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286

SERMON CVI.

Of the nature of regeneration, and its neceffity, in order to juftification and falva

tion.

GALA T. vi. 15.

For in Chrift Jefus, neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature,

The firft fermon on this text.

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Here are two epiftles of St. Paul, namely, that to the Romans, and this to the Galatians, which are principally and particularly defigned to confute a falfe perfuafion, which had prevailed amongst many Chriftians, efpecially those who were converted from Judaifm; that it was not enough for men to embrace and confefs the Christian religion, unless they kept the law of Mofes, or at leaft fubmitted to that great precept of circumcifion; the neglect whereof, among all the affirmative precepts of the law, was only threatened with excifion, or being cut off from among the people. And of the prevalency of this error, and the great difturbance which it made in the Chriftian 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 Chriftian churches, to rectify their apprehenfions in this matter, ver. 24. of that chap. For as much as we have heard, that certain which went out from us, have troubled you with words, fubverting your fouls, faying, ye must be circumcifed, and keep the law, to whom we gave no Such commandment, &c.

And upon this occafion likewife it was, that St. Paul wrote this epistle to the Galatians, as likewife

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that to the Romans; in the former of which, after
he had at large confuted this error, (which he calls
the preaching of another gospel, than what the A-
postles had preached, and the Chriftians first received)
in the beginning of the 5th chapter he exhorts them
to affert the liberty, which Chrift had purchased for
them, from the obligation of the law of Mofes, ver.
1, 2. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith
Chrift hath made us free, and be not entangled again
with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul fay unto
you, that if ye be circumcifed, Chrift fhall profit you
nothing; not that hereby he condemneth circum
cifion, as a thing evil in itfelf; for God never
inftituted nor commanded any thing that was fo;
but he oppofeth the opinion of the neceffity of it to
our juftification and falvation, when the gospel had
fo plainly taken away the obligation and use of it;
and confequently to affirm ftill the neceffity of it,
was really to renounce Christianity. For if Judaifm
was ftill the way to falvation, Christianity was to no
purpofe; and if Chriftianity be now the way, then
the obligation to the Jewish religion was ceafed. To
avoid the force of this reafoning, it was not enough
for the falfe Apoftles to fay (as it feems they did)
that Chriftians were not obliged univerfally to the
whole law of Mofes, but principally to the law of
circumcifion; because circumcifion being the fign
and badge of that covenant, whoever took that upon
him, did thereby own his obligation to the whole
law, ver. 3. 4. For Iteftify again to every man that
is circumcifed, that he is a debtor to do the whole law;
Chrift is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you
are juftified by the law, ye are fallen from grace;
that is, whoever of you expect and profefs to be jufti-
fied by the law of Mofes, ye take away the neceffity
and ufe of the Chriftian religion; and are fallen
from grace; that is, do in effect renounce the go-
fpel; for we through the spirit wait for the hope of
righteousness by faith, ver. 5. we by the Spirit, in
oppofition to circumcifion, which was in the flesh,
do expect to be juftified by the belief of the gospel.
For in Jefus Christ neither circumcision availeth any

thing, nor uncircumcifion, ver. 6. that is, now under the difpenfation of the gofpel by Chrift Jefus, it fignifies nothing to a man's juftification or falvation, whether he be circumcifed, or not circumcifed, whether he be a Jew or a Gentile. All that the gofpel requires as neceffary to thefe purposes, is, that we perform the conditions of the gofpel, that fo we may be capable of being made partakers of the bleffings of it.

