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and privilege to be brought to God's service, if they did serve him. But if they who were called his servants ceased to obey, their title to his favour ceased, and must be given to others.
25. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law ; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision ?
27. And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law f
If the uncircumcised heathen keep the law, shall not he, though not within the covenant, have the blessing of the covenant 2 To say this, is not to deny that a peculiar blessing was conferred upon the people of Israel. A son is profited, who is heir to a rich father, and keeps the condition on which he is to possess the estate. He is in very different circumstances from another, who has no such relationship, no such inheritance. So circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law : it has great and precious promises annexed to it. But if the son break the condition on which his inheritance rested, then he forfeits all his original advantages: and he has less right to favour than a stranger, who has no conditions imposed upon him, and yet does that, which the son was required to do, and failed.
Therefore, the heathen, if led by nature, by the right use of their natural reason, to that righteousness which the law was designed to establish, may judge, and condemn those, who by the letter and the circumcision, having the written law and the ordinances, yet transgress the law, disobey the commands of God.
28. For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh;
29. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The Jews had fallen into the common error, satisfying themselves with forms and outward ceremonies; which are designed to influence the heart, and produce inward feelings; but not to be instead of the service of the heart. We are circumcised, they argued ; and this makes us the people of God. No, says the apostle; this is a token that you are dedicated to God, and ought to live as his people; but if you have the form of dedication, and nothing more, what shall it profit? For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; who has merely the outward sign. That is a proof of what he ought to be; not of what he is. We might compare it to the ring which is given in marriage. The ring is a sign of wedlock, but no proof of conjugal faithfulness: it is a sign that there ought to be love, but no proof that there is love. And so of circumcision. That is not in itself devotedness to God: nor has it any value, unless it is attended by those inward feelings which lead to dutiful obedience.
What St. Paul here affirms of the Jewish ordinance, we may justly apply to the ordinances of the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. These more concern us; for there is always danger lest too much stress be laid on the outward ceremony. Baptism is an emblem of the putting off the old nature, and receiving a new and better nature; a sign of being taken from the power of Satan and admitted into the favour of God. But unless the Spirit of God do indeed produce this change, and unless the evidence of it appear in the behaviour, the man is really “dead,” and has but “a name to live.” “Baptism doth save us; not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God.”" The baptism of Simon Magus was merely outward in the flesh :" there was no answer of a good conscience; for he remained worldly and covetous within; his heart set on earth, and not on heaven. And so of the Lord's Supper. That is not receiving the body and blood of Christ, which is outward in the flesh. It is not the form that profits, but the mystery which the form represents; not the outward action, but the inward faith from which it proceeds. The Lord's Supper indicates the feelings of the heart, when the heart desires to be thus reminded of the body which bore its sins, and of the blood which atoned for its transgressions. The heart which feels this, “verily and indeed receives the body and blood of Christ” in this holy sacrament." But that is not an ordinance of the heart, but of the letter, when the careless, worldly, unrenewed man complies with the form, because it is the custom of the church: or when one who feels his strength decaying takes re
fuge in the outward rite, with no sense of the mystery which it represents.
So that “we may truly say of these things, what St. Paul says of circumcision and other Jewish privileges. They do verily profit, if thou keep the law of Christ. But if thou be a transgressor of that law, thy baptism is no baptism, thy Christianity is no better than heathenism. For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is that baptism which is outward in the flesh : but he is a Christian who is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not only that according to the letter of the Gospel.”
THE DEALINGS OF GOD TOWARDS THE JEWS CLEARED FROM OBJECTIONS.
ROMANs ii. 1–8.
1. What advantage then hath the Jew 2 or what profit is there in circumcision ?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles" of God.
The Jewish nation was the chosen nation. Moses had declared, (Deut. xxvi. 18,) “The Lord hath
9 Archbishop Sharpe. Sermons, vol. vi. 17. Referring, of course, to those who have reached years of discretion. * Inspired words: as Acts vii. 38.
avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee; and to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour: and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.” This covenant had been sealed by the ordinance of circumcision. But now God was threatening to cast off this people, and the Gentiles were to possess their privileges. What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there in circumcision ? The apostle replies, that the Jews had enjoyed great advantage. They had been the depositaries of divine truth. What was hidden from others, had been declared to them. When “the world by wisdom knew not God,” the Jews were made acquainted with him by revelation. Was this nothing? Did not this prove that God had “chosen them to be a special people unto himself, above all the nations of the earth £”2 We are all, like the Jews, apt to pride ourselves on our privileges: and to forget, as they did, that privilege is responsibility. To possess the oracles of God, is an advantage, great every way. Yet the same word of God, which is eternal life “to them that believe,” is “to them that perish foolishness.” It con
demns those, who “neglect the great salvation” which it reveals.
An objector might still say, What becomes, then, of God's promises? Some, it is true, nay many, have received the oracles of God in vain. But shall God
* Deut. vii. 6.