I will show you what he is like who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them:
building We are all builders; we are all planning, preparing, laying our foundation, erecting our walls, putting on our topstone.
I. THE FABRIC OF ENJOYMENT OR OF SUCCESS. That of enjoyment, of the gratification of indulgence, is indeed hardly worthy of the name of building; yet are there those who spend upon it a very large amount of thought and labour. To pursue this as the object of life is unworthy of our manhood, is to dishonour ourselves, is to degrade our lives; it is to expend our strength on putting up a miserable hovel when we might use it in the erection of a noble mansion; it is, also, to be laboriously constructing a heap of sand which the first strong wave will wash away. Worthier than this, though quite unsatisfying and unsatisfactory, is the pursuit of temporal prosperity, the building up of a fortune, or of a great name, or of personal authority and command. Not that such aims and efforts are wrong in themselves. On the other hand, they are necessary, honourable, and even creditable. But they are not sufficient; they are wholly inadequate as the aspiration of a human soul and the achievement of a human life. They do not fill the heart of man; they do not give it rest; they leave a large void unfilled, a craving and a yearning unsatisfied. Moreover, they do not stand the test of time; they are buildings that will soon be washed away, The tide of time will soon advance and sweep away the strongest of such edifices as those. Do not be content with building for twenty, or forty, or sixty years; build for eternity. "The world passeth away... but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
II. THE FORTRESS OF CHARACTER. It is of this that our Lord is speaking in the text; and he says concerning it - Dig deep, build on the rock, erect that which the most violent storm cannot shake to its fall. What is that character which answers to this counsel?
1. Not that which is founded on ceremony and rite. Reason, Scripture, and experience all prove that this is a character built upon the sand.
2. Not that which is founded upon sentiment or occasional emotion. Many are they who like and who demand to be acted upon by powerful influences, and to be thus excited to strong feelings. In these moments of aroused sensibility they cry, "Lord! Lord!" with apparent earnestness. But if piety ends in sensibility" it is nothing;" it is worthless; it will be washed away by the first storm that breaks.
3. It is that which is established in sacred conviction and fixed determination. This is the rock to which we must dig down - sacred conviction passing into real consecration; the conviction that we owe everything to our God and Saviour, and the determination, in the sight and by the grace of God, to yield our hearts and lives to him. A character thus built, sustained by Christian services and ceremonies, will be strong against all assault. The subtlest influences will not undermine it, the mightiest earthly forces will not overturn it; let the storms come, and it will stand.
III. THE EDIFICE OF CHRISTIAN USEFULNESS. Paul, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, speaks of the wood, hay, and stubble, and also of gold, silver, and precious stones, i.e. of the combustible and the inflammable materials with which men construct their building in the field of holy service. And he says the fire will try every man's work; so that we have apostolic warning also to take heed how we build. Let the Christian workman see to it that he too builds on the rock, that he effects that which will stand the waters and the fires that will try his work. Let him depend little on ceremonialism, little on excitement; let him strive to produce deep, sacred convictions in the soul; let him endeavour to lead men on to a whole-hearted dedication of themselves to Jesus Christ; let him persuade men to the formation of wise habits of devotion and sell-government; so shall he be building that which the waters of time will not remove, and which the last fires will purify but not destroy. - C.
Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like.I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SAYINGS OF CHRIST.
1. The doctrine of faith and repentance.
2. The doctrine of regeneration.
3. The doctrine of self-denial.
4. But, more particularly, that doctrine and those sayings which He had just concluded, urging a holy life, and explaining the nature and spirituality of the moral law.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY HEARING CHRIST'S SAYINGS.
1. TO hear His word and sayings with attention: to hear in hearing.
2. To hear His sayings and holy doctrine, as it is His word, not as the word of man, but as it is indeed the Word of God. Thus those in Thessalonica heard it, and received it, which becomes effectual in all that believe.
3. They hear Christ's sayings with holy trembling. Thus the good king Josiah heard the book of the law.
4. To hear Christ's sayings and heavenly doctrine believingly; "Who hath believed our report?" Isaiah 53:1.
5. To hear with understanding; may hear but remain ignorant of their state, do not understand the purport of the word, which is to convince them of the evil of sin, and of their woful and undone condition thereby, and of the necessity of a Mediator, or of a Saviour; as also of the excellency of that blessed Saviour, together with that mighty power and ability that He is clothed with to save.
6. The wise hearer hears Christ's sayings and retains them, he is not a forgetful hearer; he sees the excellency of the word; likes and approves of the sayings and doctrine of Jesus Christ; he is like to Mary who pondered, "And kept all these sayings in her heart." These persons, with holy David, love God's Word above gold, yea, above fine gold; "therefore I esteem,, all thy. precepts concerning all things to be right, and hate every false way (Psalm 119:127, 128).
7. It is a hearing of Christ's word and sayings subjectively; such hear and come to Christ. "Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings," &c., (Luke 6:47). In coming to Christ they hear, and in hearing, come, that is, then believe, and receive Jesus Christ.
III. WHAT MEANT BY DOING CHRIST'S SAYINGS.
1. It is to believe whatsoever is matter of faith; and to do and practise whatsoever is matter of practice and duty.
2. He may be said to do what Christ saith that hath his whole trust and dependence upon Him, or that resteth wholly upon Christ's merits and righteousness for justification and eternal life.
