Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

With this view of baptism agrees its history antecedent to its adoption among the Christian ordinances. The baptism of proselytes, and that practised by the Essenes (both, no doubt, growing out of the lustrations prescribed by the Mosaic ritual), were clearly initiatory in their import. The former signalized the renunciation of idolatry and the commencement of the worship of the true God. The latter marked the initiation of the neophyte into a life of freedom from the grossness of sensual and worldly pursuits, a life of spiritual purity. The baptism of John, suggested by these preexisting customs, bore even more plainly the same impress. In neither of these cases was the rite consecratory. If it was, to whom did it consecrate the subjects? John baptized, according to his own declaration, "into reformation," €« iierdvoiav. The subjects of the rite signified a renunciation of their open sins, the soldier of his violence, and the publican of his extortion, and professed their renovation of life. Accordingly he exhorted them to bring forth fruits correspondent to the reformation which they had professed. John did not indeed administer Christian baptism, but it was in degree only, not in kind, that the rite which he performed differed from that for which it prepared the way. It symbolized the outward cleansing of the life from gross sins, as with water only. That to which it pointed, symbolized the more thorough and radical purification which the Holy Ghost should effect, as by the all-pervading energy of fire.

Such being the general import of baptism antecedent to the t ime of Christ, it seems impossible that a radical change should have been made in its significance, at its introduction among the Christian ordinances, without an explicit and unmistakable statement to that effect, such a statement as we nowhere find.

The baptism which John administered to Christ is, in some sense, an aira? \ey6fievov, and can, to but a very limited extent, be used in arguing as to the general import of the rite. It comes under the same general law as the piirificafion of his mother (of which, in strictness, she had no need), and his own circumcision and adherence to the various ceremonies of the ritual, as also his subjection to his parents and seniors. All these formed a part of the lot which he came to share. They were among the lighter forms of his humiliation, as his liability to temptation, his susceptibility to suffering, and his endurance of death were among the more considerable.

Yet, though incapable of being brought into an exact and minute accordance with the normal idea of baptism, it is not without a general and substantial likeness. Nay, it may be regarded as an exalted type of that which baptism at large but sets forth in a lower degree. It celebrates the commencement of his life as Messiah and King. "The baptism is the inauguration of the Messiah," says Olshausen. Neander says: "While the import of the rite varied with the subjects to whom it was administered, there was at bottom a substantial element, which they shared in common. In both it marked the commencement of a new course of life; but in the members this new life was to be received from without, through communications from on high; while in Christ it was to consist of a gradual unfolding from wit hin; in the former it was to be receptive; in the latter, productive."

The same view of the import of this rite is supported by the formula contained in the command, on which we base our authority to administer the ordinance : " baptizing them, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Various interpretations of these words enfold each something of their meaning, yet fail of satisfying, in full, the demands of the passage. No doubt there is here an allusion to that mysterious union with each person in the Trinity, in virtue of which the believer is "in God the Father," "in Christ," as the branch is in the vine, and "in the Spirit." No doubt there is included also a consecration to the service of the Deity. But the meaning is not yet exhausted.

The name of God, as is most justly remarked in the Article on "Baptism a Consecratory Rite," "denotes the essence of God in its objective, rather than subjective relations; as manifesting itself, rather than remaining in its eternal state." But yet more allusion is made here to the Deity, not as simple and one merely, but in his three-fold person and relation. We baptize into the name of the Father, and into the name of the Son, and into the name of the Spirit, for the repetition of the article makes the use of the word "name" distributive. Hence we baptize into the Deity, considered in the relation and office which each person in the Trinity severally holds to us, and into a life of conformity to these relations and offices. In other words, we baptize into a life of obedience to the Father, of faith in the Son, and of sanctification by the Spirit.

