Dr. Horton's Sermon at Mr. Nalton's Funeral. Rich Treasure in Earthen Vessels, &c.
2 Cor 4. 7.
THere is nothing so excellent or compleat in this world, but hath its diminishment and qualifications, and something that doth disparage it, and abates of the excellency thereof; not the things of this world only, but spiritual things in some sort, as to enjoy them, and partake of them in this life, have their inconveniences and dispa∣ragement annext, and are mingled with something that abates of their worth: an instance of which we have here in this present Scripture, which the Apostle Paul signifies to us concerning the enjoyment of the Ministry of the Gospel of Christ. He had in the verse before the Text, told us the great priviledge that both Ministers and others had in having the glorious Gospel: viz. The light of the know∣ledge of the glory of God in the face of Iesus Christ, shining into our hearts, the consideration of which is of great en∣couragement to us: yet adds this as a qualification of it, viz. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, &c. That which doth qualifie it, is, That this excellent treasure hath its conveyances through weak and mean persons, men of frailty and mortality. In the words there are two main parts.
- I. The Dispensation it self.
- II. The Account of it.
- I. The Dispensation it self, This Treasure we have in earthen Vessels, &c.
II. The account of it, That the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
I shall begin with the first, the Dispensation it self, which hath two branches.
- 1. The Depositum, the thing laid up.
- 2. The Repository in which this Treasure is laid up.
First, The Depositum, or thing laid up, which is a Trea∣sure; and what is this Treasure, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The Gospel is a Treasure according to a two∣fold consideration:
In respect of the
- 1. Matter of it.
- 2. Ministry of it.
Both make up a treasure. The Matter of it, the things of the Gospel are rich things, and the conveyances of it; the Ministerial gifts and ability, by which the Gospel is administred, do make up the Treasure: 'Tis a treasure in both respects.
2. In respect of the matter of it: therefore it is we read of the Riches of Christ, of the Riches of the Gospel. The Scripture makes mention of three things wherein the Gospel is agreeable to a treasure.
2. A Treasure is a thing of dignity and worth, it is not a company of pebbles (though many) that will make up a Treasure: a Treasure consists of things of worth and dig∣nity: and thus is the Gospel: in it are contained excel∣lent and admirable truths, the Mysteries of salvation by Christ: the doctrine of the Gospel brings glad tidings of peace and reconciliation with God in Christ: there we have the gifts and graces of God, there we have glory and immortality, &c. and those things in the Gospel Page 416 Gospel are administred to us: there is no science in the world brings such treasure as this.
2. The Gospel is a treasure for variety, abundance, and plurality. 'Tis not one thing of worth, but many that makes up a treasure: if few, yet much worth must be comprehended in them; so in the Gospel we have the manifold wisdome of God, the rich Treasures of Wisdome and Knowledge. The Gospel, though it be but one for substance, yet 'tis many for improvements; 'tis a chain of many links, one saith, but divers articles of it; so it is a treasure in that respect.
3. 'Tis a treasure for its closeness; we do not open a treasure to every one, but it is kept close, The Go∣spel is a secret mystery, hidden not revealed to every one: it is not discovered to carnal worldly men, though it may be revealed to them in the outward proposition, yet not in the spirituality of it. But where shall wisdome be found? and where is the place of understanding? saith I•…b ch. 28. v. 12. The peace of the Gospel is a treasure hid in the field, not found by every one.
2. The Gospel is a treasure in respect of the Ministry of it; so the Apostle hints, 'tis not only light, but a shining light, which hath shining into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God, &c. 'Tis a trea∣sure in this respect, viz. in the discovery and shining of it, the conveyances, the several gifts and graces of the Ministery, by which the Gospel is conveyed to us, makes up a treasure, and as the Ministry is a treasure, so the op∣portunities and advantages thereof are. Thus the Go∣spel and the Ministry thereof is precious, and ought to be esteemed and made use of by us. We should highly account of the Gospel, and put a high value on it, for it is a treasure; yea, it is a treasure in the want of other treasures, they are rich that are made partakers of it: Silver and gold have I none, (saith St. Peter to the Crip∣ple) Page [unnumbered]but such as I have I give it thee: this is the privi∣ledge of Ministers; though it may be, poor in respect of themselves, yet are rich to others. These excellent riches are committed to us, and accordingly we must not only make use of them our selves, but make them known to others; the Gospel is a treasure not for us to keep, but to discover, reveal and manifest to others: to give the light of the glory of God, &c. This is the work of the Mi∣nistry, We have indeed this treasure, but not for our selves only but for others: so we are to keep it, to pre∣serve and maintain it, but so as to be diligent to impart what is committed to us for the edification of others: Every Scribe instructed in the Kingdome of Heaven as a good house-holder, bringeth forth things new and old.