3. To do Christ's sayings is to yield ready and hearty obedience to the precepts He hath given forth in the gospel: some will not hear what Christ says; others will hear, but they hear carelessly; others hear but do not. "If I am your Lord and Master, why do ye not what I say? Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
4. They that uprightly do Christ's sayings, do them sincerely, in truth, not out of by-ends and alms; neither for loaves, not for self and carnal profit, nor for self-applause.
5. They do Christ's sayings from right principles, from a principle of life, from faith in, and love to Christ: if ye love Me, keep My commandments; that obedience which proceeds not from faith and love, is not regarded, nor accepted of by Jesus Christ.
6. They are such that do all Christ's sayings; "Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I say" (John 15:14).
7. Such continue in doing Christ's sayings; they abide in their obedience, they obey always, or continue in well doing.
IV. WHAT IS MEANT BY HIS HOUSE.
1. By this house is, doubtless, meant his hope of salvation; "Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be as the spider's web" (Job 8:14).
1. A house is that which we rest in, and where we take our repose; a true believer resteth on Christ, he builds his house, i.e., his hope, his soul, and all he doth, on Christ; he that hath a right hope, a true faith, he hath a firm and well-built house, where he reposeth himself, or resteth continually.
2. A house is a place of shelter to us, in a tempestuous or stormy season, when rain, hail, snow, thunder, &c., are like to annoy us; so this man that builds his hope in Christ is secured and safe, when Satan raises storms of temptations upon him; he is safe also from the thunderings of mount Sinai, or the thunderbolts of the law and of the wrath of God, which all unbelievers lie open to.
3. A house is often assaulted by thieves, and if not firm and strong, may be broke up, and all that dwell in it may be robbed, nay murdered; so is the hope of a Christian often attacked by Satan, and if his faith and hope was not built upon Christ, he was certainly in danger of losing all he hath; nay, his precious soul for ever.
V. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE ROCK. By the rock is no doubt meant Jesus Christ; He is often called a rock; "The Lord is my rock and my fortress" (Psalm 18:2). "Who is a rock save our God?" (Psalm 18:13.) "O Lord, my rock, be not silent" (Psalm 28:1). "Upon this rock will I build My Church" (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus Christ may be fitly compared to a rock.
1. A rock is a firm and immovable thing, therefore good for a foundation; that which is built on a rock, stands sure; so Christ is a firm and sure foundation — " Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
2. Christ may be compared to a rock, in regard that in ancient times people built their houses in rocks, as well as built upon them; "they hewed out houses, or habitations in rocks" (Isaiah 22:16) Christ is a believer's spiritual habitation; "they, like the dove, make their dwelling in the clefts of the rock." "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God."
3. Rocks are strong, and were made use of for places of defence; no fortifications like some rocks, they are impregnable: David for security fled into a rock; in this respect Christ may also be compared to a rock, because He is our refuge from the wrath and vengeance of God, the curse of the law, and rage of wicked men, sin, and devils; a believer in Christ is safe, his dwelling place is impregnable.
4. Rocks are durable, permanent, and lasting; Jesus Christ hath the stability of a rock, He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; hence He is called the Rock of Ages.
VI. WHY A GODLY MAN IS CALLED A WISE MAN.
1. A godly man ponders well all future dangers.
2. All future safety and security; how he may avoid and escape the one, and enjoy the other. If he builds not with wisdom, he foresees the danger that will follow, for his soul will fall into hell.
3. A godly man may be looked upon to be wise, because he so consults matters, that he may not suffer the loss of all his labour and cost; such who hear Christ's sayings and do them not, that do not believe in Him, nor obey His precepts; though they may make a visible profession, and do many things, and give to the poor, and suffer much external loss, yet all their labour, pains, and costs, and future hopes, will be utterly lost; but a true Christian is so wise as to close savingly with Christ, and obey His precepts, by which he knows his labour will not be in vain in the Lord.
4. A godly man is a wise man, because he complies with, and approves of that great and glorious design and purpose of God in Jesus Christ; it being the contrivance of His infinite wisdom, this way only to restore and save lost man: Now seeing a true Christian accepteth of Christ alone, and builds upon Him as the only foundation, it shows he is a wise man.
5. Because he seeks the honour of his blessed Lord and Master, and thereby keeps in His love and favour; it is not his own good only, but Christ's glory which he seeks, and this is a great point of wisdom. Because nothing but God, and an interest in Him, and the eternal enjoyment of this God, will satisfy his soul; if God be the chief good, then to place all our hope and happiness in Him, and to enjoy Him, must needs be a part of highest wisdom. "He that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 3:24). This man hath God to be his God; O what man is wise, save this man only? Others have the shell, but this man hath the kernel: others have the cabinet, and that contents them, but this man hath also the jewel.
7. Because these men are the declared friends of Jesus Christ, and only favourites of heaven: "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14).
8. He is a wise man, because he is resolved to keep a good conscience: brethren, conscience is a tender thing, and to offend it is a piece of greatest folly; it is for a man to arm himself to murder his own soul, or kill himself; better to have all men in the world against us, and to reproach us, than to have our own conscience to accuse and reproach us.
