Dated May, 1736
"This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders." -- Acts 4:11
Unbelievers set nothing by all the glory and excellency that is in Christ.
foregoing chapters we have an account of the out-pouring of the Holy Ghost on
the apostles, and of its extraordinary effects in their speaking boldly in the
name of Jesus, and speaking many strange languages, and so being made the
instruments of the sudden conversion of vast multitudes. And in the chapter
immediately preceding, there is an account how Peter and John miraculously
healed a man who had been a cripple from his birth; which, together with the
word which they spake to the people that flocked together on the occasion, was
the means of a new accession to the church; so that the number of them that
heard the word believed , as we are told in the fourth verse of this chapter,
was about five thousand.
This sudden and
extraordinary progress of the gospel greatly alarmed the priests and scribes,
and other chief men among the Jews; so that they laid hands on Peter and John,
and put them in hold, and the next day brought them forth to appear before them,
and called them to an account for what they had done. They asked them
particularly by what power, or by what name, they had wrought the miracle on the
impotent man. Upon which Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, makes answer, “Ye
rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, — Be it known unto you all, and to
all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you
crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here
before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders,
which is become the head of the corner.” The apostle quotes to them as now
fulfilled, Psa. 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the
head-stone of the corner.” This text, in that psalm, the apostle applies by
I. That This is the stone,
i.e. this person of whom he had spoken in the foregoing verse, viz. Jesus Christ
of Nazareth, whom they had crucified, and whom God had raised from the dead.
II. That they were the builders
spoken of. They before whom the apostle then was, and to whom he was speaking,
were rulers, and elders, and scribes of the people, the high priest and other
priests. They, as they were set to be rulers and teachers among God’s people,
by their office, were called to be builders of the church of God.
III. That they set this
stone at nought. They had so done by refusing to accept of him. Christ
came to his own, and his own received him not. And not only so, but they had
openly manifested the greatest contempt of him. They had mocked him, scourged
and spit upon him, and in derision crowned him with a crown of thorns, and
arrayed him in a mock robe, and then had put him to a most ignominious death.
IV. That notwithstanding
this, he was become the head of the corner. In spite of all that they could do,
he had obtained the chief place in the building. God had made him the main
foundation of it, by raising him from the dead, and so putting great honor upon
him; by pouring out his Spirit, and enduing his disciples with extraordinary
gifts; by suddenly converting so many thousands to be the followers of Christ.
— They put him to death, that he might have no followers, concluding that that
would utterly put an end to his interest in Judea. But they were greatly
disappointed. For the gospel had incomparably greater success after Christ’s
death than before. God had accomplished that very thing which they endeavored to
prevent by Christ’s crucifixion, viz. Christ’s being believed in and
submitted to, as the great prophet of God, and prince of his people.
Unbelievers set at nought
the glory and excellency in Christ.
I. They set at nought the
excellency of his person. — Christ is a great and glorious person, a person of
infinite worthiness, on which account he is infinitely esteemed and loved of the
Father, and is continually adored by the angels. But unbelievers have no esteem
at all for him on that account. They have no value for him on account of his
being the Son of God. He is not set the higher in their esteem on the account of
his standing in so near and honorable a relation to God the Father. He is not
valued at all the more for his being a divine person. By his having the divine
nature, he is infinitely exalted above all created beings. But he is not at all
exalted by it in their esteem. They set nothing by his infinite majesty. His
glorious brightness and greatness excite not any true respect or reverence in
Christ is the holy One of
God. He is so holy that the heavens are not pure in his sight. He is possessed
of all that holiness which is the infinite beauty and loveliness of the divine
nature. But an unbeliever sets nothing by the holiness of Christ. — Christ is
the wisdom of God and the power of God, 1 Cor. 1:24. But an unbeliever sets
nothing by his power and wisdom. The Lord Jesus Christ is full of grace and
mercy. The mercy and love of God appear no where else so brightly and gloriously
as they do in the face of Jesus Christ. — But an unbeliever sets no value at
all upon the infinite grace of Christ.
Neither do unbelievers set
anything by those excellent virtues which appeared in Christ’s human nature
when he was upon earth. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from
sinners. He was meek and lowly of heart. He was patient under affliction and
injuries. When he was reviled, he reviled not again. But unbelievers set nothing
by these things in Jesus Christ. — They very often hear how excellent and
glorious a person Christ is. They are told of his holiness, and grace, and
condescension, and meekness, and have the excellencies of Christ plainly set
forth to them; yet they set all at nought.
