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SERMON LXXVI.

Rom. ii. 28, 29.

For he is not a Jew that is one outwardly;

neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. 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 Apostle having laid this down as

the foundation of his discourse to the Romans, that the gospel of Christ was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; he procoeds in the next place to prove the proposition by shewing that neither Jew nor Gentile, by their several observations of the law of nature S 3

and

and the Mosaic dispensation, could lay claim to that righteousness whereby a man is justified, or stands just and righteous in the sight of God. )

He begins with the Gentiles, and shews their incapacity of this justifying righteousness, which alone can find acceptance, from the abuse of those common principles concerning God and his nature, which were manifested to them by the light of their own reason. By “ holding " the třuth in unrighteousness,” that is, by wickedly suppressing those natural notionis concerning God and their neighbour, they justly deserved the wrath of God to be revealed against their ungodly and unrighteous method of life.

-.“ By the things that are made they might easily have collected the eternal power and Godhead of him who is the invisible Creator, and thereby deduced their obligations to a dutiful obedience: so that upon tliat account they were without excuse; in that they changed the truth of God into a lie, and, by a preposterous .

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inversion, worshipped the creature more than the Creator, who is the God of blessedness and eternity.

Having laid open the 'inexcusable enormities of the Gentile sinner, he next exposes the egregious folly of the boasting Jews; by declaring, that notwithstanding those peculiar privileges, in which they placed their whole confidence and glory, they were in equal guilt with the Gentiles, and stood as much in need of the righteousness of God as the Gentiles did. Those peculiar marks of distinction, by which they were known from the rest of mankind, did not supply the want of that in-) ward moral rectitude which they ought to have laboured after, that they might, in the truest and noblest sense, have been the chosen Israel of God.

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To be the people of God, only by an external shew of religious duties, does by: no means accord with the true intent and design of the great and glorious Author of it. It is the spirituality of devotion, and not the circumstances of any outward S4

act,

act, which can recommend us to God's. favour and acceptance.

This was the fatal mistake of the Jews, that they carried their prospects no farther than the outward appearances of things, and confined their researches to the surface of religion only. They were scrupulously exact in all the minutiæ of ceremonial performances, that they might be thought most strict observers of the divine law, whilst they omitted things which were of far more weighty, even of eternal, consequence. , To this their error the Apostle opposes himself, and expressly contradicts their false reasonings, by telling them, “ That he is not a Jew which " is one outwardly; neither is that cir“ cumcision, which is outward in the

flesh," the true circumcision which God. primarily requires.

66 But he is a Jew, " who is one inwardly," who is thoroughly purified froin all gross and corrupt affections; and truc çircumcision is that of the leart, which disposes to the truth and sincerity of worship. And this being in the spirit and not in the letter, the due

praise comes from God, who is the discerner of our thoughts; and not from men, who are wholly incapable of passing judgment on the inward frame and disposition.

Were this false reasoning confined to the Jews alone, it would be no part of the duty of a preacher of the gospel of Christ to encounter it. But sad experience too well evinces, that it extends itself also to a large portion of the modern professors of Christianity, who shelter their want of inward purity and devotion under the same flimsy pretences, which served the Jews of old as a cloak for their hardness and impenitence.

The Jews knew that they were the chosen people of God, distinguished from all other nations as having the Almighty for their immediate king and governor. And for this reason they concluded, that it was impossible he should reject them, or turn the stream of his affection any

other people. Their being the seed of Abraham they vainly fancied was a de

monstration

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