If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw,
to the kind of work, and puts forth his strength on a single line of thought. What is uppermost in his mind is the absolute need of spiritual insight. The practical man is in the eye of St. James, and he writes of "religion pure and undefiled" as its spectator and analyst among the actualities of the world. Caesar, in the 'Commentaries,' is not more terse and compact, nor does he observe more rigidly the requirements of intensiveness as a mental law than St. James in his great monograph. Be it noticed, however, that St. Paul is viewing this matter as a branch or offshoot of a topic engrossing at the time his sympathies, and, consequently, he limits himself to the difference between work which shall be found worthy of reward and work undeserving of recompense. Two cases are before him - in the one the man is saved and his work rewarded; in the other, the man is saved and his work disallowed and destroyed. The latter suffers loss, but not the loss of his soul, and, though the ordeal be severe, the man is "saved, yet so as by fire." Now, this view of work, truthful in itself, was specially suited to these noisy, impulsive, erratic Corinthians. And may we not reasonably conjecture that he had the products of partisanship in his eye while writing of the fiery test? Looking at the world's history, we can scarcely fail to see that the fruits of factions are the most perishable things in civilization, and, in Church history, the fact is still more obvious. But the apostle has something further to say. - L.
Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.
(S. Holmes.)1 Peter 2:7). Secondly, it doth denote the rarity of it. It is hardly and difficulty obtained. Gold and silver is not so common as the stones of the street. There are but few mines of gold to the mountains of earth. And thus for the most part the Churches of God have been so corrupted with errors that very little gold did appear. It was a rare thing to have any one truth of God made known. In the Old Testament, under many kings, idolatry and superstition had so prevailed that the book of the law of God in Josiah's time was a rare thing; and in Asa's time "they had been without the law and a teaching prophet for a long while" (2 Chronicles 15:3). So that it is not so easy a matter to obtain the truth, that is found out with much prayer, humility, holiness of life, and industrious using of all means appointed by God. So that the Scripture is the mine where all the gold and silver is; there we must dig, thence we must replenish ourselves. Thirdly, there is implied the durableness and constancy of it. Gold will not melt away in the fire or be consumed as hay and stubble will. So that the truths of God are so constant and abiding that when a man comes to be afflicted, to be persecuted, to be undone for the truth of God, this will abide. Fourthly, the truths of Christ are compared to gold and silver because of the solidity and ponderosity of them; they are weighty and heavy; whereas errors are compared to hay and stubble; what is lighter than these? Whatsoever opinion then is accompanied with vanity, levity, and emptiness, it is not solid, grave, and substantial; refuse that. Fifthly, they are compared to gold because of the purity and sincerity of them. The truths of God, they have an holy simplicity and sincerity, and therefore false teachers are said to corrupt the pure Word of God, as hucksters do their wine (2 Corinthians 2.). David compareth God's Word to "pure gold, even seven times refined" (Psalm 19.). And hereby it becomes a very dangerous sin for any to counterfeit it or corrupt it. Sixthly, it is compared to gold for the efficacy and choice virtue thereof. Seventhly, they are compared to gold and silver for the usefulness and profitableness to all things. Many outward comforts in this world may be had for gold and silver; you may have friends, food, raiment. The truth of justification by faith in Christ, is not that more worth than the gold of Ophir? What precious and powerful operations hath it upon the hearts of the ungodly? Eighthly, the truths of Christ are compared to gold and precious stones because they are able to enrich a man with all graces. In the second place, to build gold and precious stones on this foundation is not only to preach sound and pure matter, but this matter in a pure and exact way. First, in preaching of them after Scripture authority, when they are conveyed unto you, as having the stamp and authority of God. Secondly, it is to preach them with Scripture gravity and solidity. As the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). Thirdly, they are to be preached with Scripture simplicity in respect of aims and ends. For though a man should build gold and silver, yet if it be for human glory and earthly greatness he builds hay and stubble, though this be known to God only. But this fire will discover the secrets of men's hearts. With what delight and holy covetousness you should receive the truths of Christ; they are no less worth than gold, than precious stones. The tabernacle was covered all over with gold, and they brought precious stones to it; and thus is the Church of God still to be built (Revelation 21:19).