The same view is confirmed when we regard baptism as the symbol of purification. In conversion, man comes into a state of purity. He becomes righteous in the sight of the law. He is regarded and treated as though he had never sinned, were absolutely innocent. He enters also a state of absolute purity. He is free from the great source of moral evil, a heart estranged from God. On the other hand, the Spirit has taken his abode in his heart, and has commenced a work which will result in his complete sanctification. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." On these words Calvin remarks, with much ingenuity and force: "He employed the words Spirit and water to mean the same thing; and this ought not to be regarded as a harsh or forced illustration; for it is a frequent and common way of speaking in Scripture, when the Spirit is mentioned, to add the word water or fire, expressing his power. When it is said that Christ baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, fire means nothing different from the Spirit, but only shows what is his efficacy in us. As to the word water being placed first, it is of little consequence, or rather this mode of statement flows more naturally than the other, because the metaphor is followed by a plain and direct statement, as if Christ had said that no man is a son of God until he has been renewed by water, and that this water is the Spirit

who cleanseth us anew." "We have a similar use of xai in Tit 3: 5: "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost."

Of a similar import is Eph. 5: 25-6: " Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water and by the word."

Baptism is the inaugural rite of this life of purity. The words addressed to Saul corroborate this view of its design: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." To the same effect are the words of Peter: "Baptism (that is, the purification which it celebrates) doth save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God;" not the outward form, but the inward purity, both legal and actual, which assures us of God's approval.

Akin to the topic last illustrated, is the analogy between the deluge and the rite of baptism. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now also save us," says Peter. The deluge was a type of baptism. The human race had become irretrievably vitiated. Idolatry, bloodshed, and lust, not only held sway over the hearts of men, but had erected their trophies on every hill-top and in every grove. The prevalent moral pollution was such as no ordinary lustration could remedy. Accordingly, the miraculous power of God was exerted to an extent commensurate with the exigency. The fountains of the great deep were broken up. The bed of the sea was heaved up, and (according to Hugh Miller) the land itself was lowered and submerged beneath the rising tide of waters. The waves rolled over the offending land, and swept away its guilty inmates and the traces of their obscene idolatry. Then, after the deluge had purged the earth of its abominations, God raised the family of Noah, raised them as it were from the dead, and made them the source of a new life on earth, a life of purity and holiness. The soul of man contracts a degree of moral defilement, so all-pervading, that it is ineradicable by any ordinary and natural influence. Accordingly, the power of God is put forth in an exertion of his miraculous energy. In conversion, the old life is destroyed and the traces of its defiling influence are swept away by the hand of God. Ia symbolic reference to this event, the waves of baptism flow over and close upon the being who is the subject of this moral change. His nature thus purified and an opportunity offered for a new life, the believer saved, " as through water," commences a life of holiness and piety.

Nor would the teaching of the passage as to the import of baptism be changed, if we regard the deluge as symbolizing the destruction of the old and sinful world in the soul of man, and the establishment of the new world, in which holiness is predominant; and if we see baptism typified in the ark, which was the point of transition from the old world to the new.

The language of Paul, in 1 Cor. 10: 2: "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea," has been thought to corroborate the view that baptism is consecratory. Such, however, is not its legitimate force. The allusion is designed to warn the Corinthians by the fate of the Israelites, who, though honored with sacraments as well as the church of later days, did not escape punishment for their subsequent ill-doing. There is no special emphasis upon "unto Moses." Those words merely make the allusion definite, by specifying the occasion of the event Calvin says: " They were baptized in Moses, that is, under the ministry or guidance of Moses; for I take the particle et? to be used here, instead of ev." In accordance with this view, Calvin's version reads " in Mose ;" the Vulgate," in Moyse," and Luther's, "unter Mose," while many German translators unite upon "in Mose."

Upon the analogy between the event here alluded to and Christian baptism, Calvin says: "The Lord delivering the Israelites from the power and cruel servitude of Pharaoh, made a way for them through the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh himself, and the Egyptians, their enemies, who pursued and almost overtook them. In this manner, in baptism he promises and gives us a sign, to assure us that we are extricated and delivered by his power from the captivity of

« AnteriorContinuar »