VII. WHEREIN HIS WISDOM CONSISTS.
1. In his thoughtfulness of soul.
2. In his care to provide a house for his soul.
3. In building his house upon a good and safe foundation.
4. In digging deep. If it be a great and famous building, some magnificent fabric which a man designs to build, he will dig deep to lay a firm and sure foundation, he digs until he comes to a rock, or sound bottom: now it is a great and glorious fabric that a Christian is to build, a building that is to stand for ever, and endure all storms and assaults of Satan, and all other enemies of the soul. Besides, pardon of sin, justification, and eternal life, are great things; and the soul being so excellent, so precious, the house that is to be built for it, ought to bear some proportion unto it; also Jesus Christ the prince of kings of the earth, designs to dwell with the soul, so that it may be truly said to be a house for the great king; therefore, on all these respects, it beloveth us to dig deep, and to lay a safe and sure foundation.
5. In building his house of proper and fit materials.
6. In building by rule.
7. In building in the proper time.
8. In sitting down to count the cost.(1) What the digging up the old foundation will cost him.(2) What old habits must be changed, and what right-eye sins must be pulled out, and what right-hand sins must be cut off.(3) What old companions must be forsaken, and what enticements must be withstood and resisted.(4) What reproaches for Christ's sake must be borne, and what external losses and persecutions must be endured.(5) He counts his own weakness and inability to do any of these things, and so consults the power, faithful. ness, and promises of Christ, on which he solely and wholly depends, and thereby knows and is sure he cannot fail; he doth not begin nor go on in his own strength, but sees his riches and strength is in Jesus Christ, and therefore strengtheneth himself in that grace that is in him, which is sufficient for him, as Paul was told after he had begun to build, when assaulted by the messenger of Satan.(6) He accounts what temptations must be withstood, from Satan, from his carnal relations, and from the corruptions of his own heart.(7) And what reproaches and persecutions must be endured. VIII. EXHORTATION TO FOOLISH BUILDERS.
1. Tremble, all ye foolish builders, who hear Christ's sayings, but do them not, that hear His word, but do not believe; who are reformed perhaps in your lives, but not changed in your hearts.
2. Be exhorted to try yourselves, examine your hearts, see with what materials you have built your house, I mean your hope for heaven; if it be not upon Jesus Christ, if it be on the sands of your own works, or inherent righteousness, or on your duties, or upon your external privileges, or on gifts, parts, or knowledge, or traditions; pull down your house and new build it, build it on the only and sure foundation.
3. Let all professors prepare for a storm; the winds will blow, the rain will fall, and the floods will come; you shall all be tried; God will try every man's work. If temptations of Satan, if tribulation and persecution from men, do not beat down your house and hope, yet death will.
4. We infer from hence, that the state of false professors, or all such who are no more than bare hearers of the word, is very sad and deplorable, their hope will be as the spider's web.
5. Sinners, doubtless you have got some house, or hope, or another; but any hope will not serve your turn. O how near may you be to a storm, death may be at the door, and then your hope will perish, and your souls be lost.
6. What comfort is hero for believers, they are safe!
1. In the light of the true distinction between the two builders, as above stated, we can see the special appropriateness of the emblem employed by our Lord to represent two different types of men in reference to religion. The characteristics of the one builder are considerateness and thoroughness, as those of the other are inconsiderateness and superficiality.
2. But the difference between the two classes of men is too important to be disposed of in a sentence. Our Lord Himself distinguishes the two classes by representing a man of the one class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them, and a man of the other class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them not. No man who is thoroughly in sympathy with the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is in danger of making any serious mistake as to the footing on which he stands before God. Thoroughgoing moral earnestness is the sure road to faith in Divine grace as the source of salvation, as the history of Paul and of Luther shows. A little earnestness may make a man a Pharisee, but a great consuming earnestness will make him a Christian, after the Pauline type. Two points of difference in character are clearly hinted at.(1) The wise builder has a prudent regard to the future.(2) The wise builder does not look merely to appearance.
3. We have thus ascertained the distinctive characteristics of the two classes of hearers. But it is one thing to discriminate between these two classes on paper, another thing to discern and judge between them as existing in real life. Who, then, is to decide as to the merits of the two builders? The Divine preacher, with true insight into the state of the case, replies, "The elements." The rain, the winds, and the floods, are the infallible judges of the builders and their work. The elements in the metaphor represent generally times of severe trial, the judgment-days which overtake men even in this world occasionally, and in which many fair edifices of religious profession go down. The forms in which the trial may come are very diverse.(1) The great thing to be laid to heart is that trial, in one form or another, is to be expected.(2) And another thing should be remembered: the crisis that is to try us may come suddenly, leaving no time for preparation, no time for saving one's household furniture, barely time to save one's own life.
(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)1. All men are building.
2. All builders have a choice of foundations.
3. All foundations will be tried.
4. Only one foundation will stand.
(W. W. Wythe.)
1. The sayings of Christ may be said to be Divine because they are so human.
2. The sayings of Christ determined the destiny of all who heard them. To have heard these sayings is to have incurred the gravest responsibility.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. First then, THE DISTINCTION OF CHARACTER.
II. NOW, OBSERVE NEXT, THE CONTRAST IN THE HOPES OF THESE TWO CHARACTERS. The man who builds his house on the rock is said to dig deep before he begins to build; but the man who is likened to the foolish man takes no trouble about digging deep. He is "like a man that without a foundation builds his house upon the earth."
1. Here, then, is the first contrast between a real believer in Christ, and a mere professor of religion. The believer's safety is preceded by anxiety. The mere professor's hope of heaven it has cost him no trouble to attain; he has formed it without any previous anxiety. Now, it is just so with a real believer in Jesus Christ — one who has any anxiety about his soul's salvation. He dares not take it for granted that he is all right. A man who does take for granted that he is right for heaven, is like a man who builds on the surface. One who is really anxious about his soul digs to see whether his foundation is good before he begins to build.
2. Observe, next, that the Christian's hope rests thus upon a solid foundation. Until the sinner finds that salvation which God has laid, of course he cannot rest upon a solid foundation.
3. The real believer finds that his house stands in the time of trial. There may be affliction, there may be persecution, there may be peculiar temptations; or if he escape these, there is the great trial of death and the prospect of judgment; but he who finds that he is resting on Christ — that he has been trying to know what Christ would have him do, and then to do it — finds himself secure. The promise of his Saviour, the oath of his covenant God, omnipotence itself secures his safety. He may be shaken in his mind in consequence of trouble and adversity, but he cannot be moved off from the rock on which he rests. Storms come very suddenly sometimes and very unexpectedly. Men may be in the enjoyment of health and strength and vigour, and may be lawfully pursuing their worldly duties, when some unexpected sickness reaches them, and after a few days, it may be, of pain and anguish, their medical attendants signify that there is no hope of their recovery; and now comes a time to test whether we have been building on a foundation or not.
(W. Cadman, M. A.)
I. AS TO THE SIMILARITY of the two men mentioned in the text.
1. They were both builders. Both are described as actually at work. Not the openly profane or careless, but professing Christians.
2. They were building a house, A dwelling-place, refuge, home. A shelter for support under the cares of life, for consolation in its troubles, and a protection from the wrath of God throughout eternity.
3. The house of each of these builders has its strength severely tried. We must expect our religion to be brought to the test, and its real character to be disclosed. Till this trial comes, we can know but little of ourselves. Almost any religion will stand in a calm. It is temptation — trifling, worldly, and sensual companions; it is affliction — disappointment, poverty, sickness, mental oppression; it is a change of scene, or circumstances, or society; these are the things which show us what manner of men we are, and often surprise and confound us by the discovery which we make.
II. THEIR DISSIMILARITIES.
1. One of these men built his house with foresight; the other heedlessly. A Christian must look forward, and labour for something that will stand a storm; a faith that will support him when everything else gives way: a hope that will bear him up when conscience stings, and Satan accuses, and death strikes; a refuge for his soul amidst all the convulsions and terrors of a departing world.
2. One of these men is a painstaking builder; the other is comparatively indolent. True religion is a laborious work, and the most important parts of it are those which require the most labour and make the least appearance. The foundations must be dug deep, and built on the solid rock.
3. One of these builders looks well to the foundation of his house; the other is indifferent about it.
4. Mark the difference in the end of these men. Conclusion: This parable may teach us —
1. The object of true religion. Salvation.
2. The nature of true religion. A building, a work, a progressive labour. An earnest and unceasing effort for the working out of salvation.
3. The wisdom of true religion. The pursuing of a good end by the best means. Simple obedience to the commands of Christ; earnest labouring after salvation in God's way and manner.
4. The folly of that religion which trusts for salvation in itself.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)1 Corinthians 3:14, 15,) from the searching of wind or rain, yet his house at least, as a place to shelter him, is secure from demolition: it falls not, for it is founded on the rock. So Jesus leaves His parable to interpret itself. The contrast betwixt a superficial profession of discipleship, in which self-deceived Christians confide as sufficient, and that thoroughgoing, profound moral earnestness which is concerned to make sure work of it, and to be all that it seems to be: this lies on the surface on the parable. But it seems not unreasonable to find in our Lord's words something more than this. That moral thoroughness in the Christian life which aims at consistent obedience to Christ, succeeds in doing His word only by coming into close and trustful contact with Himself. He who would be practically a Christian, must have nothing betwixt his naked soul and the eternal Rock, Christ; for it is only as based on Him, fastened to Him, that any disciple learns to love His word, or gets strength to do it. Let us look each one to his foundation. There are so many who seem to be taking their stand for eternity on Jesus Christ; there are possibly so few whose lives are built into the Rock. So many of us hear, so few are manifestly doing, His words (James 1:22).
(J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Our first subject will be A COMMON TEMPTATION WITH SPIRITUAL BUILDERS. A common temptation with hearers of the Word is to neglect foundation work, to get hurriedly over the first part of the business, and run up the building quickly.
1. This temptation is all the more dangerous, first, because these young beginners have no experience. Even the most experienced child of God is often deceived; how much more the pilgrim who has but just entered the wicket-gate! The tried saint sometimes mistakes that for a virtue which is only a gilded fault, and he fancies that to be genuine which is mere counterfeit; how, then, without any experience whatever, can the new babe in grace escape deception unless he be graciously preserved? Newly awakened, and rendered serious, earnest hearts get to work in the Divine life with much hurry, seizing upon that which first comes to hand, building in heedless haste, without due care and examination. Something must be done, and they do it without asking whether it is according to the teaching of the Lord. They call Jesus "Lord"; but they do what others say rather than what Jesus says.
2. There is this to help the temptation, too, that this plan for the present saves a great deal of trouble. Your mind is distressed, and you want comfort; well, it will comfort you to say, "Lord, Lord," though you do not the things that Christ says.
3. This kind of building without foundation has this advantage to back up the temptation — it enables a man to run up a religion very quickly. He makes splendid progress. He takes every good thing for granted, and votes that all is gold which glitters. See how fast he goes! The fog is dense, but he steams through it, heedless of danger? He has joined the Church; he has commenced work for God; he is boasting of his own attainments; he hints that he is perfect. But is this mushroom building safe? Will it pass muster in the last great survey? When a man travels upon a wrong road, the faster he runs the further he will go astray. If you build quickly because you build without a foundation, your time and toll are thrown away.
4. How common, how deceptive, is this temptation I For the young beginner, the man who is just aroused to seek the Lord, will find a great many to help him in his mistake, should he neglect the foundation. Kind, good, Christian friends often, without a thought of doing so, help to mislead seeking souls. Let us beware lest we cry "Peace, peace," where there is no peace.
5. No doubt many are encouraged in slight building by the fact that so many professors are making a fair show, and yet their building is without foundation. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in all Churches there are persons who have no depth of spiritual root, and we are afraid no real spiritual life. Beware of loose professors, who are as wreckers! lights that lure men upon the rocks. Make sure work for eternity, and bid triflers begone.
6. Again, there is always at the back of all this an inducement to build without a foundation because it will not be known, and possibly may not be found out for years. Foundation-work is quite out of sight, and the house can be got up and be very useful in a great many ways, and it may stand a good while without the underground work; for houses without foundations do not tumble down at once; they will stand for years; nobody knows how long they may keep up; perhaps they may even be inhabited with comfort till the last great flood. Death alone will discover some impostures.
II. So I advance to the second step, and there we will consider A WISE PRECAUTION WHICH SAFE BUILDERS NEVER FORGET, They dig deep, and never rest till they get a good substantial foundation; they are glad to get to the bottom of all the loose earth and to build on the rock. Let me commend this wise precaution to all of you.
1. Follow the text, and learn to see to your sincerity. The Lord Jesus says, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" May the Holy Ghost make you true to the core. Be afraid to say a word more than you feel.
2. The next thing is thoroughness. For observe, according to our Lord, the wise builder digged deep. You cannot do a right thing too well. Dig deep if you do dig a foundation.
3. Next to that add self-renunciation; for that is in the parable. When a man digs a deep foundation he has much earth to throw out. So he that builds for eternity has a great deal to get rid of. Self-trust must go at the beginning; love of sin must follow; worldliness, pride, self-seeking, all sorts of iniquity — these must be cast aside. There is very much rubbish, and the rubbish must go.
4. Then must come solid principle. The man who is determined that if he does build he will build securely, digs down to the rock. What God has said is a rock; what man teaches is mere shifting sand.
5. These truthful principles must be firmly adhered to. Remember the huge shaft at Bradford, and how many were slain by its fall, and let it teach you to hold hard to foundation truths, and never depart from them.
III. Gather from the text A SET OF ARGUMENTS, URGING US TO TAKE CARE OF THE FOUNDATION.
1. We ought to build with a good foundation at the beginning, because otherwise we shall not build well in any other part of the house. Bad work in the foundation influences all the rest of the courses. In the Revised Version, at the end of the forty-eighth verse, instead of "For it was founded upon a rock," we read, "Because it had been well builded." The house was built well at the bottom, and that led the workman to put in good work all the way up, so that all through "it had been well builded." The other man built badly underground, and did the same up to the roof. When you get into the habit of slovenly work in secret, the tendency is to be slovenly in public too. If the underground part of our religion is not firmly laid upon Christ, then in the upper part there will be rotten work, half-baked bricks, mud instead of mortar, and a general scamping of everything. When a great Grecian artist was fashioning an image for the temple, he was diligently carving the back part of the goddess, and one said to him, "You need not finish that part of the statue, because it is to be built into the wall." He replied, "The gods can see in the wall." He had a right idea of what is due to God. That part of my religion which no man can see should be as perfect as if it were to be observed by all. The day shall declare it. When Christ shall come everything shall be made known, and published before the universe. Therefore see to it that it be fit to be thus made known.
2. See, again, that we ought to have good foundations when we look at the situation whereon the house is to be built. It is clear from this parable that both these houses were built in places not far from a river, or where streams might be expected to come. Certain parts of the South of France are marvellously like Palestine, and perhaps at the present moment they are more like what the Holy Land was in Christ's day than the Holy Land now is. When I reached Cannes last year I found that there had been a flood in the town. This flood did not come by reason of a river being swollen, but through a deluge of rain. A waterspout seems to have burst upon the hill-side, tearing up earth, and rocks, and stones, and then hurrying down to the sea. It rushed across the railway station, and poured down the street which led to it, drowning several per. sons in its progress. When I was there a large hotel — I should think five stories high — was shored up with timber, and was evidently doomed; for when this stream rushed down the narrow street it undermined the lower courses of the building and as there were no foundations at all able to bear such a test, the whole erection was rendered unsafe. The Saviour had some such case in His mind's eye. A torrent of water would come tearing down the side of the mountain, and if a house was built on the mere earth, it would be carried away directly, but if it were fastened into the rock so that it became part and parcel of it, then the flood might rush all around it, but it would not shake the walls. Beloved builder of a house for your soul, your house is so situated that one of these days there must come great pressure upon it. "How do you know?" Well, I know that the house wherein my soul lives is pitched just where winds blow, and waves rise, and storms beat. Where is yours? Do you live in a snug corner? Yes, but one of these times you will find that the snug corner will be no more shielded than the open riverside; for God so orders providence that every man has his test sooner or later.
3. The next argument is, build deep, because of the ruin which will result from a bad foundation. What happened to this house without a foundation? The stream beat vehemently on it. The river's bed had long been dry, but suddenly it was flooded, and the torrent rolled with tremendous power. Perhaps it was persecution, perhaps prosperity, perhaps trouble, perhaps temptation, perhaps prevalent scepticism, perhaps death; but, anyhow, the flood beat vehemently upon that house — "and immediately it fell"! It did not stand a prolonged assault, it was captured at once. Then it is added, "And the ruin of that house was great." The house came down with a crash, and it was the man's all. The man was an eminent professor, and hence his ruin was all the more notable. For, lastly, and perhaps this will be the best argument, observe the effect of this good, sure building, this deep building. We read that when the flood beat upon the wise man's house "it could not shake it." That is very beautiful. Not only could it not carry it away, but "it could not shake it." I see the man; he lost his money and became poor, but he did not give up his faith — "It could not shake it." He was ridiculed and slandered, and many of .his former friends gave him the cold shoulder, but "It could not shake it." He went to Jesus under his great trial, and he was sustained — "It could not shake it." He was very sick, and his spirit was depressed within him, but still he held his confidence in Christ — "It could not shake it." He was near to die; he knew that he must soon depart out of this world, but all the pains of death and the certainty of dissolution could not shake him. He died as he lived, firm as a rock, rejoicing as much as ever, nay, rejoicing more, because he was nearer to the kingdom and to the fruition of all his hopes. "It could not shake it." It is a grand thing to have a faith which cannot be shaken. I saw one day a number of beech trees which had formed a wood; they had all fallen to the ground through a storm. The fact was they leaned upon one another to a great extent, and the thickness of the wood prevented each tree from getting a firm hold of the soil. They kept each other up, and also constrained each other to grow up tall and thin, to the neglect of root-growth. When the tempest forced down the first few trees the others readily followed one after the other. Close to that same spot I saw another tree in the open, bravely defying the blast, in solitary strength. The hurricane had beaten upon it, but it had endured all its force unsheltered. That lone, brave tree seemed to be better rooted than before the storm. I thought, "Is it not so with professors?" They often hold together, and help each other to grow up, but if they have not firm personal foothold, when a storm arises they fall in rows.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)1. We are here admonished of the duty, and vast importance, of what has been called "building for eternity"; that is, attending to the salvation of our souls. Every one is building, labouring corporeally and materially, or speculating mentally, in one way or another. Some are engaged with great schemes; and some, who have neither substance nor strength to expend on great works, are nevertheless as deeply engaged as those who have. How many, however, are building, as we may say, only for this world! Their schemes terminate here. But "he builds too tow, who builds beneath the skies." To have a hope for heaven ought to be the great object with us all. This is the one thing needful.
2. Every wise man will be careful to found well — "on the rock." Some even proceed on religion so much at random that they have never thought of any determinate principles; they cannot tell what their foundation is; in fact, they have no foundation at all — they are, spiritually, building castles in the air. It is not so, however, with the wise builder; he is not so easily satisfied. And, as in the literal case of a building, so in the spiritual case under consideration, two things are necessary to be attended to in laying the foundation — the one is, that the builder know what is a sufficient foundation; and the other is, that he do actually cause his building to rest upon it. An error with respect to either of these things is fatal. God has laid the foundation, and we must build upon it. A Saviour is offered, and we must accept Him.
3. The wise do not neglect the superstructure because they have a good foundation. Rather, the knowledge that he has begun well is an encouragement for him to go on well — with confidence and with care.
4. In the time of trial, the hope of the true Christian, like the house of the wise builder, will stand; while the hope of the hypocrite and the formalist, like the house of the foolish builder, will be overthrown. When the great day of wrath is come, then it will be seen who shall be able to stand. God will set His own people's feet on a rock, and will establish their goings.
(James Foote, M. A.)eclat and luxuries which it will purchase for him. "Other men don't know how to keep money or to enjoy it; but 1 mean to enjoy mine." He calls it mine — not the Lord's; and he does not mean that the Lord shall have it. Ere long the coveted riches take wing, like a swallow, and fly away. Even if he holds on to them, they do not give the happiness he dreamed of; they do not fill up the gnawing emptiness of his soul. They do not bring quiet sleep or a contented conscience; his Government bonds cannot stop the heartache. Gold, unless used for God, makes a hard dying pillow. When the richest American of his day was in his last fatal sickness, a Christian friend proposed to sing for him; and the hymn he named was "Come, ye sinners, poor and needy." "Yes, yes," replied the dying millionaire, "sing that for me, I feel poor and needy." Yet at that moment the stock-markets of the globe were watching and waiting for the demise of the man who could shake them with a nod of his head. "Poor and needy!" How the sand sweeps from under a man's soul in much an hour as that! Literary fame is no solider a footing for an immortal being's happiness than wealth. There is hardly a sadder verse in the English language than that which the brilliant Byron addressed to his own weary and wretched soul —
"Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen;
Count o'er thy days from anguish free;
And know — whatever thou hast been,
Tis something better — not to be!"
