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rather to corrupt others, than to benefit their souls; and to dishonour their profession, rather than adorn it. In fact, they are base in themselves, and subserve only base purposes: and “their end will be according to their works."]
But "those who are purged from these will be regarded by him as vessels of honour, meet for their Master's use.
[Under this image, the Apostle means to suggest, that persons of simple minds and pure habits shall be favoured with God's peculiar regard, be set apart for his special service, and be made use of for his honour and glory. These are the distinctions conferred on “ vessels of gold and silver in a great house or palace;" whilst the vessels of wood and of earth are disregarded and despised. Now, those nobler vessels are polished with care, in order that they may appear worthy of their owner, and of the uses to which they are applied : so are the godly " sanctified" by the Holy Ghost, and “prepared for every good work” to which they are destined.
Now, I would ask, is not this a great encouragement to us to keep ourselves pure? Is not this honour an abundant recompence for all the self-denial we can exercise, and all the caution we can maintain ? See the golden vessel in the hand of the prince; its beauty, its symmetry, its splendour, admired by him; yea, and his own honour, as it were, advanced by it: and can you contemplate yourself thus in the hands of the God of heaven, and not feel a desire to be accounted worthy of that honour? I say, then,“ purge yourselves from” every thing which, in a way either of principle or of practice, may defile you, and this honour shall be yours.] Now, then, say whether there be not in this subject
ABUNDANT MATTER, 1. For anxious inquiry
[To which of these widely-different vessels may you be compared? Which of them do you resemble, in their essential qualities, or in their habitual use? Are you of gold or silver, or of the baser materials of wood or earth? altogether consecrated to God? or are you occupied solely about the things of time and sense? To assist you in this inquiry, I must observe, that no man possesses, by nature, those higher qualities: they are all the fruits of grace: by nature we are earthly, sensual, devilish: it is by grace alone that we become heavenly, spiritual, divine. And, to judge whether this change have been wrought in us, we must not look to our outward conduct merely, but to that inward purification from erroneous principles and corrupt affections.
See, then, whether you have yet been brought to humble yourselves before God, as guilty and undone sinners: see whether you are living altogether by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, as your only source, either of righteousness or strength; and see whether you are devoting yourselves, unreservedly, to God in all holy obedience: this is the proper test of conversion: all other conversions are of no value: you may go the whole round, from one Church to another, espousing every one of them in succession, and zealously maintaining every distinction, whether in principle or practice, and yet be vessels in which God can take no pleasure, and which shall finally be hid from his eyes as objects of shame only and dishonour. Let this then be, as in truth it ought to be, a matter of anxious inquiry amongst you all: for I must again declare, that they only shall be approved of their God who correspond with the character drawn of them in our text.] 2. For necessary distinction
[Here, you perceive, are “ vessels of gold and of silver, as also of wood and of earth;" and, though all of one common origin, and alike of base materials, yet destined, some to honour, and others to dishonour. You perceive, also, that it is God alone who makes the difference between them; changing the nature and end of some, whilst others are left to their original worthlessness and debasement. Against this our proud hearts would be ready to rise ; just as that of the objector did, when St. Paul declared, that “ God had mercy on whom he would have mercy; and whom he would he hardened.” Hear the Apostle's statement of the objector's argument; and his reply to it: “ Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will ? Nay but, Oman, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour ? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto gloryd?” This is the answer which I also must make to any one who shall object to the statement which has been before made. I grant, yea, I assert, that all, as born into this world, are base in their nature, their use, and their end: and it is grace alone, even the sovereign grace of God, that changes them so that they become vessels of honour for his use. I assert, too, with the Apostle, that the same power which the potter has over the clay, our God has over all the works of his hands. But there is a distinction which the Apostle has made, and which we must ever bear in mind, that, though it is God alone who prepares any for glory, yet man fits himself for destruction : so that, whilst the godly have no ground for boasting, the ungodly have no reason whatever for complaint ®. To all eternity must those who are vessels of honour ascribe the glory to their God; but the vessels to dishonour will, through all eternity, be constrained to take all the shame to themselves.] 3. For grateful adoration
d Rom. ix. 18—23.
