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make atonement for sin; he has only to receive it, to believe in it, and to repose in it, and to apply it to his own soul with all the comforts of it. All the influence necessary to convert this soul, and apply this Gospel with divine power to the heart, all is treasured up in Christ. "It pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell." We are told, that when the Spanish ambassador was shewn the treasures of St. Mark, in Venice, he immediately groped to find the bottom of the treasure; and a page, who was standing by, said, "In this, my master's treasure excels yours; in that it has no bottom, it cannot be found, the treasures are here so deep." So we say of the Gospel, that compare it with any other treasure, there is no treasure that comes near it. It has no bottom; none have ever reached the depth and sufficiency of this heavenly treasure. Millions in all ages have received, and yet there is abundance; and millions of souls are this day receiving, and yet there is room; and millions are yet to receive; every soul in its peculiar condition finds something in its endless varieties just adapted to its state. There are in it the riches of pardon, the riches of justification, the riches of sanctification, the riches of expectation; and hence proceeds satisfaction. A man is never satisfied till he enjoys the Gospel. You see individuals in the world seeking for happiness; like a butterfly, they fly from one flower to another, and sip the honey from it; but they are not satisfied till they come to the rose of Sharon, and then they find all that they have been seeking. They have a satisfaction; as our Lord told the poor woman, that she had been seeking sinful pleasure, but had not found it till that day: "He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life."
There are three things that earthly treasures cannot do for a man: they cannot satisfy divine justice; they cannot pacify the divine wrath; they cannot quiet a guilty conscience. And these things men find to be true when they come to die. How humbling is the consideration by which the Psalmist represents this fact, that with all the treasures an individual possesses, they cannot redeem the soul; they can add nothing to his happiness in that respect. And, therefore, my brethren, though there is such an abundance in these heavenly treasures, they are all harmless treasures. "I have," says the prophet, "seen a wonderful evil in the earth;" and what is this evil? "Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt." Many a man who has been a liberal man, and an affectionate man, and a pious man, before he had a large estate left him, turns aside after his property has come into his possession, and instead of all those bright and benevolent feelings which once glowed in his heart, the very riches and possessions which he has render him covetous, and an object of pity rather than of congratulation. But the riches of the Gospel have a very different tendency, my brethren; none in all the world is ever made worse by a large possession of these riches. What are these riches? They make a man rich towards God, rich in faith, rich in good works. These are the blessed riches of the Gospel. O these treasures exceed all other treasures, and make them all contemptible. This is the good news to the sons of men which Christ himself gives, that after they have participated of these treasures large and wide, they may come again: "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved;" and the more the mouth is opened and enlarged, craving these treasures, the more God is honoured, and the more liberally the blessings are diffused
But, then, observe, it is a treasure for its duration. They are permanent riches. "Riches and honour," says the Saviour," are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness." Other treasures make to themselves wings, and flee away; and just when a man wants some consolation, lo, they are gone; he cannot of all his treasure take any thing with him. That is an affecting account, in the book of the Revelation, that all the ships, and the gold, and the silver, and the things in which men have lusted, and their soul has trusted itself, are gone away, and they are no more seen for ever. A man takes his riches to his coffin; but there he leaves them; he cannot take any thing with him into another world. But the Gospel is a treasure which has this peculiar characteristic, that it is "the everlasting Gospel." There is to be no other revelation of mercy to the sons of men ; as it is the best, so it is the last that God will ever make to the sons of men and all its blessings, all its honours, all its comforts, all its prospects, are, like itself, everlasting. Does it speak to me of knowledge? Why, then, "this is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent." Does it announce to me of mercy? Does it speak of God's mercy? Why, then, the mercy which it reveals is this: "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon the children's children." Does it speak to me of joy? Well, then," the ransomed of the Lord shall come to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads." Does it tell me of love? Well, then, it is "the everlasting love wherewith God has loved me." Does it speak to me of the way in which it calls me to tread? It is "the way everlasting." Does it tell me of strength which I am to apply and receive? Well, then, it is "everlasting strength." Does it speak to me of salvation? "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation;" they are "not to be ashamed world without end." Does it bring to me light, whereby it discovers my darkness, and exhibits the beauty of Jehovah? It is everlasting light with which the days of my mourning are to be ended. Does it speak of the habitations beyond the grave, into which it invites me to enter; and tells me, that by faith in the blood of the Lamb I shall finally enter? These, into which it invites me, are "everlasting habitations." So that you perceive, brethren, that when ages shall have rolled away, and all the things in this world shall be burnt up, when every thing on which the creature has reposed his happiness is passed from him for ever and for ever, this treasure shall fill heaven with joy, and make up the bliss of Paradise, and to everlasting this treasure shall abound. It is in consequence, therefore, of these things, that the Gospel is called a treasure.
