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by Dr. John Thomas
Before Israel can inherit the land for ever, and so be no more expelled by "the Horns of the Gentiles," they must "circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, and be no more stiff-necked"; and "love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, that they may live".
This may seem to some to put their restoration a long way off.
And so it does, if the circumcision of their hearts is to be effected by the instrumentality of the Society for the Conversion of the Jews.
By the well-meant endeavours of this body, it never can be accomplished; for the Society and its agents are themselves deficient in this particular.
But "God is able to graft them in again"; and testifies by His prophets, saying, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, O Israel; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people; and I will be your God.
I will also save you from all your uncleannesses; and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen".
In this testimony, while Moses exhorted them to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts, the Lord says that He will change their hearts Himself; not, however, by "the foolishness of preaching," for that has failed even by the mouth of apostles energized by the spirit, but by means in reserve which will astonish Israel and the world, and of which He has spoken at large in the holy scriptures.
I will anticipate this part of the subject so far as to say, that the Lord has left on record an illustration of the manner in which He changes the heart of a nation, and plants them in a land flowing with milk and honey, in the history of Israel's exode from Egypt, and their settlement in the land of Canaan.
This is a representation on a small scale of how He intends to graft them in again, as He has declared by the prophets.
In after times circumcision came to be performed as a mere custom, or ceremony.
An institution of God, that was appointed as a memorial of His promise concerning the everlasting possession of Canaan and the world; and of that righteousness by faith of the promise which could alone entitle to it: and which was to express the faith of those who practised it -- degenerated into a mere form which was observed, like infant sprinkling, by "the pious" and most ungodly characters alike.
But it is evident that circumcision, being instituted after the covenant of promise was confirmed, and after Abraham had obtained a title to it by a righteousness of faith, could confer upon the person circumcised no right to possess the things promised for ever: and certainly none to reprobates who practised it, as Turks and wild Arabs do now, because their fathers have done before them, time immemorial to them.
What obligation, then, did this sign of the covenant, and seal of Abraham's justification by faith without circumcision, impose upon the circumcised?
Let the apostle answer the question.
"I testify," says he, "to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law".
This was a fearful obligation for a man to be brought under, who sought to be justified, to the end that he might obtain an everlasting inheritance in the land of Canaan, which implies the acquisition of eternal life and glory.
The law was weak through the flesh; and gave only the knowledge of sin.
It was an unbearable yoke of bondage; and a law which no man born of the will of the flesh had been able to keep without sin.
If, then, a man sought to obtain a right to an everlasting possession of the land by obedience to it, he had undertaken an impossibility; for the law, on account of human weakness, could give no one a right to live for ever; and without life eternal a man could not everlastingly possess the land; and this life no one can attain to who is not justified from all his past sins; for if in his sins he is under the sentence of death, as it is written, "the wages of sin is death".
The apostle speaks directly to the point; for he says, "If there had been a law given, which could have given (a title to) life (eternal), verily righteousness (or justification from past sins to life) should have been by the law"; "for if righteousness had come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain".