Jesus Christ, the Only Foundation
Samuel Davies, February 13, 1757
(Editor's note: This sermon starts a bit slow, as Davies explains the context; but do not despair, as it is one of the most insightful and powerful sermons that we have read.)
"Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold! I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he who believes shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place!" Isaiah 28:16-17
The context, like many other passages of the prophetic scriptures, seems to have a double sense. The primary sense may be thus represented. The judgments of God were ready to break in upon and overwhelm the impenitent nation of the Jews, like "a tempest of hail, and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing," and bearing all before it. (verse 2.) The prophet had repeatedly given them timely warning of these approaching judgments; but they still continued secure and impenitent, and unapprehensive of danger. They flattered themselves they had skill enough to keep themselves safe. They thought themselves to be impregnably entrenched and fortified in their riches, their strongholds, and the sanctity of their temple and nation. They might also think their arts of negotiation would secure them from the invasion of the neighboring powers, particularly the Assyrians, to whom they were not exposed.
These were the lies which they made their refuge, and the falsehood under which they hid themselves. These, they imagined, like motes or ditches, would keep off the deluge of wrath, so that it would not come to them, much less overwhelm them; and they were as secure as if they had made "a covenant with death, and entered into an agreement with hell, or the grave," not to hurt them.
Therefore the prophet represents them as saying, "We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us; for we have made lies (that is what the prophet calls lies,) our refuge;" and under what he calls falsehoods have we hid ourselves. (verse 15.)
It is in this connection my text is introduced; and it points out a solid ground of hope, in opposition to the refuge of lies in which these sinners trusted; as if he had said, since the refuge to which you flee is not safe, and since my people need another, "Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem. It is firm, a tested and precious cornerstone that is safe to build on!" That is, "My promises, my providential care, the supporting influences of my grace, and the various means I shall take for the comfort and safety of my people in this national distress, shall as effectually bear them up, as a firm foundation of stone does a building erected upon it. Those who build their hopes upon this foundation, shall stand unshaken amidst all the storms and tempests of the national calamity, that may beat upon our guilty land."
"He who believes shall not make haste;" that is, "he who trusts in this refuge shall not be struck into a distracted hurry and consternation upon the sudden appearance of these calamities. He shall not, like persons surprised with unexpected danger, fly in a wild haste to improper means for his safety, and thus throw himself into destruction by his ill-advised, precipitate attempts to keep out of it; but he shall be calm and serene, and have presence of mind to take the most proper measures for his deliverance."
Or the meaning may be, "He who believes shall not make such haste to be delivered; as to fly to unlawful means for that purpose; but will patiently wait God's time to deliver him in a lawful way."
The prophet proceeds, "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet;" that is, "God will try the Jews with strict justice, as an architect examines a building with a line and plummet. Such of them who have built their hopes upon the foundation above described, shall stand firm and unshaken, whatever tempests fall upon them, like a regular and stately building, founded upon a solid rock. But as to others, they shall be overwhelmed in the public calamity! the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies in which they trusted; and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place."
And then your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand: "when the overflowing scourge shall pass through then shall you be trodden down by it." (verse 18.)
This seems to be a primary sense of the context; and thus, it is probable, the Jews understood it, who did not enjoy that additional light which the gospel sheds upon it.
In this view it is very applicable to us, in the present state of our country and nation, when the enemy is likely to break in like a flood upon us. But I must add, that it is very likely, that even in this primary sense of the context, the text refers to Jesus Christ. There seems to be an unnatural force put upon the words, when they are applied to any other and the connection will admit of their application to him, even in this sense, thus, "Since the refuge of sinners is a refuge of lies, behold I will provide one that will effectually secure all who fly to it from all the judgments to which they are exposed." I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, &c. "I send my Son into the world, as an Almighty Savior; and all who put themselves under his protection, and build their hopes upon him, shall be so safe, that all the calamities of life shall not do them a lasting injury; and the vengeance of the eternal world shall never fall upon them."
But whether we can find Christ in the primary sense of these words or not, it is certain we shall find him in their ultimate, principal sense. And we have the authority of an inspired apostle for this application. Peter quotes this passage, with some improvements, and applies it expressly to Christ, "To whom coming," says he, "as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, you also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house. Wherefore, also, it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and he who believes on him shall not be confounded." 1 Peter 2:4, 6.
Taking the passage in this evangelical sense, the general meaning is to this purpose: The Lord Jesus is represented as a tried, precious, and sure foundation, laid in Zion, that is, in the church, for the sons of men to build their hopes upon. His church thus built on him, is compared to a stately, firm, and impregnable temple, consecrated to the service of God, to offer up spiritual sacrifices; and armored against all the storms and tempests that may beat upon it. It shall stand firm and immovable through all eternity, for its foundation is sure.
But, alas! though Jesus Christ be the only foundation, yet most people are so full of themselves, that they venture to build their hopes upon something else, and promise themselves safety—though they reject this sure foundation! They think themselves as secure as if they had entered into a treaty with death and the grave, and brought them over to their interest.
But, lo! the wrath of God will at last beat upon a guilty world, like a storm of hail, or break in upon it like an overwhelming torrent; then every soul that is not built upon this rock must be swept away, and all the other refuges and hiding-places shall be laid in ruins forever!
The great God will also strictly inquire who is founded upon this rock, and who not. He will critically try the temple of his church, like a workman, with line and plummet; he will discover all irregularities and useless appendages. And in consequence of this examination, the storms and torrents of divine indignation shall sweep away and overwhelm all who are not built upon this foundation, and who are not compacted into this building. These remarks contain the general meaning of our text, but it is necessary I should be more particular.
Brethren, our nature, our circumstances, and the important prospects before us, are such, that it is high time for us to look about us for some sure foundation upon which to build our happiness. The fabric must endure long, for our souls will exist forever; and their eagerness for happiness will continue vehement forever. The fabric must rise high, for the capacities of our souls will perpetually expand and enlarge. The fabric must be strong and impregnable, armored against all the storms that may beat upon it; for many are the storms that will rise upon us, upon our country, and upon this guilty world in general. Losses, bereavements, sicknesses, and a thousand calamities that I cannot name—may yet try us. The enemy is now breaking in like a flood upon our country, and we and our earthly all—are in danger of being overwhelmed. Death will certainly attack us all; and that must be a strong building indeed which the king of terrors will not be able to demolish.
Besides, when all the purposes of divine love in our world shall be accomplished, an almighty tempest of divine indignation shall break upon it, and sweep away all that it contains; and blend cities, kingdoms, plains and mountains, seas and dry land, kings and beggars—into one vast heap of ruin. Or, to shift the metaphor according to the emphatic variety in my text, the fiery deluge of divine vengeance, which has been gathering and swelling for thousands of years, but has been, as it were, restrained and kept within bounds by divine patience—shall then rise so high as to burst through all restraints, and overwhelm the guilty globe, and turn it into an universal ocean of liquid fire! This resistless torrent shall sweep away all the refuges of lies, and those who trusted in them, into the gulf of remediless destruction. "The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men! The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up!" 2 Peter 3:7, 10
Well my friends, where shall we find a support to bear us up in this tremendous day? Where shall we find a rock to build upon, that we may be able to stand the shock, and remain safe and unmoved—in the wreck of dissolving worlds? What can uphold us—when this vast machine of our world, formed with so much skill and strength by the hands of a divine Architect, shall be broken up and fall to pieces?
Now, now is the time for us to find the refuge; it will be too late when all created supports are swept away, and this solid globe itself is dissolved beneath our feet into a sea of fire!
And where will you look? where will you turn? This earth, and all its riches, honors, and pleasures, will prove but a quicksand in that day. Your friends and relations, were they ever so great or powerful—can then afford you no support. If they can but find refuge for themselves, that will be all; therefore bethink yourselves once more; where shall you find a rock on which you may build a happiness that will stand the shock in that day?
If you are anxious and perplexed, I need only point you to my text for relief. "Behold," says the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; he who believes shall not make haste."
