1 Corinthians 3:12
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw,
CarnalityT. Binney.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
ContentionsA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
DiscordA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
EnvyingA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Incapacity in HearersA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Milk for BabesA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Prod an Example to Christian MinistersJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Reflections for ChurchesD. Thomas, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
StF. W. Robertson, M. A.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Comparative Carnality of ChristiansJ. Leifchild, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Distinction Between Milk and MeatC. Hodge, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Doctrines of the Gospel the Food of ChristiansN. Emmons, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Ministerial OnceC. Hodge, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
The Remains of Corruption in the RegenerateA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Walking as MenA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:1-12
Foundations and BuildingsR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 3:9-12
A Good FoundationA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
All of GraceA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Building MenA. Crummell.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Building on the FoundationA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Building the True LifeC. Short, M. A.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Christian Work and its TestingE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
FoundationsA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
The Foundation and the SuperstructureH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
The Foundation of FaithBp. Basil Jones.1 Corinthians 3:10-15
The Spiritual Foundation1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Workmen and Their WorksC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
Classic Buildings and Their MaterialsDean Howson.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
God's Truths are of a Durable Nature, Notwithstanding TrialA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Good Qualities Seen in the Fiery DayT. H. Leary, D. C. L.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Loss Through Little SinsE. B. Pusey, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Severely TestedPresbyterian1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Successful and Unsuccessful BuildersJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That All Errors in ReligionA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That All the Hidden and Secret Ways of False Doctrines God Will One Day Make ManifestA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That All the Ways and Works of WickednessA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That Every Godly ManA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That Every Man Will be Altogether a Loser in Any Error or False Way that He Hath MaintainedA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That God Hath His Time When He Will Discover the Errors of Men's DoctrinesA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
That God Useth to Bring People Out of Errors and False Ways by His Word and AfflictionsA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
The Doctrine and Truths of Christ are Very Precious and ExcellentA. Burgess.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
The Losses of the SavedE. B. Pusey, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
The Perishable from the ImperishableS. Holmes.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
The Revelation and Test of FireDean Stanley.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
The Test of Christian TeachingCanon Liddon.1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Two Builders on One FoundationA. Maclaren, D. D.1 Corinthians 3:12-15

St. Paul affirms that he had laid just such a foundation in Corinth as became a wise master builder. Like a good architect, he had made sure of a solid basis, but had the edifice in process of erection been true to the cornerstone? There was but one Foundation - Jesus Christ - and a man might build rightly or wrongly on it in the materials used. The range of substances which might be employed in the superstructure was large. Large it must needs be, for, it' the builders are many, the material must be manifold. Individuality in workmen must be respected, and, though the risks are numerous and great, yet Christianity can only adhere to its fundamental principle of each man as a man in himself. Brutus sacrificed his instincts to what he deemed patriotism in the murder of Caesar; Rome taught her best men to have no conscience except what she dictated; but Christianity laid a stress on personality in the human will in order to secure the full activity of individual responsibility. Providence ordains our home and life in a very ample world. The amplitude is seen, not in its size nor in the mere variety of its objects, but in the endless adaptability to human tastes and dispositions. Despite the curse, this earth is a grand historic memorial of the original idea of humanity, and a prophecy likewise of a glory be recovered. "The field is the world;" and this is true of every man in it, so true indeed that our connections with the great world are far more vital and operative on our destiny than we imagine. This, furthermore, is our discipline. We have a world from which to choose our resources, means, and opportunities, and hence the wonder of experience is the multitudinous additions ever making to the world we inhabit as our own world. Now, to each Christian, "the field is the world;" and therein he finds a vast miscellany - "gold, silver, precious stones," and they are side by side with "wood, hay, stubble." Redeemed man is treated by Providence and the Holy Ghost, not on the bare idea of what he is in an earthly condition, but also and mainly on the ideal of his capacity in Christ. And consequently, when St. Paul says (ver. 21), "All things are yours," he has only formally wrought out the truth involved in the workman's command of his diversified materials. Just because the worker is in such a vast and heterogeneous world, he must "take heed." Nothing short of spiritual discernment can protect him against woeful blunders. A hard worker he may be, a sincere and enthusiastic worker, but he must have Divine insight, and show himself" a workman that needeth not to be ashamed," and the work must be true and acceptable work, or his labour will inevitably perish. St. James is often referred to as the supporter and defender of the doctrine of work. From his point of view Christianity was the final outgrowth of Judaism, its culmination and crown, and, quite in accord with his instincts, he presents the work side of religion with a very vigorous emphasis. St. Paul, however, confines himself in the text 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.
In such cities as Ephesus, where this letter was written, or Corinth, to which it was addressed, there was a signal difference (far greater than in modern European cities) between the gorgeous splendour of the great public buildings and the meanness and squalor of those streets where the poor and profligate resided. The former were constructed of marble and granite; the capitals of their columns and their roofs were richly decorated with silver and gold; the latter were mean structures, run up with boards for walls, with straw in the interstices and thatch on the top. This is the contrast on which St. Paul siezes,... not, as sometimes the passage is treated, as though the picture presented were that of a dunghill of straw and sticks, with jewels, such as diamonds and emeralds, among the rubbish. He then points out that a day will come when the fire will burn up those wretched edifices of wood and straw, and leave unharmed in their glorious beauty those that were raised of marble and granite and decorated with gold and silver, as the temples of Corinth itself survived the conflagration of Mummius, which burnt the hovels around.

