VESSELS OF MERCY,— A SERMON OF SELF-EXAMINATION
“And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had
afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the
Gentiles?”— Rom. ix. 23, 24
IT is with no view to controversy that I have selected this text, but for a far higher and more practical purpose, namely, that by this truth, many of us may search ourselves, and that we may be able to discover whether we have any of the marks of the vessels of mercy which God hath afore prepared unto glory. We must take the next verse to complete our text— “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.”
The context invites us to visit the potter’s house. There, in the workshop you perceive sundry vessels in process of formation. The wheel is revolving, and from it you see continually taken, vessels of an ignoble sort, fitted only for the very meanest purposes, and on the other hand, from the same clay you see produced, vessels that might grace the palace of a king, vessels of honour fit for honourable purposes. We now conduct you to a greater workshop, to the great potter’s house of Providence. Continually revolving is the wheel of circumstances; men, like masses of clay are placed upon it, but they are not all fashioned alike. There are some men who are evidently to the casual observer, vessels not adapted for the high and honourable occupations of heaven and glory. There are men who, every time the wheel revolves, become worse in character, and more depraved in mind; there are men who, by the very providence which is blessed to others, become more complete adepts in iniquity, and masters in crime. On the other hand, with pleasure you may perceive that on the same wheel there are some vessels, which, touched by the skilful hand of the great potter, are being daily more and more finished and completed, and you can soon perceive that they are not of the same sort as those we have just now passed by; but they are intended for higher uses and nobler purposes. In fact, they are preparing to stand at last, in the midst of paradise, the glorious trophies of the skill and power of the great Maker.
As my sermon is intended to be practical and not controversial, I shall solemnly invite each hearer to tremble lest he should belong to the reprobate and abandoned vessels of wrath. I speak with the deepest sorrow when I ask the question, with the probability, nay, the almost certainty that it must be answered in the affirmative— Are there not some of you here present, who are being fitted for destruction? God is not fitting you, you are fitting yourselves, by daily developing and indulging the depravity of your heart. You are seeking out every new pleasure, and every new sin, and though often warned to turn from your course of evil, are there not some of you who are rushing headlong to destruction? Are not many of you by a course of sin and folly, ripening yourselves for the great harvest of the Lord? Are you not making yourselves ready to be as stubble fully dried, cast into the oven of his wrath? This is not to be laid to the charge of God, but at your own door the guilt must lie. If you perish any one of you, on your own head shall be your blood. The eternal God is not guilty of the murder of men’s souls, they that die and sink in hell are suicides; they have rejected mercy, they have despised the Saviour, they have chosen sin and hated holiness. As was their choice, such is their portion; as was their rebellious will on earth, such must be their tormented destiny for ever. Oh, could I see with an infallible glance, the hearts and consciences of all present, might I not as I cast my eye along these seats, say of such an one, and of such an one, even in the judgment of charity, that man is preparing for destruction, his crimes demand punishment, his spirit is of such a character that he requires to dwell for ever at a distance from God. His will is so headstrong, his intentions so obstinate, his passion so desperate, that every one may see with half an eye, that he is preparing to dwell for ever, where bliss, and even hope, are everlasting strangers. O my dear brethren, what shall I say to you, how shall I preach to you? You are filling up the measure of your iniquity, and preparing with all diligence to be fitting companions for the devils in hell. It needs a tender heart, and an earnest voice, to address such as you are. Permit me to speak to you in the language of Scripture. Why will ye die, O house of Israel, why will ye hug the pleasures of sin— pleasures which ye know must be followed by the torments of eternity? Why will you put from you the hope of life? Why will you reject the Saviour? It will be an awful thing, ye that are vessels of mirth, when you shall be filled with wrath; ye that are now vessels of pleasure, and vessels of pride, it will be a dreadful thing when God shall fill you to the brim with misery, and you shall be overflowing with his anger. Oh Lord, we beseech thee, undo the sinner’s work. Great Potter, reverse the wheel, re-mould the clay, break thou in pieces the old vessel that is preparing to be a drinking cup for Satan, and do thou again melt it down, and re-fashion it, and bring it forth again upon the wheel, and touch it with thine own hand, and make it yet a vessel for honour, fitted for the Master’s use!
