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Jesus, the Christ, laid as the foundation ?-Of evangelical doctrine, say some eminent theologians.-Of the believing penitent's hope, say others, who are not less eminent. Most humbly, but most deci. dedly, do I dissent from both of those highly respectable parties. There is a sense in which Jesus, the Christ, is the only foundation of evangelical doctrine. Remove him from his all-important place in the system of revealed truth and human salvation, and the fair fabric of evangelical doctrine falls at once-a stupendous ruin. There is also evident, undeniable, all-important truth in the statement, that Jesus, the Christ, is the only foundation of the penitent believer's hope. But is this the meaning of the Holy Spirit in our text? That is the question first to be determined, before proceeding further in the present discourse. It is one thing to educe from a scripture text a meaning—a good meaning, a true meaning, an important meaning. It is, sometimes at least, quite another thing to educe the meaningthe good, true, important meaning or statement, which the Holy Spirit intended to convey in that particular text. There may be various solutions of the same enigma. There may be various plausible interpretations of the same text. Our business, as interpreters of divine truth, is not to ascertain what various meanings certain words in the sacred volume might possibly bear, but what meaning such words were actually intended, by their Author, to convey.
My elder brethren in the ministry will, doubtless kindly bear with me when announcing a position, which, though to them it may appear almost too elementary to require to be stated, may, notwithstanding, be worthy the serious attention of some who are engaged in the interesting and important work of preaching the Gospel. My young brethren may need to consider this statement. To return; our present text is a branch in the tree of apostolic instruction, which extends through this and the adjoining chapters. It is a well formed, well fitted, well fixed stone in the firm arch of apostolic reasoning, which is there established. Let us examine the tree, that we may ascertain the relative position and direction of the branch. Let us examine the arch, that we may discover the use of the stone-the intention of the copos apxitektwy, the skilful architect, the “wise master-builder,” Paul, who placed this stone in his arch; and that we thereby may also discover the mind and purpose of a wiser and greater than Paul—the Holy Ghost, who gave him counsel regarding the manner in which he was to build. On one point, all is clear and evident, viz, on this,- Paul is conveying instruction regarding Jesus, the Christ, as the only foundation. It is plain, also, that Paul is speaking of objects, in the preceding and subsequent context, that might be laid or built by men upon Jesus, the Christ; and that might thus be formed into a building. Now, if Paul himself tells us what those objects are, this will determine the sense in which he here speaks of Jesus, the Christ, as the foundation, the foundation already laidthe only foundation that can be laid. Let us, then, to the scrutiny. Paul says, “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.” What are these? Are they doctrines, solemn, interesting, and true, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, doctrines, frivolous, uninteresting, and false. Are those valu. able doctrines the gold, silver, and precious stones; and are these worthless doctrines the wood, hay, stubble? It might be so. But is this what the apostle has, in reality, said ? No. I do not find the word “ doctrine,” or the object meant by the word doctrine, used by Paul in immediate connexion with the text. The context commences with the closing portion of the 9th verse, and extends to the end of the 17th. Read those verses : you will not find the word “ doctrine" in them, nor any words which necessarily mean the same thing as the word doctrine means. We have, therefore, no evidence that the great apostolic logician is discoursing regarding doctrines in our text and its context. I ask, then, Is Paul speaking of hopes - is he speaking of hopes, rational, firm, and enduring, under the figure of gold, silver, precious stones ; and of hopes, irrational, insecure, and perishing, under the figure of wood, hay, stubble? It might have been so. He might have spoken in this way. But has Paul actually told us, that by gold, silver, precious stones, he means good hopes; and by wood, hay, stubble, delusive hopes ? He has neither mentioned the word “ hope,” nor the object hope in connexion with the text. He has not, even so much as once done so in the whole context. This meaning may doubtless be put upon the text ; but has the Holy Ghost put this meaning into the text ? I distinctly answer, No. Read the verses. Is hope—is expectation—is any synonymous term, or equivalent expression, found there? No; not even once. Are we, then, at a loss for the meaning of our text? Is its meaning undiscoverable, or even doubtful ? By no means : Paul has decided the point for us, in a manner perfectly clear and admirably concise. He has told us to what objects he refers as having been laid on Christ. He has distinctly and unequivocally told us what objects he himself bad laid on this, the only needful, the only possible foundation. He has decided the point clearly at once, and in the most satisfactory manner, by saying, in the 9th verse, at its close-"Ye are God's building, -_“Ye"
not doctrines, not hopes—" YE," Corinthian converts " YE, the church of God which is at Corinth-YE that are sanctified in Christ Jesus-YE that are called to be saints” –YE, “ with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord- both theirs and ours”-“YE are God's building.” Ye are the objects laid upon the great foundation. “ According to the grace given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I (Paul) have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.” I planted the church at Corinth; Apollos watered it, I began to build; others are continuing my work - are building on the courses of stones which I laid on the only Foundation.