(A. Burgess.)1. You all hope in some way to be saved at last. The mercy of God is so all but exhaustless; He has such a marvellous variety Of saving contrivances; and the thought of being shut out for ever in hell is so horrible, no wonder that you hope to be eventually saved. But hopes amid carelessness, worldliness, or sin are no good sign, for they are hindrances to salvation, and to that fear with which the apostle tells us to work it out. But be it as we wish, viz., that these hopes will not imperil, but secure, our salvation — that will be gain indeed; but be it as we wish, that this hope will not, by the mercy of God, wreck the salvation of any one, it will also be infinite, eternal loss; for it will be a loss of that measure of the capacity of the infinite love of God, which the soul might have gained, but would not.
2. Here we are in the province, not of God's mercy only, but of His justice. It is by His mercy in Christ that we are saved at all; but when we have been saved, the reward is according to our works. What, then, I wish you to dwell upon is not the risk of hell, which a careless or worldly ambitious life involves, but the certain sufferings of the day of judgment to some who shall be saved, and the irremediable loss which they have brought upon themselves.
3. And this pain and loss will not come to us through sins which separate men from Christ. Day by day, and year by year, men will have gone on, laying tier after tier of their spiritual building, which, on account of their real belief and trust in Christ, they thought enduring. They built on and on; whether they had, from time to time, misgivings is not said. But if they had they stifled them. For they builded on unto the end. And they must all the while have been earnest in their way; perhaps they were praised, and the praise blinded them the more. Some of them may "have left names behind them." Oh, if the departed still know of what passes on this our earth, what a hideous mockery must that posthumous fame be when the temple has collapsed in ashes. A life-long labour perished! It is piteous, even when the temporal end, for which a man has toiled all his life, crashes at last. But remediless! And for eternity! Plainly, there must have been self-deceit about it. For not without a man's own will and his own fault would God have allowed such an one to remain so deceived to the end.
4. What, then, are things which shall not be burned — gold, silver, costly stones, which represent something costly and something very pure? They are of different values, but all agree in this, that they are pure. All done for Christ, from the cup of cold water to the martyr's chariot of fire, have their several values; but all spring from the one pure motive, love of Him. What else can we even imagine that God will reward? Why should we look hereafter for a second reward from God for doing what our own natural dispositions prompted us to do, and which brought their own reward? True, all things, even eating and drinking, if done to the glory of God, have their eternal recompense, because in each one of these ordinary things we may please God and gain greater grace and larger capaciousness for His infinite love. But what so common as to have mixed motives for our actions, or, rather, what so rare as to have any one motive for any one action, unless, indeed, it be a lower one?
5. But the day of judgment must clear up all this, and then, as shall be the issue, so "shall every man have praise of God." And since nothing can receive praise from God which is not more or less purely done for God, then the day of judgment will, I fear, to very many of the saved, who now stand well with themselves, be a terrible discovery, how very little, in their whole lives, they have really done for love of God. And this is what the apostle means by those things which shall be burned up. Things they are of different degrees of lightness, by which different minds imposed upon themselves, as though they were of value when they were of none. But the most plausible will not leave a rack behind, more than the most openly worthless.
6. Nothing but a continued active habit of directing our actions to God, such as results from offering them to God, with continuous prayer for grace, will rescue some fragments of our acts from the unclean contact of our besetting faults.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
Every man's work shall be... revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
(Dean Stanley.)John 14.).(3) They are unprofitable for any sound comfort and joy. "That we through the comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).(4) They are not profitable for duration or continuance. This straw will not keep off the rain of God's tempests. To show the folly either of such teachers or hearers that dote on errors, that admire hay and stubble, as if it were gold and precious stones. Oh, try and prove things by the Word ere you rejoice or boast in them! What makes a Church truly glorious, even when it is pure from errors and heresies? A Church embracing the truth is like a goodly edifice of all beautiful excellencies; but where errors are there is dishonour to it. In all the matters of religion, see what solidity and profit there is in the thing thou believest.