And now I have a more pleasing task of turning immediately to our text, and considering the character of those who on the other hand are the “vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” There are three things we will look at this morning; first, the vessels; secondly, the potter at his work; and then, the potter' s stamp which is set upon the vessels, — the stamp of divine calling, which marks them as being the vessels of mercy.
I. First, then, let us look upon the saints of God as here described, under the title of VESSELS OF MERCY.
1. And the first thing we here observe is, that as vessels of mercy it is distinctly said that they are made of the same lump as the vessels of wrath. The same piece of clay from which the vessel of wrath is fashioned may be used by God to make also a vessel of mercy. Oh, dear brother! thou who hast hope of heaven hereafter, and a foretaste of it even now; look back to the hole of the pit whence thou wast digged, to the miry clay whence thou wast drawn! There was nothing in thee by nature better than that which is found in any other man. Thou didst lie in the impure mass of fallen creatureship, and if God hath made thee a vessel of mercy it was not because there was anything in thee that could merit esteem, there was no fitness, no natural adaptation in thee to become what thou art; thou art a miracle of his love and of his distinguishing grace. Had he left thee to thyself, thou hadst been as base and vile as others in thy life; thou hadst been as despairing and as Christless as others in thy death; thou wouldst have been as surely damned in eternity as the man who has descended into the pit, red with the blood of many a murdered one. Remember, thou wast in the loins of Adam, in the loins which begat a Judas; thou art a son of the same mother Eve, who conceived and brought into the world Cain the murderer, and of Demas who forsook the Lord, and of Judas who sold him for thirty pieces of silver. Thou knowest, too, in thine own experience, that thy temper is as evil, thy disposition as vile, and thy tendency as hellish, as that of any man who has perished upon the gallows tree. If there be a difference in thee, the difference is of grace and not of nature; for this very morning thou hast had in thine own soul a proof that thou art taken from the old block, and art but a shred from the leprous rag of fallen humanity. My dear hearers, have you learned this truth in your own souls? I know there are some who will not believe that they are depraved; they cannot be brought to think that they are as fallen as the worst of men, but they set themselves up with pride, pretending to believe that there is something in them better than is to be found in the criminal or the profligate. I give you but little hope that you are a child of God if you have never learned this truth. I find that God’s elect here are of the same lump as the chief of sinners, and if you are of a different lump it augurs that you are not one of the chosen people of God. All God s people must learn, as surely as ever grace teaches them, that they are vile. Christians may differ in a thousand doctrines, but they never differ in this one point. We all believe, and we are all constrained to confess, that our nature is vile from its original, evil, only evil, and that continually. If there be any good in any of us, we all acknowledge it is the work of divine grace, and not the fruit of creature strength, nor an emanation from our depraved hearts. I pray God that you may learn this lesson; and if you have learned it, let it not discourage you, but rather give you hope. As you look upon yourselves and say, “I see that I am of the old stock,” lift up your eye to the God of all grace and cry, “O great Potter! though I be of the old clay, yet fashion me by thy grace, and make me a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory.”