“ But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus the Christ. Now, if any man,” in adding to the stones in this buildingto the members in the church, “shall build upon this foundation"sincere, obedient, believing disciples—who resemble “gold, silver, and precious stones,” on the one hand; or, on the contrary, insincere, infidel, disobedient professors, who resemble “wood, hay, stubble. Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day of scrutiny and trial shall declare it ; because it shall be revealed by fire” (or rather in fire- įv avpi); and the fire”- the fiery trial in the time of temptation, persecution, death, or judgment- this fire “shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” It shall try whether the additions in members that he has made to the church, are of gold, silver, precious stones; that is, are sincere, obedient believers ; or, are insincere, unbelieving, disobedient persons — mere pretenders - mere wood, hay, stubble. If these members of the professing church, who are “ any man's work,” abide, in the day of fiery trial; if they then are proved to be true professors of the Christian faith and hope, he shall receive a reward; they shall be his joy and crown in the day of the Lord. « If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss. If, in the day of fiery trial, the converts which he has added to the church shall be found to be unsound_to be in heart disobedient, unbelieving, insincere—if they shall be found to resemble materials worthless for building-mere wood, hay, stubble, he shall suffer loss; the gems shall be plucked from his eternal crown; he shall lose a large portion of his final reward, as a minister of Christ; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire,” or through a fire (óc ôià nupós). His personal faith in Jesus the Christ, shall avail for his own personal salvation; but he shall be as one of the righteous that (uóxis) scarcely was saved (1 Pet. iv. 18); that are saved with great difficulty, and after encountering imminent danger. He shall be like one who with difficulty escapes naked from his burning dwelling, which a fierce and · devouring conflagration has enwrapt.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ?” adds the apostle. He commenced, at the 9th verse, by saying to the Corinthians, “ Ye are God's building." Having expanded, illustrated, and applied the thought there announced throughout the whole connected verses (one of which is that selected for the text of the present discourse), he concludes this connected portion of his reasoning, by repeating the same thought under a rather different aspect, saying, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ?” Thus, by examining the context, and comparing it with our text, we obtain clear proof that the objects mentioned by Paul as being built upon the Foundation, were the members of the church of God.
If any thing be felt requisite so to corroborate, as fully to confirm our exposition of the text, the following texts supply that corroboration :-" Ye”- Christian disciples—“elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”-“as lively stones are built up a spiritual house.” (1 Pet. i. 1, 2, compared with ii. 5.) “ Ye," "saints at Ephesus”—“ ye, the faithful (or believers) in Christ Jesus” -“ are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple of the Lord ; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit. (Eph. ii. 20—22, compared with i. 1.)
The apostle is also accustomed to speak of his converts as his “ work.” To give only one instance, for the sake of brevity : in the ninth chapter of the same epistle, he, at the first verse, asks the same persons to whom he writes in the text, “ Are not ye my work in the Lord ?” He also refers repeatedly to the reward of his ministerial
labours, as being intimately connected with the final salvation of those whom he had been instrumental in converting. Writing to the Philippians, he says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” (Chap. ii. 14–16.) Again, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians, he inquires (chap. ii. 19), “ What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ?" and adds, “ Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ? For ye are our glory and joy."
