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Of the nature of regeneration, and its necessity, in order to justification and salvation.
G A L A T. vi. 1f.
Tor in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature.
The first sermon on this text.
THere are two epistles of St. Paul, namely, that to the Romans, and this to the Galatians, which are principally and particularly designed to confute a false persuasion, which had prevailed amongst many Christians, especially those who were converted from Judaism; that it was not enough for men to embrace and confess the Christian religion, unless they kept the law of Moses, or at least submitted to that great precept of circumcision $ the neglect whereof, among all the affirmative precepts of the law, was only threatened with excision, or being cut off from among the people. And of the prevalency of this error, and the great disturbance which it made in the Christian church, we have a particular account, Acts xv. where a general council of the Apostles is called, and a letter written in their names to all the Christian churches, to rectify their apprehensions in this matter, ver. 2-4. of that chap. For as much as we have heard, that certain which went out from us, have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the law, to whom we gave no such commandment, &c.
And upon this occasion likewise it was, that St. Paul wrote this epistle to the Galatians, as likewise
that that to the Romans ; in the former of which, aster he had at large confuted this error, (which he calls the preaching of another gospel, than what the Apostles had preached, and the Christians first received) in the beginning of the 5th chapter he exhorts them to assert the liberty, which Christ had purchased for them, from the obligation of the law of Moses, ver. 1, 2. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul fay unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit yon nothing ; not that hereby he condemneth circumcision, as: a thing evil in itself ; for God never instituted nor commanded any thing that was so; but he opposeth the opinion of the necessity of it to our justification and salvation, when the gospel had so plainly taken away the obligation and use of it; and consequently to affirm still the necessity of it, was really to renounce Christianity. For if Judaism was still the way to salvation, Christianity was to no purpose ; and if Christianity be now the way, then the obligation to the Jewish religion was ceased. To avoid the force of this reasoning, it was not enough for the false Apostles to fay (as it seems they did) that Christians were not obliged universally to the whole law of Moses, but principally to the law of circumcision ; because circumcision being the sign and badge of that covenant, whoever took that upon
law, ver. 3. 4. Tor 1 testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law; Christ is become of no effeSt to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace; that is, whoever of you expect and profess to be justified by the law of Moses, ye take away the necessity and use of the Christian religion ; and are fallen from grace; that is, do in effect renounce the gospel; for we through the spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, ver. 5. we by the Spirit, in opposition to circumcision, which was in the flesh, do expect to be justified by the belief of the gospel. ler in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availtth any
him, did thereby own
thing, nor uncircumcision, ver. 6. that is, now under the dispensation or the gospel by Christ Jesus, it signifies nothing to a man's justification or salvation, whether he be circumcised, or not circumcised, whether he be a Jew or a Gentile. All that the gospel requires as necessary to these purposes, is, that we perform the conditions of the gospel, that so we may be capable of being made partakers of the blessings of it.
Now as the great blessing and benefit of the gospel is variously exprest, as by the forgiveness of our fins, by our acceptance with God, or (which comprehends both) by our justification, sometimes by adoption, and our being made the sons and children if God, sometimes by redemption, and (which is the consummation of all) by salvation and eternal life; I say, as the blessing and benefit of the gospel is in scripture exprest to us by these several terms, which do in effect all signify the fame thing ; so our duty, and the condition the gospel requires on our parr, is likewise as varioufly exprest ; sometimes, and that very frequently, by the word faith, as being the great source and principle of all religious acts and performances ; but then this faith must not be a bare assent and persuasion of the truth of the gospel, but such art effectual belief, as exprcsseth itself in suitable acts of obedience and holiness, such as the Apostle here calls Tuif iyivtt 'ivtfyx/Avn, a faith which worketh by love, a faith that is inspired and a fled, or rather consummate and made perfect by charity, (for so the word doth often signify,) and then this phrase will be just of the same importance with that of St. James, chap. ii. ^^. by works is faith made perfect. Sometimes, and that also very frequently, the condition of the gospel is exprest by words which import and signify the change of our state, as by repentance, conversion, regeneration, renovation, sanclification, the new creature, and the new man ; which expressions are all so well known, that I need not refer to particular texts ; sometimes the condition of the gospel is exprest by the visible and sensible effects of this inward change in our outward life and actions; as
namenamely, by obedience and keeping the commandments of God. So Heb. v. 9. Christ is said to be the author os eternal salvation to them that obey him; where obedience is plainly put for the whole condition of the gospel, the performance whereof entitles us to eternal life and happiness.
Now that by these various expressions, one and the fame thing is certainly intended and meant, viz. the condition of the gospel; that which is required on our part, in order to our full and perfect justification and acceptance with God, is evident beyond all denial; by comparing the three different ways whereby St. Paul doth express the fame proposition for fense and substance; in which he tells us, what it is that will avail to our justification under the Gospel, that is, according to the terms of the Christian religion; that it is neither here nor there, that it signifies nothing whether a man be circumcised or not, but that we be so qualified as the gospel requires, that the conditions upon which the blessings of the gospel are promised be found in us. And there are three texts wherein the fame thing is plainly intended in three very different expressions, Gal. v. 6. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but faith, which is consummate, or made perfecl by charity. Gal. vi. 15. For in Christ Jesui neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but a new creature, 1 Cor. vii. 19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumciston is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. It is evident, that in these three texts the Apostle designs to fay the fame thing, and consequently that faith which is made perfeSl by charity, and the new creature/and keeping of the commandments of God, ate the same in sense and substance, viz.the condition of our justification and acceptance with God under the covenant of the gospel, or ia the Christian religion.
I shall at present, by God's assistance, handle the second of these texts. In Christ Jesus neither cir(umciston availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but a new creature. And here the condition of the goyoi. V. £ b spel spel is exprest to us, by the change of our state, which in scripture is called our regeneration, or becoming new creatures, and new men. Circumcision was but an outward sign and mark upon the body, and the flesh, though it did indeed prefigure and typify the inward circumcision of the heart, the giving of men new hearts, and new spirits, under the more perfect dispensation of the gospel: but now in Christ Jesus, that is, in the Christian religion, the presence or the want of this outward mark will avail nothing to our justification; but that which was signified by it, the renovation of our hearts and spirits, our becoming new creatures, is now the condition of our justification and acceptance with God.
The false Apostles indeed did lay great stress upon the business of circumcision, not so much out of zeal to the law of Moses, as to avoid persecution, ver. 1They constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. lor at that time, though the Christians were persecuted, yet the Jews by the Roman edicts had the free exercise of their religion, and therefore they gloried in this external mark of circumcision, because it exempted them from suffering; but St. Paul gloried in his sufferings for Christ, and the marks of that upon his body, ver. 14. God forbid that I fljould glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; and ver. 17. I bear in my body marks of the Lord Jesus. He tell* them, what necessities soever they might pretend of circumcision, either for their justification, or salvation, the true ground of all was to save themselves from temporal sufferings; and that in the christian religion it signifieth nothing to recommend them to the favour of God, whether they were circumcised or not; nothing would be available to this purpose, but the renovation and change of their hearts and lives. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature, Ka-tvn Kwo'k, a new creation, to intimate the greatness of the change, .which Christianity, throughly entertained, made in men.
Having thus cleared the occasion and meaning of