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not in the letter:"—that the distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ, of one who is in a state of acceptance with God, is not cither outward circumcision, or baptism, or any other outward form, but a right state of soul, a mind and spirit renewed after the image of him t hat, created it;—is one of those important truths that can only be spiritually discerned. And this the Apostle himself intimates in the next words,— "Whose praise is not of men, but of God." As if he had said, 'Expect not, whoever thou art, who thus followcst thy great Master, thai, the world, the men who follow him not, will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Know that the circumcision of the heart, the seal of thy calling, is foolishness with the world. Be content to wait for thy applause, till the clay of thy Lord's appearing. In that day shalt thou have praise of God, in the great assembly of men and angels.'
I design, First, particularly to inquire, Wherein this Circumcision of the Heart consists? And, Secondly, to mention some Reflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry.
1. 1. lam, first, to inquire wherein that Circumcision of the Heart consists, which will receive the praise of God? In general we may observe, It is that habitual disposition of soul, which, in the Sacred Writings, is termed Holiness; and whieh directly implies, the being cleansed from sin, " from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit;" and, by consequence, the being endued with those virtues, which were also in Christ Jesus; the being so " renewed in the spirit of our mind," as to be " perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect."
2. To be more particular: Circumcision of Heart implies Humility, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Humility, a right judgment of ourselves, cleanses our minds from those high conceits of our own perfections, from that undue opinion of our own abilities and attainments, which are the genuine fruit of a corrupted nature. This entirely cuts oft'that vain thought, lam rich, and wise, and have need of nothing; and convinces us that we are by nature " wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked." It convinces us, that in our best estate we arc, of ourselves, all sin and vanity; that confusion, and ignorance, and error, reign over our understanding ; that unreasonable, earthly, sensual, devilish passions usurp authority over our will; in a word, that there is no whole part in our soul, that all the foundations of our nature are out of course.
3. At tlit bailie time we are convinced, that \vc arc not sufficient of ourselves to help ourselves; that, without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing but add sin to sin; that it is He alone who worketh in us by his almighty jiower, either to will or to do that which is good; it being as impossible for us even to think a good thought, without the supernatural assistance of his Spirit, as to create ourselves, or to renew our whole souls in righteousness and true holiness.
4. A sure effect of our having formed this right judgment of the sinfulness and helplessness of our nature, is a disregard of that " honour which cometh of man," which is usually paid to some supposed excellency in us. He who knows himself, ucither desires nor values the applause which he knows he deserves not. It is therefore " a very small thing with him, to be judged by man's judgment." He has all reason to think, by comparing what it has said, either for or against him, with what he feels in his own breast, that the world, as well as the god of this world, was "a liar from the beginning." And even as to those who are not of the world; though he would choose, if it were the will of God, that they should account of him as of one desirous to be found a faithful steward of his Lord's goods, if haply this might be a means of enabling him to be of more use to his fellow-servants, yet as this is the one end of his wishing for their approbation, so he does not at all rest upon it: for he is assured, that whatever God wills, he can never want instruments to perform; since he is able, even of these stones, to raise up servants to do his pleasure.
3. This is that lowliness of mind, which they have learned of Christ, who follow his example and tread in his steps. And this knowledge of their disease, whereby they are more and more cleansed from one part of it, pride and vanity, disposes them to embrace, with a willing mind, the second thing implied in Circumcision of Heart,—that Faith which alone is able to make them whole, which is the one medicine given under heaven to heal their sickness.
6. The best guide of the blind, the surest light of them that are in darkness, the most perfect instructor of the foolish, is Faith. But it must be such a faith as is "mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong-hoids," to the overturning all the prejudices of corrupt reason, all the false maxims revered among men, all evil customs and habits, all that "wisdom of the world which is foolishness with God;" as "casteth down imaginations, [reasonings,] and every high
11. Vet lackest thou one thing, whosoever thou art, that to a deep humility, and a steadfast faith, hast joined a lively hope, and thereby in a good measure clcaused thy heart from its inbred pollution. If thou wilt be perfect, add to all these, Charity; add Love, and thou hast the Circumcision of the Heart. "Love is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." Very excellent things are spoken of love; it is the essence, the spirit, the life of all virtue. It is not only the first and great command, but it is all the commandments in one. "Whatsoever things arc just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are amiable," or honourable ; " if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," they arc all comprised in this one word, Love. In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness. The royal law of heaven and earth is this, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."
