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Jesus Christ alone? or is it upon 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 upon whom do you depend for them? Is it upon Jesus Christ alone? Is it habitual, and, as it were, natural to you, since you first ventured upon this foundation, to rest there, sensible that you have always needed this support, and that every other foundation is but sinking sand? Brethren, what does conscience reply to these questions?
4. Have you been formed into proper stones for this spiritual temple? Has God hewn you, may I so speak, by his word, and broken off whatever was rugged, irregular, and unfit to be compacted 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, irregular, 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 I may pronounce these few queries fully decisive in this case. And what discoveries do they now make among you? Where now appears to be the foundation of your hope? Have not some of you rejected the chief corner-stone which God has appointed, and built upon a quicksand? If so, even a friendly tongue cannot but denounce some terrible things to you.
While you are not founded upon Christ, you shall, you must unavoidably sink for ever. There is nothing that can support you. Build your hopes ever so high, the fabric will fall, and bury you in its ruins. Nay, 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. "The same Lord of hosts who shall be for a sanctuary to his people, shall be for a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, for a gin and a snare; and many shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and snared, and taken." Isa.
viii. 14. "Unto you that believe," says St. Peter, "he is precious; but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offenceto them that stumble at the word." 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8. If this stone be 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, "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken;" that is, whosoever shall reject him while in an humble form in the days of his flesh, shall perish, "but on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder;" that is, whosoever shall reject him in his state of exaltation, shall perish in a still more dreadful manner. And will not all these alarming considerations have a weight with you, to persuade you to make him your only foundation?
If you have already made him so, then be assured you are safe and immoveable for ever. Let storms of private or public calamity rise and beat upon you; let your fears and doubts rise to ever so high a deluge; let temptations make ever so severe attacks upon you, still the foundation on which you stand abides firm and unshaken. Nay, let all nature go to wreck, and seas and land, and heaven and earth be blended together, still this foundation stands firm, and the living temple built upon it will remain immoveable for ever. You that believe need not make haste, you need not be struck with consternation upon the appearance of danger, nor fly to unlawful means of deliverance; your all is safe, and therefore you may be serene and calm. Is the burthen of guilt intolerable, and are you ready to sink under it? Or are you sinking under a load of sorrow? Whatever be the burden, cast it upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. This foundation is able to bear you up, however great the pressure. Come, ye that are weary and heavy-laden, come, and build your hopes, and place your rest here. O! what joyful tidings are these! I hope they will prove a word in season to some soul that is weary.
What now remains, but that I should more explicitly point out this precious stone to you all, by illustrating the emphatical word behold, prefixed to the text.
Behold, ye 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. Say no more, “Alas! I
must sink for ever under this mountain of guilt ;" but turn to Jesus, with sinking Peter, and cry, Help, Lord, I perish; and he will bear you up. Yes, whatever storms may blow, whatever convulsions may shake the world, you are safe.
Behold, ye joyful believers. See here the foundation of all your joys and hopes. Do you not stand firm like Mount Zion? See, here is the rock that supports you. Gratefully acknowledge it, and inscribe this precious stone with your praises. Point it out to others as the only ground of hope for perishing souls.
Behold, ye wretched, self-righteous Pharisees, the only rock on which you must build if you expect to stand. Your proud, self-confident virtue, your boasted philosophical morality, is but a loose, tottering foundation. Virtue and morality are necessary to complete and adorn the superstructure; but when they are laid at the bottom of all, they will prove but a quicksand.
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish! perish you must, if you set at naught this precious stone. To you this only foundation is like to prove a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. To you the nature of things is inverted; the only ground of hope will heighten your despair; and the Savior of men will be your destroyer.
Behold, ye glorious angels, behold the firm foundation divine love has laid for the salvation of guilty worms. It is as firm as that on which you stand. Are the affairs of mortals beneath your notice? No, we are concerned with Jesus too who is your head; and our connection with him must give us an importance in your view. Therefore join with us in celebrating the praises of this foundation. This precious stone appears to you in all its splendors: 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 under ground, that supports us though we see it not. When shall we be placed in your advantageous situation, the heights of the heavenly Zion, where it will appear full to our view, and be the object of our delightful contemplation for ever and ever?
THE NECESSITY AND EXCELLENCE OF FAMILY RELIGION.
1 TIM. V. 8.—But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
THE great Author of our nature, who has made us sociable creatures, has instituted various societies among mankind, both civil and religious, and joined them together by the various bonds of relation. The first and radical society is that of a family, which is the nursery of the church and state. This was the society instituted in Paradise in the state of innocence, when the indulgent Creator, finding that it was not good for man, a sociable creature, to be alone, formed a help meet for him, and united them in the endearing bonds of the conjugal relation. From thence the human race was propagated; and when multiplied, it was formed into civil governments and ecclesiastical assemblies. Without these associations the worship of God could not be publicly and socially performed, and liberty and property could not be secured. Without these, men would turn savages and roam at large, destitute of religion, insensible of the human passions, and regardless of each other's welfare. Civil and religious societies are therefore wisely continued in the word, and we enjoy the numerous advantages of them. But these do not exclude, but presuppose domestic societies, which are the materials of which they are composed; and as churches and kingdoms are formed out of families, they will be such as the materials of which they consist. It is therefore of the greatest importance to religion and civil society that families be under proper regulations, that they may produce proper plants for church and state, and especially for the eternal world, in which all the temporary associations of mortals in this world finally terminate, and to which they ultimately refer.
Now in families, as well as in all governments, there are superiors and inferiors; and as it is the place of the latter to obey, so it belongs to the former both to rule
and to provide. The heads of families are obliged not only to exercise their authority over their dependents, but also to provide for them a competency of the necessaries of life; and indeed their right to rule is but a power to provide for themselves and their domestics.
This is implied in my text, where the apostle makes the omission of this duty utterly inconsistent with Christianity; and a crime so unnatural, that even infidels are free from it. "If any man provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
The apostle, among other things, in this chapter, is giving directions how widows should be treated in the church. If they were widows indeed; that is widowed and entirely destitute of relations to support them; then he advises to maintain them at the public expense of the church; (ver. 3, 9, 10.) But if they were such widows as had children or nephews, then he orders that they should be maintained by these their relatives, and that the charge should not fall upon the church; (ver. 4, 16.)
He supposes that the relatives, of some of them might be unwilling to put themselves to this expense: and to engage such to their duty, he in the text exposes the unnatural wickedness of neglecting it. "If any man provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
By a man's own are meant poor relatives, who are unable to support themselves. And by his house are meant those that are his domestics, and that live with him, as wife, children, servants. The former a man is obliged to provide for, but especially the latter; and if he neglect it, he has denied the faith in fact, however much he may profess it in words; he is no Christian, nor to be treated as such: nay, he is worse than an infidel; for many heathens have had so much humanity and natural light, as to observe their duty, supporting their domestics and such of their relatives as could not procure a subsistence for themselves.
In order to make provision for our families, we must be careful or laborious, according to our circumstances, and see that all our domestics be so too. And him that will not work, neither let him eat. 2 Thess. iii. 10.