“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division.”
We come now to offer some remarks upon the second verse of our text, which seems to answer the enquiry instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ as to what he would, or what part he was to take personally in the flaming dispensation, which was to melt down the elements of the old heavens and earth, and ultimately to consume anti-Christ by the Spirit of his mouth, and to destroy the man of sin by the brightness of his coming. It was not a fire which he was to send and witness as a disinterested spectator, but into which he was to be himself baptized, immersed, overwhelmed, or buried quite. As God was in the flame which Moses saw in the bush, as he was in the pillar of fire which led the way of the Hebrews, and as the form of the Son of God was in the midst of the burning furnace with his three Hebrew servants, so was he to enter and prove the temperature of the furnace in which he has chosen his children, and which they are to pass through under the gospel dispensation. “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” The baptism of which he spake was evidently his sufferings of death upon the cross, his bearing in his own body the sins of his people, his putting away their sins by the sacrifice of himself, when here in his own body all the bolts of wrath which were due for all the sins of all his people, from the beginning of time to the end of the world, should fall on him. For this baptism of sufferings he came into the world. God hath laid on him the sins of all his members, made him the Surety, made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. And do we view him stricken of God and afflicted? Then, O remember, it was “for the transgression of his people he was stricken!” “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” The very word baptize or baptized, is the most significant and expressive word in all the languages ever used by mortals to express the sufferings of the Son of God when he poured out his soul for sin, and bore the crushing weight of wrath which no other being in earth or heaven had power to bear. He was not rantized, or sprinkled with sufferings, but was plunged into and overwhelmed with them. Baptized into death. The same idea is prophetically expressed by the Psalmist in Chapter 42, Verse 7, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” The sign of the prophet Jonah is used by divine authority to set forth the baptism of Christ into death; for as Jonah was plunged to the bottom of the sea, overwhelmed and buried three days and three nights, even so (in the baptism of which our Savior speaks in our text) the Son of Man should be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Buried by baptism into death. Of this baptism Jesus spake in answer to the request of the sons of Zebedee. Jesus said unto them, Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? The ordinance of Christian baptism, as well as the Supper, sets forth the Lord’s death and sufferings, and in baptism his resurrection is also clearly represented. Our Lord had been baptized by John in Jordan, giving an example to his followers, and he said, “For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” But now the dreadful hour approached when he must be plunged “deep in the shades of gloomy death,” and from thence arise from the dead, as in baptism, the subject is not only immersed in the watery grave, but raised up again from that grave. But, without enlarging on the figurative import of baptism, as emblematical of the death and resurrection, first of Christ the first fruits, and then afterwards of them that are Christ’s at his coming, we will return to the consideration of the baptism of overwhelming sufferings of which he speaks in our text.
If the fallacious arguments of infant and adult sprinklers in their extravagant efforts to pervert the ordinance of baptism were valid, how convenient it would have been for the Redeemer to have said, There is no special virtue in sufferings; one drop or a few drops are as good as a fountain; a little suffering, by the same rule, would do, without sinking down in deep waters, where there is no standing. But, unlike the deceivers of this evil day, there was no guile in his mouth. He met the stern demands of eternal Justice, drank the dreadful cup, and received the baptism which was appointed. It was for this end he came into the world; and dreadful as was the storm of wrath, the bolts of heaven, the weighty vengeance of Almighty God, he must endure it all. But oh! how was he straitened till it was accomplished! Remember it was in his immaculate body he bore our sins; and in that body he knew all the feelings of our infirmities. He was made a little lower than the angels for the sufferings of death. Was made flesh, was made of a woman, and made under the law. Took on him part of the same flesh and blood that his children are partakers of, and in that flesh was as keenly sensitive to pain and sufferings as we are. He could dread the terrible conflict when he should grapple with the monster death in his most frightful form. How awful was the hour when his holy soul was in an agony in the garden, when he sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling to the ground. Here was a straitened place for his soul. The sword