2. Further, it appears both from the text and the context that these vessels of mercy were as much as any other portion of the clay, entirely in the potter's hand. Had the potter willed to leave that mass of clay alone, and let it revolve upon the wheel untouched by his gracious hand, or surrendered to the tools of Satan and his craft; if, I say, the great potter had left you or me who are vessels of mercy to ourselves, we should have been vessels of wrath most surely. Jehovah might have done this if he had willed to do so, and there would have been no power in us to fit ourselves for heaven. Hell’s thistles grow self-sown, but God’s wheat needs a husbandman. Vessels of mercy fit themselves for destruction, but grace alone can prepare a soul for glory. There is no reason in the world why any man should be saved apart from the sovereign and distinguishing grace of God. If the Lord had permitted the whole human race to perish he would have been infinitely just, and throughout eternity the angels must have hymned him in songs of adoration. If he had chosen to spare a few of mankind, the sparing of but a few would have been an act of surprising mercy, and mercy and judgment would have constituted the two elements of the eternal song. Inasmuch, however, as he hath taken so much of the clayey mass, and hath been pleased to make vessels of mercy innumerable as the stars of heaven, unto his name be all the glory for ever and ever. Take heed that when you think of the number of the redeemed you do not mar the idea that God is a sovereign still. Had he saved but one, you would have said it was an instance of absolute sovereignty, though he has saved tens of thousands the sovereignty is just as absolute as it was before. Had the Lord left thee to become all that thine evil nature and Satan could have made thee, thou couldst not have murmured. If he had permitted thee to go on in thy drunkenness without sending the gospel to thee, and if he had allowed thee to reject that gospel as thou wouldest have done unless he had constrained thee to receive it, thou couldest not have impugned his justice, even though thou mightest have murmured at it. Thou hast been made what thou art, not as the result of any compulsion of merit demanding a debt from the Lord, nor by any effort of thine own, but thou art what thou art as the effect of the sovereign discriminating love of God the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now let me ask my hearers again, have you learned this truth; have you learned how entirely you lie in God’s hand? Hast thou ever been brought my hearer to believe, that if saved it must be his will that saves thee, though if lost it is thy will that damns thee? Hast thou ever been stripped so naked, so thoroughly naked, that thou hast said, “I have no claim upon God. If he save me, it must be mercy, pure mercy, unmingled mercy?” Oh! if thou hast never been brought here I tremble for thee. I pray the Lord to bring thee to this spot, for it is the very threshold of the door of grace; and when a man is brought here, he is not far from the kingdom of God. Be it so with each of us, that we may acknowledge the sovereignty, and then admire grace in the sovereignty.
3. But to proceed. The text speaks of God’s chosen ones as being “vessels.” Now as we all know, a vessel is nothing but a receiver. A vessel is not a fountain, it is not a creator of the water, but a container and holder of that which is poured into it. Such are the redeemed of God. They are not fountains by nature, out of whom there springeth up anything that is good; they are simply receivers, and receivers only. At one time they are full of themselves, but grace empties them, and then as empty vessels they are set in the way of God’s goodness, God fills them to the brim with his lovingkindness, and so are they proved to be the vessels of his mercy. Sinner! remember all that God asks of thee in order to thy salvation is, that thou wouldst be a receiver, and this he gives thee — even the power to receive. Thou mayest receive from him who giveth all. He asks thee not to do anything, but to hold out thine empty hand and take all thou wantest. He doth not ask thee to come with thy mouth full as one that is fat and filled with bread, but to open wide thine empty mouth, and he will fill it with his salvation. He doth not bid thee store thy granaries and become rich, but he bids thee simply confess thy poverty and open the doors of thy empty chambers that he may pour thee out a blessing such as thou shalt scarcely find room to receive. The elect of God, to repeat again my text, are vessels and vessels only. They may as vessels afterwards give out to others, but they can only give out what God has put in them; they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, but they cannot work it out unless God worketh in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. They may run over with gratitude, but it is only because God has filled them with grace; they may stream forth with holiness, but it is only because the Lord keeps the supply overflowing. They are receivers and receivers only.
And now let me ask, hast thou ever learned this truth my hearer? Hast thou come to live as a receiver at the hand of God? Hast thou stood at mercy’s gate as a ragged beggar crying for his bread? Hast thou ever been compelled to say,
"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling?”
In God’s name I assure thee, if thou hast never become a vessel of mercy, if thou hast never yet been willing to take from God instead of giving of thine own doings to him, if thou art not willing to be a recipient of his own gratuitous goodness, thou art a total stranger to everything like the gospel of Christ. The Romanist who brings his prayers, the formalist who brings his ceremonies, the hypocrite who brings his profession — all these men have mistaken the gospel. The gospel is a scheme not of giving to God, but of taking from God. It is not of bringing something to the Eternal Jehovah, but it is taking from his fulness, drinking from his well, receiving from his storehouse. Thou hast not yet begun to spell out salvation, unless thou hast learned first of all that thou canst do nothing and be nothing, except God makes thee something and enables thee to do something in his cause.
