PREACHED AT ST. DUNSTAN'S UPON NEW-YEAR'S DAY, 1624.
Genesis xvii. 24.
Abraham himself was ninety-nine years old, when the foreskin of his
flesh was circumcised.
This is the place where circumcision began, and this is the day, when circumcision ended; in this Scripture it was instituted, in the person of Abraham; and upon this day it was perfected and consummated in the person of Christ Jesus: for, though circumcision were admitted in a few cases, in the apostles' time, after Christ, yet that was, as dead herbs are re-admitted into medicines in the winter, when fresh and green herbs cannot be had of that kind: so circumcision was sometimes admitted for peace, and to avoid scandal, and the better to propagate the church, after the virtue thereof was extinguished in Christ. In the institution thereof in this text, we will consider Abraham's ready, and exact obedience: in the consummation thereof, in the person of Christ, we will consider that, to which, this circumcision had relation, that is, the spiritual circumcision of our hearts. It is a text well handled, and it is a day well spent, if the text teach us to obey God readily, and immediately, what inconveniences soever present themselves in the way, and if the celebration of the day, teach us to come this day, to that which is the true circumcision, the circumcision of the heart. In the first, in Abraham's example, we shall pass by these steps: first, that though there be allowed to us an omnia probate, a trial of all things, and a spirit to discern spirits; yet when once it appears to us, to be a commandment of God, there is a fine levied, all title concluded, no more claim to be made by our understanding, our reason, but a present, and an exact obedience must be given to it. Secondly, that in particular men, and in particular cases, there may arise temptations, objections, reasons, why a man might forbear altogether, or at least defer the execution of such a commandment, as there may have done in Abraham's ease, as we shall see anon. Thirdly, that though such temptations do arise in us out of our infirmities, yet God gives his children strength to overcome those difficulties, and to oppose stronger reasons against those reasons, and so to come to a willing obedience to his will. And then lastly, the triumph that belongs to this victory; which we shall find in considering what benefit Abraham received by this obedience in his circumcision: and these will be the branches of our first part, rising out of the institution of circumcision, in the person of Abraham at that great age, first, that God's manifest will, must not be disputed, nor reasoned upon: secondly, that man's corrupt nature will offer reasons against it: thirdly, that God will give the issue with the temptation, reason above that reason: and lastly, he will accompany that victory, with other blessings too.
First then, for our exact obedience to that which God exacts of us, it is well said by Luther, Depuerascendum est, cum agitur de obedientia Dei: when the question is, whether this, or this be commanded by God or no, when traditions and additions of men, are imposed upon us, as commandments of God, here is no depuerascendum in this case, this is no child's-play; then, Viriliter agendum, (as the apostle speaks) we must quit ourselves like men, we must dispute like men, (like learned men) preach like men, (like zealous men) pray like men, (like devout men) resist like men, (like valiant men) or at least, (in cases where we may not resist) suffer like men, (like constant Christian men.) But when the question is, De obedientia Dei, that this is agreed to fje the will of God, and all the question is, whether God might not be content to accept an obedience to some part of it, or to all of that hereafter, but not now, whether God would not forgive the debt, or at least give day for the payment of it; either when we are old, or by legacies to pious uses, when we die, when this is the question, Depuerascendum est, we must grow children again: we must not only, not argue, not dispute against it (which are acts of men, of strong and able understandings) but we must return to the first weakness of children, to be speechless, to be thoughtless; we must not utter a word, not conceive a thought against it, Periculosa et pestilens quwstio, quare; says Luther also, It is a dangerous and. infectious monosyllable, how or why: if I will ask a reason, why God commands such a thing; first, Periculosum est, It is dangerous; for, I have nothing to answer me, but mine own reason, and that affords not lead enough, nor lino enough, to sound the depth of God's proceedings, nor length enough, nor strength enough to reach so far, and therefore I may mistake the reason, and go upon false grounds. So, Periculosum est, It is a dangerous question, and a lost question, because I can have no certain answer; and it is an infectious question too, for here is one coal of the devil's fire, of his pride, kindled in me; as the devil said, Similis ero altissimo, I will be like the Highest, and see whether I may not stand by myself, without any influence from God, without any dependence upon God: so, in our case, I will be so far equal to God, as that I will measure his actions by my reason, and not do his commandments till I know why he commanded them: and then, when the infection is got into a house, who can say, it shall end here in