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God knows, there are, that are Christians in name and profession, and nothing else.
3. Circumcision was a political sign, whereby strangers were admitted into the commonwealth of Israel, and were made partakers of all those valuable privileges which God had indulged to that his peculiar people; and which without the susception of that mark of distinction were by no means to be enjoyed. For so we read, Exodus xii. 48, When a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. And upon this condition, as it follows, ver. 49, one law shall be to him that is homeborn, and to the stranger that sojourneth among you.
And just so the inward circumcision of the heart from all wickedness and pollution is that alone which will make us fellow citizens with the saints, and let us into a share of those glorious privileges which God has promised to those that sincerely believe in and obey Jesus Christ. Such as being the adopted sons of God, coheirs with Christ of an eternal inheritance in heaven; and, in the mean time, taken into the peculiar care and charge of his blessed Spirit and his holy angels in this world, and in due time admitted into the divine presence above, there to enjoy the pleasures that are at his right hand for evermore. And to Him from whom no secrets are hid, and all hearts lie naked and open, this inward circumcision, made without hands, is as visible as that in the letter is to the eyes of men; and where it is once truly and thoroughly effected, all the
privileges and immunities of the kingdom of heaven, both of grace and glory, shall be conferred upon the happy soul. But where it is wanting, and the heart is still polluted, and engaged in the service of sin; the man, let him call himself Christian or what else he pleases, shall be treated no otherwise than as an alien from this heavenly community. And thus does this spiritual circumcision of the heart answer to that in the letter among the Jews, as it was a sign.
Secondly, it does so likewise as it was a seal; for as circumcision was to the Jews the seal of God's covenant with them, whereby they were assured that he would certainly perform what he had graciously promised, provided they would make good what was to be done, as the condition on their part, and which that rite did very significantly express, and often remind them of, namely, purity and obedience, according to the measures of their law; so this inward circumcision of the Spirit we are discoursing of, this sincere purity of heart and life, as required by the gospel, is the only thing that can secure to us the possession and enjoyment of the great and precious promises made to Christians in the New Testament, or covenant of Jesus Christ.
Unless we repent, and reform our lives by the Christian rule, all our pretensions to Christianity will stand us in very little stead; because without that, the end of our Lord's coming is by no means answered, and we are false to those engagements we entered into when we were baptized. And an obstinate iniquity, after we have laid such solemn obligations upon ourselves, as then we did, to walk before him in holiness and righteousness all the days of
our life, is extremely provoking, and will grieve and quench that life-giving Spirit by which we are sealed to the day of redemption".
Wherefore St. Paul says expressly, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; for there is no respect of persons with God: and without holiness no man, of what religion soever he may be, shall see the Lord. And agreeably says the same apostle, having these promises, such great encouragement given on God's part to the practice of righteousness and true holiness, let nothing be wanting on ours; but let us cleanse ourselves, as we have solemnly vowed to do, from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Perhaps it may be said, that this circumcision of the heart, as well as that of the foreskin, is full of pain, and of shame too, as the case now stands with us; which is so discouraging a consideration, that it is a hard matter to prevail with ourselves to set about the operation.
But be it so, the consequence is so happy, as will abundantly make amends for all: and besides, it is so absolutely necessary, that, unless we are content to be for ever miserable, it must be done at last; and the longer we defer it, still the more shameful and painful will it prove.
No time like the present for this great work, and the earlier the better, upon all accounts; and when once it is done, we shall then bear in our souls the mark of our Lord Jesus, the distinguishing character
of his disciples. And at his great appearing to reward every man according to his works, we shall be owned by him as his peculiar people, having the sign of this spiritual circumcision on our hearts; and be from thenceforth admitted to an endless participation of the glories and felicities of the new Jerusalem which is above: where the circumcision of our understandings, or the submission of all our own notions and reasonings to the great truths of revelation, shall be rewarded with our intimate view and knowledge of truth in the original, of him in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in the contemplation of which we shall live for ever, and be continually improving our then infinitely enlarged and gloriously enlightened minds to all eternity.
And the circumcision of our wills, or our entire acquiescence in all the choices and disposals of God's good providence, and cheerful obedience to his holy commands, shall then be crowned with a perfect and eternal fruition of the chief good; which will answer our most enlarged desires, and fill all our capacities of bliss, which yet shall be always enlarging and always filling for ever and ever.
And the circumcision of our passions and affections shall have this for its reward, that we shall be for ever freed from all uneasy and tormenting passions, and the most joyous only remain; and be employed upon their proper object, that most perfectly excellent and lovely Being, whose enjoyment is heaven, and who can never be admired and loved enough.
Let us therefore conclude all with that excellent
Collect which our church has furnished us with, upon the festival of our Saviour's circumcision:
"Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to "be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified "from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same "thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord!" To whom, with his eternal Father, and the Holy Spirit of them both, be all honour and glory, love and obedience, for ever and ever. Amen.