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“Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “But,” say you,“how may I know if I be a partaker of the new birth ?” I answer, the new birth brings a new state or standing with it. You have quitted your standing upon the law-bottom of works, and all foundations of sand, and taken up your only stand upon the foundation laid in Zion, which is Christ Jesus. The new birth brings a new heart along with it: “A new heart will I give them,” &c. (Ezek. xxxvi. 26.) The new birth brings with it new principles of action; a principle of life, of faith and love; new motives and ends. Self-love constrains the sinner, but the love of Christ, and the glory of God, constrains the true convert to duty. The new birth makes a man to love the new covenant, even a covenant of rich grace and promise, saying, “This is all my salvation." The new birth produces new laws in a man. He was formerly under the law of sin and death; but now he delights in the law of the Lord after the inner man. The new birth brings a new language along with it. The man gets a new tongue. Formerly he spoke the language of Ashdod, but now the language of Canaan. The new birth produces new views both of things temporal and eternal. So, then, try yourselves by these, whether you be among the true offspring and issue of the house of God; “for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
2. All the offspring and issue of the house have seen their Father's countenance; and they are always glad at the sight of it, like David: “Thou bast put more gladness in my heart by thy countenance than they had when their corn, wine, and oil increased”
3. All the offspring of God's family, each one of them, resembles the children of a king, because they bear a likeness unto their Father and his firstborn Son. By beholding bis glory we are changed into the same image. And they hate themselves because of their dissimilitude through remaining sin and indwelling corruption, feeling, with Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?" (Rom. vii.)
4. All the offspring of God's family have faith in Christ; hence called believers, because they believe in and believe on his name: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (John i. 12.) The very name of Christ is so sweet to them that it is like “ointment poured forth;” and when the Holy Spirit works faith in them, if they had all the souls tbat ever sprang from Adam dwelling in their bodies, they could commit the keeping of them all to him.
5. All the offspring of the house are acquainted with the Shepherd's voice, the voice of his word, and the voice of his rod: “My sheep hear my voice.” When they hear his promising voice, they are "filled with joy and peace in believing;" when they hear his commanding voice, they are ready to say, "I'll run the ways of thy commandments; only give grace to obey, and command what thou
wilt;" when they hear his threatening voice, they tremble at his word; when they hear his correcting voice in worldly trials and crosses, they are ready to say, with David, "I was dumb with silence; I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.”
6. All the offspring and issue of the family love to lisp out their Father's name, crying, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. viii.) It is true, through the prevalency of unbelief and a sense of guilt and filth, they blush when they speak to him as a Father; but yet, now and then, as faith gets up its head, they will be ready to cry as the church, “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.” (Isa. Ixiii. 16.)
7. If you be the true offspring of this family, your Father's presence will be your delight, and his absence, hiding, and frowns will be an intolerable affliction. Christ the firstborn of the family never complained so much of all his other troubles as when his Father forsook him: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps. xxii. 1.) Just so it is with all the genuine offspring, as you see in David, Asaph, Heman, and others.
8. You will dearly love all that bear their Father's image, and the image of Him who is the express image of the Father; and the more resemblance they have unto him, you will love them the better: “By this we know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (1 John iii.) You will esteem them as David, the excellent ones of the earth, with whom will be all your delight.
Lastly. All the offspring and issue of God's house have a zeal for the standing of their Father's house; they love the habitation of his house, and the place where his honour dwells, and therefore will have something of the spirit of the firstborn, of whom it is said, “The zeal of thine house did eat me up." Is it possible that a true child of a family can be unconcerned when he sees robberies committed in bis house, or the house of his Father turned into a den of thieves ? or will a true-born child herd and associate himself with such without opposing them and witnessing against them? A true child of the family will be ready to say of such, as Jacob did of Simeon and Levi, “ They are brethren in iniquity. ( my soul, come not thou into their secret." Thus I have given you some marks which have a relation to the first character given to believers in the text.
