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the same that the Jews expected, and ought, upon their own principles, to have received, in evidence to the fulfilment of the prophecy concerning Christ; but neither has the eyangelist given him any office in the church, but considered him simply in the light of a witness to the Messiah; and Luke professes to state, the declaration of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, concerning the mission or service of this forerunner of Christ. “ And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God; and he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1. 16, 17. Now, inasmuch as he was to go before, and be, as the evangelist John has said, “ a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." John i. 7, 8, 9. we cannot infer from thence, or from all the testimony combined, that his office was to es. tablish any system, or enjoin any ordinances, upon those who might believe his testimony!
But he was clearly a messenger under the law, pointing to the Jews, and informing them of a more glorious dispensation, about to be ushered in. Accordingly we find that when they gent messengers to him, saying, “ Why baptizest thou, then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet;" he immediately informs them of Christ, saying, “ I baptize with water, but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not. He it is, who com ing after me, is preferred before me ; whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” John i. 25, 26, 27, 29. And the next day he informs them again of Jesus, and calls their attention, saying, “ Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me, for he was before me. And I knew him not, but that he should he made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water." As this was the end to be answered by the ministry of John, so we believe that in fulfilling his office, he very fitly had recourse to water baptism in order to instruct those among whom he was sent, that they might know that in like manner as by his baptism, the body was immersed in
water, so should the souls of men be dipped or immersed into the spirit of Christ, by that baptism of the Holy Ghost of which he spake, alluding to Christ, “ Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner. Matt. iii. 11, 12. Thus we understand this messenger to the Jews, nor does it appear that he ever aimed at any other purpose by his ministry and baptism. Therefore we believe that the office of water baptism, as a Jewish ceremony, designed outwardly to represent a more effectual and saving baptism, ended as to its influence and purpose, when Christ, the great and spiritual baptizer of his true believers,
appears to us the true state of the case. But it may be said, if water baptism was not intended as an ordinance, why did the Saviour of the world go to John to be baptized ? to this we answer, that he knew John was his forerunner, the same of whom the prophets had spoken : and therefore if he had not given his baptism countenance, his own disciples might have been left in some doubts, as well as probably some of the Jews, who expected that Elias must first come; and not only so, but in the act of submitting himself to that ministration, he gave evidence to the divine origin of the call of John to that particular service. He in like manner fulfilled the ordinances of the Jews; as in the instance of his submission to circumcision; and therefore he said, when John hesitated about administering his baptism,“ suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” It is proper, even though thy mission has but a temporary existence, that as it was a measure appointed for its proper uses, I should give it my countenance, as I have done every other dispensation of divine appointment. But that those outward and typical dispensations were not to remain, we apprehend, may be gathered by his own testimony afterward: for though he informed his disciples that John, who we have already said, was his immediate forerunner, was the greatest prophet born of a woman, yet the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. And it is remarkable, that at the time when some of his disciples saw his transfiguration upon the mount, and Moses, the representative of the Jewish law, and Elias talking with him, that both these passed away, but Jesus remained; and at that time was heard a voice from heaven informing them, that “this is my beloved Son, hear ye hiin,", which to us appears no less than saying, that though for wise purposes you have had the dispensation of the law, and also that of John the Baptist, yet now these having been as schoolmasters to bring to my beloved Son, you are to lean only upon him. But the disciples remembering the prophecy concerning Elias, queried of Christ, “ but how say the Jews that Elias must first come ? he then informed them that Elias had already come, and they had done to him as they listed. By which his disciples knew that he spake of John the Baptist. Wherefore we infer that the Saviour of men, having led his creation through different adıninistrations, and opened the way to come to him, the all-susficient means of salvation, has now completely blotted out the hand writing of ordinances, and given a free and full opportunity to enter the last and higliest dispensation. And his pleasure, we believe, is that no outside means of dependence should detach the spiritual members of his church from leaning upon and following him. He even drew the disciples off from resting upon his person, that they might come to receive. an: live in his spirit. It is, says he, expedient