4. But furthermore and lastly upon this first head, the children of God are called vessels, but they have this added by way of distinction, they are “vessels of mercy” In order that they may be vessels of mercy it is certainly necessary that they should be sinful and that they should be miserable. Pity may be given to the miserable, but mercy must be bestowed upon the sinful. For a judge to talk of mercy to those who never had offended would be to insult them; and for the philanthropist to offer pity to the man who knows no sorrow, would be but to mock him. The only qualifications that a man can have for being a vessel of mercy, are the qualifications of being sinful and of being sorrowful— two qualifications, which I doubt not many of you now possess, although because you have them, you think that you never can be a child of God. O rejoice in this thought, that in order to being filled with grace the qualification is emptiness; in order to being clothed with righteousness, the indispensable qualification is nakedness; in order to being washed in Jesus’ blood, all that is wanted of thee is, that thou shouldst feel thy need of that washing. The redeemed of God are not vessels of merit but vessels of mercy; they are sinful men and women who have felt their sin and have mourned over their iniquity, and have hence become sorrowful and miserable. Then it is, that God shows to them that they are vessels of mercy. If I could wander through this hall and read each heart, I should find some, I doubt not, who have come here saying, “I am the chief of sinners. I feel that if all the world were saved there is no room for me, for there is not one good trait in my character '; my sin is so aggravated; I have heard the gospel so often, and yet I have rejected it; conscience has stirred me so many times, and yet I would not listen to its admonitions. I am sure, I am certain, that I am in the most hopeless plight, and I am fearfully miserable upon this account. Oh! that there were mercy to be had in heaven, and that God would have pity upon such an one as I am!” Soul, soul, there is comfort for thee in this text. Have I not told thee, and dost thou not believe it, that the vessel must be empty before it can be filled. And thou art empty. There is hope then that God will save thee. The vessel must be black with sin before it can be washed with mercy. And thou art black. There is hope then, that thou shalt be cleansed. A vessel must be filled with misery before it can be filled with mercy, thou art filled with misery, and full of sorrow. Oh! be of good cheer; bring this vessel of thine, full of misery though it be, and empty it all at the foot of the cross; and I tell thee sinner, my words are true, he will fill thy vessel with the richest mercy that ever he gave to the brightest of his saints, or to the boldest of his apostles.
What a glad and joyous hour it is, when God for the first time fills the vessel with his mercy. My soul cannot help going back to the hour in my own experience, when the first flood of mercy brimmed this poor empty vessel. Filled to bursting with wormwood and gall had that vessel been for many and many a day. Often had it seemed as if the vessel must be shivered with the workings of inward sorrow, but at last the hour had come, Jehovah said, “Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth.” This eye looked, this heart believed, and in a moment that vessel, emptied of self, and emptied of misery, was plunged into the sea of mercy and fully submerged. I thought I should have a little hope at first, and then a stronger confidence, but no; my sun arose in the fulness of his strength, the stream came not by slow degrees, but in an instant was the vessel covered, swallowed up, and lost in joy and love. The gladsomeness of that hour, I can remember, but I cannot tell. Then I knew my sins forgiven; I could dance for mirth. Then 1 knew my name inscribed in the Lamb’s fair Book of Life, and nothing that earth could have afforded; could give a drop of joy that was comparable to the bliss of that hour. Oh! may it not be so with some of you this morning. Men, brethren, fathers, mothers, and sisters— may it not be so with you - Turn, I beseech you, your tearful eyes to Jesus hanging on the cross, and it shall be so now. Come, bring your empty vessels, for the fountain flows. Break not your pitcher with despair, but come and fill it with the hand of faith. There is room for thee here at the marriage feast, thou shivering beggar, clothed with the rags of sin; come, the voice of mercy bids thee: the arms of Jesus are outstretched to woo thee; thou art not rejected; mercy’s door is not shut: come and welcome. It is the eleventh hour — the twelfth hour, though it has struck on earth, has not struck in heaven — there is time yet; thy noon-time of mercy is not passed. The hour of grace still lasts, and even now thou mayest read thy name as a vessel of mercy fully prepared unto eternal glory.