(Dean Howson.)

One man writes a big book about baptism, and says it means "immersion," and winds up by thanking God that, whatever other men have thought fit to believe, he has had grace enough to take up his cross and follow Christ! Another man writes another big book and says it is not immersion, and thanks God, if he has only been sprinkled, he is not so uncharitable as some people! And then they read each others' books, and "vain janglings" follow, as the apostle calls them, "whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings." "Stubble!" Every inch of it. For all purposes of profit to the kingdom of Christ — worthless. The fire shall consume their books and the injury will be, not to Christ, depend upon it, but to themselves. "If any man's work shall be burned he shall suffer loss," &c. I was asked if I thought Roman Catholics would be saved. "Saved!" Assuredly, if they believe Christ died to save them. "But they practise auricular confession; they offer prayers for the dead; they celebrate the mass; they invoke the saints; they pay homage to the Pope." Undoubtedly; and as we believe, unhappily and unlawfully, they do. But if they believe in Christ, is all this to imperil their salvation? Is not this the "wood, hay, and stubble" of their false systems in God's estimation, and useless for every purpose of progress or consolidation in the operations of the Church? These, with other phases of error — some of them peculiar to Protestantism — the "fire" will reveal; and they shall perish, and their removal will prove them to have been human in their origin, and innovations upon the truth of God. But the "truth," and the one embodiment of that truth as it shall be seen in a purified and finished Church, shall remain unmoved. Gold, silver, precious stones! Faith, love, zeal! No fire shall effect these. They are invulnerable. The removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made shall prove the strength and solidity of those things which could be shaken and which shall remain. "Therefore, receiving a kingdom which cannot be removed, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire."

(S. Holmes.)

To open the doctrine, let us consider, What is implied in this when the truths of Christ are thus called gold and precious stones? First, the preciousness of them is hereby declared. They ought to be esteemed and desired by us as much as the covetous man desires his gold and silver. This made the holy martyrs willingly die for it; they thought it more precious than life. The apostle calls it "that good thing committed to thee." "To you that believe Christ is precious" (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.)

You know well what would become of a house of wood or of a rick if fire was kindled around it, on however good and solid a foundation of stone it might be raised. The foundation upon which it was built would not save it. So then there are works, done by those who do not yet forsake Christ, which shall not stand in the fire of the great day. What are they, then? Are they great, deadly sins, such as the apostle elsewhere speaks of, "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, hatred, drunkenness, revelling, and such like"? No. Such works are not and cannot be built upon the foundation; they, as far as in us lies, destroy the foundation, and the soul itself. They who do these things do not build upon "the Rock which is Christ"; they "build their house on the sand; and the ruin of that house," our Lord says, "is great." What, then, are these things done by a Christian which bring upon him such terrible loss for eternity? They are heaps of little sins; little self-indulgences against the law and will and mind of God, which do not extinguish the love of God in the heart, yet chill it exceedingly; little vanities; little envies; little self-seekings or selfishnesses; little detractions of a neighbour; little unseriousnesses; little contemptuousnesses; idle imaginings; petty angers; little deceitfulnesses or self-praise. Sins they are of which people make very little, because one by one they think them little sins, but which, weighed together, become very heavy. These encrust the soul, as it were, with habits of mind, in thought, word, and deed, with which they cannot enter heaven. In heaven there cannot be the slightest thought of vain-glory; no petty repugnance or mislike of one another; no suspicion; no comparison of ourselves with others; no discontent; no repining; no thought that we are not cared for enough or loved enough; no grudge; no remembrance of unkindness. And if all these things must be left and laid aside at the very portals of heaven; if none of these things can stand the fire of the day of judgment; if the slightest feeling of unlove would be a dark spot, seen through the whole brilliancy of heaven and unbearable in its transparent purity and brightness; what are any of us doing if we are not using our utmost strength, all the power of our souls, to lay them aside now?

