Luke 3:21
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened,
Sermons
Christ and JohnF. Godet, D. D.Luke 3:21
Christ PrayingB. Wilkinson, F. G. S., T. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
Christ Submitting to BaptismF. Godet, D. D.Luke 3:21
Christ's Baptism Gives Virtue to OursBishop Hall.Luke 3:21
Conduct Without PrayerBishop Cowper., T. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
In Semblance of a DoveT. Gamble.Luke 3:21
Jesus BaptizedCanon Vernon Hutton, M. A.Luke 3:21
John's Baptism Reached its Fullest Expression in Christ's Submission to ItN. R. Wood.Luke 3:21
Meeting of Jesus with JohnH. R. Haweis, M. A.Luke 3:21
The Achievements of YouthLord Beaconsfield.Luke 3:21
The Baptism of ChristN. R. Wood.Luke 3:21
The Baptism of ChristStopford A. Brooke, M. A.Luke 3:21
The Baptism of ChristT. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Baptism of ChristC. Bradley, M. A.Luke 3:21
The Baptism of JesusD. Longwill.Luke 3:21
The Divine Spirit in the MinistryJ. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Divine Trinity Engaged in RedemptionBishop Cowper.Luke 3:21
The Dove-Like Descent of the Spirit on ChristJ. Lathrop. D. D.Luke 3:21
The Holy Ghost as DoveS. A. Tipple.Luke 3:21
The Holy Spirit Descending Like a DoveJ. N. Norton, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Holy Spirit Like a DoveJ. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
The InaugurationJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Inauguration of ChristG. S. Barrett, B. A.Luke 3:21
The People Were BaptizedBishop Cowper.Luke 3:21
The Scene of Christ's BaptismN. R. Wood.Luke 3:21
The Significance of Christ's BaptismE. B. Pusey, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Spirit Likened to a DoveJ. Lathrop. D. D. Luke 3:21
The Spirit of God Like unto HimselfJ. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
The Voice from HeavenT. Taylor, D. D.Luke 3:21
Years of Silence and PreparationE. R. Conder, D. D., Bishop Harvey Goodwin., F. Jacox.Luke 3:21
God's Good Pleasure in UsW. Clarkson Luke 3:21, 22
The Baptism and Genealogy of JesusR.M. Edgar Luke 3:21-38

I. DIFFICULTY. There is something singular, to say the least, in the baptism of our Lord. In that solemn inauguration of the Saviour, as he entered on his public ministry, a difficulty is encountered. That difficulty respects the significance of the rite in relation to the spotless Son of God. Water, when applied to the person or used in the way of ablution, is employed as an element of cleansing. But the idea of cleansing necessarily carries along with it the notion of defilement. The thought of pollution, from whatever source derived, or in whatever way contracted, or in whatever it may consist, is inseparably connected with it. Cleansing has as its natural and necessary correlative uncleanness either expressed or implied.

II. INAPPLICABLE TO OUR LORD. Yet the Saviour was not only holy, harmless, and undefiled in life; but at his birth and in the very nature of his humanity, he was free from every taint and unsullied by the least stain of sin, as it is written, "Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God," or more literally, "Therefore also that which is born of thee, being holy, shall be called the Son of God." It is probable that the Baptist felt at once the awkwardness of his own position, and the incongruity of administering to One so perfectly pure and undefiled a rite which, as the symbol of cleansing, implied a previous condition or natural state of impurity and defilement.

III. THE BAPTIST'S RELUCTANCE. In view of the circumstance just mentioned, as well as of the overwhelming superiority of the Divine applicant, John expressed such extreme lothness to administer the rite. Nay more, that reluctance took the form of a somewhat firm refusal: "But John," we read, "forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" The imperfect διεκώλυεν may imply the commencement, that is, began to prevent, or be used de conatu of the endeavor to prevent, while the prepositional element imports activity and earnestness in the effort. It was only after a remonstrance on the part of the Saviour, and after he had pointed out to John the propriety of the course, that the Baptist yielded. The reason alleged by our Lord, while it was sufficient to overcome the scruples of the Baptist, is serviceable to us in inquiring into the nature of the ordinance then administered. True, that reason is expressed in somewhat general terms, as follows: - "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness;" but wherein this righteousness consisted, and holy it was fulfilled, we proceed briefly to investigate.

IV. PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST. It will be borne in mind that our Lord, though a priest after the order of Melchisedec, and superior to that of Aaron, was nevertheless the great Antitype of the Aaronic priesthood. The priest of the Aaronic order was typical of the great High Priest of our profession. The rites of consecration in the one case may, therefore, be regarded as helpful in elucidating the mode of inauguration in the other.

V. CEREMONIAL OF CONSECRATIONS. At the ceremonial of consecrating the Aaronic priest, there was

(1) anointing with oil, and

(2) washing with water.

The oil was emblematical of the Spirit, the water of separation from all that would unfit for the service of the Holy One; the anointing with oil signified the bestowal of the needful endowments, the washing with water the impartation of the necessary moral qualities; the one has reference to the gifts, the other to the graces, required for the proper and efficient discharge of the priestly functions. It was thus with the type, while, in the case of the Antitype, the figure was realized in the fact; the sign gave place to the thing signified. In other words, the unction of the Spirit took the place of the anointing with oil; the washing with water, which in reference to the Levitical priest denoted the necessity for purity in the service of God, and entire separation from anything that would defile, implied, in relation to the Redeemer, the actual possession of that purity in its highest perfection, and of that separation from all possibility of defiling or contaminating influence.

VI. REFERENCE TO PRIESTLY CHARACTER.

1. Accordingly, the baptism of our Lord had respect to the priestly character he sustained, not to any human imperfection that required to be repented of, or impurity that needed to be removed; so that the righteousness which it behoved to fulfill was conformity to the rite of priestly consecration; while the type merged in the antitype, and the figure gave place to fact. He was now about thirty years of age (the Levitical period) when he began his ministry.

2. Another explanation solves the difficulty by giving prominence to the representative character of Christ. He came as the representative of a people guilty in God's sight, and morally unclean; and as he afterwards bore their sins in his own body on the tree in order to expiate their guilt, so now he was baptized vicariously because of their uncleanness, in token of his purpose to purge away their filth. "He was baptized," not as though in need of it himself, but on behalf of the human race; and such is the opinion of Justin Martyr. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh - made sin for us, and so numbered with and treated as a transgressor.

3. Other explanations of the matter, still less probable, have been given, as for example

(1) that it was the perfection and proof of humility; and

(2) that it was for the purpose of being made manifest to the people, and that in presence of so great a concourse the Baptist might bear testimony to his Messiahship; which appears to be the view of Theophylact.

VII. THE PRESENCE OF THE TRINITY. At the baptism of our Lord the three Persons of the blessed Trinity were present or represented. The voice of the eternal Father came ringing down out of the cleaving heavens as they were rending asunder; the Holy Spirit in dove-like form descended; the beloved Sou was the subject of the former, and the recipient of the latter. Thus Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inaugurated the Christian dispensation at its commencement; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit impart the grace and bestow the blessings of this dispensation during its continuance; while Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shall share the glory at its close. And so in the beautiful words of the TeDeum -

"The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee;
The Father of an infinite majesty;
Thine honorable, true, and only Son
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter."

VIII. THREEFOLD TESTIMONY. Thrice during our Lord's public ministry a voice from heaven testified to his Messiahship - once at his baptism as just noticed; once on the Mount of Transfiguration; and once during Passion week, in the courts of the temple, as we read in the Gospel of St. John, John 12:28, "Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."

IX. TRIPLE RECORD. Again this acknowledgment of the Father puts honor on the Divine Word, for, from the three leading divisions of it - the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms - that acknowledgment is taken. The words, "Thou art my Son," are taken from the second Psalm; from Genesis, the first book of the Law, Genesis 22:28, we have the expression, "My beloved Son;" while in the Prophets, namely, Isaiah 42:1, we find the remaining clause, "In whom I am well pleased."

