The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,…
Few passages of Scripture have been more misread or with sadder results than this one. From St. Paul's reference to it in Romans 9. it has been thought that it taught the absolute sovereignty of God, his right to dispose of men as he pleases; that, in the exercise of that sovereignty, he makes some vessels unto destruction, and that the vessels so made have no ground of complaint whatsoever. Now, we affirm that, whilst there is much truth in these representations, they are not "the whole truth," still less are they" nothing but the truth." God is Sovereign, we cheerfully confess, and has right to dispose of us as he will. But that he exercises these rights in any arbitrary, or capricious, or cruel way, as is taught by this misreading, or that if he did the vessels made for destruction would have no ground of complaint, we altogether deny. Such teaching has clouded the face of God to many souls and made God our Father "a terror" to them. But blessed be his Name, this misreading is not the truth. Let us try to see what that truth is. In passing, we may note how the command to the prophet to go down to the potter's workshop teaches us how workshops and our common work may have precious lessons about God to teach us if we be like as was the prophet, willing to learn them. The star-studying Magi were led by a star to Jesus. The centurion by his soldier-life gained true comprehension of Christ. The fishermen-apostles of how they were to be "fishers of men." Manifold are the ministers and ministries of God to attentive souls.
"There is a book, who runs may read,
Which heavenly truth imparts;
And all the lore its scholars need,
Pure eyes and Christian hearts." That is said of the book of nature, so it may be of the book of our lawful work. Now let us go down to the workshop told of here and learn what we may. And we are taught -
I. THAT IT DOTH NOT YET APPEAR WHAT WE SHALL BE." We are the clay. But who can tell what is to be fashioned out of that mere mass of material? Every human soul is but as clay in process of formation into some designed result.
II. GOD HAS WISE AND GRACIOUS INTENT IN REGARD TO ALL. The meanest vessel that the potter makes is an advance in worth and excellence on the clay ere it was fashioned by him. How much more, then, in the case of the "vessels of honor!"
III. BUT THE CLAY CAN FOR A WHILE MAR AND FRUSTRATE THE POTTER'S PURPOSE. The vessel the prophet saw was marred in the making. What innumerable instances there have been and are of this! Not Israel and Judah alone, but other nations, other churches, innumerable separate souls. And they have had to be broken up and set down from the place of honor for which they were at first intended. They have with shame to take a lower place. But -
IV. EVENTUALLY THE MAKER'S WILL WILL BE DONE IN REGARD TO THEM. "So he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." It is never "all the same" to a man if he sins against God. He may not be destroyed, but his will be "another" position and a worse one.
V. AND ALL THIS IN HARMONY WITH THE NATURE OF THE MATERIAL WROUGHT UPON. As the potter's work was in harmony with the clay out of which he fashioned his varied vessels, so God's work will be in harmony with the mental and moral nature which he has given to us. It is to us an inexplicable problem - the harmony of the Divine sovereignty and human freedom. We cannot tell how it will be done, only that it will be done.
VI. THE LESSONS OF THE WHOLE ARE.
1. Of inquiry. Are we, by obedience to the Divine will, furthering the work designed in us or by disobedience hindering? Ver. 9 teaches that, however good and gracious a purpose God may cherish concerning us, if we "do evil" then God's work will be marred.
2. Of admonitions. Seeing how terrible a process is the "making again" of the marred vessel - what was it not to Judah and Israel? and the process is not finished yet-let us repent of sin and turn to God now, and so be delivered from so great a woe. It has been said that the most terrible part of the road to heaven is that which the sinner goes over three times - once in his first following of Christ next when he by sin goes back that way, and the third time when in bitter repentance he travels over it again.
3. Of praise to God, that he has revealed so gracious a purpose concerning man, and that his will shall be done.
4. Of prayer, that we may be found not resisting but ever obedient to that will. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,