SERMON LV & LVI.
THE COMMENCEMENT OF ALL SAVING BLESSINGS
This subject was discoursed in two sermons, viz. on the Sabbath evening and Monday, immediately after the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at Kinclaven, June, 1738.
“From this day will I bless thee.” Haggai 2:9
As in the beginning of the preceding chapter, we have the Lord reproving this people for their slothfulness in building the temple, which provoked God to contend with them; and exhorting them to reform and prosecute that good work; so, in the dose of it, we find the people applying themselves to that work, and the Lord himself animating them therein. Now in this chapter, the prophet, is, in the Lord’s name, giving them further encouragement to this work. And,
1. He encourages them, by assuring the builders that the glory of this house they were now building should exceed that of Solomon’s temple; though not in outward glory, yet in spiritual splendor, particularly by the coming of Christ, the desire of all nations, who would fill it with glory, by his coming to it, from verses 1-9.
2. He encourages them, by assuring them, that though their sin, in delaying to build the temple, had hindered their prosperity, yet now that this work was happily begun, he would bless and prosper them. God had smitten them with blasting and mildew, (v. 17); and they had been a long time incorrigible, and might easily observe, that, as long as they continued in neglect of temple-work, all their other affairs went backward; but when they began to lay the foundation, or to raise the structure upon the foundations that had been laid sometime before, they might observe from that time, yea, from that very day, a remarkable turn for the better, to all their affairs: “Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine and the fig-tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive-tree path not brought forth: from this day will I bless you,” (v. 19). Nothing appears, might he say, to promise a good harvest and vintage next year; nature doth not promise it: but now that the foundation of the temple is laid, and you apply yourselves in earnest to this temple work, the God of nature promises it and that with a blessing. “From this day will I bless you.”
In which words you may observe these five things. 1. A great privilege under the name of blessing. 2. The author of this blessing in the pronoun I. 3. The objects thereof in the pronoun you. 4. The certainty of it, “I will bless you.” 6. The term of its commencement, “FROM THIS DAY will I bless you.”
1. The great privilege here mentioned under the name of blessing. What blessing is here spoken of? It is not, indeed, temporal prosperity and outward plenty only; but when these come with a blessing, and are promised as such, they come in among the number of spiritual blessings, and include also spiritual prosperity, as well as temporal. A man may have outward prosperity, and yet be cursed in his basket and store; but when he hath it with God’s favor, so as to be blessed in his basket and in his store, then it comes in among the rank of saving blessings. The privilege then here is such as includes all saving blessings.
2. The author of this blessing is God “I will bless you.” The blessing here spoken of, is God’s blessing; than which nothing can be desired more to make a creature happy; for, “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich;” and those whom he blesses, are blessed indeed. God’s blessing is much worth. Men may bless, and yet at the same time God’s curse may make them miserable: but when God blesses, men’s curses can do them no harm; for, God’s blessing takes away the curse both from crosses and comforts.
3. The certainty of it, “I will bless you.” It is fixed by God’s unchangeable will; and his will is determined in his unchangeable word of promise: when God says, “I WILL bless you” it is impossible but the blessing must take place; and when God’s I will is heard by faith, it brings in full assurance, and strong consolation. As when God says, “I will take away the heart of stone, and give the heart of flesh: I will put my Spirit within you; I will sprinkle you with clean water; I will be your God;” faith’s echo is, ‘Amen, Lord, thy will be done.’ And when God’s I will and our Amen meet together, then our will goes in to God’s will, and the thing willed is certain and sure; yea, firmer than mountains of brass: for God’s will is unalterable, his promise unchangeable; he has faithfulness for the girdle of his loins.
4. You have the objects of this blessing, in the pronoun you. It is true, this you is not in the original; but is fitly enough supplied by our translators; for it is plainly understood, though the words run, “From this day will I bless:” As if he had said, Hitherto curses and miseries have taken place among you; but henceforth blessings and happiness shall take place; “In blessing I will bless.” But whom will he thus bless? Why, the persons understood here, are these, who, through grace, are determined to apply themselves to temple-work, and temple-reformation. And so,
5. You have the term or time, from which the blessing commences, FROM THIS DAY will I bless you that is, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.” And here lies the principal emphasis of the text; and therefore, we have this from four times repeated; “Consider now from this day and upward; from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month; even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid; consider it, from this day will I bless you.” It is the best day’s work that ever was done; and it is the best day that ever you had in your life; for, from hence you may date your happiness, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.
Now, you are to remember that the temple was typical of Christ: not only of Christ personal, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; as God dwelt in the temple of old symbolically, towards which sacred temple, Christ Jesus, we are always to look for acceptance with God; and, like Jonah, to look again towards his holy temple; but also Christ mystical was typified by the temple; that is, the church, which is the house of God, whereof Christ is the living stone, the sure foundation; and all believers, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house in him; as you have it explained, (1 Pet. 2:4-5; Heb. 3:6; Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:17; 2 Cor. 6:16). Thus their building of the temple did signify the reformation of the church, having laid the foundation, which represents the securing of the ground-work of religion.
Now, let us gather some spiritual lesson from this, that they were blessed from the very day in which the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid in a literal sense. The spiritual mystery here represented is the following doctrine, which I take from the words, considered with their connection.
Observation: That all saving blessings do actually commence from the day the foundation of the spiritual temple is actually laid. “From this day will I bless you;” that is, from the day that the foundations of the Lord’s temple were laid.
I use the word actually in both branches of the doctrine, because I speak not of what was done decretively, in the purpose of God, from eternity; nor of what was done virtually, in the council of peace, and covenant of redemption; nor of what was done fundamentally and meritoriously, when Christ died at Jerusalem; but rather of the actual fruits and produce of these, when they actually take place in a day of power: and therefore, I say, my doctrine is, That all saving blessings do actually commence, from the day that the foundation of the spiritual temple is actually laid. (See Eph. 1:3; 2:21, compared); where you see all spiritual saving blessings do actually take place, from the time that the soul is united to Christ, the sure foundation; which is the day wherein the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid.
But for the further clearing and confirming of this doctrine, I propose the following method, namely,
I. I would chew what this spiritual temple is.
II. What is the foundation thereof.
III. How this foundation is laid.
IV. I would speak a little of the day in which the foundation is laid, and from which blessings take their date.
V. Show what blessings do commence from this day.
VI. Prove, by some particular arguments and reasons, that saving blessings do actually commence from that day.
VII.Make application of the whole subject.
I. The first thing we are to do then is, To show what this spiritual temple is. We told you, that the temple was a type of Christ mystical, and Christ personal; and I design to exclude none of them in the progress of my discourse.
Now, the temple was a type of Christ mystical; that is, of the church of God, and of particular believers, in many respects; who, therefore, are frequently called the temple of God, and the temple of the Holy Ghost; and the type and antitype agree in these, and the like following particulars.
1. The temple was a very stately building; without, very sumptuous; and within, very glorious: built of many stones, many materials; yet all making up but one temple, upon one foundation; and having three principal partitions, namely, the outward court, for the people; the sanctuary, for the priests; and the holy of holies into which the High-priest only entered once a-year with the blood of the sacrifice. Well, so it is here with the spiritual temple, the church. It is a stately building, a building of God; her visible glory without is very splendid, when rightly constitute with respect to doctrine, discipline worship, and government; and her invisible glory much more; for “The King’s daughter is all glorious within.” Christ mystical, being made up of many materials taken out from among Jews and Gentiles; many lively stones, built upon Christ himself, who is the chief-corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, grows up into a holy temple in the Lord. In which spiritual temple there are, as it were, these three particulars, viz., the outer court of the visible church, including all professors; the sanctuary of the invisible church, peculiar to the holy priesthood, namely, all true believers, who are made kings and priests unto God; and the holy of holies, heaven itself, wherein the spirits of just men made perfect are triumphant in the presence of God and of the Lamb, that glorious High-priest, that went into the holiest of all with the blood of the sacrifice, which he had offered of himself.
2. The temple was the settled place of God’s public worship, and solemn sacrifices: there all the sacrifices, oblations, and incense were to be offered to God; there God was solemnly prayed unto, and praised, and his ordinances administered. So the church of God is the spiritual temple, wherein all spiritual sacrifices are offered to God, by his royal priesthood; and all the ordinances of Christ managed for the perfecting of the saints, for the edifying of the body of Christ; and all believers are the receptacles of God’s spiritual inward worship, in heart and soul.
3. The temple of the Lord was holy, and not to be defiled with legal impurity. So this spiritual temple of God is holy, and not to be defiled with sinful impurities: “If any man defile the temple of God,” says the apostle, “him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,” (1 Cor. 3:17). The church invisible is holy not only by separation from the unholy corrupt mass of the world, (2 Cor. 6:16-17), and by dedication to God, and his holy service; but also by justification, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, their Head, in whom they have a perfect holiness, or righteousness; being perfect through his comeliness put upon them, (Ezek. 16:14); and by sanctification, and implanted holiness; having the Spirit of Christ in them as the principle of sanctification; and therefore,
4. The temple was a place of God’s spiritual presence and residence among his people: there were the symbols of his presence; there he dwelt between the cherubims; there he met with his people and communed with them. So the church of Christ, and all the true members thereof, are the habitation of God through the Spirit; they are the temples of the living God. God dwells in them, walks in them manifests himself to them, and affords them communion with himself.
In a word, the temple was God’s house: and so are all believers, (1 Pet. 2:5), they are built up a spiritual house, which God possesses five ways. They are his dwelling-house, his pleasure-house, his treasure-house, his vessel-house, his magazine-house, and his banqueting-house.
(1.) They are his dwelling-house. God dwells there in a special manner; “In Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place in Zion,” (Ps. 76:2). It is a sweet promise, “I will dwell in them,” (2 Cor. 6:16). But, “Will God, in very deed, dwell with man upon earth?” Yes; “This honor have all the saints,” God dwells in them by his holy Spirit, which he hath given them, and he dwells with them, so as never, totally, to desert his mansion: when he takes up his residence in the soul, he says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
(2.) They are his pleasure-house: as he dwells there, so he walks there; “I will dwell in them, and I will walk in them.” He takes pleasure to walk in them: “This is the hill where God desires to dwell,” (Ps. 48:16). “This is my rest, here will I stay, for I like it well,” (Ps. 132:14). “The Lord takes pleasure in his people,” (Ps. 149:4). O wonderful! that God should take pleasure in any of the sinful seed of Adam; yet, as a man takes pleasure in his house, his garden, his orchard, and planting, so doth the Lord in believers, who are frequently called his garden, (Song 5:1); his vineyard, (Isa. 5:1); his planting, (Isa. 61:3); “The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Thus they are his pleasure-house.
