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    CHAPTER III. CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART

    “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:29.SGOM 26.1

    Though the promise of the Spirit is to all, its manifestations are various, and it will not be dictated to in its operations. It serves no private purpose; it gratifies no one’s curiosity. It asks faith, and chooses its own method of trying our faith. He who divided the sea before his people, who overthrew their proud masters in the same sea, who brought water from the rock, and who fed a multitude in a barren desert, would not go with Israel to battle when they murmured against him, or when a covetous man was in the camp, or when their fears overcame their faith because their enemies had chariots of iron. And it has seemed strange to many a caviler that Paul, who had so great gifts conferred on him that the sick were healed by merely touching handkerchiefs which came from him, Acts 19:11, 12, yet left a companion behind because he was sick. 2 Timothy 4:20.SGOM 26.2

    To test the question of the extent of the promise of the Spirit to all believers, it was once asked a minister, who strenuously insisted that the extraordinary operations of the Spirit were designed only for a few, and not to be perpetuated through all time: “Do you believe that Christians now have or may have the same measure of the Spirit that the apostles instructed the churches of their day to pray for?” Although he denied the charge that his position was a denial of the promise of the Spirit in its scriptural sense, he would give no answer to the question, though he was strongly pressed to do so. Let this be considered in toe light of Scripture facts.SGOM 26.3

    In regard to the diversity of churches which now exist, no one will deny this rule, that we must accept as the true church that one which bears the characteristics of the true church. We must take the church in its first stage, as planted by Christ and his apostles, for our model. To them we look for genuine and “primitive Christianity.” We are often referred to the day of Pentecost as furnishing evidence that the early churches were built up with the doctrine of “baptism for the remission of sins.” But that is only part of the truth; and, separate from its relative truth, it becomes an immaterial part. The churches in the days of the apostles accepted both in theory and fulfillment the doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit. Not a single church was planted without this. The modem doctrine of a church repudiating the gifts of the Spirit was not known in that age. And therefore any church which rejects these gifts is not after the primitive model; it lacks a characteristic, an essential element of the church of Christ.SGOM 27.1

    The Saviour said to those whom he sent out to preach the gospel, “These signs shall follow them that believe,” not them alone that preach. Facts in the fulfillment of the work of the gospel prove that we are correct in our interpretation of the promise. In Acts 11:27, 28, are mentioned several prophets who are not of the twelve apostles. That the word prophet has here its usual and obvious meaning of a foreteller of events, one endowed with a gift of the Spirit, is proved by the circumstance of one of them, Agabus, foretelling a great dearth, which came to pass in the days of Claudius C æ sar. The same, essentially, is found in chap. 13:1. In chap. 21:8, 9, we are told that Philip the evangelist “had four daughters which did prophesy.” There is nothing in the context to indicate that prophesy has here any other than its primary or usual signification, while, on the other hand, verses 10, 11, speak of the prophet Agabus, and relate that he foretold what should befall Paul at Jerusalem, showing conclusively that the word, in that text, has reference to the gift of the Spirit of prophecy, and that in the case of the daughters of Philip it was a fulfillment of the promise quoted on the day of Pentecost, that the Spirit should be poured out on the daughters and handmaidens, and they should prophesy.SGOM 27.2

    The acknowledgment of this fact is necessary to a reception of the truth of the word in reference to the witness of the Spirit, or the seal of the new covenant. While the “circumcision of the heart” has often been insisted on, it has not been sufficiently examined, as the seal of the covenant, to open it in its great importance to the understanding of the reader.SGOM 28.1

    When circumcision was given to Abraham he was told that it was “a token of the covenant” made with him, and that every man-child of his seed who was uncircumcised should “be cut off from among his people,” because he had not the appointed token, and therefore he had no part in the covenant. Genesis 17.SGOM 28.2

    In Romans 4:11, this token is also called a sign and seal. Hence Paul says:-SGOM 29.1

    “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Ephesians 1:13, 14.SGOM 29.2

    In the above cited texts we have four terms applied to circumcision; viz., token, sign, seal, earnest. That we are not mistaken in designating the operation of the Spirit of God in the heart as the circumcision of the new covenant is shown by the following texts:-SGOM 29.3

    “He is not a Jew, who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28, 29.SGOM 29.4