this person, and kill no more; or it shall end this week, and last no longer? So if that infectious inquisition, that quare, (why should God command this or this particular ?) be entered into me, all my humility is presently infected, and I shall look for a reason, why God made a world, or why he made a world no sooner than six thousand years ago, and why he saved some, and why but some, and I shall examine God upon all the interrogatories that I can frame, upon the creed, (why I should believe a Son of a Virgin without a man, or believe the Son of God to descend into hell) or frame upon the Pater noster, (why 1 should worship such a God, that must be prayed to, not to lead me into temptation) or frame upon the Ten Commandments, why after all is done and heaped, for any sinful action, yet I should be guilty of all, for coveting in my heart another man's horse or house. And therefore Luther pursues it farther, with words of more vehemence, Odiosa et exitialis vocula, quare, It is an execrable and damnable monosyllable, why; it exasperates God, ruins us: for, when we come to ask a reason of his actions, either we doubt of the goodness of God, that he is not so careful of us, as we would be; or of his power, that he cannot provide for us, so well as we could do; or of his wisdom, that he hath not grounded his commandments so well as we could have advised him: whereas St. Augustine says
justly, Qui rationem quwrit voluntatis Dei, aliquid majus Deo quwrit, He that seeks a reason of the will of God, seeks for something greater than God. It was the devil that opened our eyes in paradise, it is our parts to shut them so far, as not to gaze upon God's secret purposes. God guided his children as well by a pillar of cloud, as by a pillar of fire, and both, cloud and fire, were equally pillars : there is as much strength in, and as safe relying upon some ignorances, as some knowledges; for God provided for his people, as well in this, that he hid Moses' body from them, as that he revealed other mysteries to them, by him. All is well summed and collected by St. Augustine, Dominus cur jusserit, viderit; faciendum est a serviente, quod jusserit: Why God commands anything, God himself knows; our part is, not to inquire why, but to do what he commands.
This is the rule: it is true, there should not be: but yet is there not sometimes, in the minds and mouths of good and godly men, a quare, a reasoning, a disputing against that which God hath commanded or done? The murmuring of the children in the desert, had still this Quare, quare eduxisti, Wherefore have you brought us hither to die here, in this miserable place, where there is no seed, no figs, no vines, no pomegranates, no water1? Saul had this quare, this rebellious inquisition, upon that commandment of God against the Amalekites, Slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass*: and from this quare, from this disputation of his, arose that conclusion, that it were better to spare some for sacrifice, than to destroy all: but though his pretence had a religious colour, that would not justify a slackness in obeying the manifested will of God; for, for this, God repented that he made him king, and told him that he had more pleasure in obedience, than in sacrifice. But, to come to better men than the Israelites in the wilderness, or Saul in his government, Job, though he, and his friends held out long, (they sate upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spoke a word) yet at last fell into these quares, Why did I not die in the birth? or, Why sucked I the breast? Peter himself had this reluctation; and though that were out of piety, yet he was chidden for it, Quare lavas, says he, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou
1 Numb. xx. 5. !] Sam. xv. 3.
shalt never wash my feet3: till Christ was fain to say, If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.
Upon this common infirmity; inherent in the best men that may (and not unlikely) be, that when God commanded Abraham, at that great age to circumcise himself, there might arise such quares, such scruples and doubts, as there, in Abraham's mind, (for, as St. Paul says of himself, If any man think he hath whereof to trust in the flesh, much more I, circumcised, an Hebrew, an Israelite, a Pharisee, a zealous servant in the persecution, and in righteousness unblameable*:) so if any man might have taken this liberty to have disputed with God, upon his precepts, Abraham might have done it; for, when God called him out to number the stars', (which was, even to art, impossible) and promised him, that his seed should equal them, (which was, in nature, incredible) for all this incredibility and impossibility, Abraham believed, and this was accounted to him for righteousness: and Abraham had declared his easy, and forward, and implicit faith in God, when God called him, and he went out, not knowing whither he went6: and therefore when God offered him a new seal, circumcision, Abraham might have said, Quare sigillum? What needs a seal between thee and me? I have used to take thy word before, and thou hast tried me before: but Abraham knew that obedience was better than wit or disputation; for, though obedience and good works, do not beget faith, yet they nurse it; Per ea augescit fides, et pinguescit, says Luther, Our faith grows into a better state, and into a better liking, by our good works.
