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pigeons. So that the Christian may say-What I am, Lord, I offer myself unto thee, to be wholly thine ; and had I a thousand times more of outward or inward gifts, all should be thine ; had I a greater estate, or wit, or learning, or power, I would endeavour to serve thee with all. What I have, I offer thee, and it is most truly thine. It is but of thy own that I give thee.- No one needs forbear sacrifice for poverty, for what God desires is the heart, and there is none so poor but hath a heart to give bim.
But meanness is not all. There is a guiltiness on ourselves and on all we offer. Our prayers and services are polluted.-But this hinders not, for our acceptance is not for ourselves, but for the sake of one who hath no guiltiness at all; acceptable by Jesus Christ. In him our persons are clothed with righteousness, and in his clothing we are, as Isaac said of Jacob in his brother's garments, as the smell of a field that the Lord hath blessed. And this alone answers all our doubts. For we ourselves, as little as we see yet may see so much in our best services, so many wanderings in prayer, so much deadness, as would make us still doubtful of acceptance, so that we might say with Job, Although he had answered me, yet would I not believe that he had hearkened to me, were it not for this, that our prayers and all our sacrifices pass through Christ's hand. He is that Angel that hath much sweet odors, to mingle with the prayers of the Saints. He purifies them with his own merits and intercession, and so makes them pleasing unto the Father. How ought our hearts to be knit to him, by whom we are brought into favor with God and kept in favor with him, in whom we obtain all the good we receive and in whom all we offer is accepted ! In him are all our supplies of grace and our hopes of glory.
Ver. 6. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture,
Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious : and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
That which is the chief of the works of God is very reasonably the chief subject of his word, as being most excellent in itself, and of most concernment for us to
know; and this is, the saving of lost mankind by his Son. Therefore is his name as precious ointment, or perfume, diffused through the whole scriptures. All these holy leaves smell of it, not only those that were written after bis coming, but those that were written before. The apostle having in the foregoing verse expressed the happy estate and dignity of Christians under the double notion -of a spiritual house or temple and of a spiritual priesthood, here amplifies and confirms both from the writings of the prophets; the former, ver. 6,7,8; the latter, ver. 9. The places that he cites touching this building are most pertinent, for they have clearly in them all that he spoke of it both concerning the foundation and the edifice: as the first, in these words of Isaiah, xxviii, 16, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, &c.
The prophecy here cited, if we look upon it in its own place, we shall find inserted in the middle of a very sad denunciation of judgment against the Jews. And this is usual with the prophets, particularly with this evangelical prophet Isaiah, to uphold the spirits of the godly, in the worst times, with this one great consolation, the promise of the Messiah, as weighing down alike all temporal distresses and deliverances. Hence are those sudden ascents, so frequent in the prophets, from their present subject to this great Hope of Israel. And if this expectation of a Saviour was so pertinent a comfort in all estates so many ages before the accomplishment of it, how wrongfully do we undervalue it being accomplished, if we cannot live upon it, and answer all with it, and sweeten all our griefs with this advantage, that there is a foundation-stone laid in Sion, on which they that are builded shall be sure not to be ashamed !
In these words there are five things ; I. this foundation-stone ; II. tbe laying of it ; III. the building on it; IV. the firmness of this building; and V. the greatness and excellency of the work.
1. The foundation is called here a chief corner-stone. Though the prophet's words are not precisely rendered, yet the substance and sense of them are the same. In Isaiah, both expressions, a foundation and a corner-stone, are employed, the corner-stone in the foundation being Div. No. VI.
the main support of the building, and the corner-stones throughout uniting the building together ; and therefore this same word, a.corner, is frequently taken in scripture for princes or heads of people ; Judg. xx, 2; 1 Sam. xiv, 38, because good governors uphold and unite societies of people in states or kingdoms, as one building. And Jesus Christ is indeed the alone Head and King of his church, who gives it laws, and rules it in wisdom and righteousness. He is the foundation and corner-stone that knits together the walls of Jews and Gentiles, having made of both one, and unites the whole number of believers into one everlasting temple, and bears the weight of the whole fabric.