Now as the great bleffing and benefit of the gofpel is varioufly expreft, as by the forgiveness of our fins, by our acceptance with God, or (which comprehends both) by our juftification, fometimes by adoption, and our being made the fons and children of God, fometimes by redemption, and (which is the confummation of all) by falvation and eternal life; I fay, as the bleffing and benefit of the gospel is in fcripture expreft to us by thefe feveral terms, which do in effect all fignify the fame thing; fo our duty, and the condition the gospel requires on our part, is likewife as variously expreft; fometimes, and that very frequently, by the word faith, as being the great fource and principle of all religious acts and performances; but then this faith must not be a bare affent and perfuafion of the truth of the gospel, but fuch an effectual belief, as expreffeth itfelf in fuitable acts of obedience and holinefs, fuch as the Apostle here calls πίςις δι αγάπης ενεργεμένη, a faith which worketh by love, a faith that is infpired and afted, or rather confummate and made perfect by charity, (for fo the word doth often fignify,) and then this phrafe will be just of the fame importance with that of St. James, chap. ii. 22. by works is faith made perfect. Sometimes, and that alfo very frequently, the condition of the gospel is expreft by words which import and fignify the change of our ftate, as by repentance, converfion, regeneration, renovation, fanctification, the new creature, and the new man; which expreffions are all fo well known, that I need not refer to particular texts; fometimes the condition of the gospel is expreft by the visible and fenfible effects of this inward change in our outward life and actions; as

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namely, by obedience and keeping the commandments of God. So Heb. v. 9. Christ is faid to be the author of eternal falvation 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 thefe various expreffions, one and the fame thing is certainly intended and meant, viz. the condition of the gofpel; that which is required on our part, in order to our full and perfect juftification and acceptance with God, is evident beyond all denial; by comparing the three different ways whereby St. Paul doth exprefs the fame propofition for fenfe and fubftance; in which he tells us, what it is that will avail to our juftification under the Gospel, that is, according to the terms of the Chriftian religion; that it is neither here nor there, that it fignifies nothing whether a man be circumcifed or not, but that we be fo qualified as the gofpel requires, that the conditions upon which the bleffings of the gofpel are promifed be found in us. And there are three texts wherein the fame thing is plainly intended in three very different expreffions, Gal. v. 6. In Jefus Chrift neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion: but faith, which is confummate, or made perfect by charity. Gal. vi. 15. For in Chrift Jefus neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature. 1 Cor. vii. 19. Circumcifion is nothing, and uncircumcifion is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. It is evident, that in these three texts the Apoftle defigns to fay the fame thing, and confequently that faith which is made perfect by charity, and the new creature, and keeping of the commandments of God, are the fame in fenfe and fubftance, viz. the condition of our juftification and acceptance with God under the covenant of the gofpel, or in the Chriftian religion.

I fhall at prefent, by God's affiftance, handle the fecond of these texts. In Chrift Jefus neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature. And here the condition of the goVOL. V. B b

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fpel is expreft to us, by the change of our ftate, which in fcripture is called our regeneration, or becoming new creatures, and new men. Circumcifion was but an outward fign and mark upon the body, and the flesh, though it did indeed prefigure and ty pify the inward circumcifion of the heart, the giving of men new hearts, and new fpirits, under the more perfect difpenfation of the gofpel: but now in Chrift Jefus, that is, in the Chriftian religion, the prefence or the want of this outward mark will avail nothing to our juftification; but that which was fignified by it, the renovation of our hearts and spirits, our becoming new creatures, is now the condition of our juftification and acceptance with God.

The falfe Apoftles indeed did lay great ftrefs upon the bufinefs of circumcifion, not fo much out of zeal to the law of Mofes, as to avoid perfecution, ver. 12. They constrain you to be circumcised, only left they should fuffer perfecution for the cross of Chrift. For at that time, though the Chriftians were perfecuted, 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 fuffering; but St. Paul gloried in his fufferings for Chrift, and the marks of that upon his body, ver. 14. God forbid that I should glory fave in the cross of our Lord Jefus Chrift; and ver. 17. I bear in my body marks of the Lord Jefus. He tells them, what neceffities foever they might pretend of circumcifion, either for their justification, or falvation, the true ground of all was to fave themselves from temporal fufferings; and that in the chriftian religion it fignifieth nothing to recommend them to the favour of God, whether they were circumcifed or not; nothing would be available to this purpose, but the renovation and change of their hearts and lives. For in Chrift Jefus neither circumcifion availeth any thing, nor uncircumcifion; but a new creature, navn xlios, a new creation, to intimate the greatness of the change, which Chritianity, throughly entertained, made in men.

Having thus cleared the occafion and meaning of

thefe

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