II. We have cast our eye upon the vessels, let us now pause a little while and see THE POTTER AT HIS WORK.
When a potter is about to make a vessel you must not imagine that he takes up the mere clay and puts it on the wheel and then leaves it to chance as to what shall be made of it. No, he has his plan. Before he sits down to the labour, he knows what kind of vessel he is about to make. So it is with our Divine Potter who is in heaven. He takes the poor sinner as a mass of clay; he puts him on the wheel, and as that wheel revolves the potter looks and sees in that clay a future something which does not appear to the vessel, but which only appears to the great Workman’s eyes. We may truly say of each of us who know the Lord, that “it doth not yet appear what we shall be;” and what we shall be never will appear until we shall see Christ as he is, and be like him. The Potter, however, knows what we are to be. Our Father who is in heaven will not be deceived at last as to what he will make of his people. He has a plan, and that plan I think 1 may read to you in these few words— “He will present us without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Sweet and blessed consideration! God intends to make of every sinner that believes on him a spotless, perfect vessel, full of glory. He does not intend to leave a single sin unpardoned, or to let a single evil principle remain in your soul. He means to tear up your iniquity by the roots, and make us totally free from the very being and indwelling of sin. He means to wash you so completely in the blood of Christ, that both the power and the guilt of sin shall all be taken away; and he means as the completion of all to make you in the image of Christ Jesus— as fair and lovely as that spotless and perfect Lamb of God. Oh! Christian, doth not this rejoice thy heart— thou shalt yet be like Christ? Oh! sayest thou, “I am as much like the devil sometimes as I can be, and I often have to mourn that there is so much of the old Adam in me.” Yes, but rejoice; it doth not yet appear what thou shalt be. Every mark of Satan shall yet be put away from thee; every tinge of the old depravity shall yet be cleansed; and when thou shalt be taken into heaven as a vessel thoroughly finished, thou wilt be a theme of wonder to all the angels and the glorified spirits, who shall gather round about thee to see the matchless skill and grace of God as it is manifested in thy character and in thy nature. The Lord grant that we may ever have an eye to the great plan of the Potter, so that when sharp afflictions make us whirl upon the wheel, we may rejoice that the plan is being accomplished, and that we shall come forth perfect from the hand of the maker.
And now while we are stopping here to notice the potter at his work, having glanced at the plan, let us observe that like every potter he first of all makes the outlines in the clay. You may have seen the man at work executing designs in glass. Perhaps at the very first moment you may form a rough guess of what the whole thing is to be, though the ornament and elaboration which constitute the main part of the beauty you cannot yet discover. Certain it is, that the moment a man begins to be prepared for heaven by the grace of God in his soul, you may see the outlines of what he is to be, although it is but the bare outlines. Shall I tell you what those outlines are? There is first of all in him — faith in Christ; a simple, child -like trust in him that did hang upon the tree. There is next in him another mark of the potter’s hand— that is love to Christ — a love that is strong as death, though sometimes it seems to be feeble as a worm. There is in him also a hope that maketh not ashamed, and a joy which makes glad his countenance. It is but the bare outline, as I have said, for the glory which excelleth is not there. The vase is only in its embryo, but yet sufficiently developed to give a prophecy of its finished form; but as for the pictures that shall be inlaid, as for all the divers colours that shall be spent upon it, you cannot guess as yet, nor could you, unless you could climb to the potter s seat and see the plan upon which he looks as the clay revolves upon the wheel.
Dear brothers and sisters, have you anything in you as yet of the great outlines? Can you say in truth, “I do believe on the Lord Jesus?” Fear not then, my hearer, thou art a vessel of mercy; not a finished vessel, but one that shall be finished. Canst thou say,
“O yes, I do love Jesus,
Because he first loved me?”