(A. Burgess.)I. We shall show WHAT KIND OF HIDDEN WICKEDNESS SHALL BE MADE MANIFEST. First, all the secret and hidden thoughts, affections, and purposes of the heart, God will one day make manifest to the whole world. That as there are a world of flies and motes in the air which we never see till the sunbeams arise, so there are thousands of proud, unclean, covetous, and malicious thoughts and purposes lodging in men's hearts which the world never knows, but God will one day have heaven and earth take notice of them. Oh, then, what a curb should this be to thy heart, to thy thoughts! Secondly, all the impure and unclean works of the flesh committed in secret, these also shall be made manifest. Thirdly, the hidden works of thieving and stealing and unjustly taking away of other men's goods will one day be manifest. Fourthly, there is a hidden work of unrighteousness which is not plain stealing, but it is crafty and artificial cosening in thy trading and commerce with others. Fifthly, carnal and worldly policy to have earthly greatness and power and honour in the world: this is a very deep and secret work, but God will manifest it. Sixthly, dissimulations and inconstancies in matter of religion.
II. In the next place, CONSIDER THE AGGRAVATION OF THOSE SINS THAT ARE SECRET AND HIDDEN.
1. It argueth a man hath more consciousness to himself that he doth not well, therefore he would not have the world know.
2. This secret sinning puts far more respect and fear upon men than God.
3. The more secret any wickedness is, it argueth the heart is more studious and industrious about it, how to contrive it, how to bring it about. Take heed of secret hidden sins, God will one day manifest what thou hast been.
(A. Burgess.)I. GOD WILL MANIFEST ALL THOSE HIDDEN CAUSES AND ENDS OF THY FALSE DOCTRINES. Now the Scripture gives these causes.
1. Pride and self-conceit, or overweening of thy own abilities and sufficiency; such a man is in the highway to all errors: "For the humble and meek God will teach" (Psalm 25.). The valleys are fruitful when the high mountains are barren.
2. Ignorance and weakness of judgment. And truly this is the most innocent cause of errors when men, through ignorance and weakness, go in a false way; yet this doth not excuse (2 Peter 3:16).
3. Hypocrisy. The Scripture brandeth that for a heavy cause sometimes of the errors in religion.
4. Ambition and affectation of high places in the Church of God, and to be above others. This hath made men build hay and stubble.
5. Discontents and impatiencies at some things which have fallen out in the Church hath been a great cause to make divisions and to sow tares amongst the wheat.
6. Envy and sinful emulation to the gifts and abilities of others that have been above them. This hath made men bring in strange doctrines. So then, as some sharp thorny bushes have pleasant blossoms on them, so many specious and fair opinions that are set out with much glory may yet grow upon such thorny and corrupt causes.
7. A contemplative delight in a man's own notions and conceptions he hath. This hath caused more errors than anything, especially in learned men.
II. THE NATURE OF EVERY MAN'S DOCTRINE, AND, IF FALSE, THEN THE MASK WILL BE PULLED OFF. It will appear counterfeit coin, and you know to be guilty of that is a capital crime. God's authority and stamp will not be found on it. Rehoboam, when the golden vessels were taken out of the Temple, he put brass ones in the stead.
III. God will manifest every man's work IN THE CUNNING SUBTILTY HE HATH MANAGED IT WITH. For the Scripture speaks of the crafty ways men use that they do adulterate the Word of God. For —
1. Before hearers are publicly prepared for them, they go privately and secretly vent their wares. They are said to creep into houses (2 Timothy 3.). They are the moles that creep under ground, whereas Christ said He taught nothing but what He did publicly; all did hear.
2. Their craft is seen in mingling some truths with their error, that while we take one we may swallow down the other.
3. This craft is seen either in sweet and winning words, full of love and kindness, or else in pretence to deep and sublime mysteries.