I come next to pursue a trial with an eye toward the second character or designation of vessels of different sizes, -vessels of cups and vessels of flagons, all hanging upon the “Nail fastened in a sure place.” In the professing church there are vessels of mercy and ves sels of wrath, vessels of honour fitted for the Master's use, and vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Now, here some may readily put the question: "How may I know if I be a vessel of mercy and honour?” For clearing the way of answering this question, you will consider that all the children of men sprang from Adam by natural generation. The elect of God, as well as others, are, in the eye of the law, vessels of wrath fitted for
destruction, through the pollution and guilt of original and actual sin; and until God comes in a day of power, and digs the vessel of mercy from under the filth and rubbish of the fall of Adam, no man can make a difference betwixt the vessels of mercy and of wrath, because this is among secret things that belong to the Lord.
But if the question be, “How may a person know if he be yet a vessel of mercy fitted by regenerating and sanctifying grace for the Master's use ? Hath God yet formed me for himself ? Hath be taken me out of nature's quarry, out of the miry clay, and washed, and justified, and sanctified me in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God?”-now, I say, if this be the question, I will give you a few marks of the vessels of mercy and honour.
1. Every vessel of mercy in the house of our God (whether they be vessels of cups or vessels of flagons) has seen himself to be a vessel of wrath by nature, condemned already, full of the vermin of sin and corruption, treasuring up to himself wrath against the day of wrath. Hence all God's Israel are ready to take up
that melancholy song: “A Syrian ready to perish was I; at that time I was afar off
, an alien to the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenant of promise, without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world.” Hence,
2. All the vessels of mercy are taken up in admiring the rich and free
mercy of God in taking up the like of them from among the pots: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration." O, says Paul, “I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, an injurious person, but I obtained mercy.” “He took me,” says David, “out of the horrible pit and miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and put a new song in my mouth, even praises to our God.”
3. All God's vessels of mercy have undergone the hammer of the law, in a greater or less measure: “Is not my word like a hammer, saith the Lord, that breaketh the rock in pieces." The law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. So much hammering by the law is necessary, and no more, as serves to beat the heart and bands of a sinner off from the broken nail of the law, in point of righteousness: “I, through the law," says Paul, “am dead to the law." So much of this hammer is needful as to beat down the vain and towering imaginations of our own goodness, boliness, wisdom, and righteous
The Dagon of self, in all the shapes and forms of it, must be broken down for ever. The vessel of mercy shall never more say, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men,” or, with Laodicea, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and stand in need of nothing."
4. All the vessels of mercy are made heartily content to change their holding. All mankind have their holding on the first or second Adam; they are either hanging by the broken nail of the covenant of works, or by the gospel nail of the covenant of grace; they are either seeking life and righteousness by the works of the law, or by the grace of the gospel. Now, in a day of conversion, the sinner having his hands knocked off from his first holding, he, by the hand
of faith, which is God's gift, receives Christ, and takes hold of that covenant whereof he is Head, saying, “In him will I be justified, and in bim will I glory; for in him have I righteousness and strength. He is to me the end of the law for righteousness; for he was made sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (Phil. iii. 8, 9.)
5. All the vessels of mercy are melted in the fire of gospel grace and love, and made pliable to the will of God; the heart of stone is melted into a heart of flesh; (Ezek. xxxvi. 26;) the iron sinew of the obstinate will, through the heat of divine love, is made to give way and yield unto the divine will. (Ps. cx. 3.) The language of every vessel of mercy is, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The adamantine heart is dissolved into evangelical repentance, so that the man now looks on Him whom he had pierced, and mourns. (Zech. xii. 10.)
