Page images

to the law for the elect, and solemnly testifying that subjection, by taking upon him the symbol of circumcision, made it appear, that he was that singular seed of Abraham, whose future nativity circumcision was originally appointed to prefigure. From the time therefore, that he appeared, circumcision, which fignified that he was to come, lost a great part of its signification. 2dly, It was further weakened, after Christ had, in the thirtieth year of his age, manifested himself to Ifrael, and was pointed out by John, as the Lamb of God which taketh away the îns of the world, and was publicly owned by the Father as his beloved Son, to whom all were to hear and obey. For then the gospel of liberty and of the kingdom began to be preached, and baptism, a sign opposed to circumcision, was used, as a sacrament of initiation into a better covenant, whereby circumcision came to lose much of its dignity. 3dly, It began to die at the death of Christ. For when he was cut off from among his people, for the salvation of the whole mystical body, and had sealed the New Testament by his blood, every thing relating to the future Messiah, which circumcision prefigured, and to which Christ by his own circumcision bound himself, was fulfilled. And thus the hand-writing, which was against Christ the surety, and against believers, was torn asunder in his cross, Col. ii. 14. 4thly, It came to be quite dead after Christ, by his resurrection from the dead, had received from the Father a discharge, in witness that the fullest payment was made, and exhibited it to the view, as it were, of the whole world. Yet believers had so little knowledge of the liberty purchased for, and offered to them, that Peter himself wanted to be taught it by a heavenly vision, Acts X. 28,34,35,47. 4thly, It was not yet destructive, but so long as

the church was not sufficiently instructed in her liberty, it might · at times, to avoid giving offence to the weak, beprudently, yet free

ly used, not from a principle of conscience, but from the dićtates of charity and prudence, least the Jews, who were too tenacious of their peculiar and paternal rites, should be alienated from the Christian religion : just as Timothy was circumcised, being the son of a Jewels, Acts xvi. 1, 3. 6thly, But after the nation of the Jews, on rejecting the gospel, were cast off by God, and continued obftinately to insist on circumcision, as a necesfary part of religion, nay, of righteousness, and the church was sufficiently instructed in her own liberty, circumcision came to be destructive, as being a character of superstition and a badge of Jewish infidelity, and a renunciation of Christian liberty, as we have shewn from Gal. v. 2, 3.

XXIV. It is not now difficult to determine that question ; namely, whether the nation of the Jews, when they fall in the


account of time that is, we Apostle,

that is, thou : jea, though

last times be fully converted to Christ, will religiously retain the circumcision of infants ? Without any hesitation, Í think, we are to answer this question in the negative, for the reasons just given. As they are such as evince, that not only the Gentiles, jut also the Jews were made free, under the liberty of the New Testament from circumcision, which is the band of the whole yoke. And in every respect, the reason of both ought to be altogether the same. Though the pre-eminence of the Jew was formerly great, yet now he has none at all. None under Christ has wherein to glory : Paul accounted it as lofs and dung, Phil. iii. 7, 8. In Christ there is no difference of Jew and Greek, of circumcision and uncircumcision: but Christ himself is all in all, Col. iii. 11. all' pre-eminece of whatever nation being totally removed. Henceforth, faith the Apostle, 2 Cor. v. 16. know we 110 mnan after the flesh, that is, we have no greater efteem for him on account of his pedigree from the holy fathers ; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, that is, though we have looked upon our carnal relation to Christ, as any prerogative ; yet now henceforth know we him no more; we now place all our happiness (not in that, but] in our spiritual union with him by faith. And since God is now in no sense a respecter of perfons, Acts x. 34. we can never be allowed “ to have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory, with respect of persons, James ii. 1. or, in the kingdom of Christ, to put a greater value on the descendants of Abraham, as such, than on Barbarians or Scythians, “ who have obtained like precious faith with us,” 2 Pet. i. 1. In a word, the circumcision of the believing Ifraelites in the last times, would be either a future privelege, or a burden and yoke. But can be neither: not the latter, because that would be repugnant to the liberty purchased by Christ, which, as is meet, should be exceeding glorious in that liappy period: not the former, because the gospel of the kingdom hath removed all pre-eminence of one above another, hath made both one, Eph. ii. 14.

XXV. Yet I have heard of two arguments against this, which have the appearance of strength, and but the appearance only. . The one is taken from the New Testament, the other from the Old. From the New, that speech of James and the elders to Paul, Acts xxi. 21. has been proposed to my consideration by a learned person : “ and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews, which are among the Gentiles, saying, that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.” But when this made a great commotion among those who were zealous of the law, and yet believed in Vol. II. Khi


Towed a with respen greaterbarians op Pet. inejad timesBut cam

fion is nothing, b'And he comprent church wngdom o

Christ, James authorised Paul to do such things, from which all might knowv, “ that those things, whereof they were informed concerning him were nothing, but that Paul himself also walked orderly, and kept the law,” ver. 24. Paul complied with this advice. From this it might be concluded, that the true sense of Paul's doctrine was; that though the Gentiles were not indeed bound to circumcifion and the other ceremonies, yet the Jews, even after they embraced the faith of Christ, were to circumcise their children, and to walk after the customs; because Paul, at the persuasion of James, by this compliance removes from himself the suspicion of his teaching a contrary doctrine.