If that be true, thou art not yet what thou shalt be, but thou art a vessel of mercy for all that. And does thy hope sometimes tell thee that through Jesus thou shalt stand among the glorified? Then be glad; the potter has begun with thee and he will never leave thee. He mars no vessel on the wheel, or if it be marred he will re-make. He casts not away the clay which he has once taken in his hand. He will complete what he has begun. He knows no failures and no disappointments. Thou shalt yet be all that he would have thee be, and filled with glory thou shalt glitter in heaven at last.
But to proceed— as the potter goes on with his work, you may perceive the gradual completion of the article which he manufactures. And so, dear brethren, if you be vessels of mercy, there will not always be in you the bare outline, but as time goes on there will be some of the beautiful lines and filling-up. It is always a joy to me that such a large proportion of grey-headed Christians always attend here, and it is a theme of wonder also as well as of joy, because I can scarcely understand what they can learn from me. The Lord must have taught them so much more in these many years; he must have been engraving them and using the tool of affliction upon them so long that they must be getting ready, they must be getting nearer to that glorious readiness which prepares the people of God for entrance into eternal life. I am not among those who think that a Christian is a thing that stands still. He is a vessel, but he is a vessel on the wheel; he is clay, but he is clay in the potter’s hand gradually being formed. I should question whether there is any of the life of God in a man if that life does not germinate and grow, for life is a thing that will grow and you cannot prevent it. You may seek to bind up the branch of a tree or to restrain it, but if it cannot grow in one direction it will in another; if it cannot swell in one place where you have bandaged it, although it will often burst the tightest bond you can put around it, if it cannot swell there it will surely grow somewhere else. So is it with the life of God in the Christian— it will grow. The Christian will be getting more and more like his Master. You sometimes seem to think you are going backward, yet if you are the children of God there is a constant going forward after all. There may be occasional backslidings, but the tenor of your life will be progress. You may slip, ay and fall, but still “Onward” will be the true motto of your course. You will be progressing in the divine life, and I do not think brother that you are a vessel of mercy, if after twenty or thirty years of union with Christ’s Church there has been no growth in you; if you do not know more of your Lord’s faithfulness; if you do not feel more of your own weakness and depravity better; if your faith has not become more unstaggering, and more confident in him that is faithful and true; if you have not more longings after Him, and more will to be spent in his cause, I should begin to question whether you are a vessel on the Master’s wheel. I do not think he would lose five and twenty years over you; that he would let you be spinning round on the wheel of providence all that while and yet never have touched you, and never have made you more meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. In fact, it is just this growth of grace that is one of the evidences of life, and though you may not be able at all times to discover it, yet it is there. If you are a vessel of mercy you are getting nearer towards completion; nearer to the day when with everlasting songs you shall be presented before the Father’s face.
Oh, brethren, if we can only see here on earth, vessels getting ready for perfection, and if those vessels have so much beauty in them as the children of God really have, what must they be when at last they shall be finished. Jehovah, how glorious shall be thy workmanship in this thy second creation. If this world be fair, how much fairer shall the new world be: if in this thine old creation, thou hast made such beauties that the admiring angels may come down to view them, and the morning stars may find in them subjects for song, what shall thy new creation be: if that rough work which thou didst but speak from thy mouth, be so marvellously beautiful, what must be that work to accomplish which thou hast sat down to the potter’s wheel, to perform which thou hast shed thine own blood, and to perfect which thou hast not spared the treasures of heaven, but emptied them out that thou mightest complete those vessels which shall be for thy glory. Oh, the songs! oh, the hallelujahs that shall greet Jehovah’s workmanship, when all shall be completed, when all the vessels shall be brought home, when heaven’s tables shall be loaded with the richest of all ware, when souls shall be filled with the red wine of bliss, and all the glorified shall rejoice in God. "What songs, I say, what hallelujahs shall make the courts of heaven echo and re-echo throughout eternity for ever and ever.