(3.) They are his treasure-house. As God is the believer’s treasure, so believers are God’s treasure: “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance,” (Deut. 32:9). If you look upon them as they are in themselves, abstractly from the corner-stone, he hath but a poor treasure of them. God cannot be enriched with this treasure; but yet, in Christ, he looks upon them as a treasure of jewels; “They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I make up my jewels,” (Mal. 3:17).
(4.) They are his magazine-house: this spiritual house and temple is built for an armory; there the church is compared to “The tower of David, built for an armoury, wherein hung a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men,” (Song 4:4). God lays up his stores of military provision in this house, insomuch that every believer is so well armed with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, that he can encounter the strongest Goliath; yea, and do all things through Christ strengthening him. God’s church is his castle; and “Salvation hath God appointed for walls and for bulwarks.”
(5.) They are his vessel-house. The church is God’s house, wherein all the vessels of mercy are hung up, for ornament, as well as for use; and Christ is the nail fastened in a sure place, on which all the vessels do hang: “I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father’s house, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups to the vessels of flaggons,” (Isa. 22:43-24). Believers, weak and strong, vessels of all sorts and sizes. Neither are believers empty vessels, whatever they be in themselves, for
(6.) They are his banqueting-house; “He brought me into the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love,” (Song 2:4). The church of God, I mean, the assemblies of his saints in ordinances, are his parlor, where he feeds; “He feedeth among the lilies, till the day break, and the shadows fly away.” He keeps a banquet among his people; and both he and they feed and sup together. It is a wonderful text, though ordinarily cited, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. He shall sup with me,” (Rev. 3:20); that is, he shall partake of my Spirit and graces, that shall be as comfortable to the soul as meat to the body; and “I will sup with him;” that is, I will solace and comfort myself in these their graces which I give them, as much as any man is comforted with his food. I will delight to see my own graces exercised, as much as a man, disposed for meat delights therein. Hence “I am come unto my garden,” says Christ to his church: “I have gathered my myrrh, with my spices; I have eaten my honey-comb, with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk,” (Song 5:1). Thus it is his banqueting-house. This spiritual temple, then, is God’s house, his dwelling-house, his pleasure-house, his treasure-house, his magazine-house, his vessel-house, his banqueting-house.
II. The second thing proposed, in the general method, was What is the foundation of this spiritual temple
To this we answer, with the apostle, “Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus,” (1 Cor. 3:11). Christ is the alone foundation of the spiritual temple, and that if we consider these four things. 1. What a foundation implies. 2. How Christ is the foundation. 3. Wherein he is the foundation. 4. Whereof he is the foundation to the church.
1. Christ is the foundation of this spiritual temple, if we consider what a foundation implies. It implies primacy, potency, and confirmation. I say, a foundation imports primacy and priority. A foundation is ordinarily taken for the first stone that is laid in a building, or the first range of stones. Now, Christ is thus the foundation; for he is the first stone that is laid in the church; and every stone is laid upon him, in whom believers are rooted and built up, (Col. 2:7). Also, a foundation implies potency, power, and strength to bear the whole of the building, and to support the whole fabric. Now, Christ is thus a powerful and mighty foundation; “I have laid help upon one that is mighty. He is able to save to the uttermost;” able to bear the whole weight of the superstructure. Again, a foundation implies confirmation, as it fastens cements, and unites the building, and brings it to a harmonious proportion. Well, thus Christ is the foundation or corner-stone; “We are built up 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 up into a holy temple in the Lord,” (Eph. 2:20). The corner-stone fastens all the rest: and so does Christ confirm and conjoin all the members of his mystical body in himself. But then,
2. Consider how he is the foundation. And here, in short, you may see he is the foundation personally, doctrinally, and practically. He is the foundation personally; he, even the God-man Christ Jesus himself, is the foundation laid in Zion, for souls to be built upon; “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.” Believers are not joined to the purchase of Christ only, but to the person of Christ: they close with his person as the foundation. Also, he is the foundation doctrinally; Christ is the sum of all gospel-doctrine; the scriptures testify of him: the apostles and prophets are indeed called the foundation; but Christ is the corner-stone of it. He is the foundation of that foundation; and therefore, I think, it would be an odd text that a gospel-minister could not find Christ in. Again, he is the foundation practically: he is the copy after which every soul that comes to him, will write; his practice is the rule and foundation of our practice: “He hath left us an example, that we should follow his steps.” But more particularly,
3. Consider wherein he is the foundation. Why, he is the foundation in his doing; for he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it; and to fulfill all righteousness; and so to bring in everlasting righteousness, which is the very ground of our salvation; therefore the gospel is called the power of God to salvation. Why? Because “therein is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith,” (Rom. 1:7). This is the righteousness we must be found in, if ever we be found happy to eternity. And again he is the foundation in his suffering; for, our iniquity was laid upon him, and he was made sin for us, and so was wounded for our sins, and bruised for our transgressions; “He gave his life a ransom for many:” and God himself, having found this ransom for them, he says as it were to justice, “Deliver their souls from going down to the pit; for I have found a ransom.” Hence, also, he is the foundation in his merit and purchase: he hath purchased heaven, and all the means of getting to it. He hath purchased all blessings, and all the graces of the Spirit, viz., faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, assurance; all the graces are his purchase: and what he hath purchased, he is ready to give; yea, readier than you are to receive; he is ready, by his Father’s allowance and appointment, who hath anointed him with the Spirit above measure: he is full of grace and truth, that out of his fullness we might receive, and grace for grace. But then he is the foundation in his resurrection; for, as he was delivered for our offences, so he was raised again for our justification. His resurrection or coming. forth out of the prison of the grave, being an evidence that the judge who had cast him into prison, was pleased; and that the debt was all paid; both the debt of obedience to the law, and satisfaction to justice; and so a way made for the justification of sinners; and a sure ground laid for his people’s resurrection to glory. Moreover, he is the foundation in his ascension and exaltation; for, “Having ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, even for the rebellious, that God the Lord might dwell with them: and accordingly, now, him hath God exalted, with his right hand, to be a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sin.” I do not cite all the scriptures that I repeat for gaining of time. He is also the foundation in his intercession; being able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God through him, because “he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” And so finally, he is the foundation in respect of the application of his whole purchased redemption; being a Saviour by power as well as by price, he powerfully applies, by his Spirit, what he hath dearly purchased with his blood. O! all you that would, by faith, look and lean to this foundation, hear his own word, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”
4. Consider whereof he is the foundation of the church. Why, in general, he is the foundation of all the promises, and the blessings therein contained; for, “In him are all the promises, Yea and Amen.” In him are given to us exceeding great and precious promises. These that are strangers to Christ, are strangers to the covenants of promise: for Christ is the foundation of them all. Hath God promised, “I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people?” Hath he said, “I will take away the heart of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh?” Hath he said “I will put my spirit within you?” O take hold of Christ, and you have all the promises in him. You will say, “O what right have I to the promise, that know not if I be in Christ.” You would know there is a right of access, and a right of possession. Now, I would say of the promise, as I may say of Christ: What right have you to Christ? such right have you to the promises. All you that are out of Christ, and yet hear this gospel; you have a right of access to him; being called, upon your peril, to come to him for salvation: “Whosoever will, let him come, and take the waters of life freely.” And all you that come to Christ, by faith, you have a right possession of him, you may say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Well, thus it is with the promise; all that hear me have a right of access to the promise. I say to you as Peter said, in his preaching to a company of the greatest sinners that ever were, even to the murderers of the Son of God, “The promise is to you, and to your children; and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,” (Acts 2:39). The call of the gospel gives you a right of access, and warrant to plead the promise; and cry, that God would make out that to you, for the sake of Christ, who is the foundation of them: and this is such a right, as that you cannot have a better right thereto, till you get faith. The promise is so to you, as that it cannot be more to you, until you believe; and then you have a right of possession of it; for, then you are, as Isaac was, children of the promise, (Gal. 4:28). If this be a new scheme, I own it, because it is the New Testament scheme.
But I proceed. As Christ is the foundation of all the promises, so he is the foundation of all the blessings contained in the covenant of promise; more particularly, to give a short sum of these. Christ is the foundation of our pardon and remission; for “In him we have redemption through his blood, even the remission of sins,” (Eph. 1:7). He is the foundation of our deliverance from the curse, for he hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” (Gal. 3:13). Re is the foundation of our reconciliation with God; for, “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” (Rom 5:10). He is the foundation of our justification; “In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory,” (Isa. 45:25), and so the foundation of our title to eternal life, (Titus 3:7), “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” He is the foundation of life itself; “This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life,” (1 John 5:11-12). He is the foundation of our sanctification, and of our progress in it; for, He is made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification;” and he that abideth in him, bringeth forth much fruit; for, “Out of his fulness we receive, and grace for grace.” He is the foundation of our faith, as being not only the object thereof, but the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the foundation of repentance, being exalted of God to give repentance, and, all other graces that we need. He is the foundation, of our access to God; for, “Through him we have access, by one Spirit, unto the Father.” He is the foundation of our acceptance with God, in our persons and duties; for, “We are accepted in the Beloved.” Accepted in him, you will say; that is, for his sake: there is more than that in it; he being our head, and believers the members of his body, and he having performed perfect obedience, and given complete satisfaction, the Head having done it, the whole body is accepted as having done it; and so we are accepted in him; his doing it is ours. He is the foundation of our bold approaches to the throne of grace, with holy confidence: “We have boldness to enter in to the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way that is consecrated through the veil of his flesh.” He is the foundation of our victory over all enemies, over all adversaries and adversities; for, “We are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” He is the foundation of our whole salvation and of all our happiness and holiness; for “We are complete in him, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead.” He is the foundation of our resurrection to glory; for, it is he that shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.” He is the foundation of the eternal happiness of soul and body in the beatific vision; for, When he shall, appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” In a word, he is the foundation of our union to himself, being the efficient cause thereof; for, “I if I be lifted up,” says Christ, “will draw all men after me.” And thus he is the foundation of our ALL; FOR, SAYS THE APOSTLE, “Christ is all in all.”
