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This appellation, in the letter, belonged to God's people under the law, as persons entered into his covenant, and bearing the sign of it in their flesh; but, in the spiritual and final intention, the title is equally applicable to the redeemed under the Christian dispensation. For, however their times and economies may vary, their right or grace of salvation is one and the same.
The sacrament of circumcision was first appointed to Abraham by Jehovah himself, when he made known unto him his covenant, and showed that he was the Alehim, the persons in covenant, both to him and his seed after him; that is, to all those who are partakers and followers of the same faith with him, and to whom, for that reason, he is spiritually the Father, or forerunner. *
The sign imported, the cutting away the filth of the flesh, the old man of sin, the superfluity of naughtiness, and that the persons, on whom it truly was made, were separated, in spirit, from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and were now become strangers and pilgrims upon earth, seeking a better country and a heavenly. It also
signified, that, as they had, by this act and the faith of it, renounced their former state and condition of nature, they were become partakers of another calling, and devoted to another service, even God's; and that, as God in mercy had delivered them from their former wretchedness, and brought them into the promise and prospect of an everlasting inheritance, according to an everlasting covenant established between the persons in Jehovah, who therefore called themselves the Alehim, the covenanters, witnesses, &c. they, as believers in that covenant and promise, admitted the sign of it upon them, by which they might be known as such both to other believers, who had undergone the same rite, and to the world, who despised it. In token of this, they received a name for life and distinction, (and among the Jews a significant name) if before they had none, as children had not; or, if they had one before, as Abraham had, then a new name, which testified their new life and calling by the covenant of God. Thus Abraham was chosen, and brought forth from the idolatrous world, and entered into the covenant of God: and, in the same way or spirit, all believers are induced to follow him as their Father, and are named or known of God, as he was.
This sacramental sign was a painful testimony (as I have elsewhere observed) of faith, and especially to adults; and therefore was a considerable testimony of the sincerity of those, who submitted to it, or who brought their children under the operation.f The thing
' * Neh. ix. 1. Rsv. ii. 7. j. 12. † To this purpose is the remark of that great physician and
signified is abundantly more so. The circumcision of the Spirit, in cutting off a man from himself, or in putting off the old man, the renunciation of the flesh with its lusts, the conquest of the world, the resistance of the devil, with all the adverse and hostile circumstances connected with these, are not slight and easy affairs; but forcibly try the heart, soul, and spirit, of every person, who is engaged in conflict with them. The concision (as the apostle calls the mere outward sigif,) the cutting round of the flesh only, might be accomplished, and hath been done in innumerable instances, where the grace denoted did not follow: but the piercing two-edged sword of God's word dividing asunder the soul, or carnal affections, and the spirit, or mind renewed, which is the true circumcision, or (as the apostle names it) the circumcision made without hands* of man; this is a very superior matter, and can only be accomplished by him, who made the
learned Rabbi, MARMONIDES : Circumcisio superfluum appetitum diminuit: quod autem virtutem intensivam membri illius voluptatemque debilitat, id extra omnem dubitationem est. Nam cum membrum illud statim in ipsa nativitate sanguinem suum effundit, tegumentumque amitit, sine omni dubio exinde debilitatur. Hinc dixerunt sapientes nostri; mulierem cum viro incircumciso matrimonio junctam difficulter ab ipso posse abstrahi.-Circumcisi habent unum quoddam signum, quod illos conjungat, et ne quis alius, qui non est ex illis, dicere possit, se er illis esse. Nam solet quandoque homo id, vel propter suum commodum, vel in aliorum contumeliam et detrimentum, facere: sed hæc actio, circumcisionis nempe, ita comparata est, ut nemo vel sibi, vel liberis suis, nisi propter fidem et religionem, eam sit facturus, Nam non est ledis aliqua cruris læsio, vel brachii adustio, sed res durissima et difficillima. More Nev. p. iii, c. 49. Col. ii, 11,
everlasting covenant, and whọ makes this spiritual token of it to take place in those, whom in his mercy he hath brought into it. But this must be performed in every person, or the sign of the covenant is not upon him; and, consequently, he can draw no spiritual comfort from any outward condition or circunstances in life, We are THE CIRCUMCISION (says the apostle to some believers, who were, according to the outward rite, uncircumcised) who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and HAVE NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH.* Those only, who have the sign in the abstract, or within them, are under the covenant, and interested in all its blessings. . .
As none but the circumcised among the Jews were admitted to the passover; so none but those, who are spiritually circumcised by the word or law of God, can be partakers, or can truly desire to be partakers, of what the passover signified, even Christ and his salvation. To be uncircumcised, was to be out of the covenant, or an alien to the commonwealth of Israel : to undergo circumcision was so necessary a mean of admission to the covenant, that it was sonfetimes called the covenant itself. Thus he, that hath suffered (spiritually, and according to the intent of the sign), in the flesh, hath ceased from sin :f sin is not imputed to him, for Christ's sakę: it doth not reign in him, through the power of his Spirit: he hath done with it as to its cause, and shall soon cease from it as to its being, for ever. He is one with Christ in the cover.ant of grace; and so
* Phil. ii. 3.
1 Pet. iv. 1.
oné, as to be considered for a part of member of Christ himself, an unalienable heir and child of God, ordained, by the oath of the covenant, to an unalienable inheritance,
What a death's wound is here to the body of the sins of the flesh,* to all Antinomianism of heart and life, to all Arminianism of carnal holiness, inherent power, and self-righteousness! The flesh and fleshly mind, we see, are to be entirely circumcised by the Holy Spirit, as dead and filthy before God; and a new man is to take the rising power in the soul, created according to the image, and walking after the pattern, of HỊm that created him.
This was signified by the injunction of circumcision on the eighth day, which was a renewal or beginning of time; the subject of circumcision having remained in a state of nature and corruption one whole period of time, or week. Then it rose, as it were, from the dead, from the desolate places * of the curse brought in by sin, and was anointed with fresh oil as a member of the church in the covenant of God.
It was not enough to live among the people of God; but personal circumcision was so indispensable, that
. * Isa. lix. 10. The word o'nux, sepulchres, or desolate places,
because sepulchres antiently were made in them, the places of the - dead, stands in opposition to you a person strong and lively, or
lusty, as our translation renders it concerning the men of valour, in Judg. iii. 29, It is the same root, from which the word light is derived. The primary idea is unction with oil. All that lives and thrives is replenished with oil. All that is consecrated, or lives, to God, is anointed with oil, i. e. the Holy Spirit. The name of the day, ngaw, in this view, implies the idea both of consecration and new mfe to the circumcised person before God,