XXVI. But we are here to consider diftin&tly three things. ist, The true doctrine of Paul. 3dly, The calumny invidiously fixed upon him. 3dly, The prudential advice suggested to him by James and the elders. Indeed Paul, who was an excellent preacher of Christian liberty, set both Jews and Gentiles, who had submitted to the gospel, at liberty from the necessity of submitting to circumcision and the other ceremonies: for he proclaimed to all, that “ circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcifion is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God," 1 Cor. vii. 19. And he compares the law to a tutor, under whose tuition the Old Testament church was placed, being then in a state of bondage: but now the kingdom of heaven being set up in the world; he declares that the same church was come to age, which no longer standing in need of a tutor, was not again to be given up to bondage under those first elements of the world, Gal. iv. 1. Which certainly comprise both Jews and Gentiles. He every where published this privilege of the New Testament freely and openly. Nevertheless he was not against making some allowances for the weakness of the Jewish brethren, in the exercise of that liberty; in case there was not a fpirit of contention, nor an opinion of necellity and righteousness, in standing up for the practice of the ceremonies. Calumny put a quite different construction on this conduct; as if he acted thus to the reproach of the law, and taught apoftafy from Moses, and did not agree in this doctrinal point, who with others, maintained the Christian faith. But the case was certainly the reverse : for it is no reproach put upon the law, to teach, that Christ made satisfaction to it: any more than it is a reproach put upon a hand-writing, that on payment being made, it is cancelled. Nor is it any apostaly from Mofes, to preach that Christ is the bestower of liber. cy, fince Moses himself commanded him to be heard : nor did Kaal disagree with the other Apostles; because they also taught


Whole tuition thand, he compare the commandand

[ocr errors]

according to the decree of the synod of Jerusalem, an immunity from that yoke; and Paul, in the exercise of that liberty, by no means disowned, that charity and prudence were to be regarded. Nevertheless the calumny gained ground; and many of the brethren, who were not truly informed of the Apostle's doctrine, entertained groundless suspicions of him. Hence arose the advice, that he himself should openly perform some certain ceremonies : not in order to create any prejudice to that Christian right and liberty, which he had preached; but to shew publicly, that he had done nothing inconfiderately, which could give rise to any just indignation : that it was a vile calumny, by which he was defamed, as entertaining less reverent thoughts of Moses, and teaching the Jews a contempt of the law. With this ada vice the Apostle complies, not that he approved the violence of those zealots, but to wipe off a calumny, and to suit himself prudently and friendly to the weak. Thus, “ unto the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that he might gain them that are under the law," I Cor. ix. 20. These things being duly considered, it is evident, nothing can be concluded from this passage for the continuance of circumcision among the converted Ifraelites.

XXVII. From the Old Testament is objected Ezek. xliv. 9. Where the Lord, describing the state of the church after the the conversion of Israel, thus goes on; " no stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my sanctuary.” By which words, all who have a right to enter into the sanctuary, are required to have the circumcision both of flesh and heart. If the question was about uncircumcision in general, we might very plainly explain it of the depraved difposition of the unregenerate heart. Nay if the uncircumcision of the flesh was expressly mentioned, nothing could hinder us from taking a prophetic expression, borrowed from the rites of the Old Testament, in a spiritual sense. But when the circumcision both of flesh and heart is distinctly mentioned, it feems altogether necefiary, we should understand the one, certainly spiritually, but the other literally.

XXVIII. In answer to this reasoning I offer the following considerations. ist, That the whole context of Ezekiel concerning the building of a new temple, is mystical and allegorical, and is expressed by similitudes, borrowed from the Old Testament, all which, as is suitable to the state of the New Testament, are to be explained fpiritually. 2dly, That though the uncircumcision of flesh and heart are distinct, yet they are both mystical. Surely uncircumcision mystically signifies any



depraved disiposition of man. Hence we read of uncircumcised lips, Exod. vi. 12. and ears, Jer. vi. 10. Acts vii. 51. Nay, any impurity, even of those fruits, which God had forbid to be caten, is called uncircumcifion, * Lev. xix. 23. The uncircumision therefore of the heart, in the mystical language of Ezekiel, signifies the impurity of the heart and inward aifections; the uncircumcision of the fiefh, the impuírity of the outward actions, performed by the body, according to the distinction of Paul, 2 Cor. vii. 1. Both kinds of impurity are to be laid aside by him, who would be reckoned to belong to the . communion of the people of God. “ Who shall afcend into the hill of the Jehovah? And who shall stand in his holy place? He that liath clean hands and a pure heart," Psal. xxlv. 3, 4. But we are cipecially to take notice, that the discourse here is not concerning the Israelites, but concerning the strangers, who were to be admitted into the sanctuary. They certainly shall have their proper place in this new temple, Ila, lvi. 6, 7. and not have reason to complain ; “ Jehovah hath utterly separated me from his people,” ver. 3. But to impose upon them, in the latter days, the necessity of circumcision, froin which they were, free, all the intermediate time, is, as has been shewn, diametrically opposite to the doctrine of the Apostles.


Of the Passover.

1. THE whole doctrine of the pallover has been learnedly ' l and copiously, above what can well be expressed, unfolded by the very laborious Samuel Bochart, Hierozoic. lib. 2. C. 50. But because that most excellent and invaluable book is rarely to be found in the hands of the youth under our tuition, we have thought proper in this chapter, to exhibit what he has handled at large, in a compendious way. Yet in such a manner, as to follow at times our own judgment, and now and then intersperse what observations we have made from other


* The words are," and when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you, it shall not be eaten of." The meaning in general is, it shall be unclean, and not to be eaten of, but caft away, and counted abominablo, as the foreskins were.

« PreviousContinue »