This is the third of four short commentaries by Bonar.
It is of the ‘stone laid in Sion’ (verse 6) that the apostle is here speaking. It is the ‘chief cornerstone,’ it is ‘elect,’ it is ‘precious,’ although those who ought to have known best its qualities (the builders) rejected it, treating it not as precious, but as vile and useless. The testimony of the Holy Ghost to us, both by His prophet and His apostle, is that this stone is precious. Such is God’s estimate of its value. And that one simple word ‘precious,’ used by Him who does not exaggerate or embellish, conveys more than a hundred epithets, or descriptions set forth in what man calls ‘strong’ language. God’s words are simple, and therefore great; great, and therefore simple; often conveying less than is covered by them, never more. For how can the thoughts of God be fully uttered in the poor speech of man?
Perhaps our text might be better rendered, ‘To you appertains this preciousness,—to you who believe.’ This is the literal sense and order of the words; and their object is to show us how precious is this precious stone, and how it becomes ours.
I. Its preciousness.—The temple of old contained within it all manner of precious things; the new Jerusalem is described as composed of every precious thing in the universe. But this one precious stone contains in its composition infinitely more precious things than all of these together. The twelve precious stones of the heavenly city would not make up one single grain or atom in the composition of this precious stone. All that is divinely precious is here, and all that is humanly precious is here. Beauty, wealth, and life, are all contained in it, and represented by it. All divine excellency, and all human excellency is here. It is the choicest piece of God’s workmanship that has been, that is, that shall be. This is God’s estimate of its value, and utility, and beauty. It is precious in itself; it is precious in what it accomplishes. It is a living stone, and it possesses quickening power. It is fair and glorious; and it possesses the power of communicating its glory, so as to cover all that is uncomely in those who take it. It has comeliness enough to absorb all the uncomeliness of those who identify themselves with it. It is the perfection of preciousness in God’s sight; so that, on account of its surpassing excellence, God is willing to show favour to the un worthiest,—nay, to ascribe to them the excellency which belongs to the precious stone itself. There is nothing else in heaven above, or earth beneath, which possesses such an amount of value, such a superfluity of preciousness, as to be capable of enriching and beautifying the whole universe, without any diminution of its own lustre, and without the possibility of any failure or drying up throughout eternity. This preciousness is (1) inherent; (2) infinite; (3) unchangeable; (4) communicative, i.e. capable of being imparted.
II. The way of possessing this preciousness.—By believing God’s testimony concerning it. ‘Yours is all this preciousness (God says to the sinner) as soon as you believe.’ We do not buy it, or work for it, or pray for it, or earn it; we get it simply in believing what God says about it. For this believing is no dark or mysterious process, no peculiar or profound exercise of mind, which requires for its attainment either great intellect or prolonged effort. It is the simplest of all simple things; one of those acts of mind which can scarcely be called an act, on account of its perfect simplicity,—a simplicity which makes it as much within the reach of a child as of an adult; as much within the reach of the weakest as of the highest intellect. As a little child in Israel could see the bullock which his father offered upon the altar, and know that the offering of that bullock was enough; so a sinner, whether young or old, knowing that the great burnt-offering has been presented and accepted, rests in the knowledge of this fact; for it is the one great fact, not our way of knowing it, that brings salvation. How many perplex themselves here, and bewilder their minds with metaphysical intricacies as to the nature and component parts of faith, supposing that it is by the getting up of a peculiar kind of faith that they became connected with the great salvation, and not by the simple reception of the divine testimony to the Son of God,—thus extracting salvation not out of the thing believed, but out of their own faith!
But the preciousness of Christ needs no addition to make it available for the sinner; and our faith is not the completion of that preciousness, but its recognition. We acknowledge the preciousness, upon the authority of God, and are thereby saved, however poor and defective our faith may be. No amount of sin in us can neutralize the value of this precious stone laid in Sion; and no imperfection in our faith can repel that preciousness, and hinder it from saving us. That preciousness stands for ever; and it is upon it that God acts in dealing with us, and not upon the excellency of our way of apprehending it. We may be the chief of sinners; we may have hardened ourselves in sin for a lifetime; we may have gone back into sin again and again; our hearts may be cold and hard; our prayers may be very heartless; our faith may be miserably defective; our appreciation of Christ may be small indeed; but if we are still willing to be treated by God on the footing of the great preciousness of the precious stone, all is well.
That preciousness avails for us. Nothing can alter its value, or its suitableness, or its availableness. It stands for ever in its glorious excellency, undimmed and undiminished, still able as at the first to compensate for all want of preciousness in us, nay, to communicate its own divine preciousness to the most worthless of the sons of men. We know, perhaps, but little of its ineffable value in the eyes of God; its excellency we have but poorly appreciated, and this may hinder our enjoyment of that value and excellency; but not the less is that preciousness imputed to us by God, and not the less are we warranted in looking on ourselves as treated by God according to His estimate of that preciousness.
In giving credit to God’s testimony to the person and work of His Son, we are saved. The crediting saves us, or rather, we should say, the thing credited; for, in believing, we do not rest on any act performed by us, but solely on the great object of all such acts. We are not saved by consciousness, or by feeling, or by experience, but by faith. We may not always have the sense of pardon, or the peace which flows from believing; but this does not alter the preciousness of that which saves us, and therefore does not make void our security, though we may not be sensible of how secure we are. To be saved by believing is one thing, and to have peace in believing is another. They ought to go together, but they do not always do so. We often separate them, and think that because we have not the latter, we cannot have the former, instead of remembering that no want of peace can interfere with our safety; for the safety rests on the preciousness itself (which is unchangeable), and the peace comes from that which we consciously realize in it. The paschal blood secured Israel’s safety,—a safety with which doubting, and trembling, and darkness, could not interfere. Their safety was one thing; their peace was another.
Bonar, H. (1883). Light and Truth: Or, Bible Thoughts and Themes, The Lesser Epistles (pp. 351–355). London: J. Nisbet & Co.