Jesus Christ, the Only Foundation
Adapted from a sermon by Samuel Davies, February 13, 1757
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.” Isa 28:16-17
The context, like many other passages of prophecy, seems to have a double sense. The primary sense may be described as follows. The judgments of God were ready fall on and overwhelm the impenitent nation of the Jews, like "a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters." (v.2) The prophet had repeatedly given them clear warnings of these approaching judgments; but they still continued secure and impenitent, and unconcerned of the danger. They flattered themselves they had skill enough to keep themselves safe. They thought themselves to be securely entrenched and fortified in their riches, their strongholds, and the sanctity of their temple and nation. They might also think their great ability to negotiate would deliver them from the invasion of the neighboring powers.
These were the lies in which they sought comfort, and the falsehood under which they hid themselves. These, they imagined, like motes or ditches surrounding a castle, would divert 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," (v.18) not to hurt them.
Therefore the prophet represents them as saying, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies (that is what the prophet calls lies,) our refuge, and in (what he calls) falsehood we have taken shelter.(v.15)
It is in this context that our text is introduced; and it points out a solid ground of hope, in contrast to the refuge of lies in which these sinners trusted; as if he had said, since the refuge to which you run 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 will 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 supports a building set it. Those who build their hopes on this foundation, will stand unshaken in the middle of all the storms and tempests of the national calamity, that may beat upon our guilty land."
"Whoever believes will not be in haste;" that is, "he who trusts in this refuge will not be struck into a panic when these calamities suddenly appear. He will not, like a person surprised with unexpected danger, run wildly to doubtful places of safety, and so throw himself into destruction by his unwise, hurried attempts to keep out of it; but he will be calm and serene, and have presence of mind to take the best steps for his deliverance."
Or the meaning may be, "He who believes will not be hasty to run to unlawful means to be delivered; but will patiently wait God's time to deliver him in a lawful way."
The prophet goes on, "I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line;" (v17) that is, "God will test the Jews with strict justice, as an architect examines a building. Those who have built their hopes on the foundation described above, will stand firm and unshaken, whatever storm may fall upon them, like a solid and stately building, founded on solid rock. But as to others, they will be overwhelmed in the public disaster! the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies in which they trusted; and the waters will overflow their hiding-place."
“Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it." (v.18)
This seems to be a primary sense of the context; and in this way, it is probable, the Jews understood it, those 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 guilty country and nation, ripe for judgment and wrath. But we should see, 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 emphasis put on the words, when they are applied to anyone other than him and they can be understood as applying to him even in this sense, as follows, "Since the refuge of sinners is a refuge of lies, behold I will provide one that will effectually secure all who run to it from all the judgments to which they are exposed." I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, that is: "I send my Son into the world, as an Almighty Savior; and all who put themselves under his protection, and build their hopes on him, will be so safe, that all the calamities of life shall not do them any lasting harm; and the vengeance of the eternal world will never fall upon them."
But whether we can find Christ in the primary sense of these words or not, it is certain that we will find him in their ultimate, principal sense. And we have the authority of an inspired apostle for this application. Peter quotes this passage and applies it expressly to Christ, "As you come to him," he says, "a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:4)
Taking the passage in this evangelical sense, the general meaning is this: 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 in this way built on him, is compared to a stately, firm, and indestructible temple, consecrated to the service of God, to offer up spiritual sacrifices; and reinforced 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, sadly! though Jesus Christ is the only foundation, yet most people are so full of themselves, that they venture to build their hopes on 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 side.
But the wrath of God will certainly at last fall on a guilty world, like a storm of hail, or break in on it like an overwhelming flood; then every soul that is not resting on this rock will be swept away, and all the other refuges and hiding-places will be laid in ruins forever!
The great God will also strictly investigate who is founded on this rock, and who not. He will critically test the temple of his church, like a workman, with plumb and line; he will discover all imperfections and useless additions. And as a result of this examination, the storms and torrents of divine wrath will sweep away and overwhelm every one who is not built on this foundation, and who is not safely in this building. This covers the general meaning of our text, but it is necessary that we look into it more carefully.
