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** ways before him :—rejoicing in the habitable "part of the earth, and my delights were with the "sons of men," Prov. viii. 30, 31. ; As soon as angels knew of the ancient decree, by God's beginning to erect the stage on which the wonders of redemption, in the building of mercy, were to be displayed, they celebrated the solemnity, under view, with peculiar demonstrations of gladness. "Where wast thou (said the Lord to "Job) when she morning stars sang together, and "all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Job xxxviii. 7.
When the laying of this foundation was brought to maturer light, by the incarnation of the Son of God, these angelic songsters repeated their celebration of this solemnity with new anthems of praise. —" And suddenly (says the evangelist) there was "with the angel," who announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds at Bethlehem, "a multif tude of the heavenly host, praising God, and "saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth ** peace, good-will towards men," Luke ii. 13, 14.
Nay, so much is the foundation of the church of God an occasion of joy, that the accession of every sinner to it, at conversion, is celebrated with new and seraphic songs of triumph.—" Joy (lays our "Lord himself) shall be in heaven over one sinner "that repenteth :"—and again, •' there is joy, in "the presence of the angels of God, over" every such believing penitent, Luke xv. 7, 10.
(5.) Oblcrve, that there are certain things wherein the foundation of the ransomed church excels all the material imagry by which it is pointed out.
In the lame bed from whence foundation stones are dug, others, of equal size, suitaaleneis and value, might be raised; but Jesus Christ was the only person in heaven or oa earth, who could bear
the weight of this sacred superstructure. Before' he appeared, none could be found who was equal to the mighty undertaking; and after he appeared, none could ever pretend to rival it with him. Accordingly, the apostle assures us, that "other foun"datiun can no man lay, than that is laid, which * is Jesus Christ," i Cor. iii. n.
Again, while literal foundation stones are brought out, and wrought up by the hand of the artist, without whose interposition they behoved to have lien in the bowels of the earth;-*the ministry of creatures was not sought or employed in raising up Jesus Christ, the mystical foundation; for, this ** stone was cut out of the mountain without *' hands,'' Dan. ii. 45.
Farther, the stones whereof other foundations consist, are inanimate matter. As they have a& Eft in themselves, they can communicate none to the constituent parts of the buildings which stand Upon them. But our Lord, in the quality of a> foundation, both hath life in himself, and can communicate life to all the members of his church. ** To whom coming (lays the apostle, speaking of ** Christ) as unto a living stone ;—ye also, as live** ly stones, are built up a spiritual house,"' 1 Pet. it. 4, 5. •
Moreover, the same stone, in a literal sense, if it be the foundation, can occupy no other place, at the same time, and in the same building; whereas, the wonderful person we now speak of,—the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, is, at once, the corner, as well as foundation of this spiritual house. Accordingly, he is called " the head stone ** of the corner," by Davidi Psal. cxviii. 22.—" a ** precious corner-stone," by Isaiah, xxviii. 16. and " the chief corner-stone," by the apostle, Eph. ii. 20.
This view greatly raises the v^ue and value of Jesus Christ, with relpcct to his church. As the ttroer-^.thc preficut comer-—the head of the coiner —the chief corner stoae, he so binds the several members of his church together,—that they can Bo more be disjoined, than the walls, on either fide ©f the angle, in which the corner is laid. "Ho*' ly Father, (lays he) keep, through thine own, *' name, those whom thou hast given me, that they *' may beoDe, as we are," John xvik n. And, since the Father heareth him always, this prayer assures us, that the union, amongst the members of Christ, can no more be dissolved,—than the union tween the Father and the Son.
Nor does he only bind,—but, as the corner, also Beautifies' the ecolefiastk sabric, in the following and fecit like view*: •* -..
(t.); Any ontwafd beawty for whkh the saved ones are- remarkable, atiseth from his most honourable righteoulbess, imputed to them, and iroproven by them. "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, "(says the prophet) my foul shall be joyful in my *■ God, for he hath clothed me with the garments *' of salvation, he hath cowered me with the robe "of righteousness, as a bridegroom dteketh htm"self with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth "herself with her jewels," If. lxi. 10.
(2.) Amy inward beauty by which they are distinguished from others, is effected by his holy Spirit given unto them. "The Spirit of truth,
(said our Lord to his disciples) whom the world
cannot receive, because it fceth him not, neither •* knoweth him; ye know, for he dwelleth with I ".you, and shall be.in you," John xiv. 17. And,
(3) Any scriptutal conformity, in their lives, to the law of God which hath place, flows from the womb of the promiie, which is yea and amen in him. "I will put my spirit within you, (fays "the Promises) and cause you to walk in my "statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and "do them," Ezek. xxxvi. 27,
By the 'first of these, God-Redeemer himself accounts them beautiful, saying, " Thou art all "sair my love, there is no spot in thee," Song iv. 7. By she.second, pardoned sinners have a humble consciousness of a gracious diffeience between what they are, and what they were :—"God, who is rich "in mercy, (say they) for his great love where"with he loved us, even whtn we were dead ia "sins, hath quickened us together with Christ," Eph. ii. 4, 5. And by the third, the truth of religion in them, appears to the conviction and edification of others:—"Lei your light (says oup "Lord to his followers) so shine before men, that "they may fee your good works, and glorify your: "Father which is in heaven," Matth. v, 16.
III. 'We come now to the improvement of the subject. And,
If the church of Christ be built upon himself} the office and wotk of gospel ministers will naturally appear.
As to their office, according to my text, they are under-builders: They derive their warrand from the Father, who laid the foundation; and from the Son, who builds the temple. Thus, in the discharge of that trust, the Father and the Son arc represented as thtir joint constituents. "We arc "ambassadors for Christ, (says the apostle) as "though Cod did bejeech you by us: we pray you "in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled- to God," 2 Cor. v. 20. And saithful ministers are, therefore, represented as "labourers together with God," 1 Cor. iii. 0.
With respect to the work of gospel ministers, it is evidently consined to this sacred building; and •may be reduced to the sollowing views.
1. It is their business to point out the foundation, as laid,—Jesus Christ, in his perfin, God Man ',— in his dotlrines, which are all wholsome, sound, and according to godliness;—in his life, which was holy, harmless, and undesiled;—in his death, which was propitiatory, and meritorious ;—in his office, as Mediator between God and man, the Father's servant, and the sinner's surety;—in his purchase, as comprehending all special and laving blessings, and ,as rendering even the common blessings of lise covenant blessings to his people ;^-in his intercesJion, as securing the dispensation of grace and glory, and every good thing to hU church;—in his law, as the rule of lise ;—in his spirit, As the efficient iause of holiness and new obedience; -in his righteousness, as the sinners only plea, for the acceptance of their persons and services, with God ;---and in his exclusive authority and ability to save. • a. It is the business of gospel ministers, to aim at -bringing-sinners to. Christ as the foundation of his
church. Toshew them their guilt, misery, and
danger, without Christ; -the impossibility of recovering themselves;---the suitableness, freeness, and fulness of the gospel salvation;- the nature, also, and extent of the gospel offer-.---together with 'such motives as may most probably have influence .upon them. .'' 3. It is the business of gospel ministers, to aim at the advancement of this building, by using the means of promoting the work of grace in true converts; to represent the exceeding broadness of the divine law, and their obligations to it;---to shtw how sar they are from having a'taned, or being persect ;---to point out the connection between de