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to shine before men, and his good works to appear in the sight of them.
Sometimes a believing heart filled with the comforts of the Spirit is compared to new wine in new bottles, and that on the account of the unutterable joy and delight which the believer feels and experiences in communion with the Saviour, which makes religion the delight of his soul, and the joy of his heart.
But in the words of my text, a tried, believing, inspired heart, is called a golden vial, &c. which I will attempt to explain to you in the following
1. Why called a vial.
2. Why a golden one, and
3. What the odours are.
First, A believing or faithful heart filled with odours, which are said to be the prayers of saints, is called a golden vial of prayers, to distinguish a believer's prayers from the petitions of a mere formalist, whose prayers are in his book, in his pocket, or else carried after him under the arm of his footman, that every body may see that the master is going to work, or to perform his irksome task. There is a difference between a praying heart and a prayer book; a vial of odours, and a pocket of papers are two things; for want of these vials of odours the Lord complains; "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart [there is the vial] is far from me. But in vain they do worship me."
The golden vials full of odours, called the prayers of saints, are intended to distinguish them from the hasty and violent devotions of an alarmed hypocrite, who moves by fits and starts, just as the fears of death or gripes of conscience rouse him. God never hears from him unless he is convulsed: "Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?" No, in their affliction they will seek God early, Hosea v. 15; and say, "Arise and save us." Many vows and prayers are put up, which is compassing their maker about with lies, or flattering with their lips, or speaking with a double heart, Psalm xii. 2. But when his deliverance is obtained, they say, "We are Lords, we will come no more unto thee." We may say of such violent devotions, as we say of some people's love, it is too hot to hold. σε Ο Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away."
All these prayers spring from the fear of damnation; not from any hatred to sin, love to God, or desire after holiness. "The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire, who shall dwell with everlasting burnings."
The golden vials of odours distinguish the spiritual worship of saints from the pompous shew of devotion, which is carried on by thousands only
for the sake of applause, a livelihood, or a benefice. The wolf is obliged to put on the sheep's skin, before he can sheer the sheep or get at the fleece: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing." "Wo unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widows houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." But the believer has got the spirit of prayer in his heart; it lays not in his book only, as the formalists; nor in a storm, as the convulsed hypocrite; nor in his mouth only, as the scribe; but all his devotions spring from the spirit, out of a tried, purified, and believing heart; prayers bottled up in this golden vial will keep as long as the believer lives, and will be acceptable to God through Christ Jesus, as long as there is a believer in the world. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer."
Secondly, A believing heart is called a golden vial, because of the many fiery trials that he feels: God has chosen his people in the furnace of affliction, Isaiah xlviii. 10; and has promised to purify them as silver is purified, and to try them as gold is tried, Zech. xiii. 9; and to make a man by this means more precious than the golden wedge of Ophir. It is common in scripture to call faith, faithfulness, or the trial of faith, by this name, gold, which is the most weighty and most valuable of all metals, and requires the greatest heat to purify it: hence you read of the gold becoming
dim, and of the most fine gold being changed, Lam. iv. 1; and of the faithful city becoming an harlot, Isaiah i. 21. You read of the Saviour's being girt about the paps with a golden girdle, Rev. i. 13. “Faithfulness is the girdle of his reins.” You read of the trial of our faith being much more precious than gold that perisheth though it be tried with fire, 1 Pet. i. 7. And of the Saviour's counselling the Laodiceans to buy of him gold tried that they might be rich, Rev. iii. 18; it means, tried faith, God having chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, James ii. 5. To be short, - a man whose heart is searched and tried, a heart purified by faith, and fixed in humble confidence on the Lord (for it is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness), is this golden vial in my text; an honest, sound, tried heart, purified by faith, and influenced by the Holy Ghost; and prayers springing from such an heart, are compared to sweet incense, in golden vials: "Let my prayer be set before thee as incense," saith the Psalmist; and such prayers are as sweet incense, and the Lord delights in them; "Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely." These spiritual prayers in the heart being compared to vials of odours is to teach us, that both the vial and the odours will keep; gold will not rust; odours will not stink; they are like a mixture of various perfumes corked up in a bottle, and we may say of this vial of perfumes, as the Saviour does in the parable of the bottle of wine: "But
they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved," Matt. ix. 17.
Thirdly, Saints prayers may be compared to odours, in allusion to the ointment made for the consecration of Aaron and his sons; "Take thou also unto thee principal spices of pure myrrh, five hundred shekels; and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels; and of sweet calamus, two hundred and fifty shekels; and of cassia, five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; and of oil-olive, an hin; and thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment," Exod. xxx. 23, 24. This olive oil, and the various spices, most sweetly prefigured the blessed unction of the Spirit of all grace. That as Aaron and his sons, and the tabernacle, were anointed therewith, so the blessed Saviour, who was anointed with the fulness of the Spirit, shed abroad a little of this perfumed unction on his church and people, which is no small pleasure to them, for it is this ointment and perfume that rejoices the heart, Prov. xxvii. 9. And of this the Saviour takes particular notice: "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?"
Saints prayers may be called odours, from the various graces that attend real prayer. The saint of God is commanded to come with boldness to the throne of grace. He prays to a God that he knows, and therefore worships him accordingly in the beauty of holiness: he comes with reverence, with filial fear, life and fervour; he prays in the