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middle of the then known world, on the borders of Asia, near where it joins with Europe and Africa. Those in the ends of the earth seem also to suggest to us the ideas of poor outcasts in a helpless condition, as the Gentiles then were, without the knowledge of God and the means of grace. And if we take the text in this sense, it still refers to us who are the posterity of heathens. But methinks there is a particular beauty and propriety in it, taken literally; “Look unto me, and be ye saved, ye that dwell in the remotest ends of the inhabited earth; look unto me, ye Americans, ye Virginians.” Oh what a joyful sound! Not many years ago we or our near ancestors came from the old continent of Europe or its adjacent islands; and the Lord has driven out the heathen from before us, and planted us in their stead. We left his church and the favourite lands where his gospel had shined for ages, and came among savages that never heard of the name of Jesus, but dwelt in darkness and the shadow of death. But lo! he sends his gracious invitation after us to the ends of the earth, Look unto me, and be ye saved. In the days of Isaiah God was mindful of America, he was mindful of Virginia, and treasured up a rich invitation, till it should be inhabited, and in need of it. And shall we not regard it? shall we not regard his voice crying in this wilderness? Indeed if any other blessings were worthy to be compared with those of the gospel, I might observe that he has not been kind to us in this respect only. He has turned this wilderness into a fruitful field: the residence of savages and wild beasts into a mart of nations. “He hath blessed us also, so that we are multiplied greatly; and he suffereth not our cattle to decrease." See Psalm cvii. 36-38. We may borrow the words of Moses, in Deut. xxxii. 10–14. But, alas! We have waxed fat, and kicked against God, like well-fed horses against their
proprietor. We have turned his blessings into occasions of sinning. We have improved in guilt and impiety in proportion to our improvement in riches and the arts of life. And it is an instance of divine patience that may astonish even heaven itself, that so ungrateful a land has not been visited with some signal judgment. But our iniquities are not yet full, and we hope there are more than ten righteous persons among us,
whose in the gap, and prevent the irruption of vengeance. But perhaps our day is at hand, and then, though Noah, Daniel and Job, should stand before God, yet his heart will not be turned towards us. “Do ye thus requite the LORD, oh foolish people and unwise! is not he thy Father, that bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?” Deut. xxxii. 6. But to abuse the gospel is the greatest of all crimes. It is this that ripens a people for ruin, and fills up the measure of their iniquity : God will easier bear with the abuse of any mercy than with the contempt of his Son. Therefore, look unto him, and be ye saved, 0 ye ends of the earth.
THE VESSELS OF MERCY AND THE VESSELS OF WRATH DE
Rom. ix. 22, 23.—The vessels of wrath fitted to destruc
tion: and—the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.
The true notion of the present world is, that it is a state of preparation for another; and, therefore, such as we habitually are here, such shall we be for ever. Mankind are now forming, like clay in the potter's hands, some for honour and some for dishonour; some for wrath and some for glory. And as the potter does not put his vessels to their respective uses until they are finished and prepared for them, so neither are men removed from the present state, and fixed in their respective residences in the eternal world, until they are prepared, finished, and completely fitted for them. The vessels of mercy are prepared beforehand for that glory with which they shall be filled. And, on the other hand, the vessels of wrath are fitted to destruction, and fit for nothing else, before they are dashed to pieces by the iron rod of divine justice.
It is a criticism worthy to be mentioned, even in this solemn place, where I never choose to make a parade of useless learning, that the apostle uses a different form of expression, when speaking of these different sorts of persons. The preparation of the vessels of mercy for
glory, he ascribes to God, as his work. Hence he uses an active verb, aportoiuaosv, referring expressly to God as the agent—the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. But the fitting or preparing the vessels of wrath for destruction, he does not ascribe to God, but intimates that it is their own work Hence he uses a passive particle—xatnpteuéva, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction—fitted by their own wilful sin and impenitence, during the long-suffering of God towards them, which had a tendency to lead them to repentance.
Vessels of wrath.—How terribly emphatical is this phrase! Vessels dreadfully capacious of divine wrath ! to be filled to the brim with that burning liquid ! But how beautifully significant is the metaphor-vessels of mercy! vessels formed, prepared, finished, adorned by the gentle and skilful hand of divine mercy! vessels capacious of mercy, and to be filled, to overflow, with glory!
The gracious and sovereign God, who might justly have dashed these vessels of wrath to pieces as soon as ever they became marred clay in his plastic hands, endures or bears with them with much long-suffering, as well as with vessels of mercy: bears with them, as he has with you, for days, and months, and years, notwithstanding their daring provocations, and ungrateful abuse of his patience; which nothing but divine patience could bear with so long. But all this time, they contracted more and more filth and pollution; they became every day less fit for their Master's use, and rendered themselves more and more fit for destruction, and fit for nothing else.
And shall these vessels of wrath answer no valuable use in the great house of the universe? Will they serve to furnish out no apartment of this vast building? Will they be of no use in this numerous family of reasonable creatures? Yes, they will furnish out the regions of hell, a
place as necessary and useful in the universe, as it is now constituted, as prisons and bedlams upon the earth. They will serve as public and terribly illustrious monuments of the divine power and justice, and the righteous resentments of heaven against sin. They will serve as loud warnings to all worlds, to deter them from that destructive evil. And thus they will answer a valuable, and even a benevolent, end in the creation, and contribute to the public good; as the execution of criminals tends to guard the laws from violation, and so promote the good of society. They will serve, as my text informs you, " to show the wrath and make known the power” of God: Their destruction will illustriously display the glory of these perfections. The flames of hell will burn dreadfully bright, to reflect a terrible and yet amiable splendour upon them: and it is for this terrible but righteous end, among others, that God now endures them with so much long-suffering: that his perfections and the honour of his government may be the more illustriously displayed in the execution of deserved punishment upon them.
But the vessels of mercy are intended and prepared for nobler uses. On them God intends to display the glory, the riches of the glory of his more gentle attributes, his love and grace. With them he intends to furnish out the many mansions of his heavenly house. By them he intends to let all worlds see what glorious vessels he can form, not only of the dust, but of the shattered and polluted fragments of human nature, broken and polluted by the fall of Adam, and by their own.
The view in which I now consider my text leads me to confine myself to this practical inquiry:
Wherein does preparation for glory, and wherein does fitness for destruction, consist?
Some of you, perhaps, when you heard the text, were