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venant. From that time then the rite of circumcision ceased to be a sacrament. The performance of it was no longer enforced by the command of God. It was henceforth a ceremony perfectly indifferent. Whether a person was circumcised or not, became a matter of no consequence. If a Christian happened to have been circumcised, as he was not on that account the better, so neither was he the worse, provided he did not trust to this ceremony for salvation, and so put it in the place of Christ. On the other hand, the uncircumcised Gentile, who embraced the gospel, was equally admitted to all the privileges of Christianity. His wanting this mark did not shut him out from the blessings of that church; “where there is neither Greek, nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Scythian, bond, nor free: but Chkist is -all and in all."* Thus then, as says the Apostle in the text, “in CHRIST JESUS neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision." True religion is not placed in these things. Nor in fact is it placed in any outward forms, rites, or ceremonies. This is the general truth, which the Apostle may be understood to teach. And a most important truth it is. For

* Col. iii. ll.

error.

men ever have been prone to rest in these things. They naturally prefer

the form of godliness to the power of it. They find it easier to perform rites and ceremonies, than to practise faith and holiness. Hence it has come to pass, that those teachers who have laid an undue stress on outward things in religion, have always found numbers ready to believe and follow them. It was so in the Galatian church, when St. Paul wrote his Epistle. And it has been more or less so in every age of the church. In our own days we are not altogether free from this

So that to expose and condemn it is still a necessary part of a minister's duty. He is still called upon to remind his hearers of this important truth, that " in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision.”

In the full meaning and spirit then of this truth let me remind you, my brethren, that True Religion is not an outward thing. It does not consist in names or forms, in distinctions or privileges, in meats or drinks, in rites or ceremonies. This general truth contains many particulars.

You are not religious merely because you have been baptized. Baptism indeed is one of the Christian sacraments. And he that would be saved, must “repent and be bap

tized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."* But baptism in the Christian church, like circumcision in the Jewish, does not of itself make men religious. What St.Paul says of the Jew, is equally true of the Christian. “ He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly.”+ Nor is a man a Christian, merely because he has received the outward seal of the covenant.

Simon Magus believed and was baptized : and yet St. Peter afterwards assured him, that he had neither part nor lot in the matter: for his heart was not right in the sight of God;" he was still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."Ị Now what was his case, may

be

yours. Though you have been baptized, you may yet have no part nor lot in the matter.

Again, you are not religious merely because you are called a Christian, and have been born of Christian parents. This was a great mercy conferred on you, and may have proved a special blessing. But it is not religion. It was the boast of the Jews, that they were the children of Abraham at the time when John the Baptist called them

"generation of vipers." It was the boast of Saul, that he was of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews,'* at the very time when he was, as he himself afterwards tells us, "a blasphemer, anda persecutor,and injurious." + The same apostle also declares, that "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”* And as it was then, so it is now. All are not real Christians who are called Christians, and have been born of Christian parents.

* Acts, ii. 38. + Rom. ii. 28. * Acts, viü. 21, 23. y Luke, iii. 7, 8.

+

Further, you are not religious merely because you frequent the church, attend the Lord's supper, and are regular at your devotions. These things are necessary to be done as means of making and keeping you religious, nor can you be truly religious without doing them: but the mere doing of them is not religion. There were many of the Pbarisees, who probably went far beyond you in all these performances. They fasted' often, they made long prayers; they were scrupulously exact in all the ceremonies of religious worship; but at the same time they were but hypocrites, " whited sepulchres," as our Saviour calls them, “ beautiful outward, but within full of all uncleanness."'s Notwithstanding then your attention to these outward parts of religion, you may be no better than the Pharisees were. You may * Phil. iii. 5.

+ 1 Tim. i. 13. Rom. ix. 6. $ Matt, xxiii, 27.

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fast and say your prayers, and come to church, and communicate at the Lord's table, and be but whited sepulchres at last. You may do all these things, and yet have no true religion. Let us inquire,

II. What true religion is.

If it be not circumcision nor uncircumcision, what is it ? St. Paul tells us it is 56 new creature." True religion is not an outward but an inward thing. It relates not merely to the outer, but to the inner man. It consists not in forms and ceremonies, but in the state and dispositions of the heart. : It is not a new name, but a new nature. This is plainly the apostle's meaning. When he says, that " in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,” he clearly means to say, that all pretensions to religion without a great and thorough change wrought in the heart, by the power of God, are nothing, and of no avail. The expression which he uses, implies at once the greatness of the change, as well as the pawer by which it is wrought.

A new creature, or a new creation, as the word may mean, describes a very great change in a man, It signifies the making him quite a different kind of per

person

from what he was before. It denotes such a

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