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like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him nut: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."* So manifold are the works of God. John came to make ready a people by repentance for the kingdom of God, and in so doing he became also the public herald and witness of the Messiah. The public proclamation of the Son of God sprang suddenly and unlooked for out of the ministry of repentance. Our Lord's act of public humiliation served also to declare Him às the Son of God. This public declaration was, it would seem, a necessary condition to the undertaking of His public ministry as the Messiah. Until then He had lived a life of privacy; henceforward He was consecrated to the work of the Redeemer of the world.

There is still another mark of deep wisdom in this same mystery. At His baptism the Holy Ghost descended, and lighted upon Him; and in that inscrutable unction He was

2 set apart to the work of the Messiah. The words of the prophet, to which He appealed at Nazareth as His commission, were then fulfilled : “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to

the poor.”+

Such, then, appears to be the true intention and effect of His baptism in the river. It was an act of obedience and of humiliation; it was the public proclaiming of His divine Sonship, and the solemn anointing by which He was invested with the office of the Messiah.

1. The first inference to be drawn from this part of our Lord's example is, that submission to every even the least * St. John i. 31-34.

+ St. Luke iv. 19.

ordinance of Divine authority is a plain, self-evident duty. What the baptism of John was to our Lord, the Church is to us. And this cuts off at once all pleas and excuses by which men endeavor to extenuate the guilt of disobeying the rule of the Church. On the one side we here see John the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, a mere man, a preacher of repentance, baptizing with water; and on the other, Jesus the son of Mary by the operation of the Holy Ghost, the Son of God by eternal generation, the sinless One, the Sanctifier of the elect. What claim or hold had that doctrine and that rite over Him? If ever any might have held himself exempt irom submission, it was He. Therefore we see that no plea

, of intellectual or spiritual superiority, no reasonings about forms and externals and empty rites and the like, can exempt any man born again through Christ from the duty of submitting to the rule of His Church. Now no one openly denies that the Church has some authority, and that from God; because to deny this would be to deny the existence of the Church itself, and nobody is so far beside himself as to venture on this extravagance. The only question is about the limit of that authority; and it is in fixing this boundary that men of a certain cast of mind do, by consequence and in fact, deny the power of the Church altogether. I have said that we are bound to submit to every ordinance of Divine authority, and that for this reason: because the whole system of the Church being divided into ordinances which are of immediate Divine obligation, and ordinances which mediately—that is, through an authority ordained of God—become binding on us; or, in other words, some being appointed by God Himself, and some by men having Divine authority: the same obligation runs through all, and in them we obey God. For instance, the apostolical ministry, the Holy Sacraments, and the Holy Scriptures, were appoint

6. He

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ments and ordinances of Christ Himself. The authority of the apostolical ministry, and of the Church to which that power, with the Scriptures and Sacraments, was committed, is therefore divine, as derived from Him: and all those details of practice, discipline, and order, which the changes of the world and the succession of time have required, being made and ordained by the same authority, and in accordance with the mind of the Holy Spirit as revealed in Scripture, are enjoined upon the consciences of the members of Christ by the original authority derived from Him to His Church. And that is the meaning of His own words: that heareth you, heareth Me ; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me.” And St. Paul's words: “He that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God." The whole, therefore, of the

, order of the Church—its ritual, discipline, and practice, its commandments and precepts,_all, that is, which meets us at this day in the system which it has laid down for the guidance of its people--lays us under the obligation of holy obedience, for the sake of the Divine authority which is contained in the least things as truly as in the greatest. It matters not who or what we are, whether pastors or people, nor how learned, or illuminated, or sanctified we may be, nor how small, external, and, as we say, trifling, the appointment may seem ; there is the same great law of the Divine authority on the one hand, and of holy obedience on the other. As our obedience passes on from the Church to its Head; so our disobedience is a rejection of His authority in His own kingdom.

2. Now we may remark further, that little things are great tests of the temper and character of men. The least things are often the most pregnant with moral probation ; the less the particular precept is, the more the principle is exhibited: for instance, things simply commanded or forbidden without


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any assigned or perceptible reason, or those which in themselves have no particular attractions or inducements . such, for example, as the original probation of Adam by the forbidding of a single tree in the garden. This is what we are wont to call gratuitous or wanton disobedience; the temptation being weak, and the circumstances unlikely to promote the temptation. So, on the other hand, in the obedience of the Second Adam. It consisted not only in the universal obedience of His spotless holiness to the great laws of His Father's will; but to the very least, in the

fulfilling of all righteousness,” even to the baptism in Jordan. In this what humility, submission, self-abasement, what pure and perfect obedience of soul to the mind of the Father! So it is in the laws and precepts by which our probation in the Church is controlled. What a test of the heart and temper is contained in the precept of unity! How directly it elicits any insubordination and irregularity of the individual will! With how wonderful a wisdom is the unity of the Church constructed, so as to hold together the obedient, and to yield before the rebellious! It is as the net let down into the sea, firm yet frail ; close enough to bring those that abide in it safe to shore, but giving way for the escape of those that resist. They went out from , us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.'

To some minds, perhaps, the deep spiritual reasons which make united worship a high duty and direct means of sanctification, and divided or schismatical worship as high a sin, and as direct a stimulant of those tempers which grieve the Spirit of holiness, are not so much as conceivable;

* i St. John ii. 19.


and yet, with their imperfect knowledge of the matter of

, their obligation, they do not scruple at the slightest offence, or the most trivial annoyance; or because every thing is not ruled and ordered, done and left undone, according to their liking, to withdraw themselves from the unity of a parochial altar, or even from the Church itself, and to join with those who are in open and hostile opposition to the Church in which till then they professed to find salvation. Now, what is the secret of all this? It is nothing more than the detection of the spirit of disobedience, which always dwelt in them, but till then had not betrayed itself. The whole character is told in a single act; and the less important the matter, the more mature and deliberate is the disobedience. The insubordination of a man who sets himself against a rite or a vesture, is very much greater than that of one who gainsays a point of doctrine; for the latter chooses his field in matters which, if any thing can justify refusal of submission, may go farther to do it, than the paltry, trifling, pitiful excuses with which many try to mask their disobedience under a plea of conscience. The less the occasion, the greater the insubordination. The lighter the alleged provocation, the heavier the offence. On the one side is the authority derived from our Lord to His Church, enjoining some commonplace and indifferent point of order; on the other, men professing the matter to be unimportant, and yet resisting the injunction. What is this but the most direct and naked struggle between authority and disobedience? If the pretext were greater, it would disguise the truth. As a test of the man, the less the better, because the probation is more visible, barefaced, and instructive. It is like the rage of Naaman when he was disappointed of being bidden to “ do some great thing," and was commanded to wash in Jordan. The probation


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