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who contrived to be absent from court. This, in some degree, represents the case of a sinner being justified, though it falls considerably short. There is something decidedly more positive than this. Guilt is not imputed. But, moreover, righteousness is imputed; a righteousness not personal, or of one's own production, but provided by another at great cost, and generously turned over to us for our benefit and avail.
Verses 9, 10: “Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also ? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned ? when he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision but in uncircumcision."
The terms circumcision and uncircumcision, occurring so frequently in these verses as to offend the ear of a hearer and to tire the tongue of a reader, are abstract terms used for concrete, as this writer's custom is to denote Jews and Gentiles in this way. By way of apology for the literature, we may observe that there is not the same offensive iteration in Paul's Greek which there is in our English translation. Instead of placing a privative particle before the word circumcision, as we place un before it, to denote the absence of the said thing, he uses altogether a different word, and thus avoids the objectionable repeat which we have in our rendering. This by the way. We quote here one example of these two words being used to indicate the favoured people on the one hand, and on the other, all mankind besides. 6 And when James, Cephas, and Jobn, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen and they unto the circumcision.” Gal. ii. 9.
The question started in this 9th verse is whether the blessedness of this free and easy justification is open to both sections of mankind. It was quite in Paul's way to meet such a question, as he was the commissioned light-bearer to the dark Gentiles. It was necessary to prove that justification by grace was not entangled with circumcision as a condition, either meritorious or otherwise. Such a position, well-proven, would serve to take down the exclusiveness and pride of Jews who still fancied a preference in their own favour. The limitation of the blessing to the holy people is denied at an earlier part of the epistle, iii. 29, 30: “ Is he the God of the Jews only ? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith."
Before we quit this ninth verse we may ask if there is any emphasis intended in the form of expression, “cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also ?” We do not commit the reader to accept our suggestion, but to us there appears an intense idea of the inseparableness of the blessing from the parties who come at it, or to whom it comes, as if it adhered to them with an abiding and cleaving power. It is upon them. They have interest in it, consciousness of it, and enjoyment from it. The following passages will, perhaps, warrant our idea : “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus ; and great grace was upon them all.” Acts iv. 33. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not it shall turn to you again.” Luke x. 6. “ Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe ; for there is no difference.” Rom. iii. 22. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." 1 Peter iv. 14.
Let the reader mark the words which we have put in italics, and if he be favourable to the notion we indicate, he can easily add a number of passages in which justification is represented as a vestment of beauty and glory upon the person of the believer, the like figure whereunto newness of character also is compared. We are now at the tenth
opens the question about the date of the patriarch's justification whether it was before or it was after his circumcision. Proud as the Jews were of the mark which circumcision left in their flesh, if their great ancestor had been pronounced a just man, at that ceremony, or after it, they would certainly have attributed his justification in part, or in whole, to some supposed virtue in it. The question of date is therefore very pertinent. The matter of fact cuts away all pretension. Justification came first. Circumcision was long posterior. Abraham was a Gentile when he was justified, and for a considerable time thereafter. Some think that he lived in a justified state twentyfive years before he was touched with the circumcising knife. We are not sure of this. But dating his justification one year before the birth of Ishmael, he had been at least fourteen years in a state of grace before this harsh ceremony was performed upon him. The want of it did not keep him under condemnation. The performance of it could contribute nothing to his acceptance. As Gentiles we may rejoice that the father of believers won that honour before he was a Jew, and the lack of Jewish distinctions is no barrier to our participation in Christ. The lesson to be learnt is that faith, and not ceremony is that upon which (though not for which) we are justified.
It might be asked, of what use was circumcision? The sequel answers this question.
Verse 11 : “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised ; that he might be the father of all them that believe though they be not circumcised, that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”
“ The sign of circumcision” which Abraham received, was circumcision itself. He received circumcision which was a sign or a seal, or both if the idea is double. We will take the sign and the seal to be identical, the second word being explanatory of the first. Say it thus, He received the sign of circumcision as a seal,' &c.
This outward sign, or mark, was a seal for confirmation. Seals are for that purpose, to confirm, to warrant and render secure. А privilege or a property is formally insecure if the writing which concerns it be not sealed and signed. “ Signed, sealed and delivered” is the phrase used in law-craft, and is a formality you would not be willing to have omitted in relation to a property which you thought worth preserving and transmitting. You would not feel very proud to exbibit unsealed documents in evidence of your right to a given property, however well written they might be, in the most clerk-like hand. The seal is quite an ornament, and all the more so because it is more than an ornament. Abraham's justification was sealed in a most complete manner fourteen years after it took place. Why this was omitted so long we will not say. It might be to prevent its being said afterwards that the sealing was the procuring or deserving ground of justification. If it was not for that reason it was for some other that we cannot divine. It was an outward and visible sign of what had passed in the court of heaven in regard to him several years before. Many of his posterity bore the same impression on their flesh to whom it was no evidence of personal acceptance. Even to them, however, it would be instructive and useful, as it drew their attention to the covenant of grace the benefits of which were open to them. They bad the sign, and it was their fault if they did not realize the thing signified. It showed to what they were called. Circumcision stands for more than is stated in this place. The laws of exposition forbid our introducing its other uses here. Only we take the liberty of remarking that it is essentially a religious ceremony, and not as some, in the heat of controversy have affirmed, only a national distinction. It is a religious sign and seal. Whether it was a seal of Abraham's faith, or of the righteousness of faith, that is the righteousness obtained by faith, is a question which is determined by some one way, and by some another. We think it best to use up the entire expression and say that it was a seal of justification by faith.