Again, when Abraham considered, that it was, mandatum in re turpi, that this circumcision, in itself, was too frivolous a thing; and, in that part of the body, too obscene a thing, to be brought into the fancy of so many women, so many young men, so many strangers to other nations, as might bring the promise and covenant itself into scorn, and into suspicion, that should require such a seal to it as that was, he might have come to this, Quare tam turpe, quare tam sordidum? Why does God command me so base and unclean a thing, so scornful and mis-interpretable a thing, as circumcision, and circumcision in that part? Again, when he considered, that
8 John xiii. 6. * PhiL iii. 4, 5, 6. 'Gen. xv. 5. • Heb. xi. 8.
to circumcise all his family in one day, (as by the commandment he must) which could not be (in likelihood) of less than four hundred, (for he went out before, to the rescue of Lot, with three hundred and eighteen born and brought up in his house7) he must make his house a spital of so many impotent persons, unable to help one another for many days, (for such was the effect of circumcision, as we see in their story, when Simeon and Levi came upon the Shechemites three days after they had been, by their persuasion, circumcised, the Shechemites were unable to resist or defend themselves, and so were slain8: Yea the soreness and incommodity upon circumcision was so great, as that the very commandment itself of circumcision, was forborne in the wilderness, because they were then put to sudden removes, which presently after a circumcision, they could not have performed) might not Abraham have come to his Quare tam molestum? Why will God command me so troublesome and incommodious a thing as this? And (to contract this) when he considered, that one principal reason of the commandment of circumcision, was, that that mark might be always a remembrance to them against intemperance and incontinency. Might not Abraham have come to his Quare mihi? What use is there of this, in my body, which is now dried up and withered by ninety-nine years? What quares, what reluctations Abraham had, or whether he had any or no, is not expressed; but very religious and good men, sometimes, out of human infirmities, have them: but then, God brings them quickly about to Christ's Veruntamen, Yet not my will, but thine be done; and he delivers them from the temptation, and brings them to an entire obedience to his will, which is that which we proposed for the next branch in this part.
Tu qui vas figuli, says the apostle; whensoever any disputation against a commandment of God, arises in God's children, the Spirit of God smothers that spirit of rebellion with that, Tu qui ms figuli, Wilt thou who art but the vessel, dispute with the potter, that fashioned thee \ If Abraham had any such doubts, of a frivolousness in so base a seal, of an obscenity in so foul a seal, of an incommodiousness in so troublesome a seal, of a Heedlessness in so impertinent a seal; if he had these doubts, no doubt
7 Gen. xiv. 14. 8 Gen. xxxiv. 25.
but his forwardness in obeying God, did quickly oppose these reasons to those, and overcome them: that part of the body is the most rebellious part; and that that therefore, only that part Adam covered, out of shame, for all the other parts he could rule; Ad hominis inobedientiam redarguendam, sua inobedientia quodammodo caro testimonium perhibet3, To reproach man's rebellion to God, God hath left one part of man's body, to rebel against him; for though the seeds of this rebellion be dispersed through all the body, yet, In illa parte magis regnat additamentum leviathan, says St. Bernard, The spawns of leviathan, the seed of sin, the leaven of the devil, abound and reigns most in that part of the body; it is sentina peccati, says the same father, the sewer of all sin; not only because all sin is derived upon us, by generation, and so implied, and involved in original sin; but because, almost all other sins have relation to this: for, gluttony is a preparation to this sin in ourselves; pride and excess is a preparation to it, in others, whom we would inveigle and allure, by our bravery; anger and malice inclines us to pursue this sinful and inordinate love, quarrelsomely, so, as, that then, we do not quarrel for ways, and walls in the street, but we quarrel for our way to the devil; and we cannot go fast enough to the devil, by wantonness in the chamber, we will quarrel with him, who hinders us of our damnation, and find a way, to go faster in the field, by duels, and unchristian murder, in so foul a cause, as unlawful lust. In this rebellious part, is the root of all sin, and therefore did that part need this stigmatical mark of circumcision, to be imprinted upon it. Besides, (for the Jews in particular) they were a nation prone to idolatry, and most, upon this occasion, if they mingled themselves with women of other nations: and therefore, Dedit est signum, ut admoverentur de generatione pura, says St. Chrysostom, God would be at the cost even of a sacrament, (which is the greatest thing that passes between God and man next to his word) to defend them thereby against dangerous alliances, which might turn their hearts from God; God imprinted a mark in that part, to keep them still in mind of that law, which forbade them foreign marriages, or any company of strange women: Custodia pietati servandw, ne macularent pater nam nobi
litatem", lest they should degenerate from the nobility of their race, God would have them carry this memorial about them, in theirflesh. And God foresaw that extreme idolatry, that gross idolatry, which that nation would come to, and did come to, when Maachah the mother of Asa11 worshipped that idol, which St. Hierome calls Belphegor, and is not fit to be named by us; and therefore, in foresight of that idolatry, God gave this mark, and this mutilation upon this part. If Abraham were surprised with any suggestions, any half-reasons against this commandment, he might quickly recollect himself, and see, that circumcision was first, Signum memorativum, et monimentum isti fwderis, It was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham18; the covenant was the Messias, who being to come, by a carnal continuance of Abraham's race, the sign and seal was conveniently placed in that part. And that was secondly, Signum representativum, it represented baptism, In Christ you are circumcised, says the apostle, in that you are buried with him, through baptism13: and then, that was, Signum distinctivum; for, besides that it kept them from idolatry, as the Greeks called all nations, whom they despised, barbares, barbarians, so did the Jews, incircumcisos, uncircum. cised: and that was a great threatening in the prophet, Thou shalt die the death of the uncircumcised1*; that is, without any part in the everlasting promise, and covenant. But yet, the principal dignity of this circumcision, was, that it was Signum figurativum, it prefigured, it directed to that circumcision of the heart; Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, for the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords And for all the other reasons that couid be assigned, of remembrance, of representation, of distinction, Caret ubique ratione Judaica carnis circumcisio, (says Lactantius) nisi quod est circumcisionis figura, quw est cor mundum: The Jewish circumcision were an absurd and unreasonable thing, if it did not intimate and figure the circumcision of the heart: and that is our second part of this exercise: but before we come to that, we are to say a word of the fourth branch of this part, that as there is no quwre to be made nor admitted against God, (which