The Gospel is a treasure, therefore we ought to carry our selves answerable to it: As
1. We must labour for it, be diligent in the search of it, dig for it as for hidden treasur•…s. Lift up thy voice for understanding, &c. Prov., 2. 2, 3, 4. Dig for it: you know there is a great deal of pains taken, and labour used to get worldly treasure. Wh•…t would not men venture for it? they will go over Sea and Land, go through fire and water, expose themselves to all dangers for earthly treasure, make unto themselves Friends of the Mammon of unrighteousness, pass away a great deal of time, and take a great deal of care for it.
2. Esteem this treasure, this heavenly wisdome, this Evangelical knowledge, even the Gospel of Christ: labour to understand it, and have the efficacy of it wroug•… it upon your hearts.
3. Rejoyce in it; how do men rejoyce in earthly trea∣sure: so should we, as the Merchant in the Gospel when he had found the Pearl of Price, rejoyced exceedingly; so we ought, as being made partakers thereof. I rejoyced at thy word, even as one that had found great spo•…ls.Page 418 (saith David) so should we rejoyce alwaies in this trea∣sure. 'Tis said of those that sate under Iohn Baptists Ministry, that they rejoyced but for a while, and that is the condition and misery of many. The City of Samaria when they had received the Gospel, 'tis said they had great joy, Act. 8. 9.
4. Be careful to keep and preserve it, for it is a trea∣sure, and therefore we must treasure it up in our hearts; and the rather because it will keep us. It keeps (as Chrysostome sath) the house where it is; 〈◊〉 treasures cannot secure themselves, but if we keep this treasure it will secure us. Discretion shall preserve thee, and un∣derstanding shall keep thee, Prov. 21. 11. thus you see the excellency of this spiritual wisdome. So much for the first thing considerable in the first branch, viz. the Depo∣situm, the treasure.
The second thing considerable is, the Repository, i. e. Earthen Vessels, or Vessels of Earth, earthen Pitchers: these are the Repository, but we have this treasure in earthen Vessels, &c. Earth is a word of diminution, and disparagement, and that in three regards;
- 1. In regard of its meanness and baseness.
- 2. In regard of its fulness and pollution.
- 3. In regard of its frailty and transitoriness.
'Tis passing away in all respects; these earthen ves∣sels in the Text, is to be understood, the Apostles and Ministers of Jesus Christ, in regard of their outward man are so called, and are so according to this threefold notion.
I. In regard of their meanness; their outside is mean, either for person, or sometimes for estate of body, and outward deportment. This was the condition (you know) of the first Ministers of Christ, mean and ordina∣ry persons outwardly God made use of. Nay our Master, our blessed Lord and Saviour was mean 〈◊〉 regard of Page 419 his humane birth, and reckoned of by most men accor∣ding to his birth and parentage. So it is with the ser∣vants of Christ, they are in their persons generally base, mean, low, •…nd accordingly rendred despicable to the eyes of the World.
II. In regard of foulness and pollution; Ministers are called earthen Vessels, they have many weaknesses, they are men subject to the like passions as others. 'Tis true the Ministers of Christ have greater advantages then others, in regard of their education, knowledge, gifts, and employments, being more free from those defile∣ments and snares that others are intangled in: yet through the remainders of the flesh in them, they have many in∣firmities: so Satan watches them more then o•…hers, lays more snares for them in regard of their parts and imploy∣ments; so that they are more subject to his temptations then others. Satan hath a desire to sift them (as the Apostle Peter) as▪ wheat, because he knows they will draw many after them: so that they must needs be sub∣ject to many weaknesses and infirmities. Sometimes God makes use of the worst sort of men, even the most vicious and malicious; first he changeth them, and then makes use of them as instruments of glory. The Apostle Paul was a Vessel of Election to carry the name of Christ unto the Gentiles: yet in times past a great persecutor. So it pleaseth God to make use of such, that the excellency of the power may be of God, &c.