    “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22.SGOM 29.5

    “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Colossians 2:11.SGOM 29.6

    All these prove that the token, earnest, or seal of the new covenant, the circumcision of this dispensation, is not an outward ordinance administered with hands, but is of the Spirit, internal, of the heart. Some, on account of their peculiar views of the relations of the covenants, have held that baptism is the circumcision of the new covenant. This is not only an error, being a direct contradiction of the Scriptures, but it is the corner-stone of other errors held by many in regard to the baptism of infants. Baptism is an outward ordinance, administered with hands, even as typical circumcision was. But the circumcision of the gospel is in the heart, in the Spirit, not made with hands. The distinction is so very plain that an error here is inexcusable.SGOM 29.7

    Another marked difference between the seals of the two covenants is this: in the first covenant outward circumcision, the token, was confined to the male children of Abraham and of his natural descendants. In the new covenant circumcision of the Spirit is given to all the believers in Christ, who is the “one seed,” without regard to sex or nationality. In view of this truth Paul said:-SGOM 30.1

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek [Gentile], there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:28, 29.SGOM 30.2

    These scriptures cast light upon the apostle’s words in another place, concerning which there has been much vain speculation:-SGOM 30.3

    “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9.SGOM 30.4

    Two errors have obtained in regard to this text. First, that the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God are not the same. This is corrected by comparing 1 Peter 1:10, 11, which says the Spirit of Christ was in the holy prophets testifying, with 2 Peter 1:21, which says the prophets spake as they were moved of the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, which is the same as the Spirit of God. The second error is that the “Spirit of Christ” in this text does not mean the Holy Spirit, but only the temper or disposition of Christ.SGOM 30.5

    It is indeed an important truth that he who has not the disposition of Christ is none of his; and it is a truth which will cut off the vain hopes of many proud, worldly, selfish professors of religion. But it is not the truth taught by this passage. This text is really a reiteration of the rule laid down to Abraham, that he who was not circumcised, who had not the seal or token of the covenant, had no part in the covenant. We have seen that the Spirit of God, called also the Spirit of Christ, is the seal of the new covenant. And if any man have not the Spirit he has not the token or seal of the covenant, and therefore he cannot be a partaker of the privileges of the covenant-he is none of Christ’s.SGOM 31.1

    And this again casts light on verse 16 of the same chapter:-SGOM 31.2

    “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”SGOM 31.3

    The “witness of the Spirit” is an important subject, and one that has received the attention of the eminently pious of all ages. The internal evidence of the Spirit has been uniformly neglected, and eventually by many denied whenever coldness, worldliness, and pride creep into the church. But alas! that it must be said, that even in this doctrine the Saviour often receives the deepest wounds “in the house of his friends.” Many whose lives in no way correspond to the “great example,” are often loudest in their profession of possessing the Spirit’s “power.” They seem to think that profession or feeling can atone for the lack of graces. These are they “by reason of whom the way of truth is evil spoken of.” By reason of these the Bible doctrine of sanctification through the truth is rejected and brought into contempt. Feeling, indeed, will not be lacking where the witness of the Spirit is given; but our Christian experience must have a stronger and deeper foundation than this. Our feelings are often controlled by circumstances, and these are so varied that our feelings cannot always be the same. But the hope of the Christian is “as an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast,” and we may haveSGOM 31.4

    “A faith that shines more bright and clear When tempests rage without; That when in danger knows no fear, In darkness feels no doubt.”SGOM 32.1

    But the question is asked, To whom does the Spirit witness? to the believer, or to the world? We answer, To both; but not to both in the same manner. When the disciples received “the Holy Spirit of promise,” or “the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts,” it assuredly witnessed to their own consciousness as it could not witness to the world, otherwise it could not have been an earnest to them. But when it moved them to speak with other tongues, and to bear the cross, and “to perfect holiness in the fear of God,” then in their lives evidence was presented to the world. These classes of evidence always go together-they will not be separated. So we conclude that the presence of the Spirit in the heart, inclining us to conform to the will and word of God, is the witness to ourselves; while the graces of the Spirit in our lives, are the witness to the world.SGOM 32.2

    We will illustrate this by applying it to a personal experience which all may appreciate. Thus: no one but myself can be conscious that I love my brother; there is an internal evidence of that fact which belongs to me exclusively, and if I never show that love in my actions, no one will have any evidence that I possess it in my heart. If I show an utter indifference to his welfare, and where our interests seem to conflict I care only for myself, every one will readily decide that I do not possess that love; that I am deceived, or my profession is hypocritical, which is, practically, the same thing. And this decision must be correct.SGOM 33.1

