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the interval many die, and disappoint the expectations which are founded on them. But the "tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise "of God," was no sooner set in the earth, than it began to be diffusively beneficial. Like the citrontree, it bore at once leaves, buds, and ripe fruit. Its leaves began immediately to heal the nations, and its fruit to counteract the baneful effects of that other tree, which "brought death into the "world and all our woe."
The fact referred to in our collect is related by the Evangelist St. Luke (chap. ii. 21.) It will be our present business to inquire into the origin and design of the rite of circumcision, and to point out the reason of our blessed Lord's submission to it.
The first institution of this significant rite is recorded in Gen. xvii. 11, &c. which is appointed to be read as the first lesson of the morning-service for this day. It was enjoined, by a special revelation, to Abraham and all the male branches of his family, whether children or servants, in perpetual succession. The penalty of neglecting it was excommunication from the church of God, and exclusion from all the privileges annexed to a continuance within its pale. Nay, it seems that death, inflicted by the immediate hand of God, was sometimes the consequence of a non-compliance with this ordinance. For when Moses was returning from Midian to Egypt, Jehovah met him and sought to slay him, because he had neglected to circumcise his son; till Zipporah his wife, who had no doubt been instructed by her husband in the nature and obligation of this rite, averted the Lord's displeasure by a prompt obedience to His will. From the general doctrine of sacramental institutions we may also infer, that
a contempt of this Divine rite, being an act of rebellion against Divine authority, exposed the offender to the punishment of everlasting death.
In its original intention, circumcision was a sign and seal of the covenant, which God made with Abraham and his seed even the covenant of grace for the redemption of mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ. Gen. xvii. 11. The blood of Christ is called "the blood of the everlasting cove"nant;" for thereby redemption and all its benefits are finally secured to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, that is, to all believers. But, previously to the effusion of that precious blood, the compact was from time to time confirmed, on the part of Jehovah the Father, by the blood of circumcision and of various sacrifices which were ordained for this purpose. Circumcision is there→ fore called, Gen. xvii. 10, 13, "the covenant, the sign or type being substituted for the thing signified of which it was a memorial. This is a very common mode of diction in the Scriptures, and has been frequently adopted by the Christian church, in imitation of the inspired writers, as appears by our baptismal service. That this was the grand object of circumcision on the one part, is evident from the declaration of St. Paul concerning it, when he calls "the sign of circum"cision a seal of the righteousness of faith." On the other hand the circumcised person bound him self to faith and obedience; or, in other words, "promised and vowed, first, that he would re"nounce the devil and all his works, the pomps "and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sin"ful lusts of the flesh;" secondly, "that he would "believe all the articles of the Christian faith; "and, thirdly, that he would keep God's holy
"will and commandments, and walk in the same "all the days of his life."
The rite of circumcision, like every other sacrament, whether of the law or Gospel, was designed to afford instruction to mankind in the two cardinal points of revelation, viz. their fall in the first Adam, and their redemption by the blood of "the second Adam, the Lord from heaven." As an acquaintance with these two fundamental doctrines is absolutely necessary to salvation, and as they contain all that is necessary thereto; it has been the gracious object of the adorable Author of salvation, under every dispensation and in every ordinance, to convey this needful knowledge to us.
The rite of circumcision, then, was designed to afford instruction on the subject of human depravity. For the separation of a corporeal part from the body denoted the corruption of the whole man, and its obnoxiousness to everlasting excision from the favour of God and the enjoyment of His presence; and also the necessity of atonement by blood, and of regeneration by a removal of our natural viciousness, derived from our first parent, Adam; which atonement could only be made by the pungent sufferings of our surety, as the mortification of sin could only be effected by a painful process within our own bo
This sacramental operation also pointed out the source from which our corruption is derived; and therefore the ordinance preached the doctrine of "original or birth-sin," in the most perspicuous and energetic manner; while it also taught the radical nature of our moral disease, and the necessity of a change of heart to the attainment of everlasting life. In allusion to this rite, human corruption is called "the fore-skin of
"the heart," and a state of unregeneracy, an "uncircumcised heart." And it is to be remarked that the Jews, though they were partakers of the outward and visible sign, are often characterized as destitute of the inward and spiritual grace, which shews that the former may be received, while the latter is not enjoyed. (Comp. Deut. x. 16. Jer. iv. 4. Lev. xxvi. 41. Jer. ix. 26.) And there is no reason for making a distinction in this respect between Jewish and Christian sacraments....
Circumcision then insured to mankind, as a bond insures the fulfilment of a contract, the advent of the Messiah to shed His own blood for their redemption; to be cut off out of the land of the living for the purification and salvation of His body, the church; and to be the channel of grace, through which they might be enabled to put off the sins of the flesh.
We proceed now to an inquiry into the reason of our blessed Lord's circumcision, or on what account "God made His blessed Son to "be circumcised." For the solution of this question it may be observed, that Christ's circumcision was the seal of a covenant betwixt Him and His heavenly Father. For thereby He was assured that He was the promised seed of Abraham, in whom all nations of the earth were to be blessed, and that His sufferings and death should be the mean of preservation to His mystical body the church. On the other hand, by a submission to this rite, the Mediator engaged to fulfil all righteousness: thereby He proclaimed on His introduction to the world, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; I delight "to do thy will, yea, thy law is within my heart." Hereby He confirmed His antemun
dane stipulation concerning the redemption of mankind by the effusion of His precious blood.
The circumcision of Christ, then, was the first act of His vicarious obedience after. His nativity; and it was not only the first, but an obligatory act with respect to all which was to follow. This is intimated in the language of our collect, wherein God is said to have made "His blessed Son to be circumcised and obe"dient to the law for man." Very clear therefore is the propriety of commemorating this event, since thereon our salvation depends; not indeed as an insulated instance of suffering, but as a part of that aggregate of meritorious obedience which He performed. It was the first link of that chain of active and passive righteousness which was finished on the cross. had no sin of His own, original or actual, that required atonement. He had no corruption to be mortified. But He was "made obedient to "the law for man." Let the reader contemplate the infant Jesus, stained with His own precious blood at eight days old. No sooner was He born, than that series of sufferings commenced, which death only, even the accursed death of the cross, could finally accomplish. He began to die, so soon as He began to live. We were guilty; His blood must flow for the expiation of our guilt, or we perish for ever. We were destitute of righteousness, and could not supply the defect; He must fulfil it for us. Let the reader here behold the ground of his justification before God. It is Christ, as circumcised, obeying, suffering, dying, "the "just for the unjust, that He might bring us to "God." Let him try, (but the trial will be fruitless) to appreciate the value of his obligations to the Divine Redeemer.