Let me expatiate a little upon the properties of this foundation:
1. It is a STONE.A stone for solidity, stability, and durableness. Every thing else besides Christ . . .
is sliding sand,
is yielding air,
is a breaking bubble!
In that dread day . . .
wealth—will prove to be a vain shadow,
honor—will prove to be an empty breath,
pleasure—will prove to be a delusive dream,
your own righteousness—will prove to be a spider's web!
If we rely on these, disappointment and doom inevitable!
Nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ, can stably support us in that dread day! And blessed be God! "He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress—I will never be shaken!" Psalm 62:2. He alone e is sufficient for this purpose. Is a stone firm and solid? so is Jesus Christ.
His power is almighty, able to support the weakest of his people who build their hope upon him, and armor them against all the attacks of earth and hell.
His righteousness is infinitely perfect, equal to the highest demands of the divine law—and therefore a firm, immovable ground of trust. We may safely venture the weight of our eternal all upon this rock! It will stand forever, without giving way under the heaviest pressure; without being broken by the most violent shock. Let thousands, let millions, with all the mountainous weight of guilt upon them, build upon this foundation, and they shall never be moved!
Is a stone durable and lasting? So is Jesus Christ; he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, his strength an everlasting strength, and himself the everlasting Father. He lives for ever to make intercession for his people, and therefore he is able to save to the uttermost, to the uttermost point of duration, all who come unto God by him. Here is a stone that can never molder away by the waste of all-consuming time.
Persian marble, and even the flinty rocks decay! The firm foundations, the stately columns, the majestic buildings of Nineveh, Babylon, and Persia, and all the magnificent structures of antiquity, though formed of the most durable stone, and promising immortality, are now shattered into ten thousand fragments, or lying in ruinous heaps! But here is a foundation for immortal souls, immortal as themselves; a foundation that now stands as firm under Adam, Abel, and Abraham, as the first moment they ventured their dependence upon it; a foundation that will remain the same to all eternity.
Therefore it deserves the next character given to it, namely—
2. It is a TRIED stone."Tried," says a fine writer, "in the days of his humanity by all the vehemence of temptations, and all the weight of afflictions; yet, like gold from the furnace, rendered more shining and illustrious by the fiery scrutiny." His obedience was tried; and it appeared upon trial that it was perfect and universal. His meekness was tried—by the abusive treatment he met with from men. His patience and resignation to the divine will was tried, when the bitter cup of the wrath of God was put into his hand, and when the absence of his Father extorted that bitter cry from him, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" Matthew 27:46. His love to his Father, and his zeal for his honor, were tried—and they were found an unquenchable flame, that glowed without once languishing through the whole of his life.
His love to men—to sinners—to enemies, was tried: tried to the uttermost: it was put to the trial, whether his own life—or theirs, was most dear to him; whether he would rather see his enemies perish by the sword of justice, or that himself should feel the agonies of a cross. This was a trial indeed; and you know how the outcome. The severity of the trial—did but render his love to us the more illustrious! In short, this stone was thoroughly tried by God and man—-and it still remained firm without a flaw!
Jesus has also been tried under the capacity of a Savior—by millions and millions of depraved, wretched, ruined creatures, who have always found him perfectly able, and as perfectly willing—to expiate the most enormous guilt; to deliver from the most inveterate corruptions; and to save to the very uttermost—all who come unto God through him! Ten thousand times ten thousand, have built their hopes upon this rock—and it has never failed so much as one of them! Manasseh, Paul, and Mary Magdalen, and thousands more atrocious sinners—have ventured upon this all-sufficient rock with all their load of sin upon them—and found it able to sustain them!
This stone is the foundation of that living temple, the church, which has been now building for near six thousand years, and the top of which already reaches the highest heaven. All the millions of saints from Adam to this day, both those in heaven and those on earth, are living stones built upon this foundation-stone; this supports the weight of all. And this trial may encourage all others to build upon it; for it appears sufficient to bear them all.