4. Their circumspection to observe the fit seasons to disseminate their errors. Thus, while all were asleep, tares were sown upon the fittest subjects — women, as being more affectionate. "They lead captive silly women" (2 Timothy 3:6). Take we heed how we build, and that is by avoiding the causes of error, pride, ambition, envy, discontent. Alas! thou hast cause enough to be humbled; the more thou knowest, thou wilt see thy ignorance the more. A poor man thinketh a little stun of money great treasures.
(A. Burgess.)2 Thessalonians 2:10). Thirdly, as the corrupt errors of men came from God's anger, so in mercy He hath appointed times wherein He will purge and take away their dross. Fourthly, this day of God's revealing may be a long while as to our expectation. You may see only chaff and no wheat; and this may be a long while, so that the ungodly do even languish under their expectations. These things thus explained, let us consider the reasons why God will have a day to declare men's works in matter of false doctrines. And first, because the truth of God is dear and precious to him. Christ Himself makes it one main reason why He came into the world to bear witness to God's truth. Secondly, it is necessary there should be a time, because of the people who belong to God's grace, that they may see their errors and bewail them; that they may redeem the time by pulling down their hay and stubble and building gold and silver. Lastly, in respect of men hardened in their errors, that their obstinacy may appear the more; that when they will not see, though the day appear, who then can justify them? To embrace those days of light and revelation which God brings into the world.
1. The defect is not in the Scripture, but in men themselves. The owl and bat are made blinder by the sunbeams, not through any defect in the sun. Secondly, men swallow down first the sweet poison of errors from false teachers, and then they think every place in the Scripture makes for them. Thirdly, they do not attend to the whole Scripture. Lastly, it is not enough to have Scripture, to have many texts, but we are also to make use of those helps for the understanding of them which God hath appointed.
2. Afflictions are God's fire; they will discover men's works by preparation and fitting the heart to receive.
(A. Burgess.)Councils of Carthage; it was the first Church, so far as we know, certainly it was earlier than any in Italy, to translate the New Testament Scriptures into the languages of the West; it held its own in debate with the greatest Churches of Europe, and with Rome itself; but the day of trial came on it with the invasion of the Vandals, as lay dying in Hippo. It came again, and more decisively, with the Moslem conquest. There are Churches in the East which have suffered as much as or more than the Church of Northern Africa — Churches which have never ceased suffering, yet which in their weakness are still instinct with life and hope; but the Church of and Augustine perished out right. We may guess at the cause — we cannot determine; it may have been a general lax morality among its people; it may have been a widespread spirit of paradox among its teachers; it may have been some far-reaching weakness or corruption which the day of account will alone reveal. But there is the fact. No Church in primitive Christendom stood higher than the Church of Africa: none has ever so utterly disappeared. Let us of the Church of to-day be not high-minded, but fear; for if prominence and success do not discover what is weak in faith and character, there is an agent who comes to all sooner or later, and who will surely do so — there is the fire, the searching, testing power of deep affliction. Many a creed that will do for the sunny days of life will not serve us in its deep shadows, much less in the valley of the shadow of death. The truths which strengthen and brace character, and enable it to pass unscathed, like the three holy children through the fiery furnace of deep sorrow, are the great certainties which were ever to the front in the apostle's teaching about God and men, about life and death, about sin and redemption, about nature and grace, and, above all, about the boundless power and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and God.
I. THE TWO BUILDERS AND THEIR WORK.
1. The wood, &c., are clearly not heresies, for the builder who uses them is on the foundation, and had they been so Paul would have found sharper words of condemnation. They are misplaced learning; speculation; preaching one's self; talking about temporary, trivial things; dealing with the externals of Christianity, and with its morals apart from that one motive of love to a dying Saviour which makes morality a reality. All that kind of teaching, however it may be admired, and thought to be "eloquent," "original," and "on a level with the growing culture of the age," and so on, is flimsy stuff to build upon the foundation of a crucified Saviour. There is no solidity in such work. It will not stand the stress of a gale of wind while it is being built, nor keep out the weather; and it will blaze at last like a thatched roof when "that day" puts a match to it. The solid teaching is the proclamation of Christ and His great salvation. On that rock-fact we calmly repose. In that great truth are wrapped up, as the plant in the seed, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So let all teachers take the warning that well-meaning men, building on the foundation, may, if they do not take care, be building with rubbish instead of with the indestructible truths of God's Word; and see to it that they do not carry chaff in their seed-baskets, but only the pure seed of the Word of God.