III. Ministers are called Earthen Vessels in regard of the frailty & mortality of their persons, and earthen Ves∣sels are soon crackt and broken. Ministers are subject to many infirmities of body: This Heavenly light of the Gospel shineth often through Lanthorns of glasse, which are soon broken. Ministers have weak and frail bodies; Timothy had his bodily infirmities, and Trophimus was left sick at Miletum, 1 Tim. 4. 20. and EpaphroditusPage 420 was sick nigh unto death, Phil. 2. 27. and Paul had need of Luke the Physician, probably in regard of his weakness▪ Thus the servants of God are subject to many infirmities. Besides the reason in the Text, there are other reasons why God will have it so.
1. That they may be more compassionate, and more sensible of the weaknesses of others; for likeness of conditi∣on breeds sympathy in affection.
Men are apt to pity those in the like condition with themselves; so our Lord took our nature upon him, that he might pity us▪ he took flesh and bloud upon him, he was tempted in all things like unto us, but without sin, that so he might succour those that are tempted. So his servants many of them are much tempted, which may breed in them a sympathy of affection to others that are in such a condition.
2. God will have it so, that Ministers may have the more experience of the truths they preach to others con∣cerning an afflicted condition; those that have had no sick∣nesse or other affliction, cannot preach from experience of such truths that concern such a condition; they cannot preach so feelingly and savoury as others; when they have been under affliction, they will know what affliction is, both in the nature of it, and the comforts of it, and Gods gracious assistance therein, and so they may speak comfortably, and be enabled to comfort others, as the A∣postle Paul speaks.
3. God is pleased so to order it, sometimes for their humiliation, to keep them low, that so they may not be lifted up by reason of extraordinary manifestations and impartments, thus St. Paul had given him a thorn in the flesh, that Mess•…nger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. 12. 7. A thorn was gi∣ven him, &c. ('tis twice repeated, both in the beginning and end of the verse) that so this thorn in the flesh might Page 421 keep out pride in the heart, that so they may have a more low, meek, and humble frame of spirit, and thereby fitted and prepared for greater services. And
4: That they may be also more conformable to those they have to deal with. Israel desires Moses to speak to them (and not God) why? because he was like unto them, and would therefore compassionate them; from whom they therefore desired to receive the commands of God. Thus it pleaseth God to deal with his servants, that as they may pity those they have to deal with, so likewise to draw the affections of their people unto them, to make them more loving, and the more to attend on their Ministry, seeing they are so fleeting, and going away; it pleased God that Epaphroditus should be sick even to death, to endear the Philippians more to him, chap. 2. 25, 28. that their love and tenderness may be drawn forth the more by the discovery of his frailty, Let us improve this.
Use 1. First, as to Ministers, see how the condition is with us in our Calling, We are Earthen Vessels, taken out of dust. We should often consider our frailty, to make us more humble, more meek, and more compassionate to o∣thers, more diligent in doing good, that we may make amends for our frailty and natural weaknesses that are up∣on us: We must not think much of it, it being no more then in former times▪ it was the condition of the Apostles themselves, they were Earthen Vessels, they had such weak∣n•…sses, men subject to the like passions as we.
Use 2. Secondly, As for the people, this may improve in all the notions and considerations of an Earthen Ves∣sel.
