And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;…
I. THE CHURCH IS A BUILDING. Not a heap of stones shot together, but a building. Of old her Architect devised her. Methinks I see Him, as I look back into old eternity, making the first outline of His Church. "Here," saith He, in His eternal wisdom, "shall be the cornerstone, and there shall be the pinnacle." I see Him ordaining her length, and her breadth, appointing her gates and her doors with matchless skill, devising every part of her, and leaving no single portion of the structure unmapped. I see Him, that mighty Architect, also choosing to Himself every stone of the building, ordaining its size and its shape; settling upon His mighty plan the position each stone shall occupy, whether it shall glitter in front, or be hidden in the back, or buried in the very centre of the wall. I see Him marking not merely the bare outline, but all the fillings up; all being ordained, decreed, and settled, in the eternal covenant, which was the Divine plan of the mighty Architect upon which the Church is to be built. Looking on, I see the Architect choosing a cornerstone. He looks to heaven, and there are the angels, those glittering stones — He looks at each one of them from Gabriel down; but, saith He, "None of you will suffice. I must have a cornerstone that will support all the weight of the building, for on that stone every other one must lean. O Gabriel, thou wilt not suffice I Raphael, thou must lay by; I cannot build with thee." Yet was it necessary that a stone should be found, and one too that should be taken out of the same quarry as the rest. Where was he to be discovered? Was there a man who would suffice to be the cornerstone of this mighty building? Ah, no! neither apostles, prophets, nor teachers would. Put them all together, and they would be as a foundation of quicksand, and the house would totter to its fall. Mark how the Divine mind solved the difficulty — "God shall become man, very man, and so He shall be of the same substance as the other stones of the temple; yet shall He be God, and therefore strong enough to bear all the weight of this mighty structure, the top whereof shall reach to heaven." I see that foundation stone laid. Is there singing at the laying of it? No. There is weeping there. The angels gathered round at the laying of this first stone; and look, ye men, and wonder, the angels weep; the harps of heaven are clothed in sackcloth, and no song is heard. They sang together and shouted for joy when the world was made; why shout they not now? Look ye here, and see the reason. That stone is imbedded in blood. The first is laid; where are the rest? Shall we go and dig into the sides of Lebanon? Shall we find these precious stones in the marble quarries of kings? No. Whither are ye flying, ye labourers of God? "We go to dig in the quarries of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the depths of sinful Jerusalem, and in the midst of erring Samaria." I see them clear away the rubbish. I mark them as they dig deep into the earth, and at last they come to these stones. But how rough, how hard, how unhewn. Yes, but these are the stones ordained of old in the decree, and these must be the stones, and none other. There must be a change effected. These must be brought in, and shaped and cut and polished, and put into their places. I see the workmen at their labour. The great saw of the law cuts through the stone, and then comes the polishing chisel of the gospel. I see the stones lying in their places, and the Church is rising. The ministers, like wise master builders, are there running along the wall, putting each spiritual stone in its place; each stone is leaning on that massive cornerstone, and every stone depending on the blood, and finding its security and its strength in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, elect, and precious. Now open wide your eyes, and see what a glorious building this is — the Church of God. Men talk of the splendour of their architecture — this is architecture indeed; neither after Grecian nor Gothic models, but after the model of the sanctuary which Moses saw in the holy mountain. Do you see it? Was there ever a structure so comely as this — instinct with life in every part? There is no house like a heart for one to repose in. There a man may find peace in his fellow man; but here is the house where God delighteth to dwell — built of living hearts, all beating with holy love — built of redeemed souls, chosen of the Father, bought with the blood of Christ. The top of it is in heaven. Part of them are above the clouds. Many of the living stones are now in the pinnacle of paradise. We are here below. The building rises, the sacred masonry is heaving, and, as the cornerstone rises, so all of us must rise, until at last the entire structure, from its foundation to its pinnacle, shall be heaved up to heaven, and there shall it stand forever — the new Jerusalem, the temple of the majesty of God.
1. The Divine Architect makes no mistakes. When our eyes shall have been enlightened, and our hearts instructed, each part of the building will command our admiration. The top stone is not the foundation, nor does the foundation stand at the top. Every stone is of the right shape; the whole material is as it should be, and the structure is adapted for the great end, the glory of God, the temple of the Most High.
2. Another thing may be noticed — her impregnable strength. This habitation of God, this house not made with hands, but of God's building, has often been attacked, but never taken. What multitudes of enemies have battered against her old ramparts! but they have battered in vain.
3. And we may add, it is glorious for beauty. There was never structure like this. One might feast his eyes upon it from dawn to eve, and then begin again. Jesus Himself takes delight in it. God joys over it with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
II. But the true glory of the Church of God consists in the fact that she is not only a building, but that she is A HABITATION. There may be great beauty in an uninhabited structure, but there is always a melancholy thought connected with it. Who loves to see desolate palaces? Who desireth that the land should cast out her sons, and that her houses should fail of tenants? But there is joy in a house lit up and furnished, where there is the sound of men. Beloved, the Church of God hath this for her peculiar glory, that she is a tenanted house, that she is a habitation of God through the Spirit. How many Churches there are that are houses, yet not habitations! I might picture to you a professed Church of God; it is built according to square and compass, but its model has been formed in some ancient creed, and not in the Word of God. There are too many churches that are nothing but a mass of dull, dead formality; there is no life of God there. A house is a place where a man solaces and comforts himself. Our home is the place of our solace, our comfort, and our rest. Now, God calls the Church His habitation — His home. Oh, how beautiful is the picture of the Church as God's house, the place in which He takes His solace! "For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it."
2. Furthermore, a man's home is the place where he shows his inner self. There are sweet revelations which God makes in His Church, which He never makes anywhere else.
3. A man's home is the centre of all he does. Yonder is a large farm. Well, there are outhouses, and hay ricks, and barns, and the like; but just in the middle of these there is the house, the centre of all husbandry. No matter how much wheat there may be, it is to the house the produce goes. It is for the maintenance of the household that the husband carries on his husbandry. Now, God's Church is God's centre. Why doth God clothe the hills with plenty? For the feeding of His people. Why is providence revolving? Why those wars and tempests, and then again this stillness and calm? It is for His Church. Not an angel divides the ether who hath not a mission for the Church. It may be indirectly, but nevertheless truly so. All things must minister and work together for good for the chosen Church of God, which is His house — His daily habitation.
4. We love our homes, and we must and will defend them. Ay, and now lift up your thoughts — the Church is God's home; will He not defend it?
III. The Church is, by and by, to be GOD'S GLORIOUS TEMPLE. It doth not yet appear what she shall be.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;