10 Theodoret. 11 1 Kings xv. 13. « Gen. 17.
13 Colos. ii. 12. "Ezek. xxviii. 10. 15 Dent. x. 16, 17.
was our first part) if man, out of his infirmity, do fall into that, (which was our second) God provides and furnishes them with reasons against those reasons, (which was our third.) And then God rewards their fighting of that battle, (which is his own work) with victories, and crowns, and blessings here; (which must be our fourth branch.)
Of examples of this, the book of God is full: but we contract ourselves only to that, which God did to Abraham at this time, in contemplation of this obedience. We consider Abraham at the end of one age, he was almost one hundred and ninety-nine when he was circumcised; and now was entering into another age, (for he lived seventy-five years after this:) this therefore was as the eve of his New-years day, and God presents him thus many New-year's gifts; first, he gives him a new name; in which change of his name, from Abram to Abraham, (besides that he was changed from pater magnns, to pater multitudinis, from the father of a great possession and family, to the father of a great succession and posterity, for that diminishes any greatness to have no posterity to leave that to) this also arises to be noted, that God's name Jehovah, having in that two letters of one kind, (H), God divides with his servant, God affords one of those letters to the dignifying of Abraham's name, he adds an h of his own name to his: Jehovah is his essential name; and in communicating any beam of that essence, any letter of that name, we become semen Dei, the seed of God; and filii Dei, the sons of God; and participes divinw naturw, partakers of the divine nature; and idem spiritus cum Domino, the same spirit with the Lord; and hearers of that voice; Ego dixi, dii estis, I have said you are gods: if we were careful to answer our old name, the name of Christians, in our conformity to Christ, and performance of Christianly duties, that were well, and other names needed not, as remembrancers unto us: but God does gives us new names and additions of offices, and titles in school, or court, or commonwealth, as new testimonies of his love, and rebukes of our former negligences, and remembrancers of our present duties in those places, and encouragers to a more careful proceeding in them. Secondly, God gave Abraham a new wife: in which, the blessing was, that he took not from him that virtuous and obedient wife which he had before, Sarah, but now he made her a wife unto him, and he supplied that only defect which was in her, barrenness, and so made her fully a wife, a mother. Thirdly, he gave him a new son; for, God who purposed to bless all nations in Abraham's seed, would not only repair and furnish his old house, (that is, bless Ismael with temporal blessings) but he would build him a new house, raise him up a new son, Isaac: he would not only fulfil that petition of Abraham's, O that Ismael might live in thy sight! not only preserve Ismael, which signifies, Exauditionem Domini, that the Lord had heard that prayer, in the behalf of Ismael; but he would give him an Isaac, which signifies, Risum Iwtitiam, that is, he would give him a new, and true occasion of joy. Fourthly, he gave him a new promise; that as in Adam he had promised a Messias, in semine mulieris, in the seed of the woman; now he contracts that promise to Abraham, in semine tuo, in thy seed shall all nations be blessed; and so makes Abraham, not only a partner with his other children, in the salvation of that Messias, but he makes Abraham a means to derive that salvation upon others also, In semine tuo, thou shalt not only be blessed in the seed of the woman, but all nations shall be blessed in thy seed. And lastly, he gives him a new seal; not only that seal, under which he was wont to deal with him, not only an inward seal in his heart, but he gives him a new seal, a visible seal, the seal of circumcision. This being then the dignity of God's precepts, that they require a present, and an exact obedience, without any counter-disputing; this being the infirmity of man's nature, that he is ever ready to object and oppose reasons, according to flesh and blood, against God's precepts; this being the overflowing measure of God's mercy to his children, to give them the issue with the temptation; reason above that reason, victory at last, and alacrity in the performance of that precept; and this being his infinite bounty, to give us such rewards and retributions for those victories, of which, only his goodness, and his strength, was the author in us, when we do perform those duties, (all which we have seen in Abraham's obedience to a fleshly circumcision) that circumcision being come to an end in the circumcision of Christ, performed this day: let us come to this circumcision, of which that was but a figure, a
spiritual circumcision, the circumcision of the heart, and God shall give us new names (new demonstrations, that our names are written in the book of life and new marriages (refresh his promise in the prophet, that ho will marry himself to us for ever) and new sons, new Isaacs (assurance of new joys, essential and accidental, in the kingdom of heaven, and inchoative here in the way) and new promises, and new seals (new obligations of his blessed Spirit) that that infallibility of salvation which we have conceived, is well grounded.
