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stone laid is the foundation stone. That ma/ be sunk in a deep, dark hole; yet though it lies there, unseen and forgotten by the thoughtless, it is the stability and support of all the superincumbent structure. And when the nails were drawn, and the mangled body of our Lord was lowered from the cross, and received into women's arms, and borne without any funeral pomp by a few sincere mourners to the lonesome tomb, and, amid sobs, and groans, and tears, and bitter griefs, laid in that dark sepulchre, then did God in heaven say, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation. Yes, it was a tried stone. He had been tried by men and devils, and by his Father too; hunger, and thirst, and suffering, and death, had tried him. Since then the foundation has often been tried, in great temptations, and sore afflictions, and fierce assaults of the Evil One; winds have blown, and rains have fallen, and rivers have swelled, and heavy floods have rolled, but the man who has believed in Christ, and the hopes that have rested on his finished work, have stood firm and unmoved. Saints triumphing over temptation, martyrs singing in prison, believers dying in peace, devils baffled, hell defeated, have made good Christ's words, Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The author of our faith, the founder of his church, Christ began it ere the world began, or sun or stars shone in heaven. He provided for the fall before the event happened. He had the life-boat on the beach before the bark was stranded, or launched, or even built. Not eighteen hundred years ago, when the cross ros3 with its bleeding victim high above the heads of a crowd on Calvary, not the hour of the Fall, when God descended into the garden to comfort our parents, and crush, if not then the head, the hopes of the serpent, but eternal ages before these events saw the beginning of the church of Christ. He began it in the councils of eternity, when, standing up before his Father to say, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God, he offered himself a substitute and a sacrifice for men. He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
The author then, and, when he died on Calvary, the finisher of our faith.
III. Jesus is " the beginning" of salvation in every individual believer.
He is "all our salvation." We owe everything to Christ. Whatever was the instrument employed in our conversion, whether a silent book, or a solemn providence, or a living preacher, it was his grace that began what had a beginning, but, thanks be to God, never shall have an end; the health that never sickens, the life that never dies, the glory that never fades. By his Spirit convincing us of sin, and revealing himself to us as a willing and all-sufficient Saviour, he began it at conversion; he carries it on through sanctiiication; and he crowns it in glory. The preacher was a man but drawing a bow at a venture. Jesus! it was thine eye that aimed the shaft, and thy strength which bent the bow that day the arrow stuck quivering in our heart. When our sins were carrying us out to our burial, it was thou that didst stop the bier, and with thy touch impartedst life. Brought by the prayers of others to the grave, where we lay corrupting in our sins, it was thy voice that pierced the car of death, and brought us alive from the dead. Having none in heaven or on earth but thee, thou hast been all in all to us. In thy birth our hopes were born, in thy death our fears expired, in thy sepulchre our guilt was buried, the sufferings of thy cross were natal pangs, and to us and millions more thy grave has been the pregnant womb of life.
The "beginning," and therefore " the author," Jesus is the finisher of our faith. He does no half work, half saving or half sanctifying a man. Trust him, that where he has begun a good work, he will carry it on to the end. What would become of us if he did not? Blessed Lord! but that thy hand sustained me, how often had hell received me? but that thy faithfulness did not fail with my faith, but that thy goodness did not ebb with my gratitude, but that thy love of me did not wane with my love of thee, how often had I perished? How often have I been as nearly damned as Simon was nearly drowned in the deep waters and stormy waves of Galilee? How great, O Lord, has been thy mercy towards me; thou hast brought up my soul from the lowest hell!
We know that men have turned this doctrine to a bad purpose, just as to a bad purpose many turn the best gifts of providence. But it is no reason why the children should be starved that dogs sometimes steal their meat. The man who presumes on this doctrine to continue in sin because grace abounds, affords in his very presumption the plainest, strongest evidence that he never has been converted—just as the falling star by falling proves that it never was a true star, never was a thing of heaven, though it seemed to shoot through the stellar regions, and by a train of light illumined its dusky path, never was other than an atmospheric meteor, "of the earth, earthy." The best, indeed, in a sense, will fall, and do often fall; but he who rises from his falls, whose sins are the occasions of bitter sorrow, whose peace is the child, and whose faith is the parent of love, can, I believe, no more drop out of Christ, than a true, God-made star, can drop out of heaven. He will keep that which God has committed to him. He will perfect that which concerneth them.
How can it be otherwise? He is ever near to them that call upon him, and that never can happen to them which befell a child who had heedlessly wandered from its mother's side. She sought her darling all round her cottage, and wherever he had been wont to play. Alarmed, she rushed into the gloomy forest that grew by her moorland home; she called; in frantic terror, she shrieked his name. No answer; he was a lost child. A child lost! the tidings spread like wildfire through the hamlet; and some leaving business, others pleasure, the country-side rose for the search; and through that weary night, glen and mountain, moor and den, rung with the shouts, and gleamed with the lights of anxious searchers. The coming morn ushered in the Sabbath, but brought no rest. Believing that mercy was better than sacrifice, and that had He who came to seek and save the lost been there, He would have led the way, they resumed the search ; and for the first time the feet of piety turned from the house of God. But all in vain. Now hope was burning low even in the mother's breast, and the stoutest hearts were sinking, when a woman, guided doubtless by God to the spot, heard a feeble cry, a low moaning sound. One thrill of joy, one bounding spring, and there, with its dying face to heaven, lay the poor lost child before her on the cold ground, its young life ebb. ing fast, as it faintly cried, " Mother, mother!" It was saved, yet how nearly lost; and nearly lost because it had wandered far from a mother's ear and a mother's eye. Its danger is never ours. From Christ no darkness hides, no distance parts us; and through whatever dangers his people have to pass, though they but turn the brink of the pit, the very edge of hell, though their escapes are so narrow that the righteous scarcely are saved, he will make good his words, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.