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than half the period which He tabernacled among men, Providence has seen meet to withhold all traces of his history. Within the short space of about three years is comprized the detail of all the things which Jesus did, and taught, and suffered as the Saviour of mankind. To this eventful era we are now brought forward, and we enter on the contemplation of it with mixed emotions of wonder, reverence and joy.
Stand by, ye princes and potentates of the earth; the King of kings is about to make his public entry. What is the consecration of a prelate, the coronation of an emperor, the voice of a trumpet, the anointing with oil, compared to the majesty, solemnity and importance of the scene displayed on the banks of the Jordan! Bend your heads and cover your faces, "ye angels that excel in strength," He whom ye are all commanded to worship is here. Behold he cometh from Nazareth of Galilee, to the baptism of John; the greater to be baptized by the less. Eighteen years hast thou now passed, Jesus of Nazareth! unseen, unknown, unregarded; under the humble appellation of the carpenter's son, partaking perhaps of the labours of his occupation, faring simply, submitting to authority, unmortified by subjection to poverty, neglect and reproach; and thus hast thou become a gentle and silent, but a severe reprover of the restlessness of ambition, of the thirst of distinction, of the impetuosity of appetite, of impatience of restraint. The Saviour of the world, my friends, was pleased to pass through the successive stages of human life, that he might sanctify and instruct every age of man. He became an infant of days, that He might sanctify infancy, and stamp importance and respect upon it; he shewed himself in the temple at the age of twelve, that he might sanctify, and instruct that more advanced period of life in the duty of frequenting the house of God, and of resorting to age, office and experience for the lessons of wisdom. He advanced to maturity to sanc
tify, and instruct grown men to practise self-denial, self-government, to be content with their lot, to repress inordinate desire, to aim at eminence by learning to become useful. "He that believeth shall not make haste." He remained thus long in the shade, that He might teach his disciples to bear obscurity and retirement, and to cease from premature aspiring. He emerges at length into the light, the season of open and beneficial exertion being come, that he might correct a spirit of indolence, irresolution and affected humility; and to tell every man, that he is sent into the world to act an important part, that he is entrusted with talents for the employment of which he is accountable, that God and his fellow creatures have claims upon him, which he must satisfy at his peril.
The approach of Jesus to Jordan is perceived and announced by the Baptist. The spirit which enabled Simeon to discern the Saviour in the person of a little child, when presented in the temple, now discloses to the eye of the prophet, who came in the spirit and power of Elias, the same divine person on the eve of entering upon his public ministry. He suspends for a moment the employment of teaching and baptizing the multitude, in which he was engaged, to point out to them "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the World." "As the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
John, at first, modestly declines the exercise of his office in a case so very extraordinary. Hitherto he had taught only the ignorant and vicious, and baptized only the impure, in the view of preparing them to receive the blessings of the approaching kingdom of heaven; self-righteous Pharisees, unbelieving profligate
Sadducees, rapacious publicans, seditious, violent and discontented soldiers, such were the men who came to his baptism. But here the application is made by Him who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners who did no sin, neither was guile found in his lips." This, prophet as he was, confounds all the Baptist's ideas of propriety, and he exclaims : "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" The reply of Christ unfolds his spirit, and conveys to us many a useful lesson: "Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Perfect purity can suffer no contamination from intercourse with the unclean; the impure pollute each other, and the contagion spreads. Conformity in things innocent and lawful is a duty imposed by decency, kindness and regard to peace; dissent merely for the sake of dissent is a mixture of pride and bigotry. That may be admitted under peculiar circumstances, which is not to be drawn into a precedent, nor established as a general rule. A public character is concerned to study his own dignity, and the propriety and consistency of his conduct. The question is not what he may do, but what it becomes him to do. "Things lovely and of good report" must be thought of together with things that are "true, honest, just and pure." It became Him to give public testimony to the baptism of John, the baptism of repentance, because it led directly to his own mission, and to the kingdom which He was to establish in the world. It became him to put respect on every institution, ceremonial as well as moral, that had the sanction of divine authority, of general use, or of obvious utility. The ceremonial law required" divers washings" and the immersion of the body in water was by no means a novel practice introduced by John, but transmitted through the succeeding ages of the legal dispensation, and compliance with it our Lord considers as part of "the fulfilling of all righteousness," and therefore as incumbent on
himself, being the great pattern of propriety. We find him, on another occasion, submitting to an arbitrary imposition, that he might not seem to give offence, in the matter of the tribute money, and performing a miracle rather than shew disrespect to government. "Lest we should offend them," says he to Peter, " go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee." Thus he not only "fulfilled" to an iota, "all righteousness," prescribed by the law, but submitted himself to the "ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake."
But there was a farther view in this solemn transaction. The Messiah must be publicly set apart to the execution of his high prophetic office, and He prefers the baptism of John as the mode of performing that august ceremony. He passes through the water into the reign of grace; the kingdom of heaven was now come, and such was his humble entry into it. But this voluntary descent is to be immediately followed by a rise into glory which eclipses all the glory of this world. Samuel anointed Saul with a vial, and afterwards David with a horn of material oil; the Prince "upon the throne of David, of the increase of whose government and peace there should be no end," is anointed with the Holy Spirit. The numerous and sounding titles of earthly potentates are, at their inauguration, proclaimed by sound of trumpet; the simple title of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, is proclaimed by a voice from heaven. The eyes and ears of the spectators at once bear witness to the declaration of the Son of God. "It came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a dove, upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am
well pleased." Painters have presumed to represent this descent of the Holy Ghost under the form of a material dove. The descending, hovering motion, nor the bodily shape of that bird, is surely all that the expression in the evangelists conveys to the mind. As well might an attempt to paint the dazzling lustre of flaming fire, or the sound of the voice that spake, or the motion of the splendid appearance which then filled the sky, as pretend to give precise and permanent form to an apparition of deity, which, having fulfilled its purpose, passed away.
Thus, christians, was consecrated to the noblest work ever undertaken, the great "Prophet that should come into the world."-"The prince of the kings of the earth."-" The apostle and high-priest of our profession," God "also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." And thus was fulfilled the Scripture which saith: "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord i and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with a rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." And thus is the church of Christ founded upon a rock," and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
It is unworthy of remark, that this testimony to the Son of God, from "the excellent glory," was given while he was praying?" As He prayed" also, on the VOL. IV.