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similitude more aptly representing us in both these conditions than that contained in the text. We were as stones once lying in the earth; but are now taken out and polished for a glorious building
II. We are next to consider the foundation that supports the building formed from these materials. Ye are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. The church is not built upon the Apostles and Prophets in their personal capacity: it is not to be supposed that these men were in their own persons able to sustain the weight of the church of God. For who is Paul, and who is Apollos but ministers by whom ye believed? Was Paul crucified for you? were ye baptized in the name of Paul? Paul planted and Apollos watered; but neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth. There was no merit in the Apostles that could serve for a foundation of hope to the sinner: for Peter confessed that he was a sinful man, and Paul that he was the chief of sinners. And though some may answer us that St. Peter had the keys of the kingdom of Heaven given to him, it does not appear that he was commissioned to hold them longer than while he was upon earth: for our Savior's words are Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on carth shall be loosed in heaven. It cannot be said then that Peter, or any of the Apostles are, in their own persons, the support of the
church: and indeed, how should they be? Behold! he putteth no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly. How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay whose foundation is in the dust? Nevertheless the scriptures have not hesitated to use elsewhere the same sort of language as in the passage before us. Christ said of Peter that on this rock he would build his church; alluding to the honor which he designed for Peter, namely, that he should be the first to preach the Gospel to the Jews, and the first also to preach it to the Gentiles. In the same manner it is said in the revelation, That the wall of the city had twelve
foundations; and in them, the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. So in the text, the Apostles and Prophets are described as forming part of the foundation with Christ. But the true, and indeed the only sense, in which mere men can be said to bear part with Christ in the foundation of this spiritual building is this, that they are inspired by God to speak with such authority that we may depend upon their word with as much confidence as upon the words which Christ himself spake. Such were the Apostles and Prophets; they spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; and their words, therefore, may be as fully believed and trusted in, in matters of highest importance, as any of the sayings of Christ recorded by the Evangelists. The prophecies of Isaiah, or the Epistles of St. Paul, are of precisely the same authority in directing our faith and regulating
not only the ground of their security, but also, as the corner stone is in a building, the bond of their union. To him ye have come, and on him are ye built; then consider how peculiar is your privilege, beloved, in this respect. Though it is contained in the Scriptures that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ: that is, no foundation on which we can safely be built except him: yet mankind are ever rearing their respective superstructures on a different foundation. Some build
upon the presumptuous hopes of God's mercy: expecting to see the Lord without holiness-others are raising a fair fabric on the ground of their own righteousness—others are pleasing themselves with a motley building which they have raised on two foundations: Christ and their own works; all which may stand for a while and make a fair shew during the momentary calm of God's forbearance, but which will instantly crumble into dust when his breath shall blow upon them. Now where so many are wrong and so few are right, how happy your lot to be in the latter number, by having found the true foundation! How privileged are you who have been taught to perceive that stone to be precious, which to others is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of of fence; even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient! How glorious is now your condition upon this foundation, will appear when we consider, in the third place, the edifice or building itself.
III. In whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. The model of the glorious edifice has existed from everlasting in the mind of its great Architect; and in conformity to that model the building rises. Let us first observe it, as the work goes on. In that part of it which is already to be seen, observe how fitly each stone is suited to its place. As in the members of the human body, if they were all one member, where were the body? so in this building, if all the stones were equal in size, polish, and shape, where were the building? But now it is so ordered that some shall form the broad base of a pillar, others the long shafts, others the ornamented capital; another shall be of use to turn an arch; another be a quay stone; this shall be found in the cornice, and another in the ceiling: but they all have their use in their respective places, and other arrangements would destroy its beauty and symmetry. Those that are intended rather for strength than ornament need not so much polishing; while others who are designed for a conspicuous part in the building, suffer the strokes of God's heavy hand, and have their roughnesses worn away by affliction, because they are to become the polished corners of the temple. Thus unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. He gave some to be Apostles and" some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting
of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Having now surveyed the contrivance and arrangement of its parts, mark next its gradual growth. From the day that the first stone was laid in the superstructure at the conversion of our first parents, another, and another has been added, and the building has been rising from generation to generation. Persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions have been taken from the world and fitted one to another in it. Young and old, rich and poor,
have been added to the Church in every different age; and though the work goes on with different degrees of rapidity at different times, God is always employed in it. At the present moment it is still rising: some stones are under the workmen's hand, others are fixed in their places in the Church. At this day, more than in ancient times men of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, English, Americans, Danes, Africans, Hindoos, Hottentots, Mohawks-millions, who have never seen one another in the flesh are yet built up together, and united in one corner stone the Lord Jesus Christ! Behold, these shall come from far, and these from the north and west, and these from the land of Sinim.* Thus it goes on steadily indeed, but silently: for like that temple which was the type of it, there is neither hammer, nor Axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it is in building.† The kingdom of God is not
* Is. xlix, 12.
+ 1 Kings vi, 7.