X. CHANGE IN THE BAPTIST'S PREACHING. The Galilean valley and the Judaean desert were far separate. Though closely allied by kinship, and more closely still by oneness of spirit, John and Jesus had grown up apart; their first actual contact was at the baptism of the latter. Personal acquaintance there had been none; or if there had, it did not contribute to the Baptist's recognition of his Messiah. Either by a conversation of which we have no record, or by direct revelation immediately before the baptism, the important fact was made known to the Baptist. Be this as it may, one very remarkable effect resulted from it. The style, and indeed the subject, of the Baptist underwent an entire change. Previously his manner had been denunciatory; subsequently it became conciliatory. Before he had borrowed his imagery from the harsh features of the surrounding desert - the rude rocks, the poisonous vipers, the barren tree; or from the rough ways and works of agricultural life, such as may have existed on the verge of the wilderness - the threshing-floor, the winnowing implement and the worthless chaff. But now he tempers and softens his mode of speech with figures from the sanctuary and its service - the lamb slain, the sin sacrifice, and the expiation. We hear no more of viperous broods - vipers themselves and sprung from vipers; no more of fruitless trees, fit only for the fire; no more of stones taking the place of sons, that is, of abanim becoming banira; no more of the sifting and separating process by which the good groin would be garnered and the worthless residue gathered into heaps for burning. On the other hand, we read of the Lamb as the Sin-bearer, and salvation as the blessedness secured; in other words, we have the blessed truth first uttered by the Baptist's lips, "Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" The legal has given place to the evangelical. The first phase - equally needful and equally useful, it is true - of the Baptist's preaching is exhibited by the synoptists; the second - softer, sweeter, and superior in tone and tendency - by the penman of the fourth Gospel, the evangelist and beloved apostle John.

XI. THE BAPTIST'S FUNCTION THREEFOLD. The commission of the Baptist embraced three functions:

1. Herald-like, he was to prepare the way for the coming King by calling men to repentance.

2. He administered, on their full confession equivalent to making a clean breast of it), the rite which served as a pledge that their conviction of sin was real and their service sincere - that, in fact, they wished to act in conformity with such a direction as that of the prophet, "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes." In all this, however, they might merely have an eye to the penal consequences of sin, and to that sweeping storm of coming wrath to which sin exposed them; and thus proceed no further than legal repentance.

3. But a yet higher office was to announce the kingdom of heaven as come down on earth, and point to the advent of its King; in other words, to direct the eye of faith to Messiah as the great Sin-sacrifice and the only Saviour. Repentance alone, especially of the legal kind referred to, could not merit the remission of sins; neither could baptism, nor yet the combination of both together: the real meritorious cause was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God - the Lamb slain; while faith, that faith from which true evangelical repentance is never separate, was the link of union between the soul of the penitent and his Saviour. Thus John virtually preached faith as well as repentance; for his repentance-baptism derived its whole meaning and validity from faith in Christ. Evangelical repentance commences with Christ, the cross, Calvary, and is "the tear in the eye of faith" directed thereto, for, looking to him whom we have pierced, we mourn. Of this we have tolerably plain proof in the words of St. Paul (Acts 19:4), "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, in Christ Jesus." - J.J.G.







Jesus also being baptized
The people, I read, "mused," wondering if John were the expected Messiah. John, too, mused, we may be sure. "Words! words! words!" at the end of each long sultry day, as he laid him down in some rocky cave what time the sun sank suddenly and the stars hung like balls of fire in the purple sky, and the cry of the wild beast was heard as he stole forth to drink at the fords of the Jordan. ' I can baptize them with water. I can tell them to repent. Poor forlorn sheep upon the mountains — where shall they find their shepherd? I am the voice crying in the wilderness — where is the Divine Prophet? I baptize with water — who will give them the fiery baptism of the soul? Who will help them to seek, and nerve them to act? "And then came One on a certain still morn, early, it may be, before the heat of the day, with only a few zealous stragglers about, waiting for baptism, and John met Him by the Jordan river. Needless to explain. Soul met soul. John knew his Master as surely as did frail Peter when he cried out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man"; or doubting Thomas when, heart-struck, he murmered, "My Lord, and my God!" "I have need," were John's first words — yea, we all have need face to face with Jesus — "I have need to be baptized of Thee." And then came the first words of Christ's ministry, they struck the keynote of the gospel, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." The heart of Christianity lies there; Christ the Companion of man, the Example of man. The Saviour, because the revelator of a Divine union between God and man, a spiritual life in man. And on the morrow the Baptist saw Him walking by the river, and pointing Him out, exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God!" &c. Message to the Ages! Call to every Pilgrim of the night! Be of good cheer, thy help is nigh. God in Christ is your Saviour, because Christ in human nature means Christ in you, the Divine power revealed in every man, as he is able to receive and use it. Let that vision remain with us. Blessed gleam of the morning light I Behold Jesus going down into the Jordan to be baptized, one with us, never more to be separated from us — Great Elder Brother, dear Friend! Close to us in the waters of purification, close to us in the burden and heat of the day, close to us in the shadow of our Gethsemane, close to us in the Calvary of our pain, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.

(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

The relation between Jesus and John resembles two stars following each other at a short distance, both passing through similar circumstances. The announcement of the appearing of the one follows close upon that of the appearing of the other, it is the same with their two births. This relation repeats itself in the commencement of their respective ministries; and lastly, in the catastrophes which terminate their lives. And yet, in the whole course of the career of these two, there was but one personal meeting — at the baptism of Jesus. After this moment, when one of these stars rapidly crossed the orbit of the ether, they separated, each to follow the path that was marked out for him.

(F. Godet, D. D.)

I.

1. The preaching of John the Baptist was the sign that the active ministry of the Messiah was now to begin. The Incarnate Word had been hidden among men. His presence must now be manifested and His kingdom set up.

2. His first act in passing from His hidden to His active life, is to identify Himself with that sinning race in whose likeness He had come.

3. This humiliation was temporary and voluntary — "Suffer it to be so now," i.e., "for the present time"; "for thus it becometh us" — not "it is necessary" — "to fulfil all righteousness."

4. Notice how He who in His boyhood "must be about His Father's business," in His manhood must "fulfil all righteousness."

II.

1. There is a deep sense in which this undergoing the baptism of John was a fulfilling all righteousness. It was a revelation that man's nature needs not merely improvement but renewal. Baptism represents the death of the old man and the resurrection of the new.

2. It is that He who thus humiliated Himself for us may fulfil all righteousness in us that we pray, "By Thy baptism,... good Lord, deliver us."

(Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)

One purpose of His baptism our Lord Himself mentions, in order to satisfy the scruples of the reluctant Baptist; "Suffer now, .for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." The first and obvious sense of this is, that since the baptism of John was of God, it became Him, as being born in the people to whom God had given it, to submit Himself to it as the ordinance of God. But then, other grounds might be included in this, as involved in the character and person of Him who thus submitted Himself. The words may have been left, on purpose, undefined, in order to comprehend the more. "He added not," says St. , "the righteousness of the law, or of nature, that we might understand both." The righteousness fulfilled was in Him humility surpassing all thought, in that while God He received the baptism of the sinners whose nature He had taken; in Him it was love, which is the fulfilling of the law, in that He received that which He needed not, that they who need it might the more gladly receive it; and so it may be also that He was baptized, not only to give an example of obedience, or healthfully to shame those who to their destruction would have disdained it, but in it to fulfil all righteousness by cleansing the sinful nature in the likeness whereof He had come, and to impart to it as a whole the righteousness which He should afterwards communicate, one by one, to those who came to the baptism which He had thus consecrated. And again, all righteousness may thereby have been fulfilled in it, in that an everlasting righteousness was thereby brought in, and the element consecrated whereby the justifying efficacy of His meritorious Cross and Passion were to be conveyed to all believers. The one sense will not exclude the other; as of all our blessed Saviour's actions and words, it is to be believed that they have a manifold depth and meaning, of which each application brings out but one portion; these gifts are a "precious stone," "whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth."

