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He, that was formerly circumcised, would now be baptized. What is baptism, but an evangelical circumcision? What was circumcision, but a legal baptism? One both supplied and succeeded the other ; yet the Author of both will undergo both. He would be circumcised, to sanctify his Church that was; and baptized, to sanctify his Church that should be: that so, in both Testaments, he might open a way into heaven. There was in him nei. ther filthiness nor foreskin of corruption, that should need either knife or water. He came not to be a Saviour for himself, but for us: we are all uncleanness and uncircumcision : he would therefore have that done to his most pure body, which should be of force to clear our impure souls ; thus making himself sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
His baptism gives virtue to ours. 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. And, if the very handkerchief, which touched his apostles, had power of cure, how much more that water, which the sacred body of Christ touched!
Christ comes far, to seek his baptism; to teach us, for whose sake he was baptized, to wait upon the ordinances of God, and to sue for the favour of spiritual blessings. They are worthless commodities, that are not worth seekiug for. It is rarely seen, that God is found of any man unsought for. That desire, which only makes us capable of good things, cannot stand with neglect.
John durst not baptize, unbidden: his Master sent him to do this service; and behold, the Master comes to his servant, to call for the participation of that privilege, which he himself had instituted and enjoined. How willingly should we come to our spiritual superiors, for our part in those mysteries, which God hath left in their keeping ! Yea, how gladly should we come to that Christ, who gives us these blessings, who is given to us in them!
This seemed too great an honour, for the modesty of John to receive. If his mother could say, when her blessed cousin, the Virgin Mary, came to visit her, Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me ? how much more might he so, when the Divine Son of that mother came to call for a favour from him! I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? O holy Baptist, if there were not a greater born of woman than thou, yet thou couldest not be born of a woman, and not need to be baptized of thy Saviour. He baptized with fire; thou, with water, Little would thy water have availed thee, without his fire. If he had not baptized thee, how wert thou sanctified from the womb ? There can be no flesh, without filthiness : neither thy supernatural conception, nor thy austere life, could exempt thee from the need of baptism. Even those, that have not lived to sin after the similitude of Adam, yet are they so tainted with Adam,
that, unless the second Adam cleanse them by his baptism, they are hopeless.
There is no less use of baptism unto all, than there is certainty of the need of baptism. John baptized without ; Christ, within. The more holy a man is, the more sensible he is of his unholiness. No carnal man could have said, I have need to be baptized of thee; neither can he find, what he is the better for a little font water. The sense of our wretchedness, and the valuation of our spiritual helps, is the best trial of our regeneration.
Our Saviour doth not deny, that, either John hath need to be baptized of him, or that it is strange that he should come to be baptized of John ; but he will needs thus far both honour John and disparage himself, to be baptized of his messenger. He, that would take tiesh of the Virgin, education from his parents, sustenance from his creatures, will take baptism from John. It is the praise of his mercy, that he will stoop so low as to be beholden to his creatures : which from him receive their being, and power both to take and give.
Yet, not so much respect to John, as obedience to his father, drew him to this point of humiliation : Thus it behoves us, to fulfil all righteousness. The counsels and appointments of God are righteousness itself. There needs no other motive, either to the servant or the Son, than the knowledge of those righteous purposes. This was enough, to lead a faithful man through all difficulties and inconveniences; neither will it admit of any reply, or any demur. John yieldeth to this honour, which his Saviour puts upon him, in giving baptism to the Author of it. He baptized others to the remission of their sins; now, he baptizes him, by whom they are remitted, both to the baptizer and to others.
No sooner is Christ baptized, than he comes forth of the water. The element is of force, but during the use : it turns common, when that is past. Neither is the water sooner poured on his head, than the Heavens are opened, and the Holy Ghost descendeth
upon that head, which was baptized. The Heavens are never shut, while either of the Sacraments is duly administered and received: neither do the heavens ever thus open, without the descent of the Holy Ghost. But now, that the God of Heaven is baptized, they open unto him, which are opened to all the faithful by him; and that Holy Ghost, which proceeded from him, together with the Father, joins with the Father in a sensible testimony of him; that now the world might see, what interest he had in the Heavens, in the Father, in the Holy Spirit, and might expect nothing but Divine from the entrance of such a Mediator. Matthew ini.