Consider that our nature, our circumstances, and the important prospects before us, are such, that it is high time for us to look around us for some sure foundation upon which to build our happiness. The structure must last a long time, for our souls will exist forever; and their eagerness for happiness will continue strong forever. The structure must rise high, for the capacities of our souls will perpetually expand and enlarge. The structure must be strong and indestructible, reinforced against all the storms that come against it; for many are the storms that will rise against us, against our country, and against this guilty world in general. Losses, bereavements, sicknesses, and a thousand calamities that I cannot name may yet test 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 the time comes when divine love has completed all that it purposes in our world, an almighty tempest of divine wrath will 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 use the metaphor according to our text, the fiery flood 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, will 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 will sweep away all the refuges of lies, and those who trusted in them, into the pit of hopeless destruction. "The heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly!... The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved!" (2 Pet 3:7, 10)
Well my friends, where will we find a support to sustain us in this tremendous day? Where will we find a rock to build on, that we may be able to stand the shock, and remain safe and unmoved in the chaos 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 helps 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 be like quicksand on that day. Your friends and relations, were they ever so great or powerful can then give you no support. If they can but find refuge for themselves, that will be all; therefore consider once more; where will 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 our text for help. "Behold," says the Lord God, behold “I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’"
Let me expand a little on the properties of this foundation:
1. It is a STONE.
A stone for strength, stability, and durability. 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 are inevitable!
Nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ, can safely support us in that dreaded day! And blessed be God! "He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken!" (Ps 62:2) He alone 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 on 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 entrust the weight of our eternal all on 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 will never be moved!
Is a stone durable and lasting? So is Jesus Christ; he “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) 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 “consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost (to the uttermost of time) those who draw near to God through him.” (Heb 7:25) Here is a stone that can never break down under the pressure of all-consuming time.
Marble, and even granite 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 heaps of ruins! 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 to trust in 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 TESTED stone.
"Tried," in the words of one 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 tested; and the trial showed that it was perfect and universal. His meekness was tested by the abuse he suffered at the hands of men. His patience and resignation to God’s will was tested, when the bitter cup of the wrath of God was put into his hand, and when the absence of his Father caused him to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" (Matt 27:46) His love for his Father, and his zeal for his honor, were tested and they were found to be deep and immovable, resolute and unquenchable the whole of his life.
His love to men, to sinner, to enemies, was tested: tested to the uttermost: it was put to the test, 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 the outcome. The severity of the trial only made 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 tested in the role of a Savior by millions and millions of depraved, wretched, ruined creatures, who have always found him perfectly able, and as perfectly willing to cover the most enormous guilt; to deliver from the most entrenched corruptions; and to save to the very uttermost all who come to God through him! Countless thousand have built their hopes on this rock and it has never failed so much as one of them! Manasseh, Paul, and Mary Magdalene, and thousands more atrocious sinners have ventured everything on 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 he has been now building for more than six thousand years. All the millions of saints from Adam to this day, both those in heaven and those on earth, are living stones built on this foundation-stone; this supports the weight of all. And this trial may encourage all others to build on it; for it appears sufficient to bear them all.
But we must go farther and observe, that a different interpretation of this sentence, still nearer to the original, gives a new and important view of the sense of it. Instead of a tried stone, it may be translated, "a stone of trial;" or, "a trying stone;" that is, this is the true measure 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 to whether 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 essence, the scope, the substance of the whole law and gospel! It is the grand Scriptural rule; 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 effective test, as to whether the corrupt dispositions of the heart, whether the innate hatred of God, pride, stubbornness, and such, 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 revealed strange things in the world in every age. This test has revealed many glittering virtues to be only worthless 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 hardened enemies of God on earth. These were the builders who rejected this stone, and would not build on it. They rather chose to build on the sandy foundation of their own righteousness. Rather, 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 Cor 1:23)
This test revealed strange things also in the heathen world. Many of the wise men 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 masses. 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 on their own virtue and merit, than on the virtue and merit of one that was crucified like a wrongdoer! And so it appeared, that they were not truly good and virtuous.
Let this touch-stone, or test, 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, pleasant conduct, who are calm, just, charitable, and shine with the appearance of many virtues.
You will find others who are very prompt in the religious duties; they pray frequently, and are strict in their attendance on 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 being accepted by God; rather, that they must renounce all this in terms 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-humbling doctrine, and perhaps against him who teaches it. They cannot bear that all their imaginary merit should be held in such contempt! They will acknowledge indeed, as others around them do, that Christ is the only Savior; but their real dependence is in the end, on some supposed goodness in themselves. And so they reveal that all their righteousness is but the proud self-righteousness of a Pharisee, or the self-confident virtue of a worldly philosopher; and not the humble religion or genuine pure virtue of a true Christian!