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

In presenting Himself for baptism, Jesus had to make, as others did (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:7), His confession of sins. Of what sins, if not of those of His people and of the world in general? He placed before John a striking picture of them, not with that pride and scorn with which the Jews spoke of the sins of the heathen, and the Pharisees of the sins of the publicans, but with the humble and compassionate tones of an Isaiah (chap. Isaiah 63.), a Daniel (chap. Daniel 9.), or a Nehemiah (chap. Nehemiah 9.), when they confessed the miseries of their people, as it the burden were their own. He could not have gone down into the water after such an act of communion with our misery, unless resolved to give Himself up entirely to the work of putting an end to the reign of sin. He did not content Himself with making a vow. He prayed, the text tells us; He besought God for all that He needed for the accomplishment of this great task, to take away the sin of the world. He asked for wisdom, for spiritual strength, and particularly for the solution of the mystery which family records, the Scriptures, and His own holiness had created about His person. We can understand how John, after hearing Him confess and pray thus, should say, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"

(F. Godet, D. D.)

His last action, or rather passion, was His baptizing with blood; His first was His baptization with water: both of them wash the world from their sins. Yea, this latter did not only wash the souls of men, but washeth that very water by which we are washed; from hence is that made both clean and holy, and can both cleanse and hallow us.

(Bishop Hall.)

A river that had never been navigable, flowing into a sea that had never known a port? A river almost equal in length to our own Thames, but with no great city gathered upon its banks, and winding through no grand or picturesque scenery Such was the river of God, of which the Hebrew psalmist sung; the sacred river of Old Testament story, upon which Lot, the wandering emigrant, once lifted up his eyes; which Jacob, returning from exile, crossed with his staff, and over which had passed the descendants of the patriarch's twelve sons — a mighty nation, emancipated, and brought from afar, to inherit the land. Since then, along its shores, the tide of many a momentous battle had rolled; its waters had washed the leper clean; and among its pink oleanders and yellow marigolds, prophets had lingered in meditation, or listened at midnight to messages from heaven that made their skin creep. It was while standing on its brink that Elijah, the chief of an illustrious line, had been swept up in the chariot of the whirlwind; and by the sound of its waves, David, the prince of kings, had both thundered in victorious fight, and wept in misery. But now, at last, there is a new thing — a surprising thing. At one of the upper fords of this ancient river, the Redeemer of the world appears: not working marvellous works, or drawing crowds around Him by the magic of His gracious words, but meekly applying to receive at the hands of the reforming preacher of the day, who had been pronouncing the nation morally unclean, and calling it to repentance — a most humiliating rite; a rite which was understood to express the recipient's conviction of sin, and his need of purification.

(N. R. Wood.)

There is one thing for us to remember, in conclusion: namely, that the baptism which St. John preached, but which he hesitated to administer to the spotless and holy Jesus, had its meaning most fully expressed only when it became administered to Him; for what was it intended to set forth? The nation's conscious burthen of sin! And who, of all the multitudes that flocked to be baptized, felt that burthen as Christ did? Some there were, doubt. less, among the throng, who mourned truly and deeply their transgressions and the transgressions of the time; devout men, like the greyhaired Simeon, who had long been dissatisfied with themselves and with the existing state of things; but not one, even of the most profoundly stirred and quickened of these, felt the ugliness and horror of their sins, and of Israel's corruption, as He felt it. He not only confessed and repented with the people, but for them; suffering in His righteous soul what they ought to have suffered, and did not, nay, could not; offering to God what they ought to have offered, and failed to offer, nay, were unable to offer — an adequate feeling of sin, an adequate sorrow and atonement for it. They truly confessed and repented only in Him; in Him was presented the perfect confession and repentance, of which, at their very best, they fell far short.

(N. R. Wood.)

See the mother, in the midst of a group of little ones, mingling her tears with theirs, at the father's grave. They feel that they have lost something precious; but it is she alone who feels, as she stands bowed among them, how much they have lost. They all kneel together on the sod, and the eyes of all are alike swimming with grief: but what is their impression of the bereavement they have sustained, in comparison with hers? What is their anguish for themselves, compared with her anguish for the fatherless ones? Weep as the children may, the full bitterness of their loss is borne, not by the children, but by the mother who weeps with them. So when Christ joined with the multitude in their baptism of contrition, to none of them were their sins half so burdensome and oppressive as they were to Him; none of them endured, under their deepest convictions, the half of that which He endured for them. The meaning of St. John's baptism reached its fullest expression in His submission to it, upon whom there was laid the iniquity of all; who, being at once the sinless one and the loving one, saw sins and sinners with God's eyes, and felt, in reference to them, with God's heart.

(N. R. Wood.)

The cry of John the Baptist was: Repent; and his baptism was that of repentance. What, then, was the meaning of our Lord's baptism? It could not signify that He repented. It was a symbolical act followed by that of which it was the symbol — the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Learn —

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ORDINANCE OF BAPTISM. That to which our Lord submitted cannot be considered indifferent by any of His disciples.

II. ORDINANCES OF GOD'S APPOINTING, REVERENTLY AND INTELLIGENTLY SUBMITTED TO, ARE OFTEN THE CHANNELS OF BLESSING. "Being baptized and praying, the heaven was opened," &c. Rites unintelligently or superstitiously performed often hide the truth and lead into dangerous error; but when understood as symbolizing or declaring a living truth they are often important aids in teaching truth, and in stimulating to the acquiring of spiritual blessing.

(D. Longwill.)

It was —

I. THE PROCLAMATION OF HIS HUMAN RELATIONSHIP TO MAN AND TO GOD.

II. By this act tie bound together in submission to His Father's WILL THE OLD AND NEW DISPENSATIONS, AND RECOGNIZED HIMSELF AS THE CENTRAL POINT OF HISTORY.

III. IT CONSECRATED HIM KING OF THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM, AND PROCLAIMED TO ALL MEN THAT HIS ORGANIZATION OF THAT KINGDOM HAD BEGUN.

IV. HOW DOES CHRIST'S BAPTISM SPEAK TO US? We have rites of consecration, but these are not the parallels in our lives to this moment in the life of Jesus. There are hours of consecration in our lives of which none know but God and ourselves.

(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

Christ's example shows that obedience to the Divine Spirit of the time ever brings fuller disclosures and attestations of the Divine blessing. The heavens are opened to every obedient man, and the Spirit of God descends on the last as on the first. John's baptism had gone no further than repentance; but Christ, standing with the dove resting upon Him, showed that there was a baptism unto holiness. By John's baptism men were put into a right relation to the past: but as they followed Christ they were put into a right relation to the future; from the negative condition of repentance they passed to the affirmative attitude of holiness. This is the culmination of human history. We have come through man, servant, prophet, messenger, up to Son. The very nomenclature is pregnant with sublime moral significance. We pass from "made," to "begotten," from "upright" to "beloved," from the "us" of the creating Trinity to the "my" of the benignant Father, from the "very good" of the first Adam to the "well-pleased" of the second.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

— The baptism of Christ was, first of all, the public announcement and inauguration of Christ to His work. John the Baptist had conic "to bear witness of the Light," and now his work was nearly done. One last act remained to be done, the solemn setting apart of the Christ to His redeeming work. The baptism closed our Lord's private life and began His public ministry. He who had gone down into the water known to men as "the Son of Mary," came up thence declared to be "the Son of God,"The baptism, with the opened heavens, and the Spirit descending like a dove, and abiding on Jesus, and the witness borne by the voice of God Himself, was the sublime inauguration of the Saviour of the world to His great mission. From that hour John's prophetic work was done. It expired, to use Davison's beautiful image, as Old Testament prophecy had expired, with "the gospel upon its tongue."

(G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

There are many of every sort of people — as we may read — saved in the gospel, but of Pharisees we find none but one, namely, Nicodemus; no sort of men are further from the kingdom of God than proud justiciars. For as a vessel full of one liquor is not capable of another, so the soul which is filled with a vain conceit of her own righteousness, is not capable of the grace of Christ. Grace entereth not into such a soul, because it is full, neither doth grace find any place to dwell therein. There is no place for grace to enter in, where merit hath possession: what thou attributest to merits, is wanting to grace. I will none of that merit which excludes grace.

(Bishop Cowper.)