    So it is with the witness of the Spirit. There is liability to self-deception; the Scriptures recognize this, and warn us to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” We have a double guard on this point.SGOM 33.2

    1. As the word of God was given by inspiration, men writing it “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” of course there must be perfect harmony between the word of God and the Spirit of God. To suppose otherwise were to suppose that God is not in harmony with himself. Therefore any spirit which leads us not in harmony with the word-which calms our spirits and soothes our feelings while we are walking contrary to the word-cannot be of God. The Spirit of God, according to our Saviour’s words, is given to guide into truth. And again, he said to his Father, “Thy word is truth.” Hence they who have the Spirit of God as their guide, will in all things accept the word of God as their rule; and thus they are enabled to worship God “in spirit and in truth.”SGOM 33.3

    2. The Saviour gave another infallible test, namely, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Though these two rules lead directly to the same result, they are not the same. We may perceive duties in the word of God of which our neighbors are not aware. Unknown to all others a cross may be presented to us which we are unwilling to bear; a truth be made known to which our feelings are opposed. In these things and in such cases the word is a test, to our own consciousness, of the spirit which influences us. A feeling of opposition to the truth of God; a disposition to neglect it; an unwillingness to hear or learn any truth which will bring a cross to us; all this is direct evidence to ourselves, providing we are willing to examine ourselves, that we are not led of the Spirit of God. Of these feelings or actuating motives the world cannot take cognizance; therefore the world cannot judge of them. But if these feelings are submitted to or cultivated, our lives will soon show the effect of such an insult to the authority of God; the Spirit of God will be altogether grieved away, and we be left in darkness to follow the leadings of the carnal mind. Then our lives will be evidence to the world that we are not led by the Spirit of God. Only by our fruits shall the world know that we are the children of God.SGOM 34.1

    There is an error on this subject, largely prevalent, which well deserves a notice. It is generally taught by those who deny the direct power of the Spirit as a witness, or an instrument of conversion, that the only evidence we can have of our reception of the Spirit as a Comforter is this: the Spirit was promised on condition of baptism for the remission of sins, and if we have been baptized we have the Spirit in fulfillment, of the promise, though we are not conscious of its presence. This position is specious, and may become, and often is, the foundation of a very sad delusion. Baptism has its order, or relation to other things, and if this be disregarded, it is not valid, not being in the order of the Scriptures. It must be apparent to all that if the institution be so changed as not to meet the requirements of the Scriptures it becomes, in that changed condition, the institution of the one so changing it, and is no longer the original ordinance. This truth is very often urged in regard to the form of administering the rite; but it is equally true in regard to the order or relation of baptism.SGOM 34.2

    In all cases where baptism is taken as the evidence of the gift of the Spirit, the professing penitent is lulled into carnal security, trusting solely to his baptism as the evidence of his favor with God. Baptism, not the Spirit in the heart, becomes his earnest or witness. The Spirit being thus rejected, the graces do not appear in the life, and there are no fruits of the Spirit to give evidence to the world of a genuine conversion. Such a doctrine is well calculated to multiply carnal professors or nominal Christians; and that these should be multiplied under its teaching is not strange, considering that it calls for no self-abasement, leads to no deep, pungent convictions of sin, and under it there is felt no necessity for the aid of the Spirit in the work of conversion. That “the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered,” is, to those embracing such a theory, a mystery. To pray for the Spirit to convict and to convert sinners is, to them, only folly.SGOM 35.1

    The view here called in question is unscriptural, according to the expressed faith and practice of the apostles and early believers. The doctrine of the gift of the Holy Spirit was never so understood in that age. In Acts 8:14-16 we read:-SGOM 36.1

    “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John; who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them, only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)”SGOM 36.2

    This action was directly contrary to that view which takes the reception of the Comforter for granted, because of our being baptized. Again in Acts 19:5, 6, we read:-SGOM 36.3

    “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them.”SGOM 36.4

    In this case the Spirit was given in answer to prayer, after baptism. In the case of Cornelius and his household, the Spirit came on them before baptism. Whether received before or after baptism it is shown that the gift of the Spirit was not then considered a matter of course because of baptism; but was a matter of personal conscious experience. And so it is proved that that view of the gift of the Spirit, now held by many, which makes baptism their evidence, is modern, unscriptural, and no part of “primitive Christianity.”SGOM 36.5

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