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necessary, that we should look well, not only to the character of the house we are building, but also to the foundation on which our superstructure rests.
Is our house so founded on a rock, on the rock, that in the day of swift-descending rain, and the flood of rushing desolation, it shall stand unmoved? We can only safely build on one foundation. Should not this thought lead us to examine very carefully as to the character of the foundation on which we are building, lest the day of trial coming suddenly upon us, the worthlessness of our building, and the insufficiency of its foundation become evident by the failure of the one, and the irremediable ruin of the other?
In the verses preceding the parable of the wise and foolish builders, our Saviour refers to several false foundations, resting on which, men seek to satisfy themselves that they have sufficiently provided against that day of storm and tempest of which they have a vague foreboding.
He refers to a merely vain and empty profession of religion. "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." Religion does not consist in a mere profession; in merely crying, "Lord, Lord." And yet this is the sandy foundation upon which many thousands are vainly building. But, however inviting it may seem, this is a foundation the worthlessness of which shall sooner or later be made to appear.
He refers to the foundation of mere activity in His service; "iftany will say unto Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I tnever knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." The idea seems to be that of urging deeds done in Christ's name, as a plea for—as the meritorious ground of—admission to Christ's kingdom. Had they been done in His spirit, as well as in His name, such a plea would never have been urged.
The spirit of self-righteousness is hard to overcome. Man clings to the notion that he can work his own way to heaven; do something toward saving himself. How many are there who are building on this foundation! And yet the very idea is not only inconsistent with, it is actually opposed to the gospel, which is not of works, but altogether of grace, lest any man should boast. Let us not think, however, that there is no room for works of righteousness under the gospel: there is; but we must regard them in the true light; we must assign them their proper place. We perform them not ihat we might be saved, but because we are saved.
The other false foundation of which our Saviour speaks is that of a merely intellectual acquaintance with the doctrines of Christ; a hearing of the word which is not associated with or followed by a doing of the word. During the whole period of our Saviour's personal ministry, He was followed by great multitudes, many of whom gladly listened to Him, and who, within certain limits, appreciated what He said, but did not receive the truths which Christ proclaimed as principles by which they were to live. They did not look to, or confide in, Christ as a Saviour. So still there are many who regularly listen to the words of Christ with attention, and a certain measure of understanding, but who stop there; who never seem to go beyond that point: they are hearers only. It is a good thing for a man to be a hearer of the word, because he must be a hearer before he can be a doer. He* must hear the word before he can receive it, before he can believe in it . But it is a sad tiling for a man to remain a hearer only; hearing instructions which he never attends to; having the way of life pointed out, and yet never setting foot thereon. And how many are there of this class! How many who rest contented with merely hearing the word, as though their acquaintance with their duty would be accepted as a valid excuse for their habitual neglect of it . So important is this matter that we are more than once enjoined by our Master to take heed how we hear.
But it is not enough for us to avoid foundations which are non-enduring, which are essentially uncertain and treacherous, we must inquire for, and not rest satisfied until we find, some foundation on which we may safely build.
It is to be observed by us that what is condemned as a foundation, is good and serviceable in its own place. Sand, which is not safe to build upon, is useful as material for building. Just so profession is good, if it have a foundation, if there be something to be professed, but it is a poor sandy foundation if there be nothing else.
Religious activity is good, if it rest on a proper foundation, if it be an expression and result of real life; but it is a perfectly unreliable foundation for our hopes of heaven to rest upon.
And so hearing the word is good, if regarded as a mean to an end, but valueless, if considered as the end in itself. It is not, it never can be a foundation.
What, then, is the true foundation on which we may safely build, and how are we to build thereupon? There is only one foundation, and there can be none other laid than that is laid, even Christ Himself.
If we take God's word as our directory we can scarcely mistake. Nothing can be more plainly declared than that Christ is the one foundation on which we must build, if we would have our house stand unmoved in the great day of trial. Christ is the rock on which we must be built if the gates of hell are not to prevail against us. "Behold," saith the Lord, "I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." It matters not how high our house be builded, or of what material it may be composed, everything depends on the foundation on which it rests. If it is to stand, it must be based on this underlying rock.
If we are grounded on, and built into, Christ, if we have
taken hold of His words as the words of eternal life, we
shall profess Christ, we shall be doers of His words; and
having the principle of life within us, that life will declare
itself in various forms of willing activity. Our house shall rise as a firm, well-compacted structure, which grows out
of the rock on which it is builded, and partakes of the
solidity and stability of the foundation itself. Built upon
the rock, we may calmly await the day of trial, when the
rains shall descend, and the floods come, and the winds
blow, and beat upon us; and with all this we shall remain
unmoved, unharmed. We may
"The darkening universe defy,
FROM THE GERMAN.
TO the loving Lord and wise
He hath written in a book
Come, oh! come, Thou faithful One,
Basle Mission Hymn-Book. John Kelly.