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No less pleasing and suggestive than familiar, is that imagery of Scripture, in which the Church is represented as a living temple, holy unto the Lord. Without the noise of axe or of hammer, the living stones of which it is composed are hewn out of the quarries of earth. By the unceasing but quiet operations of the Holy Spirit, they are prepared, polished, and each fitted in its place. And as stone is laid upon stone, stone upon stone, the progress and grandeur of the work renew the ancient gladness of the heavenly host; as when the foundations of the earth were fastened, and the corner-stone thereof was laid, the morning stars sing together, and all the sons of God shout for joy.
But a more tumultuous joy shall rend the heavens and surprise the earth, when the head-stone thereof shall be brought forth with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it." He who has so clothed the lilies of the field, “that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” is adorning this latter house with a glory surpassing all that were before it, for He has shaken all the nations of the earth, and the desire of all nations has come, and has filled this house with the glory of his own grace, and wisdom, and majesty. Its walls and its towers shall never be overthrown; the hand of no son of a Babylonish woman shall be able to destroy it; yea, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it forever, saith the Lord.
The same image is sometimes used in a more restricted sense. With great force and appropriateness, every man's hope for the future is compared to a house or building, prepared with a greater or less expenditure of time and labor, and in some instances of prayer for Divine counsel and assistance; and he may be said to dwell in that building, and to look to it for protection from the winds and storms, or fires and floods, by which its strength and stability shall be tested.
There is scarcely a wretch on earth, however miserable, that has not some hope or expectation of a happy futurity; some dream, if it be no better, by which he beguiles his soul, and quiets his conscience, if it ever whispers of a coming judgment. Alas, that so many
of these hopes should be as frail as the spider's web; that so many a house, the object of great pride and satisfaction to the owner and occupant, perhaps the boasted work of his own inventive genius, should be built upon the deceitful sands; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon that house, it must fall, and great shall be the fall of it!
But all men are not equally careless in this matter. Some rush blindly on, confident in their own wisdom and resources, and do their work in their own wilful way. They will build on whatever spot is most convenient or agreeable to a wayward fancy or a corrupt heart-it may be, like the choice of Lot, a vale of Sodom, "well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt," and therefore very pleasant to the eye, but doomed to a sudden and awful destruction, which shall overtake them, when, unsuspicious of danger, they are eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and buildingwhen, thoughtless of eternity, they are glutting themselves with worldliness and vanity.
Others are anxious and fearful. They feel the importance of the enterprise — that interests eternal and invaluable are at stake. They are convinced that many, as wise as they, have fallen into fatal errors. They have prayed earnestly for Divine help and guidance; but they fear that, after all their prayer and pains, they may be wrong—that either in the foundation or work, they may commit some awful mistake.
Nothing is clearer than that it would be highly injudicious and unjust, to treat these various cases alike. To deal with the careless and self-confident is one thing, to deal with the fearful and troubled is quite another. We must here use that wise discrimination of which St. Jude speaks; "of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” Our teaching must be adapted to every variety of temper and condition. There is neither monotony nor discord in the Gospel cry. It not only admits, but requires various intonations, to the production of its full effect upon the ear and heart of man.
Sometimes it is consoling, as when it was said of old, “speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned;" or tender and soothing as the song with which the Hebrew mother hushed to sleep her holy babe in Bethlehem; but sometimes startling and terrific as the written cry which disturbed Belshazzar’s revelry; or, as the whispered thunder which broke the midnight silence of the rich man's chamber, “this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” “We are made all things to all men, that we might by all means save some."
We are all building for eternity. By the results of our present labor, we must stand or fall in the last day. What miserable folly is that which neglects, by any possible caution or diligence, to secure a good foundation! This, indeed, is the first great consideration, when we are building only for time; how much more, then, when we are seeking for “everlasting habitations” — when we are providing for spirits that must survive the world. When we open the Bible, we not only bring ourselves under an influence that has a tendency to correct this miserable folly of our hearts—this indifference to the foundation on which we build our hopes for eternity, but we see revealed to us a good and sufficient foundation-one that invites us, by its evident superiority to every other, to build on it with confidence.
Man could never have laid such a foundation as we here discover. It required infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite love. This, therefore, is a part of the building which we must commit wholly to God, and rely upon his promise and oath for its security. No, reader, we have no foundation to lay for your faith and hope, we wash our hands of all such impossible and unnecessary work, and bless God that he has not given it to us to do. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The work of the ministry is not to build foundations, but to exhibit that which was