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apparently casual occurrences in life; and the piety of old age may often be traced to the blessing of God upon the lessons which have been afforded in the morning of our days. May every parent who now hears me, feel the importance of his duty in this respect, and every child profit by that parent's instructions; and may we all live as under the immediate observance of a merciful Creator, and our last moments be cheered with the consolation, that God is with us!

42

SERMON III.

CHRIST THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH.

ISAIAH xxviii. 16.

“ Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion

for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone; a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste."

It is remarkable, that the promise of the Messiah is sometimes introduced by the prophets in the midst of severe reprehensions of the people, and the denunciation of approaching judgments; as if the heart of the divine messenger, oppressed with the view of sin and retribution, sought to refresh itself by a glance at the Saviour of mankind; or as if He, by whose inspiration the prophet spake, were thus desirous to show that even in wrath He remembers mercy. On this principle we are perhaps to account for the introduction of the passage just read in this part of the book of Isaiah. The Israelites are severely rebuked in

Hab. iii. 2.

this chapter for their intemperance and pride; and the vengeance of God is denounced against that rebellious people. Instead of being alarmed at the tidings, they seem to have mocked at the preacher, and to have made a jest of the warning. They fancied that, so politic were their schemes, no danger could reach them: they had the boldness to vaunt that they had made a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell; and that when the overflowing scourge should pass through,* they should easily escape it.

In reply to this vain and impious boast, the Almighty Himself is introduced as addressing them: Therefore thus saith the Lord God :and what does He tell them ? that their covenant with death shall be disannulled? that their agreement with hell shall not stand ? that when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then they shall be trodden down by it?t Yes, such are the words of Jehovah; but they are preceded by the declaration of His purpose of mercy: before Headmonishes them of vengeance, He tells them of a Saviour; He speaks, in the first place, to comfort the pious remnant of Israel, and then to awaken and alarm the scorners. The connection of the whole passage appears to be as follows, * Ver. 15.

+ Ver. 18.

and it affords a striking illustration of the tender compassion of Almighty God : Hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men that rule this people, which is in Jerusalem ; * because

ye

have boasted of your security, and have made lies your refuge, and have despised me, therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah ; even yet I will not forget my loving-kindness; Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste. But judgment also will I lay to the line and righteousness to the plummet.

The figure under which the Messiah is here represented is principally that of a stone as the foundation of a building, the foundation of the spiritual church. The description, which is in these words given of that stoné, is intended to show its fitness, its excellence, and its stability; it is a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation.' < (1.) It is a tried or an approved stone. The prediction here recorded was made upwards of seven hundred years before the days of the Messiah; but that God, to whom a thousand years are as one day, speaks of it as an event already at hand: as if the trials, which proved the suitableness of Christ for the work of salvation, had already been made. The expression is meant to intimate the perfect acquiescence of the Most High in His beloved Son, and His unqualified approbation of Him as the Redeemer of the world. Thus, in another part of the same book He says, Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth ; * and to the same purport in after ages, when the Son of God was just commencing his public ministry, was heard a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. He had not yet encountered the temptation in the wilderness, or the contradiction of sinners against Himself; He had not yet proved by His labours and His sufferings that He was able to bear in His own person the iniquities of the world and to subdue our spiritual enemy: nevertheless, so perfectly qualified did He appear to answer the divine purpose of grace, that the Father represents Him as already tried and approved. Was there none among the hosts of heaven who might have become the foundation of a spiritual church? Withoui controversy, great is

* Ver. 14.

* Isaiah xlii, l.

+ Matt. iii. 17.

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