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kindred, and people, and nation ; and bast made us unto our God kings and priests.” One end, which the apostle mentions, why God appointed vessels of wrath, is the more to make known the wonderfulness of his mercy towards the saints. In Rom. ix. 22, 23, there are two ends mentioned: “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" That is one end; another is mentioned immediately after:" And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he bad afore prepared unto glory.”
1. Hence we may learn, how just and righteous God is in the destruction of those who bring forth no fruit to him. Sce'ing there is no other way in which the end of their being can be obtained, certainly it is most just that God should thus dispose of them. Why should he be frustrated of his end through their perverseness? If men will not do the work for which he hath made and fitted them; if they, through a spirit of opposition and rebellion, refuse; why should God suffer himself to be · disappointed of his end in making them? It doth not become his infinite greatness and majesty to suffer himself to be frustrated by the wickedness and perverseness of sinful worms of the dust. If God should suffer this, it would seem to argue either a want of wisdom, to fix upon a good end, or a want of power to accomplish it. God made all men that they might be useful; and, if they will not be useful in their conduct and actions, how just is it that God should make them useful in their sufferings ! He made all men for his own glory; and if they, contrary to the revealed will of God, refuse to glorify him actively and willingly, how just is it that God should glorify himself upon them!
Men are under no natural necessity of being put to this use of glorifying God in their sufferings. God gives them opportunity of glorifying him in bringing forth fruit; puts them under advantages for it, and uses many means to bring them to it. But if they will not be useful this way, it is very just that God should make them useful in the only remaining way in which they can be useful, viz. in their destruction. God is not forward to put them to this use. He tells us, that he hath “no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live;" Ezek. xxxiii. 11. He represents the destruction of sinners as a work to which he is backward ; yet it is meet that they should be destroyed, rather than that they should be suffered to frustrate the end of their being. Who can blame the husbandman for cutting down and burning a barren tree, after he hath digged about it, and danged it, and Vol. VI.
used all proper means to make it fruitful? Let those among us consider this, who have lived all their lives, bitherto, unprofitably, and never have brought forth any fruit to God's glory, notwithstanding all the means that have been used with them.Consider how just it would be if God should utterly destroy you, and glorify himself upon you in that way; and what a wonderful patience it is, that God hath not done it before now.
II. This subject ought to put you upon examining yourselves, whether you be not wholly useless creatures. You have now heard, that those who bring forth no fruit to God, are, as to any good they do, wholly useless. Inquire, therefore, whether you have ever done any thing from a gracious respect to God, or out of love to him? Seeking only your worldly inte
, rest, or for you to come to public worship on the Sabbath, to pray in your families, and other such things, merely in compliance with the general custom-or that you be sober, moral, and religious, only to be seen of men, or out of respect to your own credit, and honour-is not bringing forth fruit to God. How is that for God which is only for the sake of custom, the esteem of men, or merely from the fear of hell? What thanks are due to you for not loving your own misery, and for being willing to take some pains to escape burning in hell to all eternity? There is not a devil in hell, but would do the same : Hos. X. 1. “ Israel is an empty vine; he bringeth forth fruit unto himself."
There is no fruit brought forth to God, where there is nothing done from love, or true respect to him. God looketh at the heart. He doth not stand in need of our services, neither is he benefitted by any thing that we can do. He doth not receive any thing of us, but only as a suitable testimony of our love and respect to him. This is the fruit that he seeks. Men themselves will not accept of those shows of friendship, which they think are hypocritical, and come not from the heart. How much less should God, who searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men! John iv. 24. “God is a spirit ; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth."
Inquire, therefore, whether you ever did the least thing out of love to God? Have you not done all for yourselves? Zech. viii. 5, 6. “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even unto me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves ??
III. Another use of this subject may be of conviction and humiliation, to those who never have brought forth any fruit to God. If. upon examination, you find that you have never, in all your lives, done any thing out of a true respect to God, then it hath been demonstrated, that, as to any thing which you do, you are altogether useless creatures. And consider what a shameful thing it is for such rational beings as you are, and placed under such advantages, for usefulness, yet to be wholly useless, and to live in the world to no purpose! We esteem it a very mean character in any person, that he is worthless and insignificant; and, to be called so, is taken as a great reproach. But consider, seriously, whether you can clear yourselves of this character. Set reason to work ; can you rationally suppose, that you do, in any measure, answer the end for which God gave you your being, and made you of a nature superior to the beasts ?-But that you may be sensible what cause you have to be ashamed of your unprofitableness, consider the following things :
1. How much God hath bestowed upon you, in the endowments of your nature. God hath made you rational, intelligent creatures; hath endued you with noble powers--those endowments wherein the natural image of God consists.
