Circumcision is nothing
In the affair of justification before God, and acceptance with him; it cannot make any man righteous in the sight of God, nor recommend him to the divine favour; it is no evidence of a man's calling, or of his having the truth or grace of God in him; nor is it of any avail in the business of salvation. It was something formerly; it was a command and an ordinance of God, to Abraham and his natural seed; it pointed at the corruption and pollution of nature; was typical of the effusion of the blood of Christ, for pardon, and cleansing, and of the internal circumcision of the heart; it was a sign and seal to Abraham, that he should be the father of many nations, and that the righteousness of faith should come upon the uncircumcised Gentiles; and was a distinguishing character of the people of the Jews, until the Messiah came: but now it is nothing, nor has it any of these uses, being with the rest of the ceremonies abolished by Christ; it gives no preference to the Jew above the Gentile; he that has this mark in his flesh, is not a whir the better for it, and he that is without it, is not at all the worse; and is a reason why both the one and the other should be easy, and not attempt any alteration in themselves with regard to this, or think the better or worse of themselves on account of it. This is said in direct opposition to the sentiments of the Jews, who extol circumcision to the skies. The apostle says it is nothing, and they say it is everything, and everything is nothing without it; they say, it is the hinge of their whole law F12, and that it is equal to all the precepts in the law F13; their extravagant commendations of it take in the following passage F14;
``says R. Eliezar ben Azariah, uncircumcision is rejected, because by it the wicked are defiled, as it is said, "for all the Gentiles are uncircumcised"; says R. Ishmael, (hlym hlwdg) , "great is circumcision"; for on account of it, thirteen covenants were made; says R. Jose, "great is circumcision", for it drives away the sabbath, the weighty (command in the law, that is, it is obliged to give way to it); R. Joshua ben Korcha says, "great is circumcision", for it was not suspended to Moses the righteous one full hour; R. Nehemiah says, "great is circumcision", for it drives away plagues; says Rabba, "great is circumcision", for notwithstanding all the commands which Abraham our father did, he was not called perfect until he was circumcised; as it is said, "walk before me, and be thou perfect"; says another, "great is circumcision", for had it not been for that, the holy blessed God would not have created his world; as it is said, "thus saith the Lord, if my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth",''More of this kind might be produced, but enough of this.
And uncircumcision is nothing;
it does not hinder any having an interest in, and partaking of the blessings of grace; nor their enjoyment of the Gospel and Gospel ordinances; nor their communion and fellowship with the churches of Christ, much less their everlasting salvation, as say F15 the Jews;
``the holy blessed God (say they) rejects the uncircumcised, and brings them down to hell; as it is said, ( Ezekiel 32:18 ) "son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down"; and so says Isaiah, ( Isaiah 5:14 ) "therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth", (qx ylbl) ; that is, to him that hath not the law of circumcision; as it is said, ( Psalms 105:10 ) "and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant"; for no circumcised persons go down to hell:''but the keeping of the commandments of God;
that is something; not that the commands of God, and the observance of them, are of any avail to procure the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, justification in his sight, and eternal salvation; yet they are of moment, as they are the commands and ordinances of God; and ought to be kept in faith and fear, as they were delivered from a principle of love, and with a view to the glory of God; and though for keeping of them there is no reward of debt, yet in keeping of them there is a reward of grace; peace of mind is had, and the presence of God enjoyed; obedience to them, upon Gospel principles and motives, is a fruit of grace, an evidence of faith, and of the new creature; it is the ornament of a Christian profession, and is profitable to men.
F12 Shebet Judah, p. 94. Ed. Gent.
F13 Zohar in Lev. fol. 6. 1. T. Bab. Nedarim, fol 32. 1. Caphtor, fol. 9. 2.
F14 Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 11. Maimon. Hilch. Milah, c. 3. sect. 8, 9.
F15 Shemot Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 104. 4. Vid. Maimon. in Misn. Sabbat, c. 19. sect. 6.