(Let any one contemplate the state of a pious soul in glory. Let him see the feast that is there spread, at which God himself presides. Let him behold the vessels of gold and silver, polished to the utmost possible perfection, the ornament of the feast, the honour of their God; and every one of them filled to the utmost brim with all the richest effusions of blessedness and joy: then let him contrast with these the vessels of wrath, filled with the overflowings of God's wrathful indignation : let any one, I say, contemplate the contrast ; and then determine, whether those monuments of grace and mercy have not grounds for gratitude and praise? I trust, that to many of this description I am now addressing myself; and to them I would say, See to it that nothing which can defile, be admitted within you: see also that you be more and more polished every day and hour, that you may grow in a meetness for the honour that awaits you. And be looking forward to the time when your final destiny shall be awarded to you; and you shall, as objects of God's love, and monuments of his grace, be for ever “ filled with all the fulness of your God."]
e See the Greek of the fore.cited passage.
THE GREAT ENDS OF THE MINISTRY.
2 Tim. ii. 25, 26. In meekness instructing those that oppose
themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth ; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
THE work of the ministry is arduous in the extreme, not only on account of the labours in which a pastor has to engage, but on account of the opposition he meets with from those whose welfare he seeks. He has to call men from all which by nature they affect, and to stimulate them to much for which they have an utter distaste. But the hope of ultimately benefiting immortal souls is sufficient to carry him forward; and, if he be himself of a becoming spirit, he will persevere with patience and long-suffering, “meekly instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.”
To enter fully into the subject before us, I must set before you, I. The state of unconverted menI am not aware that there is any other passage
of Holy Writ that places this matter in a more humiliating view, than that which we have just read.
The unconverted man is altogether a slave of Satan—
[The agency of Satan is but little thought of by us, though it occupies a very prominent place in the Scriptures of truth. His influence over Judas and Ananias shews what he can effect, if God see fit to withdraw the restraints which, from love to mankind, he has imposed upon him. This malignant fiend is, in fact, “ the god of this world;" and all mankind, whilst in their unconverted state, are his vassals Yet it is not by force that he reigns over them, but by subtilty. He "takes them captive;" but it is by "snares that he allures them, and draws them into his net. He knows what is suited to each, as a fowler or a fisherman does to the taste and appetite of the different creatures he would decoy: and he finds the whole human race ready enough to yield to his devices, and to surrender up themselves to him according to his will --- To persons in early life he offers the gratifications of sense; and to those at a more advanced period the acquisition of wealth and honour. Nor is he more anxious to ensnare them, than they are to swallow the bait which he has laid for their destruction In truth, if they were to form a deliberate purpose to serve Satan as far as they possibly could consistently with the preservation of a good character among men, they could not do it more effectually than they already do. Satan would not wish them to live in a more entire neglect of God and of eternity than
they do: nor could he wish them more habitually to cheat themselves with a mere name and form of godliness than they do --] And this is the state of all, without exception
[Men have their different tastes: one loves gross immorality, whilst another prefers a self-complacent round of outward duties. But these are only the baits which they affect : their radical neglect of God and of his Christ is the same in both. The Apostles themselves, not excepting St. Paul in his unconverted state, were once subjects of this great usurper: “ We ourselves,” says St. Paul, times foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasuresa." And by whose influence they were kept in this awful condition, he tells us in another place: " And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind b." Here, you perceive, they were actuated by their own lusts; yet did they most effectually accomplish the will of the great deceiver “ His they were, and him they served;" and from that kingdom of darkness must all be delivered, if ever they would be translated into the kingdom of God's dear Sond."]
The directions given to Timothy, for the regulation of his conduct towards them, leads me to notice, II. The efforts of ministers in their behalf
Ministers are appointed of God to instruct the world in the things which belong to their everlasting peace.
They are to rescue men, if possible, from the power of Satan
[They find men sleeping in security, and, like persons in a state of intoxication, unconscious of their dangere: and they endeavour to awaken them. With this view they cry, “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give thee light?.” They call the poor unhappy victims to " repentance, and to an acknowledgment of the
a Tit. iii. 3. b Eph. ii. 1—3. c Rev. xii. 9. d Col. i. 13. e Acts xxvi. 18. This seems to be implied in the term dvavhtwoiv. 1 Eph. v. 14.