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GALATIANS VI. 15.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
SOME interpreters think that this text is not introduced as a proof of the immediately preceding assertion, of the apostle's "glorying in the cross of Christ, and his being crucified to the world," verse 14; but rather that it forms a conclusion of the main doctrine delivered in this epistle, namely, "That a sinner is not justified by the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ," as if he had said, I urge this first and last with the greatest earnestness and importunity;* let Jews and Judaizing Christians say what they will or can, this I confidently affirm, that now in the gospel state, as settled by Christ, it is of no great moment whether a man be a Jew or a Gentile. It is true, under the law there was something of privilege in circumcision, as it was a badge of God's covenant with Abraham's seed, and the uncircumcised were strangers to the covenants of pro* Hoc est quod dico et repeto, et extremis verbis contendo.
mise and had no right to church membership: but now in the gospel, God is the God of the believing Gentiles, as well as of the Jews; for there is not one God in the Old Testament, and another in the New, as the Manichees dreamed, but "it is one God, that shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith,” Rom. iii. 29, 30; that is, both one way, if only they be sincere believers, for God regards not any for being circumcised, nor rejects any for the want of it, but looks at real sanctification of heart and life.
This is a sound and apposite connection of the words; but Calvin subjoins them to the foregoing verse. The reason why the blessed apostle is crucified to the world, and the world to him, is because in Christ to whom he is united, the chief thing available is a new creature, other things are insignificant: the truth of this the apostle had before demonstrated, because the gospel truth makes void legal figures:* thus both interpretations come to the same thing.
It is observable, that this phrase is three times used, with different conclusions. 1 Cor. vii. 19, " Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God." Again, Gal. v. 6, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love:" and in this passage, "but a new creature." They all combine in this one sense, that in the New Testament dispensation by Christ, no privileges are efficacious to the salvation of the soul without an operative faith accompanied with a principle of grace in the heart, and a holy life agreeable to the rule of God's holy word. Thus there is a due consistency
* Quia scilicet, veritas evangelii omnes legis figuras absorbeat, et exaniniat.
in these necessary qualifications: for in spiritual means, marks, methods of salvation, there is a blessed combination, affinity, and concatenation; not a link of this golden chain can be wanting; the true religion is of one piece, there is no loose joint, but all the parts make up one entire body and complete system of christianity.
But to come to the words, in which we have the negative and positive parts of our religion,-wherein it doth not consist, and wherein it doth. Suppose men had excellent privileges, and choice advantages, these would not of themselves attain the important end, namely, God's glory and man's happiness.
By this word, in Christ Jesus, some understand in the christian religion; others, in the church or kingdom of Christ; others, in the gospel dispensation, in the concern of obtaining salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ.* The doctrine of the gospel is called the faith of Jesus Christ, Rom. iii. 22, wherein and whereby the glorious design of saving sinners by Jesus Christ, doth eminently and evidently appear: it is called "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor. iv. 6. "And he hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel," or through the gospel, 2 Tim. i. 10.
Circumcision was to the Jews a seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom. iv. 11, a badge and criterion, whereby an Israelite was distinguished from other people, as belonging to God's peculiar heritage: it both engaged to duty, and entailed many privileges. See Rom. ix. 4.
By its not availing any thing, is signified its ineffectualness to attain these two great objects: first, the justifying of a sinner before God; secondly, the eternal salvation of the soul. Not that I think the new creature
* In negotio salutis obtinendæ per Christum.
justifies, as I shall shew hereafter, but it is in a justified person, and these external privileges avail not to our justification, nor does the want of them hinder it; but in this case, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all," Col. iii. 11. Hence observe,
First, That the richest privileges and most splendid profession avail no man, without being a new creature.
The Jews boasted of their privileges, and by consequence, gospel professors are apt to pride themselves on what they think to be of great worth, but they all signify nothing in the sight of God, if they be not new Men may please themselves with external shows, professions, or privileges, as to be born of godly parents, to be baptized, living under pure and powerful ordinances, associating with the best people in the purest churches, sitting down at the Lord's supper, making credible profession, performing religious duties; yea, suffering much for the religion of God: all these together will not avail a person, as it respects his eternal happiness, without being a new creature. Mistake me not, I do not say, but these are good in their places, and great mercies and duties. Here consider,
1. Things that hinder or oppose the new creature, are hurtful in their own nature, and to be laid aside, as sin and the old man, Eph. iv. 22.
2. Things that further not this new creature in our hearts, are comparatively useless, though lawful, as the profits, pleasures, and honours of this world.
3. Things that do further the growth of the new creature by God's appointment, are not of themselves sufficient to attain their end, without the concurrence of divine grace: as preaching, prayer, and seals-they are but means.
4. Things good in themselves may, by man's abuse, prove rather snares and hindrances, than helps and furtherances in heaven's road circumcision was once good and God's ordinance, but when some Judaizers affirmed, that “except Christians were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved," Acts xv. 1, 9, 10,-the apostles come to this decision, "that God puts no difference between Jews and Gentiles," and that this "was a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear:" and so it was not only laid aside as other legal ceremonies, which became not only dead, but deadly; so the apostle affirms, "that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing," Gal. v. 2. Nay, the best duties, ordinances, and privileges rested in, short of Christ, will rather ruin, than raise us; undo us, than enrich us with grace here, or glory hereafter: see Rom. ix. 31, 32. x. 3.
But this is a great truth, that all the privileges in the world, without this new creature, can never of themselves render a soul acceptable to God, or bring it to eternal happiness in the enjoyment of God,
(1.) Because such a person may be, and is yet under the old covenant, which brings a curse: and being out of Christ, Gal. iii. 10-13, all that he hath, doth, or enjoyeth, is accursed to him; for every man must either keep the law, and satisfy for the breach of it in his own person, or another that is able, must do it for him, and that is none but Christ our surety; and Christ doth it not for any but such as by faith have an interest in him. Now he that is not a new creature hath no interest in Christ, "for if any man be in Christ," that is, related to Christ, entitled to him," he is a new creature," 2 Cor. v. 17. And he that is not * Mortuæ sed mortiferæ.