Page images
PDF
EPUB

offer itself, listen to Jeremiah's prophecy, as if it were spoken to himself: “Thus saith the LORD; “ Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes

from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith “ the LORD, and they shall come again from the “ land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine

end, saith the Lord, that thy children,” thy relations, or thy friends, “shall come again to their

own border;" that from the dark and desolate regions of the grave they shall come to the light and glory of the heavenly Jerusalem ; where, as holy John tells us, "there shall be no more death, neither

sorrow, nor cryingo ;" where Rachel shall finally cease her lamentations, lay aside her mourning veil, and wipe away all tears for ever from her eyes.

e Rev. xxi. 4.

202

DISCOURSE XI.

THE CIRCUMCISION.

LUKE, II. 21.

And when eight days were accomplished for the cir

cumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.

THESE words conclude the Gospel for the day, taken from a chapter which hath afforded ample matter of wonder and delight through the course of the present joyful season, when the church, like the blessed Virgin Mother, is never seen, but with the holy child in her arms. By the portions already selected from it, we have been made to listen to the sermon preached by an angel upon the subject of the Nativity; and the sweet notes of that anthem, sung by the choir of heaven immediately after, are still sounding in our ears. With the happy and obedient shepherds we have been at Bethlehem, and there have seen “this great thing which is come to pass, of which the Lord hath made known unto us;" and have found reason to return, like them, “glorifying " and praising God for all the things that we have “ heard and seen, as it was told unto us." Nor shall we ever forget, it is to be hoped (at least, never, at this hallowed and gracious time), to imitate her example, who “kept all these sayings, and ponos dered them in her heart.”

We are now conducted from the birth to the circumcision of our Redeemer, an account of which immediately follows the history of the shepherds, in the words of the text. And very meet, and right, and our bounden duty it is, that we should at this time, and in this place, employ our thoughts upon it; seeing it was the beginning of sorrows to the Son of God, and the beginning of joy, because the be. ginning of redemption, to the sons of men, for whom the first blood of the all-propitiating victim was now shed. A stumbling-block it may prove to the Jew, foolishness it may appear to the Greek, and to all those, who, like the one, desire a sign of earthly splendour and magnificence; or, like the other, seek after the wisdom of false philosophy: but to the intelligent, and therefore humble believer, Christ, in this state of weakness, pain, and sorrow, is “the “ wisdom of God” to contrive, “and the power of “God” to effect the deliverance of his people.

It observable, that whensoever, in the Scriptures, mention is made of any particular relative to the abasement, the infirmity, and the shame submitted to by Christ, it is presently contrasted by something concerning his exaltation, his power, and his glory; that so, the objection arising in the mind from a view of the former, may be obviated at once by the consideration of the latter, and the Christian may never lose sight of that capital article of his faith, the union of the two natures, divine and human, in the person of his Saviour. Thus we behold him in swaddling.clothes; but instantly we hear the heavenly host singing an hallelujah to him. He lies in a manger; but the brightest star in the firmament points the way to bis abode. He expires upon the cross; but all nature suffers with bim, almost to a dissolution. And thus, in the instance now before us, he is circumcised indeed on earth, as the son of Abraham; but a name is given bim from heaven, as the Son of God. For in these lowly and ignominious circumstances, he receives the name enjoined before to be imposed on him by the angel; a name above every name; a name which evil spirits fear, and good ones adore ; a name, at which every knee should rejoice to bow, and which every tongue should exult to confess; since it is by this name that glory is given to God in the highest, peace restored to earth at war with its Maker, and good-will streams forth to sinful men.

In order to unfold the mystery of the circumcision of Christ, it will be necessary to inquire into the institution of this rite, with the reason and end thereof.

Moses," saith our Lord to the Jews, gave you

circumcision, not because it is of Moses, but of the “ fathers *;" this being one of the many legal ceremonies, which were originally communicated to the ancient patriarchs, and afterwards re-ordained in writing by Moses. The first account of it occurs in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a John, vii, 22.

the history of our father Abraham ; and St. Paul, discoursing at large upon the point", informeth us, that it was given as a “sign or seal of the righteous

ness, which is by faith.” Now the object of Abraham's faith was redemption by the promised Seed, that is to say, by Messiah, who should spring from his loins; and in whom, by reason of that redemption, “all the nations of the earth were to be blessed” with the blessings of eternity. And the righteousness, which is by such faith, consisteth in the justification of believers by the cutting off and doing away the body of sin through the sacrifice of Christ by which they are pardoned and made holy, being separated from sin, and sin from them, in order to a final se. paration from every thing that offendeth, at the resurrection of the just. This is the righteousness of

faith,” with which Abraham having been before invested, he received circumcision, not as any thing which could make him righteous, but as a sign and seal of that evangelical righteousness

" which he " had being yet uncircumcised; to the end that he “ might be the father of all them who believe, though

they be not circuincised;" and that we Gentiles, as well as the Jews, might become the children, and inherit the blessing, of Abraham.

of Abraham. But from the institution of this rite to the manifestation of the promised Seed, it became to the natural descendants of the patriarch Abraham, what baptism hath been ever since to the spiritual progeny of him who is, in a much higher sense, the Father of us all; it be

b Rom. iv.

« PreviousContinue »