2. But the principle may be extended to the whole Christian life. The life of a Christian man is a building, suggesting slow and continuous progress and a homogeneous result. It is possible for two men, both of them being Christians, to be building two very different structures in their lives. Many a true follower of Christ may pile much upon the foundation which is unworthy of it. As you may see in the wretched huts in which wandering Arabs house amongst the ruins of some historical city, that half a man's house shall be of fluted marble and the other half shall be of crumbling clay, so, alas! many Christian men and women are building their lives. With what are you building? and what are you building? A palace, a temple, a shop, a place of sinful amusement, a prison — which? We build inconsistently, and in our own persons combine these two builders. Look, then, for yourselves into your building, and see how much, and what, of it is likely to last, and how much of it is sure to be burned up when the fire comes.
II. THE TWOFOLD EFFECTS OF THE ONE FIRE. The day is the day when Christ shall come. And the fire is but the symbol that always attends the Divine appearance.
1. When Christ comes to judge, light comes with Him, and the light pours in upon the actions of men and reveals them for what they are. The builders have been working, as you see builders sometimes nowadays night-work, with some more or less sufficient illumination. The day dawns, and the building stands out disclosed in all its beauty or deformity. Its true proportions are manifest at last. And how many surprises there will be. Many a man who thought that he was building gold, &c., will find out that he was pleasing himself, and not preaching his Master; that he was talking about trivial, transitory things, and not about eternal truths that nourish and save men's souls. "Lord! Lord! have we not prophesied in Thy name? And He shall say unto them, I never knew you"! Many an humble and timid builder who did not know what he was doing will see that he has built gold, &c., according to that blessed word, "Lord! when saw we Thee... in prison and visited Thee? And He shall answer," &c. One of the most precious diamonds in Europe, that blazes now in a king's crown, lay on a stall in a piazza at Rome for months, labelled, "Rock crystal, price one franc." And many of the most noble deeds that ever were done on earth have been passed unrecognised by the crowd that beheld them, and forgotten except by Him.
2. Not only is there this revealing process suggested, but the one class of service, teaching, life, is glorified by the fire, and the other is burned up. The gold, &c., are glorified because revealed, and heightened in beauty by being brought into contact with Christ Himself, as a fair jewel is fairer for its setting, and flashes in the sunshine. And, on the other side, how much of all our lives will be crushed into nonentity, made as if it had never been at all, by the simple revelation of Christ! The selfish, God-forgetting deeds, the lust, the greed, will all vanish and go up in foul-smelling smoke. And what is left will be all holy desires, self-sacrificing service, devout aspirations, and pure Christlike character.
III. THE TWOFOLD EFFECTS ON THE BUILDERS.
1. The one gets the consequences of his services. We do not need to shrink from admitting the idea of a reward. Christ perpetually speaks to us about heaven as being, in a very deep sense, a reward; not because men deserve heaven, but because the heaven which they get only by His merits and through faith in Him, is given in the measure of their capacity, which depends on their character, and is largely determined by their habitual conduct.
