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heard his voice speaking out of the midst of devouring fire, cried out, “ I exceedingly fear and quake.” This was likewise the case with Job, who, when the Lord spake to him out of the whirlwind, cried out, “ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." So Isaiah, when he was favoured with a vision of Jehovah Jesus, in the temple, (as he was to be in the fulness of time, when incarnate, God manifest in the flesh,) attended with the seraphim, who worshipped him with a thrice holy, and veiled their faces with their wings, as unable to behold his essential, personal, and mediatorial glory, it being beyond all that they could possibly take in and conceive, he cried out, “ Woe is me, for I an undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts."
We have the like example of humility and self-abasement in our apostle, who had been in heaven; yet when he classes himself with the apostles, he says of himself, “I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” When he puts himself among sinners, and speaks of himself as a sinner saved, he adds, “ of whom I am chief.” And here, numbering himself with saints, he entitles hiin
self is less than the least of all saints." We see from hence, that the more the mind is enlightened by the Holy Ghost, to apprehend the majesty, holiness, purity, and perfections of God, and to conceive the same as reflected on us in the person of the God-man, Christ Jesus, and in his glorious mediation, the more self-loathing and self-abhorrence is produced.
We have also another instance in the case of the apostle John, who, though dignified with the title of the disciple whom Jesus loved, and favoured with most sweet, free, and heavenly communion with him, yet, in the isle of Patmos, ia the Archipelago, when favoured with a visionary representation of one like unto the Son of man, he tells us, “ when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead." And he would have remained thus, had not his most gracious Lord and Saviour addressed him, saying, “ Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.” Rev. i. 17. 18.
The apostle having taken bis motto, speaks of his qualification for his work. He ascribes it to a gift of grace; “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the gentiles the ansearchable riches of Christ.”
That he should be elected in Christ to grace and glory before the world was, was altogether of grace; it was altogether out of the same free sovereign grace, that God had revealed his Son in him, and called and appointed him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the gentiles: hence he says, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given." His call to the apostolic office, his being separated to the gospel of God, his mission, and commission to preach the everlasting gospel, were altogether of grace, free, rich, and sovereigo grace; and he values it as such, esteeming it next to his own personal and eternal salvation. This appears from that most solemn doxology, which he offers up in the first chapter of his first epistle to Timothy.
Our apostle was the chief of the apostles, and greatest preacher of the free grace of the eternal three, of the everlasting covenant, and transactions of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the finished salvation of the God-man, Christ Jesus, in the new testament church. His love to Christ was fervent and sincere; his attachment to the truths and doctrines of the gospel, its worship, and ordinances, firm and stedfast; his zeal in the cause of God and truth, great; his knowledge clear; his judgment sound; his labours many, arduous, and abundant; his success in winning souls to Christ, such as was never exceeded, and, we may safely add, never will be. Yet it was all of grace; it was no part of his salvation; it was but a gift bestowed on him, and which he here most freely ascribes to the Lord, “ Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given." It is a good thing to be employed for God: it is heaven upon earth to be engaged in thinking, speaking, writing, or preaching the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the whole * is but a fruit of grace ; the mipistry of the word, and ministers to preach it, are ordained of Christ, the fruit of bis royal ascension, and enthronization at the right hand of the Majesty on high, When ministers have done their best, and are most useful, they have nothing of their own to glory in : their gifts, their success, the blessing which crowned the whole, is all from the Lord. Yea, ministers of Christ, whether more or less successful, as far as they labour in the Lord's vineyard, shall receive a reward from him, not according to their success, but according to their own labour; “Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour,” 1 Cor. iii. 8. The reward is, indeed, altogether of grace, and will consist in that honorable mention which will be made of it by Christ in the new Jerusalem state. . i
Having thus made way for introducing what I design to lay before you, in the two beads into which I have divided my text, I begin with the first, viz. The subject of the apostle's ministry,
which he says, was, “ The unsearchable riches of Christ.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely glorious in bis person ; he is rich beyond conception. The gospel reveals and sets him forth, in all the riches of his mediatorial person, love, and mercy, with all the glory and worth of his righteousness and blood, in all his fulness, and with all his treasures of grace and glory. Yet his riches are so durable, so inexhaustible, that when all is conceived which can be taken into the spiritual mind, concerning him and his riches, by the light and unction of the Holy Ghost, they are unsearchable. The person of Jesus Christ is inestimably rich and glorious: he is one in the Godhead with the Father and the Spirit, coequal, and co-eternal. He, by the will and transactions of the eternal Three, is God-man, the image of the invisible God, the brightness of his Father's glory, “ In whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead.” He was before all things, and by him all things consist; the heir of all things ; as such, the glory, the excellency, the worth, the riches of his person are unsearchable: he is the infinite treasury of all the communicable grace and glory of Godhead.
The love of this divine and infinitely glorious head and bridegroom of his church and people, passeth knowledge: it is an ancient, personal, invincible, yea, an everlasting love, “He for us