II. They set at nought his
excellency in his work and office. They are told how glorious and complete a
mediator he is, how sufficient to answer all our necessities, and to save
sinners to the uttermost. But they make light of it all; yea, they make nothing
of it. They hear of the wonderful wisdom of God in contriving such a way of
salvation by Christ. They have the manifold wisdom of God set forth to them. But
they make no account of the excellency of this way of salvation.
The unbeliever hears what a
wonderful thing it was, that he who was in the form of God, and esteemed it no
robbery to be equal with God, should take upon him the human nature, and come
and live in this world in a mean and low condition. — But he makes nothing of
this. He hears much of the dying love of Christ to sinners, how wonderful it was
that so glorious a person, who is infinitely above the angels, should so set his
love on such worms of the dust, as to come and be made a curse for them, and die
a cruel and ignominious death in their stead. But he sets nothing by all this.
This dying love of Christ is of no account with him. Those great things that
Christ hath done and suffered are with him light matters.
Unbelievers not only set little
by the glory and excellency of Christ, but they set nothing by these
things. Notwithstanding all the shows and pretenses which many natural men make
of respect to Christ, by speaking honorably of him in their prayers, and in
their common conversation, and by coming to sacraments, and attending other
ordinances of Christ; yet indeed they do not set so much by all the glory and
excellency of Christ — either of his person, or of his work as a Savior — as
they do by the smallest earthly enjoyment.
I proceed now to mention
some evidences of the truth of this doctrine.
they never give Christ any honor on account of his glory and excellency.
They may, and often do, pay Christ an external and seeming respect; but they do
not honor him in their hearts. They have no exalting thoughts of Christ, no
inward respect or reverence towards him. All their outward worship is only
feigned; none of it arises from any real honor or respect in their hearts
towards Christ. It is either only for fashion’s sake, and in compliance with
custom, or else it is forced, and what they are driven to by fear, as we read,
Psa. 66:3, “Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit
themselves unto thee.” In the original it is, shall thine enemies lie unto
thee, i.e. yield a feigned obedience. Through the greatness of Christ’s
power, and for fear of his wrath, his enemies who have no respect or honor for
him in their hearts, will lie to him, and make a show of respect when they have
An unbeliever is not
sensible that Christ is worthy of any glory, and therefore does not at all seek
the glory of Christ in anything that he does. He does nothing in religion out of
respect to Christ’s glory, but wholly for other ends; which shows that he sees
not Christ to be worthy of any glory. — Christ is set last and lowest in the
heart of an unbeliever. — He has high thoughts of other things. He has high
thoughts of created objects and earthly enjoyments, but mean and low thoughts of
The unbeliever shows the
mean and contemptible thoughts that he has of Christ, in refusing to accept of
him, and in shutting the door of his heart against him. Christ stands at the
door and knocks, and sometimes stands many years knocking at the door of his
heart, but he refuses to open to him. — Now it certainly shows that men have a
very mean thought of a person, when they shut him out of their doors.
Unbelievers show the mean and dishonorable thoughts they have of Christ, in that
they dare not trust him. They believe not what he says to be true. They will not
trust the word of Christ, so far as the word of one of their honest neighbors,
or of a servant whom they have found to be faithful. It also appears that they
have no real honor for Christ in the hearts, in that they refuse to obey his
commands. They do nothing from a spirit of obedience to him. And that external
obedience which they render is but a forced, feigned obedience, and not from any
respect to Christ’s authority or worthiness to be obeyed.
they have no love to him on account of his glory and excellency. If they
saw any excellency in Christ, they would have some measure of love to him. But
the truth is, they see no form or comeliness in Christ, and hence they have no
love at all to him. An unbeliever never exercises one act of true love to
Christ. All that he is told of his divine perfections, of his holiness, his
meekness, and grace, has no influence at all to draw forth any love. The display
of these things doth no more draw forth love out of the heart of an unbeliever
than it draws forth love from the stones and rocks.
A natural man hath no love
of benevolence towards Christ. Notwithstanding all that is declared to him of
the excellency of Christ, he has no good-will toward him. He rejoices not in his
glory and happiness. He would not care what became of Christ, if he could but
escape hell. If Christ should be dethroned, or should cease to be, he has not so
much goodwill to Christ, as would make him concerned about it. And if the
kingdom and interest of Christ in the world should go to ruin, it would be
nowise grievous to the unbeliever, provided his own interest could be secure.