2. The inconsistent Christian's inconsistencies shall be burned up. Thank God for that! What better could happen to them or for him? Instead of the hovels he may build a palace. The fire of London finished the plague, and statelier streets took the place of the fetid alleys. But still that imperfect Christian "shall suffer loss" — the loss of what he might have gained. He shall lose remembrances which are true wealth, tie shall lose, in that he will stand further from the Lord, and possess, because he can contain, less of His glory. His crown is far less resplendent than the others, His seat at Christ's table in the kingdom is far lower. His heaven is narrower and less radiant. These two are like two vessels, one of which comes into harbour with a rich freight and flying colours, and is welcomed with tumult of acclaim. The other strikes on the bar. "Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship, all come safe to land." But ship and cargo, and profit of the venture, are all lost. "He shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)
Presbyterian.Call it by what name you please — dream, vision, or reverie — we found ourselves in a large room, the walls of which were concealed by well-packed shelves of books, from the ponderous folio to the minute thirty-two-me, and in all the variety of dress which a skilful handicraft could devise. While cursorily gazing on these intellectual stores, our attention was arrested by the entrance of two personages of mild and venerable aspect, who very courteously introduced themselves, and stated the object of their visit. They bore the significant names of Time and Posterity, and intimated that they had come to pay their semi-centennial visit, to weigh the merits of authors, and determine their destiny. The task seemed to us an herculean one, where the volumes were numbered by thousands; and we were curious to know by what process they were to ascertain the character of so many candidates for fame. We might, however, have spared our surprise, had we reflected that Time was a gentleman who had seen much of the world, and professed great experience, and Posterity was no less distinguished for the solidity of his judgment. They were well prepared for an expeditious performance of their work, and, in truth, we felt no small degree of horror in witnessing the results of their essay. By the way, we should have mentioned that they were provided with a capacious crucible, under which was burning a large and steady flame. Into it volume after volume was thrown, and the ordeal through which they had to pass was one of fire. "Goodly volumes, these," said Time, taking up a brace of octavos on metaphysics, "let us test their quality." Placed in the crucible, they were instantly converted into cinders. "Dust and ashes," said Posterity. This was the doom of many an ostentatious volume, whose promising title availed as little as its interior embellishments. Time rather soliloquised than addressed Posterity, while subjecting volume after volume. He would remark, "Deadborn this; its claims for perpetuity died amidst the types." "An old heresy under the slight disguise of a new dress." "Nonsense, fustian, bombast." A whole row of poets succeeded each other in their descent into the heated crucible, with no more sympathy on the part of the executioner than a contemptuous exclamation. What is called "light literature" could scarcely be kept in the crucible long enough to be converted into thin smoke. Whole tons of periodicals and reviews shared the same fate. Occasionally we observed an unscorched leaf or two remained in the crucible, which Posterity carefully gathered and deposited in his portefeuille. At intervals, a whole volume would escape — this, however, was very rare; for in the instances in which they preserved their original shape, large portions of these fortunate volumes were burned out. For the most part, the large books fared worse than the smaller ones, from which we were led to infer that facility in writing was quite a different thing from ability, and that a lumbering ship may be dashed on the rocks over which a small boat may safely ride. Whole piles of periodicals (our own did not entirely escape) were soon converted into ashes. "Fabrications," said Time, as he hurled volume after volume of history into the crucible. Some leaves, however, of most of them escaped, out of which Posterity remarked he would make up a small volume of true history worthy of preservation. Many books of religious controversy, and many more of worldly controversies on all subjects went in with the ominously expressed doom, "Dust and ashes," and so they came out. We perceived a most offensive effluvium arise as certain "Philosophical Disquisitions," and "Light of Reason" were submitted to the fiery test. Thus went forward the process, the further details of which might be tedious to enumerate, and in a very brief time the great library had so far disappeared that Posterity carried off what was left in a small but beautiful cabinet, made of enduring materials.
If any man's work abide... he shall receive a reward.I. THE SUCCESSFUL BUILDER.
1. His work.
(1) (2) 2. Its durability. (1) (2) (3) 3. His reward. (1) (2) (3) II. THE FOOLISH BUILDER. 1. His folly. (1) (2) 2. His loss. (1) (2) (3) 3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.)
(2) 2. Its durability. (1) (2) (3) 3. His reward. (1) (2) (3) II. THE FOOLISH BUILDER. 1. His folly. (1) (2) 2. His loss. (1) (2) (3) 3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.)
2. Its durability.
(1) (2) (3) 3. His reward. (1) (2) (3) II. THE FOOLISH BUILDER. 1. His folly. (1) (2) 2. His loss. (1) (2) (3) 3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.)
3. His reward. II. THE FOOLISH BUILDER. 1. His folly. 2. His loss. 3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.) (A. Burgess.)
3. His reward.
II. THE FOOLISH BUILDER.
1. His folly.
2. His loss.
3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)