« AnteriorContinuar »
tender regard towards us will incline him to direct us to them; and order all events, if we will trust ourselves and our interest to his conduct and management, so as shall be most conducive to our good.
Whenever, therefore, we begin to fret and repine, and murmur against Providence, and are dissatisfied with what God hath allotted for us, either to do or to suffer, and our heads begin to run upon new projects and designs and ways of life, contrary to what he hath made known to us as his will, and inconsistent with the duties of that station he hath placed us in; then is the time for us to tame our ungovernable, headstrong wills, by frequent acts of resignation and self-denial, and often repeated reflections upon our own folly and ignorance, impatience, and inconsiderate heat; how apt we are to be deceived by false appearances, how little a way we can see into the consequences of things, how seldom our wisest contrivances, as we have thought them, have answered our expectations, and the like; whereas, he that complies with the choices God makes for him, and chooses to be and do as he would have him, can never choose or do amiss, nor be otherwise, in the conclusion, than perfectly pleased and satisfied and happy.
This will put a stop to our over-hasty and illweighed enterprises, qualify our fretfulness and discontent, and cool us into wiser thoughts; and by degrees make us sensible that it will be our best way humbly to acquiesce in what the great Governor of the world sees most expedient for us, saying, as our blessed Master did, when nature was very much averse to the bitter cup which God was then putting into his hand to drink, Nevertheless, not my will,
but thine be done! And in thus subduing our own reluctances, whenever we find a struggle in our breasts against any of the disposals of Providence, or the expresses of his good pleasure concerning us, consists the circumcision of our wills.
And as for our passions and affections, the circumcision of them is effected when the exorbitancy of them is cured and rectified, and they are kept within due bounds, both as to the object of them and the degree; and more especially when the brutal cravings of the flesh are curbed and mastered, (which was more particularly signified by the cutting off the foreskin,) and the soul is kept in a sedate, even temper, and a kind of indifferency, not only to those, but all other pleasures and gratifications of this world; and in readiness and preparation to bear the evils of it likewise with a becoming firmness and steadiness of mind. And the happy consequence of this is so very evident of itself, that it is needless to say any more of it.
II. How this evangelical or spiritual circumcision of the heart answers to that of the Jews, which was literal, and performed upon the foreskin, and to which we Christians are as much obliged as they were to theirs, is what I am in the next place to proceed to shew. And we may observe, that the reason of God's instituting the Jewish circumcision was twofold: 1. that it might be a sign; and, 2, a seal to his people. For so St. Paul, speaking of Abraham, who was the first of the patriarchs that was enjoined that rite, He received, says he, the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised.
g Rom. iv. II.
First then, circumcision was a sign; and that, 1, a distinguishing one, whereby the holy people were differenced from the profane nations of the world: and Tacitus, though much mistaken in other accounts he hath given of them, yet in this says well, Circumcidere genitalia instituere, ut diversitate noscantur h. And the reason why God thought fit thus to distinguish them, is given by several of the fathers, particularly St. Jerom, to this purpose. "Because," says he, "Christ was to come of the "seed of Abraham, and from Abraham to Christ many ages were to pass, lest the offspring of his "beloved Abraham should be mixed with other "nations, and by little and little it should become "uncertain which was indeed his family, God wisely marked his people Israel with the sign of "circumcision i."
And the Israelites, intermitting this rite during their stay in the wilderness, makes this opinion the more probable; for then the solitude of that unfrequented place did sufficiently separate and distinguish them from all people else. But when they came into the promised land, and were surrounded with divers neighbouring nations, then this mark of distinction was, by God's express command, brought into use again, and so continued to the coming of our Saviourk.
And to this the Christian circumcision of the heart does directly answer. For it is that, as before described, which distinguishes Christians indeed from the rest of the profaner world; it is a sincerely holy life that demonstrates any one to be h Tacit. lib. V. . prop. i Hieron. in Epist. ad Galat. c. 3.
k Jos. V. 4.
of the family of the faithful. And as among the Jews should a man pretend ever so much to be of that religion, plead that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, frequent the temple and the synagogues, and be exact in the performance of all the ceremonials of that law, yet if he wanted circumcision, would be reckoned as a stranger and an alien for all that; so in Christianity it is not an outward profession, though never so fair and specious; it is not a being born and educated in a Christian country, and observing the forms and manner of worship in it, though never so exactly, and with the appearance of great reverence and devotion; it is not this that will indeed make us Christians, and owned as such by our Lord, unless we have the inward circumcision of the heart, and the power of godliness is visible in all our conversation. And further, as among the Jews to be uncircumcised was a thing of the greatest reproach in the world, so is the want of this spiritual circumcision to such as call themselves Christians. It is an intolerable shame for those that make profession of the most holy religion that ever was or can be, as is that of Jesus Christ, to live as profanely and loosely as if they were of no religion at all.
But, 2, circumcision was an initiative sign, whereby men were received into the Jewish church, and did openly declare themselves to be entirely devoted to the God of Israel; they were made sure and espoused to him by that rite, and he to them; he became their God, and they his people.
And in like manner the inward circumcision of the heart is that which indeed initiates any person into the religion of Jesus Christ; for without it even
baptism itself will not make a Christian. He only is one of Christ's peculiar people who is zealous of good works; he is the true disciple of Jesus, that observes his commands, imitates his example, and is influenced and led by the same spirit of meekness and holiness and goodness as he was. And an aged sinner, though baptized in his infancy, that has not lived like a Christian till grey hairs have covered his head, does really but then begin to be of the religion of the holy Jesus. And though it is by virtue of his early baptism that his late repentance and reformation is accepted, (for repentance is a gospel privilege, which the unbaptized can pretend no right to,) yet it is that repentance of his, and amendment of life, which renders his baptism effectual to his salvation: and what St. Paul says of circumcision is equally true of baptism, It profiteth if thou keep the law: but if thou break the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision', and thy baptism no baptism; that is, it signifies nothing, is of no avail to the great purposes for which it was designed. For if he is not a Jew that is one outwardly, as it follows, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, really and to purpose, that is one inwardlym: if this was true with respect to the Jews, how much more is it so as to Christians who are under a far more spiritual dispensation than they were!
He that worships mammon, and obeys nothing but his own vile lusts, may call himself what he will, but is really no more a Christian than he was a Jew that worshipped other gods; and as all were not Israel that were of Israel, so too many,
1 Rom. ii. 25.
m Ver. 28, 29.