VESSELS OF MERCY
"Vessels of mercy." Romans 9:23
I would now pass to some of those divine titles, which describe the PRIVILEGES of the Christian. There are many such in the word of God. The present is a very important one. It is a very necessary part of religious instruction to consider our privileges. They measure our responsibilities. They point out our influence. They describe our hopes. They encourage our efforts to obey. The great subject of divine revelation is in the shape of privileges to man. They appertain to the life that now is. They secure the life that is to come. All these privileges flow from the same source; the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, which has chosen us, and enriched us, and exalted us; not for any works of righteousness which we have done, but from his own grace, according to his mercy. Vessels of mercy describe the chosen, exalted, and favored children of God. Vessels of mercy prepared for glory from the foundation of the world. Am I one of them? It is a blessed privilege indeed.
1. Then I am endowed with the highest gift of God. Mercy to the guilty. Mercy can be shown to no others. Not to all the guilty has mercy been extended. So far as I know, there are no beings in the universe who have been made the subjects of Divine mercy but guilty men. For them pardon has been provided. But not all of them receive mercy. There are "vessels of wrath." It is just there should be so. It would have been wholly deserved, had I been made so. My guilt provoked most justly the wrath of God against me. But God has made me a vessel of mercy, of his own good pleasure. A higher blessing I could not have received. I owe it wholly to the goodness of the Lord. Why was I made a vessel of mercy? Certainly for nothing good in me. The very thought of mercy is wholly opposed to such an idea. It necessarily implies guilt and unworthiness. This was wholly my character. Buried in sin I was when Christ found me and had mercy on me. I would never forget it. I owe all to grace. Why was I chosen and taken? I among my race, among my family, among my companions? Because God had mercy upon whom he would have mercy. But it is the highest privilege of my being. Every other advantage is temporary. This abides. His mercy he will not take from me. It endures forever.
2. Then my gratitude ought to be earnest and continual. How great a debtor am I! It should be the subject of my daily thankfulness. No, it ought to make me thankful in everything else. It gives a new character to everything. If I am a vessel of mercy, I can never be destitute. I may be poor, or sick, or sorrowing here--I may be persecuted and cast out as evil. But this is only for a season. And even this shall be made to work for good. The mercy of God still follows me; and it will follow me to the end. This has been the great fact of my life. This is the great joy of my life. God has had mercy on me in my unbelief. He has endured with me, with much long-suffering. I am pardoned, accepted, beloved, chosen, protected, all through grace. Then I ought to be the most grateful of beings. What would a lost spirit not give and do, to be a partaker of the mercy which crowns my unworthy life? I can never estimate the blessing until I see its full results hereafter. Then I shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. For this I shall praise him forever. For this, let his praise ever be in my mouth.
3. Then my usefulness ought to be constant and manifest. A 'vessel' is not an accident, or made without design or purpose. It is contrived for service. It is to contain for use. To be employed. Such must a vessel of mercy be. God has made it contain mercy. For this he selected and designed me, to manifest his love. Every step in my life tells of his mercy, of mercy only. Mercy from God continually. I ought therefore ever to be showing it forth. It is made to impart mercy. Not to contain only, but to distribute. How patient, and tender, and gentle ought my whole life and character to be! How forbearing ought I to be with others, when I have received so much mercy from God! Thus I am to be useful, by being affectionate and tender. I am to have compassion on those who are out of the way. Thus I shall be useful by direct influence and agency. But I shall thus also be useful by example. Religious character in me will become attractive to others. It will be made the instrument of leading them to Christ, and of showing them how to walk in him. Oh let me thus strive to honor him in a life of usefulness at all times.
4. Then my future prospect is most happy and secure, and I must press onward to realize it. If when I was lost in sin, God made me a vessel of mercy, now that I am redeemed through grace, surely I shall never be a cast-away. He can keep me, and he will keep me unto the end. His grace is sufficient for me. His loving-kindness can never fail me. How happy and hopeful I ought to be, looking constantly forward to his glory, striving to enter into his rest! Has he chosen me for his service? He will prepare me for his heavenly kingdom. He will make me "a vessel unto honor--fit for the Master's use." But while I am secure in him, I must never be a vessel of presumption. I have nothing of my own. Nothing in which I may boast. I am still in myself naked, and poor, and in need of all things. All my hope and inheritance are in Christ my Lord. Oh let me never be puffed up, never become self-confident--never imagine that I can stand alone. No; it is all mercy--mercy to the unrighteousness--mercy to the guilty--to the very end. The top-stone will be as truly grace as the foundation. God must have all the trust, and all the glory.
5. Thus as a vessel of mercy ought I to feel, and live, and act, with a deep sense of my exalted privileges. Gratitude for the gracious gift. Usefulness in its employment. Hopefulness in the prospect which it secures. These are blessed manifestations of the power and goodness of my God. Oh let me strive for them, exemplify them, manifest them.
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with your righteousness on,
My person and offerings to bring.
The terrors of law and of God,
With me can have nothing to do,
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.