In this way, the manner in which men receive Jesus Christ is the main test of their true character before God. And this is in accord with the prophecy of good old Simeon concerning him: "Behold this child," says he, "is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”(Luke 2:34) The secret thoughts, reasonings, and dispositions of many hearts, which were before unsuspected, are revealed by this trial! And I hope that it may not reveal such damning things among you.
As this is a testing stone with regard to men's present characters, so it will be also as into their death and everlasting state. All who are built on this foundation, however frail and tottering in themselves, will grow up into a glorious indestructible temple, and stand firm when the earth and everything in it will be burned up! But all who are not built on this foundation, however strong or well established in their own eyes, or however high they raise the fabrication of their hopes, will be demolished and laid in ruins forever!
The one may be likened, says Christ, to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock: "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." And the other may be likened to "a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it!" (Matt 7:25-27) What a bewildering 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.
Precious with regard to the divine dignity of his person, and the unequalled excellency of his intercession as Mediator. In these and in all respects, “distinguished among ten thousand;” and, to the awakened sinner, or enlightened believer, "He is altogether desirable!" (Song 5:10,16)
He is precious in himself, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (Col 2:9) 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 uncreated, center in him, and make 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!" (Rev 5:12) is their eternal song.
He is precious to all godly men in all ages. "The honor (that is the recognition of his precious value) is for you who believe," says Peter. (1 Peter 2:7)
How precious are his atoning blood and redeeming righteousness to the guilty, self-condemned soul! How precious is his sanctifying grace to the soul burdened 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 confused, wandering mind! How sweet are the words of his mouth; sweeter than honey from the honey-comb! How precious the light of his smiling approval, 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 you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot," (1Pe 1:19) says Peter.
In short, he is altogether desirable, altogether precious. Diamonds and pearls, and all the precious stones in the universe, cannot describe what he his worth. And if this thoughtless world only knew how precious he is surely they would then say to his friends, "Where has your beloved gone, … That we may seek him with you?" (So 6:1)
4. This stone is a SURE FOUNDATION.
"Such," in the words of one commentator, "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 from God. "Behold," says the Lord God, who has authority to establish it, "behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of 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 we 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.
5. This is a CORNER-stone.
It not only supports but unites the building; incorporating both Jews and Gentiles, believers of various nations and languages, here, in one harmonious bond of brotherly love; and hereafter, in one common experience of eternal joy. To this purpose, and in this style, the Apostle Paul writes: "he himself is our peace, who has made us both (that is, both Jews and Gentiles) one.” That is, one uniform, united, magnificent superstructure, "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Eph 2:14, 20)
Materials for this sacred temple are collected from thrones and cottages, from rich and poor, from Jews and Gentiles, from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America! But notwithstanding these distinctions, they are all united in this cornerstone; all harmoniously arranged into one uniform, magnificent temple, where the God of heaven delights to dwell.
Jesus Christ may also be called a corner-stone, to highlight 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 on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, in a secondary 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 everything together. 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 conclude, and from him they derive all their power. Take away this cornerstone, and immediately the saints in heaven fall from their throne! Take away this cornerstone, and the saints on 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!
Now, having illustrated the particular properties of this stone, let us take notice of this general property of it-that it is a FOUNDATION.
So it is repeatedly called in my text, It is “laid as a foundation in Zion." It is a “sure foundation.” It must be the foundation, and have the principal place in the spiritual building or none at all. "No one can lay a foundation," says Paul, "other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ!" And he must lie at the foundation of all or the superstructure, that visible part of the building, 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 on top of 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 on the sand, it must give way, and all the superstructure must fall.
This is the central fundamental mistake of multitudes in the 'Christian world'. They all acknowledge Christ as 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 a 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 effort; and, when they think they’ve provided for themselves a strong everlasting mansion, suddenly they feel themselves swept away into destruction by the overwhelming torrent of divine wrath!
Here, let us pause a while, and turn our attention to a question that I hope you have already asked yourselves, "Am I a living stone built on this foundation? Are all my hopes of acceptance with God and eternal happiness, founded on this rock?"
Do you not want to know how you stand in this matter? To discover it now, while you have time? And if you have made a mistake, to correct it, by pulling down the old building, and beginning a new one on the right foundation? Are you not concerned about this? If not, I have to tell you, you do not care for the God who made you, or the Savior of sinners! Heaven and hell mean little to you, and you do not care which should be your eternal dwelling place. It is my duty to tell you that you are not reasoning like a human being, with regard to pleasure and pain, but with the stupidity of a beast, or rather of a senseless stone! And if you continue stupidly careless about eternal things, you will certainly forever be cut off from the rewards of pious diligence, and feel the dreadful doom of the worthless servant in the parable of the talents!
