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prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
The mediation of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope. The apostles and prophets are a foundation only as they describe and exhibit to us the doctrines and works, the atonement and intercession of the Redeemer. In him all the doctrines of the prophets and apostles meet and unite, as the stones in a foundation are fixed and bound together by the cornerstone. The Apostle Peter, alluding to the words of Isaiah, says, " Coming unto Christ as a living stone, chosen of God, and precious, be ye as living stones, built up a spiritual house ; as it is contained in the scriptures, Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth shall not be confounded. Unto you who believe he is precious, but to the disobedient the stone which the builders disallowed is become the head of the corner, a stone of stumbling, and and a rock of offence." St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “ According to the grace of God given unto me, I have laid the foundation," by preaching Christ to you, “ for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Mankind are by the gospel considered as in a fallen and ruined state. The great design of this revelation is, to bring the happy tidings and proposals of salvation to a guilty world. It opens the glorious plan, and states the gracious terms of this salvation. But then it always teaches us to regard Jesus Christ, as the foundation of our faith and hope. It is by his death that
pardon and life are purchased. It is by his mediation . that free access to God is procured. It is by his inter
cession that our fervent prayers find audience, and our best works meet acceptance. The prophets laid the foundation of faith by the discoveries which they made of this glorious Saviour. The Apostles have laid a foundation by preaching the same Saviour.
"We preach not ourselves,” says St. Paul, “but Christ VOL. III.
Jesus, the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake."
The church of God is built on those doctrines, which respect Christ. This is not a civil conimunity incorporated for worldly purposes ; but a religious society united for spiritual ends. Not a temporal inter. est, but an everlasting salvation is the real object of its institution. And as this salvation is purchased by, and offered through Jesus Christ, so the very idea of a Christian church supposes a belief of those doctrines which mark the way of salvation, and a reliance on those promises which ensure a title to it.
It is not every error in doctrine, that will destroy the being of a church. But the doctrine of Christ crucified for the salvation of sinners is certainly a fundamental doctrine, and without a belief of this a Christian church cannot exist. The gospel is a discovery of salvation as purchased by, and attainable through a divinely appointed Redeemer. If we reject this discov. ery, we reject the very marrow--the essence of the gospel ; and with no propriety can we call ourselves Christians. Accordingly we find, that they, who in the apostles' times, joined themselves to the church, were required to profess their belief, that Jesus was the Christ, and that God raised him from the dead. They who denied that Jesus was come in the flesh, were called antichrists ; but all, who in every place called on the name of Jesus Christ, were considered as belonging to his church. And when Christians appeared to be well united in this grand and leading point, the apostles advised them to great condescension and tenderness in differences of smaller importance.
We have no right to exclude any Christian, or so. ciety of Christians, from our charity and communion, for supposed errors, as long as those errors appear not to respect the foundation on which the church stands. If we reject another for an error, which we suppose not to be essential, we reject him, whom yet, we believe, God has received, and thus exalt ourselves above God. And if we make those things fundamental in religion, which the gospel has not made so, we then attempt to lay other foundations, besides that which God has laid, presumptuously intruding into his place. “Let no man, therefore, judge, or set at nought his brother, for we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
The Apostle here teaches us in the plainest manner, that the church of God, both before and since the coming of Christ, is one and the same in its foundation and structure, though different in some less important circumstances. He says, “ Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” These both form one continued foundation, whose parts are all united in the same corner stone, Jesus Christ. Accordingly the apostles, in their descriptions of the Christian church, refer expressly to the covenant made with Abraham, and to the predictions and promises contained in the books of the prophets.
Hence we see the great mistake of those, who, to evade the force of all arguments from the Old Testament, for applying the seal of the covenant to the in. fant seed of believers, allege that the Christian church is on a foundation entirely different from that of the ancient church ; for the Apostle expressly instructs us, that the Christian church is no other than the ancient church continued, and that the foundation has always been the same. I proceed to observe,
III. The Apostle here teaches us, that this spiritual house must be united with, and framed into the foundation. Thus it may stand secure. " Christ is the chief corner stone, in which all the building is framed.”
A house, in order to its stability, must be joined to, and rest upon its foundation; so we must be united to, and built upon the Saviour. That only is truc faith in Christ, which regards him as the foundation of our present hope, and final acceptance. " Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. And let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon.” The building must be made with precious stones ; not with hay and stubble. We are to build ourselves up on a holy faith, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." There is, indeed, a sort of reliance on Christ, which is not faith, but presumption. To depend on him for salvation, while we continue in impenitence and disobedience, is to make void the law through faith : This is as contrary to the gospel, as to depend on our own, works, without regarding the Saviour at all. It is building a superstructure ; not with precious stones, but with vile rubbish. What Christ has done for us, is the sole ground of our acceptance.
In this respect we must rest on him only, and have no confidence in ourselves. But then it is only in a way of repentance and new obedi. ence, that we become qualified and prepared for eternal life. True faith, therefore, relies upon him in this way ; and while it trusts in his righteousness, it loves his character, chooses his precepts and submits to his government. There must be a conformity to Christ, as well as a confidence in him. God has predestinated believers to be conformed to the image of his Son. He is a living stone, chosen of God, and precious; and they, as lively stones, are built on him a spiritual house, to offer sacrifices acceptable to God. To judge whether we are united to the Saviour, we must inquire, as well whether we are conformed to him, as whether we trust in him. “He who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.”
IV. As the spiritual house must rest on the foundation, so the several parts of it must be framed and inserted into each other. The Apostle says, “ In Christ all the building fitly framed together, groweth into an holy temple”—“ Ye are builded together for an habitation of God.”
As it is faith which fixes the saints on Christ the foundation, so it is love which binds them together
" The whole body joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase to the edifying of itself in love."
If in a building, a stone gets loose, a joint breaks, or a stick or timber becomes apparently rotten, repairs must soon be made ; for there is such a dependence of one part on another, that when one gives way, the whole is threatened with ruin. So it is in the house of God: When contention or division begins, however small it may seem at first, there is danger of general confusion. The breach, if neglected, naturally widens and enlarges. If, therefore, we would preserve the beauty, strength and dignity of the spiritual house, we must be watchful to repair breaches, as soon as they appear, and to remove those materials which are become too corrupt to be repaired, lest they communi. cate their own corruption to sounder parts. A house, thus built on the firm foundation which the gospel describes, and fitly framed together in every part, will stand secure against those winds and tempests, which break and demolish some other structures, throw'n up in haste, reared without a solid foundation, composed of heterogeneous materials, and framed without pro. portion of parts.
“ God has laid in Zion a precious corner stone : and he that believeth, shall not be confounded.
V. The Apostle describes this spiritual house, as “growing unto an holy temple in the Lord, and be. coming an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
We must not content ourselves with having built on the true foundation, but must bring the structure to a more finished and beautiful condition.
The church may grow and make increase, both by the progress of its present members, in knowledge and holiness, and by the addition of new members, who become fellow workers in the spiritual building. We