III. And now I shall come to my last point, upon which I shall be somewhat brief, but I hope, thoroughly in earnest. The last point was THE POTTER'S MARK UPON HIS VESSELS.
In all manufactories of costly wares there is always some trade-mark peculiar to the firm that has manufactured the article, — a mark which is not to be imitated, and without which no vessel is the genuine production of the professed maker. Brethren, you. may know to-day whether you are a vessel of mercy; you may know by the Master’s mark upon you. That mark, the apostle tells you, is calling. Have you been called? for if you are called you are elected. Has Divine grace called you out of darkness into marvellous light? for if so, it is not a matter of question as to whether you are ordained to eternal life. You may rest assured that, without a doubt, your name was in the Lamb’s book of life from before the foundations of the world, if you have in time been called from sin unto righteousness. Mark, then, the distinguishing mark of the great Potter upon his vessels of mercy is effectual calling. And I would here remark that that is a mark which no man can put upon you. It is one which God alone can impress. We can call you, but we cannot call you effectually. The earnest minister may cry aloud and spare not, and bid sinners come to the marriage supper of the Lamb, but it is in vain calling to deaf ears, and such are the ears of all men by nature. The Lord alone can so speak, that the deaf, nay, the dead, must hear. Hast thou ever, then, felt a calling which is not of man, neither by man? Has the voice of mercy ever spoken to thy soul, and said, “Come to Jesus?” and has it so spoken that thy heart has said, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek?” Oh, my dear hearers, you have been called times enough by me, so many times that if you perish, your blood must lie at your own door, God is witness that over the most of you these eyes have wept many and many a time. The Lord knows how earnestly I have called to you, how I have pleaded with you as though it were my own soul that was at hazard, and as though I pleaded for my own life. If you have rejected these callings, be prepared to answer for it at the last great day. But alas, these callings you may have, and they may only sink you lower than the lowest hell. Have you ever received the irresistible calling of the Holy Ghost? Has he said to thee, “Mary,” and hast thou said, “Raboni?” Has he cried to thee, “Zaccheus make haste and come down,” and hast thou come down and received him into thine house. None but a call from Christ’s own lips shall ever compel such stubborn hearts as ours to follow him. Hast thou had that call, for if so, thou hast the mark of the potter upon thee. Thou art not a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction, but a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory. I would further remark, that as this is a mark which no man can put upon you, so blessed be God, it is one which no man can take away from you. If God has called you, that calling is without repentance, God will not repent and take back the gift which he hath given thee. If he hath called thee by his grace to repentance, he will call thee to faith, and then from faith to love, from love to patience, and to hope, and onwards till at last he whispers, “Come up hither,” and he calls thee unto glory. I do not believe in that gospel which teaches that a man may be effectually called and yet may perish, that a heart may be thoroughly renewed and yet may go back to its old state, that in fact God’s work may melt away like “the baseless fabric of a vision that his new creation is but froth and foam; that it only lives by the will of a creature, and it dies if that creature hath a will that it should do so. Nay, my brethren, if the Lord has put heaven’s light in you once it is there for ever, and not death nor hell can quench it, but in your soul it must and will burn. “Ah!” but says one, “If I indulge in sin.” Yea, but thou shalt not indulge in sin, the Lord will preserve and keep thee so that the Wicked One toucheth thee not. “But if I go back and sin as I used to do.” Ay, but thou canst not do it; that grace which has changed thy nature, will hold thee to the end, thou shalt walk in light till thou comest to walk in glory. “Thy path shall be as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” and if thou goest back, we will say of thee, “ He went out from us because he was not of us, for if he had been of us, he doubtless would have continued with us. The dog has returned to his vomit, because he was a dog; and the sow that was washed hath returned to her wallowing in the mire, because she was a sow.” But had the natures been changed they would never have returned to their old propensities; had they been made new creatures in Christ Jesus that new creation could never have been undone, God’s tapestry could not have been unravelled. His work could not have been consumed. It is eternal and must abide; it must last even to the perfection in glory. Be of good cheer then, the Lord has put his mark upon thee, the devil cannot wash it out.