We have done with our first part, with that which was occasioned by the institution of circumcision in Abraham; we pass to that, which is occasioned by the celebrating of this day, in which this legal circumcision taking an end, in the person of Christ, we come aptly to consider spiritual circumcision, by which only we can be made conformable to our pattern and example, Christ Jesus: in which, we will charge your memory but with these two considerations; first, quid sit, what this spiritual circumcision is, (for in that is implied the quomodo, how this circumcision is to be wrought and effected) and secondly, the ubi, what part of a man is to be circumcised in this circumcison, for that implies integritatem, that it is the whole man in every part.
Briefly then, spiritual circumcision is to walk in the spirit; for then, says the apostle, ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the fiesh"; no circumcision can bring us to this, that we shall not have them, for they are born in us, and they will live in us, whilst we live; but this is this circumcision, not to fulfil them. Neither was Abraham's race, which was to be circumcised, more numerous, more plentiful, more manifold, than is this issue of the flesh, sin: how sudden, and how large a pedigree! A child, at the first minute, when the soul enters, is as good a sinner, that is, as absolute a sinner, and hath as good title to damnation, by being conceived in sin, as the eldest man; nay, he is as old a sinner as the eldest man that is; nay, as the eldest man that ever was; for he sinned in Adam, and, though conceived but this night, sinned six thousand years ago. In young men, vanity begets excess; excess, licentiousness; licentiousness, envy, hatred, quarrels, murders; so that here is generation upon generation,
10 Gal. v. 16.
here are risen grandfather and great-grandfather sins quickly, a froward generation: and then they grow suddenly to be habits, and they come to prescribe in us: prescription is, when there is no memory to the contrary; and we cannot remember when that sinful custom begun in us: yea, our sins come to be reverenced in us, and by us; our sins contract a majesty, and a state, and they grow sacred to us; we dare not trouble a sin, we dare not displace it, nor displease it; we dare not dispute the prerogative of our sin, but we come to think it a kind of sedition, a kind of innovation, and a troubling of the state, if we begin to question our conscience, or change that security of sin which we sleep in, and we think it an easier reformation to repent a sin once a year, at Easter, when we must needs receive, than to watch a sin every day.
There is scarce any sin, but that in that place of the apostle to the Galatians, it comes within the name of works of the flesh; for, though he names divers sins, which are literally and properly works of the flesh, (as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness) yet those sins that are against a man's ownself, (as gluttony and drunkenness) those that are against other men, (as contentions and murders) those that are directed upon new gods (as idolatry) those that are contracts with the devil (as witchcraft) those that are offences to the church (as heresy) are all called by St. Paul in that place, works of the flesh: so that the object of this spiritual circumcision is all that concerns the flesh, the world, the devil, or God, or man, or the church; in every one of these we may find somewhat to circumcise. But because abundance and superfluity begets these works of the flesh, (for though" we carry the serpent about us, yet he does not sting, nor hiss, till he be warm: as long as poverty and wretchedness freezes our concupiscences, they are not so violent) therefore spiritual circumcision is well expressed by St. Bernard, Moralis circumcisio est, mctum et vestitum habentem, esse contentum; A cutting off of these superfluities, is this moral, that is, this spiritual circumcision.