So also an unbeliever has no
love of complacency in Jesus Christ for his excellency. He takes no delight in
the consideration of that excellency of Christ of which he is told. — He is
told that it is exceedingly beautiful and glorious. But the thoughts of the
glory of Christ are nowise entertaining to him. He has no delight in the
thoughts of it, or in any contemplations upon it. He takes delight in thinking
of earthly objects. But when he comes to turn his mind upon Jesus Christ, if
ever he so does, this is to him a dry and barren subject; he finds nothing there
to feed and delight his soul; no beauty or loveliness to please or gratify him
unbelievers have no desires after the enjoyment of Christ. If they did
set anything by the excellency of Christ, they would have some desires after him
on account of that excellency; especially when he is offered to them, and is
from time to time set forth as the proper object of their choice and desires.
That which men prize, they are wont to desire, especially if it be represented
to them as attainable, and as fit and suitable for them. But unbelievers only
desire to be delivered from hell, but not to enjoy Christ.
They cannot conceive what
happiness there can be in beholding Christ and being with him, in seeing his
holiness, and contemplating his wonderful grace and divine glory. They have no
relish for any such thing, nor appetite after it.
they show that they set at nought the glory and excellency of Christ, in that
they seek not a conformity to that glory and excellency. A natural man may seek
to be holy, but it is not for holiness’ sake, it is only that he may escape
wrath. He has no desires after holiness, nor is it indeed holiness that he
seeks, because he is all the while an enemy to holiness. A natural man has no
desires to have his soul conformed to the glorious beauty and excellency of
Christ, nor to have his image upon him.
If he prized or delighted in
the excellencies of Christ, he would necessarily desire to be like him so far as
he could. — This we see in ourselves and in all men. When we see any
qualifications in others that are pleasing to us, it is natural for us to
endeavor to imitate, and to be conformed to those persons. Hence men are apt to
learn of those for whom they have a great esteem; they naturally fall into an
imitation of their ways and manner of behavior. But natural men feel within
themselves no disposition or inclination to learn of Christ, or to imitate him.
Their tempers and dispositions remain quite contrary to Christ’s. Neither do
they grow at all better or more conformed to him, but rather worse. 2 Tim. 3:13,
“Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.”
I. This doctrine may teach
us the heinousness of the sin of unbelief, as this sin sets all the glory
and excellency of Christ at nought. It often appears strange to natural men,
that unbelief should be spoken of as such a heinous and crying sin. They cannot
see such evil in it. There are other sins which often trouble their consciences,
when this troubles them not at all, though it be that which brings far greater
guilt upon them, than those sins about which they are more troubled.
What has been said may show
why unbelief is spoken of as a heinous sin, John 3:18, and Chap. 16:9, and 1
John 5:10. For thereby all the glory of Christ is set at nought, though it be so
great, though it be infinite, though it be the glory of the Godhead itself, and
though it has been so gloriously manifested in what Christ has done and
suffered. Natural men, in their unbelief, cast contempt on all this glory, and
tread it under foot, as being nothing worth. Their unbelief treats the
excellency of Christ as being of less value than the meanest earthly enjoyments.
II. This doctrine may
convict natural men in four particulars.
hereby you may be convinced of the greatness of your guilt. Consider how great
and excellent that Person is, whom you thus set at nought. Contempt of any
person is heinous in proportion to the worthiness and dignity of the person
contemned. Though we are but worms of the dust, and very vile, sinful creatures;
yet we take it grievously when we are despised. Consider how you yourselves are
ready to resent it, when any of your neighbors seem to slight you, and set light
by what you say and do, and to make no account of it, but to treat you as if you
were good for nothing, or not worth minding. Do you take this well of your
neighbors and equals, when you observe anything of this nature? Are you not
ready to look upon it with resentment, to think very ill, and to judge that you
have great cause to be offended?
But if it be such a crime to
despise you and set you at nought, what is it to set at nought the eternal
infinitely glorious Son of God, in comparison with whom you and all nations are
nothing, and less than nothing, and vanity? You dislike it much to be contemned
by your equals. But you would take it yet more grievously to be despised by your
inferiors, by those whom, on every account, you must excel, — What a crime is
it then for a vile, sinful worm, to set at nought him who is the brightness of
the glory of the King of kings!
It would be a crime
inexpressibly heinous, to set little by the glory and excellency of such a
person. But it is more so, to set nothing at all by it, as you do. You have no
value at all for it, as has been shown. And this is the more aggravated, as
Christ is a person whom you so much need, and as he came into the world out of
infinite grace to sinners, to lay down his life to deliver them from hell, and
purchase for them eternal glory. How much has Christ done and suffered, that you
might have opportunity to be saved! Yet you set nothing by the blood of Christ,
even that blood that was shed for such poor sinners as you are, and that is
offered to you for your salvation. But you trample under foot the blood of the
Son of God. If Christ had come into the world only to teach us, it would have
been a heinous thing to trample under foot his word and instructions. But when
he came to die for us, how much more heinous is it to trample under foot his
Men take it hardly to have
any of their qualifications or actions despised, which they esteem commendable.