First, In regard of the meanness; you must not esteem the Gospel according to the vessel, according to the dispa∣ragement of the Vessel a Vessel of dishonour in respect of its matter, may be a Vessel of honour in regard of the Page 422 Gold that is in it; those Members of the body that are weak, and in themselves lesse honourable, we afford a great deal of honour upon them, in decking and cloathing them. So the Ministers Work and Employ∣ment, and the Doctrines they bring, are excellent and of great use; when all is done, we have that we serve for: according to the employment we are put to, we are ho∣nourable, though outwardly mean. Wicked and base men are called fil•…i terrae, they are sons of the earth, Iob 30. 8. Children of fools, yea children of base men; they are viler then the earth, i. e. Men of no account (as one saith) the earth groans under such ingracious persons, but gracious persons are Vessels of honour; as it was said of the Giants of old, so it may be said of these, They are men of Renown, and so we should esteem of them. Worldly men look at the outside, and so esteem of them; so was Christ dealt with, Is not this the Carpenters Son? So those Teachers in Corinth, en∣deavoured to render St. Paul his presence weak, and his speech contemptible, 2 Cor. 10. 11. that so they might make his Ministry contemptible also. But this glo∣rious Treasure is in Earthen Vessels; You know (saith St. Paul) Gal. 4 13. that through infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you at first. This was their commendation, v. 14. But my temptation which was in my flesh, you despised not, nor rejected, but received me as an Angel of God, even as Iesus Christ.
All his weaknesses, and whatever was matter of dis∣couragement, they did not despise, but honourably enter∣tained him even as Christ himself. So it was the com∣mendation of the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2. 13. that they received not the word as the word of man, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, looking to the mighty God to make it effectual: so should all others do upon this consideration.
Page 4232. Seeing Ministers are earthen Vessels in tegard of moral infirmities which adhere to them: in respct of their corruptions and weaknesses judge of them as men: but esteem of what is righteous in them; though they have great advantages against sin, and be very carefull against sin, yet notwithstanding they are not totally exempt∣ed and freed from sin; as they are Ministers, so they are men.
3. In regard that Ministers are earthen Vessels in re∣spect of their frailty. Seeing then they are so •…rail and transitory, therefore accordingly you should make use of them, deal kindly and affectionately with them, in that they are quickly broken. What is sooner broken then a Glasse, or an earthen vessel? Ministers are quickly ta∣ken away, and therefore you should be tender of them while you have them. Where are all the Fathers. Do the Prophets live for ever, the word of the Lord indeed en∣dureth for ever, but the Preacher of it doth not; the Go∣spel is eternal, but the Dispenser is mortal: the Calling is lasting but the Minister is transitory: and therefore you should carry your selves with all tendernesse and respect to them: take heed of grieving their spirits, seeing they are so soon broken. Endeavour also to improve by them, and to get as much good as you can by them. It is a great argument to work while it is day, because the night comes when no man can work: whilst God affords means and op∣portunities, make use of them, we are but passengers; there∣fore this is a great ground for you to endeavour to get all the good you can by your Ministers, seeing they are frail.
Lastly, By way of improvement: Take notice of the wayes of God, as different from man; God pnts excel∣lent treasure into Earthen Vessels: we keep treasure in strong holds, in the strongest Repositories. Gods ways are not as our ways, he goes another way then we doe; he makes use of the poorest, meanest, and most frail creatures Page 424 sometimes; he layes aside many times men of greater abilities, parts, and quality, and makes use of weaker to do this great Work. Chrysostome makes and expostula∣tion, If it be excellent t•…easure, why in earthen Vessels? Therefore it is a Vessel of Earth, because an excellent Treasure. Thus Gods waies are unsearchable. This is the improvement.
Now besides this interpretation given of it, there is another that will not be impertinent. Some understand by Earthen Vessels, the expressions, words, and phrases of the Ministry, through which the doctrines and truths of the Gospel ate conveyed; this is agreeable to what went before: Some false Teachers in Corinth pleased themselves with eloquent and enticing words of worldly wisdome, and so endeavoured to render Pauls preaching despicable, in regard of the plainnesse of it; therefore (saith the Apostle) we have this treasure in earthen ves∣sels, i. e. familiar conveyances, that so we may easily understand it.
Thus I have explained this Earthen Vessel, and so have done with the first considerable part, viz. the dispensa∣tion it self, This Treasure we have in Earthen Vessels: and come now to the second, viz.
II. The account of this Dispensation, That the excel∣lency of the power may be of God, and not of us. Which words may be considered two waies.
- 1. Either absolutely, as lying in themselves. Or,
- 2. Connexively, to the words before going.
1. Take them absolutely as they lie in themselves, and two things are exhibited.
- 1. The excellency of the Gospel and Ministry it self, called Power.
- 2. The Author and Original of it, laid down two waies, positively, of God; and negatively, not of 〈◊〉.
Page 4251. The excellency of the Gospel and Ministry there∣of, called Power: There is a great deal of power and efficacy in the Gospel, it is in its nature powerful and efficacious; so the ministry of it, Romans 1. 16. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. See 1 Cor. 2. 4. Paul's preaching was in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of Power, &c. 'Tis called the Arm of Gods Power, the sword of the Spirit, Ephes. 6. 17. 'Tis quick and powerful, and sharper then any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, &c. Heb. 4. 12. and many other places. We may con∣ceive it to be so according to the various effects and con∣sequences of it, viz. as to
- 1. Conviction.
- 2. Conversion.
- 3. Consolation.
1. 'Tis powerful in regard of conviction, it is a word of conviction; and one part of the Work of the Mi∣nistry is (by the Spirits co-operation) to convince the World of sin, to open mens eyes to shew them the vile∣nesse of their wayes, to discover such courses to be sinful: the Conscience is awakened by the Spirit in the Ministry of the Word, herein it is powerful and effica∣cacious. There are divers instances in Scripture, how pow∣erful the Word hath been in point of conviction: in Foe∣lix, the Apostle Paul preached to him of righteousness and judgement to come, &c. He trembles: The Judge on the Bench trembleth at the word delivered by the Prisoner at the Bar: So powerful is the ministry of the Word, as to discover our sinfulness. So the Disciples going to Emaus, their hearts burnt within them when our Saviour open∣ed to them the Prophets, &c. So it was with St. Peters Auditors, Acts 2. they were pricked in the heart when they heard this: he did preach to them in the powerPage 426and demonstration of the Spirit, and plainly discovered that sin that they were more especially guilty of, and when they heard that, they were pricked in the heart, &c.
2. It is a word of Conversion also; Conviction is one thing, and Conversion is another. Sometimes men may be convinced, but yet have no change wrought in them; therefore conversion is another work, it is a turning men from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, &c. to receive an inheritance among them that are san∣ctified. Herein is the Word powerful, viz. in regene∣ration, I have begotten you (by the Word) to a live∣ly hope, &c. of his own will hath he begotten you &c.
4. It is a word of comfort and consolation, it is a powerful word, and able to comfort the heart: and the Ministry is very effectual herein (when set on by the Spi∣rit) to quiet, satisfie, and pacifie the consciences of men, which declareth the remission of sin, and whosoevers sins are forgiven, must needs be comforted. Indeed it is not in the power of men to forgive sins; yet they can speak a word of comfort in season, by the administrati∣on of the promises (the Spirit of God going along with them) and then they are not only declarative, but opera∣tive. Where (I say) it pleaseth God to blesse and san∣ctifie the Word, it is effectual for quieting of the mind, for pacifying of the conscience, and setling of the troubled soul. Thus you see how powerful the ministry is; and seeing it is so, this should teach us how to behave our selves under it; it is powerful in it self, and powerful in its dispensation, and hath none of that weaknesse (mentioned before) of the dispenser of it, I was with you (saith St. Paul) in much weaknesse, and in fear, and in trembling, 1 Cor. 2. 3, 4. and my speech—was in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.Page 427 These may seem to be contradictory; but 'tis answer∣ed, the Word is powerful in the demonstration of the Spirit, though delivered by one of humane weakness, as before is declared. This spiritual power we should look at, and labour after; which power doth not con∣sist in matter of elocution, the inticing words of mans wisdome, nor in matter of voice, which indeed is a good thing, and sutable to the nature of the Matter! a quick and powerfull delivery is of great efficacy, and power, for the setting home of truths. Yet this doth not make a powerfull Ministry; for a whisper in the ear may cause a thunder-bolt in the conscience; the power lyes first in the nature of the matter; the mat∣ter consists in the nature and condition of mankind, the certainty of Judgement the necessity of Christ, the covenant of Grace, and the Graces and priviledges thereof, &c. These carry a great deale of power and efficacy with them, when they are carefully and fre∣quently dispensed, and Gods spirit going along with them, so they become powerfull; for the Ministry consists not in empty notions and speculations that will onely tickle the fancy, but never reach the con∣science. Morall discourses, though they be of great use, yet if we rest in them, they leave us as they found us. Evangelical truths (which are manifold) are to be delivered in the Ministry. Now as the matter of the Ministry must be powerfull, so the expressions must be powerfull; there should be sutablenesse of ex∣pression to the matter, h. e. with gravity, sobriety, and affection, &c. Strong lines make but weak preach∣ing, and take away the efficacy: but delivering truths in the demonstration of the spirit and in power, that is most effectual: when we speak feelingly and from our hearts, it comes then (through the blessing of the Lord with it) with power. This is then to learn us of the Ministry, viz. 1. Use.
Page 428Let us be careful that the matter of our Ministry be powerful, so that the handling and dispensing thereof be powerful, that so it may come home to the consci∣ence; thus we should deale with all: the words of the wise are as good, and as nails, fastned by the Masters of Assemblies, &c. Eccle. 12. 11. So our words should have a force and power in them. This as the Apostle sayes, is mighty and powerful to the beating down of strong holds, &c.
Use 2. Secondly in reference to hearers; seeing the Ministry is powerful, you must then submit your selves to the power of it. Many people are Sermon-proof, and think to stand it out against the power of the Word; but if it comes in power to the conscience, they will not be able to resist it; as it is said of them in the Gospel, they were not able to resist the spirit by which he spake (viz. Steven) And for those that desire the conversion of others, what course should be taken by them for that end? but by good counsel, instructi∣on, prayer, and good example, to endeavour to con∣vince them, and more especially to bring them to the Word and administrations thereof, which God hath sanctified for this end.
So much for the excellency of the Gospel, viz. The excellency of the power, &c. I come to the second.
2. The Author of it. 1. Positively, it is of God. And 2. Negatively, it is not of us.
First, Positively, it is of God, and that in all the considerations of it, in the full extent of it, it is of God. So the ministerial gifts, the performances of it, and the success of it, are all from God.
First, Ministerial gifts are from God; it is lie that makes us able Ministers of the New-Testament; there are (saith the Apostle Paul) diversity of gifts: to one is given the Word of wisdome, to another the Word ofPage 429knowledge by the same spirit, &c. 1 Cor. 12. 4, 5, 6. It is God that bestows every good gift.
Secondly, The performance also is from God; his grace concurs and assists therein: the habit and the act are both from him; God gives gifts to men, and he enables them to dispence them. Ministerial employ∣ments are not onely for generall, but particular ap∣plications, and so need not onely general, but particu∣lar assistances; That I might be enabled (saith St. Paul) to fulfill the work, &c. the Lord stood by me and strength∣ened me, that my preaching might be fully accomplished.
It is God that makes the work powerful, efficacious and successful: Alas! when we have used our best en∣deavours, all the success is from him, he must make it effectual; it is said, our Saviour went about doing good, for God was with him, enclineing him to the work, and assisting him therein: So he is with all his servants: their gifts, employments, and successe there∣of, are all of God, not of us.
Object. But it may be objected, Is all from God, and nothing from us? Are we not said to concur with him? and is not then the power partly ours?
Ans. I answer, No: 'tis of God, and not of us: we are indeed subjects of the Ministry, the Recipients thereof, persons employed in the Work, and therefore are said to be workers together with God, 2 Cor. 6. 1. but the power and efficacy thereof is from God alone: Paul and Apollo are but Ministers, 'tis God that giveth the blessing; 'tis not of us in two respects. 1. 'Tis not merited by us, 'tis not of our deserving, nor of our procuring; 1. 'Tis not of our deserving; the best and most accomplisht do not merit it: I receive a mercy (saith Paul) to be faithful: he accounted it a mercy to be employed, and to be faithful therein. 2. 'Tis not of our procuring, we do not obtain it by our own Page 430 power, as Peter said in the recovery of the lame man, It is not by any power and holinesse of ours, that this man is restored, &c. And so it is not our gifts and industry onely, that will make our Ministry powerful; and therefore in this Work let us be looking up to God, and desire him to assist us, as Moses said, If thou goest not, O Lord, up with us, wherefore should we go hence? so say I, if the presence of God be not with us, what can we doe?
And further, when we do partake of any measure of ability, see where we must determine it: Not unto us Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory: We must not sacrifice to our own net, nor give the honour to our own industry, but wholly give the praise to God, because the excellency is of God.
2. But in the second place, if you look upon the words reflexively, or as having their connexion to the words going before, and so they will agree and hold together, and thus you may read them: There∣fore is this Treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be acknowledg'd to of God, and not of us: If it were in Angels, or had we never so strong bodies, yet the excellency of the power of God would not be so cleerly seen, as it is now, being laid up in poor, fraile Vessels: Here's the power of God, here's the lustre and glory of God most manifested; for so much the more apparently it will be seen to be from God, by so much the weaker the instrument is, that is employed by God: therefore if any thing doth act beyond it's own power, it must have some foraigne powers for the producing such and such acts; therefore when we see any greater matter done by poor, fraile and contemptible Persons of earthen Vessels, this doth plainly shew the excellency of the power to be of God, and not of Men, therefore Page 431 look from man to God, it is God that doth these things; we should over-look earthen vessels; we should (I say) over-look men that are these earthen vessels, and look to God that makes the Ministry powerful in such conveyances as these.
Furthermore, It may satisfie us of the Ministry, in that we are vessels, viz. men of frailty, &c. we are apt to be discouraged, and to think hardly that we are followed with so many weaknesses, that we have a hard matter, that when we have taken such pains in the work of the Ministry, we should be thus rewarded; but this should satisfie us, the more weaknesse in us, the greater honour will come to Christ: This Treasure we have in earthen Vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. The weaker the Vessell, the more honour will redound to Christ.
Furthermore, This may take of the servants of Christ from unwillingnesse unto those works and per∣formances which God calls them unto, by reason of their weakness: Thus it is when God calls to any work or employment, the servants of God are apt to plead their own inability; Moses sayes he is not eloquent; Ieremiah sayes he is a child; Ionah sayes he is a man of unclean lips. Thus we have their delayes, their excu∣ses, whereby they endeavour to discharge themselves from that Work that God calls them unto, by their own weakness, &c. but God refuses such excuses; for who makes the blind to see, the dumb to speak, but God? It is he that toucheth Isaiah's Lips, it is he that said to Ieremiah, Do not say thou art a Child, for I have sent thee, &c. This I say then is a consideration may encourage Ministers in their Work, that the weaker they are, the honour and glory will re∣dound to Christ; far he said unto me (saith the A∣postle) My Grace is sufficient for thee, for my strengthPage 432it made perfect in weaknesse: Not that it is encourage∣ment or argument for any to take upon them the great work of the Ministry, without sufficient quali∣fications and abilities: But where there is not that degree of ability as is desired, where there is a true sensibleness of their weakness, this may be an en∣couragement to them, that God delighteth to shew his power in them, that by so much the more they are weak, so much honour he will gaine. For a conclu∣sion, it comes to this, viz. That we lay no stresse upon any outward things.
There is no stresse or happinesse in these outward things; those that seem to be of some concernment, as strength of body, and other outward qualifica∣tions that are of remark; yet consider, they are fading and transitory; this should teach us in the enjoyments of outward things, a great deal of humility: Though we are Vessels of Gold in regard of the trea∣sure and improvement, yet in regard of our selves we are Vessels of Earth, and so should be in respect of humility. Let us look upon all these things as gi∣ven to us of God even for this very end, That we may be more serviceable to him and his people.
So I have done with the two general parts of the words, and so with the whole verse, viz. We have this Treasure in earthen Vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Do we begin again to commend our selves? (saith the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 3. 1.) or need we Epistles of com∣mendation to you? ye are our Epistle in our hearts, &c. But this is applicable to the present sad occasion now before us.