But, secondly, we have THE INSTRUMENTS, who proclaim and set forth this Gospel. They are called in the text, "earthen vessels." The allusion is here, in all probability, to the seventh chapter of Judges, the sixteenth and seventeenth verses, where Gideon was commanded to go against the Midianites, and to take pitchers, earthen pitchers, in which was to be placed a lamp; and that when he came to the host of the Midianites, the pitchers were to be broken and the lamps exhibited, and then the Midianites were to be put to flight. God acts spiritually in the same way now, in the conversion of the world. The light, or the lamp, which ministers are to take to the world, is the glorious Gospel of the ever-blessed God: the pitchers, on the earthen vessels in which this light here is contained, are the ministers of the Gospel; and by
these he intends to subdue, not only one portion, but all the world to himself.
And these ministers are so called for various reasons. As to their origin, they are earthen vessels. "we know," says the apostle, "that if the earthly house of this our tabernacle were dissolved." The minister of Christ is but a man; he is but a sinner, a sinful man; he sprang out of the dust as others did; he has a body formed out of the earth, and he is supported by the earth, and returns to the earth, like others: he possesses earthly passions in common with his brethren, and in common with his fellow-men. "We are men," says the apostle, when speaking to those whom he exhorted to believe in Christ, "we are men of like passions with yourselves." He is subject to the attacks of death, and the contagion of sin, as the history of ministers will very generally shew you. But, yet, God takes these lumps of dust as instruments, and he places them in his church, and then takes them out of the church, puts the lamp of life within them, and tells them to go forth and exhibit it to the world.
They are so called, as to the estimation in which they are held. They are vessels, but they are received by the world only as earthen vessels, the workmanship of the potter. And oft they are so, as to the meanness of their pedigree. They are poor and they are low in this world. Many of them rise from low stations in life. And if not so, then they are often mean in their presence and appearance. So was Paul: there was nothing showy or dazzling in his appearance; his bodily presence was weak, and his speech, we are told, was contemptible. Moses said, "I am not eloquent heretofore nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant." Amos says, "I was no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and yet God took me to proclaim the Gospel to others." Peter was a fisherman; Matthew was a publican; John Bunyan was a tinker; Whitfield was a servitor at college; and yet they are taken and sent forth, though low and mean oft in their pedigree, to announce to the world the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. These, and multitudes more, are the earthen vessels which God has employed for the conversion and salvation of mankind. It is quite true, that sometimes more splendid vessels are used; but, then, it very frequently happens, though there are some, we are glad to allow, blessed exceptions to the general rule-yet if the vessels be more splendid, they are generally less frequently used for the conversion of man to the knowledge of Jesus Christ: they who preach the grand and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel with the greatest simplicity, the greatest energy, the greatest power, are often the men whom God the Holy Spirit uses for effectually turning sinners from the error of their way to God.
They are also so called, on account of their bodily constitution. They are earthen vessels, the same as other men. The people are not made of clay, and the ministers of brass and iron; no, my brethren, but they are earthen vessels. Are you sick and dying? So are we. Are you weak and feeble? So are we. Are you subject to infirmities? So are we. Is your breath in your nostrils? So is our's. Have you no continuing city here? Such is our condition. "Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?" Timothy had often infirmities, and was left sick at Miletus. Epaphroditus was sick, nigh unto death. Paul, the apostle, tells us, that he had en
dured sickness, and besought God to heal him. As it is in sickness, so it is often in death; earthen vessels are subject to knocks, to falls, and speedily to be broken; they last generally but a short time. This has been the case with some of the most eminent servants of Jesus Christ: they have lasted but a short time in their ministerial service. John the Baptist was beheaded; Stephen was stoned; Isaiah was sawn asunder; James was killed with the sword; Saul was killed by Nero: and an army of martyrs have been sent out of the world by persecutions, and fines, and imprisonments. It is often lamentable to see, how some of the choicest ministers of Christ, in the early part of their existence, when they are coming forth with promise to the church, are taken away. Such was dear Spencer, of Liverpool, who, when he had just begun his glorious career of publishing the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ, was taken away to another and a better world, and the world was left to wonder at the mystery of God's dispensations. I stand here as a wonder to myself, this morning; and I cannot but recollect, in the place in which I am, that here, with two young men, I first entered yonder college, and that I should now be alone of the three-the two taken to an eternal world in the prime of their existence and their usefulness! O, how oft does God take away those who are most valuable in his church, and leave the world to see, that the light of the Gospel is but put into earthen vessels!
