« PreviousContinue »
was understood, because they were only covenanted about.
12. We are shewn in these illustrations the reason why the term circumcision is so often used in the scriptures, as characterising and designating the people of God, in distinction from the world. Romans iii. 10. " Seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith," &c. Philippians iii. 3. "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh." The reason is, that circumcision was a seal of the absolute promises of the covenant, and desig nated the seed, to whom it was applied, as visible subjects of these promises. This is the evident reason also, why circumcision is so often mentioned as representing internal sanctification. The seed whom the promise embraced were really sanctified. Circumcision was expressive of their being so. The peculiar nature, time, and circumstances of the ordinance, all concurred to make this expression in the most perfect manner.*
13. To the common question, (expressive either of ignorance or unbelief,) what good could it do to circumcise an infant child, who in the act must have been altogether passive? We have the very best answer. Circumcision, when applied to the infant, much more clearly expressed the nature of the covenant, than when applied to the adult proselyte. The covenant, in all the promises of it, had respect to blessings which were to take place by descent. It respected a seed naturally, and adoptatively. Circumcision, therefore, when applied to infants, was attached to the very subjects on which the promise terminated. The language of it was precisely that of the covenant, that the seed was blessed. It marked the subjects as belonging to God, by a most gracious covenant relation. It was the grand
"The time of performing this rite, was on the eighth day, because it was not till then, sufficiently cleansed from the impurities of its birth; nor was the mother past her greatest pollution, and consequently, could not touch it without rendering it unclean.-That member which is the instrument of generation, was made choice of, that they might be en holy seed, consecrated unto God from the beginning.” Lewis's Hebrew Republick.
public scal of the charter, not merely of their temporal, but of their eternal inheritance. It was especially such as applied to the seed in their infancy. Had it been deferred to adult years, its peculiar meaning would have been lost. Accordingly, to the question, What profit is there in circumcision? The apostle answers, "much every way; chiefly, because, that unto them were committed the oracles of God." They had the word of promise. This involved the security of the salvation of the seed, embraced in the promise. What impiety then, to treat with disrespect, as a burdensome, unmeaning, carnal ceremony, an institution, the language of which is so infinitely gracious; and which is of such solemn consideration in the account of God!
14. It is evident, from the view which has been taken of the covenant of circumcision, that it made provision for, and was to be carried into effect by means of, a strictly pious education. It was to be established with the seed in their generations. The blessing was to go down the lapse of time, in a succession of pious recipients. These recipients were to become pious, and inherit the promises, through the instrumentality of instruction. For, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. God accomplishes all his purposes of grace by means. These means are to be used with diligence; and, as they are covenant means, and given for the express purpose of being channels, by which the blessing is to flow down from generation to generation, this diligence has every possible encouragement, short of being universally effectual. As a general principle, it is designed to be effectual, in proportion to the fidelity exercised, in teaching and governing, persuading and praying for. This is clearly exhibited in the testimony of God respecting Abraham, which we have had occasion before to introduce. "I know Abraham, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that God may bring upon Abraham, that which he hath spoken of him." Accordingly, Moses, to subserve
the execution of the promises of the covenant, directs the children of Israel, "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children; and shalt talk of them when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." In agreement with which the Psalmist observes, Psalm lxxviii. 5. "For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children, that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise, and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God."
15. From the preceding analysis of the Abrahamic covenant, it is evident, that this covenant made provision for, and required a strict discipline. If the uncircumcised manchild was to be cut off from his people, and the visible seed was to be holy, and distinguished as such, from those who were subjects of divine exception, and from the uncovenanted world, in the execution of covenant law; then here was established, as an essential part of covenant duty, a strict, impartial, and constant discipline.
16. From what has been said, it is evident, that the females in Israel were as really subjects of the covenant as the males; and that circumcision signified exactly the same thing with respect to them, that it did with respect to the males. For they were equally with the males, the seed. It was the seed, as a mystical or spiritual society, rather than the individual, though the individual was comprehended, to whom circumcision sealed the promises of the covenant. The objection then to the graciousness of the Abrahamic covenant, that it made no provision for the blessing to rest upon females, is entirely groundless.
17. It is an obvious conclusion from the preceding illustrations, and a conclusion which needs to be remembered, because the opposite idea is most generally advanced in treatises on this subject, that circumcis
ion did not initiate. It did not place the subject in covenant; but was administered, because he was in covenant already. He was so by birth. Nay, he was comprehended in the covenant before he existed.
18. And finally, we are presented with an admirable display of the wisdom of God, in the economy of the covenant. If God had given no absolute promise, respecting a seed, there would have been no certainty of the appearance of a Savior, that a church would have been perpetually preserved in the world; or even that one soul would be saved. If his promise had extended to all the natural, or the adoptive posterity, in-. dividually, and without exception, it would have operated to countenance licentiousness, like the absurd, and antigovernmental doctrine, of the final salvation of all men. Had there been no really sanctified seed in succession, God would have appeared as the God of a race of hypocrites only. And had the invisible and the visible seed been exactly the same persons, the judgment day would have been anticipated.
We conclude, then, this analysis of the covenant, in the adoring language of the apostle. "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory forever.
Exhibiting a general view of the Community of Israel, from the administration of the Covenant of Circumcision, to that of the Covenant of Sinai.
IN the preceding analysis, we have ascertained the exclusively gracious nature of the covenant, established by God with Abraham; the unconditionality of. its promises; the extent of their application; and its perpetuity.
We have found it the basis of an organized, and indissoluble society, composed of persons who are visibly objects of the blessing. We are thence, naturally led to anticipate a series of expressions of divine care, especially directed to the conservation and elevation of this society; miraculous displays of God's power; special revelations of his will; and assurances of his favor. We are led to expect the promulgation of institutions and laws, forming an interior regimen, adapted to the peculiar nature of the society, and the glorious objects to which it is to be ultimately advanced.
It will be seen that facts justify this expectation.The covenant we find carried into effect in the birth of Isaac; in his circumcision; in his evident personal piety; and in the extraordinary manner in which he was made a typical representative of the Savior, when Abraham virtually offered him upon the altar. The blessings of the covenant appeared to rest upon this Patriarch, in the repeated assurances he had from God, that he was an object of his special love; in the protraction of his life to a very old age; in his closing his days in peace; and having his burial in the land which the covenant gave to him.
From him, the covenant, with its blessings, was transmitted to Jacob. God avowed himself his God,