But I must farther observe, that a different interpretation of this sentence, still nearer to the original, will give a new and important view of the sense of it. Instead of a tried stone, it may be rendered, "a stone of trial;" or, "a trying stone;" that is, this is the true touch-stone of men's characters. It is this that, above all other things, reveals what they really are: whether godly or wicked men, whether heirs of heaven or hell. Only propose Jesus Christ to them as a Savior, and according as they receive or reject him—you may know their true character, and their everlasting doom!
If with eager hearts they spring forward and embrace him as a Savior—they are true subjects to the King of heaven; they give the highest, the final, the most decisive proof of their subjection to his authority. That men should submit to Jesus Christ as a Savior, is not a single command of God, but it is the drift, the scope, the substance of the whole law and gospel! It is the grand Scriptural precept; it is a kind of universal command that runs through all the dispensations of God, towards guilty men. And therefore, while men refuse to submit to this command, they are guilty of a kind of universal disobedience; and it is in vain for them to pretend to have a real regard to God and his authority in any one instance whatever. On the other hand, if they obey God sincerely in falling in with this command, they will obey him in everything; but if they will not obey him in this, they will truly obey him in nothing! Hence it is that good works are the inseparable fruits of faith in Christ; and that unbelief is the root of all evil.
Submission to Christ is also the most effectual trial, whether the corrupt dispositions of the heart, whether the innate enmity to God, pride, stubbornness, etc., are subdued. If a man is once made so dutiful, so humble, so pliable—as to submit to this humbling, mortifying method of salvation through Jesus Christ, it shows that divine grace has got an entire victory over him, and that now the rebel is so subdued—that he will be obedient in anything. There is nothing in the whole law or gospel to which the hearts of unbelieving sinners are so averse—as this method of salvation by Christ alone. And therefore, when they are subdued to this, and made willing captives of the cross of Christ—we may be sure they have surrendered themselves to universal obedience!
This text has made strange discoveries in the world in every age. This touch-stone has revealed many glittering virtues—to be but dross!
The religious Pharisees and Scribes had a noble reputation among the Jews for piety—until this trying-stone was applied to them; and then it appeared what they were! And then it appeared that they were the most inveterate enemies of God upon earth. These were the builders who rejected this stone, and would not build upon it. They rather chose to build upon the sandy foundation of their own righteousness. Nay, instead of making Christ the foundation of their hopes, they made him a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence! Romans 9:32, 33. 1 Peter 2:8, and they stumbled and fell into destruction! "Christ crucified," says the apostle, "is a stumbling-block to the Jews!" 1 Corinthians 1:23.
This test made strange discoveries also in the heathen world. Many of the sages of Greece and Rome had a high reputation for wisdom and virtue; they gloried in it themselves, and they were admired and celebrated by the populace. But when this stone was pointed out to them as the only foundation of their hopes—they rejected it with proud disdain, and thought it much more safe to depend upon their own virtue and merit, than upon the virtue and merit of one that was crucified like a malefactor! And thus it appeared, that they were not truly good and virtuous.
Let this touch-stone be applied likewise to the men of this generation, and it will reveal a great many counterfeits!
You will find some who have a moral, amiable, winsome conduct, who are temperate, just, charitable, and shine with the appearance of many virtues.
You will find others who are very punctual in the religious duties; they are frequent in prayer, and strict attendants upon all the solemnities of divine worship.
All this looks well in the sight of man. But tell them that all this is no sufficient ground for their hopes of the divine acceptance; nay, that they must renounce all this in point of dependence, as having no merit at all; and that they must, as helpless, guilty, self-condemned sinners, place their trust only in Jesus Christ; and they then begin to show their pride! Then their hearts rise against this soul-mortifying doctrine, and perhaps against him who teaches it. They cannot bear that all their imaginary merit—should have such contempt cast upon it! They will own indeed, as others around them do, that Christ is the only Savior; but their real dependence is at bottom, upon some supposed goodness in themselves. And thus they reveal that all their righteousness is but the proud self-righteousness of a Pharisee, or the self-confident virtue of a stoic philosopher; and not the humble religion or genuine sterling virtue of a true Christian!