Elected, or chosen out for the purpose, and altogether fit for it. Isaiah hath it, A stone of trial or a tried stone. As things amongst men are best chosen after trial, so Jesus Christ was certainly known by the Father, as most fit: for that work to which he chose him before he tried him, as afterwards, upon trial in bis life, and death, and resurrection, he proved fully answerable to bis Father's purpose in all that was appointed himn. All the strength of angels combined, had not sufficed for this work; but the wise Architect of this building knew both what it would cost, and what a foundation was needful to bear so great and so lasting a structure as he intended. Sin having defaced and demolished the first building of mad, it was God's design, out of the very ruins of fallen man, to raise a more lasting edifice than the former, one that should not be subject to decay; and therefore he fitted for it a foundation that might be everlasting. The sure founding is the main thing, requisite in order to a lasting building; therefore, that it might stand for the true bopor of his majesty, he chose his own Son made flesk. He was God, that he might be a strong foundation; he was man, that he might be suitable to the nature of the stones whereof the building was to consist, that they might join and cement together.
Precious, inestimably precious, by all the conditions that can give worth to any; by rareness and by inward excellency. Rare he is undoubtedly; there is not such another person in the world again; therefore he is called by the prophet, Wonderful, full of wonders--the power of God and the frailty of man dwelling together in his person; the Ancient of days becoming an infant; he that stretched forth the heavens bound up in swaddling clothes in his infancy, and in his full age stretched forth on the cross; altogether spotless and innocent, and yet suffering not only the unjust cruelties of men, but the just wrath of God' his Father; the Lord of life, and yet dying ! His excellency appears in the same things, in that he is the Lord of life, God blessed for ever, equal with the Father. The sparkling brightness of this precious stone is no less than this, that he is the brightness of the Father's glory; so bright, that men could not have beheld him appearing in himself, therefore he vailed it with our flesh; and yet through that it shined and sparkled so, that the apostle St. John says of himself and of those others who had their eyes opened and looked upon him, He dwelt amongst us, and he had a tent like ours, and yet through that we beheld kis glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;—the Deity filling his human nature with all manner of grace in its highest perfection.
II. There is here the laying of this foundation. It is said to be laid in Sion ; that is, it is laid in the church of God. And it was first laid in Sion literally, that being then the seat of the church and of the true religion. He was laid there in his manifestation in the flesh, and suffer. ing, and dying, and rising again; and afterwards, being preached through the world, he became the foundation of his church in all places where his name was received ; and so was a stone growing great, till it filled the whole earth.
He saith, I lay ; by which the Lord expresseth this to be his own proper work, as the psalmist says, cxviii, 23, This is the Lord's doing; and it is marvellous in our eyes. So also Isaiah, speaking of this promised Messiah, says, The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
And it is not only said, I lay, because God the Father bad the first thought of this great work, but also to sigrify the freeness of his grace in giving his Son to be a foundation of happiness to man, without the least motion from man, or motive in man, to draw him to it. And this seems to be signified by the unexpected inserting of these prophetical promises of the Messiah in the midst of complaints of the people's wickedness, and threatening them with punishment; to intimate that there is no connexion betwixt this work and any thing on man's part, fit to procure it. And it is observable to this purpose, that that clearest promise of the virgin's Son is given, not only unrequired, but being refused by that profane king Ahaz, Isa, vii. 10, 13.
This again, that the Lord bimself is the Layer of this corner-stone, teaches us the firmness of it. So, Psal. ii, 6, I have set my king upon my holy hill of Sion ; who then shall dethrone bim ? I have given him the heat hen for his inheritance, and the ends of the earth for his post session ; and who will hinder him to take possession of his right? If any offer to do so, what shall they be, but a number of earthen vessels fighting against an iron sceptre, and so certainly breaking themselves in pieces? Thus here, I lay this foundation stone; and if I lay fit, who shall remove it? And what I build upon it, wbo shall be able to cast down ? For it is the glory of this great Master-builder, that the whole fabric which is of his building cannot be ruined ; and for that end hath he laid an unmoveable foundation; and for that end are 'we taught and reminded of its firmness, that we may have this confidence concerning the church of God that is built upon it. To the eye of nature, the church seems to have no foundation; as Job speaks of the earth, that it is hung upon nothing, and yet as the earth remaineth firm, being established in its place by the word and power of God, the church is most firmly founded upon the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ as its chief corner-stone. And as all the winds that blow cannot remove the earth out of its place, so neither can all the attempts of men, vo, nor of the gates of hell prevail against the church. It may be beaten with very boisterous storms, but it cannot fall, because it is founded upon this rock. Thus it is with the whole house, and thus with every stone in it; as here it follows, He that believeth shalt not be confounded.