We live in a world of crumbling foundations. We look back upon a history of top-heavy empires that have fallen in decay. In his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon declares that "the first warning of Rome's fall was not in the hostile armies mobilizing against her, but in the feasting and boasting and riotous living in her vicious capital." The collapse of that once-mighty empire was not begun by the overwhelming power of the enemy, but by the decay from within. The cancer of sin had eaten away the vitality of the Roman citizen. The tremendous world empire of Rome withered from the roots.
We need not, however, look to the past for crumbling foundations. In this very hour the sickening crash of fallen nations is heard above the din of battle. Every government of the world is straining and trembling from the impact of its mighty war machines hurled at one another. Citizens of the United States are urgently exhorted to their utmost effort both on the battle-front and at home. Our nation in the frenzy of war for survival cries for more planes, more guns, more men to make our armed forces invincible. But in our haste to build skyward, in our race to overtop the efforts of any other nation, have we stopped to consider our foundations?
There are many foundations upon which man may build; but they all can be summed up in two classifications: the foundation of God and "other foundations." Only the foundation of God standeth sure. Theodore Roosevelt said: "Besides the nation's body there is also the nation's soul ... and if (the things of the spirit) be lacking, no piled-up riches, no roaring clanging industrialism, no feverish and many-sided activity, shall avail either the individual or the nation." "What shall it profit a man (or a nation) if it shall gain the whole world and lose its own soul'?" What shall a nation receive in exchange for its soul'? How long will a nation endure that has forgotten God? An army of many millions, fleets of powerful ships and armadas of thousands of planes cannot avail except through the permission of Almighty God.
"Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all the pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations spare us yet
Lest we forget — lest we forget!"
Build on the foundation of God. It stands eternal because it belongs to God. "For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought; that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth-Jehovah, the God of hosts, is his name." What are the puny efforts of man "with his Godless imitations compared with the true work of the Creator of the universe, God and Father of us all, the giver of every good and perfect gift'? "Ye who turn justice to wormwood, and cast down righteousness to the earth, seek him that maketh the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth . . .; that bringeth sudden destruction upon the strong, so that destruction cometh upon the Fortress." "Jehovah, the God of hosts, is his name."
To know that God Himself is the maker of our foundation should insure our trust beyond a doubt. But there is yet further undeniable proof of its everlasting strength, for the foundation of God has been built solidly upon His own Son. "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." "He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders which was made the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men wherein we must be saved." He is the "Rock of our Salvation."
In his recent book on geography, Van Loon states: "We used to talk so glibly about the rock of ages that would forever defy the changes of time. Modern science is less confident and regards this rock and an. other rocks as something living and therefore subject to constant change … Without counteractivities the Himalayas would have been turned into a vast plain in about 116,000,000 years … The Alps in central Europe will be as flat as our prairies in another 60,000,000 years." Mr. Van Loon seems to forget that these are not the rocks upon which we build. We do not found our lives on the earthly rock which God assures us will pass away, neither do we build on the crumbling foundations of men which are but paper compared with the lofty mountains; but we build on God's own Son. Jesus Christ is our Rock of Ages. He is not subject to constant change whether calculated in millions of years or centuries; for He is "the same yesterday, today and forever."
In spite of the commands and warnings of our Creator, man in his foolishness has sought to replace the foundation of God. This is the work of Satan who strives deceitfully to convince man that mortals are equal in power and wisdom to God. Through the ages man has tried by the empty magic of human beings to imitate the miracles of God. Moses standing before the ruler of Egypt threw down his rod, and it became a serpent; the magicians of Pharoah seemingly duplicated this miracle through their slight of hand performance. Moses by the power of God changed the Nile into blood and caused frogs to infest the land, but the sorcerers did likewise with their enchantment. Only when the dust of the earth was changed to lice did the magicians admit defeat as they threw up their hands and cried, "This is the finger of God." In like manner do the sorcerers of false-philosophies and so-called theology work today. They strive by their enchantment to lift up their magical teachings and imitations above the miracle-proven divine will of God. Would that men realize the deceit and the futility of building upon the vain magic of mortals before it is too late. It will be to no avail for the one who waits until the Judgement Day before he will raise his hands in despair and admit at last, "This is the finger of God."
Fellow-classmates, we owe a profound debt to our Alma Mater which has so instructed us "that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the selight of men in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head, even Christ." Now at this hour of parting and throughout all our lives, it is fitting that we should speak of our gratitude to this institution; for she has been largely responsible in establishing our lives upon God's foundation. It is true that in a poll of famous colleges and universities of the United States, our Seminary would be relatively unknown. There is just one thing that gives our school an assurance that cannot be surpassed by other institutions. But that one thing is enough: the fact that the Cincinnati Bible Seminary is built upon the foundation of God through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ' All the work of the classrooms, all the emphasis of the public sessions, all our plans and hopes for the future center in the Gospel of our Saviour. A certain youth of no renown went to battle against the mighty Goliath. David was small and unknown to the leading warriors of the camp of Israel, but he alone dared to face the giant. His seemingly helpless ammunition was five small stones. But backed by the power of almighty God, this was enough. "God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong." It is with this scripture in our heart that we are able to meet the mighty task that is ours. Members of the class of 1944, it is ours to proclaim the Gospel which we have been taught in the classroom, to stand true to the Gospel of Jesus regardless of the consequences, to lead men to choose the true foundation of life, to aid our nation in securing its destiny upon the foundation that standeth sure, that in the world we may "let justice roll down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."
Let us take our stand to live and die upon the foundation that God Himself has given, upon the everlasting rock of Jesus Christ. Let us never trade our Rock of Ages for the synthetic rocks of fools. Let us beware of the magic of men which seeks to displace the miracles of God. "For we look for the city which hath the foundations whose builder and maker is God." The foundation of God standeth sure —"For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever."
This article was originally published in the September 1944 issue of The Restoration Herald. Dr. Lewis Foster was a scholar, a professor, a preacher, and an author. Many of his articles can be found in our archives.