Thus the reception which men give to Jesus Christ is the grand criterion of their character before God. And this is agreeable to the prophecy of good old Simeon concerning him: "Behold this child," says he, "is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed!" Luke 2:34, 35. The secret thoughts, reasonings, and dispositions of many hearts, which were before unsuspected, are revealed by this trial! And I wish that it may not make very damning discoveries among you.
As this is a trying stone with regard to men's present characters, so it will be also as to their final doom and everlasting state. All who are built upon this foundation, however frail and tottering in themselves, shall grow up into a glorious impregnable temple, and stand firm when the earth and everything in it will be burned up! But all who are not built upon this foundation, however strong or well established in their own conceit, or however high they raise the fabric of their hopes—shall be demolished and laid in ruins forever!
The one may be likened, says Christ, unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall—because it had its foundation on the rock." And the other may be likened unto "a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house—and it fell with a great crash!" Matthew 7:25-27. What a confounding fall will this be to those that have built a towering Babel of hopes that reaches to heaven! But,
3. This is a PRECIOUS stone.Says one, "More precious than rubies—is the pearl of great price, and the desire of all nations!" Precious with regard to the divine dignity of his person, and the unequaled excellency of his mediatorial offices. In these and in all respects—chief among ten thousand; and, to the awakened sinner, or enlightened believer, "He is altogether lovely!"
He is precious in himself, as possessing all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the sum total of all divine excellencies, and as clothed with all the virtues of a perfect man. In short, all moral excellency, divine and human, created and untreated, center in him, and render him infinitely precious and valuable!
He is precious to his Father; his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased; his elect one, in whom his soul delights.
He is precious to angels: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!" is their eternal song.
He is precious to all godly men in all ages. "Unto you, therefore, who believe—He is precious!" says Peter, 1 Peter 2:7.
How precious are his atoning blood and meritorious righteousness to the guilty, self-condemned soul! How precious is his sanctifying grace to the soul heavy-laden with sin, and groaning under that body of death! How precious the assistance of his almighty arm to his poor soldiers in the spiritual warfare! How precious the light of his instructions to the benighted, wandering mind! How sweet are the words of his mouth; sweeter than honey from the honey-comb! How precious the light of his smiling countenance, and the sensations of his love—to the desponding, sinking soul! How precious is that eternal salvation which he imparts! And how precious the price he paid for it! "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" says Peter.
In short, he is altogether lovely, altogether precious. Diamonds and pearls, and all the precious stones in the universe, cannot represent his worth. Oh that a thoughtless world did but know how precious he is! Surely they would then say to his friends, "Where is your beloved gone, that we may seek him with you?"
I enlarge upon this article with the more pleasure, as I doubt not but the experience of several among you can affix your 'Amen' to what I say, and to much more.
I am now but complying with the request of one of my friends, at the distance of near four thousand miles, who writes to me thus: "Dear sir, recommend him to poor sinners, recommend him to poor believers, as a most wonderful Savior and Redeemer; abundantly able to deliver them—from all that hell and sin can do to destroy them. Oh that his divine excellencies and worth could be set forth! Surely the most abandoned sinners would fall before him with ravishment and wonder." These are British sterling thoughts concerning this precious stone, my brethren, and I hope the same thoughts are to be found among you. Oh that they were universal among us, and among all the sons of men!
4. This stone is a SURE FOUNDATION."Such" says one, "as no pressure can shake; equal, more than equal to every weight; even to sin—the heaviest load in the world. The rock of ages, such as never has failed, never will fail those humble penitents who cast their burden upon the Lord Redeemer; who roll all their guilt, and fix their whole hopes upon this immovable foundation."
The foundation is sure, because it is of divine appointment. "Behold," says the Lord God, who has authority to make the appointment, "behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation!"
It is also sure—because of the extent of his power, the perfection of his righteousness, and the eternity of his existence. But these I have already touched upon. Indeed, his excellencies are so sweetly blended and mixed, like the colors of the rainbow—that it is hard to describe one of them, without running into another.