III. The third thing was, To show how the foundation was laid. How is the foundation of this spiritual temple laid? Or, how comes the people to be built upon this foundation I have been speaking of? How comes a man to be joined to the Lord, as a lively stone to this living foundation? It takes no little work to hew a man out of the old quarry of the covenant of works, and bring them off all sandy foundations: and it is to be feared that the foundation of the temple is not yet laid, as to the most part that hear the gospel; but when it is laid, how is it done, say you? We answer from Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Here I will tell you these four things that the Spirit of the Lord uses to do when he raises the foundation of the old house where Satan’s seat is; and lays the foundation of the spiritual temple, where God dwells.
1. He awakens the conscience in a work of conviction, whereby he convinces the man that he hath been, all his days, but erecting a habitation for the devil, instead of building a temple for God “The Spirit, when he is come, he reproves the world of sin, of unbelief, and enmity against God. If ever then God hath begun the good work towards laying the, foundation, he hath discovered to you the rubbish of a natural state, and awakened your conscience with, a sight and sense of sin. Indeed, the conscience is naturally seared as with a hot iron; like, these that have a part of their flesh burnt with an iron, though it be touched, yet they do not feel: this hard skin must be pinched; and therefore God makes the knife of conviction go to the quick; makes the man see that he is a rebel against God, a Babel builder; and that therefore there is a standing quarrel between God and him, and that this must be removed before he can be a temple for God; because he finds that the old building, the old state of nature that he is into, is but a Babel of confusion and enmity against God.
2. The Spirit of the Lord, in order to the laying the foundation of the spiritual temple, wounds the heart in a work of compunction he fills the soul with grief and sorrow for sin whereby he hath been pleasing the devil, dishonoring God, and building a temple for his idols, and lusts, saying, “Wo is me, that my heart hath been a temple for Satan, a cage of unclean birds, a nest of abominations. Indeed, men may grieve at sin at first, as it brings on afflictions here, or damnation hereafter. But in this work afterwards, the Lord creates another kind of sorrow; for, he discovers to the man the fullness of sin, that it is a transgression of the law of God: an opposition to the nature of God; a spitting in the face of God. O but this looks well in David, “Against thee, thee only have I sinned.” What, did he not sin against others, when he committed murder and adultery? Yea, true indeed: Oh! says David, I see my sin to be against thee, and against thee only. The affront lands upon God; he is dishonored, and the heart that should be his temple is defiled.
3. The spirit of the Lord, in order to laying the foundation of the spiritual temple, abases the soul in a work of humiliation. He humbles the soul of the sinner under God’s almighty hand, because he had been so long building and repairing the devil’s temple, while the Lord’s temple lay waste in the soul. A holy God stares the man in the face; and the unholy soul sees the holy God, and makes the unholy soul to be ashamed. Then the soul comes to be so far humbled as to take with the whole charge of God and his law against him. God and the law charges the man as being a defiler of God’s temple; and therefore deserving to be destroyed: the man takes with the charge and owns it. When ministers charge people with sins, they will either deny them, or cast a cloak over them, and give excuses about them; and perhaps say, they were mistaken, or, in a passion, or under such and such a temptation; but that is a plain evidence that your souls were never humbled before God; for, if ever God had humbled your souls, you would be more ready to condemn yourselves than any minister can be capable to do. For, when God humbles the soul, he takes with the whole charge of God; and says, as David to Nathan, “I am the man; I am the monster; I am the devil that hath thus defiled the temple of God, by serving divers lusts.” He humbles him to see his want of faith; that he is undone if he wants faith, and yet that he can no more believe, than he can make a world. And then he humbles the soul to a renouncing of his own righteousness, so as he has no expectation from the law; no expectation of acceptation with God upon the account of any duty, righteousness, or goodness of his own. No, no; he sees that nothing but the blood and righteousness of Christ can save him from that damnation, which the best of his duties and righteousness do deserve. And so, further, the soul comes to be humbled, so far as to clear and justify God, though he should condemn him. Some will say, “We cannot think God will be so cruel, as to damn the most part of the world for their sins.” Alas! man, if you think so, that is an evidence that your soul was never humbled under a sense of sin. But, “Oh!” says the humbled soul, “death and damnation is the due wages of sin; and if God should send me to hell he is just, I might preach his righteousness there, and declare that he never wronged me; yea, it is my wonder that I have been so long out of the bottomless pit.” In a word, the soul comes to be so far humbled, as to see that if ever he be brought into God’s favor, and if ever God condescend to make his filthy heart to be a temple for such a holy God, it will be in a way of sovereign and pure grace; and that nothing but infinite almighty power can lay the foundation of the spiritual temple: and so he brings the soul to say, “Oh! if God do not pity and save me, he is just and righteous; but if he do pity me, I will magnify his name forever; and so, perhaps, he will pity for his name’s sake.” Thus he humbles; and then,
4. The Spirit of the Lord lays the foundation of the spiritual temple in a work of saving illumination; and, indeed, the foundation is never thoroughly laid till now, that the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into the heart, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory, in the face of Christ, (2 Cor. 4:6). The soul being, as I said, awakened, wounded, and humbled, and brought to despair of relief, in himself, finding all his former refuges of lies failing him, and all his former hopes giving up the ghost; then the Lord pities him, in his low estate, and reveals his Son in him, (Gal. 1:16); discovers the glory of Christ’s person and righteousness, who is the foundation, whereupon the whole soul is made powerfully, and sweetly, and irresistibly to close with the foundation. The Spirit of the Lord reveals the foundation, and makes the glory of it to be seen in the light of God; and, at the same moment, works that faith, whereby the soul, being well-pleased with this noble invention of infinite wisdom, and captivated thereby, is united to the foundation; for then the soul is made to give a believing assent and consent to the truths concerning Christ, upon the authority of God, that he hath given concerning his Son; and to set to his seal that God is true; taking hold of Christ, for his own particular benefit, with particular application: and thus the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid. The hand of our exalted Zerubbabel doth lay the foundation of this house, whose hand must also finish it, (Zech. 4:9); having paved his own way by leveling the mountains, removing the rubbish in a work of conviction, contrition, and humiliation, saying, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” He comes himself, and shows his own glory, as the sure foundation that God hath laid in Zion, in a work of saving illumination; he comes into the heart, and makes the soul to welcome him, with a thousand hosannas, saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” to be the Head-stone of the corner; “This is the Lord’s doing, and wondrous in our eyes.” And, “This is the day which the Lord hath made;” and this is the day of which he hath said, “From THIS DAY will I bless you.” And so I come,
IV. To the fourth thing proposed, vis. To, speak a little of the day on which the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid, and from which blessings take their date; “From this day will I bless you.” Now, in speaking of this, I shall offer you these four remarks, or propositions, concerning this day.
The first remark that I offer, is this, “That this day comes under several names in Scripture.” Sometimes it is called a day of espousals, and the day of the gladness of Christ’s heart; “Go forth, O daughters of Jerusalem, and behold king Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals; and in the day of the gladness of his heart,” (Song 3:17). The day wherein the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid, is the day of espousals. Sometimes it is called a day of power; “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” (Ps. 110:3): so called, because in that day, the power of God is created, even its almighty efficacy in hewing the stones of the temple out of the quarry of a natural, state; bowing their wills, and breaking their hard hearts of stone, and molding them for a spiritual temple.—Sometimes it is called the day of salvation; “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 6:2). This may be applied to the gospel-day, but more especially, it may be said of the building-day, when the foundation of the temple is laid; for then it may be said, as Christ to Zaccheus, “This day is salvation come to thy house”— Sometimes it is called a day of vengeance, (Isa. 63:4). The day wherein the foundation of the temple is laid, is the day wherein God destroys the old building, and takes vengeance on all spiritual enemies, sin, Satan, and strong corruptions; and whatsoever opposed the spiritual building, the vengeance of God, and the vengeance of the temple pursued them in that day. —Sometimes it is called a day of small things, (Zech. 4:10); because when the foundation of the temple is a-laying, the beginning may be very small, even like a grain of mustard seed; and yet, in the issue, it shall be a great and magnificent fabric; because, “He that begun the good work will perfect it;” for, “The Lord is a rock, and his work is perfect.” And so, finally, it is called a day of the Lord’s making, “This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,” (Ps. 118:24). Where the psalmist is speaking of the day wherein the stone which the builders reject, shall become the head of the corner, and that is eminently the day wherein the foundation of the temple is laid, “From this day I WILL bless you.” But, a second remark concerning this day is, “That there is a very great difference between the day wherein the foundation of the temple is laid, and the day wherein the building is perfected, between the foundation-day on earth, and the consummation-day in heaven.” For the foundation-day is ushered in with a very dark morning, or rather an evening, as it was said, “The evening and the morning were the first-day;” so when the foundation is laid, the evening ushers in the morning, a dark evening of wrath and legal terror, conviction and humiliation, as I told you already. Many a dark cloud may cover the sky on that day; but the day of consummation will be a glorious day, and a clear, day, surrounded with all gladening circumstances; for then shall the head-stone be brought forth with shoutings, crying, “Grace, grace unto it.” The day wherein the foundation is laid is a day indeed wherein corruption gets a dead stroke, and may seem, for a little while, to be almost. slain; yet afterwards it gets up its head again, casts fire into the sanctuary, and many times defiles the temple; but the day wherein the building is consummated will put an end to sin and corruption; there shall, be no more unbelief and enmity; no more sins, mistakes, jealousies, or fears; no more danger from spiritual enemies from without or from within. Again, the day wherein the foundation is laid is a day of secrecy; perhaps the person is sitting at your side, and you do not see nor know when the Lord is laying the foundation of the spiritual temple within him, or may be upon his knees at home; there is a secret transaction in which the soul is laid as a stone upon the sure foundation; but the consummation is open, before millions of saints and angels. In a word, after the foundation is laid, the believer may many times, through ignorance, and unbelief, and doubts, and fears, be at the razing of the foundation; but when the temple is perfected, no such thing shall take place: for then he shall have occasion to sing and say, “Farewell darkness, and welcome light; farewell death, and welcome life; farewell sorrow, and welcome joy; yea, farewell faith, and welcome vision; farewell hope, and welcome fruition and the everlasting uninterrupted enjoyment of God.” So that there a great difference between the day wherein the foundation is laid, and the day wherein the building is consummate.