And then, to conclude, let me remark, if thou hast had the seal of calling put upon thee, that seal is sure and certain. There never was a man yet called out of darkness into light by mistake, there never was a man who repented and then found he was not an elect one. Never a man went to Christ and then found he had not a right to come and must go back. “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out.” God has never made mistakes in the callings of his grace. The right man is called at the right time and the right place; he goes to Christ and finds that what is a fact in time was a purpose in all eternity. Between calling and election there is a indissoluble union. If thou hast the link of calling in thy hand, depend upon it that is fastened, though thou canst not see it, unto the other golden link of divine decree.
Thou couldest not have come to Christ unless the Father had drawn thee, and the Father would not have drawn thee unless he had intended to draw thee, and that intention is election’s decree. Be thou, then, quite certain that if thou comest, it was intended that thou shouldest come; and thou wast chosen of God from before the foundation of the world. Am I but certain that I am regenerate? I cannot allow a dispute about whether I am elected or not. Am I sure that
“My faith is fixed on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness?”
I may be as sure of my election, as if I could climb to heaven and turn over the red roll and read my name in letters of gold. The Lord has given thee a test which never did fail yet, and never will. Thou shalt not meet, either in time or in eternity, a single penitent, who found that he had repented and believed through error. Oh! no. The fruit proves the life of the tree, and the fact that thou hast mercy, proves that God intended to give thee the mercy; and what is that but all that we mean by the doctrine, that God hath, from the beginning, chosen unto salvation them that believe in Christ Jesus.
And now, ere I send you away, let me say one or two earnest words. It makes glad my heart to see what work the Lord is doing in our day everywhere. 1 do not think these are times over which God’s people ought to sorrow. There is more doing in London now than has been accomplished for the last twenty years. The people of God are earnest in prayer. There are men raised up to preach in simple language the truth as it is in Jesus; and I do hope that whatever good we have seen in the past is about to be quite eclipsed and outdone by greater things that are on their way. But, my brothers and sisters, who can shut his eyes to the sad fact, that in days of revival there are some who are unblessed? I am anxious about you, that while God is working on the right hand and on the left, you should not escape without receiving the blessing from on high. Oh! to be like Gideon’s fleece— dry when the floor is wet! To remain in a barren spot of ground when all the earth is filled with fertility! And yet, my dear hearers, this is the case with some of you. You are still becoming more and more fitted for destruction. Oh! I would solemnly warn you. That fitness for destruction will certainly end in destruction. Sin and Hell are married unless Repentance proclaim the divorce. As you sow you must reap. It is of no use your looking into mysterious doctrines to find anything which can contradict this truth. As your life is such must your end be; and if your course be out of Christ your end shall be out of Christ, and your eternal home shall be out of hope and far away from eternal happiness. But oh! I pray that instead thereof, the Lord in his infinite bounty may call you effectually by his grace. I pray that the Holy Spirit may descend, but how shall we obtain that Holy Spirit? Only by the conjoined and united prayers of the Church of Christ. My dear friends, let us pray more earnestly. Not only our own comfort, but the salvation of sinners lies in the hands of God. We cannot save them; we cannot awaken them. Let us cry— “Oh! Lord, take thou the work in hand;" and from this hour let every Christian in our midst resolve that he will give the Lord no rest, until he send down the showers of his grace, and revive his work in the midst of our Church and throughout every land. Let me dismiss you with just a word of prayer to that effect.
Oh! Lord, revive thy work we pray thee. We are feeble and weak; we can do nothing. But come thyself and achieve triumphs, and let victories be won. Come and break the hard heart, and subdue the stubborn will. Lord, save the unsaved. Especially wilt thou be pleased to awaken those here present who are dead in sin, and let the vessels of mercy whom of thy sovereign good pleasure thou hast chosen out of the mass of mankind be filled with mercy till they overflow with gratitude and joy. Oh! Lord, hear us, and let the feeble effort of this morning be crowned with richer success than we can ask or even think, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.