But especially do they highly resent it when others slight their kindness. And
above all when they put themselves out of their way, and have denied themselves,
and suffered considerably to do others a kindness; then to have their kindness
despised and set at nought, is what men would above all things resent. How
heinous then is it, and how exceedingly provoking to God must it be, thus to set
at nought so great kindness and love of Christ, when from love to sinners he
suffered so much!
Consider how highly the
angels, who are so much above you, do set by the glory and excellency of Christ.
They admire and adore the glory of Christ, and cease not day nor night to praise
the same in the most exalted strains. Rev. 5:11, 12, “And I beheld, and I
heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the
elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and
thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was
slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and
glory, and blessing”. The saints admire the excellency of Christ, and the
glorious angels admire it, and every creature in heaven and earth, but only you
unbelieving children of men.
Consider not only how much
the angels set by the glory of Christ, but how much God himself sets by it; for
he is the darling of heaven, he was eternally God’s delight; and because of
his glory God hath thought him worthy to be appointed the heir of all things,
and hath seen fit to ordain that all men should honor the Son even as they
honor the Father. — Is he thus worthy of the infinite esteem and
love of God himself? And is he worthy of no esteem from you?
hereby you may be convinced of your danger. You must needs think that such guilt
will bring great wrath. Dreadful destruction is denounced in Scripture against
those that despise only the disciples of Christ, Mat. 18:6. What destruction
then will come on them that despise all the glorious excellency of Christ
Consider that you not only
have no value for all the glory and excellency of Christ; but you are enemies to
him on that very account. The very ground of that enmity and opposition which
there is between your hearts and Jesus Christ, is the glorious perfections and
excellencies that there are in Jesus Christ. By being such a holy and excellent
Savior, he is contrary to your lusts and corruptions. If there were a Savior
offered to you that was agreeable to your corrupt nature, such a Savior you
would accept. But Christ being a Savior of such purity, holiness, and divine
perfection, this is the cause why you have no inclination to him, but are
offended in him.
Instead of being a precious
stone in your eyes, he is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to you.
That he is a Savior who hath manifested such divine perfections in what he hath
done and suffered, is one principal reason why you set nothing by him. Consider
how provoking this must needs be to God the Father, who has given his
only-begotten Son for your salvation; and what wrath it merits from the Son whom
you thus treat. And consider how you will hereafter bear this wrath.
Consider that, however
Christ be set at nought by you, he shall be the head of the corner. Though you
set him low, yet he shall be exalted even with respect to you. It is but a vain
thing for you to make light of Christ and treat him with contempt. How much
soever you contemn him, you cannot break his bands asunder, nor cast his cords
from you. You will still be in his hands. While you despise Christ, God will
despise you, and the Lord will have you in derision. God will set his King on
his holy hill of Zion in spite of all his enemies; Psa 2:1-6. Though you say, We
will not have this man to reign over us, yet Christ will rule over you; Psa
110:2, “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” If you will not submit to
the scepter of his grace, you shall be subject to the rod of his wrath, and he
will rule you with a rod of iron; Psa 2:9-12.
you may hence be led to see how worthless many of those things in yourselves
are, that you have been ready to make much of. Particularly, if you set nothing
by all the glory of Christ, what are those desires that you have after Christ
good for? And that willingness that you think you find to come to Christ?
Sinners are often wont to excuse themselves in their unbelief, because they see
not but that they are willing to come to Christ and would gladly come to him if
they could. And they make much of such desires, as though God were unjust to
punish them for not coming to Christ, when they would gladly come if they could.
But this doctrine shows that your willingness and desires to come to Christ are
not worthy to be mentioned as any excuse. For they are not from any respect to
Christ, but are merely forced. You at the same time set nothing by all his
excellency and glory.
So you may hence learn the
worthlessness of all your pains and endeavors after Christ. When sinners have
taken a great deal of pains to get an interest in Christ, they are wont to make
a righteousness of it; little considering that at the very time they are taking
so much pains, they set nothing at all by Christ for any glory or excellency
there is in him; but set him wholly at nought, and seek him out of respect to
their own interest.
hence learn how justly God might forever refuse to give you an interest in
Christ. For why should God give you any part or interest in him whom you set at
nought, all whose glory and excellency you value not in the least, but rather
trample it under your feet.
Added to Bible Bulletin Board's Jonathan Edwards Collection by:
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