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§ 83. Later Institution of Baptism as an Initiatory Rite.

As for Baptism, we certainly do not find, either in the nature of the case or in the historical accounts, any ground for assuming that Christ himself, during his stay upon earth, instituted it as a symbol of consecration. As long as he could, in person, admit believers into communion with himself, no substituted symbol was necessary; and, besides, the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the essence of Christian baptism, and specifically distinguishes it from that of John, had not as yet been manifested. The element of preparation was sufficiently indicated by John’s baptism, and therefore Christ (in the prophetic words which have been preserved to us in Acts, i., 5) contrasted that preparatory rite with the spiritual baptism which he himself was soon to impart to his disciples. The Apostles, however (quite naturally, in view of the ground which they occupied), were unwilling that John alone should baptize, and applied the rite, as the Messianic symbol of inauguration which Christ himself had recognized, in order to separate from the rest such as admitted the Divine calling of Jesus, and attached themselves to him.197197   John, iv., 2. We cannot infer from this, however, that there existed at the time a definite rule for the application of baptism. Yet, although Christ did not command, he permitted it, as fitted to form a point of transition from John’s to Christian baptism.

But when he was about to withdraw his personal presence from his disciples, it became necessary to substitute a symbol in its place 127for his sufferings and resurrection, the fundamental facts from which the new creation, through the Holy Spirit, was to spring, had necessarily to take place before the institution of Christian baptism proper; for that baptism implies an appropriation of the fruit of his sufferings, a fellowship in his resurrection, and a participation of that life, in communion with Him, which is above the world and death. The full import of baptism could not be realized until the process which began with Christ’s death and resurrection had reached its consummation; until the exaltation had followed the resurrection, and the glorified Redeemer had displayed his triumphant power in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The same effects which flowed to mankind in general from these facts, and the process which rested upon them, were to be repeated in every individual case of baptism.

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