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it is not reasonable to suppose, that the multitudes which John the Baptist baptized, made a profession of saving grace, or had any such visibility of true piety, as has been insisted on.

Answ. Those whom John baptized, came to him confessing their sins, making a profession of some kind of repentance; and it is not reasonable to suppose, the repentance they professed was specifically or in kind diverse from that which he had instructed them in, and called them to, which is called repentance for the remission of sins; and that is saving repentance. John’s baptism is called the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins: I know not how such a phrase can be reasonably understood any otherwise, than so as to imply, that his baptism was some exhibition of that repentance, and a seal of the profession of it. Baptism is a seal of some sort of religious profession, in adult persons: but the very name of John’s baptism shows, that it was a seal of a profession of repentance for the remission of sins. It is said, Luke iii. 3. “john preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” What can be understood by this, but his preaching that men should now speedily turn to God, by true repentance and faith in the promised Saviour, and come and confess their sins, and openly declare this repentance towards God, and faith in the Lamb of God, and that they should confirm and seal this their profession by baptism, as well as therein receive the seal of God’s willingness to remit the sins of such as had this faith and repentance. Accordingly, we are told, the people came and were baptized of him, confessing their sins, manifesting and professing that sort of repentance and faith which he preached. They had no notion of any other sort of repentance put into their heads, that they could suppose John called them to profess in baptism, but this accompanied with faith in the Lamb whom he called them to behold; for he preached no other to them. The people that John baptized, professed both repentance for the remission of sins, and also faith in the Messiah; as is evident by Acts xix. 4, 5. “John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him that should come after him;” i. e. on Christ Jesus. “When they heard this [John’s preaching] they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

If it be objected here, that we are told, Matt. iii. 5, 6. “There went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins;” 467 and that it is not to be imagined, all these made any credible profession of saving repentance and faith: I answer; No more is to be understood by these expressions, according to the phraseology of the Scripture, than that there was a very great resort of people from these places to John. Nor is any more to be understood by the like term of universality in John iii. 26.. “They came to John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him;” that is, there was a great resort to him from all quarters. It is in nowise unreasonable to suppose, there was indeed a very great number of people that came to John from the places mentioned, who being exceedingly moved by his preaching, in that time of extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit, made profession of the faith and repentance which John preached. Doubtless there were many more professors than real converts: but still in the great resort to John, there were many of the latter character; as we may infer from the prophecy: as appears by Luke i. 16, 17. “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And from that account of fact in Mark xi. 12. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” And in Luke xvi. 16. “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Here the expression is no less universal, than that which is objected in Matt. iii. 5, 6.. As to those wicked Pharisees, that so much opposed Christ, some of them I suppose had been baptized by John, and then had a great show of repentance and faith; but they afterwards apostatized, and were much worse than ever before: therefore Christ speaks of them as being like a house from which the unclean spirit is visibly turned out for a while, and is left empty, swept, and garnished, but afterward is repossessed, and has many devils instead of one, Luke xi. 24, &c. Yet as to the greater part of these Pharisees, they were not baptized by John; as appears by Luke vii. 29, 30..

If it be further objected, that John in baptizing such multitudes could not have time to be sufficiently informed of those he baptized, whether their profession of godliness was credible, or no: I answer; That we are not particularly informed of the circumstances of his teaching, and of the assistance he was favoured with, and the means he had of information, concerning those whom he baptized: but we may be sure of one thing, viz. He had as much opportunity to inquire into the credibility of their profession, as he had to inquire into their doctrinal knowledge and moral character; which my opponents suppose to be necessary, as well as I: and this is enough to silence the present objection.

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