BAPTIST JOHN'S MINISTRY.

BY S. P. JACOBS

The ministry of John the Baptist forecasts a new era. John himself was a new sort of man. His character was unique.

He was a Jew. His father was a priest. His ancestors, paternal and maternal, trace their lineage to Aaron. Although his footing was Mosaic, he rose above his JewisTi surroundings.

He embodied the pure spirit and power of the Mosaic dispensation. At the same time he rose to a surpassing view of God's manifestation in man. Coming in the meekness of Moses arid in the fervor of Elijah, he surpassed them both (Matt. 11:9). They were great prophets. He, too, was a great prophet, and ''much more than a prophet " (Luke 7: 26). Unlike former prophets, he was himself foretold (Isa. 40: 3-8; Mai. 3: 1, 4: 5}. More still. His coming was proclaimed by the great angel, Gabriel (Luke

1: 1— 19).
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John was remarkably well born of pure parents. ' 'They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lcrd blameless" (Luke 1:6). Of him it was prophesied: 44 Many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be rilled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb. 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 walk in

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THE REAL CHRISTIAN. 69

the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people for the Lord" (Luke 1: 14-17).

John had his start like Samuel, Samson, and Jere2

miah, in the region of the miraculous. He lived in the realm of the supernatural. He was a " voice" from heaven falling upon the slumbering churchmen of Judea, rousing them to readiness to meet the coming Redeemer.

Before this time all pardon, purity, and power came through faith in God the Father. But henceforth all grace must be accepted through faith on the Son of God (Jno. 3: 36). For centuries believing eyes were turned back to Moses and to Abraham; henceforth they must be turned forward .to Christ and the Holy Spirit in union with the Father. From periodical, local, and objective revelations of God in the past, the believer's heart is to be turned to the future, constant, internal coming of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Let all pardon of sin come of Christ and faith's touch and rest on him.

JOHN'S BAPTISM.

The preaching of John the Baptist was an outgrowth of the Mosaic dispensation. It lifted the believer upon the spiritual plane of the Mosaic law, and
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turned his eye to the coming Messiah for grace to keep that law. It did not set aside Jewish circumcision, but added the " baptism of repentance."

Circumcision required faith in God the Father in order to salvation from sin. It symbolized and sealed that faith (Rom. 4: 11). In addition to that faith in the Father, John's baptism required faith in the coming Son of God in order to salvation from sin and union with God.

A following dispensation of God's grace never condemns a foregoing one, but fulfills it, conserving its spirit and broadening the scope. Thus the Patri-

70 THE REAL CHRISTIAN.

archal dispensation is followed and enlarged by the Mosaic; and the Mosaic, by the Christian. External ceremonies pass away, but the internal spirit flows increasingly onward.

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Under John's baptism faith is two-fold, faith in God the Father and in God the Son. Before John's time faith was simply in God without special distinction as to persons. Circumcision stood for that singular faith. The baptism of John stands for the two-fold faith.

John's baptismal rite did not imply any manifestation of God as already received additional to that of genuine Judaism, but it indicated an enlarged ground and scope of faith with a view to a most wonderful manifestation of God just at hand.

As seen in Chapter IV., circumcision was of the heart. Pardon, regeneration, and purity of heart were indicated by it. So John's baptism typified all this through faith on the Son of God. It was a 44 baptism of repentance unto the remission of sin'*

(Luke 3: 3).

This expression, " remission of sins," sending away, removing of sins, implies as Dr. Adam Clarke shows [Chapter IX.] i4 the removal or taking away of
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sins; not only the guilt but also the very nature of sin, and the pollution of the soul through it." John's baptism conserved the complete deliverance from sin granted in the Mosaic dispensation, and in addition turned the believer to accept Christ, the actual sinoffering of the Mosaic dispensation so long typified by it.

John cried, 44 Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jno. 1: 29). The statement is quite specific, * 4 the sin of the world." No one transgression is committed by all the world in common. Much less are all transgressions committed by all the world in severalty.

