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every one, who remained uncircumcised, residing in the house or land of the Jews, and consequently appearing to belong to them, that soul was to be cut off from his people, as one guilty of schism to them, and of breach or rejection of the great covenant before God. The spiritual intention of this is equally obvious and im portant.
This sacramental sign was also a seal, or testimony, both of God's right in his people, and of their inheritance in him. It was a seal of the righteousness of faith to Abraham and the spiritual circumcision is also the seal of the Spirit in those, who are truly Abraham's seeda seal, which cannot be lost, but abideth to the day of redemption. By this, God knows or owns them to be his; and by this they know themselves, and may be known by others, to belong to God.
But persons might be and were circumcised in the flesh, who knew no more of the great instruction signified thereby, than the idolatrous nations who copied the ceremony from the antient believers, or the present Mahometans who use it. Hence we read of people, who indeed were circumcised in the flesh, but remained uncircumcised in heart, in lips, and in ears. To such, their circumcision became uncircumcision in the sight of God, a mere outward ceremony, a vain mark of distinction, without effect. Being merely natural men, notwithstanding all outward privileges, they could not receive, or hear, or understand, the things of the Spirit of God, but esteemed them for nothing, or foolishness. To whom (says Jeremiah) shall I speak and give warning? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach:
they have no delight in it.* Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circum cised for (their) "uncircumcision [y] Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon and Moab [names given in reproach to the carnal Israelites] and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness [the carnal professors among the Gentiles] for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.† :
Others rested in the rite, and in the external circumstances annexed to it. These they mistook for righte ousness, and upon these grounded their hope of acceptance with God. And we know, by the example of some gracious souls in the early days of the Christian dispensation, how hard a thing it is to flesh and blood to be divested of the prepossessions of education, and to look, with a single eye, to the intention only of those outward forms, which from our infancy have been inculcated upon us. What a marvellous circumstance did the call, ing of the Gentiles seem to Peter and his Jewish friends, in the history of Cornelius? A vision was imparted to take off the edge of the apostle's prejudices; and the miraculous effusion of the Holy Ghost, with much amazement, could only have removed those of his fellow, disciples. And yet this very thing was the frequent subject of all the prophecies, and was constantly sung by the Jews in the cxviith psalm, which made a part of their daily worship in the temple.-But to him, that
Jer. vi. 10, compared with 1 Cor. ii. 14. and Acts vii. 51.
Ais circumcised in the flesh, for the purpose of glorying in the flesh, or in its powers and righteousness, we have authority to say, though the institution was expressly from God, it shall be only a beggarly element, which can profit him nothing. The reason is given; whosoever is circumcised for this purpose, that is, of pleasing God by a righteousness and strength of his own, effectu ally sets aside Christ, and makes himself a debtor to do the whole law. If he can perfectly perform it; well: he shall be justified by that perfect performance, and shall have its reward. But if he offend in one point; (and who hath not offended in ten thousand?) he is guilty of all: he is a transgressor, who can never possibly justify himself in future, if ever he could cease from sin, by a law which he hath broken already. The conclusion is; that fallen man must either be justified by Christ, and so live by him, as the apostle declares he himself lived ;* or else not be justified at all, and therefore perish everlastingly.
The circumcision of the flesh was soon performed; but that of the soul is not only sharp, but progressive and long. The Holy Spirit is the great agent; and he employs a variety of instruments. The first and chief one is the word of God; and the law particularly is the keen sharpness of that word, which (as we have noticed) is compared to a two edged sword, all edge and point. But there are secondary and subordinate means, which are frequently and almost daily employed for the separation of the Christian soul, from the world, the flesh, and
Gal. ii. 20.
the devil. Afflictions, sanctified afflictions, are among other circumstances, used for this great design. They cut off the heart from inferior things, and disentangle it from a variety of lower engagements to a quicker and more entire devotedness to God. We are naturally so light in our minds, that we need frequent weights of trouble to keep us down. Losses, crosses, disappointments, perplexities, sickness, and the keen appre hensions of approaching death, are all of them made to be parts of the circumcising knife, which, in the power of the Divine Spirit, severs the Christian from his own self, and renders him more abstracted from every thing but God. To the men of the world, they have no such consequences, but inflict only despair, remorse, or dismay. Thus good and evil come from the hand of the Lord: evil for nothing but evil, to the children of dis obedience; but evil for good, and therefore all things for good, to them that love him.
This cutting name (if it may be so called) of true believers should induce great searchings of heart in all professors. "Do I pretend to belong to Christ; and am I circumcised and cut off from the old man, the life of my evil nature, by his word and Spirit? Have I renounced indeed the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh? Do I look upon my own strength, concerning salvation, as inherent weakness, my own wisdom as erring folly, and have I been led to abhor all the pres tended righteousness of myself and other men as filthy rags? Do I lean npon Christ to save me by his mercy through faith? Am I therefore praying for faith, and the increase
increase of faith, by him? Is his word my only rule? and do I seek his Spirit as my great helper and guide? Am I, in the grace of that Spirit, and in entire dependence upon him, seeking for holiness and truth, walking in submission and resignation to his will, and striving above all things to set forth his glory? Is the honor of the Lord and his cause dear to my heart? And can I bear any sort of reproaches, rather than that his blessed gospel should be reproached through me? Do I live in the hope of this heavenly calling? Does the warm expectation of its issue and end ever gladden my soul? Am I delighted in communion with God by prayer and praise, and in the faithful fellowship of his people? Is it my most fervent desire, that the kingdom should be the Lord's with full sovereignty over myself and all the creatures; that the power should be his, and manifested and owned to be his, in the spiritual as well as natural world; and that the glory should be all his own, without mixture of abatement, for ever and ever?"-Christian; are these the true and sincere desires of thy soul, above, without, against, all human approbation and gain? And canst thou appeal to the Searcher of hearts, that this is the prevailing bent of thy spirit ?If so; this work must be acknowledged to be the finger of God, the sealing of his spiritual circumcision, the mark set upon thee as his own portion for life eternal. Rejoice in the Lord, my Christian friend: and let all that know and love thy faith and hope rejoice likewise in thy behalf. Thou hast the good portion; and it shall be well with thee for ever!