1. He would hereby honour the ministry of man, in that He submits Himself unto it, and seeketh to it with much pains and labour.

2. As He was baptized, not by an angel or prince, but by a homely man that lived like an hermit in an austere manner of life for diet and clothing; so must not we account baser of the sacraments for the meanness of the man, if a lawful minister, seeing Christ refused not the sacrament at John's hands; neither must we from the meanest minister, seeing the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.

3. Christ was content to wash in a common water, in the flood Jordan; He feared no infection from it, though Naaman the leper were washed there; though the Pharisees and hypocrites washed there: yet He takes no exception, contracts no uncleanness; so the wickedness of another communicant doth not prejudice him that is rightly prepared, though he communicate with him in the sacrament, yet not in his sin. Although He undertook not the sacrament as a sacrament of regeneration, or as a symbol of new life, yet He did —(1) As it was a sacrament of Christian society (1 Corinthians 12:13), for as by it the faithful are set into His body, so would He by it be set into the body of the saints, and take on Him the common mark and privilege of His members; even as we see kings and princes, by whom all hold their freedom, will sometimes be made free, and so receive a public testimony of association from their people; and lo, here our Prince in the colours of a common soldier.(2) As baptism is a symbol of affliction, so He would undertake it; so (Mark 10:38) Christ calls His cross and death by the name of baptism.(3) Christ would be baptized, not to wash Himself, but us; not to put off sin as we, but to put on our sin, that so our sin in Him might be washed away, that He might sanctify this sacrament. Again, this is for our instruction, to note the excellency and dignity of this sacrament, and what esteem we ought to have it in; the Lord comes to the servant a tedious journey to seek it; yet many of us, when it is brought to us, turn our backs upon it. What price set they upon it who flee forth of the Church when this sacrament is to be administered? Shall Christ that needed it not, come to it, and shall we that need it run from it? This I will add to what I have elsewhere largely delivered, that whosoever do not present themselves with due reverence and meditation, but run out carelessly and profanely when baptism is administered, they be far from Christ's example, and little comfort can they have of their baptism, but may well fear, lest those mysteries and benefits offered and sealed to a member of the congregation belong not to them; for if they did they would own them, and not run contemptuously from them; as good never baptized, as never meditate on it. But, were thyself to take no good by the sacrament, in calling to mind thine own covenant made in baptism, with the fruit in thyself, yet good order requires thy presence.

1. Because the ordinance belongs not only to the infants' parents and sureties, but to the whole congregation, as the entering of a free man into a corporation is by the whole.

2. God looks it should be graced, and not scorned by turning thy back upon it. Were it not a most irreverent contempt to run out from the Word? and is it not also to run from the seal? especially the blessed Trinity being met to such a purpose, to seal such benefits to a member of that congregation?

3. Thy presence is requisite to help the infant by prayer, to join with the congregation in prayer and in praise for the ingrafting of a member into Christ's body. But what law or ordinance was there for baptism, to which Christ must be subjected?It was decreed by the whole Trinity.

1. That Christ should be initiated by this ceremony, wherein also He must manifest Himself the Author of all purity and cleanness.

2. John had preached it, and showed the necessity of it by Divine authority.

3. He would not only subject Himself to His Father's ordination, but also for our sakes, the virtue of whose baptism depends upon His, as also give us help by His example, and therefore would Himself do that which He commanded others to do.

4. Christ as Mediator, and in our stead, was to be made our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30); three ways:(1) In being made an offering for us, by which He was to abolish our sin and curse, and by His most perfect obedience satisfy the whole law for us.(2) By applying that righteousness purchased by His blood, which else we could never have had benefit by.(3) By appointing and sanctifying means and instruments for that application, called the ministry of the Spirit, whereof one branch is the laver of water in the Word. And thus, as in our stead, He stood in the general, bound by the will and ordinance of God, in Himself to sanctify baptism for us.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

I. St. Matthew gives us THE REASON WHY THIS BAPTISM TOOK PLACE. "Suffer it to be so now," He said to John, "for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." He was anxious to obey every Divine law, to conform to every Divine institution, to work out and complete a righteousness extensive as the Divine commands. And this answer exhibits the Saviour to us in two characters, each illustrating the propriety of His baptism.

1. He stands here as the Representative of His people. Now they are an unclean people. We argue from His appearing in their form, that He was the Representative of His sinful people; and then we argue from His being their Representative, that it became Him to be baptized.

2. He was also their Head; standing in the relation to them of a Leader or Chief. The Captain of our salvation puts on Himself the garb in which He arrays His soldiers. The Commander submits first to the oath that He enjoins on His followers.

II. Let us look now at His BAPTISM ITSELF.

1. The first circumstance that strikes us in it, is His simple obedience to the Divine law. It bids you obey the Divine law, not scan it. It bids you do the will of God, not criticise it. The will of God must be done, and every command of God obeyed.

2. And notice the humility manifested here, the amazing condescension of Christ. He was now coming forth among men to make known His high pretensions. And how does He appear? Working miracles and doing wonders? Bursting forth like the sun in his brightness, "glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength"? No; "He cometh from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him." We can hardly form one faint idea of the extent of this degradation. Not indeed a sinner, but appearing as one, assuming a character He had bidden angels and archangels loathe. The manger, the stable, the carpenter's hut and the carpenter's toil — they were all as nothing; no word of His had poured contempt on any one of them: but to be the thing He had branded; to come forth into sight as though He were the character He abhorred; verily, brethren, this was the infinite abasement of an infinite God.

3. And mark also the devotion the Saviour manifested on this occasion.

III. We come now to our third subject — THE WONDERFUL EVENT WHICH ATTENDED THE SCENE OF HUMILIATION WE HAVE BEEN CONTEMPLATING. "It came to pass," says the evangelist, "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."

1. Observe here the greatness of Christ; His dignity. And it is a remarkable fact that throughout His life, whenever we see Him signally abased, we generally see His Father putting on Him signal honour. He is born in a manger, but a star in the heavens proclaims His advent, and over Him are ringing the songs of angels.

2. We see here also the Messiahship of Christ. First comes the voice of prophecy, marking out the future Messiah as one on whom the Spirit of the Lord was to descend and rest; one who, at His entrance on His office, was to be anointed with the spirit, just as earthly monarchs and priests were anointed with the holy oil. Besides, in all this there was a special reference to John himself.

3. But this event establishes another point. While it proves the reality of our Lord's Messiahship, it declares His qualifications for the discharge of this office. The Spirit descended on Him in Jordan to qualify Him for what we may call the moral part of His great work; to enable Him to reach the mind of man, and influence and rule it. He Himself tells us so. Led by the Spirit He had received, He first goes into the wilderness to have His own faith and obedience put to the test; and when He had been taught there by His own experience, what this Spirit could do for the suffering and tempted, He begins His public ministry at Nazareth by declaring the qualifications bestowed on Him for the discharge of His office. "The Spirit of the Lord," He says, "is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised." And this Spirit abode on Him. St. Matthew informs us that the dove "rested," as well as descended on Him; and St. Luke speaks of Him as going up from the river into the wilderness, "full of the Holy Ghost." His blessed gifts are made over to Him, placed at His disposal; and for this purpose, that He may communicate them to whomsoever He will.

4. We are taught also here the high estimation in which the anointed Saviour is held by His Father; the complacency and delight with which He regards Him. From a review of this history we learn, first, the importance which God attaches to His own ordinances, the honour He puts on them. "We see here also the insufficiency of ordinances. Baptism, though administered by a prophet and received by Christ, was powerless; or if it had any efficacy, that efficacy was limited; it evidently left much undone. It could not touch the soul of Jesus; it did not qualify Him for His mediatorial work. To accomplish these ends, the Holy Ghost comes down from on high, rests and abides on Him.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

And praying.
To most, if not to all of us, the fact that our Saviour prayed is in itself a wonder. This does not, however, seem to have struck the gospel-writers. Prayers of Christ precious, as showing how completely human He became, living like ourselves, a life of dependence, of communion, and of submission.

