The Preacher’s Frailty Represented

Taken from, “Divinity in Mortality, or the Gospels Excellency and the Preachers Frailty, Represented” (1653 edition)
Written by, Nathaniel Hardy (1618–1670), an English churchman. 
Adapted and edited for thought and sense

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Earthen vessels being little worth are lightly set by…

…while golden and silver vessels are locked up safely, and only used for the entertainment of special guests: Earthen vessels stand in open places; are used by every servant, nay many times are trampled under foot; so it is with the preachers of the Gospel, they are vile, abjecti homminum estimatione, base and despised in the eyes of wicked men.

Our blessed Savior speaking to his Disciples, calls them a little flock; though they were to be Shepherds of the people, yet they were a flock in respect to Christ. But why a little flock? Surely, not in respect to quantity but quality. A flock great indeed in Christ’s eyes but little in men’s eyes. Chosen vessels they are by God, but rejected by the world; and to use the prophet Jeremiah’s expression, “Vessels wherein there is no pleasure.” Jer. 22:11.

Do you not know that ministers are as a gazing stock to the people? –Surely this may be affirmed of ministers. The prophet Isaiah uses an expression not too much unlike this concerning himself, which the children of God gave him, that “they were for signs and wonders in Israel.” Nor did Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, Jeremiah and the other Prophets fare any better than he, in the places where they prophesied, but were mocked, misused and despised by the sons of Belial among whom they lived.

What entertainment did the Apostles find? –Let St. Paul speak, “We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things to this day.” Indeed we may remember those Halcyon days when both wealth and honor attended those who serve at the Altar, and the Clergy (as they ought to be) were accounted worthy of, and accordingly received double honor. But at this day, how sad doth experience verify, that the priests are made the lowest of the people! The complaint of the church must now be taken up, “They regard not the person of the priests.” –Lam. 4:16.

Yea, as if some new Cadmus had sown the earth with Saul’s teeth, and Shimei’s tongue, they belch out continual insults against God’s ministers. Many of these ministers, these vessels; most accomplished in his sacred service, are laid aside as useless, and rejected as worthless. Nay, it is to that height of impiety that many are come, that not only our persons are despicable, but our very function is contemptible in their eyes. Oh that such would consider how near they strike at God himself. Observe Paul’s heroic expressions, such as may well befit a minister of the Gospel. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” — 2 Corinthians 4:8-11.

Though our persons are as earthen vessels in the world’s estimation, and so used or rather abused, yet let not our spirits like earthen vessels be broken by any affliction, nay, rather remember what Christ said to his disciples in the same situation, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” You are come in their stead, and therefore must expect their usage, and it is a comfort you do but pledge them in that cup of which they have drunk to you before, you do but follow them in that way, which they have tracked already, so persecuted they the Prophets, yea and the Apostles too, in which regard they are here called earthen vessels.