A fine author thinks the words may be otherwise rendered: "A foundation! a foundation!" "There is," says he, "a fine spirit of vehemency in the sentence thus understood; it speaks the language of agreeable surprise and exultation, and expresses an important discovery. That which mankind infinitely need; that which multitudes seek, and find not—it is here! It is here! This, this is the foundation for their pardon, their peace, their eternal felicity."
5. This is a CORNER-stone."It not only supports—but unites the edifice; incorporating both Jews and Gentiles, believers of various languages and manifold denominations, here, in one harmonious bond of brotherly love; and hereafter, in one common participation of eternal joy." To this purpose, and in this style, speaks the apostle: "He is our peace who has made both, that is, both Jews and Gentiles, one." That is, one uniform, united, magnificent superstructure, "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, grows unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you [Gentiles] also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit:" Ephes. 2:14, 20, 22.
Materials for this sacred temple are collected from thrones—and cottages, from slave—and free, from Jews—and Gentiles, from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America! But notwithstanding these distinctions, they are all united in this cornerstone; all harmoniously compacted into one uniform, magnificent temple, where the God of heaven delights to dwell.
Jesus Christ may also be called a corner-stone, to signify his special importance in this spiritual building. Hence he is elsewhere repeatedly called the chief corner stone, and the head of the corner: Psalm 117:22; Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:7; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; Ephes. 2:20. We are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, in a subordinate sense; but Jesus Christ himself is the chief corner-stone. He has the most important place in the building! It is Christ—who holds up and connects all. Apostles, prophets, and all, are but sinking sand without him. Their righteousness, their strength—are nothing without him. On him all their doctrines depend, in him they all terminate, and from him "they derive all their efficacy. Take away this cornerstone, and immediately the saints in heaven fall from their throne! Take away this cornerstone, and the saints upon earth, who are gradually rising heavenward, sink forever! Take away this corner-stone, and this glorious living temple, that has been building for so many ages—breaks to pieces, and covers heaven and earth with its ruins!
Having thus illustrated the particular properties of this stone, I shall take notice of this general property of it-that it is a FOUNDATION. So it is repeatedly called in my text, "It is laid in Zion as a foundation." It is a sure foundation. It must be the foundation, and have the principal place in the spiritual building—or none at all. "No other foundation," says Paul, "can any man lay, than that which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ!" And he must lie at the foundation of all—or the superstructure cannot stand. To join our own righteousness with his, in our justification; is to form a foundation of solid stone, and hay, straw, and stubble—all blended together. To make our own merit, the ground of our claim to his righteousness; that is, to hope that God will save us for Christ's sake, because we are so good as to deserve some favor at least for our own sakes, that is to lay a foundation of stone upon a quicksand!
The precious corner-stone would have stood, had it been in its proper place, that is, at the bottom of all; but when it is founded upon the sand—it must give way, and all the superstructure must fall.
This is the grand fundamental mistake of multitudes in the 'Christian world'. They all own Christ is the only Savior; but then the ground of their expecting salvation through him, is not his righteousness, but their own! Their own worthless works, which their ignorance and vanity call good—lie at the bottom of all their hopes, as the first foundation; and Christ's righteousness is rather part of the superstructure, than the entire foundation!
This is the refuge of lies—the delusive hiding-place which multitudes are building all their lives—with a great deal of pains; and, when they think themselves provided with a strong everlasting mansion, suddenly they feel themselves swept away into destruction by the overwhelming torrent of divine indignation!
Here, brethren, let us pause a while, and turn our attention to a question that I hope you have anticipated, "Am I a living stone built upon this foundation? Are all my hopes of acceptance with God and eternal happiness, founded upon this rock?"
Are you not desirous to make this important discovery? To make it now, while you have time? If you have made a mistake, to correct it, by pulling down the old building, and beginning a new one on the right foundation? Have you no concern about this? If not, I must tell you, you care not for the God who made you, or the Savior of sinners! Heaven and hell are but trifles to you—and you are indifferent which should be your eternal lot. You have not the sensibility of a man, with regard to pleasure and pain—but the stupidity of a brute, or rather of a senseless stone! And if you continue thus stupidly careless about eternal things—you shall forever be cut off from the rewards of pious diligence, and feel the dreadful doom of the slothful servant!