And can you really be indifferent in a matter of such infinite importance? 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 on the Rock of Ages. Think of the last part of our text: "Hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter!” 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 scaffold will be pulled down.
Remember, this building will be critically inspected: the great Architect "will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line;" and if you do not stand that test, you will be demolished, as useless additions or hindrances, and you never can be built up again; the temple of God will then be complete, and no new stones will ever be added to it.
Therefore now is the time to discover fundamental errors, and correct them. You will discover them in the eternal world, but consider well! it will be too late then to correct them! Would you, then, know whether you are really built on this sure foundation? If so, I will willingly help you to test yourselves. 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 on 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 bursting soap bubbles? Have you realized 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 God’s wrath?
Like a drowning man, you have been ready to grab at every twig or straw for support; but were you forced in the end with the disciples to turn to Christ, and cry out, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" (Matt 8:25) 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 on this sure foundation? If you can honestly say ‘Yes’ to these questions, it looks encouraging: but if not, you may be sure that you are building on some sandy foundation; you are lurking in some refuge of lies, and must be overwhelmed at last in inevitable ruin!
2. Have you ever come to see the preciousness, the excellency, and the stability of Christ, this divine foundation?
If you have ever built on Christ, it has been at once an act of last resort, and of the most free choice. And how precious did this stone appear to you! You were effectually drawn to it like a compass needle to magnetic north. You see in your own hearts the truth of what I have said of the preciousness of Christ—the preciousness of his strength, his righteousness, and everything in him. Peter says "For you who believe” (1 Pet 2:7) he is precious!" This is the assertion of an apostle concerning all believers, without exception.
And shall I conclude that this is the real sentiment of this assembly concerning Christ? Are there grounds to believe this? Is this our happy condition? Does your conscience tell you there is ground for your saying, that Christ is precious to you? Sadly! is it not quite the reverse with many of you!
3. What do you usually depend on? Is it on Jesus Christ alone? or is it on 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 on who do you depend for them? Is it on Jesus Christ alone? Is it daily, and, as it were, natural to you, since you first discovered this foundation, to rest there, knowing that you have always needed this support, and that every other foundation is but sinking sand? What does you own conscience reply to these questions?
4. Have you been formed into proper stones for this spiritual temple? Has God shaped you, so to 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 are enough to fully decide the matter. And what do they reveal about you? Where, now, does the foundation of your hope appear to be? Have not some of you rejected the chief corner-stone which God has appointed, and rather built on a quicksand? If so, as a friend to your souls I must denounce some dreadful things to you.
While you are not founded on Christ, you will, you must, unavoidably sink forever! You have nothing that can support you! Build your hopes ever so high, the structure will fall, and bury you in its ruins! More than that, 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!
Isa 8:13-15 ESV But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (14) And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isa 8:13-15)
"So the honor is for you who believe," says Peter, " but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Pet 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, "And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him!" (Matt 21:44) That is, anyone who persists in opposing Christ is going to be “pulverized”!
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 disaster rise and beat against you; let your fears and doubts rise to ever so high a degree; let temptations make ever so severe attacks on you—still the foundation on which you stand remains firm and unshaken.
More than that, let all off nature be turned upside down, and seas and land, and heaven and earth, be blended together, still this foundation stands firm, and the living temple built on it will remain immovable forever!
You who sincerely believe, need not be in haste, you need not be struck with consternation when danger appears, nor run 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 on the Lord—and he will sustain you. This foundation is able to bear you up, however great the pressure. Come, you who “labor and are heavy laden,” (Matt 11:28) come, and build your hopes, and place your rest here! Consider what joyful news this is! May it bring comfort to weary souls.
What now remains, but that we should more explicitly consider this precious stone, by pausing at 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. Do not say any more, "I am doomed! I must sink forever under this mountain of guilt;" but turn to Jesus, with the sinking Disciples, and cry, " Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" (Mat 8:25) and he will support you! Yes, whatever fierce storms may blow, whatever catastrophes may shake the world—you are safe.
Behold, you joyful believers. See here the foundation of all your joys and hopes. See, here is the ROCK that supports you. Gratefully acknowledge it—sign praises to his name! 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 no better than 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 to be 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 the love of God has laid for the salvation of guilty rebels! Therefore join with us in celebrating the praises of this foundation. This precious stone appears to you in all its splendours; 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 underground, that supports us, though we cannot see it. But when we enter our heavenly home—it will appear fully to our view, and be the object of our delightful contemplation forever and ever!