It is the same as to their usefulness. An earthen vessel is useful for reception and effusion. Something must be put in, and something must be poured out. A mine is a treasure in itself; an earthen vessel has only what is put into it. Now ministers are not mines, they have no treasure in themselves; but they are earthen vessels; they are only receivers, and as they receive, they dispense: they give out, as the apostle says, "that which they receive of the Lord." Ministers are made by the great Potter, and made variously. You know Apollos was renowned for his eloquence; Peter for his zeal; Paul for his knowledge; John for his love; James for his peculiar prudence and wisdom; Barnabas as being an adept at consoling broken hearts, and sometimes thundering out the vengeance of the law, to terrify the guilty conscience. But though they are thus made, they are all made by God. Though the Master of the great house has in that house vessels of gold and vessels of silver, and vessels of wood and vessels of earth, yet they are all for the work of the ministry, and for the diffusion of the knowledge of the Gospel.
But, brethren, they have all their treasure out of the large store of the Redeemer's fulness. When Christ calls any minister of the church, he sends him not a warfare at his own charges. Many a time when we come forth to preach to you, we need your sympathies and your prayers. After all our study, all our preparation for the pulpit, we are humbled to discover what empty vessels we are; and if God had not sometimes opened our mouths in the pulpit, and exceeded our fears, we should never have entered the pulpit again. But he does so; and, therefore, we need your pity and your sympathy, knowing that we can only dispense to you that which we receive of the Lord. It is a peculiarly beautiful phrase in that text, "He hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation:" he hath put into us the ministry of reconciliation: so that we are but earthen vessels; as the king's almoner is intrusted with the king's bounty to dispense among the poor, and gives out only what he receives from the king: such are the ministers of Jesus Christ.
There is, however, an important portion of this subject on which we should dwell, and that is, THE REASON WHY THIS TREASURE IS GIVEN TO SUCH INSTRUMENTS TO DISPENSE: "That the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us." And what is "the excellency of the power," which is alluded to in this verse? What is the excellency of the power that often accompanies the publication of the Gospel in these earthen vessels? It is sometimes expressed in metaphorical, and sometimes in plain language, in the Scriptures. In order to shew its extent, it is sometimes called "the arm of the Lord;" and when he expresses it, it is "making bare his arm:" as an individual, when about to do some great work, strips himself of those encumbrances by which his arm would be prevented from accomplishing those strokes of power. Sometimes it is called, driving his arrows into the hearts of his enemies, whereby they lie prostrate. Sometimes it is called, "the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe." Sometimes it is called, "the power of God unto our salvation."
Now the exceeding excellency of this power consists chiefly in two things. The first is, that it is the power of God. Sometimes it is ascribed to the Father. "No man can come unto me except the Father who hath sent me draw him." Sometimes it is ascribed to the Son: "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Sometimes it is ascribed to the Holy Ghost: "My speech and my preaching was not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power." Now this divine power is irresistible, it is almighty; it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead, and the same power which will raise the dead at the last great day and therefore not all the powers of hell, of prejudice, of error, of ignorance, of obstinacy and blindness, can stand before it. The gates of iron and of brass give way, and the king of glory enters. Prejudices which have barred the mind for years give way. "Oh," says one man, "I will not be a Methodist; I will not be a saint; I will not yoke myself to the people of God." But when this light enters, this glorious gospel of Christ is exhibited before the mind of the man, and its power comes, then down go the bars of prejudice, the gates open, and entrance is given to the King of Glory.
Let it be observed this is all done willingly. It is not a power which subjects an individual against his own will, but a power that enlightens the understanding, occupies the affections, draws them to heaven, and thereby subjugates the will unto itself. What shall I say to it? It is the power of light discovering darkness to the mind. It is the power of mercy, shewing the way of escape from the wrath to come. It is the power of truth, overcoming error and prejudice in the mind. It is the power of love, secretly, silently, yet effectually drawing the soul to attend to Christ's voice, and to obey that voice when it has heard it. Such is the power which accompanies the Gospel.
And then this excellency consists, not only in its being the power of God, and therefore above the possibility of resistance from man, but it consists in this, that it is the power of God which forms the image of God in the soul of man. It creates him anew in Christ Jesus, makes him a new creature. who had no good thing in him has now the good work begun in him: he is quickened, and quickened to repentance, and to turn to God, and to love him, and to come back to his Father's house; so that he is welcomed by his Father's society, welcomed by his Father's servants, welcomed to the society of his