6. All the vessels of the house are washed, and will be frequently washing themselves, in the fountain of a Redeemer's blood, from sin and uncleanness. (Zech. xiii. 1.) The vessels of the house, through remaining corruption, temptation, and frequent falls into the puddle of actual sin, gather dust, and become dim and unfit for the use and service of the great Father and Manager of the house; and, therefore, he will have them sprinkled with clean water; he will have their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water: “Except I wash thee,” says Christ to Peter, “thou hast no part in me.” And this washing is what they themselves cry for, especially when defiled with any fall. Hence they cry, with David, “Wash me througbly from mine iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin;" (Ps. li. 2;) and again, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
7. All the vessels of the house, from the least to the greatest, have the name of the Father of the house, and of the Manager of the house, engraven upon them. It has been, and still is, the custom of great men to have their names and arms graven on their gold and silver vessels. So it is in the house of our God. All the vessels of mercy leave his name and motto engraven upon them: “Lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him a hundred forly and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.” (Rev. xiv. 1.) They have the name of Christ, the great Manager, written on them, particularly that name, “The Lord our Righteousness;" (Jer. xxiii. 6;) and in this name of his do they rejoice continually, for in his righteousness are they exalted. And then, as we are told, (Rev. iii. 12,) the name of the new Jerusalem, which cometh down from God, out of heaven, is engraven on them; for they prefer Jerusalem to their chiefest joy. In a word, God's name, his glory, honour, and authority, his truth, his worship, his cause, and interest, the word of God, the testimony of Jesus, the prerogatives of his crown and kingdom,-every true believer hath these, as it were, engraven on his heart, and will study to maintain them before the world.
8. If you be the vessels of mercy and honour, the Master of the
house will now and then be making use of you, by pouring the wine, the oil, the water, or milk of his
and Spirit into out of his fulness do we receive grace
Every vessel of the house is anointed with the fresh oil of the Holy Ghost: “We have an unction from the Holy One;" and they that lack this anointing of the Spirit, in one degree or another, the Manager of the house will not own him as bis: 6 If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” They will be found among the foolish virgins whose vessels had no oil when the midnight cry was heard, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." But I
all the vessels of mercy have a greater or smaller measure of the anointing of the Spirit; and every anointing of the Spirit enlargeth the vessel to hold more, insomuch that, through the frequent communications of the Spirit, a cup vessel at first becomes a large vessel or a vessel of flagon, until it be ready to be transplanted from the lower to the upper story of the house, where every vessel shall be filled brim full of God.
Question : Some exercised soul may be ready to say, "O how happy would I be, if I knew that I were but the least vessel in the house of God, hanging on the 'Nail'fastened in a sure place !' But, alas! I am such a poor, worthless, useless creature, that I am afraid I am none of them.”—Answer: It is the nature of all the vessels of mercy in the house of God, yea, of the great flagons, to esteem themselves worthless and among the least, yea, less than the least of all the vessels of the house. Says the great apostle Paul, “I am less than the least of all saints.” (Eph. iii. 8.) And the lower they sink in their own eyes, the higher do they rise in the esteem of the great Lord of the house, and the more of his grace and favour do they receive; for he giveth grace to the humble.
Objection 2: Another may say, “I am so broken and tossed with worldly trials, that I am ready to think I am none of the offspring or vessels of his house.”—Answer: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous;" and through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. Christ himself suffered before he entered into his glory, and so have all the cloud of witnesses; (Heb. xi.;) and, therefore, it is a false conclusion to think you do not belong to the Lord because of multiplied roots of affliction; for “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.' “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” God's gold and silver vessels go frequently into the furnace; and there is a need-be for it, to purge away their dross; and, therefore, they learn to say, with Job, “When thou hast tried me, thou shalt bring me forth as gold.”.
Objection 3: I am such a vile, polluted creature, that I cannot think I am one of his offspring by regeneration, but rather a vessel of wrath. Answer: God will not cast away his gold and silver vessels because of the dross and alloy of sin and corruption that is about them. A man will take up a vessel of his house, though it be lying on a dunghill. So David, Solomon, Peter, and many others of the saints, fell into the mire of sin; and yet the Lord took them from the dunghill, and made them like the wings of a dove;