12. Xot that this forbids ns to love any thing besides Cod: it implies that we love our Brother nlso. Nor yet does it forbid us (as sonic have strangely imagined) to take pleasure in any thing but God. To suppose this, is to suppose the fountain of holiness is directly the author of sin; since he has inseparably annexed pleasure to the use of those creatures which are necessary to sustain the life he has given us. This therefore can never be the meaning of his command. What the real sense of it is, both our blessed Lord and his Apostles tell us too frequently, and too plainly, to be misunderstood. They aii with one mouth bear witness, that the true meaning of those several declarations, "The Lord thy God is one Lord;" "Thou shalt have no other Gods but me;" "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength ;" "Thou shalt cleave unto him;" "The desire of thy soul shall be to his Name; "—is no other than this: The one perfect Good shall be your one ultimate End. One thing shall ye desire for its ow n sake, the fruition of Him that is All in all. One happiness shall ye propose to your souls, even an union with llim that made them; the having "fellowship with the rather and the Son;" the being joined to the Lord in one vj'itit. One design you are to pursue to the end of time, the enjoyment of God in lime and in eternity. Desire other things, «> i,if as they tend to this. Love the creature, as it leads to
'v I'uator. But in cv step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought, and word, and work, be subordinate to this. Whatever ye desire or fear, whatever yc seek or shun, whatever ye think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end as well as Source of your being.
13. Have no end, no ultimate end but God. Thus our Lord, "One thing is needful:" And if thine eye be singly fixed ou this one thing," thy whole body shall be full of light." Thus St. Paul, "This one thing I do; I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus." Thus St. James, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded." Thus St. John, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." The seeking happiness in what gratifies cither the desire of the flesh, by agreeably striking upon the outward senses; the desire of the eye, of the imagination, by its novelty, greatness, or beauty; or the pride of life, whether by pomp, grandeur, power, or the usual consequence of them, applause, and admiration ;—"is not of the Father," cometh not from, neither is.approved by, the Father of spirits; "but of the world:" it is the distinguishing mark of those, who will not have Him to reign over them.
II. Thus have I particularly inquired, what that Circumcision, of Heart is, which will obtain the praise of God. I am, in the Second place, to mention some Reflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry, as a plain rule whereby every mail may judge of himself, whether he be of the world or of God.
1. And, first, it is clear from what has been said, that no man has a title to the praise of God, unless his heart is circumcised by Humility; unless he is little, and base, and vile, in his own eyes; unless he is deeply convinced of that inbred "corruption of his nature," whereby he is very far gone from original righteousness," being prone to all evil, averse to all good, corrupt and abominable; having a "carnal mind which is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law °f God, nor indeed can be;" unless he continually feels in his inmost soul, that without the Spirit of God resting upon him, he can neither think, nor desire, nor speak, uor act any thing good, or well pleasing in his sight.
No man, I say, has a title to the praise of Goi], till he feels his want of God; nor indeed, till he seeketh that "honour which Cometh of God only;" and neither desires nor pursues that which cometh of man, unless so far only as it teuds to this.
2. Another truth, which naturally follows from what has oeen said, is, that none shall obtain the honour that cometh of God, unless his heart be circumcised by Faith; even a "faith of the operation of God :" unless, refusing to be any longer led by his senses, appetites, or passions, or even by that blind leader of the blind, so idolized by the world, natural Reason, he lives and walks by faith; directs every step, as "seeing Him that is invisible ;" "looks not at the things that are seen, which arc temporal, but at the things that arc not seen, which arc eternal; " and governs all his desires, designs, and thoughts, all his actions and conversations, as one who is entered in within the vail, where Jesus sits at the right hand of God.
3. It were to be wished, that they were better acquainted with this faith, who employ much of their time and pains in laying another foundation; in grounding religion on the eternal fitness of things, on the intrinsic excellence of virtue, and the bcautij of actions flowing from it; on the reasons, as they term them, of good and evil, and the relations of beings to each other. Either these accounts of the grounds of Christian duty coincide with the scriptural or not. If they do, why arc well meaning men perplexed, and drawn from the weightier matters of the law, by a cloud of terms, whereby the easiest truths are explained into obscurity? If they are not, then it behoves them to consider who is the author of this new doctrine; whether he is likely to be an angel from heaven, who preaeheth another Gospel than that of Christ Jesus; though, if he were, God, not we, hath pronounced his sentence, "Let him be accursed."
4. Our Gospel, as it knows no other foundation of good works than Faith, or of faith than Christ, so it clearly informs us, we are not his disciples, while we either deny him to be the Author, or his Spirit to be the Inspirer and Ferfectcr both of our faith and works. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." He alone can quicken those who are dead unto God, can breathe into them the breath of Christian life, and so prevent, accompany, and follow