Sermon 1467A. The Oil and the Vessels
WRITTEN AT MENTONE,
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
"And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me another vessel. And he said unto her,There is not a vessel more. And the oil ceased."
2 Kings 4:6.
So long as there were vessels to be filled, the miraculous flow of oil continued and it only ceased when there were no morejars to contain it. The Prophet spoke no word to stop the multiplying process and the Lord did not set any boundary to thebountiful marvel-the poor widow was not lacking faith in God, but in her supply of empty vessels! Nothing else in the universerestrained the flow of oil, but the need of vessels to receive the oil stopped it at once. The vessels failed before the oil-ourpowers of receiving will give out long before God's power of bestowing! This is true in reference to our PROVIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES.So long as we have needs, we shall have supplies, and we shall find our necessities exhausted far sooner than the Divine bounty.
In the wilderness there fell more manna than the tribes could eat and there flowed more water than the hosts could drink.And as long as they were in a desert land and required this provision, it was given to them, but when they reached Canaanand fed on the old corn of the land, the special supplies ceased-but not till then. In the same manner the Lord will feedHis people till they need no more. The widow's apparent source of supply was only one pot of oil, but this continued to streamforth as vessel by vessel was placed underneath it! So shall the little with which the Lord endows His poor people continueto be sufficient from day to day, till the last day of life, like the last vessel, shall have been filled.
Some are not content with this, but would have the oil run beyond the last vessel, even after their deaths, never restingtill they have hoarded their thousands and have buried their hearts in gold dust. If the oil will but run till the last vesselis full, what more do we need? If Providence secures us food and raiment till we end this mortal life, what more can we require?Doubtless in the dispensation of wealth and other talents to His servants, the Lord considers their capacities. If they hadmore vessels they should have more oil. The infinitely wise God knows that it is better for some men to be poor than rich-theywould not be able to bear prosperity and so the oil does not flow, because there is not a vessel to
If we are able to receive an earthly gift, it will then be a good thing to us and the Lord has declared that He will not withholdany good thing from those who walk uprightly. But a talent which we could not receive so as to use it properly would be onlya curse to us and, therefore, He does not burden us with it. All that we can hold we shall have-all that we really need; allthat we shall be sure to employ to His Glory; all that will minister to our highest good-God will pour forth from His inexhaustiblefullness and only when He sees that the gifts would be wasted by becoming superfluities, or burdensome responsibilities, oroccasions for temptation, will He restrain His power and the oil shall cease.
Rest assured that God's bounty will keep pace with your true capacity and, "verily you shall be fed." The same principle holdsgood with regard to THE BESTOWAL OF SAVING GRACE. In a congregation, the Gospel is as the pot of oil and those who receivefrom it are needy souls, desirous of the Grace of God. Of these we have always too few in our assemblies. Many are the vesselsof oil, filled to the brim and fastened down-the full Pharisee, the self-satisfied professor and the proud worldling are such-forthese the miracle of Grace has no multiplying power for they are ready to overflow even now. A full Christ is for empty sinnersand for empty sinners only! As long as there is a really empty soul in a congregation, the Word of God will go forth as ablessing, but no longer.
It is not our emptiness, but our fullness which can hinder the outgoings of Free Grace. While there is one soul consciousof sin and eager for pardon, Grace will flow. Yes, while there is one heart weary of indifference and anxious to be wounded,Grace will flow. "I feel," says one, "exceedingly unfit to be saved." You are evidently empty and there is room in you forthe oil of Grace. "Alas," cries a second, "I feel nothing at all! Even my own unfitness does not distress
me." This only shows how utterly empty you are and in you, also, the oil will find space for its flow. "Ah." sighs a third,"I have become skeptical! Unbelief has made me hard as the nether millstone." In you, also, there is large storage for Grace.
Only be willing to receive! Stand like the oil jar with opened mouth, waiting for the oil to pour forth from the miraculouspot. If the Lord has made you willing to receive, He will not be long before He has given you Grace upon Grace. O that wecould meet with more emptied souls! Why should the Lord's wonders be cut short for lack of persons who need to have them workedupon them? Are there no needy souls about? Have all men waxed rich, or is it a vain presumption which possesses so many hearts?
Hidden away in corners where they weep their eyes out because they cannot weep and break their hearts because their heartswill not break-and cry before the Lord because they feel they cannot pray, or feel, or hate sin-hidden away in corners, Isay, there are truly empty souls and for these the heavenly oil is still running, is running now! "Blessed are they that hungerand thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." No exception in the narrative before us was taken to any vesselso long as it was empty. There was one qualification and only one-the power to receive indicated by emptiness. Come, then,you needy souls, come to the eternal Fountain and receive a wealth of blessing, freely given because you need it and becausethe Lord Jesus loves to bestow it!
