Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

THE

IDENTITY

CIRCUMCISION.

arms of our Father who is in were afar off, and still in their heaven, the God of nature, of sins, spite of their profession and grace, and of glory.

privileges. To them, then, God was not a God, in the sense that

he was to others. They who BAPTISM.-No. T. died in this state, though the

children of Abraham, as professOF BAPTISM AND ing his faith, God will declare on

the judgment-day "I never knew [Continued from page 351.] you.” Yet, still they, whilst they The sign and seal of circumci- retained their profession and obesion, which, as we stated in our dience, and were not cut off, last number, Abraham received were, as the apostle calls them, for the confirmation of his faith the children of the covenant, in the promise of God, his seed, which God made with Abraham. i. e. who professed his faith, were As such, they were in visible also commanded to receive. For covenant-relation to God, accordhis seed both connected with ing to his constitution. They him by God, in this promise, and composed the visible Church, and the consequent command. God as such were known and recog, calls himself the God of both, i.e. nized by the world. Which of not only of Abraham, but of those them really and truly belonged who trod in his footsteps. In thus to the Church, God only knew. doing, he ensured to Abram the He judges the heart; man judges certainty that he would have a from the words and conduct of his seed: not merely a natural off- fellow-men. God's promise is spring, but particularly a spiritual made only to those whose hearts one. His seed the apostle to the are right with Him. We must Galatians calls the children of the consider it as belonging to those promise. They are those who who with the mouth confess the are redeemed by Christ the puri-truth, and in their deportment fier; and those only. But as conform to the truth. These retheir imitation of Abraham, or the marks are sufficient to prevent a fact of their being his spiritual mistake on this subject. seed, can only be known by their Much confusion arises necesprofession and conduct: so the sarily from not correctly underchildren of the promise, or the standing the meaning of the visible the seed of Abraham, are those and invisible Church. The diswho professed Abraham's faith, tinction is proper, and exists in and displayed his obedience. To fact; and yet there is but one them God promises to be a God: Church-not two Churches. The He declares his relation to them invisible Church is not a body in this character, and their rela- different from the visible Church. tion to Him as the seed. Not The invisible Church, i. e. the that we must conclude that all company of real believers, can who professed Abraham's faith, only become visible by their proor appeared to walk in his steps,fession of faith and obedience. were really the seed or the They whose profession is false children of the promise. Some and insincere, belong no more to

the visible Church, of right, ac-visible body for social worship cording to God's estimation, than and social improvement in relithey do to the invisible. They are gion to the glory of God. In the practising a deception upon their constitution of a visible Church, fellow-men, which will terminate according to the Scriptures, is in their own ruin, if God does included, 1. Sinners professing not interpose. They are treated faith in the truth of God. 2. Poas members of the visible Church, sitive institutions, illustrating the on the ground of the profession truth of God, and promoting its which they make. This pro- influence on the hearts of those fession relates to the fact of their who profess it. 3. Union in at. being in Christ, and thus mem- tendance upon these positive instibers of the invisible Church. On tutions, by those who profess the the ground of such a profession, truth, either in one body, when they are regarded as members of the number is small, or many bothe visible Church.

dies, in different places, when the Such a visible Church God now number is great. 4. Some offi. formed in the family, and from ciating either in the explanation among the descendants of Abra- and enforcement of truth, or in ham. Not that there had been the administration of positive orno visible Church before this; dinances, for others, when they for such a Church existed in the are assembled in a collective catime of Abel, since he offered sa- pacity. All these features of a crifices in the end of the days, visible Church we will find long i. e. on the Sabbath; and in the before Abram was born ; for long days of Enos, the son of Seth, for before this period, men professed then began men to call upon the the true religion, or their faith name of the Lord, or Jehovah ; in the first promise, such as Abel i. e. the true followers were dis- and Enoch, and others ; sacrifices tinguished from others by the which typified the fulfilment of appellation of the sons of God; the first promise were offered up. and in the days of Noah, for he Believers, as a company, were was a preacher of righteousness. distinguished from unbelievers; In the periods when these men for they were known by the aplived, we find instituted worship; propriate name of the sons of God, positive ordinances ; administra- whilst the others were called the tors," or ministers, officiating at sons of men. There were preachthese ordinances : and by this ers, as Noah, and prophets, as worship, these ordinances, and Enoch ; and in a family, the eldthe ministers attending upon them, est son offered sacrifice for the a distinction made visibly between rest; and when a number of fatwo classes of men, viz. the sons milies were assembled together, of God, i. e. believers, and the unquestionably every individual sons of men, i. e. unbelievers. did not offer sacrifice, but some This visible distinction constitutes for the rest, as Noah did after the the essential nature of a visible food for the whole human family Church; or, in other words, of then in being. a collection of sinners called out In these features of a visible of the world, and formed into a Church there may be great alter