Friends, can you be indifferent in a matter of such infinite consequence? Let me remind you, that a dreadful hurricane is gathering over this guilty world, which will burst upon you, and sweep you away, unless you are founded upon the Rock of Ages. Think of the last part of my text: "the hail shall sweep away the refuge, or hope of lies, the waters shall overflow the hiding place!" You may be parts of the outward court of this spiritual building; I mean, you may be members of the visible church; but that is only a scaffold to the sacred temple, and when this is finished, that shall be pulled down.
Remember, this building will be critically inspected: the great Architect "will lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet;" and if you do not stand that test, you will be demolished, as useless appendages or encumbrances, and you never can be built up again; the temple of God will then be complete, and no new stones shall be added to it forever.
Therefore now is the time to discover fundamental errors, and correct them. You will discover them in the eternal world—but oh! it will then be too late to correct them! Would you, then, know whether you are really built upon this sure foundation? If so, I shall willingly assist you to make the trial. And for this purpose I solemnly propose a few QUESTIONS to your consciences in the sight of God:
1. Have you ever seen the utter insufficiency of every other foundation? You will never build upon Christ, while you can build anywhere else with hopes of safety. If you have ever fled to him as your only hiding-place—then you have seen it was your last refuge. And have all your false hopes, all your refuges of lies been swept away? Have you seen that honors, riches, pleasures, and all the world—are but breaking bubbles? Have you been sensible that your own righteousness was a rotten foundation, and that you were just ready to sink every moment under the burden of your sins, and to be swept away by the torrent of divine vengeance? Like a sinking man, you have been ready to catch at every twig or straw for support; but were you obliged at length with Peter to turn to Christ, and cry out, "Help, Lord, I am perishing!" Have you let go every other hold, and taken fast hold of Christ as the only support? Have you given up all other grounds of hope, and as poor, guilty, perishing, helpless creatures, placed your whole dependence upon this sure foundation? If you can honestly give a satisfactory answer to these inquiries, it looks encouraging: but if not, you may be sure that you are building upon some sandy foundation; you are lurking in some refuge of lies—and must be overwhelmed at last in inevitable ruin!
2. Have you ever been sensible of the preciousness, the excellency, and the stability of Christ, this divine foundation? If you have ever built upon Christ, it has been at once an act of the last necessity, and of the most free choice. Oh! how precious did this stone appear to you! like the loadstone, it had a strong attraction upon you, and you were effectually drawn to it. You need go no farther than your own hearts to find the truth of what I have said of the preciousness of Christ—the preciousness of his strength, his righteousness, and everything in him. "To you who believe—he is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7. This is the assertion of an apostle concerning all believers, without exception. And shall I conclude this is the real sentiment of this assembly concerning Christ? Shall I conclude it, friends? Oh shall I allow myself to be so happy? Does your conscience tell you there is ground for your saying, that Christ is precious to you? Alas! is it not quite the reverse with many of you!
3. Where is your habitual dependence? Is it upon Jesus Christ alone? or is it upon something else? Do you not feel the need of strength, of spiritual life, of pardon, and righteousness, and eternal life? Certainly, if you know yourselves, you feel the need of these things. And upon whom do you depend for them? Is it upon Jesus Christ alone? Is it habitual, and, as it were, natural to you, since you first ventured upon this foundation, to rest there, sensible that you have always needed this support, and that every other foundation is but sinking sand? Brethren, what does conscience reply to these questions?
4. Have you been formed into proper stones for this spiritual temple? Has God hewn you, may I so speak, by his Word, and broken off whatever was jagged, irregular, and unfit to be built into the building? Has he shaped and polished your souls, for a place in it? Do you feel this divine Architect daily carrying on this work in you, polishing you more and more into a resemblance to Christ? Or are you still the same rough, jagged unpolished pieces, with human nature unsanctified in its present degenerate state? Then you may be sure you are not built upon this foundation!