The same is true with regard to OTHER SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. All fullness dwells in our Lord Jesus and, as He needs not Gracefor Himself, it is stored up in Him that He may give it out to Believers. The saints with one voice confess, "Of His fullnesshave we all received." The limit of His outpouring is our capacity to receive and that limit is often set by our faithlessprayers-"we have not because we ask not, or because we ask amiss." If our desires were more expanded our receipts would bemore extended. We fail to bring empty vessels and, therefore, the oil is stopped. We do not sufficiently see our poverty anddo not, therefore, enlarge our longings. O for a heart insatiable for Christ, a soul more greedy than the grave itself whichis never satisfied! Then would rivers of the heavenly oil flow in upon us and we should be filled with all the fullness ofGod.
Frequently we limit the Holy One of Israel by our unbelief. Nothing hinders Grace like this impoverishing vice. "He did notmany mighty works there because of their unbelief." Unbelief declares it to be impossible that more oil should come from theoil pot and so refuses to bring more vessels under the pretense of a humble fear of presumption and thus robbing the souland dishonoring the Lord. Shame on you, you mother of famine, you drier up of flowing wells! What shall be done unto you,you lying traitor! What coals of juniper are fierce enough for you, you wicked unbelief? We mourn that our joy is departed,that our graces languish, that our usefulness is restrained. Whose fault is this? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? Arethese His doings? No, verily, we have stopped, ourselves, the bottles of Heaven! May infinite Mercy save us from ourselvesand lead us, now, to "bring here vessels, even empty vessels not a few."
Pride also has a horrible power to stop the Divinely-given oil. When on our knees we feel no pressing necessity, no urgentneed, no special danger and, on the contrary, we feel we are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, do we wonder,then, that we are not refreshed and feel no delight in the holy exercise? Have we not heard the Lord saying, "Bring Me anothervessel"? And as we have answered, "There are no more vessels," can we be surprised that the oil is ceased? May the Lord saveus from the parching influence of conceit! It will turn an Eden into a wilderness! Poverty of soul leads to fullness, butcarnal security creates barrenness! The Holy Spirit delights to comfort every hungry heart, but the full soul loathes thehoneycomb of the Spirit's consolations and leaves it to itself till it is famished and cries out for heavenly bread.
Of this one thing let us be sure-there is an abundance of Grace to be had as long as we hunger and thirst after it- and nevershall a single willing heart be forced to cry, "The oil is ceased," so long as it has an empty vessel to bring. The same Truthof God will be proved in reference to THE PURPOSES OF GRACE IN THE WORLD. The fullness of Divine Grace will be equal to everydemand upon it till the end of time. Men will never be saved apart from the Atonement of our Lord Jesus, but never will thatransom price be found insufficient to redeem the souls that trust in the Redeemer-
"Dear dyingLamb, Your precious blood Shall never lose its power, Till all the ransomed Church of God Is saved to sin no more."
Neither will His intercession lose any of its prevalence for those who come to God by Him. To the last hour of time it shallnever be said that a single sinner has sought His face in vain, or that an empty vessel has at last been found which Jesuscannot fill!
The power of the Holy Spirit to convict, convert, console and sanctify shall also abide the same to the end of the age. Neverwill there be found a weeping penitent whom He cannot cheer with a lively hope and lead to Jesus for eternal salvation! Neverwill there be a struggling Believer whom He cannot lead on to certain and complete victory! Perfection, itself, He shall alwaysbe able to work in all the saints, even meetness for their holy heritage above. None of us should despond when we discoveranew our own natural inability and deadness. Our hope was never based on created power-a lively hope has its foundation inthe Omnipotence of the Holy Spirit-and that cannot be the subject of question or of change. For the salvation of all the elect,the sacred Trinity will work together till all shall be accomplished.
Whatever remains behind as to the purposes of God, He has power to achieve. If there should stand before us a row of emptyvessels bearing the names of Babylon overthrown, the Jews converted, the nations evangelized, the idols abolished and so forth,we must by no means be disheartened, for all these vessels of promise shall be filled in due time. The Church of the presentday is feeble and her supplies are quite inadequate to the enterprise before her, yet as out of one pot of oil many vesselswere filled which were far greater than itself-so by His poor and despised Church, through the foolishness of preaching-theLord will fulfill His august designs and fill the universe with praise! "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's goodpleasure to give you the kingdom."
With this assurance, believing men may boldly go forth among the heathen! The nations are empty vessels and there are nota few of them! God has given us His blessing upon our cruse of oil and all we have to do is to pour out and continue to pourout till there is not a vessel left. We are very far from that consummation-even in our congregations all are not saved-evenin our families many are not converted! We cannot say, "there is not a vessel left," and, blessed be God, neither may we suspectthat the oil will cease! With hopeful earnestness let us bring the empty vessels beneath the sacred outflow that they maybe filled!
How glorious will be the consummation when all the chosen shall be gathered in! Then there shall not remain a seeking soulto be saved, nor a praying heart to be comforted, nor a wandering sheep to be sought! Not a vessel shall be found throughoutthe universe needing to be filled and then shall the oil of mercy cease to flow and Justice, alone, hold her court. Woe untothe ungodly in that day, for then the empty vessels shall be broken to shivers! As they would not receive the oil of Love,they shall, each one, be filled with the wine of wrath!
May infinite Grace preserve each one of us from such a terrible doom. Amen.