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Chapter X.—Of John’s Baptism.
We have spoken, so far as our moderate ability permitted, of the generals which form the groundwork of the sanctity86368636 Religionem. of baptism. I will now, equally to the best of my power, proceed to the rest of its character, touching certain minor questions.
The baptism announced by John formed the subject, even at that time, of a question, proposed by the Lord Himself indeed to the Pharisees, whether that baptism were heavenly, or truly earthly:86378637 Matt. xxi. 25; Mark xi. 30; Luke xx. 4. about which they were unable to give a consistent86388638 Constanter. answer, inasmuch as they understood not, because they believed not. But we, with but as poor a measure of understanding as of faith, are able to determine that that baptism was divine indeed, (yet in respect of the command, not in respect of efficacy86398639 Potestate. too, in that we read that John was sent by the Lord to perform this duty,)86408640 See John i. 33. but human in its nature: for it conveyed nothing celestial, but it fore-ministered to things celestial; being, to wit, appointed over repentance, which is in man’s power.86418641 It is difficult to see how this statement is to be reconciled with Acts v. 31. [i.e. under the universal illumination, John i. 9.] In fact, the doctors of the law and the Pharisees, who were unwilling to “believe,” did not “repent” either.86428642 Matt. iii. 7–12; xxi. 23, 31, 32. But if repentance is a thing human, its baptism must necessarily be of the same nature: else, if it had been celestial, it would have given both the Holy Spirit and remission of sins. But none either pardons sins or freely grants the Spirit save God only.86438643 Mark ii. 8; 1 Thess. iv. 8; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22; v. 5. Even the Lord Himself said that the Spirit would not descend on any other condition, but that He should first ascend to the Father.86448644 John xvi. 6, 7. What the Lord was not yet conferring, of course the servant could not furnish. Accordingly, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find that men who had “John’s baptism” had not received the Holy Spirit, whom they knew not even by hearing.86458645 Acts xix. 1–7. [John vii. 39.] That, then, was no celestial thing which furnished no celestial (endowments): whereas the very thing which was celestial in John—the Spirit of prophecy—so completely failed, after the transfer of the whole Spirit to the Lord, that he presently sent to inquire whether He whom he had himself preached,86468646 Matt. iii. 11, 12; John i. 6–36. whom he had pointed out when coming to him, were “HE.”86478647 Matt. xi. 2–6; Luke vii. 18–23. [He repeats this view.] And so “the baptism of repentance”86488648 Acts xix. 4. was dealt with86498649 Agebatur. as if it were a candidate for the remission and sanctification shortly about to follow in Christ: for in that John used to preach “baptism for the remission of sins,”86508650 Mark i. 4. the declaration was made with reference to future remission; if it be true, (as it is,) that repentance is antecedent, remission subsequent; and this is “preparing the way.”86518651 Luke i. 76. But he who “prepares” does not himself “perfect,” but procures for another to perfect. John himself professes that the celestial things are not his, but Christ’s, by saying, “He who is from the earth speaketh concerning the earth; He who comes from the realms above is above all;”86528652 John iii. 30, 31, briefly quoted. and again, by saying that he “baptized in repentance only, but that One would shortly come who would baptize in the Spirit and fire;”86538653 Matt. iii. 11, not quite exactly given.—of course because true and stable faith is baptized with water, unto salvation; pretended and weak faith is baptized with fire, unto judgment.
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