Whilst there is life, however ill the patient may be, there is hope; and the anxious friends will naturally get the best medical aid they can; but when the person is dead, then the burial must take place, a town full of doctors can do no good then. This is the light in which Scripture now views man's spiritual condition. Dead in trespasses and sins.
An Ethiopian, of great worldly authority, was driving through the desert; he had been to worship in the city of God. If anything could have been done, in any city, to improve his spiritual condition, that was the place. It was full of moral doctors, but he was returning as he went. As yet he knew not his dead condition. Reading the Word of God, where the prophet Isaiah describes the adorable Substitute, he read these words, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not his mouth. In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away; and who shall declare his generation; for his life is taken from the earth." At this moment the Spirit of God sent his servant Philip, to give joy to his anxious and troubled soul.
Philip opened his mouth, and from Isaiah 53, preached unto him, Jesus. Now, men of God in those days, were wont to show plainly, that if Christ died for all, then all were dead. The Ethiopian might well be no better for going to Jerusalem, how could he? What could the doctors do for a dead man? or what even could the law do for a dead man? Just as much as physic, or doctors, can do for a corpse. The death of Christ had shown that man's case was beyond the reach of anything, but boundless grace. And what had God done in boundless grace for dead, lost man? He had given his Son to die for him, — to take his place in death, — that He might be the first-born from the dead. That He might rise from the dead, and be the beginning of a new creation; in which death, and sin, should be no more.
Yes, men of God in those days did not preach the death of Christ for the improvement of man, but as the death of man before God; and the resurrection of Christ as the life, and the only life of every believer in Christ. Now it always followed in those days; the moment a person believed, he was dead, and that Christ had died for him; he had his burial there and then. Indeed, the Lord Jesus expressly taught his disciples to bury every body that believed. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 believed, and immediately there were 3,000 buried that very day.
It was just so with this Ethiopian: the moment he believed, he pulled up at once, and said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be buried, or baptized?" How simple this is. He bad learnt he was a dead sinner, and what should hinder his burial? The way it was done was this, "They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him." That is, he buried him in water, as a dead sinner, a figure of the death and burial of Christ the adorable Substitute. And then he was raised out of the water, and went on his way rejoicing. He did not surely go down into the water to wash the black man white; no, it was to bury him. The water of baptism surely is not the infusion of some virtue or grace into the dead sinner. And don't for a moment suppose it can wash him from his sins and blackness; no, it is simply the figure or expression of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; and shows most strikingly how God looks upon every believer as dead, buried, and risen with Christ. This is fully shown in Rom. 6, "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 we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection," &c.
Is it not a great blessing, that this all-important foundation-truth, of death and resurrection, should be set forth so plainly by baptism? No wonder that Satan should use every effort to pervert the use of this striking figure. Just mark what peace it gives to the soul when once understood. Suppose a person struggling with anxious perplexity, deceived with the notion that to be a Christian, means to have the old nature made better; oh, what years of wearisome disappointment! What doubts and darkness, ending in self-righteousness, infidelity, or despair. What a deliverance for such a one to see the truth as it is in Christ; and to submit gladly at once to the burial of the old man. That is, to the fact that he has been fully judged, condemned, and put to death in the person of Jesus on the cross. Oh, wonder of all wonders, "dead with Christ;" "buried with Him;" "risen with Him."
Oh, my reader, do you believe this in your heart? Is Jesus thus revealed to your soul, as thus bearing your sin and curse on the tree?
Who then shall now condemn you? you believe that your sins have once been laid to the charge of Christ, and borne to the uttermost in the bitterness of death. Nay, more, that precious body, which could only die for others sins, has been laid in the grave, buried.
Yea, God has raised Him from the dead, and received Him to glory. The glory of God shining in the face of this exalted Jesus, shows plainly that your condemnation, once laid on Him is gone, gone for ever. Precious Jesus; divine, holy Substitute; the wrath of God will never more be laid on Thee; Thou canst not be condemned again. And yet thou wouldst have to be, before the least of thy chosen, believing ones could be. Thou art their Surety. What a place hast Thou taken; oh, my precious once bleeding Substitute, now living Surety, all glory and praise be unto Thee! Believing this, we gladly give our whole old selves, to be buried in water — the likeness of his death. What a deliverance, no more vain struggling to wash the black man. I now look at my old self, as a black dead mass of moral putrefaction, utterly incapable of improvement or amendment, only fit to he buried. And thus ends the standing of man in the flesh before God. Yes, as one may say, here ends old self as a child of Adam. The first man sinned, and by sin came death, and death is passed upon all men, for all have sinned. The Lord from heaven descends — takes a human form, and receives the sentence of death, — and bears the curse due to sins in his own body on the tree. This, as to man's standing before God, is the end and crucifixion of the whole world before God. The believer is passed from this old world of sin, darkness, and death, to the new creation of righteousness, light, and everlasting life. The death of Christ is the end of the old, and his resurrection the beginning of the new world, of which we speak.
Thus, in the burial of baptism, the believer is buried, expressive of the death and burial of Christ, the judgment and end of his old self, and he is raised out of the water, a figure of his blessed resurrection, in Jesus, the beginning of the new creation. Oh, my reader, has all things thus passed away with, you? Have all things, and all things of God, thus become new with you? You need not be left in any — no, not the least uncertainty as to this. The precious words of Jesus left on record are these, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life," (John 5:24.) As certain as these are the words of Jesus; then if you do hear them, if you do believe on God that sent Him, then is it not quite as certain that even you have everlasting life, — shall not come into condemnation, but are passed from death unto life? God be with you now, and give you power to walk as one alive from the dead.