(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.
The nature of every one's work or superstructure shall sooner or later be known; for the great day of the Lord shall dawn in a flood of fire. The house of gold and silver shall be lit up by its dazzling brilliancy; but the house of wood and thatch shall be burnt up. And not only so, but whereas the builder whose house is consumed will lose his reward, having nothing to show, and though he himself, as having built on a true foundation, will be saved, yet he will come out singed and scorched as by an escape out of a burning ruin. It is possible that this whole image may have been suggested or illustrated by the conflagration of Corinth under Mummius; the stately temples standing amidst the universal destruction of the meaner buildings.

(Dean Stanley.)

Consider, first, though all errors in opinion and religion have no better a name and no better a nature, yet those that build them do not think so. They judge what they build gold and silver; they think their monsters beautiful and comely. The false prophets in the Old Testament, they would presumptuously call their dreams and imaginations the word of the Lord. Secondly, when the apostle calls these errors hay and stubble, he doth not speak of fundamental errors neither, but such as are consistent with and built on the true foundation. They do not damn the author of them, but they make his salvation difficult. "He shall be saved, but by fire." So that as all sins are not alike, so neither are all errors. As in sickness some are mortal and deprive of life immediately, others are not so. In the second place, let us consider why the apostle calls errors by such names — wood, hay, and stubble. First, because of the vileness and contemptibleness of them. Men, if they understand the Scripture and walk by that rule, would no more regard them than the straw under their feet. Secondly, it is compared to hay and stubble for the levity and uncertainty of it. Now the lightness and uncertainty appeareth in three things. It cannot abide the touchstone; it cannot endure to be tried. Straw cannot endure the fire. Thirdly, errors are compared to hay and stubble for the uselessness and unprofitableness of them.(1) They do not truly inform and enlighten the mind.(2) The truths of Christ are profitable to sanctification and holiness. "Sanctify them by Thy truth" (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.


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.)


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.)

First, in that the Scripture calls the time of manifestation a "day," wherein is light and the sunbeams; it doth excellently imply that all the while there are corruptions in doctrine and worship that time is a time of darkness. Let them never so much rejoice in them, and count them happy times, yet the Scripture calls them dark times. Secondly, there are no foolish builders that thus deform God's temple but they are by God's permission; in His wrath and anger, because men have abused His truth and waxed wanton under it, therefore hath He sent the spirit of delusion and errors amongst men (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.

(A. Burgess.)

To understand this, consider that though the Word and afflictions both help to bring a man out of false ways, yet far differently. For, first, the Word of God is of itself sufficient, in a way of light, to inform and instruct, and hath threatenings also to be like a goad in the side; but afflictions of themselves do not inform, do not teach. God's Word is able to reduce without afflictions, but afflictions cannot do anything without God's Word. Secondly, there is a difference between the Word and afflictions, because though afflictions have a voice as well as the Word, and the rod speaks as well as God's Word, yet the Word of God doth it distinctly and plainly, afflictions in a general manner. Thirdly, though the Word of God be thus only able to instruct and convince, being a perfect rule, yet that doth not exclude other helps, especially the ministry; for ministers are called the lights and guides. Let us see how God by the Word reduceth the wandering sheep. First, the Word of God is instrumental to open the eyes, to enlighten the dark understanding. Secondly, the Word of God is fire to try men's works, because it containeth all matter necessary to salvation. Thirdly, the Word of God will be a fire to try, because it doth direct to all those means whereby we may come out of all errors. But you will say, "How is God's Word a fire? How doth that reveal?" Answer

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.)

