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the history of our father Abraham; and St. Paul, discoursing at large upon the point", informeth us, that it was given as a “sign or seal of the righteous
ness, which is by faith.” Now the object of Abraham's faith was redemption by the promised Seed, that is to say, by Messiah, who should spring from his loins; and in whom, by reason of that redemption, "all the nations of the earth were to be blessed” with the blessings of eternity. And the righteousness, which is by such faith, consisteth in the justification of believers by the cutting off and doing away the body of sin through the sacrifice of Christ by which they are pardoned and made holy, being separated froni sin, and sin from them, in order to a final separation from every thing that offendeth, at the resurrection of the just. This is “the righteousness of
faith,” with which Abraham having been before irrvested, he received circumcision, not as any thing which could make him righteous, but as a sign and seal of that evangelical righteousness
" which he " had being yet uncircumcised ; to the end that he
might be the father of all them who believe, though “ they be not circumcised;" and that we Gentiles, as well as the Jews, might become the children, and inherit the blessing, of Abraham. But from the institution of this rite to the manifestation of the promised Seed, it became to the natural descendants of the patriarch Abraham, what baptism hath been ever since to the spiritual progeny of him who is, in a much higher sense, the Father of us all; it became the sacrament of initiation into the true church and faith. Now, in a sacrament, the outward and visible sign is intended to introduce us to the inward and spiritual grace figured by it as a sign, conveyed by it as a means, and ensured by it as a pledge. And what the inward and spiritual grace signified by circumcision was, not only St. Paul, but Moses himself will tell us, who in the book of Deuteronomy expresseth himself in these terms; “ Circumcise “the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff"necked.” And again; “The Lord thy God will “ circumcise thine heart and the heart of thy seed, " to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and ." with all thy soul, that thou mayest lived.” From these passages laid together, the following truths seem to be fairly deducible ; namely, First, That circumcision was an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace to be wrought in the heart: Secondly, That this inward and spiritual grace was the cuttiog off and casting away of sin: Thirdly, That for this work they were not sufficient as of themselves, but their sufficiency was of the Lord their God, who would work in them, and with them, through faith, by the Holy Spirit : Fourthly, That the effect and consequence of this spiritual circumcision would be the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, with its genuine fruit of unfeigned obedience to his commandments : And, lastly, That this would prepare the way to eternal life: “that thou mayest “ Live," saith Moses; “ that thou mayest live," not only on earth, under grace, but hereafter in glory: since " purification of the heart" is in order to a better life in that celestial Canaan, the ultimate end of all the promises, that good land which the Lord our God shall give to every Israelite indeed, and in which he himself, after having been the "shield" of Abraham and his seed, shall be their
b Rom. iv.
exceeding great reward®.” And so it is written, “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see “ God.” Thus do these two texts from the writings of Moses involve in them the substance of the Gospel; they begin with the cleansing of the heart from sin, thence proceeding on to the love of God, till they terminate in the beatific vision of him in an endless life. And could the Jews have read their law, without that veil which infidelity had drawn over the eyes of their understanding; could they have beheld, with open face, the glory of the Lord, enshrined in the Mosaic mysteries ; could they have discerned the “apple of gold” through the “network of sil“ ver>;" instead of mistaking the casket for the jewel which it contained and preserved, they had then saved an apostle the trouble of informing them, that “he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly, nor “ is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; “ but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and cir“ cumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and “ not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but 66 of God"."
e Gen. xv. 1.
fMatth. v. 8. h Rom. ii. 28.
We will venture then to suppose, that the insti. tution of the rite now before us, with the reason and end thereof, is sufficiently cleared, and circumcision proved to be a sacramental sign of the cutting off and casting away of sin from the heart. But what mean ye then, as saith St. Bernard, by circumcising the child Jesus, who did no sin, and knew none; who was conceived in the womb of a virgin, by the Spirit of eternal purity? why must he undergo this painful ceremony? To this we answer, besides the example of humility and obedience herein afforded us by our Lord; as also the proof from hence resulting of the reality of bis human nature; besides these collateral considerations, I say, the reason why Christ was, as on this day, circumcised, is the same reason why he was born, why he lived, and why he died. What he did, and what he suffered, he did and suffered not for himself, but for us.
The whole of this momentous and salutary truth is expressed by the apostle in those few words : “ He was made sin for us, who “ knew no sin, that we might become the righteous“ness of God in him!.” He bore our griefs, that we might enter into his joy': he put on the bloody garment of sin and death, that we might be invested with the white and spotless robes of righteousness and life. He became not only one with us, as the head is with the members; but one for us, or in our stead, as a surety is for a debtor. And therefore, though, as the all-perfect Son of God, he could need neither circuincision nor baptism, yet, as the suffering representative of fallen human nature, he submitted to both with the same view, namely, " to fulfil all “ righteousness.” This was the argument he used to John in the case of his baptism, and it holdeth equally in that of his circumcision. For having once undertaken to appear as our surety and substitute, it became incumbent on him “ to fulfil all righteous
12 Cor. v. 21.
ness,” to perform what we should have performed, and to suffer for what we did not perform. As the children, therefore, were compounded of flesh and blood, he partook of the same; he was "made of
a woman:” as they were circumcised, he was circumcised also; he was “made under the lawk.” And, indeed, it had profited us nothing that he was made of a woman, had he not likewise been “ made “ under the law; for then the law could never have apprehended him; the law, with its penalties, having no concern with a person who, like him, was not an offender against it. For “the law was not made “ for the righteous, but for the lawless and disobedi“ ent?.” We are the transgressors, the debtors, whose bond was forfeited, and “the hand-writing of con“ demnation” standing in full force against us. But Christ, by submitting to the act of circumcision, voluntarily put himself under the law, and took the whole burden of it, as he did the cross, upon his own shoulders: since it is an axiom in theology, that “ if any man be circumcised, he is a debtor to “ do the whole law m” Christ therefore, by being circumcised, became that debtor, and entered into
k Gal. iv. 4.
11 Tim. i. 9.
m Gal. v. 3.