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THE OMNISCIENCE OF GOD. Gen. xvi. 13. She called the name of the Lord that spake
unto her, Thou God seest me. AFFLICTIONS sanctified are amongst our greatest mercies. Hagar would have known less of herself, and less of God, if she had not experienced domestic trouble. She had indulged an exceeding bad spirit in despising her mistress on account of her barrenness; and, when she had thereby provoked the resentment of her mistress, she could not bear it; but fled away towards her own country. The gracious and seasonable visit however which she received from God, brought her to a better temper: it led her to return to that station which she had left; and to adore that God, whom as yet she had altogether neglected.
The person that appeared to her is called “ an angel;” but he was “ the Angel of the Covenant,” the Lord Jesus Christ, under the semblance of an angel. This appears from the promise which he gave her, “I will multiply thy seed;” and, still more clearly, from the discovery which was made to her, that it was “ the Lord Jehovah who spake to her;” and from the name by which she called him, “ Thou God seest me.”
From this name of God we shall be naturally led to speak of his Omniscience: but we will not occupy our time with proofs that this attribute belongs to God, or with uninteresting speculations respecting it: we will rather endeavour to impress the consideration of it upon our minds, and to mark its aspect upon the different states and conditions of men.
The consideration then of the Omniscience of God is suited to produce in us, I. Conviction and sorrow
Men commit iniquity under an idea that God does not notice them * --- Hence, though they know that they have sinned, they are regardless of the consequences of their
a Ps. lxxiii. 11. Job xxii. 13, 14.
sin --- But God has indeed been privy to every one of their most secret thoughts --- And he has noticed them in order that he may bring them into judgment, and make them the foundation of his own decisions at the last day d --- What a fearful thought is this! and what a necessity does it impose on every one to search out his iniquities, and to humble himself for them in dust and ashese! ---] II. Circumspection and fear
[“ God will not judge according to appearance, but will judge righteous judgment.” If he saw only our outward actions, we might hope perhaps to find a favourable acceptance with him: but he discerns the motives and principles of our actionsf: he sees whether they flow from a regard to his authority ;—whether they be done in the precise manner that his word requires ;—and whether, in doing them, we seek the glory of his name. If we do the best things under the influence of a corrupt principle, they are no better in his sight than splendid sins --- What self-examination then is requisite, to ascertain the secret springs of our actions, and to guard against the delusions which we are so prone to foster! ----] III. Consolation and hope
[In seasons of temporal affliction, we may be ready to think that our state is altogether desperate h.' Under false accusations especially, we may be incapable of establishing our own innocence, and of vindicating our character from the vilest aspersions. But it is consoling to reflect, that “all things are naked and open before Godk:” and that he can, whensoever it shall seem good to him, extricate us from all the miseries that we either feel or fear?
Under spiritual trouble also, o how consolatory is it to know, that God is thoroughly acquainted with the inmost
b They are afraid of being detected by man, but not of being judged by God, Job xxiv. 15–17. with Prov. xxx. 20.
c Jer. xxiii. 24. Ezek, xi. 5. This is not only asserted by God, but acknowledged by men. Job xxxiv. 21, 22, and xlii. 2. Ps. cxxxix, 1-12, and exemplified in Achan, Gehazi, and Ananias. d Jer. xvii. 10.
e Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24. f 1 Sam.'xvi. 7. Ps. xi. 4. Job xxvi. 6. Prov. xvi. 2. & Isai. i. 11-15. and lxvi. 3. Ezek. Xxxiii. 31, 32. Matt. xii. 8,
h This was certainly the state of Hagar under the harsh treatment of her mistress ; and was probably so when the angel appeared to her.
i This was David's case, when fleeing from Saul, and accused by him of treason, Ps. xxxv. 11-14, 22.
k Heb. iv. 12, 13. 1 Cor. iv. 3—5.
desires of our souls: that if, on the one hand, he has seen our corruptions, he has, on the other hand, beheld our conflicts, and can bear witness to the ardour and sincerity of our exertions m!--- What a comfort is it to know, that he sees us striving after universal holiness, and plunging daily and hourly, as it were, into "the fountain that was opened for sin," and relying, as the very chief of sinners, upon his covenanted mercy in Christ Jesus 1 !- -- In this view, the most desponding soul may cast itself at the foot of the cross, and may say, "If I perish, I will perish here."] ADDRESS
[Endeavour to realize the thought of God's presence with you, wherever you are; and to behold, as it were, the name of God inscribed on every place, “ Thou, God, seest me" ---Endeavour also to “set the Lord always before you," and to order all your actions, words, and thoughts with a direct reference to his approbation in the future judgmento ---]
m He testified that there was some good thing in the heart of young Abijah; 1 Kings xiv. 13. and will bear witness even for those who only “think upon his name.” Mal. ü. 16, 17.
n John i. 47, 48. • Ps. xliv. 20, 21. with 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
CIRCUMCISION OF ABRAHAM. Gen. xvii. 9, 10. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt
keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee, in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee; Every man-child among you shall be circumcised.