You are vastly exalted in your nature above other kinds of creatures here below. You are capable of a thousand times as much as any of the brute-creatures. He hath given you a power of understanding, which is capable of extending itself, of looking back to the beginning of time, and of considering what was before the world, and of looking forward beyond the end of time. It is capable of extending beyond the utmost limits of the universe ; and is a faculty whereby you are akin to angels, and are capable even of knowing and contemplating the divine Being, and his glorious perfections, manifested in his works and in his word, You have souls capable of being the habitation of the Holy Spirit of God, and his divine grace. You are capable of the noble employments of angels. How lamentable and shameful is it, that such a creature should be altogether useless, and live in vain! How lamentable, that such a noble and excellent piece of divine workmanship should fail of its end, and be to no purpose! Was it ever worth while for God to make you such a creature, with such a noble nature, and so much above other kinds of creatures, only to eat, and drink, and gratify your sensual appetites ? How lamentable and shameful to you, ihat such a noble tree should be more useless than any tree of the forest; that man, whom God hath thus set in honour, should make himself more worthless than the beasts that perish!
2. How much God hath done for you in the creation of the world. He made the earth, and seas, and all their fulness, for the use of man, Psalm cxv. 16. “The earth hath he given to the children of men.” He made the vast variety of creatures for man's use and service : Gen. i. 23. “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over
every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” For the same purpose he made all the plants, and herbs, and trees of the field : Gen. i. 29. “I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” He made the sun in the heavens, that glorious luminary, that wonderful globe of light, to give light to man, and to constitute the difference between day and night. He also made the moon, and the vast multitude of stars to be to bim signs and seasons. What great provision hath God made for man! What a vast variety of good things for food and convenience, to put him under advantages to be useful! How lamentable is it, then, that after all these things he should be an useless creature!
3. How much is done for you in the course of God's common providence! Consider how nature is continually labouring for you. The sun is, as it were, in a ferment for mankind, and spending his rays upon man to put him under advantage to be useful. The winds and clouds are continually labouring for you, and the waters are going in a constant circulation, ascending in the air from the seas, descending in rain, gathering in streams and rivers, returning to the sea, and again ascending and descending, for you. The earth is continually labouring to bring forth her fruit for your support. The trees of the field, and many of the poor brute-creatures, are continually labouring and spending their strength for you! How much of the fulness of the earth is spent upon you! How many of God's creatures are devoured by you! How many of the lives of the living creatures of God are destroyed for your sakc, for your support and comfort!-Now, how lamentable will it be if, after all, you be altogether useless, and live to no purpose ! What mere cumberers of the ground will you be! Luke xiii. 7. Nature, which thus continually labours for you, will be burdened with you. This seems to be what the apostle means, Rom. vii. 20-22. where he tells us, that the creation is made subject to vanity, and brought into the bondage of corruption ; and that the whole creation groans and travails in pain, under this bondage.
4. How much is done for you in the use of the means of grace. How much hath God done to provide you with suitable means and advantages for usefulness! How many prophets hath he sent into the world in different ages, inspiring them with his Holy Spirit, and enabling them to work many miracles to confirm their word, whereby you now have his written word to instruct you! How great a thing hath God done for you, to give you opportunity and advantage to be useful, in that he hath sent his own Son into the world! He who is really and truly God, united himself to the human nature, and became man to be a prophet and teacher to you and other sinners. Yea, he laid down his life to make atonement for sin, that you might have encouragement to serve God with hopes of acceptance.-How many ordinances have been instituted for you! How much of the labour of the ministers of God hath been spent upon you! Is not that true concerning you which is said (İsa. v.) of the vineyard planted in a very fruitful hill, and fenced and cultivated with peculiar care and pains, which yet proved unfruitful? How much hath the dresser of the vineyard digged about the barren tree, and dunged it, and yet it remains barren!
5. Consider what a shame it is that you should live in vain, when all the other creatures, inferior to you, glorify their Creator, according to their nature. You who are so highly exalted in the world, are more useless than the brute creation ; yea, than the meanest worms, or things without life, as earth and stones: For they all answer their end ; none of them fail of it. They are all useful in their places, all render their proper tribute of praise to their Creator: while you are mere , nuisances in the creation, and burdens to the earth: as any tree of the forest is more useful than the vine, if it bear not fruit.
IV. Let me, in a farther application of this doctrine, cxhort you by all means to bring forth fruit to God. Let it be your constant endeavour to be in this way actively useful in the world. Here consider three things.
1. What an honour it will be to such poor creatures as you are to bring forth fruit to the divine glory. What is such a poor worm as man, that he should be enabled to bring forth any fruit to God! It is the greatest honour of his nature, that God hath given him a capacity of glorifying the great Creator. There is no creature in the visible world that is capable of actively glorifying God, but man.
2. In bringing forth fruit to God, you will be so profitable to none as to yourselves. You cannot thereby be profitable to God; Job xxii. 2. “Can a man be profitable to God ?" And though thereby you may be profitable to your fellow-creatures ; yet the fruit which you bring forth to God will be a greater benefit to yourselves than to any one living.--Although you are under a natural obligation to bring forth fruit to God, yet he will richly reward you for it. In requiring you to bring forth fruit to bim, he doth but require you to bring forth fruit to your own happiness. You will taste the sweetness of your own fruit. It will be most profitable for you in this world, and the pleasure will be beyond the labour. Beside this. God bath promised to such a life, everlasting rewards, unspeakable, infinite benefits. So that by it you will infinitely advance your own interest.