and possessed, at the commencement of his
career, that knowledge only of the Messiah which was common to
enlightened Jews. If we suppose him at a subsequent period to have
incorporated the name of Jesus with his institute, an alteration so
striking would unquestionably have been noticed by the evangelists, as
it must have occasioned among the people much speculation and sur-
prise, of which, however, no traces are perceptible. Besides, it is im-
possible to peruse the gospels with attention without remarking the
extreme reserve maintained by our Lord with respect to his claim to
the character of Messiah; that he studiously avoided, until his arraign-
ment before the high-priest, the public declaration of that fact; that he
wrought his principal miracles in the obscure province of Galilee, often
accompanied with strict injunctions of secrecy; and that the whole
course of his ministry, till its concluding scene, was so conducted as at
once to afford sincere inquirers sufficient evidence of his mission, and
to elude the malice of his enemies. In descending from the mount of
transfiguration, where he had been proclaimed the Son of God from
the most excellent glory, he strictly charged the disciples who accom-
panied him to tell no man of it till he was raised from the dead. The
appellation he constantly assumed was that of the Son of man, which,
whatever be its precise import, could by no construction become the
ground of a criminal charge. When at the feast of dedication, “the
Jews came around him in the temple, saying, How long dost thou keep
us in suspense? if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly:" he replied, "I
have told you, and ye believe not the works which I do in my Father's
name, they bear witness of me."*
From this passage it is evident that
our Lord had not hitherto publicly and explicitly affirmed himself to be
the Messiah, or there would have been no foundation for the complaint
of these Jews; nor does he on this occasion expressly affirm it, but
refers them to the testimony of his works, without specifying the precise
import of that attestation. In the progress of his discourse, however,
he advances nearer to an open declaration of his Messiahship than on
any former occasion, affirming his Father and himself to be one, in
consequence of which the people attempt to stone him, as guilty of
blasphemy in making himself the Son of God. As his time was not
yet come, he still maintains a degree of his wonted caution, and vindi-
cates his assumption of that honour, upon principles far inferior to what
he might justly have urged. Yet such was the effect of this discourse,
that, in order to screen himself from the fury of his enemies, he found
it necessary immediately to retire beyond Jordan. In an advanced
stage of his ministry, we find him inquiring of his disciples the pre-
vailing opinions entertained respecting himself; on which they reply,
"Some say thou art John the Baptist, others Elias, others Jeremiah, or

* John x. 24, 25.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


one of the prophets." That he was the Messiah, was not, it is evident, the opinion generally entertained at that time by such as were most favourably disposed towards his character and pretensions, which it could not fail to have been, had this title been publicly proclaimed: but this was so far from his intention, that when Peter, in the name rest of the apostles, uttered that glorious confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," our Lord immediately enjoins. secrecy. What he enjoined his disciples not to publish, he certainly did not publish himself, nor for the same reason suffer it to be indiscriminately proclaimed by his forerunner. But if we suppose John to baptize in his name, we must suppose what is equivalent to an explicit declaration of his being the Messiah; for since he on all occasions predicted the speedy appearance of that great personage, the people could not fail to identify with him the individual whose name was thus employed, and all the precautions maintained by our Saviour would have been utterly defeated. For what possible purpose could he forbid his disciples to publish what John is supposed to have promulgated as often as he administered the baptismal rite? and how shall we account on this hypothesis for the diversity of opinion which prevailed respecting his character, among those who were thoroughly convinced of the divine mission of that great prophet? From these considerations, in addition to the total silence of Scripture, the judicious reader, I presume, will conclude without hesitation that John did not baptize in the name of Jesus, which is an essential ingredient in Christian baptism; and though it is administered, in fact, in the name of each person of the blessed Godhead, not in that of the Son only, this, instead of impairing, strengthens the argument, by enlarging still further the dif ference between the two ordinances in question; for none will contend that John immersed his disciples in the name of the Holy Trinity.

4. The baptism instituted by our Lord is in Scripture distinguished from that of the forerunner by the superior effects with which it was accompanied; so that, instead of being confounded they are contrasted in the sacred historians. "I indeed," said John, "baptize you with water unto repentance, but there cometh one after me who is mightier than I he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost, and in fire." The rite administered by John was a mere immersion in water, unaccompanied with that effusion of the Spirit, that redundant supply of supernatural gifts and graces which distinguished the subjects of the Christian institute. On the passage just quoted, St. Chrysostom has the following comment :- -"Having agitated their minds with the fear of future judgment, and the expectation of punishment, and the mention of the axe, and the rejection of their ancestors, and the substitution of a new race, together with the double menace of excision and burning, and by all these means softened their obduracy, and disposed them to a desire of deliverance from these evils, he then introduces the mention of Christ, not in a simple manner, but with much elevation; in exhibiting his own disparity, lest he should appear to be using the language of compliment, he commences by stating a comparison between the benefit bestowed by each. For he did not immediately say, I am not worthy to unloose the

latchet of his shoes; but having first stated the insignificance of his own baptism, and shown that it had no effect beyond bringing them to repentance (for he did not style it the water of remission, but of repentance), he proceeds to the baptism ordained by Christ, which was replete with an ineffable gift."* This eminent father, we perceive, insists on the prodigious inferiority of the ceremony performed by John to the Christian sacrament, from its being merely a symbol of repentance, without comprehending the remission of sins,† or the donation of the Spirit. The evangelists Mark and Luke, it is true, affirm that John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, whence we are entitled to infer that the rite which he administered, when accompanied with suitable dispositions, was important in the order of preparation, not that it was accompanied with the immediate or actual collation of that benefit.

Such as repented at his call stood fair candidates for the blessings of the approaching dispensation, among which an assurance of pardon, the adoption of children, and the gift of the Spirit held the most conspicuous place; blessings of which it was the office of John to excite the expectation, but of Christ to bestow. The effusion of the Spirit, indeed, in the multifarious forms of his miraculous and sanctifying operation, may be considered as equivalent to them all; and this, we are distinctly told, was not given (save in a very scanty manner) during our Lord's abode upon earth, because he was not yet glorified. Reserved to adorn the triumph of the ascended Saviour, the apostles were commanded to wait at Jerusalem until it was bestowed, which was on the day of Pentecost, when "a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind filled the place where they were assembled, and cloven tongues of fire sat upon each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost." This was the first example of that baptism of the Spirit, as the author of which, John asserts the immense superiority of the Messiah, not to himself only, but to all preceding prophets. In the subsequent history, we perceive that this gift was, on all ordinary occasions, conferred in connexion with baptism. In this connexion it is exhibited by St. Peter, in his address on the day of Pentecost: "Repent and be bap tized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Thus it was also in the case of Saul of Tarsus. Agreeable to our Lord's prediction of the signs which should accompany them that believe, there is reason to suppose a greater or less measure of these supernatural endowments regularly accompanied the imposition of the hands of the apostles on primitive converts, immediately subsequent to their baptism; which affords an easy solution to the surprise Paul appears to have felt in finding certain disciples at Ephesus, who, though they had been baptized, were yet unacquainted with these communications. "Into what then," he asks, "were ye baptized?" and upon being informed" Into John's baptism," the difficulty vanished.

Since the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or the copious effusion of

* Homily xi. on Matthew.

↑ Mark i. 4. Luke iii. 3.

« AnteriorContinuar »