of heaven awoke against the Shepherd; the vengeful stroke must fall upon the Man who is the fellow of the God of hosts. No lenity could be granted in the case; his agonizing soul, exceeding sorrowful even unto death, his bloody sweat, his strong crying and tears, could procure for him no relief! “O! my God, if it be possible, let this cup pass!” But it is not possible. Then, “Father, save me from this hour!” Still no respite. The Father had given him this cup, and he must drink its dregs. From heaven the sympathizing angels descend and throng around him, ministering to him. But the stern decree was irrevokable. Billows must sweep over him. Deep waters must come into his soul. Sprinkling for baptism would not do. God’s honor, as well as the salvation of millions, hinged on this fearful hour. There could be no abatement of the rigid demand of law and justice. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not a jot or tittle of the law could fail till all was completely fulfilled. The fire was kindled on the holy altar; the suffering victim is the Lamb of God, a Lamb truly without blemish, the firstling of his flock must, through the Eternal Spirit, offer himself without spot unto God. Where shall we find language to express the full import of the Savior’s words, “How am I straitened till it be accomplished!” Already the enkindled fire is felt in his writhing, struggling soul; but still more fiercely shall it burn until the offering is consumed upon the burning altar. The cold and chilling waves of death already lave his sacred feet; but deeper and still deeper must He descend into its icy stream! There is no retreat; the way is strait. The stormy billows rear their frightful foaming crest. Deep crieth unto deep. The waterspouts are heard! Deep waters come into his soul, and the raging billows of death go over him! “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” The startled heavens respond! The affrighted sun grows pale and dim, and wraps her luster in a vail of horrid darkness! The trembling earth is rocked with an earthquake, and shudders to her utmost centre! The adamantine rocks are riven asunder! The slumbering dead from the repose of ages spring from their opened graves! The veil of the temple is rent in sunder! The immersion is complete. The baptism is accomplished. Deep in the shades of gloomy death the dear Redeemer has descended, and all the billows have gone over him.
“‘Tis done! the dreadful debt is paid;
The great atonement now is made;
Ye saints, on him your guilt was laid;
For you he bled and died!
“For you his tender soul did move;
For you he left the courts above
That you the heights and depths might prove,
And lengths and breadths of perfect love,
In Christ your baptized Lord.”
But baptism signifies resurrection as well as death and burial; and we conceive that it was no less indispensably necessary that Christ should rise from the dead than it was that he should die and be buried. He was delivered for our transgressions, and, glory to his exalted name, he has by his one offering forever perfected them that are sanctified; in his death he canceled all the demands of law and justice, and secured his people from hell and wrath; but to complete the baptism he must arise for our justification. Even if our sins were all washed away by his blood and canceled by his death, we could not go to heaven, even when the thunder of the law was hushed by his atoning blood, unless we partake of his resurrection life. The same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead must also quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit dwelling in us. If Christ be not risen, all our hopes must perish; and of all men we are the most miserable. All who have part in his death have part also in his resurrection. The church is his body and members in particular. Christ is the life or vitality of that body. It was not possible, therefore, that he should be holden of death, only until the early dawning of the appointed day. Truly, the Lord is risen indeed; and has become the first-fruits of them that slept. His people, which are his body, which were “Buried with him by baptism into death,” are “quickened together with him and raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The risen Jesus is our life; it is hidden with him in God; and when he shall appear, we shall be like him. We are married unto him that is risen from the dead, and being married we are no more twain, but one; and what God has thus joined neither earth nor hell can rend asunder.
“In him his members on the tree,
Fulfill’d the law’s demands,
‘Tis ‘i in them, and they in me,’
For thus the union stands.
Since Jesus slept among the dead,
His saints have naught to fear;
For with their glorious suffering Head,
His members sojourn’d there.
When from the tomb we see him rise
Triumphant o’er his foes,
He bore his members to the skies;
With Jesus they arose.”
The sons of Zebedee were told that they should “drink of the same cup which Jesus drank of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized.” And the apostle Paul makes this appeal to the children of God: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of Christ’s death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).”
(To be continued)
May 1, 1864.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 26 - 31