The third remark concerning this day is, “That the precise time, the particular day wherein the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid, and the soul is united to Christ, is agreed upon, between the Father and the Son in the covenant of grace and redemption from eternity.” That moment wherein the first stone of the building is laid is determined by the Father, who hath put the times and seasons in his own power, to know and order them according to the counsel of his will, (Acts 1:7). And to lisp with reverence in the Scripture language, God, the great Architect, doth wait, with patience for that day wherein he hath resolved to lay the foundation of the temple, according to that sweet and remarkable Scripture, which may be comfortable to them that cannot get that at duties, communions, and ordinances, which they have been long looking for, and waiting for; “Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment, and blessed are all they that wait for him,” (Isa. 30:18). Are you waiting for a day of power? Why, God is waiting for this day himself. The poor humbled soul may be ready to think, “Oh! Christ is not willing; I have set days apart; I have gone to my knees, I have sought him in this and the other ordinance; and yet I could not get closed with him: I have been almost dipped in hell with affliction, and yet my heart was never melted; surely Christ is not willing.” Ah! Sirs, beware of that blasphemy. The Lord Jesus is willing; but the fullness of time is not yet come. There is a set day, a fixed moment of his coming; and for this day, he waits; and for this day you are to wait: he knows the proper season; the crane, the swallow, and the stork know their season, by a natural instinct God hath given them; and will he not know his own season? Yea, “He waits to be gracious; and blessed are they that wait for him,” and wait for this day of power: for, when it comes, then there will be an auspicious conjunction of all circumstances to conclude the work: the word is made lively; the Spirit acts powerfully; the soul is drawn sweetly and irresistibly: and all things work together harmoniously for laying the foundation, and carrying up the temple-work.
The Fourth Remark concerning this day is, “That there are several signs and characters whereby this day may be known, when it comes.” I shall not say that every convert knows the day of his first conversion; but with respect to all adult persons, I am sure it may be known; for none are converted sleeping, or in a dream. There are many signs of it that are not at all to be confined to a natural day; but run through the several stages of a believer’s life, ever since the foundation of the spiritual temple was laid. The signs of this day, then, whereby it may be known, are, in short, to this purpose.
1. It is a day of light; light breaks in into the window of the soul, that puts a man in case to say, “Once I was blind, now I see;” the man has now another sight of sin, of God, of Christ, and of religion than the rest of the world; yea, another view than even he himself had; before, he had heard of him by the hearing of the ear, but now his eyes see him. He hath an ocular demonstration of spiritual things, by the light of the word and Spirit, as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.
2. It is also a day of life, of life from the dead: “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” It is true, many think they have a spiritual life, and are not dead in sin, because they live in the practice of many good duties; that is very well done: but, O man, woman know you what a new life, a new obedience is? a life of new and gospel obedience? the meaning of that word, “I am also dead to the law, that I might live unto God?” (Gal. 2:19). Though you should live like an angel of light, till you know somewhat of this in your experience, you are strangers to this day of life. For, you know some things naturally of the first covenant, Do and live; but nothing spiritually of the new covenant way of living to God. Again,
3. This day is a day of love: O how is the love of God shed abroad upon the heart on this day, whereby the soul is in case to say, “Whom have I in heaven, but thee? and there is none in all the earth, whom I desire besides thee.” God’s mighty love is so discovered in Christ, as that it kills the mighty enmity in the soul against God, and creates love to him.
4. It is a day of joy: when the poor soul gets a view of the misery it is freed from, the many good things that it is entitled to, and the eternal happiness that is secured for it, how will it rejoice in God its Saviour, be glad in the Rock of its salvation, and so hold on its way rejoicing!
5. This day is a day of liberty, wherein bonds are loosed, and the prisoners of hope go forth at the call of Christ, who proclaims liberty to the captives on that day, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; at whose mighty word of power, the massy chains of sin, unbelief, darkness, atheism, and ignorance, are loosed, and the soul made to walk at liberty, and to run the way of God’s commandments with an enlarged heart.
6. This day is a day of wonder; when the man looks to the rock whence he was hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence he was dug. O he wonders that ever such a lump of hell should be made a spiritual temple for the God of heaven! “O wonder! says weak faith, if “ever the Lord will pity the like of me. And, O wonder! says strong faith, that ever God should have loved the like of me with an everlasting love, and drawn me with loving-kindness.” What an ecstasy of wonder and amazement is raised in the man’s heart! Why, “I was dead, now I live; I was weak, now am I strong; this morning, perhaps, I was under affliction, and under the terrors of God, and now he hath ravished me with the consolations of the Spirit. I was afraid of hell and now I have the hope of eternal life.” O what a day of wonder is it!
7. This day is a day of victory. O do you mind the day when you thought there was a legion of devils, a regiment of lusts, and armies of corruptions within you? But, behold, in surprising mercy, you got grace to believe and lay hold upon Christ, and so by faith, to turn to flight the armies of the aliens, and overcame by the blood of the Lamb; and thus got victory over Satan, over sin, over the world, over an ill heart, and an ill frame; and victory over all your doubts and fears.
8. This day is a day of praise, and voice of gratitude. The soul will be ready to break forth in such a day, crying, “O what shall I speak for Christ? What shall I do for him? what shall I suffer for him? It is true, it must be given me both to do and to suffer; for I will never hold out a moment, if he leave me: I will never have a day to do well, if he leave me: but, O! if he would support me by his grace, and comfort me with his glory, I think I could go through fire and flames for him.”
9. In a word, this day is a day of discovery, especially of the glory of God in the face of Christ. The man sees the King in his beauty. O! hath ever Christ got in upon your heart, with a beam of his beauty and glory? Have you seen him in the beauty of his person and offices? In the beauty of his merit and Spirit? In the beauty of his righteousness and fullness? “Why, some may think, the man is talking of a sight of Christ’s glory, that must be but wild fancies and enthusiastical notions; is not Christ in heaven? For our part, we never saw any glory beyond that of sun, moon, and stars.” O poor soul! you are an utter stranger to this day that I am speaking of, if you never saw any brighter glory than that. There is an infinitely brighter beauty to be seen that can be seen by your bodily eyes, in these visible heavens. Is not that word in your Bible, “The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ?” Is not that word in your Bible, “All we, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord?” It is by faith we see a God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; we see his grace, his glory, his beauty, and we cannot express what we see; we cannot explain to the world what we see; words cannot represent the beauty and glory that is seen in him, or the sweetmeat and comfort that is felt in him, when discovered. They that see him can say no more, but that they see him, all grace, all glory, all beauty, altogether lovely; infinitely lovely; and it is no fancy or imagination, but according to the word of God, the scriptures of truth, wherein he is said to give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. So you see some signs how this duty may be known.
V. The fifth thing proposed, was, to show what saving blessings do commence from this day; “FROM THIS DAY will I bless you.”
lst, What blessings do commence from this day wherein the foundation of the temple is laid? Why, from this day they are blessed with all temporal, spiritual, and menial blessing.
1. From this day they are blessed with all temporal blessings; having a title to all things. By our fall, in the first Adam, we forfeited our title to all things; and so, whatever good things in the world wicked men may enjoy, they have no right thereto, but stand answerable to God for invading his property; and, therefore, the wicked are called robbers. “The tabernacles of robbers prosper,” (Job 12:6). But whenever the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid, the forfeited right to all things is recovered, because the man is united to Christ, who is the heir of all things: “All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” All things else are but like paper and packthread cast in to the bargain. From this day they are blessed, not only with a title to, but with a possession of as much of these temporal things as God sees for their advantage: they are blessed in their basket and in their store; and, if it were for their good, they should be all kings and queens in the earth; far, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; and the cattle on a thousand hills are his. The young lions may lack and suffer hunger, but they that fear the Lord shall lack no good thing.” And though they must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God; yet, from this day, they are blessed in all circumstances of life. From this day, they are blessed in adversity, and in prosperity both; for, as their prosperity is void of the fatal curse that comes upon the wicked, who are cursed in their basket and in their store; while the believer’s prosperity is conveyed through the channel of covenant-love and kindness; being, not the effect of common providence, but of covenant-love and promise; “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth;” (Matt. 5:5). As their adversity is still under the conduct and management of a reconciled God and Father, who, though he visit their iniquities with rods, yet his loving kindness will he not take away from them. And, therefore, “Though the fig-tree should not blossom, neither should fruit be found in the vine, though the labour of the olive should fall, and the herd be cut off from the stall, and the fields should yield no meat,” yet may they rejoice in the Lord, and be joyful in the God of their salvation. And, though their house be not so with God, as they would desire; yea, though their hearts be not so with God, as they would wish, yet here is matter of everlasting comfort to thorn in every adversity, that he hath made with them an everlasting covenant, well ordered in all things, and sure. In a word, they are so blessed in prosperity or adversity, that all things shall work together for their good.