Now for some understanding of these superfluities, we must consider, that sometimes a poor man, that hath no superfluity in his estate, is yet wasteful in his mind, and puts himself to superflnous expenses, in his diet, in his apparel, and in all things of outward show and ostentation: and on the other side, a covetous man, that hath a superfluous estate, yet starves himself, and denies himself all conveniences for this life: here is a superfluous confidence in the one, that he cannot want, though he throw away money; and here is a superfluous fear in the other, that he shall want, if he give himself bread; and here is work for this spiritual circumcision on both sides: but then the circumcision is not necessarily to be applied to the riches of the rich man, so as that every rich man must necessarily cast away his riches (a godly man may be rich) nor necessarily applied so to all outward expenses of the free and liberal-minded man, as that he should shut up doors, and wear rags; for, a godly man may fare in his diet, and appear in his garments, according to that degree which he holds in that state: but the superfluity is, and (consequently the circumcision is to be) in the affection, in our confidence, that whatsoever we waste, by one means or other, we shall have more; or in our diflidence, that if we lay not up all, we shall never have enough. These be the inordinate affections that must be circumcised: But how I For that is intended in this part. We need inquire no farther, for the means of this spiritual circumcision, than to the very word which the Holy Ghost hath chosen for circumcision here, which is mul and named; for that word hath in other places of Scripture, three significations, that express much of the manner, how this circumcision is to be wrought: it signifies, purgare, to purge, to discharge the conscience: (and that is, by confession of our sins) it signifies, mundare, to cleanse and 'purify the conscience: (and that is, by contrition and detestation of that sin) and it signifies, succidere, to cut down, to weed and root out whatsoever remains in our possession, that is unjustly got (and that is) by destitution.
Now for the first of these, the purging; the proper use and working of purging physic, is, not that that medicine piercea into those parts of the body, where the peccant humour lies, and from which parts, nature, of herself, is not able to expel it: the substance of the medicine does not go thither, but the physic lies still, and draws those peccant humours together; and being then so come to an unsupportable mass, and burden, nature herself,
Vol. v. z
and their own weight expels them out. Now, that which nature does in a natural body, grace does in a regenerate soul, for grace is the nature and the life of a regenerate man. As therefore the bodily physic goes not to that part of the body that is affected; we must not stay till our spiritual physic (the judgments of God) work upon that particular sin, that transports us: that God should weaken me with a violent sickness, before I will purge myself of my licentiousness; or strike me with poverty, and loss of my stock, before I will purge myself of my usury; or lay me flat with disgraces and disfavours of great persons, before I will purge myself of my ambition; or evict my land from me, by some false title, that God, in his just judgment, may give way to, to punish my sins, before I will purge myself of my oppression, and racking of tenants: but before these violent medicines come, if thou canst take God's ordinary physic, administered in the word and sacraments; if thou canst but endure that qualm of calling thyself to an account, and an examination; if thou canst draw all thy sins together, and present them to thine own conscience, then their own weight will find a vent, and thou wilt utter them in a full and free confession to thy God, and that is circumcision; as circumcision consists in the purging of the conscience, to be moved upon hearing the word preached, and the denouncing of his judgments in his ordinance, before those judgments surprise thee, to recollect thy sins in thine own memory, and pour them out in a true confession.
The next step in this circumcision, (as they are intimated in that word, which the Holy Ghost uses here) is mundare, to cleanse; and this is a contrition for those sins, and a detestation' of those sins, which I have thus gathered in my memory, and poured out in my confession. A house is not clean, though all the dust be swept together, if it lie still in a corner, within doors; a conscience is not clean, by having recollected all her Bins in the memory, for they may fester there, and gangrene even to desperation, till she have emptied them in the bottomless sea of the blood of Christ Jesus: and the mercy of his Father, by this way of confession. But a house is not clean neither, though the dust be thrown out, if there hang cobwebs about the walls, in how dark corners soever. A conscience is not clean, though
the sins, brought to our memory by this examination, be cast upon God's mercy, and the merits of his Son, by confession, if there remain in me, but a cobweb, a little, but a sinful delight in the memory of those sins, which I had formerly committed. How many men sin over the sins of their youth again, in their age, by a sinful delight in remembering those sins, and a sinful desire, that their bodies were not past them! How many men sin over some sins, but imaginarily, (and yet damnably) a hundred times, which they never sinned actually at all, by filling their imaginations, with such thoughts as these! How would I be revenged of such an enemy, if I were in such a place of authority! How easily could I overthrow such a wasteful young man, and compass his land, if I had but money, to feed his humours! Those sins which we have never been able to do actually, to the harm of others, we do as hurtfully to our own souls, by a sinful desire of them, and a sinful delight in them. Therefore is there a cleansing required in this circumcision; such a cleansing as God promises, / will cleanse their blood11, that is, the fountain, the work of all corrupt desires, and sinful delights. Now there is no cleansing of our blood, but by his blood; and the infusion, and application of his blood, is in the seal of the sacrament; so that that soul only is so cleansed, as is required in this spiritual circumcision, that preserves itself always, or returns speedily, to a disposition of a worthy receiving of that holy and blessed sacrament: he that is now in that disposition, as that, in a rectified conscience, he durst meet his Saviour at that table, and receive him there, (which cannot be done without contrition, and detestation of former sins) hath admitted this spiritual circumcision, so far, as is intended in the second signification of this word, which is, to cleanse.
