2 Timothy 2:20
The apostle seems to be answering the question why there are such unworthy members in the visible communion of the Church.

I. THE CHURCH IS LIKE A GREAT HOUSE WITH VARIOUS SORTS OF VESSELS. "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour, and some unto dishonour."

1. It is contended that the great house here is not the Church, but Christendom, that is, all that calls itself Christian, because the Church consists only of saints.

2. It is the Church, however, of which the apostle is speaking in the context, and not the world; but whereas in the last verse it was the invisible Church, it is here the Church visible - that is, the Church in the aspect it presents to the world. The distinction between the Church visible and the Church invisible is clearly recognized in Scripture. The one represents the Church as it is seen by God; the other, as it is seen by man. The one represents the Church as to its true idea and constitution; the other, as it has appeared in the world as a mixed communion. The Church visible appears like a great house with two distinct kinds of vessels - some very precious and durable, others comparatively valueless, easily and soon broken. There are vessels for honour and vessels for dishonour. The idea is much the same as that of the dragnet in the parable (Matthew 13:47-49).

II. THE DUTY OF SEPARATION FROM THE VESSELS OF DISHONOUR. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall he a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." The thought of separation from the false teachers was, no doubt, uppermost in the apostle's mind, but it has a wider scope.

1. It is our duty to withdraw from error. This withdrawal may be effected in several ways. The apostle says to Timothy, "From such withdraw thyself" (1 Timothy 6:5); he says to Titus, "A man that is a heretic avoid" (Titus 3:10). The separation may take place by the heretic being cast out of communion; or avoided in the intercourse of life; or, in the last resort, the believer may withdraw himself from the society which fails to cast him out. Or the believer may be called upon to "purge himself" - terms which seem to imply personal defilement in a separate walk of holiness and purity. He must purge himself from heresy and impurity.

2. The right dedication and destination of the vessel for honour.

(1) He will become "sanctified," in its double sense consecrated to God and walking in the purity of a separated life.

(2) He will be serviceable to the Master of the house in all the various ministries to which he may be called.

(3) He will be prepared unto every good work. Unlike the unwise and the evil man, who is to all good works reprobate, he is, as created in Christ Jesus unto good works, enabled to run in the way of the Lord's commandments. - T.C.







In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour.
The words imply a parable which is not formally interpreted. Rising as it does, however, from the thought of the "foundation" in ver. 19, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that the "great house" is (as in 1 Timothy 3:15) the Church of God. The sequel of the parable presents questions of greater difficulty. Are we, with the majority of interpreters, to identify the vessels made to honour with silver and gold, those of wood and earth with the vessels made to dishonour? In this case the difference between the two sets of vessels is, in the interpretation of the parable, purely ethical. All true members of Christ are as the gold and sliver, all unworthy members as the wood and clay. And, as the material of which the vessel is made does not depend upon itself, it might seem at first as if we had here, as in the parable of the tares and the drag-net, to interpolate the thought that the man whom the vessel represents may, by purifying himself, transmute his nature, and pass from the one class to the other. I venture to think that a different interpretation gives a far truer meaning. The classes of vessels correspond to the gifts which men have received (as in the parable of the talents we have the five, the two, the one), and each has its proper use and honour in the great house of the Church of God. But in each case, of the gold as of the clay, it is true that purity is the one essential condition of honourable use. The man of poorer gilts (to pass from the sign to the thing signified) may, if he keeps himself pure, be a vessel made to honour. If the silver and gold are allowed to be defiled by that which is unclean, if "holiest things find vilest using," then even they are in danger of serving only as vessels for dishonour, of showing (not ceasing even then to fulfil a Divine purpose) that the righteous judgment of God is against them that commit such things. In this case the words, "If a man purge himself" retain their full significance, and we have no need to interpolate the idea of a self-transmuting process, changing the earthen vessel into gold.

(E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

I. THE TRUE VISIBLE CHURCH IS LIKE A GREAT AND KINGLY HOUSE. For, did net the King of kings contrive its platform? lay its foundation? rear its walls? and perfect its building? Doth He not protect it, dwell in it, and prescribe laws to govern it? For its circle, is not that also great, spacious? Doth it not extend itself to the four corners of the world? Who can number the inhabitants of it? or tell the tenth part of this household? Is not its provision wonderful? Do not its servants eat angels' food, bread from heaven, and drink the choicest wines, the water of life?

II. IN THE VISIBLE CHURCH ARE GOOD AND BAD PERSONS.

III. ALL GOD'S SERVANTS ARE NOT EQUALLY SANCTIFIED.

IV. STRONG CHRISTIANS ARE LIKE VESSELS OF GOLD. First, they are resembled to vessels, both good and bad persons; this is common to all. Secondly, unto vessels of gold and silver; this is proper to the good, not the bad. Why to vessels? Because they are capable to receive the water of grace and corruption, as vessels any liquid or solid matter. Again, they are of use in God's house, like vessels in man's. And grown Christians are like golden vessels; for they are rare, precious, pure, glorious; of honour, profit, and will endure the fire, hammer, and come out of the furnace the more purged from tin, dross, corruption. And, as noblemen engrave their arms on the one, so doth God imprint His image on the other. But you will say, How may I know myself to be such? Well enough; for golden vessels have the most fiery trials, endure much hammering, are strongest set on by the devil, have the hottest skirmishes in their captain's army, scatter the words of grace the farthest, and rejoice in the greatest tribulation.

V. WEAKER CHRISTIANS ARE LIKE VESSELS OF SILVER.

VI. THE WICKED ARE NOT EQUALLY CORRUPTED.

VII. PERSONS LESS PROFANE ARE LIKE WOODEN VESSELS.

VIII. THE BASEST SORT OF MEN BE LIKE EARTHEN ONES.

IX. THE FINAL ESTATE OF MEN IS BUT TWOFOLD.

(J. Barlow, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS THE GREAT HOUSE HERE SPOKEN OF? The Church is sometimes in Scripture called the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:2), and here a great house. If the greatness of that material house of God, erected by Solomon, was measured by the number of workmen, which were 200,000, and of the years wherein it was a building, which were seven; much more may we conceive this spiritual house great, which hath been from the beginning of the world a setting up, both by God's own hand, and infinite numbers and millions of workmen, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, martyrs, confessors, professors, and holy men in all ages. And for the parts, the foundation is of pure gold, even Jesus Christ. The stones not dead, as in other houses, but living stones (1 Peter 2:5). And the whole house is, saith St. Peter, a spiritual house; so as great things are spoken, and might more be spoken, of this great house of God.

II. WHAT ARE THESE VESSELS OF GOLD AND SILVER, OF WOOD AND EARTH? As in the material house of God, the temple, were vessels for all services, both more honourable, of gold and silver, and others of baser matter; so in this spiritual house (typified by that) are vessels, that is, persons of sundry sorts, distinguished in our text.

1. in themselves, by their matter, gold, silver, wood, earth.

2. In their use and end, honour and dishonour.Now, out of each part observe somewhat.

1. In that the Church is the house of God, and we all profess ourselves to be within this house, we learn two things:(1) To walk careful in God's presence, who dwelleth in it. In other great houses many things pass and are done, which the master knows not, for that he is not always at home, and, if he were, yet his eye could not be in all corners. But the owner of this house is never from home, and His eye pierceth into every part of His house, and is on every person, so that nothing can escape Him.(2) To acquaint ourselves with His will and directions.

2. In that the Church is the house of God, it follows every Christian is a part of this house (Hebrews 3:6). And therefore we must —(1) Give the Lord possession of His house.(2) Having once given Him possession, beware of sacrilege. What was once dedicated to God might never be profaned.

1. Note that there must necessarily be a mixture of good and bad in the visible Church; vessels of divers sorts.

2. Note how the Lord esteems of a godly man, though he be good but in part. He calls him a vessel of gold and a vessel of honour, even where much dross remains to be purged.But how shall I know that I am indeed a vessel of honour?

1. In respecter himself, he purgeth himself from these things. What is this purging or purifying? According to our former resemblance, we may conceive the metaphor to be taken from goldsmiths, who used to try and purify their metals from dross, before they can frame it to a vessel of honourable use and service. Even so doth the Lord with His chosen. Who must cleanse and purify? Every man himself, none excepted, that will be a golden vessel. This purging is all one with our sanctification; the whole work of which is God's, as appears —

(1)By His promise (Isaiah 4:4).

(2)By Christ's testimony (John 15:2).

(3)By His prayer for the whole Church (John 17:17).

(4)By the prayers of all saints (Psalm 51).And yet we are said to purge ourselves; yea, to convert ourselves, and make ourselves new hearts. When —

1. Being renewed by the Spirit, we co-operate with Him in using the means, In not resisting His work. From what must a man purge himself? From these things — that is, lusts and defilements, errors in judgment and practice, in faith and manners, of which he had spoken before; implying sin to be the foulest filthiness in the world, and that it defiles the whole man. But when must he purge himself? The apostle speaks in the present time, for there is no purgatory hereafter. Again, the present time noteth a continued act; so as every man must always while he liveth be purging away these things.

2. The second mark for the trial of such a one is in respect of God. He is meet for the Lord. Before God can use men as vessels of honour, Himself must first fit and prepare them to honourable services. We are His workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

3. The third is in respect of godliness. Prepared to every good work. Where —

(1)The object works good in the author, rule and kind, piety and mercy.

(2)The extent — every.

(3)The readiness to it — Whence? of God.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

"After all," says the apostle in effect, though in fewer words, "it is not such a very great wonder that there should be persons in the Church who are not of the sterling metal of sincerity, nor of the gold and silver of truth, which endures the fire. You must not look at Hymenteus and Philetus as if they were prodigies, there have been many like them and there will be many more; these ill weeds grow apace, in all ages they multiply and increase." Where beneath the skies shall we find absolute purity in any community? The very first family had a Cain in it, and there was a wicked Ham even in the select few within the ark. Isaac, with all his quiet walk with God, must be troubled with an Esau, and ye know how in the house of Jacob there were many sons that walked not as they should. "I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil." In the great field which Christ has sown, tares will spring up among the wheat, for the enemy takes pains to sow them; neither is it possible for us to root them up. In the king's garden briars will grow, thorns also and thistles will the most sacred soil yield to us. Even the lilies, of Christ grow among thorns. You cannot keep the best of churches altogether pure. Yea, lift your eyes even to the skies, and though there be myriads of stars, yet ye shall mark wandering stars among them, and meteors which are and are not, and are quenched in the blackness of darkness for ever. Until we shall come to the heaven of the Most High we must expect to find chaff mixed with the wheat. Coming to the text, the apostle suggests the encouragement I have already given, under a certain metaphor. The Church of God being ill the world has its common side and its common vessels, but being also a heavenly house has also its nobler furniture, far more precious than gold which perisheth though it be tried with fire.

I. First let us consider THE GREAT HOUSE. The apostle compares the Church to a great house. We feel sure he is not speaking of the world; it did not occur to him to speak about the world, and it would have been altogether superfluous to tell us that in the world there are all sorts of people, — everybody knows that. The Church is a great house belonging to a great personage, for the Church is the house of God, according to the promise — "I will dwell in them, and walk in them."

1. It is a great house because planned and designed upon a great scale.

2. Because it has been erected at great cost, and with great labour.

3. Because its household arrangements are conducted on a great scale. Speak of fine flour — behold, He has given us angels' food; speak of royal dainties — behold, the Lord hath given us fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined. What a perpetual feast doth the Lord Jesus keep up for all His followers.

4. For the number of its inhabitants. How many have lived beneath that roof-tree for ages. What a swarm there is of the Lord's children, and yet not one of the family remains unfed. The Church is a great house wherein thousands dwell, yea, a number that no man can number.

5. Because of its importance. The Church is a great house because it is God's hospice, where He distributes bread and wine to refresh the weary, and entertains wayfarers that else had been lost in the storm. It is God's hospital, into which He takes the sick, and there He nourishes them until they renew their youth like the eagle's. It is God's great pharos with its lantern flashing forth a directing ray so that wanderers far away may be directed to the haven of peace. It is the seat of God's magistracy, for there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. The great house of the Church is the university for teaching all nations, the library wherein the sacred oracles are preserved, the treasury wherein the truth is deposited, and the registry of new-born heirs of heaven. It is important to heaven as well as to earth, for its topmost towers reach into glory.

II. We will now go inside the great house, and we at once observe that it is well furnished. Our text, however, invites us to note that it contains a number of MEANER VESSELS, articles of the coarser kind for ordinary and common uses. Here are trenchers and buckets of wood, and pitchers and pots and divers vessels of coarse pottery. Some have thought that this figure of vessels to dishonour relates to Christians of a lower grade, persons of small grace and of less sanctified conversation. Now, although believers may from some points of view be comparable to earthen vessels, yet I dare not look upon any child of God, however low in grace, as a vessel to dishonour. Moreover, the word "these" refers to the earthen and wooden vessels, and surely they cannot represent saints, or we should never be told to purge ourselves from them. Besides, that is not the run of the chapter at all. The real meaning is, that in the Church of God there are unworthy persons serving inferior and temporary purposes, who are vessels to dishonour. They are in the Church, but they are like vessels of wood and vessels of earth, they are not the treasure of the mansion, they are not brought out on state occasions, and are not set much store by, for they are not "precious in the sight of the Lord." The apostle does not tell us how they came there, for it was not his intent to do so, and no parable or metaphor could teach everything; neither will I stay to describe how some professors have come into the Church of God, some by distinct falsehood and by making professions which they knew were untrue, others through ignorance, and others again by being self-deceived, and carried away with excitement. The parable does not say how they got there, but there they are, and yet they are only vessels of wood and vessels of earth. The vessels in the great house are, however, of some use, even though they are made of wood and earth; and so there are persons in the Church of God whom the Lord Jesus will not own as His treasure, but He nevertheless turns them to some temporary purpose. Some are useful as the scaffold to a house, or the dogshores to a ship, or the hedges to a field. I believe that some unworthy members of the Church are useful in the way of watch-dogs to keep others awake, or lancets to let blood, or burdens to try strength. Some quarrelsome members of the Church help to scour the other vessels, lest they should rust through being peaceful. There is one thing noticeable, viz., that the wooden and earthen vessels are not for the Master's use. When He holds high festival His cups are all of precious metal. How sad it is that many Christians are useful to the Church in various ways, but as for personal service rendered to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in that they have no share whatever and never can have till grace changes them from wood to silver, or from earth to gold. Note that in these vessels of which the apostle speaks the substance is base. They are wood, or they are earth, nothing more. So are we all by nature of base material, and grace must make us into silver or into golden vessels, or the Master cannot Himself use us, nor can our use in the Church ever be to honour. These vessels unto dishonour, though turned to some account, require a good deal of care on the part of the servants. When our forefathers used to eat from wooden trenchers, the time the good wives used to spend in scalding and cleaning to keep them at all sweet to eat upon was something terrible, and there are members of the Church who take a world of time from pastors and elders to keep them at all decent; we are continually trying to set them right, or keep them right, in the common relationships of life.

III. We are now going into the treasury, or plate room, and will think of THE NOBLER VESSELS. These are, first of all, of solid metal, vessels of silver and vessels of gold. They are not all equally valuable, but they are all precious. Did you ever hear how vessels come to be golden? —

"There stood a golden chalice wondrous fair,

And overflowing with deep love for him.

He raised it to His gracious lips, and quaffed

'The wine that maketh glad the heart of God,'

Then took the cup to heaven."

1. On the vessels to honour you can see the hall mark. What is the hall mark which denotes the purity of the Lord's golden vessels? Well, He has only one stamp for everything. When He laid the foundation what was the seal He put upon it? "The Lord knoweth them that are His, and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from all iniquity." That was God's seal, the impress of the great King upon the foundation-stone. Do we find it here? Yes, we do. "If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour." You see that the man who is the golden or silver vessel departs from all iniquity, and that is the token of his genuine character.

2. Notice, however, that they are purged, for the Lord will not use filthy vessels be they what they may.

3. And then notice that these gold and silver vessels are reserved as well as purged. They are made meet for the Master's use. As Joseph had a cup out of which he alone drank, so the Lord takes His people to be His peculiar treasure, vessels for His personal use.

4. Oh, for a holy character and holy communion with God; then we shall be golden vessels fit for the Master's use, and so, according to the text, we shall be ready for every good work, ready for the work when it comes, and ready at the work when it has come, because completely consecrated to God and subject to His hand,

IV. We must speak about THE MASTER.

1. He is introduced here, you see, as having certain vessels meet for His use, and this shows that He is in the house. Secondly, the Master knows all about the house, and knows the quality of all the vessels. And then reflect that the Master will use us all as far as we are fit to be used. What comes of this, then, lastly? Wily, let us bestir ourselves that we be purged, for the text says, "If a man therefore purge himself."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. Vessels of gold and silver. We are reminded here of the vessels used in tabernacle and temple service, golden basins for the blood, golden dishes for the bread, golden flagons for the wine, golden snuffers, snuff dishes, and oil vessels, for the lamps. Then there were the silver sockets for the foundations of the tabernacle, silver fillets and hooks, silver vessels, attached to the brazen altar. To prepare these, the gold and silver needed refining theft the dross might be purged away by the fire. In figure we see the refining process through which God passes His people that they may be fit for His use (Malachi 3:2, 3). He sits and watches until the reflection of Himself is visible in the hearts and lives of those whom He is refining. If we would be honoured in special service in the sanctuary, and be found prepared unto every good work, we must cheerfully and willingly submit to the refiner, and the refiner's fire. Self must be consumed, all impurity of motive must be purged away, all the faith that God esteems so precious must be tried to its utmost power of endurance.

2. Vessels of wood and of earth. These are the vessels for everyday and ordinary use — for the Master's constant use in His house. A wooden vessel is formed out of the rough timber, and must undergo the sharp cutting of saw, plane, and chisel. The Lord finds many knots and guarls in the rough material, from which He fashions these vessels, and He knows how to use the sharp tools of discipline and trial. He will shape our lives according to His own design, and the pattern after which we are made will be a heavenly one. An earthen vessel is made out of the clay under the hands of the potter. "We are the clay" (Isaiah 64:8). Some are inclined to boast of superiority of ancestry, but after all it is only clay. To be made into vessels the clay must needs be soft to receive the impression of the hand of the potter. It must be free from grit and other hard substances, otherwise it will not yield to the hand. God would have us as the clay, able to take the impression, and yield to the pressure of His will. He must remove all the grit of self and pride, and the many hard substances that find their way in, otherwise "the vessel will be marred in the hands of the potter" (Jeremiah 18:5). The wheel was a horizontal disk on which the clay was placed, and made to rotate rapidly. Day by day, the wheel of our life spins round, and God would fashion us by our daily circumstances and surroundings. When the wheel stops how will He find us? Finished or unfinished? Unto honour or dishonour? Complete or marred? Has He not frequently almost stopped the wheel, and, finding the vessel marred, has "made it again another vessel, as it hath pleased Him"? Many can thank God for the change in their lives, produced through sickness sanctified to their souls.

3. All the famous porcelain works have their private marks burned into the vessels they produce, so that they can be easily identified at any time. So the Great Potter has placed His private mark on all who are His handiwork, and the mark has been burned in by the fire of His love, thus becoming indelible, and easy of identification.

4. The vessel made and marked, and prepared in the furnace, is now fit for use, and is to be in constant use, by being filled with treasure. Look for a moment into yonder house. It is breakfast-time, and the little white earthenware mug stands full of milk on the table for little Mary. Afterwards it is washed and put away ready for use, and in the course of the morning her little brother asks for a drink of water. Mary fills her mug and give it to him. Again the vessel is put aside ready for use. A friend calls and leaves a nosegay of flowers. Down runs the child to fill her mug with water to revive the flowers, and the house is filled with their perfume. At the door later on a poor creature falls fainting and exhausted, and the mug, ready again, is quickly brought containing some wine or other restorative, that is poured down the sufferer's throat. It is only an earthen vessel, but it is prepared for every good work by being kept clean. What shall we be? Only vessels, to do one thing, only a Sunday-school teacher, only a tract distributor, only a church member. Let us ask the Master to use us in every way He chooses. Let us be for Him the basin wherewith He may wash some soiled ones, or a vessel wherewith He may give of the milk of the Word to His babes, or the bearer of the message of atoning blood, or all these, as He may have need. Let us purge ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; be sanctified by the truth, and reserved absolutely for His use and for no other.

5. If not a "vessel of mercy," then a" vessel of wrath," If not in His hand for His use in His household, then to be dashed in pieces, and to be but a potsherd cast away amongst the rubbish.

(G. Soltan.)

I. THE VESSELS OF HONOUR ARE ORIGINALLY UNHOLY. Were it not thus, why are we commanded to purge, to cleanse ourselves?

II. THE VESSELS OF HONOUR ARE TO BE PURGED.

III. THE HOLY ARE HONOURABLE.

1. For, are not such the nearest unto the nature of God?

2. Set apart for the most noble ends?

3. Can any else truly hate evil? detest base courses?

4. And who but they shall be crowned with immortal glory?

IV. SANCTIFIED MEN ARE MEET INSTRUMENTS FOR THE USE OF THEIR MASTER.

V. THE LORD HATH USE FOR HIS HOLY VESSELS.

VI. SANCTIFIED PERSONS FOR EVERY GOOD WORK ARE PREPARED. Not for one, but all. They can fast, pray, hear, read, meditate; deny themselves, afflict their souls, give alms, do and suffer anything. What God affirms they believe, what He commands they obey, what He doth they approve.

(J. Barlow, D. D.)

I. OUR TEXT DESCRIBES THE SERVICE TO WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED. It is described in three ways.

1. A Christian in his service should be an honour to himself. Worthy of the nature God has given him, worthy of his capabilities, worthy of his privileges, and worthy of his position and opportunities and means. Now we naturally estimate all service by the heart there is in it. There are differences in true service; some lower and some higher. The supreme aim of Christian men must be spiritual service by spiritual means.

2. A Christian in his service must be useful to his Master. "Meet," etc. It is intimated in this view of our service that we do not work apart and alone as master-workmen, choosing our own work, choosing how to do it, and finishing and round-it off by ourselves. We work under a master, we receive out" work at his hands, we do it according to his directions, we do it under his eye, and when it is done we bring it to him that he may put it to its proper use. It is the glory of a master-worker that he can use the services of a thousand workmen, give full scope to their faculties, and then by the' use he makes of their work double its value.

3. A Christian in his service should be "prepared unto every good work." Prepared for good work. There are stages in goodness. There is good desire, the conception and digestion of the plan for carrying out the desire, the provision of means, and, last of all, the actual work. Prepared unto every good work. The world is wide; human needs are great; God calls sinful men to a high destiny. The obstacles in the way are great and many; how great must the design be, and how manifold the work which embraces all. But our Master is prepared unto every good work, and He gives His servants power like His own.

II. THE PREPARATION NECESSARY FOR SUCH SERVICE. In every department of God's kingdom fitness is the law of service. It is true that what man deems fit may be foolishness with God; and what God deems fit may be foolishness with man. In this sense the Cross, and the preaching of the Cross are foolishness. Again, it has pleased God to accomplish great results by slender human instruments, that He might teach us rightly to estimate the value of our own work and His. But all this does not alter the fact that so far as man's work is used, it is used according to its fitness. God does not employ ignorant men to teach wisdom, nor worldly men to produce spirituality, nor lovers of ease to conduct great enterprises, nor selfish men to generate enthusiasm of love. Wherein does preparation consist?

1. In purity of life. Personal worth is the foundation of service, and the measure of personal worth is the measure of fitness for service. Two considerations show the need of eminent personal worth as a preparation.(1) We never do anything well till we have caught the spirit of it, till it possess us, till we live in it and find our joy in it.(2) Men are slow to believe in goodness — i.e., in goodness as the proper result of personal principle. They are apt to explain it as the result of circumstances, of a good natural disposition, of what is necessary to maintain with credit a Christian profession. This suspicion is often excessive and unreasonable, but there it is; and he who would win men to righteousness must have personal worth to overcome it.

2. Purity of doctrine is not less necessary than purity of life. Personal excellence enables a man to do good chiefly by enabling him to bear witness of Christ. John the Baptist was as eminent in personal worth as any man that ever lived; yet he spoke of himself as only a voice. It was needful for the work appointed him that he should be a man of sterling worth; but what would his personal worth have done for Judea apart from his witness to Christ? The personal worth of God's people does not enable them to save men; but it does enable them to bear witness to Him who can save.

(John Pilhans.)

I. FIRST COMES MEETNESS. In the renewed spirit, the chastened imagination, the energised conscience, the obedient will, we find the highest ineptness for spiritual service.

1. Meetness comes from faculty patiently used. This is true of all faculty. Mr. Ruskin shows us how hard it is to draw a straight line, how none but an accustomed hand can do it. Men shrink from commencement. If you wish to skate, you must not mind a fall, the graceful curve is not a gift, but a growth. The most able musician once had the drill of exercises. The most perfect classic once toiled over unpoetical grammar-books. Christian service is not an easy service; to teach a child is not merely an inspiration, but an education. Of course faculty varies, and there are diverse adaptations. Talents are differentiated — ten, five, one — but all have talents.

2. Meetness comes through suffering patiently borne. Many of the Church's best angels are not the ablest or the cleverest, but the humblest. Sorrow often does what no other agency can achieve. Suffering creates sympathy and tenderness to the erring, and consciousness of our own frailty. Moreover. the heavenly world becomes clearer to the eye that is purified by trial.

3. Meetness comes from instrumentalities faithfully employed. These are divine and wonderful. As soldiers, we have the perfect panoply of the heavenly armour. As stewards, we have each a many-acred farm to care for. As vine-dressers, we have the sun and shade and shower, and God has given us our own sweet vineyard of Church or home. If we do not the work nearest to us, we shall do no other. Reynolds, it is said, could sit thirty-six hours before the canvas without a break to bring out in beauty the human face divine. How seldom have we ever lingered enthusiastically at our work to bring out on the living canvas of the human heart the beautiful likeness of Jesus Christi Let us be diligent. Meetness will come through meditation which is prayer in preparation, and prayer which is meditation spoken; and, above all, from the consciousness of dependence on the spirit of the living God, who will strengthen us with all might in our inner man.

II. MINISTRATION. We come here to the word "use." Use characterises all the works of God. The running stream is more than a line of silver beauty in the landscape; it brings fertility and blessing with it. The sea bears the freight of commerce, and brings the healthful ozone on its bosom, as well as spreads its broad expanse of beautiful blue. The tree gives you shade in summer, and breathes out its air of oxygen. We cannot as yet discern all uses; but use there is, delicate and exquisite, in all the works of God.

1. The Christian man is to be a useful man, not a self-indulgent one. We are under a Master. Alas! how many take Christ as a Saviour who do not take Him as a Master, and seldom ponder how much they can obey Him!

2. We are of use to the Master. He has condescended to link His kingdom in its extension with our poor endeavours. Christian work is not merely a kind of spiritual exercise. Your living and your loving heart, your sanctified energies, are useful to the Master.

3. We must give our best to the Master. It is sad, in this England of ours, to think how little faculty is cultured. The Scotch set us a splendid example in this respect, so do the Germans. Dr. Guthrie's autobiography shows what Scotch lads did and do to rise, not merely in position, but in attainment! They have had heroes other than those who fought at Bannockburn — heroes of the parish school and college. It is not lamentable to find faculty so little cultivated amongst us? How few fit themselves for higher posts!

(W. M. Statham.)

Who are they whom the apostle sees enthroned; his vessels unto honour; the people whom the law of creation praises and places on high? They are the "sanctified," he writes. A favourite epithet with him, which our translators frequently rendering thus, have sometimes rendered, "hallowed" and sometimes "holy," and the fundamental idea of which is "separation." Hence its ancient application to the firstlings of the Hebrew flocks and herds as being animals taken out from the rest, and set apart for God, to be laid upon His altar. St. Paul's sanctified ones, then, are God's sacred ones — God's saints. But that is not telling us much. What is it to be a sacred person, we ask; what is a saint? They, you know, have been designated "sacred" who have withdrawn from common mundane pursuits to occupy themselves mainly with religious exercises, in the performance of religious rites and ceremonies; and "saint," you may hear applied, not seldom, with half a sneer; to those who are interested in and zealous for theological dogmas, or scrupulous in abstaining from practices and amusements to which the generality are addicted, or given to church worship and pious talk. The real sacredness, however, the real sanctity in men, consists according to the implication and suggestion of the term employed here, in personal surrender to the Divine claims upon us; in separation from self-indulgence and self-will, from contrary inclinations and propensities, to be what Heaven would have us be, to cultivate conformity to the Divine ideal. This is glory, teaches the apostle; this is to enjoy rank and commendation; being good and doing nobly. But now, we have not advanced very far after all. Our explanatory words wait to be explained. What is it to be good and do nobly, to be worthy and act well our part, which St. Paul describes theologically as "sanctification," or devotion to the will of God? In whom is it exemplified? and our writer answers shortly: In those who are "meet for the blaster's use," or, more correctly, in those who are "useful for the Master." The saint, then, is eminently the useful person. Holiness is use. It is not in mere having, nor yet in being and doing, that it is reached; but in being and doing beneficially. But while without some use we are naught, there is a certain special use which it is necessary to yield in order to be a saint, and the yielding of which reveals and marks the saint. "Useful for the Master," says the apostle. He has been comparing society to a house containing divers kinds of vessels — of which house he has implied that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head; and the hallowed vessels therein are the vessels, he tells us, that are profitable to Him. Now, we may be said to be profitable to another, as we are contributing to the fulfilment of his wishes and ideas, as we are instrumental in forwarding his views, in advancing his purposes. We are useful for Christ, can only be useful for Him in that way — by helping to promote His ends. And what are they? What was His grand passion, the object that burdened and consumed Him? Was it not, speaking broadly, and according to His own constant testimony, that men might be quickened and raised to live more abundantly? But here, probably, many an earnest, well-meaning soul will be moved to say, "I really do not know, I really cannot tell, whether or no I am of any such use in the world, and, what is more, I seem to have so little chance or power; my scope is so narrow, my ability so small." And as if to meet and answer these, and encourage and assure them, St. Paul hastens to add to the words, "Useful for the Master," the qualifying explanatory clause, "being prepared or ready to every good work." We do not know, we cannot tell, whether we are divinely helpful. Not a few are so to a considerable extent without perceiving it. They live sincerely and beautifully, and die wearily, unconscious of how noble or wide their effect has been. But while unable to decide concerning the amount of our helpfulness, we can tell whether we are ready to do every good work that may be done by us in our sphere; whether we carry about within us a spirit and disposition to serve; whether we are alive to each open door of opportunity and quick to enter in and occupy; whether we have a heart sensitively responsive to needs that appeal, to the calls and claims of the hour; whether our desire and aim is to make a good work of whatever is laid upon us to do, to do it according to our light and power in the best and perfectest way, let it be the painting of a picture or the sweeping of a room, preaching a sermon or managing a business. We can tell whether it is thus with us. But what then? Why the apostle implies that such alertness to do well at every step, on every occasion, is certain to involve the radiation from us of some helpfulness; that you may conclude you are for some use if only you are eager and anxious to discharge faithfully each duty as it presents itself, to answer duly to the requirements of the time and place, to the facts before you. And now a word in conclusion, concerning what is necessary in order to reach and maintain this hallowed state of use in preparedness for every good work. "If a man purge himself from these," says St. Paul, that is, from the vessels unto dishonour, of which he has been speaking, as mixed with others in the house — "If a man purge himself from these, then shall he be a vessel unto honour." It is intimated, you see, that none are found saints to begin with; that to become such and remain such we must need engage and persevere in effort, in effort to cleanse and emancipate ourselves; that there is that which has to be shaken off and risen out of. And there is, around us, morally adverse, morally opposing atmospheres, unavoidable contacts and intercourses that tend to deaden and depress, popular maxims and sentiments, prevailing ideas and fashions, the spirit of the world seeking other things altogether than the things which are Jesus Christ's, and encountered continually at every turn, insinuating and insidious. All this has to be resisted and surmounted.

(S. A. Tipple.)

For a moment the apostle drops the figure of the house and the foundation, to take it up again in the remaining portion of the sentence. Purification from vessels would be a very incongruous figure. What St. Paul says is — If therefore any man shall have purged himself from these evil associations or corrupting ideas, from persons whose words are like the deadly poison of contagious gangrene, then he will be a vessel unto honour, whether his faculties cause him to resemble the golden goblet or the silver lamp; the wooden bowl or the porcelain vase; if pure and conscientious, faithful and good, he will be consecrated to noblest uses, serviceable to the Master of the house, and prepared for every good work.

(H. R. Reynolds, D. D.)

I remember reading of a man who, having a grudge against a railway company, threw a bar of soap into their tank of water. The soap was dissolved, introduced into the boiler, and as soapy water does not generate steam, the engine by and by came to a standstill. The fires were all right but there was no steam; and we must, figuratively speaking, keep the soap out, or God cannot use us. Remember we owe allegiance to Him who needs every thought of the heart.

(G. F. Pentecost.)

If in haste we would give a draught of refreshing water to a traveller, we take from our shelf the first vessel which is clean. We pass over the elegant and richly-chased cup for the earthenware mug, if the latter has a cleanliness which the former lacks. And our Lord Jesus will gladly use us for His service, though we be but common ware, if only we are clean and ready for use. In our hospitals the instruments used in operations are constantly kept in carbolic acid, that they may not carry the slightest contagion to the open wound; and we cannot touch the open and festering wounds which sin has caused without injury to ourselves and others, unless we are ever in the flow of the blood and water of which St. John speaks.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Through the whole of Scripture we find that whatever God sanctifies is to be used in the service of His holiness. Holiness and selfishness, holiness and inactivity, holiness and sloth, holiness and helplessness, are utterly irreconcilable. Whatever we read of as holy was taken into the service of the holiness of God. Holiness is essential to effectual service. In the Old Testament we see degrees of holiness, not only in the holy places, but as much in the holy persons. In the nation, the Levites, the priests and then the High Priest, advance from step to step; as in each succeeding stage the circle narrows, and the service is more direct and entire, so the holiness required is higher and more distinct. It is even so in this more spiritual dispensation; the more of holiness, the greater the fitness for service; the more there is of true holiness the more there is of God, and the more true and deep is the entrance He has had into the soul. The hold He has on the soul to use it in His service is more complete.

(Andrew Murray.)

All the vessels of Christ's house are not of one size.

(S. Rutherford.)

When "Nelson served under Admiral Hotham, and a certain number of the enemy's ships had been captured, the commander said, "We must be contented: we have done very well." But Nelson did not think so, since a number of the enemy's vessels had escaped. "Now," said he, "had we taken ten sail, and allowed the eleventh to escape when it had been possible to have got at her, I could never have called it well done." If we have brought many to Christ we dare not boast, for we are humbled by the reflection that more might have been done had we been fitter instruments for God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Holiness is a source of every kind of human excellence. For it sets to work all our powers, and sets them to work in the best possible direction. It gives to intellectual effort its noblest aim, viz., to comprehend and to convey to others the life-giving truth of God; and it guards intellectual success from the perils which surround it. It gives the noblest motive for the care and development of the body; for it shows us that the powers even of our perishing body may work out eternal results. And it gives the only pure motive, and a very strong motive, for effort after material good; for it teaches that this world's wealth may be a means of laying up treasure in heaven. Thus holiness quickens, develops, and elevates all our powers.

(J. A. Beet.)

Once upon a time, says the legend, a dispute arose between three young ladies as to which had the most beautiful hand. One sat by a crystal stream and dipped her snowy hand into the water and held it up. Another plucked strawberries till the ends of her tapering fingers were pink. Another gathered violets till her hands were fragrant. Thereupon an aged woman passed by, hungry, emaciated, decrepit. "Who will give me a gift," said she, "for I am poor?" All three young ladies denied her request; but a poor peasant girl, who stood near, unwashed in the stream, unstained by the pink of strawberries, unadorned with flowers, gave her a simple gift and cheered the aged pilgrim. Then, turning back, she asked the three young ladies what they disputed about. They told her, and lifted up their beautiful hands for her to decide. "Beautiful, indeed!" exclaimed she, with radiant countenance. "But which is the most beautiful?" asked they. "It is not the hand that is washed in the purling brook," said she; "it is not the hand that is tipped with delicate pink; it is not the hand garlanded with fragrant flowers, it is the hand which gave a gift to the destitute that is most beautiful." And as she spoke her body was slowly transfigured, her wrinkles gradually vanished, her staff suddenly dropped, and there flew up to heaven, in a blaze of glory, the radiant form of an angel of God. Yes, the sanctification of man means the sanctification of all that the man has to do. It means the sanctification of the hand, the feet, the brain, the heart, the temper, the disposition, the pocket, the whole man, inwardly and outwardly. It is the perfecting of the heart that makes the perfection of every state in life.

We may be blameless without being faultless. If it be asked what practical difference there is in such a distinction, we may take, as an example, a little child whose loving heart is bent upon pleasing her mother. Her first little task of needlework is put into her hands. But the little fingers are all unskilled, nor has she any thought of the nicety required; still with intense pleasure she sets stitch after stitch, until at last she brings it to her mother; she has done her best and does not dream of failure. And the mother taking it, sees two things: one is a work as faulty as it well can be, with stitches long and crooked; and the other is that smiling, upturned face, with its sweet consciousness of love. Not for anything could she coldly criticise that work. She thinks of the effort to please, and how little she could expect in a first attempt. It is the child's best for the time being. So she commends her and even praises the poor, imperfect work, and then gently and most lovingly shows her how she may do still better. The child is blameless, but her work not faultless. It will be nearer and nearer faultless, as day after day she gathers skill, and even new ideas of care and faithfulness in her tasks; but still in her mother's eyes she is at first, as well as at last, her blameless child.

(S. F. Smiley.)

You are admitted into a great house, along the walls of which are four shelves; on the lower shelf the gold, on the second the silver, on the third the wood, and on the fourth — high, way up where you would think the dust collected — the earthern vessel. Upon one of these four shelves there is each one of those in this congregation. You say, "I am not gold, I am not silver, I am rather wooden if anything, or earthenware; my place is on the very top shelf," and when I ask if you can tell which of those four shelves holds the vessels to honour, you say, "Oh, I suppose those golden or silver ones beneath, and my lot will never be there." The Master enters. "Wilt Thou tell us to-day, for our hearts are all aflame to be used by Thee in the foreign mission or home mission field, where we may stand, to be vessels of honour?" And He says: "I cannot tell by the outside appearance. I must look in." He takes the gold, and says: "That won't do, it is not clean." He takes the silver one and puts it back with a sad look. It is not clean. Bat it may be He comes to those upper shelves, and takes down one of the very commonest of the vessels, and I see a smile come over His face as He lifts it, and He presses it to His lips, and says: "This will do; this is a vessel to honour, this is a choice vessel, it is clean. If a man cleanse himself he shall be a vessel to honour." "Ah, but, Master, there is nothing inside of it." "That doesn't matter. I will put inside what has got to be put inside. I only want a clean vessel to put it in." God says, "My child, you have failed, not because you lack the talent or power, but are deficient in the one thing you might accomplish, having the cleansed heart."

(F. B. Meyer.)

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