TO a Jewish auditory the subject before us would be so familiar, that it might be treated without any difficulty. But as it is otherwise with us, we shall wave every thing relative to the right of circumcision, and fix our attention upon the ends for which it was instituted. The writings of the New Testament, as well as of the Old, abound with references to this ordinance: and a just knowledge of its original design is necessary to a due understanding of the corresponding ordinance under the Christian dispensation. Let us then state to you, 1. What were the great ends of circumcision
The importance attached to this rite under the Jewish dispensation clearly shews, that it was not a mere arbitrary imposition, but an ordinance fraught with instruction. It was imposed on Abraham and all his posterity, 1. As a seal of their privileges
[Abraham had from the first believed the promises which God had given him relative to a numerous posterity, and to “ that seed in particular, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed:” and, in consequence of that faith, he was justified before God; or, to use the expressive language of Scripture, “his faith was counted to him for righteousness." But when five and twenty years had elapsed, and it was more distinctly made known to him that the promised seed was to spring from Sarah, he had some pledges given him that God's word, however improbable, should be fulfilled. His name was changed from Abram, which means high father; to Abraham, the high father of a multitude. His wife's name also was changed, from Sarai, my princess, to Sarah, the princess of a multitude a. Now also circumcision was enjoined on him and all his posterity: and St. Paul expressly says, that it was "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised b.” To Abraham and his believing seed, this seal assured the certain enjoyment of “God as their God” and Portion for evero: but as administered to infants, it assured only that they should participate all the blessings of God's covenant, as soon as ever they exercised the faith of Abraham, and “ walked in his steps d.” But towards all, it had the same force as a seal has when annexed to a covenant: it was God's seal impressed on their flesh, that he would fulfil to them all the promises which he had given.] 2. A memorial of their engagements
[In the verse following our text, God calls circumcision "a token of the covenant between him and his people." It was designed by God that his people should be separated from all the world, and that they should be constantly reminded of their engagements to him. When they submitted to that rite, whether it were in infancy or at an adult age, they were no longer to consider themselves as at their own disposal, but as dedicated to the service of their God. St. Paul, in reference to the scars and bruises with which his body had been covered in the service of his Lord, said, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus?.” The same language might with propriety
a ver. v. 15.
b Rom. iv. 11.
c ver. 7, 8.
Gal. vi. 17.
be used by every Jew in reference to this sacred memorial : for, having in his own person the appointed sign of his relation to God, he must be continually reminded “whose he was, and whom he was bound to serve."] 3. An emblem of their duties
We cannot doubt but that this painful rite was intended to represent the mortification of sin. The Scripture speaks much of the “putting off the whole body of sin;" “ the crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts;" “ the putting off the old man, and putting on the new:” which expressions exactly coincide with the chief intent of this ordinance: they shew, that we bring a corrupt nature into the world with us; and that it must be the labour of our lives to put away sin, both original and actual, both root and branch. Indeed St. Paul explains the ordinance in this way, and calls it “ a putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh.” But there are also other expressions of Scripture which shew that this rite imported the highest degrees of sanctification and holiness. Moses repeatedly speaks of “the circumcising of the heart to love the Lord with all our heart and all our soul 6.” And the prophet Jeremiah's language is singularly emphatic: “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it h.” From all these passages we learn, that the ordinance was figurative, and designed to instruct the Lord's people in the nature and extent of their duties towards him.]
This rite however being dropped, it will be proper to shew, II. How those ends are attained under the Christian
dispensationThe rite of circumcision has been superseded by the rite of baptism, just as the passover has given way to the supper of our Lord. The dispensations being changed, a change was made of the two great ordinances which were adapted to Judaism; and others were introduced more immediately suited to Christianity. St. Paul, in reference to the ordinances which we are now comparing, distinctly draws the parallel; and shews that, though different in their nature, they were of precisely the same import: “In Christ,” says he, “ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the 8 Deut. x. 16. and xxx. 6.
h Jer. iv. 4.