But there is sin that is thus common to all man-

THE REAL CHRISTIAN. J I

kind. "By one man sin entered into the world" (Rom. 5: 12). It is the " sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7: 17, 20). Dr. D. D. Whedon rightly says: 4 'No doubt there is a state of evil, as well as an evil
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action, which in the Scriptures is called Sin. Sin is not in action alone" (" Commentary, " Rom. 5:12). The eminent Presbyterian theologian, Dr. C. Hodge, declares: "All sin is not an agency, or act; it may be and is also a condition or state of mind " ("Systematic Theology, " Vol. II., p. 187).

John the Baptist proclaimed the immediately coming Christ taking away this sin dwelling in all mankind. Mark the expression, bearing, taking away. It is the present, progressive participle in the original. The thought is not that Christ is now about to take away the sin of the world; but that He is doing it now, has been doing it as typified in the Mosaic sacrifices, and will be doing it as symbolized in the Gospel sacraments.

This brings into great prominence, indwelling sin. Just so. Of all evil it is chief. It is "the capital and most mischievous 'work of the devil'" (Fletcher's "Works," Vol. II., p. 618). It is the root of transgressions. Dying to destroy this root (Rom. 6: 6; Eph. 5: 25-27), Christ practiced the wisdom He preached, "make the tree good and his
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fruit will be good."

John's proclamation of Christ bearing away the sin of the world, shows the removal of indwelling sin to be first and chief. This making indwelling sin more prominent than outgoing transgression, is not new. It was so under Moses. In the Levitical law the sin-offering had rank before the trespass-offering (see chapter VII.). Christianity, like its forecast shadow, Judaism (Heb. 10: 1), preserves the same order.

The Church of England in her XXXIX. Articles recognizes this same order giving indwelling sin rank

72 THE REAL CHRISTIAN.

before actual transgression. Likewise the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the Second Article of faith, declares Christ ' ' to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of man" (" Discipline " M. E. C).

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Had John the Baptist not given so great prominence in the atonement to indwelling sin, his ministry would have taken rank below that of Moses. Moreover, it would have misrepresented the Gospel he was introducing.

Dr. J. W. Dale, in his exhaustive volumes on Baptism, very truly says: "The rite was designed by the use of symbol water to set forth purification from sin as the great and vital thought connected with and effected by the coming Lamb of God" ("Johanic Baptism," p. 229). In this lofty significance of John's baptism was its excellence. And this very excellence gave offense to the materialistic Sadducees and to the ritualistic Pharisees.

The wonderful deliverer John proclaimed the coming Messiah to be, suggested to both parties political deliverance from Roman rule. Delighted with this thought, they rushed en masse to John for baptism.

John's rebuke discloses at once their design and their true character: * 4 O generation of vipers! Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring
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forth therefore fruits meet for repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3: 7-9). Their bigotry is manifest in one of their traditions: "Abraham sits at the gates of hell and suffers no Israelite to go down into it." They had deified Abraham into a Redeemer.

When they realized John's spiritual insight into their personal character, and saw the spiritual import of his baptism to be deliverance from sin's guilt and

THE REAL CHRISTIAN. 73

corruption instead of deliverance from the Roman government, they criticised (Jno. 5: 33-35) and then condemned (Luke 7: 30-33). John's testimony to Christ was to them a sore disappointment. They came to welcome from God a military leader who should rid their country of Roman rule; and John introduced them to an unpretending carpenter
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of Nazareth. They felt simply outraged. Sin had so blinded them that they did not see within the humble carpenter the " King of kings/ '

In addition to this sore disappointment, John's doctrine of sanctification antagonized the lusts of their hearts. Outward disappointment and inward lashing of conscience kindled their indignation into rage. They became his enemies. They rejected both his testimony and himself.

They had delighted in John's "shining light" as it led the multitudes; but they disliked his "burning" testimony to the truth, baring their corruption to the light of God. They retorted: "He hath a devil" (Luke 7: 33). They had been "willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (Jno. 5: 35); but when it flamed forth from his spotless spirit, their enmity burned into fury to crush out at once the light and life of John. Indwelling sin "is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8: 7). Being condemned and removed by the Mosaic covenant, how can it consist with the Christian covenant ? What11

ever real Christianity is, it must be more than the complete removal of sin. Whatever it is, it must be a spiritual condition in advance of that known to the Baptist John who was "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1: 15) ; for Christ declares that "he that is least in the kingdom of God [Christianity — Mk. 1: 14, 15] is greater than he" (Luke 7: 28).

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