No sooner is Christ come out of the water of baptism, than he enters into the fire of temptation. No sooner is the Holy Spirit de
scended upon his head in the form of a dove, than he is led by the Spirit to be tempted. No sooner doth God say, This is my Son, than Satan says, If thou be the Son of God. It is not in the power either of the gift or seals of grace, to deliver us from the assaults of Satan ; they may have the force to repel evil suggestions; they have none to prevent them: yea, the more we are engaged unto God by our public vows and his pledges of favour, so much more busy and violent is the rage of that Evil One to encounter us. We are no sooner stepped forth into the field of God, than he labours to wrest our weapons out of our hands or to turn them against us.
The voice from heaven acknowledged Christ to be the Son of God. This Divine Testimony did not allay the malice of Satan, but exasperate it. Now, that venomous Serpent swells with inward poison; and hastes to assail him, whom God hath honoured from heaven. O God, how should I look to escape the suggestions of that Wicked One, when the Son of thy Love cannot be free? when even grace itself draws on enmity? That enmity, that spared not to strike at the Head, will he forbear the weakest and remotest limb ? Arm thou me, therefore, with an expectation of that evil I cannot avoid. Make thou me as strong, as he is malicious. Say to my soul also, Thou art my son ; and let Satan do his worst.
All the time of our Saviour's obscurity, I do not find him set upon; now, that he looks forth to the public execution of his divine office, Satan bends his forces against him. Our privacy, perhaps, may sit down in peace; but never man did endeavour a common good, without opposition. It is a sign, that both the work is holy and the agent faithful, when we meet with strong affronts.
We have reason to be comforted with nothing, so much as with resistance. If we were not in a way to do good, we should find no rubs. Satan hath no cause to molesť his own; and that, while they go about his own service. He desires nothing more, than to make us smooth paths to sin; but, when we would turn our feet to holiness, be blocks up the way with temptations.
Who can wonder enough at the sauciness of that bold spirit, that dares to set upon the Son of the ever-living God? Who can wonder enough at thy meekness and patience, O Saviour, that wouldst be tempted ? He wanted not malice and presumption to as. sault thee; thou wantedst not humility to endure those assaults. I should stand amazed at this voluntary dispensation of thine, but that I see the susception of our human nature lays thee open to this condition. It is necessarily incident to manhood, to be liable to temptations. Thou wouldst not have put on flesh, if thou hadst meant utterly to put off this consequence of our infirmity.
If the state of innocence could have been any defence against evil motions, the First Adam had not been tempted ; much less, the Secand. It is not the presenting of temptations, that can hurt us; but their entertainment. Ill counsel is the fault of the giver ; not of the refuser. We cannot forbid lewd eyes to look in at our windows; we may shut our doors against their entrance. It is no less our praise to have resisted, than Satan's blame to suggest evil.
Yea, O blessed Saviour, how glorious was it for thee, how happy for us, that thou wert tempted! Had not Satan tempted thee, how shouldest thou have overcome? Without blows, there can be no victory, no triumph. How had thy power been manifested, if no adversary had tried thee? The First Adam was tempted and vanquished; the Second Adam, to repay and repair that foil, doth vanquish in being tempted. Now have we not a Saviour and High Priest, that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but such an one, as was in all things tempted in like sort, yet without sin. How boldly, therefore, may we go unto the Throne of Grace; that we may receive mercy, and find grace of help in time of need! Yea, this duel was for us. Now, we see by this conflict of our Almighty Champion, what manner of Adversary we have; how he fights, how he is resisted, how overcome. Now, our very temptation affords us comfort, in that we see, the dearer we are unto God, the more obnoxious we are to this trial : neither can we be discouraged by the heinousness of those evils, whereto we are moved; since we see the Son of God solicited to infidelity, covetousness, idolatry. How glorious, therefore, was it for thee, O Saviour, how happy for us, that thou wert tempted.
