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“ which voice they that heard, entreated that the “ word should not be spoken to them any more: (for
they could not endure that which was commanded; " and if so much as a beast touch the mountain “ it shall be stoned or thrust through with a dart: “and so terrible was the sight, that even Moses “ said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but we are
come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an in“numerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the first-born, which are
written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and " to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus “the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood “ of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than “ that of Abel>;" the one crying as loud for
as loud for mercy, as the other did for vengeance. And therefore, when this blood of sprinkling was first shed, “ when eight
days were accomplished for the circumcising the “ child, his name was called Jesus, which was so “named of the angel before he was conceived in “the womb," saying, “ Thou shalt call his name “ Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.”
The doctrine of the day being thus stated and explicated, nothing remains, but that we reduce it to practice. Something Christ hath left us, in every mystery, to believe and to admire; something also to love and to imitate. The legal ceremony of circumcision, having received its accomplishment in Jesus, became of course null and void; insomuch that the performance of it afterwards was justly deemed a renunciation of Christ, a denial of his advent in the flesh; for so the apostle witnesseth; “ Behold, I Paul say “ unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall
z Heb. xii, 18, &c.
a Matt. i. 21.
profit you nothing.” This is the unhappy case of the Jews, to this day; who, having lost the evangelical faith of their fathers, still continue under the law, with all its judgements in force against them; and this must be their case, until their heart shall turn to the Lord their God, until they shall be led to acknowledge the holy Jesus, as the end of the law, and the Saviour of the world. In the mean time, by us who believe, the doctrine is to be transmitted from the head to the heart, there by the operation of the eternal Spirit to do away what St. James styleth “the “superfluity of maliciousness,” cleansing us from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that we may perfect holiness in the fear of God. It is true, that sin was mystically cut off and destroyed in the body of Christ; but wherefore ? that it might live and flourish in us? God forbid. Christ was made sin for us, not that we might continue in sin, but that we might become the righteousness of God in him. For if we be dead to sin in Christ our representative, how can we, consistently with our profession, live any longer therein? How can the circumcision of Christ profit any one, who celebrates the festival, as constantly as it returns, himself still continuing “ circumcised in heart and ears ?” Or, in other words, how can his baptism save him, whose life is one per
b Gal. v. 2.
S Περισσειαν κακιας-Jam. i. 21.
petual renunciation of it? for baptism, which succeeded in the place of circumcision, takes up the mystery where that left it. The one showeth sin cut off, in and with the body of Christ; the other representeth it as buried in his grave, and the new man, through the power of his resurrection, risen again without sin unto salvation. And one cannot but admire the manner in which St. Paul hath interwoven the spiritual application of these two sacraments of the old and new law. “Ye are complete," saith he to his Colossians, “in Christ, who is the “ head of all principality and power. In whom also
ye are circumcised with the circumcision made “ without hands, by the circumcision of Christ, "buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are “risen with him, through the faith of the operation “ of God, who hath raised him from the dead : and
you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumci“sion of your flesh, hath he quickened together with “him, having forgiven you all trespasses 4.” We are to labour, therefore, after the spirit and power of these two sacraments in our hearts, that they be manifested in our lives and conversations. Otherwise, the letter of them can only condemn us. For as he is not a Jew, so neither is he a Christian, who is one outwardly; but he is a true Jew, and he is a true Christian, who is so inwardly; from whose heart and members the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are cut off; who is dead and buried to sin, and risen again to righteousness. This blessed work, sacramentally shown forth and begun in baptism, is to be continued through life by the successive renovations of repentance, by daily accessions of knowledge, faith, and charity, producing and carrying on a gradual growth in grace, until it be perfected. And as the season annually returns when it pleaseth God to begin again his work, which men so often behold, of renewing the face of the earth, by commanding the sun to re-visit and cheer our world, where nature, during his absence, hath drooped and languished away, but is again to be raised from the death and deformity of winter, to the life and beauty of spring, until, by a silent progressive operation, the year be crowned with the loving kindness of the Lord; we are hereby directed to look up by faith to the great luminary of the intellectual world, who declareth from his glorious throne, “Behold I make “ all things new";" beseeching him to rise upon us with healing in his wings; to visit us with the light of his countenance and the joy of his salvation, that so old things may pass away, and we may be renewed in the spirit of our minds; to disperse the clouds and darkness of ignorance; to lay the wintry storms and tempests of disordered passions, and introduce into our hearts the calm and gladsome spring of everlasting righteousness and peace; to pour upon the year all the blessings of that glorious festival with which it commenceth; and, in one word, by making it HOLY, to make it HAPPY.
d Col. ii. 10.
Matthew, 11. 1, 2.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
In this remarkable part of sacred story there are two particulars, on which, at the present season, we are called upon to employ our meditations. And as they will suggest ample matter for that purpose, I shall crave your leave to enter upon a discussion of them without any farther preface.
The particulars are these :
First, then, let us contemplate the persons here mentioned by St. Matthew, their country and condition.
With regard to their country, the text gives us no farther information, than that they came from the