[ocr errors]

ations, without destroying their and civil rulers were appointed.
essential nature. Thus the truth On the entrance of Israel into
to be believed may become clear-Canaan, the offspring of the pro-
er and clearer, embracing more mise, the seed of Abraham, were
particulars in detail, from time to organized into a national Church :
time revealed by God : the posi- and yet there was a clear distinc-
tive institutions may be increased tion between Church and state.
in number ; or old ones may be Each had its laws, its officers, its
abolished and new ones establish-punishments, its members. This
ed; the visible unity of those who prospective view of the Church
profess the truth, may be extend it was deemed proper to afford
ed to some out of every nation, for the sake of perspicuity.
or confined to one nation, as God To return to the time when
sees fit; the ministers may be the visible Church was restricted
either each a believer in his turn, to the family and posterity of
as God may direct, or a partici Abraham :-The restriction was
lar class of believers for this pur- a peculiarity of this dispensation,
pose. By attending to the his- as we have remarked. God made
tory of the Church, we will Abram the father of many na-
perceive that each of these alter- tions ; the father of the faithful.
ations have taken place, but none He also, as has been said, gave a
of them have affected the exist. new token of the covenant. To.
ence of a visible Church. They kens there had been before. The
have only affected its visible or- sacrifice of brute victims was a
ganization.

token. For, as Witsius observes, One of these alterations took the institutions which commemoplace in the dealings of God with rated sin, also signified and sealed Abraham. This dispensation of the future expiation of it by the the covenant of grace restricted Messiah. These sacrifices were the visible Church to the family seals of God's covenant ; for and descendants of Abram : a new though there is a difference betoken of the covenant which was tween sacrifices and sacraments, intended in its spirit to continue formally considered ; because sain the Church, so long as she re- ments are given by God to men, mained in her militant state, was but sacrifices are offered by men given ; and this token command- to God: nevertheless, there is ed to be administered in the body no reason why the consideration of Abraham, and of his seed, i. e. of a sacrament aud sacrifice may the children of the promise and not in different respects concur their male offspring. This dispen- in one and the same thing. For sation was completed at Sinai ; for even sacrifices are given by God what is commonly called the Si- to men, that is, are instituted by naitic Covenant appears to be no- divine authority, that by these ce. thing more than the consumma- remonies, the coming of the Son tion of what is called the Abra- of God in the flesh might be sig. hamic Covenant. Here-a com- Dified and sealed."-Besides saplete code of laws and ordinances, crifice, the bow in the clouds political and religious, were giv. God gave to Noah as a token of en, a priesthood was established, his covenant. To Abram he

gave circumcision as his token of and separate from, the bodies of his covenant. This change of believers ; now the token was in tokens cannot be a difficulty to any, their flesh, and in the flesh of if we only recollect that these their male offspring. This token tokens are positive in their nature, in the flesh of the male offspring, depending entirely on the will of signified and sealed to the females, God. He might as well, had he as well as males, the certain fulseen fit, continued the rain- filment of God's promise of Christ bow as his token; or established the purifier. Though the recepany other token, as that of circum- tion of the seal was restricted to cision. He was pleased to esta- the males, yet the seal itself asblish this painful rite as such. sured females, as well as males, If any ask, Why? let them (for that through Christ there was salit is full as proper) ask why hevation. If the question be asked, instituted sacrifices ? or why he why God did not appoint a token put his bow in the clouds ? or to be applied to females as well why he does any thing in the as males, the answer is-and it is course of his providence? There an answer that is enough for faith, is unquestionably a reason for it; -because God did not please to but that reason is, because God do it. As the token was God's sees it to be fit. Do any want token, wherever, or on whom, It another reason ? Is not that was administered, was of no conenough? To a cavilling, quib-sequence : for, wherever, or on bling, disposition, no reason will whom, it was administered, it was suffice ; but to him who loves, re- God's token to all others, of his verences, and obeys the truth, most gracious purpose, as well as it is enough to hear, “ thus saith to those who received it. the Lord.”