I. THE OCCASION ON WHICH THE SAVIOUR IS HAS SAID TO HAVE PRAYED. AS undergone by Christ, the rite of baptism would seem to have had a twofold meaning.

1. It was intended to be symbolic of His entire oneness with the race He came to save.

2. It was intended to be emblematic of His complete consecration to the salvation of the race to which He came.

II. THE REASONS WHICH LED HIM TO PRAY.

1. We are not to suppose that Christ's praying on this occasion

(a)arose from any doubt in His mind as to the propriety of the work on which He was entering;

(b)sprang out of any misgiving as to His own appointment to it;

(c)was due to any uncertainty as to His personal fitness for it. No, but —

2. Bearing in mind the meaning of the baptism with which His prayer was associated, we may imagine that His prayer on this occasion would spring —

(a)from His pure passion for the glorification of the Father;

(b)from His intense longing for the salvation of the world;

(c)from His vivid anticipation of the difficulties which lay before Him;

(d)from His keen prevision of the sorrows that awaited Him.

III. THE RESPONSE WHICH CAME TO OUR SAVIOUR'S PRAYER.

1. There was a special communication of the Divine Spirit.

2. There was a special assurance of the Divine complacency. Practical lesson: PRAYER A PREPARATION FOR SERVICE.

(B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)For the first, He was now baptized, and in regard of that He prayed, and teacheth us —

1. In that He first was baptized, and then prayed, that we must be first cleansed and sanctified, and then pray: men must lift pure hands with pure hearts in every place (Isaiah 50:16). In receiving the sacrament a holy heart knows that he hath to do with God, and lifteth itself above sensible elements; it labours to approve itself to God, and looks not at men, but at God and His covenant, and renews itself with faith, repentance, and invocation.

2. In that Christ goeth to God for a blessing upon the sacrament received, we learn that all the grace, holiness, and efficacy of any sacrament is to be obtained, continued and increased by the means of prayer.For the second, Christ prayed in respect of that He was to do.

1. He was now to be declared that great Prophet of His Church (Deuteronomy 18:18). And the whole ministry of the New Testament was now to be delivered and consecrated in Him, and therefore undertaking this great work, He goeth to His Father for blessing and success in it.

2. He was now in a solemn manner by sundry testimonies from heaven to be set apart for the work of redemption, and the salvation of man being lost: a ministry which men and angels were all too weak for; and no marvel, if He pray to His Father for sufficient strength and grace to undergo the same.

3. He knew that the heavens were to be opened, and therefore He will be in prayer, to show the power of prayer, that it pierceth the heavens, and entereth the presence of God, and prevaileth for a blessing.

4. The Spirit was to descend upon Him, and therefore He would be in prayer to teach us that the prayers of God's children are of that force that they bring down the Holy Ghost with all graces upon earth.

5. That faithful prayer doth cause God to give some evident testimony upon those with whom He is well pleased.

6. That whatever we take in hand, we must reverently undertake it with prayer, but especially two things above others.

(1)The part of God's holy worship.

(2)The duties of our callings.

2. Such is our weakness, as when we do anything the best we can, we had need to pray to do it better, and for pardon that we have done it no better: which if it be true in external things and duties, wherein we are better acquainted; much more in spiritual, wherein our ability is much less.

3. We never receive so much favour from God, but we still stand in need to crave more; nor never so little, but that we have much to be thankful for. This doctrine serves to reprove such as content themselves with the work of God's worship; that come to the word and sacraments, but beg not a blessing of God beforehand; whereas Christ Himself contented not Himself with the outward means, but prayed for a blessing. And this is the very cause why men find so little taste, strength, and power in these ordinances, because God's blessing goes not with the means; and therefore it is sundered from His own ordinances, because it is not asked. Is it any marvel, that when men come carelessly, carnally, and profanely, without reverence and religion to the exercises of religion, that they go away as brutishly as they come; and the longer they thus profane God's holy things, the more senseless and incurable they grow by them, more hardened and hopeless. What good hath many a man gotten by customable coming to the word and sacraments many years together? for their knowledge, babes may pose them in principles; for their conscience, we may as soon prevail with children of three years old, to sit reverently and attentively, as some of three or fourscore, who in the morning are so sleepy, as it were fitter they were at home in their beds, or take order to bring their beds with them: and for their profitableness in their places, or reformation of anything in public, or in their private families, or their own person, God nor man can see no such thing. Now would I ask these men as old as they be, how often they can remember they have humbled themselves before God, that He would bless the Word unto them, and them to understand it, and make conscience of it, to reform their ways, to comfort their consciences? Alas, dead men! this is a strange motion to them; and now we conclude, no blessing asked, none obtained, but a curse accompanied them further to harden them: whereas humble and feeling prayer would have opened the heavens and fetched down the Spirit to have accompanied the ordinance; and so some testimony would have been seen, that God had been better pleased with them and their work.

3. It is a notable fence against sin: for, as the more sin prevails, the less can a man pray; for the more he prays, the less is he overtaken with sin. When the true man is assaulted, if he cry for help, the thief runs away; and so doth sin (a thief which ever doggeth and besetteth us to rob us and steal away grace) if we can cry mightily to God.

4. Acquaint thyself with God; for the times come when nothing will stand by thee but His help; and therefore use prayer, to be familiarly acquainted with Him: know Him now in the time of thy prayer, that He may know thee in the day of thy distress.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

He knoweth truly how to live well, who knoweth how to pray well. But best actions without prayer, which obtain grace to them, are like bodies without spirits: yea, as the body without breathing cannot live to do any work competent to a natural life: so the soul, without prayer, can do no work that truly is spiritual.

(Bishop Cowper.)The heaven was opened. — No wit followeth, that we speak of those three admirable events, which followed the prayer of Christ.

1. The sensible opening of the heavens.

2. The visible descending of the Holy Ghost.

3. The audible voice of God the Father, witnessing to many both eye and ear-witnesses the solemn instalment and induction of Christ into His office and work of mediation and ministry. Wherein we must know, that as there never was in all the world so high and excellent an office as Christ's was (for the greatest of kings, and the high priest, who yet were with great state and observation anointed and deputed to their offices, were but shadows of this), even so God would have Christ entered into it with such magnificence and glory as never man was, nor creature is capable of. At the coronation of a prince, with what glory, pomp, and sumptuousness, even to admiration, is he brought forth with his nobles and subjects! But all this is but earthly glory, from earthly men to an earthly king. But now at the coronation of the Prince of Peace, God sets Himself from heaven to honour it; and for this purpose He doth more familiarly, and yet more gloriously reveal Himself unto all mankind, than He had ever before done from the creation of the world; and never was any ceremony in all the world so honoured as this baptism of Christ was. The ancient sacrifices of God's institution were honoured by- manifest signs of His gracious presence, as by the fire which came from heaven continually to consume them: the Ark was honoured with special signs of His glorious presence, sitting between the cherubims, answering by oracle and voice unto cases propounded: the Temple itself at Jerusalem, at Solomon's prayer and dedication, was filled with the glory of God, manifested in that cloud that filled the House of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10), and this cloud still watched over the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). But these were all but shadows to this, wherein the Lord did not cloud and vail His presence, or reveal His presence in some sign; but the Divine Majesty manifested itself distinctly, as we may say, in person, yea, in the distinction of all the three Persons, the Father testifying His delight in His dear Son, the Son standing in Jordan, and receiving His Father's testimony; and the Holy Ghost descending in the visible shape of a dove. It seemeth therefore to be true, that the heaven was sensibly divided and rent in twain, even as the earth was when Korah and his company were swallowed up.Now the reasons why the heavens were opened were sundry.

1. To manifest the truth and certainty of the other signs which followed, that seeing the heavens opened, they might not conceive that either the dove or the voice came from any other place.

2. To show that howsoever Christ stood there as a weak man, and in similitude of sinful flesh, yet He was the Lord from heaven heavenly, of whom was verified (John 3:31) " He that is come from heaven is above all."

3. That as His person, so likewise His doctrine was Divine and heavenly (ver. 34). He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: and this was the special work of His doctoral office, to reveal the will of His Father. "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him" (John 1:18). The power also and grace, whereby He wrought miracles, was not from Beelzebub, but from heaven.

