Изображения страниц

tences and suggestions! If difficulties were much more considerable than they are, yet they deserve not to be named, being so exceedingly overbalanced by those divine powers and aids, with which God will supply us, if we seriously engage in this work. Christ Jesus hath not only purchased a kingdom for us, and instructed us in the way to it; he hath not only given us a most excellent, glorious example, and bid us follow him; but he hath sent the Holy Ghost, as his vicegerent on earth, to conduct us to the blessed place where he is. We have the grace of God always ready, if we seriously pray for it, to strengthen our weakness, to assist our endeavours, to enlighten our minds, to fortify our wills, to excite our affections, to support us under all temptations; provided we are sincere and honest in the prosecution of that glorious warfare, whereunto we are called. What can we desire more than this? God hath promised, that he will never leave nor forsake us; that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus; neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, not height, nor depth, nor any other creature.'

Let, then, these considerations fire us into brave and worthy thoughts; let us make no more vain excuses, no longer pretend we know not what difficulties; but let us cheerfully and resolvedly apply ourselves to the working of our salvation; knowing, that as it is God that worketh in us the will, so the same God will also work in us the power of doing it.' For Almighty God is with us: he that made us, still takes care of us; and is ever ready to assist all his faithful servants in their greatest extremities. Christ Jesus, our High-priest, sits at the right hand of God, and continually makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit never fails to afford his presence in the souls of well-disposed persons, to carry them through all dangers, difficulties, and temptations. In a word, we need not fear of succeeding, if we do but endeavour to do our duty to God and





St. LUKE ii. 21.And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus.

[Text taken from the Gospel for the Day.]

THERE is no part of our Saviour's life uninteresting, or that will not yield instruction. The Church, at this season, presents us with the account of his circumcision; in which he began to fulfil all righteousness;' to bear our sins in his own body;' and to shed his blood for us.' [Matt. iii. 15.] With the history of this rite your Bibles have, doubtless, made you acquainted. My object, therefore, in the following discourse will be to make some reflections upon our Saviour's compliance with it, that may, with the Divine blessing, be instructive and useful.

In the first place, why was he, who was born free from sin, and had come to introduce a spiritual system, made subject to the rite of circumcision? The law required a perfect obedi

By it, therefore, no flesh living could be justified. To walk without transgression was not in the power of fallen man. If the law had had its course, destruction must have come upon every subject of it; for it could never have made the comers thereunto perfect.' [Heb. x. 1.] The object of the incarnation of the Son of God, was the salvation of the human race. To accomplish this, one office was to bring them under a new, and more gracious covenant, in which a spotless perfection should not be required of feeble man; but faith, with its fruits, repentance and love, be made the condition of his acceptance with God. In order to this it behoved the Saviour, who appeared for the world, to become our righteousness in honouring the law, and, by his perfect obedience to all its precepts, to abolish its force and condemning power over every transgressor. Circumcision was a rite instituted by God, when he renewed his covenant with Abraham, the venerable father of the faithful; and may not improperly be styled the legal

baptism. As a part of that law, which he would abolish by fulfilling it, it became him to submit to this rite. Not for himself; the significancy of the ceremony in him was lost. He needed not to be purified, or made a new creature. Spotless perfection belonged to him, without this compliance with a hallowed ceremony. But for us he was circumcised; for us he was baptized; for us he exhibited entire legal obedience, that he might bring us under the tender, merciful, encouraging covenant of the Gospel, by fulfilling for us all righteousness.' For the Jew he satisfied the law, that he might deliver the believers of that nation from the curse, which rested upon them in consequence of their inability to keep the whole law, to which they were debtors; and for us he satisfied the Divine requisitions, by a spotless obedience in our nature to all the commandments of God; that as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,-so by the obedience of one, many might be made righteous.' [Rom. v. 19.]

The circumcision of our blessed Lord was necessary to ob tain for him a hearing among his own people. The Jews looked upon every uncircumcised person as unclean. Our Saviour could have had no access to them, without submitting to this ceremony of their religion. To manifest himself of the seed of Abraham; to satisfy, in this respect, the requisitions of his nation; to substantiate his pretensions to be their Messiah, and deprive them of what would have been an unanswerable plea for rejecting him, he graciously condescended to endure this painful rite. He needed not the sign of the 'righteousness which is of faith,' [Rom. ix. 30.] who had the perfect righteousness of the law;' [Rom. ii. 26.] He needed not the seal of the covenant of mercy, which God made with the faithful, being not an object of mercy, and himself very God. But as that Seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed,' [Gen. xxvi. 4.] he would take that mark, by which Abraham's seed were known; and by thus complying with the Jewish ordinances, remove what might have been an insuperable obstacle to the success of his ministrations among them. How amiable does our Lord appear, in thus accommodating himself to the usages of his countrymen, for the better accomplishment of their salvation! What an example has he set us of the excellency of submitting to privations and pains, in advancing the happiness of our fel


On the Circumcision.