To receive it, a covenant relaGod, however, never has esta- tion to God was necessary. This blished any rite which is not sig. covenant relation was formed on nificant. Sacrifices were so, for the part of Abram by his faith; they taught the guilt of him who and so by his seed after him, or offered the sacrifice, and the ne- the children of the promise. But cessity of atonement. Thus cir-how was it formed on the part of cumcision taught the natural state of Ishmael, and of Isaac, and of the of him who was circumcised to male child that was eight days be such as deserved that he should old ? That there was a covenant be cut off forever from the friend- relation which these children sus. ship of God. It also taught the tained is unquestionable ; for the necessity of mortification of sin, token of the covenant is not directand newness of life.

ed to be administered to all Thus circumcision was com-children of eight days ; but to the manded to be administered to children of Abraham, and of Abrachildren as well as 'adults ; but ham's seed, i. e. of the offspring only to the children of Abram of the promise ; of those who and his seed, i. e. the offspring of professed his faith and obedience. the promise. This administra- Why were they entitled to retion was new, as well as the rite ceive this token? on account of itself. The previous tokens of their covenant relation to God. God's covenant had been out of, He declared himself their God,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

as well as the God of their pa-| the Church rests entirely upon rents.

the promise, that the Purifier What then is the nature of their should be cut off. Faith in the relation to God. They evidently latter promise, publicly professed, did not exercise faith in God's constituted adult membership of promise, and could not profess it. the Church; circumcision adHow were they then related to ministered upod adults, or infants, God ? 'Through their parents, and constituted the token of God, that in no other way. God in his the Purifier should come and die; gracious dispensations, acts as he and by virtue of his incarnation does in those of his providence, and death, should form and estaChildren are known, blessed, or blish to himself a people zealous punished, in and through their of good works. And as God could parents ; because their parents raise up monuments of his grace were related to God by faith from among children as well as in the promise, they, through adults; as they were capable to them, were related to God. Thus be made real members of his God said to Abram, “I will be a Church, he commanded children God to thee, and thy seed after to be circumcised; not all childthee." Here he promises, 1. ren, but the children of adult That he will be a God to Abra- members, i. e. of those who proham. 2. That Abraham shall fessed Abraham's faith, and conhave a seed after him, who shall stituted his seed. To them, and imitate his faith and obedience to them only, he gave

the promise 3. That God will be the God of of being their God; a promise this seed, as well as Abraham's springing from, and included in, God. The promise, therefore, the great promise of Christ's regards Abraham as an individual, death. Their children, by birth and as the father of the faithful, or adoption, are commanded to in his private and his public ca- be circumcised. We have no pacity. With respect to himself, authority to suppose that it was his own comfort and salvation is the duty of Ishmael, or of the song ensured ; with respect to others, of Keturah, to circumcise their he is assured that there always offspring, if they themselves did will be those who, like him, shall not tread in the footsteps of believe in God, and in Jesus faithful Abraham , if they did not Christ the purifier; and that these unite themselves with him as latter will be accounted his seed. members of the visible Church,

This is the view which the formed in his family. The comapostle to the Galatians gives of mand is restricted to Abraham and Abraham's seed. The promise, his seed; which seed, as has been therefore, made to Abraham, is mentioned, the apostle explains a promise made to the visible to be the children of the promise, Church, i. e. all who professi. e. they who professed the faith Abram's faith, assuring her of her of the patriarch. “This is my own perpetuity ; for, so long as covenant," said God, " which ye sun and moon endure, there shall shall keep.” What YE? Who not be wanting those who walk are meant ? Abraham and his in the steps of faithful Abraham. seed, and none else. This is my This promise of the perpetuity of covenant, which ye shall keep

[ocr errors][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »