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The design of St. Paul in our text is to rectify our judgment on this subject. For this purpose he divides preachers into three classes. The first are such as preach the word of man, not only different from the word of God, but directly in opposition to it. The second preach the pure word of God without human mixtures. The third do indeed make the word of God the ground of their preach. ing, but mix with it the explications and traditions of men. The apostle characterizes these three kinds of preachers, informs us of their destination, and what account God will require of their ministry.
1. Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid. This is directed against such ministers as preach the word of man in direct opposition to the word of God, or the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ. What will be the destination of such ministers ? St. Paul tells us by affirming, no man cun preach, no man can lay any other foundation than that which is laid. No man can ! not that this can never happen. Alas! This hath too often happened; witness many communities, which under the christian name subvert all the foundations of the christian religion. But no man can do so without rendering himself guilty of the greatest crime and exposing himself to the greatest punishment. · 2. If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones. These are ministers, who preach the pure word of God. They not only retain all the fundamental points of the christian religion, in opposition to the former who subvert them: but they explain these truths so as to affirm nothing inconsistent with them. All the inferences they draw from these great principles naturally
proceed from them, and their whole doctrine is agreeable to the foundation on which it is built. On this account it is compared to gold, silver, and precious stones. What shall be the destiny of these ministers in the great day of judgment, when their doctrine shall be examined? They shall re. ceive a reward. They shall share the glorious promises made to faithful ministers of religion.
3. If any man build upon this foundation, wood, hay, stubble. These are ministers, who really make the word of God the ground of their preaching: but who mix the word of man with it, and disfigure it with their fanciful sophistry. When the doctrine of these ministers shall be examined in the great day of judgment what shall their destiny be? They, themselves shall be saved, because they have taught nothing directly contrary to the essential truths of christianity ; but they shall have no reward for exercising a ministry, in which they rendered the word of God of less effect by mixing with it the traditions of men, and they shall be saved, yet so, as by fire, that is with difficulty, because their preaching occupied the time and attention of their hearers in a manner unworthy of the disciples of
Jesus Christ. :: This is, my brethren, a general view of the de
sign of our text : but this is not sufficient to give an exact knowledge of it. In a discourse intended to prevent, or to eradicate a certain kind of superstition, nothing ought to be proposed that is likely to cherish it. You should not be required to believe any thing without the most full and convincing evidence. Having therefore shewn you the general design of the text, we will proceed to qur third article, and explain the several metaphors made use of in it..
III. Although all these figurative expressions are selected with caution, and very bold, yet they are not all alike obscure to you. Which of you is such a novice, I do not say only in the style of the inspired authors, as not to know the idea affixed to the term foundation? In architecture they call those massy stones laid in the earth, and on which the whole building rests, foundations: and thus in moral things, particularly in sciences, foundations signify some propositions, without which all the rest, that make the body, cannot subsist.
The foundation laid is Jesus Christ. These terms are to be understood in this place, as in many others, of the christian religion, which is called Jesus Christ, not merely because Jesus Christ taught it to the world, but because his history, that is, his sufferings, his death, and his resurrection, is, the principal subject. In this sense the apostle says, he determined not to know any thing among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, that is, the christian religion, of which the crucifixion of Christ is a principal article.
The other emblems, wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver, precious stones seem evidently to convey the ideas, which we just now affixed to them. As St. Paul here represents the doctrine of preachers under the similitude of an edifice, it is natural to suppose, that wood, hay, and stubble, especially when they are opposed to gold, silver and precious stones, should mean doctrines less considerable, either because they are uncertain, or unimportant. · For the same reason, gold, silver, precious stones signify in the edifice of the church, or in the system of preachers, such doctrines as are excellent, sublime, demonstrable. In this sense the prophet Isaiah, describing the glory of the church under the government of the Messiah, says, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones, chap. liv. 11, 12. and by way of explaining this metaphorical language, he adds in the very next words, All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great, shall be the peace of thy children.'
There is a little more difficulty, at least there are many more opinions on the meaning of these words. Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. Without detailing, and refuting erroneous opinions on these words, let it suffice that we point out the true sense. By the day we understand the final judgment. This day is called in many passages of scripture the day of the Lord, the day, or that day by excellence. Thus the apostle, Jesus Christ shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord, chap. i. 8. Thus also, speaking of the temporal punishment of the incestuous person, he says, deliver such an one unto Salan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, chap. v. 5. So again, I know whom I have believed, and I am persuuded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day, 2 Tim. i. 12. In that day every man's work shall be revealed, or made manifest by fire. It is not astonishing, that fire should be joined here with the day of judgment. The scripture teacheth us in more than one place, that the terrible day of judgment will verify in the most dreadful of all senses this declaration, God maketh winds his angels, and faming fire his mi
nisters.* Hence the psalmist says, the mighty God, even the Lord hath spoken, and called the carth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Afire shall devour before him, Psal. 1. 1. Agreeably to which our Apostle says, the Lord Jesus, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, 2 Thess. vii. 10. 8. Though all these passages cast light on the text, yet strictly speaking, I think the apostle presents the fire of the day of judgment here under an idea somewhat different from that given in all these passages. In these fire is repre. sented as punishing only the wicked, the righteous do not feel the action of it: but here in the text it is described as alike kindled for the rightevus and the wicked : at least it is said that the works of
* Psalm civ. 4. The English version is-Who maketh his angels spirits ; his ministers a Haming fire. Mr. Saurin under. stands the words, as above, expressive of the divine influence over the power of nature, and reads, who maketh winds and fires, literally, his instruments, or figuratively, his messengers. This is perfectly agreeable--first to the original terms-secondly to the context, who walketh upon the wings of the wind....who maketh clouds his chariot....who sitteth on waters .... whose canopy is the heavens....whose clothing is light. This whole psalm, the most sublime of all essays on nature, makes all parts of the universe particles of one body of majestic size, and exact symmetry, of which the psalmist's God, JeHOVAH, is the soul; the earth, the deep, mountains, valleys, beasts, fowls, grass, herbs, oil, wine, man, and all his movements, the skill that builds and sails a ship, and the sensations that make leviathan play, all these, all the parts and powers of nature are formed, animated, and directed by God.-Thirdly this sense is agreeable to other passages of scripture. The Lord rained fire. Gen. xix. 24. The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong cast wind, Exod. xiv. 21. Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy winds fulfilling his word, Psalm cxlvii. 8.