I think these few questions will be fully decisive of this case. And what discoveries do they now make with you? Where, now, appears to be the foundation of your hope? Have not some of you rejected the chief corner-stone which God has appointed, and built upon a quicksand? If so, even a friendly tongue cannot but denounce some dreadful things to you.
While you are not founded upon Christ, you shall, you must, unavoidably sink forever! You have nothing that can support you! Build your hopes ever so high, the fabric will fall, and bury you in its ruins! Nay, this only foundation of hope and happiness will be to you—a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, the occasion of your more aggravated guilt, and more dreadful destruction!
There are a few texts of Scripture which I would ring like peals of alarming thunder in your ears!
"The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare!" Isaiah 8:14.
"Unto you who believe," says Peter, "He is precious! But to those who do not believe: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." 1 Peter 2:7, 8. If this stone is not made by you the foundation of your hopes, it will fall upon you and crush you in pieces!
Remember the declaration of Christ himself, "Whoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken;" that is, whoever shall reject him while in a humble form in the days of his flesh, shall perish, "but on whoever this stone shall fall—it shall grind him to powder!" That is, whoever shall reject him in his state of exaltation, shall perish in a still more dreadful manner!
And will not all these alarming considerations have any force with you, to persuade you to make Jesus your only foundation?
If you have already made him so, then be assured you are safe and immovable forever. Let storms of private or public calamity rise and beat upon you; let your fears and doubts rise to ever so high a deluge; let temptations make ever so severe attacks upon you—still the foundation on which you stand abides firm and unshaken
Nay, let all nature go to wreck, and seas and land, and heaven and earth, be blended together, still this foundation stands firm, and the living temple built upon it will remain immovable forever!
You who sincerely believe need not make haste, you need not be struck with consternation upon the appearance of danger, nor fly to unlawful means of deliverance. Your ALL is safe, and therefore you may be serene and calm.
Is the burden of guilt intolerable, and are you ready to sink under it? Or are you sinking under a load of sorrow? Whatever is the burden, cast it upon the Lord—and he will sustain you. This foundation is able to bear you up, however great the pressure. Come, you who are weary and heavy-laden, come, and build your hopes, and place your rest here! Oh! what joyful tidings are these! I hope they will prove a word in season to some soul that is weary.
What now remains, but that I should more explicitly point out this precious stone to you all, by illustrating the emphatic word BEHOLD! prefixed to the text.
Behold! you poor sinking souls, behold with wonder and gratitude! Here is a sure foundation for you! Cast your whole weight, venture your eternal all upon it—and it will support you. Say no more, "Alas! I must sink forever under this mountain of guilt;" but turn to Jesus, with sinking Peter, and cry, "Help, Lord, I am perishing!" and he will bear you up! Yes, whatever fierce storms may blow, whatever convulsions may shake the world—you are safe.
Behold, you joyful believers. See here the foundation of all your joys and hopes. Do you not stand firm like Mount Zion? See, here is the ROCK that supports you. Gratefully acknowledge it—and inscribe this precious stone with your praises! Point it out to others—as the only ground of hope for perishing souls.
You wretched, self-righteous Pharisees—behold the only rock on which you must build, if you expect to stand. Your proud, self-confident works, your boasted external morality, is but a loose, tottering foundation of sand! Virtue and morality are necessary to complete and adorn the superstructure; but when they are laid at the bottom of all, they will prove but a quicksand!
Behold, you despisers, and wonder and perish! Perish you must, if you reject this precious stone. To you this only sure foundation will prove a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. To you the nature of things is inverted: the only true ground of hope will heighten your despair; and the Savior of men will be your destroyer.
Behold, you glorious angels, behold the firm foundation which divine love has laid for the salvation of guilty worms! Therefore join with us in celebrating the praises of this foundation. This precious stone appears to you in all its splendors; its brilliancy dazzles your admiring eyes. We also admire it as far as we know it; but to us it is like a foundation laid deep under-ground, that supports us, though we see it not. But when we be shall placed in the heights of the heavenly Zion—it will appear fully to our view, and be the object of our delightful contemplation forever and ever!