2. From this day they are blessed with all spiritual blessings; “Blessted be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 1:8). This is so plain from what I have said already, upon the second head, that I shall not insist upon it; for, Christ being the foundation of all blessings, and they being united to this foundation; from this day and forward they have all spiritual blessings in him. From this day they are blessed with all the spiritual blessings that accompany the spiritual life; they live upon free cost all their days. Their blessed Joseph has laid up for them a treasure of provision, not for seven years, but for time and eternity both. The hypocrite lives upon himself, and his duties; but the believer lives, in the way of duty, upon Christ and his righteousness, for justification; upon Christ and his spirit, for sanctification. From this day they are blessed with a guard of angels to encamp round about them; “They are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation:” yea, with a guard of divine attributes round about them; for, as the mountains are about Jerusalem, so is the Lord round about them that fear him.” They need not fear the armed squadrons of hell, when environed with such a heavenly host. Who then can harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? From this day they are, blessed with all spiritual experiences; such as, manifestations of divine love, now and then; support and comfort under trouble, hearing an audience of their prayers; pity after their falls; recovery after their backslidings; surprising relief out of foul depths and distress; ravishing intimations of pardon; astonishing communications of strength: sweet empowerings of words of grace into their heart; and pleasant out-makings of the word of promise on which he hath caused them to hope; and many more such-like experiences, which I cannot insist upon. From this day they are blessed with a title to God, and all his attributes; to Christ, and all his fullness; to the spirit, and all his saving graces, influences, and operations: and here, I am sure, there is more to speak of than the tongues of men or angels can tell. When a poor beggar is married to a royal prince, she may view his palace, survey his garden, and please herself with a delightful prospect of all his greatness and glory, and may say, “These are all mine, because the prince himself is mine;” so may the poor soul, that is united to Christ, and laid upon this sure foundation, say of all the blessings of the covenant, and of all the plenitude of the Deity, “All is mine, because Christ himself is mine:” —“Ye are complete in him, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
3. From this day they are blessed with all eternal blessings; “He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life,” (John 3:36). He not only shall have it, ere long, in full possession; but he hath it already; he had it by faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; he hath it in hope, and some may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; he hath it in the promise: he hath it in the beginnings, first-fruits and earnest thereof; and, above all, he hath it in his Head, in that blessed foundation to which he is joined. He that can say, “Christ is mine,” can well say, “Everlasting life is mine.” A happy death belongs to him; for, being in the Lord, he shall be amongst the blessed that die in the Lord. A happy resurrection belongs to him; for, his glorious head will open the gates of the grave, and gather the scattered atoms of his rotten dust, and raise it up in glory. A happy eternity belongs to him; for, as sure as God is in heaven, the man that is in Christ, shall be there forever: “Father, I will that these whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am, that they may behold the glory which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” But who can tell what a blessed eternity awaits them, from this day that the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid? Paul wrapped up to the third heavens to behold the glories of the upper paradise, tells us that he heard a r rhta r hmata, unspeakable words, (2 Cor. 12:4). They will be blessed in their place, the throne of God and of the Lamb, whereof we have a magnificent description, (Rev. 21:20). They will be blessed in their company: “The innumerable company of angels; the general assembly and church of the first-born, that are written in heaven; the spirits of just men made perfect; God the Judge of all; and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” They will be blessed in their state; for, it will be a state of rest: “There remains a rest for the people of God. They will rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” They will rest from all sin, troubles, trials, temptations, and afflictions; from all doubts and fears; no unbelieving thought shall enter into their hearts to all eternity; and they will rest in the enjoyment of their God in Christ forever and ever. They will be blessed in their work, which will be to contemplate his glory: for then they shall see him face to face, and make his glorious praise resound through his eternal temple; their blessed work will be to sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty: just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Salvation to our God, that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.” For then the mystery of God will be finished, and the spiritual temple work will be completed, and the head-stone brought forth with shoutings, saying, “Grace, grace unto it;” yea, with Hallelujahs, saying, Glory, glory unto it. Christ is the foundation, and Christ is the head-stone; and all the joyful harps of Immanuel’s land shall be turned to his everlasting praise. Thus I have given a short glance at what blessings shall commence from this day.
VI. The sixth general head of the method was, To prove, by some scriptural arguments and reasons, that saving blessings do actually commence from that day. Well then, How and by what reason doth it appear, that blessings do all commence from this day? “From this day will I bless you.” Now, it is plain enough, that all saving blessings do actually commence from the day wherein the foundation of the spiritual temple is actually laid. For,
1. Before this day they are children of wrath; and, therefore, saving blessings do not actually take place till this day; they were by nature children of wrath, even as others, (Eph. 2:3). And while they were in their natural state, they had no actual possession of any saving blessings, till the day on which the foundation of the temple was laid.
2. On this day they are actually united to the Son of God; and therefore, from this day, the blessing doth actually commence; from this day, they are in Christ, and Christ in them; their motto is, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” And they are blessed in him with the possession of all spiritual blessings, and with freedom from all miseries; “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” As they are freed from spiritual death, and eternal death; so they are freed from all that is hurtful in natural death: “He that believeth in me shall never die,” (John 11:26). Why so? because they are members of that body whereof Christ is the living Head; they are stones of that building whereof he is the living foundation.
3. From this day they are the children of God; and, therefore, from this day, the blessing doth actually commence: “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God.” And, being the children of God, they have a right to all the privileges of the children of God; to all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal; for they are all connected with sonship: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God. Now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” (1 John 3:1-2).
4. From this day they are the children of promise; and, therefore, all the promised blessings do actually commence. From this day, when the foundation is laid, they are in him, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen. On this day the decree breaks forth concerning them, and the womb of the promise is impregnated with the almighty efficacy of the Spirit; so that they are brought forth thereby; and, of his own will begotten by the word of truth; and being thus actually the children of promise, they are also like children of a tender mother, nursed, suckled, and brought up upon the breasts of these great and precious promises, whereby they are made partakers of the divine nature; seeking all grace and comfort out of these breasts by faith. And so,
5. From this day they are the children of grace, having all the gracious qualities of the blessed; and, therefore, the blessing doth actually commence from this day. From this day they are poor in spirit; and, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” From this day they are spiritual mourners; and, “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” From this day, they have a constant appetite after Christ, and his righteousness; and, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” From this day their heart-impurities are their burden, and heart purity is, through grace, their desire and endeavor; insomuch, that it gives them many errands to the blood of Christ, to the fountain opened to the house of David, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness. Now; “Blessed are the poor in heart; for they shall see God.” I say, from this day they are the children of grace, having, in some measure, all the gracious qualities of the blessed: I say not the terms or conditions of the blessed; but the qualities of the blessed; for, many do dreadfully confound the condition of the covenant with the qualities of the covenanted. But not to digress: I say, from this day they have the qualities and characters of the blessed, and with which blessings are inseparably connected; and so from this day they are blessed.
In a word, from this day, the curse is removed. The old covenant of works curses all that are under it; for, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them. But Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;” and therefore, from the day that you are laid upon this blessed foundation, God says, “From this day will I bless you.”
VII. The seventh thing proposed was the application of the subject. And this we shall essay in an use of information, examination, and exhortation.
1st, We shall improve this subject in an use of information. Well then, Is it so, that all saving blessings do actually commence from the day that the foundation of the spiritual temple is actually laid? Then hence see,
1. What a fearfully cursed state and condition we are all into, by nature; lying under the cursed rubbish, the old building, the covenant of works. When our great-grand-father, Adam, ate the forbidden fruit, the fabric of the old covenant fell down, and the foundation thereof was overturned; and so great was the fall thereof, that he and all his posterity are buried under the ruins thereof; that is, under a heap of sins, miseries, plagues, deaths, and damnation: for, on that day that the covenant of works was broken, curses did commence; and cursed is every one that is yet in a natural state, and under the covenant of works, as all are, that are out of Christ; for no saving blessing commences, till the new foundation be laid. Oh! the cursed state of unbelievers, and all that are out of Christ! As the blessings commence from the day of union with the second Adam, Christ Jeans; so, the curse continues as long as you are united to the first Adam, and upon an old-covenant bottom. Alas! how great is the folly of multitudes, besides the openly profane, that flatter themselves as if they were blessed! And why? They think they are good, honest folk and good livers, as they call them; they perform many good duties, and so they doubt not but God will thereupon bless them. But, I must tell you, in the name of the great God, that you are under the great curse of this almighty God, as long as the foundation of the spiritual temple is not laid; and as long as you know not, what it is to be brought off from the old-covenant foundation: you may, indeed, deceive yourselves and the world, by thinking that you are Christians good enough, like neighbors and others; but God knows the blasphemy of these that say they are Jews, and are not; that say they are Christians, and are not; but are the synagogue of Satan, the temple of the devil, and not of God. And as you blaspheme God, by thinking your religion is good enough, while God’s word declares the contrary; so God curses you, and all his attributes are against you; for, out of Christ, he is a consuming fire; in him only he is well pleased: and therefore, while you are out of him, he is neither pleased with your persons nor duties. If your work be only the repairing the fabric of the old covenant of works, thinking to please and satisfy God’s justice, and fulfill God’s law by your duties, that you may live thereby: I must tell you, that unless your person was innocent as Adam’s before the fall, and your obedience so perfect as never to have sinned in thought, word, or deed, all your days, but lived up to the law, in its most and full and spiritual extent; I say, unless it be thus with you, which is simply impossible, of any of Adam’s sinful race, I must tell you, that you are so far from being God’s people, or in God’s favor, by your best duties, that all the people of God are obliged to say, That God is in the right to curse you; they are obliged to say Amen to all the curses of the Bible against you; “Cursed is he that confirmeth not all the words of the law, to do them: and all the people shall say, Amen,” (Dent. 27:26). If you could give perfect obedience to it yourself, then you should be justified by it; but, whereas you cannot do it, and you are still attempting it, without building upon the foundation of Christ’s obedience to the death; if you will take the old way of doing, that you may live, then you must take it with a vengeance, unless you can do to purpose; “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them, (Gal. 3:10). And all the people shall say, Amen;” all true believers can say Amen to it, in the words of Paul, “Let him that loves not our Lord Jesus Christ [who is the sure foundation of the spiritual temple] be Anathema, Maran-atha.” Oh! the cursed state of all that are out of Christ, and are yet upon the old foundation! If the foundation of the temple be not laid, no blessings do yet belong to you, but all divine curses: and, if you have adventured to a communion-table this day, in that case, you are so far from being blessed from this day, that you have been eating and drinking your own damnation, and getting a seal and confirmation of all the curses that you are under. Ah! dreadful! man, woman, what if God be saying, “From this day will I curse you; from this day will I plague you?” Consider this, all ye that are in a secure, Christless, natural state.
2. Hence see on the other hand, the blessed state of all believers in Christ, ever since they came to Christ; they are blessed; for, they are lively stones built up a spiritual house, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ, (1 Pet. 2:5). There is the live and do, in the covenant of grace, instead of do and live, in the covenant of works. Under the law of works, the man doth, that he may live; but, under the law of grace, he lives that he may do; he gets a spiritual life in Christ; being, as a lively stone built up a spiritual house; and then he is put in ease to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Christ. Let men build never such a high tower of duty and devotion, without coming to Christ, as unto a living stone, and so getting life in him, they build without a foundation; and so their Babel-building will be overthrown, as being neither spiritual nor acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ. But, O blessed is the believer in whom the foundation of the spiritual temple is laid, by his being united to Christ; for now he lives and builds upon a good foundation; “Serving the Lord, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit.” Because Christ the foundation lives, he lives also; he lives a life of justification, through the merit of Christ; and a life of sanctification, by the Spirit of Christ; saying, “Surely in the Lord only have I righteousness and strength.” There is the foundation on which he leans all his weight, to the greater credit and honor of God’s holy law, than the greatest merit-mongers and legalists in the world are capable to give it; for, if he looks to the law as a covenant of works, then he leans upon this foundation for righteousness; and there he finds perfect obedience to all the commands, and complete satisfaction to all the curses of it, as much as the covenant of works can seek: and then, if he looks to the law as a rule of duty and of obedience, then he leans to his foundation for strength, that his grace may be sufficient for him, and his strength perfected in his weakness. O happy believer, which hath learned this mystery, which God hath hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes; and whereby you can answer the law as a covenant, by saying, “In the Lord have I righteousness;” and answer it as a rule, by saying, “In the Lord have I strength,” (Isa. 45:24). To say this in reality, and in the experience of faith, is more than thousands of learned Rabbi’s in the world could over say or understand; “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but your Father which is in heaven.” O blessed day that ever the foundation of this spiritual temple was laid? He that hath laid the foundation will carry on the work, till it is finished: “He that hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it; for He is a Rock, and his work is perfect.” He hath been at some expense already in laying the foundation; and he will never leave the work incomplete; he hath been at the expense of blood in buying the stones of the old quarry out of the hand of justice; for “Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ:” and he hath been at the expense of power and pains, in laying the stones upon the foundation; for, without a day of power, none would be willing to cleave to this foundation. But for you, believer, he hath made you willing in a day of his power; and from this day doth he bless you; and blessed shall you be forever in him. And all God’s ministers and people on earth, and all his saints and angels in heaven, will say Amen.