Many of us have watched that fascinating but awful sight — the progress of a great fire. We have marked how the devouring element masters first one and then another department of the building which is its victim; but especially we have noted what it consumes and what it is forced to spare, the resistless force with which it sweeps through and shrivels up all the slighter materials, and only pauses before the solid barriers of stone or iron, thus trying before our very eyes the builders' work of what sort it is. Now of whom was the apostle thinking when he wrote the warning words about the spiritual builder who employed wood, and hay, and stubble in his work? The eager adherents of Apollos had been powerfully impressed by the brilliant Alexandrian, by his knowledge of what was being said and thought in the Greek world; by his skill in setting out what he had to say to the very best advantage; they were, after the manner of disciples, more eager to imitate their master's methods than careful to be true to the end he had in view. "Take care," St. Paul seems to say to the young men who were trading on the great name and authority of Apollos — "take care what you are doing with those souls at Corinth. Are you only interesting and amusing them for a few of the passing days of time, or are you building up in them a faith which will enable them to pass death and eternity? What are the materials of the structures within those souls which you are raising? Are they the gold, the silver, the precious stones of the Apostolic faith? No doubt they are; but do they not also include materials of a different kind — less valuable, less durable — wood, hay, and stubble? If this be so, a time is coming when all the precious and worthless alike will be submitted to a serious test. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." But He who at the end will judge us once for all is now and always judging us, and His perpetual presence among us as our Judge, constantly probing, trying, saving us, is revealed by events and circumstances which have on our souls the effects of fire — they burn up that which is worthless, they leave that which is solid unscathed. There is the searching, testing power of a new and responsible position, of a situation forcing its occupant to make it a critical choice, or to withstand a strong pressure. Such a new position discovers and burns up all that is weak in a man's faith and character. History is strewn with illustrations of this truth. The virtuous, though weak, emperor, who was floated to power on the surf of revolution, is by no means the only man of whom it might be said that all would have judged him capable of ruling others if only he had never been a ruler. How often does early manhood open with so much that seems promising — with intelligence, courage, attention to duty, unselfishness, what looks like high principle — and then the man is put into a position of authority — it is the fire that tests the work which he has done in his character. Suddenly he betrays some one defect which ruins everything: it may be vanity, it may be envy, it may be a shadow of untruthfulness, it may be some lower fierce passion which emerges suddenly as if unbidden from the depths of the soul, and wins over him a fatal mastery. All is good is turned to ill, all is distorted, discoloured; he might have died a young man amid general lamentations that so promising a life had been cut short. He does die as did Nero or Henry Tudor, amid the loudly-expressed or the muttered thanksgiving of his generation that he has left the world. The fact was, that the position in which be found himself exposed him to a pressure which his character could not bear. You remember how the old Tay Bridge, before that fatal winter night, was believed to be equal to its purpose. It needed, no doubt, a mighty impact, a terrific rush of wind from one particular quarter, in order to show that the genius and audacity of men had presumed too largely on the forbearance of the elements. But the moment came. We many of us remember something of the sense of horror which the tragical catastrophe left on the public mind; the gradual disappearance of the last train as it moved on its wonted way on into darkness, the suddenly observed dislocation and flickering of the distant lights, the faint sound as of a crash rising for a moment even over the din of the storm, and then the utter darkness as all, train and bridge, together sank into the gulph of waters beneath, and one moment of supreme and unimaginable agony was followed by the silence of death. And we see these truths at work in associated as well as in individual human life. Any one will recall the names of empires which have appeared to possess the elements of unconquerable strength until they have been subjected to the test of new conditions — the empire of the Great Alexander, the empire of Attila the Hun, the empire of the first Napoleon. Alexander subdued all the nations which spread from the Adriatic to the Indies. No sooner had he passed away than the unity of his work was shattered by the ambition of three generals. Attila's kingdom at one time reached from the Volga to the Loire; the vast host at his disposal was attended by a bevy of subject kings and chiefs: the emperors of the East and West were both his obsequious tributaries; and the men of his day expressed the terror which his apparently boundless power inspired when they named him "the scourge of God." Yet he had scarcely been discovered dead on his couch after a drunken revel, when his sons, greedy for high place, turned their arms against each other, and so within some fifteen years the Buns had sunk to be the dependents and tributaries of the very race which but now they had ruled. And there is Attila's great counterpart in modern Europe — Napoleon. His vast, motley hosts swept along over much the same ground as Attila's though in an opposite direction. Like Attila's, they passed over ancient and prostrate thrones; like his, too, they went on the errand of an insatiable ambition; but before he died, as we all know, Napoleon's work had been tested with a severity which revealed its weakness, and left behind it nothing but a million of tombs and the dying echoes of a vast catastrophe. And as with States, so with particular branches of the Christian Church. A Church may be, to all appearances, highly favoured; it may have leaders conspicuous for holiness or learning; it may reckon its multitudes of devout communicants, its flourishing missions at home and abroad, and its many works of benevolence and mercy; and yet it may have admitted to its bosom some false principles, whether of faith or morals, which will find it out in the day of trial. In the early centuries no Church was more highly favoured than that of Northern Africa. It had, it is said, almost innumerable Churches, which produced saints and martyrs; its intellectual and practical activity was tested by the long series of 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.