From all that has been said, it clearly appears, that, in our text, Paul is speaking of Jesus, the Christ, as the Foundation of God's building - that holy temple which is his beloved residence, even his church—a fabric composed of materials exceedingly precious in his sight-in which none ever ought to find any place, and in which none can find a permanent place, but such as are fitly represented by gold, silver, and precious stones.
(To be continued.)
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
DAMASCUS: Or, Conversion in relation to the Grace of God, and the Agency of Man. An Essay, by David EvERARD FORD. 18mo. 119 pp. SIMPKIN, MARSHALL and Co.
Those who are acquainted with Mr. Ford's volumes entitled “Decapolis ” and “ Chorazin, will be able from their knowledge of those works to form a tolerably accurate opinion of the volume just published, and entitled “ Damascus.” The author endeavoured, by his “Decapolis,” to awaken attention to the obligations devolving upon Christians, to exert themselves in making known “ the great salvation ; and, by his “ Chorazin,” he powerfully appealed to those who have had special religious advantages; urging, especially, upon the children of pious parents, the consideration of the fearful responsibility they owe to God, for the right use of the spiritual advantages conferred upon them; and we believe that both those works have been, and will be productive of much good. The volume now before us is also designed to glorify God in the salvation of souls—it is an appeal to the unconverted.
In the commencement of the work, Mr. Ford explains the sense in which he employs the term “ conversion." He defines it as signifying a “ turning from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God,” and refers to several places in which the same Greek word sometimes rendered “ converted ” is translated by the words “ turned,” and “ returned." He also remarks, “ the sacred writers were not careful to distinguish conversion as an active or passive change,
an alteration effected by the individual, or wrought upon him by extrin. sic agency. In fact their language is indicative of both.” With this sentiment we fully agree; we believe both agencies to have been exercised, in the case of every saved person, having attained to that degree of intellectual maturity by which the knowledge of good and of evil is acquired, and the power of choice possessed ; and on whom consequent, personal responsibility devolved.Man cannot become converted without the agency of the Holy Spirit, nor can he be converted, unless he uses his moral power, and turns to God under the influence of that Spirit, communicated by God to all men; especially to those to whom the Gospel is made known.
Those persons who are the subjects of conversion have “ passed from death unto life”--they are made partakers of pardoning mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. Conversion is the act of man- the act of turning to God. We do not mean, that the power, by which man converts or turns to God, is innate, or uncommunicated, yet it is man's own act to use the power by which he returns to the Lord; which can only result from the exercise of faith in Him, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life;" by whom alone a sinner can come to God. As by believing in Christ, a sinner returns or converts unto God, so also immediately upon believing in Christ, he obtains the pardon of sins, and his heavenly Father then receives back the prodigal who had wandered, but who now has returned, and He gives to him the tokens of his love. There must be a moment of time, when this change takes place, when the sinner, so returns unto God as to obtain the pardon of his sins—and hence, thus understood, we agree with Mr. Ford, “ that real conversion must always be sudden and in fact instantaneous.” There may be however and usually is, a preparatory process—repentance is inseparable from conversion. The former may perhaps be said to be, a change of mind causing an abandonment of sin, and the latter, the return of the soul to God, by faith in Jesus Christ. We could have wished, that Mr. Ford had extended his remarks upon the nature of that act of believing by which the penitent becomes converted.
In reference to cases of individuals, who are unable “ precisely to mark the day and the hour when they first embraced the hope of the Gospel,” Mr. Ford states, “I have known undoubted specimens of piety, the origin of which it was difficult to trace. The mind perhaps was inattentive to its own movements; so much so, that the final stand had not only been taken, but efficiently maintained and defended before the man was aware that he was on the Lord's side.” We confess, that, much as we are pleased with Mr. Ford's general views of the Gospel, we cannot give our assent to this last quoted statement. We think it to be impossible for a man to be on the Lord's side, and not to know it! A man is on the Lord's side only so far, as he is resolved by the grace of God to obey, and is obedient to Him. A man cannot be a servant of God, and be igno. rant that he is obedient to Him. We conclude, however, that Mr. Ford only intends, that the persous to whom he refers were of undoubted piety, and yet were unable to specify the precise time when the Lord pardoned their sins. Their faith was for a time wavering