4. To show that His office, into which He was now entered, was and is to open heaven again for us, who by sin had shut it against ourselves; He hath made our way unto the throne of grace. And thus this second Adam standeth in opposition with the first; He shut us out of paradise, a token that we were shut out of heaven: but this lets us into the paradise of God again. The heavens are opened by His passion, not by His baptism (Hebrews 10:19). They are opened by His death as by a common cause, which must be specially and singularly applied, and that is by baptism: therefore it is said, "We are baptised into His death " (Romans 6:3, 4), that is, to have benefit by His death. Note hence, that Christ by fulfilling all righteousness, hath set heaven open unto us, and consequently the justification of a sinner is not only by the obedience of His passion, but also by His active obedience in fulfilling the law.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

Like a dove upon Him.
Hence then, we may observe, that the religion of Jesus consists in a dove-like temper. This observation we will endeavour to illustrate. That we may proceed with safety, we will give no indulgence to imagination, but will strictly follow the allusions which we find in Scripture.

1. The dove is an emblem of purity. In the law of Moses this was reckoned a clean bird, and it was selected for an offering in the ceremony of purification. His precepts, His doctrines, His example teach us to be holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners.

2. Christ directs His disciples to be harmless as doves. The same meek and inoffensive spirit which was in Him must also be in us.

3. The dove, in the book of Canticles, is an emblem of cheerfulness and joy. "Lo, the winter is past and gone, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come: the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." The dove-like temper of the gospel is sweet, serene, and pleasant.

4. Doves are distinguished by their mutual fidelity and love. To this social and affectionate property there are frequent allusions in Scripture. The bridegroom, in the book of Canticles, calls the bride by this, among other endearing names: "O my dove, let me see thy face, and hear thy voice, for thy voice is sweet, and thy face is comely." People in affliction are described as "mourning like doves" who have lost their companions. Mutual love is the temper of the gospel.

5. The dove is a defenceless bird. Hence she is described as "dwelling in the clefts of the rocks, and in the secret places of the stairs"; and as "flying to her windows" in times of danger. In this view she is an emblem of Christian faith and humility. True believers, sensible of their weakness, and of the dangers which attend them, trust not in themselves, but in the power and grace of their Saviour.

6. The excellent glory, which descended like a dove and rested on Jesus, might be intended to represent the beauties of His Church, adorned and dignified by the graces of His Spirit. The dove, which is a beautiful bird, is a natural emblem of the virtuous and good works which distinguish the Christian character. "Though ye have lien among the pots, yet ye shall be as the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold."

7. The dove, which is a fruitful bird, is, by Isaiah, made an emblem of the increase of the Church in her happy and prosperous periods. Then converts shall fly unto God's altar, " as doves to their windows."

(J. Lathrop. D. D.)

J. Lathrop. D. D. .
1. Our subject suggests to us that the Spirit of Christ usually comes to the soul in a mild and gentle manner. His operations are as His fruits, dove-like, sweet, and kind. The benevolent and friendly nature of the dispensation which Christ was about to introduce, was intimated in the manner of the Spirit's descent. The law, which was a ministration of death and condemnation, was delivered to the people with circumstances of terror and amazement. As His manner of teaching, so the doctrines which He taught were kind and gracious.

2. Our subject farther teaches us, that they only are led by the Spirit of God, who are of a dove-like temper. It is absurd then to impute to an uncommon influence of the Spirit any error of conduct, excess of passion, extravagance of zeal, or bitterness of censure; for the Spirit comes like the dove.

3. Our subject reminds us of our obligation to adorn with good works our Christian character, and to recommend to the choice of others the religion which we profess. We should resemble the dove, whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. The beauty of religion much depends on our maintaining the more amiable and engaging virtues; such as charity, peaceableness, humility, and meekness.

4. Our subject teaches us our obligation to labor for the increase of Christ's Church — not only to enter into it ourselves, but also to encourage others to come and join themselves to it.

(J. Lathrop. D. D. .)

I. The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape LIKE A bow.

1. The dove was a bird of purity. You know it was used by the poor in sacrifices, and therefore was considered clean.

2. The Holy Spirit is like a dove because it is a harmless creature. The dove never hurts the tiniest bird with which it comes into contact. The Holy Spirit is not compared to the eagle, nor to the hawk, nor to the vulture — birds of prey; but to the dove — a harmless creature.

3. The Holy Ghost is like a dove because the dove is such a gentle creature. His influences are most benign.

4. The Holy Spirit is like the dove, too, because the dove has very keen eyesight. In the Book of Canticles we read, "Thou hast dove's eyes." Doves are remarkable for great keenness of vision. The Holy Spirit "searcheth all things."

5. The Holy Spirit is like the dove because the dove was an emblem of peace and of spring. The dove brought the olive leaf back in her mouth, indicating to Noah that the waters had subsided, and that the deluge of wrath would soon be gone. The dove, too, is mentioned in the Canticles as being a herald of spring: "The time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land." And whenever the Holy Spirit comes to a man's heart, there is a sign that that heart will be at peace with God.

6. The Holy Ghost, lastly, is like a dove because the dove was given to mourning. "I did mourn as a dove," says Isaiah. "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities" — takes our infirmities upon Himself. His work is of a loving nature.

II. Secondly, we have THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST. Much is taught in the connection of the text concerning the mission of Christ, while our text itself gives the chief elements of His character. First of all, we have something concerning His mission. It was divinely ordained, for God sent the Holy Spirit to testify to the world that He was commissioned by Him to undertake man's redemption. We have here the purpose of His mission. Heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended. It was the purpose of Christ to open heaven. The first Adam closed heaven against us. But the character of Christ was developed by the influence of the Holy Ghost. Jesus did not achieve His work by virtue of the divinity that was in Him only, but by virtue of the Spirit's graces upon Him. The dove was harmless. Christ said, "I am meek and lowly in heart." The dove was given to mourning. Jesus was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." The dove wag innocent. Jesus Christ was purity personified. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" said He. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and in an emphatic sense, the dove was emblematic of Him.

III. IT is so ALSO WITH A CHRISTIAN. There is no true character which is not built up by the influence of the Holy Spirit. The dove is defenceless. It has nothing to protect it except the rocks, and when pursued its only refuge is to fly thither. The Christian has nothing to protect himself against the wiles of the devil and the allurements of the world, except "the Rock of Ages." The dove keeps to its own company. It is delighted when it is with its fellows. So the Christian feels at home when he gets among characters of like nature. The dove mourns in the absence of its mate; and the character which the Holy Spirit gives to us is such as to make us mourn when our Lord Jesus is away, so that we have no rest if we be separated from Him. You cannot have this character except by the personal application of the Holy Spirit to your heart.

(T. Gamble.)

I. First, as the brooding of the Spirit of God upon the face of the deep produced order and life in the beginning, so does He impart new life to the soul, and open the eyes of the understanding, that we may behold the wonders of God's law.

II. Again: In the fact that the Holy Ghost descended upon the Lord Jesus in the form of a dove, we are reminded that quietness is often essential to many of the operations of grace. "A very restless person Will never be very godly, and a very godly one will never be very restless. 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"

III. Another point suggested by the text is, that as the dove is an appropriate emblem of love, so the soul which is influenced by the blessed Spirit will abound in love to God, and love to His people. The steeple of an old village church was to be pulled down, in order to prepare the way for some modern improvements, and a long rope was fastened near the top of it, that it might be kept from crushing the building in its fall. Soon everything was ready, and the master-carpenter shouted aloud to the men to pull. As the old steeple began to tremble, and sway from side to side, a beautiful white dove was observed to fly round and round, not daring to go in at its accustomed place, and yet evidently unwilling to depart. She seemed to be aware that a great calamity was about to happen, while a hundred voices shouted, "See that dove!" "Poor thing!" the head carpenter observed, "she must have young ones up in the steeple." Again the workmen gave a vigorous tug at the rope, and the old steeple reeled and tottered. The distress of the poor dove became so great, that every one felt sorry for her, and not a word was spoken. The bird hovered a moment on her wings, and at the instant that the creaking timbers began to topple over, she darted into the steeple and was hid from view. When the rubbish was cleared away, she was found lying between her two young ones — all three crushed to death I The devoted bird was willing to die with and for them, but she could not save them. There was a spectacle of devoted love — love even unto death!