The result, or perhaps better, the design or intent of the patriarch's acceptance by faith, prior to circumcision, was to constitute him the father of all believers of both divisions of mankind that he might be the father of all them that believe though they be not circumcised," i.e., Gentile believers. Jewish believers are
brought in, in the next verse. Because he was justified when he was a Gentile, or which is the same thing, uncircumcised, the Gentiles may justly call him father. This paternal relation to believers is awarded as an honour, inasmuch as he was a noble and distinguished pattern, rather than on the ground of priority. He was not the first that ever was justified by faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, and many others were accepted in the same way.
person who begins an economy, or a constitution, or an art or a science, is often for that reason called father in relation thereto, as Jubal was the father of musicians because he led the way with harp and organ. Abraham was not the first believer. Nothing hinders, however, but that he might be the first of believers. In date he was forestalled. In dignity he excelled. He was first in the quality of his faith: the most eminent, classic, heroic, believer: fit, therefore, to wear the crown amongst the whole order. Now do we pagans, as soon as we believe, claim kindred to this great man, though we can produce no proofs of pedigree or blood connection in any degree worth naming. He was justified when he was a pagan. So are
He was justified without circumcision. So are we. He was, justified by faith. So are we. “ Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Gal. ii. 7.
Verse 12: “ And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.”
It will be a little advantage to a reader beginning to read this twelfth verse, to bring down from the middle of the eleventh verse the phrase, “that he might be," and repeat it after the conjunction, thus—“And (that he might be) the father of circumcision,” &c. That phrase is understood here, and must be added by the mind, if not added by the mouth,
Critical scholars have been rather puzzled to know whether in this verse the writer intends to designate two sorts of persons, or only one, the words being so peculiarly constructed. We will hold to the plainest idea, that only one class of persons is meant, namely, believing Jews, as in the foregoing verse believing Gentiles had been spoken of and dismissed. Here is a description of true Jews, who might call the patriarch their father, because they bad faith. Only such were entitled to challenge him in this relationship. In Paul's writings, the carnal descendants, who have nothing to show but outward pedigree, or the ceremonial sign in their flesh, are uniformly set aside, as being nothing related to the patriarch, and nothing interested in him. To natural descent faith must be added. Jews are bis children, if, besides genealogical proof, they have faith in Christ.
Then are they Israelites indeed, worthy sons of a worthy sire. Those who inherit the virtues of a man are his true
descendants, and are worthier to be accounted such than those of his own flesh and blood who lack his character. So amongst Jews there were two classes ; one class, by far the largest, who were related to Abraham by the flesh and the mark in their flesh, but by nothing more. The other class, more limited in number, who, besides natural connection and religious ceremony, had faith and its attendant virtues. They were circumcised, but “also” they walked in the steps of Abraham's faith. This second class are the true children. “The steps of faith” is a significant form of expression, not without some reference to the practical power of faith, as producing a holy walk. Faith has a step of its own, graceful and orderly, a gait peculiar. Nothing awkward, false or ugly in its motions. The believing spouse of the Saviour goes her“
way forth by the footsteps of the flock.” (Cant. i. 8.) The steps of faith lead on in the path of duty and rectitude, and especially they lead to Christ and after Christ. Abraham's now numerous family all have a touch of their father about them. They are actuated by faith, and copy his holy example, and the still holier example of him their father believed in. “ Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps.” 1 Pet. ii. 21. We are not safe in following all the steps of Abraham, for he made some false steps, dictated by fear. But the steps of his faith we may follow without hesitation or exception.
To keep to our exposition, we see then, that he was father to two classes of men, who were as one by faith, all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles. It was not by accident that he came to stand in this noble relationship. It was by purpose. At an earlier part of the long sentence in hand, it reads that he might be” the father. Loose explanation might set forth, that it has so turned out that being so distinguished a believer, he is worthy to stand at the head. As it has happened so, he is just put there. We hardly think it was thus casual. The whole affair was matter of solemn purpose. He had no offspring, according to the flesh, till he was an old man. The first child he had in advanced years was not exactly in a lawful course and was not eligible to be his heir. It looked as if he must die childless, otherwise, Ishmael be legitimated by special appointment, or decree. Yet we see in how large a sense he becomes father Abraham. First he is only Abram-a high father, then he becomes Abraham-a father of a great multitude. His children, after the flesh, certainly became considerable, for there are other peoples, besides the Jews, who were derived from him. But it is as the father of believers that the import of his name is realised.
Now we take leave of exposition. This exercise may teach us the importance of personal faith and the comparative unprofitableness of ceremonial religion. There is danger of the ritual becoming our gaol. Men seek for mystic grace in sacraments, or