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FIRST.-The SPIRITUAL character of this Covenant. Circumcision, as we have seen, is called the token of the covenant. By which we must understand, that they who accepted it, and they who only witnessed it, were to consider it as a sign, or a mark by which the people of God were distinguished; that now they were no longer of the world, or at their own disposal; but, that being the Lord's people, and expecting peculiar blessings from him, they were bound, and they esteemed themselves bound, to believe and to do whatever their Covenant God required at their hands. It is perfectly clear, that Abraham, and his believing posterity, received this token as a sign and pledge of real friendship between themselves and God; and that as such, they really and truly gave themselves to him, and pledged their troth to God to be " his faithful soldiers and servants, to their lives' end."
The covenant of circumcision was, therefore, evidently a bond of friendship between God and Israel. God was their God, and Israel was his people; and this not in word and tongue only, but in deed and in truth. This "token" of the covenant, was called the covenant itself: because, with God there are no false tokens. Where this
sign, seal, mark, or promise, is, there His covenant is. There is no "yea and nay," with him, but all is "yea." And with respect to Abraham and his true posterity, there are no delusive colours hung out. They do not exhibit this sign of friendship with God, while their hearts are after their idols: but of every true believer it may be said, that where his sign and seal are, there is he: You may always know where to find him.
The term "sacrament," signifying an 66 oath," necessarily implies mutual covenant and mutual faith, between the parties concerned. The "oath" which God made to the heirs of promise," Heb. vi. 17. implied, supposed, and obtained, on the part of those heirs, faith in God's promises, and an obedient regard to his command. Heb. xi. 8-10.
Real, internal, spiritual holiness, and not merely relative and external, was required, symbolized, and exhibited, by this covenant, and by this token. This is strikingly and beautifully expressed by God himself, when speaking of his people, and distinguishing them from the world that lieth in wickedness:-" Ye are the children of the Lord
your God for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." Deut. xiv. 1, 2. Their being the children of the Lord, implied, as we see, that they were a holy people unto him; not only separated by name and external tokens, but really separated from sin, the world, and idols, and truly dedicated in heart and soul unto God. Any thing short of this was not the circumcision of God, but a surreptitious token, a delusive sign, which had no reality, and could, therefore, be entitled to no blessing.
That this real affection and devotedness to God, was implied in, required and pledged by circumcision, and was an essential part of the covenant blessings thereby symbolized, cannot be doubted by any one who really understands the spirit of religion, and duly attends to God's addresses to his people:-" And now, O Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to love him; and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.-Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your hearts, and be no more stiff-necked." Deut. x. 12-16. See Jer. iv. 4.
To have a holy people unto himself, is expressly stated to have been the end and aim of God in separating a family from the rest of mankind, and in making with them this covenant of peace, and in giving circumcision as its token and bond: "I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people:-and ye shall be holy unto me; for I, the Lord, am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.-Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." Lev, xx. 24-26. -xix. 2.
True separation from sin and sinners, and a consequent expectation of God's blessing, in the eternal world, according to the promises made in the covenant of circumcision, were of the essence of that character which designated Abraham and his true posterity, as we find it testified of them generally in the New Testament, and especially in the eleventh of the Epistle to the Hebrews. And any thing short of this is never admitted to identify Abraham's children: -“If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." Our Saviour said
this, though he allowed them to be his "children according to the flesh." But circumcision, without the true spirit of the covenant, did not constitute the Jews Abraham's children, as children of the promise, or as the children of God: nor did it, when the thing signified was wanting, come up at all to the true notion and character of circumcision, but wholly failed respecting the spiritual and primary design of its institution. The language of St. Paul on this point is very decisive. He calls it, when separated from this holy spirit, by a degrading name, "concision," or cutting off:-" Beware," he says, "of dogs; beware of evil workers; beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Phil. iii. 2. In conformity with this idea, the apostle argues thus:-" Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God;" or, as in another place, "but faith, which worketh by love;" or, as in another, "but a new creature." 1 Cor. vii. 19.-Gal. v. 6.—vi. 15. So, also, with respect to the Jew, or the true child of Abraham, who is what he professes to be, or what his circumcision symbolizes, or binds him to; the apostle makes nothing of the outward sign without the heart," the inward and spiritual grace:"- For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Rom. ii. 28, 29.
SECONDLY.-The Covenant made with Abraham and ratified by Circumcision, is the SAME with the Covenant FULFILLED IN CHRIST and SEALED BY BAPTISM.
The apostle Paul argues this matter at large, in the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Romans. He shews from the circumstance, that Abraham was justified by faith, while he was yet uncircumcised," how he became hereby a pattern to, and "a father" of, all believers under the new dispensation; forasmuch as God would justify the circumcision, and the uncircumcision in the same way, that is, by faith. Rom. iii. 30. He there tells us the nature and design of that rite:-" And he received
the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, which he had, being yet uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed unto them also." Rom. iv. 11. He follows the same line of argument in his Epistle to the Galatians:-" Know ye, therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith, are blessed with faithful Abraham. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Gal. iii. 7, 8, 9. 26. 29. This subject is again and again introduced by the apostle. We shall now only refer to the following, in which his argument is very remarkable :-"Now I say, that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, - that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy,"-might trust in the root of Jesse, and rejoice with his people. Rom. xv. 8-12.
From these passages, selected from many more to the same effect, we may derive very important instruction relative to our present subject:
1. That the blessings which Christ came into the world to confirm and fulfil, were "promises made to the fathers," -and that the exalted privileges which are come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, are summed up in "the blessing of Abraham.”
2. That when the Gentiles are spoken of as "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," this is represented as being "the children of Abraham," and "the seed of Abraham;" as if the most exalted enjoyment of the Gentile world, under the new dispensation, was that of being incorporated with "his people," who formed his church under the old; and their being invited to " rejoice" with them.
3. That faith is the grand essential property of the soul under both dispensations, to which all these blessings are annexed,-and that the gospel of the Gentiles was, in substance, the gospel "preached before unto Abraham ;"
which he believed, and in which he rejoiced, seeing in this gospel" the day of Christ."
4. That the rite of circumcision was the seal and token of God's covenant with Abraham, which covenant involved essentially all the blessings of the gospel, which we now by faith enjoy.
We shall proceed to consider ;—
II. The Sacrament of BAPTISM, as substituted for Circumcision.
Baptism has taken the place of circumcision, and bears a character exactly analogous to it. St. Paul, who w "the minister of the Gentiles," teaches us professedly the character of both these sacraments. After stating the true spiritual character of circumcision, what its very essence implied, he proceeds to notice baptism, and the blessings implied in it, just as if they were only one ordinance, and one series of sacred privileges, referring all to Christ, and making every thing take its value and importance from Him:-" And ye are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power: in whom, also, ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also, ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." Col. ii. 10-13. It is obvious, from these texts-respecting circumcision and baptism,
That the nature and design of both are the same, and that the effects annexed to baptism are identical with the effects annexed to circumcision,-identical, that is, in every thing but their brightness and degree, the blessings being more glorious in the fulfilment, than in their typical representation.
In order to illustrate this position, we need only ob
That they are tokens of the same covenant.