But then there is a third action, which is, succidere, to cut up, to root out all, from whence this sin may grow up again, as the word is used in Job xviii., His root shall be dried beneath, and all his branches shall be cut down. In this circumcision, we must cut the root, the mother-sin, that nourishes all our sins, and the branches too, that if one sin have begot another, there be a fall of all our woods, of our timber-wood, (our grown and habitual
•» Joel iii. 21.
sins) and of our under-woods, (those lesser sins which grow out of them). It is a cutting down, and a stubbing up, which is not done, till we have shaken off all, that we have gotten by those sins: it is not the circumcision of an excessive use of that sin, that will serve our turn, but such a circumcision, as amounts to an excision, a cutting off the root, and branch, the sin, and the fruits, the profits of that sin. I must not think to bribe God, by giving him some of the profit of my sin, to let me enjoy the rest: for, was God a venturer with me in my sin? Or did G,od set me to sea, that is, put me into this world, to see what I could get by usury, by oppression, by extortion, and then give him a part to charitable uses I As this word signifies excedere, to cut off all that is grown out of sin, so from this word namal, comes nemala, which is formica, an ant, which the Hebrews derive from this word, out of this reason, that as an ant doth gnaw all the corn it lays up, upon one side, so that it may never grow again, so this spiritual circumcision must provide, that that sin take no new root: but as long as thou makest profit, or takest pleasure in anything sinfully gotten, thy sin grows; so that this circumcision is not perfected but by restitution and satisfaction of all formerly damnified. These then be all the ways that are presented in these significations and use of this word, which the Holy Ghost hath chosen here, purging by consideration and confessing, cleansing by contrition and detesting, preventing of future growth by satisfaction in restoring. A little remains to be said (though it be also implied in that which hath been said) of the ubi, the place where this circumcision is to be applied. The Scripture speaks of uncircumcised hearts, and uncircumcised lips, and uncircumcised ears; and our eyes in looking, and coveting, and our hands in reaching to that which is not ours, are as far uncircumcised as ears, or lips, or hearts: therefore we are to carry this circumcision all over; We must circumcise, says St. Bernard, in came, peccatum, the flesh, the body, the substance of the sin, in cute, operimentum, in the skin, all covers, and palliations, and disguises, and extenuations of the sin; and, in sanguine incentivum, in the blood all fomentations and provocations to that sin: the sin itself, the circumstances of the sin, the relapses to or towards that sin must be circumcised: Judwus ut parvulus, congruum accepit mandatum, exiguw circwncisionis, says the same father, The Jew was but in an infancy, in a minority, and God did not look for so strong a proceeding from the Jew, as from us, but led him by the arms, by the help of ceremonies and figures, and accordingly required but a circumcision in one part of the body: but God looks for more, at the hands of Christians, to whom he hath fully manifested and applied himself. As Christ said to the Jews, Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, it is nothing: so except our righteousness exceed them that exceeded the Scribes, it is nothing: and therefore, Toto corpore baptizamur (says Bernard) quia totius hominis integra circumcisio; To show, that it is the whole man that is to be circumcised; we are baptized, we are washed all over, (for so long, even to Bernard's time, it seems, that manner of baptizing, by immersion of the whole body, and not by aspersion upon the face only, continued in the general practice of the church). So that if it be not an entire circumcision of the whole man, that will fall upon us, which God threatens in the prophet, / will visit all them which are circumcised, with them which are not circumcised"; if we circumcise in part, leave some sins, and cleave to others, we shall be, in the sight of God, altogether uncircumcised; Adam was not the less naked in God's sight, for his fig-leaf; half-repentances are no repentances; either we are in a privation, or in a habit; covered over with righteousness, or naked.