3. Hence we may see, that God hath his term days, his building days, his blessing days. Every day is not a temple-foundation day; every day is not a temple-building day; but, O for such days of the Son of man amongst us! for they are very rare, in this dark and heavy day wherein we live; O for that happy hour in which the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and they that hear shall live! When the minister is brought to a good and warm frame in preaching, he is ready to think, O now that happy day is come, when power shall accompany the word for destroying the old building, and laying the foundation of the spiritual temple: but he may be all mistaken; for “It is not for us to know the times and the seasons.” But, notwithstanding of the great restraint of the Spirit at this day, yet I would fain hope that God’s term-day is coming with respect to some in this countryside: O cry for a day of power. I hope of others, that they have met with this day already: and, though the work goes slowly on, while the Lord is so much withdrawn, because the first generation have sinned him away; yet, ever since the first stone of the temple was laid, the foundation hath never altogether been razed, but they have enjoyed now and then some remarkable days; some days for digging and discovering the foundation; and some days for sealing and giving confirmation. O Sirs, “Despise not the day of small things;” but put a remark upon God’s days; his days of coming, and his days of going; his days of absence, and his days of presence; that so his day of absence may be a day of prayer to you, and his day of presence a day of praise.
4. Hence we may see what makes it go ill with the church of Christ, in general, at this day, especially in these lands: why, the Lord’s temple is not built; few or none put to their hand to lay the foundation of the temple, or to begin and advance a work of reformation: and, therefore, the Lord is not blessing us at this day; but we lie under many cursed fruits and effects of his anger; cursed divisions and animosities; cursed jealousies of one another; and differences of judgment and principles; cursed dissentious even about truth and error; cursed bondage with respect to the discipline and government of the church: many, many curses we lie under at this day, instead of blessings; and none of them all more dreadful than that the word and ordinances of Christ are so much blasted to the generality, that few are getting any saving or converting good of the word; and the most part are rather hardened or stupefied under it. Alas! whence is all this curse upon us, and little blessing discerned? Why, surely temple-work and temple-reformation is laid aside: this is what the Lord complains of, by this same prophet Haggai, (1:2-4), “People say, The time is not come, the time to build the Lord’s house.” Why, says God, “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?” Thus many think, O it is not time to think of a public covenanted work of reformation; to ply the state for the redress of church-grievances and the like; but, ah! is it time for us to dwell in our ceiled house, while the house of the Lord lies waste? Is it time for us to be consulting nothing but our own worldly ease, profit, and security, while God’s temple is wasted? Oh! what will the world be to you, when your eye-strings are breaking? What will the world be to you, when you see Christ coming in flaming fire? Is it time for us to be indulging ourselves in the enjoyment of outward conveniences, lands, and houses, and yet no time to be concerned about temple-work, when the foundations are like to be destroyed? But, with faith the prophet here? “Consider your ways: have you not been blasted and broken since temple-work was neglected?” So may it be said of us, Have we not been blasted and cursed many ways; broken, divided, and rent into a thousand pieces, because of our little zeal for temple-reformation? Is it any wonder then God set our house on fire about our ears, when we are become so coldrife in the zeal of his house, which should eat us up? I speak of all sorts; both high and low, magistrates, ministers, and people, without distinction, as being all in our several stations defective with respect to temple-reformation, according to our call, in the distinct spheres of our activity. But, alas our defection is gone to such a degree, that we can hardly speak of the defections of the day, without being misconstrued. But I speak of such defections, whereof I desire to accuse myself among the first. However, I say, we need not think strange, that it goes so ill with the church, and that the Lord is not blessing us as a church, when temple-reformation is so much neglected.
Use 2: Our next use shall be for trial and examination, if we are blessed or cursed of God according as the foundation is laid or not: surely it is our duty to try whether or not we have built our souls and our salvation upon the right foundation or not; “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves; know ye not that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Many lay a wrong foundation, and yet think the foundation is laid well enough: for example, some build upon the sandy foundation of a name and profession: “They have a name to live, and are dead.” Some build upon the shoulders of their progenitors, especially, if religious: the grandmother Lois, and the mother Uunice. Many follow their forefathers’ religion, be what it will. Some build upon the foundation of a negative goodness; “O God be thanked, say some, I am no swearer, drunkard, whoremonger; “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men;” though I may have my faults, yet there are worse folk in the world than I am; for I have always a good heart towards God.” Woe is me, for you, poor deluded wretch! if you knew yourself, you would see yourself the chief of sinners; yea worse than a devil. Some again build upon the foundation of graceless graces, if I may so call them. Thus many say they have hope, but it is a false hope; they hope in the mercy of God, but yet it is a damning hope, an ignorant hope, a delusive hope; for they were never begotten again to a new and lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; and they were never, brought to despair in themselves. Many say they have faith, but it is cradle faith; “O! God forbid, say they, but we believe in Christ, and trust in God. Blessed be God, I have trusted in God all my days; and I have always believed.” And yet never saw their want of faith; were never convinced of their unbelief; never saw the need of God’s power to work faith in them; and far less ever felt this power. I tell you that cradle faith will lead you to hell, and not to heaven; for it is a faith of the devil’s making, and not of God’s operation. Some again build upon the foundation of their great attainments: they do not want knowledge, perhaps; and, may be, they have sometimes floods of tears, at sermons, common motions, and meltings in duty; enlargements of natural affections in prayer; and ravishments of joy now and then: but what a sandy foundation this is our Lord Jesus witnesses, while he tells us of the stony-ground hearers, that hear the word with joy; yea with a temporary faith; they receive it with joy; but they have no root in them, and so all fails them in the issue. Some again build upon the foundation of a legal righteousness and religious performances, while unacquainted with the foundation: this is not God’s righteousness; “They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God,” (Rom. 10:13): the righteousness of God is the righteousness of Christ; for, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Man, woman, do you know nothing of what it is to be divorced from the law as a covenant of life and works, and shaken off from confidence in the flesh, or expectations of God’s favor by your duties or obedience to the law as a covenant? Let none mistake me, as if I were speaking against the rule as a rule of life and holiness: I speak of a divorce from the law as a covenant of works and condition of life; and am saying no more than what the apostle says, “Ye, brethren, are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that you should be married to another, even to him that was raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God,” (Rom. 7:4). And “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God,” (Gal. 2:19); intimating that as none can perform a gospel-obedience to the law, as a rule, until they be divorced from the law as a covenant, and married to Christ, in whom they are in ease of bringing forth fruit to God, so that all who are built upon the foundation of a legal righteousness of their own, they are a stranger to true godliness, and upon a wrong foundation; and I insist most upon this, because it is the most dangerous foundation that a man can be built upon; because, being built upon the righteousness of the law, he thinks that he has the law of God upon his side, and so it is harder to convince him of the evil of his righteousness, than it is to convince a hundred profane wretches of the evil of their sins: and, therefore, the greatest of sinners stand fairer for heaven than self-righteous persons; “Verily, I say unto you,” says Christ, speaking of the self-righteous Pharisees, “that publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you,” (Matt. 21:31). This might be strange doctrine, indeed, to all legalists, if it were not Christ’s doctrine. I must tell you, that you are all by nature married and wedded to the law, and to a legal righteousness built upon that foundation; and nothing can divorce you from that first husband, but the almighty power of God’s grace, revealing his Son in you. And, therefore, you little need any doctrine that tends to foster up that natural conceit that you have of your own doing, as if God would be appeased thereby. It is true, a sermon of good works is a noble subject, providing it be evangelically treated: and presupposing, that the foundation of all good works is laid by union to Christ, in whom all our good fruit is found. But, if I should preach a sermon of works and obedience to the law; and, perhaps, should only, at the conclusion of the sermon, give a short caution, saying, “Good people, mind, there is no merit;” and “that all your strength to do right, is from Christ.” Alas! the most common professor and ignorant gospel-hearer will own that is true, they may learn many orthodox sentences of that sort, but they are words of course, that they have learned by custom and constant hearing; while yet their hope of pleasing God is still founded upon something done in them, or by them; being naturally glued to the law; and so they may profess that there is no justification by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, or by the works of Christ received by faith; yet they continue as great enemies to the cross of Christ, as the most profane persons that ever lived; and, if they continue in that state, shall as surely perish with their righteousness, as others with their sins; for, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” And yet some cannot endure to hear anything spoken against self-righteousness; as if no person were in danger of being ruined thereby: whereas this is a great part of the strong man’s armor, whereby he keeps possession of souls, and as if they were all new schemers and Antinomians that preach up the righteousness of Christ, as the alone sure foundation of the spiritual temple, in opposition to that natural and damnable self-righteousness. The apostle of the Gentiles was charged thus in his day; but what is his vindication? Why, says he, “Do we make void the law, through faith? Nay, we establish the law.” We lead to a righteousness whereby God can save us to the credit of his law; to the honor of his holiness; to the satisfaction of his justice; and to the glory of all his perfections. And therefore, if I have obtained any favor and grace from the Lord, to be faithful to the souls of people in my ministerial station, I must testify and declare to you all that hear me, in the awful name and authority of the great and eternal God, who will call you and me to answer for what we do, before his dreadful tribunal, that whoever think to stand in judgment upon the rotten foundation of any legal righteousness, good works, duties, or performances of their own, they shall as surely perish in their righteousness, as ever any of the damned in hell perished in their sins; because this righteousness of yours is but a sinful righteousness, and there is no salvation but by a perfect righteousness. I speak not only to the grossly ignorant, but even to all these, who, though they may have sound heads and sound opinions, professing that there is no justification by the works of the law; yet, are so far from having a sound heart, and a sound faith, that they are seeking salvation, as it were, by the works of the law, as did Israel, (Rom. 9:31-32); but they perished in the cause; “For, they stumbled at that stumbling-stone,” that sure and only foundation that I am speaking of. I must say, then, of all other foundations, besides this, that men are ready to build upon; I must say of them, as Christ said to his disciples, when they showed him the fabric of the material temple, “There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” The apostle cuts off all other foundations besides Christ, saying, “Another foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ,” (1 Cor. 3:11); and he did not speak ignorantly, for he saw, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that he was a wise master-builder, (v. 10). And therefore, we would be but mad builders, if we should teach you to build upon any other foundation; yea, or to build, as it were, upon any other foundation, by mixing any of our own rubbish with it, as if this were not a sufficient foundation. To daub with untempered mortar in this case, were enough to bring a curse upon any angel in heaven, let be any minister upon earth: therefore, the apostle, speaking on this very subject, says, “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.” Cursed be the man or angel that dare build a temple for God upon any other ground than this blessed foundation.