[Luke ii. 21.

low-beings! Did Jesus bear the marks of an humbling rite in his own most precious body, that his own, when he came to them, might not be offended in him? And shall not we yield to all innocent compliances with the habits and feelings of others, which may facilitate our usefulness to them; and bear with contentment the labours and crosses, the self-denials, expenses, and cares, which may be necessary in promoting their salvation, or their happiness? Who shall refuse to descend to the walks of the poor, that he may benefit the poor, when the Son of God became a Jew, that he might save the Jews? Who shall refuse to resign the pleasures of a day, the charms of an opinion, the value of a temporal right, for the advance ment of his fellow-beings in knowledge, faith, and goodness, when for the satisfaction of his countrymen, in ministering to their salvation, Jesus Christ was circumcised?

Again. The institution of this ceremony, and the compli ance of our Saviour with it, suggest to us the propriety and efficacy of visible rites and sacraments. Here was a seal of a covenant established by God. It was to be a token for distinguishing the faithful; a sign of cleansing from pollution, and an assurance of blessing from Jehovah. Without some visible rite it i shardly conceivable, how this or any Church could be preserved distinct. Some sacrament is necessary; and, if necessary, obligatory upon every one who would support the Church, for which it is hallowed, and enjoy all its privileges. Accordingly, all systems of religion have had their rites, their mysteries, and their symbols. While the Law stood, our Saviour honoured its ceremonies that were of sacred institution, and when he abolished circumcision with the power of the law, by the introduction of the glorious Gospel church, ordained Baptism in its stead, to be the sign of discipleship, and the assurance of adoption by the Father. What circumcision was to the Jews, baptism is to Christians. Both were of Divine appointment. Both were significative of incorporation into the Church of God. Both required faith, represented purification from the defilements of sin, and implied consequent selfdenial, holiness, and obedience. Circumcision was obligatory upon every Jew, who could receive it; and baptism is obliga tory upon every Christian, by whom it can be obtained. Special promises were annexed to circumcision, and special graces to baptism; and as the former was not rendered less sacred by

neglect or abuse, so the latter cannot be lessened in its holiness and importance, because some who have been baptized, have been bad men, and others have been good without it. Of circumcision baptism takes place; and if the wilful neglect or abuse of that was attended with fatal consequences, much more of this.

Which leads me to observe, once more, that in the circumcision of our Saviour, we are strikingly taught the propriety of submitting to all the precepts and institutions of the revelation under which we live. He was made under the law; consequently the law had authority over him. With singular truth he might have asked, Can I be benefitted by this rite, and by these simple ceremonies? With peculiar force he might have enquired, What connection can there be between these outward forms and my spirit; what efficacy can they have upon my heart? With more propriety than any mortal he might have said, I can be safe and perfect without all these. But he did not stop to scruple their utility. He did not find fault with their nature. They were ordained by the Being, who established the law under which he lived. This was sufficient for him. He wished not to contest Divine authority, nor judge the wisdom of its arrangements. He was circumcised, because it was enjoined by Jehovah upon the children of his people. Through life he exhibited the same humble obedience. He kept the passover, he observed the Sabbath. He went up to the feasts; he neglected no precept of the revelation which he knew came from God, and was authoritative till superseded by his new and better dispensation. In this conduct of his life our Saviour has set an example, excellent in itself, and fit for his disciples to revere. It points to us the necessity of obeying every precept, and observing every rite to which his gospel gives the seal of Divine authority. When we behold him receiving circumcision, asking baptism of John, because it became men to fulfil all righteousness,' going up to Jerusalem to the Feast, eating the Paschal lamb, how wrong, how lamentable is the neglect of baptism, and the sacramental supper, by his followers! Is it that, because these rites are simple, they are disregarded? This is to imitate the rashness of Naaman, who, scorning to wash in Jordan, would have retained his leprosy, and in a rage have left the prophet, who had recommended the easy remedy. Is it, because persons

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »