Take the single sentence, "He is a chosen vessel unto me;" literally, "a vessel of election." Illustrate by the apostle's own figure of the "potter having power over the clay," and refer to prophetic illustrations taken from the potter's wheel and art. Here, however, the meaning of "vessel" may rather be "instrument," or "tool." In every age God has called forth special workers, fitted for the occasions; "with the hour always comes the man." In the ordering of God's providence, the time had come for the extension of Christianity to the Gentiles, and now we are directed to Saul as God's chosen vessel, or instrument, for this work. From his case may be illustrated the following points concerning "God's chosen vessels:"
I. THEY ARE PREPARED FOR THEIR WORK BY HIS PROVIDENCE, After showing how Saul was being fitted by his earlier experiences, find further illustration in the earlier careers of Joseph, Moses, David, etc. And show how our Lord's secluded life at Nazareth may be regarded as his preparation-time. Careful observance of men and life and work now brings again and again to view the wonderful ways in which they have been prepared for the stern work of their full manhood. The fact is so fully recognized as to have passed into a proverb, and we say, "The child is father to the man." Then it follows that the wise training of our children should include the careful culture of any special gift or endowment of which we may see indications.
II. THEY ARE FOUND IN GOD'S OWN TIME. It is not enough that a man should find out what he can do; he must wait on God to teach him the time for the doing, and the sphere in which his work is to be done. Saul had yet to wait some time before his life-sphere was pointed out to him. But we need have no fear. Willing servants are never left idle, and when God's work is ready he will call to it the workmen he has prepared. A North-country proverb is, "The tools come to the hands of him who can use them;" and God's people can tell strange stories of the gracious orderings of providence that brought their great life-work to their hands.
III. MIGHTY TO DO THE LORD'S WORK. Because the appointment to a particular service carries with it the assurance that sufficient grace for the work will be given. Fitness is not enough, if it stand alone; it must be followed up by daily grace for efficient working. Compare Moses willing to go on to further journeyings only if the Lord would go with him; and the Apostle Paul "able to do all things through him who strengthened him." We can always do what God calls us to do. We are wrong, as Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah were wrong, if we shrink back or flee from the Lord's work.
IV. ACKNOWLEDGED BY GOD'S OWN PEOPLE. Sooner or later, God's chosen vessels are found out by the Divine signs which accompany their labor. There may be temporary prejudice on account of their former life, as in the case of Saul, or on account of the particular form and feature of their work; but if God acknowledges a man's service with his benedictions, God's people arc usually ready to acknowledge it too. If in a very strict sense some only can be called "God's chosen vessels," in a large and comforting sense the term may be applied to all God's people, for each of whom he surely finds work and the grace needed for doing it well.