What a fearful thought that a human soul, in the very height of its coveted intellectual renown, should seek a refuge for its misery in utter annihilation! Last year a poverty-stricken invalid in Brooklyn, who sustained her helpless husband and only child by her needle, made her little dingy home bright as sunshine by her brave, cheerful trust in God. Her daily song was, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock." In many a hut of poverty, where faith eats its scanty loaf and gives thanks for it; from many a room of sickness, where Jesus has cheered the long wakeful nights; over many a casket in which a darling child was sleeping in its last slumber, has the believer's testimony come forth clear and strong: "I know whom I have believed; He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day." God never intended that we should have more than one rock. All else is quicksand. When we take His inspired Word for our guide, embrace Christ as our Saviour, rest on His atonement for pardon and His grace for support, then are we "founded on a rock." A solid character for this life and a solid hope for eternity can be built on this sure foundation. Christ really underlies a genuine Christian as the everlasting mass of Moriah's rook-bed underlay the ancient temple of Jerusalem. Those only are the solid, reliable, and enduring members in our various Churches, who have Christ embedded in the very depths of their hearts. Such never fall away under the stress of strong temptations.
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)I. THE LIFE WHICH IS SIMPLY A SURFACE LIFE. Not exactly what we call a wicked life, but a vain, thoughtless, shallow life. An animal life, finding pleasure only in the senses; a childish life, occupied only with trifles; a life in which there is no deep thought, feeling, conviction, purpose. One would think it almost impossible to lead such a life. The Spirit of God within us is ever seeking to awaken solemn and holy thoughts. And this is truly a thought-provoking world. Many will scarcely suffer a large thought, a serious thought. They dwell on the most exterior surfaces, and their little-mindedness is seen in everything, felt in everything. Mark their pleasures. Consider their reading — the emptiest, silliest trash. Listen to their conversation — chaff which the wind driveth away. And all their aims in life are unspeakably contemptible. Better be the desolate tree on the naked heath bowed by the storm, stripped by the storm, if it only give us depth of life, than the green bay-tree rooted only in the sod. We may be thankful for anything that knocks the toys out of our hands, that stops our idiot joy, and drives us inward, downward, to the reality of things and the grand purpose of existence. Notice again —
II. THE LIFE WHICH DIES BELOW THE SURFACE AND YET DOES NOT REACH THE DEPTHS. Many men consider themselves as serious, deep-sealed men who are not really so. There is an iron pillar at Delhi, a very ancient column, and the Hindus believed that its roots were in the centre of the earth, but the profane European took to digging and found its foundation only twenty inches below the surface. And so many among us fancy their life rooted in the centre of things when a little examination would show them they have only dipped below the surface. There is an intellectual life which goes beneath the surface, but not to the depths. Thinking men, full of intellectual power and penetration, but who concern themselves only with the universe that passes away, are of this order. One would think the scientific men who sound the depths of the ocean or the star-depths of the heaven, had gone deep, but in truth, with all their parade of dredges, telescopes, spectroscopes, they have gone but twenty inches below the surface who miss the Almighty Spirit, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, to whom are all things. There is a moral life which goes below the surface, and yet fails to grasp the depths. A morality which finds its origin, its reasons, its sanctions, its inspirations, its compensations altogether within human society and temporal interests, is but rooted in the sand. There is a religious life which sinks below the surface without sounding the depths. The Pharisees failed here — they thought the pillar on which they leaned had its roots in the centre of the world, but Christ made them understand that proud ancient pillar of theirs was only twenty inches in the sand.
III. THE LIFE WHICH DIGS DEEP AND RESTS ON A ROCK. The Word of God assures us that there is rock. The universe is not a theatre of dissolving views, itself a dissolving view. There is an Eternal Being. There is an Eternal World. "A city that hath foundations" — a realm of infinite endless perfection and blessedness. There is an Eternal Righteousness. There is an Eternal Life. He only digs deep who gets down to these central realities.
1. Only in this deeper life do we find true satisfaction. Men think sometimes, I know, that a deeper life means much of strife, of sorrow, of sadness; and so it does. But, you must remember, out of those depths breaks forth the sunshine, out of those depths breaks forth the music. You will never find true light, harmony, joy, until you reach the depths of self-despair, until you live the life of thought, contrition, prayer, humility, reverence.
2. Only as we live this deeper life does our character acquire strength and fulness. The superficial Pharisee was ever working at the outside of character; Christ showed them more radical work was wanted; they must go to the depths of life. And this is the teaching of the Epistles. Our modern gardeners think far less of pruning the branches of trees than the old husbandmen used to think; the gardeners of to-day are persuaded that the tree must be treated in its roots.
3. Only as we live this deeper life is our joy assured for ever. The teaching of our Lord in this parable is that, whatever in character, joy, hope, is not based on the deepest life, life in Himself, must be overthrown. As most of you know, in connection with the principal palace at Babylon was the remarkable construction known to the Greeks as "the Hanging Garden." Several tiers of arches formed an artificial imitation of a mountain, and on the top of this structure was a mass of earth on which grew flowers, and shrubs, and trees. Where are these artificial elevations now? Gone, gone long ago, shaken to the earth, buried in the ditch. Now all around us you see the glory, the joy, the hope of men resting like the "Hanging Gardens" of Babylon on quite an artificial basis, and any slight accident brings the whole fabric to the ground. A sickness, a death, any one of a thousand changes wrecks the treasure and pride of life. But the natural gardens of Babylon which rested on the granite pillars of the earth bloom to-day as they ever did — the grass as green, the blossoms as sweet, the trees as magnificent. So it is when we build on Christ, and find our strength and felicity and hope in Him.