Question: How shall we know then if the foundation of the spiritual temple be laid in us? That is, in short, if Christ be formed in you, or not; and if you be built upon Christ as your foundation.
I offer you these scriptural marks for your trial.
1. If this foundation be laid, you have been humbled under a sense of your sin and folly, in building your hope upon any other foundation, and thereby slighting this foundation. This is imported in the promise of the Spirit to convince of sin, especially of unbelief; “He shall reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they believe not in me,” (John 16:8): that is, because they have not built upon me as the foundation. Now, has the Spirit of God ever convinced and humbled you, for your sin of unbelief in slighting the Son of God, and seeking to build on other foundations? If you know nothing of this, it is to be feared the foundation is not yet laid; but if you do, it is an evidence that God either hath begun, or is beginning the good work.
2. If this foundation be laid, then you have been made to quit your hold of all other foundations, and to give up with them; yea, to despise them as dung, in comparison of this foundation: “What things were gain to me,” says Paul, “these I counted loss for Christ,” (Phil. 3:8). What things doth he speak, of? Why, it is even his best things, his best righteousness; for he was, concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; and concerning the righteousness which is of the law, a blameless person: yet all this he counts loss for Christ. You will say, “That was the righteousness he had before his conversion; but doth he not esteem better of his righteousness after his conversion?” Nay, he puts that among the despicable dung too; “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss and dung [or dogs’ meat, as it is in the original] for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, that I may win him, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith, unto all, and upon all them that believe.” Have you thus been made to quit the hold of all other foundations, and to despise them as dung in comparison of this foundation? This says much for you.
3. Have you cordially and resolutely been made to lay the whole weight of your souls and bodies, and all that concern them for time and eternity, and the whole weight of your salvation upon this foundation, and upon it only? This is the soul’s echo to that call, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee,” (Ps. 55:22). And to that, “Cast all your cares upon him, for he careth for you,” (1 Pet. 5:7). This is the soul’s motion to Christ for rest; “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28). Now, have you thus come, and found rest to your heart and conscience, by casting all the burdens of your sin and guilt, all the cares of your salvation and eternal happiness upon this blessed foundation? Why, then, your portion is provided, your everlasting felicity is secured forever; you may say, truly, what the fool said vainly, “Soul, take thy rest, thou hast goods laid up not for many years only, but for all the ages of eternity.” If all your burdens and cares be laid upon the foundation, what have you to care for? Why, say you should a soul that is come to Christ, have no more care about salvation? I answer, “There is a sinful care of anxiety, doubts, and fears; this he ought no more to have but there is a holy care of activity and diligence, to testify his gratitude to the God of his salvation; this he ought to have; both these you see, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” (Phil. 4:6). Therefore,
4. If this foundation be laid, then you will live upon the foundation, and have a real and constant communion with the foundation, by cleaving to it, and abiding in it; just as the stone of a building cleaves to, abides with, and, in a manner, lives upon the foundation. Now, do you live upon this living foundation, so as you cannot live without him? As Christ himself says, “Without me ye can do nothing;” or, “Separate from me, the foundation, ye can do nothing.” Hypocrites and legalists, and all that are not built upon this foundation, they can do all things themselves; they can read, and pray, and hear, and communicate, and what not: they think it is very easily done, and what should hinder them. Alas! they know not what it is to live upon the foundation; to lean upon and draw virtue from the foundation; but the believer finds it otherwise, even that he cannot live, he cannot move, he cannot act spiritually in any duty whatsoever, without spiritual communications of life, light, and strength: his life is hid with Christ in God; and so he lives, yet not he, but Christ liveth in him, and the life he lives is by the faith of the Son of God. Thus he lives in a constant dependence upon the foundation.
5. If this foundation be laid, then you will not only live upon, but live to this foundation. Christ is said to die for us, “That they which live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him that died for them, and rose again,” (2 Cor. 5:15). Before a man be united to this foundation, he lives to himself; self is at the top and bottom of all his best duties and performances; but whatever remainders of self is with the believer, yet the power and dominion of self is so far broken in him, that his self-love, self-aims, and self-ends are his burden; and to live to the honor and glory of a God in Christ, is the chief end he desires always to set before him. In a word,
6. If the foundation of the spiritual temple be laid, then the Spirit of the foundation will be in you: for, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; but he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit:” and this Spirit within the man is sometimes a witnessing, and sealing, and comforting Spirit; and also a cleansing, purifying, and sanctifying Spirit, leading forth the believer habitually to spiritual thoughts and meditations, and to a spiritual walk and conversation. Now, these marks, I am sure, will stand the trial of the word of God; and, therefore, search and try yourselves thereby, whether the foundation of the spiritual temple be laid or not.
Use 3: The next use shall be for exhortation. Omitting all that might be said by way of terror, to all these in whom the foundation is not laid; being under the curse from the day that they were conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity; yea, from the day that you fell in Adam; from that day you are cursed of God omitting also, what might be said by way of comfort to believers in whom the foundation is laid, they being actually blessed from the moment of their union to the Son of God, from this day and forever they are blessed omitting these, I shall close with a word of exhortation to those two sorts, —viz., unbelievers and believers. And,
1st, To all unbelievers, as the most part are, that are strangers to this laying of the foundation of the temple. My exhortation is, O be restless till the foundation of the temple be laid, as you would not be laid under the heavy curse of God to all eternity, and forever deprived of his blessing. And in order to the laying of this foundation of the temple, know, that the work is God’s; for, “Not by power, nor by, might, but by his Spirit,” is the foundation laid; and therefore cry, for the Spirit of God, to be poured out upon you, and under his influence, follow these four means, which I shall direct you to.
1. Count the cost of the whole building, before you begin to lay the foundation: “Which of you, intending to build a tower,” says Christ, “sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest, haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish it,” (Luke 14:28-30). Some believe too soon, by a temporary faith, without ever counting the cost. This work must be done with deliberation; not that you need to deliberate whether it should be done or not; but there needs mature deliberation that it be right done. Many do rashly take up a profession of religion, and so comes of them; for, in an evil day, they make defection, give up with all religion, and overturn the foundations that seemed to be laid; and no wonder, for the true foundation was never rightly laid. The Lord determines all his own so to count the cost, that they must have Christ, cost what it will; and resolve to cleave to him, though it should cost them the loss of their friends, and means, and lives to the bargain.
2. Look to this same Spirit, to help you to dig deep, till you come to the rock. All that lay the foundation right are acquainted with digging deep. There are these four things you should dig deep into.
(1.) Dig deep to see your natural condition: Oh! was you never afraid for yourself, man, as being under the curse of God? Was you never afraid for the wrath of God, and the threatening of the law? Was you never afraid for the conversion you was born with, and for the faith and hope you have had all your days, as if you had been born a convert? That conversion will carry you to hell if you get no more; for you were born an enemy to God, a slave of Satan, and an heir of hell. Oh! dig to see your state of sin and misery by nature, otherwise you will build upon a sandy foundation.
(2.) Also, dig deep to see your heart-plagues: and sure I am, you will find it to be deceitful above all things; and desperately wicked. If you saw yourself, you would never say, I hope I have a good heart to God; as I have heard some poor, ignorant, brutish people say. Dig deep into your heart-plagues, and heart-wickedness, like Ezekiel’s digging through the wall, to see greater abominations than these, and still greater and greater. You that dig in any measure into your hearts, you will find much wickedness therein; but if you dig deeper, you will find more.
(3.) Again, dig deep to see your soul-wants and necessities: he will never build upon the foundation that doth not see his need of Christ. They lay the foundation best that dig deepest. Some are full and rich, and think they have enough, and stand in need of nothing; but the poor soul that is sensible of his emptiness and poverty, destitute of life, strength, liberty, and of all spiritual good whatsoever, it is that soul that is most ready to hold by the foundation.
