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THE CIRCUMCISION OF CHRIST.

Almighty God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man ; grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit, that, our hearts and all our members being mortified from all rworldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will, through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen....

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HE spirituality of our liturgy is one of its

; in which it is found, by the most able judges, to be inferior only to its archetype the Bible. For every form which it contains, affords an antidote to that epidemic disease of the visible church, formality, by exhibiting the essential characteristics of true godliness. The propensity of the human mind to formality, consisting in a substitution of external observances for genuine devotion, and the prevalence of this fatal mistake, cannot be denied. But it arises not from the use of forms, but from the abuse of them. And there is no institution, however Divine and excellent, which is not liable to be perverted by the fallen heart of man. For even the Holy Scriptures themselves, and the Blessed Sacraments which they enjoin, become, through human ignorance and wickedness, the means of promoting and strengthening that alienation from God, which they are designed to correct and to cure. God Himself, by all His institutions,

both of the law and gospel, has sanctioned the form of Godliness. For though the form may exist without the power; it is not conceivable how the essence can exist without form. A statue that has no breath in it, may possess the resemblance of a human being; but a man must of necessity have the distinguishing exterior modifications of the human species. These remarks are occasioned by a general review of the collect now to be considered, which proclaims aloud, that “he is - not a Jew which is one outwardly, “ neither is that circumcision which is outward in “ the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one in

wardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in “ the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is “ not of men but of God.”

Our collect recites a fact in sacred history which is this day commemorated ;--founds a prayer on that fact;—and specifies the object or end which is proposed by the request made.

At eight days old the infant Saviour of mankind was initiated, according to the requisitions of the ceremonial code, into the Jewish religion, and brought under an obligation of fulfilling the whole law; for it was an established canon of that code, that whosoever was “circumcised” became

debtor to do the whole law.” Gal. v. 3. The collect moreover asserts, that the circumcision of Christ was the effect of Divine appointment; the act being ascribed to God the Father, who is therein addressed.

Christ is the tree of life. And every circumstance of His history, from the manger to the cross, is a branch of that tree, loaded with nutritive and delicious fruit designed for our use. Other trees require to be planted and watered for a consider· able time, before they become fruitful; and in VOL. 1.

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the interval many die, and disappoint the expectations which are founded on them. But " the “ tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise « of God," was no sooner set in the earth, than it began to be diffusively beneficial. Like the citrontree, it bore at once leaves, buds, and ripe fruit. Its leaves began immediately to heal the nations, and its fruit to counteract the baneful effects of that other tree, which“ brought death into the - world and all our woe.

· The fact referred to in our collect is related by the Evangelist St. Luke (chap. ii. 21.) It will be our present business to inquire into the origin and design of the rite of circumcision, and to point out the reason of our blessed Lord's submission to it.

The first institution of this significant rite is recorded in Gen. xvii. 11, &c. which is appointed to be read as the first lesson of the morning-service for this day. It was enjoined, by a special revelation, to Abraham and all the male branches of his family, whether children or servants, in perpetual succession. The penalty of neglecting it was excommunication from the church of God, and exclusion from all the privileges annexed to a continuance within its pale. Nay, it seems that death, inflicted by the immediate hand of God, was sometimes the consequence of a non-compliance with this ordinance. For when Moses was returning from Midian to Egypt, Jehovah met him and sought to slay him, because he had neglected to circumcise his son; till Zipporah his wife, who had no doubt been instructed by her husband in the nature and obligation of this rite, averted the Lord's displeasure by a prompt obedience to His will. From the general doctrine of sacramental institutions we may also infer, that

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a contempt of this Divine rite, being an act of rebellion against Divine authority, exposed the offender to the punishment of everlasting death.

In its original intention, circumcision was a sign and seal of the covenant, which God made with Abraham and his seed---even the covenant of grace for the redemption of mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ. Gen. xvii. 11. The blood of Christ is called “ the blood of the everlasting cove“ nant;" for thereby redemption and all its benefits are finally secured to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, that is, to all believers. But, previously to the effusion of that precious blood, the compact was from time to time confirmed, on the part of Jehovah the Father, by the blood of cir: cumcision and of various sacrifices which were ordained for this purpose. Circumcision is therefore called, Gen. xvii. 10, 13, “ the covenant," the sign or type being substituted for the thing signified of which it was a' memorial. This is a very common mode of diction in the Scriptures, and has been frequently adopted by the Christian church, in imitation of the inspired writers, as appears by our baptismal service. That this was the grand object of circumcision on the one part, is evident from the declaration of St. Paul concerning it, when he calls: “ the sign of circum“cision a seal of the righteousness of faith.” On the other hand the circumcised person bound him self to faith and obedience; or, in other words, “ promised and vowed, first, that he would re« nounce the devil and all his works, the pomps “ and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sin“ ful lusts of the flesh;” secondly, "that he would « believe all the articles of the Christian faith; « and, thirdly, that he would keep God's holy

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the interval many die, and disappoint the expectations which are founded on them. But the “ tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise “ of God," was no sooner set in the earth, than it began to be diffusively beneficial. Like the citrontree, it bore at once leaves, buds, and ripe fruit. Its leaves began immediately to heal the nations, and its fruit to counteract the baneful effects of that other tree, which brought death into the " world and all our woe.”

The fact referred to in our collect is related by the Evangelist St. Luke (chap. ii. 21.) It will be our present business to inquire into the origin and design of the rite of circumcision, and to point out the reason of our blessed Lord's submission to it.

The first institution of this significant rite is recorded in Gen. xvii. 11, &c. which is appointed to be read as the first lesson of the morning-service for this day. It was enjoined, by a special

. revelation, to Abraham and all the male branches of his family, whether children or servants, in perpetual succession. The penalty of neglecting it was excommunication from the church of God, and exclusion from all the privileges annexed to a continuance within its pale. Nay, it seems that death, inflicted by the immediate hand of God, was sometimes the consequence of a non-compliance with this ordinance. For when Moses was returning from Midian to Egypt, Jehovah met him and sought to slay him, because he had neglected to circumcise his son;

till Zipporah his wife, who had no doubt beer tructed by her husband in the nature and o on of this rito averted the Lord's displeas prompt dience to His will. From sacramental institutions

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