IV. I remark, in the fourth place, that the descent of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, should remind us that gentleness is a distinguishing mark of Christian character in which most of us have very much to learn. Audubon, the ornithologist, relates this incident in his autobiography: "A man, who was once a pirate, assured me that several times, while at certain wells dug in the burning, shelly sands, the soft and melancholy notes of the doves awoke in his heart feelings which had long slumberbed, melting his heart to repentance. So deeply was he moved by them — the only soothing sounds he had ever heard during his life of horrors — that through them he was induced to escape from his vessel, abandon his turbulent companions, and return to a family deploring his absence, and he now lives in peace in the midst of his friends." "I beseech you by the gentleness of Christ," was St. Paul's exhortation to the Christians of Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:1); and, "Gentleness," he assures the Galatians (v. 22), is one of the prominent fruits of the Spirit. Henry Martyn, whose temper was naturally not the gentlest, wrote in his journal, "I walked into the village where the boat stopped for the night, and found the worshippers of Call by the Sound of their drums and cymbals. I did not speak to them on account of their being Bangalees; but being invited to walk in by the Brahmins, I went within the railings, and asked a few questions about the idol. The Brahmin, who spoke bad Hindostanee, disputed with great heat, and his tongue ran faster than I could follow, and the people shouted applause. I continued to ask my questions, without making any remarks upon the answers... The man grew quite mild, and said it was "good words," and asked me seriously, at last, was idol-worship true or false? I felt it a matter of thankfulness that I could make known the truth of God, though but a stammerer; and this I also learned, that the power of gentleness is irresistible. Once more: the dove has always been the type of purity, and the Holy Spirit is the purifier of the heart. When He gains an entrance into it, sin and uncleanness must depart.

(J. N. Norton, D. D.)

So here the Spirit would appear in the shape of a dove, to note —

1. What kind of Spirit Christ's was.

2. What kind of gifts they were which were collated and bestowed upon Him: and —

3. What was the fruit of those gifts.

(J. Taylor, D. D.)

Note, as Christ was set apart both by the ministry of man, and by the Spirit, by the visible appearance of which God would manifest that He was fitted thereunto; so in all those that are set apart by man to the ministry, must be an apparent descending of the Spirit. though not in visible shape, yet in evident gifts and graces.

(J. Taylor, D. D.)

The Spirit of God is everywhere like to Himself, both in the head and members, as the same juice is in the root and branches, in the tree and fruits. Look what were the fruits of the Spirit in Christ, the same also are in the members (Galatians 5:23).

(J. Taylor, D. D.)

Here, then, for our further comfort, we have to consider how the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity concur together to work the great work of our redemption; for here is the Father designing, ordaining, proclaiming; here is the Son accepting, and the Holy Ghost anointing.

(Bishop Cowper.)

The Spirit that descended on Jesus like a dove was to become, and became, when breathed abroad by Him, a consuming fire (ver. 16). Why, in its descent upon Him, was it the gentle brooding of a dove? May we not answer with a word, that in Him it encountered no sinful force, no mass of evil passion or unworthy disposition, to contend with; but only beautiful germs to develope, only rights, sympathies, and aspirations to encourage, and direct, and intensify? Yes; it found in Him only that which was accordant and congenial; the Holy Child to be expanded into the Holy Man; nothing contrary to it, the withstanding of which would have struck out a flame; nothing to burn against and burn up, in order to His perfecting; no false will of affections to be resisted by and to resist, until it was conquered. The Spirit from above just lighted and spread its wings, and sat brooding upon the Divine simplicity of the whole-hearted Nazarene. True, He had to endure in Himself a fiery baptism, as the result of the descent upon Him from above. But it was through His contact, thus Spirit-charged, with the bad element surrounding Him, that He suffered what He suffered; not through the contact of the Spirit with any bad element in Him. It met with nothing in Him to cause a painful flame; touching which it had to become a purging devouring fire. It abode upon Him like a dove brooding over its nest.

(S. A. Tipple.)

Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.
I. THE PERSON WHOSE VOICE IT WAS IS GOD THE FATHER; for He saith, "Thou art My beloved Son." Every testimony receives validity and authority from the testator, therefore this must needs be sound and good. God had given testimony to Christ by many famous men, even all the prophets, and now lately by John Baptist, who was greater than a prophet, that Christ was greater than he; yea, more, had given testimony of Him by a multitude of heavenly angels (Luke 1:30 and Luke 1:13). But not content with all this, He gives from heaven His own testimony of Him.

1. To strike us with reverence in receiving this testimony, which hath this privilege above other parts of Scripture, that it was uttered by God's own mouth, not by men or angels.

2. To confirm us in the truth of the testimony, proceeding from Him who is prima veritas, truth itself (not only true) in His essence, and much more in His words and works, who cannot be deceived, nor deceive us.

3. To show the necessity of believing this testimony, being the first and only principle in Christian religion, without which foundation laid can be no religion nor salvation, as we see in the Jews and Turks. That we might more firmly believe in the Son of God for life, God's own mouth testifieth so honourably of Him.

4. That such a glorious commendation of this testimony might stir up our best attention and affections in the unfolding of it, we have here the word of a King which was never stained, and that not uttered by any herald or a lord chancellor, but from His own mouth, which carrieth more weight with it. If God speak, woe to him that hears not.

II. THE PLACE WHENCE — FROM HEAVEN. For these reasons:

1. For more authority to the person of Christ, whom God from heaven doth honour. And if God thus honour Him, how ought we to honour Him? (2 Peter 1:17.) He received of God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son"; which was verified not only in the time of His Transfiguration, but here also.

2. Because the testimony contains the sum of the whole gospel, to declare that the doctrine of the gospel, which Christ delivered to the world, was from heaven, because God from heaven so testifieth it to be. Wherein it differs from the doctrine of the Law, which, although God renewed from heaven in the tables of stone, yet was it written in the heart of man by nature. So was not the gospel. But as after the Fall it was immediately delivered by God to Adam in the promise, so here by the same voice from heaven confirmed to be Divine and heavenly.

3. In respect of us, that we should more carefully attend to the testimony itself proceeding from the excellent glory, and that from the mouth of the God of glory sitting in His chair of estate, seeing the word of a King in that place is more regarded. The contempt of the Law given upon Mount Sinai, in the hand of angels, was required at their hands; how shall they then escape that despise Him that speaketh from heaven? (Hebrews 2:2, 3.) The Law being transgressed, the gospel from heaven moderateth and pardoneth a man; but the gospel from heaven being despised, what can plead for him?

4. To show the extent of the gospel, that it is to be preached, and binds to the faith of it all the people under heaven. And herein it was not to be inferior to the Law, which God would have acknowledged His own by uttering it from heaven, and that not before He had sent Moses down, lest it should have been thought to be His, although it was so loud and piercing, as it could not possibly be but Divine, not human.

III. THE MANNER OF THE TESTIMONY — BY AN AUDIBLE AND SENSIBLE VOICE. HOW the Father uttereth this voice it is needless to inquire, seeing we know that He who made the tongue can either speak without a tongue or by secret inspiration and revelation, as to Isaiah (2 Kings 20:4). or frame a tongue and organs of voice at His pleasure, to utter and make known His will and good pleasure to His creatures, or speak by creatures, as angels in human shape, or other creatures — sensible, as Balaam's ass; or insensible, as the bush of fire. It is much more material to inquire into the end and use of it, which was to make the Son of God known unto the world, that the faith of men might be fixed on Him for salvation.