(4.) And then dig deep to see your danger and hazard coming on. Can any of you promise yourself twenty-four hours’ health in the world? Can any of you promise yourself twenty-four hours’ quietness and peace, without trouble and vexation, in the world? Can any of you promise yourself a tack of life for ten days to come, or freedom from death for two days? No, by no means; you are in constant danger: and if you dig but a little here, you will see that man in his best estate is altogether vanity: dig deeper, and you will find more and more of it; for, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3. In order to the laying the foundation, take the help and advice of the most skilful builders. Ministers of the gospel are under-builders, and workers together with God; and you are to take their help and advice; “The priests’ lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts,” (Mal. 2:7). And because you should take their advice, both in public ordinances and in private conference; therefore you have need to pray, that they be wise, faithful builders, not daubing with untempered mortar, or laying a wrong foundation; for they must answer for every wrong pin of the building, if it come through their default. Their help is much worth, who are called of God himself to be builders, and who are built upon the foundation themselves; for such will be earnest to have others founded there. We need to be all more skilful in the choice of materials for building, especially we that are ministers; for, the apostle speaks of some that build wood, hay, and stubble upon the foundation, instead of gold, silver, and precious atones, (1 Cor. 3:12-13). But the fire will try every man’s work, what sort it is. If the old house, the old foundation, be not cast down and overthrown, the fire of God will burn and destroy it. Not only the old foundation of sin and lust must be thrown down, according to that word, which should always sound in our ears, “Depart from evil, and do good, and live for evermore,” (Ps. 37:27): but also the old foundation of Self and self-righteousness; these filthy rags will not make a good foundation: they are not proof against the flames of hell; such rags will easily burn: I say, the fire will try every man’s work, and burn up all rotten foundations. Therefore, plead of God, that we that are ministers, may be all wise builders, and put in case to give you good help in laying the foundation. And then,
4. Above all things, come to the foundation himself; this foundation is laid in Zion, that you may come to it: “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth in him shall never be confounded,” (Isa. 28:16). Though this foundation be not yet laid subjectively and efficaciously in you; yet, I can assure you, it is laid objectively and doctrinally for you, in this gospel, that you may come to it by faith; for, “To you is the word of this salvation sent.” I can declare to you, in Jehovah’s name, that this foundation is able to bear the weight of your soul, and all the burdens that lie upon you, though they be mountains of sin and guilt; for, He is able to save to the uttermost.” And I can assure you, in the same name, that “There is no other foundation, no other name given under heaven, whereby you can be saved;” and that you have all access to this foundation: “Whosoever will, let him come.” Let him be never so black and ugly; yea, though he has been a drunkard, whoremonger, Sabbath-breaker, or even a scorner and mocker of God and godliness; yet Wisdom cries in the streets just now, saying, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and ye scorners delight in scorning? Turn ye at my reproof, and I will pour out my Spirit unto you.” His complaint against you is that you will not come to him, that you might have life. Though you were in compact with the devil, like Manasseh, and had a legion of devils, like Mary Magdalene; and though there was never the like of you for a sinner, yet come, come, there was never the like of him for a Saviour. Are you a wonderful sinner? Here is a wonderful Saviour, and a wonderful foundation. I must tell you, too, that as the disadvantage will be great, if you do not come to this foundation, for the curse of God will pursue you forever, because there remains no more sacrifice for sin, no other foundation, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary: so the advantage will be great by your coming to this foundation; for you shall be as happy as God’s blessing can make you: for, “From this day will he bless you:” from this day will he love you, from this day will he honor you; because, by coming to this foundation, you would put honor upon God and his law. Oh! have you not dishonored God hitherto? Have you not broken his law? Well, would you put honor upon all God’s perfections, for all the dishonor ever you have done to him? And, would you put honor upon God’s holy law, for all your breaches thereof? The way to do it is by coming to and building on this foundation, Christ, who has magnified the law and made it honorable. Would you have God to be pleased with you from this day and forever? Then come, and lay your souls upon the foundation of his perfect righteousness, and obedience to the death; for, “The Lord is well-pleased for his righteousness-sake.” Now, is any saying, “Alas! I think, I would come, but I cannot come, though you should use all the rhetoric in the world.” Well, God knows you cannot come; and so far are you from being able of yourself to come, that if a good thought would win heaven, you cannot, of yourself, bring it forth: “No man can come except the Father draw him.” But though you cannot come to this foundation, yet know it is a living foundation, it can come to you. Are you willing that the foundation come to you? That Christ come to you, and put his Spirit within you, and put your lusts out of you! That he raze the old foundation, and lay you on him himself as the sure foundation? If you can say, in the sight of a heart-searching God, that this day hath been such a day of power, as that the Lord hath so far broken your natural enmity, as to make you willing to cleave to this foundation, and to be put in like a pin of this blessed building, whereof Christ is the cornerstone; and willing that this living foundation come and put life in you, and do all your works in you, and for you, because you can do nothing of yourself, then, I may say, that this day the temple-work is begun; and from this day will he bless you. Therefore,
2dly, I proceed to drop a word to you who are believers, and either now or formerly have the foundation of the temple laid within you. And my exhortation is, that you would; through grace, carry up the building upon this foundation; building up yourselves in the most holy faith; and so working out the work of your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do. You will say, True, I dare not altogether deny but the foundation is laid; but, how shall I carry up the building of the spiritual temple on the foundation? Why, his grace, that hath begun the good work, must be sufficient for you; and his strength made perfect in your weakness: and therefore, renounce your own strength, and go on to the work in the strength of the Lord, making mention of his righteousness, and of his only. And that those who have come to the foundation may carry on the building-work more successfully, I shall close with a direction or two to them.
1. In order to the right building, seek of the Lord that he would give you the mason’s word, if I may so call it: as builders and masons have a word, whereby they know another; so the spiritual builders have a secret word, a sacred instinct, whereby they know Christ’s voice whenever they hear it: “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” There is a peculiar word which he gives them; “I have given them thy word; and the world hateth them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I have given them thy word,” (John 17:14); what is that word? Indeed, it is a secret; and though I should tell it, none here will understand it but these that have gotten it. It is a word that none in the world but builders and believers have; and it is a word which they cannot build. And I think the word there meant is Christ himself; that Word that was made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I called him the foundation and I call him the Word too: for, though you have come to the foundation, yet if Christ the foundation do not give you the word, or give you himself again, by giving you a new hold of him by faith, you will never be in case to build: “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up,” (Acts 20:32). Where, by the word of his grace, some of the best divines understand Christ himself. And what word, but this is able to build you up, or to fit for building the pillars of the temple, Jachin and Boas, stability and strength.
2. In order to the right building, bring all your stones out of God’s quarry, and all your materials for building out of Christ’s fullness. What are the materials for the building? They are the graces of the Spirit, via., faith, love, repentance, knowledge, and all other graces: you cannot build the spiritual temple without these. Faith is the closing with and joining to the foundation; love is the cement that binds and knits it together; knowledge is like the window of the temple, at which the believer looks out. But what is the quarry out of which we must take these and the like materials? Why, Christ himself, who is the foundation, is also the quarry; and out of his fullness we must receive grace for grace. Where will you get faith if you go not to him for it? For he is the Author and finisher of faith. Where will you get knowledge if you go not to him for it in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Where will you get repentance, if you go not to him for it? For, “He is a Prince and a Saviour, by the right hand of God, to give repentance to Israel.” God hath made him the great Treasurer; “It hath pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, that we might be complete in him.” But in case you think this quarry is far off, you need not say, “Who will go up to heaven, and bring down Christ? Or, who will descend into the deep, and bring him up? He is near in the word;” you may dig in this quarry, and yet go no farther than the Bible that is in your hand. The promises of the covenant themselves are excellent materials for the building. You may find Christ himself in them; and therefore I would have you, in order to the building, lay up these promises in your heart. Lay up the promise of pardon, the promise of a new heart, the promise of grace and glory. Lay up a promise for every change that may befall you. Lay up a promise of strength; as when he says, “My strength shall be perfected in thy weakness.” Lay up a promise of presence; as when he says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Lay up a promise of protection, as when he says, “The place of your defense shall be the munition of rocks; —a man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest; as rivers of waters in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Lay up a promise of provision; as when he says, “Bread shall be given thee, and your water shall be sure.” Lay up a promise of direction and conduct; as when he says, “I Will lead the blind in a way they know not, and in paths which they have not known.” Lay up a promise for supply; as when he says, “My God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.” Lay up a promise for death itself; as when he says, “Death shall be swallowed up in victory.” O it would be surest to travel through the valley of the shadow of death with the promise in your hand. Lay up a promise for every state; (see Isa. 41:17-20). I say, lay up these, and the like materials for the building, and bring them all out of God’s quarry.
3. In order to the right building, make use of God’s square and plumb-line: (see Isa. 28:17). I mean, his law; you, believers, are delivered from the law as a covenant; and, therefore, there is none in the world so much obliged as you are, to make use of the law as a rule; “They that walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and on all the Israel of God.” Let that word sound still in your ears; “Depart from evil, and dwell for evermore” (Ps. 37:37); and surely; if you be in your element, you will be saying, “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! O let me not wander from thy commandments. O enlarge my heart, that I may run the way of thy commandments.” But, beside the precept of the law, in the hand of a Mediator, there are the examples of the saints in scripture that belong to this square and line for the building, especially the example of the King of saints, Christ Jesus, “Who hath left us an example, that we should follow his steps.” Set Christ before you in your building; and learn of him, for he is meek and lowly.
4. In order to the right and successful building, seek more and more displays of the glory of God in the face of Christ; for, says the Psalmist, “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he will appear in his glory.” As the foundation is laid by saving discoveries of his glory; so the building, is still advanced by this same means: according as you are made to behold his glory as in a glass, so shall you be changed into the same image, from glory to glory; and thus the building shall go up.
5. In a word, call in always the assistance of the great Architect and Master-builder; for, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” Be always coming to him, (1 Pet. 2:4). Be much about his hand, in the use of means; praying in secret, searching the scriptures, and the like; but still remember, whatever is incumbent on you, in point of means and duty, the whole work is his, in point of power and efficiency. Saints may weep for Zion, but the Lord must build her. It is he that lays the foundation; for, “The Lord hath founded Zion.” It is he that raises the superstructure; by working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. And it is he that must finish the work, and lay on the cope-stone, with shouting, crying, “Grace, grace, unto it.” Therefore, O give him employment; and let him have all the ‘Work, who will have all the glory. Employ him to remove all the mountains of difficulty, that stand in the way of this building; for, it is he that must say, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before our Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain.”
Now, I have done, and if any be going away without Christ, or without having this foundation laid, you are going away with God’s curse upon you; and though you do not see it now, yet it will meet with you fearfully at death and judgment; and lie upon you heavily to all eternity. You will never do a good turn as long as you are of this foundation; whatever you may do, that is naturally good, you are incapable of doing anything spiritually good, and acceptably good; for “They that are in the flesh,” and out of Christ, “they cannot please God.” And so, as long as the foundation is not laid, you will never have a day to do well. But I hope, some are going away, rejoicing and glorying in this foundation; and if there be any here that are brought to glory in Christ as the foundation of their hope; the foundation of their peace with God; the foundation of their holiness and comfort; the foundation of their light and life, strength and liberty; the foundation of their grace, and glory, and eternal salvation: O blessed are you now I and blessed shall you be forever: whatever spiritual damps or temporal difficulties you may come under after this, yet you shall be blessed in prosperity and adversity; though God should visit your iniquities with rods, yet the rod is in a friend’s hand; “His loving-kindness will he not take away.” Yea, if this hath been a believing day to you, a foundation laying day, or a temple-building-day, then I must tell you, in the name of the great God, that from this day will he bless you.