When therefore the Lord and his Spirit calls thee to this spiritual circumcision, remember that Abraham did not say when he was called, Lord, I have followed thy voice, in leaving my country; Lord, I have built thee an altar, what needs more demonstration of my obedience? Say not thou, Lord, I have built an hospital; Lord, I have fed the poor at Christmas; Lord, I have made peace amongst thy people at home; I have endowed an alms'-house; but persevere in doing good still, for, God takes not the tree, where it grows, but where it falls; for the most part, the death of a man is such, as his life was; but certainly the life of a man, that is, his everlasting life, is such as his death is. Again, Abraham did not say of this, That it was acommand
18 Jer. ix. 25.
ment in a slight, and frivolous, and uncivil matter; do not thou say, That it is an impertinent thing in this spiritual circumcision, to watch thy eating and drinking, and all such indifferent actions, and to see that all they be done to the glory of God; for, as the apostle says, That the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man; so we may piously say, That the levity of God is graver than the gravity of all the philosophers and doctors of the world; as we may see in all his ceremonial laws, where the matter seems very light in many places, but yet the signification very important; and therefore apply this circumcision, even in thy least, and most familiar action. So also Abraham was not diverted from obeying God, by the inconvenience of having all his family diseased at once; he did not say, I am content to circumcise my son, but would spare my servants yet, for necessary uses; do not thou say, thou art content to circumcise thine eldest son, to abate somewhat of that sin which thou begannest within thy youth, but wouldst fain spare some serviceable and profitable sins for a time, and circumcise them hereafter. To pursue this example, Abraham did not say, Cras Domine, Lord, I will do all this to-morrow; but, as the commandment was given in that phrase of expedition, Circumcidendo circumcides, In circumcising thou shalt circumcise; which denoted a diligent and a present despatch; so Abraham did despatch it diligently and presently that day. Do not thou say, Cras Domine, To-morrow, some other day, in the day of mine age, or of my death, or of affliction and tribulation; I will circumcise all, for age, and sickness, and tribulations, are circumcisions of themselves; a fever circumcises thee then, or an apoplexy, and not thy devotion; and incapacity of sinning is not sanctification: if any man put off his repentance till death, Fateor non negamus quod petit, says St. Augustine, I dare not deny that man, whatsoever God may be pleased to grant him; Sed non presumimus, quod bene erit; I dare not presume to say, that that man died well, Non presumo, non vos fallo, non presumo, says that father, with some vehemency, I dare not warrant him, let me not deceive you with saying that I dare, for I dare not: and, beloved, that is but a suspicious state in any man, in which another Christian hath just reason to doubt of his salvation, as St. Augustine doth shrewdly doubt of these late repenters, Sicut ejus damnatio incerta, ita remissio dubia; As I am not sure he is damned, so I am not sure ho is saved, no more sure of one than of the other. It is true, we have the example of the crucified thief, but it is but a hard case, when a thief must guido us and be our example; we suspect wills that are made of temporal goods in that state, at the last gasp, and shall we think a man to be compos mentis, of a perfect understanding for the bequeathing of his soul at his last gasp? Non prwsumo, non vos fallo, nonprwsumo, I should deceive you, if I should say it, I dare not say it, says that father. Come therefore to this circumcision betimes, come to it, this day, come this minute: this day thy Saviour was circumcised in the flesh, for thee; this day circumcise thy heart to him, and all thy senses, and all thy affections. It is not an utter destroying of thy senses, and of thy affections, that is enjoined thee; but, as when a man had taken a beautiful woman captive in the wars, he was not bound to kill her, but he must shave her head, and pare her nails, and change her garments", before he might marry her; so captivate, subdue, change thy affections, and that is the destruction which makes up this circumcision: change thy choler into zeal, change thy amorousness into devotion, change thy wastefulness into alms to the poor, and then thou hast circumcised thy affections, and mayest retain them, and mayest confidently say with the apostle, We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the fleshTM. Do this to-day; as God this day gives thee a new year, and hath not surprised thee, nor taken thee away in the sins of last year; as he gives thee a new year, do thou give him a new-year's gift, cor novum, a new and a circumcised heart, and canticum novum, a new song, a delight to magnify his name, and speak of his glory, and declare his wondrous works to the sons of men, and be assured that whether I, or any other of the same ministry, shall speak to you from this place, this day twelve-month, and shall ask your consciences then, Whether those things which you heard now, have brought you to this circumcision, and made you better this year than you were the last, and find you under the same uncircumcision still, be assured that God will not, God cannot be
18 Deut. xxi. 12.
80 Phil. iii. 3.
mocked, but as he will receive us, with an Euge bone serva, Well done my good and faithful servant; so he will say to you, Perditio tua ex te, Your destruction is from yourselves: enough hath been done for you by me, enough hath been said to you by my servants, Quare moriemini, Why will you die 0 house of Israel? And after a long despising of his graces, he will come to a final separation; you shall come to say, Nolumus hunc regnare, We will not have Christ Jesus to reign over us; and Christ Jesus shall come to say, Nescio vos, I know you not, nor whence you are. Hodie si vocem ejus, if you will hear his voice this day, Hodie eritis, This day you shall be with him in paradise, and dwell in it all the year, and all the years of an everlasting life, and of infinite generations. Amen.