"What can our foundations shock?
Though the shattered earth remove,
Stands our city on a rock,
On the rock of heavenly Love."
Live below the senses, live above society, live beyond time, get to the root. truths that are in Christ, nay, get to Christ Himself, the root-truth, and your life shall be full of energy, freedom, brightness, fruitfulness, blessing, and you shall bloom for ever in the paradise of God.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. Apply it first to THE CONSCIOUS ACTION OF MEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT. To build without foundation is to put off, make only some slight resolution for good, go on the old way, only with a little more earnestness, or choosing the easiest way of religion as a salve to the conscience.
II. THE WARNINGS THAT COME GENERALLY LATER IN LIFE.
III. THE WAY OF DEALING WITH SORROW FOR SIN. Two kinds.
1. The sorrow of the world — mere regret: hopes to do better; time will bring relief.
2. Godly sorrow, real repentance — going to the very root of the matter; content with nothing but laying bare the whole heart to God; probing to the very centre the wounds of nature, in spite of pain and discomfort; determined at any cost to get rid of all corruption and its cause. The result of this is true healing and benefit. Conclusion: The great lesson is one of thoroughness and heartiness in all our life; no more trifling; no resting satisfied with partial relief — the pleasant weather for the present, without any thought of the storms that may be coming.
(George Low, M. A.)
I. There is the rationalistic dreamer. He beholds his face in a glass, and stands before it, admiring it. To him religion is a system of ideas, and no idea represents reality. His religion is "a face in the glass" or an unsubstantial "house on the sand."
II. There is the sentimental dreamer. He will talk to you for hours of the presence of God in nature, A house of sentiment is the last place I should fly to, to shelter me from the storm.
III. There is the pietistic dreamer. There is a form of church-going piety which does not influence daily conduct; people whose religion is an impersonated sigh.
1. The religion of the dreamer is a religion of theory. The religion of the doer is one of experience.
2. The religion of the dreamer will always be one of doubt. The religion of the doer will always be a religion of evidence. This follows the last remark, because doing leads to knowing.
3. Hence, let me say, the dreamer confines his religion to solitude; the doer finds a vent for his in society. Religion comforts solitude, and consoles it; it does not encourage the spirit of it. If we are to enter the solitude, it is that we may collect the moral forces of our nature, and come forth, inspired by the Divine Spirit, to cry aloud, "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord."
4. The religion of the dreamer is a religion without love. But the life of the doer is love. Our love, in fact, is proportioned to our labours — our labour proportions our love. Love is the fountain of all true knowledge. Every man understands more by his affections than by his reason.
5. And there is, finally, no salvation for the dreamer. Come, let us walk along the sands, and see the houses they build there; these are the buildings of which the apostle spoke, "wood, hay, and stubble"; these are the buildings which will not stand either the flood or the fire; these are the buildings reared by the religious dreamers, whose houses are unsubstantial as the palaces in the clouds. Here is the house of wood — the building reared out of notions of natural amiability and goodness, a religion of politeness and native grace: in this house the inhabitants will talk to you of God, and of worshipping God, but you will hear nothing of God in Christ, nothing of the love of the Father for a lost world. The Unitarian builds his edifice from such material, and thus all those buildings rise which leave out of view the supernatural in the ruin and recovery of man. How unsubstantial i there is not one brick of all the building made from "these sayings of Mine," and here "the flood will come and sweep them all away." Let us walk further along the sands. Here is a house, strangely built of hay; of rhetoric, and philosophy, and superstitious notions; and sometimes, when the ice hangs its pendulets on the absurd, grotesque building, and the sun shines in its cold wintry ray, it seems an uncouth but glittering cave upon the sand: within, the inhabitants have so many pretty sentiments about religion, and so many brilliant sayings, and so many deep and philosophical views, and strange pretences glide to and fro through the heavy chambers, and even the neighbourhood to the awful sea makes the building sometimes seem so safe for shelter; but in the incongruous building nothing is reared from "these sayings of Mine," and the "flood will come and sweep them all away." Now, come, I will carry you to two death-beds; for they die in the castle on the rock and in the palace on the sand. Ah! how fine it looks! By the two death-beds you may hear the two confessions. I draw the curtain in the palace: let us hear. "How are you; are you happy?" "Well, I am easy." "What are your foundations?" "Well, Lord, Thou knowest I have had some very pretty notions in religion. I have usually gone to church once a day. I was certainly away frequently on account of our dinner-parties; but I am sure God won't be strict. On the whole, I am happy I I have ever tried to pay everybody their own, twenty shillings in the pound — and God is love." Now step into the poor room on the Rock. "How do you feel?" "I feel happy, but only by taking hold on Christ. Lord, I feel I am a poor creature, but I come to Thee through Christ; and I can only cry, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Hark! the rain is on the roof; what a tempest. Oh that cry — The Flood! the Flood! the Flood! Yes; the rain descends, and the flood comes, and the winds blow and beat; behold yonder the advancing floods; and see yonder the drifting soul on the broken spar. What is the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul? Yonder they drift away. Hark! it is a voice of singing from the eternal Rock, a strain from the heights of the strong foundations.
(E. . P. Hood.)
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