(Canon Liddon.)

In the vivid imagination of the apostle two workmen are building side by side. One builds a palace, the other a hovel. The materials which one uses are gold and silver for decoration; and for solidity costly stones — not diamonds, emeralds, &c., but valuable building material, such as marbles, granites, and alabaster. The other employs timber, dry reeds, straw. Suddenly there plays around both buildings the fire of the Lord coming to judgment. The marbles gleam the whiter, and the gold and the silver flash the more resplendently; but the straw hovel goes up in a flare! The one man gets wages for work that lasts, the other man gets no pay for what perishes. He is dragged through the smoke, saved by a hair's breath, but sees all his toil lying there in white ashes at his feet. It is a grim picture. Note —


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.


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.)

The best qualities of the Christian — patience, gentleness, and forgiveness of injuries — are written by the Spirit of God in the heart of a Christian, out of the sight of the world, and come only to be seen in the day of fiery affliction and trial, just as words written with invisible ink come only to be read when submitted to the heat of the fire.

(T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)

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.

1. His work.

(1)Well founded.

(2)Well built.

2. Its durability.

(1)It stands the test of time.

(2)Of investigation.

(3)Of fire.

3. His reward.

(1)In the successful issue of his toil.

(2)In the approbation of God.

(3)In the abundant recompense.


1. His folly.

(1)He had a right foundation.

(2)Selected corruptible materials.

2. His loss.

(1)His work consumed.

(2)His labour lost.

(3)His reward forfeited.

3. His narrow escape. Saved — yet so as by fire.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

First, there are Divine truths, such as are revealed in God's Word, most of which human reason could not comprehend; but, as Zacchaeus, of a low stature, got up into the tree to see Jesus, so reason, being too low, must ascend up into the Scripture to behold these truths. Now these are more certain and durable than those natural truths. Secondly, this good building of truth doth not only abide the fire, but desireth the fire; it is willing to come to the touchstone. Thirdly, the truths of God, built by a spiritual builder, do not only abide the fiery trial, but they grow more illustrious and glorious thereby. All the heresies and persecutions that ever have been were like the waters to the ark, they lifted it higher to heaven. The truth about grace had not been so clear had not Pelagius maintained free-will. The Divine nature of Christ had not been so fully evidenced out of Scripture had not the Arrians opposed it. But for the doubt of Thomas Christ's resurrection was more confirmed unto us. Fourthly, not only the truths of God in their nature, but also in the proper and genuine effects upon the hearers, they also abide and will endure the trial.

(A. Burgess.)

In the first place we shall show wherein they shall be losers. First, if they thought by erroneous ways to better themselves in an outward condition in this world, in this they are sure to lose. Oh, that this were well thought of by those who think to better themselves by those ways that are not of God! Secondly, if they looked for outward honour and dignity, to be applauded and esteemed, this also they shall be losers in. For by the judgment of those Churches or persons that are orthodox they shall fall from all that repute and esteem they had. Thirdly, they lose all their ministerial labour and study they used in building such stubble. And truly this loss should much affect every man whether minister or private Christian. The wise mad observeth great vanity in all worldly labour, but especially in matters of religion; to labour in vain, there to lose all thy nights and thy days, and thy study, and thy pains, is beyond expression miserable. Fourthly, they will lose their inward peace and comfort of conscience. Fifthly, they lose, though not the total seed of grace, yet the degree and fervency of it; yea, in regard of outward appearance all seemeth to be lost. They have not that tenderness, that strictness they once had. Yea, lastly, men lose their parts and gifts; they have not that clearness and soundness of understanding as they had.

(A. Burgess.)

Now the grounds of these truths are — First, from the exactness and strictness that is in the way to heaven. Secondly, the difficulty doth appear from that remainder and relic or corruption that is in every man, which is in danger to break out. Thirdly, there are many afflictions and tribulations which God brings on His people, and they do much endanger.

(A. Burgess.)

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