Where then wast thou tempted, O blessed Jesu? or whither wentest thou, to meet with our great Adversary? I do not see thee led into the market-place, or any other part of the city, or thy home-stead of Nazareth, but into the vast Wilderness, the habitation of beasts? a place, that carrieth in it both horror and opportunity. Why wouldst thou thus retire thyself from men? But, as confident champions are wont to give advantage of ground or weapon to their antagonist, that the glory of their victory may be the greater ; so wouldest thou, O Saviour, in this conflict with our Common Enemy, yield him his own terms for circumstances, that thine honour and his foil may be the more.
Solitariness is no small help to the speed of a temptation: Woe to him, that is alone, for if he fall, there is not a second to lift him up. Those, that out of an affectation of holiness seek for solitude in rocks and caves of the deserts, do no other, than run into the mouth of the danger of temptation, while they think to avoid it. It was enough for Thee, to whose divine power the gates of hell were weakness, thus to challenge the Prince of Darkness. Our care must be always to eschew all occasions of spiritual danger; and (what we may) to get us out of the reach of temptations.
But, Oh the depth of the wisdom of God! How camest thou, O Saviour, to be thus tempted ? That Spirit, whereby thou wast conceived as man, and which was one with thee and the Father as God, led thee into the Wilderness, to be tempted of Satan. While thou taughtest us to pray to thy Father, Lead us not into temptation, thou meantest to instruct us, that if the same Spirit led us not into this perilous way, we go not into it. We have still the same conduct. Let the path be what it will, how can we miscarry, in the hand of a Father? Now may we say to Satan, as thou didst unto Pilate, Thou couldst have no power over me, except it were given thee from above.
The Spirit led thee; it did not drive thee: here was a sweet invitation; no compulsion of violence. So absolutely conformable was thy will to thy Deity, as if both thy natures had but one volition. In this first draught of thy bitter potion, thy soul said in a real subjection, Not my will, but thy will be done. We imitate thee, Õ Saviour, though we cannot reach to thee. All thine are led by thy Spirit : Oh teach us to forget that we have wills of our own.
The Spirit led thee; thine invincible strength did not animate thee into this combat, uncalled. What do we weaklings so far presume upon our abilities or success, as that we dare thrust ourselves upon temptations, unbidden, unwarranted? Who can pity the shipwreck of those mariners, which will needs put forth and hoise sails in a tempest?
Forty days, did our Saviour spend in the Wilderness, fasting and solitary; all which time was worn out in temptation : however, the last brunt, because it was most violent, is only expressed. Now, could not the adversary complain of disadvantage, while he had the full scope, both of time and place, to do his worst.
And why did it please thee, O Saviour, to fast forty days and forty nights, unless, as Moses fasted forty days at the Delivery of the Law, and Elias at the Restitution of the Law, so thou thoughtest fit, at the Accomplishment of the Law and the Promulgation of the Gospel, to fulfil the time of both these types of thine : wherein thou intendedst our wonder, not our imitation ; not our imitation of the time, though of the act. Here were no faulty desires of the flesh in thee to be tamed; no possibility of a freer and more easy ascent of the soul to God, that could be affected of thee, who wast perfectly united unto God; but, as for us thou wouldst suffer death, so for us thou wouldst suffer hunger, that we might learn by fasting to prepare ourselves for temptations. In fasting so long, thou intendedst the manifestation of thy power ; in fasting no longer, the truth of thy manhood. Moses and Elias, through the miraculous sustentation of God, fasted so long, without any question made of the truth of their bodies : so long therefore thou thoughtest good to fast, as, by the reason of these precedents, might be without prejudice of thy humanity ; which, if it should have pleased thee to support, as thou couldst, without means, thy very power might have opened the mouth of cavils, against the verity of thy human nature. That thou mightest therefore well approve, that there was no difference betwixt thee and us but sin, thou, that couldst have fasted without hunger, and lived without meat, wouldst both feed, and fast, and hunger.
Who can be discouraged with the scantness of friends or bodily provisions, when he sees his Saviour thus long destitute of all earthly comforts, both of society and sustenance?
Oh the policy and malice of that Old Serpent ! when he sees Christ bewray some infirmity of nature in being hungry, then he