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The Cure of Willfullness

The Cure of Willfullness

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Published by glennpease
BY TRACTS FOR THE TIMES

Deut. X. 16.
" Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked."
BY TRACTS FOR THE TIMES

Deut. X. 16.
" Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked."

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Published by: glennpease on May 04, 2014
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THE CURE OF WILFULNESS.
BY TRACTS FOR THE TIMES
Deut. X. 16. " Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked." It is a thing much to be observed, that many of the outward and visible signs, which God has ordained His people to use in wor- shipping Him, have somewhat in them to remind us in some way of suffering, affliction, pain, self-denial, death. Thus Sacrifice, which was the great act of solemn worship among the Patriarchs and Jews, was the slaughter of some innocent animal, and the pouring out of its blood before God. Thus the Holy Communion is the remembrance of our Saviour's death, His violent and bitter death. Thus Baptism, the entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, when performed in that way which the Church in her Prayer Book prefers, is also a memorial of His death and rising again ; of His death, by the burial of the Child, just for a moment, under the water ; of His Resurrection, by the same Child's being immediately lifted out of the water into the minister's arms. It is a memorial of our Lord's death : and it is also a token, pledge, and mean of a real death which the baptized person does at the same time undergo — an inward death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness ; and it is a token of the sort of life to be led hereafter in this world — a life according to that death ; as St. Paul said, " I die daily :" a life in which a man has continually to keep himself in order, to deny himself many things which he 10 THE CURE OF WILFULNESS. would like, and to choose and embrace many things which he naturally dislikes. This is the sort of life of which Holy Baptism is the beginning, and it is signified to us by the very act of baptizing. But of aU Church ceremonies, there is none which so distinctly sets before us our call to suffer, as that which has from the beginning always gone along with Baptism -, the signing the newly baptized with the sign of the Cross. The Cross is the very height and depth of all suffering : the very name presently tells us of a Soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death ; of sweat like great drops of blood falling down to the ground ; of a burden too heavy to be borne ; of reproach, scorn, shame, spitting ; of scourging and a crowm of thorns ; of Hands, and Feet, and Side pierced ; of crying with a loud voice, and yielding up the Ghost : all this and more, more than man's heart can understand, comes
 
into a Christian's mind when he hears of the Cross. What, then, can we understand by the Cross marked on us from our very childhood, but that we too are to go on in suffering and self-denial ? that though our Lord's yoke is easy, and His burden light, to such as are renewed by His Spirit, yet in itself it is very bitter, " full," as the Prophet says, " of gall and travail." Now such as the baptismal Cross is in the Christian life, such was Circumcision among Goo's ancient people. It was His mark, made for life, in the very flesh of those who belonged to Him, setting them apart, in a manner, for suffering and self-denial. It was a foretaste of the Cross ; and, as such, our Saviour Himself received it. By permitting Himself as on this day to be brought and placed in the Priests' arms, and His Sacred Flesh to be pierced, and Blood shed, — by the pain which His tender infant Body now suffered, — He did, as it were, offer unto His Father the first- fruits of that full harvest of suffering, which was finally to be gathered in upon the Cross. He sanctified our lesser sorrows, mortificatio.is, and vexations, as He was afterwards to sanctify in His agony and passion our more grievous and heart-searching trials : our great disappointments, our shame, want, sickness, and death. Certainly, when we look at His course in this His lower world, beginning with endurance of the sharp circumcising knife, and ending with. My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me? it does seem strange that we should any of us expect to pass THE CURE OF WILFULNESS. 11 through Hfe in ease and quietness, or think it hard if we have not our own way in all things. "The Disciple is not above his Master, nor the Servant above his Lord. It is enough for the Disciple if he be as his Master, and the Servant as his Lord." Thus, whether we look to our Lord's own example, or to the sacramental ways which He has ordained, both of old and now, to bring His people near Him, either way we are taught to count them happy which endure ; to consider affliction and trouble as God's seal, set upon those who particularly belong to Him ; and to fear nothing so much as receiving our consolation in this ' world. But if this be so, then just in such measure as we are going on prosperously and at ease, have we need to mortify ourselves, and keep our passions in order ; that by our own doing, if so please God, we may provide for ourselves something like that due chastening, which our afflicted brethren really have to endure. This, our self-denial, we must practise in little matters : it should
 
accompany us in our every- day walk, as every Jew bore about with him the mark of Circumcision, visibly impressed on his flesh : as every Christian was continually reminding himself, in old time, by the sign of the Cross, Whose he was, and Whom he served. We must not keep our patience and self-command to be exercised only on great and solemn occasions : we must be con- tinually sacrificing our own wills, as opportunity serves, to the will of others : bearing without notice sights and sounds that annoy us ; setting about this or that task, when we had far rather lie doing something very different ; persevering in it often, when we are thoroughly tired of it ; keeping company for duty's sake, when it would be a great joy to us to be by ourselves : besides all the trifling untoward accidents of life : bodily pain and weakness long continued, and perplexing us often when it does not amount to illness : losing what we value, missing what we desired : dis- appointment in other persons, wilfulness, unkindness, ingratitude, folly, in cases where we least expected it. There is no end, in short, of the many little crosses, which, if quietly borne in a Christian way, will, by God's grace, do the work of affliction, and help to tame our proud wills by little and little. I say, tame our proud wills, because Holy Scripture sets forth this as one of the particular objects for which circumcision was 12 THE CURE OF WILFULNESS. appointed, that God's people might learn by it, not only to get over what are commonly called the Lusts of the Flesh, but the angry, and envious, and proud feeling also ; as the Text seems especially to hint : Circumcise there/ore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. As if stubbornness, and obstinacy, and, in one word, wilfulness, (for that is the meaning of a stiff neck,) were to be cured by the same kind of discipline as sensual passions, lust, and greediness. We know what power may be gained over these by duly and prudently mortifying the body. Fasting, for example, tends to cure greediness : when people are used now and then to go without anything to eat, it makes them more moderate and less particular in all their refreshments of that sort. If they can go without, much more can they content themselves with less than they would like, or with what is un- palatable to them : much more can they give up something in this and in other trifling matters, for those who are in want or in sickness. In short, it is not hard to understand how the body, which greatly affects the mind, may be tamed and brought into subjection, by a quiet and discreet method of Fasting, accom- panied, of course, with Alms and Prayer.

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