This Reverend and blessed man of God, Mr. Iames Nalton, was a person of great Note and •…enency a∣mong us, one well known in this City, and in this Page 433 place, where he spent his labour and pains many years. I could give large accounts and testimonies of him (if need were) from my own knowledge of him, ha∣ving been acquainted with him many years. He was not onely a Minister, but the Son of a Minister, his birth and education suiting together. He lookt upon it not onely as an honour, but as an engagement to be carefull to walk in those steps set before him, and to continue the work of the Ministry begun by his Reli∣gious Father. Certainly the Children of godly and holy Parents cannot come off so cheap in their carri∣ages as others; they have greater accounts to make, as having greater examples set before them, greater advantages of prayer, exhortation, &c. and so grea∣ter engagements; this was thought on, and observed by him. And as he was the Son of a Minister, so when he came to years and was fitted, he took upon him the Ministry: as he was one of great abilities, so ac∣cordingly he discharged them faithfully and conscien∣ciously. He was a spirituall, powerfull, conscienci∣ous Preacher, he preached by his Life; for (as Eras∣mus saith) we should not onely love to speak truths, but we should digest truths on our own hearts be∣fore we commend them to others, and so they will be the more effectual. He was a man of a very meek, sweet, and humble spirit; a man of great humility and of great meekness in the midst of great abilities, which was a great Ornament in him; a man full of tenderness and condescension to others; a man of a very yeilding and melting fram of spirit, soon dis∣solved into tears. It was the saying of one, that a good man is full of Tears: so this good man was full of Tears, not affected, but very real, and hearty, drawn from the fullnesse of his Spirit, as the Apostle Paul saith, he served the Lord in much humility and Page 434 many tears. This was remarkable, that in these times our Reverend Brother was full of tears in delivering his Doctrine, which was sutable to the age we live in, being full of sin and calamity; there is much need of a bewailing spirit to bewaile the iniquities and miseries of the times; they that cannot bewaile themselves, need the tears of others. He was a man of great inte∣grity, and single-heartednesse; in his exhortations he had much of the simplicity of Christ, as the Apostle Paul speaks. In reference to the Ministry, he had no worldly and base affections, he had no carnall designes therein; but his chief design was to bring souls home to Christ, that was his chief businesse. As the Apostle saith of himself, may also be said of him, that in simpli∣city and godly sincerity, he had his conversation in the world, not walking in craftinesse, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by the manifestation of the truth▪ commending himself to every mans conscience in the sight of God, 2 Cor. 4. 2. He was a man that had ability to speak a word in season, he was very compassionate to a wounded spirit, he himselfe having been much afflict∣ed. He was a man much in communion with God, and had much acquaintance with God, and was carefull in improvement therein: he was a Iacob in wrestling with God, a Moses that stood in the Gap, an Elijah that prayed earnestly: the whole Land was the better for such a Person, being much with God; he made many addresses to him, and had much holy familiarity with him. And as in his publick performances he was very faithful and beneficial, so in his family and private he was very fruitful and serious. In a word (not to multiply much in this kind, you need it lesse in this Auditory, but onely by way of grateful memorial) there was much of God and Christ in him, and he was a great example to his fellow-servants; there was Page 435 much of his Treasure (spoken of in the Text) in this earthen Vessel; as in the matter of it, he was one of a Gospel spirit; and in the conveyances of it, he had great abilities for the work of the Ministry, and dis∣charged it with a great deale of successe. As he had this Treasure in an Earthen Vessel, so his Vessel, his fraile body was no disparagement to him, but the ad∣vancement of the Treasure, in setting forth the pow∣er to be of God; his outward man was much weak and worn away, but his inward man was upheld by the grace of God. His first work in the Ministry was in that place where my self have relation to; he was an assistant to my predecessor (being then past labour) Mr. Richard Couder, and performed the work so well, that he was exceedingly beloved of Mr. Couder, and well beloved of the Parish, and other places. He left a good impression behind, and I found good effects by the foundation there laid. The Apostle Paul indeed desired not to work there where another had laid the foundation, but I thought it a great advantage that the foundation was laid by such a Master-builder. He was called into the Country to Rugby in Warwick-shire, there he continued very fruitfull, and did much good. For some occasion he removed and returned into the City, and came into this place, where he continued about 18. or 19. years, discharged the work of the Lord carefully. I need not say much of his carriage in this place, I appeal to your own Consciences. I may say of this servant of Christ, as the Apostle Paul said of himself, 1 Thes. 2. 10, 11. Ye are his witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameable he be∣haved himself among you, as you know how he exhor∣ted, and comforted, and charged every one of you (as a Father doth his Children) that ye would walkPage 436worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdome and glory. Therefore there lies an engagement upon you to walk answerable to the truths he delivered, and to follow his steps, considering the end of his conver∣sation, I shut up all in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Phillippians, Ch. 4. 9. Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in him, Do: and the God of peace shall be with you.