1. Hence, note, in that the Lord from heaven teacheth by voice His wonderful care, that will not suffer us to want any means to help us in the knowledge of the means of salvation. He had taught them and us before, by the sense of sight, seeing the heavens opened, and the Spirit visibly descending; and now He teacheth the ear by a voice, for He knows our dulness, security, slow ness of heart to believe, and applies Himself every way to help us. He setteth out His glory by His works and creatures; He addeth His Word confirmed by many powerful miracles; to his audible Word He hath annexed His visible Word, the sacraments; He hath set up a constant ministry in His Church, and every way fitted it to the edification of His people, as so He may now say, What could I do more for thee, O Israel? Is God thus careful of our profiting every way? Then how damnable and excuseless shall the carelessness of the most be in the matter of their salvation I In which regard it had been good for many a man that God had never made His will known to him, that he never had heard the Word, or received the sacraments, for all but tend to his deeper condemnation, because of his neglect and formal use. When our Saviour said of Judas, "It had been good for him he had never been born," did not He in effect say the same, It bad been good for him he had never been a disciple of Christ, never had heard Christ, or preached Christ, because the more excellent means he had, the greater was his sin and judgment. Again, hereby God cleareth His righteous judgment in the just damnation of the wicked and unbelievers. O Israel, thy destruction is of thyself. Say not, What can I remedy it, if God will not save me? Nay, what can God do more than He hath done? He hath given thee strong and excellent means, and preached the gospel from heaven by His own mouth, and sent it to all nations under heaven in their own language in an audible and intelligible voice. If thou wilt now wilfully refuse the means, thy blood be upon thy own head; that which will die, let it die. Thou art in the sea of thy sins, ready to be drowned, good help is offered, but thou refusest it, and must die in thy sin. Thy case is that of Jerusalem: "How often would I have gathered thee, and thou wouldst not!"

2. Note, that it is God's pleasure that we should be taught the matter of salvation by voice, and attend to that. Here was a visible opening of the heavens, a glorious presence of the Spirit in the shape of a dove resting on Christ; but when the Lord will have Christ published and proclaimed the Messiah, this must be done by voice.Thou heardest a voice, but sawest no image, therefore take heed to thyself, and corrupt not thyself by any image (Deuteronomy 4:12, 14).

1. Herein His mercy hath appointed a familiar and fit instruction, meet for our weakness, not coming to His Church in His own Majesty.

2. Herein He advanced our nature, teaching us great mysteries by such as ourselves, sanctifying the tongues of men, and not angels.

3. Herein He magnifies His power, who by so weak means worketh salvation. Earthen vessels are used, that the power may be seen to be of God (2 Corinthians 4:7). The voice of men by God's power conquers the world.

4. Hereby He tries our obedience, whether we will yield to a weak voice, whereas He might force us by power. Reasons: If God look on us in our. selves, and in the common mass, we are so covered over with sin, as He must needs pronounce of us as once He did of mankind, "It repenteth Me that I have made man." He must needs bring the curse of the Law on our necks. But looking on us through Christ, He changeth His voice, that as when we behold a thing through a red, or green, or coloured glass, everything looks as the colour of the glass. So God beholding us through Christ, we receive the dye and tincture of His blood and obedience, and so are justified and accounted innocent and pure. And thus, as it is said of the Church (Ezekiel 16:14),we recover our former beauty, which is made perfect through His beauty.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

Thirty years of age.
In the humble home at Nazareth Jesus spent thirty years; most marvellous in this, that nothing marvellous is recorded of them. Goodness was so perfect, duty so evenly performed, the lustre of holiness so mild and steady, that brothers and sisters and rude Nazarene neighbours came to take all this as a matter of course, saw in it nothing superhuman; and when at last the disguise was laid aside, and the prophet-king of Israel, the promised Messiah, stood unveiled, they could still only stupidly ask, "Is not this Jesus, the carpenter?" Imagination may strive to withdraw the veil which inspiration has left drawn over these thirty years — the precious episode of the visit to Jerusalem. For some minds the attempt will have an irresistible fascination, to others it will be utterly distasteful; and neither may judge the other. But faith and love should never lose sight of the lessons which speak in the very silence of those years. Ten times as much of life as our Lord Jesus occupied in public ministry He spent in private life, preaching no sermon, initiating no public movement, working no miracle. The Divine ideal of perfect holiness in childhood, youth, and manhood was realized during thirty years in a life of obscure privacy, mechanical toil, and home affection and duty.

(E. R. Conder, D. D.)Thirty years of preparation, and about three years of work I how contrary to our notions of a wise economy of the working powers of a human life! There may possibly be a reference to the age at which, according to the law, the Levites were to enter upon their ministrations; but when we consider the short time during which the actual ministry lasted, we may certainly draw the conclusion that in order to do a great work in a short time long and patient preparation is necessary; and that they who would be useful ministers of the Church of Christ should grudge no time and no amount of labour to fit themselves for the great work committed to them.

(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)The author of the "New Phoedo" considers thirty years of age the epoch for the departure of youth; by which he does not, of course, intend to signify incipient decay, our frames being as young as they were five years before, while the mind has been ripening; by youth he means the growing and progressive season, the departure of it being visible only inasmuch as we have become, as it were, fixed and stationary. The qualities that peculiarly belong to youth, its quick, throbbing fancies, its exuberance of energy and feeling, cease, by his reckoning, to be our distinctions at thirty. Maynard, in the play, speaks of himself as almost thirty — "warning thirty." "Warning thirty?" repeats his companion, half-mockingly, half-inquiringly. The other explains, "'Tis half the journey, Tom. Depend on it, after thirty, 'tis time to count the milestones." At the age of thirty, according to Lord Lytton, the characters of most men pass through a revolution; we have reduced to the sober test of reality the visions of youth; we no longer chase frivolities or hope for chimeras; and we may now come with better success than Rasselas to the Choice of Life. Ever to be noted is the pregnant fact that when our Lord began to be about thirty years of age, then began His work in earnest, His ministry in public. To many that age is the signal for selfish indulgence in regrets. To Him it struck the hour of hard work — work that should cease but in death.

(F. Jacox.)

Almost everything that is great has been done by youth. For life in general there is but one decree. Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret. Do not suppose that I hold that youth is genius; all that is genius, when young, is Divine. Why, the greatest captains of ancient and modern times both conquered Italy at five-and-twenty! Youth, extreme youth, overthrew the Persian empire. Don John of Austria won Lepanto at twenty-five — the greatest battle of modern times. Had it not been for the jealousy of Philip, the next year he would have been Emperor of Mauritania. Gaston de Foix was only twenty-two when he stood a victor on the plain of Ravenna. Every one remembers Conde and Rocroy at the same age. Gustavus Adolphus died at thirty-eight. Look at his captains: that wonderful Duke of Weimar, only thirty-six when he died; Banter himself, after all his miracles, died at forty-five. Cortes was little more than thirty when he gazed upon the golden cupolas of Mexico. When Maurice of Saxony died at thirty-two all Europe acknowledged the loss of the greatest captain and the profoundest statesman of the age. Then there is Nelson, Clive — but these are warriors, and perhaps you may think there are greater things than war. I do not; I worship the Lord of hosts. But take the most illustrious achievements of civil prudence. Innocent III., the greatest of the Popes, was the despot of Christendom at thirty-seven. John de Medici was a cardinal at fifteen, and, Guicciardini tells us, baffled with his statecraft Ferdinand of Arragon himself; he was Pope as Leo X. at thirty-seven. Luther robbed even him of his richest province at thirty-five. Take Ignatius Loyola and John Wesley; they worked with young brains. Ignatius was only thirty when he made his pilgrimage and wrote the "Spiritual Exercises." Pascal wrote a great work at sixteen, the greatest of Frenchmen, and died at thirty-seven. Ah, that fatal thirty-seven! Was it experience that guided the pencil of Raphael when he painted the palaces of Rome? He died at thirty-seven. Richelieu was Secretary of State at thirty-one. Then there were Bolingbroke and Pitt, both Ministers before other men leave cricket. Grotius was in great practice at seventeen, and Attorney-General at twenty-four. And Acquaviva — Acquaviva was general of the Jesuits, ruled every Cabinet in Europe, and colonized America before he was thirty-seven. What a career I It is needless to multiply instances. The history of heroes is the history of youth.

(Lord Beaconsfield.)

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