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SECT. XI. And circumcision of the flesh.

WE come now to circumcision, which is, indeed, ancienter than Moses, as being commanded to Abraham and his posterity; but this very precept was the beginning of the 202covenant declared by Moses. Thus we find God said to Abraham, Genesis xvii. I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, even the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; therefore keep my covenant, thou and thy seed for ever. This is the covenant betwixt me and thee and thy seed; Every male shall be circumcised. But we have before seen, that there was to succeed anew covenant in the room of this covenant, such as should be common to all people; for which reason the necessity of a mark of distinction must cease. And this is further evident, that there was some mystical and higher signification contained under this precept of circumcision; as appears from the prophets, when they command the heart to be circumcised, to which all the precepts of Christ tend.611611   Deut. x. 16. xxx. 6. Jer. iv. 4. So likewise the promises added to circumcision, must of necessity relate to something further; namely, that of an earthly possession, to the revelation of an everlasting possession;612612   Heb. iv. which was never made more manifest than by Jesus; and that of making Abraham a father of many nations;613613   Gen. xvii. 5. Rom. iv. 11, 13, 16, 17. Luke xix. 9. Gal. iii. 7. till that time when not only some few people, but innumerable of them, spread all over the world, should imitate that memorable faith of Abraham towards God; which never yet came to pass, but by the gospel. Now it is no wonder, that when the work is finished, the shadow of the work that was designed should be taken away. And that God’s mercy was not confined to this sign, is from hence manifest;614614   Justin, in his dialogue with Trypho, says, “Circumcision was given for a sign, and not for a work of righteousness.” And Irenæus, book iv. chap. 30. “We learn from scripture, that circumcision is not that which perfects righteousness: but God gave it, that Abraham’s posterity might continue distinguishable. For God said to Abraham, Let every male of you be circumcised, and circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be for a sign and a covenant betwixt you and me.” that not only those who lived before Abraham, but 203even Abraham himself was acceptable to God before he was circumcised; and circumcision was omitted by the Hebrews all the while they journeyed through the deserts of Arabia, without being reproved of God for it.615615   Josh. v. 5. 6.


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